HAYWARD, Calif. - The attorney for a convicted murderer, charged with killing a 9-year-old girl whose 1988 kidnapping in Hayward made headlines across the country, blasted what he called "junk science" used by investigators.
David Misch, 59, is a loving father, brother and son and had nothing to do with the disappearance of Michaela Garecht, said Misch's attorney, Ernie Castillo.
From Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, Misch appeared on a video feed at a courthouse just across the street. He did not enter a plea in the kidnapping of Michaela outside what was then the Rainbow Market on Mission Boulevard.
"He wouldn't hurt or kill a child, as they're accusing him of," Castllo said.
But two witnesses identified Misch as they man they saw in a car in the parking lot before the kidnapping, police said in court documents filed in Alameda County Superior Court.
KTVU obtained a picture of Misch from 1988 that bears similarities to a police sketch of Michaela's kidnapper.
Hayward police also say investigators matched a partial palm print found on a scooter to Misch. Chief Toney Chaplin said those types of prints had to be compared manually.
But Castillo said, "Sounds to me just to be ridiculous," adding the sudden match after 32 years seemed suspicious.
"We will definitely be attacking any concept or idea that a person can, with their human eye, be able to distinguish ridges or whatever type of patterns we have on our hands," the defense attorney said.
Castillo noted that Michaela's whereabouts are still unknown.
"They don't have a body. We don't know if this kid is dead or not, or if she's alive," he said.
Castillo is also representing Misch on charges he murdered two women in Fremont back in 1986. Misch is already a convicted murderer for killing a woman in 1989, so he's been behind bars for decades.
"To start dumping everything on this guy, it's an easy way to close a case, it's an easy way to pat themselves on the back," Castillo said.
Questions remain over whether Misch could be linked to other missing children like 13-year-old Ilene Misheloff, who vanished in Dublin in 1989.
Mike Misheloff says his wife Maddi died in April, never knowing what happened to their daughter.
"Of course that goes through my mind, but who knows," Misheloff said. "I'm not going to do anything differently at the present time."
On Monday, Hayward police and the FBI made the surprising announcement that Misch, was responsible for kidnapping and killing Michaela.
Authorities say Michaela and a friend left their scooters outside the market to get candy and soda. Officials allege that Misch moved a scooter to isolate one of the girls. When Michaela went to retrieve it, he forced her into his car and drove away, police say.
The palm print that led to Misch’s charges was found on the scooter. It was too small to be scanned through a computer database and had to be analyzed manually.
Misch was already in a prison for the 1989 murder of a woman in the Hayward area. He is also awaiting trial in a 1986 case where two women were killed in Fremont.
Fremont police reached out to Hayward detectives about Misch, thinking there might be a link between their cases even though some of the circumstances were different. Authorities would not say what led police to believe the cases were connected.
Hayward detectives are treating Michaela’s disappearance as a murder even though her body was never found.
Rows of filing cabinets, each drawer marked with a photograph of the young girl, have filled the police station for more than 32 years.
The charges have brought little solace to Michaela’s mother.
"I feel as though I am still looking for Michaela, but now I don’t know where," she wrote. "I honestly feel lost in the dark."