Missing Michaela: A Hayward Cold Case

This November will mark the 30th anniversary of the kidnapping of Michaela Garecht. She was nine years old on November 19, 1988, when she was abducted by a stranger in broad daylight from a grocery store parking lot on Mission Boulevard.

That morning, Michaela and a friend were riding their scooters down to Rainbow Market, currently Mexico Super. They parked the scooters in the store’s lot and went inside to buy some candy and treats. When they returned to grab their scooters, Michaela’s had been moved and laid beside a parked car. She walked over to retrieve it, and a man came out of the car and grabbed Michaela. He pulled her into the vehicle with him and sped away, careening down Mission Boulevard. Michaela’s family has not seen or heard from her since.

Michaela’s friend saw the whole kidnapping play out. She gave police a description of the abductor: tall and slender, in his twenties, with shoulder length dirty blonde hair. His face appeared scared with pockmarks or broken out with acne. The car he drove was described as a dinged and scratched up tan sedan. Some witnesses reported seeing flecks of white paint spattered on the car’s exterior.

Most child victims of kidnapping are taken by people who are known to them: parents or relatives. Michaela’s was a stranger abduction, rare occurrences which account for less than one percent of child kidnapping cases in the US. Hayward Police immediately began their investigation. They sent officers to her home that day, collecting evidence and asking questions about Michaela, her friends, her habits.

The Missing Persons Project, a now-defunct advocacy group, also got involved the day of the abduction. They sent representatives to Michaela’s parents’ house, where they set up a command post. They installed a new phone line, dedicated to fielding calls about Michaela, the case, and any information from the public. Local news stations sent reporters to cover the initial investigation and search efforts.

Despite this prompt response, the police were not able to apprehend the kidnapper that day. In the days that followed, they conducted searches near the kidnapping site, and private citizens helped, scouring the undeveloped foothills east of Mission Boulevard. No substantive leads turned up.

Time passed. The searches died down. The investigation dwindled.

The police received 5,000 leads in that first year alone. A composite sketch of the kidnapper was drawn based on the witness descriptions and was disseminated on TV news. Posters with Michaela’s picture were posted around town, on bumper stickers and at police stations and in post offices.

Michaela was a typical nine-year-old. She was an intelligent little girl, enrolled in the Gifted and Talented Education program at her elementary school. She wore her blond hair in a short bob with bangs. She had blue eyes and a bright smile. That is how her mother, Sharon Murch, remembers her today.

Murch, who still lives in the area, keeps a blog online where she writes about her experiences in the wake of her daughter’s abduction. She shares anecdotes and little stories about times with Michaela, all those years ago. She also writes directly to Michaela, in case her daughter is out there looking for her too.

Those that knew her daughter would sometimes write to Murch. They all share similar memories of Michaela. “They write to me and say how sweet, kind and caring they remember Michaela being back then,” says Murch. “There was a light shining from her.”

Murch’s online presence has attracted a variety of responses. People still write telling her that they think they know what happened. Most are well-intentioned. Some are not.

A few strange people have insinuated themselves into Murch’s life. They seem convinced that they possess some secret, basic intuition that will help the investigation. Some are men, whose passions for finding missing children border on obsession. Some are adult aged women, convinced that they are Michaela themselves. None of them have turned out to be related.  

In the last three decades, thousands of leads have piled up in Michaela’s case file. “I”m convinced that somewhere in all those files is the answer to what happened to Michaela,” Murch says. “It’s just a matter of finding the needle in the haystack.”

However, Murch is less than hopeful that police work will be the answer to finding her daughter. At this point, Murch says, “Michaela will have to find herself.” Publicity, she thinks, can be a great ally to families of missing children. The media can help spread information and promote interest once the investigation and local awareness have waned.

Officials from the investigations unit of the Hayward Police Department were reticent regarding any possible progress in the case, as it is classified “Open/Unsolved.” They said it is still being actively investigated and they will continue to follow up on tips provided.

Sharon Murch hopes that if someone is certain, they know what happened to Michaela that they will call in their tip to the police today. If they contacted police back in 1988, they should call it in again.

You can find Murch’s blogs at DearMichaela.com and SeekersRoad.com. Any tips or information regarding Michaela’s case can be phoned into the Hayward Police Department at 800-222-3999.

Juztino Panella a Profile

Juztino (Juice-Tee-Kno) Panella, Counselor/Instructor at Chabot College, does much more than his title would suggest. As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, he also serves as a member of the Mental Health Force and provides Mental Health Counseling and crisis intervention as needed.  In addition, Juztino is involved with the coordination and leadership development of our Peer Advisors, serves as the Counseling Lead to the First Year Experience program, and is a member of the Student Equity Workgroup.

Andrea Salazar, a student who has worked with Juztino, commented, “I have taken a class with him which allowed me to be comfortable in expressing and communicating with peers, it also helped with reflecting my own life. He is also the main trainer for Peer Advisors, so I am constantly learning new ways to be a better advisor especially in empathetic skills.”

Before starting at Chabot, Juztino spent his early adult life teaching the Italian language, music, and cooking to High School students, as well as organizing travel immersions to his ancestral country of Italy.

“My great-grandfather was a traveling Vigianese musician from the South of Italy, who came to the U.S. with his harp to see if he could make a living.  Music, traveling, and sharing love through the food we prepare has always been central to my family. This is why you may see me playing drums with students at an event or carrying a toaster oven into a class to make some traditional bruschetta for students. Gotta keep true to my roots!” Says Juztino.

As a young man, in addition to making a living as the Italian Pied Piper (as his friends jokingly called him – given his primary instrument is the flute), Juztino would volunteer as a meditation and yoga instructor in different jails, and also facilitated groups to formerly incarcerated individuals as part of their recovery process.  In fact, it was his work in the jail that inspired Juztino to earn his masters in Counseling and Psychology, which he received in 2009 with the intention to have more skills to deal with the trauma that group members would bring forth.

Two years after his graduation and well into his work interning as a psychotherapist, Juztino heard about an opportunity to play the flute at the Loss & Grief Ceremony that was happening at Chabot College.  At the event, he met the Coordinator of Mental Health who happened to be looking for a Mental Health Intern.

Juztino was working on completing the 3000 clinical hours that are needed for licensure and jumped at the opportunity.  In 2012 he was hired as an Intern. Shortly after he became a part-time Counselor, and by late 2014, he was hired in his full-time role of Counselor/Instructor.

When interviewed Juztino commented the projects most dear to his heart are the work he does co-facilitating the Rootz2Rise Men’s Group and the Justice Arts Collective with Tommy Reed, Chabot’s UMOJA Director.  

“It is such an honor to be able to work with a colleague like Tommy, who shows up with so much heart and love for students. Together we create safe spaces where they can be real with one another, support each other emotionally, and support one another with things like basic needs and access to resources. Then as a by-product of these relationships and their feeling of connection to Chabot, the students naturally do better.  They can envision how school will empower them with the tools necessary for their success!” Said Juztino.

Julian Garcia, a Rootz2Rise member, commented, “I learned about myself and life since I joined Rootz2Rise. Juztino has been like a guide who shows you the way but at the same time lets you explore your own walk of life. There was this whole side to humanity I didn’t notice until I started looking and Juztino really brings it out in the way he talks to people, confronts conflicts and has helped me in the men’s group and outside of it.”

Rootz2Rise is a men’s support group founded in 2012 and co-facilitated by Juztino and Tommy. At the meetings, students are encouraged to “check – in” or talk about exactly what and how they are feeling.

As men, we grow up with the idea of bottling up emotions because it is not manly to be in tune with your emotions. Tearing down the barrier of masculinity, Rootz2Rise enables students to effectively communicate in all aspects of life. Each meeting is confidential, so students can share whatever they like. Each session ends with everyone putting a hand in the center and saying a word or phrase that captures the session for them.

“R2R has provided a safe space for me to reflect on myself as well as other issues without feeling judged about being vulnerable.” Joan Cortes, student.

This support group is an open group that invites self-identified males to come any Thursday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in room 552.  In addition to weekly meetings, students can also participate in occasional outings and retreats such as the Mendocino Multi-Cultural Mentoring Retreat.  

Aside from the real talk, the men at Mendocino engage in activities such as poetry writing, drumming, dance, and storytelling. It was through a rap cypher at Mendocino in 2015 that the award-winning Justice Arts Collective was born. Juztino, Tommy and the Chabot students that year created beats that turned into an hour-long freestyle rap in which dozens of youth were able to express their pain, joy, and resilience in freestyles that received love and recognition from the whole camp.

The music was so healthy for everyone that they decided to bring it back to Chabot to recreate this sort of possibility.  In addition, women joined into the process, and together with the R2R men, they began making beats, raps, and songs and within a year had formed the JAC.

Then in Spring of 2017, they recorded a music video of their first song,  “From Mt. Tamalpais to Fruitvale Station.” It won first place at My Hero Film Festival in Los Angeles last Spring, was a finalist in the Oakland International Film Festival and is currently being shown in Whales, England at the Cardiff Film Festival.

As written in the credits of their video, “The JAC creates and performs music to express pain and resilience, reveal and challenge systems of oppression, and build a community to protect and celebrate life.”

Taufa Setefano, President of Nessian’s Unite and JAC member, commented, “JAC has influenced me to be not only conscious of what’s going on in the world but also makes me question my involvement in this fight for peace, equality, and justice.”

Another JAC member Joan Cortes, expressed, “The best lesson that the JAC taught me was to think beyond myself.”

With a non-hierarchical structure, decisions are made within a circle with all members input. All members outreach and propose opportunities. You may have seen the JAC perform or lead a workshop at the Stop Violence rallies, Oscar Grant Memorial, Ethnic Studies Summit, UMOJA Conference, Chabot Transfer Day Celebration, JAC Open Mic Night, Sanctuary Celebration, UMOJA Family Day, College Day for Faculty and Staff or at the My Hero Film Festival. Their last performance was on Saturday, May 19, at UC Davis’ Black Family Day.

If you are interested in becoming involved as Juztino says, “Benvenuti, all are welcome.” Just stop by the Student Initiative Center any Thursday between 5 and 8 to come jam and hang out, or get on the mic!

Wendy’s: Grills Other Chains

What is beef? Well, it doesn’t come from a cow, and you definitely can’t barbeque it. In the world of hip-hop, beef is when two individuals or crews don’t see eye to eye and can’t find a better way to hash out there differences other than to verbally assault each other with comedic punchlines that attack the ego.

Some of hip-hop’s biggest names have produced classic wars of words from some of the biggest artists like Jay Z vs. Nas, Tupac vs. Biggie Smalls, Lil Kim vs. Foxy Brown, Nicki Minaj vs. Remy Ma and somehow the beef has crossed over to the fast food game. Wendy’s released five diss tracks online by an unknown artist and production team. Twitter fingers, Holding it down, Rest in grease, Clownin and 4 for 4$ are the song titles and are generating buzz among hip-hop heads online.

I talked to Daisy Mendoza a cashier at Wendy’s and asked her if she has heard the diss tracks, and she told me “Yeah I heard. I think it was funny and I liked it. If McDonald’s comes out with better diss tracks we still got the better food.” You can find the Wendy’s diss tracks on youtube.com.

We Beefin? by at Wendys on Spotify

The Pope and Hell: A Controversy Made in Heaven

The Italian newspaper La Repubblica claimed that the Pope said there was no hell, but is that outlandish statement based in reality? No, says the Vatican. The Vatican reaffirmed that the souls of sinners are forever doomed to “eternal fire.”

Often fear is criticised as the lowest form of motivation in moral development prompting many Catholic priests to shy away from the old style of fire and brimstone preaching. Although the Catholic church has had debates on whether Hell is a state, a place or both they have been mostly consistent with the Hell existing. Although other Abrahamic religions, like Judaism and some sects of Christianity, deny the existence of hell.

“There is no hell, there is the disappearance of sinful souls,” allegedly said Pope Francis who is known for his less dogmatic and more modern approach to Catholicism. Many news outlets to include those in the mainstream media ran with the story.

However, the Vatican and the Pope have made clear that hell is in fact real. The Pope flat-out accused the newspaper of violating the 8th commandment of bearing false witness in an official statement.

The People’s Pope as he is sometimes informally called is known for his unorthodox views. Having previously said a good atheist could go to heaven, gays can potentially go to heaven and implied the catholic church should modernize their views on contraceptives.

I ask Jeremy Xang a three-year sociology major and member of a campus Bible study group what he thought of the alleged Pope’s statement. “Although we do not like to talk about hell. The devil and hell are real, but that also means heaven is real.”

“The devil’s greatest trick is teaching the world he doesn’t exist.” Is a common saying but one thing that is for sure the Catholic will certainly not be teaching it anytime soon.

Know Your Rights!

On Tuesday, March 13, 2018,  student’s and staff of Chabot College as well as community members of Hayward and also myself and peer Lorenzo Callabero had the opportunity to attend a Know Your Rights workshop here on campus in building 800 room 810.

The Workshop was broken up into two different components, learning how to deal with immigration officials and providing time to speak with an attorney.

Yoshira Mendez of Centro Legal de la Raza is a “Know Your Rights” Coordinator, and she was the primary person who lead the lecture part of the workshop.

Jesica Belen Tenaglia, Immigration Paralegal, and Jean Yamasaki, Immigration Senior Staff Attorney, were the two lawyers who also represented Centro Legal de la Raza.

Centro Legal de la Raza is a community-based organization with over 48 years of experience in the Oakland community.  What Centro Legal does is provide legal services to low-income individuals all over the Bay Area and The Central Valley.

The reason for the workshop is to fight the fear with preparation.

The workshop started with a powerpoint presentation. In this presentation, we went over the topics including knowing your rights at home,  in the streets, and at work.

For the know your rights at home presentation, Mendez went over information such as

  • Don’t open the door under any circumstances
  • Don’t give out personal detail
  • Know the difference between an arrest/search warrant
  • ICE will try not to make themselves known
  • Don’t have a conversation with ICE
  • ICE is not allowed to team up with local law enforcement

For the streets, this information was given out

  • Don’t lie to ICE officials
  • Just remain silent and say you have the right to remain silent (Pull out red card)
  • Ask if you’re being arrested or detained, but don’t answer any questions
  • If you’re not being arrested, ask if you’re free to leave
  • AGAIN you have the RIGHT to remain SILENT
  • ICE is not allowed to enter schools, churches, and hospitals
  • ICE cannot refuse your right to an attorney

For work, it was instructed that

  • Unless you work in a public workspace, ICE cannot enter a workplace without a warrant signed by a judge or permission from your employer

At Chabot College, since becoming a sanctuary school if ICE was to come on campus instructors have been instructed to close the door, step outside and let them know that campus security will help them.

After going through those three powerpoints, Yoshi then goes on talking about what would happen if you were to be detained.  She goes into detail and the five steps that you should do. Here are those five steps:

  1. IMMEDIATELY ask for a phone call and attorney
  2. Don’t sign any documents if an attorney is not present
  3. Scream or politely say “I am afraid to go back to my country.”
  4. Don’t disclose what country you’re from (don’t show passports, visa card or anything)
  5. Don’t disclose anything when making a phone call to a family member. ICE could be listening.  Only tell family members I am detained in this location and the A number.

The A number is an essential key for families and the attorney to know your location.  After making a phone call, stay completely silent. Just remember your rights and that they should be respecting your rights.

As the powerpoint ended the final topic that was brought up was the importance of having a safety plan.

  • You should memorize numbers of at least two family members you trust
  • Have a plan with your family
  • Keep all your documentation together and in SAFE location.

Just remember that we do HAVE RIGHTS and that we should advocate for those who are too afraid to speak up for themselves.

Film Screenings at Chabot

The Film Department had a panel of judges, and they determined what films will be screened at the art gallery on April 12, 2018. All of these films were made by students of Chabot College.

The event itself was quite the spectacle. So many students were there to support their peers. Having a well established graphic designer, Jeremy Butler attending the screening also drew in a crowd. He would stay after the event to answer any questions that provided additional insight into his career.

There were a total of eleven films selected to be screened, and there were four films that were nominated in four different categories. Best in Show, Best Editing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Cinematography.

Winner of “Best in Show” was Zerka Qasemi’s “Mom.” Winner for “Best Editing” was  Janmarlo Lising’s “Society’s Loop.” Best Sound Editing was awarded to, “We’ll Meet Again” by Danny Montenegro. Finally for “Best Cinematography,” goes to “Gone to the Coast,” by Clinton Law.

Despite seven other films not winning any awards, they still managed to keep the audience entertained with their creativity and excellence. “Ducky,” a film made by Clinton Law definitely gave the crowd a reaction when they saw a serial killer running about. It was quite humorous to see a rubber ducky commit these cruel acts.  

“Layla Oh My Love” a film by Yukimi Tateno was a beautiful film that encapsulates love, friendship, and adventure. The film had also showcased what the city of San Francisco had to offer. It was another crowd favorite.

There was another film that could be interpreted as life is quite dreadful, and it’s best just to end it all. That film was “Visual Poetry” by JC. It captured the turmoil of the actor on screen but ended on a good note. Life didn’t end; it only had just begun.

Chabot College is a place in which it unlocks the potential and growth of all of the students here on campus. The film screening that took place had most definitely shown that.

Art Lecture : Jeremy Butler

On April 12, 2018, The Art Lecture Series featured a lecture by Jeremy Butler who is a successful animator and special effects artist. He shared the experiences of his career and offered advice for aspiring animators and those who were just generally interested in the field.

Butler had been an animator for the past 20 years now. Throughout his career, he had the opportunity to work on Featured Films and AAA title games such as Battle: Los Angeles, World of Warcraft, Clash of Clans, and Overwatch.

Butler would then go over the many different programs he would use and compare them to the ones that animators use today. When Butler first started his career the most expensive program, Maya Unlimited cost around $16,000! Nowadays these programs are easily accessible and are much cheaper considering student discounts.

How does one become a successful animator? Butler had answered this in great detail by explaining that one must find their niche. Become really good at one specific thing and search for jobs that tailor to your specific skill set. You also have to take criticism very well. It’s not about how good you are, but how the studio envisioned what they want to be portrayed. Can be frustrating, but you would have to roll with the punches if you want to get ahead of the game. “Understand that you’re there to serve the project, not your ego” Butler stated.

Networking has a huge role in getting employed as well. During the course of your academic career, you’ll never know whom you’ll meet, and they can definitely get you started on your path as an animator.

Once you are established in your field, you would have to keep that skill set sharp. The technology is continually changing, and the software is always updating. To hone these skills is to keep training yourselves in many different ways such as studying motion. This would imply focusing frame by frame studies of live action and understanding shapes. Drawing life itself such as nature, people, and animals. Lastly, to always practice animation with small and simple projects.

Overall, this lecture kept the audience engaged, and they benefited from hearing the experiences from the well established freelance animator, Jeremy Butler.

“It’s about the Journey, not the destination” – Jeremy Butler.

Digital Media Day

Chabot College teamed up with the Hayward Unified School District for Digital Media Day for High School Seniors on April 27, 2018, in the Event Center. Students from Tennyson High School and San Leandro High School attended the event.

The purpose of the event is for the instructors to showcase the opportunities of the Arts, Media and Communication Department here at Chabot College offer, from Audio, Photo, Game Design, Studio Art, Stop Motion, After Effects, and Television Workshops.  

The students sign up for a workshop based on their interest in the available workshops. Each workshop had a one-hour session for students to preview what it is like taking a class at Chabot.

Tennyson High School teacher Jayne Ruiz who is part of a media academic program called CMMA. She states “I really love how this specific department at Chabot wants to help our students, and for myself to interact in the workshop I can learn with the students.”

Ruiz continues, “ I just love attending to Digital Media Day. I love the after effect class because the students enjoyed doing something very similar to what they are currently learning in the CMMA classroom but applying new techniques that Professor Lothian taught us.”

The majority of the students enjoyed attending the event. They enjoyed the workshops and talked to current Chabot students about their experience here at Chabot. These kinds of workshops really make an impact on high school seniors.

The next Digital Media Day will be in the fall, and hopefully, more high schools in Hayward take the opportunity to attend an event like this.

Romeo and Juliet: A Chabot Theater Review

Chabot theater department put on a production of Romeo and Juliet, beginning with a first performance on the April 12, and the last performance on April 21. The production had a runtime of 2 hours and overall was an enjoyable experience.

I will get the criticism out of the way first. The big elephant in the room is the wardrobe. It flat out was the worst I have ever seen including high school productions. Also, the Nurse played by Joanna Lopez overacted a scene to the point where the focus was entirely on her, I could best describe her performance as channeling Ursula from the Little Mermaid.

And now for what was good. I enjoyed the lewd humor and innuendo the cast added to the classic Shakespearean work. Stand out actors were O’Byrain for his performance as Romeo, Juan Torrez-Cornejo and Curtis manning as Mercutio. All of them had outstanding performances, however, the stand out was Sean Bonggiovanni as Friar Lawrence, who not only did an incredible job acting he had the most believable costume as well, besides maybe the Apothecary played by Lauren Allen.  

I was lucky enough to interview the director Joel Mullinnex. He stated the first play he ever directed was Romeo and Juliet at Chabot. He went on to say that the scene on the balcony when Juliet says “My bounty is as boundless as the sea, My love as deep; the more I give to thee, The more I have, for both are infinite.” is the “most exalted expression of love.”

Overall I would highly recommend the play which is an accomplishment in its own right considering I do not care for Romeo and Juliet that much. For a 2 hour and 20-minute production it felt entertaining, and it went by quickly.

SFO Architecture Tour

On April, 6, San Francisco International Airport’s Stephanie C. Jaeger, Director of Architecture, Planning, Design, and Construction invited the Architecture Department of Chabot College and its students to visit the International Airport to learn about the different opportunities a degree in architecture will afford them. The tour started at the BART station inside the San Francisco Airport. The participants rode the trolley to the International terminal where Jaeger explained the earthquake retrofitting and how the airport is working towards becoming a zero-emissions facility.

Students got a chance to learn about the people involved in project planning and the visual aesthetics you see when you walk through the terminals. Karess Batkowski president of the Chabot architecture club said, “This tour inspired me, to see how much work they do and how enthusiastic she was. It just makes me wanna learn all I can to get to where Ms. Jaeger is.”

From there the students briefly visited the aviation museum, and library then continued on the trolley to see the project in progress on terminal two, the new control tower and the new office suites for the building and planning staff. I asked David Carrera the ICC representative of the architecture club if this tour gave him more insight into the field that he wants to become apart of “I think the main thing that this tour did for me was lower the intimidation factor that I think we all have to try to get into this field. So getting to talk to the people in charge and see what they do gives us a little boost of confidence.”  

The students arrived back at their starting point as Ms. Jaeger had to head to her next meeting. As the students communed at the end of the tour I was able to talk to Bryon Lindsey a student of architecture at Chabot College and he said this tour really helped push him more to get his degree “It just shows me architects are needed and how they can make an impact on people’s everyday life.”