Whodunit, or who didn’t done it

I get quite a few comments and emails from people who want to help solve Michaela’s case. While I appreciate the sentiment, it is a pretty futile effort. Michaela’s case is VAST. There were 5,000 leads called in during the first year alone, and they have continued to come in regularly for almost 28 years now. Nobody knows what is in those leads, or what operating assumptions there are about the case, except for the members of the police department who have worked on them, and perhaps the kidnapper himself. Over the years a few leads have come out in the press and have become well known, and people return to them over and over and over again. So I’m going to talk about just a few of these.

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.


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.


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.

43 thoughts on “Whodunit, or who didn’t done it

Add yours

  1. I saw a girl a few years ago and called it in. Someone who I worked with. Age was about right. The officer in charge did call me back. I do believe he followed up with my info. I wish so bad it was Michaela. Still praying thou.


  2. Hello Sharon, have you ever gone onto Google maps and just roamed around the areas she was taken from or explored nearby areas? There are a lot of cars that look like the one she was taken away in…I know its been so long now but maybe the person who took her got sloppy and is once again using the car.


  3. I know the car I owed 28 years ago is not working. I can pretty much guarantee the kidnapper's car is not running either. It almost didn't start on the day he kidnapped Michaela.


  4. I think I read that psychics have provided info over the years in blog entries that are much older. Did any of those match to any of these leads ever? Prayers to you.


  5. I pray for you and Michaela all of the time. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Sharon you are so strong and so brave. I honestly do not know how you do it. Praying Michaela is found XOXOSharon you are also such an amazing writer!


  6. Very interesting blog, Sharon. I don't know if you can answer but I was wondering if Hedwig's car and appearance matched the kidnapper's car and physical description.You and your family are in my prayersG.


  7. I really appreciate the detailed update, as I have followed your daughter's case for some time – especially the info about PHILIP GARRIDO, as it answered a bunch of questions I had regarding property search and interviews of Jaycee. I continue to pray that you find a credible lead and that she is found. Many good thoughts and prayers sent…


  8. One woman provided a detailed description of a location, which exactly matched a location I found years later when I was following up on a lead. I still hammer away at this particular lead.


  9. People don't just disappear into thin air. I believe if Helwig was not the kidnapper himself or didn't match the kidnappers discription he knew who took Michaela and her whereabouts. I wonder if she could be in Mexico has her case ever been on news channels in Mexico. May be some reward money will make some one say some thing. Because obviously seems like Michaela was in Mexico. May be some Mexican shows can air it on tv. And obviously no remains matching Michaela's were ever discovered. So it's very possible she could be alive and outside the USA. So for her 28th anniversary I think her case should be aired in Mexico. Sharon how you do this I don't know I pray for you and Michaela as always. Stay strong. Hugs and prayers to your family.


  10. I think of and pray for Michaela often. This is a very informative blog. Thank you so much for sharing. I just want her to be found so bad. I have faith that one day the answers will be found. I will keep you in my prayers Sharon. Stacey Dowers.


  11. Hi Sharon!That is not OK. You mustn't let them do that. The Police job is to FIND YOUR DAUGHTER, OR AT LEAST HER ABDUCTOR! You/We/the world cant settle with them being depressed after the SFK-lead, and the disapointment that it wasn't it. Maybe your voice is not enough, maybe you dont have the strenght to fight this on your own. But we are a crowd of people over the world who will not accept this. They must do their job. They must continue to go through, sort, follow up, computerize etc etc, every damn lead in those cabinets before they can rest. This IS NOT A COLD CASE. That is what is so frustrating. More good people must be assigned to this case, as it was yesterday. What can we do?? Sign a petition? Write to LA Times??We must make some freaking noise. Mccann family and also Ben Needhams family did and they got the resources they deserved. I realize that there is soooo many many leads, that it seems as to look for a needle in a haystack, but is the alternative for the PD to give up??


  12. That's right Sharon your daughter's case is not a cold case. They can't just forget about it after all it was not a item that was stolen it is some ones child. I agree with anonymous.


  13. In all fairness I believe it was helwig. Why would the children say they say her if they did not. Kids do not lie. They have no reason to. You say the the girlfriend owned earrings and a shirt that were the same as Michaela's. So where are they? Weren't they evidence?


  14. Dear, anonymousThey never found Michaela's shirt at helwig's home. And the earring like Sharon stated before were very common back then.


  15. Dear, SharonDear, Sharon I have never met you or Michaela but for some reason I'm so attached to Michaela's case and your blog. I check your blog in hopes for an happy update about your daughter every day constantly through out the day. And what I hope to read on there one day is “Michaela found”.You have a beautiful heart Sharon and I truly pray Michaela is able to read the most beautiful things you write to her. Where ever she is in heaven or on earth she must be so proud of you. The love you express for your daughter makes me cry. And I pray that Michaela if she is on earth reads your blog and finds the courage and strength to contact you. Makes me wonder how some one can just snatch an innocent child from its mother. How can this person live in peace. Michaela if you are out there don't be afraid of contacting your mom. She will never let harm reach you. Moms make things better not worse.Just stay alert if you ever find the opportunity contact her and rest assure your mother will help you in any way shape or form. Prayers and hugs to Michaela and her lovely mother from me and my beautiful mom.Sincerely,ZS


  16. Just a quick note here, I am receiving a lot of comments telling me what I should do, or should have done, with these leads, particularly Helwig. My purpose in writing this blog was to assure you that these things were investigated. The main thing with the Helwig lead is that it indicates that it is possible that Michaela was not murdered but trafficked. The investigation into that lead was conducted over a period of a number of years by several agencies, including the FBI and U.S. Customs & Border Protection. Helwig had AIDS by the way, and this was before effective treatments were known. He is gone, likely those he was close to are gone, and it is not unlikely that those he abused may also be gone. But we also have many other leads, and if you were to hear each one of them individually you would say, “Oh, that must be it!” because they sound so compelling. Obviously they can't all be “it.” My previous detective told me the other day that HPD is working on trying to establish a “cold case unit,” which would enable them to assign someone to do this work without having to be dragged away for every new violent crime committed in Hayward.


  17. Anonymous 33, I am not printing your comment, as you requested, but since I have had a number of similar messages on facebook about DNA on the scooter, I thought I'd respond anyway. There were numerous people whose prints were found on the scooter. Many family and friends had touched it. So even if the kidnapper touched the handlebars, it would not be possible to get a clean DNA sample, and there is no way to know where he might have touched the scooter. Thanks, and I hope you comment again.


  18. This kidnapper was very experienced whom ever he was. For him to snatch Michaela in broad day light in a market parking lot in presence of Trina. I wonder what other crimes he was involved in. For him to get away with Michaela probably increased his confidence. Sharon was this guy alone? because if not Michaela was screaming and may be pounding on the car windows to get attention. Unless someone was holding her down.prayers to Sharon and Michaela.SincerelyZS


  19. I'd say he was an amateur. First his car was in bad shape. When he first when to start it, it didn't start. Second he drove out the back of the parking lot and clear around the perimeter, which gave anybody watching a really good, long look at him. Plus he planned a kidnapped where he knew there would be an eyewitness. Definitey didn't act like a pro.


  20. Hi Sharon, I just tried to send a reply message but it bounced back so I don't think it went through and I'll try again: It's Anonymous 33 again and I don't understand exactly what you meant by not possible to get a clean DNA sample. At first I thought you were saying there were just too many samples on the same scooter. But then I realized you were saying that everything is so mixed up that the samples just can't be properly analyzed?Has the most sensitive and cutting-edge technology been applied lately and have you gotten optionsfrom a few world experts? There are things that were not possible recently that are possible now, from what I read in the news all the time. Also, this person's DNA is somewhere on the scooter…even if you guys don't know where…the surface space can't be that much more daunting than a room I would think? And is a sample that is not clean completely worthless? That is, could it be used to rule specific people out, like for example Garrido and all the other suspects you listed? Is whatever's on there clean enough that if the whole scooter was analyzed they would at least be able to conclude that some particular person's DNA is just NOT there? I really hope that I am not upsetting you further. Because maybe this line of thinking just brings more stress which is the last thing I would want (because I know some of your most difficult times have been when you hoped answers were coming and then they did not).I told you if I posted again I would use a particular name, but I think I'll still keep it anonymous and you can decide if you think its best to publish this comment or not… I don't know how to end this message other than to just send my prayers, love, and blessings…I wish we could help you find real answers.


  21. Well the plain straight reality is that it is an extreme long shot, and if it is an extreme long shot, I can guarantee that it is not going to get done. I am not at all certain that the scooter exists any longer, but it was returned to Trina's family after they finished testing for prints, and I highly doubt they kept it around, since the kids who used them are now in their thirties, and the family has moved several times. Even if it was around, in the intervening years who knows how many people have done what with it? But if they were unable to do the most basic and get a print from the kidnapper, then they would figure, probably correctly, that it is unlikely that they will be able to get DNA. And as with the palm print, they would never be able to say with certainty that anything belonged to the kidnapper. You are right, these kinds of comments do frustrate me a bit. I learned a long time ago that reality is not like the movies. I expected the police to go around testing everything for DNA, but that didn't happen. I thought they would vacuum out cars looking for hairs to sample. But nope. Everybody sees some great technology and says, why can't we apply it to Michaela's case. Well, in this case I think we honestly couldn't, but honestly, we had some cadaver dogs hit on possible gravesites and in two of the cases the investigators have not managed to get out there and investigate them, and it's been almost 17 months! And the one they did investigate, they dug a five foot perimeter instead of fifteen like the dog handlers told them, and stopped when they met tree roots or compaction, which could certainly have occurred in 27 years. So if they cannot investigate relatively simple right in front of them, very specific leads, you know they are not going to start throwing darts in hopes of hitting something. They have more than five filing cabinets full of leads, as I keep saying. They have new leads that come in all the time. And they just sit there. So yes it does upset me a little when people keep saying “you should do this,” because I personally am doing what I can. But I appreciate your heart, because you very obviously care a lot. Thanks.


  22. Hi Sharon, you mention above that the sketch was not made based on Trina's account. Was an attempt ever made to have her sit down with a professional sketch artist?


  23. One helpful idea to get exposure would be to have this case featured on one of the True Crime podcasts. My favorite ones are The Trail Went Cold, The Vanished Podcast, and The Generation Why Podcast. I could submit the case as a request to them if you're interested. They often times will include family members as part of the recorded discussion if you wish. If not, that's okay too. All three of these podcasts are very respectful with the material that they cover.


  24. Dear, SharonLots of prayers to you and Michaela. Now that November is around the corner I'm thinking of Michaela twice as much. And praying a lot more.SincerelyZS zahra


  25. Dear, SharonI was just reading about the unsolved kidnapping and murder of Amber Hagerman of Arlinghton Texas. It made me cry because of what this nine year old girl went through the way she was murdered. It also reminded me of Michaela because of the manner she was was abducted in a parking lot broad day light in front of eye witnesses. But a body was discovered in her case. But for Michaela nothing was ever found to indicate she is dead.i pray you get a positive closure soon.


  26. Dear, SharonThere is a Farsi show that airs on Ariana tv if it airs in all around the world because people call in with information about there missing friends in family in hopes that some one that knows some thing calls and the lady at the show will give them like an email address or if you want your phone number to the party that has information on a loved ones where abouts. I don't have the show on my tv any more but it airs all around the world it's in Farsi if you want I can find that hosts email address you can contact her and or her phone number and see if she can air Michaela's case it willBe in Farsi and people call from all around the world it's in Farsi.Sincerely ZS zahra


  27. Sharon, I am confused. You have stated a number of times the scooter was evidence and the police had to locked up in storage/evidence room. Further claiming the police would NEVER returned it to Trina because it was evidence in an open police investigation case. It was dusted for prints & while they found several prints of family, friends were on the scooter there was a partial print that couldn't be accounted for/identified. Now your saying the scooter was finger printed and given back to Trina and her family after it was processed and surely went bye bye never to be seen again since Trina is now grown. I'm confused as to why you have suddenly changed your answer in regards to what happen to the scooter after Michaela went missing.


  28. Sharon,I can assure you, I have no reason to lie about comments you made to people on your own blog. When I first started reading your blog, a few years ago. Someone left a comment asking if the scooter had been finger printed and what happen to the scooter. You did in fact make those comments when responding to the person.


  29. I would never accuse you of lying about what I said. I am saying you must have misunderstood something. They took the scooter into custody and then they gave it back. I have said in comments many times that I doubt the scooter is available because I doubt that Trina's familh held onto it all this time.


  30. You speak about an international audience, just to let you know that here in South Africa, Cape Town we as a church have been praying for Michaela for a very long time. My heart goes out to you, I too am a mother and I commend you on your blog. Yourf love for your daughter is so very strong should she be alive somewhere I am sure she feels it in some way and should she not be here she is DEFINITELY looking down at you with a beautiful smile. God bless you and your family….


  31. Dear Sharon, please try to enjoy Christmas and don't torture yourself about Michaela having suffered for decades. It did not happen. She is with Jesus and at peace, probably within a few hours of being abducted; she's in Heaven. Please try to accept that. Prayers for you.


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