Left and Center: Michaela circa, 1988
Right: Age Progressed to age 33
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: November 19, 1988
Missing From: Hayward, Alameda County, California
Classification: Non-Family Abduction
Date Of Birth: January 24, 1979
Age: 9 years old
Height and Weight: 4’8″ and 75 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: White Female, Blonde hair, Blue eyes, Michaela has prominent ears and her eyes slant slightly downward, her teeth are slightly mottled, her ears may have been pierced when she was abducted, her hair was a blonde shade when she disappeared but it might have darkened as she aged, she may use the nickname “Kayla”
Clothing/Jewelry Description: White t-shirt with the word “Metro” written in the front of it and images of people were depicted on the midsection, denim pants rolled up above her knees, flesh colored nylon stockings, black cloth shoes with brown plastic soles, 3″ Pearl colored or white plastic earrings which resembled feathers
NCMEC Number: 717172
Details of Disappearance
Michaela was abducted by an unidentified white male in the parking lot of the Rainbow Market in Hayward, California on November 19th 1988. The store was located on Mission Boulevard and was approximately 2 blocks away from Michaela’s home.
Michaela had ridden her scooter with a friend to the Rainbow market. They both left their scooters in a certain spot which was very close to the store. When they were done at the market, both girls started to walk home but soon realized that they had left the scooters at the store.
Upon returning to the store, Michaela noticed that her friends scooter had been moved more towards the parking lot, close to a parked vehicle. When she went to retrieve it, an unidentified male subject got out of the car and grabbed Michaela. He proceeded to force her into the vehicle as she screamed in terror.
She was never seen or heard from again. The friend ran into the market and screamed for help. Her abduction prompted a huge massive search but no sign of Michaela has ever been found.
The car that the abductor was driving was described as a large, older model American made Sedan, gold or possibly tan in color, in poor ratty condition, and possibly a door door vehicle. The vehicle may have had cement splattered on the sides of it and lights set into the rear bumper. The vehicle was last seen speeding south on Mission Boulevard toward the nearby Union City Boarder.
The abductor was described having long, dirty blonde hair, he was approximately 18 to 24 years old when the abduction occurred, had a slender build, and a pockmarked or pimpled face.
Many suspects have been named in relation to her abduction. Her case may be linked to the abductions of other girls in the Bay Area.
In 1979, Tara Cossett Cossey vanished while going to get her mother sugar from a store in San Pablo, California. In June of 1988, Amber Jean Swartz-Garcia was abducted from the front of her house as she played with a jump rope in Pinole, California. In January of 1989, Ilene Beth Misheloff was kidnapped while she walked home from school in Dublin, California. In December of 1991, Amanda Nicole Campbell was abducted from the road as she rode her bike to a friends house in Fairfield, California. Authorities have not conclusively linked the cases but believe that they may be connected.
A man named Timothy Binder has been treated as a suspect in Michaela’s abduction for years. He’s suspected in the other cases of kidnapped girls as well. He was described as weird and odd and may have been playing mind games with the families of the abducted children. He may have been manipulating them into believing he was involved in the kidnappings. Binder came to be suspected after he sent girls of the Bay Area cards because they were “lonely”.
Investigators asked Amber Swartz-Garcia’s mother, Kim, to maintain a friendship with him in order to see if he knows the whereabouts of the missing girls. She agreed that he seemed to be playing mind games and was manipulative. He did not reveal anything of significance in the cases. Binder strongly resembled a man sought in Ambers disappearance. It should also be noted that his van had pictures of young children in it. There were also posters of Ambers disappearance were on the sides of his van.
Binder would frequently visit the grave of Angela Bugay, she was 5 years old when she was kidnapped and murdered in Antioch, California on November 19th 1983.
Angela’s body was found buried in a shallow grave a few days after her disappearance. Tim was considered a suspect in her unsolved murder for years until it was solved in 1995. Her mothers ex boyfriend, Larry Graham, was charged with killing her in April of 1996 after his DNA was found to be a match to a semen sample found on her body. He was convicted of killing her in 2003. He took his own life in his jail cell in 2009.
Investigators traced the scents of Amber and Amanda to Bugay’s grave. He has not been connected to the girl’s disappearances. He sent various letters and odd things to police and the FBI. Prior to Michaela’s abduction, he told the FBI that he beloved the next child to be taken would be 9 years of age. Michaela’s kidnapping took place shortly after he told them this. She was 9 years old when she was taken.
In 1990, Binder sent a holiday card to a FBI profiler. The card depicted a child holding up 4 fingers. Amanda Campbell’s abduction took place in December of 1991. She was 4 years old when she disappeared. He also sued Amanda’s hometown of Fairfield for defamation of character and won a $90,000 settlement.
Another suspect in Michaela’s case is James Daveggio. He is a convicted rapist along with his wife. He along with his wife, Michelle Michaud abducted, raped, and murdered Vanessa Swanson in 1997. They were convicted of the crime in 2002 and sentenced to death. James was known for committing crimes in the Bay Area so it’s possible he abducted the other missing girls but he has never been charged. He remains a prime suspect in the case of Ilene Misheloff.
In 1991, an 11 year old girl named Jaycee Lee Dugard was abducted by an unidentified couple as she waited for the school bus near her home. Much like Michaela’s abduction, Dugard’s abduction was witnessed. She was never seen or heard from again. Daveggio and Michaud were considered suspects in her kidnapping as well but they were later found to not be involved.
On August 26th 2009, Jaycee was found alive and well. She had been taken by sex offender and convicted rapist, Phillip Garrido and his wife Nancy Garrido.
They held her captive for 18 years and in that time, Dugard gave birth to two young girls. Dugard was questioned in the cases of Ilene Misheloff and Michaela Garecht because Garrido was out of jail when they were abducted. Phillip resembles the sketch of Michaela’s abductor and he owns a vehicle which is similar to the one used in her kidnapping.
He is still considered a possible suspect in their cases. Authorities searched his backyard and surrounding areas to see if he buried Michaela or Ilene anywhere. Bones were found but were found to be ancient Indian remains. It possible the property was built over an old Indian burial ground.
The Speed Freak Killers are also considered possible suspects in Michaela’s abduction. The killers Loren Herzog and Wesley Shermantine we’re arrested and found to have committed a series of killings from the 1980s to the 1990s. Loren resembles the sketch of the man who abducted Michaela.
Wesley told investigators that Loren had abducted Michaela, killed her, and then buried her with their other victims. When authorities searched the area he indicated they found more then 500 bone fragments. One was tested and was at first thought to possibly belong to a child in between the age range of 5 and 10 years old. Michaela’s DNA was tested against it but it turned out to be another victims bone. They haven’t been ruled out in Michaela’s case. Loren committed suicide in 2012 by hanging himself.
The remains found in 2012 were identified as some of their known victims which included 16 year old Chevelle Wheeler who disappeared on October 16th 1985 from Stockton, California when she skipped school to hang out with Loren and Wesley. They were charged with killing her 2001 and were also charged with the August 29th 1985 disappearance of Joann Hobson who was 16 when she disappeared Stockton as well. Her remains were also found and identified.
Wesley also led investigators to the remains of Kimberly Ann Billy who vanished in Stockton on December 11th 1984. Her case was unsolved until her remains were recovered with their other victims. In 1999, they were charged with killing Cynthia Ann Vanderheiden who vanished from Clements, California on November 14th 1998. They were convicted of her murder in 2001. Her remains were found in the 2012 excavation.
The Speed Freak Killers are also considered suspects in the 1982 disappearance of Ruth Leamon, the 1986 disappearance of Susan Bender, the 1986 disappearance of Sylvia Standly, the 1988 disappearance of Gayle Marks, and the 1993 disappearance of Phillip Martin. All of the suspected victims of the killers disappeared from the state of California.
Investigators in Michaela’s case have criticized San Joaquin investigators of impeding the investigation into Michaela’s disappearance and her possible link to the serial killers. Investigators still consider the two as suspects in Michaela’s case due to Loren’s resemblance to the kidnapper.
A man known as Curtis Dean Anderson has also been mentioned as a possible suspect in Michaela’s case. He is also considered a possible suspect in the 1999 disappearance of Karla Rodriguez. In 1999, he kidnapped 7 year old Xiana Fairchild from Vallejo, California and held her captive for several weeks before he murdered her. He’s also bragged of kidnapping 11 other girls.
In 2007 he confessed to abducting and killing Amber Swartz Garcia. He died a month after his confession while he served prison time. He stated that he forcefully abducted Swartz as she played in front of her home and took her with him to Arizona. He stated that Amber was sedated until he murdered her in a motel room near the Tucson area of Arizona. He allegedly disposed of her body near Benson, Arizona.
No evidence was found by investigators to corroborate his confession. They initially closed the investigation into her case but it reopened in 2013. He was not been charged in Michaela’s case before his death and investigators are unsure of his involvement in the case.
Michaela has never been found. Her mother, family and citizens in the Bay Area community hope that one day Michaela will safely return home. Foul play is suspected in her case and her abductor has never been identified. There have been various sightings of Michaela in and out of the United States since she disappeared but none have been confirmed. Her case remains unsolved.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Hayward Police Department 510-293-7272