PINOLE -- Responding to a petition circulated by family and friends desperate for resolution, the Pinole Police Department announced Tuesday it would reopen the case of Amber Swartz, who went missing in June 1988 at age 7.
Last week, Lea Deuel, a friend and former neighbor of the Swartz family, started an online petition asking authorities to reopen the case, which the FBI closed in 2009. As of Tuesday evening, almost 1,300 people had signed the petition.
In 2007, 46-year-old Curtis Dean Anderson reportedly confessed during an interview at Corcoran State Prison that he abducted Amber and took her to an Arizona motel before murdering her and discarding her body somewhere in the desert outside Benson, Ariz. No remains have ever been found.
"I'm ecstatic that the chief has decided to reopen the case and re-examine everything," Amber's mother, Kim Swartz, said at a Pinole City Council meeting Tuesday night. "I would rather have my daughter in a missing persons database for eternity than having someone like Curtis Anderson get off death row by simply signing some sort of confession."
At the time of his confession in November 2007, Anderson was serving a 251-year sentence for kidnapping and sexually assaulting an 8-year-old Vallejo girl, who escaped; he had been sentenced to an additional 50 years to life for the 1999 kidnapping and murder of 7-year-old Xiana Fairchild of Vallejo.
Some, including Amber's mother, Kim Swartz, said they did not accept the confession, stating the FBI never provided any physical evidence to corroborate it. Anderson died in prison in December 2007.
"Amber should be found," said family friend Lisa Sanchez. "Her perpetrator is out there and he should be punished. An evil person walks this earth still."
Pinole resident Rebecca Souza, the aunt of Monica Nicole DaSilva Crain, who was abducted and murdered in 1990 in Reno, echoed the Swartzs' need to find some closure with the case.
Souza said her niece's case remains "open" because Monica's killer was never found but that it is a great comfort to her family to be able to pick up a phone and call detectives assigned to the case to see whether updates or progress have been made.
"You can't close a case and leave a little girl out there," she said. "It's not fair. You have to bring her home."
In a news release, Pinole police Chief John Hardester said he hopes reopening the case will encourage anyone with information on Amber's disappearance to step forward. New technology that wasn't available during the prior investigation will also be at their disposal, he added.
"It helps put another set of eyes on evidence that has already been looked at," Hardester said. "We want to make sure we do everything possible to find out where Amber is located. Our primary focus: Find Amber."
Anyone with information regarding Amber's disappearance is asked to call the Pinole Police Department at 510-724-8950.