Kidnapped: Shawn Hornbeck
"It's just there was sometimes when it wasn't looking so bright, but then I just knew that they were still out there, so I should just hold on," he adds.
But as bad as it had been for Shawn, a new terrifying reality hit him when his captor decided to kidnap another boy, 13-year-old Ben Ownby.
Asked if he thought his days were numbered at that point, Shawn tells Roberts, "The days got slimmer. 'Cause it's a replacement. When you get a new car, what do you do with the old one? You usually get rid of it, right?"
Shawn's "replacement" disappeared on Jan. 8, 2007, after getting off the school bus in Beaufort, Mo.
By 4 p.m., Ben's parents, Don and Doris, were panicking.
Excerpts of Don Ownby's 911 Call
Fifteen-year-old neighbor Mitch Hults remembered seeing Ben get off the bus at 3:30, but he also remembered seeing something odd a few moments later. "He said there was this strange pickup. And then it peeled out real fast. I thought right away, I need to call the sheriff," Don recalls.
Franklin County Sheriff Gary Toelke immediately contacted the FBI and dispatched deputies to search for Ben. Then, Mitch was brought in for questioning.
"He just starts going down the line, 'Well, you know, I remember seeing a Nissan on the tailgate in dark letters. Uh, a camper top with an elongated window down the side with the knobs on the side. It had a two-inch trailer hitch on the back. Rust or dirt over the fender.' And the FBI agents kinda looking at him, you know, 'right!' because you never get a description like that, even from an adult," Toelke remembers.
The agents didn't believe Mitch at first because he gave them so much detail. But Mitch, it turned out, was a truck fanatic, recalling every minute detail of the vehicle. Ironically, the only detail Mitch didn't remember was the license plate.
Police took casts of the tire treads and an APB for the white truck was broadcast across the state.
Meanwhile, just 45 minutes away in Kirkwood, Mo., a description of the truck caught the eye of Imo's pizzeria owner Mike Prosperi. By coincidence, his long-time manager, 41-year-old Mike Devlin, had a white truck that matched that description.
Prosperi says he did see Devlin on the day Ben disappeared. "I saw Mike and he did not look well at all, he was pale."
Devlin had gone home sick that day - something that was highly unusual for the man he'd known since high school.
The next day, on a hunch, Prosperi decided to drive by Devlin's apartment. Right away, he noticed something suspicious on Devlin's truck. "I noticed that there was the red road dust like that you can get from driving on a gravel road out in the country, you can't get it in the city here. If he was as ill as he looked, I was wondering how he would have gotten that road dust," Prosperi explains.
When Devlin called in sick for the next two days, Prosperi contacted police. Their first question to him was whether Devlin had been at work on that Monday. Prosperi told them Devlin had left at 12:50 p.m.
The next day, FBI agent Lynn Willett and her partner arrived at Imo's pizzeria to check out Devlin and his truck.
The first thing Willett noticed when she entered Imo's was that Devlin wouldn't catch her eye, which made her suspicious. "And he was facing towards us and he wouldn't look up at us," she remembers.
They stepped out to the back parking lot, and Devlin consented to having his truck searched. Willett says Devlin's demeanor at the time was calm and normal.
Willett began making casual conversation with Devlin, inviting him to sit in the backseat of an unmarked car. That's when she began what she calls a "circular interviewing" technique, asking simple questions over and over.
Willett says she was looking for deviations in Devlin's behavior pattern.
The agent was trying to determine if Devlin had abducted Ben, but almost immediately, she noticed that Devlin kept coming back to one subject - a godson named "Shawn."
"And every time we would start to talk about Shawn I could see his pulse increase on the carotid on his neck," Willett remembers. "Probably about an hour into the interview the hair on the back of my neck stood up and I realized he's talking about Shawn Hornbeck."
That's when Willett played her trump card: she told Devlin they had forensic evidence - casts of tire treads - that would be as accurate as fingerprints linking him to Ben's kidnapping. "And it was at that point that he lowered his head. And he said that he was a bad person. And he told us 'Shawn's not my godson. Shawn is Shawn Hornbeck,'" she remembers.
Willett says Devlin also acknowledged he had kidnapped Ben.
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