An arrest has been made in the 1988 cold case murder of a 9-year-old girl that has been featured on shows including “Unsolved Mysteries.” David Emery Misch, 59, was charged Monday, December 21, 2020 in the 32-year-old case of Michaela Garecht, according to the FBI and local law enforcement agencies.
Garecht was abducted in the parking lot of the Rainbow Market in Hayward, California, on the morning of November 19, 1988, according to the FBI. Michaela and her friend rode to the market on a scooter. When she and her friend were inside, police allege Misch moved the scooter near his vehicle so he could grab her as she approached. She was taken when she was trying to retrieve a scooter, which the suspect moved closer to his car while Michaela and her friend were in the market. Police allege Misch grabbed Michaels as she approached the vehicle.
“There have been many days that have gone by with no seeming sense of progress or resolution in the case of 9-year-old Michaela Garecht, kidnapped here in Hayward,” Hayward Police Chief Toney Chaplin said at a press conference. “This is not just another one of those days. Today is about family, community and healing.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Michaela Garecht Was Abducted When She & Her Friend Were Buying Snacks at a Market Near Her Home
Garecht was kidnapped shortly before Thanksgiving in 1988 in the San Francisco Bay area when she and her friend were buying candy and sodas about two blocks from her home, according to Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley.
“They were just kids. Carefree, certainly unsuspecting of the danger that lay ahead,” she said.
The kidnapping “devastated her family, paralyzed them with grief and terrorized them with the unknowing of what happened to Michaela,” she said. “Their pain was and remains indescribable. The crime shocked not only the local community of Hayward and Alameda County but the Bay Area and the nation. It was so brazen, so ruthless, but clearly planned.”
She said she hopes the charges filed against Misch bring some comfort to the family.
“There are no words that can adequately describe the horror of a kidnapped child, especially when the child or the child’s remains are never found,” O’Malley said.
She said Michaela and her friend rode a scooter to the market, and Misch moved the scooter to the back parking lot of the market to isolate Michaela and grab her when she came to pick up the scooter.
Here is his jail record:
Hayward Police Department officers were continually examining leads over the last 32 years, officials said. Near the 30th anniversary of Michaela’s kidnapping, investigators scrutinized all the evidence in the case again, along with leads and potential witnesses, O’Malley’s office said in a statement.
Misch was charged due in part to advanced printing technology, O’Malley’s statement said. A fingerprint examiner was provided a list of persons of interest, and compared prints to that list. The examiner was able to match Misch’s fingerprints to prints found on the scooter.
2. Garecht’s Mom, Sharon Murch, Has Cancer & Said She Pictures Her Daughter ‘Soaring Among the Stars’
Michaela’s mom, Sharon Murch, gave a statement to police describing her pain over the last year as she began to accept that her daughter had been murdered. Murch has been diagnosed with breast cancer and is unable to travel because of COVID-19 risks. She lives in Iowa, she said. Murch said in her statement she was unsure at first whether she wanted answers to painful questions, such as how her daughter likely died. She determined that if her little girl could go through that pain, she could endure the pain of learning the details.
“I know that as you hear this news, your hearts are breaking along with mine,” Murch said in a statement, read by Chaplin. “In the last year, I had to come to a place of accepting Michaela was probably no longer alive. But somehow, that acceptance was far more wrapped up in the idea of Michaela sitting on a fluffy pink cloud, walking streets of gold, dancing on grassy hills, soaring among the stars.”
Murch wrote a blog post two days before the announcement questioning how someone could murder a child.
“He is a monster. Seriously what drives a human being to do something like this? What even enables him to?” she wrote.
As for me? What you will hear about from me is the only thing I care about. Michaela. And maybe love, maybe grief, maybe faith, although I have to tell you I feel as though I am wandering around lost. I am looking, looking again for the answers I thought I had found, but all I can find right now is emptiness. There has been this really big feeling that has been rolling around inside me, creating a giant hole, and just this morning I figured out what it is. It is a feeling that my daughter has been alone for these 32 years. While I was running around doing interviews, writing blogs, tying ribbons on trees, she was lying cold and alone. You know that I have been able to accept the likelihood that Michaela was like no longer alive. How many times have I said it would be a comfort to know that she had been in a better place for all these years rather than spending a lifetime in pain, fear, grief? But what I realize is that I had never at all been able to envision her being dead…So this is what I am left with. I can touch only the edges of this knowledge, just skimming the surface, because it is too painful. While I have envisioned Michaela as not living in this world, she was always in a good place. I have seen her floating on clouds, running in grass meadows. I have literally envisioned the two of us sitting on stars in eternity, drinking tea and chatting, in a place where all the horrors of this life have faded into insignificance in the greater whole. Now, for some reason, I can no longer see those places. I can only see my child cold and alone. I feel like I abandoned her to pursue rabbit trail, when all this time I should have been lying with her.
She wrote there is no easy answer to the simple question, “How are you?” and that there are days she has been unable to get out of bed. Murch said she feels she let her daughter down. She said she hopes her daughter did not feel pain.
“I love you forever, baby girl,” Murch concluded. “Rest well. I have some things to do here yet, but I will see you in the not terribly distant future.”
She signed the post, “mom.”
3. Misch Was Also Charged in 2018 in the 1986 Cold Case Murder of Two Best Friends & Was Convicted in a Separate Murder in 1990
Misch has already been charged in three murders, in addition to the death of Garecht. In 2018, he was charged in the kidnap and murder of Michelle Xavier, 18, and Jennifer Ann Duey, 20. He is awaiting trial in the case. The pair, who the SFGate described as “best friends,” was found stabbed and shot on the shoulder of a road in Fremont, California by a passerby on a motorcycle in 1986. They were killed leaving a family gathering.
That cold case was re-examined by Fremont police detectives in 2016, which included testing evidence for DNA. Misch became a primary suspect in the case.
Misch was arrested in the deaths of Duey and Xavier on March 5, 2018 after a warrant was issued through the district attorney’s office, according to his jail record. He was charged in that case with murder and special circumstances of felony murder, and related charges. His next court proceeding is a pre-trial hearing scheduled for February 17, 2021 in the East County Hall of Justice.
The Mercury News reported the women were raped and murdered leaving a birthday party. The bodies were found nude. Misch could be eligible for the death penalty if he is convicted in the case, the news outlet reported.
Misch has been incarcerated for about three decades. In 1990, he was convicted in a separate murder in Alameda County, California, according to SFGate. He is incarcerated at the Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County, and has repeatedly been denied parole.
“The disappearance of Michaela Garecht is a tragic story that has gripped the Bay Area for decades,” Chaplin said.
He said the original investigators of the case retired after working “tirelessly” and “passed the torch” to the investigators who filed charges in the case. He said police had a “breakthrough” earlier this year when leads pointed to Misch. Chaplin said he hoped the announcement would help bring peace to Michaela’s family.
4. Michaela’s Body Has Never Been Found & Investigators Are Now Hopeful They Will Recover Her Remains
The body of Michaela Garecht has never been found. More than three decades after her disappearance, investigators are hopeful they may find her remains.
“A lot of that’s gonna be dependent on what information we can ascertain from the person we have in custody,” Chaplin said in a press conference.
In Garecht’s disappearance, Misch is charged with murder with special circumstances, assault with a deadly weapon and related charges, according to his jail record. He is scheduled for arraignment on the charges at 9 a.m. Tuesday, December 22, 2021. Officials did not reveal some details in the case pending the ongoing investigation and in hopes of locating the girl’s remains.
O’Malley pointed out they have successfully prosecuted previous homicide cases without locating a body. She said in one case, a murderer revealed the location of a victim’s body after he was convicted.
5. Misch Was Transient & Often Stayed in Hotels in Hayward, California & Worked As a Welder
Misch was described as a transient person by Hayward Police. He had ties to the area, and was at times “bouncing in and out of Hayward hotels,” lead Hayward police investigator Robert Purnell said.
His Alameda County Jail record indicates he worked as a welder.
“You never gave up @HaywardPD,” Fremont Police Department wrote in a tweet. “The disappearance of Michaela Garecht had a significant impact on communities throughout the East Bay. Our hearts go out to Michaela’s family during this time. We were proud to have a small role – great teamwork!”
Law enforcement released a description of the suspect in Garecht’s disappearance in 1986. Michaela’s friend, Katrina Rodriguez, was the only witness to her abduction. The suspect was described as “between 18 and 24 years old with a slender build, “approximately
6’0″ and 180 pounds with dirty blond, shoulder-length hair. He had a pockmarked or pimpled face. He was driving an older model, full-sized four-door sedan, possibly gold or tan in color, with damage to the front bumper.”
The FBI also released a composite sketch of the suspect, and a description of Garecht.
Garecht was born January 24, 1979. She “was last seen wearing a white t-shirt with the word ‘Metro’ across the front and pictures of people on the midsection. She had on denim pants rolled above her knees, black shoes, and wore three-inch pearl or white colored earrings which resembled feathers,” the FBI said. She was 4-feet 8-inches tall and weighed 75 pounds at the time of her disappearance.