Thursday, March 11, 2010

20 Years Later: Will There Be Justice for Amy?

by Stacy Dittrich

You may remember her or you may not, but in the age of media-frenzied cases like Caylee Anthony and JonBenet Ramsey, there is one name not to be forgotten—Amy Mihaljevic.

On October 27, 1989, 10-year old Amy Renee Mihaljevic (pictured left) spent a typical day in her fifth-grade class before walking the short distance to her home in Bay Village, Ohio, an upscale Cleveland suburb on Lake Erie. (Bay Village was also the home of Dr. Sam Sheppard, a doctor accused of killing his wife in the 1950’s. His sentence was later overturned—a case that spawned the movie, “The Fugitive,” with Harrison Ford).

Each day, Amy found herself alone for an hour after school; both her parents worked, and her older brother Jason’s school didn’t let out until an hour after hers. At the beginning of that week, Amy received a phone call from a stranger (sketch artist depiction of suspect, right). He claimed he worked with Amy’s mother, Margaret, and that she had just received a big promotion. The man told Amy it would make her mother really happy if he picked her up so the two of them could buy her mother a gift. Of course, the man told Amy it was “their” secret and would be a surprise for Margaret. Amy was excited at the notion of surprising her mother and even broke her promise to the stranger that she wouldn’t tell anyone. Like most 10-year-olds, Amy couldn’t help but confide the plans to friends.

On October 27th, Amy hurried home and dropped off some of her things before joining a group of friends walking to the nearest ice cream shop. Amy had arranged to meet the stranger there.

When Jason Mihaljevic got home and found his sister gone, he immediately called Margaret. Feeling somewhat panicky, Margaret began to gather up her things and start for home when the phone in her office rang. It was Amy. Breathing a sigh of relief, Margaret asked her where she was. Amy claimed she was at choir practice before hanging up. That was the last time she would ever hear her daughter’s voice.

To this day, it has never been determined where Amy made the phone call from.

Margaret, who still felt unsettled by the situation, started for home. By evening, the Mihaljevics contacted the police to report Amy missing, launching an unprecedented search. The abduction of Amy Mihaljevic was one of the first child abductions featured by John Walsh in his first year as host of America’s Most Wanted.

Sadly, on February 8, 1990, a jogger discovered the remains of Amy Mihaljevic in a cornfield in rural Ashland County—less than 50 miles from Bay Village. Based on the autopsy report, Amy died horribly. Her skull was fractured; she'd been stabbed in the neck repeatedly and sexually assaulted. The coroner determined it could have taken as long as 30 minutes for Amy to die. Her killer has never been found.

In 1992, Margaret Mihaljevic made an emotional appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show, speaking about the search for her daughter’s murderer. The toll was too much for Margaret. She and her husband divorced shortly after Amy’s body was discovered, and she spent the next several years slowing drinking herself to death. Margaret Mihaljevic died of alcoholism in Las Vegas in 2001.

In 2005, Cleveland reporter James Renner launched a massive investigation into Amy’s murder—turning up many questionable suspects. Renner’s book, “Amy: My Search for Her Killer,” gives an inside view of his findings. He also maintains a fascinating blog on the Amy Mihaljevic case, and updates it almost weekly with new information.

In 2007, the Bay Village police department reopened the case based on newly discovered information. Several other girls in the area had received phone calls similar to Amy’s in the month before her abduction. Authorities hope that in their vast sea of suspects, the one responsible will emerge. Authorities seem confident that the killer is still alive and living in the Bay Village or Ashland area. It is utterly frightening to think that a man capable of murdering an innocent young girl in such a violent and vicious manner is still among society.

Regardless, last month marks the 20-year anniversary of the discovery of Amy Mihaljevic’s body. New billboards (pictured right) are now being erected all over the state of Ohio in hopes they will bring forth new information.

Let’s not forget that even though it was two decades ago, Amy Mihaljevic and her surviving family members deserve some justice.


Dena said...

So sad...... I’m glad that Women in Crime Ink is here to let us remember that there are so many child murders unsolved. You don’t forget and that is a very good thing.

Wendy, Los Angeles said...

her poor family. how dreadful.

TLTL said...

I hope this family finds justice. So tragic that this causes such divide between parents and they have to divorce. It works so much better when two people come together rather than grow apart but that is often the case.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that the story is even misquoted by you. Tell it right, she did not go home first and drop off her things. Nowhere but here does it say that. James Renner doesn't have the story right either, as hard as he tried he just can't put it together right either.Now we all know why it's taken so long to solve this case. Most of the facts in this case are misquoted by do gooders trying to make a name for themselves. This child suffered an awful death and her family still awaites peace of mind and closure that is hard to find because of misquotes. Where I ask you is justice for AMY?

Stacy Dittrich said...


I'm curious as to where you get your info that Amy didn't go home first? Her mother called her there right after school--her mother's own words during the Oprah interview. If we are all mistaken, including Amy's own mother, please enlighten us as to how you have this information? As for making a name for myself, most people have forgotten Amy's murder so that's hardly the case...I've already made a name for myself so this makes no sense? My goal is to bring new focus to Amy's killer.