(Introduction to show begins)
TODD: My name is Todd Matthews. Welcome to Missing Pieces. Tonight we have Sharon Murch. She is the mother of kidnapped Michaela Garecht. Welcome Sharon.
SHARON: Thank you.
TODD: How are you doing?
SHARON: I’m doing okay. How about you?
TODD: I’m doing really well; as well as can be expected with the subject matter we have to work on here at Missing Pieces. And you daughter has been…she was kidnapped and she’s actually been gone since 1988.
SHARON: Yes, 18 ½ years.
TODD: Wow. We’re coming…it’s getting close to the 20-year mark.
TODD: So I see recently, you know, I found a little bit of information about your daughter’s case online at various places, I know you work with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, I see her echoed on a lot of websites, a lot of agencies that try to work with the National Center to try to get information out on these cases. And I see recently, and this is where you caught my eye, MySpace.
TODD: And I like seeing MySpace used for something like this rather than for some of the things that it inadvertently gets used for.
SHARON: Yeah, I actually don’t know why it took me so long to think of it. I’ve been on MySpace for a long time and one day I thought, “Why don’t I have one of these for Michaela?” so I set it up.
TODD: Was there another case that you saw that made you think, “I want to do that” or did it just pop into your mind?
SHARON: You can search for people on MySpace.
TODD: uh huh
SHARON: So I searched for her. I thought maybe she was out there somewhere. Maybe she had a MySpace. It’s kind of far-fetched but…
SHARON: But I did find a MySpace for her but it wasn’t her, it was…
TODD: I did see that. I saw that there was another.
SHARON: It went up for her and for a number of other missing children and I decided I wanted to do my own in the event that Michaela might still be out there, might still be alive, it would be something that she could see to know that we are still looking for her and we still love her just as much as ever.
TODD: Well now you said you saw another MySpace account with her name on it; did that surprise you?
SHARON: Um…no…not really. I mean, I could see immediately that it was one of her old pictures so I figured it was somebody who had set it up because she’s a missing child so I didn’t think “Oh gosh, there she is!”
TODD: Oh good. It’s good because I would hate for you to see that and a lot of these people that do these, they’re well intended; they’re really trying to do something that’s going to bring attention to the cases that they’re trying to step up. I really want to talk to you, being the next of kin to her, you specifically, it’s very important, you know that you were, and that’s why we chatted a little online, we’ve never spoken in person before tonight but we did chat online quite often. What did you expect to find now? Did you expect to hear from people that were, possibly, crazy people?
TODD: It goes with the territory, I’m afraid. (Laughter)
SHARON: Of course, I’ve heard from a lot of crazy people over the years. I didn’t really set it up with any expectations of who I would hear from. Initially I set it up and I just sent out invitations to all the people that I knew and it was just something that I wanted to have in place so that everybody would remember Michaela. Gradually…every time I go onto MySpace now, there’s at least one new friend request and most of them are people who want to help missing children or who have missing family members themselves or family members who have been crime victims. I’ve met a lot of people that I have something in common with and it’s actually been very therapeutic for me, if nothing else.
TODD: It’s good to hear because using MySpace for this type of purpose, whether or not you’re getting direct help from people, I think you’re helping to form relationships with people that have the same problems that you have, you know, the bigger the crowd, the more attention that we’re going to get on this type of thing.
SHARON: I found out that there are a lot of people who deal with grief in their life and if I’m able to reach out to any of those people, you know, I’ve been doing this for 18 years, and perhaps I’ve come through some places that I can help somebody else through so, you know, that’s another reason why I set it up.
TODD: Possibly give somebody a shortcut because it’s not an easy journey, I’m sure. All of your, all the links that pertain to this case will be on your archive page and I know you’ve seen it already and we’ll leave that there permanently and it will be transcribed and we’ll have text available so everything that we want to include here will actually be on this page so all of our listeners out there now can actually click in and see progress. We’re hoping that you’ll keep us updated with things so that we can actually add that information, get it out in a newsletter and just try to keep her in the public eye, which is what you’re trying to do.
SHARON: I hope that there is something to update to it.
TODD: Well, we’ll check back in, obviously we want to check back in with you. Now, this case is unusual because, a lot of times there seems to be some difficulty in getting some initial effort from law enforcement, but you did. Now, since it was an abduction, there was almost immediate law enforcement action, correct?
SHARON: Yes. It was a witnessed stranger abduction.
TODD: uh huh
SHARON: She was at the neighborhood market with her best friend on a Saturday morning. Her friend saw it happen and ran into the market immediately to get help. The police were there almost immediately. There’s no way that I would have believed that this would have gone unsolved the way it has but, unfortunately, there were a few things that were in the favor of the kidnapper. The place where she was kidnapped was a half block from a change in jurisdictions and he immediately headed out of the jurisdiction of our police department, so that might have slowed things down a little bit. The police, when they took the description of the kidnapper, instead of talking to my daughter’s friend who actually witnessed it, talked to a checker in a store who claimed she had seen him drive by earlier.
SHARON: She actually gave a description of the car as being a butterscotch color and when the police got my daughter’s friend calmed down, much later that day, and actually talked to her, it actually turned out to be more of a burgundy color. So in those crucial few minutes, they were looking for the wrong car, they were looking for a man with a moustache, and my daughter’s friend later said “no, he didn’t have a moustache” so…
TODD: So, that explains a little bit the differences.
SHARON: It was a crime that…it was impossible to get away with it and those few things actually made it possible.
TODD: Wow. And she was 9 years old.
TODD: And her friend, how old was she? The same age?
SHARON: Yeah, she was 9.
TODD: So, you know, 9 years old, of course, she was upset at the time, you know they can give a very credible description at 9 years old.
SHARON: Yes. She was a very bright little girl and she would have had no problem giving a description if somebody had taken the time to talk to her, instead of just saying “oh well, I’ll get it from this person”.
TODD: So they automatically gravitated to an adult, possibly.
SHARON: mm hmm
TODD: And she was probably really, really upset too. It was probably difficult to get the data from her at that point in time until she did calm down but, like you said, those crucial few moments were missed.
TODD: And, you know, that’s what you always hear is take advantage of those first hours and moments are very, very critical. Do you think…you talked about that he possibly jumped jurisdictions, you were at the edge and he was moving out of a city limit?
SHARON: He could have easily moved in and out of 3 or 4 different jurisdictions within just a few miles.
TODD: Wow. And that requires communication with other law enforcement agencies passing on information.
SHARON: And they did do that, you know, they did invoke ‘snare’, is what they call it. I’ve listened to all the police tapes from that day and that is the net that they set up to try to catch criminals on the go. They did do that.
TODD: And it’s effective but it does take time.
SHARON: It does take time. Yeah, but they do have to have the correct description. That helps also.
TODD: And that changed.
SHARON: There were other people who saw what happened though. He drove down Mission Boulevard (in Hayward, California), which is a busy highway; it goes all the way from Oakland, California to San Jose. And I know of at least one woman who was pulling out of the cemetery across the street, and she pulled onto Mission Boulevard and she took note of the car because he was driving erratically and she was afraid that he was going to cause a car accident and she even made an effort to memorize the license plate so that she’d have that in case he caused a car accident. And later on, she watched the news and realized what she had witnessed and never came forward. It was 3 months later that she was in the grocery story and she ran into somebody who looked like the kidnapper and was afraid that he had recognized her and was afraid that she might be in danger and at that time she came forward. But she was pretty determined not to remember anything. The police did hypnotize her to try to get the license plate number but she had told me the day before that she wasn’t going to remember anything. And that’s where it was left. But he was apparently weaving in and out of traffic so all of those cars he was weaving in and out of must have seen him. With all of the coverage that it got on the news afterwards, they must have realized what they had seen and yet we still have almost nothing to go on. If we just knew where he turned off Mission Boulevard…
TODD: mm hum
SHARON: …you know that would be such a great piece of information.
TODD: But now, if you could get somebody from the past and sit and talk with them, you know, you are 18 years now, you know, you’re going to be 19 years this November.
TODD: So, the description of the car now doesn't help, unless you can…
SHARON: No. They would have then.
TODD: Yeah. They can’t now but they would then. So, I’m thinking, what can we do now? What can we do now, as far as getting information out and, hopefully, anybody that might have seen it, there could still be somebody alive out there that could have seen this. They could come forward still today and I hope anybody that’s listening tonight, I urge you to come forward with this case and any case, no matter how irrelevant the piece of data that you think you have, no matter how hard, how difficult it is to actually get law enforcement to listen to you because they’re going to be busy…you really have to push that, you really have to get data to law enforcement, accurate data, as quickly as possible.
SHARON: The law enforcement, they’re still working the case. They’re still actively working on the case. They had some big lead last year that they were following up that they thought was really hopeful. My understanding is that they really need something concrete in order to be able to pin it on somebody.
TODD: That’s not easy to get sometimes. (Laughter) That’s the needle in the haystack, right?
SHARON: Well, I don’t know. I think of it more along the lines of those people who aid and abet kidnappers.
TODD: uh huh
SHARON: I mean, you know, there are cases of people who live in the same home with the kidnapper and the kidnapped child for days and don’t come forward and say anything. I don’t know how people can live with that kind of thing of their conscience.
TODD: They’re just as guilty.
TODD: Every bit as guilty. And you know that probably somebody knows whether they directly had a hand in this.
SHARON: You know, really and truly, as guilty as they may be themselves for having this information and having sat on it, if they could just turn it over anonymously, you know, just something to allow us to solve the case.
TODD: Well, we’re going to allow another mechanism of doing just that if somebody does have something, something that has been bearing on their heart and they want to try to reveal it, we will find a way to help submit information anonymously if that’s what it takes to actually get information on this case and other cases. It’s very important, because a lot of people suffer for a great many years just not knowing.
TODD: So how many children do you have?
SHARON: In addition to Michaela, I have 4 other children and one stepdaughter.
TODD: And I’ve spoken to other people before, when they have missing children, they have to also focus on their children that are still there.
SHARON: My children that are still here are the things that saved my life.
SHARON: When Michaela was kidnapped, I had an 8-year old, a 3-year old and a 7- month old and they were very much in need of me and that is what kept me going.
TODD: Well you had to strive to help try to make their lives as normal as possible in the meantime.
SHARON: And, you know, they never…in spite of everything that was going on around them and in spite of their own sorrow, they were children and they never lost their joy in things in life and when Christmas came around after Michaela was kidnapped, the other children, they still had all of the joy of the season and that is what helped me get through it…I’m sorry.
TODD: That’s okay. It’s understandable, very much so.
SHARON: I have my youngest daughter, she was actually born…uh, she’s 13 now and she was actually born the day of the memorial for Polly Klaas who was kidnapped and murdered not far from where we live and we had the memorial on in the labor and delivery room and the station we were watching, just as the memorial was ending, they broadcast photos of other children from the Bay Area who were still missing and just as my youngest daughter was actually coming into this world, I looked up in the corner of the room and there was Michaela smiling down at me.
SHARON: And it was kind of like she was telling me, you know, “Go on.”
TODD: Well you have to. You have to continue to live and your other children have to live and have a life as well. I don’t think she would ever want you to stop living.
SHARON: No, and I know that whatever she went through, because I had told her, you know, we had talked about child safety...we’d had a number of child kidnappings in the Bay area in the months before she was kidnapped and I had told her, “take care of yourself because if anything ever happened to you it would break my heart” and I know that whatever she went through, whatever terror, whatever sorrow she went through, I know that she thought of me and I know that she was concerned about me also.
TODD: So, and I did see that there had been some other cases in the along the same time period in that area. I know the thought has probably crossed your mind and I’m sure law enforcement, do they think that some of these are possibly connected?
SHARON: There are some law enforcement agencies that are pretty convinced that they are and other law enforcement agencies that aren’t so convinced, so…
TODD: So at least they are looking at it in 2 different ways?
SHARON: Right. I’m not sure that our law enforcement agency is necessarily convinced that they are related. There was a well-known suspect a few years ago; he’s been in books and on TV, who was considered to be a prime suspect in some of the other cases but he was never really seriously investigated by our police department because we had an eyewitness and he really didn’t match the description of our kidnapper. So, he’s been involved with this case and he’s said some pretty creepy things along the way. I think he likes to be considered a suspect; I’m not sure if he’s actually guilty of anything but…
TODD: There’s all kinds. There’s all kinds out there.
SHARON: These cases are all unsolved so as long as they’re all unsolved, I guess anything is possible.
TODD: I’ve seen just about everything in some of these cases too. It seems like the most unsuspected plot is what usually plays out in how things end up. It’s just so hard to think these things out and figure it out.
TODD: It’s just a crazy mess. Did you know that there are over 100,000 missing persons listed with the FBI NCIC?
SHARON: I’m not surprised.
TODD: That is an incredible number.
SHARON: They don’t seem to find them very often.
TODD: Well, a lot of them are recovered within the first few days, possibly weeks, but then there are these lingering cases because a lot of them are, you know, runaways, abducted by family members, you know, there are a lot of things that bring them into that classification as missing but then in a case like yours, it was a different story. And then there are more cases that we know that are not listed with the FBI NCIC and I do see that your case is listed with the FBI NCIC. Did you have any difficulty doing that or was that sort of an automatic process?
SHARON: No. No there was no difficulty at all. I believe it would have happened anyhow, but I had the assistance of some really excellent missing children’s organizations in the Bay Area at the time that she was kidnapped and what I didn’t know, what the police department didn’t know, they were right on it.
TODD: They knew what needed to be done then.
SHARON: Right. And the investigators we had on it from the police department from the beginning and from the FBI, they were great people, they were very open, they talked about the case with us. Even though they are still investigating it, the police department now, is pretty close-mouthed about what they do so I don’t really know what’s going on but… In the first year after Michaela was kidnapped, they accumulated 5 file cabinets full of leads and what really touched me was that they didn’t have a case number on the file cabinet, they didn’t even have a name on the file cabinet, on each of the file cabinets, they had Michaela’s photograph, so, they never forgot that they were looking for her, a child, and not just trying to solve a case.
TODD: Well, that’s important too. I know that had to be so special to you.
SHARON: It was.
SHARON: Well, like I said, we had, it was an organization that was around at that time called Missing Children’s Project, it’s no longer around because the woman who ran it has passed away but she came to our house and actually set up a search center at my dining room table, organized everything and we ran it right from the home and she was in touch with the National Center on a regular basis. I’m pretty sure that she is the one who got that rolling.
TODD: Now, the Internet, its changed things. We talked your MySpace page but now the communications…1988…
SHARON: No we didn’t have anything.
TODD: Wow. It was pale in comparison to now. I don’t know how we got anything done in those time periods. Really, everything had to be telephone, fax, it was just so much more difficult to communicate and now, you know, we can have a picture of somebody that goes missing here, I’m in Livingston, Tennessee and we can have a photograph of that person in Australia within minutes, literally, you know, that can be transmitted across the globe.
SHARON: Right. And it can be very broadly transmitted very quickly.
TODD: And a lot of people are listening now. You know, at one time in my life I didn’t know there was anybody else, you know, the people that care about this type of thing, they seemed like they were so scattered and you might not have known somebody had a missing family member unless you fell into that category yourself, like you did.
TODD: Did you have any idea that this had happened? Of course you said that there were some cases that went on in the area at the time?
SHARON: Well, it still surprises me some of the cases from the Bay Area that have not received the amount of publicity that the others have. You know, I still find out about kids who are missing here and I don’t know why they have not been publicized.
TODD: Have you been in communication with any of the family members?
SHARON: No. I haven’t actually. Most of the people that I have communicated with have actually been people who run the websites.
TODD: Organizational types.
SHARON: Organizational or just a personal interest. Very few of them are actually associated with the families and I find that most of them are run by people who just want to help, and that they find the time and the energy to do this, I think it is a wonderful thing. The woman who had the website for Michaela after we set up our website, we contacted her, she was concerned we might be unhappy with what she had been doing or that we might want her to take her website down because we had our own and I’m grateful for all the help I can get.
TODD: So how did that feel seeing that somebody else went to all this trouble just for Michaela?
SHARON: I very deeply appreciate it, especially after all of these years, you know, even today at church, a woman said to me, “you know you look familiar, do I know you from somewhere?” and I tried saying, “well, from here?” and she said, “no, it’s something else”. And I said, “Do you know who Michaela Garecht is?” and she said,”Oh, yes!” So often people, there’s some familiarity there but after all these years, unless you prompt them, they don’t really remember what it is.
TODD: It’s like the information is…it’s out there but it’s scattered.
TODD: It’s scattered out. And I think a lot of the younger people…I’m 36 and I’m seeing a lot of…a big interest in this type of thing by people that are younger than me that are actually logging on and I’m glad, I’m really glad. A lot of times I’ll talk to high schools and even grade school groups and they’re looking at CSI-type shows and I show them the difference between reality and fiction and it’s just a little bit different, you know, you’re not going to solve every case, it’s not all going to be wrapped up in an hour, it’s not like that, this is fiction.
SHARON: Well on the Internet, I have talked to 15-year olds who have said they wanted to grow up and be detectives and solve these missing kids' cases or these unsolved murder cases.
TODD: I wish them the best for that. I hope the do…I hope they do that. It’s just amazing now the technology, the changes over the past decade have been astronomical. I don’t think I would have heard about your daughter’s case without the Internet.
TODD: There’s just no way that people can communicate like that at that point in time, it’s just unreal.
SHARON: The changes in public policy also, I mean you know, if we had had Amber Alert when Michaela was kidnapped…
SHARON: The story might have ended differently.
TODD: Yes, it could have been very different. Now I speak with the California Department of Justice, you know, and I speak with them on occasion, and in fact, they actually called me a couple weeks ago regarding a case, and California is really good as far as getting information to the right places. I don’t know how it was as opposed to 1988, but it seems like they are retroactively trying to get everything in place and have all their information listed and it makes it seem like California has a great many more missing persons or a great many more unidentified persons in relation to the rest of the country but, in fact, a lot of it is due to population and for the need to include all this information. They’re really a lot better than some cases, some other states actually. Now there’s a…
SHARON: I mean, except for taking the information from the wrong person, I mean I really can’t complain about the response from our local police department, the FBI, the State of California, the Missing Children’s Organization. It was overwhelming really and I know it was a long time before I left home when Michaela was kidnapped because I kept expecting her to come home or call on the phone. We didn’t have cell phones then so I had to be there by our home phone and I’d look down the street and I’d expect her to be walking home because whenever we went on TV, we’d ask the kidnapper to just drop her off so she could get home. Every time a police car pulled up in front of our house, which was quite often for some reason, I’d look in the back seat to see if she was in the back seat, so it was about 4 weeks or so after her kidnapping before I actually left the house and that was to go to the police department and I remember driving down the street and every telephone pole was covered with missing flyers and I remember thinking how much good that would do to Michaela and I thought about her being driven home down those streets and seeing the love of the community poured out to her and, well, that never happened. I just hope that wherever she was that she did manage to see that and that she knew that she had not been abandoned, that the whole world was trying to help find her.
TODD: And that’s true. That’s very true. Now, the missing…I’ve said this before on a lot of different shows that I’ve done…I can’t think of anything worse that could happened to me, to not know where my children were. We’ve talked about that moment when you lose your child at a grocery store, that jump of your heart…so then somebody like you has to deal with this forever.
SHARON: You know, the funny thing is that before Michaela was kidnapped, during the summer, Amber Swartz was kidnapped in Pinole and Tammy Talarico was kidnapped in Sacramento. Tammy’s case actually ended happily, she was found safe and brought home and Michaela and I watched the news together, we just sat glued to the TV watching the news hoping for some good news about these girls and we actually discussed that. We actually talked about how that must be the worst thing that could ever happen to you and then, it happened to us.
TODD: Well I’m amazed at how people like you actually went on. Like you said, your children actually saved your life; your remaining children got you through this.
SHARON: In the earliest days when it’s hardest, you have so much hope.
TODD: uh huh
SHARON: I mean…
TODD: That keeps you going.
SHARON: Every time somebody comes through the door, you expect that your child is coming home. Every time the phone rings, you expect that it’s your child and you have that hope, you know. Well, it may be one of the worst things that can happen to you, so many of these other people whose children are murdered, of whose children are killed in car accidents or die of illness, they are just hit with the grief and they have no hope to keep them up during those hard times so I have to hand it to those people to be able to get through it.
TODD: Well, you see it from both angles and not a lot of people do, so it’s really good to hear you say that. You’re seeing all sides. You’ve had a lot of time to reflect on a lot of this I’m sure.
SHARON: That’s an understatement.
TODD: Well it seems like you’ve come to terms with it. Now, your children, they’re grown now? Some of them are at least grown.
SHARON: Yes. As a matter of fact, I just had my second granddaughter was born on April 1st, so they range in age now from 13 to 26 years old and so they’re getting older but, you know…
TODD: How have they dealt with this? Even though you’ve maintained very well for them and you said that things went on as normally as possible, they had happy holidays, you know, but when they got to be adults and had their own children, it had to strike them a little bit.
SHARON: They probably had a lot less freedom than they would have had. Before Michaela was kidnapped, I was a real worrier, but you know on the other hand I remembered my childhood and, you know, the freedom that I was allowed and I thought that somehow I had to get over my own fears to allow my children that freedom and after Michaela was kidnapped, I decided I didn’t.
TODD: I can imagine. I had a brother and sister pass away and we got away with nothing. I mean nothing. The night before I got married at 18 years old, I had to be home at 9 o’clock because my Daddy said so. It was just losing these 2 siblings to death of natural causes and not to something unusual, there’s still a terror.
SHARON: A dread.
TODD: I remember nights that my Momma told my Dad to come and check if I was still breathing, everything. It was just terror and I would have to lay there and play like I was asleep because how do you react to that? What do you say you know “I’m okay.” You know, because I had had open-heart surgery and was ill for a great period of my life and I think they were just so afraid that something was going to happen to me that it just preoccupied my Mother and my Dad. My Mom showed it more than my Dad did, you know, he had to be strong and make sure everybody was okay and make sure everything was alright with everybody and go to work and make sure everybody was fed, clothed and my Mom, she would spend her days worrying about me and my living brother. That was it; we were her whole world. It was how she could make our lives good, you know, but I mean, she did keep a good tight control on us but I think it did us some good.
SHARON: Somebody said that when you have children it’s like allowing a piece of your heart to walk around outside your body.
TODD: Well, I am beginning to know that because I have a 15-year old son and I have a 5-year old son and my 15-year old is liking to go and do things and I’m just, you know, I get this thought when he’s gone, he goes to this local teen center and, of course, we drop him off and pick him up but no matter what I’ve told him and he’s got a cell phone strapped to him and everything, but I have to think “what if?” and it scares me you know. I think about you and other people and it just makes your heart jump and I call him.
SHARON: Oh yeah. I don’t know how I’d get by without cell phones.
TODD: I don’t know how any of us ever did. I don’t know if he would be going anywhere, I don’t think. I think he would have as strict a lifestyle as I did growing up if I didn’t have a way to contact him and you know if I don’t reach him on his cell phone; I tell him it’s very important that you answer this if I call you. It’s really important. It doesn’t mean that it is an emergency; it means that Dad needs to know where you are at. You know you just have this worry and you just need this little comfort to know that they are okay.
SHARON: And if they don’t answer, then you start panicking.
TODD: Yeah, and you call back or you drive by the teen center and hope they don’t see you and think that you are just completely out of your mind. I think my son, he’s grown up with me working in this type of thing and I think he expects to see Daddy in different places, unusual places, at the school possibly doing a lecture, that type of thing so that gives him a little relief from it. I don’t think he is as embarrassed by it as other children might be.
SHARON: I actually work at the high school.
TODD: Wow. So, you keep an eye on everybody. Well, how is it there? How is it working at the high school?
SHARON: It’s been good. Well, I mean, I love kids; I love teenagers so…
TODD: mm huh
SHARON: I enjoy working with them. I’ve had 2 kids graduated from there now and they’re moving on. It’s a little harder to keep track of them at this point.
TODD: Well seeing them at the high school, the kids nowadays, how do you feel about the security of people, at that school or any school? Do you feel like our children are relatively safe?
SHARON: At the school where I work, I do feel that they are relatively safe. Not totally safe, you know, they never can be. I just finished reading ‘Nineteen Minutes’ by Jodi Picoult about a school shooting.
TODD: mm huh
SHARON: And it’s very frightening but, you know, in that book, what kept drawing me back again and again was not the victim, but the boy who did the shooting and the experience that he had had in his life of being bullied and being treated harshly from kindergarten on without anybody to help him. You know, when Michaela was kidnapped we had an eyewitness so we actually had a composite drawing of the kidnapper.
TODD: I’ve seen that.
SHARON: And, you know, when I first looked at it, well maybe a couple of days after I first looked at it, you know one of the things that really struck me was that this man had once been a little boy and if that little boy had received the love and the nurturing that he needed at that time, then he would not have grown up to be somebody who would kidnap my daughter.
TODD: uh huh
SHARON: And I think that this is…if we want to protect our children, if we want to keep our children safe, this is where we need to start. You know, we need to start with the children.
TODD: We’ve got to do the best we can, I think we all have to do the best we can and sometimes that’s not even enough. You know I’ve seen…my wife has a large family, there’s 16 siblings and we have one of everything. Actually, literally, in that family and they’ve all had the same upbringing but sometimes it’s…uh…
SHARON: Well that is true.
TODD: One does get away.
SHARON: I have 5 kids and they’re all as different from one another as they could be.
TODD: Well, you know, there’s no…you just can’t explain it if you don’t try to do the best you can and as much experience I’ve had in this business and everything that I went through, I even make my son transcribe some of these shows just so he’ll hear it in the way that I heard it and he don’t like doing that, but I make him do it from time to time. You need to really understand it. I don’t want you to just listen to it; I want you to understand it. I want you to listen to this person and see what kind of pain and remember when you try to be evasive at some point in time, which I know he’s going to get more evasive. I know it. I know he’s going to try; he’s going to try to break away, it’s natural. It’s a natural process; he’s going to try but I want him to see how hard and how much it does hurt. It’s not easy.
SHARON: Maybe he will, maybe he won’t.
SHARON: My kids are all different but you know, my older son, he was 7 when Michaela was kidnapped and he went through some very hard times and put me through some very hard times. He’s a man now; he’s grown up and he’s a wonderful person and a responsible father but he put me through the wringer when he was a teenager, believe me.
TODD: Well, everybody goes through that rebellious stage. I know it was killing them because I wanted to get married.
SHARON: That’s right.
TODD: And they didn’t think it would work out but I’ve been married almost 20 years now. It’s getting there you know; in 2008 it will be 20 years so it’s been fairly successful.
SHARON: Well that’s good.
TODD: We didn’t go very far; we live next door.
SHARON: That’s good too.
TODD: So they can still keep and eye on me. I don’t know what my Momma would have done if we’d left and moved too far away. I just don’t know. I don’t know how she would have reacted to it.
SHARON: Yeah, my oldest son lives about 3 hours away but the rest of them all still live at home.
TODD: So do they still…do you have any plans? There are lots of things that go on for missing cases, candlelight vigils; there are different shows that people can actually have the case brought up. It just seems like you’ve been re-energized when you did this MySpace page, it just seems like you are reaching out in a new direction.
SHARON: I don’t have anything really planned at the moment.
TODD: mm huh
SHARON: The one thing is that I have written a book about it and…
TODD: hmm okay
SHARON: I would like to try to get that out there. I’m not really sure how to go about doing it.
TODD: Well I might be able to help you with that actually so we’ll talk about that more offline.
TODD: I think I possibly can help you with that. That’s…its good. Now how hard was it to do that? And how many years did it take you to do it?
SHARON: Well, I wrote a first draft many years ago.
TODD: uh huh
SHARON: And it was something that needed to be rewritten for a number of reasons and it was very hard to get around to doing that, and then last year I broke my ankle and I was kind of a prisoner in my house for 10 weeks and I did it all during that time. It actually took about 2 weeks to do the rewrite.
SHARON: It just flowed out.
TODD: It was therapeutic then?
SHARON: Yes. I always planned on growing up to be a writer so I’m a writer by nature. I’ve always kept journals and writing to people on MySpace and that’s my therapy, it’s better than any psychiatrist. And I’ve tried those too.
TODD: But, you know, and I’m the same way; I’ve always wanted to do something like it but I didn’t have…just going out and looking for things to do didn’t it but then I found out, this is it. This is what I need to write about, this is what I want to broadcast about. This is it. You have to have something that you are really compassionate about or you are really close to. So, how many pages is your book?
SHARON: About 200 pages.
TODD: Wow. That’s a lot. Now how do you envision this book, with photographs…a lot of photographs?
SHARON: Oh yeah. Yeah.
TODD: Have you had any unusual experiences over the years? Now you said that you have heard from unusual people at times; that goes with the territory obviously.
SHARON: I have had so many unusual experiences over the years. Gosh, I wouldn’t even know where to begin.
TODD: There’re just that many, huh?
SHARON: Yes, and I’ve had a lot of people who have, back before the Internet, a lot of people who actually came physically into my life and people who were amateur investigators and who helped me investigate many leads. You know there are like groupies out there?
SHARON: People who would actually call and say, “I can’t believe I’m talking to the mother of a missing child.” And other people like the suspect I mentioned earlier, most people in the Bay Area would probably know his name right away but I’m not going to mention it because he did sue one police department.
TODD: mm huh
SHARON: But, you know, he was very fond of talking about the missing girls and one newspaper reporter asked, “Well if you were going to kidnap these girls, how would you control them?” And he said. “Well with Amber (Swartz) and Nikki (Amanda ‘Nikki’ Campbell) it was easy, you just told them what to do and they’d do it. Michaela was harder; she was a fighter.” And even though I had never considered him to be a suspect in Michaela’s case, I thought “how would he know that about my daughter?” because that’s something I guarantee was true.
TODD: Do you think he could have got it by being observant with the news?
SHARON: It’s possible.
TODD: Because you can get a lot.
SHARON: On American…one of my friends called and said, “Did you watch America’s Most Wanted? The composite of Michaela’s kidnapper was on there.” Somebody from the Johnny Gosch case was on there and used our composite to identify the person that was the getaway driver in the Johnny Gosch case.
TODD: So you were on America’s Most Wanted but you weren’t physically involved in the process?
SHARON: No. No, actually Michaela was the first missing child ever featured on America’s Most Wanted.
TODD: Really. That’s an interesting note.
SHARON: Before, when America’s Most Wanted first started, they only featured cases that had arrest warrants issued, which you don’t have in the case of a missing child and actually Michaela along with Amber Swartz from Pinole, and Ilene Misheloff from Dublin, those 3 girls were the first ones, in one show they featured all the girls because they had all gone missing in this area within a matter of a few months and that was the first time that they had ever had missing children on America’s Most Wanted. She’s been on Unsolved Mysteries twice…
TODD: mm huh
SHARON: …and numerous other TV shows locally, nationally and lots of pieces in print.
TODD: Yeah, I found quite a bit, I found quite a bit about her. Now the Internet allows you to reach out and do some of the things on your own, like I investigated part of this just finding these links so that I can actually communicate with you about it but, as far as physically, what do you do in a case like this? You know, you didn’t leave the house for a month but when you did, did you ever go out and just look? Did you look for that car?
SHARON: I did, and I knew that when they…when Michaela was kidnapped, she and her best friend had ridden scooters up to our neighborhood market and they had bought a bag of candy and sodas and when Michaela was…the way Michaela was kidnapped is that when they came out of the store, one of the scooters had been moved and Michaela spotted it out in the parking lot and when she went to get it a man jumped out of the car next to it, grabbed her from behind and threw her in the car and she had the bags of candy and sodas and I knew that there was a can of Mountain Dew in there; so in all of my looking through the Canyon areas, there’s so much wilderness area near our home, I’d go out, walk along the creek beds and I’d always look for that can of Mountain Dew soda. For some reason, in the last couple of days, in fact I was reading a website and it was describing some of Michaela’s clothing and I was thinking about her shoes, and she was wearing black shoes, but they were black Mary Jane shoes, canvas ones, and for some reason I just got a flash of a picture of black Mary Jane shoes out in a creek bed or a wilderness area and…I have looked. I have looked in places just because they were there. I have looked in places because people have said things that make them suspicious places. I have pestered the police and the FBI. I’ve gotten them to bring cadaver dogs out to locations. I mean, I have had so many leads that I have known about and have worked on myself and still don’t feel satisfied that they have been followed down to as far as they should be.
TODD: As far as you would follow them?
SHARON: Right. If I had the resources that law enforcement have. I don’t necessarily think that things have been done in the order that they should have. I mean, one area they called somebody in for questioning before searching the area. I think that’s backwards.
TODD: Yeah. Really. You’ve definitely…now this is different now, this is not like America’s Most Wanted or Unsolved Mysteries, when you actually interviewed for this particular show, this is the beginning, not the end of it. You are actually becoming part of a different family. You are going to be thought of, and looked at, constantly with this case. We’re not going to ever forget you with this. We’re hopefully going to stay in contact with you for as long as it takes.
SHARON: Thank you.
TODD: That’s definite. We definitely want to be in touch with you very, very often and we want to hear how things are going. We want to update websites and just anything that you decide you want to add or change, you know, I want to encourage you to do that book. People might criticize you for a book; you’ll get praise and criticism for doing books like that. People see things in every different way. Don’t let it stop you. You know it needs to be done.
TODD: If we can get that book out there, it needs to be done. However you have to do it, you know, things like this need to be known, because people need to understand it. Well, we’ve got a couple of difficult questions that I’ve got for you…it’s the harder ones…do you think that there’s any possibility that Michaela’s alive?
SHARON: For a long time, I didn’t because of the fact that we had discussed child safety issues extensively…
TODD: mm huh
SHARON: …she had been told, “don’t believe anything the kidnapper says to you; we will always love you; we will always be looking for you; never give you away; nobody ever has permission to take you and don’t believe any of this and always, always try to contact somebody” and so because of that I thought, as the years went by, if she was still alive she would have found some way to contact someone. And then, for some reason, just in the last couple of years, I started thinking about the possibility of her being overseas.
TODD: mm huh
SHARON: If she had been taken overseas…I have an aunt in England and when I go to call her I have to figure out every time how to master this international dialing and if she was in another country, particularly a country where she didn’t speak the language, she probably wouldn’t be able to figure how to do that.
TODD: It would be almost impossible.
TODD: You know, to try to do that especially if you were limited in how someone was trying to educate you to do so.
TODD: It could be difficult and I understand that exactly.
SHARON: uh huh…and then, through the MySpace, through the Internet, I’ve spoken to people who have suggested that, you know, that these kids can be kidnapped and as part of being kidnapped, they can be drugged, they can get strung out on drugs, prostitution, things that alter their minds so that they wouldn’t have the capacity to know the truth.
TODD: Well, different types of brainwashing.
TODD: They could have been told anything. You know that.
SHARON: I read ‘Perfect Victim’ (by Christine McGuire and Carla Norton) some years ago about the adult woman who was kidnapped and kept in a coffin-sized box under her kidnapper’s bed over the years and yet was allowed out during the day to baby-sit his children and never tried to get away or get help.
TODD: You know they call it ‘Stockholm Syndrome’.
TODD: I know that you’ve heard of that.
TODD: We’ve talked about that before. We have another guest that I am going to introduce you to.
TODD: Glendene Grant (Episode 22). Her daughter Jessica has been missing from the Las Vegas area and she’s actually going to be on the Montel Show next week, so that way you can watch that. You’ll be able to see her on the show Thursday, there’s a lot of snow in New York right now and it’s delayed a lot of flights so I hope that doesn’t interfere with the taping. It’s Tuesday for the taping and hopefully you can watch that; she’s in our archives. I definitely want you to talk to her because she’s…you’re saying some of the same things I’ve heard her say, so you’ve got a lot to relate to and hopefully you can help each other. You need to hear from more people that have stepped forward and this lady has went above and beyond. I don’t know how she’s managed to get as much attention as she’s got, but she definitely has done it. She’s Episode 22, Glendene Grant, mother of Jessica Foster. I definitely want you to talk to her.
TODD: Well, I’ve got one more hard question and then we’ll try to focus on something more positive. If you think she’s alive, and we have people listening to this show in Korea, you know, I can see it logging in from different parts of the world, it can be heard through the Internet…what would you say to her if you could say something to her? What would you want to say?
SHARON: I would tell her that I love her. That it doesn’t make any difference what she might have been through. It doesn’t make any difference who she thinks she might have become. That doesn’t change my love for her at all and I just want her to come home where she can be safe and she where can be happy. And I would tell her that I’m living at Nana’s house and I have Nana’s phone number, she may remember that. Please call me. Go on the Internet and look up your name, Michaela Joy Garecht, and you’ll find me on MySpace and get in touch with me so we can help you come home and I love you.
TODD: I hope it helps. I do. I wish you the best with this and I hope we can do something and if she sees it, hears it through this service at all, if she’ll get in contact, I know exactly how to put her in direct contact with you and that will happen as soon as we hear a thing, you’ll be the first call.
SHARON: Thank you.
TODD: You’ll be the first call. Now, we’ll try to focus on something more positive. I know you feel like there’s a possibility she’s alive and if you want to work with other people to try to help ease their pain and their search and there’s a lot of people out there and I think you’ve got a lot to share and I really, really hope that you’ll work on that book.
SHARON: It’s finished.
TODD: Completely. Your first draft…in fact, it’s a manuscript now at this point in time; it’s a manuscript.
TODD: It’s done. You’re completely satisfied with it?
TODD: Well I think there’s lots of ways to publish something that and there’s a couple of people I want to try to get in touch with regarding that. Like I said, I’ll talk to you offline about that but I think it’s something that needs to be done. I think a lot of people could really benefit from it.
SHARON: I think so too and one thing that I have found to be a common denominator among families of missing children is you don’t want what happened to your child to be for nothing.
SHARON: You want it to…you want their lives to count for something positive in the world and this is my way of doing that.
TODD: Nothing should happen in vain. Everything should have a reaction and hopefully this is what you’ve done with the creation of this book. You’re sharing a lot of pain and a lot of joy in that book I’m sure. And I’m very anxious to read it.
SHARON: You know, I actually, with as many kids as I have now it may be hard to believe, but I had to take fertility pills to get pregnant with Michaela. It took me 5 years and a prescription for fertility pills and sometimes I think that God was asking me, “Are you sure you really want to go through this because as much joy as it can bring you, it’s going to bring you a sorrow that you can never imagine.”
TODD: Wow. I’m seeing that she wrote a poem at one point in time.
SHARON: She did. She wrote a poem shortly before she was kidnapped. I don’t have it in front of me right now.
TODD: Well, we can include it in the transcription. That can be inserted in there. You’re going to include that in the book.
TODD: I’ve read it and I hope you’ve included it in the book.
SHARON: Oh, it is for sure.
TODD: Definitely. So you have a little of her in there no matter what. As long as those words are out there, you know, she’s always with you, no matter what, you know. She’s always with you. Well, we’re going to say goodnight to the guests tonight and we’re going to keep you on the line.
TODD: So goodnight everybody. We’re going to hopefully have our guest back tonight with an update. We’re definitely going to have her page transcribed and do our best to see if we can find something, so we’re going to sign off for tonight. God bless.
SHARON: Thank you.
Nine year old Michaela was kidnapped when she and a friend went three blocks to their
neighborhood market (Rainbow Market on Mission Boulevard in Hayward, California).
They had ridden scooters to the market. When they came out of the store, one of the scooters was missing. Michaela spotted it in the parking lot and went to get it.
When she bent over to pick it up, a man jumped out of the car next to it, grabbed her from behind, threw her in his car, and took off with her.
Michaela's friend witnessed the kidnapping and went immediately for help.
In spite of an immediate police response, Michaela has never been found
and neither has her kidnapper.
When Michaela was kidnapped, she was wearing three-inch-long pearl or white-colored earrings that resembled feathers, a white t-shirt with Metro printed on the front and images of people imprinted on its midsection, denim pants rolled above her knees, flesh-colored nylon stockings, white anklet socks with black shoes.
Her abductor was described as a white male with a pockmarked or pimpled face. He wore a white t-shirt and had long dirty blonde hair and a slender build. He was driving large older model American-made sedan. It was possibly a four-door vehicle. Cream, gold or tan in color. The lights set into the rear bumper. The front bumper was battered.
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