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Bone fragment tested for link to missing girl in 1988 California case

Authorities are trying to figure out if a bone fragment found in California's Central Valley is connected to the 1988 disappearance of a 9-year-old Bay Area girl.

Police in Hayward, Calif. confirmed Thursday morning that the three-inch bone fragment is being tested for identification, NBCBayArea.com reported. Investigators reportedly have had the bone for at least two weeks and believe the bone fragment is from a child aged 5 to 14 years old.

Back in 1988, 9-year-old Michaela Garecht went missing near a neighborhood market in Hayward, Calif., and her remains were never found, according to NBCBayArea.com. Hayward is on the east side of the San Francisco Bay.

"As far as the bone itself goes, [police] told me it was (from) a girl between the ages of 5 and 13 and that (it coincided) with the time she went missing. There are not a lot of girls that it could be," Garecht's mother, Sharon Murch, told The Oakland Tribune on Wednesday.

The bone fragment is now undergoing a second level of DNA testing in Virginia.

The bone was found during an excavation of a well east of Stockton, Calif., The Oakland Tribune reported. Several other remains have been found in that area, connected to victims of the nicknamed "Speed Freak Killers," Wesley Shermantine and Loren Herzog, according to NBCBayArea.com.

Nicknamed for their methamphetamine addiction, the "Speed Freak Killers" were arrested back in 1999, according to The Oakland Tribune. The duo were convicted of four murders and were also suspected in the deaths of as many as 15 people, the newspaper also reported. Herzog was released from prison in 2010, and was found dead from apparent suicide in January of this year, according to The Record newspaper in Stockton. Shermantine remains on death row in California, The Record reported.

Officials found this bone fragment in question mixed in with other bones, including remains of another young female victim who was identified. That victim, 16-year-old JoAnn Hobson, had disappeared in 1985, The Oakland Tribune reported.

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Results of the DNA testing may not be know for several weeks, and the FBI are also involved in the investigation.

NBC Bay Area's Kellie White and Christie Smith contributed to this story.

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