Lessons From The Dugard Abduction
NEAL CONAN, host:
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.
The facts of the Jaycee Dugard case are appalling. We can't gloss over what's happened if we're to learn what went wrong here and what we can learn from it, but we do want to advise those of you with children nearby that some of what you may hear will be difficult. Last week, a convicted kidnapper and rapist named Phillip Garrido told police that he and his wife perpetrated a crime he himself described as disgusting. Eighteen years ago, they kidnapped 11-year-old Jaycee Lee Dugard as she walked to a school bus stop in a quiet neighborhood in California.
They kept her imprisoned in a dismal backyard compound of tents and sheds, where she was held in isolation. She had two daughters by her alleged captor; the youngest is 11, the same age she was when she was abducted. Garrido and his wife face 29 felony charges. They've entered pleas of not guilty. The case is obviously unusual, maybe unique. But what went wrong here? Why did this take 18 years? Contra Costa Sheriff Warren Rupf admitted his department's failures in the case. We have yet to hear from parole officers. Some neighbors voiced suspicion, others didn't.
Today, lessons learned in the Dugard case. What is our role as citizens when we suspect a crime, especially one involving children where allegations can be explosive? 800-989-8255 is the phone number. Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also join the conversation on our Web site, that's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION. We begin with Clint Van Zandt, an FBI agent for 25 years, the author of "Facing Down Evil: Life on the Edge" as an FBI hostage negotiator. And Clint, nice to have you back on TALK OF THE NATION.
Mr. CLINT VAN ZANDT (FBI Agent): Thank you, Neal.
CONAN: And it's an extraordinary case but obviously, the first responders are the local police, the local authorities, but kidnap investigations go to the FBI. What went wrong here?
Mr. ZANDT: Well, kidnap investigations do, especially in the bureau's case, if we believe the victim was taken interstate and as, you know, in this case, she wasn't. In fact, she was held 170 miles from her home. The system broke down here, though, Neal. And when you look at where it broke down, it's - you know, the police department, the sheriff's department, the FBI, the neighbors - there are a lot of people, a lot of entities, a lot of agencies that could have done something about it. But, you know, there are 675,000 or so registered sex offenders in America, of which the alleged kidnapper is one.
Neal, there's only 685,000 police officers, and that's at all ranks and all levels. So if we assigned a police officer to every predator, we still couldn't keep track of every one of them that bear that title.
CONAN: I wanted to read you a quote I'm sure you're familiar with, from Carl Probyn, the stepfather, the man who saw his stepdaughter being taken away and called the authorities: I've gone through hell. I mean, I'm a suspect up until yesterday.
Mr. ZANDT: Well, I think the FBI had countered that, suggesting he was a suspect for a short period of time and they moved on. But in any kidnapping investigation, Neal, you always - it's like a bull's eye target. If you can imagine that, that bull's eye right in the middle. That's ground zero. Ground zero is where the victim lived and who was around her: her parents, her husband, you know, his grandparents - whatever it's going to be. And what investigators have to do, they start at that bull's eye, and they move out in concentric investigative circles.
But first of all, you have to eliminate those closest to the victim. In this case, the only one who saw the actual kidnapping was the stepfather. It's a terrible thing to say, well if you report it, you are our number one suspect. But you are a suspect until you can be eliminated. But realize, there's always a two-track investigation, just like a set of railroad tracks. Track number one is, we have to look at those closest to the victim. Track number two says, we have to look at other, in this case, predators in the area. And of course, in the state of California, there are literally tens of thousands of registered sex offenders.
CONAN: And is it fair to say - obviously not in this case, but in general - is it fair to say that the majority of these cases involve people known to the victim?
Mr. ZANDT: Yes. And I think that's what's important here. There are probably 120 or so of these stereotypical kidnappings where the victim's taken away, kept for multiple days, perhaps murdered. The vast, vast majority of children who are offended against, it's somebody they know. It's somebody within the home. It's their mother's boyfriend. It's their father. It's a Boy Scout leader. It's a priest. But that - the challenge right there is that the average child molester will molest 380 children in his life, perhaps.
A little - that molester will molest 50 girls and up to 150 little boys. And you know, Neal, there was an offender in California a couple of years ago who was arrested. He kept meticulous records of 36,000 individual acts of molestation that he committed. So, even though we're looking today at this terrible kidnapping that lasted 18 years, what is important is these individual acts of molestation, many times by somebody the victims knows.
CONAN: Police officers were in this man's house on more than one occasion.
Mr. BASTON: Yeah. And it was reported that there were children in the backyard, too. And police officers…
CONAN: By one of the neighbors.
Mr. ZANDT: Yeah. And, you know, part of the challenge to me, Neal, is being a citizen, too. I mean, there just aren't enough police officers there. But I've heard people say where there was a 6-foot fence. If you think there is something going wrong, get an 8-foot ladder and look over the top of that fence. If law enforcement doesn't respond the first time, hit them again and make them come back, and make him do their job. It's terrible. You say, shouldn't they do it? Yes, they should. But if they don't, as citizens we have to be tenacious. We have to not say, you know, this is socially incorrect or it's not my business. The lives…
CONAN: Well, you're making…
Mr. ZANDT: …of children is everybody's business.
CONAN: Well, you're making allegations against somebody. You could ruin that somebody's life if it turns out he's innocent.
Mr. ZANDT: No, you're not making allegations. You're saying there is something going on, and I want law enforcement to satisfy itself that what I saw, there's nothing negative. There is nothing wrong in what I saw or heard. I'm not making an allegation. I'm saying, this has to be investigated. All law enforcement would've had to do is go in the backyard. Now even though these tents and structures were concealed in the back half, there was a power cord running from the house into the woods. A very semi-astute police officer or FBI agent could say, I wonder where that power cord goes? And you pick it up and you follow it, and where does it take you to.
CONAN: Our number: 800-989-8255. Email us: email@example.com. Ansel(ph) is on the line from San Francisco.
ANSEL (Caller): Yeah, hello Neal. Hi. It's - I'm calling from San Francisco and in my freelance reporting, I was working with the Daily News last week, was actually onsite the day after the news broke. And I wanted to bring attention to the California Department of Corrections defending the parole officers in so far as, quote, they acted accordingly. This is - they said well, Garrido was very deceptive. But what they haven't articulated was what is the level of due diligence required in dealing with parolees, a.k.a. why didn't they walk the perimeter? Would they - did see the lease agreement? What are they charged with doing?
And if that needs to be explained further. And why the Parole Office didn't receive the report from the Contra Costa Sheriff's Department, vis-a-vis a neighbor already called, a woman living next door, saying there are children in the backyard. So, we really haven't had the level of transparency from the state agencies.
CONAN: And that remains to be explained, Clint.
Mr. ZANDT: Yeah, it does. And the situation he's talking about, where a woman called the Sheriff's Office - a deputy came out, Neal, and either wasn't told or didn't take the time to find out that the person he was talking to was a registered sex offender. If you're coming out there with allegations there are children in the yard making noise that aren't known to be there, and you find out that that person is a registered sex offender, that should set off all types of bells and whistles. So I think the criminal justice system, the parole officers, there is a lot of accountability to be shared in this situation.
CONAN: All right, Ansel, thank you very much.
ANSEL: Thank you, good day.
CONAN: Bye-bye. Ernie Allen is the president and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. He's also with us here in Studio 3A. Thanks very much for coming in today.
Mr. ALLEN: Thank you, Neal.
CONAN: And there is one aspect, amid all of the terrible things about this case, there is one aspect of it that is hopeful. A kidnap after 18 years seems to have been resolved, and the victim is found alive.
Mr. ALLEN: Neal, it beats all other options, and it has sent a message of hope to thousands of searching parents. Even in the most serious child abduction cases that Clint talked about, the stereotypical kidnappings, 60 percent of those kids are recovered alive. Thirty-five percent are recovered deceased. Ninety percent of the recoveries occur within the first 24 hours. But there are still hundreds of these long-term cases, and one of the messages that I think this case conveys is that in these situations in which children are terrorized, they're brutalized, they're threatened, they're told they'll be killed if they try to escape, they're told that their families will be harmed, these kids aren't going to rescue themselves.
So I refuse to believe that Elizabeth Smart and Shawn Hornbeck and Jaycee Dugard are the only long-term missing children left alive. We believe there are other kids out there, and that the public can help us find them.
CONAN: As you - and there's more to explore about that, but I wanted to ask you, given your experience, after - and there may be no case like this. But what kind of shape is she going to - begin? What kind of rehabilitation is she going to need? She is meeting, we know, with members of her family. Her children have just discovered that the woman they thought was their sister was, in fact, their mother and that they've been held captive by the man they regard as their father, a man they loved.
Mr. ALLEN: The challenges are enormous, and clearly we believe that the recovery is going to be a lifelong recovery. This is not something you take a pill for, take a shot. We have provided a psychologist who is there with the family, trying to guide them through a reunification process.
We know that the basic challenges of reunifications of missing children with their families are huge. For these parents, that child is frozen in time. She's still a precocious 11-year-old. And for the child, seeing parents she hasn't seen in 18 years, they're going to look very different.
So first, you reintroduce them, and you deal with this whole challenge of guilt. Jaycee's been quoted in the media, through her stepfather, as expressing guilt that she bonded with this guy and that she tried not to get away.
We think it's important to send a message to these kids that they're the victims. They did nothing wrong, and so this is going to take time. You're never going to be able to restore those 18 years that were lost from her life, but you can achieve a kind of new normal.
The good news is she's alive, she's young, there is hope for the future, and you take it a step at a time, a day at a time.
CONAN: Ernie Allen of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Also with us, former FBI agent Clint Van Zandt. We're talking about the Jaycee Dugard case. We want to hear from you. Our phone number is 800-989-8255. What is our role as citizens when we suspect a crime, especially one involving children? 800-989-8255. Email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
(Soundbite of music)
CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. The Jaycee Dugard case shocked the world a little over a week ago, the now-29-year-old abducted 18 years ago found living in a squalid backyard compound, the victim of untold horrors. The case highlights a number of failures in the system. We're looking at what we can learn from it with former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt and Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
We got this email from Alison in Utah. A woman in Utah saved an 11-year-old girl from kidnapping in Ogden this week. A man found the girl at a park and told her her parents were in the motel across the street. She went with him. A woman at the motel saw the looking girl looking nervous as she entered a room with the man and called 9-1-1. The police soon arrived, the girl was saved. An observant citizen prevented a terrible tragedy in this case.
So what is our role as citizens when we suspect a crime, especially one involving children? 800-989-8255. Email email@example.com. You can join our conversation on our Web site at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION. Clint?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Yeah, in that particular case, I think every family should have a code word. Like when my children were young, the thought was somebody could come up to them and say, hey, your mother or your father has been injured in an automobile accident, come with me. My children had a code word, fire truck. They knew if they didn't hear that word, that their parents had not authorized that person to take them away.
So something as simple as a code word that the whole family understands could have prevented a situation like that.
CONAN: Let's get another caller on the line. This is Caylen(ph), Caylen with us from Indian Trail in North Carolina.
CAYLEN (Caller): Hello, Neal, thanks for taking my call.
CAYLEN: I'll try to make this as brief as possible. I love the terms tenacious, allegations, that the legal system will satisfy itself, and the comments were really true.
I am working with a mother whose children have been placed in the home of her estranged husband, who was a convicted attempted murderer, and to use the specific terms, DSS has found evidence of sexual abuse, and he has been substantiated as an abuser.
CONAN: That's the Department of Social Services.
CAYLEN: Yes, in Union County, and one judge has ordered him into a program for abusers. However, another judge has placed him - placed the two children in his home. And as much as I work with the deputies and the attorney - the district attorney's office, they seem to want to do the right thing, but DSS and the judicial system seem to have blocked everybody's approach to helping these children. Who can I call?
CONAN: Ernie Allen, any advice here?
Mr. ALLEN: Well, I mean, ultimately the decision on where these children are going to end up is left with the courts. It's a judicial decision. But you know, I would say to Caylen, call us at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, at 1-800-THE-LOST. We'll follow up with North Carolina law enforcement and social services, see if there are facts in this case that are not getting to the court, and see if we can help in some way.
CAYLEN: Is that The Lost?
Mr. ALLEN: The Lost, yeah. It's 843-5678.
CONAN: And we'll put that on our Web site too, in case - we'll put a link to his Web site on our Web site. So you can just go to npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.
CAYLEN: Thank you so much from my heart.
CONAN: Good luck, bye-bye. Here's an email from Alex. The guest who's talking about the large number of registered offenders, how many of them are really predators? Part of the problem is people who are not dangerous, like teens who have consensual sex, and end up on the same list as dangerous predators. That from Alex, and…
Mr. ALLEN: Alex, I think that's a really good point. That's one of the reasons why, in the Adam Walsh Act that was passed by Congress in 2006 and has yet to be implemented, which is a real need, one of the things that it prescribes for the states is a tiered approach to sex offenders.
All sex offenders are not alike. All sex offenders do not represent the same degree of risk. So what we're trying to implement is a system in which the most serious sex offenders receive longer requirements of registration, closer scrutiny. But let me add one other point.
Clint mentioned earlier how overwhelmed the system for supervision is. The reality is at least 100,000 of those 675,000 registered sex offenders are missing or non-compliant, and the system for following up and supervising these offenders in many states is by mail.
So states need help. We need more people to do more aggressive supervision on those offenders who represent the most risk.
CONAN: Let's go next to Sherry(ph), Sherry with us from Charlotte.
SHERRY (Caller): Hello.
CONAN: Hi, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
SHERRY: Hey, I'm calling because I was able to get a baby away from strangers that the baby didn't belong to, and I was unsuccessful at first, and then I was successful, and in case it helped somebody else, I wanted to share that.
CONAN: Well, briefly if you would, yeah.
SHERRY: Well, this girl decided - she had a baby, and she couldn't raise it. So she just put somebody's name on the birth certificate and gave the baby to this family that she didn't really know.
She changed her mind and called me to help her, and I called the police, and they said, well, his name's on it, what can we really do? They just weren't going to do anything, and I thought, oh my gosh, this man could be - who knows what he's going to do, sell the baby on the black market? I don't know what he's going to do.
I called the Council for Children's Rights, and they suggested that I call the Department of Social Services, and I did and said at that point, he's lied, he's not entitled to the baby. He could be selling it. You don't know. And they went and picked up the baby the next day from that family.
CONAN: And was it reunited eventually with the mother, and I hope she got counseling too, because obviously she was in some need.
SHERRY: She didn't really have the wherewithal to make that decision. Ultimately, that baby went to its real father.
CONAN: Aha, OK. That's an interesting story. Thank you, Sherry.
SHERRY: You're welcome.
CONAN: Bye-bye. Here's an email that we have, this from Patrick in Kansas. Your guest - I think he's talking about you, Clint - was talking about abductions of this sort are committed most frequently by people the abductee has known. Do the percentages vary with regard to children who are recovered alive as compared to children who are killed by their abductors?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Well, and I'll throw this to Ernie, too - the vast majority of these situations that take place where a child goes missing, it's only for an hour or two. There's a very short span the child is missing or is taken, maybe offended against, and then we get that child back again.
So you know, in the United States we have upwards of a million people that are reported missing every year. The vast majority of those people are recovered, too.
So I think in these cases, it's not a child who's being taken, who's being kidnapped, who's being held for years and years, but many times these children are taken over and over again.
I know one study that I looked at, they looked at 250 known child molesters who had admitted attempting to take over 55,000 children, representing 20,000 victims. So that suggests in this small group, 250 offenders, they had attempted 55,000 individual acts. So this is what I think we have to be concerned with, these quick, individual acts where a child is taken, goes missing for an hour or two, is returned again, but may have permanent, if not physical, at least emotional scars for the rest of their lives.
CONAN: Ernie Allen?
Mr. ALLEN: Yeah, just a couple of quick additions to Clint's point. One is that we know from the research that the primary motivation for the abduction of children by non-family members is sexual. Most of those people who are taking children are not taking them to kill. They're taking them to rape or molest and then let them go.
The numbers that I cited earlier about even the most serious stranger-abduction cases, the conventional wisdom is that if a child is taken by a stranger and you don't recover them quickly, they're dead. Well, 60 percent of those kids are recovered alive, many of them harmed, many of them injured.
So they're really - the important thing here is rapid response, and then not allowing America to forget about these kids, because a lot of these kids who are missing for a week or a month or a year or more are in fact recoverable, particularly if they were abducted when they were very young and are easily manipulated.
CONAN: Let's get another caller on the line. This is John, John with us from Grand Haven in Michigan.
JOHN (Caller): Hi. I believe, in my opinion, your guest had said that he thought at the beginning that one of the problems was there wasn't enough law enforcement, and in my opinion and experience, it seems like law enforcement in America is so geared toward, like, drug offenders, for instance.
I mean, like 70 percent of the people incarcerated have drug-related offenses. And it seems to me that if law enforcement could be trained and geared more towards, like, predatory people than people who are really questionable, whether or not they're criminals, I think that that could be a lot more beneficial for this type of problem.
CONAN: I think Clint Van Zandt's point was that the number of law enforcement officials were overwhelmed by the number of people on the sex predator's list. But Clint?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Yeah, well, realize again, you know, Ernie's point earlier that we have this 675,000 known sexual predators, but a much smaller number of that are actually violent sexual predators. And if we can isolate, if we can identify that group - realize that it costs between $25,000 and $50,000 a year to house one prisoner in jail. But what this country really needs, and 17 states have it, I believe, is a national - maybe it's the Adam Walsh law, Ernie, but we need a national sexual predator law all across this nation, where if you violently offend against a woman or a child, one strike - not three strikes, not two strikes - we put you away. And if you have to raise my tax money for that, I'll pay to keep that type of offender off the street.
But the individual who's 18, who has consensual sex with his 16-year-old girlfriend, or the guy who's selling a bag of pot on the street corner, I'm not worried about them. I'm worried about the violent sexual predators.
JOHN: I completely agree with you. The point I'm making, like the - it seems like every county in Michigan, where I live, has some sort of task force specifically set up to bust like, drug dealers and people selling the bag of pot on the corner. But that task force to bust sex offenders is lacking pretty much everywhere.
And, I mean, I've seen so many times somebody who gets busted with two pounds of marijuana and gets two years, and somebody who molested their nephew for a year and he gets six months in the county jail. I've watched a lot of court cases here locally, and I've seen that exact scenario play out and it's frustrating.
CONAN: All right, John. Thanks very much for the phone call. Appreciate it.
JOHN: Thank you.
CONAN: Here's an email from Betty(ph) in Chester, California. Did anyone ever do a computer-generated aged photo of Jaycee, and would that have helped?
Mr. ALLEN: Betty, we did. At the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, we do them every two years until they're 18, and then we do them every five years. So we probably did five or six age progressions of Jaycee Dugard. And it did generate leads. We received leads, we worked with law enforcement. Obviously, it was not helpful enough.
But one of the important things about that technique is that people see photographs very literally, and it doesn't do you any good to circulate the photograph of an 11-year-old if she's now 18.
CONAN: Let's see if - here's another email, this from Cynthia(ph). These stories are so sad and leave me wondering what could possibly motivate these people to do these horrible things. Does your panel have any insight into the psychology behind these criminals - were they possibly abused themselves? And what of their wives? While Mrs. Garrido obviously played an active role in Jaycee's captivity, I find it incredibly hard that Mrs. Fritzl had no idea what was truly going on in her own basement.
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Well, and I agree in both of those. Mrs. Fritzl, of course, is in reference to another situation where a woman was held - a biological daughter was held prisoner for what, Ernie, 27 years…
Mr. ALLEN: Yeah. Exactly.
Mr. VAN ZANDT: …I believe 27 years, and fathered seven children by her biological father.
CONAN: This in Germany.
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Austria.
Mr. ALLEN: Austria.
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Austria. Yeah. This was in Austria. But in this case, too, Nancy, the wife of Phillip - the predators that the allegations are against, -you know - she, realize she married Phillip when he was in Leavenworth, 10 years prior to the kidnapping of Jaycee. There are some suggestions that she was not able to conceive children, so in kind of a biblical sense, she allowed her husband - in fact, she aided her husband, as the allegation goes, to kidnap Jaycee to have biological children.
Mr. ALLEN: You know…
CONAN: And then sustained the capture while he was in prison.
Mr. ALLEN: Yeah. He went away two or three years after Jaycee was kidnapped. He was violated on parole and I think went away for four months. So she kept Jaycee prisoner. So, you know, you don't want to back away from her. She's as guilty and she's as responsible as her husband is. You know, there are no passes here. If you're involved in this, she's a woman, she should know, she should have stood up and taken care of this little child. And she let her husband do it.
CONAN: Lessons learned from the Jaycee Dugard case. Clint Van Zandt, former FBI agent, Ernie Allen, president and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
One of the symptoms - this is an email from Erin(ph) in Michigan - one of the symptoms of my 4-year-old daughter's autism is she screams very loudly and often. We once had a neighbor report us to our landlord, saying they would next go to CPS. While I was devastated that someone thought we were hurting our daughter, I thank them for having the forethought and courage to make sure a child was not being hurt. I applaud anyone who takes the time to advocate for children. And that's an interesting -
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Yeah. You know, when my children were younger, three of them were injured three weeks in a row. One, you know, fell off a bike, one got bit by a dog, one bumped his head somewhere else. I had three different children in the emergency room three weeks in a row. The third week I was there, it was the same ER doctor and he looked at me. I said, I know what you're thinking. I said, ask me the questions. Ask my children the questions. I said, my children are clumsy, they're not being victimized.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. ALLEN: Neal, could I make a quick point?
CONAN: Very quickly, if you would.
Mr. ALLEN: What - Clint mentioned earlier the role that average people can play. If you look at these three recent, dramatic, long-term cases, in every case, an average citizen paying attention led to the recovery of these children. Not CSI-type wizardry - average people looking, watching and letting somebody know.
CONAN: Now, let's get one last caller in. This is John(ph). John with us from Byron in Michigan.
JOHN (Caller): Yeah, Neal. I'm a longtime listener, and I was wondering, I'm listening to a story here, is - and I've heard the term Stockholm syndrome used before. And I don't quite understand it, but does it apply in some way to this particular case or…
CONAN: It goes back to a bank heist in Sweden in which captives were taken, held inside a vault for a long period of time and came to identify with their kidnappers. But, Clint Van Zandt?
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Yeah. In that particular case, it was a bank robbery in 1972 in Stockholm, Sweden, where one, eventually, two bank robbers held three female captives and a male captive for six days. During that time period, the captives bonded with the hostage takers and, in fact, at least two of the women had consensual sex with the bank robbers. One broke off an engagement and became engaged to a bank robber. The other raised funds. And law enforcement at the time said, you know, what's going on is just planned.
And I think we started to realize that that bonding takes place when you realize someone else makes a decision if you live or if you die. You want to see them succeed, and you start to bond with them. And I think your caller is right that there is a semblance of the Stockholm syndrome that took place here.
Well initially, Jaycee was a victim; her life was dependent on this individual. Eventually, she bonded, and it's very hard for a child to differentiate love from fear at that point. And I think that's what carried her all these years.
CONAN: And that's going to be one of the things that's going to be difficult for her to untwine as she begins the process of rehabilitation.
John, thanks very much for the call.
JOHN: Have a good day.
CONAN: And I want to thank our guests. You just heard from Clint Van Zandt. His book is "Facing Down Evil: Life on the Edge as an FBI Hostage Negotiator." He's president of Van Zandt Associates, a risk and threat assessment group. And he joined us here in Studio 3A. Also with us in the studio, Ernie Allen, president and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. We thank them both for their time. Appreciate your coming in today.
Mr. ALLEN: Thank you.
Mr. VAN ZANDT: Thank you.
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