Infamous pedophile and child murderer named as Amber Swartz kidnapper: I hope police have the right monster

Forgive me for saying this, but I’m wary about yesterday’s news that police had identified Curtis Dean Anderson as the kidnapper and killer of Pinole’s Amber Swartz.

Pinole Police held a news conference, attended by Amber’s mother, Kim Swartz, at which they said that Anderson had confessed to abducting Amber in June 1988 and taking her to Arizona where he killed her in a motel, before dumping her body somewhere in the desert.

Anderson made this confession in November 2007, a month before he died in prison. Anderson, as you probably know by now if you’ve followed news about him or Amber’s case, was serving some 300 years in prison for crimes against three Vallejo girls. One was 7-year-old Xiana Fairchild, who disappeared in 1999. The other was 8-year-old Midsi Sanchez, who was kidnapped by Anderson in 2000, held for several days by Anderson and sexually assaulted before escaping.

In their press conference yesterday, Pinole police acknowledged that they have not found Amber’s body and suggested the chances of finding any trace of her remains was slim, after all these 21 years. Also, it appears that Anderson didn’t give specific information about where he dumped her body, and he died before police could go back and re-interview him and get more details.

In addition to no body, there is no physical evidence.

However, police insist they spent the last year and a half corroborating what Anderson told them. They also said there is strong “circumstantial evidence” to tie Anderson to the case. This circumstantial evidence includes the fact that, at the time of Amber’s June 1988 disappearance, Anderson had just been paroled from prison and was hanging out  in West Contra Costa County and had become familiar with its streets by working as a cab driver.

I watched the press conference, and police didn’t say much more about this circumstantial evidence. A reporter friend who was at the press conference and has covered East Bay crime for many years, including the disappearance of Amber and of other Bay Area girls, said the police were reluctant to release many details about what Anderson said, mostly because other agencies are apparently looking at other crimes Anderson either confessed to or might be linked to. Pinole police didn’t want to give too much away, apparently so as not to jeopardize these other investigations.

This reporter friend added that police seem pretty “certain” they have solved the case.

I hope so. But, then, I’m not the only one who is wary. Amber’s mom, Kim Swartz, said in the press conference and in an interview I heard this morning on KGO radio that she feels like it’s hard to be certain that Anderson killed her daughter. With no body, and no physical evidence, she said, it’s hard to find “closure.” She said she was also concerned that police had not been able to administer a polygraph to Anderson before he died.

Yesterday, I also checked in with a source who works in Contra Costa law enforcement and who is familiar with some of the specifics of this investigation as well as Curtis Dean Anderson himself. This source, while hoping police are right, expressed wariness as well, and not just because of the lack of body and physical evidence.

He pointed out that Anderson liked to boast about crimes he committed, and some he may not have. Anderson displayed a strong need for attention; his tendency to string reporters and victims’ families along has been well documented, most recently in an article today in the Contra Costa Times.

When his dark star shone brightest — in Solano County Jail, accused of heinous crimes against one Vallejo girl and suspected of abducting another—Curtis Dean Anderson would spew about it in his slippery, cryptic way.

In the meantime, Anderson relished the attention, the time with visitors, the chance to taunt and tease.

Then 39, he vaguely claimed an array of child abductions and killings. He told a reporter and the great-aunt of 7-year-old Xiana Fairchild that he took the girl off a Vallejo street in 1999. He wanted money for the details, where to find her alive. He tried to send reporters on errands and remote searches for bones. He used code language and appeared to feel clever.

A February 2001 San Francisco Chronicle article also focused on how Anderson was possibly one of those inmates who liked to toy with detectives, reporters, and victims’ families, teasing and taunting them with possible tips, and even lying about being involved in crimes, for various reasons. His confessions about kidnapping and killing Xiana Fairchild were described as “on-and-off” in the article.

In another 2001 Chronicle article, even Anderson’s own defense attorney described his client, recently convicted in the Sanchez case, as a liar whose reported confession that he kidnapped 11 other girls over 30 years is “probably a manipulative lie so he can put off being shipped off [from the relative comforts of county jail] to state prison.”

I’m sorry to feel wary, and I’d like to trust in the Pinole Police Department’s certainty that they have finally solved a heinous crime that haunted their town and the rest of the Bay Area for two decades. Of course, I can’t imagine police and the FBI releasing this information without a high level of certainty. Authorities tend to remain pretty tight-lipped about these cases, at least publicly. Also, Kim Swartz, at the press conference, expressed hope that more definitive information would come in as a result of police announcing Anderson as her daughter’s killer.

I, too, hope so.

Otherwise, Kim Swartz, who, over these two decades, has become a highly visible advocate for child safety, will have to continue to live with the fact that police probably know what happened to her daughter, but can’t be absolutely sure.

Meanwhile, Anderson being implicated in Amber’s death takes the heat off another interesting East Bay figure, Timothy Bindner. In an earlier post, I discussed his connection and strange fascination with the kidnappings of Amber and other Bay Area girls in the late 1980s and early 1980s.

4 thoughts on “Infamous pedophile and child murderer named as Amber Swartz kidnapper: I hope police have the right monster

  1. Nice Blog. I'm not much on blogging but I am very concerned about this case. My wife and I were newly married and just starting our family when these girls started disappearing back in the late '80s and early '90s.We have always held out hope but this ending seems too convenient for Pinole PD. My money is on Bindner, even if he's not guilty of murder he should be locked up for what he did to Kim Swartz,the other families and the people of the Bay Area. Keep it up.


  2. Has there been any word from Bindner since Pinole closed the case? I can't believe he could resist the temptation to start runnining on at the mouth about how persecuted he is.Bindner loves the spot light almost as much as little girls.


  3. Dear Anon July 9, 3:22 and Bill from Brentwood:

    Yes, these cases have kind of haunted me since they occurred. As a former newspaper reporter, I covered the disappearance of Ilene Misheloff and later got involved in covering the disappearance of Amber Swartz-Garcia and reported on the day that Fairfield police served the search warrant at Bindner's home in connection with the disappearance of Amanda “Nikki” Campbell in December 1991.

    I agree that these cases changed the way I think about child safety. I have an 11-year-old. Last year, he started walking to and from school in a safe Walnut Creek neighborhood, and we JUST LIVE TWO BLOCKS from his school. Still, because of my experience writng about the kidnappings of Amber and Ilene, I couldn't help but imagine terrible things happening to him… Those fears, i know, are a bit irrational, because I also know that stranger abductions of kids are extremely rare.



  4. I read this a little over a week ago and one thing bothered me which I thought I would mention.

    It is usually the policy for many media sources not to name victims of sexual assault out of concerns for their privacy. I think this is a good policy.

    I noticed that you actually named the one victim of Anderson's that got away. I thought that maybe you could make your point without doing that out of respect for this young victims privacy.


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