Michaela Joy Garecht was kidnapped in Hayward, CA 26 years ago today–on November 19, 1988. She was nine years old. Her mother, Sharon Murch, is still searching for answers.Please share this age progression photo of Michaela & the composite of her suspected kidnapper. If you lived in or near Hayward at the time, please look closely at the photos. It is never too late to find answers.
Location of kidnapping: the corner of Mission Boulevard and Lafayette in Hayward, CA. At that time it was called Rainbow Market. Today it is Mexico Super. Please share this age progression photo of Michaela and the composite of her suspected kidnapper.
Details (from the website Missing Michaela): “Witnesses described Michaela’s kidnapper as a man in his 20’s, with long, dirty-blonde hair. His most outstanding characteristic was severe acne, like boils. He was driving an older, tannish-gold, full-size sedan, boxy in shape, with body damage. The eyewitness noted his eyes. ‘He had fox eyes,’ she said…”
The case is yet to be solved. If you have any information, please call Inspector Robert Lampkin at the Hayward Police Department (510) 293-7079 Robert.Lampkin@hayward-ca.gov
Scotland Yard has zeroed in on several “persons of interest” in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, who went missing from a Portugal beach resort while on holiday with her family in 2007 at the age of four.
Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, continue to plea for anyone with information to contact police.
Yesterday, in a post titled Michaela’s Light, Murch wrote about Michaela’s continuing presence, her continuous life, in a way I can’t possibly describe. I will excerpt a small piece here, and I urge you to read Sharon’s own words about the love and light Michaela continues to bring to the world.
The tragedy happened in that moment on November 19, 1988, when she was kidnapped. After that moment, all roads had to lead through one level or another of hell. But if, if this turns out to be Michaela, we can figure that her suffering wasn’t long, that she didn’t cry herself to sleep, that her heart didn’t ache for home, because she was home.
We have to honor her, her person, her life, and her death if that is what happened, and let her continue to inspire love and faith and hope in our hearts.
Sharon continues to search for Michaela. She continues to hope for her return. Michaela’s case was in the news again this week in connection with a terrible and high-profile case. Read Sharon’s story about Michaela’s possible link to the Shermantine/Herzog case here. Very briefly, the FBI is currently running DNA tests on bone fragments that were found in relation to the “Speed Freak Killings.” Murch writes:
Herzog had been previously linked to Michaela’s case by his partner in crime, Wesley Shermantine, because he looked like Michaela’s kidnapper (although Shermantine later stated that he “doesn’t know anything about that Hayward girl”). The age range of the victim, combined with the limited period of time in which these bodies had been buried, also limits the possibilities as well. There are not that many missing girls from this area of the country that it could be.
These tests should determine definitively whether or not the bone fragments are Michaela’s. Three years ago, there was a possible break in the case that ultimately did not lead to answers. Perhaps this new path, as heartbreaking as it is, will lead somewhere. Murch believes that it might:
It’s quite a leap to go from posting information to help Michaela find help in the UAE to saying in the next blog that I believe it’s likely that evidence has been found that Michaela is not alive, but yes, that is what I am going to say. Part of the reason I say this is because it is simply a logical conclusion. Part of it is that it just feels like it is. In my heart, I have been expecting something to happen. I didn’t know what. I didn’t know it would be this, but I was just expecting something.
The McStay family went missing from their home in Falbrook, CA, in February of 2010. Joseph McStay, 40, and his wife Summer, 43, apparently left home in their Isuzu Trooper on the night of February 4 with their two children–Gianni, 4, and Joseph, Jr., 3. Aside from a call Joseph made to one of his co-workers that night, the family has never been heard from again.
There was no sign of forced entry or struggle at the home, which the family had only recently moved into. On February 8, the Trooper was towed from a strip mall parking lot within walking distance of a pedestrian crossing into Mexico. The police scoured video footage from the crossing that night, and concluded that one group of people walking across the border–a man holding the hand of a small boy, followed by a woman holding the hand of another small boy–could very well have been the McStay family. The woman is wearing boots and jackets similar to ones owned by Summer, but family members say the man is too tall and thin to be Jospeh McStay.
While detectives believe the family may have willingly traveled to Mexico–based in part upon an internet search conducted at the home about children visiting Mexico–the fact that they did not return seems to indicate foul play. The family left $40,000 in their personal checking and savings accounts, money which has not been accessed since their disappearance. Joseph also had $65,000 in a business account, and the small withdrawals that have been made from that account are business expense withdrawals conducted by employees. The McStays maintained close relationships with Joseph’s parents, his brother, and Summer’s sister, and Joseph was also very close to his 14-year-old son by a previous marriage. Family members insist they would never abandon their loved ones intentionally. They also left behind two dogs, beloved family pets.
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Joseph’s brother Mike maintains a website with information and updates. Anyone with information about the case is being urged to call deputies at 858-974-2321 or 858-565-5200 after-hours. Tips can also be called in anonymously to CrimeStoppers at 888-580-TIPS(8477).
Their story was featured in May on Vanished with Beth Holloway. View the episode here. Joseph’s youtube channel, last updated in January of 2010, includes cute family videos of the kids experimenting in the kitchen while the parents look on encouragingly, among other ordinary family happenings. The impression one gets in the videos is of a loving, ordinary family–certainly not parents who plan to abandon their lives, bank accounts, and home for a new start South-of-the border.
“In the summer of 1991 I was a normal kid. I did normal things. I had friends and a mother who loved me. I was just like you. Until the day my life was stolen.”
Simon and Schuster has just releasedA Stolen Life, a memoir by Jaycee Dugard. A portion of the proceeds from the book and audio book (read by the author) will go to The JAYC Foundation, which provides support and services for the timely treatment of families recovering from abduction and the aftermath of traumatic experiences.
About the book: Dugard narrates the story in the present tense, beginning with the harrowing day of her abduction at the age of 11–her confusion, her terror, her absolute powerlessness as Phillip and Nancy Garrido paralyzed her with a stun gun, dragged her into the car, shoved her to the floor, and drove her from Tahoe to Antioch, California, to the dismal backyard compound where she would spend the next 18 years of her life. Scroll down to read an excerpt.
Each chapter is followed by a reflection, in which Dugard, who has been in therapy since her rescue in 2009, reveals her feelings about the ordeal now, as an adult looking back at the suffering of her younger self. Dugard’s writing style is direct and lucid, filled with detail; the naturalness of her writing is all the more impressive given the fact that her formal education stopped at the age of 11.
Dugard writes about discovering she was pregnant at the age of 14, and about delivering two baby girls in her back yard prison. She writes about how dependent she was on Phillip Garrido for everything. For most of the first six years of her captivity, she was locked in a soundproof room. Garrido convinced her that he knew everything she did. She lived in fear of getting “in trouble,” certain that he would use the stun gun again.
When her youngest daughter was two years old, Dugard was finally allowed to begin going out in public. By then, she had been so manipulated by Garrido that she believed his terrible lie: that she was safer in the back yard compound than she would be out in the world, and that her daughters were safer there as well. On outings, she avoided looking people in the eye; repeatedly, she mentions her feelings of invisibility.
Through it all, we see Dugard’s attempt to live as normal a life as possible–caring for a series of beloved pets, creating a school for her children, establishing small routines, and later, keeping the Garridos financially afloat by running the family printing business–often while Phillip and Nancy spent their days in a drug-induced slumber. She even keeps a journal, portions of which are presented–in her own childish print–in the book. Later journal entries reveal Jaycee struggling with many of the things any twenty-something young woman struggles with: her weight, her desire to eat more healthfully and be more motivated. These entries are extraordinarily poignant, infused with Jaycee’s longing, all these years after her abduction, to be with her mother; her desire to be free mixed with uncertainty about where she would go, or how she would take care of her children, if she were ever to leave; her confusion about Nancy and Phillip’s role in her life. After all, they have become her “family,” but she desperately wants to be with her real family, to be held once again by the mother whose face she can no longer remember, but whose love she remembers vividly.
Some of her journal entries include lists of dreams she has for her life. Along with taking a hot-air balloon ride, visiting Ireland, and learning two languages, she dreams of writing a best-seller. She has done just that; the day of its release, A Stolen Life hit #1 on Amazon.
Dugard also explains her reason for writing this book: she will no longer hide Garrido’s secret, she will no longer protect him from the truth of what he did to her. Others will know the brutality of his abuse.
This is a heartbreaking book from a brave and unbelievably resilient young woman, who now looks forward to a normal life for her and her two daughters. It is also inspiring; so much was taken from Dugard, and yet she has chosen to move forward without hatred. While she still experiences loneliness, she writes, she has fully embraced the joys of making home-cooked meals with her family, walking on the beach, and simply being free. Buy the book.
A note about Michaela Joy Garecht: Jaycee’s return to her family in 2009, 18 years after her abduction by Phillip and Nancy Garrido, momentarily gave hope to other parents of missing children–in particular to Sharon Murch, the mother of Michaela Joy Garecht, who was kidnapped from a Hayward, California, parking lot in 1988, and who has never been found.
Having done a great deal of research into missing children while writing The Year of Fog, I followed Jaycee’s case with deep interest. One cannot help but be amazed by the fact that she survived and raised her daughters in such harrowing circumstances, and that she has now turned her efforts to helping other families through the J A Y C Foundation. Scroll down for a link to donate to the JAYC Foundation or to purchase pinecone jewelry to support the foundation. (A pinecone was the last thing Jaycee touched before she was dragged into the Garridos’ car two decades ago. It is “a symbol of hope and new beginnings,” she told Sawyer. “There is life after something tragic.”