Left and Center: Amber circa, 1988
Right: Age Progressed to age 39
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: June 3, 1988
Missing From: Pinole, Contra County, California
Classification: Non-Family Abduction
Date Of Birth: August 19, 1980
Age: 7 years old
Height and Weight: 4’0″ and 62 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian Female, Blonde hair, Blue eyes, Amber has a hearing impairment and cannot hear well as a result, she is required to wear a hearing aid and reads lips, she also has a speech impediment as a result of her hearing impairment, she had migraine headaches due to a concussion she got in 1984, these headaches caused her to lose her balance and vomit, she took Fiornal at the time of her disappearance for her headaches, she did not have her medication or hearing aid when she disappeared, Amber has a scar on the inside of her right eyebrow and moles on her throat and below her lower lip on the right side, her teeth are crooked and her upper front right tooth was missing and the time she vanished, she might use the nicknames “Am” or “A.J”, her ears are pierced and she was known to be right handed
Clothing/Jewelry Description: A white short sleeved shirt with teal bands around the bottom of the shirt, the neck, and both sleeves, the shirt also had images of multicolored sunglasses imprinted on the front of it, a pair of purple corduroy pants, pink socks, white LA Gear sneakers with pink/white laces which were brand new at the time, Amber was last known to be wearing a pair of gold earrings with emeralds on them
NCMEC Number: 767759
Details of Disappearance
Amber was last seen in Pinole, California on June 3rd 1988. She was jumping rope with an adult sized leather jump rope with wooden handles at the time and was outside in the front yard of her home on Savage Avenue. Her mother, Kim, checked on her after 15 minutes but by then she was gone.
Amber was not usually allowed to play outside by herself but Kim gave her permission that day since two neighbors were to arrive when she would be out there. The jump rope she was using disappeared with her. She was never heard from again. Investigators believe that Amber was abducted by a stranger. A witness on her disappearance reported that they had seen a child matching her description at Alvarado Park at some point between 4:45 pm and 5:00 pm on the day she vanished.
The girl was being held by a adult white male and was seen being forced into a vehicle by the man at the parks entrance. The man was described as standing at 5’7″ and weighing 160 pounds. He was approximately 40 years old in 1988. Investigators are not sure if the child seen was Amber and the man remains unidentified. Extensive searches by dogs, volunteers, and helicopters failed to turn up any trace of Amber.
On June 4th, authorities discovered a pair of pink socks near her home on a baseball diamond by a creek that flows behind Amber’s house. Kim believes that these socks might have belonged to her daughter but is unsure if they do. The socks were found in the area after it was already searched. Investigators believe that someone placed them there afterwards.
There were possible sightings of Amber after her abduction. A Sacramento area couple reported that they spoke to the child on August 2nd 1988 in the Sierra Foothills area. A woman in the Calaveras County area told investigators that she was approached by a girl on August 12th 1988. She said the girl identified herself as Amber Jean Swartz-Garcia. The sighting occurred in Camp Connell.
The woman said Amber disappeared with an unknown couple. The town is just 100 miles north of where Amber disappeared from. The woman stated she did not report the sighting for two days because she did not know who Amber was at the time. She said she reported what she saw when she saw Amber’s photograph and information on a milk carton.
Authorities also did not investigate the lead immediately because they failed to get the woman’s name and phone number when she called them. Investigators spent eventual days searching for the unidentified couple and came up with composite photographs and looked at vacationers in the area as well. Investigators also put out descriptions of the couple.
The man was described as being Caucasian and appeared to be in his early 40s in 1988. He stood at 6 feet 2 inches and weighed approximately 170 pounds. He was said to have brown layered hair. The woman was described as being Caucasian and around 35 years old in 1988. She stood at 5 feet 6 inches and weighed approximately 130 pounds. She had blonde shoulder length hair that was bleached on top.
Investigators believe Amber’s presumed abduction might be connected to others that occurred after she disappeared in other places of the Bay Area. On November 19th 1988, Michaela Joy Garecht was abducted from outside of a grocery store near her residence in Hayward, California. She was taken by an unidentified Caucasian male and has never been seen again.
On January 30th 1989, Ilene Beth Misheloff was allegedly kidnapped by unknown individuals as she walked home from school in Dublin, California. She was the oldest of the abducted children, she was 13 years old. Her backpack which she was carrying was later found in an area that had already been searched. This leads investigators to suspect her abductor(s) likely placed it there sometime afterwards.
On February 4th 1989, 14 year old Alecia Christopherson was practicing her color guard routines with a wooden baton in the parking lot of the Cherrywood Apartment complex on Decoto Road in Union City, California. She noticed that a man jogged past her twice before he came up behind her and grabbed her in an attempt to abduct her. Alecia used self defense moves to wrench herself free of the man and ran to her parents apartment.
Alecia had been taught to fight back against anyone who tried to subdue her so she was well prepared for what the man had done to her. Investigators searched for the man by feet and helicopter but found no sign of Alecia’s assailant. The man was described as being approximately 30 years old in 1989. He stood at 6’0″ and weighed between 190 and 200 pounds.
The man had shoulder length and curly blonde hair as well as a blonde mustache. The man looked as though he had been in the sun. He was reportedly wearing a green baseball cap, a white long sleeved sweat shirt with “Athletics” written on it in green lettering. He was also wearing green sweatpants as well as blue and white tennis shoes.
Investigators have noted that the man sought in Alecia’s case bears a similar description to the man who abducted Michaela Garecht just two months earlier. The attempted abduction also took place in Union City, California which is where Michaela’s abductor drove towards after taking her. It’s unknown if the man who tried taking Alecia had anything to do with the other abductions but he remains unidentified.
On December 27th 1991, Amanda Nicole Eileen Campbell was last seen in Fairfield, California. She was riding her bicycle to a friends house when she was presumably abducted by a stranger. Her bicycle was later found but she wasn’t. She has never been seen or heard from since 1991. She was 4 years old at the time of her presumed abduction.
Several people have emerged as suspects in all of these cases. Timothy Bindner quickly emerged as a possible suspect due to his odd behavior following each abduction. Just three days after Amber Swartz-Garcia went missing, he went to Amber’s house and spoke with her mother, Kim. He told her he was searching the woods nearby for her daughter.
Kim recalls Bindner saying “I wanted to be the one who saved her.” “I wanted to be the one to bring her home to you.” Kim said she wanted nothing to do with Bindner after he said they were “looking for a dead body.” But he was persistent and continued to offer his assistance in searching for Amber after her presumed abduction.
After Michaela was abducted, Bindner showed up to the home of Michaela where he talked with Sharon. He asked her if he could help her find her missing daughter. He said he wanted to go out and look for Michaela and he even brought a map and showed the locations he wanted to go to.
After Amanda Campbell went missing in 1991, Bindner’s name once again resurfaced in all the cases. Just months before she was taken, a couple in her neighborhood contacted police and told them that their 12 year old daughter was receiving odd mail. The mail was written backwards so it could only be read in a mirror.
The letter was from Bindner and it turned out that he was writing to a lot of young girls and often sent them birthday greetings. He told authorities he did this because all the girls seemed lonely. He was questioned by Pinole Police after he was seen repeatedly visiting the grave of 5 year old Angela Jane Bugay in Oakmont Cemetery.
Angela was abducted from her apartment complex in Antioch, California. She shared the apartment with her mother and brother at the time of her abduction. A few days later, Angela’s remains were found in a shallow grave located in a nearby field. She had been sexually assaulted and suffocated to death. Her murderer was not identified at the time.
Bindner repeatedly denied any involvement in all the cases he was linked to and said he had never met any of the missing girls before their abductions. He stated he was deeply affected by all the cases and wanted to try and help in any way he could. However, his constant presence in these cases were not the only noticeable things that popped up in the investigations.
Bindner once wrote a letter to law enforcement and speculated that the next child to be abducted would be 9 years old. Soon afterwards, Michaela was abducted from Hayward. On another occasion, Bindner sent a Christmas card to a FBI profiler with an image of a little girl holding up 4 fingers. Shortly after this, Amanda Campbell was abducted at 4 years old.
Police bloodhounds also picked up the scent of Amber Swartz-Garcia at the grave of Angela Bugay. This was a red flag since Bindner often visited the gravesite, some agencies say he went to that location up to 90 times a year. Police dogs later traced the scent of Amanda Campbell to Angela’s grave.
Investigators in the Campbell case questioned Bindner and he was named a suspect in the missing persons case in 1992. Investigators were considering pressing charges against Bindner for kidnapping but bloodhound evidence is too unreliable to be presented as evidence in a court or trial. ￼
A Mercury News Reporter wanted to interview Bindner about the cases. He accepted her offer but requested to be interviewed at Oakmont Cemetery in the middle of the night. She picked him up at 4:30 am and he asked to play his favorite song on the car radio. The song was “Jesus, Here’s Another Child to Hold.” They drove to the cemetery per the request.
The reporter asked him why he was so concerned over the missing girls. He replied that he saw them as his old children. He stated he cried for them, prayed for them, and that he spent a lot of his time thinking about them and dedicated himself to finding them. He then said something that came as shock.
Binder was asked what he thought happened to the girls when they were taken. He replied “Well, you know, one of them was sweet and shy and didn’t say a thing, but the other went kicking and screaming.’” Then, she said, he added, “‘I’m just guessing that that’s what they would have said.’” The reporter said she got chills.
Investigators and the families of the girls believe Bindner was toying with them. He noticeably went out of his way to convince the reporter that he was involved in the abductions of the girls. At the urging of police, Kim Swartz-Garcia formed a friendship with Bindner in an effort to learn more about her daughters disappearance.
She agreed that it all seemed like a game to him. She believes he got off on taunting her and her family. At his suggestion, Kim read a book called “Crime and Punishment” in which the character who keeps showing up turns out to be the man who committed the crime in question.
Bindner has called himself a “Good Samaritan” and said he was simply trying to find the missing girls. In 1989, Bindner was given a reward of heroism by the California Highway Patrol for assisting in the rescue efforts after the earthquake. He maintains his innocence in the cases. He even won a defamation of character lawsuit against Amanda Campbells hometown for $90,000.
Investigators believe Bindner might have also been involved in the presumed abduction of Tara Lossett Cossey who went missing from San Pedro, California on June 6th 1979. She left her residence to go but sugar for her mother and never returned. There’s no evidence that Bindner is involved in this case but due to the proximity in location and time period, he is being investigated in the case.
Bindner was considered a suspect in Angela Bugay’s abduction and murder for over a decade after her death until authorities uncovered her true killer. In 1995, DNA testing revealed a semen sample found on Angela’s body belonged to a 44 year old man, Larry Graham. He was arrested for Angela’s murder and charged in April of 1996.
Larry once dated Angela’s mother and had a history of sexual offenses against children. He was their neighbor at the time of Angela’s murder. In 2003, Larry was convicted of killing Angela and was sentenced to death for the crime. He took his own life in his jail cell in 2009. He is not considered a suspect in the other cases.
In November of 1995, investigators searched the residence of one of Amber’s old neighbors for possible evidence relating to her abduction. The home belonged to a man, Douglas Lee Jamieson, of Richmond. He was a friend of Amber’s family in 1988 and he was questioned after her abduction but was not considered a suspect in the case. Kim told the media that the house was searched following a tip sent to investigators.
Kim said she knew Douglas through her former husband, Al Garcia. She said she had not seen Douglas in several years by then. She stated that Amber liked Douglas very much and thought he was a nice man. Douglas was cooperative with investigators and agreed to let them search his residence. Several items were removed from the home but none seemed to implicate Douglas in Amber’s abduction.
In June of 2002, investigators named a defrocked priest, Stephen Kiesle, as a suspect in Amber’s presumed abduction. Kiesle allegedly molested three girls while working on the Santa Paula Church in the in between 1968 and 1971. They came forward years later with their stories of the crimes. Investigators charged him with the three molestations.
He is also suspected of molesting another girl while he worked at the St. Joseph’s Church in Pinole from 1972 to 1976. He worked there again in 1985. Three other girls claimed Kiesle molested them in the Santa Church in the late 1970s. It’s also possible he molested three girls who were aged 8-9 at the Tahoe Donner Golf Course while they were on a family outing.
Kiesle pleaded no contest to lewd for tying up and sexually molesting two boys who were 11 and 12 years old at the time. The incident took place in the rectory of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Union City. Investigators found out that he lived 14 houses away from Amber’s residence at the time of her abduction. Amber bore similarities to the girls he molested prior to her disappearance.
Kim recalls him as a simple man who lived in their neighborhood. Kiesle was not questioned about Amber’s disappearance in 1988 due to his criminal record being expunged. Kim did not believe he had anything to with Amber’s disappearance but felt his criminal record should be investigated. Investigators have also named him as a suspect in two Nevada missing children cases.
Anthony Bernard Frank went missing from Lemmon Valley, Nevada on May 8th 1983. He was last seen in the morning while walking to school. He was allegedly seen speaking with the driver of a still unidentified rusted vehicle. Investigators believe the boy was abducted and likely murdered. It’s unknown why they came to suspect him in Anthony’s case.
Jennifer Martin was last seen in Reno, Nevada on June 28th 1987. She was last seen after purchasing candy and a soda at the 7-11 convenience store near her home. She left the store and was seen walking home but she never made it. Investigators have always believed she was taken by a stranger.
Investigators searched his residence and yard three times for evidence relating to the cases. They also suspected Kiesle might’ve been involved in the 1991 California abduction of Jaycee Lee Dugard. Investigators only found a bag with decomposing clothing in it. The searches concluded in July of 2002.
Investigators at one point believed the cases were connected to another missing California girl. On June 10th 1991, Jaycee Lee Dugard left her residence in South Lake Tahoe, California to go and wait at the bus stop for her school bus to pick her up. Jaycee was abducted by an unidentified couple who pulled her into a car and sped off. She was 11 years old at the time of her abduction.
Jaycee’s female abductor was described as being a 32 years old in 1991 who stood at 5’5″. The woman had long black hair with a dark complexion. The vehicle that was used in the abduction was described as a late model 1980 gray Ford Sedan. Jaycee’s abductors remained unidentified for many years after her witnessed abduction.
James Anthony Daveggio has been considered a possible suspect in all the abductions for many years, including Jaycee’s. He along with his girlfriend, Michelle Michaud, were charged with the abduction, rape, and murder of Vanessa Lei Swanson in 1997. Swansons body was discovered just 5 miles away from where Jaycee was taken years earlier.
Both were previously charged with a few counts of sexual assault in unrelated cases in the mid-1990s. They were both convicted of killing Vanessa in 2002 and were sentenced to death for their crimes. Investigators interviewed them both about Jaycee’s disappearance and Michaud claimed she met Daveggio in 1996 so she couldn’t have abducted Jaycee.
However, Jaycee’s stepfather Carl Probyn who witnessed her abduction said that Michaud matches the description of the woman who grabbed Jaycee. There were striking similarities between the two of them. However, federal investigators created a timeline which tracked Daveggio and Michaud’s whereabouts over the 1980s and 1990s and this information deemed it unlikely that they and abducted Jaycee.
On August 26th 2009, Jaycee was found alive and safe in Antioch, California. She had been abducted by a sex offender, Phillip Garrido and his wife, Nancy. She was held captive in their backyard for 18 years and was isolated so she was unaware of the widespread search for her and the two people who took her.
Jaycee was sexually abused and raped while held captive and gave birth to two girls while being held. She and her daughters have since been reunited with Jaycee’s mother, Terry Probyn. Investigators do not believe Phillip was involved in Amber’s presumed abduction but he has been considered a possible suspect in Michaela’s abduction and Ilene’s disappearance.
Curtis Dean Anderson is considered a strong suspect in Amber’s disappearance. He is suspected of killing at least eight children throughout the United States. On December 9th 1999, he abducted 7 year old Xiana Fairchild from Vallejo, California. She disappeared while walking to catch the school bus.
Fairchild’s skull was found in the Los Gatos hills 14 months after her abduction. He was a suspect in her disappearance for some time after he kidnapped an eight year old girl from Vallejo, California while she walked hole from school. She managed to escape captivity. He was arrested for kidnapping and killing Xiana in 2004. He was convicted of killing her and was sentenced to over 300 years in prison.
In November of 2007, Curtis was interviewed by federal agents and he reportedly confessed to Amber’s abduction and murder. He was known to frequent the Pinole area and knew it pretty well. He told investigators that he was driving from the Bay Area to his aunts residence in Arizona and wanted company while he drove.
He decided to take a detour off the Highway and onto Amber’s street at the time. He said he saw the child playing in her front yard and pulled her into his vehicle. He stated that he kept Amber sedated with root beer Schnapps and reportedly took her to a motel room in Tucson, Arizona where he killed her by suffocating her about a day and a half after her abduction. He said he stuffed Amber’s body into the trunk of his car.
Anderson stated he attempted to cross the border into Mexico but he was denied to cross by border agents because he was too intoxicated. Anderson said he disposed of Amber’s body in a remote area off Highway 10 while he was on his way to his aunts ranch near Benson, Arizona. A FBI profiler said he was convinced Anderson was telling the truth. He labeled Anderson as a sociopath who showed now remorse for his crimes.
Anderson died in prison on December 9th 2007. He was to be questioned and polygraphed about his confession to Amber’s disappearance. Investigators spent 18 months investigating Anderson’s confession and found no evidence to refute it nor support it. However, authorities labeled her abduction as solved and said they were closing the case.
Kim Swartz-Garcia did not agree with closing the case and petitioned to have it reopened. She believes Curtis’s confession to her daughters murder is false and that Amber might still be alive. Eventually, Pinole Police reopened the case and continue to seek answers in her disappearance. Curtis is also a suspect in the 1999 abduction of Karla Rodriguez who is still missing as of currently.
After Amber’s abduction, Kim founded the Amber Foundation for Missing Children. The foundation was dedicated to assisting in missing children’s cases. Amber’s father, Floyd Swartz, was a police officer before his daughters birth. He was killed while chasing down a murder suspect in May of 1980. He died months before his daughter was taken. Investigators do not believe the man who killed her father was involved in her case since he was on death row in 1988.
Amber’s abduction remains unsolved and her case has received quite a bit of media attention in recent years. Investigators have been unable to identify Amber’s abductor and her presumed abduction was not witnessed.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Pinole Police Department 510-724-8950