Case of girl kidnapped 18 years ago gives other parents hope

Jaycee Dugard has been held in a Bay Area home secretly since 1991 and has had two children with her captor. But families with missing children see a silver lining: 'Don't give up.'

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

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    Carl Probyn, stepfather of Jaycee Lee Dugard who went missing in 1991, holds photos of his stepdaughter at his home in Orange, Calif., Thursday.
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    An FBI evidence response team member enters the house where Phillip and Nancy Garrido were taken into custody in connection with the abduction of Jaycee Dugard, Thursday, in Antioch, Calif..
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The case of Jaycee Lee Dugard, the California woman reunited with her family 18 years after being abducted, is a rare and hopeful ending to the type of kidnapping case that often ends tragically, say advocates of missing children.

"It reminds us why we do what we do," says Cindy Rudometkin of the Polly Klass Foundation, a Petaluma, Calif., group that helps families across the country find missing and abducted children.

"Families who are going through this situation always have this hope," says Ms. Rudometkin. "But there are a lot more stories out there that end badly than good."

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"What this means to them is that they have reason to hope and not to look at the statistics," she says.

There remain many question in the case. But what is known emerged in two police press conferences Thursday.

Ms. Dugard turned up Wednesday when her accused abductor, Phillip Garrido, reported to a parole office in Concord, Calif. Mr. Garrido is on parole for a 1971 rape and kidnapping conviction in Nevada.

Garrido was brought in for questioning after being confronted by campus police at the University of California in Berkeley. He was handing out religious literature. Campus police did a background check and realized he was a convicted sex offender.

Apparently because he was accompanied by two young children and acting strangely, according to police, campus authorities reported him to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation parole division.

Police said they don't know why Garrido brought Dugard, two other children, and his wife, Nancy, to the parole office.

It was there that police realized that girl who Garrido called "Allissa" was actually the missing Dugard.

Police have also said that the two young girls are Garrido's and Dugard's children. The Garridos were arrested and are expected to be officially charged on Friday for the 1991 kidnapping.

Dugard, now 29, and her family are in the process of reuniting. Her stepfather, Carl Probyn, told reporters he'd lost hope. After 18 years, he didn't think he'd ever see Dugard again after she was taken on her way to a school bus stop in South Lake Tahoe.

Mr. Probyn was at one point the subject of interest in he case. But police said Thursday that the case did not involve any family members and was simply a stranger abduction.

"They literally snatched her off the street," said Fred Kollar, El Dorado County undersheriff, at a press conference Thursday.

Those sorts of kidnappings – so-called stereotypical kidnappings – make up only about 1 percent of child abductions, says Rudometkin. The vast majority of missing children are taken by relatives or people they know. They are usually returned. In 2002, the US Department of Justice said there were 115 children who had been victims of stereotypical kidnappings.

Monica Caison, executive director of the North Carolina-based Community United Effort Center for Missing Persons, says she's been hearing from the families of missing children throughout the day as they hear about the Dugard case.

For those families, she says, the news has been a sort of epiphany: "It's like, 'Wow, you don't give up on your loved one.'"

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