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: White Female, Blonde hair, Blue eyes, Amber has a bearing 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.
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.
Many suspects have been named in relation to Ambers. Investigators believe her case may be linked to the abductions of several other girls in the Bay Area.
In 1979, Tara Lossett Cossey vanished while going to get her mother sugar from a store in San Pablo, California. In November of 1988, Michaela Joy Garecht was abducted from the outside of a market as she was retrieving a scooter in Hayward, California. In January of 1989, Ilene Beth Misheloff was kidnapped while she walked home from school in Dublin, California. In December of 1991, Amanda Nicole Campbell was abducted from the road as she rode her bike to a friends house in Fairfield, California. Authorities have not conclusively linked the cases but believe that they may be connected.
A man named Timothy Binder has been treated as a suspect in Amber’s presumed abduction for years. He’s also suspected in the other cases of kidnapped girls as well. He was described as weird and odd and may have been playing mind games with the abduction victims families. He may have been manipulating them into believing he was involved in the kidnappings. Binder came to be suspected after he sent girls of the Bay Area cards because they were “lonely”.
Investigators asked Kim to maintain a friendship with him in order to see if he knows the whereabouts of the missing girls. She agreed that he seemed to be playing mind games and was manipulative. He did not reveal anything of significance in the cases. Binder strongly resembled a man sought in Ambers disappearance. It should also be noted that his van had pictures of young children and posters of Ambers disappearance were on the sides of his van.
Binder would frequently visit the grave of Angela Bugay, she was 5 years old when she was kidnapped and murdered in Antioch, California on November 19th 1983.
Angela’s body was found buried in a shallow grave a few days after her disappearance. Tim was considered a suspect in her unsolved murder for years until it was solved in 1995. Her mothers ex boyfriend, Larry Graham, was charged with killing her in April of 1996 after his DNA was found to be a match to a semen sample found on her body. He was convicted of killing her in 2003. He took his own life in his jail cell in 2009.
Investigators traced the scents of Amber and Amanda to Bugay’s grave. He has not been connected to the girl’s disappearances. He sent various letters and odd things to police and the FBI. In 1988, he told the FBI that he believed the next child to be taken would be 9 years of age. Michaela Garecht’s kidnapping took place shortly after he told them this. She was 9 years old when she was taken.
In 1990, Binder sent a holiday card to a FBI profiler. The card depicted a child holding up 4 fingers. Amanda Campbell’s abduction took place in December of 1991. He also sued her hometown for defamation of character and won a $90,000 settlement.
Investigators do not believe the man in the park was Binder. In 1991, Kim received a phone call from a man who stated he was a resident in Pinole. He provided a more detailed description of the man that may have been seen kidnapping Swartz in the park. He stated this man had a beard, Binder did not have a beard when Amber was allegedly abducted. The vehicle that was sought in that tip was eventually found but nothing was found to indicate that Amber was ever in it.
Another suspect in Amber’s case is James Daveggio, he is a convicted rapist along with his wife. He along with his wife, Michelle Michaud abducted, raped, and murdered Vanessa Swanson in 1997. They were convicted of the crime in 2002 and sentenced to death. James was known for committing crimes in the Bay Area so it’s possible he abducted the other missing girls but he has never been charged. He remains a prime suspect in the case of Ilene Misheloff.
In mid 2002, a defrocked priest, Stephen Kiesle, was named as a suspect in Ambers’s disappearance as well as the Nevada 1983 disappearance of Anthony Franko, the Nevada 1987 disappearance of Jennifer Martin, and the California 1991 abduction of Jaycee Dugard. He became a suspect in Amber’s case because he lived only one block away from Amber’s home at the time of her disappearance.
Authorities searched his yard for evidence relating to Jennifer, Anthony, Amber, and Jaycees cases. They did not find anything substantial except for a bag of dirt and deteriorating clothing. The searches concluded in July of 2002.
Stephen has not been ruled out in Amber’s disappearance but is considered unlikely. He denies involvement in her disappearance.
Jaycee Lee Dugard was abducted by an unidentified couple as she waited for the school bus near her home. She was never seen or heard from again. Daveggio and Michaud were considered suspects in her kidnapping as well but they were later found to not be involved.
On August 26th 2009, Jaycee was found alive and well. She had been taken by sex offender and convicted rapist, Phillip Garrido and his wife Nancy Garrido. They held her captive for 18 years and in that time, Dugard gave birth to two young girls. The Garrido’s are not suspects in Ambers case.
A man known as Curtis Dean Anderson is considered a suspect Amber’s case. He is also considered a suspect in the 1999 disappearance of Karla Rodriguez. In 1999, he kidnapped 7 year old Xiana Fairchild from Vallejo, California and held her captive for several weeks before he murdered her. He’s also bragged of kidnapping 11 other girls.
In 2007 he confessed to abducting and killing Amber. He died a month after his confession while he served prison time. He stated that he forcefully abducted Swartz as she played in front of her home and took her with him to Arizona. He stated that Amber was sedated until he murdered her in a motel room near the Tucson area of Arizona by suffocating her. He allegedly disposed of her body in an area near Highway 10 in Benson, Arizona. Her body was not found.
No evidence was found by investigators to corroborate his confession. They initially closed the investigation into her case but it reopened in 2013. He was not charged with killing Amber before his death and Kim is not convinced he was responsible for her abduction. He enjoyed what he gained from confessing to crimes and it’s possible that he confessed to Amber’s murder as a way of doing this. He enjoyed taunting the families and police involved with the victims.
Amber’s father, Floyd Swartz, was a police officer when he was killed in the line of duty in May of 1980. He was killed months before his daughters birth. Floyd’s killer, James Richard Odle, was on death row in 1988 and is not a suspect in Amber’s disappearance. Kim founded the Amber Foundation for Missing Children after her daughter’s disappearance and continues to search for her. Amber’s abduction remains unsolved.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Pinole Police Department 510-724-8950