How utterly DEPRAVED can one man BE?
Devlin, 41, already had been charged with kidnapping in the two counties where the boys were abducted. Federal investigators continue to review the case for possible additional charges.
Police say Devlin abducted Shawn Hornbeck, then 11, on Oct. 6, 2002. Shawn was riding a bike near his home in Richwoods, about 60 miles southwest of St. Louis, at the time. Then on Jan. 8, police say, Devlin abducted William "Ben" Ownby, 13, moments after he stepped off a school bus near his home in Beaufort.
Shawn's family and friends maintained a high-profile search for the boy in the years after his abduction. Ben was the subject of a massive search when two Kirkwood police officers, who had gone to Devlin's building on another case, noticed a white pickup matching the description of a vehicle that may have been used in the abduction.
When officers returned the next day to Devlin's apartment, in the 400 block of South Holmes Avenue, they were stunned to also find Shawn, now 15.
St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCulloch outlined the 71 new charges in a news conference Monday. He didn't use the boys' names but linked the charges by initials and dates of kidnapping — obvious connections, given the overwhelming news coverage of the abductions and rescue.
"We recognize that overall, their identities are not a national secret," McCulloch said. That fact, he said, "makes it difficult to file these charges."
Traditionally, prosecutors do not identify victims of sexual assault in formal charges or to the press. The Post-Dispatch does not name them, except in extraordinary circumstances.
The nature of their cases made the boys' names familiar worldwide. After their rescue, Shawn's parents speculated on national TV that Devlin had sexually assaulted him.
The court filings make it clear that St. Louis County accuses Devlin of child kidnapping and 17 counts of forcible sodomy against Ben, and kidnapping and 52 counts of sodomy against Shawn. Child kidnapping, an offense that carries a longer maximum sentence, was enacted by the Missouri Legislature after Shawn was abducted.
For their parts, Franklin County already has charged Devlin with child kidnapping in the abduction of Ben, and Washington County has charged him with kidnapping and armed criminal action, allegedly for using a pistol to abduct Shawn.
Devlin remains in the Franklin County Jail near Union. He has pleaded not guilty to the kidnapping charges in Franklin and Washington counties.
Devlin, who is single, grew up in Webster Groves. He began working for Imo's Pizza when he was 16 and was a manager at the pizzeria in downtown Kirkwood at the time of his arrest.
McCulloch said Devlin had admitted the kidnappings and sexual offenses. The court file includes a probable-cause statement by Kirkwood police Detective Geoff Morrison, who wrote that Devlin admitted the crimes.
McCulloch said his charges of kidnapping do not replace those filed in the other counties but cover the continued confinement of the boys.
"There are two ways to commit kidnapping," he said. "One is to take someone from a place where they are located, and another is to restrain them from leaving. That's the purpose of our kidnapping charges."
Under Missouri law, the term forcible sodomy covers a number of sexual acts and is punishable by as much as life in prison. Child kidnapping also carries a maximum of life. Kidnapping carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
Lawyers for Devlin issued a statement saying their client "understands that the charges are very serious. We have also told Mr. Devlin that we have received no evidence from any of the prosecutors about any of the charges. Common sense and the Constitution would suggest that everyone should wait to hear any evidence before reaching any final judgment."
McCulloch said he had spoken to the families of both boys and they said they understood the need to file these charges. Kim Evans, a friend of Shawn's family and manager of the Shawn Hornbeck Foundation, said prosecutors are handling their task properly.
"I am pleased to see that prosecutors are proceeding," Evans said. "At the same time, it pains me to see the boys have to relive even one second of the horror. … I pray for the day that this will be over and the boys can move on."
A spokesman for Ben's family could not be reached.
McCulloch was asked during his news conference whether a plea agreement could be reached that wouldn't require the boys' testimony in court. "Whether any case goes to trial is determined by the defendant," he said, referring to a defendant's right to decide how to plead.
Don Schneider, a spokesman for McCulloch, said his boss had "extensive talks" with Washington County Prosecuting Attorney John Rupp and Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Parks. Parks has said he wants the first trial to be held in Union, 10 miles east of Ben's home in Beaufort.
Parks' office released no statement Monday, and Rupp was unavailable for comment.
But it remained unclear Monday which jurisdiction will have the first trial, if there is one.
"Just because someone is housed in one county doesn't mean he going to be tried there first," said Mark Bishop, who left his job as a St. Louis County prosecutor this month and has a private practice in Hillsboro.
Bishop, who has not worked on the Devlin case, said prosecutors generally coordinate strategy when there are charges in multiple jurisdictions. He said he would be surprised if that isn't happening in the Devlin cases.
"You've got to communicate with each other on who's going to go first, if any cases go to trial, and you're going to be sharing evidence and witnesses," said Bishop, who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for Jefferson County prosecutor last year. "But the amount of coordination is going to vary a lot from case to case."
But Peter Joy, a law professor at Washington University, said coordination is not a certainty.
"In a high-profile case, it's generally a free-for-all," said Joy, who has worked as a private criminal defense attorney and helps run a defense clinic in St. Louis County. "It's not uncommon where the prosecutors try to be the first one to prosecute the case. … Normally, the first prosecution gets the most headlines, and state prosecutors are elected and they want to be in the headlines."
Joy said it's common for prosecutors to pile on charges. "It provides more leverage to prosecutors if a plea is worked out," Joy said. "Charging everything that is possible is going to give the prosecutor more options."
He said he was surprised that McCulloch charged Devlin with sex crimes when, up until now, authorities seemed reluctant to discuss sexual abuse.
"All along, I thought the reason the prosecutors hadn't added the sex dimension in the charges is because of how that (might affect) the young boys and their families," he said.
Stephen Deere, Matthew Hathaway and Tim Rowden of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.
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I want to give those boys a hug. How do you move on from this? How do you reconcile this? So many questions! So much INSANITY!