Parents Rejoice After 2 Missouri Boys Found
By: Associated Press
BEAUFORT, Mo. - For better than four years, Shawn Hornbeck's parents dealt with their grief over the 11-year-old's disappearance by devoting themselves to bringing missing people home. On Saturday, they showed off their best argument for hanging onto hope - the boy, now a shaggy-haired 15-year-old, joined them at a news conference a day after police found him and another recently abducted boy at a suburban St. Louis apartment, both alive and apparently well.
"Shawn is a miracle here," his mother, Pam Akers, said Saturday at an elementary school in his hometown of Richwoods. "We're glad to have him home. I still feel like I'm in a dream, only this time it's a good dream, not the nightmare I've had four-and-a-half years."
Hornbeck's stepfather, Craig Akers, said he and his wife were in disbelief when they were reunited with the boy.
"There was that split second of shock," he said. "Once I saw the face, I said, 'Oh my God, that's my son.'"
Hornbeck did not speak, but he smiled often, his mother's arm draped around him, and seemed at ease. He was much bigger than pictures of the missing 11-year-old, his hair darker and longer.
Hornbeck and Ben Ownby, 13, disappeared 4 1/2 years and 40 miles apart. Ownby hadn't been seen since getting off a school bus Monday afternoon. Both towns are within 60 miles of St. Louis.
A routine search warrant led police to investigate the Kirkwood, Mo., apartment dweller, Michael Devlin, 41, an Imo's Pizza manager and part-time funeral home worker. He was charged with first-degree kidnapping and bail was set at $1 million.
An elated Franklin County Sheriff Gary Toelke, who headed the search for Ben, began a news conference Friday by telling reporters, "We have some good news and we have some probably unbelievable news."
The key to finding the boys was a beat-up white pickup truck spotted by a schoolmate of Ownby's who got off the bus at the same time. The friend saw the pickup speeding away about the time Ownby vanished from the gravel road near his home.
On Thursday night, Kirkwood city police officers saw a white truck matching the description. They traced the owner, contacted the Franklin County Sheriff's Department, then searched Devlin's home Friday and found the boys.
There were no immediate details about what police found inside the apartment, or how the boys might have been detained. Toelke said authorities were still trying to learn the motive behind the abductions. Franklin County Prosecutor Robert Parks said more charges are likely.
"There are a lot of things we don't know right now," Toelke said.
After being reunited with their families, both boys were taken to SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St. Louis for evaluation. Hospital spokesman Bob Davidson said both were in good spirits.
Ownby's uncle, Loyd Bailie, told The Associated Press that the boy was delighted when he saw his parents.
"His eyes lit up like silver dollars," Bailie said.
In Kirkwood, one of Devlin's neighbors, Rick Butler, 43, said FBI agents came to his door Thursday night and showed him a picture of Ben.
He said he had not seen the boy but had seen another boy he believes was Hornbeck. He said he saw no evidence that the boy was scared or trying to get away. He even saw Devlin and the teen pitch a tent in the courtyard.