Exactly 31 years ago, 9-year-old Michaela Joy Garecht went missing from a grocery store parking lot in Hayward, California.
At 10:15 am on November 19, 1988, Michaela was abducted by a man after she went back to the store to retrieve her scooter. She hasn’t been seen or heard from since.
The Last “I Love You”
“It was a sunny Saturday morning, the first day of Thanksgiving vacation, when Michaela and her best friend, Trina, asked if they could go to the neighborhood market to get some candy and sodas,” Michaela’s mom wrote in a blog dedicated to her daughter.
Although reluctant at first, she eventually caved in and gave Michaela permission to ride her scooter to the local market with Trina. Before she left, Michaela looked at her mom and said, “I love you, mom.”
Sharon Murch replied, “I love you, too, Michaela,” completely unaware that it might be the last time the two spoke to each other.
Kidnapped in Front of Her Friend
After traveling about two blocks to the Rainbow Market (now named the Mexico Super), Trina and Michaela parked their scooters by the side entrance and went inside to shop for some treats. Completely forgetting they had ridden their scooters to the market, the girls began to walk home after paying for their snacks.
Halfway across the parking lot, they remembered their scooters and headed back to retrieve them. Only one of the scooters was by the side door, while the other one sat next to a car parked approximately three spots away.
As soon as Michaela grabbed her scooter, a man jumped out of the car, grabbed her, and shoved her into the back of the vehicle. He hopped into the driver’s seat, started the engine, and sped off. A frightened Trina, who saw the entire incident play out in front of her, sprinted into the store to get someone to call the police.
No Suspects Ever Pursued
Although there have been several suspects in the abduction of Michaela Garecht, none of the leads have been substantial enough to pursue. However, Sharon Murch still has hopes that her daughter is still alive.
She believes that Michaela may have been a victim of human trafficking and was shipped outside of the country. Back in 2013, there were reported sightings of Michaela in Mexico, as well as a small country in the Persian Gulf.
In Remembrance of Michaela
Today, Sharon and members of her family will be returning to the market where Michaela was kidnapped to tie ribbons on a nearby tree. The following exert from her blog explains the heartbreak she has endured:
“Our family will be going to the place where Michaela was kidnapped to tie ribbons on the tree there. It may actually be the last time we are able to do that. As difficult as it is for me to believe, we are selling our house in the Bay Area to move out of state, for financial reasons, and hopefully some peace of mind. The last few years have been very hard. This month has been so awful. So next year, it may be that we will be remembering Michaela “wherever we are” by tying ribbons on our front porch.”
If you have any helpful information, please contact the Hayward California Police Department at (510) 293-7272 or the FBI’s San Francisco field office at (415) 553-7400.