A Complete Family Once Again
By: Holly Brantley
By: Holly Brantley
RICHWOODS, Mo. --Craig and Pam Akers called Saturday the best day of their lives. That's because it's the first full 24 hours they've looked forward to spending with their son, Shawn Hornbeck, who had been missing for more than four years.
During Saturday's press conference, Shawn sat close to his mother, occasionally smiling and laughing with her.
He didn't speak to the public. But, his stepfather tells Heartland News that Shawn wanted to be there simply to show everyone how thankful he feels for all they've done to bring him home.
Craig and Pam Akers say they want to do the same thing, and fuel the hopes of every family who's had to endure the pain of not knowing where to find their child.
The Akers say they've been living a dream since Friday when they heard their son was alive. "We were in the car driving," said Craig Akers. Akers says the couple got a phone call from the prosecuting attorney who asked them to pull over. "The next words out of his mouth were, ‘We think we've found Shawn. We're 95% sure we've found Shawn. He's alive.' Those were the sweetest words I've ever heard in my life," described Akers.
They say even when they laid eyes on Shawn for the first time in four years, it was hard to believe it was really him.
"I do want to give other family members hope their child can come home," Pam Akers said. "I still feel like I'm in a dream because it's not the nightmare I've been living for the past four years."
Though, some of the mystery surrounding Hornbeck's four year disappearance is just beginning to unravel. "It just boggles my mind that someone thinks they could get away with it. And this has been going on for four years. He was right under our nose the whole time," said Craig.
Still, many unanswered questions remain: What's Shawn's life been like for the past four years? Did he try to escape? And, how did the suspect, 41-year old Michael Devlin keep Shawn's identity a secret for more than 1559 days as his family and so many other searched for him?
Craig Akers says Shawn will answer those questions when he is ready, but that could be a while. He says Shawn hasn't even had a chance to share many details of the ordeal with his family.
"We're just trying to not ask too many questions and absorb that he's home," said Pam Akers.
Though he did not speak at Saturday's news conference, Shawn acknowledged through his parents that he had been in Kirkwood since he went missing. He also indicated he hadn't been to school, and he knew people were looking for him. But, we still don't know if he tried to let anyone know he was the boy so many people around the country were searching for.
Now, Craig and Pam Akers say all that matters is that Shawn is home.
"It may be years or days later, but they can come home," said Pam Akers. "Keep the hope."
"I promised not to lose hope," said Craig Akers. "I never stopped looking. I've said all along we will not stop until we find Shawn, and by God, here we are!"
The Aker's say Shawn's first request on the way home was to stop at McDonald's. Craig Akers says Shawn's only other request was for Akers, his stepfather, to go through with plans for adoption that were in place before Shawn disappeared.
As for the Shawn Hornbeck Foundation, the family says that will live on. And, they hope Shawn will become an active member.