The other thing people seem to want to do is talk about things the police should have done 28 years ago. Pretty much without exception, the police did do those things. Yes, they checked cars and junk yards, yes they checked registered offenders, yes they talked to all the families in the neighborhood, including adults, teens and kids. There were a massive number of people working on Michaela’s case in those early days, from both the police department and the FBI. They had it covered, folks. The put forth a heroic effort. However, if there was anything like this that was overlooked, it would be too late now. It would be impossible to go back and look at cars in junk yards 28 years ago, for example. Luckily, the investigators were on top of their game and did these things back in 1988-1989.
There were also a lot of leads to investigate, and the investigators have said from the start that this was actually one of their biggest problems. The way they put it was, “We don’t rule anybody out completely unless they were dead or in jail on November 19th, but we have to look for a reason to put each lead aside so we can go on to the next one.” For this reason, not much was probably able to be run down to its very furthest conclusion, and for that reason, it is suspected that the answer to what happened to Michaela is, in fact, buried in the five file cabinets of leads from that first year. Our previous detective did his darndest to try to get those leads gone through, organized, and computerized. He set up a “Michaela room” at the police department, a tiny office with the file cabinets, boxes, evidence, and a desk, where he or whoever else was available and approved would sit and try to sort through and computerize the case,
As you know from my previous blog, that was never completed. Whatsmore, after the bone in the Speed Freak Killers case turned out not to be Michaela, apparently the whole damn police department got a case of depression and the powers that be decided to take the room away from our detective and shoved everything back in closets.
I got depressed over that incident, too, so depressed that for the first time in all the years since Michaela was kidnapped, I started taking antidepressants. I’m still taking them. And the police department can get depressed if it needs to. But it is not okay to sweep a case under the rug just because something you had thought would work out didn’t. You only close up the case after a lead does work out.
There are a lot of leads that people ask about often, so I thought I’d give you a summary and update of those that are most asked about.
THE SPEED FREAK KILLERS
I don’t personally think that it is likely that Michaela was a victim of the Speed Freak Killers. What made the connection was that Shermantine, one of the SFKs, the one who is on death row, commented that Herzog, the other SFK, who was released from jail and committed suicide, looked like Michaela’s kidnapper. He had no knowledge about it. He specifically stated in his letters that he didn’t know anything about “that Hayward girl.” So although Herzog did have a resemblance to the kidnapper, there was no real evidence of knowledge of his involvement, and there have been a surprising number of people who have looked like the kidnapper over the years.
Our detective did investigate this lead. He found that for one thing, Wesley Shermantine had discovered a small gold mine of attention and a way to at least try to get some goodies in exchange for blabbering his mouth. He gave locations for authorities to search for remains, and several of the SFK victims were found. Because the bones were mixed up and there was one bone found in one set of remains that didn’t belong there, and it was small, it was thought it might be Michaela’s. It took three long months for the DNA tests to be completed, and it was not her. In the meantime I met with some of the families of his victims. All of their loved ones had been older teens or young adults and all had gone with the SFKs voluntarily. All cases were completely unlike Michaela.
It is not impossible that Herzog was responsible for kidnapping Michaela. But Shermantine does not possess any information about this, and that has been verified. Herzog is dead, so he is not going to be able to tell anybody anything, and no evidence has been found. So basically this is on the far back burner. If Herzog is responsible, someone else will have to have that information and give it to us, or it will have to be stumbled on somewhere.
This has to be the most thoroughly investigated lead ever associated with Michaela’s case. After Jaycee Dugard was found at Garrido’s house in Antioch, California, the Hayward Police Department moved in on the property with a huge operation that included tearing down all the outbuildings on the property and searching them for any signs of Michaela. Nothing was found. Jaycee was questioned and knew nothing about Michaela. The judge in the Jaycee case issued an order forbidding any other law enforcement personnel from interviewing either Philip or Nancy Garrido until the case was over, which took something like two years. Then, after the sentencing, our detective was forced to wait until they were transferred to their permanent prison homes, and after they were transferred we had to wait another three months mandatory settling-in period.
Now ask me my opinion of this nonsense. No, dont ask me. You can figure it out.
Eventually, however, our investigators were able to conduct extensive interviews with both Philip and Nancy Garrido, including reading to them my blog entries. They were pretty well satisfied after the extensive interviews and the preceding investigation that the Garridos were not responsible for Michaela’s kidnapping, but just to top it off both Philip and Nancy agreed to a polygraph test, and they both passed.
So I am pretty well satisfied that the Garridos are not responsible for Michaela’s kidnapping.
Tim Bindner was the subject of a 1997 book by John Philpin, Stalemate. He was suspected of being responsible for a number of kidnappings in the San Francisco Bay Area.
He first became suspect because of his obsession with Angela Bugay, who had gone missing and was found murdered. Angela had disappeared on November 19, 1983. This was the same date, five years earlier, as when Michaela was kidnapped. It was also the last time November 19th had fallen on a Saturday, which it was in 1988 when Michaela was kidnapped.
Tim also had an obsessive interest in a number of missing children, including Amber Swartz and Nikki Campbell from Fairfield. This is what made him a suspect. There were a few other things that led some to think he took these girls, but an investigation never turned up anything. The Fairfield Police Department conducted a search of Bindner’s home and found nothing.
What’s more telling is that Angela Bugay’s murder was solved. In 2002, Larry Graham was found guilty of Angela’s murder. So it was proven that Tim did not have anything to do with Angela’s murder, and his obsession was just a weird obsession and not an indicator of guilt. After the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake here in California, I saw Tim Bindner interviewed on the news. He was working as a volunteer to help dig bodes out of the collapsed freeway in Oakland. So there he was again, where something bad had happened. But we know he didn’t cause the earthquake.
I don’t think Tim is responsible for Michaela’s kidnapping. He actually came to my house the day Michaela was kidnapped (along with half the rest of the world) to say he wanted to help in the search. He did not look like the kidnapper on the day of the kidnapping. To make his book more entertaining, Philpin had the composite of our kidnapper altered to show him with shorter hair, and put that next to a picture of Tim. But that is not what the kidnapper looked like.
Tim was also never considered a suspect by our own police department. So, it’s not impossible that he is involved, but not likely, There are certainly better suspects to investigate.
There is another missing child case that uses one of our composites. It is a color composite that was done by a police officer’s wife after Michaela was kidnapped. She did not consult with the eyewitness when she did it, however, and when we got around to asking the eyewitness much later, she said it was inaccurate, that the pale blonde hair and bright blue eyes did not reflect the man she had seen, and the slightly altered face shape was not accurate either.
Years later a man, a diagnosed schizophrenic, claimed he had participated in the kidnapping of this other missing child (I am not going to mention the name because there is too much questionable involved and I don’t want to worry your head about it if you don’t know the case already) and used our color composite to identify the getaway driver in that kidnapping, a man he called “Tony.”
I first saw this when it was broadcast on America’s Most Wanted just a few years after Michaela was kidnapped. And yes, we did investigate it. We notified our police department and the FBI. There was a private investigator working on that case who happened to be in the Bay Area, and I met with him with a group of volunteers to pick his brain, but there wasn’t much information there, and he knew of nothing to do with any little girls. Only little boys.
In the years after I learned a lot more about that case, and heard a lot of different stories about our composite and other things that I just knew to be untrue. You know in court once you say something that is proven to be untrue they find you to be not credible and don’t believe anything else you have to say. Well, I kind of feel that way about this.
No evidence, lots of questionable information. Not impossible, but highly highy unlikely.
This is a famous case, although its connection with Michaela is probably less well known, and it is also a very old lead. Helwig was stopped crossing the border into the U.S. from Mexico. He was found to have child pornography in his possession, and he also had articles and flyers about both Michaela and Amber Swartz in his possession. This was March 1989, three and a half months after Michaela was kidnapped, nine months after Amber disappeared,
Further investigation revealed that Helwig had a girlfriend in Mexico, who had two children who were hearing impaired. There is something about the girlfriend owning earrings and a tee-shirt that matched what Michaela was wearing the day she was kidnapped, but those items were never discovered. Her two children were interviewed separately, and in these separate interviews I am told that each child independenty identified both Michael and Amber Swartz as having been there.
There was a lot of investigation into this case and no evidence was ever found. Helwig was found guilty of transporting child pornography and died in prison. On his deathbed he was interviewed once again by investigators, and asked about his involvement in Michaela’s case. He would not confess, but he did not deny it either.
This has been one of the most intriguing leads to me. If it is true, it would indicate that Michaela was kidnapped by traffickers rather than a psycho bent on killing. As those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile know, I have received leads from diverse places telling me that Michaela is in the UAE, alive. If she was in the hands of traffickers, it is entirely possible she could have ended up anywhere after traveling to Mexico.
Thinking about this possibility makes me sick. It is almost worse than the prospect of her having passed away soon after she was kidnapped, because it would almost certainly have guaranteed a lifetime of abuse. But this is one of the reasons that I keep reaching out to Michaela in this blog, because if she is alive, she is probably not living a happy life with another family somewhere. If she is alive, she is likely suffering and needs my help.
LOOKING FOR MICHAELA
A lot of people also tell me that they look for Michaela in the faces they pass on the street. Other people send me facebook pages, or worse, escort service ads, suggesting that those people might be Michaela. Without exception they are beautiful, young, blonde women.
I have to tell you, I don’t think I would necessarily recognize Michaela if I passed her on the street. I’d like to think I would, but I am far from confident. I don’t see how somehow who didn’t know the intricacies of her face could. And the other thing is that Michaela likely does not have that platinum blonde hair she had as a child. Every one of her siblings ended up with darker hair, ranging from dark blonde to true brown, even though they also started out with platinum blonde. Nor is she a young girl anymore. She would be 37 years old now. I don’t honestly think she would be on facebook either, although I could be wrong.
Someone recently commented and suggested that I submit my DNA to the ancestryDNA databank, in case Michaela might be out there somewhere looking for me. Well that’s a longshot, but you know what? It’s worth trying. I have my ancestryDNA kit here in front of me as I write. The investigators have Michaela’s prints, DNA, and dental records, as well as mitochondrial DNA. But on the offchance that Michaela herself is looking for her DNA, I will reach out. One of the people who provided the lead about the UAE said she is “changed too much to remember” who she is. What if that is the case, and she is in a position somewhere on the earth to be asking that question, Who am I? If she is looking for me, I will make myself available to be found.
On the whole, I know that there are leads that the police department has that they can follow up on. I have heard some information about them, but they are too many and too complicated to remember without taking notes, which I didn’t, and since they have not been investigated fully, it is information that I could not release anyway. They are names that don’t automatically pop into my mind and names that nobody else knows,
If I forgot anything let me know. But I guess what I am trying to say is that as much as I do appreciate the fact that everyone wants to help solve the case, we have too little information to be able to do that. We need a confession, or an informant, or for Michaela herself to surface.
What you can do is pray. I know many of you are doing that anyway. And you can also share this blog. Share it far and wide, and particularly to an international audience if you can, to help to try to reach out to Michaela if she is still alive, or to someone whose conscience might be stirred if they read this.
Thank you everybody for caring so much about Michaela. And Michaela, if you are out there, take the fact that you are so loved to heart and let it give you courage.
I love you forever, baby girl.