Tahoe girl kidnapped in 1991 found alive

August 28, 2009 12:06:51 PM PDT
Two people have been arrested in connection with the kidnapping of a girl who disappeared nearly 20 years ago from South Lake Tahoe. Police say the suspects held the girl for 18 years in the backyard of a home in Antioch. Jaycee Lee Dugard was kidnapped from the street in front of her home in June of 1991 when she was 11 years old. She is now 29.

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El Dorado County investigators held a news conference Thursday afternoon detailing the events that lead up to Jaycee's discovery and the arrest of two suspects in the case. They say a UC Berkeley police officer reported suspicious activity between 58-year-old Phillip Garrido and two young children on August 25. Parole agents brought him in for questioning. He was accompanied by his wife, 55-year-old Nancy Garrido, a 29-year-old woman named Allissa and her two children. That is when the story unraveled.

RAW VIDEO: El Dorado County press conference
RAW VIDEO: Dept. of Corrections press conference

Also on Thursday, Phillip Garrido called a reporter from jail and said he is relieved police found him and that this process needs to happen. He didn't go into details about Jaycee, saying he needs representation first, but did admit to fathering her two children -- ages 11 and 15.

Garrido sounds like he's full of pride when he talks about it. He said in an optimistic tone "You're really going to be surprised what happened. In the end, this is going to be a powerful heartwarming story -- one that you're going to be really impressed. It's going to make world news."

The details that police have released so far are anything but heartwarming. They say Garrido kept Jaycee in the backyard of his Antioch home for 18 years, hidden from the rest of the world in a series of sheds -- one made entirely soundproof.

Garrido also said he gave the FBI a document that explains everything. "I guarantee you as time goes on, you'll get pieces of the story in a powerful manner. When you get these documents in your hands, you're going to fall over."

"During interviews with the three of them, the two suspects and Jaycee, sufficient information was determined from all three of them that Jaycee was who she was purported to be, and that these two people only had information that the kidnappers could have known," said Undersheriff Frank Kollar in a press conference.

The Garridos were arrested. Their Antioch home was searched, and that is when officers found where Garrido had hidden Jaycee for 18 years.

"The search of the residence revealed a hidden backyard within a backyard. The hidden backyard had sheds, tents and outbuildings where Jaycee and the girls spent most of their lives. There was a vehicle hidden in the backyard that matched the vehicle originally described at the time of the abduction. The tents and outbuildings in the backyard were placed in a strategic arrangement to inhibit outside viewing and to isolate the victims from outside contact," said Kollar. "None of the children have ever gone to school, they've never been to a doctor. They were kept in complete isolation in this compound, if you will, in the rear of the house."

Investigators and Terry Dugard say Jaycee Dugard looks and sounds good, but that living in a backyard for 18 years has taken its toll. Dugard and her girls were reunited with her mother at an undisclosed location in San Francisco Thursday.

Her mother and stepfather both say they do not know the Garridos. It truly was a stranger abduction.

Garrido and his wife were transported Thursday to El Dorado County Jail. Their arraignment is set for Friday on charges of kidnap and rape.

1991 abduction

More than a million flyers with the 11-year-old girl's picture were mailed out in the years immediately after she was kidnapped on June 10, 1991. Her mother, Terry Probyn, worked tirelessly to keep the story alive. Probyn asked the public to tie pink ribbons around trees and she organized searches and candlelight vigils.

Jaycee was abducted 150 yards from her home as she was walking to the bus stop. Her stepfather, Carl Probyn, was in the home. He saw a man and woman in a gray sedan make a sudden u-turn. He told police a woman grabbed the girl and pulled her inside the car. Probyn called 911.

ABC7 EXTRA: Reaction from Dugard's stepfather

Carl said Terry refused to celebrate Christmas for years and cried for weeks at a time. The two are still great friends, but the stress of it all broke up their marriage. He talked to her after she reunited with her daughter Thursday, but cut her off when she started to talk about Dugard's captivity.

"I just didn't need to hear that. She started talking about living in the backyard and in a box and I just didn't want to go there," said Carl.

He wants the Garrido's to get the maximum penalty.

Suspect's criminal past

Garrido has a long criminal history of kidnapping and sexual assault.

Nevada corrections officials say he was convicted in 1977 of kidnapping a South Tahoe casino worker, driving her to Reno, and sexually assaulting her. He went to federal prison because he crossed state lines. He served 11 years, was paroled in 1988 and served a few more months in state prison. Nevada records show he was paroled to California at the end of 1988.

Investigation:

The sketch of the female kidnapper Carl helped a police artist create looks strikingly like Garrido's wife, Nancy. The sketch of the vehicle seen in 1991 also looks similar to the gray car officers pulled out from the backyard and towed away from Garrido's house on Thursday.

FBI agents worked late into the night as they brought another shift of investigators with flashlights and canines units to the hidden yard.

Just about everyone on Walnut Avenue had the same thing to say about their neighbor and couldn't stop watching as FBI agents took evidence out of the home. Investigators found sheds, tents, sound proof rooms and portable toilets in his yard.

"I was just in my neighbor's yard and I looked through the fences and you couldn't see anything," said Betty Unpingco, a neighbor.

Still, neighbors always knew something was off about Garrido. They say it was never quite clear who was living there. One even reported him to police.

"His own neighbor called and said 'I think there are young kids there. We don't see them in the front yard and we seem them in tents.' The sheriff's department didn't investigate. They went as far as the front door and that's all maybe that's all they could do," said Monica Adams, a resident.

Neighborhood reaction

Neighbors tell ABC7 they knew Garrido was a registered sex offender. While they thought he was odd, they never noticed anything criminal in the entire 18 years he has lived in Antioch.

Investigators spent the day gathering evidence from Garrido's Antioch home. Neighbors say they would only see Garrido going in and out of the house on a regular basis. Rarely would they see anyone else.

"No staying outside and doing anything, it was only him that would do the watering and come outside and come and go in the car," said neighbor Haydee Perry. "Rarely would they go anywhere with him."

Garrido printed business cards for a living. Timothy Allen, the owner of East County Glass and Window, had been one of his clients for 10 years. Allen says it became clear as time went on that there was just something off about Garrido.

"He started kind of coming up with these strange ideas about talking to God in a box and he had a religious following and he would teach seminars," said Allen. "We just kind of listened to that part of it, but we never got involved in it."

Garrido revealed his thoughts on his blog. His most recent post was on August 14. He wrote, "the creator has given me the ability to speak in the tongue of angels in order to provide a wake-up call that will in time include the salvation of the entire world."

Cheyvonne Molino was another client of Garridos. She owns JM Enterprizes wrecking yard in Pittsburgh. Molino says Garrido recently handed out water to her customers while preaching the gospel. He also brought his two young daughters to her daughter's birthday party.

"They said that this was the first time of really being out, that they are homeschooled and that they were having church at their home in their basement," said Molino. "They had a congregation of five."

However, outside of his neighborhood, Garrido was a different man. He went to the Bridge Head Cafe once a month.

"He was very kind, always had a big smile on his face. We'd say, 'Hi Phillip' and he always very friendly," said Lusanne Bough, a waitress.

"Like a school teacher, plain and simple, lived an ordinary life like the rest of us," said Murray Sexton, a restaurant owner.

Now, everyone at Garrido's old hang out knows things were far from ordinary as well as those living close to him, who had a gut feeling something was wrong and wonder what more could've been done.

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