HAYWARD -- Authorities are testing a bone fragment discovered in a San Joaquin County well to determine if it may be that of missing Hayward girl Michaela Garecht, who vanished in 1988.
The girl's mother, who was contacted by police Monday, said she believes the fragment is likely that of her daughter based on information that was shared with her by police. Michaela was 9 when she was kidnapped outside a Hayward corner market on Nov. 19, 1988.
"As far as the bone itself goes, they told me it was (from) a girl between the ages of 5 and 13 and that (it coincided) with the time she went missing. There are not a lot of girls that it could be," Michaela's mother, Sharon Murch, said Wednesday.
The 3-inch bone fragment is undergoing DNA testing, Murch said police told her. Murch said she did not know when results of those would be known. She also said she did not know what bone the fragment may have come from.
"They didn't say, and I didn't ask," she said.
In an email, Hayward police Lt. Roger Keener confirmed Wednesday that his department received a fragment unearthed in a well in Linden, near Stockton. The well is believed to hold the victims of the so-called "Speed Freak Killers." The fragment belonged to a child between the ages of 5 and 14, Keener said, and Hayward officers hand-delivered it to a lab in Arizona "for
The discovery comes after the remains of murder victim JoAnn Hobson, excavated from the Linden well earlier this year and returned to her family for burial, were revealed to have been mixed up with possibly two to four others, Keener said.
Rather than bury her daughter, Joan Shelley, the mother of the 16-year-old Hobson, who vanished in 1985, sent the remains for analysis by the Human Identification Laboratory at Chico State.The report found that the use of large earth-moving equipment used by police contributed to commingling the remains.
Murch, of Castro Valley, said she learned Monday from a Hayward police detective that the bone fragment along, with the mixed human remains, were in the hands of Hayward police.
The report opens up the possibility that other victims of the "Speed Freak Killers" may have been unidentified.
The family of Ilene Misheloff, who was 13 when she vanished on Jan. 30, 1989, while walking home from school in Dublin, said they had not been contacted about the latest finding.
Ilene's father, Mike Misheloff, did not want to speculate if that means anything about his daughter's case.
"I've learned over the years just to wait for things to play out," he said. "Nothing can be drawn at this time. Conclusions have to be based on facts."
The killing duo of Wesley Shermantine and Loren Herzog were never convicted in Hobson's death, but Shermantine's tips led investigators to the Linden well.
Herzog and Shermantine were convicted of four murders and suspected in the deaths of as many as 15 people in and around San Joaquin County from 1994 to 1998. They were arrested in 1999. The pair were nicknamed "The Speed Freak Killers" due to their methamphetamine addiction.
Murch has held out hope for closure in her daughter's case before. When Jaycee Lee Dugard was found at the home of Phillip and Nancy Garrido in August 2009 -- 18 years after she disappeared -- Murch also said she thought police might find Michaela there.
But Wednesday night, Murch said something feels different this time.
"They presented (the bone fragment information) to me in a very detailed and methodical way. (The detective) started at the very beginning (of the Herzog/Shermantine case) and went through the various things they've investigated and the various people talked to," Murch said, adding that certain confidential information given to her by police shows there is a likelihood that Herzog kidnapped Michaela.
Still, Murch said she does not know yet what she will do if faced with the news that the bone piece is that of her missing daughter.
"I really don't know," she said. "I guess we'd have to try somehow or another to recover the rest of the bone fragments."