Jaycee Lee Dugard was 11 when she was snatched from a bus stop by two strangers within sight of her home on June 10, 1991. Yesterday she was reunited with her family for the first time in 18 years.
Jaycee's stepfather, Carl Probyn, witnessed the kidnapping as he stood at the fence in his yard and watched Jaycee walk to a bus stop two blocks from her home in South Lake Tahoe, California. Probyn said he saw two individuals in a grey sedan pull up beside the little girl and drag her into the car. "I saw them pull her in and I tried to get her," Probyn said.
He jumped on a bicycle and pedaled furiously after the car but the vehicle disappeared over a hill. Probyn said he screamed for a neighbor to call the police.
In the 18 years since Jaycee went missing, Carl Probyn was under constant suspicion by the FBI and family members who thought he was somehow involved in the kidnapping. Jaycee was featured on America's Most Wanted and her kidnapping garnered national media attention.
The case was finally solved this week by an alert UC Berkeley campus police officer who spotted 58-year-old Phillip Garrido and two children handing out pamphlets on campus. The officer asked for identification and, after running a background check, learned that Garrido was a registered sex offender on lifetime parole after serving time in 1999 for kidnapping and forcible rape of a child. Registered sex offenders are not allowed to be in the company of children.
The officer notified Garrido's parole case officer in Concord who called Garrido into the parole office for a meeting. Garrido showed up for the meeting on Wednesday accompanied by his wife, Nancy Garrido, 55, Jaycee Dugard, 29, and two girls, 11 and 15. Garrido told his case officer the two girls were his. But the case officer had visited the Garrido home on many occasions and never saw Dugard or the two girls.
Suspicious, the case officer interviewed Garrido and Dugard separately and the sordid story of kidnapping and rape began to unfold. Garrido admitted fathering Dugard's two girls -- the oldest of whom was born when Dugard was just 14.
Photos taken by Google satellite years ago show the backyard compound where Jaycee Dugard was kept hidden
Garrido said he kept Dugard and the two girls isolated in a series of backyard tents and sheds, secreted in a larger backyard behind his ranch-style home in Antioch, California. The secret yard was surrounded by a 6-foot wall and blue tarps. The car that was used to kidnap Dugard was also hidden in the backyard, arranged in a way to isolate Dugard from neighbors. The main shed where the victims were kept was soundproofed and could only be unlocked from outside. Dugard and her two girls had never been to school or to a doctor.
“I knew he was always strange,” said Diane Doty, whose back fence was adjacent to the compound. “But I never saw the girl.”
Police arrested the Garridos and charged them with multiple counts of rape and acts of child molestation and sexual penetration of a minor. They are being held on $1 million bond each.
Dugard's parents eventually separated due to stress following Dugard's kidnapping. Carl Probyn, Dugard's stepfather, said DNA wasn't necessary. He said he had no doubts about Jaycee's identity. “She answered all the right questions. It's her. We know."
Probyn's wife, Terry, who now lives in Orange County, flew to northern California yesterday accompanied by the couple's 19-year-old daughter, Shayna, who was just a year old when her sister Jaycee was kidnapped.
Garrido granted a telephone interview to a local TV station, KCRA in Sacramento. "My life has been straightened out” in recent years, he said from jail. “Wait till you hear the story of what took place at this house. You’re going to be absolutely impressed. It’s a disgusting thing that took place with me at the beginning, but I turned my life completely around."
"You're going to find the most powerful story coming from the witness, the victim - you wait. If you take this a step at a time, you're going to fall over backwards and in the end, you're going to find the most powerful heart-warming story."