Families Rejoice as Abducted Boys Go Home

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The world got a good look Saturday at the two teenage boys who were found last night in a suburban St. Louis apartment. One had been missing for four days, the other for four years.

The families of Ben Ownby and Shawn Hornbeck thanked the community at separate news conferences and talked about being reunited with their sons.

Craig and Pam Akers were driving home from work yesterday in the pouring rain when they got a call and were immediately asked to pull over.

"And then the next words were 'we think we found Shawn; we're 95 percent sure we found Shawn and that he's alive,'" Craig Akers said. "And those were the sweetest words, that he was alive."

Shawn is their son — Shawn Hornbeck, now 15 — who disappeared more than four years ago while riding his bike to a friend's house.

When they got to the sheriff's office, they were brought into a room with a boy who — according to his stepfather — didn't look all that much like the posters they had put up around the region.

"There's a split second of shock," Craig Akers said. "You know, the last time we saw him he was yea tall and 11 years old and it kind of throws you for a second but then once I saw the face I said 'Oh my god, that's my son.'"

The good news for the Akers family came at the end of a week when the focus had been on another boy, 13-year-old Ben Ownby.

Ben disappeared Monday after getting off the bus near his home about 30 miles from where Shawn disappeared.

Ben and Shawn were both in the same apartment in the St. Louis suburb of Kirkwood where Michael Devlin lived.

Devlin is a 41-year-old pizzeria manager and part-time funeral home worker, now jailed. Bail was set at $1 million.

Doris Ownby and family were giving an interview when they got word about their son, a Boy Scout and straight-A student.

"We're just ecstatic. Don't want to let him go or out of our sight," Doris Ownby said. "He doesn't want us to hold on to him, but we have."

Devlin could face charges from at least three different prosecutors in Missouri.

The two boys were abducted from two neighboring counties and found in a third.

Neighbors say they never saw evidence that Shawn was scared or trying to get away and they all assumed he was Devlin's son.

Neither of the boys spoke at today's press events, but Doris Ownby said Ben wanted to play computer games when he got home.

And Shawn's parents say he wanted to stop at McDonald's last night.

They also say they haven't spoken to him yet about what kind of conditions he lived in for those four years, or how he was treated.

They also say they won't force him to talk about it if he doesn't want to.

Pam Akers called her son a miracle and said they wanted to go before the media to give hope to other parents of missing children.

The Akers family will continue the foundation dedicated to families of missing children that they set up in Shawn's name.

"I still feel like I'm in a dream, but this time it's a good dream," Pam Akers said. "It's not my nightmare that I've lived for four and a half years. We have a lot of catching up to do. He's grown up on me, that's for sure."

And both families say the goal now is to get back to normal.

Ben only missed a week of school, but Shawn hasn't attend classes in four years.

The first order of business for the Akers will be a shopping trip.

Shawn's bedroom was left the way it was when he went missing, but none of the clothes in there fit anymore.

Tom Weber is a reporter for member station KWMU in St. Louis.

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