Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Amber Hagerman

8 Minutes in Texas

Amber Hagerman
Amber Hagerman

More than 10 years later, Glenda Whitson recalls each second of the 8 minutes that changed her family's life.

It began with a visit from her grandchildren, Amber Hagerman, 9, and brother Ricky, 5.

They stopped at Whitson's Arlington, Texas, home with their mother, Donna, at about 3 in the afternoon on Saturday, Jan. 12, 1996.

Whitson's husband, Jimmie, was tinkering with a car out front.

He paused to say hello to Amber, an auburn-haired cutie who loved Burger King, Barbie dolls and "America the Beautiful," for the line that mentioned her name: "Amber waves of grain."

Jimmie Whitson kept two bicycles at the house for the grandkids, and Amber and Ricky asked if they could go for a quick ride on the sunny winter day.

"My husband and my daughter said, 'OK, but just go once around the block,'" Glenda Whitson told Crime Library.

Glenda Whitson
Glenda Whitson

They peddled around two corners to the parking lot of a Winn-Dixie grocery store that had been closed for some time. Neighborhood kids enjoyed riding on a ramp there.

As the children went off, no adult gave it a second thought.

The Whitsons had lived there on Highland Drive, in Arlington's Highland Park addition, since 1975. The children's mother had ridden her bicycle on the same streets when she was growing up.

Arlington had changed in those 21 years, of course.

Part of the vast Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, its population had nearly doubled since the Whitsons moved in.

But the parking lot where Amber and Ricky headed was on busy E. Abram Street, just down the block from a vast General Motors plant. The spot was far from isolated, and it was broad daylight.

"They rode over there and went down the ramp," Mrs. Whitson said. "Ricky told his sister, 'I'm going back home because mama told us to just ride around the block.' So he rode back here, and my husband asked him, 'Where's Sissy?' He said she stayed for one more ride on the ramp, so they sent him back for her."

Ricky Hagerman left but returned a minute or two later and said, "I can't find Sissy."

Jimmie Whitson jumped in his truck and sped to the parking lot.

He spotted a police car there and pulled up to it. The officer told Whitson that a man who lived nearby heard screaming and saw a man carry a young girl into a pickup truck. The witness called 911, and the officer raced to the scene just moments later. But all he found was a bicycle.

Jimmie Whitson's heart sank.

He said, "That's my granddaughter's bike."

In recounting this series of events 10 1/2  years later, Jimmie Whitson's wife let out a long sigh.

"That was it," she said. "Eight minuteseight minutes from the time she rode away on her bicycle until that man called 911. People have to know that this is how fast these things can happen."


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