PLACERVILLE, California – Joyous, miraculous news that a little girl kidnapped nearly two decades ago was found alive gave way Thursday to the horrifying details of how police say she has lived all those years: kept in captivity by a convicted rapist in his backyard and forced to bear two of his children.
Jaycee Lee Dugard, who was 11 in 1991 when she was snatched from her school bus stop, was locked away from the outside world behind a series of fences, sheds and tents in the back of a suburban home.
Her abductor, investigators said, raped her and fathered two children with her, the first when Jaycee was about 14. Those children, both girls now 11 and 15, also were kept hidden away in the backyard compound.
“None of the children have ever been to school, they’ve never been to a doctor,” El Dorado County Undersheriff Fred Kollar said. “They were kept in complete isolation in this compound.”
Dugard, now 29, appeared at a parole office Wednesday with her children and the couple accused of kidnapping her. She was reunited Thursday with her mother, but the family was also learning that their smiling, blue-eyed, blonde ponytailed little girl had spent most of her life in captivity.
“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.
Convicted sex offender Phillip Garrido, 58, was being held for investigation of various kidnapping and sex charges. His wife, Nancy Garrido, 54, was also arrested, and authorities said she was with Garrido during the kidnapping in South Lake Tahoe.
Garrido was on lifetime parole and his arrest raises questions about how closely parolees are monitored. But Kollar said a parole officer who had visited Garrido’s house previously had not noticed anything amiss – the compound was well concealed by shrubs, garbage cans and a tarp.
“You can’t see over the fence with the shrubbery and the trees. You can’t see the structures,” Kollar said.
The case broke after Garrido was spotted Tuesday with two children as he tried to enter the University of California, Berkeley, campus to hand out religious literature. The officers said he was acting suspiciously toward the children. They questioned him and did a background check, determining he was a parolee, and informed his parole officer.
Garrido was ordered to appear for a parole meeting and arrived Wednesday with Dugard, who identified herself as “Allissa,” his wife and two children. During questioning, corrections officials said he admitted kidnapping Dugard. Investigators said he did not yet have an attorney.
Authorities said they do not know if Garrido also abused his daughters, but they are investigating.
Dugard’s stepfather, who witnessed her abduction and was a longtime suspect in the case, said 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, told The Associated Press at his home in Orange, California.
Garrido’s compound was located in Antioch, a city of 100,000 about 170 miles from her family’s home in South Lake Tahoe. The house was cordoned off with police tape as it was searched by FBI agents and the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department.
People who knew Garrido said he became increasingly fanatic about his religious beliefs in recent years, sometimes breaking out 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 Inc. in Pittsburgh, who bought business cards and letterhead from Garrido’s printing business for the last decade. Three times in recent years, Garrido arrived at Allen’s showroom with two “cute little blond girls” in tow, he said.
In April 2008, Garrido registered a corporation called Gods Desire at his home address, according the California Secretary of State. During recent visits to the showroom, Garrido would talk about quitting the printing business to preach full time and gave the impression he was setting up a church, Allen said.
“He rambled. It made no sense,” he said.
Garrido would talk about holding events at UC Berkeley and mentioned the names of important people as if he knew them. Allen said he had no inkling of Garrido’s criminal record.
“We never thought anything bad about the guy,” Allen said. “He was just kind of nutty.”
Garrido gave a rambling, sometimes incoherent phone interview to KCRA-TV from the El Dorado County jail 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 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.
The Associated Press as a matter of policy avoids identifying victims of alleged sexual abuse by name in its news reports. However, Dugard’s disappearance had been known and reported for nearly two decades, making impossible any effort to shield her identity now.
Garrido has a long rap sheet dating back to the 1970s.
He has a conviction for rape by force or fear and was paroled from a Nevada state prison in 1988, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
He was also convicted of kidnapping a 25-year-old woman whom he snatched from a South Lake Tahoe parking lot, handcuffed, tied down and held in a mini-warehouse in Reno, according to a November 1976 story in the Reno Gazette-Journal. A detective at the time said he found the woman with Garrido in a warehouse that had rugs on the floor and walls, pornographic magazines, a movie projector, a spotlight, wine and hot water.
In 1991, police believe he was trolling for victims in South Lake Tahoe in a Ford Granada and 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.
Her stepfather said he saw someone reach out and grab her before the car sped away.
“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,” Probyn recalled.
Probyn said his wife, from whom he is separated, was devastated by the kidnapping. He said 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.
Probyn eventually lost hope that he would ever see his stepdaughter alive. In the interview he gave before details about her captivity emerged, he said he was struggling to understand why Dugard didn’t come forward earlier.
“I don’t know if she was brainwashed, I don’t know if she was walking around on the street, I don’t know if she was locked up under key for 18 years, I have no idea.”
Dugard retains custody of her children and was staying at a Bay area motel, authorities said.
Associated Press Writers Paul Elias and Terry Collins in San Francisco, Gillian Flaccus in Orange, California, Brooke Donald in Antioch, California, and Sandi Chereb in South Lake Tahoe, California contributed to this report.