BAY VILLAGE – She was a feisty little girl who loved horses. Her father and brother are not sure who she would have become – but they are sure they would have loved the person she never got to be.
Thirty years after her abduction and murder, Amy Mihaljevic’s case remains open and active, and her family remains determined to see her killer brought to justice.
“I will live to see an answer,” says her father, Mark, who is now in his 70’s. Mark’s son, Jason, Amy’s older brother, wipes away a tear as he expresses gratitude for all the effort that investigators continue to put into his sister’s case.
And then, quietly, he adds, an answer “is overdue. The conclusion is overdue.”
On October 27, 1989, 10-year-old Amy met an unknown man after school at a quaint shopping plaza in Bay Village.
She was never seen alive again. A massive search ensued but to no avail.
Over a hundred days later, in early February of 1990, Amy’s body was discovered by a jogger in a remote field in Ashland County, about fifty miles south of Bay Village.
Investigators know that her abductor told her he wanted to help Amy buy a surprise gift for her mother, Margaret, who had received a promotion, or a job change, at work.
That was true, and investigators believe the killer also left some clues by how he conducted the initial abduction.
“He was very confident,” says Mark Spaetzel, Bay Village’s police chief, “(because) he did this right across the street from the police station.”
Spaetzel, who as a young officer spoke to Amy’s class on the day she was abducted, says the unidentified suspect also knew he could use the pretense of buying the gift for Amy’s mom as a cover story if he were questioned by anyone.
“If he was stopped or talked to, he had some plan, some reason…for why he was there doing what he was doing,” Spaetzel says.
The chief says that suggests someone who was comfortable luring a ten-year-old girl to go with him – possibly because he had done it before. And he may have revealed a pattern to his planning.
At about the same time as Amy’s abduction, similar phone calls had been aimed at young girls who lived in North Olmsted.
“The other phone calls from North Olmsted…were also aimed at the mother’s work,” Chief Spaetzel says.
Amy’s mother died almost twenty years ago now, her ex-husband Mark says, in part of a broken heart.
Investigators believe something in Margaret’s life, maybe even a small detail, could be a key in solving the case. “If you look at the information that was used here (by the killer), it’s about Margaret,” Chief Spaetzel says,
“It’s about Margaret at work, it’s about Margaret receiving a promotion, it’s about Amy going to buy a gift for Margaret. So it’s very Margaret-focused,” he adds.
Authorities think a tip related to Margaret may help break the case. They also think someone may remember, even vaguely, a man who may have spoken even once about having an unusual interest in younger girls.
“The person who committed this crime cannot keep it a secret to himself,” says Amy’s father, Mark, “(because) you just can’t keep that a secret the rest of your life.”
Authorities have some untested DNA in Amy’s case, but it is not the kind that is in the national criminal database. They are preserving it, in part, because the science of DNA identification is moving quickly.
“DNA is advancing so rapidly, you don’t know what the next test is going to be able to tell you,” Chief Spaetzel says. The chief says a possible theory is that this was a sexual-motivated abduction that didn’t go as the kidnapper planned because his victim was not a willing participant.
Amy was struck hard, stabbed, and bled to death, and the chief believes it is likely that she was killed shortly after she was taken.
The area where she was found is so remote, investigators believe her killer may well have had some connection to it that made him comfortable going there.
A generation later, authorities continue to investigate, while Amy’s family continues to remember the girl they loved.
“We were just becoming friends,” Jason says, as they were growing up together. “Do I still hold out hope?”, he asks, “yes.” And so does his father, determined to live to see the man brought to justice who took his little girl away from him.
“I miss her every day,” Mark says, “every day.”
Any information can be given to Bay Village police, and it can be done so anonymously.
The phone number is 440-871-1234.