Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Backyard Prisoner: The Story of Jaycee Dugard

Nancy Garrido: Another Victim or Another Monster?

Nancy Garrido
Nancy Garrido

The Garridos had settled in the house just outside Antioch belonging to Phillip's mother, who suffered from dementia which ultimately led to her hospitalization. A former nursing assistant, Nancy Garrido spent years taking care of her elderly, ailing mother-in-law, while the abducted Jaycee — and, eventually, Jaycee and Phillip's daughters — lived among the motley collection of tents and sheds in the overgrown backyard. When a drugs-related parole violation sent Phillip back to jail for six weeks, Nancy was the one in charge.

Colleagues at the nonprofit Contra Costa ARC, where Nancy helped adults with developmental disabilities, called her a competent coworker. Neighbors and customers at Phillip's printing business thought she was an unusually quiet, deferential wife, maybe even a hermit. She never had children of her own.

Was she under her erratic husband's control, or was she as rotten as he was? Nancy cried when she was arraigned — were these tears for the girl, or for herself? Prosecutors allege that she, not just Phillip, had participated in the sexual abuse of Jaycee.

In addition to his wife's consent, tacit or explicit, to his actions, Phillip Garrido also turned his checkered past into an opportunity to cloud the true, horrible situation from his community. When concerned neighbors realized that there was a registered sex offender in their midst, Garrido convinced them that he was only on the sex offender list because his vengeful ex-wife had falsely accused him of raping her.

So the secret endured — though authorities had repeated opportunities to uncover it.

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