Are There Other Kidnap Victims?

updated 10/05/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/05/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

In a backyard ringed by crime-scene tape, cadaver dogs scratch at the earth. Searchers push ground-penetrating radar machines that look like lawn mowers; others blast through concrete slabs. All of them hunt for some trace of human remains.

The one-acre plot was home to Phillip Garrido, the man who allegedly kept Jaycee Dugard captive there for 18 years. Now investigators are scouring the land for any evidence Garrido might be linked to two other cases—the disappearances of Michaela Garecht, 9, and Ilene Misheloff, 13, who both vanished 20 years ago. So far, they have found bone fragments in Garrido's backyard in Antioch, Calif., and in the neighboring yard. DNA tests on those bones could take weeks.

Michaela's mother, Sharon Murch, can wait—she's been waiting for more than two decades. "My family doesn't like me to get my hopes up," says Murch, 55, a paralegal living in Castro Valley, Calif. (she's divorced from Michaela's father). "But I tell them I need this. I need that hope." Her daughter was snatched in Hayward, Calif., in 1988, when Garrido was living nearby. A witness described a car similar to the sedan removed from Garrido's yard this August. "We are pursuing him as a suspect," says Hayward police lieutenant Chris Orrey. Police are also eyeing Garrido in the Ilene Misheloff case. A competitive ice skater, she vanished in 1989 on her way home from school in Dublin, Calif., not far from where Garrido then lived. "He was released from prison just a few months earlier," says Dublin police lieutenant Kurt von Savoye. Again, a witness described a car similar to Garrido's sedan.

Jaycee and her daughters, meanwhile, remain with her mother, Terry Probyn, in a secret location. Soon they'll have company: Five cats, two dogs, three cockatiels, a pigeon, a mouse and a parakeet they kept as pets will be returned to them. The joyous part of Jaycee's story has given the families of Michaela and Ilene fresh hope. "I want Michaela back," her mom, Sharon, says simply. "A parent's love never stops."

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