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The Bizarre 1991 Abduction of Jaycee Lee Dugard in Calif. Ends With Her Return

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Phillip and Nancy Garrido were arraigned Friday on 29 counts, including forcible abduction, rape and false imprisonment of a girl who was abducted at age 11 and held captive for 18 years. The couple entered not guilty pleas. Video by AP

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By Neely Tucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 29, 2009

Let's start at the beginning.

Jaycee Lee Dugard, blond, bucktoothed and happy, sauntered past her stepdad in the garage of their house at 8:12 a.m. on June 11, 1991. It was the Monday of the last week of school. The family had moved to the sleepy little nowhere town of Meyers, Calif., from Orange County a couple of years earlier, because it was a safer place for kids.

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It was so safe that Jaycee, 11, could walk up the hill to school. Their little community was just south of the town of South Lake Tahoe. There were woods and few other houses on the road, one of those little places in America where nothing ever happens.

Carl Probyn, her stepfather, watched her go up the hill in her pink windbreaker -- he was in the garage, cutting wire out of a window -- when he noticed a dark-gray two-door Ford slow down, make a U-turn and start back up the hill. He could easily see two people in the car, the passenger a woman.

"I thought it wanted to stop, maybe get directions, or the driver knew me," he would recall.

Instead, the car went up the hill, about 500 yards away, then made a sharp left across the road to cut off Jaycee. The woman leapt out, grabbed the girl and shoved her into the car.

Probyn screamed. A vast search, 1,500 leads, candlelight vigils -- and nothing.

Eighteen years later, in one of the most bizarre kidnapping stories in American criminal history, 29-year-old Jaycee walked into a parole office this week 200 miles away in Antioch, north of Oakland. She had been kept in almost complete isolation in a hidden warren of sheds, one "entirely soundproofed" and locked, in the back yard of a ramshackle house in a rundown neighborhood.

She was living under the name "Allissa"; she had two daughters, 11 and 15, allegedly the result of rapes by the registered sex offender now charged with kidnapping and holding her, 58-year-old Phillip Garrido. Nancy Garrido, his wife -- and a ringer for the woman Probyn described as leaping out of the car -- was also living with them. She's under arrest, too.

Authorities are trying to figure out, frankly, how on earth all this happened.

They're trying to figure out how a parole officer visited the home several times over the years and never noticed that a woman and two children were being held captive in the back yard. They're trying to figure out whether Dugard ever tried to escape. They're wondering why officers didn't respond more forcefully to a 911 call on Nov. 30, 2006, from neighbors alerting them that a convicted rapist had little girls in his house.

"I can't change the course of events, but we are beating ourselves up over this and are the first to do so," Contra Costa County Sheriff Warren E. Rupf told a news conference late Friday. He said the deputy who responded never entered the house or checked the yard, missing "an opportunity to rescue Jaycee."


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