Cops Apologize for Muffing Chance to Rescue Jaycee Dugard in 2006

Jaycee Dugard/ABC News

As Jaycee Dugard gets to know her family again after 18 years in depraved captivity, a California sheriff admitted today that his officers booted a chance to rescue Jaycee nearly three years ago.

"We missed an opportunity to bring earlier closure to this situation," Contra Costa County Sheriff Warren E. Rupf said in a news conference today.

"I am first in line .... to offer my apologies to the victims and accept responsibility for missing an opportunity to rescue Jaycee," he said.

Video: Contra Costa County Sheriff Warren E. Rupf offers apologies to the Dugard family.Play

Rupf said that a woman called 911 on Nov. 30, 2006 complained that people, including children, appeared to be living in tents in the backyard of Phillip and Nancy Garrido's house in the town of Antioch, Calif. "The caller also said Garrido was psychotic and had a sexual addiction," he said.

By the time of that call, Jaycee had been Garrido's backyard prisoner for more than 15 years and bore two children fathered by him.

A fund has been established for Jaycee Dugard and her two children. Contributions can be sent to Dugard's mother: Terry Probyn, c/o Viewtech, P.O. Box 596, Atwood, Calif. 92811

The sheriff said an officer sent to check out the 911 complaint met with Garrido in his front yard, determined nothing criminal was going on, and left.

"He did not enter or request to enter the backyard," Rupf said. "This is not an acceptable outcome. Organizationally, we should have been more inquisitive, more curious and turned over a rock or two."

The sheriff also said the officer was not aware that Garrido had previously been convicted of kidnap and rape and was a registered sex offender.

"I cannot change the course of events," a contrite Rupf said. "But we are beating ourselves up over this and will continue to do so. I am first in line to offer organizational criticism, and to offer my apologies to the victims, and accept responsibility for missing an opportunity to rescue Jaycee."

The sheriff's statement came as questions were being raised over how Jaycee's ordeal went undetected so long despite at least two visits to the house of horror by law enforcement authorities in recent years.

Dugard, who is now 29, has been reunited with the mother she hasn't seen since she was snatched off a California street at the age of 11. Also at the reunion is her 19-year-old stepsister Shayna, who was 1 when Jaycee disappeared.

"As of this moment we are just reuniting and everything is going well," Shayna wrote in response to a question from ABC News on her MySpace page.

"Shes only 29. She has the rest of her life to live and I have a lot of love to share with my sister and new nieces. In due time my mom will make statements and so will I if needed, but you have to understand this time is critical and the media attention would just add stress to something so delicate."

The message ends with, "Thanks, Shayna."

Aerial photos show that the alleged kidnappers' had neighbors on either side of them and directly behind them. Nevertheless, the secret lives contained in that jumbled back yard of tents, sheds, an abandoned car and appliances remained hidden for nearly two decades.

Police twice knocked at the Garrido's door in the last two years, but didn't notice the secret lair of tents and sheds that allegedly held Jaycee – and later her two daughters – for 18 years.

Contra Costa County Capt. Daniel Terry told today that authorities from the county's multi-agency task force had visited Garrido as part of routine compliance check, but did not offer any details regarding frequency or how thoroughly the property was checked.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the task force visited the Garrido's Antioch home last summer.

"There were zero signs of kids living there," Antioch Police St. Diane Aguinaga told the Chronicle, adding that authorities looked in the back but saw only a porch and shed.

El Dorado County Undersheriff Fred Kollar on Thursday confirmed that a parole officer had looked in the back, but said the secret yard was hidden by a six foot fence and tall trees. The entrance was concealed by a tarp that had to be pulled aside. If a person didn't know the yard existed, Kollar said, there would be no way to know there was an entrance.

"The way the house is set up, the way the back yard is set up, you could walk through the back yard, walk through the house and never know that there was another set of living circumstances in that back yard," the sheriff said.

And the view by neighbors was also screened. "The tents and outbuildings were strategically placed to inhibit outside viewing," Kollar said.

Neighbors Didn't Notice Jaycee Dugard Was Held Captive

Next-door neighbor Helen Boyer, who Thursday described the Garridos as "nice people," told today that she was "numb" after learning about the abuse allegedly at the hands of people she'd known for more than 10 years.

"I feel terrible," she said. "When they mentioned the house of horror, it upset us really bad."

Boyer said she had seen three young girls at the house, who she now believes to be Jaycee and her 11-and 15-year-old daughters, but never thought anything was amiss.

She had known for a long time that Garrido was a registered sex offender, but didn't think to call authorities "because it was supposedly Nancy's friend's kids."

Boyer was also shocked to learn about the complicated backyard labyrinth, telling that it's not visible from her yard even now that she knows about it.

""We have real big backyards and there would be no occasion for me to even look back there. There's a high fence," she said. "If I stood on something I would look over there, but you wouldn't be able to see all the tents."

Another neighbor, Diane Doty, told the Associated Press she could see the tents and often heard children playing in the backyard, the corner of which abuts her own backyard. She said she even suspected the children lived in the tents, but her husband said she should leave the family alone.

Jaycee's family is still reeling from the little girl who disappeared in 1991 is alive, although has had to endure brutal conditions.

Carl Probyn, who had long since given up hope of finding his stepdaughter alive, told "Good Morning America" today that getting reacquainted is going to be a challenge for everyone. Jaycee is largely uneducated, having spent the majority of her life relegated to the Garrido's backyard.

"It's pretty sick," Probyn said. "I feel sorry for Jaycee going through this. The way he's had her locked up in the backyard for basically 18 years."

Jaycee's two daughters with her accused kidnapper, 11 and 15, have never been to school or seen a doctor.

Registered sex offender Phillip Garrido and his wife Nancy have been arrested in connection with the case and charged with kidnapping and rape. Garrido had previously been convicted of kidnapping and rape.

New details emerged in court papers today about Jaycee's ordeal. It was alleged in the documents that a stun gun was used to subdue the girl when she was grabbed off the street.

And in addition to be repeatedly raped over the years by Garrido, the documents alleged that Nancy Garrido also had sex with the girl.

Jaycee Feels Guilt

Jaycee, who had been renamed Allissa, and her two daughters are now with her mother, Terry Probyn, in Northern California.

"My wife says that Jaycee looks good. She looks almost like when she was kidnapped," Probyn said. "She looks very young. She doesn't look 29 at all."

"Jaycee feels really guilty for bonding with this man," Probyn said. "There's really a guilt trip here."

Jaycee was snatched off the street 18 years ago as she waited for the school bus. Probyn heard her scream and saw her get pulled into a grey Ford with a man and a woman. He even chased them down on his bike, but couldn't catch them.

A massive search effort was launched, and Probyn even came under scrutiny. The Probyns' lives were shattered -- the couple moved from their home and their marriage broke up, though they are still legally married.

Though Garrido was monitored by authorities because of his sex offender status and neighbors knew he was spending time around children, it took 18 years for him to make a mistake -- taking Jaycee's daughters to hand out religious material at a local college, where they caught the eye of a police officer.

"He's ruined our lives," Probyn said of Garrido. "Maybe changed his life but it sure screwed ours up. I have no compassion for this guy. He's just out in left field."

Garrido has already begun speaking out, trying to tell his story. In a jailhouse interview with a local television station, he said his story was not one of torture, but of redemption.

"Wait until you hear the story of what took place at this house. You are going to be completely impressed," Garrido 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."

Garrido said that having children with Jaycee changed his life and that "they slept in my arms every single night since birth. I never touched them."

His online blog is full of ramblings and notes that he can speak in tongues and control sounds with his mind.

Garrido's brother told ABC News that he used LSD as a teen and met his wife while in prison.

Jaycee Dugard, Children Kept in 'Complete Isolation'

El Dorado County Undersheriff Fred Kollar said in a news conference Thursday that Jaycee had been held captive at a house in Antioch, Calif., since the day she was abducted and that none of their neighbors ever knew.

He described the location as a "hidden back yard" within a larger yard that was arranged in such a way "to isolate the victims from outside contact."

Entrance to the secret yard was guarded by a 6-foot-tall fence, tall trees and a tarp, he said.

Kollar said Jaycee and the two children lived in a series of sheds, including one that was soundproofed and that could only be opened from the outside. In addition, there were two tents in the yard.

"None of the children had ever gone to school, they had never gone to a doctor," Kollar said. "They were kept in complete isolation."

When asked about Jaycee's condition, the undersheriff said, "She is in good health, but living in a backyard for 18 years does take its toll."

"There is nothing to indicate this was anything other than a stranger abduction," Kollar said. "No connection to the family. They literally snatched her off the streets."

Helen Boyer, the Garridos' neighbor for more than 10 years, said she would be completely shocked if it turned out they really were involved with Jaycee's kidnapping.

"There was no girl living next door, as far as I knew," she said.

Boyer said the couple were caregivers to Phillip Garrido's bedridden mother. They would sometimes have three young blonde girls -- friends of the family, she said -- come visit.

"They were real good neighbors," she said. "Real nice people."

Jaycee Dugard's Rescue Gives Hope to Others Whose Children Are Missing

Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, told today that while remarkable, the possible discovery of Jaycee reinforces data that shows kidnappers who are not related to the child typically aren't child killers.

"The Jaycee Dugard case is huge," he said. "There are some people who assume that when a child disappears, there is no hope.

"This provides hope," he said, "for so many searching families."

Many children abducted in the same manner as Jaycee do not have such a happy ending.

Though the country rejoiced when Elizabeth Smart was found alive months after the 14-year-old was snatched, many abducted kids are never heard from again.

One of the most famous missing children cases is that of Etan Patz, the Manhattan boy who disappeared while walking to a school bus in Manhattan in 1979. Despite 30 years of investigations and theories, no trace of the boy has been found.

In June, it appeared that a boy who disappeared in 1955 had turned up alive. John Barnes of Michigan was convinced that he was actually Stephen Damman, snatched from his stroller when he was 2 years old and living on Long Island, N.Y.

Stephen Damman's 78-year-old father, Jerry Damman, became hopeful that he was finally being reunited with his son, but DNA tests dashed his dream.

"It's disappointing and it's too bad we had to go through all of this for actually nothing in the end," Damman said after the results of the tests were revealed.

Steven Stayner also was a prominent case of a kidnapped boy. He was a California boy who was snatched at the age of 7 in 1972. Nine years later, he went into a police station after his captor had grabbed another boy.

"I know my first name is Steven," he told police.

Stayner's story later became a television movie.

More recently, in 2007, Shawn Hornbeck, and a second missing boy were found in Kirkwood, Mo., after Hornbeck allegedly had been held prisoner for four years after vanishing from a St. Louis suburb at age 11.