10-Year-Old Girl Heads to a Store After School, Then Vanishes — Months Later, Her Body Is Found

The mystery of Amy Mihaljevic’s murder starts with a trip to the store.

But 29 years later, who she met there and why remain anyone’s guess.

On Oct. 27, 1989, the 10-year-old walked after school to the Bay Village Square shopping center in the well-to-do Cleveland suburb of Bay Village, a bedroom community with expansive Lake Erie as its northern border.

Spotted outside of a business, Amy appeared to be waiting for someone when a man reportedly approached, put his hand on her shoulder and walked her through the parking lot, according to the FBI.

Then she vanished.

Her frantic family and responding officers initially had no clues to guide them — until swift media reports of the disappearance shook loose a lead.

A neighbor of the Mihaljevic family brought his stepdaughter, “a good friend of Amy’s,” to the police station where the girl made a startling claim, recalls Jim Thompkins, then a detective with the Bay Village police, in the new documentary special The Lake Erie Murders: Who Killed Amy Mihaljevic? 

The doc premieres Sunday night on Investigation Discovery. An exclusive clip is above.

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Amy’s mom then worked at Trading Times magazine, according to the FBI. Amy’s friend “told us that Amy told her during lunch period at school that Amy had received a phone call from someone telling her that her mom was being promoted, and that he would like to take her out and buy a gift for mom, and that he would let her buy a gift also for herself,” Thompkins says in the documentary.

No longer did police think they were seeking a missing person.

With that information, “We’ve raised the stakes here,” then-Police Chief Mark Saetzel says in the documentary, “and now we have a situation where we feel that Amy Mihaljevic was abducted.”

The race to rescue her ended tragically more than three months later, on Feb. 8, 1990, when the girl’s body — in the clothes she was last seen wearing — was spotted by a jogger in a field about an hour away in rural Ashland County, near New London.

Missing from the scene were a turquoise horse earring, black ankle boots and a black leather binder believed to have been with Amy when she was taken.

Police still are running down those clues, along with any connection to a green blanket or curtain found in the same area as Amy’s body, reports Cleveland TV station WEWS.

“It’s still an open case,” Bay Village detective Sgt. Kathy Leasure tells PEOPLE. “We still receive leads probably almost on a weekly basis that we track down.”

Leasure declined to comment on whether the alleged phone call to Amy, as recounted by her friend, reveals a pattern connected to other intended victims. “That’s part of the investigation,” she says.

With an assist from federal and state agencies, four Bay Village officers still devote at least part of their time to solving the case.

“We couldn’t come out and say we’ve cleared anybody,” says Leasure. “We just try to stress to anybody that no matter how small or inconsequential they think something might be, we still ask them to call us with any type of tip. It might just be something small that we’re missing that can help us piece something together.”

Local authorities direct those tips to 440-871-1234 or email at [email protected]

Amy’s slaying and ongoing mystery “affected a lot of people, because it’s such a small community,” Leasure says. “That’s what helps to keep the officers motivated too, to help bring closure to the Mihaljevic family.”

The Lake Erie Murders: Who Killed Amy Mihaljevic? airs Sunday (10 p.m. ET) on Investigation Discovery.

Following the three-hour premiere, four other cases of murder in communities along the lake will be examined by the network on subsequent Sundays starting Jan. 6 (10 p.m. ET).

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