Seven-year-old Amber was last seen jumping rope at approximately 4:15 p.m. in the front yard of her family's residence on Savage Avenue in Pinole, California on June 3, 1988.
Amber was not usually allowed to play in the yard by herself, but her mother, Kim Swartz, made an exception that day because their neighbors would be arriving home soon.
Kim checked outside approximately 15 minutes after Amber left the house and noticed that she had disappeared. Amber has never been heard from again. She may have been holding an adult-sized leather jump rope with wooden handles at the time of her disappearance; it disappeared along with her and was never located.
On June 4, 1988, authorities discovered a pair of pink socks near Amber's house; the socks were found on a baseball diamond by the creek that flows behind her house. Kim believes that the socks may have belonged to her daughter, but she is uncertain and additional clues were never located. The socks were located after the area had been searched once already; it is believed that they were left after the initial search.
A day after Amber disappeared, a witness reported having seen someone matching Amber's description at Alvarado Park sometime between 4:45 and 5:00 p.m. on June 3, 1988.
The girl was being roughly handled by an adult white man and she was thrown into a car by him at the park entrance. The witness described the girl's assailant was being about forty years old, 5'7, and 160 pounds. He was driving an older model four-door General Motors car, full-sized, and tan in color.
Authorities have never been able to identify the man and are not sure if the girl who was seen at Alvarado Park was in fact Amber.
For many years, Timothy Bindner was considered a suspect in Amber's disappearance, as well as the disappearances of Michaela Garecht, Ilene Misheloff, Tara Cossey & Amanda Campbell. However, Bindner maintains his innocence and he successfully sued Amanda's hometown of Fairfield, California in 1997 for defamation of character.
Bindner (a married sewage treatment plant worker) came to authorities' attention after he began sending birthday greetings and gifts of money to young girls in the East Bay area. He approached many of the mothers of missing girls from the East Bay area, offering his assistance, including Amber and Michaela Garecht's families.
Bindner introduced himself to Kim three days after Amber disappeared. He bore a striking resemblance to the man who was seen throwing the girl into the tan car on the day of Amber's disappearance.
Investigators asked Kim to maintain a quasi-friendship with Bindner in hope of learning if he was connected to any of the girls' cases. She and authorities agreed that Bindner appeared to playing mind games with victims' loved ones and law enforcement.
Many people theorize that Bindner enjoyed taunting families into thinking that he may have been involved in the presumed abductions.
A man named James Daveggio has been considered as another possible suspect since the early 1990s. He and his former girlfriend, Michelle Lyn Michaud, were charged with the 1997 abduction, rape and murder of Vanessa Lei Samson. They were also charged with additional counts of sexual assault in unrelated cases in the mid-1990s.
In 2002, Michaud and Daveggio were convicted of Swanson's murder and sentenced to death. They are awaiting execution. Daveggio is also considered a possible suspect in Michaela Garecht and Ilene Misheloff's disappearances, but neither he nor Michaud has been charged in connection with any of the cases.
In 1991, Kim received a phone call from a resident of the Pinole area in 1991. The man said that he was in a park near her home on the day of Amber's disappearance. He stated that he saw an unidentified bearded man force a young girl into a vehicle in the park and drive away. The witness said that he copied down the car's license plate and contacted authorities shortly afterwards. He believed that the child matched Amber's description.
Investigators stated that they did not believe the possible suspect was Bindner, as he did not have a beard at the time of the incident. The vehicle's license plate was traced to an impounded car in the Los Angeles area. Authorities have never confirmed if the child in the park was Amber.
After Amber's disappearance, Kim founded Amber Foundation For Missing Children. She was married to Amber's father, police officer Floyd "Bernie" Swartz, when he was killed in the line of duty in May of 1980. Any connection between her and James Richard Odle (the man who murdered Amber's father) was ruled out; he was on death row in 1988.
In a surprise development in the summer of 2009, investigators announced they'd identified the man responsible for Amber's abduction and murder and were closing her case.
Curtis Dean Anderson, a known pedophile and violent criminal, was already in prison for the 1999 kidnapping & murder of a 7-year-old girl from Vallejo, California and the kidnapping & molestation of an 8-year-old girl when he confessed to Amber's murder in 2007.
Anderson said he just happened to be driving in the neighborhood, saw Amber and kidnapped her "for company." He also stated that he sedated Amber with rootbeer schnapps and took her to a motel in the Tucson, Arizona area, where he suffocated her about a day and a half after her abduction. He then left her body in an isolated area beside Highway 10 in Benson, Arizona; however, it has never been found.
Anderson claimed Amber was his first victim and he made the confession a month before he died in prison in December 2007. He also confessed to other sexual assaults, kidnappings and abductions in the San Francisco Bay area, but he only signed a statement in Amber's case.
Authorities spent eighteen months investigating his confession and couldn't find any evidence to refute it. However, many people (including Kim) remain skeptical of Anderson's claims as he enjoyed the notoriety he got for his crimes, and enjoyed teasing & manipulating the police and the families of his victims; some believe his statement about Amber was just another example of this.
Amber is hearing impaired; she uses a hearing aid and reads lips; she also has a slight speech impediment due to her impaired hearing.
She also suffers from migraine headaches due to a concussion that she sustained in 1984; the headaches cause loss of balance & vomiting, and she took the prescription medication Fiornal for them at the time of her disappearance.
Amber did not have her hearing aid or her medication with her on the day she vanished. Her nicknames are "Am" and "A.J."
As of 2018, Amber's disappearance remains unsolved.
Description[edit | edit source]
Amber is described as a Caucasian female with blonde hair, blue eyes, is 4'0 and weighs 65 pounds. Her teeth are crooked and her upper right front tooth was missing at the time of her disappearance. She has pierced ears and is right handed.
She has a scar on the inside of her right eyebrow and moles on her throat & below the right side of her lower lip. She would suck her thumb when she was tired or nervous at the time of her disappearance.
Amber was last seen wearing a short-sleeved white shirt with teal bands around the bottom of the shirt, the neck & the bottoms of both sleeves & images of multicolored sunglasses printed on it; purple corduroy pants, pink socks, brand-new white LA Gear sneakers with pink or white laces, and emerald earrings with gold posts.