Nine-year-old Michaela Joy Garecht and her best friend visited a market in Hayward, California on the 19th of November 1988. The market was just four blocks away from her home, and Michaela visited the market almost every day.
When the two girls arrived at the market, they parked their scooters next to the entrance. They then went inside the market and brought some sweets. When they left the market, Michaela’s scooter was gone. Her friend noticed that her scooter had been moved to the parking lot, so Michaela went over to get it.
However, when she reached her scooter a man got out of his car, opened the back door, grabbed Michaela and threw her inside. The man then drove off.
Michaela’s friend went back inside the market and got the staff to call the police.
Michaela has not been seen or heard from, since.
A police artist was able to create a sketch of Michaela’s abductor based on what her friend saw. He is described as being a white male, between his early and mid-twenties (in 1988), around 6″0′ with a slender build and a face covered in pockmarks. He had dirty blonde hair that was shoulder length.
He was driving a large American model car, which was a few years old and in bad condition. It was either tan or brown in colour.
Police did suspect Tim Binder as a possible suspect in Michaela’s case, as he had also been a suspect in the disappearance of Amber Swartz-Garcia, Nikki Campbell and Ilene Misheloff.
Michaela’s case went cold for several years until it was reopened in 2009, after the rescue of Jaycee Dugard who had been missing since 1991. Jaycee was found to be living in tents on the property of paedophile Phillip Garrido who was from Antioch, California.
A car that bore a striking resemblance to the one that took Michaela was found on Phillip’s property, and photos of him at the time of Michaela’s abduction matched the description of Michaela’s abductor by her friend. However, no other evidence of him being involved in Michaela’s disappearance was found.
In February 2012, convicted serial killer Wesley Shermantine wrote to the Stockton Record saying that his former partner, Loren Herzog, was responsible for Michaela’s disappearance. Loren committed suicide in January 2012.
Loren did show some resemblance to Michaela’s abductor. But, when Wesley led authorities to a well where they had dumped several bodies, they found the remains of Kimberly Billy and Joann Hobson, who had both been missing since the 1980s, but no trace of Michaela.
There were some other remains that were believed to belong to Michaela, but DNA testing showed that they did not.
The FBI and Hayward Police Department announced, on the 21st of December 2020, that David Emery Misch had been charged with Michaela’s abduction and murder. David is currently serving time in prison for the 1989 murder of Margaret Ball, and he is awaiting a trial for the 1986 murders of Michelle Xavier and Jennifer Duey.
David was linked to Michaela’s abduction after fingerprints and a partial handprint on Michaela’s scooter were found to belong to him. Several eyewitnesses also place David in the area around the market at the time of Michaela’s abduction.
Despite someone being charged for her abduction and murder, Michaela’s body has never been recovered, and the truth of what really happened to her remains unknown.
Unsolved, Missing, Missing Child, Abduction, True Crime, Michaela Garecht, Mystery, 1980s, California