Amber Jean Swartz-Garcia

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Top Row and Bottom Three From Left: Amber, circa 1988;
Bottom Far Right: Age-progression at age 31 (circa 2011)

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Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

  • Missing Since: June 3, 1988 from Pinole, California
  • Classification: Non-Family Abduction
  • Date Of Birth: August 19, 1980
  • Age: 7 years old
  • Height and Weight: 4'0, 65 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian female. Blonde hair, blue eyes. Amber's teeth are crooked and her upper right front tooth was missing at the time of her 1988 disappearance. Her ears are pierced and she is right-handed. Amber has a scar on the inside of her right eyebrow and moles on her throat and below the right side of her lower lip. She sucked her thumb when she was tired or nervous at the time of her disappearance. Some agencies refer to her as Amber Swartz or Amber Garcia Swartz. Her nicknames are Am and A.J.
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description: A short-sleeved white shirt with teal bands around the bottom of the shirt, the neck, and the bottoms of both sleeves and images of multicolored sunglasses printed on it; purple corduroy pants, pink socks, brand-new white LA Gear sneakers with pink or white laces, and emerald earrings with gold posts.
  • Medical Conditions: Amber has a hearing impairment and uses a hearing aid and reads lips. She has a slight speech impediment due to her impaired hearing. She also suffers from migraine headaches due to a concussion she sustained in 1984. The headaches cause loss of balance and vomiting. She took the prescription medication Fiornal for them at the time she disappeared. Amber had neither her hearing aid nor her medicine with her when she vanished.
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    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 Campbell. A photo of Bindner is posted below 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 below 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.

    A defrocked priest named Stephen Kiesle became a suspect in Amber's case in mid-2002. He was suspected because he lived in Amber's neighborhood, one block away from her home, at the time of her disappearance and because he has since been arrested and charged with molesting three girls at the Santa Paula Catholic Church in Fremont, where he worked from 1968 to 1971. The victims of the alleged molestations physically resembled Amber. Kiesle did not know Amber and denies any involvement in her case. Police searched his yard three times, using cadaver-sniffing dogs, radar, and a backhoe. They were looking not only for evidence in Amber's disappearance but also evidence in Dugard's case, and in the disappearances of Jennifer Martin and Anthony Franko. The only item that was located was a bag full of dirt and decomposed clothing. The searches concluded in July 2002.

    Kim founded Amber Foundation For Missing Children after Amber's 1988 disappearance. A photo of Kim is posted below. She was married to Amber's father, police officer Floyd "Bernie" Swartz, when he was killed in the line of duty in May 1980. A photograph of Floyd is posted below 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.

    A park near Amber's home was dedicated and named in her memory in 2006. Foul play is suspected in her disappearance due to the circumstances involved.

    Kim Swartz Floyd Swartz Bindner
    Daveggio Michaud Anderson
    Top Left: Kim Swartz; Top Center: Floyd Swartz; Top Right: Bindner, circa 2001
    Bottom Left: Daveggio; Bottom Center: Michaud, circa 1990s; Bottom Right: Anderson, circa 2002

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    Investigating Agency
    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
    Pinole Police Department
    510-724-8950

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    Source Information
    The National Center For Missing and Exploited Children
    Child Protection Education Of America
    Nation's Missing Children Organization and Center For Missing Adults
    The Lowell
    The North County Times
    The San Francisco Chronicle
    ABC News
    Unsolved Mysteries
    Johnny Miller #64
    News Making News
    Amber Center for Missing and Exploited Children
    Stalemate: a Shocking True Story of Child Abduction and Murder by John Philpin
    Rope Burns by Robert Scott
    Missing-Persons.org
    Child Quest International Inc.
    Operation Lookout
    The Encyclopedia of Unsolved Crimes by Michael Newton
    The San Jose Mercury News
    The Associated Press
    The Contra Costa Times
    The Vallejo Times Herald
    Facebook Page for Amber Swartz-Garcia

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    Updated 9 times since October 12, 2004.

    Last updated July 12, 2013; four pictures added.

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