Amber Hess Murder – Investigation Discovery’s show “Grave Mysteries” is a true crime television series that examines some of history’s most mysterious cases. Each episode focuses on one particular crime and follows its investigation as detectives and other law enforcement personnel strive to solve it.
One of the unique aspects of “Grave Mysteries” is that it not only focuses on the facts of a crime but also examines its emotional toll on those affected.
In “Grave Mysteries” season 2 episode 1, “Ultimate Betrayal,” viewers are taken through the gruesome murder of 17-year-old Amber Hess in Queen Creek, Arizona, in June 2007. The police led an investigation that eventually led to arresting those responsible for her death; interviews with law enforcement officials, family members, and friends provide an in-depth look at both the case and events leading up to it. Through this episode, viewers gain insight into investigators’ methods for solving the case and bringing justice for Amber and her family.
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Who was Amber Hess and How Did She Pass Away?
Amber LeAnn Hess was born on September 5, 1989, in Queen Creek, Arizona, too proud parents Mike and Candy Hess. Upon graduating from Coolidge High School in May 2007, the determined 17-year-old had her sights set on attending Mesa Community College; however, she first decided to gain experience by working at Sonice drive-in restaurant in San Tan Heights, which had recently opened its doors for customers. It was an exciting time for Amber as she embarked on a new chapter full of hope and promise.
Amber’s death shocked the small community of Queen Creek and left her family and friends devastated. Candy Hess remembered her daughter as “bright, intelligent, loving, and very outgoing,” adding that she had a contagious laugh that could light up any room.
On June 11, 2007, Amber Hess’ mother reported her missing after she failed to return from her job at a local fast-food restaurant. Her car had been found abandoned in a nearby parking lot with all of her personal belongings still inside.
On June 17, her body was discovered in the desert near Queen Creek, Arizona – 25 miles southeast of Phoenix. An autopsy revealed that she had been strangled to death.
Who Killed Amber Hess?
On June 17, 2007, 17-year-old Amber Hess went missing, and her parents reported her disappearance to the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office. When investigators arrived at her residence, they found an open front door and a garden hose extending out of the home. They discovered dried blood in the kitchen, indicating someone had attempted to clean up after the crime scene. There were signs of a struggle inside, too – Amber’s bedroom door torn off its hinges and blankets missing from her bed – plus, her parents reported her 2002 Mitsubishi Lancer as well as a gun missing from their vehicle.
After interviewing Amber’s parents, the investigators discovered that Todd Hoke, then 16 and a close friend of Amber’s, often came over for family dinners. Todd was interrogated in front of his grandmother since he was still a juvenile at the time. Todd related that he and Amber had planned to go see a movie together with Nicolas “Nick” Castillo; however, Amber never showed up, so the two of them spent the night at Nick’s house after watching the film. Todd provided the police with Nick’s phone number so they could verify his alibi.
Nick and his mother both confirmed Todd had been at their home, but investigators kept searching for other leads. They looked into a boy Amber briefly dated before breaking up with him and another ex-boyfriend, but both were ruled out as suspects. The FBI and US Marshals were brought in to aid with the investigation. Amber’s phone records were examined; police discovered she had taken money from an ATM on June 22 around 7:00 pm while surveillance footage showed she was alone at the machine.
Two days after Amber’s body was discovered in the desert, police discovered tire tracks similar to her stolen car alongside two sets of footprints from an All-Star Converse sneaker and Vans near her corpse – suggesting they may have been teenagers. Suspecting that Amber had been killed by someone she knew, police spoke with friends to learn more. It transpired that Amber and Todd had an intimate relationship, with rumors flying that Amber might be pregnant.
As the investigation continued, police discovered Amber’s missing car a few miles from Todd and Nick’s home. Amber’s blood was discovered inside the trunk, and bloody handprints on both the gear shift and steering wheel. Nick, who had a history of disciplinary problems and had been expelled from school, was brought in for further questioning and added another detail to his story: Todd had left to visit his girlfriend after seeing the movies and returned around 1:00 am.
On June 22nd, Todd’s sister came to the police station claiming her brother had called her around 1:30-2:00 am asking for cleaning supplies. As more red flags were raised in their stories, officers became increasingly suspicious and ultimately arrested both Nick and Todd for Amber’s murder.
Where Are Her Killer Nick Castillo and Todd Hoke Today?
Todd Hoke and Nicolas “Nick” Castillo have been found guilty of the brutal murder of Amber Hess in 2007. After initial denials, Nick broke down under questioning and confessed to his involvement; Todd had planned the heinous act and persuaded Nick to join in.
According to Nick, Todd had been planning to kill Amber for some time due to her pregnancy and ongoing disputes. On June 22, 2007, while out at the movies with them, Todd ordered Nick to strangle her; however, Amber managed to escape, and Todd and Nick proceeded to stab her multiple times in the kitchen.
After the murder, investigators staged the scene to appear as a robbery and used Amber’s car as evidence in the desert. However, evidence was eventually gathered, and Todd and Nick were found guilty of the crime.
Todd pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison; however, tragically, he passed away while still incarcerated in 2013 from suicide. On the other hand, Nick was found guilty of second-degree murder and concealment of a body, serving his 24-year sentence without parole. Despite attempts at appeal in 2016, the court dismissed his post-conviction relief notice – leading him to be released on March 20, 2031. According to official records, he is still serving time at the Lewis – Buckley Unit of the Arizona State Prison Complex in Buckeye.
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