Survivors of kidnapping show the way ahead for Jayme Closs
BARRON — Jayme Closs, who was found alive 87 days after her parents were killed and she went missing, joins a group of powerful survivors of abduction.
For young abductees, experts say, survival is rare.
And to recover from the trauma, they face a whole new set of challenges. Those experts say health care resources, faith and time away from the public are essential to the healing process.
Here are the stories of other young people who survived abduction and unimaginable trauma:
Shawn Hornbeck, then 11, was kidnapped while riding his bike near his Kirkwood, Missouri, home on October 6, 2002. For the next four years, he was held captive and sexually abused by pizzeria manager Michael Devlin, who told people Shawn was his son.
In 2007, two police officers who frequented that pizzeria were on an unrelated call at Devlin’s apartment complex and noticed his white truck, which was similar to a vehicle investigators were seeking in the kidnapping of another missing boy, Ben Ownby.
Police were disturbed by Devlin’s demeanor when they questioned him, and they alerted the FBI. When investigators returned to Devlin’s apartment, they found not only Shawn, but Ben as well.
Seven years after his rescue, Hornbeck told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch “my life right now is actually pretty normal.”
Hornbeck was living with his parents and working full-time in a factory. He was waiting for the right time to return to college and finish a degree in criminal law.
In June 2002, 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart was dragged from her bed with a knife to her throat, leaving her little sister the only witness to the abduction.
Smart was taken from her Salt Lake City home by Brian David Mitchell, a homeless preacher and the Smart family’s hired handyman, and Wanda Eileen Barzee.
Smart was held captive and raped daily.
There were several close calls — moments when Smart was within reach of freedom. Mitchell and Barzee took Smart out in public but forced her to wear a veil and not to speak to anyone. In one instance, a police officer approached Smart at a library, but Barzee was sitting next to her and intimidated her into silence.
Then, in March 2003, police officers confronted the trio outside a Walmart store and began questioning them.
She had been prepared by Mitchell with a back story in such cases, she said. “I started giving those answers, because they were standing right next to me. I was scared. I was petrified.”
But then, police separated her from the two. She says an officer told her “Well, if you’re Elizabeth Smart, your family misses you so much and they love you so much and they have never given up hope on you the entire nine months you’re gone. Don’t you want to go back home to your family?”
That’s when Smart told police who she really was.
Both Mitchell and Barzee were charged with six felony counts, including aggravated burglary, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault and two charges for allegedly trying to break into the home of Smart’s cousin.
Barzee pleaded guilty to kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. She was released on September 19, 2018.
Mitchell was found guilty of kidnapping and the unlawful transportation of a minor with intent to engage in sexual activity and was sentenced to life in prison.
Smart has since co-authored a Justice Department pamphlet about how to survive abduction, worked as a contributor for a national TV news network and she ran a foundation aimed at protecting children from predators.
On May 6, 2013, screams for help were heard coming from the cracked door of a home in a Cleveland neighborhood. Angel Cordero and neighbor Charles Ramsey kicked open the door to find Amanda Berry and her 6-year-old daughter. Berry had been reported missing 10 years earlier.
Police responding to the home found two other women, Michelle Knight and Georgina “Gina” DeJesus. They were reported missing in 2002 and 2004.
All three women were rescued from the home of Ariel Castro, who kidnapped, brutalized them and held them captive for a decade, just three miles from where he had abducted them.
The women were allowed to go outside twice, and only briefly, in those 10 years, they said. Castro had hosted dinners with family members in the home while the women were held captive out of sight.
Castro raped the women and impregnated Berry, who had a daughter that Knight delivered in a plastic baby pool.
Castro was indicted on 977 counts including kidnapping, assault, rape and aggravated murder, in which Castro in accused of intentionally causing the termination of a pregnancy. In August of 2013, he pleaded guilty to 937 counts and was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years.
He killed himself in his prison cell a month later.
Jaycee Dugard spent 18 years in captivity.
In 1991, Dugard, then 11, was abducted by Phillip Garrido and his wife Nancy from the street in front of her South Lake Tahoe, California, home. She would not be freed until she was 29 and a mother of two.
The Garridos held Dugard in a complex of sheds on the grounds of their home in Antioch, California.
Phillip Garrido was a convicted rapist and had been under state supervision since 1999, according to a memo from the California attorney general’s office, and at least three different parole officers had seen Dugard at his home.
On at least one occasion, a parole officer spoke to her and one of her two daughters, whom Garrido fathered during her captivity.
Finally, in 2009, someone took notice. Phillip Garrido brought Jaycee’s daughters with him to UC Berkeley’s campus, where he wanted to host an event. UC Berkeley police officer Allison Jacobs said the girls “were pretty much unresponsive emotionally, extremely pale.”
Following what she said was both police and mother’s intuition, she called Garrido’s parole officer, who eventually identified Jaycee Dugard. Garrido admitted to abducting her.
Phillip Garrido was sentenced to 431 years to life in prison in the kidnapping and sexual assault of Dugard. His wife, Nancy, was sentenced to 36 years to life in prison for her role in the abduction and rape.
Dugard, who wrote about her ordeal in “A Stolen Life,” said her support network was key to her recovery. “With the help of my mom and my family, and especially my therapist I have come to realize I can now do things for myself,” Dugard wrote. “I can make my own decisions and not worry about if it’s not what someone else wants.”