The nine-year-old boy was quite taken with the blonde girl he spotted across the wire fence that separated their bungalows.
He had not seen her before and thought she was pretty, even if she was an inch taller than him. She told him she was living there and her name was Jaycee.
Moments later a tall, forbidding man appeared, grabbed the girl by her arm and bundled her away. Later that day the man started building a 6ft fence around his back garden and Patrick McQuaid, now 27, never saw the girl again.
“I was young, and didn’t think anything of it,” he recalled last week. “Kids came and went all the time. But she sure was pretty.”
* Kidnap girl worked in abductors’ business
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McQuaid reckons that brief encounter happened in July 1991, a memorably hot and dusty summer in the small town of Antioch, east of San Francisco, northern California.
If his memory is correct, this would have been about a month after Jaycee Lee Dugard was kidnapped at a bus stop near her home in Lake Tahoe, 170 miles away.
According to charges filed in court on Friday, it would also have been around the time the 11-year-old girl was first raped by Phillip Garrido, a 6ft 4in sex offender.
It was, through no fault of the boy, the first of many missed opportunities to rescue the girl. As it turned out Jaycee faced another 18 years of captivity, a prisoner in a hidden compound of huts and tents where she gave birth to two children, now aged 11 and 15.
Jaycee’s ordeal came to a sudden and still mysterious end last week when Garrido, now 58, walked into a police station with Jaycee and, in effect, surrendered her back to her real life – and incredulous family.
Now 29, still blonde but a little taller than she was as a child, Jaycee was instantly recognisable to her mother Terry and her half-sister Shayna, who was one year old when they last played together.
“She smelled the same, isn’t that weird?” said a relative, who added that the reunited family had been both crying and laughing ever since, and were unable to stop hugging each other. They are now planning a late summer holiday at Disneyland.
California police have been honest about blunders in trying to solve this grotesque “cold case” which, with a little more imagination, might have been solved years ago.
In November 2006 Erika Pratt, a neighbour in Walnut Avenue, Antioch, heard the sound of hammering as Garrido erected yet another shed in his back garden.
Garrido had talked to her in the street, speaking animatedly about “God’s voices”, which were helping him deal with past anger issues and sex. This had made her feel so “queasy” that she phoned the police and urged them to check on the compound. She told them he might be a “religious psychotic with a sex addiction”.
On Friday Warren Rupf, the local sheriff, confessed Pratt might have been right.
“A deputy responded to the call and spoke to the home owner in the front of his house. He did not feel he had reason to enter, and so did not realise there was a hidden compound with children living in it behind the house,” he said.
“I do not blame him; I blame myself. We are beating ourselves up over this.”
Rupf’s department was far from alone in missing the clues. Garrido was a registered sex offender who met his parole officer every month over many years.
The officer visited Garrido at home, checking that his satellite-linked ankle bracelet, which monitored his movements, was working properly. But, again, he never looked into the back garden and its burgeoning tent city, which was visible on such unsophisticated detection devices as Google Earth.
Last year Garrido was twice visited at home by police.
The first time he was questioned about accusations that he swindled $18,000 (£11,000) out of an elderly neighbour, which he said was a donation to his “Church of God’s Desire”.
Then, in July last year, his three-bedroomed house was searched by police from a “multi-agency task force”. However, as it was a routine search, randomly ordered under the state’s paroled sexual offenders act, they were not looking for anything specific.
“There were zero signs of kids living there,” said Sergeant Diane Aguinaga of the Antioch police last week. “Only him, his wife and his mom.”
They did not notice the electrical wires that ran from the house, though a fence door concealed by a blue tarpaulin and into a 140ft by 90ft “backyard within a backyard” beyond.
“Barriers had been built to obstruct viewing from the outside and prevent the victims contacting the outside world,” said another investigator. “There were tents and showers
and a chicken shed where the three girls lived. There is a soundproofed 10ft square structure, which the homeowner called his church.
“That’s where we think he may have raped the victim and where, without any medical aid, she gave birth to his two children. The first time when she was 14. This is the area where this girl was trapped, for 18 years. Where this child raised her kids alone. He is one evil bastard.”
NEARLY 800,000 juveniles are reported missing in the United States each year. About 750,000 turn up hours days or weeks later – the rest vanish.
Some choose to cut themselves off from family and friends, are stricken by drug habits or want to adopt a new sexual identity. Others are murdered or die from natural causes and are buried in potter’s fields. A handful are sold into the global slave trade.
Few have a story as dramatic as Jaycee Lee Dugard’s.
On the morning of June 10, 1991, wearing a pink top and matching trousers, she was walking down the street towards a bus stop when American urban paranoia exploded into nightmarish reality.
The timing of the crime was easily established. Every day Jaycee waited until the clock on the microwave oven in the family kitchen turned to 8.05am and then said her good-byes before setting off for the school bus stop, which was within sight of her home.
This time the familiarity of the scene was shattered by a car, which did a screeching U-turn in front of the girl.
“I was watching out for her from my garage 200 yards away when I saw a grey sedan pull up besides her on the street and a man reach out and snatch her up in a moment,” recalled Carl Probyn, her stepfather, last week. “It was all over so fast.”
He jumped on to his bicycle and gave chase, able to see that the driver was an Asian-looking woman with long dark hair, but unable to see either his stepdaughter or the man who was holding her. The car vanished seconds later.
The little middle-class town of South Lake Tahoe was traumatised. Locals were encouraged to wear pink ribbons to keep Jaycee at the forefront of people’s minds – a tactic borrowed years later by the parents of Madeleine McCann and their yellow ribbon campaign. Vigils and marches were held.
The FBI and local police interviewed nearly 5,400 people, including dozens of sex offenders, and pursued more than 4,000 leads, but all to no avail.
The answer, it appears, was 170 miles away in Antioch, and the clues were in the police records of Phillip Greg Garrido.
Last week his father, Manuel Garrido, 88, choked as he recalled the boy who went so terribly wrong.
“He was a very gentle and sweet child, very popular with a lot of friends. They loved his jokes. He played guitar, and liked the Beatles,” he said. “But then, at high school, he started getting into drugs and his personality changed. After he found LSD, he was gone. He started going crazy, and I lost him. I miss the boy, but the man, not so much.”
In 1976 Garrido had been sentenced to 50 years in jail after he kidnapped and raped a 25-year-old woman in Reno, 20 miles across the Nevada border from Tahoe.
Officers said last week that the industrial unit in which he committed the crime was set up as a “sex palace”, with pornography and sex toys scattered around.
The detective who led the investigation, Dan DeMaranville, 74, said Garrido came across as intelligent and educated during interviews.
“I asked him after he confessed why he did it, and he said it was the only way he could get sexual satisfaction,” DeMaranville said. “He gave the impression he was remorseful. But I don’t know whether it was a put-on or not.”
Garrido was held in a tough federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas, but released 11 years later on parole after he claimed to have “found God”. He travelled back to California with his new bride, a Philippines-born woman called Nancy.
It is unclear how Garrido met her while in prison but Nancy, 54, stands accused alongside him of taking part in years of brutal and sexual acts against Jaycee. They each face 29 identical charges including rape and kidnapping. Television therapists are already analysing the couple’s relationship, some comparing them to the serial killers Fred and Rose West, though there is no evidence they reached such sadistic and murderous depths.
Others are more sympathetic, saying Nancy Garrido may, like Jaycee, be a victim of Stockholm syndrome – mesmerised into sympathising and even identifying with a charismatic monster.
Police said they recovered a “family jumble” of computers, without internet access, toys and food dishes for cats and dogs in the compound – and an old Ford that matched the description of the car in which Jaycee vanished.
A series of pictures released last night give some clues to the life lived by Jaycee and her daughters in the garden camp-site. Her living quarters appear to have been a three-man tent, patched up with tape, in which some of her clothes, a predominantly grey selection of cardigans and blouses, hung limply over a clothes rail. On her sheet-less mattress lay a jumble of children’s wear and a monkey puppet. Some shelves and a wardrobe hint at the permanence of the arrangement.
There are also indications of what might be an obsessive interest of Jaycee or one of her children. A makeshift bookshelf in the tent contained nearly 20 books, most of which had titles relating to cats, including Do Cats Think? and The Cat Who Went to Paris. Underneath the shelf is 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle: its topic – cats.
Elsewhere children’s playthings – here a packet of crayons, there a couple of Furby cuddly toys – are distributed, along with computer paraphernalia, such as joysticks, mouses and software.
Clearly somebody had tried to make the quarters homely. A bunch of flowers in a makeshift vase made from a disused soft drink bottle sits on a ramshackle bedside table in the tent.
Cruelly, there is also a discarded book that hints that at least somebody was concerned with the welfare of the family. Self-Esteem: a Family Affair, by Jean Illsley Clarke deals with bringing up children and ways of giving them confidence. One of its chapters is entitled: What’s a Nice Family Like Us Doing in a Place Like This?
The neighbours apparently did not think that there was a “nice family” living next door. Yet they did little to intervene, even though Garrido was known locally as “Creepy Phil”.
Many have reported suspicions they harboured about Jaycee’s girls – named by one neighbour as Starlite and Angel – who were allowed to play at the front of the house, but were home schooled.
In a deeply conservative town, where many children are taught at home for religious reasons, appearances fooled many. Others did not want to get involved.
Deepal Karunaratne, a Sri Lankan-born estate agent who employed Garrido to print his flyers and business cards, said he believed “Phil and Nancy” when they introduced him to their blonde blue-eyed “daughter”, Jaycee.
“Only he said she was called Allissa, and one of her daughters was called Scarlett,” he told The Sunday Times last week.
“Jaycee was part of the family business, running the printing press in the back yard. I would see her in work overalls, covered with ink, negotiated with her when she could not complete my order. She was always polite and professional. Or wearing jeans and a blouse standing outside the house with Nancy, who did all the bookkeeping.”
He added that he and Jaycee exchanged regular phone calls and e-mails.
“He [Garrido] would not let me see the press or the backyard: he said it was a trade secret. I was aware there were two little girls there, although I did not know they were living in tents. They went out to movies and to eat, nothing exceptional or strange,” he said.
His testimony is backed up by Ben Daughdrill, who last year met a woman who was introduced as Allissa when he went to Garrido’s house to pick up some business cards. “She was the design person; she did the art work; she was the genius,” said Daughdrill, who also communicated by phone and e-mail with Jaycee.
Why didn’t she try to escape? Reports yesterday suggested that Jaycee’s spirit was broken by the years of incarceration and that she had reached a point of accepting her fate.
She has told her parents that her children did not know Garrido had abducted her and her stepfather said that she regarded their relationship as “like a marriage”.
Both Karunaratne and Daughdrill are now haunted by what was uncovered last week. For Karunaratne, two recollections are particularly telling and troubling.
“Over the last three years he [Garrido] grew more intense about his religion. He said that God was speaking to him through this machine, and asked me to listen through headphones and sign a form saying I’d heard the voices too.
“I heard nothing but did it, to be polite. But he seemed to grow more crazy every time I saw him. He said he was being attacked by angels. He was melting down.”
The second cold finger running down the estate agent’s spine is Garrido’s account of a day recently when he took Jaycee and the girls on a “mission” to a nearby town called Pittsburg.
“He told me he had set up a stall to hand out his tracts, and all the family was helping him. His car broke down on the way home, and he phoned me up for a lift back. I told him to take the bus.”
This trip may prove horribly significant. On Friday Pittsburg police provided a local judge with enough evidence to obtain a warrant to search the house at Walnut Avenue.
They are seeking evidence in connection with the murder of up to 10 young women whose bodies were dumped at an “industrial park” in Pittsburg during the late 1990s when Garrido was working there.
It raises a nightmarish question: was Garrido taking Jaycee and the children he fathered back to the scene of a series of grotesque serial killings?
LAST week Garrido’s plans to build a Church of God’s Desire, outlined on his rambling blog, Voices Revealed, collapsed in the dust.
On Monday he visited the San Francisco offices of the FBI, leaving a “manifesto” saying that schizophrenia was not an illness but a conduit of God being repressed by evil doctors.
Why was he calling attention to himself with the law?
Later that day he went to the nearby campus of the University of California, Berkeley, with the two children to inquire about hosting an event called “God’s desire”.
He spoke to Lisa Campbell, a special events manager for the university and former police investigator, who was struck by his “peculiar” manner. She asked him to come back the next day.
When he returned she made sure she had a campus police officer with her. Allison Jacobs, 35, a former nurse, is so tough that she challenged her future husband to arm wrestle before she would date him. She noticed that the girls, who were wearing drab dresses, seemed to avoid meeting his eye.
“The older one was treating him as if he was a god, but they both looked like brainwashed zombies,” she said. They answered questions as if by rote.
Unlike the sheriff’s deputy, Jacobs ran Garrido’s name through a computer and found his sexual history.
She called his parole officer and told him about her concern about Garrido’s daughters. “The parole officer says, ‘He doesn’t have any daughters’, and my stomach just sank,” said Jacobs. “I said he had two daughters with him that day. They had his blue eyes.”
On Wednesday the parole officer summoned him to a local police station. Much to the officer’s amazement Garrido turned up with a 5ft 3in woman and two blonde blue-eyed children in shabby clothes.
The charade crumbled as Garrido was moved to another room and Allissa revealed her lost identity, stuttering as she said she had not spoken her own name out loud for 15 years. She asked to speak to her mother: when she got through, her mother thought it was a prank call, and then burst into tears.
Garrido was arrested but did not stay quiet. A few hours later he phoned a local television station and told a reporter that the “truth” was inside the document he had left with the FBI, and when it was all known it would be revealed as a “heart-warming” story.
“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 by me that took place at the beginning, but I turned my life around,” he said.
At least for Jaycee and her mother Terry, the first chapter of this long night is finally coming to a close. Terry must deal with the discombobulating experience of discovering that she is a grandmother by the child whom she last saw as an 11-year-old.
The abduction destroyed her marriage to Carl Probyn, who for many years was regarded as a suspect. He did not attend the mother and daughter reunion at a local motel, but is overjoyed at the news.
“Terry says Jaycee looks almost as she did, although she is feeling terribly guilty for bonding with her captor,” he said. “But we know she had to do that to survive, especially as this man had her children in the back. They are 11 and 15 and could not escape by themselves – it’s the only life they have ever known.”
Terry and Carl never gave up. They distributed 1.3m leaflets and every Christmas got together again to take time off work and search the town street by street.
The urgency did not fade. There was a march by 400 supporters 10 years after she vanished. In 2002 police searched the home of a defrocked Roman Catholic priest but found nothing. Local schoolchildren are still shown Jaycee’s missing posters, as a warning about “stranger danger”.
The girl left her mark on the city. “Jaycee was a sweetie,” said her fifth grade teacher, Sue Bush. “It scared the kids, and it scared them badly.
“We tied a pink ribbon to her chair and kept her desk the way she left it. The class wrote letters to Jaycee and made posters. They needed to talk about it,” said her teacher. They also planted a memorial garden with a plaque in her honour.
One friend, Angie Glatfelter, has a string of ladybird tattoos on her ankle, with a new one added every five years that Jaycee has been missing. “Jaycee just loved ladybugs,” she said.
Does she still? The world waits to hear from the girl who spent her teenage years and twenties hidden away in a secret garden.
Life after the ordeal
- Natascha Kampusch, 21, inset, astonishingly opted for a career in the media after escaping her captor in 2006 following eight years spent in his house near Vienna. She briefly hosted a television talk show.
All the while she was receiving counselling and would rarely go out in public without being escorted by an expert social worker.
Despite her apparent successful recovery, she recently stated how she felt she was unable to integrate in society. “In my cellar, I was perfect, self-contained and complete. Today I feel like people have taken away my ability to be myself,” she said.
- Elisabeth Fritzl, 42, was kept prisoner in the cellar of her family home by her father Josef for 24 years, and gave birth to seven of his children.
After their release in 2008 she and her six surviving children, then aged five to 19, received new identities and moved to a remote Austrian village.
Elisabeth is said to have entered a new relationship with one of the bodyguards assigned to her by the authorities. Her children are now going to school and attempting to start a new life in freedom.
- Elizabeth Smart, who in June 2002 was snatched from her bed in Salt Lake City by an insane “prophet” and held for nine months, has recovered enough to attend university. She said that she would advise Jaycee Lee Dugard to start “enjoying ordinary things again, one at a time” and taking a long family holiday. “I have shown that you can come back from this. You must not allow this man to steal the rest of your life, which starts right now.”
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