Between the approaching 30th anniversary of Michaela’s kidnapping, and the recent removal of all our ribbons from “Michaela’s tree,” I have been creating new flyers and buttons, and hanging new ribbons. I went to the market yesterday and was really happy to see that a number of people had actually already been there, hanging new ribbons and putting flowers and even butterflies on the tree.
The photo at the top of this blog is the flyer that our family uses for Michaela. I am not sure if you can download it or take a screenshot and print it from this website. If you can, you are welcome to. If you need a different format, contact me and I can email it to you.
This flyer differs from most missing children’s flyers, because Michaela’s case differs from most missing children’s cases. The purpose of the flyer is not to communicate information about the kidnapping. The purpose is to keep Michaela alive in this world, through people remembering her. We are not really seeking new information from the public in Michaela’s case. The case is virtually drowning in information. So we are not looking for someone who saw someone who looks like Michaela, or the kidnapper. There are people who know. We want to remind those people that they know, and remind them that we are not going to forget, and we are not going to allow them to forget. The purpose of the flyer also, as always, is to reach out to Michaela herself, should she be alive and out there in the world somewhere. It is a visible confirmation that yes, we are still looking for her, yes we are still waiting for her, yes we still love her. However, whether any of those things might be accomplished or not, the main purpose of the flyer is to keep Michaela alive in the world by keeping her alive in people’s memories.
I also prefer people not use flyers put out by nonprofit or other organizations. The reason for this is that these flyers always contain contact information for the organization that made it, rather than the investigating police department, and I am not entirely comfortable with that. Some of them also contain erroneous information, and some of them include age progressions of Michaela, which I am opposed to using.
I mentioned this on Michaela’s Facebook page the other day, but I do not believe age progressions are accurate. I also really don’t believe Michaela is working in the coffee shop down the street where someone may recognize her from an age progression. In short, I don’t believe there is any way possible Michaela is going to be found through an age progression. What does happen when one is released is that our investigators get a lot of calls from a lot of people who have seen someone who might resemble the age progression. This really harms the case, because our problem all along has not been that we don’t have information and leads to work. There are a number of very good leads in Michaela’s case. There is also work being done now by volunteers that should be being done by the police department. The real problem with the case is that our police department does not have the time, personnel, or resources they need to work all these leads on a 30-year old case. So when these calls about people who resemble the age progression come in, it just wastes the already precious investigative time and resources. Either that or it encourages the investigators to take incoming leads and file them in the “nothing” bin. I’ve received enough leads myself that I would pretty quickly relegate to that place, but I don’t like to see that happen. I had an investigator who took over the case years ago, who told me that all of Michaela’s case had been shoved into a closet, including boxes filled with leads that were never investigated. I don’t really want to encourage that behavior. When there is a call that comes in to the Hayward Police Department that begins with, “I have information about Michaela,” I want them to sit up alert and hopeful and take it down. I don’t want them to say, oh, here we go again. Therefore, I do not want to put out age progressions or other things that are likely to result in a glut of calls that will only discourage investigators.
I always have people who want to tell me that missing children have been found through age progressions. And some have. Most of those are parental abductions, and are initially located because of the use of fake birth certificates or such things. I don’t know of any victims of stranger abductions who have been located through age progressions. Now, the first age progression I ever received was three years after Michaela was kidnapped, so it was progressed from age 9 to age 12. It still looked pretty much like the original photo, with some slight maturations. In the years since then, I have been sent many age progressions, and I don’t think any of them have looked like Michaela. They have not looked like anybody else in our family. They have had features that nobody anywhere in Michaela’s family have, like huge toothy smiles in our family of people with small teeth. Some of them have looked like drug addicts, to be quite honest. But I do not think they look like Michaela. And the investigator’s time that is wasted by the release of an age progression is just simply not worth it.
I have also been tortured a few times by “false Michaelas” who have popped up in the investigation. I now know the key. If you know anybody who thinks they might be Michaela, or who you think might be Michaela, there is a really easy way to find out. Have that person go to their local police department and have a fingerprint card done, and send those prints to Inspector Robert Purnell at Hayward Police Department. We do have a fingerprint card for Michaela, and although they always feed prints through the computer, oftentimes they can just look at them and see that the person is not Michaela. This saves sometimes months of tortured conversations about what the person does or does not remember about which part of their lives. Always I have known, this is not my daughter, but they have said, “But what if I am and you are rejecting me?” They even try to convince me that their blue eyes could have turned brown. This phenomenon also is fed by age progressions. It is a really unpleasant experience on so many levels.
I personally believe that if Michaela is alive, she is not in this country. Whether it is possible to reach her where she may be, I don’t know. If there is, the internet is probably the best way to do that, so the best thing you can do to help is to continue to share these blogs. If she is to come home, she will have to be reminded of who she is, she will have to know that there is a place where she is safe and loved, where we will care for her and for her children if she has any. If you have contacts in other countries, share her story and ask that the story be shared into the shadows in those countries. In particular, I have had three fairly recent leads saying that she is in the UAE (United Arab Emirates), but she could be anywhere.
But even if she is not alive…. Well, if I’d been shown in the last year that Michaela is not alive, would I be doing anything for this anniversary? Oh, it would be very easy to just collapse and do nothing ever again. I can’t tell you how great that temptation is every single day as it is. But the bottom line for me is that I need to keep Michaela alive in spirit whether she is here or not. I need to hold her light up for the world to see. What happened to her cannot be without purpose, and may God guide me into seeing and fulfilling whatever that purpose may be. So yes, if I could manage to get myself out of bed, I would be doing something regardless.
Sometimes, Michaela drifts into the realm of ideas for me. Sometimes the reality of the warm little body that I held in my arms is just too much to hold onto. But sometimes I remember. Sometimes I am able to close my eyes and look into her sweet, innocent little face, and feel the weight of her in my arms. In those times, I remember my desperate need to keep her safe, my need for her to be happy, because in those things lay all my own peace and joy. And how miserably I failed her! These are impossible thoughts to hold. Michaela, my very real flesh and blood child, my firstborn … how could it be that she suffered the way she did, and I could do nothing about it? It is just sheer torture.
The more time that passes since Michaela was taken, the more questions and the fewer answers I have, and the deeper and darker the paths are to find them. In some ways, I feel that the battle to find out what happened to Michaela is happening on a spiritual level. So putting her out there in the world, keeping her in the consciousness of the world, that helps. Your prayers, your meditations, they help also. Just please, don’t forget her.
I don’t know if you can help to find Michaela. Who knows? Maybe you can. Maybe the blog post you share on social media will be shared by someone else, and then someone else, and perhaps it will reach into that dark corner where Michaela is hidden and she will see it and say, oh, that is me! But I do know that you can help keep Michaela alive, can help the world remember her, know her story. Michaela was a small miracle, a blessing, for me, and now for the world.
Thank you, for being here and reading this, and for caring. Thank you to the people who have already gone to Michaela’s tree and re-hung the ribbons in her remembrance. Thank you to Michaela’s friend for letting me know it needed to be done. Thank you all for helping to carry this load.
Following are some photos of the tree that I took yesterday. This is for you, Michaela, wherever you are. You have not been forgotten, even by those who never knew you. I love you forever, baby girl.