Jaycee Lee Dugard was just 11 years old when she was kidnapped while walking to her local school bus stop. The incident occurred in 1991, and Dugard would be held captive and endure almost two long decades of suffering before finally tasting freedom once more in 2009. Her story captured the attention of American and international media for years and remains one of the most terrifying and tragic examples of kidnapping in American history.
It was later revealed that Dugard had been abducted by husband and wife duo, Phillip and Nancy Garrido. She spent 18 long years with the Garridos, forced to live in a dirty tent in the backyard, lied to, brainwashed, and raped innumerable times, even becoming pregnant twice and giving birth to two baby girls. Eventually, she was found and freed in 2009 and has since attempted to piece her life back together. This is her heartbreaking story – a story of an innocent young girl stolen away and mistreated in the most inhumane of ways – in its entirety.
A Normal Little Girl
Jaycee Lee Dugard was born on May 3 of 1980 in Arcadia, California to parents Terry Dugard and Ken Slayton. Despite being Jaycee’s biological father, Ken never actually knew of her existence as he and Terry split up before the birth and only had a very brief affair. By all accounts, Jaycee enjoyed a regularly normal childhood and was especially close to her mother. Terry had another child with Carl in 1990, a daughter named Shayna. Sadly, Jaycee wouldn’t get to be around to watch her little sister grow up, but was very close to her in the months they got to spend together before Jaycee’s abduction.
As Jaycee recounts in her book, ‘A Stolen Life,’ she spent the evening before her kidnapping teaching her 18-month old sister how to “jump up and down in her crib high. It made her laugh so hard. I love making her laugh.” From this quotation and several others throughout Jaycee’s memoirs, it’s clear to see that the beginnings of a beautiful sisterhood were blossoming between Jaycee and Shayna until that relationship was brought to a sudden and abrupt stop. With her stepfather, Jaycee’s relationship was said to be much more difficult. Jaycee felt that Carl Probyn was always very critical of her and seemed to enjoy tormenting her, but she could never quite understand why writing: “I have never seen this stepfather making fun of his stepkids like Carl used to do to me.”
Before the Kidnapping
The kidnapping itself occurred in the little town of Meyers, not far from South Lake Tahoe in the state of California. The Dugard family had moved to Meyers less than a year earlier from the relatively large city of Arcadia, California, not far from Los Angeles. Arcadia boasts a population of over 50,000 people, while Meyers is just a little town of around 3,000 inhabitants, so the switch was quite an abrupt one for Jaycee and her family.
In a tragic example of irony, Jaycee’s mother and stepfather decided to move to the area for safety reasons, believing that the small rural community would be a more secure place to raise a family. Their apartment in Orange County had been broken into, and the family decided that a move is needed to help them all feel a little safer. That fateful decision would prove to be life-changing in ways they could never have imagined.
The Day of the Kidnapping
In yet another of those tragic twists of fate that so often define cases like these, Jaycee didn’t even want to go to school on June 10 of 1991 as she’d woken up feeling queasy. She considered telling her stepfather how she was feeling but decided against it after worrying that it might just cause an argument.
Instead, she set out to school on her own. In her book, Jaycee claims that Carl was partly the reason why she started walking to school alone and that her mother had never really liked the idea. However, her mother had to work early, and sometimes Carl wasn’t around, so little Jaycee got used to making the journey alone.
Jaycee, a lifelong animal lover, had several cats and had also befriended a neighborhood dog named Ninja who would sometimes accompany her on her walks to the nearby school bus stop. On that fateful morning, she hoped Ninja would be around to keep her company on the walk, but he was nowhere to be seen.
She mounted the hill near her home and crossed over the road as her mother and stepfather had instructed her. She later recounted how she was daydreaming about summer, barely noticing a car coming up behind her and slowing down. She looked back, expecting the car to keep on going. Instead, it stopped. The driver side window rolled down, and a man began asking Jaycee for directions.
This composite of handouts provided by the El Dorado County Sheriff, shows Phillip Garrido and his wife shortly after their arrest on August 27, 2009 in Placerville, California. Phillip Garrido, a convicted rapist, and his wife Nancy reportedly admitted to kidnapping Jaycee Lee Dugard in 1991 when she was 11 and holding her captive for the past 18 years. Garrido reportedly raped her for years and fathered two children with her. (Photo by El Dorado County Sheriff via Getty Images)
Moments later, his arm shot out of the window. Armed with a taser, he stunned the young girl. Jaycee recalls falling to the ground and trying to push herself away from the road with her hands, but was unable to escape as the man, Phillip Greg Garrido, lifted her up and tossed her into the back of his vehicle.
A Terrifying Drive
The fear and confusion that Jaycee experienced in those moments are unimaginable, as she writes: “My brain feels fuzzy. I don’t understand what’s happening. I want to go home. I want to crawl back into my bed. I want to play with my sister. I want my mommy. I want time to reverse itself and give me a do-over.”
She struggled and tried to get free, but was being pinned down during the journey by Nancy Garrido. During the subsequent three-hour journey, Jaycee lost and regained consciousness several times, experiencing dread and confusion in continuous waves. She remembers hearing Phillip talk about “how he can’t believe he got away with it.”
Entering the Garrido Home
Upon arrival at the Garrido home, Jaycee was threatened with violent repercussions if she made any noise or tried to flee. Terrified, she was led into the bathroom by Phillip, who locked the door and demanded that Jaycee remove her clothes. She refused, so he forcefully stripped her, leaving nothing but a little ring on her pinkie finger that Jaycee would grow to cherish as one of the only remaining physical memories of her life before her abduction.
Children’s toys sit amongst a debris pile in the backyard of alleged kidnapper Phillip Garrido August 28, 2009 in Antioch, California. Jaycee Lee Dugard was allegedly kidnapped by Phillip Garrido nearly two decades ago and was forced to live in tents and sheds behind Garrido’s home with two of her children that were fathered by Garrido. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Phillip then removed his clothes and got into the shower with Jaycee, shaving her body and forcing her to touch him. Jaycee recalls getting very upset and saying that her family weren’t wealthy but would pay a ransom if that’s what the man wanted, but he ignored her pleas. From there, Jaycee was placed in handcuffs and led to a soundproofed room in the backyard.
The First Time
For the first week, aside from the shower incident, Phillip Garrido did not sexually assault or touch Jaycee Lee Dugard in any way. He would come and visit her in her open-air prison, bringing fast food and sodas and even making her laugh with imitations of different accents from around the world and amusing stories. Looking back on these events, Jaycee realized that “this was all part of his plan to manipulate me into being compliant with him,” adding that “He used his powers of persuasion to gain my trust. He became my entire world.”
Tarps, tents and a wooden structure are seen in the backyard of alleged kidnapper Phillip Garrido August 28, 2009, in Antioch, California. Jaycee Lee Dugard was allegedly kidnapped by Phillip Garrido nearly two decades ago and was forced to live in tents and sheds behind Garrido’s home with two of her children that were fathered by Garrido. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Then, a week into her captivity, the first rape occurred. Phillip brought Jaycee a milkshake and told her that “today will be a little different,” telling her she can eat and drink “after we are done.” At the time, Jaycee had no idea what Phillip was talking about, but she tragically soon discovered his depraved intentions. Phillip forced himself onto Jaycee in the first of countless rapes.
In the end, Jaycee lost count of the number of times she was assaulted: “I don’t remember if he came in every day to have sex with me; all I know is it happened more times than I can count.” She later explained that she learned to try and detach her mind and tell herself stories in her head to try and distract herself from what was happening.
The Troubled Past of Phillip Garrido
Phillip Greg Garrido was born on April 5 of 1951 in Contra Costa County, California. He was raised in Brentwood and graduated high school in 1969. Only a few years later, he demonstrated his tendencies towards sexual abuse of minors, were arrested and charged with sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl.
An aerial view of the home and backyard of alleged kidnapper Phillip Garrido August 28, 2009 in Antioch, California. Jaycee Lee Dugard was allegedly kidnapped by Phillip Garrido nearly two decades ago and was forced to live in tents and sheds behind Garrido’s home with two of her children that were fathered by Garrido. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
The victim in question, traumatized by the events, refused to testify in the case and it didn’t end up going to court. Had things gone differently, it’s impossible to say what sort of consequences that case could have had on the rest of Phillip Garrido’s life, but it was immediately clear that this individual had severe issues.
A Terrifying First Marriage
A year later, in 1973, he got married to one of his high school classmates named Christine Murphy. Christine knew about the rape charges filed against Garrido but believed him when he denied any wrongdoing. Murphy later revealed in interviews that she was optimistic about their marriage and thought she’d be lucky enough to spend her whole life with her high school sweetheart, but it didn’t take long for that perfect love story to twist and turn into a nightmare.
An El Dorado County sheriff’s deputy holds a photo of Jaycee Lee Dugard during a search for her shortly after she was kidnapped in 1991. (Ivor Markman/Associated Press)Source: latimes.com
Garrido quickly started abusing Murphy, hitting her and verbally assaulting her too. He hoped to become a musician but had no real job to speak of, so Murphy worked in a casino to cover the couple’s living costs. She said that Garrido would spend most of his days sitting around smoking marijuana or taking other drugs like LSD, and would get violent with her on many occasions, as well as trying to force her into group sex activities with strangers.
Eventually, Murphy realized she needed to get out of there. When Garrido caught a man flirting with her, he stabbed Murphy in the face with a pin, trying to poke her eyes out. She once attempted to flee, but he drove after her and threw her into his car, effectively committing his first ever kidnapping.
Murphy did eventually manage to escape Garrido’s grasp in 1977 when he was charged with the kidnap and rape of Katherine Callaway, a 25-year-old woman. In 1976, Garrido took Callaway to an old warehouse and spent over five hours raping her. A police officer is passing by went to investigate the scene and was greeted by Garrido. Callaway, naked and screaming, ran out of the warehouse and yelled that she was being raped.
Christine MurphySource: insideedition.com
Garrido was arrested and charged, with psychiatric evaluations labeling him a drug addict and sexual deviant. Garrido also admitted to watching schoolchildren from his car and masturbating and was convicted on March 9 of 1977 with a 50-year sentence. He was sent to Leavenworth Penitentiary, Kansas, where he met the woman who would become Nancy Garrido.
Nancy Garrido’s Background
Nancy Garrido was born Nancy Bocanegra on July 18, 1955, in Seguin Texas. Not many details have been shared about her early life, but it is known that she was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and pursued a career in the medical profession, working in the health care system from 1981 onwards. She had several jobs in nursing homes around the United States and was a licensed nursing assistant between 1989 and 1995. Garrido was said to be “well liked” by co-workers, many of whom were shocked when they eventually learned what she’d done.
Katherine CallawaySource: abcnews.go.com
It was at Leavenworth Penitentiary that Nancy and Phillip first met. Nancy was visiting her uncle, who was a prisoner at the time. She and Phillip got to talking and quickly developed affection for one another, getting married at the prison in October of 1981. Seven years later, in 1988, Garrido was transferred to Nevada State Prison on five years to a life sentence but only spent seven months in prison before being released on parole. From that point on, Phillip and Nancy lived together in their home in Antioch, California, which is where Jaycee would also be kept for 18 long years.
“For eighteen years I was a prisoner. I was an object for someone to use and abuse. For eighteen years I was not allowed to speak my name. I became a mother and was forced to be a sister. For eighteen years I survived an impossible situation.”
Jaycee Lee Dugard was kept in her original soundproofed room in the backyard for around six weeks before being switched over to one of the many other shacks that would later be discovered in the Garrido backyard. The soundproofed room was used by Garrido to record country music songs, but also served as the perfect prison for Jaycee, whose screams could never be heard by neighbors or passers-by.
The second room was larger, but that extra space provided little comfort to Jaycee, who was repeatedly raped and assaulted by Phillip Garrido in the days, weeks, and months that followed. Garrido would use meth and other drugs, going on crazy binges and ranting to Dugard about “demon angels” and other nonsensical stories to try and justify his behavior and explain to her why he was keeping her captive.
He claimed to be chosen by God for some mission and said he could hear voices talking to him and telling him what to do. He would also often break down in tears and apologize to Jaycee for all the pain and suffering he was putting her through, while simultaneously making threats about selling her to people who would allegedly treat her even worse than himself.
Jaycee Meets Nancy
It wasn’t until several months into her time at the Garrido home that Jaycee Dugard officially met Nancy Garrido. For their first meeting, Nancy brought Jaycee a stuffed toy and a milkshake, and also broke down in tears, apologizing to Jaycee for everything the couple had put her through. Jaycee, who was heavily manipulated by the Garridos, grew to think that her family hated her and that Nancy and Phillip were the only people who cared.
A view of the home of alleged kidnapper Phillip Garrido as they search the property August 28, 2009 in Antioch, California. Jaycee Lee Dugard was allegedly kidnapped by Phillip Garrido nearly two decades ago and was forced to live in tents and sheds behind Garrido’s home with two of her children that were fathered by Garrido. Pittsburg police are also searching Garrido’s home for evidence linking him to the murders of prostitutes in the 1990’s. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
She developed a kind of dependence on the couple over the months and years. Jaycee would later describe Nancy Garrido as “evil” but would often seek her approval during her time as a prisoner and made efforts not to anger or annoy her.
The ‘Secret Backyard’
During her time as a captive of Phillip and Nancy Garrido, Jaycee Lee Dugard was kept in a kind of ‘secret backyard’ complex of tents and shacks behind the Garridos’ home. On the first day of her abduction, she was placed in a soundproofed room. She has moved to another larger room afterward and eventually placed in a tent.
She was provided with a bed and other amenities like lamps, bookcases, drawers, and more, but was forced to live in one of these tents for almost the entire duration of her captivity with the Garridos. Even when she gave birth to two daughters, fathered by Phillip Garrido, she and her children continued to live in the same small tent.
The secret backyard was a shocking and terrifying area of shacks and tents, carefully hidden away behind trees and fences in the Garrido backyard. Some of the rooms and outbuildings in this area had been soundproofed, and much garbage was eventually found scattered all around the place. Nevertheless, Jaycee did attempt to try and make the area more comfortable and homely, even planting some flowers around to brighten up the place and having her own ‘pet spider’ to keep her company.
Not Jaycee, Allissa
Jaycee later revealed that the Garridos once caught her writing her name in a journal she’d been keeping. When they saw this, they flew into a fit of rage, making Jaycee tear out the pages bearing her name and never speak of it again. They also demanded that she come up with a new name for herself:
One of several tents and shacks that fill the backyard of Phillip Garrido’s property in Antioch, visible over a tall fence and thick brush from a neighbors property, August 28, 2009. Jaycee Dugard, a California girl who was kidnapped at the age of 11 in 1991 has been found alive, having spent 18 years living in sheds and tents behind the home of Garrido. Garrido, a registered sex offender and convicted rapist is under arrest for the kidnapping of Dugard, among other charges. (Photo by Spencer Weiner/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
“After a couple of days of thinking, I decide on my new name and tell Garrido and Nancy my choice. I say I want to be called Allissa. I used to love to watch “Who’s the Boss?” And my favorite actress is Alyssa Milano. But I want a different spelling. I want it spelled A-L-L-I-S-S-A. This is what the girls will grow up calling me.”
Jaycee Dugard became pregnant twice and gave birth to two daughters during her captivity at the hands of the Garridos. In April of 1994, a few years after she had been abducted, Jaycee was given a cooked meal for the first time as the Garridos told the 13-year-old that they believed she was pregnant. The birth occurred on August 18 of 1994, and it is thought that Nancy Garrido was able to help deliver the child due to her training and professional experience as a nurse.
Tarps, tents and a wooden structure are seen in the backyard of alleged kidnapper Phillip Garrido August 28, 2009 in Antioch, California. Jaycee Lee Dugard was allegedly kidnapped by Phillip Garrido nearly two decades ago and was forced to live in tents and sheds behind Garrido’s home with two of her children that were fathered by Garrido. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Jaycee became pregnant again in 1997 and gave birth to her second daughter on November 13, 1997. Jaycee’s TV was her primary source of education, so she followed what she saw in various shows to do the best job she could of looking after her babies and raise them as well as possible given the difficult circumstances. Jaycee’s maternal instincts quickly kicked in and she happy to have her daughters and very protective of them, although the Garridos told the girls that Nancy was their birth mother and Jaycee was their big sister.
When writing on the birth of her first daughter, Jaycee said it was the most painful experience she’d ever endured, but also recounted her happiness at seeing her baby girl and knowing she wasn’t alone anymore:
“And then I saw her. She was beautiful. I felt like I wasn’t alone anymore. [I] had somebody else who was mine…and I know I could never let anything happen to her. I didn’t know how I was going to do that, but I did.”
The Years Go By
As time went by, the rapes continued, but Jaycee did at least enjoy a fraction more freedom, with the Garridos growing to trust her more over time. Jaycee was accused of suffering from Stockholm Syndrome when she was eventually rescued. It was believed that she’d become attached to her captors, but in reality, they’d just manipulated and lied to her so much that she eventually just went along with everything they said and did to satisfy them and try to prevent any conflicts or further problems.
As the Garridos saw that Jaycee was compliant with their commands, they eventually removed her handcuffs. At one point, Jaycee was even taken back into the main house for a while as Phillip Garrido installed a big fence around his backyard and set up the tent where Jaycee would spend most of the remainder of her captivity. There, she spent her days tending to her little flower garden and looking after her daughters.
As the trust between the Garridos and Jaycee developed further, she was even given a job working with Phillip, who was running his own printing business. Jaycee, under her cover name of Allissa, would also speak to clients on occasion and had full access to the company’s telephone and computer. Garrido used her as an artist and designer.
Carl Probyn’s View of the Abduction
During all the time that Jaycee was held captive, search efforts were held to try and track her down. Carl Probyn saw the abduction take place. He was at the family home when Jaycee set off for a school that day and later told police he saw two people inside a gray car pulling up by the young girl. Probyn then saw Jaycee being forced into the vehicle and attempted a daring rescue. Carl grabbed the nearest bicycle and set off after the car but wasn’t able to gather enough speed to keep up with the Garridos’ vehicle.
Police investigator moves children’s bikes in the backyard of Phillip Garrido, August 29, 2009. Antioch Police and the FBI continue their investigation. Jaycee Dugard, a California girl who was kidnapped at the age of 11 in 1991 has been found alive, having spent 18 years living in sheds and tents behind the home of Garrido. (Photo by Spencer Weiner/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
In the early stages of Jaycee’s disappearance, Probyn was regarded as a suspect in the crime, along with Jaycee’s biological father, Ken Slayton. Slayton and Probyn had no connection, however, and Slayton had only had a brief affair with Jaycee’s mom, so didn’t even know of his daughter’s existence. Therefore, it didn’t take too much time for cops to rule Slayton out as a suspect, and after putting Probyn through lie detector tests, they ruled him out too.
The Start of a Long Search
Meanwhile, a search effort had been launched just hours after Jaycee had been abducted. Local and national news agencies flocked to the area to keep track of the story, which quickly became a media sensation, while dozens of people from around the area volunteered to help out with the search. Tens of thousands of posters were put up all around the US, encouraging anyone with any information about Jaycee Lee Dugard’s whereabouts to come forward and contact the authorities.
Jaycee Dugard’s father Ken Slayton (C), his wife Jaime Slayton (L) and attorney Gloria Allred (R) pose at Allred’s law offices following a press conference to respond to the Dugard family press statement affirming that Slayton is Jaycee’s father on June 18, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
Various homages and events to honor Jaycee were also launched; her favorite color, pink, was plastered all around the town in the form of ribbons. Meanwhile, her mother Terry stated an organization called Jaycee’s Hope to organize all of the various fundraisings and search efforts. A song called ‘Jaycee Lee’ was also sold all around the US, as well as T-shirts and other merchandise, with all proceeds going towards search and rescue expenses. Several different missing children organizations joined in the effort to help track Jaycee down, and a cash reward was offered for any information that could lead to her safe retrieval.
22Three Fateful Days
August 24 of 2009 would prove to be the first of three fateful days that would see Jaycee Lee Dugard’s captivity finally come to an end and Phillip Garrido’s Machiavellian plans finally unravel. On that day, Garrido visited the FBI offices in San Francisco to share an essay documenting his thoughts on religion and sexuality. In this bizarre text, Garrido claimed that he’d solved his lifelong sexual behavior issues and wanted to offer up his solution to help other sexual deviants in the future.
Later that day, he visited a police station at the University of California, Berkeley. He has accompanied his and Jaycee’s daughters. Garrido wanted to organize a special event at the university, again to share his views on religion and sexuality and spoke with a staff member called Lisa Campbell, who later claimed that Garrido was “erratic” in his speech and behavior and the girls by his side looked “submissive” and sad. Garrido left his details with Campbell and arranged to come back the following day.
A UC Berkeley police officer named Allison Jacobs ran a background check on Phillip Garrido after he called in at the station and saw that he was a sex offender with a history of kidnapping and rape. So, when Garrido and the girls came back on August 25 for the scheduled appointment, Jacobs was in attendance.
UCPD event manager Lisa Campbell (left) and Officer Allison Jacobs (right) were commended for their roles in helping Jaycee Lee Dugard be reunited with her family 18 years after she was kidnapped in 1991.Source: archive.dailycal.org
She later recalled that the girls looked very odd and pale. The younger girl stared intensely at Jacobs, “like she was looking into my soul,” while the older girl stood very strangely and stiffly. Jacobs, a mother herself, could tell that something was wrong. Lisa Campbell had a bad feeling about the situation too, and both women tried to engage the girls in conversation to learn a little more about them, without raising Garrido’s suspicions.
The girls replied with inconsistent answers and seemed highly fearful of their father, who spends most of the meeting rambling about his views on religion once again. Despite her suspicions, Jacobs was in no position to arrest Garrido there and then.
After he left, she got in touch with his parole officer, leaving a message to say that Garrido needed to be checked out and that his daughters had been acting strangely. The parole officer was shocked to receive the call, informing Jacobs that Garrido had no daughters on record. At that point, two agents set out to the Garrido property, handcuffing Phillip immediately and searching the house, but finding no trace of the girls.
The agents took Garrido in for questioning. He made up an excuse, saying that the girls in question were the daughters of one of his relatives and that he’d been given permission to be alone with them. He also told a few tales to cover some of his many parole variations and was returned home but asked to report to the office again the following day for further discussions.
Jaycee Finally Gets Her Freedom
This would be the day that Jaycee Dugard was finally found. Phillip decided to take the whole family along for his trip to the parole office and arrived accompanied by Nancy Garrido, the two young girls, and Jaycee, who was introduced under her adopted moniker: Allissa. Garrido claimed that Allissa was a relative and that the girls were her daughters, and Dugard reinforced this story, as well as backing up Garrido by calling him a “changed man” who was always nice to her kids.
However, when the parole officers asked for some proof of Dugard’s identity, she started getting angry, accusing them of interrogating her. Even then, when she was so close to obtaining her freedom, Dugard was so brainwashed by Phillip Garrido that she couldn’t just take advantage of the situation and tell the officers the truth:
“Phillip spent years trying to convince me he was the one with all the power and answers. I was so scared, and even though I was so close to having my life back, I still could not crash through the wall that he built inside of me… I had been so conditioned to protect Phillip and Nancy that telling a stranger my story was not easy for me and I could not do it at first.”
Moments later, Jaycee was informed that Phillip had made a full confession regarding the kidnapping and rapes. At that point, as though finally freed of a weight that had been preventing him from truly opening up, Jaycee was able to tell the officers her story. Having not pronounced her name for so long, she wasn’t even able to say it out loud and had to write it down on a piece of paper. From that point, her captivity was over. The effects of it would never really go away, but it was on August 26 of 2009 that Jaycee Dugard was finally rescued.
A Reunion 18 Years in the Making
Outside of courts and attorney offices, Jaycee Lee Dugard was physically free from her captors but still suffered anguish and trauma from years of unimaginable torment. In her memoir, Jaycee remembers how she felt “nervous about the reunion… with my mom and sister, who I was desperate to me”.
She barely slept the night before, suffering from a severe headache and crying uncontrollably for hours on end. She worried that her mother might not accept her daughters or have developed a hatred for Jaycee. In A Stolen Life, Jaycee recounts how she felt a lot of fear and guilt over the whole affair, even feeling sympathy for Phillip and Nancy, once again proving how her captors had gotten into her mind and brainwashed her over the years.
People Magazine’s October 26 issue with recently freed kidnapping victim Jaycee Dugard on the cover, appears on a newsstand in Washington on October 16, 2009. This is the first time a current image of Dugard has been published since she was kidnapped by a sex offender in Lake Tahoe in 1991 as an eleven-year-old. AFP PHOTO/Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
The next morning, Jaycee’s nerves and anxiety continued to haunt her. She worried that she and her mother might not even recognize each other or that the connection they once enjoyed might no longer exist. A private meeting between mother and daughter had been arranged. Jaycee stepped through the door and “felt so safe and whole again” as her mother embraced her.
The pair cried in each other’s arms. “I remembered her scent as I remembered from when I was young. It was the same; she was my mom, and she was holding me. The whole experience felt surreal.” The pair hugged each other and cried together for a while, with Tracy telling Jaycee how she used to look up at the moon in the evenings and talk to her daughter when she was missing. It was a touching reunion, and Jaycee was thrilled to see that she and her mother quickly rekindled the flame of a familial relationship that had been extinguished for nearly two decades.
The story of Jaycee Lee Dugard becomes even more tragic when we consider the number of times she might have been saved. Like in so many terrible cases of crime all around the world, it’s so easy, with a little hindsight, for us to look back at all that happened and wonder how and why specific questions weren’t asked and certain procedures weren’t followed.
NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 09: (L-R) Chouchou Namegabe, Diane von Furstenberg and Jaycee Dugard attend the 3rd annual Diane Von Furstenberg awards at the United Nations on March 9, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic)
In the case of Jaycee Lee Dugard’s kidnapping, there are several examples of moments where the police could have potentially done more or acted sooner to track down the criminals and free Jaycee from her life of torment.
Upon reflection of the case, it’s clear to see that Phillip Garrido should have been investigated sooner. As previously mentioned, Garrido was arrested and convicted for the abduction and rape of another victim named Katherine Gayle Callaway back in November of 1976.
NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 09: JAYC Foundation Founder Jaycee Dugard attends the 3rd annual Diane Von Furstenberg awards at the United Nations on March 9, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic)
Garrido was charged for the crime and convicted in state and federal courts, punished with a 50-year sentence. He only served 11 years of that sentence, however, but was on the sex offenders list and should have been one of the names the police looked into when investigating the Dugard disappearance.
This first crime occurred not far from South Lake Tahoe, the location where Jaycee Lee Dugard was kidnapped. Despite the similarities in the two cases, police investigators failed to notice the connection and investigate Garrido sooner, and parole officers frequently were unable to check up on him as well or punish him for many different violations.
The Yellow Van
Another missed chance would come less than a year after the kidnapping itself occurred. On April 22 of 1992, a man got in touch with the police at the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department to report a strange sighting; the man alleged that he’d seen Jaycee Lee Dugard in a gas station staring at a ‘Missing’ poster with her face on it.
Katherine CallawaySource: rgj.com
The caller shared additional information too, stating that he’d seen Dugard leave the area inside a big yellow van, adding that he believed the vehicle to be a Dodge. Police went out to investigate the scene, but by the time they arrived, the van had long since departed, taking Jaycee with it. After that point, the police didn’t take the time to follow up on the call, and the caller himself never gave his name or got back in touch.
In 2009, when Jaycee was finally found and freed, a large yellow Dodge van was indeed located on the Garrido property, and it is believed that this was the very same vehicle. Had police followed up on the call and searched the surrounding area for traces of a yellow van, they might have discovered Garrido and Dugard sooner.
In 2006, many years after Jaycee Lee Dugard had gone missing, a neighbor of the Garridos called the cops with some scary reports about the family. The caller stated that the Garrido backyard was filled with tents and children had been spotted living inside them.
Yellow police tape is stretched across the front of the home of alleged kidnapper Phillip Garrido as they search the property August 28, 2009 in Antioch, California. Jaycee Lee Dugard was allegedly kidnapped by Phillip Garrido nearly two decades ago and was forced to live in tents and sheds behind Garrido’s home with two of her children that were fathered by Garrido. Pittsburg police are also searching Garrido’s home for evidence linking him to the murders of prostitutes in the 1990’s. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Not only that, but the caller even accused Garrido of being insane and accused him of having bizarre sexual addictions. A deputy sheriff was dispatched to investigate the scene and spoke to Phillip Garrido for around half an hour.
The deputy chatted with Garrido at the front of the home about the caller’s reports but did not attempt to enter or investigate the property. He warned the homeowner that if anyone was found living in his backyard, that would be illegal.
More Fruitless Visits
In the two years leading up to Jaycee Lee Dugard’s freedom, police officers visited the Garrido house on two new occasions. Both times more could surely have been done to uncover the truth and free Dugard and her children sooner.
In the first instance, officers from the Contra Costa County’s task force were dispatched to the Garrido property as part of a routine check. Few details were released about this visit, but it is clear that the authorities in question could not have spent much time investigating the property as they saw no trace of Jaycee and no need for a repeat visit.
The San Francisco Chronicle shared information about the visit, with Antioch Police Sergeant Diane Aguinaga saying that “There were zero signs of kids living there.” On another occasion, a parole officer had visited the Garrido property and had gone out to the backyard to take a look around.
This officer must have been just a few feet away from Jaycee Lee Dugard and her daughters, but wasn’t able to spot the ‘secret backyard’ due to a large fence and trees blocking their view. Officers who later investigated the scene admitted that the secret backyard area would have been tough for anyone to spot without knowing it existed, with trees and fences placed carefully to obscure any possible viewing angle.
Lessons Learned After One Fateful Mistake
In the wake of the finding of Jaycee Lee Dugard and her daughters, the California Office of the Inspector General also released a report filing all of the different lapses that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation had been guilty of.
Many little errors and administrative oversights contributed to the case. Had these simple mistakes not been made or had they been rectified sooner, it’s easy to imagine that the situation might have reached its conclusion much sooner.
The report from the Office of the Inspector General concluded that the biggest mistake that had been made was to classify Phillip Garrido wrongly. The convicted rapist was classified as requiring low-level supervision, meaning that he wasn’t checked upon as regularly and intensely as he should have been.
A Damning Report
The inspector general, David R. Shaw, determined that almost all of the other close calls and missed chances stem from this one terrible error. For instance, the inspector general detailed one case in which a parole officer did see a young girl at Garrido’s home. Phillip Garrido explained the situation by saying that the girl was his niece, and the parole officer didn’t take any action to verify that claim. All the man needed to have done was call Garrido’s brother, who didn’t even have any children, to disprove the story and justify further investigation.
A television crew does a live report in front of the home of alleged kidnapper Phillip Garrido August 28, 2009 in Antioch, California. Jaycee Lee Dugard was allegedly kidnapped by Phillip Garrido nearly two decades ago and was forced to live in tents and sheds behind Garrido’s home with two of her children that were fathered by Garrido. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
“No one can know had the parole agents done everything right, whether we would have discovered Jaycee and her children any sooner. However, our investigation revealed that there were missed clues and opportunities to discover their existence sooner than they did,” wrote Shaw in his report.
Total Failure from the Parole System
Garrido was put under the supervision of more than half a dozen different parole agents over the years but was barely even checked up on or supervised. Shaw’s damning report revealed that agents regularly didn’t turn up to scheduled visits and failed to take drug tests. Also when neighbors and locals reported strange behavior in the area, nothing was done to follow-up on the reports.
Damon Robinson, the next door neighbor of alleged kidnapper Phillip Garrido, gestures as he speaks to reporters in his backyard August 28, 2009 in Antioch, California. Jaycee Lee Dugard was allegedly kidnapped by Phillip Garrido nearly two decades ago and was forced to live in tents and sheds behind Garrido’s home with two of her children that were fathered by Garrido. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Shaw revealed one particularly shocking statistic, stating that parole agents only effectually checked up on Garrido and did their jobs on his case in 12 months out of 123 in total. It means that more than nine times out of ten, the state didn’t live up to the standards expected of it. Even when the state started to crack down on sex offenders in the late 2000s, Garrido’s parole agent had twice as many cases as he should have and wasn’t able to see them all as often as needed.
Shaw also called into question the satellite tracking system used to keep track of sex offenders like Garrido through ankle bracelet devices. Shaw claimed that the data collected by this tracking system wasn’t consulted nearly often enough. Had officers taken the time to keep tabs on Garrido, they would have noticed him spending inordinate amounts of time in his hidden backyard compound.
Garrido also broke curfew on several occasions and left the allotted 25-mile radius around his home in which he was legally obliged to stay, but nothing was done to follow up on this either. There was even one month in 2008 when Garrido’s tracking signal would disappear for several hours every single night, but once again, no action was taken to investigate why or how this might be happening.
Official Apologies and Regrets
When Dugard was eventually found, the Contra Costa County Sheriff, Warren E. Rupf, offered an official apology for the 2006 incident in which a neighbor called up about Garrido, but the deputy who arrived at the scene failed to perform any thorough inspection.
Detectives search on a neighbor’s property where Mr. Garrido, 58, acted as caretaker. Detectives are questioning Phillip Garrido, a convicted rapist, about the murders of up to 10 local women in the 1990s. Police have expanded their search near the home of convicted rapist Phillip Garrido in Antioch, California, August 30, 2009. Jaycee Dugard, a California girl who was kidnapped at the age of 11 in 1991 has been found alive, having spent 18 years living in sheds and tents behind the home of Garrido. (Photo by Spencer Weiner/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
“I am first in line …. to offer my apologies to the victims and accept responsibility for missing an opportunity to rescue Jaycee,” he said.
Rupf added that the officer who had been sent out to the scene should have at least requested to take a look around the backyard. Rupf said that the department was “beating ourselves up over this and will continue to do so.”
Matthew Cate, the chief of prisons in the state, also acknowledged his feelings of “deep regret” for the “serious errors” that had been committed in this particular case. In the wake of the inspector general’s report and findings, Cate revealed that his department had adjusted its methods to enforce stricter supervision of sexual offenders and would make more significant efforts to monitor parolees to keep citizens as safe as possible.
Could Neighbors Have Done More?
The carefully planned layout of the ‘secret backyard’ was also designed with the Garridos’ neighbors in mind. Phillip Garrido had placed trees and outhouses in such a way as to block the views of any nosy neighbors, but that didn’t stop some questions being asked of people in the local area, with some observers wondering why the people who lived next door to the Garridos never noticed anything.
Carl Dugard reacts to the details about his stepdaughter Jaycee Dugard’s kidnapping in his home in Orange, Calif., hearing news that Dugard had been found after being kidnapped as an 11-year-old in 1991. August 27, 2009 (Photo by Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
One neighbor, Helen Boyer, was shocked to learn about the tragic events that had taken place only a few meters away from where she lived every day. In her own words, the Garridos had always seemed like “nice people,” and she’d known them for nearly a decade when the tragic conclusion of the whole case came to light. In interviews with news networks, Boyer said she felt “terrible” and “upset.” Boyer admitted that she had indeed seen three young girls in the backyard over the years but just never realized that there was anything untoward going on. She also knew that Phillip Garrido was on the sex offenders list, but believed that the girls she saw were the daughters of one of Nancy Garrido’s friends.
Suspicious Neighbors Failed to Take Action
Boyer assumed that the Garridos just did some babysitting from time to time and never even imagined anything like the real horrors that were eventually revealed to be going on right next door. Even when she learned about the tents in the backyard, Boyer explained that they weren’t visible from the windows or yard of her own home. She said she did sometimes look over the fence that separated her property from the Garridos’ but never saw any tents.
Iva Schabel sits in her mobile home at Countryside Village in Denver, CO where she has lived since 1973. She studies a photograph of Nancy Garrido offered by a Denver Post reporter. She says everytime she sees a photo of Garrido on the news or in the newspaper, she looks familiar. Garrido live in the mobile home park 20 years ago, ‘I still think I’ve seen her, I don’t think I ever got acquainted with her,’ Schabel says. (Craig F. Walker/ The Denver Post) (Photo By Craig F. Walker/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Another person who lived nearby, Diane Doty revealed that she did actually see the tents and had also heard the sounds of children playing in the Garridos’ backyard. Doty had her suspicions about the family and had even considered taking some action, but her husband talked her out of it. These examples are frustrating and even maddening to hear about in hindsight, as it’s clear that perhaps someone could have spoken up sooner and ended Jaycee Lee Dugard’s torment ahead of time. As in so many cases, this story proves that it’s vital to speak up and get in touch with authorities if you have any suspicions at all.
Legal Proceedings against the Garridos
Phillip and Nancy Garrido pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping, rape, and false imprisonment on August 28 of 2009. Elected District Attorney Vern R. Pierson and Assistant District Attorney James A Clinchard were in charge of the case, which was prosecuted in El Dorado County.
A woman passes a now vacant, lot 137 at Countryside Village in Denver, CO, where Nancy Garrido once lived. (Craig F. Walker/ The Denver Post) (Photo By Craig F. Walker/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
A pre-preliminary hearing to determine the bail amounts for the two defendants was then held on September 14 of 2009 in the El Dorado County Superior Court, located in Placerville, California.
Mental Evaluation for Phillip Garrido
At this hearing, Superior Court Judge Douglas Phimister set a bail of $30 million for Nancy Garrido. Phillip Garrido, meanwhile, was under a no-bail parole hold. During this hearing, Garrido’s attorney also requested that Phillip Garrido is given a proper evaluation by a psychologist or psychiatrist to get a better understanding of his mental state.
El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson discusses the charges filed against Phillip and Nancy Garrido after a bail hearing was held on charges related to the 1991 abduction of Jaycee Dugard, at the El Dorado County Superior Court in Placerville, Calif., Monday, Sept. 14, 2009Source: sfgate.com
This demand is typical in cases of this kind and can assist the defense attorneys in helping to explain or justify their clients’ criminal actions, as well as potentially leading to a more relaxed sentencing or a possible sentence that involves time in a mental hospital or facility rather than a regular prison sentence. As cases continue to develop, additional mental health examinations and evaluations are often requested.
More Hearings and Attorney Issues
Judge Phimister granted this request, and another hearing was held on October 29, 2009, to determine the date for the next pre-preliminary hearing, which would go over ‘discovery,’ a legal term in which legal parties can obtain evidence from other parties through various methods including interrogatories, depositions, and subpoenas. The date for this hearing was set for December 11, 2009.
Before that date, on November 5, Nancy’s defense attorney, Gilbert Maines, was ordered to be taken off the case by Judge Phimister. The reasoning behind this decision was never made clear but came about during a review of the secret evidence. Stephen A. Tapson was given the role as Nancy’s interim attorney, while Gilbert Maines appealed against the decision.
Maines was initially successful and appeared at the December 11 hearing alongside Tapson. A few days later, on December 15, Maines was given a favorable ruling by the California Third District Court of Appeal regarding his appeal. However, another hearing was then held on January 21 of 2010 in which Maines was finally removed from the case altogether, and Tapson became Nancy’s full attorney.
As in many significant cases, many months then passed by without any major developments. It wasn’t until February of 2011 when the next big step of the case would occur. In a press conference held on February 28, Tapson revealed that both Phillip and Nancy Garrido had made a full confession to their crimes.
This announcement came at a critical moment in the case’s development. At the time, lawyers on both sides of the case were attempting to negotiate a plea deal to avoid the case going to trial. During these discussions, it is believed that the Garridos were made aware that a trial would only prolong the inevitable and that a plea deal might be the best option for all of the parties concerned with the case.
Tapson was pushing to try and get a better deal for Nancy. It was clear that Phillip would be going away for a long time, but Nancy’s counsel hoped that the plea deal could work out in her favor. At the press conference, he stated that Nancy would generally be looking at a life sentence, but that he was hoping to negotiate for a possible 30-year sentence instead.
Kidnapping suspect Phillip Garrido talks with his attorney, Susan Gellman after a hearing at the El Dorado County Court in Placerville, Calif., Friday, Feb. 26, 2010. (Photo: Rich Pedroncelli/AP)Source: rgj.com
At this time, Tapson also said that his discussions with the prosecutor had concluded with both parties sharing the view that Phillip was exceptionally skilled at manipulating people. Both counsels agreed that Nancy’s involvement in the crime was in part due to Phillip’s predatory and manipulative personality traits.
Tapson also defended Nancy by explaining that she was under the influence of several substances at the time of the kidnapping and in the years that followed. He acknowledged that she had still clearly played a role in the crime but that it was a smaller role than her husband, and he hoped that this information, combined with the full confession, would result in a more lenient sentence and consideration.
An Unexpected Plea
However, despite Tapson’s statement regarding a “full confession” on behalf of Nancy and Phillip, the case took an unexpected turn on April 7 of 2011. Rather than following up on that confession with a guilty plea, both of the Garridos instead pleaded not guilty to several charges, including the kidnapping and rape of Jaycee Lee Dugard, in a Grand Jury indictment.
The plea came as a shock to almost everyone concerned. Since the February press conference, it was widely expected that the Garridos would plea guilty, and proceedings would then continue with a possible reduced sentence for Nancy.
The Garridos were originally charged with 18 counts of kidnapping, false imprisonment, child pornography, rape, and committing lewd acts on a child. The Grand Jury indictment was then amended to include additional allegations of kidnapping for sexual purposes and kidnapping a child under the age of 14, as well as several other charges.
These amendments may have played a part in causing the Garridos to plead not guilty. Susan Gellman, the attorney for Phillip Garrido, retrospectively criticized the jury and questioned their selection and actions. Gellman didn’t fully explain her comments but stated that the racial and geographical background of the jury members that initially indicted the couple back in 2010.
Stephen Tapson, meanwhile, was left somewhat confused by the whole affair. Having publicly stated that Phillip and Nancy had made a plea deal, Tapson expected that the couple would plead guilty and that Phillip had accepted the fact that he’d live out the rest of his days behind bars. Gellman aired her frustrations over Tapson’s comments and urged him to focus on his client rather than hers.
A New Plea and Punishment
Finally, on April 28 of 2011, Nancy and Phillip Garrido did plead guilty to kidnapping and rape. Their sentencing was revealed on June 2 of that year, with Phillip being given a 431 year to life sentence in prison. Nancy, meanwhile, was given a 36 year to life imprisonment sentence with no possibility for parole until she is at least into her seventies. Phillip’s sentence was to be served in California State Prison in Corcoran, while Nancy’s was imprisoned at Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla.
As he handed out the sentences, Judge Phimister revealed his disgust at the couple’s “beyond horrible” actions, stating that Phillip Garrido “lacks a soul.” He added that Phillip had “reinvented slavery” through the way he kept Jaycee prisoner and threatened her with physical harm if she made any attempt to escape. Phimister stated that Phillip had turned Jaycee into “a piece of furniture to use at your whim.”
Jaycee Lee Dugard was not in court on the day the sentences were announced, but her mother was in attendance and had been given a written message from Jaycee to read out. In her letter, Dugard wrote that she had refused to attend because she had no intention to “waste another second of my life in your presence,” referring to her captors.
Crime Scene perimeter expanding. Detectives begin search on a neighbors property where Mr. Garrido, 58, acted as caretaker. Detectives are questioning Phillip Garrido, a convicted rapist, about the murders of up to 10 local women in the 1990s. Police have expanded their search near the home of convicted rapist Phillip Garrido in Antioch, California, August 30, 2009. Jaycee Dugard, a California girl who was kidnapped at the age of 11 in 1991 has been found alive, having spent 18 years living in sheds and tents behind the home of Garrido. (Photo by Spencer Weiner/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
She also addressed each of her tormentors individually: “To you, Phillip, I say … I hated every second of every day of 18 years because of you… To you, Nancy, I have nothing to say. As I think of all those years, I am angry. You stole my life and that of my family.” As well as reading her daughter’s letter, Terry Probyn also made some comments, calling Phillip Garrido an “evil being” and “the epitome of disgust.”
A State Settlement
In the midst of the hearings and trials, before Nancy and Phillip Garrido received their sentences, the State of California also had to come to some decision on how to compensate Jaycee Lee Dugard for its actions, or more fittingly its lack of activities, that led to her horrific captivity lasting so long.
In July of 2010, the State of California agreed to a $20 million settlement. Dugard’s family had filed claims against the state in January of 2010, accusing the Corrections Department of “various lapses” which were responsible for Jaycee’s “continued captivity, ongoing sexual assault and mental and physical abuse.”
Jaycee and her momSource: Facebook
Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, former head of the state’s parole board for serious offenders, said that the settlement would help to protect the state from the possibility of paying fees “vastly beyond $20 million” in the case of a full lawsuit.
Nielsen also added that the settlement would work well for all parties, preventing the Dugard family from having to go through the trials and tribulations of a full lawsuit case. The settlement went through the state Assembly with a 70 to 2 vote and then got through the Senate on a 30 to 1 vote, eventually being signed by Californian Governor at the time, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
A Long Lawsuit
In spite of the sizeable settlement fee, Dugard did file a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, accusing the US of not doing enough to keep track of Phillip Garrido, who was a convicted rapist and federal parolee.
In her lawsuit, Dugard stated that Garrido should have been investigated on numerous occasions and broke the rules of her parole agreement many times, which should have led to a prison sentence. Garrido had tested positive for drugs and alcohol, for example, but was not punished accordingly.
A Negative Conclusion
As with any lawsuit, the process dragged on for a long time until eventually, in March of 2016, it was rejected by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit after a 2-1 decision against Dugard. The appeals court determined that Dugard wasn’t in any way affiliated with or harmed by Garrido at the time when he was under parole supervision and that it would have been impossible to predict that he would abduct her in the years that followed.
Dugard (R) stepped out in public for the first time last year for a family outing with her mother and two daughtersSource: dailymail.co.uk
Therefore, the court concluded that the State of California and the federal government as a whole was under no obligation to protect members of the public from Phillip Garrido specifically. Chief District Court Judge William Smith did offer some sympathetic words for Dugard, saying that her case had not been analyzed in the right ways and that she was well within her rights to be angry at the government for what had happened to her.
Dugard continued to appeal the decision, but her case was once again rejected on August 26 of 2016, with the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit once more ruling against the plaintiff in a 2-1 decision. Once more, District Court Judge William Smith said that the case had been misinterpreted and questioned the justice of the decision.
Paparazzi, Press, and Jaycee’s First Big Interview
There was a lot of media attention on the family in the days and weeks after Jaycee was finally freed. Her stepfather, Carl Probyn, revealed in interviews that Jaycee and her girls were all doing well and that the family was taking small steps to help Jaycee get re-accustomed to regular life.
The family did have to deal with paparazzi trying to snap photos of Jaycee and her girls at every occasion, but helpers were provided to aid the family in managing their encounters with the press and limiting any harmful effects that all of that attention might have on Jaycee and her kids.
A few days before the release of her first book, Jaycee Dugard gave an exclusive first interview with Diane Sawyer of ABC. During that famous interview, she spoke at her joy and disbelief at finally being free to do whatever she wanted and to enjoy the simplest things like seeing her mother any time and visiting the beach with her daughters.
When asked why she’d written a book about her experience, Dugard said that it was a “freeing” experience and a way for her to face her fears and trauma and move on from them. In the months and years that followed Dugard’s rescue, several crime shows and documentaries covered the case.
Naturally, Jaycee was placed with a psychologist for therapy to help her deal with the trauma she had endured and started the long road towards some recovery. In the early days, she said that her therapist helped her to finally get some self-confidence and learn how to stand up for herself. She had spent so many years obeying everything that Phillip told her to do; she gradually stopped trying to speak up and lost all self-belief.
Over the years since his rescue, however, Jaycee learned a lot about herself and her life. Her gradual recovery didn’t happen overnight, but she slowly became more confident, more assured, and more capable of controlling her life and doing the things she wanted to do. Now, she’s seen as an inspiring symbol of the strength of the human spirit, proving that with the right people around to help and the right circumstances, people can move on with their lives after enduring unspeakable horrors.
In an inspiring bid to give something back to a world that had failed her and help other unfortunate souls, Jaycee even started her non-profit organization, the JAYC Foundation, which helps to provide services and assistance for families or people who have suffered some major trauma like kidnapping or abduction. The foundation is still running to this day and does excellent work.
Free at Last
Freedom is something that 99% of us take for granted, but for Jaycee Lee Dugard, every day out in the world and away from her backyard prison was a precious gift. As she wrote:
“My life has changed so much since last summer. I am free to be a mother to my girls. I am free to drive. I am free to say I have a family.”
Having never been able to finish school and being isolated from society for so long, Jaycee had a lot to learn about the world but welcomed every new opportunity with open arms. She only had a fifth-grade education and had always done her best to homeschool her girls with the knowledge she had, but still had a lot to learn about the world and many dreams to fulfill.
Tina Dugard, aunt of the released kidnapped victim Jaycee Dugard and the family spokesperson, holds up a photo of Jaycee when she was 3-years-old, as she reads a statement from the family at a news conference at the Federal Building in Los Angeles on September 3, 2009. AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON (Photo credit MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Even when she was in captivity, she would think about her future and the things she’d like to do like learning to drive, swimming with dolphins, writing a best-selling book, graduating from high school, and more.
So naturally, when she was finally able to taste freedom and start to recover, she gradually began to try and make those dreams come true and rebuild the life that had been stolen away from her for such a long time. She learned how to drive at the age of 29 and made significant efforts to be the best possible mother she could be for her daughters.
A pinecone has become Jaycee’s symbol of freedom. One inspiring moment from her interview with Diane Sawyer came when Jaycee spoke about a pinecone charm she wore around her neck. The last thing she touched before Phillip Garrido grabbed her and threw her into his vehicle in 1991 was a sticky pinecone. It was her last physical sensation of freedom. So, when she was finally free again, she decided to honor that memory with the charm: “It’s a symbol of hope and new beginnings and that there is life after something tragic.”
Tina Dugard (C), aunt of the released kidnapped victim Jaycee Dugard and the family spokesperson, arrives to read a statement from the family at a news conference at the Federal Building in Los Angeles on September 3, 2009. Dugard said that the family was spending time ‘reconnecting … sharing stories,’ and that Jaycee, now 29 years- old, was getting to know a sister of hers who was just a baby when she was abducted by by convicted rapist Phillip Garrido from outside her home in 1991. Garrido fathered two children with Jaycee during her captivity in a hidden backyard at his home in Antioch, California. AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Jaycee has also revealed that she collects pinecones and often asks friends and family members to bring her pinecones from their various trips and travels. She boasts a collection of pinecones from all around North America and a pinecone is the official symbol of her JAYC Foundation.
“A pinecone was my last grip on freedom, so to me, they represent what was stolen away from me. Now that I am free, they symbolize life and freedom. They are the seeds of new life, and that is exactly what I have: “new life.”
She also did manage to check off another item on her list of dreams when she wrote and released a best-selling book, tragically based on her ordeals. Two years after Jaycee was found, her memoir was published. Her book entitled “A Stolen Life: A Memoir,” immediately topped The New York Times Best Seller list and stayed there for a month and a half, as well as hitting the number one spot on Amazon too. The book goes into full detail of Jaycee’s life and abduction, telling the whole story in her own words. Simon & Schuster published it.
In 2016, Jaycee followed up on her literary exploits with another book, entitled Freedom: My Book of Firsts. As the name suggests, this second book tells the story of Jaycee’s life since being rescued, sharing various examples of her first experiences and the difficulties she faced in rebuilding a life for herself. Again published by Simon & Schuster, Jaycee’s second book was also very popular and is cited as a highly inspiring and positive read.
A Life to Live
Jaycee Lee Dugard has been free for almost a decade now. Like any victim of rape, kidnap, or similar horrible ordeals, Jaycee will never truly be able to forget or recover from the trauma she endured, but she has maintained an admirably positive outlook on life in recent years. She’s undergone things that most people can’t even begin to imagine and says that certain noises and memories still haunt her in her darkest moments, but she also says that the rest of her life is a gift that she plans to cherish and make the most of.
In her second book, Freedom: My Book of Firsts, she writes: “There is life after something tragic happens. Life doesn’t have to end if you don’t want it to. It’s all in how you look at it. Somehow, I still believe that we each hold the key to our happiness and you have to grab it where you can in whatever form it might take.”
In recent interviews, Jaycee Lee Dugard has revealed that she’s still single for the time being. She spends her time focusing on her daughters, Angel and Starlit, who are both in early adulthood now. Jaycee and her girls live together in southern California, and Jaycee has revealed that she is open to the idea of letting Angel and Starlit visit Phillip if they want to. “As long as he’s behind bars, and they’re safe, then I wouldn’t hinder their ability to make that choice,” she said in an interview with ABC News.
Jaycee says that her daughters are beautiful and loving young women who have shown a lot of strength and resilience in the wake of all that has happened, relying on each other to help get them through any difficult moments. There’s an extraordinary, unbreakable bond between Jaycee and her daughters, and hopes are high that all three women will be able to enjoy many wonderful years in the future and make plenty of positive new memories to erase the hardships they all endured slowly.
Honorees Oprah Winfrey and Jaycee Dugard attend the 3rd annual Diane Von Furstenberg awards at the United Nations on March 9, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic)
Jaycee Lee Dugard’s story is heartbreaking and tragic, but her incredible approach to life in the years since she’s been free is inspiring. Even in the face of adversity and darkness that would crush almost any soul, Jaycee has remained resolute in her determination to make something good of each situation, to make the most of every day she has, and to enjoy her freedom to the fullest extent. She’s an inspiring woman in every possible way and deserves all of the happiness and good fortune that the world can give her.