Left and Center: Amber circa, 1983
Right: Age Progressed to age 35
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: December 26, 1983
Missing From: Dallas, Dallas County, Texas
Classification: Non-Family Abduction
Date Of Birth: September 25, 1981
Age: 2 years old
Height and Weight: 2’4″ and 25 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian Female, Blonde hair, Blue eyes, Ambers ears are pierced, she might use the name “Nicole”
Clothing/Jewelry Description: A purple snow coat, a hooded Dallas Cowboys sweater, a light blue shirt, a pair of blue jeans and brown earth shoes
NCMEC Number: 600887
Details of Disappearance
Amber was last seen in Dallas, Texas on December 26th 1983. Her mothers live-in boyfriend, James Britton Monroe, claimed that she disappeared during a trip to a local grocery store known as “McDonalds Grocery.” The store was located in the 800 block of Murdock Road which was approximately two blocks away from her residence. Monroe stated he left Amber sitting inside of his pickup truck for approximately two to five minutes while he went inside to purchase soft drinks and paper towels.
Monroe stated he went back to his vehicle and found that Amber had disappeared. She has never been seen or heard from since. The search for Amber was extensive. Helicopter searches as well as ground searches were performed in the area she disappeared from but no sign of her was found. The FBI participated in the search as well but little to no clues were ever discovered in her disappearance.
After a few days of searching, investigators concluded it was likely Amber had been abducted by someone from the truck. They initially believed Amber’s father, Larry Crum, had his daughter with him. He had been divorced from Amber’s mother, Stephanie Hughes, since January of 1983. However, Larry called her mother and stated he did not have the child with him. Police were able to determine he was in Carroll County, Kentucky at the time.
Larry traveled to Texas in order to assist with the search efforts for his daughter. On December 31st 1983, a nearby rendering plant became the focus of the search after child-sized foot prints were discovered on the property. After police further searched the property, they found no evidence that Amber had been there and the plant lead was dismissed as a result.
Investigators believe Amber is deceased. On January 14th 1984, it was announced that James Monroe had been arrested in connection to Amber’s case. They found evidence that the child was mistreated and abused prior to her supposed abduction. Various people who knew Amber recalled seeing bruises on her body and one photograph of her shows a handprint shaped bruise on her face. It’s believed the injuries were caused by James.
On January 15th, investigators searched the home where Monroe lived in Pleasant Grove but no evidence of Amber’s alleged murder was found. They searched another Pleasant Grove home as well after a tipster claimed that they had seen Monroe leaving the particular home but again, no evidence relating to Amber’s disappearance was found.
It turns out it was the testimony of Stephanie Hughes which prompted the arrest of Monroe. According to Hughes, Monroe put Amber to bed on Christmas night. When she went to check on her daughter later that night at approximately 9:30 pm, she found that Amber’s eyes were open and that she was very cold. Stephanie noticed her daughter was turned facing the wall in the crib. She believed her daughter was dead at the time.
On January 17th, Monroe was charged with Amber’s murder. Investigators believed Amber was killed in Monroe’s home on Christmas Day and that he reported her disappearance as a way of covering up the crime. In addition to her statements about seeing Amber possibly deceased, Stephanie previously told her sister, Lynn, that Monroe had beaten Amber.
She stated that she found bruises on Amber’s legs, back, and ear but she claimed she had never witnessed anyone strike Amber. After her daughters disappearance, Hughes noted that Monroe stripped Amber’s crib of its sheeting, blanket, and pillowcase and washed them. He even washed the child’s nightgown as well. She called this odd because during the seven months that Monroe lived with her, he had never washed anything. He said he was simply helping her.
In another statement, Hughes stated that on Christmas Day, she and Monroe had used “illegal drugs.” She later stated that she heard Monroe yelling at the child while he was bathing her because she didn’t swallow some food he gave her. Monroe admitted that he did spank Amber when she tried to climb into the laundry dryer. Stephanie said she didn’t believe he was under the influence of those drugs when Amber allegedly disappeared during the morning of the next day. She stated Amber was missing before she woke up.
Eventually, the charges against Monroe for Amber’s murder were dropped on the grounds that there wasn’t enough evidence to gain a conviction. In addition to this, Stephanie recanted her statements that Amber was dead on Christmas night and stated her daughter was alive and well. She claimed the police had pressured her into making that statement about the case. There was another piece of evidence that proved Amber was still possibly alive on the morning she supposedly vanished.
An individual, supposedly a co-worker of Monroe’s (he worked as a plumber in 1983), stated he called Monroe on the morning of Amber’s disappearance and could hear the child talking in the background. The man made this testimony in front of a grand jury and it seemed to cast doubt on the theory that Amber was killed the day before she was reported missing.
After Monroe was released from police custody for Amber’s murder, investigators had little to go on and were back to square one in the case. Per the request of police and Stephanie’s aunt, Vada, she moved in with her other aunt, Julie Briscoe, so she could be put under “strict supervision.” Stephanie was also ordered to be put under hypnosis so she could try to better recall the events of the day prior to Amber being reported missing. These efforts according to a private detective initially led nowhere.
At some point during the hypnosis, Stephanie recalled an incident which occurred in the bathroom of the home on Christmas Day. According to her, Amber followed Monroe into the bathroom during the evening and she cried out suddenly. Stephanie went to see what was happening and found Monroe shaking the child, trying to dislodge something from her mouth. Monroe told her Amber hadn’t finished her dinner. He said he was “trying to get it out.”
Stephanie’s recollection of the bathroom incident ended here. It’s possible she was suppressing something as investigators believe the story had more to it and it could’ve cracked open the entire case. Nevertheless, Stephanie denied knowing anything about her daughters disappearance but she did have issues believing Monroe’s story about her disappearing from his truck in the stores parking lot. Although there were several people who saw him at the store that morning, they couldn’t recall if Amber was in the truck or not.
Stephanie stated she couldn’t get over the fact that he was the last person to see her daughter alive and felt that whatever truly happened to Amber occurred while she was with Monroe. However, Stephanie claimed she believed her daughter may have been kidnapped and held onto hope she was still alive and refused to believe the child was dead. Investigators, however, were certain the child was dead and received various tips about the location of her remains. None of the leads went anywhere.
Monroe was still on police radar regardless. He had a criminal history for charges of being in possession of illegal drugs, processing methamphetamine, and firing off a gun behind his home in city limits. The charge of drug possession ironically came up around the time Amber’s treatment at home was taken into question. Authorities aren’t sure that Monroe was guilty of causing Amber’s death but felt he wasn’t being completely truthful about her disappearance.
Monroe eventually sold his home and moved across town into an apartment with another woman who, coincidentally, was named Stephanie and she a daughter who was two years old. He refused to talk about or comment on Amber’s disappearance but maintained his innocence in the case. His lawyer did say that Monroe hoped Amber would be found safe and alive. The case, however, grew cold and became less of a priority with the police.
On August 8th 1986, a possible break in the case came when a detective from San Bernardino, California contacted Dallas police and said a five year old girl who was found in the city reportedly resembled Amber and her birth date was within range of the unidentified child’s. Authorities in California requested Amber’s fingerprints so they could compare them to those of the abandoned girls prints. Unfortunately, they weren’t a match and the two girls weren’t the same person.
In 2007, investigators named David Elliot Penton as a possible suspect in Amber’s disappearance. He is a convicted child killer who has claimed more than five victims. In November of 1984, David killed his two month old son, Michael James Penton, by violently shaking him. He said he shook the child because he was angered by his non-stop crying. The crime occurred in Bell County, Texas.
David appealed his guilt in the death of his infant son and was free on bond when he fled. The outcome of his appeal was still pending when he evaded law enforcement. It’s believed that while David was on the run, he abducted and murdered several children.
Christi Lynn Meeks was just five years old when she was abducted from outside her mothers apartment complex in Mesquite, Texas on January 19th 1985 while she was playing hide n seek with her older brother. Her brother witnessed a man abduct his sister. Christi’s body was found in Lake Texoma three months after abduction. Meeks was raped and strangled to death.
Christie Diane Proctor was last seen in February of 1986. She was walking to her apartment in Dallas Texas at the time. She was presumably abducted while walking. Her skeletal remains were discovered in a field in Plano, Texas on April 9th 1988. She had been raped and strangled to death. She was ten years old when she vanished.
Roxann Hope Reyes was abducted near her apartment in Garland, Texas on November 3rd 1987. She was picking wildflowers for her mother when she was taken. Her body was found months later on May 19th 1988 in a vacant lot located in Murphy, Texas. She was raped and strangled to death as well. She was only four years old when she was abducted and slain.
Nydra Ross was reported as missing from her aunts home in Dayton, Ohio on March 31st 1988. She was presumed kidnapped until her remains were found in a dry creek bed in Marion, Ohio eight months later. Much like the other girls, Ross had been raped and strangled to death. She was nine years old at the time of her abduction and murder.
David was a family friend to Nydra and he was known to smoke crack and do other illegal narcotics with her family members. He was specifically acquainted with Ross’s aunt at the time she was taken and killed. He was charged with kidnapping and aggravated murder and was ultimately convicted of the crime years later in 1990. He was sentenced to life in prison for the case.
In June of 2003, Penton was indicted for capital murder in the deaths of Christi Meeks, Christie Proctor, and Roxann Reyes. He ultimately signed a plea deal in relation to the three murders and admitted to killing all three girls. He plead guilty to all three cases in January of 2005 and was sentenced to life in prison. He will remain imprisoned in Ohio until he finishes his sentence for the Ross murder and then he will serve his sentence for the Texas murders.
Investigators believe David is a serial killer and had many more victims besides the four girls and his son that he was convicted in. Multiple police agencies were alerted of David’s criminal history and he’s been named as a suspect in several cases of missing young girls.
David has been named as a strong person of interest in the case of Ara Denise Johnson. Johnson was abducted from her bed in the mobile home she shared with her parents in the 300 block of Boulder Street on April 2nd 1986 in Big Sandy, Texas. She was five years old at the time of her disappearance. Penton was known to be in Texas at the time of her abduction. He allegedly mentioned her case to cellmate which has prompted investigators to look into his possible involvement in her case.
He’s also been named as possible suspect in the case of Angelica Maria Gandara. She was abducted while walking back to her family’s residence located in the 800 block of north 6th Street on July 14th 1985 in Temple, Texas. She has never been seen since and her body has never been recovered. She was eleven years old at the time of her disappearance.
David was also named as a suspect in the presumed abduction of Shannon Marie Sherrill in 2009. Shannon was six years old when she disappeared from in front of her mothers mobile home on October 15th 1986 in Thorntown, Indiana. She was playing hide n seek with several other children when she mysteriously vanished without a trace. This is somewhat similar to how Christi Meeks vanished but there’s no evidence that Penton was involved in this case.
Investigators haven’t stated whether they believe Penton was involved in Amber’s disappearance or not but he allegedly claimed he was involved in her disappearance as well as the cases of Ara and Angelica. He hasn’t been charged with any crime in the Crum case but he remains a possible suspect nonetheless.
Amber’s disappearance greatly affected her family afterwards. Her grandparents refused to put up a Christmas Tree after she vanished and they continued to hold onto a gift that Amber had overlooked the previous year. Stephanie continued to hold onto hope that her daughter was alive and unharmed. Larry Crum hasn’t celebrated Christmas since she went missing, calling that day “the worst day in his life.”
Amber’s disappearance remains unsolved. Authorities believe the child is deceased but her family hold onto hope she’s still out there. Her aunt has been very active in the search for her and her father continues to hope for a resolution in the case. Foul play is suspected.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Dallas Police Department 214-670-4426