California kidnap accused deny charges as questions mount



PLACERVILLE, Rob Gloster - A Californian couple denied Friday kidnapping an 11-year-old girl and keeping her a sex slave for 18 years, as questions mounted over how their alleged crimes went undetected for so long.
Phillip Garrido, 58, and his wife Nancy, 54, pleaded not guilty to 28 felony counts including kidnapping, rape and false imprisonment, following the discovery of Jaycee Lee Dugard on Wednesday, nearly two decades after the blonde schoolgirl was snatched outside her home in 1991.



California kidnap accused deny charges as questions mount
Dugard, now 29, was held captive in a makeshift prison of sheds and tents in what police have described as a "backyard within a backyard" at Garrido's home in Antioch, around 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of San Francisco.
On Thursday police revealed that convicted rapist and registered sex offender Garrido had abused Dugard and fathered two daughters with the captive, now aged 15 and 11, who had also been kept in the compound.
In a bizarre interview with a local television station Garrido acknowledged that his abduction of Dugard from outside her South Lake Tahoe home in 1991 had been a "disgusting thing."
But Garrido, described by neighbors as a religious fundamentalist who wanted to set up his own church, insisted he had "turned his life around" since kidnapping the girl in 1991 and that the case was a "heart-warming" story.
"You are going to be completely impressed," he said. "It's a disgusting thing that took place with me at the beginning. But I turned my life completely around and to be able to understand that, you have to start there.
"What's kept me busy the last several years is I've completely turned my life around," Garrido said. "And 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."
Dugard was found after police reported Garrido acting suspiciously at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was trying to hand out religious literature to students on Tuesday.
He was summoned to a meeting Wednesday with his parole officer who, having previously visited the Garrido home, found it strange that in addition to his wife Nancy he brought along two girls and a woman he called "Allissa."
Dugard's real identity emerged during the course of the meeting and Garrido and his wife Nancy were detained.
Nancy Garrido sobbed throughout a five-minute court hearing on Friday while her husband stood expressionless nearby. Both entered not guilty pleas through defense attorneys.
Meanwhile neighbors of the Garridos expressed shock that the secret prison could go unnoticed for so long.
"It's kind of embarrassing to be here this long and not know what's going on. How could that go on under all of our noses?," one neighbor, who gave his name only as Steve told AFP.
"When I first met him (Garrido) I thought he was a nice guy. Now I'd just like to see him shot or hung."
Police in Contra Costa County admitted on Friday that they had received a tip in November 2006 that children were living in Garrido's backyard, but failed to follow it up properly.
Sheriff Warren E. Rupf issued an apology over the missed opportunity to rescue Dugard, saying law enforcement officials were distraught over their failure to discover Garrido's crimes earlier.
"I can't change the course of events, but we are beating ourselves up over this and are the first to do so," Rupf said.
The sheriff confirmed that neighbors called 911 on November 30, 2006, to warn that children were living in Garrido's home and that people appeared to be housed in the backyard.
However the sheriff's deputy who responded to the call never entered the house or checked the backyard, Rupf said, missing "an opportunity to rescue Jaycee.
"There are a lot of reasons that go into these things," Rupf said. "There are no excuses. I am not offering excuses."
"We should have been more inquisitive, more curious."
Dugard was kidnapped on June 10, 1991 by two occupants in a car right before the eyes of her horrified stepfather Carl Probyn, who gave chase on a bicycle but failed to stop the abduction.
"I had personally given up hope," a tearful Probyn told ABC News. "I had just hoped for a recovery" and to find those responsible, said Probyn.
Local undersheriff Fred Kollar told reporters that Dugard was in good health, but said obviously that "living in a back yard for 18 years does take its toll."
Garrido's elder brother said he was shocked by the suspect's two-decade kidnap, but pointed to a troubled past of drug abuse, sexual compulsion and his marriage in prison.
"It just seems so bizarre, but I can believe it," 65-year-old Ron Garrido told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I know my brother, and I can believe he did that ... He's a fruitcake."
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Friday, August 28th 2009
Rob Gloster
           


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