A girl disappears. Police can’t figure out who took her, and they can’t find a body. The investigation goes cold. Her family waits and wonders, torn between hope and resignation. And then, after years, she turns up—with children of her own, fathered by her alleged abductor and rapist during the nearly 20 years he and his wife imprisoned her in their backyard.
That’s the story of Jaycee Dugard, abducted on her way to school in South Lake Tahoe in 1991, and accidentally discovered in the Bay Area in 2009.
And it’s the story of Phillip Garrido, a registered sex offender still on parole. His neighbors thought he was a dangerous creep; his family can’t find much good to say about him; and he was under the watch of the California justice system the whole time. Yet somehow, if investigators are correct in their allegations, he was able not only to abduct a young girl — but to hide her in plain sight without coming to the attention of authorities, including the parole officers who made routine visits to the Garrido home.
The son of a forklift operator and a real estate agent in Antioch, Calif., Phillip Garrido, now 58, was a quiet kid, but, by the time he graduated from Brentwood’s Liberty High School in 1969, he had come to stand out as a little weird. He had grown his hair out, experimented with drugs and played in a psychedelic rock band. To most of his classmates, the moccasins, the fringed leather jacket, and the black light in his bedroom marked him as an outsider.
Maybe he was just more in tune with nearby San Francisco’s youth culture than were his peers in the remote east end of the Bay Area. But his father would later point back to this period as a significant turning point, saying that the head injury Garrido sustained in a motorcycle accident changed him.
His high school sweetheart seemed like an unlikely match. Christine Perreira was the daughter of a locally prominent family. She had been popular in school, racking up a long roster of extracurricular activities. She would later report, though, that he beat her and that he’d raped a girl in school.
Garrido was charged with the rape of another girl in Antioch in 1972. The 14-year-old said that he gave her barbiturates and raped her when she passed out. But she refused to testify, and the charges were dropped. She would come forward in 2009 to make sure officials were aware of the incident, even though the statute of limitations on her case had long since passed.
Despite these incidents, Perreira and Garrido got married and moved to South Lake Tahoe in 1973. He’d allegedly been dealing drugs, and may have been pushed out of Antioch by other drug dealers. In Tahoe, she dealt blackjack at the Harrah’s Casino while he played the bass guitar.
She stuck by him through that first allegation and as he struggled to make it as a musician, but she would divorce him after a second set of criminal charges.
Garrido confessed later that he spent much of the fall of 1976 planning a crime. He stalked a woman, and rented a small Reno warehouse to serve as his stage. He covered the walls with thick rugs to keep things quiet, and hung plastic sheets throughout the building to obscure the view in case someone wandered in. He gathered all the accoutrements of a 70s bachelor pad: a mattress, satin sheets, a fur blanket, colored lights, a projector, wine, hashish and a stack of porn magazines.
On November 26, he ingested four tabs of acid, and attacked the woman he’d been watching. She fought him off and got away. So he dropped by the Harrah’s Casino where his wife worked and asked another card dealer for a ride. Katie Callaway Hall remembered him from the casino and agreed to give him a lift; she soon found herself tied up and on her way to Reno as Garrido preached about Jesus Christ. At the warehouse, he raped her over the course of almost 6 hours. A cop noticed the car outside and that the warehouse’s door was ajar, The officer knocked—and a naked, beaten Hall managed to run out.
During his trial, Garrido admitted that he regularly masturbated as he watched girls in front of their elementary school, and that he’d exposed himself to them. He blamed marijuana, cocaine and daily LSD use for his behavior.
He was convicted of kidnap and rape and was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
He was sent to a federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan. His wife divorced him, but he struck up a relationship with a fellow inmate’s Texan niece, Nancy Bocanegra, now 54. The prison chaplain officiated at their wedding ceremony in 1981. Garrido used his time to study psychology and theology. He was offered a transfer to a mental health facility, but stayed in Leavenworth to complete his religious training. Prison psychologist J.B. Kielbauch saw in Garrido’s zeal as a new Jehovah’s Witness an indication that he would be unlikely to commit further crimes.
He served only 10 years before being paroled in 1988. If he hadn’t been set loose, things would have been different. If his wife hadn’t cooperated, things would have been different. As it was, though, Jaycee Dugard would face a nightmare of might-have-beens.
The Abduction Of Jaycee Dugard
South Lake Tahoe seemed like a great place to raise a family. Jaycee Dugard’s mother and stepfather, Terry and Carl Probyn, moved to the Californian resort town in late 1990 to escape the crime and stress of Orange County. It was a quiet, wooded, child-friendly neighborhood. Neighbors kept chickens under their porch.
Next spring, for the first time, Terry and Carl let their 11-year-old daughter walk alone to meet her friend and nearest neighbor halfway between their two houses on bucolic, wooded Washoan Boulevard. They watched the shy, pink-loving girl from afar the whole time.
And Carl was watching a few weeks later on June 10, 1991, when Jaycee walked to her school bus stop. He saw a couple in a gray sedan pass by the girl, then turn around. When the car reached Jaycee again, the driver pulled Jaycee inside and sped off. Probyn jumped on his bike and pedaled after them, but lost the car before getting its license plate number. He called the police, but he wouldn’t see Jaycee again for 18 years.
Probyn would later conclude that the couple in the gray car were Phillip and Nancy Garrido, who match his 1991 descriptions. Authorities would suggest that the Garridos drove through the same neighborhoods where he’d abducted Hall. Nancy later would tell investigators that when Phillip spotted Jaycee, he announced that she was the one he wanted, and that they came back the next day with a stun gun to subdue her.
A few of Jaycee’s classmates saw the incident too. Their statements eventually helped investigators confirm that Carl Probyn was not a suspect in the case. But the ordeal shattered the Probyns’ marriage nonetheless.
Nancy Garrido, on the other hand, stayed with her apparently monstrous husband—and seems even to have participated in his criminal acts.
Nancy Garrido: Another Victim Or Another Monster?
The Garridos had settled in the house just outside Antioch belonging to Phillip’s mother, who suffered from dementia which ultimately led to her hospitalization. A former nursing assistant, Nancy Garrido spent years taking care of her elderly, ailing mother-in-law, while the abducted Jaycee — and, eventually, Jaycee and Phillip’s daughters — lived among the motley collection of tents and sheds in the overgrown backyard. When a drugs-related parole violation sent Phillip back to jail for 6 weeks, Nancy was the one in charge.
Colleagues at the nonprofit Contra Costa ARC, where Nancy helped adults with developmental disabilities, called her a competent coworker. Neighbors and customers at Phillip’s printing business thought she was an unusually quiet, deferential wife, maybe even a hermit. She never had children of her own.
Was she under her erratic husband’s control, or was she as rotten as he was? Nancy cried when she was arraigned — were these tears for the girl, or for herself? Prosecutors allege that she, not just Phillip, had participated in the sexual abuse of Jaycee.
In addition to his wife’s consent, tacit or explicit, to his actions, Phillip Garrido also turned his checkered past into an opportunity to cloud the true, horrible situation from his community. When concerned neighbors realized that there was a registered sex offender in their midst, Garrido convinced them that he was only on the sex offender list because his vengeful ex-wife had falsely accused him of raping her.
So the secret endured — though authorities had repeated opportunities to uncover it.
In 2006, a neighbor reported that a woman and children were living in tents in the Garridos’ backyard. The call described Phillip Garrido as a “psychotic sex addict.” A Contra Costa deputy dispatched to the scene checked out the call and interviewed Garrido on the porch. He didn’t run a backround check, so he didn’t realize that Garrido was a paroled sex offender. And he failed to investigate the one place the caller had explicitly mentioned: the backyard.
A 2008 fire in the backyard summoned firefighters and police, but somehow didn’t reveal the habitation of the backyard compound.
Paramedics visited the house on emergency calls (presumably involving Garrido’s ailing mother) a number of times over the years, without noting anything suspicious.
Neither Garrido’s regular interviews with his parole agent nor mandated visits, both scheduled and surprise, by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation revealed the crime. The GPS device that tracked Phillip’s movement certainly didn’t note that he’d imprisoned and raped a missing girl at his own residence.
A neighbor whose property has also been searched in the case insists that’s because the whole story is in error. She says Jaycee and the children were living in the house, and that they seemed happy and healthy. According to this account, Jaycee wasn’t hidden away, locked in a dungeon like Josef Fritzl’s daughter. Instead, Jaycee worked at Garrido’s print shop, handling design duties. She saw customers regularly, she had access to a telephone and an email account, and could have drawn attention to her situation if she’d been abused. Angel, 11, and Starlit, 15, didn’t attend school and had never seen a doctor, but Jaycee and Garrido taught them to read and write, and his wife used her basic healthcare training to help keep them well. By this account, all might seem fairly normal.
Other neighbors and customers disagree, and paint a disturbing portrait of Garrido.
To most of the residents of that humble area of Antioch, Garrido was the mysterious guy that people whispered about, and his house was a spot the more sensitive among them avoided. They thought he was “creepy.” Parents warned their children to stay away. A group of teenage boys once chased him away from a graduation party after he’d showed up uninvited and proceeded to make inappropriate comments to the girls.
Several neighbors complained that Garrido proselytized excessively about his one-man church, God’s Desire. He showed them a machine — apparently just a mixing board and amplifier — through which he said God spoke to him.
On his blog, Voices Revealed (http://voicesrevealed.blogspot.com/), Phillip Garrido, aka “The Man Who Spoke with His Mind,” recorded his spiritual investigations and his efforts to convince others that he had some special insight into God and the human mind. His pseudo-legalistic and quasi-scientific rambling was hard to follow, but he seemed to be convinced that he could hear God and that he could control sound with his mind. He believed that he’d liberated his mind and God had revealed to him humanity’s real purpose. He seemed to have persuaded some of his local business contacts to sign documents attesting that they’d seen him electronically control an “unearthly” voice.
For all his evangelical efforts, he got angry when strangers and neighbors got too close to his property; in 2007, he seems to have followed the Google Search View camera car down the street as it filmed his neighborhood.
One print shop customer recounted that Garrido shared some of his home recordings, songs about his struggles with his attraction to young girls.
His own brother called him a fruitcake and said he wasn’t surprised to hear of the alleged crime. It seemed in fact to have surprised only the authorities, despite the GPS device he wore as part of his parole, and the court-mandated supervision by the agent assigned to his case.
A few days before his backyard reign of terror came to an end, Garrido hand-delivered two manuscripts to the FBI’s San Francisco office: “The Origin of Schizophrenia Revealed” and “Stepping into the Light.” In the latter, he discussed his struggle with his own violent sexual impulses, admitting that they were hurting his loved ones. He claimed he’d overcome them. Following his arrest, he insisted that he’d turned his life around and that his alleged victim would have a heartwarming story to tell; he told reporters the FBI papers would explain everything. He claimed that, thanks to his rebirth, he had never so much as kissed the two girls, though he held them each night as they fell asleep.
Garrido wanted to share his discovery that those who heard voices could learn to stop, think and control themselves. He wanted to hand out literature and speak on the grounds of the University of California, Berkeley. When he met with university officials to get the necessary permit, he brought two young girls with him, saying they were his daughters.
Special events manager Lisa Campbell thought something seemed wrong. She called in UCB police officer Allison Jacobs, who agreed. The girls were stilted and remote and didn’t look healthy. Garrido noted he’d been convicted of sex crimes and claimed that he was now doing God’s work. Jacobs ran a background check and discovered the 1977 conviction. She called Garrido’s parole agent, mentioning in passing her concerns about the children’s well-being. The agent didn’t believe Garrido had any children, but he promised to follow up.
But the girls had called him “Dad” and spoke of both their mother and an older sister. That “sister” was Jaycee.
On August 26, 2009, the parole officer arranged a meeting with Garrido, who was accompanied by his wife and “Allison,” whom the parole officer had never met before—and who turned out to be Jaycee. “Allison” was also the name she went by at Garrido’s shop, Printing for Less.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reported that Garrido, when confronted, had admitted kidnapping her, and said the children were his. Police arrested Nancy and Phillip Garrido and interviewed Jaycee. She confirmed her identity, and was able to answer questions to which police say only the child or her abductors would know the answers.
After 18 years, Terry Probyn was reunited with her daughter Jaycee, and she met her grandchildren. As the case proceeded, Jaycee and the children took refuge from the media in a Bay Area hotel, and tried to get used to their new freedom.
Jaycee’s stepfather reported that she had expressed guilt about not being able to escape. He noted that Jaycee had been with the Garridos longer than she had lived with her own mother — and that she’d developed a strong bond with the Garridos.
An El Dorado County judge set a $30 million bail for Phillip Garrido; it’s likely that if someone tried to post bail, “parole hold” would keep him in prison. As of September 16, 2009, no bail had been set for his wife. Their attorneys are arranging psychiatric evaluations of both. They’ve pleaded not guilty to a combined 29 felony charges.
Contra Costa County Sheriff Warren E. Rupf has publicly apologized for his department’s failure to recognize the situation when they visited the Garridos in 2006 and 2008. Now people are wondering what other crimes authorities may have missed.
Authorities are investigating whether Garrido may have been responsible for other unsolved murders and abductions in California and Nevada. They’ve searched his house again, checking for the clothing of two missing girls, and for graves.
Dublin, Calif., police are investigating Garrido’s possible role in the disappearance of Ilene Misheloff in 1987.
Hayward police are trying to determine whether Garrido may have been responsible for the kidnapping of Michaela Garecht in 1988. He resembles a sketch based on witness descriptions of that woman’s abductor.
There are also other cases in which Garrido, while not officially a person of interest, is nonetheless the object of unofficial speculation:
In 1989, a brother and sister disappeared near their bus stop in Reno. According to Katie Hall, the victim of his first proven rape, Garrido had told her that he had also abducted two girls in 1976. A 17-year-old was also slain in Reno that same year.
Between 1998 and 2002, the bodies of nine raped and murdered women, mostly prostitutes, were found in an industrial park at which Garrido worked at the time.
In early September 2009, a neighbor found a bone fragment near Garrido’s home. An expert who examined it for the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office deems it human, but there’s a chance the bone is from much older, perhaps even pre-Columbian, inhabitants of the area. DNA tests are pending.
Phillip and Nancy Garrido will face a court hearing October 29, 2009.
“Authorities: Wife Watched Over Kidnap Victim .” The New York Times, September 2, 2009.
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/09/02/us/AP-US-Kidnapped-Girl-Found-Garridos-Wife.html?scp=14&sq=phillip%20garrido&st=cse, retrieved 9/12/2009.
Breuer, Howard. “Girls Find Out Jaycee Dugard is Really Their Mom.” People, September 1, 2009.
http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20301831,00.html, retrieved 9/11/2009.
Bulwa, Demian. “Garrido’s ’72 Rape Case: Girl Wouldn’t Testify.” San Francisco Chronicle, September 4, 2009.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/09/04/MNFE19I72B.DTL, retrieved 9/15/09.
Bulwa, Demian. “Kidnap Suspect Had Criminal Past, Says Brother.” San Francisco Chronicle, August 28, 2009.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/08/28/MNHQ19EU4O.DTL, retrieved 9/15/09.
Bulwa, Demian. “Police: Suspect Fathered Victim’s Kids.” San Francisco Chronicle, August 27, 2009.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/08/28/MN4N19EJ35.DTL, retrieved 9/15/09.
Cassidy, John. “Bail $30 Million for Man Accused of Kidanpping Jaycee Dugard.” The Orange County Register, September 14, 2009.
http://www.ocregister.com/articles/kidnapping-dugard-captive-2564405-county-probyn, retrieved 9/14/2009.
Cathcart, Rebecca. “After 1991 Kidnapping, Community Lost Confidence.” The New York Times, September 7, 2009.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/07/us/07tahoe.html?scp=40&sq=phillip%20garrido&st=cse, retrieved 9/12/2009.
“California Kidnap Case Prompts Look Back at Cold Cases.” The New York Times, September 2, 2009.
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/09/04/us/AP-US-Kidnapped-Girl-Unsolved-Crimes.html?scp=32&sq=phillip%20garrido&st=cse, retrieved 9/12/2009.
Collins, Terry and Brooke Donald. “First Look: Inside the Phillip Garrido Compound.” Fox40, August 28, 2009.
http://www.fox40.com/news/headlines/ktxl-news-dugard-compound0828,0,1838825.story, retrieved 9/9/2009.
Davey, Monica. “Case Shows Limits of Sex Offender Alert Programs.” The New York Times, September 2, 2009.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/02/us/02offenders.html?scp=31&sq=phillip%20garrido&st=cse. Retrieved 9/12/2009.
Fagan, Kevin. “Dugard Likely to Testify, Prosecutor Says.” San Francisco Chronicle, September 15, 2009.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/09/15/BAEU19N005.DTL, retrieved 9/15/2009.
Fagan, Kevin. “How Life of ‘Sweet Kid’ Unraveled in Adulthood.” San Francisco Chronicle, September 6, 2009.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/09/06/MNG319IJD3.DTL, retrieved 9/15/2009.
“Garrido’s Twisted Path Often Led to God.” The New York Times, September 12, 2009.
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/09/12/us/AP-US-Garrido-and-God.html?scp=28&sq=phillip%20garrido&st=cse, retrieved 9/12/2009.
Heiling, Steve. “Jaycee Dugard’s Aunt Describes Emotional Family Reunion.” People, September 3, 2009.
http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20302286,00.html, retrieved 9/11/2009.
“Kidnap Suspect Morphed into Sexual Predator.” The New York Times, September 7, 2009.
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/09/07/us/AP-US-Kidnapped-Girl-Found.html?scp=21&sq=phillip%20garrido&st=cse, retrieved 9/12/2009.
Lee, Howard K. “Garridos are Focus of More Kidnap Probes.” SFGate.com, September 15, 2009.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/09/15/BAME19NP0D.DTL, retrieved 9/25/2009.
Locke, Michelle. “Police Again Search Home in Kidnapping Case.” San Francisco Examiner, September 15, 2009.
http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/Police-again-search-home-in-Calif-kidnap-case—59389742.html, retrieved 9/15/2009.
Mackey, Robert. “Hiding in Plain Street View.” The New York Times, September 1, 2009.
http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/01/hiding-in-plain-street-view/?scp=9&sq=phillip%20garrido&st=cse, retrieved 9/12/2009.
May, Meredith and Stefan Tomik. “Search Intensifies at Kidnap Suspect’s Compound.” San Francisco Chronicle, August 30, 2009.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/08/30/MN4V19FTD4.DTL, retrieved 9/15/2009.
McKinley, Jesse. “Few Clues to Puzzle of Suspect in Abduction.” The New York Times, September 6, 2009.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/06/us/06nancy.html?scp=48&sq=phillip%20garrido&st=cse, retrieved 9/12/2009.
McKinley, Jesse and Carol Pogash. “Abduction Suspect Was More Unhinged Recently.” The New York Times, August 30, 2009.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/30/us/30abduct.html?scp=4&sq=phillip%20garrido&st=cse, retrieved 9/12/2009.
McKinley, Jesse and Carol Pogash. “Kidnapping Victim Was Not Always Locked Away.” The New York Times, August 29, 2009.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/29/us/29abduct.html?scp=15&sq=phillip%20garrido&st=cse, retrieved 9/12/2009.
McKinley, Jesse and Carol Pogash. “Kidnapped at 11, Woman Emerges After 18 Years.” The New York Times, August 28, 2009.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/28/us/28abduct.html?scp=10&sq=phillip%20garrido&st=cse, retrieved 9/12/2009.
Netter, Sarah and Sabina Ghebremedhin. “Cops Apologize for Muffing Chance to Rescue Jaycee Dugard in 2006.” ABC News, August 28, 2009.
http://abcnews.go.com/US/Story?id=8431843&page=1, retrieved 9/15/2009.
“Officers Who Cracked Missing Girl Case: Something Wasn’t Right.” CNN, August 31, 2009.
http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/08/31/missing.girl.officers/index.html#cnnSTCText, retrieved 9/11/2009.
Park, Michael Y. “Phillip Garrido Wrote Love Songs to Young Girls.” People, September 9, 2009.
http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20303206,00.html?xid=rss-fullcontentcnn, retrieved 9/11/2009.
Park, Michael Y. and Howard Breuer. “Phillip Garrido’s Previous Victim Recalls her 8-Hour Terror.” People, September 1, 2009.
http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20301675,00.html?xid=rss-fullcontentcnn, retrieved 9/11/2009.
“Police: California Girl Kidnapped 18 Years Ago Kept as Sex Slave in Couple’s Backyard.” Fox News, August 27, 2009.
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,543640,00.html, retrieved 9/9/2009.
Schneider, Karen S. “Too Cruel a Theft.” People, November 25, 1991.
http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20111362,00.html, retrieved 9/11/2009.
“Sheriff: Kidnap Victim, Children Kept in Backyard Compound.” CNN, August 29, 2009.
http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/08/27/california.missing.girl/index.html#cnnSTCText, retrieved 9/11/2009.
Simon, Dan. “Emails Show Kidnap Victim Worked at Suspect’s Business.” CNN, August 31, 2009. Retrieved 9/11/2009.
Simon, Mallory. “Suspect Used Bondage, Captivity in the Past.” CNN, September 9, 2009.
http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/09/03/garrido.rape.kidnap.pattern/index.html#cnnSTCText, retrieved 9/11/2009.
Simon, Mallory.” Kidnap Suspect: Mind Control Helped Stop My Sexual Urges.” CNN, September 1, 2009.
http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/08/31/garrido.documents/index.html#cnnSTCText, retrieved 9/11/2009.
“Suspects in Jaycee Dugard Kidnapping Appear in Court.” CNN, September 14, 2009.
http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/09/14/garrido.court/index.html, retrieved 9/14/2009.
Truesdell, Jeff. “Jaycee Dugan’s Alleged Abductor Called a ‘Creep.'” CNN, August 31, 2009.
http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20301152,00.html?xid=rss-fullcontentcnn, retrieved 9/11/2009.
Vance, Teri. “Jaycee Lee Dugard Kidnapping: Authorities Release Details.” Nevada Appeal, August 28, 2009.
http://www.tahoedailytribune.com/article/20090828/NEWS/908279988&parentprofile=search, retrieved 9/10/2009.
Yingling, Steve. “Dugard’s Return Brings Closure to Former Neighbors.” Tahoe Daily Tribune, August 30, 2009.
http://www.tahoedailytribune.com/article/20090829/NEWS/908289976&parentprofile=search, retrieved 9/10/2009.