ST. LOUIS – Ten months after Shawn Hornbeck’s disappearance, he spoke with police to report his bike had been stolen but gave no clue that he was a missing child, a newspaper reported Saturday.
That apparently was the first of two encounters Shawn had with police after his 2002 disappearance, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The boy also may have placed a message on the Web site created by his parents during their search for him.
Shawn was missing more than four years before he was discovered Jan. 12 with 13-year-old Ben Ownby, who had been reported missing four days earlier. Michael Devlin, 41, has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping Ben and has been charged with kidnapping Shawn.
The Post-Dispatch said that on August 15, 2003, when Shawn was 12, he introduced himself to police in suburban Kirkwood as Shawn Devlin and gave no clue that he was a missing child being held captive. Shawn reported that his bike had been stolen from outside the apartment he shared with Devlin, according to the police report.
“I spoke with Shawn Devlin and his father Michael Devlin,” Officer Christopher Moss wrote in the report, which the newspaper obtained through a public records request.
There was no immediate response to calls seeking comment Saturday from Moss, now an officer in nearby Overland. James Herron, chief of police in Overland, said Saturday that policy prevents him and his officers from commenting on current investigations.
Kirkwood police also did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Kim Evans, a friend of Shawn’s family who has been speaking for them, said she was “speechless” that Shawn was seen by police 10 months after his kidnapping.
“You would think someone would have recognized him,” she said. “But it’s hard to say.”
The Post-Dispatch previously reported that on Sept. 29, 2006, a police officer in suburban Glendale stopped Shawn late at night because he was wearing dark clothes and didn’t have reflectors on his bike.
According to the police report on that encounter, Shawn told the officer his name was Shawn Devlin and gave him the birth date July 7, 1991, 10 days off his true date of birth. Shawn told the officer he was riding his bike to his apartment in Kirkwood after visiting a friend’s home.
Glendale police have said the officer had no reason to suspect Shawn Devlin was someone else.
On Friday, Shawn’s stepfather, Craig Akers, said he was haunted by having dismissed a series of messages Shawn apparently posted on a Web site his parents had created in their search for him. “How long are you planning to look for your son?” read one of the messages, signed “Shawn Devlin.”
“Never in my wildest dreams would have I have imagined it was my son who had done that,” Akers said, adding that he had assumed the messages were like many others sent by people who falsely claimed to be Shawn or to know where he was.