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Neighbors Describe Alleged Kidnapper As 'Creepy'

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Neighbors Describe Alleged Kidnapper As 'Creepy'

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Neighbors Describe Alleged Kidnapper As 'Creepy'

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

In Northern California, police are trying to identify a small bone fragment they found next to the home of Phillip Garrido. He's the man accused of kidnapping a young girl 18 years ago and holding her captive in his backyard. Garrido is also being investigated as a possible suspect in the unsolved murders of prostitutes. In the town of Antioch where Garrido lived, many people are asking why he was even released after being convicted of rape and kidnapping back in the 1970s.

NPR's Richard Gonzales reports.

RICHARD GONZALES: Phillip Garrido's neighbors have been suspicious for a long time. Now many of them are talking. And they often use the same word to describe him: creepy.

Ms. BETTY UNPINGO: We didn't know what he was. We, you know, kind of - so during that time, my daughter finally went on Megan's Law and saw his picture.

GONZALES: Betty Unpingo, a mother of 10, had reason to keep an eye on Garrido. She remembers a day her family was enjoying a backyard party. That's when she noticed Garrido standing in front of his house, trying to get the attention of several teenage girls leaving the party. It made everybody nervous.

Ms. UNPINGO: Yeah. And that was in 2006, that we actually found out that he was a predator.

GONZALES: Then there is Damon Robinson. He moved next door to Garrido three years ago. Back then, his girlfriend saw that Garrido had children living in tents in the backyard. She called the police, but a responding deputy didn't know Garrido was a sex offender and never searched the property. Now, as authorities dig up his backyard, Robinson struggles to keep his emotions in check as he told his story to reporters.

Mr. DAMON ROBINSON: It's like all the things I had in my heart and my gut feelings and all that. I - it's like unraveling and it's like...

Unidentified Woman: Did you have feelings, the intuition before that something a little shady was going on?

Mr. ROBINSON: No doubt, no doubt, no doubt...

GONZALES: Many questions remain. How did Garrido and his wife manage to keep Jaycee Dugard and her daughters a secret? One answer: they didn't. Carla Kirkland, a realtor hired Garrido to print some business cards. She knew Garrido was eccentric. But then one day, as he was making a delivery, he brought along a young girl.

Ms. CARLA KIRKLAND (Real Estate Agent): She seemed pretty normal, just quiet and reserved, like probably shy kids are if they don't know you. So I didn't think anything other than if I was the girl's mom - because she's a cute girl -if I was her mom, I wouldn't allow her to be with him because he's strange.

GONZALES: Jaycee Dugard apparently had many opportunities to tell people that she had been kidnapped, but didn't. Psychologist Juliet Francis says that's not as unusual as it sounds since kidnapped children sometimes bond with their captors.

Ms. JULIET FRANCIS (Psychologist): I think initially as a victim, you know, you feel very angry. You're frustrated with being taken. You're angry at being abused. And after a while, it really is about adapting to that situation because the anger is of no help to her. So you'll have a sense of emptiness, emotionless, because that helps you kind of tolerate the situation.

GONZALES: Some are asking why was Garrido on the street in the first place. He'd already been convicted of kidnapping and raping a woman in 1976. Garrido was sentenced to 50 years but served only 11. Attorney Michael Malloy prosecuted Garrido on the rape charge in Nevada.

Mr. MICHAEL MALLOY (Attorney): The system as a whole let everybody down, especially Jaycee Dugard, because this guy obviously was a violent sex offender and predator. And yet he was paroled and that's why this happened to her.

GONZALES: Malloy says there are several parallels in the 1976 case and the 1991 kidnapping of Jaycee Dugard. Still the FBI is acknowledging that even though they investigated Dugard's kidnapping, they never focused on Garrido as a suspect.

Richard Gonzales, NPR News.

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