Seven-year-old Amber Swartz-Garcia disappeared from Pinole, California in 1988. Her disappearance was the second major tragedy to befall her family: her father, a police officer, was killed in the line of duty before Amber was born. Amber was severely hearing-impaired from birth, which I suppose is a tragedy also. Anyway, her family was one of those lottery families I wrote about earlier.
Amber’s case got a lot of attention, as there were several other little girls who disappeared from the same area during the same time period. Timothy Bindner, a thoroughly creepy local eccentric, inserted himself into the case and quickly became the prime suspect, but the cops were never able to pin anything on him. He seemed to treat it all as a joke: “Nyah nyah nyah nyah, you can’t indict me!”
Well, Bindner must be laughing his fool head off now, because now the cops think he had nothing to do with Amber’s disappearance. Curtis Dean Anderson confessed to Amber’s abduction and murder before he died in prison in 2007. If what he said is true, her abduction was of the rarest and most terrifying type: she just happened to be standing in her front yard when a monster drove by randomly and snatched her on a whim. The police have announced they’ve accepted Anderson’s statement and will close the case. Amber’s body has never been found.
Anderson himself was even creepier than Bindner. He was a confirmed child kidnapper, molester and murderer. He abducted and killed Xiana Fairchild in 1999. (It was another very high-profile case, one I remember well. I was thirteen at the time and just getting into my missing person obsession. They say he kept her alive for a month or so after her kidnapping.) He abducted and molested an eight-year-old girl in 2000, keeping her for several days before she was able to escape from him. He’s suspected in several other disappearances as well and I fully believe he was a serial killer. We may never know just how many girls he murdered.
In spite of Anderson’s reputation and the cops’ belief in his guilt, I’m a bit uneasy about closing Amber’s case. I mean, this is the word of one man. Amber’s abduction wasn’t witnessed and, as I said, her body was never found. The police spent eighteen months investigating what he said and found “no evidence to refute it.” But unless there’s something they aren’t saying, there is also no evidence to corroborate Anderson’s statement. And can we trust an admitted murderer doing life without parole? He had nothing to lose by confessing to Amber’s death. I am reminded of Henry Lee Lucas and the billion or so murders he confessed to that he didn’t commit. I’m just sayin’. And from the articles I list below, I’m not the only one who feels this way.
Unless Amber, or her body, turns up, we will never really know what happened to her. I’m quite sure she’s dead.
Meanwhile, I wonder if Bindner is still a suspect in other missing girls from the Bay area, or whether they’re looking at Anderson for those too.