32 years ago, a man asked 10-year-old Amy Mihaljevic to help him buy a gift at the mall. She was never seen alive again.

32 years ago, a man asked 10-year-old Amy Mihaljevic to help him buy a gift at the mall. She was never seen alive again.

10-year-old Amy Renee Mihaljevic lived with her parents and her 13-year-old brother Jason in Bay Village, Ohio. Every day at 3 pm, the siblings would call their mother Margaret at work to let her know they had returned home from school safely. But on October 27, 1989, she received a very different call.

One she would never forget.

Amy’s case has gone unsolved for 32 years

At 3:14 pm that day, Jason called his mother and told her that Amy never came home. Since Margaret knew she was trying out for choir after school that day, she told her son not to worry. It was during his second call at 3:30 that a feeling of dread washed over her; Amy should have been home by then.

Just as Margaret began to gather her belongings and rush home, a third call came in. It was Amy. In one-word answers, the usually chatty fifth-grader told her mother she was fine and that the audition went well. They said their goodbyes and hung up. It was the last conversation they would ever have.

Margaret assumed Amy had called her from home. In reality, she was in a strange, unfamiliar place, with a man who 32 years later, still hasn’t been identified.

It was only when Margaret herself got home at 4:30 that she realized Amy wasn’t there and hadn’t been since morning. She drove to Bay Middle School in a panic, saw her daughter’s aqua-coloured bicycle in an otherwise empty parking lot and called the police.

By 5:15 pm, authorities in Bay Village and four surrounding cities were searching for the missing child. Family, friends and volunteers spent countless hours scouring through ravines and lakes 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

Investigators quickly learned that Amy had been kidnapped and that it wasn’t a random occurrence. It was planned. Two friends told the police they last saw her leaving the Bay Square shopping mall with a strange man.

The man had called Amy’s house one day when she was home alone. He told her he was a co-worker of her mother’s. He knew her parents’ names, where they worked, what time they left in the morning and what time they returned.

The man befriended Amy over several calls and once he had her trust, he asked her to meet with him at Bay Square to purchase a gift for her mother who he claimed had just received a promotion at work.

Bay Square Shopping Center; Amy was kidnapped hereCleveland 19

He told Amy to keep the meeting a secret from her parents; she told her mother she was auditioning for the school choir but couldn’t help and gush 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

On October 27 at 3 pm, Amy’s friends walked her to Bay Square. They watched from a distance as a man approached her, whispered something in her ear and led her away. It was the last time they would ever see their friend.

Amy was last seen walking away from Bay Square shopping mall with a man who looked like this sketchCleveland Scene

The girls told the police that the man was white, in his mid-to-late 30s and of average height and weight. He wore glasses, a beige windbreaker with plaid lining, khakis and a button-up shirt. He had dark hair and a bald spot on the back of his head. A sketch of the man was released to the public.

It was uncovered that three other young girls in the area had received calls from a man pretending to be a co-worker of either their mother or father. All had one thing in common: they had each visited the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center in Bay Village in the weeks leading up to Amy’s disappearance.

The center had a logbook that each visitor was required to fill in with their name and phone number. Investigators theorize that someone who either worked or volunteered at the center stole the phone numbers.

A homemade curtain contained Amy’s hair

104 days later, a jogger stumbled upon Amy’s remains in a field 50 miles away in New London, Ohio. Gold fibres were found on her body.

Amy’s favourite earrings, tiny turquoise-coloured horseheads, were missing; investigators theorize they were likely kept by the killer as souvenirs, or given to a female companion.

Also missing was Amy’s denim backpack, her ankle boots and a black leather binder that read, “Best in Class.” It was a gift given to her by her father, Mark.

Investigators believe the curtain was homemade out of a quilt or bedspreadOxygen

A homemade curtain and a blanket were found 300 yards away from Amy’s remains but for nearly two decades, it was unclear whether they were connected to the murder. In 2016, authorities announced that the items tested positive for Amy’s DNA (hair).

The recovery of Amy’s remains made national headlines and investigators made it a point to note down the license plate of each car that drove by the scene in case the killer decided to make an appearance.

Dean Runkle and an unnamed man: are they the same person?

In 2008, a man reported that the sketch looked like his 1991 eighth-grade science teacher, Dean Runkle, who often talked about a science center he volunteered for in Bay Village.

Dean RunkleCleveland Scene

In 1989, Dean lived in New London near where Amy’s remains were found and drove a gold-coloured Grand Prix. He sold the car in 1991. Two years later, he abruptly quit his job and moved to Florida.

According to several former students, he often made inappropriate sexual jokes, stared at young girls, and invited them back to his apartment.

In 2019, a woman reported that the sketch looked like her ex-boyfriend who she lived with only a mile away from Amy’s house in 1989. She said he didn’t come home the night Amy was killed but that he called her at 10 pm to ask whether she had seen coverage of her disappearance on the news.

According to the woman, he had a niece that was Amy’s age and drove a gold-coloured car with a tan interior that had gold-coloured flecks in the carpeting.

A gold-coloured vehicle was seen driving past the dumpsite several times on the day Amy’s remains were recovered in 1991. The license plate was one of the ones collected by authorities that day and it was reportedly registered to the woman’s ex-boyfriend who has not been publicly named since no charges have been filed as of yet.

The man was questioned and made several suspicious statements. He said 1989 was “a dark time” in his life, that he wasn’t sure whether Amy had ever been in his car and that his DNA could be on her remains but only if it was planted. He failed a polygraph test and voluntarily gave a sample of his DNA.

The man was scheduled to meet with investigators the following day to provide access to a storage unit registered in his name but he never showed up. A warrant was obtained for the storage unit and evidence was recently seized but no details have been released as to what those items were.

It’s unclear whether Dean Runkle and the unnamed man are the same person. In May 2021, both of Amy’s childhood friends who saw her last picked Dean out of a photo lineup as the man she left the shopping center with.

Who killed Amy?

Amy Renee Mihaljevic | Who killed this precious young girl?Podcast 9

This week marks the 32nd anniversary of Amy’s abduction and murder. The investigation is ongoing and authorities say they are close to solving the case. Sadly, Amy’s mother passed away from lupus in 2001. Her surviving loved ones continue to wait patiently for that long-awaited call, the one Margaret Mihaljevic prayed for every day for twelve long years.

If you have any information regarding the murder of 10-year-old Amy Renee Mihaljevic, contact the Village Bay Police Department at (440)-871–1234 or email them at bvpd@cityofbayvillage.com. A $50,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the individual responsible.

Sources: City of Bay Village, True Crime Garage, Cleveland Magazine, Oxygen, Cleveland Scene