ST. LOUIS, Mo., Oct. 10, 2007 — -- The families of two Missouri boys who were kidnapped and abused by former pizza shop worker Michael Devlin were in court Tuesday to watch as Devlin pleaded guilty to dozens of charges against him.
Devlin will spend the rest of his life in prison, but not until one last court appearance today.
Devlin pleaded guilty more then 70 times Tuesday to a litany of horrific crimes.
Among them, kidnapping then 11-year-old Shawn Hornbeck at gunpoint, then submitting him to years of sexual abuse. "He bound Shawn Hornbeck, tied him to a futon or a couch inside the apartment and duct taped his mouth closed," assistant prosecutor Rob Livergood told the court.
Shawn stayed with Devlin for four and a half years and told the court why. He said he tried to kill Shawn, but the boy talked him out of it and agreed to pose as his son.
"This boy made ... this deal with the devil in order to save his own life. This in the throes of it when this guy had his hand around the little boy's throat," Washington County prosecutor John Rupp told the court. "If there is any doubt why this boy lived up to the agreement, it was because the defendant gave him one choice, this or death."
Devlin's lawyers said their client admitted guilt to spare Shawn and his other victim, Ben Ownby, the pain of a trial. Robert McCulloch, St. Louis County prosecutor, disputed that. "Devlin pled guilty for one reason and that was so the entire world wouldn't know the entire extent of the atrocities that he committed on these boys."
The hearings were part of an elaborate deal his attorneys struck in four jurisdictions in which Devlin was charged with more than 80 counts, including sexual assault, kidnapping and attempted murder
After the Washington County hearing, Devlin pleaded guilty to 71 counts in St. Louis County Circuit Court, two counts of kidnapping and 69 counts of forcible sodomy of Shawn and Ben. He was then sentenced to 18 consecutive life sentences in St. Louis County. He pleaded guilty to other charges at a hearing in Franklin County Monday.
It was a very emotional day for the families of Shawn and Ben.
Shawn's mother, Pam Aikers, said, "Today is the day my family has long waited to close for five years. [Devlin] kept Shawn from his family for 1,558 days, miserable days. I felt the deepest loneliness, the most anger, and the deepest loss and betrayal."
Pam's husband, Craig, added that Devlin "tore an 11-year-old child from his family, destroyed his innocence and and attempted to end his life. He stole away so many of the wonderful life experiences a boy shares with his father. On Jan. 12, we brought home this scared shell of an 11-year-old boy wrapped in the body of a 15-year-old. We can now continue on with our healing, safe in our knowledge that this monster is caged and can hurt our family no more."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.