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. KatieS

    For those of you making the aunts out as heroes for "rescuing" this child from the evil California foster care system, you should know that had any of the aunts been capable of raising her, they would have been given the opportunity to become her foster parent when she was first taken into foster care. The fact that they weren't means either that they couldn't pass a homestudy or never tried to gain custody the legal way. Extended family is always looked at as the first choice when a child enters foster care.

    It also should be noted that California actually has a relatively good foster care system when compared to other states. Yes, sadly, there are foster parents who are only in it for the money. However, unlike many other states, California does not mess around and give the bio-parents years and years to straighten out their lives while the child rots in foster care. The parents are given a reasonable amount of time (6 to 12 months) and then the child is placed for adoption (oftentimes with extended biological family).

    July 15, 2010 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      You are correct, the aunts were not capable of raising the child and were not eligible to foster her. They were minors themselves.

      July 15, 2010 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shawn

      Really? Are you part of the foster care system or have ever been in it? Try talking to children who are or were part of it, you may see a different side of the story. I am not saying that case workers don't want to do the right thing most of the time, but there are many cases where foster care yanks kids from family members that are capable of taking care of them with the premise of those family members not having familial rights to the child.

      July 15, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • KatieS

      Yes, I am part of the foster care system. I have been a foster parent for over 20 years and have foster over 40 children (and adopted 8 of them). I have provided a temporary home to countless children while the county searched for extended family able to take them. I have also brought newborn babies home from the hospital, raised them for years because no relative wanted to be their foster parent, only to have them taken away and given to those same relatives when they become adoptable because family is always seen as the best option even when it involves ripping a child from the only home they have ever known. And I have many times seen family denied the opportunity to raise a child because a homestudy proved that they were no better than the parents who lost custody (sometimes the apple doesn't fall far from the tree). There have even been times when I have had to be on high alert because a family member has threatened to kidnap the children or harm me or the child.

      Yes, I'm sure there are a few isolated instances where family that was willing and able was wrongfully denied the right to raise a relative's child, but that is the rare exception, not the rule. The system I have worked within for the past 20 years goes through extraordinary efforts to place children with extended family.

      Go to any prison and you will meet alot of "innocent" men. It's kind of the same with foster care.

      July 15, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ituri

    I'm AMAZED at how many people are defending the KIDNAPPERS here. The state has a responsibility to protect its citizens. Its partially why we pay taxes, if you recall what those are for.

    Every single one of you would be JUMPING around and SCREAMING if it were your kid. You would go to the POLICE and start an investigation, and if they didn't jump through your million hoops, who will you blame? THEM. Oh, the scary government! Seriously...

    July 15, 2010 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  3. Lynn replying to Kraznodar

    "fairly devout" is an oxymoron. "fair amount of success as a missionary" is nothing to brag about. Putting God in every sentence – you did! Now about this girl. Not enough information yet to judge the situation. All of you – read the Carmina Salcido story if you want to know how the justice system lets down kids and how foster care and adoption are not always a good thing.

    July 15, 2010 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |

    what were her living conditions like? how was she treated? chances are she just got taken from a family she thought was hers and is hurting now. sad story.

    July 15, 2010 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Biju Mathews

    All the comments here are funny 🙂

    July 15, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Becca

    HM why do people cry about what teachers make>?They picked their profession!! They also get paid more then most of the parents of the children in their classes. They are just whiny A$$ free loaders.

    July 15, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Thomas

    Does anyone even bother reading the articles anymore or do they go straight to the comments? Girl was kidnapped. 7 years later girl was found with people unrelated to her. Girl was taken into child services while they figure out who's guilty of what.

    What the forums are full of:

    Government owning children, school as indoctrination into consumerism, Gods role or lack thereof in events on earth. It's Bushes Fault, It's Obamas fault, AZ is dangerous without immigration reform, AZ is dangerous because of immigration reform. Home schooling will save America, Home Schooling will destroy America. It's the courts fault, it's the liberals fault, it's the tea party fault. Maybe a tax cut will help.


    Come on people, a kid was kidnapped, the kid was found, She's in child services till they can sort it out. Feel sorry for the kid, hope or pray, whichever you prefer that she doesn't end up traumatized from this and leave all the crazy political and religious fights for where they belong.... From both sides.

    July 15, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • JDH

      Agreed Agreed Agreed!!! So happy there's others out there with common sense.

      July 15, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brenda


      July 19, 2010 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Julia Nunn

    Whether Lynn's caps disturbed you or not she has an excellent point; the news writers are NOT attempting to tell the entire story. In many many cultures there are extended family members, tribal members, etc who are considered a rightful part of a family and more than willing and able to raise a child should both parents become unable (by the way do not assume both parents were doing drugs or were in some other way abusive to this infant when she was put in foster care; what if they were killing in a car wreck, or one of them died of cancer while the other was not financially able to raise her?). Foster care is quite often a horrible choice for any child and clearly the aunts cared enough to feel they should risk their own freedom to attain their niece's. I know exactly how they feel, because I tried to save my nephew (who was older at the time) after my brother died of leukemia. The courts did see his mother was unfit, but after two years an appellate court reversed the ruling and forced him to live with his mother. It has ruined his life utterly. The courts do desperately need reform! In Amber's case there is NOTHING in the report to indicate she was not in school, or properly medically tended to. She was not sickly or abused, just being hidden from a California court system which clearly prefered 'the usual method' (foster care) to a more creative and perhaps (how could we know from this report??) much better solution.

    July 15, 2010 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Julia Nunn

    Yaeger, the aunts most likely DID try to 'step up to the plate' as you say. Do your research before condemning. Aunts and uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers have been ruled to be without rights over a child regardless of the situation. They are treated as little more than strangers unless a caring judge (a rare thing) decides to try to work with the relative. Even then appellate courts can overturn any decision made in the favor of a caring relative!

    July 15, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. guest2010

    Praise the Lord.

    July 15, 2010 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  11. George1

    Try facing CPS-which is the complete power of the state- without a lawyer. That's scary. CPS seems to be composed of a bunch of social workers at the higher levels, but at the lower levels, are relatively inexperienced investigators. The decisions of those investigators seem to be based on rumor, assumptions, and malicious reports. Once you are in the CPS database for any reason, you cannot get out–even if your case is ruled out. CNN cannot really give more details, I am guessing, because of the privacy laws. Now, however, with all the comments here, maybe they'll send a real reporter-not just some talking head-to do some real investigation and give us a proper update.

    July 15, 2010 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shawn

      Amen, I was a foster parent for 14 years, and even I have serious problems with the CPS agencies. I have seen abused children left with or returned to abusers while children who's parents biggest sin is being poor were taken indefinitely. It is a game of who has the cash and will stay that way until people stand up for the children.

      July 15, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shawn

      I found that too many foster parents see the children in their care as paychecks not as people, and many weren't capable of understanding the pain these children are in or of making allowances for them.

      July 15, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  12. grammadee94

    Praise the Lord! At least she is only 7 years old and not 30 yrs old with 2 kids like Jaycee Dugard. Hopefully, with time she will be able to understand what I'm sure is a confusing situation for a 7 yr old.

    July 15, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Shawn

    What a sad state of education our country is in? People are incapable of critical thinking anymore, most of you are swallowing this story with your eyes closed. CNN has been under attack many times for reporting partial truths skewed to the point of view of their investors. There are always two or more sides to every story, and the truth lies somewhere in between. We know the aunts took great risks to their personal freedom to remove the child from the foster system, and to get her to somewhere they felt she would be safe. We know she wasn't enrolled in school, but we do not know if she was receiving education in the form of home schooling. We do not know who the person/persons she was living with are, or what they do, they may well be highly educated people. We know she is 8 years old or nearly, and is capable of yelling for help, but chose to stay hidden in a shower under what is described as laundry.
    Think for yourself, don't let media tell you what to think, that's is why our country is in such a mess politically. Look at facts not conjecture.

    July 15, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Gerri

    okay, the three aunts were minors but felt they were protecting their family...the child was well taken care of...I want to know where the mother is and is She Now Capable of Taking Care Of Her Child....Will the State take the lead to reunite this child with her biological family or throw her to the wolves?

    July 15, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. CG

    i hope that she gets to be adopted my a nice family and gets to go to school bcus she only missed 2 years and with a tutor, she can b caught up and then she can have a good life with a family! hopfully everything works out

    July 15, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
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