According to Wikipedia, kidnapping is the taking away or transportation of a person against the person's will, usually to hold the person in false imprisonment, a confinement without legal authority. This can be done with or without weapons. Child abduction is defined by taking away a child without a parent’s consent, even with the child’s consent. Statistics in 2000 shows that out of 876,213 missing people reported, 85 to 90% were below 18 years of age. In 2010 , 692,944 children had been reported missing. Ransom is a common motive behind kidnappings. Others include child custody dispute, human trafficking, or sexual exploitation.
Warning: Some readers may find this article disturbing.
Kidnapping Cases Wherein Ransom Was Not the Motive
In the wee hours of February 24, 2005, a man got into the Lunsford’s trailer in Homosassa, Florida and woke the nine-year-old Jessica. He told her, “Don’t yell or nothing” and asked her to come with him. She followed him quietly to his half-sister’s trailer into his bedroom where he raped her twice.
A few hours later, Mark Lunsford woke up and couldn’t find his daughter. He immediately called the police and his daughter’s photo was all over the news. Meanwhile, John Evander Couey, a registered sex offender who kidnapped Jessica, panicked upon hearing the news. The police came, but they had missed the closet where Jessica was hidden. She didn’t make a sound as what she had been told.
On February 27, Couey told Jessica he was sending her back home. He tied her wrists and put her inside two garbage bags. He dug a hole somewhere on West Sparrow Court and buried Jessica alive. He took off to Augusta, Georgia and stayed at Salvation Army shelter. He was later arrested after the secretary at the shelter saw his picture on TV and called 911. He confessed to killing the girl and revealed the whereabouts of her body.
On March 19, the police went to the spot covered with leaves on West Sparrow Court and found Jessica’s decomposing body. Two of her fingers protruded through the holes she had made in the plastics. She was grabbing onto her purple dolphin, a stuffed animal won by her father in a fair.
On August 24, 2007, two years after Jessica’s murder, Couey was pronounced guilty and was sentenced to the death penalty. Before serving his sentence, Couey died on September 30, 2009, due to complications from anal cancer.
A Little Background of John Couey
Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_Couey.jpgCouey was born on September 19, 1958 in Florida. Prior to Jessica’s murder, Couey had been arrested several times for "burglary, carrying a concealed weapon, disorderly intoxication, driving under the influence, indecent exposure, disorderly conduct, fraud, insufficient funds, and larceny."
He lived in a trailer with his half-sister Dorothy Marie Dixon, her daughter and her son-in-law, and her boyfriend. Citrus County Sheriff Jeff Dawsy described the family as “a bunch of cracked-out individuals.” In Jessica’s autopsy, remnants of cocaine where found in her body, indicating that the family were smoking cocaine during her abduction.
On June 10, 1991, Jaycee was walking on her way to school in South Lake Tahoe, California as her stepfather Carl Probyn looked on. When she reached a bus stop, a couple inside a gray sedan passed by the eleven-year-old girl, grabbed her into the car and sped off. A few of her classmates witnessed the abduction. Carl pedalled after the car but had lost them.
Phillip Garrido and his wife Nancy Bocanegra, who were living in a house in Antioch, had kept Jaycee in their backyard for 18 years. Garrido had raped Jaycee many times through the years. At 14, Jaycee bore him his first child who was named Starlit. Their second child Angel was born three years later.
As a registered sex offender who was on parole, Garrido was visited by police officers several times in his home. A neighbour had also called the police after seeing a woman with two children in his backyard. The police had missed numerous chances of finding Jaycee.
When Garrido went to the University of California, Berkeley, wherein he brought his daughters with him, special events manager Lisa Campbell’s instincts told her something was not right. She contacted Allison Jacobs, a police officer in the University. Jacobs found out about his charges and called Garrido’s parole agent. In an appointment set on August 26, 2009, Garrido brought his daughters and his wife “Allison”, who was in fact Jaycee. He later confessed his crimes and was arrested with Nancy. On April 28, 2011, both had pleaded guilty to abducting and raping Jaycee.
A Little Background of Phillip Garrido
Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Philip_Garrido_2009_mugshot.jpgGarrido was born on April 5, 1951, in Contra Costa County, California. He had started dealing with drugs since he graduated from high school in 1969. He had raped a teenage girl in school in 1972. A year later, he married Christine Perreira.
Garrido was bizarre and was avoided by people. He had admitted touching himself while looking at school girls and exposing himself to them. He had planned on raping a woman he had stalked. When he failed, he kidnapped his wife’s colleague Katie Callaway Hall instead and brought her to a rented warehouse where he raped her.
Garrido and Perreira subsequently got divorced. He got into jail where he met his second wife Nancy, who was visiting her Uncle in jail at that time.
Garrido’s father claimed that his son had changed after a motorcycle accident in his early life. He had been linked to several missing cases of young girls, but no evidence was found to support the claims.
Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Elizabeth_Smart_Speaks_About_Overcoming_Trauma.jpgOn June 5, 2002, 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart was sleeping beside her younger sister Mary Katherine in their home in Salt Lake City, Utah, when a man woke her and pointed a knife at her throat. Still in her pajamas, Elizabeth left with the mysterious man with a “familiar voice” as her younger sister silently watched in horror. After several minutes, Mary Kate went to her parents’ room to tell them the horrifying news – Elizabeth had been kidnapped. The 9-year-old girl became the main witness of the crime.
The man was Brian David Mitchell, known simply as Emmanuel by the Smarts. Mitchell was one of the homeless people who had worked at the Smarts’ home. He brought Elizabeth to his wife Wanda Barzee at a campsite. Wanda ordered her to change into robes. A “marriage ceremony” was performed between the teen and Mitchell, after which she was raped by her abductor.
In October, four months later after the abduction, Mary Kate suddenly remembered who she thought the man was. She told her parents that it was Emmanuel. The police were skeptical about the child’s credibility. The family approached John Walsh, a human and victim rights advocate and also a host of America’s Most Wanted. A sketch of Emmanuel was later flashed on the show.
On March 12, 2003, Salt Lake City police had received calls from eye-witnesses who had seen Mitchell in Sandy, Utah. Police officers had arrived and stopped Mitchell, his wife, and a girl with a gray wig and huge sunglasses. The girl was separated from her companions for questioning. The police asked if she was Elizabeth Smart. After being reassured of her safety, the girl finally admitted that she was, in fact, Elizabeth.
Mitchell and his wife were initially found incompetent to stand trial and were confined in a mental institution. However, on May 25, 2011, Mitchell was sentenced to life in prison. His wife Wanda was sentenced to 15 years.
A Little Background of Brian David Mitchell
Mitchell was born on October 18, 1953, in Salt Lake City, Utah. He had a family history of mental illness. When he was seven, he heard a voice telling him he was Christ. People considered him as friendly but weird. He got married at a young age of 19 and had two children. In his second marriage, he had another two children. After the divorce, his wife reported that Mitchell had molested one of his stepdaughters and one of his own children. His third wife was Wanda Barzee who was equally delusional as he was. The two of them traveled around to preach their church. He believed in polygamy and he considered Elizabeth as his second wife. At the time of Elizabeth’s abduction, he was in search for new wives. When Mitchell, the “evil, manipulative, stinky, and slimy man” as Elizabeth put it, was sentenced to life in prison on May 25, 2011, he was singing to himself.
On May 19, 1977, Colleen decided to give a surprise visit to her friend in North Carolina. The 20-year-old girl went to the streets of Eugene, Oregon, to hitchhike, a common practice those days. She was not oblivious to the dangers involved in taking free rides from strangers. She was careful and had turned down two offers. When a decent-looking Cameron Hooker, accompanied by his wife Janice and his baby girl, offered her a ride, Colleen felt safe with them and got into their car.
Inside the car, she noticed Hooker checking her out in the rear-view mirror, which made her uneasy. They stopped by a gasoline station. Colleen went to the restroom and something was telling her to escape, but she ignored it and went back to the car. When they left the station, the man stopped the car and at knifepoint, Colleen was asked to comply with whatever he asked her. She was handcuffed, blindfolded, gagged, and then a home-made box was put over her head.
The Hookers brought her to their home in Red Bluff, California. Still blindfolded, Hooker removed the box from the girl’s head and hanged her in his basement, trying to imitate the pictures from a violent porn magazine. He whipped her while she was hanging there. Finally, he put her down. Her head box was replaced over her head and she was locked inside a small space that made her breathing difficult.
She was fed once a day. She learned to obey completely, as she was tortured even more when she complained. Hooker made a wooden box where she stayed for months. Hooker would sometimes lock her inside a cell to do some tasks. Then, he made a slave contract and asked Colleen to sign it. She was given the name Kay Powers. He threatened her and made up stories about a slave company that he was involved with. He told her she was being watched and they would kill her and her family if she disobeyed. He made her wear a collar and she started working around the house.
When the Hookers moved into a trailer, Colleen stayed inside a box under the couple’s waterbed. She was allowed to go out. Completely believing Hooker’s stories, the girl didn’t try to run away. As a reward for her obedience, Colleen was allowed to write three letters to her family, call them once, and visit them one time while pretending to be engaged to Hooker.
Due to financial difficulties, Hooker allowed Colleen to work at King’s Lodge Motel. Colleen was regularly raped by Hooker and Janice grew more and more jealous of the girl. As years went by, he started torturing Colleen less and tortured his wife more.
Janice started reading the Bible and got ashamed of their doings. She began asking people’s advice (without fully revealing her situation). Finally, on August 9, 1984, she told Colleen that the slave company was a lie. The two started making plans for Colleen’s escape.
The next day, Colleen called Hooker to tell him she was leaving. He “cried like a baby” and pleaded her to stay. Happy to be “in control” of her life again, she took a bus and left. Janice left Hooker, too. She asked for help from Pastor Frank Dabney, who in turn called the police.
On November 22, 1985, Hooker was sentenced to 104 years in prison. Janice lives in Northern California.
A Little Background of Cameron Hooker
Neighbors considered Hooker as quiet and normal. To his colleagues at Diamond Lands Corp., he was dependable.
He graduated from Red Bluff High School in 1972. He met his wife Janice in 1973, and after 2 years of being together, they got married. They had two daughters.
According to Janice, Hooker had abducted, tortured, and killed a woman named Marie Elizabeth Spannhake in 1976. Her remains were never found.
When Colleen visited her family during her abduction, her family didn’t notice anything evil about Hooker. He was good at lying and was gifted at building things. He was planning to kidnap more women after Colleen. When his sentence was announced, he appeared unaffected and showed no remorse at all.
Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Etan_Patz_1978.jpgAfter Etan Patz’s constant pleading to his parents, the six-year-old boy was finally allowed to walk to the bus stop alone on May 25, 1979. That was the last time his loved ones had ever seen him again. Wearing all blue and his favorite pilot cap over his head, the boy never made it to the bus. It was after school that Julie, Etan’s mom, realized that his son had been missing and called 911.
A witness saw a white man in his 40’s talking to the boy three blocks from the corner of Wooster and Prince Broadway at Manhattan, New York. In 1982, police arrested a man named Jose Antonio Ramos, a pedophile who had pictures of young boys in his home. Detectives got interested in him and started questioning him about Etan.
Ramos revealed that he had been romantically involved with Etan’s babysitter, a woman who used to take the boy to the bus stop. However, they could not find any evidence linking him to Etan’s disappearance. It was in 1985 when Ramos admitted to bringing the boy to his home on May 25 to watch TV. He said he failed to molest him and brought him to the subway to the boy’s aunt in Washington Heights. The Patzes didn’t have any relatives there. The boy was the first missing person to be featured on a milk carton.
Ramos had appeared a few times in the annual gatherings of a group called Rainbow family, where he had been seen suspiciously hanging out with children. He had been seen with a blonde boy who looked like Etan. The security made him leave every time. The last time he went there, the security had taken a photo of him and his young companion. They decided to call the police. Eventually, he got arrested for molesting the two young boys of a couple he met at the gathering.
The police were interested in the blonde teenage boy with Ramos. They found a striking resemblance between the boy and Etan’s computer generated photo of his possible appearance as a teenager. They learned that the teenager was adopted and had been arrested. They compared his fingerprint from police’s file with Etan’s, but they did not match.
Ramos was sentenced up to November 7, 2012, in jail. He had reportedly told two fellow inmates about murdering the boy, but he never admitted it to the police. His body has never been found.
A Little Background of Jose Antonio Ramos
Ramos is a Puerto Rican-American born on July 23, 1943. He had allegedly been raped by his uncle and had a sexual relationship with one of his four younger brothers. Living in a tunnel, his source of livelihood was from selling toys and jewellery. He was a pedophile who seemed to be particularly interested in boys with light-colored hair. He had been arrested several times. His untidy appearance and long hair and beard that he used to wear didn’t make him likable. However, when he cleaned up himself, he could look normal and was capable of manipulating and making people believe in him.
What made these people commit such terrible crimes?
Let us analyze the characteristics and history of these criminals. I’ve made a table below for you to have a quick glance at each criminal’s background and to see their similarities, if there’s any.
Notice that some of them had been dealing with drugs while others had dysfunctional family or had not been close with their family. Most of them had previously committed other crimes. Couey and Garrido had somehow shown remorse. Ramos did not admit his crime, whereas Hooker regretted not killing his victim. Couey, Garrido, and Ramos had previous sexual-related crimes involving minors, which made people who know their charges want to avoid them. Mitchell appeared weird but his “devotion” to his religion might have made him look less harmful. Hooker appeared the most “normal” among them. No one had suspected him of doing such crimes.
The person’s biological make-up and his environment greatly contribute to what type of person he’d become. A person with a history of mental illness in his family is predisposed to develop a mental illness himself. Exposure to unhealthy environment (dysfunctional family, parental neglect, substance abuse) is even more devastating to an already vulnerable individual. Unfortunately, I have only found limited information about these criminals on the internet.
Hooker was a psychopath, a personality disorder which is highly associated with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). Psychopaths are individuals who appear normal and sane but deeply lack empathy towards other people. They do not show remorse when harm is inflicted on others.
Mitchell might have a Conduct Disorder as a child as it was mentioned that he had been a “black sheep” in his family. Conduct Disorder is “a repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior in which the basic rights of others or major age-appropriate societal norms or rules are violated” (DSM-IV). This includes aggression, destructive behavior, and deceitfulness or theft. Conduct Disorder is diagnosed in most individuals with ASPD in their childhood, which means that Conduct Disorder could be a precursor of ASPD. However, not all individuals with Conduct Disorder actually develop ASPD.
Couey, Garrido, and Ramos are examples of pedophiles, which can be defined as individuals who are sexually attracted to children aged 13 or below.
The Aftermath of Kidnapping
Mark Lunsford, Jessica’s father, becomes an advocate of child victims. The Jessica Lunsford Act was introduced. The act requires sex offenders a minimum of 25 years in prison and lifetime electronic tracking. This is an effort to prevent similar crimes from happening again.
Jaycee, with her two kids, is reunited with her family and is trying to start a new life away from the public eye. She has been quoted as saying “I’m so happy to be back with my family” in People Magazine. The family requested for the much-needed privacy to allow Jaycee to heal after her spending much of her life in captivity. She has been given $20 million as a compensation for the police’s failure to rescue her after several opportunities. Although money cannot bring back the many years she had lost, she is spending her time cooking, baking cookies, riding horses as a therapy, and bonding with her family. She has published two books: A Stolen Life (2011) and Freedom: My Book of Firsts (2016).
Elizabeth took a major in music performance. In an interview with Oprah, she revealed that she was doing great and didn’t see herself as different from anybody else. She said that her family had been the major reason for her swift adjustment. She quoted her mom telling her, "'They already took nine months of your life away. Don't give them anymore.” After Brian Mitchell’s verdict was announced, Elizabeth told the media, “Today is the ending of a very long chapter, and the beginning of a very beautiful chapter for me." Her dad has quit his job to become a full-time advocate of child safety. She, too, is an advocate. A decade after her kidnapping, she published the book My Story. She is now happily married with one kid.
Colleen has married and has a daughter. Although her marriage didn’t work out, her daughter regards her as brave and strong. She is an advocate for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. She is a brave and strong woman indeed.
Up to this day, Etan’s family has never stopped searching for him. Every year, on Etan’s birthday on October 9 and the day of his disappearance on May 25, Stanley, Etan’s dad, would send a missing-person photo of Etan to Ramos. Written at the back of the photo is “What have you done to my little boy?” May 25 was declared a National Missing Children’s Day.
Update: In 2012, 33 years after Etan's disappearance, a new suspect had emerged. Pedro Hernandez, a former bodega worker, had confessed to kidnapping and killing Etan. Police had searched for Etan's body, but no remains were found. Hernandez suffers from mental illness and has a low IQ. His reliability is being questioned.
These heartbreaking stories have taught everyone several things about criminals and how such crimes could have been prevented. Police have learned their lessons hard. The laws have been improved and have become stricter than before. Let us do our best to prevent these things from happening to anyone again. Protect yourself and your children. I truly believe that the family of these victims and the victims themselves will find comfort in seeing history not repeating itself.
© Rainy Kua 2016