ID’s ‘The Lake Erie Murders: Who Killed Amy Mihaljevic?’ explores the chilling case of the abduction and murder of a 10-year-old girl in broad daylight. In late October 1989, Amy Mihaljevic was lured to a suburban Ohio shopping center by an unknown male who had befriended her via conversations on the phone, and she was never seen alive again. This three-decade-old mystery and the nationwide hunt for the perpetrator, involving hundreds of suspects, is still ongoing. The FBI, currently offering an up to $25,000 reward for any information, has never let this case go cold. Even today, they are working on it to find the necessary answers and to bring some justice to the young girl who unwittingly lost her life.
Who Killed Amy Mihaljevic?
In the weeks preceding Amy’s disappearance on October 27, she had received several phone calls from an unknown man who knew almost everything about her life. He knew her number, her address, the area where she lived, where her mother worked, and even the fact that the latter had recently earned a promotion. He said that he’d take Amy to the nearby shopping center after school one day to buy her mother a present, and possibly even insinuated that he’d buy her one as well, just for her help. He lured Amy out, made her call her mother to gain some time, and then kidnapped her for his own depraved purposes. Thankfully, though, a few people noticed him with Amy that day, and so a sketch of what he looked like was made.
The offender is identified to be a white male. At the time of the crime, he was wearing a beige windbreaker with plaid lining, front-pressed khakis, and a button-up shirt. His hair, thick and bushy, fell on his forehead, just above his eyes, and he was probably in his mid-to-late 30s at the time. The witnesses described that he was within the average range for a male’s height, weight, and build, making him unremarkable in appearance. But, they did classify that although he looked quite presentable, he didn’t carry himself in a way that an accomplished or a professional person might. One of Amy’s friends, who saw this man lead her away, has been shown hundreds of pictures of possible suspects. And, only a few times has she said that the man in the photo could be the one she saw.
Men with mostly shady pasts and weak alibis, vague connections to the suburban area, or those who have a history of sexual offenses are the ones who are included in the suspect list. Many of them are simply just look-alikes who otherwise have no connection to the crime. And others include people, sometimes odd, who lived near the Mihaljevics at the time – parents of Amy’s closest friends, convicted sex offenders, and those with suspicious alibis. In 2006, it was revealed that before Amy was slain, many young girls around her same age had also received a similar phone call from an unidentified man, saying that he’d help them buy their mother a present. The only thing that all these girls had in common was that they had visited the local Lake Erie Nature and Science Center, which kept a visitors logbook by the front door.
Keeping all this in mind, only a handful of strong suspects remain. But, none of them match the facts of the case and the description of the offender as closely as Dean Runkle. Dean, a former teacher in Ohio, has always maintained his innocence, but as per the last records, when the local police department started collecting DNA samples, he obtained legal council. Today, in his late 70’s, he remains free and resides in Key West, Florida, where he works as a restaurant shift manager. We should also mention that a former student of Dean has publicly accused him of inappropriate contact. This student, Dan, said that he and his teacher communicated via letters a lot, which later turned sexual in nature. Apparently, in 1987, Dean even set up a few thousand dollars in a trust fund for his favorite student, but then, in the fall of 1989, they just stopped communicating.
Another key person of interest in Amy Mihaljevic’s disappearance and murder case is Richard Holbert, who, like a few others, has confessed to slaying Amy. In 2002, during a Sunday Mass at St. Angela Merici Catholic Church on Lorain Road in Fairview Park, he announced that he was the one responsible for what happened to Amy. However, his confession proved to be false after investigations revealed that he had been institutionalized on the day that she was abducted. Just like this, because the authorities have revealed a lot of information and evidence surrounding this case to the public – in the hopes of getting some tips – they have received several false confessions from mentally ill individuals or convicts who get a kick out of admitting to something so heinous.
Joseph Newton Chandler III
In 2018, officials announced that they were following a potential link between Joseph Newton Chandler III and the murder of Amy Mihaljevic. Joseph, real name Robert Ivan Nichols, committed suicide in Eastlake, Ohio, in 2002, but when investigators were unable to locate his family at the time, they discovered that he had stolen the identity of an eight-year-old boy who was killed in a car crash in 1945. The lengths that Joseph went to hide his real name and the longevity of his identity theft led them to speculate that he was a dangerous fugitive. And, because he was in the suburban Ohio area in 1989, authorities think that he can be behind Amy’s death. Last year, they stated that they are extensively investigating all the suspects in connection with this particular case and feel that when they identify Amy’s killer, Joseph would most likely be on their list.
Right now, there is a theory going around about the possibility of Amy’s case having multiple assailants, with a connection to a pedophile ring in Michigan. However, this is just a theory, and, to this date, no official charge against anyone has been made. Amy Mihaljevic’s abduction and murder, unsolved, is still ongoing, and it seems as if the authorities will not stop until they bring the 10-year-old girl some justice by arresting and convicting her perpetrator/s.
Read More: Where Is Amy Mihaljevic’s Father Now?