1989 school portrait of Amy Mihaljevic
|Born||Amy Renee Mihaljevic
December 11, 1978
Little Rock, Arkansas, U.S.
|Died||c. October 27, 1989 (aged 10)
Bay Village, Ohio, U.S.
Cause of death
|Head trauma, stabbing|
|Known for||Murder victim|
Amy Renee Mihaljevic (December 11, 1978 – October 27, 1989) was a ten-year-old American elementary school student who was kidnapped and murdered in the U.S. state of Ohio in 1989. Her murder case raised national attention. The story of her unsolved kidnapping and murder was one of the first cases presented by John Walsh on the television show, America's Most Wanted during its first year. To date, her killer has not been found, yet the case remains active; new information in 2007 and 2013 has increased hopes of resolving the case.
Disappearance and murder
On October 27, 1989, Amy Mihaljevic was kidnapped from the Bay Square Shopping Center in Bay Village, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. The abductor had contacted Mihaljevic by telephone and arranged to meet her on the pretext of buying a gift for her mother because she had recently been promoted, as he told her. On February 8, 1990, the girl's body was found in a field, close to the road, off County Road 1181, Ruggles Township in rural Ashland County, Ohio.
Evidence found at the scene of the crime suggests that Mihaljevic's body was probably dumped there shortly after her abduction. Based on findings by the Cuyahoga County coroner, Mihaljevic's last meal was some sort of soy substance, possibly an artificial chicken product or Chinese food. Other evidence includes the presence of yellow/gold colored fibers on her body. It appears her killer also took several souvenirs including the girl's horse-riding boots, her denim backpack, a binder with "Buick, Best in Class" written on the front clasp, and turquoise earrings in the shape of horse heads. Blood believed to be that of Mihaljevic was found in her underwear, indicating she may have been raped or sexually abused. Mitochondrial DNA from the crime scene was sampled, which may be used in the future to compare to suspects.
The Bay Village Police and the FBI conducted an extensive investigation into her disappearance and murder. The case generated thousands of leads. Dozens of suspects were asked to take lie-detector tests, but no one has ever been charged with the crime. Law enforcement continues to pursue leads and monitor suspects to the present day. 20,000 interviews have taken place during the investigation. This was described to be the biggest search in Ohio since the disappearance of Beverly Potts.
In 2005, Cleveland journalist James Renner re-examined this cold case with a series of articles in the weekly newspaper Cleveland Scene. Renner's 2005 series provided new research that he had independently undertaken, as well as openly soliciting the public for new information and clues. In October 2006, publisher Gray & Co. released a book about Renner's investigation into the murder called Amy: My Search for Her Killer. The book provided information previously unreleased by the police and FBI. In 2007, Renner donated his files, consisting of the largest private collection of material on the Mihaljevic case, to the Department of Special Collections and Archives at Kent State University, Ohio.
In November 2006, it was revealed that several other young girls had received phone calls similar to that to which Mihaljevic responded, during the weeks prior to her abduction in 1989. These comprised requests from an unknown man, claiming to work with their mother, asking the girl to help him shop for a present to celebrate her mother's job promotion. The girls who received these calls lived in North Olmsted, a suburb near Bay Village; some had unlisted phone numbers. This new information was considered significant by new movement on the case. Mihaljevic and the others who received such calls had all visited the local Lake Erie Nature and Science Center, which they had signed and added their personal information, such as their addresses.
Bay Village police collected DNA samples from several potential suspects in the case in December 2006. As of early 2007, it was reported that a longtime suspect in the case had retained legal counsel.
The FBI announced in March 2014 that a $25,000 reward is available to anyone who can provide information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the killer of Mihaljevic.
In late 2013, investigator Phil Torsney returned from retirement to work on the case, which he had originally been assigned to after she was murdered. Torsney is well known for aiding in the capture of Whitey Bulger, who was a long-time member of the FBI Top Ten Most Wanted. Torsney stated that he believes that Mihaljevic was transported out of Bay Village after she was kidnapped, as the town is "too dense, too close-knit, to be a likely place to commit murder." However, he stated that the murder likely took place in Ashland County, which the murderer was probably familiar with.
According to reporter James Renner, Dean Runkle is a possible prime suspect in the FBI investigation. Multiple witnesses say that he matches the man they saw with Mihaljevic on the day she vanished. Runkle also seemed to have volunteered in the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center in Bay Village at the time of the murder. All four girls who received suspicious phone calls (with Mihaljevic being the last one) had visited it in the weeks before the abduction, and may have written their names and phone numbers in a logbook by the front doors. Runkle denied remembering this to police, but at least eight former students and teacher's aides reported that Runkle had spoke of being present at the center. Although Renner describes Runkle as an eccentric teacher, no hard evidence supports this view. Runkle himself denies any involvement in the murder of Mihaljevic and the FBI has never officially declared him a suspect. Since Runkle is exceptionally well liked as a teacher by many former students, Renner became the subject of strong criticism, unlike anything he had faced from naming previous suspects, when he named Runkle.
In response to her daughter's death, Mihaljevic's mother, Margaret McNulty, co-founded a foundation to protect children from such situations that happened to Amy. However, McNulty had suffered from lupus after the death of Amy, resulting in her death at age 54 in 2001.
- "Mom of slain girl found dead in Vegas". Post-Tribune. 2 October 2001. Retrieved 15 May 2014.(subscription required)
- Renner, James (2008-11-12). "Still on the hunt for Amy's killer". Cleveland Scene. Retrieved 2009-11-18.
- Larkin, Brent (2007-06-24). "Still on the hunt for Amy's killer". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved 2008-07-02.
- Renner, James (9 May 2007). "The Autopsy". Retrieved 13 March 2014.
- Reprint of Cleveland Scene July 20, 2005, a reprint of a story originally at http://www.clevescene.com/Issues/2005-07-20/news/feature.html. Accessed November 29, 2008.
- Trickey, Erick (September 2014). "Justice Unfinished". Retrieved 25 September 2014.
- Larkin, Brent (29 September 2012). "Investigators still chasing Amy Mihaljevic's killer: Brent Larkin". Northeast Ohio Media Group. Retrieved 25 September 2014.
- Amy Mihaljevic True Crime blog
- Cold Case Gets Hot, by James Renner, November 8th, 2006, Cleveland Scene. Accessed November 29, 2008.
- Oslin, Irv (February 8, 2007). "Ashland County's murder mystery: Author James Renner explores killing of Amy Mihaljevic". Ashland, Ohio: Times-Gazette. Retrieved November 29, 2008.
- The Plain Dealer, March 2014
- Dissell, Rachel (4 November 2013). "Retired FBI agent Phil Torsney returns to tackle unsolved murder of Amy Mihaljevic". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved 25 September 2014.
- "We Will Catch Amy Mihaljevic's Murderer". NBC. WKYC News. 12 May 2014. Retrieved 2 September 2014.
- Renner, James (5 December 2008). "Finding Amy's Killer". Retrieved 25 September 2014.
- Renner, James (27 February 2013). "Former Aide to Dean Runkle Says He Spoke of Nature Center". Retrieved 25 September 2014.
- Renner, James (2008). The Serial Killer's Apprentice: And 12 Other True Stories of Cleveland's Most Intriguing Unsolved Crimes. Cleveland, OH: Gray & Company, Publishers. ISBN 978-1-59851-046-1
- Renner, James (2006). Amy: My Search for Her Killer: Secrets & Suspects in the Unsolved Murder of Amy Mihaljevic. Cleveland, Ohio: Gray & Co. ISBN 978-1-59851-019-5.
- 1989 Abduction and Murder of Amy Mihaljevic, extensive collection of news articles reproduced full-text online. Accessed November 29, 2008.[dead link]