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Amber Swartz was last seen June 3, 1988.

PINOLE -- A former neighbor and friend of Amber Swartz's family has gone online to petition authorities to reopen the case of the 7-year-old Pinole girl last seen on June 3, 1988, skipping rope in front of her house on Savage Avenue.

The FBI and Pinole police closed Amber's case in 2009, two years after Curtis Dean Anderson, then 46, 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 been found.

Kim Swartz, mother of Amber Swartz, talks about the 1988 kidnapping and murder of Amber at a press conference in Pinole, Calif. Monday, July 6, 2009.
Kim Swartz, mother of Amber Swartz, talks about the 1988 kidnapping and murder of Amber at a press conference in Pinole, Calif. Monday, July 6, 2009. (Kristopher Skinner/CONTRA COSTA TIMES)

At the time of his purported confession in November 2007, Anderson was serving a 251-year sentence at Corcoran State Prison 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. In all, Anderson confessed to eight killings; six of the victims remain unidentified.

Skeptics, including Amber's mom, Kim Swartz, and her former neighbor and day care provider Lea Deuel, the sponsor of the online petition, never accepted Anderson's supposed confession, noting that the FBI had produced no physical evidence to corroborate it. Swartz says the FBI was far too quick to close the case.

Anderson died of liver failure in December 2007, a month after his purported confession.

Deuel's petition to reopen the case, directed to the Pinole Police Department, is on the Website Change.org and can be accessed at http://chn.ge/160acPy. As of Thursday, the petition had gathered more than 1,100 supporters.

The FBI's Bay Area spokeswoman, Julianne Sohn, said this week her agency encourages people to come forward if they have helpful information but added: "At this time, we don't have information that would warrant reopening this particular case."

The current Pinole police chief, John Hardester, succeeded former Chief Paul Clancy, who closed the Pinole Police Department's case in July 2009 simultaneously with the FBI.

Hardester this week said he spoke to Kim Swartz a couple of months ago in connection with the Amber case, and assured her that although no evidence or information had surfaced since the case was officially closed that would justify officially reopening it, his department will continue to investigate any information related to the case and evaluate whether it might justify reopening the investigation.

"In fact, in recent weeks I have initiated the process of having the entire case file reviewed to ensure that everything is looked at again," Hardester said in an email. "We want to make sure we are completely certain that there isn't anything that needs further follow-up from the previous investigation, and we want

to make certain that nothing was missed. We are also reviewing the information that led to the closure of the case based on Curtis Dean Anderson's claim of responsibility."

Amber Swartz, if alive today, would be 33.

"After I was told her case was closed, I was in sheer shock," Kim Swartz said in a telephone interview this week. "I had a nervous breakdown. It was like she was taken from me all over again."

Swartz noted several recent cases in which long-missing women were found, including Jaycee Dugard, who turned up near Antioch in 2009, 18 years after she was kidnapped in South Lake Tahoe at age 11, and more recently, three women rescued in Cleveland in May who had been kidnapped between 2002 and 2004 and locked in a house.

Swartz said she wants to revive her dormant Amber Foundation for missing children and lobby for state legislation that would mandate keeping open missing person cases as long as the missing person has not been found -- alive or dead.

Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760 or tlochner@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at twitter.com/tomlochner