A 7-year Los Angeles cold case regarding the disappearance of Amber Nicklas is nearing resolution. FBI, Los Angeles, and Arizona police officers, armed with court orders, found Amber Nicklas–now 8-years old–living in a Phoenix home with her “family.”
The story is bizarre, and much of the information is confidential due to the ages of those involved. In September 2003, Amber Nicklas was living with foster parents when her three biological aunts visited her, taking their niece to a nearby Chuck E. Cheese restaurant. The child was never returned to foster care, and two of the three aunts were arrested, charged, and imprisoned. The third aunt, along with the baby girl had vanished.
In late 2009, a LA County detectives received a lead that was strong enough to re-open the case; it turned out to be false, but detectives were already re-examining details and updating the case with new information. The only hard evidence–a picture of baby Amber and a footprint from her birth certificate.
In early July 2010, detectives found–and interviewed–the missing third aunt who had disappeared with Amber. Following this interview, and armed with a court order, LA detectives knocked on a Phoenix-area door to discover Amber was alive and well, living with her “family” (her parents and two siblings). The Phoenix family–whose names are not being released–were raising Amber in the Gypsy tradition, and hired an attorney, claiming they were unaware the girl was considered missing.
Amber’s biological grandmother, according to their lawyer, gave them custody of the child in 2003 because the girl’s mother, a drug addict, was unfit to provide care.
At this stage, no one is facing criminal charges because there are no signs of abuse or neglect. Los Angeles County Captain Patrick Maxwell said his investigators were ‘heartbroken’ and emotionally ‘torn up’ because Amber’s been returned to foster care, far away from the only family she’s known.
While authorities in both LA and Phoenix are searching for answers, no doubt struggling with the notion that the motives behind Amber’s abduction were to provide the girl with a better chance in life, her Phoenix family plans to petition for her custody.