Amber Lundgren was excited about going out with some friends on the evening of June 6, 1997. They planned to go to Bar Code, a club in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. Amber had never been to Bar Code before, but had helped the owner with some interior decorating before it opened six months earlier. He gave her some free passes to the club, and she invited some friends to go with her to check it out. On this evening, she opted to wear blue jeans and a red & white flannel shirt; she had spent a lot of time getting her hair to curl the way she wanted it to and her makeup was flawless. While her friends finished doing their hair and makeup, Amber called her mother and told her about her plans for the evening.
Amber, the only child of single mother Debi Lundgren, had grown up in Tampa, Florida. She and her mother had moved to Asheville, North Carolina when Amber was a teenager, and she graduated from Asheville High School in 1995. She planned to eventually go back to school — and was going to be taking an art or photography course in the fall — but she also wanted to travel the world and make sure she lived her life to the fullest. She had a lot of plans for the future, but she wanted to take the scenic route to get there. For now, she was content with her job as an assistant manager at a local Pier 1; both of the friends she was going out with on this particular evening worked at Pier 1 with her.
Once her friends finished getting ready, Amber got off the phone with her mother and told her she would talk to her the following day. The three friends posed for a quick photograph together, then left Amber’s apartment, eager to get the night started. As usual, Amber was the designated driver. She rarely drank and could always be trusted to make sure all her friends got home safe. They arrived at Bar Code sometime before midnight, parking a few blocks away from the club’s Broadway Street location. Although the club was one of the newer ones in Asheville, it had already gained a reputation as being one of the safest. They employed more bouncers than most nightclubs in the area, and were quick to shuffle rowdy patrons out the door; this allowed people to have fun without being harassed.
Around 2:00 am, Amber realized that she had no idea where her two friends were. She walked around the club for a few minutes in an attempt to locate them, but was unable to find them. She checked with the bartender, but he hadn’t seen them recently and was unsure if they were still in the club. April walked outside around 2:30 am, likely still looking for her friends, but they were nowhere to be found.
Amber’s exact actions after she left the club are unclear. Although she had been the designated driver, she had driven a car belonging to one of her co-workers; her own car was still parked at her apartment. She couldn’t leave without her friends, and may have headed to another club located near Bar Code in her futile attempt to find them.
Before they had left for their evening out, the three friends had decided that they would meet back at Amber’s apartment if they got separated. Amber may have attempted to walk back to her apartment, but she never made it there. Her friends eventually made their way back to the apartment at 4:30 am but found it dark and empty; there was no sign of Amber.
Amber had plans to meet up with her friend Nadia that morning; the two of them were scheduled to move into a new apartment together the following weekend and were planning to go to a garage sale to do some shopping. Amber was known for being extremely reliable, so Nadia was immediately concerned when she couldn’t get in touch with her. She stopped by Pier 1 to see if she had been called in to work an extra shift, but she wasn’t there. After Nadia spoke with Amy, one of the co-workers who had gone to Bar Code with Amber, she learned that no one had seen or heard from Amber since the previous night.
Aware that Amber usually reported all her movements to her mother, the friends decided to call Debi and see if she knew where her daughter might be. Debi was working that Saturday, however, and Nadia was unable to reach her. By now, she feared the worst. She called police and reported Amber missing. Shortly after that, police brought friends and family members down to the station to be interviewed.
For Debi, the situation soon became a nightmare. Amber was her only child and the two of them were extremely close, more like best friends than mother and daughter. There had been a few fights when Amber was a teenager — Debi had been mortified when her daughter started dying her hair black and burgundy and then pierced her eyebrow and started getting tattoos — but they always had a special relationship. Debi couldn’t imagine what she would do if anything happened to Amber.
It was around 5:00 pm when Amber was reported missing to the Asheville Police Department. As soon as the officer taking the report learned what Amber looked like, he froze. Amber wasn’t missing; her body had already been found. She was in the morgue at Mission Hospital, entered under the name Jane Doe.
It had been 8:30 am that morning when police received a call from a man who had been walking his dog near Buncombe County Recreation Park. While walking on Azalea Road, the man had noticed several articles of bloody clothing. Unsure if what he was seeing was related to a crime, the man opted to call police. Once on the scene, it took officers only a few minutes to find the victim’s body. She was lying in a culvert about 100 yards away from where the clothing was found. Her body was partially covered with water; she may have intentionally been placed there by the k*iller in an attempt to destroy potential evidence.
She had been ki*lled by a single stab wound to the neck, which hit a main artery and would have caused her to bleed out within minutes. She had a number of defensive wounds; it was clear she had put up a ferocious fight for her life. Detectives were unable to determine if she had been k*illed where she was found or left there after she was already dead. Although most of her clothing had been removed, there was no evidence of sexual assault and detectives believed that her k*iller likely removed her clothing after she was already dead.
Investigators combed through the crime scene looking for anything that might help them identify the victim or her ki*ller. They used weed-wackers and metal detectors to make sure that nothing was missed, but were unable to find anything related to the mu*rder. Although they still weren’t completely certain, it appeared that the kil*ling had occurred somewhere else.
Amber’s body was sent to the morgue at Mission Hospital; because no identification was found at the scene and there were no matching missing person reports at the time, she was listed as a Jane Doe. Ironically, the morgue was located just a few doors down the hall from the hospital pharmacy where Debi Lundgren worked. She spent the entire day yards away from her daughter’s body and had no idea. She was crushed when she realized it.
Investigators had spent most of the day trying to learn Amber’s identity; once they had her name the hunt for her k*iller kicked into high gear. Detectives interviewed her friends and other patrons from the club and learned that Amber had last been seen around 3:00 am Saturday morning. They appealed to the public for anyone who had been in the downtown Asheville area around that time to contact them if they had seen Amber; they were also looking for anyone who might have witnessed anything unusual.
One witness came forward and told police that she had seen Amber walking down Lexington Avenue, just blocks away from Bar Code, at 3:05 am. This placed Amber in the area where her friend’s car was parked; she was likely still trying to find her friends at this point. There were no other reported sightings of Amber, leading police to believe that she might have accepted a ride home with someone who ended up k*illing her.
Amber’s family and friends were adamant that she never would have gotten into a vehicle with anyone she didn’t know. Debi noted that she had raised Amber to have a degree of mistrust towards strangers; if she had gotten into a stranger’s vehicle, it would have been under duress. Investigators canvassed the downtown Asheville area, looking for anyone who might have heard screams or saw someone being forced into a car, but came up empty.
Investigators and crime scene technicians were sent to Bar Code to look for possible evidence there, but it seemed clear that whatever had happened to Amber had occurred after she left the club. She had been seen leaving the club alone, and she had been alone at 3:05 am when she was seen walking on Lexington Avenue. It appeared that, at some point during her walk, she had encountered a k*iller.
Police continued to descend on the downtown Asheville area, handing out flyers about the mur*der and hanging up posters with Amber’s picture on them. They urged anyone who had witnessed anything, no matter how insignificant it seemed, to call them. The managers at Bar Code created a fund and urged other local business owners to contribute; they soon were able to offer a sizeable reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of Amber’s ki*ller. This brought in a few more leads, but the mur*derer remained elusive.
A few days after the mur*der, police spoke with a witness who had been driving on Azalea around 4:00 am that Saturday morning. She recalled seeing an unidentified male near the area where Amber’s body would later be found. She described him as a white male with a stocky build, dark reddish-brown hair, and a beard; he was between 20 and 45 years old. The witness was also able to describe the man’s truck, a dark-colored older model work truck, possibly navy blue.
With the help of the witness, a sketch artist developed a composite sketch of the man and truck seen near the crime scene, and they were widely published throughout Buncombe County. More than 100 tips were called in after these sketches were released to the public; detectives followed up on each tip but were unable to develop any solid leads. Although police continued to run weekly appeals for information in local newspapers, the case soon went cold.
In April 2002, two jailhouse informants contacted police and told them they knew who had ki*lled Amber. They claimed that a 32-year-old man, local to the Asheville area, had confessed to them that he was the mur*derer. According to the informants, this man also had a blue truck at his home that he never drove; they claimed he admitted that the reason he never drove the truck was because it was the one police were looking for in connection with Amber’s unsolved m*urder.
That June, using the information provided by the jailhouse informants, police got a warrant and seized the man’s truck. They also took blood, hair, and saliva samples from the man for comparison with evidence that had been collected at the crime scene. Evidently there was no match, as the man was never charged and his name was never released to the public. Amber’s case went cold once more.
It has been nearly 23 years since Amber was ki*lled, but her friends and family still think about her on a daily basis and continue to hope that her k*iller will be found. The Asheville Police have not given up on their search for the murd*erer; recently cold case investigators resubmitted some of the evidence obtained at the crime scene for specialized DNA testing. They are hopeful that this will bring about a break in the case so they can finally obtain justice for Amber.
Amber Lundgren was just 20 years old when she was murd*ered in 1997. Friends describe her as an extraordinary person who was incredibly smart and taught them to appreciate life. She wanted to visit Europe, spoke of joining the Peace Corps, and hoped to one day settle down and have a family. All of this was taken away from her by a still-unidentified ki*ller, and her friends and family are desperate for the case to be solved. As of 2021, Amber’s 92-year-old grandmother was still living in Florida where Amber grew up, and hopes to see justice for her beloved granddaughter before it’s too late. If you have any information about Amber’s murd*er, please contact Detective Kevin Taylor of the Asheville Police Department at 828–259–5945 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.