Real Name: Michaela Joy Garecht
Location: Hayward, California
Date: November 19, 1988
Date of Birth: January 24, 1979
Weight: 75 lbs.
Marital Status: Single
Characteristics: Caucasian female with blonde hair and blue eyes. Michaela has prominent ears that are pierced. Her eyes slant slightly downward. Michaela may need glasses and her hair may darken when she is older. Michaela is possibly tall in adulthood.
Details: On November 19, 1988, nine-year-old Michaela Garecht and her best friend went to a market in Hayward, California near Oakland; it was just four blocks from her home, and she went there almost every day. They rode there on their scooters. When they arrived, they placed the scooters next to the entrance. They then went inside and bought candy. When they came back outside, Michaela's scooter was gone. Her friend noticed that it was laying out in the parking lot. When she went over to pick it up, an unidentified man got out of his car, opened the back door, grabbed her, and threw her inside. He then drove off and vanished. Her friend immediately went back into the market and had them call the police.
Authorities are certain that Michaela's abductor purposefully moved her scooter next to his car, so that it would be easier for him to abduct her. Sadly, neither she nor her abductor have been found. Authorities suspect that her abduction may be related to several other unsolved disappearances nearby, including Nikki Campbell, Ilene Misheloff, and Amber Swartz.
Suspects: A police artist created a composite of Michaela's abductor based on a description from her friend. She described him as a white male, between his early and mid-twenties (in 1988), approximately 6'0", with a slender build, pock-marked complexed, and dirty blond, shoulder length hair. He was driving a large American model car, a few years old, in poor condition; it appeared to be brown or tan in color.
Timothy Bindner was considered a possible suspect in Michaela's case, along with the Nikki Campbell, Ilene Misheloff, and Amber Swartz cases.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the January 18, 1989 episode. Michaela's case was again featured in a segment about Amber Swartz, which briefly mentioned Ilene Misheloff and Nikki Campbell and suspect Timothy Bindner, which aired on June 13, 2002. It was also profiled on America’s Most Wanted.
Results: Unresolved. In 2009, Michaela's case was reopened after the rescue of Jaycee Dugard, another area girl who had been kidnapped in 1991 by pedophile Phillip Garrido of Antioch, California. She had been discovered living in tents on his property after being missing for eighteen years. A car resembling the one which took Michaela was found on his property and photos of him at the time of her abduction matched the descriptions of the man who took her. However, no other evidence connected him to the case.
In February 2012, Wesley Shermantine, a convicted serial killer on death row, wrote a letter to the Stockton Record, stating that he believed his former partner in crime, Loren Herzog, was responsible for Michaela's abduction. Herzog committed suicide in January 2012. Interestingly, he bore a striking resemblance to the composite of Michaela's abductor. Shermantine led authorities to a well where they allegedly dumped the bodies of several victims. Inside, they found the remains of Kimberly Billy and Joann Hobson, who had been missing since the 1980s. Other remains were found which were believed to belong to Michaela; however, DNA testing later ruled this out.
Finally, on December 21, 2020, the Hayward Police Department along with the FBI announced that fifty-nine-year-old David Emery Misch had been charged with Michaela's kidnapping and murder. He is currently in prison serving time for the 1989 murder of Margaret Ball. He is also awaiting trial for the 1986 murders of Michelle Xavier, eighteen, and Jennifer Duey, twenty; the two were found stabbed and shot to death in Fremont. DNA linked him to the 1986 murders.
Misch was linked to Michaela's kidnapping and murder after fingerprints and a partial palm print found on her scooter were matched to him. He had been on a list of potential suspects which was given to a Hayward fingerprint examiner; the examiner was tasked with comparing the suspects' prints to the ones on the scooter. Eyewitnesses also placed Misch in the area of the market around the time of the abduction. Sadly, Michaela's remains have not yet been found.
- "Dear Michaela" Website by Michaela's mother Sharon
- Michaela Garecht Missing Facebook Page
- Michaela Garecht on Wikipedia
- Michaela Garecht on the NCMEC website
- Michaela Garecht on the Charley Project
- Michaela Garecht on NamUs
- Michaela Garecht on FBI website
- Montanas try to help in case of kidnapped California girl - November 30, 1988
- Girls' Disappearances Shake East Bay - February 25, 1989
- Parents of missing children reach out to each other - November 18, 1989
- Girl's kidnapping remembered - October 20, 1995
- Garrido home again searched for evidence of other missing girls - September 16, 2009
- Witness Recalls Garecht Kidnapping - September 17, 2009
- Life never the same for kidnapped girl's friend - September 17, 2009
- Convicted killer offers new lead in case of Michaela Garecht, missing since 1988 - February 1, 2012
- Family of Michaela Garecht Holds Ceremony - November 19, 2012
- Police, family still looking for leads 30 years after Michaela Garecht kidnapped in Hayward - November 19, 2018
- Man charged with murder in connection to 1988 kidnapping of Michaela Garecht three decades after she vanished from California supermarket - December 21, 2020
- Man charged with murdering Michaela Garecht 3 decades after Hayward girl's disappearance - December 22, 2020