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Ceremony to Honor 24 Years Since 9-Year-Old Michaela Garecht's Kidnapping

Investigators are analyzing bones recently found in a San Joaquin County well belong to Michaela.

By Bay City News Service

Test results that are expected to reveal whether bones found in a San Joaquin County well earlier this year are those of kidnapping victim Michaela Garecht have been delayed as the 24th anniversary of her disappearance approaches.

On Nov. 19, 1988, Michaela was abducted at age 9 as she rode her scooter with a friend to the Rainbow Market on Mission Boulevard in Hayward near the Union City border.

On the anniversary of her disappearance next Monday, Michaela's mother, Sharon Murch, is holding an annual gathering at the market, which is now Mexico Super.

Murch said her family goes to the market and ties yellow ribbons on a tree, a tradition that came about when a boy at Michaela's school suggested this to remember his schoolmate.

She said community members come and tie ribbons as well and hear the mother of the missing girl speak, along with someone from the Hayward Police Department, which has been investigating the kidnapping.

This year Murch's son Robbie will sing a song for Michaela, Murch said.

Hayward police Lt. Roger Keener said investigators, patrol officers and a captain will attend the ceremony and speak about the investigation and the efforts to keep the search for Michaela active.

The anniversary comes more than a month after between the ages of 5 and 14.

The bone was analyzed at start of October by a forensic anthropologist at California State University at Chico. The anthropologist had received the remains from Joan Shelley, who was told the bones were those of her 16-year-old daughter JoAnn Hobson, according to Hayward police.

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.

Shelley had the remains evaluated a second time by the expert at CSU Chico who determined that there was two other individuals' remains mixed in with JoAnn's.

One of those bones is believed to be that of Michaela, Hayward police 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.

Back in October, Murch said that initial tests showed the bone appeared to be Michaela's but that the results were inconclusive because of the bone's condition. The bone was sent to a lab that specializes in extracting mitchondrial DNA in Arizona, which was scheduled to reveal by mid-November whether the bone was Michaela's.

However, as of Thursday Murch was informed the testing results would be delayed about another two to four weeks.

Lt. Keener said because the Arizona lab turnaround was cost prohibitive, the fragment was shipped Tuesday night to a Bay Area lab in Richmond, Calif., which anticipates a three-week turnaround period for results.

In her blog, Murch wrote on Oct. 31, "there were a few snags in the procedure."

However she noted that the Hayward police department has been respectful and helpful during the process and that "nobody has done anything wrong. It was just a matter of logistics."

In that blog post she wrote, "The delay is okay. Everything happens in its time, and I still need a little time I think."

Michaela's anniversary gathering will be held at 32575 Mission Blvd. in Hayward.

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Matt Cullum November 17, 2012 at 01:06 AM
It's hard to believe its been 24 years, my prayers go to her mother and family.

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