It’s been one year since we first heard the shocking story of Jaycee Dugard, who was kidnapped in 1991 and discovered 18 years later. Jaycee was abducted near her Lake Tahoe home when she was eleven-years-old.
After years of searching, it seemed her family would never see Jaycee again. That changed after a series of events which began on August 24, 2009, when a sex offender named Phillip Garrido entered the University of California in Berkeley with two young girls.
Phillip Garrido hoped to schedule an event for his religious group “God’s Desire.” He spoke to campus police official Lisa Campbell, who focused on more than his request. She noticed the young girls with Garrido behaved very abnormally, and wondered why they weren’t in school.
Campbell asked Garrido to return the next morning, and asked police officer Ally Jacobs to join her for the meeting. Jacobs ran a background check on this mysterious man, and discovered he was on parole for kidnapping and rape. She immediately agreed to attend.
An Unexpected Revelation
When Phillip Garrido returned to the campus, the young girls were with him. Campbell and Jacobs attempted to speak to the girls, but were met with blank stares and one-word answers. After Garrido left, Jacobs called his parole officer and described the encounter.
Garrido was told to come in to the parole office. He showed up with his wife Nancy, two young girls and a young woman he called “Alissa.” The parole officer was confused by the presence of these girls. He’d never seen them before. When they referred to him as “daddy” it raised a red flag. Garrido had no known children.
After hours of questions, the truth was finally revealed. “Alissa” was actually Jaycee Dugard. She’d spent the last 18 years living in a secluded tent within the Garrido’s backyard. Phillip Garrido had fathered the two young girls with Dugard. They had never seen a doctor, gone to school or been allowed very far out of Garrido’s sight.
Jaycee Moves On
It took nearly 2 decades, but Jaycee finally reunited with her family. Tears were shed as a daughter hugged the mother she never thought she’d see again, and introduced her own children. Today they live together in an undisclosed California city.
News of Jaycee’s discovery made national headlines. Everyone wanted to hear more about her story, and Jaycee agreed to an interview with People Magazine in October, 2009. She also released a short home video to ABC News that showed her family laughing, sharing stories and baking cookies. In a statement to the press, Jaycee wrote: “It’s been a long haul, but I’m getting there.”
Jaycee’s popularity has been overwhelming. Her mother, Terry Probyn, asked for privacy and time to heal away from the public eye. This request was blatantly ignored by an unknown photographer who snapped several pictures of Jaycee with her daughters. Dugard’s spokesperson Nancy Seltzer chastised the photographer, and said the Dugard family “should have the opportunity to lead as normal a life as possible without being treated as a curiosity by onlookers and their cameras.”
The Contra Costa County Sherriff’s Office has faced sharp criticism ever since this story broke. Parole officers visited Garrido’s home on many occasions. Some even saw Dugard on the premises, but no one stopped to ask why this young woman was in the home of a known sex offender. At least one neighbor reported hearing young children playing in Garrido’s backyard. The claim was never investigated.
Sheriff Warren Rupf apologized on behalf of his department and said they had “blown its best chance to find her.” He will not seek reelection. Before his term is over, Rupf is revising several key policies to help prevent anything like this from ever happening again. The first change: Look in the backyard.
It seems to be working. Contra Costa officers recently rescued a 14-year-old girl who was being held by a known sex offender. Criminals who wear GPS devices will now be subjected to stricter monitoring. Parolees won’t be allowed to move beyond their approved range, or return home after curfew.
$20 Million Apology
These new policies were created far too late to help Jaycee Dugard. She will have to learn how deal with her past, but the state of California hopes to help. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger approved a $20 million settlement for Jaycee.
An official memo about the settlement admitted that the case has a “unique and tragic character.” It went on to say that no amount could make up for what Dugard and her daughters were forced to endure, but the money could help them “rebuild their lives.” It’s estimated that the Dugard family will need nearly $7 million just for counseling services.
Phillip and Nancy Garrido are being charged with kidnapping and rape. They are currently locked up and forbidden from seeing each other. Both have pled not guilty.
No one wants to see another tragic story like the case of Jaycee Dugard. Law enforcement is expected to be more thorough and strict when dealing with sex offenders. Parents are encouraged to run Sex Offender Searches so they can learn about registered offenders who live in their city. We can all work together to help create a safer world.
Jaycee Dugard is moving forward with her life. In the year since her discovery, she has worked hard to earn her GED and obtain her driver’s license. The Dugard family has a difficult road ahead, but with time, love and support, they are going to be okay.