Amy Mihaljevic went missing on October 27, 1989, from a shopping mall in Bay Village, Ohio. 104 days later the 10-year-olds dead body was discovered. Here Unsolved Casebook takes a look at the heartbreaking case.
Bay Village, Ohio had a reputation as one of the safest cities in America. Home to roughly 17,000 citizens, amongst them, were the Mihaljevic family. The family consisted of husband and wife, Mark and Margaret, and their two children Jason and, his younger sister, Amy.
By 1989 Amy Mihaljevic, who was now 10, was in the fifth grade at Bay Village middle school. Her brother Jason was a couple of years above her in the 7th grade. She was a clever child and was a part of the gifted program at the school.
In her spare time, Amy loved to go horse riding. She had been learning to ride at Holly Hill Riding Stables at nearby Avon Lake for two years. Originally Amy had one lesson a week at the stables but by October 1989 she was their nearly every day riding her favourite horse Razzle.
On Friday, October 27th 1989 Amy made her way to school. She informed her mum she would be home late as she was going to stay after school for choir practice. Amy’s mother had no reason to disbelieve her daughter and so accepted what she had been told.
There was no choir practice after school, Amy had lied to her mother. Instead, after school finished at around 2 pm, she made her way to the Bay Square shopping centre. Amy went and bought ice creams with a couple of school friends before the other girls headed off home.
Amy’s brother Jason had also intended to visit the mall after school. Unfortunately, on his way, Jason saw a bunch of older boys’ who had been bullying him and other younger children. Jason decided rather than risk an encounter with the group he would instead head home.
Amy’s mother Margaret was at work when Amy and her brother Jason finished school. She always expected them to ring her at work to confirm they had gotten home safely.
Jason called his mum at around 3 pm to confirm he had arrived home but told her Amy wasn’t yet there. Before she could become too concerned the phone rang again and this time it was Amy.
Amy, however, wasn’t home as she claimed. Margaret later noted that her daughter seemed a little off during the brief conversation which worried her a little.
Amy Mihaljevic Goes Missing
Just after 5 pm that evening Margaret arrived home from work to find her daughter wasn’t there. Margaret made her way to the school, still thinking Amy had been at choir practice. Although there was no sign of Amy, Margaret found her daughter’s bike seemingly abandoned in the bike rack.
Margaret was now extremely anxious and concerned about her daughter’s whereabouts. She made her way to the police department which was in close proximately to the school reported Amy missing.
The police wasted no time beginning to search for Amy. At around 6:30 pm Mark arrived home from work and quickly joined the search but there was no trace of his daughter.
The Mysterious Phonecall
Law enforcement soon found out why Amy had lied to her mother about going to the mall. Amy had informed a couple of her best friends that she was going to meet a man to buy a present for her mother.
The man had called Amy in the days previous to her disappearance. He told her that her mum had been given a promotion at work. The caller then asked Amy if she would meet him at the mall to help him to pick out a gift for her mum but to keep it a secret.
Margaret informed the police that she had been given no such promotion. She also told police that they had no knowledge of Amy arranging to meet anyone or any calls which her daughter had taken in the days prior.
Amy And The Man In The Mall
A witness came forward who said they may have seen Amy with a man at around 2:30 p.m at the mall. He described the man as been about 5 foot 10 and having dark hair with a bald spot. He guessed the man to be in his early 30s as he believed the man was the young girl’s dad. The man was also described as been of medium build and well dressed, wearing a beige or tan jacket.
Shortly after another witness reported seeing Amy with a man very similar. The witness said it appeared as if the man was guiding Amy towards the parking area. Two sketches of the possible suspect were created.
Over 100 officers were called in to help with the investigation, including the FBI. Employees at the mall we’re all questioned about whether they had seen anything or were possibly involved. School friends and neighbours were also spoken to. Within a fortnight police had almost two thousand leads given to them.
A search of all the nearby woods and trails was organised. A pair of sweatpants was found in a field near where Amy used to ride her horse. These, it would later transpire, didn’t belong to Amy.
An early possible suspect was James Edward Vachuska. Vachuska had been involved in several crimes against children in Louisiana, including the abduction and rape of an eleven-year-old girl. Despite having a strong profile law enforcement were unable to find any evidence to connect him to Amy Mihaljevic’s disappearance.
A number of other young girls also reported that they had received similar calls to the one Amy did. Of these, police believed that two of the cases had a strong chance of being connected to Amys’s caller. An exact reason for this belief was never revealed though it is thought they took place in March and April of 1989.
It became apparent the calls were made to Amy from someone within the same area code as there was no trace of the call. Phone records at the time weren’t as good as they are nowadays where every single call virtually has a record made of it. Back in 1989 records of local calls weren’t kept so the call Amy received was unable to be traced.
Discovery Of Amy Mihaljevic
On February 8, 1990, the Mihaljevic family got the news they dreaded. A woman named Janet Seabold had been in the middle of her morning jog in Ashland County, Ohio ( 48.6 miles from Bay Village) when she made the ghastly discovery along Township Road 1181.
Amy Mihaljevic’s decomposed body lay face down in the mud near the roadside, partly hidden by the weeds. Upon her discovery the trembling and horrified Janet Seabold ran for help.
Amy was officially identified through her dental records, though as soon as the discovery was made law enforcement feared the worst. She was found fully clothed with the exception of her riding boots. Several other items that Amy had on her when she disappeared were missing although investigators wouldn’t reveal these items for almost a decade.
Amy had been bludgeoned around the head with an unknown heavy object. She had also been viciously stabbed in the neck three times. Amy’s fingernails also showed signs of damage consistent with someone putting up a fight.
Some reports I have read claim Amy Mihaljevic was raped, however, I can find no official report stating this as fact. Amy’s post mortem was never released to the public but Emily G Thompson wrote in her chapter on the case in the book Unsolved Child Murders that she had seen the post mortem records. According to her, the records stated there were no signs of sexual trauma.
Law enforcement believes sexual assault to be a possibility. A spot of blood was found in Amy’s underwear and, according to some reports, her underwear was on inside out when she was found. Investigators have also struggled to find any possible motive other than a sexual one.
It is plausible that the initial motive for Amy’s abduction was sexual but the perpetrator turned to murder when Amy fought back. The truth is without the killer, no one knows for sure.
How Long Was Amy Mihaljevic At The Dump Site?
It is unknown how long Amy Mihaljevic’s remains had been at the dump site. Locals are sure that the young girl’s body would have been discovered earlier if she had been there a while.
Janet Seabold was said to be going on her daily jog when she came across the girl, seemingly backing up the claim. However, Janet was badly traumatized by the horrific finding she made that February morning and has since seemingly found it too difficult to talk about in detail. Therefore, it’s not quite clear if her daily run really was daily in those winter months or if she even took the same route every day.
New Witness And Description
In the winter of 1990, several months after the body of Amy Mihaljevic was found, a new witness came forward. The woman stated that on the night before the discovery, at around 6 pm, she saw a man in the same location.
She said the man was standing near the trunk of his vehicle, which she described as a dark blue hatchback. The new witness helped police to create a composite sketch of the individual which was then released to the public.
Why the woman waited several months to come forward is unknown, perhaps she was unaware of the location the girl had been found until a later time. It does leave a question over how reliable the account is.
Firstly, with such a gap how could the witness be sure of the date? I struggle to remember what I did yesterday let alone a pacific time on a pacific date months ago. Secondly, 6 pm in February would be pretty dark. Unless there was a good light source near the man I cannot see how the description given could be totally accurate.
Even if the date was correct and the woman did have a good view of the man in question, scientific test have shown that eye-witness descriptions become less and less accurate as time passes. Would the woman really have such a vivid memory of the man she saw months earlier from a random night and who was doing nothing massively out of the ordinary?
In 1997 investigators released new information on the case in the hope of giving them some new leads. It was revealed that several items were missing from Amy Mihaljevic’s body when she was found.
A pair of turquoise earrings in the shape of horse heads, a pair of riding boots and a black Buick folder with the words “Best in Class” embroidered on it were of particular interest to the police.
The new information still led to no significant new leads or suspects. The case seemed to go cold again until new details were released in 2016, some 26 years after the body of Amy Mihaljevic was discovered.
The Handmade Curtain
Law Enforcement arranged a press conference and revealed new details on the Amy Mihaljevic case. It was announced that police were looking for information relating to a handmade curtain and a blanket.
The items had been found 100 yards from the young girl’s body. Police originally didn’t believe the items to be relevant to the case. When they were eventually sent off for DNA testing dog hairs matching those of Amy’s pet dog Jake were found on the items.
Authorities hoped the identification of these items could lead to the killer of Amy Mihaljevic. Another incentive was added as police revealed that the reward for information leading to her killer was to be raised to $50,000.
In 2019 it was revealed that law enforcement has in their possession three hairs which were found on Amy Mihaljevic. One hair was located on her sweatpants, a second hair on her underwear, and a third hair on her body.
The hairs found have all been tested but presently only a weak DNA profile could be garnered from them. It is hoped, however, as technology continues to improve the hairs may, in time, lead to a full DNA profile.
The one downside is the condition of the hairs. Due to their degraded state it is likely they will only survive been tested one more time, so they have to make it count.
Interestingly it was also revealed that all three hairs where from separate individuals. This doesn’t automatically mean more than one person was involved, as hairs can be easily transferred, but it does make it a plausible possibility.
I write this post just shy of the 30th anniversary of Amy Mihaljevic going missing. Hopefully, her loved ones can finally get some answers before the 31st anniversary. Sadly Amy’s mother Margaret died in 2001 without ever knowing who killed her daughter or the reason she was taken from her.
Anyone with information relating to the murder of Amy Mihaljevic can contact the Bay Village Police Department on 1-440-871-1234 or the FBI on 1-800-CALL-FBI.