I’m happy to say that there continue to be new people learning about Michaela’s story on a regular basis, or people who have not been reading my blogs for a long time anyway. One of the things these people are always concerned about is getting people to come forward with information. This is a logical assumption, but it doesn’t actually fit the facts in this case, because one of the problems with Michaela’s investigation is that there has always been too much information. In the first year alone, it generated 5,000 leads, and I’m not sure there has been much time passed when it has not continued to gather new ones. This is probably even more true now, because of the fact that the case has garnered a huge amount of publicity in the last ten years, and because of the vast reaches of the internet. My Dear Michaela blog has itself had well over a million page views.
There are a few things I know. One is that the only people who can actually provide helpful information already know the details of Michaela’s case. There are other things I am pretty certain of. One is that I would be absolutely floored if the answer to what happened to Michaela was not already in the files. I do know that our previous investigator had several strong leads. I don’t know all of them, but I do know details of several leads that I consider to be so strong that when you hear the details of each you think, “That has to be it!” But they can’t all be. Unfortunately, choosing which direction to take would be impossible for me, and since nobody is confessing, each direction would require a journey of many investigative miles. And even more unfortunately, it is now a case that is three decades old, and since people continue to commit crimes, to shoot, stab, abuse and kill each other, the investigators don’t always have the time, well don’t ever have the time really, to walk the full length of these paths. I don’t like this, but I do understand it. The current crimes are probably “more important.” All those people have families as well who want their cases solved. And the public safety is impacted when there are people who are right now committing violent crimes running amok in our communities. And even those crimes get backlogged, due to availability of resources. I get that, whether I like it or not.
Another thing I am pretty certain of is that nobody is going to come across Michaela in their everyday lives and recognize her. They are not going to find her photo on the internet. She may or may not be their neighbor, but if she is, they will not know it by looking at her. I’m not absolutely positive that I would recognize Michaela on the street. She has changed a lot over the last 29 years, and I have no idea how. She is unlikely to still have the same pale blonde hair, since her siblings don’t. Her youngest brother’s hair is actually pretty dark brown now. And in a little over a year, Michaela will be 40 years old folks! People are still sending me pictures of beautiful 20 year olds and she is actually a woman entering middle age! The only way a stranger is going to recognize Michaela if she is out in the world is if they hear her story. Even at the time of her kidnapping, we were always getting calls about look-alikes who actually looked nothing like her. There was a girl chosen to play Michaela in Unsolved Mysteries because she was always being told she looked just like Michaela, and there was no resemblance at all beyond blonde hair and blue eyes. So the point is, I am not looking to get people out combing the neighborhoods looking for Michaela. If you want to look in the darker recesses of the United Arab Emirates, where we have had leads about her, by all means please do! But even there, you will know her because of her story. Even if she doesn’t remember who she is, she will have a story.
Now there are a few people I wish would call investigators. For example, there was someone who called some years back and told our detective that he wanted to help relieve the suffering of Michaela’s family and told them where she is buried. Only that turned out to be a large area. The call was anonymous and untraceable, which is fine, really, but they need more information. So if you would call again, we would be very grateful. 1-800-222-3999 for the hotline. Ask to speak to Inspector Robert Purnell.
I am told, by the way, that Rob Purnell is absolutely the best investigator I could ever ask for. There are people from Hayward PD with whom I have developed close, trusting relationships over the years, people who are not cheerleaders for everything HPD but are honest, and if they say Purnell is the best, then I believe them. I kind of tend to believe it myself, just based on something in his presence. He is not as warm and friendly as my last investigator, but he doesn’t really need to be. He doesn’t tell me everything that is going on, but it is unusual for an investigator to do that. And quite honestly knowing some of what transpired in the last few years really broke me down, until at one point I actually told them that I didn’t want to know. When they had an answer, or some certainty, I wanted to know, but it did me absolutely no good to teeter on the edge for months at a time. Seriously, decades after Michaela was kidnapped I showed up at my doctor’s office, for the first time asking for anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medication because I couldn’t take it anymore. While I should have been adjusted to living with all this, long after I had resumed and should have been living a “normal” life, I was brought to the point of breaking down.
So while it feels as though there is nothing going on in the case, they could just be honoring my request, or they could just be behaving like normal investigators and not blabbing everything to the mother who keeps a blog and social media pages about the case, however circumspect I try to be about such things! I do know, because our previous investigator (now retired) told me, that they have finally managed to get all the leads into a computer database. They didn’t use computers in 1988, a year during which those five file cabinets full of information poured into HPD. They just had files and slips of paper. Computerizing this was a huge task that had been undertaken before by many, so to have accomplished that is something! It is also very helpful, allowing cross-checking of leads and information. And it means they have not given up. They do still care.
Honestly, I have come to the point of being able to live with this, with the eternally unsolved crime. I have never felt this driving need for “justice.” I’ve had concern for the safety of other children with a kidnapper on the loose, but I’m just not looking to punish “the monster.” That means pretty much nothing to me. The only thing I really want to know is what happened to Michaela, and the reason I want to know that is because I want to be certain that my daughter is not suffering right now, this minute, because if she is, I need to help her. That is my sole concern. That I why I keep blogs, why I reach out to her.
That, and the fact that whether she is alive physically or not, I want to keep her alive in this world. It has been almost thirty years, but people still know her, people still love her. They have not forgotten her. And that is important to me. I’ve said it many times, but Michaela was a bright and shining light in this world, and as long as she is not here to shine that light, I will carry it for her. That is the only thing I can do, and I will do it.
The investigation is what it is: a huge, tangled, complex beast. Unraveling it and taming it is the task at hand. For me, the task is different and it is pretty simple. It is to love Michaela, to remember her, to keep her alive in the hearts and minds of people around the world. At its depths, my task is to honor the gift that Michaela is to the world by offering it myself. The horror, the outrage, the thirst for justice or revenge, they are just not part of me. They are not why I am here. I am here for love, for faith, for purpose. I am here to walk this path on which fate has planted my feet, and always on that path I am holding my daughter’s hand and we are smiling at each other. Always, my heart swells with her presence.
I love you, Michaela.