Gen Xers and older Millennials who grew up in the Bay Area — and their parents — may remember 1988 as a scary time to be a kid, with multiple child disappearances making headlines within a few months. One of those was the disappearance of nine-year-old Michaela Garecht, who was grabbed in a supermarket parking lot in Hayward a few days before Thanksgiving, never to be seen again.
Now, 32 years on, investigators in the East Bay say they've identified a suspect, and it's a man who's been in prison for another Hayward murder since 1989, and who's been charged in a double murder of two women in 1986 in Fremont. His name is David Misch, he's now 59 years old, and, as KRON4 reports, he is being arraigned in Alameda County court on Tuesday on Garecht's kidnapping and murder.
Garecht's remains have never been found, and Misch has refused to speak to authorities about the case. But investigators with the Hayward Police Department believe they have enough physical evidence from the scene, in addition to witness descriptions of Garecht's abductor, to link Misch to the crime.
In particular, as the Chronicle reports, investigators had a partial palm print found on the young girl's scooter, which they say they were able to match to Misch "literally through eyesight." Investigator say that Misch took Garecht's scooter around to the back of the store, out of plain sight, and used it to lure her near his vehicle before grabbing her. The girl had gone to the store with a friend to buy candy, and the friend described Garecht's abductor as a slender man in his early 20s with shoulder-length blond hair. Misch was in his mid-20s at the time.
Hayward Police Chief Toney Chaplin announced Monday that they had made a break in the case earlier this year when Fremont police had listed Misch among possible suspects to look into in the Garecht case. Misch had only recently been charged (in 2018) with the 1986 murders of two best friends, Michelle Xavier and Jennifer Duey, in Fremont — a case for which he has yet to stand trial.
Misch was convicted in 1990 in the stabbing death of 36-year-old Margaret Ball in Hayward in 1989. He was sentenced to 18 years to life, and has been in state prison ever since.
He's now been charged with murder as well as two special circumstances, and taken together, the cases form the portrait of a serial killer the extent of whose crimes may still not be known. As far as authorities understand, Garecht was his only alleged child victim.
"There are no words that can adequately describe the horror of a kidnapped child,” said Alameda County DA Nancy O'Malley in a Monday press conference. "Especially when the child or the child’s remains are never found… They were just kids. Carefree and certainly not suspecting the danger that lay ahead. Michaela’s kidnapping devastated her family, paralyzed them with grief and terrorized them with the unknowing of what happened to Michaela. Their pain was and remains indescribable."
As KPIX reports, the victim's father, Rod Garecht, now 71, drove to Hayward from his home in Amador County for the press conference.
"I’m just glad he got caught, you know. That’s all I can say. Now they got somebody. It’s gonna start the process all over again," Garecht said. "I’m kinda relieved... they’ve got a suspect they can grill and hopefully he’ll cough up wherever the body is."
Chaplin told reporters that they are withholding aspects of the investigation and the exact connections they made to Misch besides the fingerprint evidence, hoping to still find the girl's remains.
This latest break in a decades-old cold case involving a young female murder victim in the Bay Area follows on the October parole-hearing confession of Steven Carlson, who was previously convicted in the 1984 murder of 14-year-old Tina Faelz in Pleasanton.
And, as the Chronicle recalls, two other Bay Area girls disappeared within months of Garecht's kidnapping in 1988: 7-year-old Amber Swartz-Garcia, who disappeared a few months earlier in Pinole; and 13-year-old Ilene Misheloff who disappeared while walking home from school in Dublin (as Faelz did) on January 30, 1989. The Misheloff case remains unsolved, but a convicted murderer of another 7-year-old girl, Curtis Anderson, confessed to the kidnapping and murder of Swartz-Garcia before his death in 2007, according to the FBI.