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Calif. girl abducted in 1991 surfaced alive this week

Carl Probyn, 60, stepfather of Jaycee Lee  Dugard who went missing in 1991, holds a photo of his stepdaughter at his home in Orange, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009. (Associated Press)
Carl Probyn, 60, stepfather of Jaycee Lee Dugard who went missing in 1991, holds a photo of his stepdaughter at his home in Orange, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009. (Associated Press)

Sex offender and his wife arrested

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A 58-year-old convicted rapist and his wife have been arrested in connection with the 1991 abduction of 11-year-old Jaycee Lee Dugard, who surfaced alive in the San Francisco Bay area on Wednesday after disappearing for 18 years.

Phillip Craig Garrido, a registered sex offender, and his wife, Nancy, were booked into the El Dorado County Jail on Thursday afternoon on kidnapping and other charges, after their arrest on Wednesday.

Dugard was reunited with her mother earlier Thursday at a meeting in the Bay Area at an undisclosed location.

The apparent end to a case that sparked national headlines nearly two decades ago began with the suspicions of a campus police officer at the University of California Berkeley on Tuesday. Authorities said the officer spotted Garrido with two young children on campus and, upon questioning, discovered he was a parolee. The officer contacted Garrido’s parole agent, who summoned him to his office on Wednesday.

Garrido showed up in the company of his wife, another adult woman and two small children. After some questioning, Garrido confessed to kidnapping Dugard, authorities said. The questioning also revealed that the young woman who had arrived with the Garridos was Dugard.

Corrections officials said Garrido had served time in a Nevada federal prison for sexual assault and earlier had served time in Lompoc, Calif., for a kidnap case. His high school sweetheart and ex-wife, Christine, said he had faced rape and kidnap charges in the 1970s that led her to divorce him.

“This just blows me away,” she said of the latest revelations.

Garrido was required to register on the state’s Megan’s Law Web site and wore a GPS tracking bracelet, but he had no restrictions on where he could travel and whether he could be around children.

The blond, blue-eyed Jaycee Lee Dugard was abducted while walking to school June 10, 1991, near her home in Meyers, Calif., south of South Lake Tahoe.

El Dorado County sheriff’s officials were preparing to release details of the case at a 3 p.m. PDT press conference, but the girl’s stepfather confirmed to The Sacramento Bee early Thursday that Jaycee had resurfaced and was being reunited with her mother today.

Carl Probyn, Jaycee’s stepfather, said Thursday morning his wife and daughter were flying to Northern California to meet Dugard and that his wife, Terry, spoke with the young woman by phone Wednesday night.

The Probyns, who are separated, live in Southern California, Carl in Orange County and Terry in Riverside. Terry Probyn and their daughter, Shayna, 19, boarded a 6 a.m. PDT flight to the Bay Area to meet with Dugard, Carl Probyn said.

Probyn said he is elated.

“I’m just pleased that she is alive and well,” said Probyn, a 60-year-old Orange County wallpaper contractor.

Dugard’s disappearance prompted a massive search, nationwide publicity and one of the largest police investigations in the region.

Dugard was on her way to school when authorities said she was pulled into a stranger’s car just a block away from her South Lake Tahoe home.

Probyn said he heard her scream and saw a man and a woman drive his stepdaughter away in a gray two-tone sedan.

The stepfather said Shayna Probyn called Wednesday about 4 p.m. and said, “Mom has something to say to you. Are you sitting down?”

His wife told him: “They found Jaycee. She is alive.”

The couple then cried for about 10 minutes as they spoke to each other. Probyn said agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation called his wife at work and told her that they had Jaycee. Thinking it was a joke, she told the caller she did not appreciate what she thought was a ruse.

The FBI then put the young woman on the telephone.

“My wife said that who she spoke to remembers everything,” Carl Probyn said. “My wife and Jaycee were joined at the hip.”

Probyn was the last person to see Jaycee on the day she disappeared. He took four lie detector tests and endured suspicion of involvement in the abduction for nearly two decades.

“The FBI put me through the wringer, being questioned and having people say the stepdad did something,” he said. “I have been kind of the villain these past 18 years.”

Probyn said he eventually lost hope that they would ever see his stepdaughter alive.

“Then you pray that you get her body back so there is an ending,” he said. “To have this happen where we get her back alive, and where she remembers things from the past, and to have people in custody is a triple win. It’s like winning the Lotto.”