Jaycee Lee Dugard Was Miraculously Found 18 Years Later

The story of Jaycee Dugard is unbelievable. It’s horrifying, disturbing, and extremely frustrating for so many reasons. 11-year-old Jaycee was abducted, but it would only be 18 years before anyone heard from her again. Miraculously, she was found almost two decades later and was brought home alive and relatively safe.

Oprah Winfrey and Jayce Lee Dugard / The Garridos / Jayce Lee Dugard
Source: Getty Images

The emotional and psychological trauma was a struggle to overcome, but Jaycee doesn’t want to waste any time mourning the past. She is just so happy to be home. So, what exactly happened to Jaycee during those long and painful years?

This is the story of how law enforcement failed Jaycee Lee Dugard. The police could have saved her much sooner if they had done their job more carefully and efficiently.

Fourth Grade Problems

June 10, 1991, started off as an ordinary morning. 11-year-old Jaycee Dugard was walking to her bus stop “the safe way” in Meyers, California when her life drastically changed in one moment. Ironically, her family had just moved to that area because it was considered to be a safer neighborhood.

Jaycee Dugard in a portrait photo circa 1990.
Photo by Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

The fourth grader’s biggest concern was her upcoming school field trip, and she was nervous about asking her mom, Terry Probyn, if she could shave her legs for it. The two had a very special bond. She also had a little sister named Shayna, but her father was never in their lives. There was a stepdad in the picture, but Jaycee wasn’t particularly close to him.

In One Moment, Everything Changed

Jaycee wanted a kiss from her mom that morning, but she was in a rush to work – a decision Terry regretted for years to come. Jaycee figured she would just kiss her mom when she got home. What she didn’t realize was that she wouldn’t go back home for 18 years.

Terry is doing a TV interview
Source: Pinterest

Instead, she was temporarily paralyzed with a stun gun and taken by sex offender Philip Garrido and his wife, Nancy. They imprisoned the young, innocent girl for over 18 years. Thanks to careless parole officers, there had been numerous missed opportunities to rescue Jaycee.

Jaycee Was Kidnapped

Jaycee’s stepfather, Carl Probyn, watched the kidnapping take place from the window of their house. He quickly got on his bicycle in an attempt to chase the car down; unfortunately, he was unsuccessful.

Carl reaction about his stepdaughter Jaycee Dugard's kidnapping in his home
Photo by Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

At first, he was the suspect, but all the kids on Jaycee’s school bus shot down this suspicion; they also watched their classmate’s abduction. Sadly, this was the beginning of an investigation that should have saved Jaycee Lee Dugard; instead, a series of mistakes and bad police would keep Jaycee imprisoned for the next 18 years.

Jaycee Was Their Prisoner

Meanwhile, Garrido had left Jaycee in a shed in his backyard two hours away from where they had kidnapped her. Little Jaycee was handcuffed and locked with no way to escape. But things were about to get much worse.

A view of the home of alleged kidnapper Phillip Garrido.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Garrido was a sex offender who was convicted for violently raping a woman for eight hours straight. He had just got out on parole when he took Jaycee. He should have been supervised by law enforcement, but they didn’t seem to take his parole very seriously. If they had, they would have found Jaycee over the course of the more than 60 times they visited his house when he had her.

Used and Abused

As you might have guessed, Garrido took advantage of Jaycee under the influence of methamphetamine several times a week. The parole officers failed to realize that the sex offender was still a pedophile and was not suddenly cured because he was on parole. Jaycee claimed that Garrido told her that because he had her, he wouldn’t have to hurt anyone else.

Phillip Garrido shortly after his arrest circa 2009.
Photo by El Dorado County Sheriff/Getty Images

Garrido also told Jaycee that “demon angels” told him to kidnap her. From that moment on, Jaycee was forced to rely on her captor for food, water, company, and access to a bucket so she could go to the bathroom.

Losing Her Innocence

Jaycee described the first time Garrido assaulted her. She said that he brought her a milkshake before committing the violent act. Suddenly, he was on top of her, and she was terrified; the 11-year-old had no idea what was going on. As she was being abused, she watched a trail of ants gather on her milkshake.

Jaycee Dugard is speaking at a press conference.
Photo by Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic/Getty Images

She barely knew what sex was and admitted she learned the connection between sex and pregnancy on TV (which is going to be important soon). But Jaycee noted that Phillip apologized after he was done.

Her New Normal

Jaycee recalled crying every single day at first. Can you imagine being taken from your family? Let alone when you are 11 years old. She told Diane Sawyer that “after a while, I told myself that I couldn’t cry anymore.”

Jaycee Lee Dugard was forced to live in tents and sheds behind Garrido's home with two of her children that Garrido fathered.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Jaycee explained that she was so young, and she was scared to cry because she couldn’t wipe her tears since she had handcuffs on. She didn’t want the tears to make her face feel sticky and itchy. Garrido told her they are “soft” handcuffs so they won’t hurt her, but she still couldn’t move her hands.

Three Years in Handcuffs

As we mentioned, Garrido was a convicted criminal, so authorities would frequently go visit the parolee at home. It’s mindboggling to me that they never discovered his prisoner. He kept Jaycee hidden in the second part of his backyard that is barely connected and hard to see.

A cat sits on the front porch of the home of alleged kidnapper Phillip Garrido.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Still, during the 60 visits authorities made, the backyard was never checked (don’t worry, we’ll get into the rest of the errors they made soon). After having Jaycee for 34 months, the Garridos found new confidence in their invincibility and decided to take off Jaycee’s handcuffs.

You’re Not Jaycee Anymore…

When they abducted her, the Garridos tried stripping Jaycee of her identity and wouldn’t allow her to go by her real name, Jaycee Lee Dugard. Instead, they made her pick another name, and she chose Alyssa after actress Alyssa Milano.

Young actress Alyssa Milano poses for a portrait circa 1985.
Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Freed from her handcuffs, the now 13-year-old asked for a journal to write in. She really loved animals, and her captor took advantage of that by manipulating her. He would bring kittens to her “prison cell,” she would fall in love with them, and then they would mysteriously disappear.

Loss After Loss

Tragically, Jaycee was getting used to her new life with the Garridos. They continued to manipulate her by telling her that no one was looking for her. They even let her watch TV, but not the news. She had no idea that, in reality, her heartbroken mother was working tirelessly to find her and never gave up.

Police officers in patrol showing a photo of the missing kid Jaycee Dugard.
Source: Tumblr

Jaycee fell asleep watching infomercials every night; she said it was nice to hear another person’s voice. Sadly, Jaycee’s writing privileges were taken away when Garrido found out that she was signing her name. He would become threatening and enraged whenever she wrote or said, “Jaycee.”

Pregnant at 13

On Easter Sunday of 1994, the Garridos did something out of the ordinary: They brought Jaycee cooked good, not the fast-food they had been keeping her alive on. Confused, Jaycee knew there was some sort of reason they were giving her a homecooked meal.

Old photo from Jaycee before being kidnaped.
Source: Tumblr

As she was eating, they told the 13-year-old that she was four and a half months pregnant. Obviously, they wouldn’t take her to a doctor, so they made her watch several television programs to prepare her for giving birth. No one was there to help her grasp the seriousness of the situation.

Teen-Mom in Captivity

On August 8, 1994, Jaycee went into labor. Instead of going to the hospital to make sure everything would go smoothly and safely, Jaycee was forced to give birth in the backyard, where she was held captive. She went through 12 hours of labor before they finally gave her codeine – then she was in labor for another 12 hours.

Jaycee Dugard is shopping with her mother, Terry Probyn, and her two daughters, aged 13 and 16.
Photo by Nick Stern/WENN.com

It was a high-risk birth, and Phillip Gariddo unwrapped the umbilical cord from the baby with his own hands. Jaycee immediately fell in love with her baby girl, whom she described as “beautiful.”

No Longer Alone

For the first time since her abduction, Jaycee didn’t feel alone. There was somebody else there who she loved and loved her back. Jaycee also said that the baby was almost like having a piece of her mom there, the person she missed more than anyone else in the world.

Still from mothers united supporting Terry Probyn in the search for her missing daughter.
Source: CBS News

Even though the baby was born into these unusual and disturbing circumstances, Jaycee knew she wasn’t going to just be fending for herself anymore. She now had a baby that she needed to take care of and she did the best she could.

Baby Number Two

Sadly, this wasn’t the only time Philip impregnated Jaycee. On November 13, 1997, Jaycee gave birth to her second baby girl. Now she had two children to protect from Garrido’s heinous and inhumane actions, but she didn’t feel more scared than before.

Jacey Dugard terror tent where she was kept.
Source: CBS News

She enjoyed the presence of her babies because it meant she wasn’t alone anymore. She didn’t even care that they were a product of his horrific actions. She loved them so much. To this day, she keeps their lives extremely private.

Home-Schooling the Girls

As her girls grew up, Jaycee decided to create a school for them and teach them whatever she could. Remember, she only had a fourth-grade education. But she loved learning and loved her kids, so she taught them all different types of subjects like science and math. She later admitted that all her learning for those 18 years came from the television.

A welcome sign in Jacey Dugard’s terror garden.
Source: CBS News

Heartbreakingly, as the girls were getting older, Phillip and Nancy would pretend that they were their children, and that Jaycee was just their big sister.

A Little More Freedom

The more time passed, the more comfortable and confident the Garridos got. I mean, they had Jaycee for years; she gave birth twice and they didn’t get caught – even with parole officers in and out of there. At that point, they allowed the girls out of the house a little bit, like going grocery shopping with them.

A walkway leading to the front door of the home of alleged kidnapper Phillip Garrido.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Garrido opened a print shop and even hired Jaycee to work there as a graphic artist. Various customers remembered meeting and speaking with her; one said she did excellent work. People can’t help but wonder why she didn’t escape when she got the chance.

Fear of the Unknown

Many folks would be quick to criticize Jaycee for not using her increased opportunities to interact with people in order to get out. But Jaycee explained that it was a combination of Garrido gaslighting her and a fear of the unknown.

Printed on fabric a reward offered for the return of the missing kid, Jaycee Lee Dugard.
Source: Tumblr

Phillip and Nancy Garrido repeatedly told Jaycee that the world was full of horrific things, much worse than them. She felt like they were always watching her. Fear of the unknown stemmed from wanting to keep her girls safe, and she only knew how to do that in captivity.

18 Years Later

On August 24, 2009, Garrido showed up at the UC Berkeley campus where he was distributing religious literature that he had written himself. He brought the girls in order to attract people. It was a campus officer who noticed that the girls looked sick, so they ran a background check on Garrido.

A still from an interview conducted with the two Berkeley officers who started to investigate Garrido.
Source: ABC News

The following day, he was instructed to report to the police because he was violating his parole by going to the college campus. It was right outside the designated area he was specifically not allowed to go to. The campus officers had better intuition than any of the parole officers.

Free at Last

Phillip and Nancy Garrido went to the Concord, California police station with Jaycee and her two kids. The Garridos referred to Jaycee as “Alyssa,” and she stood there terrified. Police noticed she would become more and more frantic when they questioned her about her relationship with the Garridos.

Entrance to the Concord Police Department.
Source: Concord, CA

After a long interrogation, Phillip Garrido confessed to kidnapping and raping Jaycee Dugard. After 18 long and torturous years, Jaycee was finally reunited with her mother. Terry literally screamed for joy when she got the call while she was at work.

Jaycee Tells Her Story

After 18 horrifying years, two campus officers did something police hadn’t. They saw a suspicious man with children and did a background check. They said the girls didn’t give them any sign that they were in danger, but they followed their instinct, and Jaycee was finally rescued.

The two police officers entering Phillip Garrido's home.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

I can’t even imagine what it was like for Jaycee. She was so little and spent most of her life living with a sex offender and his evil wife. On top of that, he raped and impregnated her. In 2014, Jaycee Dugard finally spoke publicly about her kidnapping and captivity.

The Government Gave Her $20 Million

Obviously, Jaycee should have been rescued way sooner and might have been if the police had done their job more efficiently. Jayce Dugard got $20 million in compensation from the state of California because of “various lapses by the Corrections Department [that contributed to] Dugard’s continued captivity, ongoing sexual assault, and mental and/or physical abuse.”

Jaycee Lee's mother is testifying in court.
Source: ABC News

It wasn’t necessarily the police looking for Jaycee who did a bad job. It was the carelessness of the parole officers who didn’t think to check the backyard at all. Not once throughout their 60 visits! I still can’t get over that.

He’s a Sex Offender

Phillip Garrido was a convicted sex offender. Pedophilia is a seriously disturbing disorder that puts innocent children in danger, and Garrido was treated as if he wasn’t a danger to society. He even told Jaycee she was the reason he wouldn’t hurt other little girls. She was his source of satisfaction – which is so insane and unsettling.

Garrido at court is wearing an inmate jumpsuit and a serious expression on his face.
Source: Tumblr

Nancy even videotaped her husband at the park playing guitar. In reality, she was zooming in on the children behind them and videotaped them playing. As a sex offender, he is not allowed to be in parks or playgrounds. But he got away with a lot of things he wasn’t allowed to do.

Neighborly Concerns

If that wasn’t frustrating enough, there is more. Neighbors knew that Phillip Garrido was a sex offender and got concerned when they saw and heard children playing in the backyard, so they did what any good Samaritan would do – called the cops saying there were kids in his backyard.

A police officer is walking through the yard past a shed at the home of the kidnapper Phillip Garrido.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Obviously, when the call from the neighbors came in claiming that a pedophile has children in tents playing in the backyard, they sent a sheriff’s deputy to the house. Literally, the reason for his visit was to check what was going on in the backyard.

Ignoring Red Flags

When law enforcement arrived, guess where they didn’t look once again? The backyard. They were literally notified that kids were seen in a pedophile’s backyard and didn’t look there? Not only did the deputy not investigate the claim whatsoever, but he sat on Garrido’s porch, and the two had a 30-minute conversation.

Three police officers outside Garrido’s house.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Meanwhile, poor Jaycee and her two children were, in fact, in the backyard, exactly where the neighbors said they were. If he even half-assed the job and just walked into the backyard, he might have found her. Furthermore, he had an ankle bracelet monitoring where he was.

My Brother’s Daughter

Looking at his whereabouts from the anklet GPS, you can see that he spent most of his time in the backyard. The police should have at least had enough integrity to check what the heck he was doing there. But that’s not even the worst part. On one specific occasion, a parole officer saw Jaycee in the house.

A fence surrounds the front yard of the home of kidnapper Phillip Garrido.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Garrido claimed that she was his brother’s daughter, and the police just took it at face value. If they had made one simple phone call to his brother, they would find out he has no kids. And even if he did, they should always be concerned when a sex offender is around children, no matter who they are.

Another Missed Opportunity

This is one of the reasons Jaycee was so terrified to escape. The police didn’t seem to care when they literally saw her in the home. She was worried if she tried to get away and failed, Garrido would lock her up, handcuff her, and the little freedom she had would be taken.

An aerial view of the home and backyard of alleged kidnapper Phillip Garrido.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

She was so worried about what he would do to her or her girls if she tried to leave. She knew they were relatively safe there (and by safe, I mean alive), and she didn’t want to rock the boat. In her eyes, not escaping was going into “survival mode.”

Money Can’t Bring Back 18 Years

It’s no secret that Jaycee Lee Dugard is a strong, beautiful, inspiring woman. No one can relate or even imagine what she went through for almost two decades. Although she got $20 million from it, she and her mom admitted it doesn’t matter to them.

A television crew is doing a live report in front of the home of Phillip Garrido.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

$20 million doesn’t even come close to something as priceless as a human being. Terry never got to watch her child grow up. She didn’t get to do her makeup for her first date; she didn’t get to go dress shopping with her for prom, she didn’t get to watch her graduate, she couldn’t even be there when Jaycee gave birth.

Justice Is Served

Justice was finally served on June 2, 2011. Garrido was sentenced to 431 years to life in prison. His evil wife Nancy was sentenced to 36 years. Both were served with kidnapping, rape, and false imprisonment. They certainly paid the price for what they did to Jaycee.

Mug shots of Nancy and Phillip Garrido.
Photo by El Dorado County Sheriff/Getty Images

Nancy was initially on trial for the same crimes as Phillip, but her lawyer argued it down, claiming she could have also been one of Garrido’s victims. It seems unlikely, but it still got her sentence reduced. I think she deserves more, but she’ll probably die in there anyway.

A Happy Ending

The case of Jaycee Lee Dugard is a story of hope, strength, and love, although it stemmed from kidnapping, assault, and torture. Jaycee is an incredible young woman and isn’t wasting time being sad. She is just so happy to be home and, more than anyone knows how to appreciate every moment. Being home after so long is a true miracle.

Oprah Winfrey and Jayce Lee Dugard together onstage at the 3rd annual Diane Von Furstenberg awards at the United Nations.
Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage/Getty Images

But the sad part is that she might have been found sooner if law enforcement had done their job. I can’t get over the fact that parole officers were there more than 60 times! Thanks to Jaycee, the protocol for how to check a criminal on parole has changed. Hopefully, this new law could save a life.