A Cold Case in Cuyahoga

Makenna Rose, Design Editor

A ten-year-old girl was kidnapped and killed in 1989, the case is still open 34 years later. 

After a 0.2-mile walk, a 5-minute conversation with her killer, Amy Mihaljevic was gone.


On October 26, 1989, Amy received a phone call from a man who claimed to be Amy mom’s co-worker. The man asked if she wanted to pick out a gift for her mom as she had received a promotion. The caller conveniently said to meet at a local shopping center, Bay Square Shopping Center in Bay Village Ohio, after school the next day.


Keeping secrets can be hard for children, so she told her friends and her brother about the trip. At 2:05 p.m. the next day, Amy and her friends walked the short trek to the shopping center. 

The route Mihaljevic would have taken was October 27th, 1989.

Amy’s fifth-grade class was the first class to have been moved to the middle school but kept the same end time of 2:10 p.m. However, on this day she was able to leave early. 

Her brother, Jason Mihaljevic a seventh grader, was enrolled at the local middle school. They got out one hour later than the fifth grade. He planned to go to the Baskin’ Robins in the shopping center. However, he changed his mind as his bullies would be walking there, and decided to avoid them. 


In an interview with Jason, he said “ I wished I faced my fears and went to hopefully have changed the situation.“


The girls who she went with only saw the person she was talking to briefly. They also wanted to go to the Baskin’ Robbins at the center too. When questioned by the police about the appearance of the person, the 10-year-olds could only give basic information. 


From the information gathered, police suspect a 20-30-year-old white male with dark curly hair and glasses to be the killer. The girls also thought the man could have been her dad, and the kids didn’t see a vehicle. The investigators suspect a prime abduction time of 2:20-2:30. 

Composite drawings from the Bay Village Police.

When 3:20 p.m. came around and there was no sign of Amy, Jason became worried and called their mom, Margaret. She worked at Trading Times Magazine in Westlake, 10 minutes away from her home. As Margaret was getting ready to leave she received a phone call from Amy. 


When Margaret picked up the phone it was her daughter telling her she was “fine” and she will see her soon. Margaret and Amy said their goodbyes and hung up. Relieved her daughter will be home soon, she left work a little early, at 5:30 p.m., and drove the ten minutes home.


When Margaret got home she realized that Amy was not at home. She knew something was wrong and went to her school. Upon arrival, she noticed that Amy’s bike was still in the bike rack, locked, and went straight to the police to file a missing report. At 5:58 p.m. Amy was officially reported missing.


“For Amy not to tell the truth, was totally out of character for her,” said her father, Mark Mihaljevic. He recalls getting home and Margaret telling him about the strange phone call from their daughter. Meanwhile, she called everyone she knew to see if they’d seen Amy.

When 9:00 p.m. came around, family and friends gathered around the Mihaljevic home to support the family and look for Amy. Mark and one of his friends went down to a local creek to see if she got lost while looking at animals.


Meanwhile, Amy’s best friend, Kristy Sabo’s mom Janne Sabo drove down to the Channel 3 building with Amy’s school picture. Her plan was for them to hopefully have them show her picture on the news. They said if she hasn’t been missing for 24 hours or more then they can’t show her picture, but thanks to Sabo’s explanation of the situation, her picture was shown on the news. 


The first 48 hours of a missing person’s case is the most vital time, as people’s memories aren’t as accurate, after that they start to fade. This window of time allows investigators the best chance to follow up on leads. Luckily many FBI agents lived in Bay Village, so the next morning, agents and police officers got to work. They searched many of the local parks and questioned workers and people who visited the shopping center on October 27. However, the 60 FBI agents and many police officers found no sign of Amy.


Her picture appeared on the news multiple times a month, and her parents kept her name on the front cover of many different newspapers. In the next three months, tens of thousands of leads, and pieces of information came in. However, none led to her finding. Until one cold day in February, 105 days after Amy was taken.


On the morning of February 8, 1990, in Ruggles Township Ashland County, Janet Seabold went on her daily jog around the roads near her house. Nothing about her jog struck her as unusual, before walking down County Road 1181. About 20 feet (six meters) from the road, she saw what she could explain as a doll or something similar until she went to look at it again. She realized it was a body, and ran to Pat Kidd’s house on the corner of the road.

The farm that Mihaljevic was found at.

When investigators arrived at the crime scene, they came across a farm with patches of long grass scattered around the field. Amy’s uncovered body lay amongst the grass. The farm is 46.8 miles or a 70-minute drive from the shopping center she was last seen at. When officials searched the field, they found two pieces of evidence that could help find the killer. 

300 feet from her body detectives found a beige-colored blanket and homemade avocado green curtain. Both items were found within 14 feet of each other when examined, in 2016, and both had traces of fibers found on them. The fiber found on the blanket matched her dog’s fur. It is suspected that Amy’s clothing had her dog’s hair on them when she came in contact with the blanket the hairs transferred. The fiber found on the green curtain is still unknown as they are afraid to ruin the sample with the current technology, they hope to test it when more advanced technology comes out.

This was the curtain found near Mihaljevic’s body.


When her body was taken to the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s office for an autopsy they found items missing from her body. The day she disappeared she wore a green sweatsuit and black studded boots accessorized with a white bracelet and turquoise horse head earrings. When her body was examined, her bracelet, earrings, and boots were missing. 


Amy’s clothes had yellow gold, colored fibers, which were later tested and came from camel-colored carpeting of GM vehicles produced from the years 1975 to 1978.


Her tracksuit was still in good shape, however, when a further examination was conducted, her underwear was found inside out and blood presumed to be her’s was found, signaling a potential sexual assault. 


When her backpack was recovered, a notebook that her dad gave her, along with pencils and other small items were deemed missing. It is suspected that those items were kept and not dumped in another area. 


After the autopsy was concluded, the cause of death was confirmed by the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Officer as, “Multiple stab wounds of the neck with perforations of cervical soft tissue, transection of the left common carotid artery and left horn of hyoid bone, and massive cervical soft tissue hemorrhage.” 

The coroner’s autopsy report was done on Mihaljevic.


In simpler terms, stab wounds to the neck cut the artery, and Amy more than likely bleed out. Signs of blunt force trauma were found on the head. Blood was found trapped between the skull and the scalp. Along with bleeding noticed in the armpits. Her time of death was shortly after she was taken and her body was dumped not long after.


A murder weapon was never found, nor was DNA that could be tested from the suspect.


The motives for child abductions are usually one of three: money or ransom, revenge from family, or sexual means. There was no demand for ransom, and the family was cleared by the investigators, so the only people left to investigate were sexual predators.


The killer prayed on a little girl’s love for her mom, and lead Amy into his trap. When her parents were asked what Amy’s personality was like they responded the same. 


She was a very bright girl, comfortable with adults. However, she was kind of reserved with people she wasn’t familiar with. For the killer to introduce himself as a co-worker of Margaret, Amy felt more comfortable because he was someone her mom “knew”.


Margret was not promoted but that summer of 1989 she was able to work more hours on each shift, which Amy thought was a promotion. The killer knew of her extended workdays and used it to his advantage. 


The fact that the killer knew the information means he must have known something about the family. Not only Margret’s increased hours but he would need to know the time Amy got out of school. He also knew that Mark wouldn’t be with her for at least an hour. That was his time to strike. He would need her phone number as well.


There have been many theories of how the killer knew of the Milhaljevic family. His place of work is the most common. Furthermore, there may have been many people Amy knew who looked like the composite drawings.


Amy was a member at a horse stable, Holly Hill Farm. There was a man who worked there who looked similar to the drawings. Many girls and their moms said that he was very fond of her, stopping to talk to her every time he saw her. This suspect acted this way too many other girls as well. Parents have complained to the stable and the police, however, no authoritative actions have been made. Thus the investigators have dropped the investigation on him.


James Renner, the author of the book Amy: My Search for Her Killer, interviewed David Bodnar to expand on a rumor James heard. Bodnar owned a small sandwich shop in a shopping center in Olmsted Falls. James Renner described the shop as cluttered but comforting. Bodnar started the interview by stating, “ Now, I can’t give you any names. That wouldn’t be good for me. But I’ll tell you this, I’ve worked in the restaurant business for years, so I’ve gotten to know a few FBI agents as customers. I also know some people in Bay Village. Anyway, I knew everyone in the entire game.”


When asked what he could tell Renner, he hesitated but then said it was a mob hit. “Most of the FBI agents working the case and the Bay police were never told. The Bay Village police were in the dark the whole time. The reason why they were not told was that the real investigation was handled by the U.S. marshals-the organization that handles the witness protection program. Margaret was married before. And Amy’s real father was in the New Jersey mob before he turned on them in court. Her real father was in witness protection. It looks like they kidnapped her to get to him.” 


He went on to talk about how the stab wounds were small incisions, and that the body was purposefully left for someone to find. Along with the unusual amount of FBI action present in this case. However, Renner was able to debunk this theory. 


Mark and Margaret met in high school and started dating then. For Margaret to be remarried, she would have had to marry Mark, divorce him in Little Rock, marry this mob member from New Jersey, and divorce him all before moving back to Bay Village before Amy was three. Not only was the timeline impossible, but Mark was also listed as the biological father on the birth certificate, and no family member said anything about Mark not being Amy’s biological father.


With all of the theories and over 10,000 names of suspects the Bay police have in this case, the theory about the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center is the most popular. 


Amy was a frequent visitor of the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center in Bay along with many other girls who just so happened to receive a call similar to the one that Amy got. The voice over the phone pretended to be a parent’s co-worker and tried to get them to meet up with him. All of these girls only had one thing in common: they all had visited the Center within a month of Amy’s disappearance. 


To keep track of the people who go in and out of the center, a logbook was used. The system put in place was to put your phone number and name down. Any worker that was on shift could access the book. Renner believes Amy was the killer’s only victim and that he saw her at the nature center. Seven years ago James went to Reddit to ask for help to get access to the logbooks the center kept.


The post was made under “r/cleveland.” In the post, he talked about trying to get his hands on the records, along with the fact that the center could be holding evidence that could help move the case along. He mentions that he talked to former workers and volunteers, and said that the company has made copies of the log books and the director will not let anyone view those files. The police only conducted a cursory examination and that’s it.


James Renner grew up in Akron, Ohio. When Amy was kidnapped, he was 11 years old. When he saw her picture on the news he fell in love. Her picture appeared on the news for weeks following her disappearance, and each time his urge to find her only grew stronger.


Renner said that while she was missing, he thought that the killer took her to live with him, Renner would go to shopping malls and parks looking for her. When the composite drawings were released he looked for both the kidnapper and Amy at shopping centers. He wanted to be the one who brought Amy home.


Unfortunately, theories can only be made. No major breakthroughs have been made in the case since 2016. The right advancements in technology have been made to test the DNA samples, however, the Bay police do not have the funding for the technology. 


If you know anything that could help the Bay Village Police Department find Amy’s killer please call (440) 871-1234.