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Devlin Charged With Second Kidnapping
Aired January 18, 2007 - 20:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, GUEST HOST: Tonight, the latest on the miracle in Missouri. The alleged captor of two missing boys who were found alive appears in court. Forty-one-year-old Michael Devlin pleads not guilty to kidnapping Ben Ownby. You heard that right, not guilty, even though prosecutors say he confessed to that kidnapping. And the parents of Shawn Hornbeck, who was missing four years, tell Oprah they believe he may have been sexually molested during his long ordeal. The latest breaking details.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re here because you are charged with a class A felony, child kidnapping. The state has charged that on or about January the 8th of this year in Franklin County, you were not related to a person whose initials are W.O. and unlawfully removed that person, a child under the age of 14, from 836 Wild Rose Lane. The range of punishment, sir, for a class A felony is from 10 to 30 years in the penitentiary or life in prison. Do you understand that, sir?
MICHAEL DEVLIN, CHARGED WITH KIDNAPPING: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When Mr. Devlin was taken into custody, he did confess that he had kidnapped Ben Ownby from Franklin County.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Devlin, how do you wish to plead in this matter?
DEVLIN: I`m not guilty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Good evening. I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell, in tonight for Nancy Grace. A flurry of astounding new developments in the ever- unfolding drama in Missouri surrounding 41-year-old Michael J. Devlin. Even as the 300-pound pizzeria manager pleaded not guilty today to the most recent kidnapping, that of 13-year-old Ben Ownby, he was being looked at for other mysterious disappearances of children in the region dating back well over a decade.
Meantime, the parents of Shawn Hornbeck, the 15-year-old boy who disappeared four years ago and was also found inside Devlin`s apartment, tell Oprah Winfrey they believe their son may have been sexually abused by Devlin. Teams of law enforcement from numerous Missouri counties working round the clock on this case.
Let`s begin with what happened in court today. Let`s go straight out to Keith Oppenheim, who has been tracking this story. Keith, what is the very latest?
KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest, Jane, is that this arraignment today was pretty quick. And for security reasons, Michael Devlin was arraigned electronically, if you will, that he was in the jail, he was standing in front of a camera in the jail, and he spoke to Judge David Tobben remotely. And he pleaded not guilty to the one count of kidnapping for the 13 -- for the abduction of 13-year-old -- for the 13- year-old boy. He was charged on two counts yesterday in the abduction of 15-year-old Shawn Hornbeck.
And one interesting thing today was that prosecutors said that they believed that Michael Devlin had confessed to the kidnapping in the Ben Ownby case. Defense attorneys also said that they wanted to have a change of venue in the case, and the reason that they said that was because there`s been so much pretrial publicity that they felt that they would not be able to get a fair shake in Franklin County. Back to you.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And we are certainly going to look at that issue in just a minute. You know, a lot of people say we`re living in a global village now, and a change of venue really doesn`t change anything because we`re all looking at the same cable shows, whether you`re in Missouri or you`re in Los Angeles or in New York. So it`s quite a controversy.
The boys, though -- the good news is, the boys are home and they`re safe, and the suspect is locked up on felony kidnapping charges. But plenty of unanswered questions linger, evidently even within one young victim`s family. Shawn Hornbeck`s mother and stepfather told talk show host Oprah Winfrey they are still struggling to grasp the scope of abuse their son may have endured.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OPRAH WINFREY, HOST: Do you think he was sexually abused?
PAM AKERS, MOTHER: Yes.
WINFREY: Do you think he was -- do you think he was tortured?
PAM AKERS: That I don`t know yet.
CRAIG AKERS, STEPFATHER: Well, you know, there`s more than one kind of torture. There`s mental torture. There`s physical torture. I have no doubt that, you know, mentally, that he`s not the same boy that he was.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Shawn was out of the room when Winfrey and his parents discussed his possible abuse. By the way, there is no mention of sexual assault yet in the charges against Michael Devlin.
I want to go straight out to psychoanalyst Bethany Marshall. You heard what was said on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" today about the possibility of sexual abuse of Shawn Hornbeck. How does he, if that, in fact, occurred, deal with that? How does he deal with that and ultimately move on with his life?
BETHANY MARSHALL, PSYCHOANALYST: Well, this -- obviously, this is going to be devastating, if this happened. But what he, his family and caretakers need to understand is that when a child is sexually abused, he is made to feel biological feelings of sexual arousal that can be pleasurable, but because he`s only a child, he doesn`t know that this is merely a biological response, it doesn`t mean that it`s his fault.
So what he`ll do is he`ll blame himself, which causes guilt and shame. So his family, therapists need to reassure him that he has done nothing wrong. And also guilt is a feeling that you`ve done nothing -- that you`ve done something wrong. Shame is when you feel that other people are looking at you as if you`ve done something wrong. So his parents need to let him know that the media and the community are looking at him with love and with support and with understanding, not pointing a finger, thinking that he did a bad thing by not getting away.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Treni Stovall, child custody advocate, much was made of the point that Shawn was not in the room when his parents mentioned that. But he`s a 15-year-old boy, he knows that`s going to be out on television and that everybody now is going to be discussing that possibility. Does that also traumatize him? Is it too soon for these media appearances, or does it help him process and deal with this big elephant in the room and move on with it?
TRENI STOVALL, CHILD ADVOCATE: I don`t know if I think that media is the appropriate place for him to really be dealing with it at this time. I think we don`t know yet how far he`s been traumatized. There`s no question he`s been traumatized and tortured. He needs a mental health provider, a specialist who can really work with him and really help him in his own time to come to terms with what`s happened, and then maybe he`ll be ready to talk publicly. But he`s 15 years old. I`m not sure that I`d be able to have this discussion some days after a whole new world was opened up to me.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely. And you know, I consider him a hero for surviving. There`s a lot of people second-guessing him tonight. We`ll get to that in a minute.
We would like to go to Bill Romer, who is the landlord of the suspect in this case, who is Michael J. Devlin. Thank you for joining us, sir. We want to get a sense, since this issue of possible sexual abuse has come up now via "The Oprah Winfrey Show," of the layout of the apartment. Give us a sense of the living arrangements that Michael J. Devlin had with Shawn Hornbeck.
BILL ROMER, DEVLIN`S LANDLORD: Well, from the very little contact I had with both of them, which, actually, was one visit to the apartment about two years ago, checking on a plumbing problem from another unit, I understood that the boy that was in there was possibly sleeping on a futon in the living room and Michael was sleeping in the one bedroom in the apartment. So from my very limited contact, that`s my understanding of their living arrangement in there.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, everybody`s baffled that Michael Devlin -- and of course, he hasn`t been convicted, he`s only been charged, but if the charges are true and he is convicted -- how he pulled this off, how he managed to sort of pull the wool over everybody`s eyes, landlord, neighbors, friends, associates, colleagues at work. How long was he living there? Because Shawn Hornbeck was abducted four years and three months ago. Did he show up with Shawn, or did he already have the apartment rented and one day said, Voila, I have a son who`s 11?
ROMER: Well, I don`t know. I know he had the apartment since about July of 2001. I bought the building in late December of 2004, so he was there as a tenant when I bought the building. I don`t -- and it was very shortly after that when I noticed that there was a teenaged boy sleeping on the couch when I went to the unit. Recently, this past November, I renewed his lease for a year, and he actually wrote in "Shawn Devlin" as one of the occupants next to his own name. So apparently, Shawn showed up at some point before I purchased the building.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I know hindsight is always 20/20, but as you look back now, is there anything that strikes you as suspicious that just didn`t hit you before?
ROMER: No. That`s really the frustrating part in my mind. If he had become a tenant while I had owned the building and I`d done a background check, I wouldn`t have found anything. I don`t typically pull birth certificates if somebody tells me they`re living with their son. I saw nothing while I was in the apartment that jumped out at me and really no suspicious behavior that I heard about from other tenants or I saw myself.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, Mike Brooks, former D.C. police who served on the FBI terrorism task force, this kind of reminds me of the situation with the BTK serial killer, who was a leader in his community, went to church, had a wife, had a daughter, or a child. Nobody knew, not even his spouse. How is it that these people, they develop this chameleon-like ability to sort of blend in? According to police, Michael J. Devlin even befriended the cops at the pizzeria he managed.
MIKE BROOKS, FORMER D.C. POLICE, SERVED ON FBI TERRORISM TASK FORCE: You`re absolutely right, Jane. You look at the BTK killer, he was also a code enforcement officer. He was held as a pillar of the community, also in his church, very well respected, you know, was trusted by kids, by adults both.
It sounded like this guy also was just, as you say, a chameleon and could fit in anywhere. I mean, the cops, when I saw them interviewed, the two officers who actually found the truck and got the ball rolling, you know, they were trying to say to themselves, OK, what could we have done better? You know, Why didn`t we notice this before?
But apparently, he did. He befriended the cops. He even at one point called the police on one of his neighbors. You know, how brazen can you get, when you`re out there and you`ve got this boy and to call the cops and bring attention to yourself? But apparently, he did that, or maybe he just didn`t do that, he just did it subconsciously to try to just fit into the community, if you will.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, we`ve got to bring the shrink back for this one. Bethany Marshall, psychoanalyst, how is he brazen enough to actually call the cops?
MARSHALL: OK, you and I were talking about this before the show. There`s two major factors. One is that sociopaths and psychopaths have lower levels of anxiety than that found in the normal population. There`s a lot of research about this. So they`re not really afraid of getting in trouble. So they`ll commit a major infraction with the law, and then they`ll walk right past a police officer and not think they`ll get caught.
But the other thing is that if he`s a pedophile, and he sure seems to be one, pedophiles really long to be like children, and they have a child- like part of them. And children love to follow the rules. So like the BTK killer was a code enforcer, but this guy always paid his rent on time, he was a manager at a pizzeria. So this whole, I`m a nice guy, I pay my rent on time, I follow the rules, is sort of like the little kid part of him that`s also attracted to other children.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely got it. We`re going to go to the phone lines in just a second, but we have to say this. Everyone, including this suspect, deserves the presumption of innocence. His lawyers have issued a statement: "The facts of this case will be revealed at the appropriate time and place. Until then, we ask that Mr. Devlin`s constitutional rights be respected. We urge fair-minded individuals to renounce premature conclusions of guilt and refrain from any misrepresentation of the facts. Michael Devlin understands the gravity of these accusations against him. Together, we desire to allow the judicial process to run its course."
And now let`s go to Tammy in Ohio. Your question?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks for taking my call. I was just wondering, has anyone been able to determine yet if there was any similarities in the way the boys were abducted?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: There are a lot of similarities with these cases, as well as three others. And we want to get to that right now, as a matter of fact. The most terrifying aspect of this entire case is, Is this the tip of the iceberg? Take a look at this map. Now, this shows the two miracle cases that have been cracked, but sadly, as you see on the upper part of the screen, three other missing children cases that have not been solved. And we stress, these are just possibilities being investigated in terms of the connection to Devlin. But these are the three children, these beautiful, beautiful kids, that went missing.
We`ll give you a quick rundown. Charles Arlin Henderson, like Shawn, disappeared at age 11, weighed about 100 pounds, abducted an hour`s drive from St. Louis. All these kids within a 60-mile radius of the suspect`s home. This young man disappeared back in 1991, has never been found. Before the abduction, he claimed to his mom that a tall, thin man had been taking photos of him. Devlin, by the way, is 6-4.
Let`s go to Bianca Noel Piper, missing since 2005. This 13-year-old suffering from bipolar and attention deficit disorder, dropped a mile from home to walk off anger after an argument. She never made it home. Police believe Michael Devlin was aware of the search for Bianca.
And we want to go right now to Stephen Deere, a reporter for "The St. Louis Post-Dispatch." As if this case wasn`t bizarre enough, we have word that Devlin -- and we`re going to get to him in one second. after we go through the next child who is missing, Scott Allen Kleeschulte (ph). He disappeared back in 1988 when he was 9, walking down a public road, heavy thunderstorm affected the area on that day, and investigators once believed his case was connected to the Arlin Henderson case. So there you have the three.
Let`s go to Stephen Deere and try to understand this bizarre angle of the suspect actually somehow being involved in the search for one of these missing kids, Bianca?
STEPHEN DEERE, "ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH": Yes, that`s right, Jane. He is -- he`s a suspect, and they`re looking into it. They haven`t announced whether they`ve found anything substantial yet.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: No, but what I`m saying is that we had heard reports that when they were searching for the little girl, that he somehow got involved as one of the searchers or volunteers or was standing on the periphery of the search, looking to maybe get ideas of how do people search for kids?
DEERE: Yes. Yes. That`s what we understand.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, we`re going to get some more details on that in a second. So much more to tell you about.
First to tonight`s "Case Alert." A 9-year-old missing boy turns up in Texas after he is able to steal a car and board two flights -- two -- between Seattle and San Antonio all by himself. According to his mom, Semaj Booker was unhappy with their recent move to Tacoma and wanted to return to Dallas to be with his grandpa, the 4th-grader allegedly given a boarding pass by lying about his age and saying his mom was in the boarding area waiting for him. So much for tighter airport security. Hey, maybe we should make this young man a consultant on airport security.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On October 6, 2002, in Richwoods, Missouri, Michael John Devlin abducted S.D.H. utilizing force for the purpose of terrorizing the victim. After securing S.D.H., Michael Devlin flourished a handgun in order to gain compliance of the minor child. Michael Devlin then transported him out of the county and concealed his whereabouts for four years and three months.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell, in tonight for Nancy Grace. Who is Michael J. Devlin, and why was he able to elude authorities for so long? One reason is that he had no criminal record, unless you count a couple of traffic tickets. Normally, when authorities are hunting for missing children, they focus on people with a history of this kind of behavior. Some have called it the "round up the usual" suspects approach. Do we need to reconsider that approach in light of this case? My question to prosecutor Holly Hughes.
HOLLY HUGHES, PROSECUTOR: What you need to do is take each case individually. I don`t think that you can say there`s a standard for looking at everybody the same way. What we needed here was people who were just a little bit more observant, asked little more questions.
But it`s very, very difficult when you have a predator who has essentially brainwashed his victim. This poor kid, I hear people criticizing him, and I just want to tell them there is no way in the world they can understand what that child went through. He was 11 years old when he was taken.
And what we need to do here, the police, as soon as they got any information, were very observant. They were serving a warrant in another case when they noticed that pickup truck. They went, they investigated, they talked to Devlin, thought he was a little hanky or squirrely, as they said, and got right on it and solved the case immediately.
So I think every case is individual, and people just need to be very aware. And if they`re the slightest bit suspicious, call the police, because if you`re wrong, they investigate and you say I`m sorry.
HUGHES: But if you`re right, you save a child.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`re making a great point because some people have said, You know, that kid Shawn kind of looks like that missing photo, or, That truck kind of looks like the truck that`s being sought. But not everyone was proactive and made a phone call to authorities. However, I understand that somebody at the pizza shop did call, and because he didn`t have a criminal record, they didn`t follow up on that tip.
HUGHES: That`s absolutely correct, Jane. Somebody did call in, said it sounds like him, and it wasn`t followed up because they did a criminal history check and they looked at it. Jane, I`ve had a lot of criminals over my many years of prosecuting, and you know, I`ve had defense attorneys say to me, Well, he`s never done anything like this before. Well, you know, his first foray into the criminal justice system, it`s a doozy, OK? Just because you`ve never killed anybody before, there`s always a first time. If you`ve never been caught for kidnapping a child before, this is the first time. And the argument that he doesn`t have a history, well, guess what? Like I said, his first dive in was a hell of a dive, and he made a big splash with this one.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, defense attorney Richard Herman, come to the defense of the suspect in this case. You know, his attorneys are saying, Don`t prejudge, let the constitutional and judicial process play out. But with these children having been found in his apartment, a lot of people are saying this is basically an open-and-shut case.
RICHARD HERMAN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Hey, Jane, you know, the more reprehensible a person is, the greater the need that they have an attorney, they have counsel and they get afforded their constitutional rights. When Richard Jewell got arrested, he was the Olympic bomber. Look at the disaster down in Durham in the Duke case. We have to step back right now. We have to let the investigation unfold. We have to see where this case goes. We have to see law enforcement put it together. It`s critical, the testimony of these children. And I`m telling you, this is not a slam dunk, Jane.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did receive a call from a reporter today who, in essence, asked me, Is it true that Shawn ran away from home and was voluntarily with Devlin? We categorically deny that. Shawn was abducted against his will, period, end of the story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell, in tonight for Nancy Grace. Some law enforcement experts are second-guessing themselves tonight in the wake of the bizarre Missouri kidnappings of these two young boys. The man accused in these cases, 41-year-old Michael J. Devlin, was right under the nose of police all the time. Police say they used to frequent the suburban St. Louis pizza parlor that he managed, and he would often joke around with them and talk with them.
This case has really sparked a national outcry, the phone lines lighting up. Jerry from Florida, you`ve been very patient. Your question.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Jane. How are you?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: How are you doing?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good. My question is, I know Mr. Devlin has not formally been charged with any sexual misconduct, but if he were to be charged with a sexual misconduct, is there any possibility he kept Shawn Hornbeck around to lure in other victims?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let`s go to prosecutor Holly Hughes. You know, this case is so bizarre that questions that might seem far-fetched under normal circumstances really actually make a lot of sense. What did you make of that caller`s question?
HUGHES: I think it`s a fantastic question, Jane. And quite frankly, this case reminds me so much of the Kenneth Parnell, Steven Stayner case from years ago. That`s exactly what happened. Most pedophiles prefer a certain age type, a certain range, a certain look, and when their victims who they keep captive get too old, they go looking, essentially, and it sounds a bit crude, but for fresh meat.
And when you take a look at Ben Ownby, he is so young-looking. Even though this young man is 13, he looks substantially younger than that. And so he might have thought -- Mr. Devlin, the defendant in this case, might have thought that he was around that 11-year-old age range that he likes, and it would not surprise me in the slightest that`s what happened.
If you remember the Steven Stayner case, he snatched -- Kenneth Parnell, the defendant in that case, snatched a young boy by the name of Timothy White when he felt Steven Stayner got too old, and he made Steven bring his friends over so that he could start abusing them. When Parnell brought home the 5-year-old, that`s when Stayner said, That`s enough. He walked the young man to the police station, but never considered himself a victim, Jane. He didn`t turn himself in as a victim, just the little boy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We got our child back in four days. Some of these kids, you know, may never come home. You know, some of these kids take -- you know, they come back in four years, there`s still, you know, a lot that they`ve gone through. So we`re just extremely fortunate that Ben came back to us as fast as he did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell in tonight for Nancy Grace.
Law enforcement tonight working feverishly to see if they can connect the dots between three long unsolved disappearances of missing children in the very same region of Missouri where two abducted boys were found alive. They do not know if there is a connection, but there are some striking similarities we`re going to go over in a second.
And complicating the picture, two of the still-missing children would be grown men at this point in their late 20s. So I want to go to Mike Brooks and talk a little bit about some of the similarities in all these cases.
All the children involved are white, between the ages of 9 and 13. All were living within a 60-mile radius of this man`s home. All were stopped either on foot or bicycle on a public road, last seen in the afternoon and last seen near their home.
How can authorities connect the dots between what they know now and the three unsolved cases?
MIKE BROOKS, FORMER D.C. POLICE: What they`re going to do now, Jane, they`re going to go back, all these different law enforcement agencies -- and I guarantee you every law enforcement agency in the Midwest -- they`re going to go back, take a look at their cold cases of kidnapping, of homicide, to see if there`s any similarities, any links at all, and try to find out whether or not any of their cases could be linked to this.
The FBI also has a new database now. It`s the CARD team, the Child Abduction Response team. And what they`re going to do is they`re going to go back and, in their database, they`ll take a look at their cases, too, and they will bring in analysts, and the analysts will sit down and see if they can draw any kind of link map to see whether or not the method operandi, the M.O., if you will, of these cases are anything similar.
They`re also going to take any evidence that they found on any of his clothes, shoes, anything in that apartment. I guarantee you they went through there with a forensic vacuum cleaner that has a special filter, and it will try to get any hairs and fibers, anything at all that they can link with any DNA of any of these kids that they`re looking at right now, especially that 11-year-old boy in the Arlin (ph) case, they`re calling it.
They`re going to take a look at that, because that is -- he definitely fits a profile, as do the others. But, you know, going back, his case seems to be the strongest one they`re looking at for right now.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Trenny Stovall, child custody advocate, one obvious way would be to talk to Shawn Hornbeck and say, wow, you were apparently, what we know now, in this man`s presence for four years. Did he say anything? Did he mention these children`s names? Did you see any evidence?
However, by the same token, authorities don`t want to press too hard. They want the boy to kind of readjust to society, and they don`t want to be grilling him. How do you strike a balance? Should they talk to them? Should they talk to Shawn Hornbeck about these other cases?
TRENNY STOVALL, CHILD CUSTODY ADVOCATE: I think definitely that they should and that they will talk to him about the other cases. Unfortunately, we may not have time of the essence as -- if we were looking for the young man who was just taken four days before.
These cases are much older. The likelihood is that, if he was involved or he was aware of what happened, it happened such a long time ago that they`re not looking for children that are presently missing or just, you know, young children that they might be able to find quickly.
So they may have some time. Give them some time to adjust and to really kind of take in what`s happening to him, and then talk to him about what`s happening, because he may have a lot of information for them.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: He may, and, of course, they do have time, because the suspect is behind bars, although for the parents of those missing kids, it`s always a race against time.
We want to go now to a gentleman who has been very patient with us, Stanley Alpert. He`s a former prosecutor with an absolutely astounding story. He survived a kidnapping himself and has written a book about it called "The Birthday Party: A Memoir of Survival."
You know, I want to ask you, Stanley, so many people are playing Monday morning quarterback with Shawn Hornbeck and saying, Well, he had the opportunity to run, police came up to him. Why didn`t he do this, why didn`t he do that? How dare they? I mean, they`re not living in his shoes.
STANLEY ALPERT, FORMER PROSECUTOR: I have to agree with Holly. We need to have extraordinary empathy for Shawn and what he went through. I`ve read that it`s alleged that he was originally grabbed at gunpoint, that there were threats to kill his entire family if he didn`t cooperate. That poor boy must have been living in extraordinary terror all those years. We can`t second-guess that.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, you were a kidnap victim, and your story illustrates the sort of nuanced relationship that captors and captives have. The reason your story is called "Birthday Party" is why? And how does that illustrate how things are not always just like, "Hey, you know, I`ve got a gun against you, stand against the wall, and if I turn my back you`re going to run out"?
ALPERT: I had advantages that the young man, Shawn Hornbeck, did not have. I was an adult, and I was a federal prosecutor at the time. I was a kid who grew up in New York City and went through all sorts of experiences in New York City that gave me a little bit of...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: But what I`m asking you about is you were kidnapped, and it was your birthday, right? And they offered to throw you like a mini-birthday party, is my understanding, and get you some illicit drugs, and there were women that they were offering -- I mean, there was a very bizarre relationship going on.
ALPERT: It was bizarre, and it was definitely not a typical kidnapping.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Right. But I guess my point is -- and you can disagree with me -- maybe we`ll go to Bethany Marshall -- is that people have this sort of stereotyped notion of what it means to be kidnapped. And actually there`s a relationship that develops between the victim and the perpetrator.
ALPERT: It`s a great point. And I think that, in the case of Shawn Hornbeck, if it is true that he was sexually abused, he may have been told that if he went back to his parents that he would suffer the shame of having to own up to that.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, and speaking of shame, prosecutor Holly Hughes and defense attorney Richard Herman, let`s have a little debate here, because, first of all, there`s a whole controversy over the trauma of these children having to go to trial and testify.
And already the defense attorneys are playing the usual games, asking for a change of venue, saying he can`t get a fair trial in the county where Ben Ownby lives. Are these games that should be played, given that these kids have already been through so much, Richard Herman?
RICHARD HERMAN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Jane, you saw earlier in the piece that they couldn`t even bring him in the courtroom to be arraigned live in person. They were -- they feared for his life then. Come on. They`ve got to have a change of venue in this case. It`s not going to affect anything to change the venue. It will preserve the justice system there.
But these are young children. And I think it was irresponsible for the Hornbeck family to parade their son around at this stage of the case on the Oprah Winfrey show, let him talk to Oprah on national television.
If I`m a defense attorney, I`m getting that videotape. If there are potential jurors out there who may have seen this, if he contradicts himself at all and he does come to testify, it`s going to come back and hurt them. It was irresponsible.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Holly, jump in here. Let`s hear the prosecutor`s side.
HOLLY HUGHES, PROSECUTOR: OK. First of all, let me start with the change of venue issue. As you pointed out earlier, we`re a global village. Everybody has seen this publicized. It`s gone worldwide.
I think what needs to happen here, they need to start the voir dire process in the local town, let the judge make a decision after they`ve talked to some jurors, prospective jurors, see what`s going to happen, and then possibly move it.
I think it is extremely inefficient, cost-wise, to move a trial. So you need to try starting out where you are.
As for what the Hornbecks did with bringing their son onto the Oprah show, I actually saw that show, Jane, and I don`t think it was irresponsible in that Oprah did not ask him anything about the crime. It was, how are you doing, how are you feeling, how do you feel about seeing your parents, did you give up hope? That kind of thing.
There was nothing factual, nothing about the evidence. So there isn`t going to be contradictory statements. And, quite frankly, who are we to tell these parents this is not a good thing for their child?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely. Let`s go to Melanie Streeper right now with KTRS radio. She monitored the Oprah Winfrey show. She`s also got her finger on the pulse of this community. You`ve been hearing this debate. Was it premature, do you think, for him to go on Oprah? Can he get a fair trial in the community?
MELANIE STREEPER, KTRS RADIO: Well, I did hear the Oprah Winfrey show, and I did hear the comments made by Devlin`s attorneys, that they could not get a fair trial in Franklin County. Who knows at this point? Probably not.
The public`s perception is that Michael Devlin is guilty. But, again, you know, we have to determine that within a court of law. But as far as the Oprah Winfrey show, something that was very surprising to me, something we have not seen in all the years that this family has been giving interviews, a few smiles and actually a big sign of relief. This family looked so relieved to have their son finally home with them.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And the first thing I noticed was that Shawn Hornbeck got rid of the little piercings that he had, and cut his hair, and looked very, very clean-cut. So he`s like gotten a rejuvenation.
To tonight`s "Trial 101." Coercion: Threats of violence, retribution, or other intimidating behavior compelling another person to act against their will out of fear.
Reports have come to light that 15-year-old Shawn Hornbeck, held captive for four years, had several opportunities to possibly escape. So why wouldn`t he call out for help or just run away? How about coercion? Could it be that his life or his family`s life was threatened? Yes, therefore forcing him to stay under his alleged abductor`s control.
More on the Missouri case when we come right back.
DORIS OWNBY, MOTHER OF BEN OWNBY: Ben`s doing fine. I`m going to try and get him ready to go back to school, trying to make his life a little more normal than it has been the last few days.
CRAIG AKERS, FATHER OF SHAWN HORNBECK: Obviously, this is probably the best day of our lives. We got the call that they believed that Shawn had been found and that he was OK.
PAM AKERS, MOTHER OF SHAWN HORNBECK: Shawn is a miracle here. We`re glad to have him home. I still feel like I`m in a dream.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell in tonight for Nancy Grace. How do we prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again to another child? Can we completely ensure our children`s safety and still allow them to have a normal life?
I mean, these kids were snatched leaving a school bus and on a bike. These are everyday activities. A lot of parents all across the country are agonizing about this tonight.
Mike Brooks, you are a former D.C. police officer. You served on the FBI terrorism task force. What should parents do that`s reasonable, that doesn`t make their kids completely neurotic?
BROOKS: Well, again, Jane, it`s very difficult to plan for every eventuality. And, you know, we don`t want to tell our kids that this world is just, you know, a terrible world and there`s bad people out there, and we`re trying to get away from the whole stranger-danger thing, because it might present a situation where someone who is a stranger is there to help the kid.
But these kids were snatched in a rural area, and rural areas present very, very difficult problems. You know, the houses are spaced very far apart, and it`s tough to keep in contact.
And, you know, if you do have to take your kids, you know, either -- the best thing is take your kid to school and pick them up. But you can walk or drive your child to the bus stop and wait with them until the bus arrives. That`s one approach.
Then, you know, if your child is approached, tell them to ignore them and walk away toward a house, like they`re going somewhere. But if someone does approach them, because they may be approached with a ruse, "Hey, would you come -- I`ve lost my puppy or my dog. Will you come and, you know, get in the car and help me find it"?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mike, here`s an obvious one. What about giving your kids, making sure they have a cell phone? Because there`s GPS on those cell phones now, and in the case I believe of Ben Ownby, he had a black backpack. If he`d had his cell phone in there, they may have gotten sort of a trace on where he was going.
BROOKS: That`s always a possibility, you know, especially nowadays with the technology, and we`re coming up with better technology. But in a lot of rural areas, the cell signals, as we`ve seen in many other cases, may not be so good.
But the bottom line is, don`t approach a car. And then if you are attacked, scream, yell, you know, holler, "Fire." That will get somebody`s attention. But the bottom line is, you have to go over what if scenarios with your kids to make sure that they get it.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: What if scenarios. We hear it, and, parents, listen to that, because that`s good advice. Let`s go to the phone lines. Susan from Florida, thank you for waiting.
CALLER: You`re very welcome. First of all, I`d like to know why the Hornbecks are parading Sean around instead of giving him time to readjust. And, also, I wonder if anybody asked him when he first got to Devlin`s home if there might have been an older child already there that he was replacing.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, we have been discussing the fact that authorities would ultimately, you would think, like to talk to Shawn about that and the child custody advocates said it could take time, they may be asking that down the road.
But, you know, your other question, Bethany Marshall, psychoanalyst, some people are like, "Wait, this is too early for these kids to be doing media appearances." But, you know, there`s also the possibility that sometimes -- and we know we`re in the media -- talking about it can be a catharsis, it can help you process, it can help you kind of acknowledge what everybody is thinking.
BETHANY MARSHALL, PSYCHOANALYST: Well, I think there`s two main points. One is, whether or not the media interviews are good, it depends on the child`s subjective experience.
The parents should sit down with the child and say, "How was that for you? Did you feel ashamed, or did you feel really supported?" And really elicit a good response.
The other thing, in terms of the questions that are asked, no one should ask these kids, "Why? Why didn`t you leave? Why didn`t you run away? Why didn`t you call?" Because if you ask a kid why, they won`t know why, they won`t have the answers.
What you do is you supply the fantasies for them about what might have happened. You can say something like, "You know what? If I were you, I would have been really afraid to run away, because I would have been afraid of being killed or I would have been afraid of worse repercussions," and that that in turn gives the child permission to really express the terror. But you have to supply the fantasies for the child to give them permission.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Melanie Streeper, I understand that you studied the Oprah show today, and I watched it. But what was your sense of Shawn? Because I noticed that he appeared kind of in two different venues, one sort of like one-on-one with Oprah talking, and then, later on in the audience, if I`m correct, and he seemed to be very different.
Like in the more intimate setting, where he was talking with Oprah, he seemed very relaxed and comfortable, but then he seemed a little bit uptight later when he was in the group of large people.
STREEPER: Yes, absolutely, I agree with you. With the family setting, he was totally relaxed around his parents, but then in the audience setting he looked a little shy, a little bit nervous when he stood up.
But it was truly a heartfelt moment to see him hug those two police officers that came to the apartment. It was really a heartfelt show, really tugged at the heartstrings.
One thing that I`d like to point out is that he admitted to posting online the Web site that was set up for the recovery of him, he posted anonymously as Shawn Devlin. He admitted to that, and he hoped that his parents would see through that, and actually that would lead them to him. That was a very interesting fact that came out today.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, you are absolutely right. Prosecutor Holly Hughes, I mean, there were reports that he had as many as half-a-dozen postings with photos that appeared to be him, we`re not sure, but on the social networking sites, on the Internet.
I mean, isn`t it a time now for high technology to take over? We should have computer systems that run the age-projected photos of missing children and try to match them up with photos that appear on all these sites. I mean, there`s MySpace, and YouTube, and Google, and Yahoo, all these sites.
HUGHES: Absolutely, Jane. And the technology actually exists. It`s called face recognition software. And they actually utilize it in other countries. I know in England, for instance, and London they have street corner cameras set up, and they just watch people walking down the street.
And what that does is a continuous loop, it scans through for anybody who`s got a warrant out on them. So you can be walking down the street in London going to the grocery store, and if you are a wanted criminal, the local police precinct is going to get a hit immediately that, hey, guess what? John Doe number 275, wanted on this warrant, is at this grocery store right now. The technology does exist.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Richard Herman, defense attorney, what about our constitutional rights? Do we want to live in a police state where intelligent video is using video to create thumbprints of our face?
HERMAN: Well, why not? Why not? You`ve got to abide by the laws here, and there`s not a problem with that. But, Jane, I`m telling you, it`s critical, and Dr. Bethany will tell you, the psychological trauma of these young boys standing up in a courtroom -- you see how they`re handling them with kid gloves right now. This man`s looking at a life in prison, and the defense attorneys will not handle them with kid gloves. I assure you that.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Jane Velez-Mitchell, in for Nancy Grace.
The kidnapping suspect in court today. Even though prosecutors say he confessed to kidnapping Ben Ownby, he turned around and pleaded not guilty. So we`re looking at the very real possibility of a trial.
Let`s ask Trenny Stovall, child custody advocate. What can we do to prevent re-traumatizing these kids by having to get up on the witness stand and testify about possibly horrific things?
STOVALL: There are ways that the law has to protect children in these instances. For instance, in Georgia -- I practice in Georgia -- the child hearsay statutes allow others to testify on behalf of children, to say what they said happened, as long as the child is available for cross- examination. That allows the child not to have to get on the stand.
But as a child advocate attorney, we try very hard not to re-ask the child about what happened, the specific trauma that occurred, especially in sexual abuse matters. So there are ways to protect children from having to testify in these circumstances or to limit that testimony.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: This has got to be such a traumatic experience for these two young men. I can only hope and pray that somehow it is a growth experience for them, that somehow they sense, cherish just the very fact that they are alive, they have their whole lives ahead of them. Perhaps they can learn from this experience and be of service to someone else in need. Let`s hope.
Tonight, we remember Army Private Evan Bixler, just 21 from Racine, Wisconsin, killed in Iraq. On his first tour of duty, Bixler overcame medical barriers to enlist in the military. Bixler awarded multiple medals, including the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. Remembered for his wonderful sense of humor. Bixler leaves behind a proud family, including his sister, Amy. Evan Bixler, an American hero.
We want to thank all of our guests tonight for their insights. Thanks to you at home for tracking these important cases with us. I`m Jane Velez- Mitchell in for Nancy Grace. Nancy`s back tomorrow night, 8:00 sharp Eastern. Until then, have a wonderful and a safe evening.