This post deals with violence and assault and might be triggering for some readers.
November 19, 1988, was a sunny Saturday morning, and nine-year-old Michaela Garecht asked her mum, Sharon Murch, if she could ride her scooter to the local store with her best friend, Katrina Rodriguez.
Sharon told her that she couldn’t go without someone older to keep an eye on her. But Michaela kept begging, and eventually her mum gave in. The store, Rainbow Grocery, was only two blocks away, in suburban Hayward, California.
“I love you, Mum,” Michaela said before she rode off.
“I love you too,” Sharon replied, as she watched Michaela ride away.
She would never see her again.
Watch: Top 5 True Crime Documentaries. Post continues below.
The two little girls rode to Rainbow Grocery, and left their scooters outside the door. They bought soft drinks and snacks. When they came out, Michaela saw her scooter had been moved, and it was now behind a car. She walked past the car to pick it up, and a man got out of the driver’s side.
“I looked up when I heard a scream, and I saw a man putting her into his car,” Katrina later remembered. “She was still screaming. I just stood and watched, frozen in shock.”
Katrina ran into the store and an employee immediately called 911. Other people had also seen the man in the parking lot. A description went out. He was tall and white, in his twenties, with long dirty-blond hair.
Police found some prints on the scooter, but beyond that, there were few clues.
Thousands of flyers with Michaela’s picture on them were plastered around the area. Her face appeared on milk cartons. Hers was the first missing-child case covered on America’s Most Wanted, and she was also featured on numerous other TV shows, including Unsolved Mysteries.
In the first year after Michaela’s disappearance, police received 5000 tips. None of them led anywhere.
Sharon followed up leads herself, in places as far away as Russia. She tied ribbons to the tree near where Michaela was kidnapped. She dropped in on the police, who had filled filing cabinets with information on the case.