Officer’s ‘mother mode’ unraveled mystery of missing girl

Sordid saga of 18 years ends, but questions remain

Phillip Greg Garrido, with lawyer Susan Gellman, was arraigned Friday in El Dorado Superior Court in Placerville. Phillip Greg Garrido, with lawyer Susan Gellman, was arraigned Friday in El Dorado Superior Court in Placerville. (Kevin Bartram/ Reuters)
By Sharon Cohen and Brooke Donald
Associated Press / August 30, 2009

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ANTIOCH, Calif. - Phillip Garrido’s unspeakable private life began unraveling in a very public place: a college campus.

He arrived at the police office at the University of California, Berkeley, with two girls, ages 11 and 15. Two very alert women - one the manager of special events, the other an officer - immediately sensed something was wrong.

Garrido announced he wanted to hold a religious event on campus related to a group called God’s Desire. He seemed weird and unstable. But it was the pale, blonde, blue-eyed girls who really set off alarm bells.

They wore drab, monotone clothes and seemed programmed - “almost like ‘Little House on the Prairie’ meets robots,’’ says Ally Jacobs, a campus police officer.

The younger girl “was staring directly at me,’’ says Jacobs, the mother of two small boys. “It was almost like she was looking into my soul.’’

When Jacobs asked her about a bump near her eye, “she immediately replied with this very rehearsed response: ‘It’s a birth defect . . . I’ll have it for the rest of my life.’

“I was a little taken aback. . . . She just wouldn’t stop smiling.’’

The older daughter, meanwhile, stared at the ceiling and looked at her father “in awe, as if she were in worship of him. I kind of got the feeling that these kids were like robots.’’

Garrido gave them copies of his book he had written called “Origin of Schizophrenia Revealed.’’ They had a hard time following his conversation.

But he revealed the girls were home-schooled by his wife, with an assist from him. The girls said they had an older sister at home, 28 or 29, and that seemed strange, too, that she was even mentioned.

Finally, Jacobs says, Garrido grabbed his oldest daughter and said: “ ‘I’m so proud of my girls. They don’t know any curse words. We raised them right. They don’t know anything bad about the world.’ ’’

By then, she says, “my police mode turned into my mother mode’’ and her suspicions were more than confirmed when a records check found that Garrido was a registered sex offender who had been convicted of rape and kidnapping more than 30 years ago.

A call was made to Garrido’s parole officer. A terrible secret was about to be revealed.

Garrido - known as “Creepy Phil’’ to children in his neighborhood - had a reputation for peculiarity. He rambled nonsensically. He was dismissed as “kind of nutty.’’ He said God spoke to him through a box.

Neighbors were worried enough about him to call police, but no one knew how bizarre his world truly was until last week when authorities revealed the stunning news: Hidden in the backyard of his cinderblock house behind a 6-foot fence, leafy trees, and a tarp, was a compound of weathered tents, wood sheds, and buildings.

What looked like a messy campground with mattresses, small chairs, bikes, books, piles of toys, a trampoline, showers, an outhouse, swing set - even a carved pumpkin - was really a prison, of sorts. Its inmate: Jaycee Lee Dugard, the carefree little girl abducted in 1991 who, authorities say, had been raped, held captive, and shut off from society for nearly 20 years.

As shocking as that was, there was one more stunning revelation: Jaycee was now a 29-year-old mother. She had given birth to two of her suspected abductor’s children, two girls raised in isolation. They had, according to authorities, never attended school, never visited a doctor - and Jaycee, it seems, had never reached out to anybody.

When Jaycee resurfaced last week - she called herself Allissa - 18 years had passed. One daughter was 15, the other 11, the same age her mother was that day when she was heading to catch a school bus and instead was pulled screaming into a Ford Granada and driven here, 170 miles from home.

Garrido, 58, and his 54-year-old wife, Nancy, were arrested last week in that kidnapping. On Friday, they appeared in court and pleaded not guilty to more than two dozen charges, including forcible abduction, rape and false imprisonment.

Even with their arrests, there are more questions than answers in this mystery, questions about who knew about Jaycee, why she remained there, how she and her children lived - and how a man with a rap sheet, a parole officer, and years of suspicious behavior managed to keep a sordid secret even when authorities were in his house.

Diane Doty has lived for 16 years in a house with a yard that abuts the one connected to the Garrido home.

From her deck, she could she could see tarps, but the trees concealed much else. Doty says she could hear kids in the back but they sounded normal. She thought she could also hear a shower.

“I asked my husband, ‘Why is he living in tents?’ And he said, ‘Maybe that is how they like to live.’ ’’

Monica Adams, 33, whose mother, Betty, lives on the street said Garrido once set up speakers at a party she was having at her parents’ home, but stuck around even though he wasn’t invited. She kicked him out because he was acting weird and staring at all the women.

Adams was watching the news later that night and discovered the public could look for sex offenders in their communities. She went online - and found Garrido’s name. “We were irate and we told all of our neighbors,’’ she says.

She knew children were living with him, but she says she figured he was a registered sex offender who was being checked up on by law enforcement. Her confidence was misplaced. Authorities bungled many chances to catch Garrido and rescue Jaycee.

In November 2006, a neighbor called 911 and described Garrido as a psychotic sex addict who was living with children and had people staying in tents in his backyard. A sheriff’s deputy talked with Garrido a half-hour on his front porch, but he didn’t enter the house or walk into the backyard. He left with a warning the tents could be a code violation. He did not know Garrido was a convicted sex offender even though his office had that information.

“I cannot change the course of events but we are beating ourselves up over this and continue to do so,’’ Contra Costa County Sheriff Warren E. Rupf said. “We should have been more inquisitive, more curious and turned over a rock or two.’’

Garrido was 25 when he was convicted of a federal kidnapping charge and a state forcible rape charge after snatching a 25-year-old woman from a South Lake Tahoe, Calif., parking lot, handcuffing her, tying her down and holding her in a storage unit in Reno in November 1976.

In his 1977 federal trial in Reno, Garrido testified that he took four hits of LSD after seizing the woman, and that he had used LSD, cocaine, marijuana, hashish, and other drugs since 1968.

He had confessed to a Reno police detective Dan DeMaranville, telling him that he preferred sex by force. DeMaranville, since retired, described the storage unit where the rape occurred as a “sex palace,’’ with a bed, rugs on the floor and walls, various sex aids, sex magazines and videos, stage lights, and wine.