Mo. Teen Was Missing in Plain Sight

Police discovered two missing boys in this apartment rented to Michael J. Devlin in Kirkwood, Mo. One boy, Shawn Hornbeck, 15, had been missing for four years.
Police discovered two missing boys in this apartment rented to Michael J. Devlin in Kirkwood, Mo. One boy, Shawn Hornbeck, 15, had been missing for four years. (By Kyle Ericson -- Associated Press)

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By Kari Lydersen and Darryl Fears
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, January 15, 2007

KIRKWOOD, Mo., Jan. 14 -- To Shawn Hornbeck's neighbors, he seemed like any other teenage kid in this St. Louis suburb, riding his bike around his neighborhood, visiting a local Wal-Mart with a friend, playing video games with the door open in a ground-floor apartment.

But as news about the boy's abduction and four-year captivity allegedly by Michael J. Devlin continued to unfold, neighbors said they had also noticed that he seemed distant and isolated. Shawn, 15, and another abducted child, William "Ben" Ownby, 13, were discovered Friday by police in Devlin's apartment.

Devlin is being held in lieu of $1 million bail, facing one charge of kidnapping. His relatives, who issued a statement requesting privacy, said they did not know he had a boy living with him.

But everyone else in the neighborhood did.

Hiram Moore, 17, sometimes saw Shawn wearing a black, hooded sweatshirt and riding a nice bike but thought it was strange he did not go to school.

"I never saw him waiting for the bus with everyone else," Moore said. "We knew this kid wasn't in school."

Neighbor Krista Jones is sure Shawn had a girlfriend whose parents would drop her off outside the complex.

"Once I even saw them holding hands," she said.

Montserrat Urias, 14, says she hangs out with most of the kids her age, and Shawn wasn't part of the clique.

Shawn was recognized but not well known by residents in the six squat, nondescript brick apartment buildings where trains rumble by. Neighbor Harry Reichard described it as "the blighted part" of otherwise upscale Kirkwood, better known for its stately homes and tall trees.

The road dead-ends in a patch of trees and small warehouses. Graffiti mars a few of the apartments' brick walls; children's bikes and barbecue grills line small patios and balconies.

A neighborhood watch sign across the street promises an "Eagle Eye on Crime."


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