Home of suspected Dugard kidnappers searched again
ANTIOCH – The search for clues into the disappearances of two girls in the 1980s has led authorities to a now-familiar address: the Northern California home of the couple charged with kidnapping an 11-year-old and holding her captive in their backyard for 18 years.
Police scoured Phillip and Nancy Garrido’s property and a site next door Tuesday for any possible links tying them to the abductions of Michaela Garecht in 1988 in Hayward and Ilene Misheloff in 1989 in Dublin.
The similarities between those cases and the 1991 kidnapping of Jaycee Dugard, for which the Garridos are charged, prompted the search and gave hope to family members who have not stopped looking for their children for the past two decades.
“I know that if Jaycee Dugard can be found alive and come home after 18 years, then my daughter can be found alive and come home,” Michaela’s mother, Sharon Murch, said at a news conference in front of the Garridos’ Antioch home.
Dugard was reunited with her family Aug. 27, a day after the Garridos were arrested on charges they kidnapped, raped and hid her in a squalid backyard encampment of tents and sheds. Police say Phillip Garrido fathered Dugard’s two daughters, now 11 and 15.
The Garridos have pleaded not guilty.
An attempt to leave a message for Phillip Garrido’s attorney at his office after business hours Tuesday was not successful. Nancy Garrido’s lawyer, meanwhile, posted a statement on his blog about Tuesday’s search. Gilbert Maines said he and Phillip Garrido’s attorney had planned an inspection of the property, and he was surprised when he found police and media there. He said he had no knowledge of the search. The posting also said Maines would not comment further.
Since the arrest, several law enforcement agencies in the San Francisco Bay area have re-examined old kidnapping cases and other unsolved crimes looking for anything that may link the Garridos, and specifically Phillip, to their investigations.
Phillip Garrido, a registered sex offender, had demonstrated a propensity to go after young girls, according to court papers.
Hayward police said Tuesday they went to the Garridos’ home because they noticed several similarities between Michaela’s abduction and Dugard’s.
Lt. Christine Orrey said a sketch of a man suspected of taking Michaela resembles photographs of Phillip Garrido at the time of the abduction.
The nature of the abductions was also similar. Dugard was snatched outside her South Lake Tahoe home in broad daylight as her stepfather watched in horror. Michaela was taken outside a market where she was buying candy with a friend. The girls, both blond, also looked alike.
There were also similarities with the getaway vehicle used in Michaela’s kidnapping and a car found on the Garrido property, Orrey said.
Dublin authorities also noted similarities between a vehicle found on the Garridos’ property and one that a witness reported seeing Ilene getting into on the day of her disappearance. They said a previous rape conviction for Phillip Garrido also raised concern.
“We know that, based on the Dugard investigation as well as Mr. Garrido’s history, people who commit these offenses tend to be predatory and tend to have multiple victims,” said Dublin police Lt. Kurt von Savoye.
Both departments said Garrido had opportunity. He was out of prison at the times of the two abductions, and the communities are not far from Antioch.
Orrey said her department has received 13,000 tips since Michaela’s disappearance, and “from what I know of the tips that have come in, this is one of the strongest leads we’ve pursued thus far.”
Authorities said the search would take days.
Police were looking for clothes, DNA evidence, remains and any other evidence of the abductions. Orrey said investigators were using equipment that could possibly pick up pieces of dental fillings and teeth in the soil and any disturbances in the ground. She said they were also interested in what’s behind walls, under flooring and under the ground.
A bone fragment was found during a previous search on the neighbor’s property, which was also being combed. Authorities have said it is likely a human bone, but they are still conducting tests.
Police have said the neighbor is not a suspect, but the property is a target of the investigation because Phillip Garrido had access to it.
Neither the Hayward or Dublin police departments have interviewed Dugard, but they are working with agencies who have. They have both been in touch with family members of the girls. Ilene’s family was out of state for a family emergency, von Savoye said.
By the end of Tuesday’s search, Orrey said they hadn’t found anything “earth-shattering” but have gathered some items that may warrant a second look.
That didn’t discourage Murch, who made an emotional appeal to her daughter, “Michaela, if you’re out there somewhere within the sound of my voice, I just want you to know that we love you, we miss you.”
She said she’s never stopped looking for her daughter and Dugard’s case only encouraged her that the family could eventually find peace.
“I have to have hope that she’s still alive somewhere,” she said.
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