A convicted murderer has been arrested and charged with murder in the 1988 cold case of 9-year-old Michaela Garecht, who vanished from a supermarket in Hayward, California, more than three decades ago.
David Misch, 59, is charged with murder and two special circumstances, including murder during the course of a kidnapping and having been convicted of a previous murder, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley announced at a press conference on Monday.
Michaela Garecht was kidnapped on November 19, 1988, from the Rainbow Market parking lot in Hayward while trying to retrieve a friend’s scooter that authorities said the abductor had moved closer to his vehicle, according to the FBI. The case was featured in Dateline’s “Cold Case Spotlight” in November 2014.
“Today is about family, community and healing,” Hayward Police Chief Toney Chaplin said as he announced the arrest at Monday’s press conference.
He went on to call the case “a tragic story that has gripped the Bay Area for decades.”
For more than 32 years, Michaela was not seen or heard from, and her body has never been found.
The Hayward Police Department, the Alameda County District Attorney's Office and the FBI worked tirelessly on the case and said it was Misch's partial palm print found on the scooter at the scene that tied him to Michaela’s disappearance. The breakthrough came earlier this year, they said.
“The kidnap and murder of a child is horrific. The pain to the family and friends is indescribable, especially when their child is not found. This crime shocked not just the local community, but the entire Bay Area and the nation,” said D.A. O’Malley. “I hope that today’s action and announcement will provide some comfort to Michaela’s family in knowing that justice will prevail, even after 32 years since this horrible crime.”
According to authorities, the brazen kidnapping happened on the morning of November 19, 1988, after Michaela and a friend rode scooters to the Rainbow Grocery on Mission Boulevard in Hayward. They left the scooters outside while they went inside to buy snacks. When they came out, one of the scooters had been moved near a car. The FBI believes when Michaela went to fetch the scooter, the driver snatched her.
"The crime shocked not only the local community of Hayward and Alameda County, but the entire Bay Area and the nation,” D.A. O'Malley said. “It was so brazen, so ruthless but clearly planned.”
Misch is currently facing other charges in Alameda County for the 1986 murders of two women in Fremont, and is currently serving time in state prison for the 1989 murder of another woman in the Hayward area.
Misch is scheduled to be arraigned on Tuesday, December 22.
“We hope this announcement will bring Michaela’s family closer to the peace they deserve for so many years,” Chaplin said. Chaplin ended the press conference Monday by reading a statement from Michaela’s mother:
“In the last year I had to come to a place of accepting that Michaela was 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,” the statement said. “What I did not envision was my daughter as a dead child. It was only when I heard this news that this vision of reality appeared and I honestly have not figured out what to do with it.”
Michaela’s mother went on to say that she “feels lost in the dark” but "glad that there are answers."