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Missing Michaela: East Bay Mother Continues Search for Kidnapped Daughter 23 Years Later

This Saturday, Castro Valley resident Sharon Murch will honor her daughter Michaela Joy Garecht outside the Hayward grocery store where she was kidnapped 23 years ago.

Although it's been 23 years since her daughter was abducted, Sharon Murch said she has not given up hope that Michaela Joy Garecht is still alive and out there.

"Hope is a funny thing," said Murch. "I think I probably have more hope now than I ever did before."

When Jaycee Dugard was found after being kept in captivity for 18 years, Murch thinks a similar reunion with her daughter is highly possible.

"If it can happen there, it can happen anywhere," she said.

But until that day comes, the Castro Valley mother said she will do all she can to keep the Michaela's memory alive through Facebook pages, a personal blog and memorial events such as the one being held this Saturday at the kidnapping site.

"The one thing I consistently try to do is reach out to Michaela as if she's out there," Murch said.

Never Forget Nov. 19

On the morning of November, 19, 1988, 9-year-old Michaela was grabbed by a man and thrown into the back of a car parked outside of Hayward's former Rainbow Market (now called Mexico Super) at the corner of Mission Boulevard and Lafeyette Avenue.

Her friend was the only witness of the abduction.

She described the kidnapper as a 6-foot-tall, slender white male with shoulder-length dirty blond hair and a pock-marked complexion. He was thought to be in his late teens or early 20s.

The suspect was last seen speeding down Mission Boulevard toward Union City with Michaela in the car.

The case has received worldwide attention from the media and was featured on "Unsolved Mysteries," "America's Most Wanted" (as the first missing child case in the late 1980s) and numerous other television shows and news reports.

Over the years, Hayward Police received thousands of leads in the case. Murch said the station has five filing cabinets full of evidence in a room they dubbed "the Michaela room."

"It's not been a lack of information but trying to get organized and through the information we already have," she said.

Murch said for a while, Dugard's abductors, Phillip and Nancy Garrido, were strong suspects in Michaela's case since both girls, similar in appearance, were kidnapped at around the same age in such close proximity.

However, the Garridos were recently eliminated as suspects, according to Murch, after no evidence was found linking them to Michaela's disappearance.

Twenty-Three Years of Missing Michaela

Michaela was the oldest of Murch's six children. After waiting five years to initially get pregnant, Murch said she never wanted to leave Michaela's side.

"I never once left her to cry herself to sleep despite how people told me to," Murch said. "I never wanted her to feel alone or abandoned. That's why I feel this is so unfair."

Murch said when she was in labor with her youngest daughter, Johnna, missing children were being shown on a television program in the hospital room. Just as she gave birth, she saw Michaela's picture smiling down at her.

"What it means, I don't know," said Murch. "But it has to mean something."

The outgoing, artistic and "genuinely nice" little girl gets remembered each year at the Hayward site from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. by family, friends and people eager to show their support.

Last year, 60 people attended the event. Murch said one woman, who lost her daughter in a car accident, travels all the way from Southern California to attend.

This year, Murch's 23-year-old son, Robbie, will dedicate a few songs on his guitar to his older sister.

Yellow ribbons can also be tied along a nearby tree where the kidnapper's car was parked. The idea was inspired by Michaela's classmate, who first tied yellow ribbons around their school's old oak tree. Known as "the waiting tree," local children usually waited there after school to get picked up by their parents.

"The yellow ribbons are just a symbolism of waiting for someone to come home," Murch said. "We have never stopped looking for her or loving her."

For more information on Murch, Michaela and the active case, visit the following websites:

Mary November 19, 2011 at 08:27 PM
I remember this like it was yesterday. I still cry when I think about it or see her picture. She looks similar to my niece. I feel so bad for the sadness you have endured.....................
Doughboy47 November 20, 2011 at 05:23 AM
I'm 28 yrs old now and i have flash backs of Michael playing with my older cousins in Hayward off postdate and revere ave. Even though i was so young then i still remember her and now i have two little girls of my own. I cant imagine the pain her family went through that day. God bless her and the family....
Mona Taplin November 21, 2011 at 02:35 AM
Maybe if we could encourage the news media to do a review of all those children who have been missing for several years someone might have some information. Possibly even Michaela herself might make contact. I can't even imagine the living hell this mother has endured all these years, longing to have her daughter home. My prayers are her and her family.
Janice P Ellis December 01, 2012 at 04:01 PM
At the time Michaela was kidnapped, I lived less than half a mile from that little grocery store. I think this is one of those cases that just grabs at your heart and never lets go. Especially as a parent, I cannot imagine having had to live for decades and not know what happened to your daughter, not to mention having had to endure the heartbreak of having your precious child abducted. The abduction of Ilene Misheloff just a few short months later leaves me feeling the same. My heart and prayers go out to the families of both of these precious souls. Life just has so many more questions than there are answers.
Cortney McSherry March 23, 2013 at 12:35 AM
I hope she is found alive, it is now 2013. And almost 25 years since her kidnapping. I pray and hope that her mother will find her daughter ... Alive. Even after all of these years apart. And maybe like Jaycee Dugard (if found) she can write a book about her captivity.

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