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Mother Of Kidnapped Girl Remains Hopeful; Manhunt Continues

November 21, 1988 GMT

HAYWARD, Calif. (AP) _ Searching on the ground and from the air has turned up no trace of a 9- year-old girl or her acne-scarred kidnapper, but the youngster’s mother said Monday she was sure her daughter was safe.

″We need for people to keep an eye out,″ said Sharon Garecht. ″The police have got a lot of leads. We’re really hopeful. I honesty believe that she’s okay. Nobody can hide forever.″

Nine-year-old Michaela went to the market Saturday with a girlfriend, and when they left the store her scooter was gone. A man with an acne-scarred face told the fourth-grader her he knew where it was, then grabbed her and drove away with her while she screamed for help.

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Scores of volunteers have distributed thousands of fliers since then in the effort to find the missing girl.

″I’m kind of living on nerves. I’m keeping busy,″ said Mrs. Garecht, who has three other children. She said it is easier to cope ″if you focus on the process of the search and getting her back, instead of focusing on her being missing.

″As my mother said, you really don’t have any choice.″

Police and FBI investigators have searched the hills and parks of southern Alameda County with helicopters and airplanes. They also released a composite sketch of the suspect based on the description given by Michaela’s companion.

Police refused Monday to disclose any leads they may have, but Lt. Paul Wallace said the only firm lead investigators have to go on is fingerprints taken from the recovered scooter.

Rod Garecht spent the day working on a new flier with an updated photo of his eldest daughter, described as polite and friendly.

Mrs. Garecht refuses to leave home because she’s afraid Michaela will call while she’s gone.

Michaela and Trina Rodriguez, 8, had ridden scooters to the market to buy soda and candy. When they emerged, Michaela’s red scooter, which she had borrowed from Trina’s brother, was missing.

Trina told police that while Michaela was looking for her scooter, a man with dirty-blond, shoulder-length hair beckoned to her and told her it was by his car.

When she went to retrieve the scooter, Trina said, the man grabbed Michaela by the waist, forced her into his car and drove away on a heavily traveled boulevard.

The Garechts received support from the parents of 8-year-old Amber Swartz- Garcia, who disappeared from Pinole on June 3, and the parents of 10-year- old Kevin Collins, who vanished nearly five years ago in San Francisco.

Dave Collins, president of the Kevin Collins Foundation - an organization he founded to help others after his own son was kidnapped - said a couple of things make Michaela’s case unique.

″On the positive side is having the composite, something police can get their hands on,″ said Collins, who spent Monday helping to coordinate fliers at a San Lorenzo print shop.

Collins said finding fingerprints at the abduction site is also unusual and that most abductors are ″far more subtle.″