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David Misch: The System Failed to Protect Michaela Garecht From a Serial Killer in the Making

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Michaela Joy Garecht was 9 years old and just four blocks away from home when she was abducted in broad daylight from outside Hayward’s Rainbow Market on Mission Boulevard. 

It was late morning on Nov. 19, 1988 when Michaela and her best friend rode their scooters together down to the market. They parked outside the entrance and went in to buy some candy. Her friend told police that when they exited the store, Michaela’s scooter had been moved out into the parking lot. As Michaela went to retrieve the scooter, a man emerged from a beat up car, pulled her into the backseat and drove away. That was the last time she was seen and her young friend was the only witness to the kidnapping.   

As years passed by, Michaela’s image became etched into the local landscape, on missing posters and on the back of milk cartons. The case was highlighted on Unsolved Mysteries in 1989. Despite a handful of hopeful leads and at least three suspect possibilities over the years, it would take more than three decades to identify and charge a suspect in the case.

Michaela Garecht. (Photo courtesy of Hayward Police Department)

That day finally arrived Monday when it was announced that David Misch had been arrested and charged for the abduction with a special circumstance for her alleged murder, though her body was never found.

The suspect was ultimately connected to the case after a fingerprint and partial palm print on Michaela’s scooter were manually matched to Misch, now 59 years old. He was easy to find after that revelation — Misch is already serving a sentence of 18 years to life for the 1989 murder of Margaret Ball, also in Hayward.  

The story may sound oddly familiar, because it is.

It was March 2018 when Fremont police announced they’d made an arrest in a brutal 1986 alleged rape and double murder case. Michelle Xavier, 18, and Jennifer Duey, 20, had been shot, strangled, presumably raped and dumped on a dark stretch of Fremont’s Mill Creek Road. The women’s clothes were draped along a fence and in the surrounding trees.

The friends were last seen alive at a convenience store after they’d gone to a birthday party together. They were discovered deceased shortly after midnight on Feb. 2, 1986. 

Michelle Xavier and Jennifer Duey.
(Photo courtesy of Fremont Police Department)

Modernized DNA analysis and additional interviews led detectives in that cold case to the same man. At that time, Misch was serving his life sentence in prison for the second degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon conviction stemming from the 1989 Hayward killing of Margaret Ball, 36. The trial in that case is still pending due to several delays over the course of the past couple years.

The killing of the two women in 1986 may be the first in the recently publicized timeline of Misch’s charges, but his violent criminal record extends much further than what most media outlets have reported. According to parole hearing transcripts from 2006 and 2009, Misch was on the radar long before he killed Ball, who was his friend for years. 

As a 16-year-old, Misch was convicted of breaking into a neighbor’s home and raping a woman at knifepoint who worked as a maid in the residence. He was paroled in 1978 for that crime. He was arrested in February of the next year for false imprisonment and assault with a deadly weapon — charges were later added in that case to include assault to commit rape. He was back out on parole in September 1981. 

David Misch, 59, convicted killer and charged suspect in the abduction of Michaela Garecht and rape and murders of Michelle Xavier and Jeniffer Duey. (Photo courtesy of Fremont Police Department)

Misch continued to terrorize his community as an adult. He was later convicted in July 1982 of another assault on a female where he held her at knifepoint and beat her — he’d be released in January 1984 for those charges. He was charged with indecent exposure in September of that year and for driving while nude in Oakland in August 1985.

When Xavier and Duey were killed in February 1986, Misch was being considered for a court drug diversion program due to several drug-related and burglary incidents. 

He had been arrested for burglary at a San Leandro market in May of 1988, just months before Michaela disappeared and while he received a one-year sentence and one year of probation, he was out in November when witnesses put him near the Rainbow Market. 

Just days after she was abducted, he was once again arrested on possession charges but released on parole on November 17, 1989. He killed Margaret Ball in December. She was found dead by her step-daughter in a fetal position, lying on a butcher knife, beaten and stabbed multiple times — her front tooth was found about 6 inches away from her pool of blood. 

According to the two parole hearing transcripts from 2006 and 2009, his time in prison has been combative with authorities and uncooperative for psychological evaluations and parole proceedings.   

I saw Misch in person during a March 2018 hearing I attended as both a journalist and as support for a friend who knew Michelle Xavier before she was killed. It was that day when families of both victims first laid eyes on the man suspected of murdering their daughters. On a day when he was expected to plea, he instead had his attorney lodge complaints about a broken light in cell and prison food that didn’t meet his dietary needs. 

Standing at the doorway where inmates are held in court proceedings, he didn’t express anything resembling remorse or guilt. From my seat to where he stood, we locked eyes for what seemed like an eternity. In those moments, he seemed unnaturally detached and callous, as if he’d been there before, because he had…many, many times.

Michaela Garecht’s family may find some peace knowing that Misch will face charges for her abduction, but it’s cold comfort knowing he was given so many chances to cause so much harm.

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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.

4 Comments

  1. Jayson westfall
    December 26, 2020 at 12:06 pm — Reply

    I was kidnapped by David misch when I was 11 I was able to fight free police did catch him looks like they gave him drug diversion and let him go

    • Jane
      December 28, 2020 at 12:08 pm — Reply

      Jayson, where did you live? So glad you got away!

    • December 29, 2020 at 2:24 pm — Reply

      I’m sorry you went through that! Would you be willing to share more about your experience?

  2. George from CAVDEF
    June 22, 2021 at 4:51 pm — Reply

    Is David Misch a criminal PoS? No doubt about it. Was he involved in Michaela’s abduction? Very likely yes, though I find it implausible that he did so alone: how would a kidnapper drive away and keep a noncompliant girl restrained at the same time? What I really have a problem with, though, is the Hayward authorities’ decision to charge him with murder when there is no evidence that Michaela is even dead and some evidence that she survived into captivity months after her abduction.

    Back in March 1989, a man named Richard Helwig was stopped while crossing the Mexican border into San Diego. Customs authorities found that he possessed a large amount of child pornography, kept details on age of consent and child porn laws around the world, and even had a home address in San Francisco that was the same address as the SF headquarters of the sicko North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA). Investigating a girl who was depicted in one of Helwig’s “photographs”, they found that a Mexican prostitute had given Helwig access to her young son and daughter, both of whom were sexually abused and posed for child pornography by Helwig. The mother had a pair of earrings identical to Michaela’s, which she initially claimed Helwig gave her before changing her story. And both of her children identified Michaela as well as Amber Swartz-Garcia (another girl kidnapped from the Bay Area earlier in 1988) as being somehow associated with Helwig. All of this is described in an article published by the US Customs Service back in 1991: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=nnc1.cu14428881&view=1up&seq=22

    It appears very likely that Michaela was taken into a human trafficking ring operating from the Bay Area, with connections to other locales far and wide including Mexico. I would bet that Misch involved but only as the first link in this evil chain. He deserves to go down for his probable role in the abduction, but not for murder (unless the Helwig connection is somehow disproven and Misch can be shown to have killed her right after abducting her). Trying to close this as a simple case of murder by one predator acting alone would let every other guilty party off the hook.

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