A Parent’s Worst Nightmare
One of the worst nightmares imaginable for all parties involved, kidnapping remains one of the most common crimes in the United States today.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the FBI reported nearly 460,700 missing child cases in 2015 alone. Each year, tens of thousands of children are abducted from American streets, homes, and schools by strangers. And they are even more likely taken illegally by family members. While these statistics are shocking, many cases boil down to custody disputes or runaways, but an estimated 1% are the violent random kidnappings that people most fear.
Chances are you’ve heard of one of these widely-covered stories online, in a magazine, or on the news in your lifetime, as many of them make national headlines. While some cases are resolved quickly, others last for months or years at a time, and while the missing child’s name or face may fade from the public eye, dedicated family and friends never stop searching or hoping.
As terrifying as this very real threat is, the happy endings that can come from them become even more special. Such stories of human triumph, especially the victorious outcome for children facing unthinkable adversity, remind us that there is always hope, even after years of living in a nightmare.
Such is the case of Jaycee Lee Dugard, who was kidnapped while walking to the school bus when she was just 11-years-old. Held prisoner for 18 years by a serial rapist and his wife, Jaycee’s rescue and return to normalcy shows the incredible breadth of the human capacity to survive. Now, she has become an inspiration for countless others.
This is her story.
Exactly 25 years ago, on June 10, 1991, 11-year-old Jaycee Lee Dugard was walking to the bus stop on her way to school, much like she did every other day. A fifth grader, Jaycee was new to school this year as her family had just moved from Los Angeles to the quiet town of Arcadia, south of Lake Tahoe, California.
As her stepfather, Carl Probyn, watched from their property, and as Jaycee’s schoolmates watched from the bus, a grey sedan pulled over rapidly beside her. The man inside the car shot Dugard with a stun gun, rendering her unconscious, and a woman then forced her into the vehicle. Probyn tried giving chase on his bicycle, but the car sped away. That was the last time Jaycee’s family and friends would see her for nearly two decades.
Despite an intense effort by law enforcement and volunteers across the nation, the trail soon went cold. Dugard’s mother, Terry Probyn, started a group called Jaycee’s Hope, which organized efforts to promote awareness about the girl’s kidnapping and aid in their search for her. The story was even featured on America’s Most Wanted just days later.
What no one knew at the time was that Jaycee was just two hours away from her home in Antioch, California, the prisoner of Phillip Garrido and his wife Nancy. Phillip was a crystal meth addict and had a prior history of kidnapping, rape, sexual assault of minors, and abuse. A known sexual predator, Garrido had previously served more than 10 years in prison before being released on parole and moving in with Nancy at the home of his elderly mother.