A woman kidnapped when she was 11 spent the past 18 years living in a series of sheds in the hidden backyard of a convicted sex offender who fathered her two daughters, according to police in El Dorado, Calif.
Jaycee Lee Dugard, now 29, was abducted from outside her home in 1991. She identified herself to police on Wednesday after the couple accused of abducting her brought her and her children to a parole office the day before. Police said the two children are 11 and 15.
Ms. Dugard appeared healthy despite having no access to the outside world and apparently giving birth to both children in one of the sheds where they were confined, undersheriff Fred Kollar told a news conference last night.
"She was in good health, but living in a backyard for the last 18 years does take its toll," he said.
He visited the house in Antioch, a nearby town, where Phillip Garrido, 58, and his wife Nancy Garrido, 54, are believed to have taken the girl on the day she was kidnapped.
Both are being held in custody, with Mr. Garrido on US$1-million bail on suspicion of kidnapping, rape by force, lewd and lascivious acts with a minor, sexual penetration and conspiracy.
Nancy Garrido was being held on suspicion of conspiracy and kidnapping. Her bail was also US$1-million.
The precise charges will be laid today before noon, according to El Dorado District Attorney Vern Pierson.
Mr. Garrido was convicted of a rape and kidnap in Nevada in 1971 and was on lifetime parole for that offence.
The Garridos were able to hide Ms. Dugard despite living in a residential neighbourhood with two neighbours nearby and regular visits by parole officers.
A large fence at the end of the yard, combined with trees and a tarpaulin, was enough to shield the living quarters in "a yard within the backyard," according to Mr. Kollar.
He said one shed was soundproofed and could only be opened from the outside and none were taller than six feet.
"The way the house and the backyard are set up, you could walk through and never know there was another set of living circumstances in the backyard," he said. "All of the sheds had electricity furnished by electrical cords. Nothing more sophisticated than that. There was a rudimentary outhouse and a rudimentary shower, as if you were camping."
The chain of events that led to her appearance began on Tuesday at the University of California at Berkeley, where Mr. Garrido was confronted by a suspicious campus police officer as he tried to hand out religious flyers with Ms. Dugard's two children. A background check flagged his conviction and parole conditions, prompting the officer to contact his parole officer.
The next day, Mr. Garrido met his parole officer with his wife, both children and Ms. Dugard, whom he identified as "Allissa." The parole officer, who had never seen "Alissa" and the two children before, contacted local police in Concord, which is where Ms. Dugard revealed her identity.
Ms. Dugard was reunited with her mother on Thursday morning and police are conducting DNA tests to confirm her identity, but say they are certain she is who she says she is.
"Subsequent interviews with Jaycee and the Garridos provided information that only the victims and the kidnappers could know," Mr. Kollar said.
Jaycee was an 11-year-old fifth-grader, walking to school in a pink windbreaker and pink stretch pants, when she was last seen by her stepfather Carl Probyn, outside her home in South Lake Tahoe, being kidnapped by two occupants in a car.
Mr. Probyn, who is now 60, gave chase on a bicycle but was too far away to stop the abduction.
"I had personally given up hope," he told ABC News, adding he was just hoping to find the people responsible.
Mr. Probyn, his wife Terry, from whom he is separated, and another daughter flew yesterday morning from Riverside, Calif., to San Francisco to meet Ms. Dugard.
When the initial news of Jaycee's rescue came through, her stepfather said it was like winning the lottery.
But as details of her capture emerged, he broke down in tears and told ABC News, "My girl has no proper schooling and I don't even know what shape she is in. I don't know if she was treated like an animal.... This is so horrific, I don't believe it."
with files from AFP