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Authorities are exploring whether Phillip Garrido could be behind the abduction of another high profile missing Bay Area girl, Michaela Garecht (left) with long blond hair, blue eyes and a friendly big-toothed grin, she could pass for a sister of Jaycee Dugard (right).
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Before investigators began tearing into the Garrido property in search of clues related to her missing daughter's case, Sharon Murch said she had a "little fantasy" about how the search would go.

"There will be some kind of false room, and Michaela (Garecht) will be inside," she said. "Ever since I heard the description of Jaycee reuniting with her family, I've just had such a longing for that to happen."

But that fantasy was not to be.

About 60 detectives from five agencies converged Tuesday on the cluttered site where police say Jaycee Dugard was held since disappearing 18 years ago, rummaging for clues that could help solve two high-profile missing child cases from the late 1980s: Michaela, kidnapped in Hayward in 1988 when she was 9, and Ilene Misheloff, who vanished in Dublin in 1989 at age 13.

At the end of the day they had gone through a neighboring property and about half the backyard belonging to Phillip Garrido and his wife, Nancy. Hayward police Lt. Christine Orrey said they had made "a lot of progress," but "haven't found anything earth-shattering at this point."

The search will continue at least through the weekend, Orrey said.

Plenty of similarities exist between the abductions of Michaela and Dugard.

With their blond hair and light complexions, the two girls "could have been sisters," Orrey said. The car that Michaela was dragged into, screaming, resembles one seen when Dugard was snatched and that was recently found on the Garrido property. Both girls were taken in brazen, daylight abductions from public places, and a sketch of Michaela's abductor bears resemblance to photos of Phillip Garrido from about the same era.


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All of that adds up to "probably the strongest lead that's ever come in," Orrey said.

Hayward officers were joined Tuesday by Dublin police, who were conducting a similar search for clues related to the disappearance of Ilene, as well as Alameda County and Contra Costa sheriff's deputies and FBI agents.

"Each agency has its own focus — we're looking for specific things," Orrey said. Officers are looking for particular items that El Dorado County and Pittsburg authorities involved in the Dugard case may not have been interested in during earlier searches.

Those items include what Michaela was wearing the day she vanished: a pair of pearl-colored earrings that resemble feathers, a white T-shirt with "Metro" written across the front, denim pants, flesh-colored nylons and black shoes.

Orrey said they also are looking for disturbed soil that could indicate a grave site. They are bringing in a magnetometer — which could locate fillings from teeth — as well as ground-penetrating radar. Orrey does not think earlier searches used such equipment.

"It's probably the most intensive search Hayward has been involved in. I'm not aware of a larger one," she said.

Orrey said they are working in conjunction with Contra Costa County abatement services and, depending what is found, structures at the site could be razed as part of the search.

"We're starting with the exterior grounds, then moving inside, and we have a contingency plan to go more in-depth. That really depends on how things go," Orrey said.

Dublin police Lt. Kurt von Savoye said his agency's goal is similar to Hayward's.

"We are attempting to locate any possible evidence that connects the Garridos to Ilene," von Savoye said.

Ilene disappeared while walking home from Wells Middle School in Dublin. She never made it home or to her ice-skating lesson that day. Police say she was kidnapped, and a witness reported that she got into an older-model Ford sedan — similar to the beat-up car described in the other girls' abductions.

Von Savoye said that as soon as his department learned of the re-emergence of Dugard and the arrest of the Garridos, they thought there might be a connection to Ilene.

Suspects who commit such crimes tend to be predatory in nature and to have multiple victims, von Savoye said. The Garrido home is only about 40 miles from Dublin and Phillip Garrido was out of custody when Ilene disappeared.

Von Savoye said he thinks his department will be at the Garrido house for at least a few days.

"It is a very large piece of property," he said. "There are a lot of things on the property to go through."

He said that searchers equated their task to "looking for evidence in a landfill."

Orrey said that though no one — including Garrido — has been definitively connected to Michaela's abduction, they "have not been able to eliminate him as a suspect." Van Savoye made a similar statement regarding Ilene's disappearance.

A bone fragment found in the neighboring yard Aug. 31 is still undergoing DNA tests after experts determined it was human. However, Contra Costa County sheriff's spokesman Jimmy Lee has cautioned that it could be from Native American remains, which would not be an unusual find in the county.

The bone was unearthed during a search by Pittsburg police, investigating a link between Garrido and a series of slayings in the 1990s. Ultimately, police did not find evidence implicating him.

Officials plan to hold daily news conferences each afternoon for the duration of the search.

After Tuesday's search, Murch said that if her daughter comes home, she "will be able to see in so many places that we love her."

"We've been looking for so many years now, and she'll be able to see on my Web page, on my blog, very clearly that we never stopped loving her."

Hilary Costa, Sophia Kazmi, Paul Burgarino and Robert Salonga contributed to this story.

Eric Kurhi can be reached at 510-293-2473.