A California man has been charged with the kidnapping and murder of a young 9-year-old blonde girl that was last seen on November 19, 1988, in a 32-year-old cold case, authorities said.

Missing for 32 years

The last time witnesses saw the victim, Michaela Joy Garecht; she was wearing jeans rolled over her knees and had feather-shaped earrings.

On Monday, authorities announced they had charged convicted murderer David Misch with the disappearance and killing of Garecht. Police said they only recently discovered Misch’s connection to the case after matching a partial palm print at the scene to the suspect.

However, investigators never found Garecht’s body more than three decades after her disappearance. The victim’s mother, Sharon Murch, said, “In the last year, I had to come to a place accepting that Michaela was probably no longer alive. But somehow, that acceptance was for more wrapped up in the idea of Michaela sitting on a fluffy pink cloud walking streets of gold, dancing on grassy hills, soaring among the stars. What I did not envision was my daughter as a dead child.”

The grieving mother added that the reality of her daughter’s death only reached her when she heard about the news.

Garecht and her best friend rode their scooters on November 19, 1988, heading towards a market in Hayward to buy a snack a few days before Thanksgiving. The two left their scooters outside of the store, and authorities believe Misch moved one of them to separate the two girls.

Allegedly, the suspect forced Garecht into a vehicle when she went to look for her scooter. The palm print that officials matched to Misch was found on one of the scooters. Experts had to manually analyze the evidence because it was too small to be scanned through a computer database.

The 59-year-old Misch is scheduled to be arraigned on Tuesday. Authorities did not reveal immediately if the suspect had an attorney that could defend him in court.

Similar crimes

Misch has been in prison for a separate murder in 1989, where he killed a woman in the Hayward area. Additionally, he is a suspect for a case in a 1986 murder of two women in Fremont.

Fremont police coordinated with Hayward detectives about Misch’s case, arguing there could be a link between the two killings. Officials did not reveal, however, how they came to believe that the two cases were linked, Sacbee reported.

Hayward detectives argue that Garecht’s disappearance was a murder despite not finding her body.

For more than 32 years, the police station’s cabinets and drawers were filled with photographs of the young girl. Murch said, “I feel as though I am still looking for Michaela, but now I don’t know where. I honestly feel lost in the dark.”