By Bay City News Service
The mother of Michaela Garecht, who was kidnapped in Hayward in 1988 at age 9, has been told that a bone fragment taken from a mass grave near Stockton may belong to her daughter.
Hayward police, who have been investigating Michaela's disappearance since her abduction on Nov. 19, 1988, as she rode her scooter with a friend to the Rainbow Market on Mission Boulevard, approached her mother, Sharon Murch, with the news on Monday, Hayward police Sgt. Eric Krimm said.
The bone fragment, , has been identified as that of a juvenile between the ages of 5 and 14, Krimm said. The gender has yet to be determined, he said.
The bone was recently analyzed by a forensic anthropologist at California State University at Chico. The anthropologist had received the remains a few weeks ago from Joan Shelley, who was told the bones were those of her 16-year-old daughter JoAnn Hobson, Krimm said.
JoAnn went missing from Stockton in 1985 and is believed to have been murdered by the "Speed Freak Killers" — Wesley Shermantine, 45, and Loren Herzog, who hanged himself at age 46 on Jan. 16. It is believed they buried their victims at the Linden well.
Investigators discovered the Linden site after being directed there by Shermantine.
The two are believed to have killed a number of people in the 1980s and 1990s. They were dubbed the "Speed Freak Killers" because they were allegedly high on methamphetamine at the time of the killings.
Shelley was told by the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office that the bones had been analyzed and were determined to belong to her daughter.
Krimm said, however, that Shelley "was apparently not confident in the final evaluation of those bones," and she had the remains evaluated a second time by the expert at CSU Chico who determined that there were "two other individuals commingled with JoAnn Hobson's remains."
One bone in particular is believed to be that of Michaela, Krimm said.
The identification of the bone will determine the direction of the investigation, he said.
Shermantine, who has been convicted of four counts of murder and is on death row, sparked interest in Michaela's case when he said earlier this year that Herzog, who attended Linden High School with him in the 1980s, may have abducted Michaela.
Herzog was convicted in 2001 of three counts of murder and accepted a plea deal in which he was sentenced to 14 years in state prison. In 2010, he was paroled to a trailer outside the High Desert State Prison in Susanville.
Authorities said he killed himself there the night of Jan. 16, 2012.
In her blog, titled "Dear Michaela," Murch wrote about meeting with Hayward police this week. The blog post is titled "I think this might be it...."
Murch wrote, "In my heart, I have been expecting something to happen. I didn't know what. I didn't know it would be this, but I was just expecting something."
She wrote that initial tests showed the bone appeared to be Michaela's but that the results were inconclusive because of the bone's condition. She said the bone has been sent to a lab that specializes in extracting mitchondrial DNA, which in a few weeks' time will determine whether the bone is Michaela's.
Murch wrote, "...I feel an overwhelming desire to bring Michaela home. It breaks my heart to think of her little body lying in that godforsaken place for all these years, and if that is so, I want to gather her up and bring her home."
She criticized the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office for its investigation into the mass grave.
"I am really appalled at the way this search for remains has been handled, as well as the handling of what they did find," she said.
She also said in her blog post, "In this case, there is a single piece of bone, three inches long, because some dumbass thought it would be a good idea to go in there with a backhoe, callously crushing and destroying the fragile remains of all these fragile little lives that were ended so senselessly and brutally," she wrote.
Murch credited Shelley for questioning the origin of the bones given to her by the sheriff's office.
"Think of it. If this precious mother had just taken the box of bones she was handed and had laid them to rest without question, we might never, ever have known if this is Michaela," Murch wrote.