Phillip and Nancy Garrido's house in Antioch, with its warren of dilapidated backyard shacks and tents, may have been an 18-year nightmare for Jaycee Dugard. But for Sharon Murch, it is a source of hope.
After waiting for 21 years to find out what happened to her daughter, Michaela Garecht, who was kidnapped from Hayward, Calif., in 1988 at age 9, Murch is optimistic her questions will be answered by crime scene investigators who have been searching Garrido's house and a neighbor's property.
The searchers, who returned Monday, were granted warrants to seek clues that might link him to Michaela or another missing girl, Ilene Misheloff, abducted in 1989 from nearby Dublin, Calif.
"There are times in the past when I have given in to the thought that she might not still be alive," says Murch, who keeps a blog and information on MissingMichaela.com. "You never want to think of your child enduring endless suffering. But [after Jaycee], this gives me new hope."
Intense search Garrido, 58, and his wife and alleged accomplice Nancy Garrido, 54, have pleaded not guilty to 29 felony charges. They allegedly grabbed Jaycee, now 29, when she was 11 as she walked the two blocks from her family's South Lake Tahoe home to her school bus.
Searchers are tearing apart the acre of land that consists of the Garrido house and a neighboring property where Garrido was a caretaker — and where searchers recently unearthed a bone that they believe is human remains. They say they're not sure how long they'll take or to what extent they might dismantle Garrido's house. The bottom line, they say, is that they won't leave until they've shaken loose whatever answers may exist to the questions that have haunted these families for two decades.
"We're very interested in what might be behind walls, under flooring and underground," Hayward police Lt. Christine Orrey says.
More bones found Last week, Orrey announced searchers had found several more bones on the neighboring property and one on the Garrido property. She said that the bones needed to be tested.
"We want to be cautious," Orrey told reporters. "We want to find out what they are and what they might mean."
Cadaver dogs were brought in late last week and also were on the properties Monday.
Officials say there are similarities between eyewitness descriptions of the abductors' vehicles and a car recovered from Garrido's property. Orrey adds there are also similarities between descriptions of Michaela's abductor and photos of Garrido from two decades ago.
Neighbors had warned police over the years about unnerving sights and sounds at the Garrido property.
Painful memories "When I moved into that house three years ago, all the locks were turned to keep people in instead of out," says current tenant Damon Robinson. His girlfriend called 911 in 2006 to report seeing young girls in the Garridos' backyard.
Murch says she doesn't want to go into the Garridos' yard as the roughly 70 searchers, sometimes on their hands and knees, use equipment sensitive enough to find underground dental fillings or childrens' clothes, saying she prefers to embrace more comforting images.
"The night before she was taken, she woke up and came into bed with me," Murch says. "That was the last time I held her, and comforted her. I want to do that again."