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Woman kidnapped as a child in 1991 turns up in California; sex offender charged

FBI agents and deputies talk Thursday in front of the house in Antioch, Calif., where Phillip and Nancy Garrido were taken into custody. They were booked into the El Dorado County Jail. 

Associated Press

FBI agents and deputies talk Thursday in front of the house in Antioch, Calif., where Phillip and Nancy Garrido were taken into custody. They were booked into the El Dorado County Jail. 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — She was only 11 when they took her in 1991, a 4-foot-6-inch fifth-grader walking to school in El Dorado County in a pink windbreaker and pink stretch pants.

For 18 years, police say, a convicted rapist and his wife kept Jaycee Lee Dugard hidden in their Antioch, Calif., back yard, living in a tent or a shed, away from the legions of law officers searching for her. Over the years, authorities say, her abductor — Phillip Craig Garrido, 58 — impregnated her twice, and she gave birth to two girls, now 15 and 11.

That is the horrifying ordeal law enforcement officials described Thursday after revealing that Dugard, now 29, had been found safe after all these years and was reunited with her mother Thursday morning.

"She was in good health, but living in a back yard for 18 years does take its toll," said El Dorado County Undersheriff Fred Kollar.

"None of the children have ever been to school. They've never been to a doctor," Kollar said. "They were kept in complete isolation in this compound."

There was electricity from electrical cords, a rudimentary outhouse and a rudimentary shower, "as if you were camping," he said.

A parole officer who had visited Garrido's house previously noticed nothing amiss — the compound was well concealed by shrubs, garbage cans and a tarp.

Phillip Garrido, a registered sex offender, and his wife, Nancy, 54, were booked into the El Dorado County Jail on Thursday on kidnapping and other charges after their arrest on Wednesday. Phillip Garrido is also being held for investigation of rape by force, lewd and lascivious acts with a minor and sexual penetration.

The apparent end to a case that had sparked national headlines began with the suspicions of a campus police officer at the University of California, Berkeley on Tuesday. Authorities said the officer spotted Garrido with two children on campus and, upon questioning, discovered that he was a parolee. The officer contacted Garrido's parole agent, who summoned him to his office.

Garrido showed up in the company of his wife, another adult woman and the two children, ages 11 and 15. After some questioning, Garrido confessed to kidnapping Dugard, authorities said. The questioning also revealed that the woman who had arrived with the Garridos was Dugard.

Corrections officials said Garrido served time in a Nevada federal prison for sexual assault and earlier had served time in Lompoc, Calif., for a kidnap case. His high school sweetheart and ex-wife, Christine, said he had faced rape and kidnapping charges in the 1970s that led her to divorce him.

Carl Probyn, Dugard's stepfather, confirmed Thursday that his wife, Terry, and daughter Shayna, 19, flew to Northern California to meet with Dugard. The Probyns, who are separated, live in Southern California, Carl in Orange County and Terry in Riverside.

Probyn said that about three weeks ago, Shayna told him that two sheriff's deputies who work on cold cases had visited his wife. It was his understanding that they were going to re-open Jaycee's case.

Then on Wednesday afternoon, Carl Probyn said, Shayna called and said, "Mom has something to say to you. Are you sitting down?"

His wife told him: "They found Jaycee. She is alive."

The couple cried for about 10 minutes as they spoke. Probyn said FBI agents had called his wife at work and told her that they had Jaycee Dugard. Thinking it was a joke, she told the callers she did not appreciate what she thought was a ruse.

The FBI then put the young woman on the telephone. "My wife said that who she spoke to remembers everything," Carl Probyn said. "My wife and Jaycee were joined at the hip."

The blond, blue-eyed Jaycee Lee Dugard was abducted while walking to school June 10, 1991, near her home in Meyers, Calif., south of South Lake Tahoe. Her disappearance prompted a massive search, nationwide publicity and one of the largest police investigations in the region.

At the time, Probyn had said that he heard her scream and saw a man and a woman drive his stepdaughter away in a two-tone gray sedan.

"As soon as I saw the door fly open, the driver's door, I jumped on my mountain bike, and I tried to get to the top of the hill, but I had no energy. I rode back down and yelled at my neighbor, '911!' " he recalled.

Probyn was the last person to see Jaycee on the day she disappeared. He took four lie-detector tests and endured suspicion of involvement in the abduction.

"The FBI put me through the wringer, being questioned and having people say, 'The stepdad did something,' " he said. "I have been kind of the villain these past 18 years."

Probyn, a 60-year-old wallpaper contractor, said his wife was devastated by the kidnapping. He said that for 10 years after the abduction, she would take a week off work at Christmas and on the anniversary of the abduction and spend the time crying at home.

Probyn said he eventually lost hope that they would ever see his stepdaughter alive.

"Then you pray that you get her body back so there is an ending," he said. "To have this happen where we get her back alive, and where she remembers things from the past, and to have people in custody is a triple win. It's like winning the Lotto."

Woman kidnapped as a child in 1991 turns up in California; sex offender charged 08/27/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 27, 2009 11:02pm]
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