10-year-old Amy Renee Mihaljevic lived in Bay Village, Ohio, with her parents and her 13-year-old brother Jason. Every day at 3 p.m., the siblings would call their mother Margaret at work to inform her that they had arrived home safely from school. On October 27, 1989, however, she received a very different phone call.
She’d never forget it.
Amy’s case has gone unsolved for 34 years
Jason called his mother at 3:14 p.m. that day to inform her that Amy had not returned home. Margaret assured her son that she would be auditioning for choir after school that day. A sense of dread washed over her during his second call at 3:30; Amy should have been home by then.
A third call came in just as Margaret was about to gather her belongings and rush home. Amy had called. The normally chatty fifth-grader told her mother she was fine and that the audition went well in one-word answers. They said their goodbyes and hung up the phone. They were having their final conversation.
Margaret assumed Amy had called from her house. In reality, she was in a strange, unfamiliar place with a man who has yet to be identified 32 years later.
It wasn’t until Margaret arrived home at 4:30 that she realized Amy wasn’t there, and hadn’t been since the morning. In a panic, she drove to Bay Middle School, saw her daughter’s aqua-colored bicycle in an otherwise empty parking lot, and dialed 911.
Authorities in Bay Village and four surrounding cities were searching for the missing child by 5:15 p.m. Family, friends, and volunteers scoured ravines and lakes for hours, but she was nowhere to be found.
The Mihaljevics’ went to bed that night with their porch light on, hoping Amy would find her way home. Sadly, she never did.
A man pretended to be a co-worker of her mothers
Amy had been kidnapped, and it wasn’t a random occurrence, according to investigators. It had been planned. Two friends said they last saw her leaving the Bay Square shopping mall with an unknown man.
Amy had received a phone call from the man while she was at home alone. He introduced himself as her mother’s coworker. He knew her parents’ names, where they worked, and when they left in the morning and returned.
The man befriended Amy over several phone calls, and once she trusted him, he asked her to meet him at Bay Square to buy a gift for her mother, who he claimed had just received a promotion at work.
Amy was kidnapped at Bay Square Shopping Center.19 Cleveland
He told Amy to keep the meeting from her parents; she told her mother she was auditioning for the school choir but couldn’t stop gushing to her friends about the shopping spree and big fancy meal the man had promised her.
He stole their phone numbers from a science center
Amy’s friends escorted her to Bay Square at 3 p.m. on October 27. They stood back as a man approached her, whispered something into her ear, and led her away. It would be the last time they saw their friend.
Amy was last seen leaving Bay Square shopping mall with a man who resembled this sketch.Scene in Cleveland
According to the girls, the man was white, in his mid-to-late 30s, and of average height and weight. He was dressed casually in glasses, a beige windbreaker with a plaid lining, khakis, and a button-up shirt. His hair was dark, and he had a bald spot on the back of his head. The public was shown a sketch of the man.
It was discovered that three other young girls in the area had received calls from a man posing as either their mother’s or father’s coworker. They had all visited the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center in Bay Village in the weeks leading up to Amy’s disappearance.
Each visitor was required to fill out a logbook with their name and phone number. Investigators believe the phone numbers were stolen by someone who worked or volunteered at the center.
A homemade curtain contained Amy’s hair
Amy’s remains were discovered in a field 50 miles away in New London, Ohio, 104 days later by a jogger. Her body was covered in gold fibers.
Amy’s favorite earrings, tiny turquoise-colored horseheads, were missing; investigators believe the ki*ller kept them as a souvenir or gave them to a female companion.
Amy was also missing her denim backpack, ankle boots, and a black leather binder labeled “Best in Class.” Her father, Mark, had given it to her as a gift.
Investigators believe the curtain was made by hand from a quilt or bedspread.
A homemade curtain and blanket were discovered 300 yards away from Amy’s remains, but it was unclear whether they were connected to the mu*rder for nearly two decades. Authorities announced in 2016 that the items tested positive for Amy’s DNA (hair).
The discovery of Amy’s remains made national headlines, and investigators made a point of noting the license plate of every car that passed by the scene in case the ki*ller decided to show up.
Dean Runkle and an unnamed man: are they the same person?
A man reported in 2008 that the sketch resembled his 1991 eighth-grade science teacher, Dean Runkle, who frequently mentioned a science center he volunteered for in Bay Village.
Cleveland Scene Dean Runkle
Dean lived in New London near where Amy’s remains were discovered in 1989 and drove a gold-colored Grand Prix. In 1991, he sold the car. He abruptly quit his job and relocated to Florida two years later.
Several former students claim that he frequently made inappropriate sexual jokes, stared at young girls, and invited them back to his apartment.
A woman reported in 2019 that the sketch resembled her ex-boyfriend, who she lived with only a mile away from Amy’s house in 1989. She claimed he did not return home the night Amy was mur*dered, but he did call her at 10 p.m. to inquire whether she had seen news coverage of her disappearance.
He had a niece Amy’s age, according to the woman, and drove a gold-colored car with a tan interior and gold-colored flecks in the carpeting.
On the day Amy’s remains were discovered in 1991, a gold-colored vehicle was seen driving past the dumpsite several times. The license plate was one of those seized by authorities that day, and it was reportedly registered to the woman’s ex-boyfriend, who has yet to be publicly identified because no charges have been filed.
When questioned, the man made several suspicious statements. He stated that 1989 was a “dark time” in his life, that he didn’t know if Amy had ever been in his car, and that his DNA could be on her remains if it was planted. He failed a polygraph test and voluntarily provided a DNA sample.
The man was supposed to meet with investigators the next day to provide access to a storage unit registered in his name, but he failed to appear. A warrant was obtained for the storage unit, and evidence was recently seized, but no details on what those items were have been released.
It’s not clear if Dean Runkle and the unidentified man are the same person. Amy’s childhood friends who last saw her chose Dean from a photo lineup as the man she left the shopping center with in May 2021.
Who killed Amy?
If you have any information about Amy Renee Mihaljevic’s mu*rder, please contact the Village Bay Police Department at (440)-871-1234 or firstname.lastname@example.org. A $50,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator.