Bone Fragment Could Belong to Missing Girl Michaela Garecht

Michaela was snatched outside a Hayward store in 1988 at the age of 9. Ever since family and friends have hungered for justice while hunting for clues about her fate.

By Bay City News Service

The mother of Michaela Garecht, who was kidnapped in Hayward in 1988 at age 9, has been told that a bone fragment taken from a mass grave near Stockton may belong to her daughter.

Hayward police, who have been investigating Michaela's disappearance since her abduction on Nov. 19, 1988, as she rode her scooter with a friend to the Rainbow Market on Mission Boulevard, approached her mother, Sharon Murch, with the news on Monday, Hayward police Sgt. Eric Krimm said.

The bone fragment, , has been identified as that of a juvenile between the ages of 5 and 14, Krimm said. The gender has yet to be determined, he said.

The bone was recently analyzed by a forensic anthropologist at California State University at Chico. The anthropologist received the remains a few weeks ago from Joan Shelley, who was told the bones were those of her 16-year-old daughter JoAnn Hobson, Krimm said.

JoAnn went missing from Stockton in 1985 and is believed to have been murdered by the "Speed Freak Killers" -- Wesley Shermantine, 45, and Loren Herzog, who hanged himself at age 46 on Jan. 16. It is believed they buried their victims at the Linden well.

Investigators discovered the Linden site after being directed there by Shermantine.

The two are believed to have killed a number of people in the 1980s and 1990s. They were dubbed the "Speed Freak Killers" because they were allegedly high on methamphetamine at the time of the killings.

Shelley was told by the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office that the bones had been analyzed and were determined to belong to her daughter.

Krimm said, however, that Shelley "was apparently not confident in the final evaluation of those bones," and she had the remains evaluated a second time by the expert at CSU Chico who determined that there were "two other individuals commingled with JoAnn Hobson's remains."

One bone in particular is believed to be that of Michaela, Krimm said.

The identification of the bone will determine the direction of the investigation, he said.

Shermantine, who has been convicted of four counts of murder and is on death row, sparked interest in Michaela's case when he said earlier this year that Herzog, who attended Linden High School with him in the 1980s, may have abducted Michaela.

Herzog was convicted in 2001 of three counts of murder and accepted a plea deal in which he was sentenced to 14 years in state prison. In 2010, he was paroled to a trailer outside the High Desert State Prison in Susanville.

Authorities said he killed himself there the night of Jan. 16, 2012.

In her blog, titled "Dear Michaela," Murch wrote about meeting with Hayward police this week. The blog post is titled "I think this might be it...."

Murch wrote, "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."

She wrote that initial tests showed the bone appeared to be Michaela's but that the results were inconclusive because of the bone's condition. She said the bone has been sent to a lab that specializes in extracting mitchondrial DNA, which in a few weeks' time will determine whether the bone is Michaela's.

Murch wrote, "...I feel an overwhelming desire to bring Michaela home. It breaks my heart to think of her little body lying in that godforsaken place for all these years, and if that is so, I want to gather her up and bring her home."

She criticized the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office for its investigation into the mass grave.

"I am really appalled at the way this search for remains has been handled, as well as the handling of what they did find," she said.

She also said in her blog post, "In this case, there is a single piece of bone, three inches long, because some dumbass thought it would be a good idea to go in there with a backhoe, callously crushing and destroying the fragile remains of all these fragile little lives that were ended so senselessly and brutally," she wrote.

Murch credited Shelley for questioning the origin of the bones given to her by the sheriff's office.

"Think of it. If this precious mother had just taken the box of bones she was handed and had laid them to rest without question, we might never, ever have known if this is Michaela," Murch wrote.

Stephanie Harper October 12, 2012 at 11:51 PM
I remember Michaela posters in the late 80's-early 90's and she was always a constant thought in kidnapping cases back then. I hope that her family will find some kind of closure during this difficult time.
Anne Mobley October 15, 2012 at 06:18 AM
When we lived in Union City, we had occasion to shop at the Rainbow Market near the Hayward/Union City border in the late 1970s. When this child disappeared in the late 1980s, all I thought about was how close this was to home and how could this happen in a relatively safe neighborhood. I pray that she is still alive and will return some day to her family. It must be maddening to not know and have no closure. Years later in the early 1990s, Jaycee Dugard was abducted from the area around Meyers School in Lake Tahoe where my kids went to school many years earlier. Another safe place but another serious crime against children. Nothing is safe anymore because there are too many mental cases out there wanting to do harm to the innocent. God help the children. These bad people should be put to death immediately in the most awful way possible. God bless Michaela's family and the heartbreak they are faced with now as they wait for some word about their child.
Mary Savannah October 15, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Anne Mobley, I share your distress and agree with you up to a certain point. I do not feel "these bad people should be put to death immediately in the most awful way possible". By killing predators, we are no better than they are. And by keeping predators alive, we may be able to learn from them why they harm others and what can be done to stop them. I am convinced that Michaela and other missing children would want peace for their families more than they would crave revenge. I speak from some level of experience with this: I was the victim of a non-stranger abduction in 1988. I do not think my abductor should be abused and confined as I was, but I think his actions need to be understood so that we can prevent him from taking anyone else. This would require time in prison but also rehabilitation and closely followed counseling. Regardless, I wish Michaela and her family peace in this life and beyond.
Cordillia Brown November 13, 2012 at 08:26 AM
I personally think that these animals (predators), should be handed over as property to the victims family to do what they will as long as they discard whatever is left in a safe , sanitary way.
Jorge Saucedo January 01, 2013 at 11:01 PM
The world is overpopulated so yes put this monsters to death, we need the air to have less pollution and more peace. In Guatemala there are Indian tribes where if you kill, rob or mangle some other person, the town takes the monster to the principal square and sets them on fire for all to see, these tribes have one murder every 7 years. If they know this is their fate they may just not do the drugs and the crime, it is THEIR CHOICE.


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