Wednesday, November 30, 2016

News for Michaela

I have used this blog to update you on family events, Michaela, marriages, births, what is going on with your brothers and sisters. So I guess I will use it to update you on me as well. I have just learned that I have breast cancer. I plan to survive this. Nana had breast cancer, and her first thought was that perhaps she might get to see you again, because she thought she might die of it. She didn't, though, and I don't plan to either. If you have passed on from this world, as much as I am happy to think I will see you again, I am in no hurry to do that. There are people here in this life who need me still, I think. Maybe even you. I think there are still things for me to do. 

Awhile back I decided to try to keep this blog about you. I like to write sometimes about things that other people don't want to hear about, or don't like, like my struggles with faith, or sometimes politics or other things, and I don't want people to mix up their feelings about my struggles and opinions with you. So I keep another blog for those things, and that is where I am writing about this breast cancer journey if you would like to read it. The story about the start of this journey can be found here:


I just want you to know that I love you, baby girl. I will remain as strong as I can here, for you and for all my family. That's my calling here, to love all of you, to care for all of you.

God bless, sweetheart.
I love you forever,
mom

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Michaela, I will always be thankful for you


Michaela, wherever you are, in heaven or on earth, on this Thanksgiving I am thankful for you. You are my first child and you taught me the real meaning of love, which is based in the being of another person, and not how they behave or what they do for you (even though you behaved beautifully and were the epitome of kindness and love). In your birth, and again in your loss, you taught me this. If I could go back and do it all over again, to choose to have those years with you or not, I would always choose you.

Whatever our fates in this life, our greatest fate was to love each other. That will never die, not here on this earth, no matter what powers may try to destroy it, and not in heaven.

My heart is forever yours.

I love you, Michaela.
mom

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Missing Michaela

This morning marks 28 years since Michaela was kidnapped. It is 8:00 a.m., a little over two hours before that awful event. It is a safe time to travel back to. I think about life 28 years ago at this moment, when life was still perfect, when Michaela was still a happy, innocent child. It was a sunny Saturday morning with a week off school to look forward to! Around this time, Michaela was getting together with her best friend Trina, to begin this fateful day.

I will write more later, and update you on the anniversary from my point of view. But for the moment I don't have the words in me. So instead I would like to offer some words from two other people. The first are from Michaela's friend who was with her that morning. The second were written by Michaela's sister, Libby, who was three years old when she was kidnapped. She wrote this several years ago, but I came across them this morning and my heart was touched.

And thank you, to everyone for remembering Michaela.

From Trina, Michaela's friend:
"Tonight involved going on my annual pilgrimage through memories of November 19, 1988. I've discussed it up and down, sideways and backwards with Andy...perhaps searching for meaning, or just rambling and coping...giving into tears, at times. Tomorrow marks 28 years since my friend, Michaela Garecht, was kidnapped. We read and updated the Wikipedia page about her. This year I pulled out my copy of the initial eyewitness police report, complete with my 9-year old handwritten name. I always end this yearly journey breathing slowly and deeply, now that I've emptied myself out...quiet because I'm unsure that anything I say really matters anyway...resigning myself to the fact that what is, is. May Michaela be remembered this Saturday and always. Perhaps this is the year we will have answers, or, perhaps I will be typing something very similar in exactly one year. Nevertheless, if you want to go on this journey with me, pray for peace for Michaela, her family and friends, and for my family, as well. It has been a shaping force in our lives, and Michaela and this event deserve remembrance."
And from my daughter, Libby:

"Driving home today I missed the turn for the freeway and decided to take Mission Blvd home. Sometimes, when I drive past Mexico Super and I'm not in a hurry to get anywhere I pull over to sit in my car in front of the tree that marks where Michaela was kidnapped all those years ago. The place that she last got the luxury of being just another normal child. I look at the faded and withered ribbons we've tied there over the years. I sit and I think about Michaela… The sister I never really got to know, but whom I love with all my heart… as if she's been here all along. Tonight I decided to stop and was drawn out of the car, surprised to find a laminated poster tied to the tree… as well as some artificial flowers, a wooden cross necklace and rosary beads. The flowers still a bright yellow… Unlike the ribbons we tied there last November, which the weather had taken it's toll on. Someone had obviously gone out of their way to do this on their own. Honestly, my first reaction was to think that it was a little weird. Not that someone did something nice for Michaela… That happens regularly enough. People have tied ribbons for her all over the world. People have gone as far as to make customized rubber bracelets for her… But they e-mail my mom, leave her Facebook messages, post on her blog to tell her about their ways of honoring Michaela… We don't just stumble across them. But after the initial surprise wore off, I didn't think it was weird at all. I was just so incredibly touched that I ended up crying the rest of the way home. I listened to Lady Antebellum "I Was Here," which I've posted many times on my Facebook page because it makes me think of Michaela. The chorus especially:
I wanna do something that mattersSay something differentSomething that sets the whole world on its earWanna do something betterWith the time I’ve been givenI wanna tryTo touch a few hearts in this lifeAnd leave nothing less than something that saysI was here
I don't know how to express my gratitude for those people out there, who don't know my family, who did not know Michaela, but who keep her memory alive. Who fight to make sure she is never forgotten. Who help to let the world know that she was here. Who go out of their way to do something nice like this without getting anything in return, going on nearly 24 years after her abduction. She HAS touched the hearts of so many and it's things like this that remind me of that. We WILL remember you Michaela. You have left behind a legacy that will never be forgotten." 

Michaela, wherever else you are, you are in my heart. I can feel you in every heartbeat, sometimes as a smile, sometimes a sob, something a lightness and joy, sometimes the deepest heaviness. But I love you today and always, and however it may have seemed, you have never been alone. You may be lost, hidden, but you will never be abandoned.

I love you forever, my sweet child.
mom

Friday, November 11, 2016

In case you wondered if I was serious

One week from tomorrow will be the 28th anniversary of Michaela's kidnapping. It will mark 28 years since I stood in the doorway and heard her say, so cheerfully, "I love you, mom." That beautiful smile on her face, so happy to be able to go to the store with her friend to get some goodies. Completely unaware that she was on her way to meet the most horrible destiny. And me too, unaware. I stood in the doorway, holding Michaela's eight-month old baby brother, watching her ride down the street until she got to the corner and turned out of sight.

I don't know if you can possibly imagine how much I don't want to think about this, how much I don't want to feel the feelings I have. It is a hell beyond measure.

For years now I have held a public remembrance to tie ribbons on the tree next to the parking space where she was kidnapped, And every single year I have hated it. Oh, I appreciate the love of the people who come. But I hate having to talk, when I really have no words to say. People come, and they try to comfort me, but they can't. Sometimes I have to comfort them, and I can't. I am spent. I am exhausted. I am broken.

So this year there will not be a public remembrance. I know it's probably "cheeky," as my British mother would have said, but in spite of that I do want you to please remember Michaela. I would like you to, wherever you are, tie a ribbon somewhere, It can be yellow or pink or purple or whatever color you would like. You can tie it on your porch, your tree, or the rack that holds your coffee mugs in your kitchen. Just think of her and say a prayer. And if you could send me a photograph of the ribbon, I would be very grateful. My email is sharon.murch@gmail.com, and Michaela's facebook page is www.facebook.com/MichaelaJoyGarecht.

I understand this sounds selfish. I seem to get an inordinate amount of judgment from people these days, mostly over the way they think the investigation should be conducted. I'm just going to tell you all now, if you think you know what should be done with the investigation, or if you for some reason doubt that they did things they should have done in the beginning, tell the investigator. His email address is robert.purnell@hayward-ca.gov. Not a single reader of this blog has any conception of the depth of the investigation. I can't deal with it anymore, and I think I am going to stop publishing this stuff on my blog because it exhausts me, and because it is NOT the purpose of this blog. This is not a web sleuths site. This is a blog that I write so that if my daughter is alive out there somewhere, perhaps she will see that she has not been forgotten, that she is loved very dearly.

But I do want everybody to remember Michaela. I want everybody to love Michaela. I want everybody to pray for Michaela. I want everybody to spread this blog far and wide in hopes that if Michaela is somewhere in the world, she will see it. And let me tell you, Michaela is worthy of that love. She was one of the kindest little girls you could ever hope to meet. She was good to others, she was loving, she was sweet. So you can love her with abandon. She is not her exhausted, broken, and sometimes just plain cranky mom. She is good.

I thank you for understanding. I thank you for loving Michaela.

And Michaela, if you are out there, I will be remembering you, on November 19th and every single day of my life, I love you, baby girl.

mom

Monday, October 24, 2016

Whodunit, or who didn't done it

I get quite a few comments and emails from people who want to help solve Michaela's case. While I appreciate the sentiment, it is a pretty futile effort. Michaela's case is VAST. There were 5,000 leads called in during the first year alone, and they have continued to come in regularly for almost 28 years now. Nobody knows what is in those leads, or what operating assumptions there are about the case, except for the members of the police department who have worked on them, and perhaps the kidnapper himself. Over the years a few leads have come out in the press and have become well known, and people return to them over and over and over again. So I'm going to talk about just a few of these.

The other thing people seem to want to do is talk about things the police should have done 28 years ago. Pretty much without exception, the police did do those things. Yes, they checked cars and junk yards, yes they checked registered offenders, yes they talked to all the families in the neighborhood, including adults, teens and kids. There were a massive number of people working on Michaela's case in those early days, from both the police department and the FBI. They had it covered, folks. The put forth a heroic effort. However, if there was anything like this that was overlooked, it would be too late now. It would be impossible to go back and look at cars in junk yards 28 years ago, for example. Luckily, the investigators were on top of their game and did these things back in 1988-1989.

There were also a lot of leads to investigate, and the investigators have said from the start that this was actually one of their biggest problems. The way they put it was, "We don't rule anybody out completely unless they were dead or in jail on November 19th, but we have to look for a reason to put each lead aside so we can go on to the next one." For this reason, not much was probably able to be run down to its very furthest conclusion, and for that reason, it is suspected that the answer to what happened to Michaela is, in fact, buried in the five file cabinets of leads from that first year. Our previous detective did his darndest to try to get those leads gone through, organized, and computerized. He set up a "Michaela room" at the police department, a tiny office with the file cabinets, boxes, evidence, and a desk, where he or whoever else was available and approved would sit and try to sort through and computerize the case,

As you know from my previous blog, that was never completed. Whatsmore, after the bone in the Speed Freak Killers case turned out not to be Michaela, apparently the whole damn police department got a case of depression and the powers that be decided to take the room away from our detective and shoved everything back in closets.

I got depressed over that incident, too, so depressed that for the first time in all the years since Michaela was kidnapped, I started taking antidepressants. I'm still taking them. And the police department can get depressed if it needs to. But it is not okay to sweep a case under the rug just because something you had thought would work out didn't. You only close up the case after a lead does work out.

There are a lot of leads that people ask about often, so I thought I'd give you a summary and update of those that are most asked about.

THE SPEED FREAK KILLERS

I don't personally think that it is likely that Michaela was a victim of the Speed Freak Killers. What made the connection was that Shermantine, one of the SFKs, the one who is on death row, commented that Herzog, the other SFK, who was released from jail and committed suicide, looked like Michaela's kidnapper. He had no knowledge about it. He specifically stated in his letters that he didn't know anything about "that Hayward girl." So although Herzog did have a resemblance to the kidnapper, there was no real evidence of knowledge of his involvement, and there have been a surprising number of people who have looked like the kidnapper over the years.

Our detective did investigate this lead. He found that for one thing, Wesley Shermantine had discovered a small gold mine of attention and a way to at least try to get some goodies in exchange for blabbering his mouth. He gave locations for authorities to search for remains, and several of the SFK victims were found. Because the bones were mixed up and there was one bone found in one set of remains that didn't belong there, and it was small, it was thought it might be Michaela's. It took three long months for the DNA tests to be completed, and it was not her. In the meantime I met with some of the families of his victims. All of their loved ones had been older teens or young adults and all had gone with the SFKs voluntarily. All cases were completely unlike Michaela.

It is not impossible that Herzog was responsible for kidnapping Michaela. But Shermantine does not possess any information about this, and that has been verified. Herzog is dead, so he is not going to be able to tell anybody anything, and no evidence has been found. So basically this is on the far back burner. If Herzog is responsible, someone else will have to have that information and give it to us, or it will have to be stumbled on somewhere.

PHILIP GARRIDO

This has to be the most thoroughly investigated lead ever associated with Michaela's case. After Jaycee Dugard was found at Garrido's house in Antioch, California, the Hayward Police Department moved in on the property with a huge operation that included tearing down all the outbuildings on the property and searching them for any signs of Michaela. Nothing was found. Jaycee was questioned and knew nothing about Michaela. The judge in the Jaycee case issued an order forbidding any other law enforcement personnel from interviewing either Philip or Nancy Garrido until the case was over, which took something like two years. Then, after the sentencing, our detective was forced to wait until they were transferred to their permanent prison homes, and after they were transferred we had to wait another three months mandatory settling-in period.

Now ask me my opinion of this nonsense. No, dont ask me. You can figure it out.

Eventually, however, our investigators were able to conduct extensive interviews with both  Philip and Nancy Garrido, including reading to them my blog entries. They were pretty well satisfied after the extensive interviews and the preceding investigation that the Garridos were not responsible for Michaela's kidnapping, but just to top it off both Philip and Nancy agreed to a polygraph test, and they both passed.

So I am pretty well satisfied that the Garridos are not responsible for Michaela's kidnapping.

TIM BINDNER

Tim Bindner was the subject of a 1997 book by John Philpin, Stalemate. He was suspected of being responsible for a number of kidnappings in the San Francisco Bay Area.

He first became suspect because of his obsession with Angela Bugay, who had gone missing and was found murdered. Angela had disappeared on November 19, 1983. This was the same date, five years earlier, as when Michaela was kidnapped. It was also the last time November 19th had fallen on a Saturday, which it was in 1988 when Michaela was kidnapped.

Tim also had an obsessive interest in a number of missing children, including Amber Swartz and Nikki Campbell from Fairfield. This is what made him a suspect. There were a few other things that led some to think he took these girls, but an investigation never turned up anything. The Fairfield Police Department conducted a search of Bindner's home and found nothing.

What's more telling is that Angela Bugay's murder was solved. In 2002, Larry Graham was found guilty of Angela's murder. So  it was proven that Tim did not have anything to do with Angela's murder, and his obsession was just a weird obsession and not an indicator of guilt. After the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake here in California, I saw Tim Bindner interviewed on the news. He was working as a volunteer to help dig bodes out of the collapsed freeway in Oakland. So there he was again, where something bad had happened. But we know he didn't cause the earthquake.

I don't think Tim is responsible for Michaela's kidnapping. He actually came to my house the day Michaela was kidnapped (along with half the rest of the world) to say he wanted to help in the search. He did not look like the kidnapper on the day of the kidnapping. To make his book more entertaining, Philpin had the composite of our kidnapper altered to show him with shorter hair, and put that next to a picture of Tim. But that is not what the kidnapper looked like.

Tim was also never considered a suspect by our own police department. So, it's not impossible that he is involved, but not likely, There are certainly better suspects to investigate.

"TONY"

There is another missing child case that uses one of our composites. It is a color composite that was done by a police officer's wife after Michaela was kidnapped. She did not consult with the eyewitness when she did it, however, and when we got around to asking the eyewitness much later, she said it was inaccurate, that the pale blonde hair and bright blue eyes did not reflect the man she had seen, and the slightly altered face shape was not accurate either.

Years later a man, a diagnosed schizophrenic, claimed he had participated in the kidnapping of this other missing child (I am not going to mention the name because there is too much questionable involved and I don't want to worry your head about it if you don't know the case already) and used our color composite to identify the getaway driver in that kidnapping, a man he called "Tony."

I first saw this when it was broadcast on America's Most Wanted just a few years after Michaela was kidnapped. And yes, we did investigate it. We notified our police department and the FBI. There was a private investigator working on that case who happened to be in the Bay Area, and I met with him with a group of volunteers to pick his brain, but there wasn't much information there, and he knew of nothing to do with any little girls. Only little boys.

In the years after I learned a lot more about that case, and heard a lot of different stories about our composite and other things that I just knew to be untrue. You know in court once you say something that is proven to be untrue they find you to be not credible and don't believe anything else you have to say. Well, I kind of feel that way about this.

No evidence, lots of questionable information. Not impossible, but highly highy unlikely.

RICHARD HELWIG

This is a famous case, although its connection with Michaela is probably less well known, and it is also a very old lead. Helwig was stopped crossing the border into the U.S. from Mexico. He was found to have child pornography in his possession, and he also had articles and flyers about both Michaela and Amber Swartz in his possession. This was March 1989, three and a half months after Michaela was kidnapped, nine months after Amber disappeared,

Further investigation revealed that Helwig had a girlfriend in Mexico, who had two children who were hearing impaired. There is something about the girlfriend owning earrings and a tee-shirt that matched what Michaela was wearing the day she was kidnapped, but those items were never discovered. Her two children were interviewed separately, and in these separate interviews I am told that each child independenty identified both Michael and Amber Swartz as having been there.

There was a lot of investigation into this case and no evidence was ever found. Helwig was found guilty of transporting child pornography and died in prison. On his deathbed he was interviewed once again by investigators, and asked about his involvement in Michaela's case. He would not confess, but he did not deny it either.

This has been one of the most intriguing leads to me. If it is true, it would indicate that Michaela was kidnapped by traffickers rather than a psycho bent on killing. As those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile know, I have received leads from diverse places telling me that Michaela is in the UAE, alive. If she was in the hands of traffickers, it is entirely possible she could have ended up anywhere after traveling to Mexico.

Thinking about this possibility makes me sick. It is almost worse than the prospect of her having passed away soon after she was kidnapped, because it would almost certainly have guaranteed a lifetime of abuse. But this is one of the reasons that I keep reaching out to Michaela in this blog, because if she is alive, she is probably not living a happy life with another family somewhere. If she is alive, she is likely suffering and needs my help.

LOOKING FOR MICHAELA

A lot of people also tell me that they look for Michaela in the faces they pass on the street. Other people send me facebook pages, or worse, escort service ads, suggesting that those people might be Michaela. Without exception they are beautiful, young, blonde women.

I have to tell you, I don't think I would necessarily recognize Michaela if I passed her on the street. I'd like to think I would, but I am far from confident. I don't see how somehow who didn't know the intricacies of her face could. And the other thing is that Michaela likely does not have that platinum blonde hair she had as a child. Every one of her siblings ended up with darker hair, ranging from dark blonde to true brown, even though they also started out with platinum blonde. Nor is she a young girl anymore. She would be 37 years old now. I don't honestly think she would be on facebook either, although I could be wrong.

Someone recently commented and suggested that I submit my DNA to the ancestryDNA databank, in case Michaela might be out there somewhere looking for me. Well that's a longshot, but you know what? It's worth trying. I have my ancestryDNA kit here in front of me as I write. The investigators have Michaela's prints, DNA, and dental records, as well as mitochondrial DNA. But on the offchance that Michaela herself is looking for her DNA, I will reach out. One of the people who provided the lead about the UAE said she is "changed too much to remember" who she is. What if that is the case, and she is in a position somewhere on the earth to be asking that question, Who am I? If she is looking for me, I will make myself available to be found.

On the whole, I know that there are leads that the police department has that they can follow up on. I have heard some information about them, but they are too many and too complicated to remember without taking notes, which I didn't, and since they have not been investigated fully, it is information that I could not release anyway. They are names that don't automatically pop into my mind and names that nobody else knows,

If I forgot anything let me know. But I guess what I am trying to say is that as much as I do appreciate the fact that everyone wants to help solve the case, we have too little information to be able to do that. We need a confession, or an informant, or for Michaela herself to surface.

What you can do is pray. I know many of you are doing that anyway. And you can also share this blog. Share it far and wide, and particularly to an international audience if you can, to help to try to reach out to Michaela if she is still alive, or to someone whose conscience might be stirred if they read this.

Thank you everybody for caring so much about Michaela. And Michaela, if you are out there, take the fact that you are so loved to heart and let it give you courage.

I love you forever, baby girl.
mom

Sunday, October 16, 2016

28th Anniversary of Michaela's Kidnapping is Cancelled

In just a little over a month, it will be the 28th anniversary of Michaela's kidnapping. Every year for a long while now I have gone to the market where she was kidnapped and have tied ribbons on the tree that is planted at the parking spot where she was kidnapped, and I have issued an open invitation to the public to come as well.

And every year I have wished that I didn't have to do that, that I didn't have to do anything, in fact, but if I had to have a missing child to remember, I just wanted to remember her, in my heart. Honestly what I have felt like doing was lying face down in that parking lot, in front of that tree with my eyes closed. Exactly what that would accomplish I don't know, but it is what I see myself doing, year after year, just collapsing and lying there. My joints are a little cranky for that sort of thing, but in my heart I am prostrate. I am not standing up and trying to think of something to say, in a voice that is powerful enough to reach the few people who show up year after year. Nor do I really want to have to make nice to the members of the Hayward Police Department who show up. I am absolutely certain that there are wonderful people among them, who carry Michaela in their hearts always and would do anything to find her. But quite frankly, I don't feel that the Department, with a capital D, cares anymore.

In June 2015 a team of search dogs from Texas came and located a couple of possible gravesites, led in their search by the detective who was then assigned to the case. After months and months they finally got around to investigating one of those sites, with a small, shallow dig, led by the FBI. I went and checked that site after they were there, and it was about a five-foot circumference, and according to the sticks we stuck in the earth, it was less than 18 inches deep. There were tree roots and compaction, our new detective told me, so they didn't dig any further. Call me stupid, but it seems to me that in 27 years, an awful lot of root growth can occur, and an awful lot of compaction can take place.

The other locations were never investigated at all by the police department. Not only that, but they gave the okay for volunteers to go out there and dig in the ground looking for Michaela. Can you imagine that? I'd been reluctant for this to happen, because I didn't want to be accused of potentially destroying any evidence, but what the hell, right? It has been 16 months and the police department shows absolutely no inclination to investigate these sites.

When our previous investigator took over the case, everything about Michaela had been shoved in a closet, including boxes filled with leads that were never investigated. For a few years he worked his heart out on it. He brought everything out of the closet, tried to organize it, go through the leads which came in before computerization. He was never really given the time to do it, of course. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children offered to come out and organize and computerize those early leads. They sent a couple of people for a couple of days and then I guess they decided it was too big a job, because they left and never returned. Now those who really cared and were in a position to do something are gone.

I don't know what there is left for me to do. Those people who write and tell me to stop looking for a living Michaela and start looking for her body, I asked if I should trade in my blog for a shovel. Well, we have done that. But the world is a big, big place, and a shovel is very small, and those who are willing and able to help are small and powerless, like me.

This is what I think. I think that the only way Michaela is going to be found is if she finds herself. If she is alive and aware enough to reach out to freedom of any kind, I am reaching out to her. Because at this point, if you called and gave the police department the location where she is, I don't think they would do anything, because the gang members killing other gang members are more important that one little girl who has been missing for so long she will never be found.

Despair, that's what I think is the feeling that makes me want to lie prostrate on the ground.

I will go this year and hang yellow ribbons on the tree. I will fill it up, as full as I can. And anybody else who wants to hang ribbons on the tree, please do so. Do it on November 19th, or November 18th or 20th or any old day you want. Please, please don't forget Michaela. Just forget me.

And Michaela, I love you forever. I feel so deeply that I have failed you, that I have permitted others to fail you without ever having to answer for it. If you are alive, I am here, my arms are open, my heart is open. I love you. If you are not, if you are not alive, I hope that you were able to leave this life quickly, with angels at your side filling you with courage and love.

I don't understand this. I don't understand any of it. I don't understand why we were chosen for this. I don't understand how anybody in creation could ever feel that they had the right to do this to us.

I am so sorry, Michaela,

I love you, I love you. I love you.

mom

Friday, September 9, 2016

Jacob Wetterling


I'd guess there are not too many people who read my blog who are not aware that Jacob Wetterling, a kidnap victim, was found this past week. He has been abused, he had been killed. His remains had rested in a lonely rural pasture for the past 27 years. 

My heart goes out to Jacob's family. His mom, Patty, has been called an angel, and I would agree with that assessment. She has been beautiful and gracious throughout the search for and loss of her son. She does not know it, but I stand with her, not only in sympathy and compassion, but in awe. It is not an easy thing to remain gracious when there are tigers tearing your heart to shreds, or when there is a wet cement pouring through your limbs, robbing you of all energy and motivation. I have failed time and time and time again.

I have heard a lot of people complain that the man who killed Jacob will go free, with no punishment for his crime. I understand the anger, and yet surprisingly I can't relate to it. What is important is that Jacob has come home. In thinking about this, I realize how little thought I have actually given to the man who kidnapped Michaela. I can't recall spending even a small amount of time hoping to find him and bring him to justice. Every bent of my mind has been always and only been on finding Michaela. I would have approved the same deal that Jacob's family approved, that Jacob's killer will go to prison for 20 years on other charges, but will face none for Jacob in exchange for his confession and providing the location of his remains. We can't ignore the kidnappers. We can't say, let him go free, because we have a responsibility to the other children in the world, to keep them safe. But from the start I went on television and begged the kidnapper, "Please, just drop her off somewhere and go away. We don't care about you. We only want our daughter back." There was nothing else I wanted and no price I wouldn't have paid to get it. Today I would say the same if she was alive. 

I might say the same if she is not alive, just for someone to tell me what happened to her, and where she is. A number of times I have been faced with the possible location of Michaela's remains, and I have thought about her little bones being touched by the sunshine for the first time in years, and it has meant more to me that you might guess, not just in solving the mystery, having a "resolution." In my heart, even if just bones, my little girl had been lying alone, and lonely, for all that time, and I wanted to just throw myself on those little bones and hold them and cry and cry and cry. 

The place where Jacob was found was green, and sheltered by trees. But it was lonely.

But along with being able to bring Jacob home, his parents have had to endure hearing the hard reality of what Jacob endured. This is something I have never been sure I would be able to handle. And yet, how could I not? How could I be such a coward? If my daughter could endure it, I should be able to endure hearing it. How Patty Wetterling's heart must break over and over as she can now hear her son's words playing in her head, from "What did I do wrong?" to "Please take me home." He was cold. He was abused, but what he complained of was the cold. He was shot when his kidnapper panicked because he heard police nearby. 

I don't know how well I would be able to handle this kind of knowledge. I have no idea how it would impact me, because over the years I have become a mystery to myself. I have denied my feelings and buried them deeper and deeper until they turned into an avalanche. The thing is, there is no way out of them. There is no relief. Once you allow them in, allow them to take you, can you ever get yourself back again? It's the black hole. You fall in and end up in another universe, or perhaps even in no universe, in nowhere, as nothing. Sometimes, you wonder if that would be so bad. Sometimes I understand the draw of addiction, of whatever substances might take you somewhere where you don't have to worry, to feel. Although I have not taken this escape, it has had its appeal sometimes.

Well, nonetheless. None the less. It is what it is. We are who we are, and where we are. We have no choice but to be here. There is no courage involved in it. None of us volunteered. I have been here for so long, so long, it seems like I will never be anywhere else. I'm sure it seemed that way to Patty Wetterling as well. We continue to carry the weight of our hope and our fear for our children, but at some point we really stop expecting anything to change. We come to lack the capacity to believe that after all this time our children will actually be found. But look, it can happen. Jacob was kidnapped eleven months after Michaela, so the Wetterlings have been doing this for pretty much as long as I have. But one day they woke up, and against all odds everything changed, and although it was not the answer they wished for, the answer to what happened to their son was given to them. 

It can happen.

Jacob Wetterling, I hope that all the best versions of the afterlife are true and you have been embracing them. To Patty and Jacob's family, God bless you. I love you. My heart is with you.