Bay Village is a clean, quiet town nestled among Cleveland's west suburbs. Lake Erie laps the shore to the north, while surrounding communities buzz with restaurants, bars and shops.
Largely unchanged over the last 30 years, Bay Village remains an ideal destination for those looking to slip into a peaceful life on the lake; an American dream for the easygoing.
But something happened in 1989 that left sleepy Bay Village forever with one eye open. Doors are now locked, neighbors aren't so trusting and parents pause to leave kids alone.
The mystery of Amy Mihaljevic's murder remains unsolved 30 years after it happened. Described as bright, outgoing and loving, the 10-year-old undoubtedly had a future to match her personality.
Amy disappeared from a Bay Village shopping plaza on Oct. 27, 1989. She wasn't seen again until her body was discovered in a field 50 miles southwest of her hometown.
WKYC in Cleveland is looking back at Amy's murder and its impact in "Amy Should Be Forty," a podcast available now. The podcast includes interviews with Amy's father, brother, and childhood friend. You can listen on Stitcher, Spotify and Apple; you also can listen to the first episode in the player below.
Few leads have been substantial in the 30 years following Amy's death, and no charges were ever filed. Detectives have worn out the case files in search of something new. Meanwhile, Amy's family is a shell of its past self. Her parents divorced, and her mother has since passed away.
What is known about Amy's murder is that she was tricked. A stranger called her home, claiming to be a family friend who wanted to buy her mother a gift to celebrate a work promotion. But Amy's mother hadn't received a promotion.
Amy left school and went straight to a shopping plaza, where her killer called her by name and whisked her away in a car.
Her mother eventually arrived home and realized her daughter was missing. She retraced Amy's steps and reached out to police. By 11 p.m., Amy's face was on the late evening news.
The murder of Amy Mihaljevic crippled the Bay Village community with fear. After all, Family Circle magazine had ranked Bay Village as the country’s sixth safest city.
Communities soon canceled trick-or-treating. By Thanksgiving, there were 800,000 posters of Amy’s face scattered across the country. Countless volunteers searched and spread the word.
Christmas came next, followed by a new year. Nothing for months, until Feb. 8, 1990, when a jogger found a decomposing body along a rural road in Ashland County, 50 miles from where Amy was abducted.
It took dental records to identify her. Detectives believed she’d been there awhile, maybe covered by snow.
The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner determined Amy had been struck on the back of her head by a blunt object and stabbed twice on the left side of her throat. She’d also been sexually assaulted.
Police have talked to persons of interest in Amy's case, including two former teachers and a man who lived and worked at the horse farm where Amy took riding lessons. No charges were filed.
Today, authorities have evidence that could crack the case.
In June 2016, officials revealed new evidence for the first time: a handmade curtain and blanket, which were found not far from Amy's body. Initially, some thought it was just litter. Investigators later learned that Amy came in contact with both fabrics – a connection made through dog hair.
This was big. Using emerging DNA technology, detectives were able to compare a hair from Amy’s dog, which they saved, with those on the curtain and blanket. They figured if they could get that curtain and blanket into the public view, someone might recognize them.
Three more fragile, little hairs — all from white men — were found on that blanket and curtain.
But there are challenges to identifying a suspect with those hairs. Testing now would destroy the evidence.
"In the process of analyzing DNA, you use up that DNA, and it’s gone," Bay Village Police Chief Mark Spaetzel said. "So you have to be very careful on when you pick and choose what you’re going to do."
Meanwhile, the search for Amy's killer continues. Tips remain steady. No detail is too small for FBI agent Phil Torsney, who was assigned to the case in 2013. His name might ring familiar to those familiar with the Whitey Bulger case. Torsney was the one who tracked down the famous mob boss who controlled Boston’s underworld.
The Bay Village community also hasn't forgotten Amy. On the 30-year anniversary of her disappearance, a Bay Village church rang its bells at 3 p.m., about the same time Amy was taken that fateful day.
She should be turning 40 this year. Instead, her killer walks free and those who loved her remain without answers. But while her murder remains a mystery, one thing remains clear: her community hasn't stopped trying to solve her case.