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Jaycee Lee Dugard Exclusive: Reporter Remembers Girl's Abduction 18 Years Ago

Photo: Jaycee Lee Dugard in a home video taken some time before she was kidnapped in 1991.

Story Contributed by Anthony Batson, a Senior Producer at CBS' The Early Show.

He covered Jaycee Lee Dugard's disappearance and interviewed her parents 18 years ago. He is still haunted by the case.

NEW YORK (CBS) At my first job in TV at the Fox network show "America's Most Wanted," I covered a case that stayed with me for a long, long time. An 11-year-old girl from South Lake Tahoe in Northern California, Jaycee Lee Dugard, had been abducted while waiting for a school bus about two blocks from her home.

Her step dad Carl watched helplessly from his garage as he saw a couple in a station wagon drive up to Jaycee and watched as a female pulled his step daughter into a station wagon.

Carl jumped on his bike and tried to go after the car as it sped off. He only got a generic vehicle description but was able to give police a description of a woman he saw drag Jaycee into the car.

A month or so after the abduction we profiled the case on "Most Wanted."

In those days at "Most Wanted" we were not after the sensational story. We had one mission -- to get the public to come forward with any information they had about a case. It was my first time dealing with the parents of a missing child face to face.

Photos: The Search For Jaycee
Photos: Jaycee Lee Dugard Found Alive
Photos: Inside Jaycee's Terror Tent

It was a situation I would encounter several times over the eight years I worked at "Most Wanted". But this case is the one I will always remember. In this role as a producer at "Most Wanted" you play a very different role than the reporter for the 5pm local news. He or she is on a tight deadline. For them it's a few quick sound bites, some shots of the crime scene, before rushing off to do a live shot. Then it's onto the next story.

In the role of a "Most Wanted" producer, you are a representative of a show that is hosted by John Walsh, the father of a child who was abducted and murdered. In one of the first conversations I had with Walsh, he was adamant that "Most Wanted" never "re-victimize the victim."

His point was the media tended to find blame with victims, something he could relate to when there was unfounded speculation that his business dealings as a Florida real estate developer were somehow connected to his son's murder. There was never any connection. Police believe his son Adam was most likely murdered by Otis Toole, a serial killer.

In the late summer of 1991, I flew out to Sacramento and drove to Jaycee's home. Together with "Most Wanted" correspondent Lena Nozizwe, we talked to Jaycee's parents, Terry and Carl Probyn. They were devastated and desperate. They knew the national exposure on "Most Wanted" would help law enforcement and possibly lead to information about Jaycee or her abductors. We sat in the backyard of the couple's home, under a canopy of pine trees, and talked about the morning she disappeared.

It was a routine day, nothing out of the ordinary. Terry had left the house before Jaycee walked to the bus stop. Tears flowed throughout the interview. Some were mine.

Later we talked to Carl in the garage, where he was standing as he witnessed his step daughter being grabbed. As part of our report we videotaped Terry in Jaycee's bedroom. On top of her neatly made bed were her Teddy Bears and dolls. I forget what posters were on the wall.

I remember a couple of trophies. I sat on the bed with Terry and talked about how hopeful we were that our story would generate leads for the FBI, who had taken the role as lead investigators on the case. They were working closely with the local sheriff's department, but the Feds take over all kidnapping cases.

Undated family photo of Jaycee Lee Dugard taken sometime before she was kidnapped in 1991.

Our report, the first of three, featured the interviews with Terry and Carl and details of the female abductor and the vehicle she and her companion were driving. There was also home video of Jaycee at a birthday party -- our tape piece featured a "slo-mo" shot of Jaycee blowing out the candles. It was edited in such a way as to grab the viewer's attention, make them look closely at the cute blonde girl on the screen, and motivate them to pick up the phone and call our free 800 number, if they had the slightest detail they though investigators could use.

We also showed the work of a law enforcement task force and how they were running the description of the abductor's car against the California DMV database.

Our show did generate tips -- many hundreds of them. I have a clipping in my files of a personal ad from a Swingers magazine sent in by a viewer who thought the dark haired woman in the photo ad looked like the sketch released by police.

Deep down I thought that Jaycee was dead. The FBI says the first 72 hours is crucial in a missing child case. After that, the chances of recovery are next to zero.

But there was something about Jaycee's case that gave me hope: the fact that Carl was able to describe the female who grabbed Jaycee. That made me think that Jaycee was taken by a couple who couldn't have children.

My mind would wander and think if that were true, what type of life would she be leading? One where she was held captive, unable to escape?

Over the last 18 years I have often thought about what happened to Jaycee. Every time there was a news report about the discovery of bones in California, I would follow up to see if it was the remains of Jaycee.

It never was. Over 18 years my mind wandered back to me sitting in Jaycee's bedroom with Terry, how neat and tidy it was, ready for her return. I hadn't thought about Jaycee in a while, until today.

Photos: The Search For Jaycee
Photos: Jaycee Lee Dugard Found Alive
Photos: Inside Jaycee's Terror Tent

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Anthony Batson is the Senior Broadcast Producer for the CBS News broadcast The Early Show. Before that he spent much of his 12 year career at 48 Hours covering criminals and their crimes. In the 1990s at "America's Most Wanted" he was instrumental in establishing the network's Missing Child Alerts. He first covered the crime beat in Australia, at the Sydney Sun.