His neighbors knew he was a registered sex offender. Kids on his block called him “Creepy Phil” and kept their distance. Parole agents and local law enforcement regularly visited his home and found nothing unusual, even after a neighbor complained children were living in a complex of tents in his backyard.
For 18 years, authorities say, Phillip Garrido managed to elude detection as he pulled off an unfathomable crime, kidnapping and raping 11-year-old Jaycee Dugard, keeping her his secret captive for nearly two decades, and fathering two children with her.
The question about how he went unnoticed became more pressing Friday when Garrido came under suspicion in the unsolved slayings of several prostitutes. Several of the women's bodies – the exact number is not known – were dumped near an industrial park where Garrido worked during the 1990s.
Authorities said they blew a chance three years ago to rescue Dugard from the backyard labyrinth of sheds, tents and outbuildings that were concealed from the outside world.
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A neighbor called 911 in November 2006 and described Garrido as a psychotic sex addict who was living with children and had people staying in tents in his backyard.
The investigating officer spent a half-hour interviewing Garrido on his front porch but didn't enter the house or search the backyard, Contra Costa County Sheriff Warren Rupf said.
“We missed an opportunity to bring earlier closure to this situation,” Rupf said. “I cannot change the course of events, but we are beating ourselves up over this and continue to do so.”
It was not the only missed opportunity.
As a parolee, Garrido wore a GPS-linked anklet that tracked his every movement. He met with his parole agent several times each month and was subject to routine surprise home visits and random drug and alcohol tests, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman Gordon Hinkle said.
The last unannounced visit by a team of local police agencies was in July 2008.
“There was never any indication to my knowledge that there was any sign of children living there,” Hinkle said.
As it turns out, Dugard and her two children were living there as prisoners, authorities say. The heavily wooded compound was arranged so that people could not view what was happening, and one of the buildings was sound-proofed and could only be opened from the outside.
Dugard, now 29, was reunited with her family and was said to be in good health but feeling guilty about developing a bond with Garrido over the years. Her two children, 11 and 15, remained with her.
“Jaycee has strong feelings with this guy. She really feels it's almost like a marriage,” said Dugard's stepfather, Carl Probyn, who was there when little Jaycee was snatched from a bus stop in 1991.
The authorities say they do not yet know whether Dugard ever tried to escape or to alert anyone of her whereabouts. But she had chances to escape Garrido, who did a stint behind bars during the period of captivity.
Garrido and his wife pleaded not guilty Friday to a total of 29 counts, including forcible abduction, rape and false imprisonment. Phillip Garrido appeared stoic and unresponsive during the brief arraignment hearing. His wife cried and put her head in her hands several times.
Garrido gave a rambling, sometimes incoherent phone interview to KCRA-TV from the county jail Thursday in which he said he had not admitted to a kidnapping and that he had turned his life around since the birth of his first daughter 15 years ago. He told the TV station that he walked into the FBI's San Francisco office on Monday with Dugard's daughters and dropped off documents containing passages about religion, sexual compulsion and mind control.
Garrido was required to register as a sex offender because he was convicted in 1977 of kidnapping a 25-year-old woman from parking lot in South Lake Tahoe, the same town Jaycee Dugard was living in when she was taken.
In the case, Garrido took the woman across the state line into Nevada, where he raped her in a mini-warehouse in Reno that had been furnished with rugs, pornographic magazines and sex toys, according to prosecutors and news accounts from the time.
He served about 10 years of a 50-year federal sentence for kidnapping, and less than a year for a concurrent Nevada sentence of five years to life in prison for sexual assault. He was paroled in 1988, Nevada Department of Corrections officials said.