Details of Disappearance
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. She was not usually allowed to play in the yard alone 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 she had disappeared. The child 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 found.
Authorities did discover a pair of pink socks near Amber's residence on June 4, the day after her disappearance. The socks were found on a baseball diamond by the creek that flows behind Amber's 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 her description at Alvarado Park sometime between 4:45 and 5:00 p.m. on June 3. The girl was being roughly handled by an adult white man and 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 unable to identify the man and are not sure if the girl who was seen was in fact Amber.
For many years, Timothy Bindner was a suspect in Amber's disappearance, as well as the disappearances of Michaela Garecht
, Ilene Misheloff
, Tara Cossey
and Amanda "Nikki" Campbell
. A photo of Bindner is posted with this case summary. He maintains his innocence and 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's families. He introduced himself to Kim three days after Amber vanished. 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 he enjoyed taunting families into thinking that he may have been involved in the presumed abductions.
James Daveggio has been considered as a 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. Photos of Daveggio and Michaud are posted with this case summary. 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 and Ilene's disappearances. Neither he nor Michaud has been charged in connection with any of the cases.
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 1988 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.
Kim founded Amber Foundation For Missing Children after Amber's 1988 disappearance. She was married to Amber's father, police officer Floyd "Bernie" Swartz, when he was killed in the line of duty in May 1980. Photographs of Kim and Floyd are posted with this case summary. Amber was born three months after her father's death. Any connection between her and James Richard Odle, the man who murdered her father, was ruled out. He was on death row in 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 and murder of a seven-year-old Vallejo, California girl and the kidnapping and molestation of an eight-year-old girl when he confessed to Amber's murder in 2007. He said he just happened to be driving in the neighborhood, saw Amber and kidnapped her "for company."
Anderson stated 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 the child's body in an isolated area beside Highway 10 in Benson, Arizona. It has never been found. A photograph of Anderson is posted below this case summary. He claimed Amber was his first victim.
Anderson 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.
Many, including Kim, remain skeptical of Anderson's claims, however. Anderson enjoyed the notoriety he got for his crimes and enjoyed teasing and manipulating the police and the families of his victims, and some believe his statement about Amber was just another example of this.