HAYWARD, Calif. (KGO) -- Thirty years ago, 9-year-old Michaela Garecht was kidnapped from her Hayward neighborhood. The case captivated the Bay Area. Police looked into 5,000 leads in the first year of the investigation, but none panned out. Michaela is still missing and Hayward police are still investigating.
On Sunday night, Michaela's mother and the only witness to the crime spoke at a service at New Hope Christian Fellowship Church in Hayward, which was attended by family, friends and neighbors, many of whom searched for Michaela after her abduction.
For the past 30 years, Sharon Murch has been searching for answers, about what happened to her little girl, who was last seen in their Hayward neighborhood on Nov. 19, 1988.
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"Michaela, wherever you are, if you could please just send me a message letting me know that you are okay, I would be forever grateful," said Murch, who spoke at the service and said of her daughter, "I would think that evil would have been frightened by your sheer goodness."
The morning Michaela went missing, she and her friend went to a market on Mission Boulevard to buy some treats. When they came back outside, Michaela's scooter wasn't where she left it by the side door. Michaela spotted the scooter in the parking lot a few yards away from the front door, but when she bent over to pick it up, a man grabbed her, threw her in his car and drove away. Her friend, Katrina Hogue, was only one witness to the kidnapping. Now a music teacher and mother of three, she sang and spoke at Sunday's service.
"Michaela, she might be just as much a 39-year-old as I am," noted Hogue, who also said she's suffered from survivor's guilt over the years, but still carries hope for her childhood best friend. "She might be somewhere and we might be able to find her."
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"I would like for this to reach Michaela if she's still alive," said Murch, who added, "There's nothing that could ever ever change my love for her."
Murch says she does not believe that age progressions, for her daughter or the suspect who police drew composite sketches of decades ago, are accurate, but she does believe that someone out there knows what happened, and she'd like to know too.
"Every possible, terrible thing that could have happened to a child is in my head as a possibility, so if I could find out what did happen to her... at least it would eliminate everything else," she said.
Hayward police say this case has never gone cold and they are still following up on leads. If you know anything about Michaela or her kidnapper, you can contact investigators at 1-800-222-3999 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
More information about the case can be found here on Michaela's mother's blog.