New lead in Michaela Garecht kidnapping case

February 1, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Police are looking into a new lead in the kidnapping that drew nationwide attention 23 years ago. A man grabbed 9-year-old Michaela Joy Garecht, forced her into his car, and drove off. She hasn't been seen since. Now police are wondering if a death row inmate was involved in that kidnapping.

This case may involve several inmates and a convicted killer on death row who is offering up some potential new leads in the kidnapping of Garecht.

Wesley Shermantine and Loren Herzog were a crime team known as the "Speed Freak Killers".

Shermantine was convicted of four murders and is still on death row. Herzog hanged himself on January 16. Shermantine wrote a letter to the Stockton Record Newspaper saying Herzog was responsible for the abduction of Michaela Garecht and that he could lead authorities to locations in the Central Valley where he and Herzog buried numerous bodies. He even noted Herzog's resemblance to an old composite drawing of Michaela Garecht's abductor.

The 9-year-old was kidnapped by a man as she rode her scooter to Rainbow Market in Hayward in November 1988. Michaela's friend, Katrina Rodriguez, witnessed the abduction and helped police develop this composite drawing, she told ABC7News by phone she's now seen the photo of Loren Herzog and noted the similarity.

"I thought then and I think now he could be the kidnapper," said Rodriguez. "He could possibly be the kidnapper. I think there are features that look very much like the man...It seems like a strong lead."

Hayward police released a statement on Wednesday. They emphasized this was never a cold case, saying that in the last month investigators from the National Center For Missing And Exploited Children spent one week with Hayward police investigators to review and prioritize leads that continue to come in."

Garecht's mother still lives in the East Bay. Michaela's brother, Robbie Garecht -- who was an infant when his sister disappeared -- said they're watching these new developments closely.

"Obviously we hope that it's resolved. As a family, my mom and the rest of my family are still very hopeful that Michaela is out there alive somewhere and that she'll come home one day," said Robbie.

Hayward police say they are currently in contact with the San Joaquin Sheriff's Department as they follow up on some of these potential new leads in this case.


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