Left and Right: Amanda circa, 1998
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: September 11, 1998
Missing From: Tampa, Hillsborough County, Florida
Classification: Non-Family Abduction
Date Of Birth: March 13, 1991
Age: 7 years old
Height and Weight: 4’4″ and 45 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian Female, Blonde hair, Blue eyes, Amanda has scars on her forehead and her ears are pierced, her nickname is “Mandy”
Clothing/Jewelry Description: A blue and white nightgown
NCMEC Number: 853344
Details of Disappearance
Amanda disappeared from her home in Tampa, Florida on September 11th 1998. She was last seen at her trailer home in the 10900 block of Old Hillsborough Avenue. She was last seen by her mother, Kathryn Hartman, while she slept in her bed with her. She awoke at 6:12 am to discover her daughter missing. Amanda has never been seen or heard from again. Authorities believe she was abducted by a non family member.
On September 9th, Kathryn was introduced to a man, Willie Seth Crain Jr., by his daughter at a bar in the Hillsborough County area. She and Crain danced and talked for hours that night until about 1:30 am or 2:00 am. Crain drove Hartman to her trailer home and she asked to see Gina again. Crain returned to the trailer home the next day and that’s when he met Amanda.
Crain spent quite a bit of time with Amanda, he was seen sitting at the kitchen table with her and they both played games with each other. Crain also helped Amanda with her homework as well. He also attended dinner at the home and after it he played more games with Amanda and said had a large collection in of videotapes at his trailer. Amanda begged to go and Hartman accepted. The girl and mother were driven by Crain to his home.
They never watched a movie but Crain called his sister and put Hartman in the phone with her. He and Amanda went to his bedroom, Hartman went to the room and found Crain and Amanda watching the movie in there. She noticed Amanda was in between Crain’s legs as he was showing her how to to work the television remote.
At some point during the evening, Hartman began to experience some type of pain and asked Crain if he had anything for it. He offered her Valium which she took (he gave her about 5 tablets). He also offered her some marijuana but she decided against this. At some point eventually, Hartman decided it was time to go back home to the trailer home she shared with Amanda.
Crain drove them back to the trailer and Hartman said he could stay at the trailer to sober up since he appeared intoxicated at the time. Hartman said she wanted to go home because what she saw in Crain’s bedroom didn’t look right so she felt she should separate them. Crain followed them inside, Amanda took a shower and got her nightgown on. Crain insisted on drying her hair before she went to sleep.
Amanda did not go to sleep until 2:15 am and fell asleep in her mother’s bed. At 2:30 am, Hartman also went to sleep in the bed and they were both joined by Crain 5 minutes later. He fell asleep with all of his clothing, including his shoes on. Amanda was last known to be sleeping between them both. Hartman awoke to her alarm and discovered her daughter and Crain to be gone. She reported her daughter missing soon afterwards.
She searched the trailer home but found no signs that Amanda was there. After this, she called Crain and asked him what he had done to her. He claimed he did not know what happened to her daughter and that she should contact his daughter who was also her friend. He said he needed to go and would call her back soon. He never did call her back after that.
Amanda’s father, Roy Brown, was once considered a possible suspect in his daughters disappearance. He and Hartman had never actually married but their relationship was bitter. Hartman accused him of molesting Amanda and also threatening to abduct her. These allegations were investigated by police but no evidence supported them. He was soon cleared of suspicion and is actively seeking his daughters whereabouts. He lives with his current wife in Lakeland, Florida.
Roy saw his daughter on a daily basis. He last saw Amanda on the morning before her presumed abduction. She drew him a picture of his favorite cartoon character “Tweety Bird”. They both played for so long that Amanda was a few minutes late for school that day. She told her father she loved him and that was the last time Roy saw his little girl. The investigation soon focused back onto Crain.
He has a criminal history that dates back to the 1960s. In between July of 1982 and May or 1984, Crain was accused of sexually assaulting several girls who were roughly the same age as Amanda. He plead guilty to five counts of sexual battery in 1985 and was originally sentenced to 20 years in prison but was released early after serving just 6 years of his sentence. ￼His victims were either relatives or neighbors. He was considered a suspect in Amanda’s case since the onset of the investigation.
Crain reportedly told his relatives that he left Amanda’s home at 2:30 am and that he last saw the child still sleeping in her mothers bed at the time. Crain was also interviewed by law enforcement and he apparently had several scratches he couldn’t explain at the time. Investigators received his permission to search his trailer home.
Crain claimed he had accidentally spilled bleach in his bathroom and that he had spent the morning of Amanda’s disappearance cleaning it up. He also said he liked to clean in the morning since it helped him stay awake for his job as a commercial fisherman. Despite the evidence of a cleanup, authorities found that blood was on the rim of the toilet seat and also found a bloody tissue.
Blood was also found on Crain’s boxer shorts, this blood was matched to Amanda’s DNA. Police also sprayed the bathroom with Luminol (a chemical which lights up when it detects the presence of blood). When they applied the luminol, the whole room lit up which included the walls, bathtub, and floors. The chemical also reacts with bleach however and Crain admitted to using bleach to clean up his bathroom.
Amanda’s disappearance received massive amounts of media coverage on both newspapers and television. Despite this, authorities were unable to locate Amanda or her remains. A week after her abduction, two women came forward to police and stated Crain sexually abused them repeatedly between 1965 and 1971 when they were children. As a result of the allegations, Crain was arrested and charged with two counts of rape. He was soon charged with Amanda’s murder.
Crain was charged with 1st degree murder and kidnapping in relation to Amanda’s presumed death. Investigators believe he took the child from her trailer home and murdered her after sexually assaulting her. Due to the fact that Crain was a commercial fisherman at the time, investigators suspect he likely dumped Amanda’s body in Old Tampa Bay where he fished frequently.
Another crab fisherman who knew Crain states he saw him launching his boat at the Courtney Campbell Causeway on the bay during the morning of September 11th 1998. The witness also noted how Crain backed his pickup truck into the water deeper than usual and that he was carrying something wrapped up in a bundle. He was also wearing dress clothing as opposed to the jeans and he wasn’t wearing any protective weather clothing such as a jacket.
Crain previously bragged of how he could dispose of a body and no one would ever find it. He said this approximately 18 months before Amanda’s abduction. Crain denies the charges filed against him and maintains his innocence in the case. Three of the victims he assaulted in the 1980s came to testify against him at court. He was found guilty of killing Amanda in 1999 and was sentenced to death. He is currently on death row.
Roy Brown hopes Crain will someday come clean and reveal what he did to Amanda and where her body is. Searches of Old Tampa Bay and crab traps in the water failed to find any trace of Amanda. She was a second grader at Lopez Elementary School in 1998 and loved her pink and purple bicycle. Her remains have not been found but foul play is suspected.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Hillsborough County Sheriffs Office 813-247-8601
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
The Orlando Sentinel 10/03/1998