Who Killed Amy Renee Mihaljevic

Who Killed Amy Renee Mihaljevic

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Amy was just 10 years old when she was kidnapped October 27th, 1989 from the Bay Square shopping center in Bay Village, Ohio.  

Amy loved horses and spent quite a bit of time at Holly Hills farms riding a horse named Razzle, in fact she enjoyed many of the same things kids her age do, television, pizza, spending time with friends.  Her brother describes her as a spitfire, outgoing, she had two best friends, the Kristens.

She was bright, cheerful, smart and loved.

She was found February 8, 1990 facedown in a field off of route 1811 Ruggles Township in rural Ashland County, Ohio. She had been hit in the head with a blunt object, stabbed in the neck and quite possibly sexually assaulted.

Kidnapped in broad daylight from a busy shopping plaza right across the street from the police station. Even more strange a detective who was a Rookie at the time Amy disappeared was assigned to her school and spoke to her class about child safety the very same day that she was taken.

Fifth grader Amy was usually out of school around 2pm, which meant she was at home alone at least an hour prior to her brother Jason who was in seventh grade at the time. Obviously, her abductor knew that otherwise he never would have called her.

About a week before Amy disappeared she received a phone call from a man who claimed to work with her mother. The call according to investigators went something like this “I work with your mother, she just got a promotion. If you’d like, I can meet you after school and help you pick out a present for her, you can have a present to. Just don’t tell anyone about this, let’s not ruin the surprise.”

Margaret, Amy’s mother worked for the Tradin Times in 1989 selling classified ad’s. She had not been promoted. What’s more is that Amy disobeyed the caller and told her friends about the call and the plan. She told them when she would be meeting this man not one of them knew, on Friday of that week. No one thought it odd at the time so no one said a word about it to an adult. Amy also fibbed and told her mother that she had to stay late that day for Choir tryouts.

A witness recalls seeing Amy outside of the Baskin-Robbins at the town shopping plaza around 2:45pm and hearing a man’s voice calling for Amy.

Jason, Amy’s older brother arrived home around 3pm or shortly thereafter and called his mother to report that Amy was not yet home which worried Amy’s mother so she started to pack up and leave work. Just as she was leaving Amy called her, the call was short, according to Amy’s mother, Amy sounded like she wanted to get off the phone.  Margaret didn’t like the way the call went, something about it bothered her so she went home.

Jason, Amy’s brother had planned to be in the plaza that day as well. He had a coupon for a free Birthday ice cream cone, but left the area when he spotted a group of boys who used to pick on him. Her brother has lived with this guilt since the day she went missing.  

That evening Amy was reported missing and by the next morning the FBI was working the case.

For those of you that are parents hopefully that account as detailed as I could get it from research makes you stop reading this for the moment and talk to your kids about strangers, and not just about them talking to strangers, but if they should hear about a friend making plans with a stranger…encourage them to talk to you always without and without fear,  let them know that it is ok to tell you anything!

Whoever murdered Amy took some items for a keepsake:

  1. Green-Horse Head Earrings
  2. White Nylon Windbreaker
  3. Leather Boots that laced up the front
  4. A Black Binder with “Best in Class” written on a gold snap on the cover
  5. Blue Denim Book Bag with Red Piping

Amy had gold colored fibers on her body, and it looked as if she had been sexually assaulted as blood was found in her underwear, as well as what appeared to be DNA.

At the time FBI profilers suggested that whoever did this would have shown signs of stress leading up to or after the incident and maybe around the time of the discovery of her body. They also said this person may have suddenly found religion, start drinking heavily, they might have lost or gained weight drastically, their physical appearance might have changed drastically…

As the Investigation went on, investigators learned that several young girls from North Olmsted had received strange calls from a man informing them of a mother’s promotion and offering to meet with them to help shop for a gift.

The suspects:

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The list is not completed as the FBI has interviewed thousands of potential suspects. Below are the most talked about through the media.  

Dean Runkle:

Runkle

I put Dean at the top of the list because he has been one of the most controversial of the suspects. Not only did the FBI name him as a suspect,  Author James Renner who wrote the book “Amy, My Search for Her Killer,”  stated that Dean should be at the top of the list which subsequently upset a great many current and former students, parents of the students and well an entire town. Never before has an author had so much negative backlash for naming a suspect.

Amy and all of the other girls who had received the strange phone calls had visited the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center where Dean was a volunteer. The Nature Center asked for the students to write down name, address and phone numbers.

Oddly enough it was reported that Dean was accused of writing love letters to a young male and gave the boy thousands of dollars. It is unclear what the cash was for. It is odd however that Dean would attempt to rape then murder a girl and then be into young boys. Although, some very perverse and extreme sexual predators have been known to be sexually aroused by both young male and young female sexual torture it’s questionable though as to whether or not they would act on both sexes as opposed to one over the other.

Other interesting tidbits about Dean :

  • A female student in Dean’s class that he was not fond of received a disturbing phone call where she was told that she would end up just like Amy. Dean taught at a local middle school at the time of Amy’s disappearance.
  • A key witness identified Dean in a photo lineup
  • Dean drove a gold colored Grand Prix or Grand Am which matched the vehicle description witnesses claimed to have seen Amy in the afternoon she disappeared.
  • He disappeared from 87-89, it’s been reported that he told everyone he was ill or dying. He returned to the area of Bay Village in 89. Guess he didn’t die.
  • It’s been said that he refused to update his teaching license when states started to require fingerprints in order to obtain one.

Kenneth Robert Stanton:

kenneth_robert_stanton

Kenneth was a serial molester of young girls before fleeing to Ohio in 89 a few months before Amy was kidnapped and murdered. Apparently, the only reason he is on the list is because his MO was sort of similar in that he would find out when the girls would be at home alone, gain their trust then enter the home.

Dr. Gregory Kapela:

Kapela

His daughter took riding lessons at Holly Hill Farms where Amy did.

He was accused of writing a love letter to an 11 year old girl who resembled Amy and asked her if he could be her boyfriend.

It’s been reported that he would take the girls soccer team that he coached on trips to Canada and sleep in the same room as some of the young girls.

Shawn Tabellion aka Shawn Dusky:

Dusky

He worked the horse stables and had been kicked out of working Senoj Stables for tickling young girls. He also raped a 12 year old girl in Washington State in 1983.

Sam Tillerman (no image available):

His former business partner called James Renner and told him that Sam had some sort of nervous breakdown around the time Amy’s body had been discovered.

He also told James that Sam was a dead ringer for the composite sketch the police released.

Dr. Frank Vokoun (no image available):

A local dentist who was known to hit on young girls and he fled the country shortly after Amy’s abduction.  It’s been reported that he had asked his family to keep him posted on the news about Amy.

Robert Jones (no image available):

He showed up at Amy’s memorial and reportedly handed her mother $1000 cash.

He was known to stand in front of his window naked as young girls passed by his home. The house he lived in and owned in 89 somehow managed to catch fire and burn down. It was ruled arson. While in Cleveland police watched him sit outside of schools and watch girls go to class. They obtained a search warrant for his home but after it was given to the FBI nothing happened.

Last but not least although not named, it was reported that he taught math at the same school Amy attended and was known to transfer student information to index cards and take them home. He also lied about being questioned by police and FBI. Not the worst thing in the world.

The FBI from what I understand has a top 25 list of suspects however, I am sure the list was much, much larger at the beginning. One thing that jumps right out at me is the unbelievable number of men who lived in, near and around this area who were accused of engaging in inappropriate sexual behavior towards young girls. So I am positive the FBI has had quite a time sorting this case out.

I do believe however the suspect was or is currently on the FBI list.

Here is what I see:

The killer dumped her and he dumped her face down. He did that for a reason.

Let’s look at Dean for a moment since he is the most debated of suspects, he had tons of former students who loved him and tons of former students who feared him. He was strict and orderly which would make it out of character for him to have disposed of Amy’s body like it was yet not so out of character for someone who let’s say never intended on actually killing her. 

The sketch does resemble him quite a bit, but it also resembles Sam according to former friends of his.

Dean did teach at the middle school and we know that the middle schools in this district were let out later than the grade schools. So the question I know for a fact investigators did ask was, was he at the school at the time the witness who claimed to have seen Amy in the plaza and heard a man call for her or not? Dean would have had a very short window of time to get from the school and to the plaza in order to abduct Amy if he did in fact leave right after classes were dismissed.

We would think that the answer would be key and a simple yes or no, but clearly it is not since he remains on the suspect list.

As to the other suspects, each has reason and motive as well as a history of sexually inappropriate behavior towards younger girls yet again, the obvious questions were either asked and a clear answer was never provided or the questions were never asked.

Both the crime and the method of disposal seem juvenile or not well planned and hurried despite the fact that the suspect took trophies. The killing itself seems a bit off for some reason to me and I am sensing that something did not go as planned as well.

The phone calls seem intriguing to me because the person who made the calls seemed to be doing a bit of homework prior to calling these girls. It was never reported that the families of any of the girls received hang-up calls prior to the girls who received these calls. That means quite simply that the person making the calls knew when the girls would be most likely to answer the phone. Additionally, Amy took the call after school, which again means that Dean should have been teaching a class at the time of the call.

That leaves us knowing that at least part of the crime was pretty well planned out, while other parts were not. For instance abducting the girl from a busy shopping plaza where both other kids and adults hung out after school and on a Friday. It’s pretty clear either the suspect thought that no one would recognize him or simply not notice him or…something else, which begs the question, why would a teacher and volunteer at the nature center risk everything to abduct a young girl? It’s not like he wouldn’t be noticed because his students either loved him or hated him the fact is, he was very well known in the community. In fact the media even did a cover story prior to Amy’s abduction about this teacher and his love of the Nature Center, his class etc.

For a man who is strict and likes organization Dean does not just jump out as a man who would arrange to meet and abduct a young girl from such a busy location.

Last but not least we know that the killer allowed Amy to call her mother. This is a simple yet not widely pointed out fact if we are to believe the witness in the plaza who states he saw Amy around 2:45pm when he heard a man calling her name. That means the perpetrator did in fact allow for Amy to call her mother after he was with Amy.

After that something did not go according to plan and things fell apart.

It is my firm belief that if the FBI were to re-profile the perpetrator they would find something new that would lead them to the actual killer of Amy.  Often times if we go back with the knowledge we have now we can learn a lot more about the crime and the killer. What we know about killers today is not the same as what we knew about them back in the 80’s. 

Additionally, they need to take another look at all of the statements made by everyone. Including the one’s about the phone calls made to other girls and gather an accurate timeline of when those calls were made. I don’t always trust statements made by witnesses off the bat, I usually find they are made in an attempt to help, witnesses don’t always state things the way they actually happened and often times compensate to fill in the gaps in memory. They fail to realize that it’s ok if they didn’t see every detail.

Sadly this case has always haunted me for one reason, Amy’s abduction could have been prevented. Too many witnesses claim to have seen her, she told friends about meeting the man. Her abduction and murder could have been prevented, bottom line.

Amy’s brother once described the town of Bay Village as the town that time forgot, it may be that to some but for some of us because of Amy Renee Mihaljevic, it’s the town we can’t quite forget.

Cristal M Clark

@thecrimeshop

IOS users can Find The Crime Shop on Apple News

 

 

9 Comments

  1. thanks for posting it raises a lot of good questions and brings up a good point about the many failures of lawenforcement. it does seem to me that you are getting at something you aren’t saying outright is that for us to figure out or the cops?

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  2. Beautifully written! I found my self catching my breath in the beginning a little as I realized you were laying out every moment the crime could have been prevented and yes I did hug and talk to my kids. I wonder if the FBI follows you’r blog? You grab stuff right out of thin and air and put it together in ways that make logical sense. Great Work!

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  3. I read the book Renner wrote I honestly believed the teacher did it after reading but you bring to light a lot of valid points so he could if the police and FBI really tried be cleared. In my opinion they never truthfully tried to solve the case.

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    • Hello Al, thank you for seeing what I mean. Not that I think Dean did it, for that I need to see the actual evidence. My point was for those that were looking for some hidden message, whoever did commit this crime did not go into it with the intention to kill Amy. More likely the person wanted to have an ongoing relationship with her. One where he could molest her multiple times through the course of years and/or months.

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  4. Pingback: Who Killed Amy Renee Mihaljevic | crimeshop

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