On the morning of November 19, 1988, 9-year-old Michaela “Kayla” Joy Garecht and her friends were spending a morning together, buying snacks at the Rainbow Market in Hayward, California. The girls realized their scooters were missing and noticed they had been moved near what witnesses described as an old tan coloured four door sedan with damage to the bumper. Michaela walked through the parking lot, towards the vehicle that was parked outside the grocery store on Mission Boulevard and Lafayette Avenue, to take the scooters back. The driver suddenly threw open the door, jumped out and dragged her inside as she kicked and screamed, forcing her into the passenger seat before speeding away. It was clear that the man had watched the girls enter the store and premeditated the abduction.
Because the kidnapping happened in broad daylight, witnesses at the Market were able to provide a detailed description of the man. They described him as Caucasian, between 18-25 years of age with stringy, dirty-blonde hair that sat at his shoulders. He weighed approximately 180lbs and had pockmarks and acne scars on his face.
A composite sketch was drawn up and circulated in newspapers and a photograph of Michaela Garecht was printed on milk cartons. Despite investigators best efforts to appeal for information and identify the girl’s abductor, the case went cold- and stayed cold for over three decades.
At the time of her abduction Michaela was wearing rolled up jeans, black shoes, a white T-shirt with a Metro motif and graphic across the chest and a pair of feather design earrings in pearl.
The Garecht family was haunted by the disappearance for years, eventually resulting in the separation of Michaela’s parents after 15 years of marriage. They admitted they changed as people after the event and that tension and frustration meant conflict came too easily to their relationship. The missing girl’s mother never gave up hope of her child returning to her. She maintained a blog where she published news reports, updates and messages to Kayla and tied yellow ribbons around a tree near the scene of the abduction to keep the case in the minds of the public.
In 1993 an Indiana prison inmate named Roger Haggard claimed to have information on the whereabouts of Gerecht’s body. Haggard was serving out an 11-year-sentence for various crimes, including charges of burglary and theft.
Although investigators were sceptical and distrusting of the inmate, they were urged by the missing girl’s family to entertain the information, resulting in the search of a Gladiola field that turned up nothing. According to an article in the San Francisco examiner published January 30, 1993, Roger Haggard claimed that while hiding from authorities in Hayward at the time of the girl’s disappearance he met a man named Slam Davidson who boasted that he was responsible for the crime. According to him, the pair, who were both addicts and had been smoking crack cocaine that night, met in a bar in Hayward, by the end of the night Haggard claims that Davidson lead him out to a field where he was shown the body of a female child buried in a shallow grave. Nothing came of the inmates claims.
In 2012 bones were discovered at known disposal sites used by the speed freak killers Wesley Shermantine and Loren Herzog. DNA testing ruled out Michaela Garecht as a match. Shermantine had pointed out that the composite sketch of Garecht’s abductor looked strikingly like fellow serial killer and partner in crime Loren Herzog, who had recently taken his own life while incarcerated; However, Investigators could not connect him to the crime.
Earlier this month, police charged 59-year-old David Misch in the disappearance of Michaela Garecht. Misch, a suspected serial killer who is currently incarcerated in Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, has been charged with the child’s kidnap and murder. He was identified through fingerprints he left behind on Garecht’s scooter on the day he kidnapped her. He, along with several others, was a suspect in the cold case. A report about the case posted to the Office of the Alameda County District Attorney website states Misch is responsible for the 1986 murder of two young women in Fermont, Michelle Xavier, 18, and Jennifer Duey, 20, as well as another, Margaret N. Ball, who was murdered in the Hayward area in 1989. Xavier and Duey, both students at a nearby Catholic school working as Department store clerks in their free time, were kidnapped from a 7-Eleven parking lot after a party. Their bodies were found bloodied and nude on a desolate road just a couple of hours later. One had been executed by gunshot and the other had been choked to death. The case remained cold for decades until it was linked by DNA to Misch in 2018. Misch was serving time for the 1989 murder of Margaret Ball when he was charged with the two additional murders.
It is not yet known if he has more victims to his name.
“I hope that today’s action and announcement will provide some comfort to Michaela’s family in knowing that justice will prevail, even after 32 years since this horrible crime.” District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley said in a statement about the recent arrest.