Jaycee police question kidnapper over prostitute murders
Police investigating the 18-year imprisonment of Jaycee Lee Dugard widened their search for evidence yesterday as questions mounted over the failure to free Ms Dugard and her children earlier.
Detectives questioned Phillip Garrido, Ms Dugard’s apparent kidnapper, about the murders of up to ten local women, including prostitutes, in the 1990s as a picture emerged of how he and his wife, Nancy, kept Ms Dugard and the two girls he fathered with her “hidden in plain sight”.
Police extended searches to include a neighbour’s property where Garrido, 58, acted as caretaker. Officers used metal detecting equipment, cut back branches and dug holes.
Ms Dugard, now 29, was reunited with her mother and sister last Thursday. She is said to be planning a trip to Disneyland with her family.
Parole officers, local sheriff’s deputies and federal agents visited the bungalow in Walnut Avenue, Antioch, California, many times during her incarceration but failed to pick up that Garrido had three “daughters” living with him — a fact known to several neighbours and business associates.
Garrido, who was on a sex offenders’ register and wore a GPS ankle bracelet, ensured that authorities never looked over the back fence into the compound filled with tents where he kept his second family.
The Contra Costa County sheriff, Warren E. Rupf, apologised to the Dugard family for missing opportunities to solve the case, particularly after a 911 call from a neighbour who reported children living in the back yard. One neighbour, Steven Smith, said: “What were they doing? Why didn’t the sheriff follow it up?”
It emerged that in the last years of their captivity Ms Dugard and her daughters, named locally as Starlite and Angel, now aged 15 and 11, were allowed out and about.
The two children, born in a tent after Garrido snatched Ms Dugard, aged 11, from near her home in South Lake Tahoe in 1991, were kept hidden in their early years.
Ms Dugard, introduced by Garrido as his daughter Allissa, helped him to run his printing business. The children accompanied Garrido when he went preaching and were even taken to a local aquarium. Mrs Garrido took them all shopping and to the movies.
Many people knew that Garrido was a former prisoner, convicted of a sex attack in the 1970s. But he said that was in the distant past.
A real-estate agent told The Times that he saw Ms Dugard and the children many times at the family home. Deepal Karunaratne, 54, a broker with Altera Signature Properties of Antioch, said that “Allissa” helped with the design of his business cards.
“I thought she was very smart, well-dressed, handling the business for him. I regarded her as his daughter,” he said.
Asked why he thought she had never asked him to call the police, he said: “I think she probably must have been in fear for her life, or for the lives of her children. Who knows what threats they had made?.”
Timothy Allen, the owner of East County Glass & Window in Pittsburg, said that Garrido would come into the shop with the girls. “They looked normal. They spoke really well and one even shook my hand,” he said.
Over the past year Garrido was overtaken by his religious fanaticism, business clients and neighbours said. His blog, called “Voices Revealed,” claims that he has the ability to hear the voices in people’s heads.
Maria Christenson, owner of Christenson Recycling Centre, described how the couple came into her office and asked for a $2,000 advance. He told her that they had plans to start a backyard church.
“He was telling me about his voices. And then he said, ‘You know I’ve been to prison, and I don’t masturbate anymore’. Out of the blue,” she said. “Then he started crying and she was crying. I was looking at them — what is this about?” she said.
Even as the net closed around Garrido last Tuesday, he took the children to their first birthday party for the daughter of a business contact, Cheyvonne Molino. She described how the girls never left his side. She said: “I think they were under instructions not to speak to anyone or touch anything without permission.”
Mike Harvey, The Times 31-08-2009