NPR logo

Abducted Boys Rescued Near St. Louis

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/6849631/6849635" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Abducted Boys Rescued Near St. Louis

U.S.

Abducted Boys Rescued Near St. Louis

Abducted Boys Rescued Near St. Louis

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/6849631/6849635" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Coming up, a conversation with Vaclav Havel, the playwright who became a president.

But first, police and the FBI have made a stunning discovery in a suburb of St. Louis. They found a 13-year-old boy who'd been missing for four days, and in the same apartment they found a 15-year-old boy who had been missing for four years. Authorities say both teens appear to be in good condition and were reunited with their families last night. From member station KWMU in St. Louis, Tom Weber reports.

TOM WEBER: Gary Toelke is the sheriff of Franklin County, and he spent this week before television cameras updating media on an abduction case that had gone dry. Ben Ownby went missing Monday between his school bus stop and home near the rural Missouri town of Beaufort.

But yesterday afternoon, Toelke walked to the cameras with a smile on his face.

Sheriff GARY TOELKE (Franklin County, Missouri): We have some good news for you this evening and probably some unbelievable news.

WEBER: Ben had been found alive and safe, but so had Shawn Hornbeck, who went missing four years ago from a town about 30 miles away, in the next county.

Nearly 60 miles away, the hum of news trucks competes with the sound of a cold rainstorm at the suburban apartment complex where the boys were found. Fourteen-year-old Monseurat Urias(ph) lives in the same complex and encountered the hubbub as she came home from school yesterday.

Ms. MONSEURAT URIAS: Me and my mom thought that we knew this neighborhood pretty good, that it was a pretty nice one. But when we realized, I don't know, we just felt fear for a second, and we're not - we know for - that we're not going outside for a pretty long time.

WEBER: The landlord of the apartment complex told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he had seen a boy there before and assumed it was Michael Devlin's son. Devlin, who had a job delivering pizzas, is now charged with kidnapping and will likely face more charges.

Police say he confessed to the abductions and are not saying whether the boys might have been harmed. They initially went to the apartment complex for a completely different reason, to serve a warrant on someone who lived nearby.

That's when they saw a white pickup truck that had been on the news. One of Ben's classmates had reported seeing the truck near where Ben went missing this week.

Sheriff Toelke says finding the truck raised hopes that Ben would be nearby, but no one expected Shawn to be there, too, even though his name had come up.

Sheriff TOELKE: We had information that there was a 15-year-old boy in this apartment and, you know, we were just saying, wouldn't that be Shawn Hornbeck. In fact, Lieutenant Markor(ph) of the highway patrol said wouldn't that be something if it was Shawn Hornbeck and, you know, it was just unbelievable that it was.

WEBER: For Toelke, it was his second chance in four months to report good news. In September, fears turned to joy after an 11-day-old baby was returned safely after she was abducted.

Ernie Allen is president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and says cases like these are rare but not unheard of. He cautions though that Shawn Hornbeck is likely to face a long recovery.

Mr. ERNIE ALLEN (President, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children): And it's going to take patience and Shawn has got to get back into a normal situation as quickly as possible and hope that the world will let him be a normal kid again.

WEBER: When Shawn went missing while riding his bike four years ago, the search went on for weeks. And after finding nothing, his parents started a foundation in Shawn's name to help other families where a child has been abducted.

This morning, Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby are home safe with their families.

For NPR News, I'm Tom Weber in St. Louis.

Police and the FBI made a stunning discovery Friday in an apartment in a suburb of St. Louis. They found a 13-year old boy who had been missing for four days, and a 15-year old boy who had been missing for four years.

Authorities say both teens appeared to be in good condition and were reunited with their families last night.

Gary Toelke, sheriff of Franklin County, spent the week before television cameras, updating media on an abduction case that had gone dry.

Ben Ownby disappeared Monday between his school bus stop and home near the rural Missouri town of Beaufort.

But Friday afternoon, Toelke walked to the cameras with a smile on his face.