Reporting Laura Cole
LINDEN (CBS13) – There are two bombshells in the Speed Freak Killers case.
The remains of a murder victim were returned to her mother after they were mixed up with other remains. Among them are bones possibly belonging to 9-year-old Michaela Garecht, who disappeared 24 years ago.
Hayward police told CBS13 that a bone mixed in the remains of JoAnn Hobson is being tested to see if it is Garecht. That bone was hand-delivered to an out-of-state lab looking to see if there’s a connection to the girl missing nearly a quarter century. And all of this is possible because of JoAnn’s mother.
“I feel like a crime is now being committed against me and my family, and I feel like Joann also has been murdered again,” said Joan Shelley, JoAnn’s mother.
Shelley and her family can’t believe her daughter’s remains may have been mixed with other murder victims.
“So how many times is she going to be a victim? When is this going to stop, or is it ever going to stop?” wondered Shelley.
“I thought ‘Why, why, why would you take her out of the ground in such a manner when you assured us it wouldn’t happen that way?” asked Michelle Loftis, Hobson’s sister.
CBS13 has obtained a 33-page report from the Chico Human Identification Lab that shows the remains given to Hobson’s family “consist of a minimum of three individuals.”
Shelley teamed up with retired FBI agent Jeff Rinek, sending the remains to Chico after watching how the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department recovered her daughter from the well in Linden.
“The way they pulled her out with those big steal claws — and I saw that on TV — I was horrified, absolutely horrified,” said Shelley.
The report says there are 28 samples that are not her daughter, including a bone of a child.
In a letter to CBS13, Speed Freak Killer Wesley Shermantine makes a reference to Garecht’s disappearance, blaming his partner Loren Herzog.
That’s why Shelley and Rinek contacted the Hayward Police Department.
“I’ve never seen anything like this, and especially the thought that we could have victims that could be out there that remain unidentified,” said Rinek.
The Hayward police chief told CBS13 the remains belong to a child between 5 and 14, according to the anthropologist on the case.
It could take several weeks until police learn whether the bone is Garecht’s — an answer they will only have because Shelley had her daughter’s remains examined.
“I’m doing this for the families, because I want them to have their loved ones and I want their loved ones brought home the right way, not yanked out of the ground like my child was,” said Shelley.
The family is angry. They want answers, and they say they know exactly who to blame.
“I hold the sheriff responsible, and I just want to tell him ‘how dare you treat us this way,’ said Sandra Hoyopatubbi, Hobson’s sister.
“It’s a mess, and somebody needs to be held accountable,” said Shelley.
It’s just Hayward police handling the identification on the child’s bone. The first lab results came back inconclusive. Now the bone is going to a lab in Virginia for further testing. Results could take weeks.
The San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department is responding to what appears to be nothing short of a colossal mistake.
“Initially I was taken aback to learn there was possibly a mix up involving the recovered remains,” said Sheriff Steve Moore in a statement. “We relied on the expertise of the California Department of Justice and an anthropologist.”
He’s not the only one reacting to this CBS13 exclusive.
Garecht’s mom is ready to end her daughter’s search.
“This just kind of felt like it clicked with the investigators, more than it usually does,” said Sharon Murch, Garecht’s mother.
Garecht went missing from Hayward since 1988.
A sketch of her alleged kidnapper looks alarmingly similar to Herzog.
And Herzog’s killing spree partner Shermantine wrote a jailhouse letter that reads “Herzog had family that lived in Castro Valley. That’s right by Hayward.”
Murch had heard other leads too.
“If these things are true, then they would place Herzog in the area,” said Murch.
Now the new clue is a child’s bone discovered co-mingled with other victim’s remains, thanks to a mom on her own mission for answers.
It’s a discovery law enforcement on the case either didn’t know about or kept secret.
“That is, I think, truly shameful. I have to thank JoAnne Hobson’s family, because they received their daughter’s remains, and rather than just accepting it, they went to the trouble of having it tested,” said Murch.
Now it’s a new test for this mother missing her daughter for 24 years, whose remains may now be located.
“I don’t know how else to live because we’ve lived this way for so long, searching for Michaela and hoping that she would come home,” said Murch.
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