Saturday, October 26, 2002

Police still get tips about murder of girl


13 years later, death still haunts town

By Joe Milicia
The Associated Press

BAY VILLAGE, Ohio - The unsolved murder of Amy Mihaljevic, the 10-year-old whose smiling grade-school photo appeared across the country following her 1989 disappearance, still draws about a tip a month to the city's police department.

"This is 13 years later. It's amazing," Bay Village Police Chief David White said. "It's still in people's minds."

Amy's disappearance on Oct. 27, 1989, jolted this upscale, lakeside community in a way that hadn't been felt since the 1954 murder of Marilyn Sheppard. Dr. Sam Sheppard, Marilyn's husband, was convicted then acquitted in a case that made international headlines.

A jogger found Amy's body on Feb. 8, 1990, on a rural Ashland County road about 50 miles south of Bay Village. She had been stabbed twice in the neck and struck with a blunt object on the back of her head.

Earlier this month, a psychiatric patient interrupted Mass at a church in nearby Fairview Park to say he had killed Amy. He was charged with inducing panic and quickly ruled out as a suspect.

Amy was last seen talking to a man at a shopping center across the street from the Bay Village police station.

Jerry Masisak, who owns Arthur's Shoe Tree in the plaza, easily recalls the day.

It was a Friday, sunny, with children happily gathered after school at Baskin Robbins ice cream store, Mr. Masisak said.

Mr. Masisak sits in a chair where customers try on shoes and looks out his storefront window to where Amy was last seen. He winces a bit.

He didn't see it happen.

"That bugs me to no end. I feel like I should have been sticking my nose where it shouldn't have been," he said. "I should have had my face pressed up against the glass."

Mr. Masisak, who has four children, said he lost sleep after Amy's disappearance, trying to remember anything that would help solve the crime.

Former Bay Village Police Chief William Gareau said part of the problem with the case was that it was too broad. Too many tips that led nowhere. Everybody trying to come up with something, anything that would help.

Police had no description of the abductor's vehicle, and two girls who last saw Amy talking to the man couldn't agree on a description of him.

They think Amy's abductor called the girl at home, posing as an acquaintance of her mother. He drew her to the shopping center under the guise that they would buy a gift for her mother.

Authorities conducted more than 14,000 interviews and had more than 100 suspects. Chief Gareau said at one time there were 150 FBI agents on the case. Police put in 18-hour days, seven days a week for nine months.

Despite the 13 years that have passed, Detective Spaetzel still thinks Amy's murder will be solved.

"We are pretty confident that someday we will be able to resolve this," he said. "My feeling would be somebody knows about this other than the killer and they have some guilt and feel they need to come forward."




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