Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Backyard Prisoner: The Story of Jaycee Dugard

Mistakes or Misunderstandings

In 2006, a neighbor reported that a woman and children were living in tents in the Garridos' backyard. The call described Phillip Garrido as a "psychotic sex addict." A Contra Costa deputy dispatched to the scene checked out the call and interviewed Garrido on the porch. He didn't run a backround check, so he didn't realize that Garrido was a paroled sex offender. And he failed to investigate the one place the caller had explicitly mentioned: the backyard.

A 2008 fire in the backyard summoned firefighters and police, but somehow didn't reveal the habitation of the backyard compound.

Paramedics visited the house on emergency calls (presumably involving Garrido's ailing mother) a number of times over the years, without noting anything suspicious.

Neither Garrido's regular interviews with his parole agent nor mandated visits, both scheduled and surprise, by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation revealed the crime. The GPS device that tracked Phillip's movement certainly didn't note that he'd imprisoned and raped a missing girl at his own residence.

A neighbor whose property has also been searched in the case insists that's because the whole story is in error. She says Jaycee and the children were living in the house, and that they seemed happy and healthy. According to this account, Jaycee wasn't hidden away, locked in a dungeon like Josef Fritzl's daughter. Instead, Jaycee worked at Garrido's print shop, handling design duties. She saw customers regularly, she had access to a telephone and an email account, and could have drawn attention to her situation if she'd been abused. Angel, 11, and Starlit, 15, didn't attend school and had never seen a doctor, but Jaycee and Garrido taught them to read and write, and his wife used her basic healthcare training to help keep them well. By this account, all might seem fairly normal.

Other neighbors and customers disagree, and paint a disturbing portrait of Garrido.

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