Missouri’s Franklin County District Attorney Robert Parks is likely in a very foul mood this morning. I know I would be. And I would be holding a “Come to Jesus” Meeting of gargantuan proportions with my staff right about now…
It appears that someone on his staff, or perhaps a member of the investigative task force (less likely), or maybe yet someone from the defense side, met yesterday with a writer for the Associate Press and anonymously leaked out a few unsubstantiated details for our media to gobble up today. I say “unsubstantiated” because you never know if Mr. Anonymous is leaking real information, or adding a little conjecture because of personal bias. So this leak, as with the likely few more to come, will wait for the light of court testimony to be determined as actual fact.
Nevertheless, what we are reading this morning is not surprising to me.
A week or so ago, if you will recall, we read another such leak where Shawn Hornbeck was apparently with Michael Devlin on the day Ben Ownby was abducted, and further reportedly helped to nab Ownby by forcing him into the floorboard of the truck as Devlin fled away.
Today we read potential details about the days between Ownby’s abduction and the recovery of Ownby and Hornbeck by authorities.
According to the AP, their source close to the investigation has reported the following information that I have tried to separate into the eight points below:
1. On January 11th, the day local police spotted the white truck in the apartment complex and traced its ownership to Michael Devlin, the policemen went to Devlin’s apartment that evening to speak with him. (We knew this already, as well as the two officers’ notation of Devlin “doing a 180” during their conversation.) What is new is that Shawn was reportedly standing at the door with Devlin as police were speaking to him. Devlin refused to let investigators inside the apartment and, since they had no search order or probable cause, police left, keeping the apartment and Devlin’s truck under close surveillance.
2. During this same doorway conversation, Shawn supposedly identified himself to police as “Shawn Wilcox” and Devlin’s godson. He supposedly further related that he was staying with Devlin because his mother was deceased and his father was in New York on business.
3. Since their investigation was focused upon finding Ownby, Shawn’s story at the door may or may not have concerned police, who at the time had no idea of Shawn’s true identity. Nevertheless, and I repeat here, the apartment was placed under close surveillance that night.
4. While Devlin was being interrogated by the FBI the next morning (Friday, January 12th) at Imo’s Pizza where Devlin was the Day Manager, Shawn Hornbeck reportedly called the pizza place and spoke with owner Mike Prosperi (who reported this piece of info apparently). Per Prosperi, he recognized Devlin’s name and number on Caller ID and asked who was calling, to which Shawn apparently again identified himself as Shawn Wilcox and went on to say his father was Devlin’s friend.
5. Following Devlin’s arrest by the FBI and subsequent search of the crime scene that was his apartment, three guns (no description offered) were confiscated by investigators.
6. During the time between Ownby’s capture and both boys’ recovery and Devlin’s arrest, Shawn Hornbeck was made responsible for preventing Ownby’s escape, while Devlin was at work or away from the apartment.
7. During part of Ownby’s captivity, he was reportedly restrained with duct tape.
8. This source or another has further reported to the AP that Devlin threatened to kill Shawn and his family repeatedly, but thankfully stopped short of going into further detail as to what Shawn’s beginning days and weeks and months of captivity were like.
Worry not that young Shawn Hornbeck will be deemed, in any way, complicitous by the courts in this matter. Far from an accomplice, this screams in volumes the level of abuse and terror inflicted upon Shawn by Devlin’s hands, the level of which none of us can comprehend. And I don’t care what is leaked in the future, however bleak a story it may try to paint of young Shawn, I am only more and more in admiration of Shawn for finding a way to survive more than a third of his very young lifetime spent in absolute Hell.
What it does mean is that this leak and the others to come erode the defense team’s ability to find an impartial jury. It further can be added to the list of points from which they will file appeals following the initial trial, or to perhaps suppress evidence along the way. What is also means is that the defense team finally has a justifiable reason to seek the court’s protection through a gag order, which I hope they or the District Attorney pursue. Leaks like these only serve to the detriment of the prosecution and I don’t want anything to get in their way.
By my best guess, we will not see this going to trial before a year to year-and-a-half from now. And that could be extended if additional victims are linked to Devlin. In the interim, expect a lot of criticism of Shawn that will serve only to try and discredit him as the primary witness that he is. Believe me, the court will not believe Shawn is discredited now or at any point in the future. Only our wonderful media pals and folks like the infamous Mr. O’Reilly will use this as additional fodder to profit upon.
UPDATE at 5:15 p.m. CST:
More information is available on the AP-released leak regarding the Michael Devlin case.
The AP writer who broke this story was, as I suspected by virtue of the number of bylines, Christopher Leonard. In an interview with Fox New’s John Gibson via phone last night (a partial transcript is available on the site), he made several statements I feel are important to my own accuracy.
Regarding the “authenticity” of his anonymous source for his story, Leonard stated that he has been working on this story for weeks. “The information would not be out there today unless we were completely assured it was based on the absolute most reliable sources who have access to this information. It’s been vetted, and we put it out today.”
Regarding Shawn’s presence at the door during the Thursday night discussion between Devlin and police, Leonard’s call offered some additional information. Leonard said his source related that both Shawn and Devlin told Ownby to hide in a bedroom behind a door. He said that Shawn actually answered the door and spoke first with authorities [giving his name as Shawn Wilcox, etc.], then Devlin came to the door and spoke further with authorities and refused to let them enter the apartment.
Finally, Gibson asked Leonard for more details of the first 30 days of Shawn’s captivity by Devlin. Leonard stated that his source revealed that following Shawn’s kidnapping as an 11-year-old, he was put “into intense isolation and underwent intense abuse for 30 days.” He added his source further reported that this period of time in Shawn’s captivity and what the child underwent “essentially broke the child’s mind. You know, kind of stripped him of his identity as happens in abuse cases like this.”
Leonard added that Shawn’s identity was then slowly rebuilt over the years by Devlin, who would give him increasing freedoms and “treats.” Leonard also stated that his source refused to elaborate any further on details regarding the beginning of Shawn’s captivity, but that these details would emerge when presented as evidence against Devlin at trial.