Jaycee Dugard's memoir "A stolen life" tells the story of her kidnapping at the age of 11 by Phillip and Nancy Garrido and the 18 years she spent as their captive, during which time she bore two children.
Photo credit: Simon & Schuster
The story started when 11-year-old Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped on her way to school in 1991. Most of us know the basics of this case as it made big news in 2009 when, during registered sex offender Phillip Garrido's parole office visit, it was uncovered that the 29-year-old woman and two children who accompanied him were missing person Dugard and her daughters (fathered during captivity by Garrido).
What a tale she had to tell: Years of confinement enacted by a pedophile, rape, birthing two daughters in her backyard prison without medical care. It's unimaginable what she went through, and to come out of it 20 years later as a strong, determined survivor and delighted mother of two teenage girls is just as incredulous. Her will and her bravery to tell her story are inconceivable.
After her rescue, Dugard writes in her book, "A Stolen Life," published July 12, prior to testifying before a grand jury she realized she had lost faith and safeguarding trust in law enforcement's protection. It's no wonder; parole agents made at least 60 visits to the Garrido home over 18 years and failed to find her hidden in the backyard. Law enforcement, particularly post-prison correctional supervision, failed the child. (Which California acknowledged to the tune of $20 million, paid to Dugard in 2010 for the corrections department's failure to properly monitor paroled convicted rapist Garrido.)
A part of the book that rang strongly as I read was the intervention by a pair of University of California-Berkeley campus police officers. After a casual encounter, an inexplicable feeling of unease caused them to look up Garrido, find his sex offender status and alert the parole authority that he had two underage girls in his company.
It was that hunch that began tipping the dominoes that would lead Dugard and her daughters to the Concord Parole Office where, after questioning Garrido and Dugard, the real story was unveiled. The discovery was a small portion of the book, but it spoke loudly. These officers had a hunch, as they've stated in subsequent interviews following the incredible recovery, and they weren't willing to let up until they satisfied the suspicion that something was amiss.
A similar incident, which took place around the same time Dugard was first kidnapped but several thousand miles east, was recently shared by CNN's Bob Green. In Ohio nearly 20 years ago, Green reports police pursued a hunch that ultimately saved a black-eyed broken boy, who had little chance of rescue on his own. Three Ohio officers did not relent, ultimately discovering the badly abused 12 year old hidden in a cramped drawer under a water bed. The child's parents and two siblings repeatedly told police there was no third child in the home; he did not exist they said. In his 20-year reflection of the rescue, one officer said the lesson he'd learned was: "You have to listen to that little voice in your head. You don't leave until you are absolutely convinced."
Nearly two decades of Jaycee Dugard's life were stolen, and though she's a grown woman now, the voice of the little girl — abandoned, alone, abused — is finally able to call out in her memoir. Authority supervision of Garrido was indisputably a failure, but it was law enforcement that, as Dugard writes, did what she was not able to do: rescue herself and her daughters from Garrido.
The horrors in Dugard's book are more barbaric than I had imagined and remarkably unforgettable. Though law enforcement failed the little girl, it also later went beyond the call of duty following a gut feeling to dig her out of the grips of a manipulative, egotistical rapist, reinforcing the power of a hunch.