Kidnap: Victims 'lived in tents'
Placerville - A little girl snatched on her way to school was kept hidden from the world behind a series of fences, sheds and tents for nearly two decades, even giving birth to her suspected abductor's children in the suburban backyard compound less than 322km from the home where she was taken.
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.
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 behind the Antioch home.
"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."
Even a parole agent who visited 58-year-old Phillip Garrido's home didn't have an inkling about the hidden compound, Kollar said. Garrido is a registered sex offender on federal parole for rape and kidnapping convictions.
"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.
But neighbours said there were clues even before a parole agent on Wednesday noticed Dugard, now 29, who accompanied Garrido, his wife and the children to a parole office.
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 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."'
Garrido is being held for investigation of various kidnapping and sex charges. Authorities said his 54-year-old wife, Nancy Garrido, was with him during the kidnapping in South Lake Tahoe and she also has been arrested.
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 toward 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 Wednesday with Dugard, who identified herself as "Allissa," his wife, and two children. During questioning, corrections officials said he admitted to kidnapping Dugard.
Investigators said he did not yet have an attorney.
Dugard was reunited on Thursday with her mother as her family learnt that their blue-eyed, 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.
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 275km from the Dugard family home in South Lake Tahoe.
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 Pittsburg, California, 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 to 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.
In a blog that appears to have been maintained by Garrido, he wrote that he had hired a private investigator to verify his ability to speak to people using only his mind. In an "affadavit" posted there, he said he had the ability to "control sound with my mind and have developed a device for others to witness this phenomena."
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.
Case attracted national attention
"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 AP, 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 was 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.
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, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
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.
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. "I rode back down and yelled at my neighbor, 911!"
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.
Jaycee Lee Dugard has retained 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; Don Thompson in Sacramento and Sandi Chereb in South Lake Tahoe, California, contributed to this report.