We live in dangerous times. No one in this world, no matter how innocent or delightful, is immune to the wiles of predators, especially children.
The oldest of four children, Michaela was the apple of her mother’s eye. As a child, she was always effervescent and cheerful, she loved to sing and draw, and was a delight to all those around her. But none of that could prevent the fate that would befall the joyful nine-year-old on one fateful Saturday morning…
For everyone else in America, it was a normal Saturday morning. For Michaela, it was a big day. It was November and she was excited because her parents had consented to let her go down to the store by herself, as long as her best friend Trina came with her of course. Michaela pulled on a pair of blue jeans, her black shoes, and her white “Metro” t-shirt, and sat down to breakfast.
Michaela’s friend, Trina Rodriguez, had asked her to meet her at her house so they could go over to Rainbow Market, a few blocks away from there. Michaela’s dad drove her to Trina’s, then gave the girls a few bucks for candy and soda and told them to be careful. They set off on their scooters for the market…
At nine years old, Michaela and Trina were excited to have so much autonomy. It made them feel like they were real grown-ups. Using their pocket money, they purchased two Mountain Dews, two sticks of beef jerky, and two pieces of cherry taffy. They left the market and started to walk home with their haul, only in the excitement, they’d forgotten their scooters outside the store.
The girls had left their scooters leaning up right outside the door to Rainbow Market and had gotten halfway home before they realized their mistake. They ran back but were surprised to find only one of the scooters by the door. Looking around, they discovered the second scooter leaning against a car in the parking lot…
Michaela went into the lot to grab the scooter, but the second she tried to lift it, a man with long blonde hair came from inside the car and grabbed hold of her. He put her under his arm and shoved her into the car. She screamed for help but Trina was too far away to do anything before the car drove off.
Call for Help
Trina, having witnessed the whole ordeal, rushed back into the store to get help. Rona, the cashier who had rung the girls up, called the police who arrived within minutes, but still too late to give chase. The neighborhood was soon abuzz with information about Michaela’s abduction and before long, even Rob Garecht, Michaela’s father, had heard what happened…
The first thing investigators did when they arrived at the scene was to take Michaela’s scooter to be examined for fingerprints. If the man had set the scooter as bait, he would have had to have touched it. Unfortunately, the Hayward police were unable to discover any fingerprints, only palm prints: which are untraceable.
Rona Ronolon, the cashier at Rainbow Market, explained to police that she’d seen the man Trina described acting suspiciously earlier that day. She was under the impression that he might have wanted to rob the store and was casing it. It was only once she’d learned that Michaela was taken that she realized he wasn’t watching the store, he was watching the girls…
Trina gave a complete description to a police sketch artist, who rendered a composite sketch of the abductor. She described the man as being between 18 and 25 years old with dirty blonde hair down to his shoulders. She said he was thin, wearing a white T-shirt and she recognized that he had very bad acne. He was driving a four-door older-model car, that could have been tan or burgundy.
After word of the abduction spread, several of Michaela’s neighbors came forward to tell police that they’d also noticed a strange man resembling the sketch, riding around the neighborhood in recent days. In fact, just days before Michaela was taken, he’d tried to lure a little girl into his pickup truck. Whoever this man was, he’d been on the hunt for some time…
The next day, the FBI was brought in to join the investigation. They were on the clock and 24 hours had elapsed rather quickly with no sign of the missing child. First and foremost, they searched the sex offender registry for anyone in the area who matched the description. None of them seemed to be the man who’d taken Michaela.
Michaela’s friends and neighbors rallied around her family. The entire area was soon blanketed in posters of her face. The parents of Amber Swartz-Garcia and Kevin Collins, two other kidnapping victims from the Bay area, also came around to offer the Garechts their support. Soon, the FBI decided that Michaela’s mother Sharon should try and reach out to the kidnapper…
Pray for Her
Sharon Garecht appeared on television begging the kidnapper to release her daughter. She asked him to drop her off on a street corner near their home, anonymously, so that she could find her way home. Through tears, she told Michaela she loved her and she wouldn’t stop looking for her.
The police didn’t know much about the kidnapper other than that he must have lived in the local area. Soon though, the search was expanded to cover more of California. A helicopter fitted with an infrared camera was dispatched to search the California hills. Yet even with the help of horses, hounds, and thousands of volunteers, no evidence was found…
All Across America
Weeks passed and there was no sign of Michaela. The Hayward police sent out 40,000 fliers statewide. Yet even then, with the whole state of California involved, there were no new leads. A flood of tips came in as a result, but not one of them seemed to lead to Michaela Garecht. All they knew about the kidnapper they’d pieced together from behavioral analysis.
It was assumed that whoever the kidnapper was, he probably worked or lived in the area and was socially awkward. He might even have had serious issues communicating with women his own age and had likely been triggered by some rejection before the abduction. For years, Michaela remained missing, until some suspects came down the line…
Golden Gate Park
One person of interest was 35-year-old Kyle Allen Ramer, a registered sex offender who lived in the area. He had been charged with attempting to kidnap a 10-year-old girl in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and molesting a 6-year-old girl at a nudist camp. Unfortunately, he had been in jail at the time of the abduction.
In 2005, another convicted sex offender named Rex “Randy” Crowell was brought up as a person of interest. He lived only 471 feet from where Michaela was abducted and was arrested a few years after Michaela’s abduction. Despite their best efforts, police could not tie him to Michaela’s disappearance either. Then there was another couple of possible kidnappers with a bit of notoriety in the area…
There was a belief that Michaela might have been abducted by Phillip and Nancy Garrido, the couple who abducted Jaycee Lee Dugard, as they lived just an hour away from the Garechts. The fact that they might have been involved gave hope to Sharon, who hoped that the passing decades would see her daughter returned safely.
Ultimately, despite all these leads, Michaela was never found. A $100,000 reward was offered to anybody who could lead police to Michaela and/or her abductor, but no one cashed it in. Still, if Jaycee Dugard could be returned after 18 years, maybe Michaela is out there somewhere, just waiting for her chance to escape. We can always hope.