It was the sort of story that invariably ends in tragedy. This time, however, the outcome was a miracle. Four years after he was kidnapped and 36 hours after being freed, Shawn Hornbeck was back at home, getting used to life with the parents who, even in the darkest days, never lost their belief they would be reunited with their son.
Back in October 2002, 11-year-old Shawn disappeared without a trace while riding his bicycle to his friend’s house in Richwoods, Missouri.
The same route was taken that he always took but on that day, he didn’t arrive at his destination. It seemed as if he had just vanished without a trace.
Shawn Damian Hornbeck should have been home by five. When he was not home by six his family went looking for him and at eight when Pam and Craig Akers could still find no sign of Shawn, Pam called the police.
On that Sunday afternoon October 6, 2002, it seemed as if he disappeared without a trace. He had mounted his 20-inch Next Boy’s bright lime green mountain bike to head for a friend’s home only half a mile away, he was not wearing a helmet.
Local authorities in Richwoods, Missouri searched for three days before the FBI joined the search on October 9. Shawn left home wearing his orange Astros little league jersey, blue jeans, and Nike shoes.
Pam and Craig, Shawn’s parents did everything that they possibly could to find their missing son. They spent their time and energy searching for him and exhausted all of their resources, including their retirement and savings. Everything was put into the investigative team and search efforts but after 4 years had passed, there was still no sign of Shawn.
Shawn, who had been kidnapped by the manager of a local pizza shop, 41-year-old Michael Devlin, lived in fear for four years, as Devlin kept him captive at home in Kirkwood, Missouri. Shortly after Devlin kidnapped Shawn, he kept the young boy tied up, according to the Daily Mail. And even after Devlin unbound Shawn, the young boy didn’t run, as he worried that Devlin might hurt his family if he escaped.
After four years, there was no sign of Shawn. No evidence. No clues. Pam and Craig started to lose hope. They started to believe that maybe Shawn had died after all.
As Shawn grew older, Devlin gave the boy more freedoms, providing him with a cell phone and allowing him to meet with friends. However, Devlin didn’t allow the boy to go to school, and so he remained missing and in captivity for years — until 2007.
In January of that year, Devlin decided to kidnap another boy, Ben Ownby, from a bus stop. But this time, someone spotted Devlin and informed authorities that a white truck had sped away from the crime scene. That led police to Devlin’s house in Kirkwood, 50 miles from where he kidnapped Shawn in 2002. When police made their arrest, not only did they find Ben, but they also found a 15-year-old Shawn.
More details of this tragic story turned into miracles from ‘AWM’:
When it finally came time for Shawn to share his story, he said that the day he was abducted was like any other day. Except for that time Mike Devlin bumped into Shawn with his truck. Pretending to be concerned about the boy’s wellbeing, Devlin invited Shawn to hitch a ride in the back of his truck. It was a split-second decision that ruined the boy’s life.
During his time in Devlin’s possession, Devlin physically and sexually abused Shawn. Devlin used guns and threats of murder if Shawn would not do everything he asked. But when Shawn grew too old for Devlin’s twisted taste in little boys, he kidnapped another child. This time it was Ben Ownby.
After the FBI caught Devlin and arrested him, Shawn and Ben tried to go back to leading normal lives. But the abuses they suffered were horrendous, and it has not been easy to recover.
Watch the heartbreaking report here: OWN/Youtube