Details of Disappearance
Michaela and a friend rode their scooters to the Rainbow Market on Mission Boulevard in Hayward, California on November 19, 1988. The store was two blocks from her home. Michaela noticed that her friend's scooter had been moved in the parking lot when the girls exited the store; when she went to retrieve it, an unidentified Caucasian male grabbed her and forced her into his vehicle.
Michaela's friend went inside the Rainbow Market for assistance, but the abductor was able to escape with Michaela. The abductor is described as between 18 to 24 years old in 1988, with a pockmarked or pimpled face. He wore a white t-shirt and had longish dirty blonde hair and a slender build. Sketches of Michaela's abductor are posted with this case summary; the original sketch was later revised.
The abductor drove a large older model American-made sedan. It was possibly a four-door vehicle and was cream, gold, or tan in color. The car may have had cement splatters on the sides and lights set into the rear bumper. The front bumper was battered; the vehicle may have previously been in an accident. It appeared to be run-down. The car was last seen speeding south on Mission Boulevard towards nearby Union City, California with Michaela inside.
Numerous possible suspects in Michaela's case have been named over the years, including Timothy Bindner, who was also investigated for possible connections to the disappearances of Ilene Misheloff and Amanda "Nikki" Campbell. He was never charged in any of the cases, maintains his innocence and successfully sued Amanda's hometown of Fairfield, California in 1997 for defamation of character.
For many years Bindner was also considered a suspect in the June 1988 disappearance of Amber Swartz-Garcia from Pinole, California. Bindner approached many of the mothers of missing girls from the East Bay area offering his assistance, including Amber and Michaela's families. Investigators asked Amber's mother to maintain a quasi-friendship with Bindner in hope of learning if he was connected to any of the girls' cases. She and authorities agreed that Bindner appeared to playing mind games with victims' loved ones and law enforcement.
Curtis Dean Anderson, who was convicted of 1999 kidnapping and murder of a seven-year-old Vallejo, California girl and confessed to murdering Amber prior to his death in prison in 2007. Police spent eighteen months investigating his statement and couldn't find any evidence to refute it, and said they were closing Amber's case. Many remain skeptical of Anderson's claims, however, and Amber's body was never found. In 2013, after an online petition campaign, the Pinole Police Department reopened the investigation into her disappearance.
Other suspects considered in Michaela's case were James Daveggio and his former girlfriend, Michelle Lyn Michaud, who were charged with the 1997 abduction, rape and murder of a 22-year-old woman, and the so-called "Speed Freak Killers", Wesley Howard Shermantine Jr. and Loren Joseph Herzog, a pair of serial killers who were arrested in 2000 and ultimately convicted of murdering several females in the 1980s and 1990s; authorities believe Shermantine and Herzog had as many as fifteen victims.
In December 2020, suspected serial killer David Emery Misch was charged with Michaela's abduction and murder. A photo of Misch is posted with this case summary. In 1990 he was convicted of the murder of a 36-year-old Hayward woman and sentenced to 18 years to life in prison. In 2018, he was charged in the double murder of 18-year-old Michelle Xavier and 20-year-old Jennifer Duey, which happened in Fremont, California in 1986. Authorities were able to match a partial palm print on her scooter back to him. He also resembled the description of the suspect who abducted Michaela, and two eyewitnesses to her kidnapping picked him out of a photo lineup.
Misch is awaiting trial for Michaela's murder and in the 1986 double murder. If convicted in either case, he will be eligible for the death penalty.
Michaela's body has never been found. Foul play is suspected in her case due to the circumstances involved.