The AMBER Alert system began in 1996 and was named in honor of Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old who was abducted in Arlington, Texas, and murdered.

All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands have AMBER Alert plans in place to help find missing children in danger.

As of December 2021, the AMBER Alert program has been credited with the safe recovery of 1,111 children.

Notable and Recent Cases

This list represents selected notable and/or recent cases.

Carlie Brucia

February 1, 2004 – 11-year-old Carlie Brucia is kidnapped on her way home from school in Sarasota, Florida. The abduction is captured on surveillance video at a car wash.

February 6, 2004 – Brucia’s body is found.

February 20, 2004 – Mechanic Joseph P. Smith is indicted on charges of first degree murder, kidnapping and sexual battery.

November 17, 2005 – Smith is found guilty.

December 1, 2005 – A jury recommends the death penalty for Smith by a 10-2 vote.

March 15, 2006 – Judge Andrew Owens formally sentences Smith to death.

July 2017 – Sarasota County Circuit Judge Charles Roberts vacates Smith’s sentence and orders a new sentencing trial, following the Florida Supreme Court’s 2016 ruling that jury recommendations must be unanimous in order to impose a death sentence.

April 2018 – The Florida Supreme Court orders resentencing for Smith in a 4-3 decision.

April 21, 2020 – A judge reinstates Smith’s original sentence of death, citing a Florida Supreme Court reversal in January that jury recommendations do not need to be unanimous in order to impose a death sentence.

Dylan and Shasta Groene

May 16, 2005 – 9-year-old Dylan and 8-year-old Shasta are reported missing from their home after their mother, her boyfriend, and their older brother are found murdered in their Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, home.

July 2, 2005 – Shasta is rescued at a Denny’s restaurant with her captor, Joseph Edward Duncan III, a convicted sex offender. Duncan is arrested for Shasta and Dylan’s kidnapping.

July 10, 2005 – Remains found at a Montana campsite are identified as Dylan’s.

July 12, 2005 – Duncan is charged with three counts of first degree murder.

October 16, 2006 – Duncan pleads guilty to murder and kidnapping and is sentenced to life without parole for the kidnappings. He is still eligible for the death penalty for the three murders.

2008 – Duncan receives three death sentences and six life terms in federal and state courts.

Amber Hagerman

January 13, 1996 – 9-year-old Amber Hagerman is abducted as she rides her bike in a parking lot near the home of her grandparents in Arlington, Texas.

January 17, 1996 – Hagerman’s body is found near a creek about eight miles from where she was abducted.

Her killer is never found and the case remains unsolved. Her abduction and murder led to the creation of the AMBER Alert system.

Laura Hobbs and Krystal Tobias

May 8, 2005 – Laura Hobbs and Krystal Tobias are reported missing from their homes in Zion, Illinois.

May 9, 2005 – Laura’s father, Jerry Hobbs, discovers Laura and Krystal’s stabbed and beaten bodies in a…

Source: Missing Children Fast Facts