Abductor had become a religious fanatic
Jaycee Lee back with family after two decades with her kidnapper
PLACERVILLE, California: A girl snatched on her way to school was hidden for nearly two decades behind a series of fences, sheds and tents, even giving birth to her suspected abductor’s children in the suburban backyard compound less than 300km from her childhood home.
Jaycee Lee Dugard, who was 11 when she was abducted from a South Lake Tahoe street in 1991, was taken directly to the house and sheltered from the world in a secret, leafy backyard, investigators said on Thursday.
Dugard’s stepfather, who witnessed her abduction and was a longtime suspect in the case, said that he was overwhelmed by the news after doing everything he could to help find her.
“It broke my marriage up. I’ve gone through hell, I mean I’m a suspect up until yesterday,” a tearful Carl Probyn, 60, said at his home in Orange, California.
Probyn told CBS’s Early Show yesterday that he had spoken to his wife after she was reunited with Dugard and everyone was “doing great”.
“I think they’re pretty happy,” he said, noting that six people were together at the reunion – Jaycee Dugard, her two daughters, her sister, mother and another relative.
In interviews on NBC, ABC and CBS yesterday morning, Probyn said the most surprising thing to his wife was that Jaycee “looks very young, almost like she did when she was taken”.
Probyn also said Dugard felt terribly guilty for bonding with her captor, and her family felt troubled by learning the facts of how she was forced to live for 18 years.
Her abductor, investigators said, raped her and fathered two children with her, the first when Jaycee was about 14. Those girls, now 11 and 15, also were kept hidden away in the backyard compound behind the home in Antioch, a city of 100 000 about 270km from the Dugard family home in South Lake Tahoe.
Phillip Garrido, 58, a registered sex offender, is being held for investigation of various kidnapping and sex charges.
Authorities said his 54-yearold wife, Nancy Garrido, was with him during the kidnapping in South Lake Tahoe and she also had been taken into custody.
“None of the children has ever been to school, they’ve never been to a doctor,” El Dorado County deputy sheriff Fred Kollar said. “They were kept in complete isolation in this compound.”
The case broke after Garrido was spotted on Tuesday with two children as he tried to enter the University of California, Berkeley, campus to hand out religious literature. Officers said he was acting suspiciously towards the children. They questioned him and did a background check, determined that he was a parolee and informed his parole officer.
Garrido was ordered to appear for a parole meeting and arrived on Wednesday with Dugard, who identified herself as “Allissa”; his wife; and two children. During questioning, corrections officials said he admitted to kidnapping Dugard.
Neighbour Diane Doty said she could see the tents and often heard children playing in the backyard, the corner of which abuts her own backyard.
She said she even suspected that the children lived in the tents, but her husband said she should leave the family alone.
“I asked my husband ‘Why is he living in tents?’ ” she said. “And he said ‘ Maybe that is how they like to live’.”
“The way the house is set up, the way the backyard is set up, you could walk through the backyard, walk through the house and never know,” Kollar said.
Dugard was reunited with her mother on Thursday as her family learnt that their blueeyed, blonde, ponytailed little girl had spent most of her life in captivity.
Police said they had no evidence that she had ever reached out to anyone beyond the compound walls.
“She was in good health, but living in a backyard for the past 18 years does take its toll,” Kollar said.
The backyard compound had electricity from extension cords and a rudimentary outhouse and shower, “as if you were camping”, Kollar said.
People who knew Garrido said he became increasingly fanatic about his religious beliefs in recent years, sometimes breaking into song and claiming that God spoke to him through a box.
“In the last couple years he started getting into this strange religious stuff. We kind of felt sorry for him,” said Tim Allen, president of East County Glass and Window. in Pittsburg, California, who bought business cards and letterheads from Garrido’s printing business for the past decade.
Three times in recent years, Garrido arrived at Allen’s showroom with two “cute little blonde girls” in tow, he said.
Garrido gave a rambling, sometimes incoherent phone interview to KCRA-TV from the El Dorado County jail on Thursday in which he said he had not admitted to a kidnapping and that he had turned his life around since the birth of his first daughter 15 years ago.
“I tell you here’s the story of what took place at this house, and you’re going to be absolutely impressed.
“It’s a disgusting thing that took place from the end to the beginning. But I turned my life completely around,” he said.
In addition to kidnapping allegations, court records showed that both Garridos were being held for investigation of rape by force, lewd and lascivious acts with a minor and kidnapping someone under 14 with intent to rape.
Phillip Garrido also faces allegations of sexual penetration.
Garrido has a long charge sheet dating back to the 1970s.
He was convicted of kidnapping a 25-year-old woman who he snatched from a South Lake Tahoe parking lot, handcuffed, tied down and held in a miniwarehouse in Reno, Nevada, according to a November 1976 story in the Reno Gazette-Journal.
He also has a conviction for rape by force or fear stemming from the same incident, and was paroled from a Nevada state prison in 1988.
In 1991, police believe he was trolling for victims in South Lake Tahoe in a Ford Granada when he snatched Dugard from a bus stop outside her home.
The case attracted national attention and was featured on TV’s America’s Most Wanted, which broadcast a composite drawing of a suspect seen in the car.
Probyn said his wife, from whom he is separated, was devastated by the kidnapping. He said that for 10 years after the crime, she would take a week off work at Christmas and on the anniversary of the abduction and spend the time crying at home.
Jaycee Lee Dugard has retained custody of her children and was staying at a Bay area motel, authorities said. – Sapa-AP
REUNITED: This undated photo provided by her stepfather William Carl Probyn shows Jaycee Lee Dugard.
HOME SWEET HOME: The house where Jaycee Lee Dugard lived when she was abducted 18 years ago.