CLEVELAND (AP) — Law enforcement officials said Thursday they hoped that someone can identify the origin of a homely, homemade curtain to help them solve the 1989 disappearance and slaying of a 10-year-old Ohio girl.
Amy Mihaljevic went missing on Oct. 27, 1989, from her hometown of Bay Village, an upscale Cleveland suburb. Her body was found by a jogger in February 1990 in a field in rural Ashland County, about 60 miles southwest of Cleveland. She was stabbed twice in the neck and struck with a blunt object to the back of her head.
Amy’s disappearance drew national attention, generated tens of thousands of fruitless tips and a dogged pursuit of her killer by the FBI, Bay Village police and other law enforcement agencies.
“This has never been a cold case for us,” said Bay Village Police Chief Mark Spaetzel, who worked on the case as a patrol officer and as a detective. “We’ve worked this case from Day 1 until today.”
Investigators gathered garbage and other objects near where Amy’s body was found, including a blanket and an avocado green curtain, fashioned out of a quilted bed spread. Investigators think a recent microscopic examination of the curtain and blanket found fibers that match fur clipped from the Mihaljevic family dog Jake early in the investigation. Those fibers, they believe were transferred to the curtain and blanket from Amy’s clothing.
“Our belief is that these two items are from the crime scene, whether it was a trailer, a house or a barn to wrap her and then transport her to the farm field,” said retired FBI Special Agent Phil Torsney, who has worked on the case since its inception. “We’re hoping somebody recognizes it (the curtain).”
The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office hired him in 2013 to continue the pursuit of Amy’s killer after he’d retired.
Investigators will circulate an image of the curtain to every law enforcement agency in Ohio and hope to get it before the public through television, print and social media.
Amy was last seen talking to a man at a shopping center across the street from the Bay Village police station. Investigators believe her abductor called her at home, posing as one of her mother’s acquaintances, and asked her to come to the shopping center to buy Margaret Mihaljevic a gift. Amy’s mother died in 2001.
The investigation led to more than 14,000 interviews with more than 100 possible suspects identified.
Amy’s father, Mark Mihaljevic, told The Associated Press on Thursday that this latest potential break in the case gives him hope the killer will be found. Those hopes have been dashed countless times, he said, when promising leads proved worthless.
Mihaljevic said catching Amy’s killer would bring closure to everyone, including family, friends and the investigators who’ve spent untold hours in pursuit. He said he knows what sentence he wants for the killer — life in a prison’s general population with two days a year spent in solitary confinement on Amy’s birthday and the day she disappeared.
“It would be like Jeffrey Dahmer in Wisconsin,” Mihaljevic said, referring to the Ohio-born serial killer who was slain in prison. “He wouldn’t make it.”