July 15th, 2010
02:25 AM ET

Missing girl found after almost 7 years

A California girl who had been missing for almost seven years was found Wednesday by police in Phoenix, Arizona, authorities said.

Amber Rose Nicklas had just turned a year old when she was abducted in September 2003.

She had been in the care of foster parents in Norwalk, California, when she was snatched by three of her aunts, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County sheriff's Norwalk Station said.

Two of the aunts were caught at the time. The third got away with the child, said sheriff's spokesman Bill Evans.

The girl somehow ended up with a family in Phoenix that had no relation to her biological family, authorities said.

Authorities got a tip that Amber could be at a home in Phoenix and went there with a court order Wednesday afternoon.

When investigators tried to serve the court order, they found that a woman in the home had hidden the child in a shower under a pile of clothes and towels, said Phoenix police Sgt. Trent Crump.

Amber's identity had been changed, including her name and date of birth, police said.

"The child was in good physical condition; however, very frightened about today's events. She had also been withheld from schooling," Crump said.

Amber's real identity was confirmed through footprints, photographs and DNA swabs, police said.

The child, who is now 7, is in state custody in California and prosecutors will file charges, Crump said. - CNN's Nick Valencia and Sonya Hamasaki contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Arizona • California • Crime • Justice
soundoff (279 Responses)
  1. kh

    It's great that they found her alive. Now instead of foster care, hopefully they can find a caring, sane family to adopt her.

    July 15, 2010 at 6:47 am | Report abuse |
  2. Mom of 3

    Wow, amazing how judgmental humans have become, even without ALL of the facts!

    As for the lack of "formal" education – a good friend has children that have never attended a "formal" school, yet her kids are more "educated" than most college graduates.... These kids have grown up with the world as their school room , speak several languages, etc. And from my personal experience with the current school system, "formal" schooling is a far cry from what it once was. We have lowered our educational standards so that all kids can feel good about themselves...... Great for those with less intelligence but HORRIBLE for those children that have a higher intellilect

    July 15, 2010 at 6:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Kraznodar

      "Intellilect"? Really? This very forum has built in spell check. Everything you had to say became meaningless as soon as you spelled intellect so wrongly.

      July 15, 2010 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      It is possible to get a good education outside of the school system, but that does not mean that kids who don't go to school get good educations. This kid didn't have the world as her classroom. She had the person her 13 year old aunt gave her to before getting locked up.

      If it turns out the kid is home schooled in the classics, well, you will get to say "I told you so", but I would be a dollar that the kid is home schooled by Dora the Explorer and can't write her own name, or the name that the woman she lives with tells her is her name.

      July 15, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • RheA

      I can agree here. And to those making a big deal about a misspelling, spelling is a labeling system, and it was the last word in the post. Generally people make plenty of typos as their fingers fly across the keyboard, and when spell checking how often do you assume the first and last word are correct.

      My logical basis for agreement is the what is fit for one standards. At some point the school boards decided what was going to be the ground for normal and everyone would be judged for how well they could keep up. Also they are graded on busy work and practice material. Yet if they have a student that reads the book, won't do school work and Aces the exams the student fails. Even when the school proves there is no cheating involved and had been eliminated as a possiblility through extensive testing. This is likely because the person who designed the system created a method of grading one's ability to conform to normal standards, and improve societies instruction following skills. While these are great skills to have does it not occur as a bit strange you are forced to follow the instruction from five years old to generally around eighteen years old.

      School also have a alternative learning system based on IEPs. IEP stands for Individual Education plan and is generally used when someone cannot keep up, it however is seldom used for students who are excelling faster then the educational guidelines are set up to handle. So what happens to the child who already knows what the teacher is talking about already aced the practice exam that everyone else failed. He or she learns that in life they must be idle, they find no challenge. Over time Gifted Education has been set up, but this again was set for an average, to enable to learning of the average Gifted Child. So then what happens to this child who again is not callenged, again already knows what you are talking about, sure maybe they didn't know about that little detail, but the general information has already be banked to memory.

      That child exists. Several of them. And many just stay mainstream average children, because its easy to coast. And for the slower learner, may struggle and feel loss of self worth because the "normal kids" are "smarter". This is fair to no one that is falls short of or raises beyond average. Perhaps if IEPs were the normal instead of the rare there would be more progess, more teaching jobs, better prepared children turning into adults.

      As to this story, being withheld education could mean schooled at home, because the reporting party may not agree with homeschooling as a means of education. The story clearly states she was in good health. And God bless the aunts for taking care of family. obviously the didn't take her back to her abusive parents. And you would not believe what horrors child go through in foster care. I'll leave it at that. If someone in your family risks losing thier child to foster care do everything you can to protect that child from that horror. Even if it means being the bad guy to your sister and having her kids live with you. Its possible to get good foster parents, but even most of them are over worked because they try to help so many. And nothing stops another foster child who was abused in a different home from become abusive in the best foster parent's home. She was better off where she was unless she was ABUSED or NEGLECTED. which this says she was not.

      July 15, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mom of 3

    intellect..... so the lack of "formal" education really does not ensure that this child was "abused" by her aunts.

    July 15, 2010 at 7:01 am | Report abuse |
  4. overseas

    If the child was well cared for and home schooled, it would be sad if the aunts are
    treated as criminals, what ever the letter of the law, as the child should be with family
    that cares, rather than with some foster care system.

    July 15, 2010 at 7:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Linney

      She wasn't with her aunts. Apparently, they took her and gave her to unrelated persons.

      July 15, 2010 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
  5. Jim P

    What a way to start your life.....

    July 15, 2010 at 7:14 am | Report abuse |
  6. Travis T

    Come on CNN I think there is more to this story, GET THE REST OF THE STORY !!!!!

    July 15, 2010 at 7:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      Why? People aren't even reading the part that CNN does have. She wasn't with the aunts. She wasn't home schooled. She had no contact with anyone related to her.

      The aunts were arrested and did their time years ago. The aunts were just barely teenagers at the time. We aren't talking 26 year old concerned adults, we are talking thirteen year old girls who gave a baby to a stranger.

      July 15, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. BillShut

    Go to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200. And do not ever have contact with this poor child, ever again in her life!!

    July 15, 2010 at 7:53 am | Report abuse |
  8. Al

    For everyone thats blaming the government and the courts for this happening.....just STFU!!!! come on man...how do you blame a court system or government for this? You’re blaming the court and government for keeping this child from getting an education? You blaming the courts and government for trying to hide the child under a pile of clothes?...Changing their name and D.O.B. and everything? Really…..just STFU! Only on in the end here that suffers is the child.

    July 15, 2010 at 7:54 am | Report abuse |
  9. Rob in Pittsburgh

    I agree, the whole "God" issue is moot. Things happen, and NONE of us know why. Don't use your fairytale religious views to praise something you have no clue about. If you're faithful, and believe in that sort of thing, good for you. I'm not taking that from you. But don't automatically think the rest of us are your followers. I'm sorry you are in such fear of the unknown that you need a crutch to get you through life. Again, not judging (like so many of YOU do), just staing MY opinion for once. This little girl was found alive, and that's great. It's just how this story worked out. Our world is not perfect and never will be. Let this be a lessons to all of you parents out there who really do care about your kids. Watch them, and I mean WATCH them! For you parents that "say" you care, but then drop off your kids at the mall so you don't have to watch them or don't take any sort of an active and guided role in their lives.....you don't get a say in anything. You're the one that's the problem, and the reason there's so many misguided and troubled young people in our society these days. Step up to the plate. Finally, as for this little girl, whose obviously more traumatized than she will realize for many years to come, I'm happy she's safe. Be it in the CA courts, or elsewhere. I hope the aunts had good intentions – but we'll never really know. I'm just happy she wasn't discovered in a trash bag in the woods or in a dumpster. I hope you all have a wonderful day, and try not to take the comments about being a "bad" parent too harshly. You know who you are. Spouting off from behind a computer only proves how immature and uneducated you are. Just do your job.

    July 15, 2010 at 7:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Bryan C

      You have the right, and the ability, to choose whether or not you want to believe in God.....which, being religious does not mean that you truly believe in God. It is by your own free will that you believe. Now, if you choose not to believe and in the end find out that you are wrong and that there is a God, then what? If I find out in the end that I was wrong and God does not exist, then what? I think that the greater risk is definitely in choosing not to believe. Peace out.

      July 15, 2010 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Carolina Secret Garden

      Faith in God isn't a crutch and we don't believe because we fear the afterlife, we don't believe "just in case". But it is certainly easier to go through life feeling there are no consequences for your actions, like there is no higher authority to answer to. No one is making assumptions that you are a follower. They are stating their opinions, just like those not referring to God. It's really a shame that those who claim to be most tolerant of others are so intolerant of Christians. Everyone seems to have a right to say what they feel, until a Christian chimes in. Then they are told to keep their God to themselves. Now who's the hypocrite?

      July 15, 2010 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Kraznodar

      I'm a fairly devout Christian and have had a fair amount of success as a missionary. I've never had anyone tell me to keep my "God" out of discussions. Maybe it is because I am not offensive about shoving God down people's throats. If you are putting God or Jesus into every sentence then you are being arrogant and prideful instead of humble.

      When there is more information about this case then I'll have an opinion on it.

      July 15, 2010 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Carolina Secret Garden

      Kraznodar, apparently you haven't read all of the preceding posts. Someone says "Thank God she's safe" and gets attacked for bringing God into it. Rob in Pittsburgh, among others, are unnecessarily nasty by referring to faith in God as "fairytale religious views", or worse. I do not shove religion down people's throats. I quietly practice my faith and only discuss religious views with those who initiate conversation. And I very rarely comment on articles. But I do read and watch the news and I am sick of Christianity being treated like a plague by a vocal minority. Not everyone who is willing to speak up for Christians (me) are right wing ultra conservative bible beaters...but even they have a right to say what they wish without being attacked by atheists. Last I checked the first amendment doesn't give everyone EXCEPT Christians freedom of speech. If someone doesn't like what others have to say, they need to put on their big boy pants, walk away or don't read it, and get over it.

      July 15, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Read again

    Two of the aunts got caught at the time (7 years ago). That means the third aunt is the one that sent the girl off to another (unrelated) family. The other two aunts probably got in trouble already. Now the third aunt will be in trouble.

    I agree that the aunts didn't handle the situation in the right way. Perhaps they were desperate to see the child out of the parent's custody...so desperate that they hatched a plan to take her out of the situation as they weren't feeling as though the state would help. I'm sure they care(d) about the girl.

    Who's to say that the third aunt didn't spend lots of time finding a family (unrelated) that would love and care for the girl? Who knows how long the girl has been with that family? What prevented the aunt from caring for her? Did she feel that by changing the girl's name and sending her away, the girl would be more likely to grow up in a loving and stable environment?

    There are tons of unanswered questions. We can't pass judgment if we don't know the answers.

    Here's hoping the little girl is able to be placed with a loving, caring family via foster care or adoption. She needs and deserves it after all she's been through.

    July 15, 2010 at 7:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Kraznodar

      The aunts kidnapped her from the courts, not from the parents. The parents had already lost custody. Plenty of twisted people torture their kids "out of love". I trust an uncaring court far more than I trust child abusers.

      July 15, 2010 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
  11. sarah

    Yes it is all sad. But at seven she hasn't missed a lot of school. Kids normally don't start school till five some do homeschool,some never attend daycare or pre k. So I'm thinking the fact she may lack a kindergarten education at seven is a minor issue.

    July 15, 2010 at 8:02 am | Report abuse |
  12. Russell

    You have all missed one SERIOUS point. The child will inevitably go back to the alleged abusive parents she was kidnapped from.
    She was not removed from them legally and thus automatically will be returned to them!
    Woe is this child, taken from a loving and secure home to be returned to parents she does not know and enter an abusive home !!!
    May God help and preserve her. And I hope the authorities look deep into why these 3 aunts would go so far.

    July 15, 2010 at 8:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Kraznodar

      Did you read the article? The aunts took her after the court removed her from parental custody.

      July 15, 2010 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      Read the article! She ws in foster care when kidnapped. Not with her parents. he won't be returned to them either.

      July 15, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Bryan C

    it appears from other reports that the 3 aunts were all juveniles when they kidnapped the girl. very interesting.

    July 15, 2010 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
  14. Mrs. Tiger Woods

    They should all be sentenced to the chair

    July 15, 2010 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
    • jenifter123

      why should they be sentenced to the chair when they did'nt kill anyone they just kidnapped her.they should get life in prison thats all .duh

      July 16, 2010 at 3:15 am | Report abuse |
  15. WANNAHEARME

    How did this story become a story? What lead the authorities to finding this child all of a sudden after 7 years ? What broke the case...how did they stumble upon this child ? There is NO story here...alot of info is missing. Did they just wake up and find her.???? Hardly !!!! Let's find out what lead them up to this amazing discovery.

    July 15, 2010 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
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