By Carol O’Hara
“Nikki asked permission to cross the street to play with a friend. She never got there.”
Mary Ann Campbell blinks back tears that well up easily as she talks of the December 27, 1991 kidnapping of her only daughter, Amanda Nicole “Nikki” Campbell. Nikki?s dad was home that day. The little four-year-old girl and her brother, Matthew, then five, were in his care. The two had been playing outside together when Matthew decided to go in the house. Nikki asked permission to cross the street to play with a friend. “She never got there,” said Mary Ann.
Only recently had Nikki been allowed to venture outside her back yard. Doing so seemed safe in this quiet, well-kept, middle-class neighborhood in Fairfield, Calif., a family-centered community of 85,000 barely an hour?s drive northeast of San Francisco.
There were usually other children about, and parents kept a watchful eye on them. But on this unforgettable day, Nikki was outside alone. It was nearly 4:30 p.m. Perhaps her playmates were inside playing with their new Christmas toys. Perhaps some parents were preparing dinner for their families. And it was not yet time for others to be arriving home from work. For whatever reason, no one saw Nikki as she left the safety of her home; no one, that is, except the person who kidnapped her–and changed a family forever.
Mary Ann never dreamed that Nikki could be snatched by a kidnapper.
“I taught my kids what to do if a stranger approached them,” she said. “So I figured there was no way anyone could ever touch her. I knew that these people are good at what they do, but I didn?t realize how good.”
Mary Ann remembers the terror that gripped her heart as she arrived home about 6:30 after a long day that included a final stop at the grocery store. She was met at the door by an older son, Billy, age 20, who told her Nikki was missing.
“Call the police,” she screamed to him as she dropped her groceries and began her own frantic search.
Law enforcement personnel responded immediately. Thirty-five officers and 75 neighbors knocked on doors, asked everyone in the area if they had seen Nikki and walked through rain-drenched back yards expecting to find the little girl. But they didn?t find her or any trace of her. The FBI was called in on Saturday morning, December 28, 1991.
It was 72 hours after the first phone call to police came in that Detective Harold Sagan of the Fairfield Police Department was given the task of finding Nikki.
“I would have been in on it at the start, but I was winding up another crime,” said Sagan, who upon getting the case immediately called on law enforcement personnel in other counties for help.
“The support I received was wonderful,” he said. “One agency loaned me their helicopter. Contra Costa County, California sent their bloodhounds, vehicles and unpaid reserve personnel trained to handle the dogs. With the dogs, we were able to find the exact spot on the sidewalk where Nikki was taken and we traced the route of the car.” “I?ll care for her till the day I die,” Mary Ann said with conviction and devotion. But she has one plea for whoever kidnapped Nikki: “Let her come home. Tell us where to find her. I just want her back!”
Abridged by permission of Carol O’Hara. If you have any information call.