Antioch, Calif. Phillip Garrido’s unspeakable private life began unraveling in a very public place: a college campus.
He arrived Monday at the police office at the University of California, Berkeley, with two girls, ages 11 and 15. He announced he wanted to hold a religious event on campus related to a group called God’s Desire. He seemed weird and unstable. But it was the pale, blonde, blue-eyed girls in drab dresses who really set off alarm bells.
“There were some things about him and the kids that were really alarming, that just didn’t settle right with me,” said Lisa Campbell, the department’s manager of special events, who previously worked as a police officer in Chicago and a background investigator for the Los Angeles Police Department.
So she arranged another meeting for the next day, and called upon officer Ally Jacobs to join her. Jacobs ran a records check — and discovered that Garrido was a registered sex offender who had been convicted of rape and kidnapping more than 30 years ago.
The girls unnerved Jacobs, as well. They seemed programmed — “almost like ‘Little House on the Prairie’ meets robots,” she says.
The younger girl “was staring directly at me,” says Jacobs, the mother of two small boys. “It was almost like she was looking into my soul. ... Her eyes were so penetrating.”
The older daughter, meanwhile, stared at the ceiling and looked at her father “in awe, as if she were in worship of him. I kind of got the feeling that these kids were like robots.”
Garrido gave them copies of his book he had written called “Origin of Schizophrenia Revealed.” They had a hard time following his conversation.
But he revealed the girls were home-schooled by his wife, with an assist from him. The girls said they had an older sister at home, 28 or 29, and that seemed strange, too, that she was even mentioned.
Finally, Jacobs says, Garrido grabbed his oldest daughter and said: “‘I’m so proud of my girls. They don’t know any curse words. We raised them right. They don’t know anything bad about the world.’”
By then, she says, “my police mode turned into my mother mode.”
A call was made to Garrido’s parole officer. A terrible secret was about to be revealed.
Garrido — known to kids as “Creepy Phil” in his neighborhood — had a reputation for peculiarity. He rambled nonsensically. He was dismissed as “kind of nutty.” He said God spoke to him through a box.
Neighbors were worried enough about him to call police, but no one knew how bizarre his world truly was until last week when authorities revealed the stunning news: Hidden in the backyard of his cinderblock house on Walnut Avenue, behind a 6-foot fence, leafy trees and a tarp, was a compound of weathered tents, wood sheds and buildings.
What looked like a messy campground with mattresses, small chairs, bikes, books, piles of toys, a trampoline, showers, an outhouse, swing set — even a carved pumpkin — was really a prison, of sorts. Its inmate: Jaycee Lee Dugard, the carefree little girl abducted in 1991 who, authorities say, had been raped, held captive and shut off from society for nearly two decades.
As shocking as that was, there was one more stunning revelation: Jaycee was now a 29-year-old mother. She had given birth to two of her suspected abductor’s children, two girls raised in isolation. They had, according to authorities, never attended school, never visited a doctor — and Jaycee, it seems, had never reached out to anybody.
When Jaycee resurfaced last week — she called herself Allissa — 18 years had passed. One daughter was 15, the other 11, the same age Jaycee was that day when she was heading to catch a school bus and instead was pulled screaming into a Ford Granada and driven here, 170 miles from home.
Garrido, 58, and his 54-year-old wife, Nancy, were arrested last week in that kidnapping. On Friday, they appeared in court and pleaded not guilty to more than two dozen charges, including forcible abduction, rape and false imprisonment.
Even with their arrests, there are more questions than answers in this mystery, questions about who knew about Jaycee, why she remained there, how she and her children lived — and how a man with a rap sheet, a parole officer and years of suspicious behavior managed to keep a sordid secret even when authorities were in his house.
In November 2006, a neighbor called police and described Garrido as a psychotic sex addict who was living with children and had people staying in tents in his backyard.
A sheriff’s deputy talked with Garrido a half-hour on his front porch, but he didn’t enter the house or walk into the backyard. He left warning the tents could be a code violation. He did not know Garrido was a convicted sex offender even though his office had that information.
“I cannot change the course of events but we are beating ourselves up over this and continue to do so,” Contra Costa County Sheriff Warren E. Rupf said. “We should have been more inquisitive, more curious and turned over a rock or two.”
Garrido was 25 when he was convicted of a federal kidnapping charge and a state forcible rape charge after snatching a 25-year-old woman from a South Lake Tahoe, California, parking lot, handcuffing her, tying her down and holding her in a storage unit in Reno in November 1976.
In his 1977 federal trial in Reno, Garrido testified that he took four hits of LSD after seizing the woman, and that he had used LSD, cocaine, marijuana, hashish and other drugs since 1968.
He had confessed to a Reno police detective Dan DeMaranville, telling him that he preferred sex by force. DeMaranville, since retired, described the storage unit where the rape occurred as a “sex palace,” with a bed, rugs on the floor and walls, various sex aids, sex magazines and videos, stage lights and wine.
He was sentenced to 50 years for the kidnapping conviction and life for the rape conviction but was granted an early release in August 1988.
Garrido’s life may have been a secret, but his strangeness was there for all to see.
Religion rants had become increasingly common for Garrido. Tim Allen, president of East County Glass and Window Inc., heard them frequently as he came to know Garrido when he bought business cards and letterhead from his printing business.
He said Garrido once brought a “box” into his shop that he claimed channeled God’s voice. He then opened it and asked “Can you hear?” then spoke as if his voice were God’s. He had a blog, too, claiming to have the ability to speak to people through his mind.
Garrido’s own father, Manuel, has a harsher assessment. His son, he says, is “absolutely out of his mind” and he traces his problems to a bad motorcycle accident long ago when he went from a “comical, funny” boy to someone who fell in with the wrong crowd and took LSD.