Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dear Michaela .... IS THIS YOU?





UPDATE: The girl in this photo has been found. 
You can find more information in my blog of September 1st.


I received this photograph this morning. I saw the text before I opened the message, asking me to look at a photograph to see if it could be you. So of course I assumed that it would look nothing like you, which is usually the case when this happens. I opened it, and first focused on the boy in the center, but then my gaze wandered over to the girl on the left, and I was shocked. This photograph looks so much like you. Libby said if she had found it lying on a table, she'd have assumed that it was a family photo. Alex said he had to look closely at the boy in the photograph to make sure it wasn't him because the girl looks so much like you. The face is partially obscured, so we can't be positive, of course ... but from what we can see there is a very strong similarity, and the hair, the body type, the posture, even the choice of clothing are all you!

The woman who sent it also included some information about this girl. She said this girl was always coming over to her house, that she loved playing with the younger kids and was very nurturing. All this sounds like you. Nurturing you were, and also so outgoing. I remember when we moved to a new house, you so boldly walked across the street and knocked on the door where Trina lived and said, "My mom's friend said a girl my age lives here and I'd like to meet her." You'd ask for what you wanted also, it seems. I'd always wondered about the pearl necklace you wore in the school pictures I got after you were kidnapped. Awhile back someone wrote to me and told me that it was her pearl necklace, that she'd worn it on picture day and you'd liked it so you asked her if you could wear it.

The woman had wondered about the resemblance of this girl to you, but had thought it couldn't have been you, because you surely wouldn't be out wandering around the street, and you had never asked for help. This girl went by the name Tamera or Tamara.

I had to wonder about that myself. Around about the time she guesses this picture was taken (1990), I was just starting to think that you couldn't possibly still be alive, because if you were alive then surely you would have found some way to contact me.... Many things have happened since then, though. Things I've seen, heard and read, that educated me. I read a book called "The Perfect Victim" about an adult woman who was kidnapped and she was told by her kidnappers that they were part of a huge sex slave ring, and that she couldn't go for help because many in the police force and government were also part of this ring, and if she did try to get away those people would kill her family. And it worked. She stayed with these people for years. When she wasn't being kept in a coffin sized box underneath their bed, they'd leave her alone to babysit their children while they went to work. At one time they took her for a brief visit with her family, and then she went back home with them, to get back in the box under the bed.

If that can be done to an adult woman, what could be done to a child?

I was thinking today about Jaycee as well. I was thinking about how she didn't want to talk to the press or give interviews after she was rescued. You know, I think part of it was that she wasn't prepared to answer that question about why she stayed, why she didn't try to escape. I guess I was thinking about that because I was thinking that if you were found, if you came home, you might not want to have to try to explain that either.

As hard as it is for me to believe that you could be out there somewhere and not want to contact me, I have to accept that it could be true. As hard as it is to believe that you could actually possibly read these letters to you and not try to contact me, I know that could be true as well. I'm told Shawn Hornbeck read letters his parents posted online to him while he was kidnapped. He was gone for five years ... nothing compared to the time you have been gone, and yet an eternity.

I know, Michaela, I know that it's possible. I know that you could have every good reason. I could never hold it against you. Yes, certainly I have suffered in the last almost 23 years that you have been gone. Yes, it would have saved me from that suffering if you had come home. But Michaela, my suffering is not for me. It's not because of what I have had to endure. My suffering is for you. It is for all the thoughts, all the possibilities of suffering that you may have had to endure. My suffering is for you, even just because of the fact that as a young child you were robbed of the love and protection you needed and deserved and which I longed so much to be able to give you! You know, it looks to me as though the girl in this photograph has a cut on her lip. Some have said it looks like a shadow, but I'm not convinced. It makes me think of someone hitting her in the mouth. That is my suffering, Michaela.

What I'm trying to say is that you would have no reason to feel guilty for not having tried to get in touch with me, for not escaping and trying to come home. Do not ever feel guilty because you think you put me through something difficult. I just want you to be okay.

Awhile back, our detective and I were both getting some e-mails from someone who identified herself as "an advocate" who intimated that she was in touch with you and you didn't want to be in touch with us. Well, my feeling is that she was not telling the truth. If she was, the most obvious thing about her was that she wanted to be in control of the situation. If she was telling the truth, and if you are out there with someone who is encouraging you not to make contact with your family, that person just simply doesn't have your best interests at heart. That person does not love you. I love you. We all love you. I know that ... I have always known that. But I could see it so clearly demonstrated as your brothers and sisters today saw this picture and said, yes, that absolutely looks like Michaela.  Alex said, "Okay, now how do we find her?" followed up by, "I hope she's okay." Libby cried so hard she got sent home from work in the middle of the afternoon.

Michaela, you don't owe anybody any explanations. The only debt to be paid here is to you, and that is just plainly and simply all the love I have been saving up for you for the past 22 years, 8 months, and 30 days.  (By the way, if you ever want to know how long you have been gone, you can look at your wikipedia article - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michaela_Garecht - there is a counter in the box on the right side.)

I'm just going to say it again. I LOVE YOU MICHAELA! Come home!

I'm just going to finish up here with a couple of pictures. Here is a photograph of your nieces, Alex's girls.  On the left is Shylah, who is four. In the center is Raina Joy, who is six, and on the right is Kalia, who is two. You know they'd love to meet their Auntie Michaela.


And here is a photograph of the back of my car....


Wherever I go, Michaela, you go with me.

I love you forever, baby girl ... as long as I'm living ...
mom

51 comments:

  1. I hope and pray Michaela gets to read this and knows that the love and message is completely genuine. This is a beautiful message and I can feel the devotion to her through the words.
    And Michaela I hope you can come home soon. You have an amazing mother and you deserve to feel the love of your family. Never let anyone tell you you don't deserve your families love and the warmth of your mothers hugs. I too miss you and hope I get the chance to hug you again soon. None of us has given up on your return least of all your mom.

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  2. Oh my goodness, this is heartbreaking! Is there any way to gather more information from the woman who gave you the picture? I remember you saying the "advocate" had said your daughter said she thought she was adopted by a family. Could there be a connection? This leaves ME on edge so my heart truly breaks for you because I can't imagine how you feel.

    Michaela, if you are out there, please know that your family loves you more than anyone else in this world and would never make you tell them anything you didn't want to tell them or do any interviews you didn't want to do. There is nothing for you to be ashamed about. Everyone knows the kidnapper is to blame...not you. Your family will accept you and whatever life you are living now. They just want to see you and know that you are ok. They are on your side. The people who have you are not. Your path in life was to be with your mom and dad and your brothers and sisters and someone took you off that path. If you are out there, you have so much living left to do and it is never too late to contact your mom. She will only be happy to see you--no drama, no blame, no guilt. Little nine year old girls are NOT responsible for kidnapper's actions and are NOT responsible for their own thoughts and feelings after being exposed to that. Wherever you are, I pray for you.

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  3. Sharon, I'm hoping so hard for you. There's one thing that jumped out at me ... you've probably noticed that there's a mark of some sort around her right wrist in the photo. Maybe a bracelet, but it doesn't look defined enough. There seems to be a similar mark around the lower part of her hand. Good luck. Hoping with all my heart you get your answers. Wendy

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  4. Hmmm, I didn't see that. I did see something that looked like it could be a cut on her lip, although my daughter swear it is just a shadow.

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  5. Oh, and I just thought I'd throw in the fact that this photograph was taken in Antioch, California, less than two miles from Garrido's house. Just a small point.

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  6. Sharon -- if you zoom in on her wrist, I think you'll see it. It looks like a bruise to me. Very out of focus, though, and perhaps a shadow or bracelet. Wendy

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  7. As a sidenote, I have been exchanging e-mails with the woman who took the photo. The boy is her son, who died in a car accident in 2007. So heartbreaking. It may be hard to carry on hope of seeing my daughter again after so long, but at least I do have that hope..... I concealed the other faces for privacy, but now I feel badly about it.

    God bless you, Jeffrey.

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  8. Wow, how amazing! I hope this leads to Michaela being found. When I first saw this pic I thought cool here's a pic I havent seen before.....then when I found out it was a pic someone sent you I was amazed.

    Michaela if your reading these posts remember that Jaycee was immediately brought to safety. She was protected and to this day has only done interviews because she wanted to. No one is going to scrutinize ,because you did nothing wrong, your the victim here. Jaycee lives in privacy with her loved one's which is what she deserves. I truly hope if your feeling hesitant, that you understand your life will be so much better. Everyone should have someone in their life that loves them as much as your mother loves you.

    God Bless Jeffrey! May he rest in Peace, and I hope his spirit can guide Michaela to come home.

    ~ Rod

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  9. Sweet. Maybe Jeffrey is the one who set this into motion.

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  10. WOW!!! It really looks like her, even the unique lips - of course mother would know best. I am sure you have been staring at it all day and probably already have investigators analyzing.
    I agree with the above - this is a very beautiful, heartfelt post. Thank you for sharing Michaela's life. I hope she gets to meet her beautiful nieces.
    Diana

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  11. Can you let us know what you are thinking after seeing this picture?

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  12. Diana, that was what this blog was about, I guess. If you are asking me whether I think it is Michaela, I can only tell you that it looks a great deal like her. But I've had so many disappointments over the years, I have to caution myself, and tell myself that her face isn't completely clear in the picture and if it was clearer, perhaps it would look different. But we will do whatever we can do get to the bottom of it, to find out who this girl is and where she is today.

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  13. May Jeffrey rest in peace!

    The little girl on the left resembles Michaela a great deal. I wonder if there is some image recognition software that might help?? I remember reading an article on this topic, and searched for it and found it here:
    http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2008/03/new_face_recognition

    Sharon, you and Michaela are in my prayers.

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  14. I think there may be, but the difficulty would be that the face isn't completely clear. I think the easier thing would be to find the girl. I'm not imagining that it will necessarily be a quick and easy thing to do that, but I am thinking it will be possible.

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  15. I agree with you, Sharon. Plus no software is fully accurate (and nor can it do a better job at identification than the family). Like you pointed out, there are so many other things about the picture that remind you of Michaela.

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  16. Hi Sharon,

    I haven't posted here before but I have followed Michaela's case on here and on WS.

    All I can say is WOW, what a resemblance, if that is not Michaela, then she could be her twin. I have been studying the girl in the photo and Michaela's picture and the facial features look so much alike. The lips, the jaw lines, the shape of the noses and the distance between their eyes. It is uncanny.

    It does look like the girl in the photo has some kind of mark around her wrist and on her hand and I can see where the cut could be on her lip but the shadows make it hard to tell for sure. What looks very clear to me is that she does have a bruise just below her knee and another one on the side of her leg.

    Are you able to say if LE is looking into the photo? LE would have means to clean this photo up and make thing a bit clearer.

    I watched Doug's latest interview and I really hope it helps to move Michaela's case forward.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

    Chris (Ozziemum on WS)
    From Australia

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  17. Chris, law enforcement is looking into the photo. I know that they are trying to track the girl. Our detective said he was going to check with the FBI regarding face recognition software, but unless they run into a dead end, it seems that tracking the girl would be the best idea.

    Who is Doug and what interview?
    Thanks,
    Sharon

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  18. I'm afraid that this raises hope, and what if this were not Michaela? On the other hand it does look so much like her.

    If this is Michaela, and she was able to survive 2 years without very apparent physical damage, there is a very high chance that she survived and is out there! While there may be minor traces of marks on hands/legs/lips that we can't be sure of - she does look healthy otherwise - not too thin or anything. She looks very pretty. I wish there were a way to confirm it was her. Like a mole or something.

    We are hoping with you Sharon.

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  19. Hi Sharon,

    Doug French. He did an interview about Michaela on KCRA last week.

    I tried to post the link but it has just come up as a URL (see below). If you copy and paste it in your search engine you can watch the interview.

    http://www.kcra.com/video/28899213/detail.html

    I'm glad that LE are following this photo up and trying to find this girl.

    God bless

    Chris

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  20. you would think that in this day and age with some of the best and amazing technologies available to law enforcement authorities it would be easy to track some one down especially since you know the address where this picture was taken (which is inside the US and not some foreign country) but apparently that is not the case.

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  21. the girl in the picture does look a lot like michaela.

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  22. less than 2 miles from garrido's house in antioch,CA, is a chevron gas station where someone saw jaycee staring at a missing poster of herself and then get into a yellow van with someone.so if this picture was taken at a house close to garrido's there is a very good likelihood the girl in the picture is michaela.

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  23. Oh hi, Chris. Doug French seems like a nice guy. I have talked to him through the internet and have had some phone conversations. I wish he actually could work with our police department on the case. We really could use some help in the form of time and manpower, just simply because there is so much left to investigate here.

    Sharon

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  24. sharon,

    back in august 2009 when jaycee's story was out was when i heard of a town called antioch in california for the first time and i remember reading that antioch is an unincorporated town in CA where all the sex offenders and pedophiles were forced to live because they couldn't live anywhere else close to schools or playgrounds where lots of kids come and go.so antioch must be one big congregation of sex offenders and pedophiles.so if this picture was taken close to garrido's house in antioch,there is a good possibility that the girl in the picture is michaela and i would begin by visiting all the registered sex offenders in and around the place the picture was taken within a 5 or 10 mile radius and start questioning them and searching their houses thoroughly including their backyards.that would be my suggestion.

    law enforcement in california donot want to repeat the same mistakes they did with jaycee.

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  25. Hi Sharon,

    Has this photo been put on Web Sleuths? I can't remember where I found the link. If not, I am happy to put a link to this page on there. There are some very good people over there working on Michaela's case including Doug.

    Please let me know if you if you want me to post the link and I will do it when I get home from work tonight.

    God bless

    Chris

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  26. Chris, I don't know that posting the photograph anywhere is going to make any difference. If people haven't responded to the photographs of Michaela that have been out there for years, I don't think this one will make a difference. Our investigators need to track down the people who lived there, and find where they are today. I'm not sure websleuths is able to do that, and I really can't give out specific information because we have to watch out for the privacy of non-involved individuals.

    I am wondering how easy it might be to obtain yearbooks from schools from the 1990's, for this and some other reasons....

    But if you are in touch with Doug, would you ask him to send me an e-mail? Apparently the e-mail address I have for him isn't still good.

    Thanks.

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  27. Hi Sharon,

    I have sent Doug a message and asked him to send you an email. Let me know if he contacts you.

    Chris

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  28. Sorry Sharon, I meant to tell you that you can google yearbooks, I have done it before. Not sure if the years you will be looking for will be online yet. I hope this helps.

    Chris

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  29. We are talking about the early 90's so probably not.

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  30. I just had a quick look and there is 90's on there. I just googled California yearbooks 1990's. I will have a better look tonight. Have to go to work now.

    God bless

    Chris

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  31. I'd be looking for elementary school probably in the 1990's in California ... 5th or 6th grade, and middle school in Virginia....

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  32. On the one hand, there are those depraved cowards that steal children from the street.

    On the other, there are these people who dedicate their lives to helping others. I read about "tent girl" and how her case was solved by an amateur sleuth who gave up all of his free time after work to work on her case. These must be angels!

    Sharon, I'm hoping and praying for you so much that every lead (especially this one) can be investigated fully and that Michaela is found.

    I remember reading about Shawn Hornbeck that (during the time he was kidnapped) his friends had even asked him about his resemblance to the kidnapped boy, but he still said nothing to them. Hopefully, with this information about missing children (and how they are hidden away in full view of others), ALL of them will be brought home.

    <3
    Radhika

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  33. i just purchased jaycee's book "a stolen life-a memoir" at audible.com and am listening to it.a voice at the beginning says it is read by the author (jaycee) herself.she sounds so young.she does not sound anything like a 30 year old woman.her voice sounds like she is doing very well for someone who has been through all that she has been through for 18 years which is very surprising.she is one brave woman.God bless her.

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  34. it doesn't look like phillip garrido could have been involved in michaela's kidnapping.because for one,back in 2009 when jaycee was discovered police and FBI searched garrido's property thoroughly looking for clues like michaela's clothing that would link him to the kidnapping including using a high-tech ground penetrating radar to look for buried bodies or bones but found nothing.garrido has a history of pedophilia,rape and sexual perversions but not murder.he does not have a history of murdering any of his victims.i don't know.i could be wrong but i just feel like the police are wasting time pursuing him in michaela's case.

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  35. Well, the people who are investigating him are the same ones who conducted the search and employed the ground penetrating radar, so I guess they would know best. And you only know what Garrido has been caught doing, don't you? Even having been sentenced to several lifetimes in prison, confessing to murder could land him a death penalty, so I doubt he'd do that.

    Dropping a lead before pursuing it to its conclusion would be careless investigative practice. It would be the equivalent of the parole officers who didn't look over the fence in Garrido's back yard. Our investigator cares too deeply for that.

    Sharon

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  36. Jaycee says in her book that Nancy garrido once told her that she and Phillip would go driving around schools and playgrounds videotaping young girls just so Phillip could use them for his sexual gratification.it looks like Nancy was very much an accomplice in everything Phillip did to jaycee except the sex.she is just as guilty as Phillip is.i just don't understand why she would listen to him and do whatever he tells her to do knowing fully well all along what she was doing was wrong.i don't get it.i just don't understand her.why would a woman do this to another woman.but then again what more can you expect from a woman who met a man in prison,fell in love with him and decided to marry him while he was still serving his sentence in prison knowing fully well what kind of crimes he had committed before and what kind of a man he was.

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  37. Sharon, I hope you got a chance to ask the woman who submitted the photo some questions-- if she is willing. There would be possibly some little clues of things she could've said like maybe foods she didn't like or something that would confirm it was indeed Michaela. I would think it would mean a great deal to you to have a small piece of her life at that time in your mind too, especially any happy little moments like the thought of her being nurturing towards the neighborhood kids:)

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  38. Sharon, I am also amazed to see that the clothes worn by the girl in the photo are similar to those described in Michaela's missing poster "white t-shirt...pants rolled above the knees...black shoes".

    Praying for Michaela and you.

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  39. Radhika, the clothes in this photo are nothing at all like the clothes Michaela was wearing when she was kidnapped. Those were jean shorts, and Mary Jane type shoes, and the tee-shirt was a crop top and it had pictures on it.

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  40. Dear Sharon,
    It has been several months since I have read your blog. I just wanted to check on you. When I heard the news of Jaycee being found I was at work and thought of you instintly. Their are so many similarites to your daughter & the girl in this picture it is incredible.
    Two of my best friends grew up in Va and have their school year book from elemtry school all the way through college. My finace and his brothers and sisters grew up in California & still have their yearbooks. I know they would be more than happy to let you look through their year books or fax you copies, if its different school maybe I can help you access them. I live in Maryland and travel trough VA to Flordia several times a year. Please let me know if there is anyway I can assist you.
    Hugs,
    Megan

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  41. Hmmm did I mention Virginia? Sometimes I have a hard time figuring out the difference between what I've thought and what I've said! I do actually have a lead in Virginia. I have the name of a school, but I don't even have the name of the girl. Let me look it up tomorrow and I'll let you know so you can tell me if you have that yearbook. Or could you e-mail me? It's sharon.murch@gmail.com.

    Thanks, Megan.

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  42. Sharon,
    I couldn't help but notice today as I listened to the 911 call (on the clip from the NG episode on Michaela) that the street the kidnapper would have first traveled on was called "Tamarac." The woman who sent you the picture of the girl who used to visit her in Antioch said she called herself "Tamara." Obviously, this could mean nothing, but it struck a chord with me because I remembered Jaycee was allowed to pick her new name and because the last thing she touched before her former life "ended" was of such significance to Jaycee. For her, it was the pinecone she grasped as she stumbled to the ground after being tasered. Could that street name have been significant to Michaela in the same sort of way? Would Michaela at nine have known the name of that street because of its proximity to the Rainbow Market and your home at the time? Just a thought in regards to this new "hope" that has just fallen across your path. You probably have thought many times over the years what Michaela would have named herself if she had been given the opportunity...
    Another thing I saw today that made me pause just for a second was that someone on Websleuths posted back in February that they had seen a comment on NG's Facebook page from a woman who talked about Michaela's case in an interesting way. She apparently was emotional about it, talked about having some sort of close encounter with Garrido herself, and gave thoughts on where Michaela could be. The person signed her name "T.A." I tried to find the post on Facebook so I could read for myself what this person's exact words were, but I was unable to find it. Again, with the name of this girl you are trying to trace, and the distinct possibility that missing children could be out there reading - and even commenting online - about themselves, I couldn't help but wonder, something I know you do a thousand times a day...

    Praying for Michaela,
    Kathleen

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  43. Sharon,
    Here I thought I was the only one who had that problem. :) You mention VA in one of your comment here on Aug 23. You can email me at megan.mcgraw00@gmail.com.
    Have a great weekend,
    Megan :)

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  44. i am the Same age as your daughter and grew up in Anioch, along with my entire family. my granny and a great aunt lived on Texas Street, so I will share this photo. many of those houses look exactly the Same as they always have. do you happen to know the address? im going to antioch tomorrow and will drive down Texas Street to see if i can find it. if the house can be identified, perhaps homeowner records can be checked and renters could be identified...

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  45. Courtney, thanks. We do know the address of the house in the picture, because the woman who sent the picture told us. But if you know anybody who looks like this girl (or like my daughter), or have yearbooks you could go through, that would be really helpful. I understand she went by the name Tamera or Tamara or Tamra.

    If you find anything, e-mail me at sharon.murch@gmail.com.

    Thanks!
    Sharon

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  46. Oh my god Sharon... She do look a lot like her... She looks a little bit fuller than what she does on the other pictures, and thats expected, since she's two years older....

    Besides being so happy for this new lead and this new hope (I have been very happy since I read it yesterday) I cant help but being so curious about what this woman told you more... I have thousands of questions raising in my head as we speak,...you must have a million! If you want to, and are allowed regarding the investigation I would love some more information. How long did this woman live next to this girls family? Didn't she ever saw the alleged mother or/and father?

    More people in that same neighbourhood must have more info! I do also wonder why this woman contacted you first now...Didn't she recognise her even back then..

    I dont mean any offence to this woman though, I am so happy she contacted you... I am looking forward read more good news!

    And even if this is not Michaela, I am still hopeful. As you said in another post. Just because a child is not found that doesn't mean she wont be found, it doesn't mean she don't want to be found.

    Honestly I take the statistics with a pinch of salt, because it is probably based on the children who is found alive and who is found dead, and that isn't quite fair...It's hard to give a fair estimation since neither of us KNOW the "status" of the children who isn't yet found. We do not know if they are alive, or if they are dead. It is equaly unfair to dismiss those cases as it would be to dismiss a child who is alive for sure, do you know what I mean? The missing children do need - as time goes by- if not more resources,at least AS MUCH resources as any other child in acute danger... Any other way of thinking is wrong in my opinion. It's risky and it is not fair.

    I hope at least the statistics CHANGE every time a child is found alive, as Shawn Hornbech, Elizabeth Smart, Natascha Kampuch etc.... People sees it as miracles, I honestly dont. I mean, it IS wonderful that the person is back with her/his family, the news could be better! But I dont see this circumstances as unlikely. I've said it before (but I think Ive said it regarding to Madeleine Mccanns case) I think it is harder to hide a dead body than to hide a live person.

    Honestly all it takes to hide a person from the rest of the world is 1. a place, like an apartment or a house, and 2. an isolated person who has no friends and family, maybe at least not curious/gutsy enough to ask questions. That is all it takes. Stranger things has happen. I dont even see it as strange anymore. The world are full of deranged and lonely people. If someone could snatch Michaela in full daylight, in front of other people he might as well be able to hide her from the rest of the world.

    I am still praying and hoping Sharon...


    Åsa in Sweden

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  47. Asa, I agree, and really it doesn't even take that. Steven Stayner and Shawn Hornbeck weren't hidden away. They were attending public schools. Elizabeth Smart was walking public streets. The boldness makes us think it can't happen that way, but we've seen that it can, it does, it has happened.

    Thanks, Asa.

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  48. To Anonymous who is age 32 years ... sorry, but your comment is not appropriate to publish here anonymously. Please e-mail me with your contact information at sharon.murch@gmail.com.

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  49. I just found this page, and I was just wondering if they have ever done an age progression on the man who kidnapped her? If he is still out there this might help.

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