Does he hold the key to a decades old case and the disappearance of a 9-year-old Hayward girl. A convicted killer on death row says he knows what happened to Michaela Garecht. A letter he wrote is rekindling a mother's misery. NBC Bay Area's Cheryl Hurd reports.
A convicted murderer on San Quentin's death row is giving new hope in a missing child's case that has been in the news in the Bay Area for decades.
Michaela Garecht was just nine years old when she went out for a trip to a local store with a friend. Someone grabbed her and drove away in a car. She has not been seen since. The date was Nov. 19, 1988. .
Now, a death row inmate named Wesley Shermantine has written a letter that makes new and disturbing claims. Shermantine is a serial killer who took the lives of at least 20 people in the 80s and 90s.
He isn't confessing. Instead he implicates his partner in crime Loren Herzog. Herzog killed himself in a trailer near Reno and that apparently sparked Shermantine to write a letter to a Stockton newspaper claiming he has information about the little girl's disappearance.
"He sent this to me saying look at this photograph of this person who is wanted in Michaela’s disappearance look at Loren Herzog and look at the sketch striking that looks like the same person,”“ Stockton Record reporter Scott Smith said.
According to the Hayward police department, the letter claims the two "partners in crime" buried a number of bodies in San Joaquin County and one of them was Michaela's.
The Hayward Police Department says it is in contact with the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office regarding a new investigation that was set off by the letter. Hayward investigators said they will not do anything to compromise the San Joaquin investigation, but will continue to be in contact with their agency and plan to pursue the potential connection between Shermantine’s statements and the unsolved abduction "when it is appropriate."
Shermantine has been in prison for more than a decade after convicted of four murders while part of an infamous crime team that included Herzog known as the "Speed Freak Killers."
Hayward police also said, "It is important to note that the investigation of Michaela’s abduction has never grown cold in the minds of our investigators. As recent as January of 2012, investigators from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, spent one week with Hayward Police investigators to review and prioritize leads that continue to come in. It is our goal today, and has always been, to find the answers surrounding Michaela’s disappearance and to be able to provide those answers to Michaela’s mother, family and friends."
Below is a prison photo of Herzog and the sketch from the kidnapping case.
Michaela's mom Sharon Murch said the last 23 years have been a roller coaster with several leads that turned out to be nothing.
"I have found that giving up that hope is something I don’t really want. I want her to come home alive," Murch said.
Murch spent several days in the fall of 2009 outside the home of Phillip Garrido, who had held Jaycee Dugard captive in his backyard for years. At the time, there was a thought that Garrido might have buried Michaela in the yard. A photo of Garrido from the late 1980s also appeared similar to the sketch above. Michaela was kidnapped three years after Jaycee and just 30 miles away from Garrido's Antioch property. That lead proved false. After days of waiting for any evidence her daughter had been in the home or the backyard, police found nothing.
"It is always my hope, always my hope that Michaela will see coverage of her case and know that we’re still looking for her and we’ve never stopped loving her and that she wll come home," Murch said.