Real Name: Amber Jean Swartz
Nicknames: Am or A.J.
Location: Pinole, California
Date: June 3, 1988
Date of Birth: August 19, 1980
Weight: 65 lbs.
Marital Status: N/A
Characteristics: Amber used a hearing aid and took the medication Fiornal for chronic headaches at the time of her disapperance. Neither one were with her when she vanished.
Details: On May 3, 1980, twenty-eight-year-old Kim Swartz was married to police officer Floyd "Bernie" Swartz and pregnant with their daughter when tragedy struck; Floyd was shot and killed in the line of duty while pursuing a murder suspect, and a few months later she gave birth to a daughter named Amber. Tragedy struck again on June 3, 1988, when seven-year-old Amber asked to go out to the front yard to jump rope as they waited for two friends to arrive, and Kim allowed her. 15 minutes later, the friends arrived, and when Kim asked if Amber was out there, they said she wasn't, and immediately began searching for her.
The day after Amber's kidnapping, a pair of pink socks were found near the Swartz home; Kim believed they belonged to Amber and would become an important clue in the case. Three days after Amber vanished, a man named Tim Binder showed up at Kim's front door. He became extremely emotional when he was talking about Amber, and Kim would soon discover that he was well known to various law enforcement agencies throughout the San Francisco area. Over the course of more than a decade, several young girls vanished mysteriously along the Interstate 80 corridor, and in some of those cases, Binder apparently searched himself for them. He has been considered a "person of interest" in all of those cases, and was questioned extensively in Amber's case, and was even given a polygraph, but those results were inconclusive.
His attorney, John Burris, however, says that his actions shouldn't be viewed as suspicious, and that he was just trying to help find the missing children. As Kim spent more time with him, she realized that he had a dark side and that he apparently visited cemeteries, sometimes even in the dead of night, and had an apparent attraction to the graves of specific girls, including Angela Bugay. Five-year-old Angela was abducted in November 1983, and was later found sexually assaulted and strangled to death. Binder was put under surveillance and the FBI discovered that he went to her grave up to 90 times.
Sadly, five months after Amber vanished, the area was rocked by another crime: the abduction of nine-year-old Michaela Garecht from a Hayward market. Investigatiors believe that Binder was in the area at the time of the abduction. Then, two months later, 13-year-old Ilene Misheloff vanished from Dublin, California, and Binder helped in the search. A few years later, a mother in Fairfield called the police and said that her daughter had received mail from a man they didn't know: Binder. Just a few blocks away from their house, another young girl vanished, four-year-old Nikki Campbell, who vanished while playing in her driveway. Following her disappearance, Fairfield police searched Binder's house but found nothing. However, in wake of the search, a man phoned Kim Swartz and said that on the day Amber vanished, he had, at around 4:45pm, seen a young girl thrown into a car by an unidentified man at Alvarado park and he had his niece write down the man's license plate, and they called the police. However, authorities do not believe that the unknown man who may have kidnapped Amber was Binder, as he did not fit the description and that the car was traced to a junked vehicle in Los Angeles.
Believing that his reputation had been tarnished, Binder sued the city of Fairfield and they settled out of court for $90,000. Although he has been questioned by police, it is important to know that he has not been charged in any of the girls' disappearances. To this day, Kim Swartz continues to search for Amber. She has created the Amber Foundation for Missing Children, and its foundation is to teach about child abductions and instruct parents how to prevent it from happening to them. Amber Swartz, Michaela Garecht, Ilene Misheloff, and Nikki Campbell remain missing and Angela Bugay's murder remains unsolved.
Suspects: Tim Binder remains the prime suspect, altough he did not fit the description of a man shoving a girl believed to be Amber into a car at a nearby park. The man was described as 5'7" and 160 pounds, and in his early 40s.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the June 13, 2002 episode.
Results: Unresolved. In 2009, investigators announced that they had identified Amber's killer. Curtis Dean Anderson confessed to abducting and murdering her in 2007 before his death one month later. He claimed that he taken her to a motel, suffocated her, and left her body somewhere near Benson, Arizona. He had enjoyed taunting police with false information, and Kim believes this might be another one of his acts. Amber's body has never been found. Kim continues searching for her.
In recent years, a petition to reopen the Pinole Police Department stranger abduction case was launched and in the fall of 2013 the case was indeed reopened.