I asked my awesome friend Erin, an Ohio native with an interest in unsolved mysteries, to write something about her memories of the disappearance and murder of Amy Mihaljevic, one of the most well-known unsolved crimes in the state of Ohio. Luckily for us, she agreed.
Below is her piece.
Thank you Erin for contributing to Mysteries, Crimes, Curiosities!
Although I was only 7 years old when Amy Mihaljevic disappeared, I vaguely remember hearing her name whispered in hushed tones in the hallways of school or over the news as my family sat down to dinner. Thinking maybe my parents would have warned me about the danger of strangers after the incident, I recently asked my mom about it.
“I don’t think we talked to you about it, but I don’t think we shielded you from it, either,” she admitted. “We probably didn’t talk about it much – we just couldn’t believe something like that could happen so close to where we lived.”
It was true; things like that just didn’t happen in the quiet suburb of Bay Village barely 20 minutes from where I grew up. Amy Mihaljevic, 10 years old, was abducted from a shopping center across from the Bay Village police station in broad daylight. Days earlier, she had gotten a phone call at home claiming to be a coworker of her mothers and asking if she wanted to surprise her mom by going to pick out a present to congratulate her on a recent promotion. Not only was there no promotion, but there was no thoughtful coworker on the other end of the line, either. Who Amy left with that October day in 1989 is still a mystery, as is the reason her body was found in a lonely field 40 miles from home shortly after. For parents and children alike, this remains a haunting case of a local boogeyman still on the loose.
(site of the abduction)
As a kid I loved to be scared, reading my favorite ghost stories like Goosebumps and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, never realizing that the real monsters to fear were lurking in plain sight outside your local Baskin Robbins ice cream parlor. My interest in the dark and creepy morphed into an interest in true crime as I got older, even going so far as to pen-pal notorious serial killers like Richard Ramirez and Roy Norris. I never explored Amy’s case in depth, perhaps subconsciously trying to keep a story that hit so close to home as far away as possible. When I scrolled through instagram recently and saw a photo from Amy’s case on the “mysteries_crimes_curiosities” account, I recalled how her story would randomly pop up on the local news every few years. When there was an update in 2016, many of us here in Northeast Ohio held our breath, waiting for the inevitable news that the case had been cracked wide open. That news never came.
It was announced through a press conference that there was evidence previously unknown to the public. They showed a homemade curtain and a blanket found near Amy’s body in the desolate field where she was discovered. Hairs on the fabrics were traced back to the Mihaljevic family dog, leading investigators to believe Amy was wrapped in the curtain/blanket at some point. Because the curtain appeared to be handmade out of something else like a quilt and the top of it was handsewn, investigators hoped there would be someone out there watching that would recognize it. The reward money was also doubled, from $25,000 to $50,000. Still, two years later, and it would appear that whoever out there knows what happened to Amy is still keeping their terrible secret.
Maybe it’s because I’m a parent now myself that made the details of her story so hard to fathom. The fact that she was tricked and abducted trying to do something nice to surprise her mom absolutely breaks my heart. What kind of monster preys on little girls? What kind of monster preys on little girls who are trying to show their mom just how much they love them? The thought is too much for me to handle.
I began James Renner’s book about her abduction/murder on a sweltering summer night in June. Laying in bed I continued to turn page after page, unable to put it down. Reading about places familiar to me made it that much more intriguing, and before I knew it I was more than halfway through the book. Forcing myself to set it aside, I knew I would be home the following day and would be able to finish it in one more sitting.
The next day was still hot and muggy, but there was steady rainfall coming down. I sat on the couch with my legs tucked under me while my two young children played in the living room. The front door was open and visible from where I sat, and we watched the rain coming down in sheets through the screen door. Suddenly, there was a knock on my door. I set the book down, annoyed at having been interrupted, and walked over to the foyer, where a baby gate separated the living room from the front entrance way.
There was a man I had never seen before peering into my screen door: late 40s/early 50s, slight build, cargo shorts and polo shirt, baseball cap pulled down over brown hair.
– “Hey, I’m Brandon from the next street over! I do yard work for a few of your neighbors and I was just wondering if you needed anybody to cut your grass!”
– “No thanks, my husband does it,” I replied with a scowl I couldn’t hide, already turning to go back to the couch.
It wasn’t until I sat down again that I thought to myself, I’ve never seen him doing yard work for any of the neighbors. Why is he going door-to-door in the pouring rain? With no umbrella? With no lawnmower or business cards? I was agitated, but I pushed the thought out of my head as I returned my attention to my kids and my book.
An hour later, the baby got bored with her toys and started crying for a bottle. Geez baby, I only have like three pages left to go, couldn’t this have waited? I thought as I stood up to go to the kitchen. As I passed the front door, I noticed the man standing on my steps again before he could even knock. Immediately, I was on red alert. The door lock! Why didn’t I lock the screen door after he was here the first time!? I quickly realized it would have taken him a split second to open my door and come inside before I could even climb over the baby gate and get to the door to lock it. It was still raining, and this man was standing on my front steps peering into my living room again and something felt very wrong about the whole situation. My mind flashed to Amy, who put her trust in a man that didn’t deserve to be trusted. Before I could even reign my anger in, I was shouting at the stranger on my porch.
-“What do you need???” I bellowed.
-“Did I already come here? I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” he stammered as he backed down the steps.
For a split second I felt bad that I was so rude, but my instincts told me something didn’t feel right. My anger and disgust at being made to feel threatened in my own home quickly overcame any rational thinking. Sure, maybe he was an innocent handyman looking for work, but he would never know the fear most girls and women feel on a regular basis just minding our own business. I was enraged for Amy, whose story was coincidentally foremost on my mind at the moment he came to the door. I was enraged for myself, for all the times I was followed and catcalled and made to feel uncomfortable by men in a world where I merely wanted to live my life in peace. I was enraged for my friends and family, who all had at least one similar story to share, although usually much more than just one. I was enraged for all women. Oh, but Amy. In that moment, as I put down the book about an innocent young girl’s murder to find a stranger peering into my house not once but twice, I felt a wave of regret and anger so great that I was nearly in tears. I was shaken to my core for the rest of the day.
It wasn’t my intention to be the grouchy neighbor, but men will never understand the thoughts that go through a woman’s head when they are feeling cornered or threatened. In my lifetime I feel like I have had some close calls and managed to escape harm’s way on several occasions. I only wished Amy had the same second chance. Did she realize too late that something wasn’t right? We may never know.
For the 4th of July holiday, my family decided to go to Bay Days to catch the fireworks display. This was the annual Bay Village carnival with rides and games, where they did an impressive fireworks display at dusk. Walking around after finishing the book on Amy only days before was an eerie feeling. Seeing the children dart about happily eating cotton candy and riding the carousel, I couldn’t help but look at their innocent faces and hope they never learned how dark and cruel the world can be. I studied the adults with a different sort of interest: were you there the day Amy was taken? Were you in her class? Were you the one who did it? But most of all, walking hand-in-hand with my family, I just kept thinking, Amy should be here today with her own children. We were only 3 years apart; our kids could have been friends. She should be showing them all her favorite rides from when she was a kid herself. She should have been allowed to grow old, instead of being perpetually10 years old.
Some day, I hope there is justice for an innocent girl named Amy.