Three weeks after the abduction, authorities released a psychological profile, hoping to smoke out the killer.
The profile suggested the man was at least 25 and lived or worked near the spot where he dumped the body. Authorities revealed the girl was alive for two full days after she was abducted, which likely meant there was a crime scene rife with physical evidence somewhere in the Dallas area.
Police theorized that something caused the killer to snapan argument with a loved one, a rancorous domestic dispute, or the loss of a job. They said the killer's personality or appearance might have changed as a result of the trauma.
As an Arlington police spokesman put it, "Our hope is...someone out there will hear this and will think, 'Gee, this sounds like someone I know.'"
Plenty of people had that reaction. Police pursued some 5,500 leads in the 18 months following the murder.
But none led to the killer.
In the summer of 1997, after investing more than $1 million in the Amber Hagerman investigation, Arlington police disbanded the task force.
The murder remains an open investigation today, but the girl's grandmother said her hope is flagging.
"They don't really have much to go ona few fibers they found on her body, they tell us," said Glenda Whitson. "They're still working on it, and they call us now and then. They say they'll never give up...After 10 years you lose hope that they'll ever find him, but I still have a little bit of hope."
Mrs. Whitson, 65, said she prays the killer is caught in her lifetime.
"It won't bring her back, but at least we would know that he got what he had coming to him," she said.
In the meantime, Amber's loved ones take solace in her legacy.