Phillip Garrido's unspeakable private life began unraveling in a very public place: a college campus.
He arrived at the police office at the University of California, Berkeley, with two girls, ages 11 and 15. Two very alert women – one the manager of special events, the other an officer – immediately sensed something was wrong.
Garrido announced he wanted to hold a religious event on campus related to a group called God's Desire. He seemed weird and unstable. But it was the pale, blonde, blue-eyed girls who really set off alarm bells.
They wore drab, monotone clothes and seemed programmed – “almost like ‘Little House on the Prairie' meets robots,” says Ally Jacobs, a campus police officer.
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The younger girl “was staring directly at me,” says Jacobs, the mother of two small boys. “It was almost like she was looking into my soul. … Her eyes were so penetrating.”
When Jacobs asked her about a bump near her eye, “she immediately replied with this very rehearsed response: ‘It's a birth defect. … I'll have it for the rest of my life.' I was a little taken aback. … She just wouldn't stop smiling.”
The older daughter, meanwhile, stared at the ceiling and looked at her father “in awe, as if she were in worship of him. I kind of got the feeling that these kids were like robots.”
Garrido gave them copies of a book he had written, “Origin of Schizophrenia Revealed.” They had a hard time following his conversation.
But he revealed the girls were home-schooled by his wife, with an assist from him. The girls said they had an older sister at home, 28 or 29, and that seemed strange, too, that she was even mentioned.
Finally, Jacobs says, Garrido grabbed his oldest daughter and said: “‘I'm so proud of my girls. They don't know any curse words. We raised them right. They don't know anything bad about the world.'”
By then, she says, “my police mode turned into my mother mode,” and her suspicions were more than confirmed when a records check found that Garrido was a registered sex offender who had been convicted of rape and kidnapping more than 30 years ago.
A call was made to Garrido's parole officer.
A hidden compound
Garrido had a reputation for peculiarity. He rambled nonsensically. He was dismissed as “kind of nutty.” He said God spoke to him through a box.
Neighbors were worried enough about him to call police, but no one knew how bizarre his world truly was until last week when authorities revealed the stunning news: Hidden in the back yard of his cinderblock house on Walnut Avenue, behind a 6-foot fence, leafy trees and a tarp, was a compound of weathered tents, wood sheds and buildings.
What looked like a messy campground with mattresses, small chairs, bikes, books, piles of toys, a trampoline, showers, an outhouse and a swing set was really a prison, of sorts. Its inmate: Jaycee Dugard, the girl abducted in 1991 who, authorities say, had been raped, held captive and shut off from society for nearly two decades.
Jaycee was now a 29-year-old mother. She had given birth to two of her suspected abductor's children, two girls raised in isolation. They had, according to authorities, never attended school, never visited a doctor – and Jaycee, it seems, had never reached out to anybody.
When Jaycee resurfaced last week, 18 years had passed. One daughter was 15, the other 11, the same age Jaycee was that day when she was heading to catch a school bus and instead was pulled screaming into a Ford Granada and driven here, 170 miles from home.
Garrido, 58, and his 54-year-old wife, Nancy, were arrested last week in that kidnapping. On Friday, they appeared in court and pleaded not guilty to more than two dozen charges, including forcible abduction, rape and false imprisonment.
Even with their arrests, there are more questions than answers in this mystery, questions about who knew about Jaycee, why she remained there, how she and her children lived – and how a man with a rap sheet, a parole officer and years of suspicious behavior managed to keep a sordid secret even when authorities were in his house.
Neighbor called police
Diane Doty has lived for 16 years in a house with a yard that abuts the one connected to the Garrido home.
From her deck, she could she could see tarps, but the trees concealed much else. Doty says she could hear kids in the back but they sounded normal. “I asked my husband, ‘Why is he living in tents?' And he said, ‘Maybe that is how they like to live.'”
Monica Adams, 33, whose mother, Betty, lives on the street, said Garrido once set up speakers at a party she was having at her parents' home, but stuck around even though he wasn't invited. She kicked him out because he was acting weird and staring at women.
Adams was watching the news later that night and discovered the public could look for sex offenders in their communities. She went online – and found Garrido's name.
She knew children were living with him, but she says she figured as a registered sex offender he was being checked up on by law enforcement.
Her confidence was misplaced. Authorities bungled many chances to catch Garrido and rescue Dugard.
In November 2006, a neighbor called police and described Garrido as a psychotic sex addict who was living with children and had people staying in tents in his backyard.
A sheriff's deputy talked with Garrido a half-hour on his front porch but didn't enter the house or back yard. He left, warning the tents could be a code violation. He did not know Garrido was a convicted sex offender even though his office had that information.
“We are beating ourselves up over this,” Contra Costa County Sheriff Warren Rupf said. “We should have been more inquisitive, more curious and turned over a rock or two.”
Garrido was 25 when convicted of a federal kidnapping charge and a state forcible rape charge after snatching a 25-year-old woman from a South Lake Tahoe, Calif., parking lot, handcuffing her, and holding her in a storage unit in Reno in November 1976.
In his 1977 federal trial, Garrido testified that he took four hits of LSD after seizing the woman, and that he had used LSD, cocaine, marijuana, hashish and other drugs since 1968.
He had confessed to a Reno police detective, Dan DeMaranville, telling him that he preferred sex by force.
Garrido was sentenced to 50 years for the kidnapping conviction and life for the rape conviction but was granted an early release in August 1988.
As a parolee, Garrido wore a global positioning satellite-linked ankle bracelet 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, authorities said. The latest was conducted just last month.
Garrido's life was secret, but his strangeness was there for all to see. Just last Monday, he marched into the FBI office in San Francisco, leaving behind documents containing rambling passages about religion, mind control and sexual compulsion.
Religious rants had become increasingly common for Garrido. Tim Allen, president of East County Glass and Window Inc., heard them frequently when buying business cards and letterhead from Garrido's printing business.
He said Garrido once brought a “box” into his shop that he claimed channeled God's voice. He opened it and asked, “Can you hear?” then spoke as if his voice were God's. He claimed to have the ability to speak to people through his mind.
Allen says he was unaware of Garrido's criminal past and felt sorry for him. “You never thought anything bad about the guy,” he says. “He was just kind of nutty.”
Garrido's father, Manuel, has a harsher assessment. His son, he says, is “absolutely out of his mind.” He traces his son's problems to a bad motorcycle accident long ago, when he went from a “comical, funny” boy to someone who fell in with the wrong crowd and took LSD.
Whatever the root of his problems, after Garrido's encounter with campus police at Berkeley, his parole officer told him to come in.
‘Hi, Mom. I have babies'
Garrido arrived for the meeting Wednesday with his wife, two girls and a blonde woman who initially identified herself as Allissa – Jaycee Dugard. During that conversation, investigators say, Garrido confessed to the kidnapping.
Jaycee's mother, Terry Probyn, had never give up hope.
Nearly a decade earlier, on the 10th anniversary of Jaycee's disappearance, Terry returned to the South Lake Tahoe area from her Southern California home for a pink-ribbon parade – in honor of Jaycee's favorite color, the color of the jacket and stretch pants the fifth grader wore the day she was abducted. “Someone out there knows what happened,” her mother said then. “We need peace. Give us that gift.”
The gift arrived with a miraculous phone call. Then came a reunion.
Both mother and daughter are avoiding the spotlight, according to Jaycee's stepfather, Carl Probyn.
Jaycee, he says, greeted her mother by saying, “Hi, Mom. I have babies.” Her two daughters apparently were never told she was kidnapped, her stepfather says,
Authorities say they do not know if Jaycee ever tried to escape or notify anyone of her location. But she apparently had chances to flee; Garrido did a stint behind bars during the time she was held captive.
“Jaycee has strong feelings with this guy,” Probyn said. “She really feels it's almost like a marriage.”
He says Jaycee was a mellow, easygoing girl who never got mad at anyone. She probably wouldn't climb a wall to escape. Maybe, he says, that's why she's alive today.