After being held captive for 18 years, Jaycee Dugard was found on the college campus of UC Berkeley last week, having endured the unimaginable. Her kidnapper, Phillip Garrido, 58, was on campus handing out religious material with his two young daughters, and something about the threesome made campus police suspicious.
"I just kind of got a weird, uneasy feeling. I was looking at the younger daughter, who was sitting across from me, and she was staring directly at me. It was almost as if she was looking into my soul," said Allison Jacobs, who spotted them on campus. "I kind of got the feeling that these kids were like robots. It was my intuition."
That hunch would soon uncover one of the darkest, most disturbing and twisted criminal cases in recent memory. The girls told police they were home schooled and they lived with their older sister in Antioch, Calif. But a simple background check revealed that their father was a convicted kidnapper and rapist and was now a registered sex offender.
But when the Berkeley police contacted Garrido's parole officer, who had visited his home numerous times, he was stunned to learn that Garrido had any children. Astonishment turned to horror when Garrido returned with his wife Nancy and a 29-year-old woman who said she was Jaycee Dugard, who police learned had been kidnapped 18 years ago.
On June 10, 1991, Dugard was snatched off the street while walking to a bus stop near her home in Lake Tahoe. In an instant, she was gone. For years, search parties and wanted posters would yield no sign of her. Neighbors in Antioch, Calif., thought something was odd about Phillip Garrido. But last week the extent of Garrido's apparent depravity came into full view.
To their horror, police say discovered that Garrido had not only kidnapped and held Dugard captive for 18 years, but had repeatedly raped her and that she was the mother of his two children. In a hidden backyard, the size of a tennis court, authorities found a squalid complex containing a soundproof tent, sheds, a cage and even a swing set.
Garrido and his wife Nancy were arrested and charged with more than two dozen crimes including kidnapping, imprisonment, and rape. They have pleaded not guilty.
During those 18 years, Garrido created an alternate identity for Dugard, renaming her "Alyssa." She even helped run his printing business, often working with customers.
As Dugard begins the long and difficult process of reuniting with her real family after nearly two decades, questions loom large: why didn't she reach out for help? Why didn't she try to escape?
Like other childhood abductions -- Elizabeth Smart, who was held for nine months after being snatched from her suburban Utah bedroom in 2002 at the age of 14; or Shawn Hornbeck, who was missing for four years -- the answer is complicated. Kidnap victim Jessyca Mullenberg knows all too well the nightmare Jaycee has lived.
Mullenberg, then 13 years old, was abducted by a man who had intricately woven himself into her life for several years and ultimately brought her childhood to an unnatural and abrupt end.
Mullenberg vanished while spending a weekend with her father in the town of Eau Claire, Wis.