Four years ago, I wrote an essay here detailing why all suspected cases of non-family abduction should not be treated as unsolved homicides. Since then, there have been several events that have served to stamp this idea even more firmly in my mind.
Shawn Hornbeck. Shasta Groene. Jaycee Dugard. Francisco Andrade Vega. Most readers will be familiar with the first three, and quite a few will know the last one. All were non-family abductions. Three were confirmed stranger abductions; one involved an acquaintance. And all were found alive despite what one would consider grim circumstances.
I have previously written at length about Shasta Groene's case. She was abducted along with her brother after a homicide, one that killed three members of her family. I have also written about how I assumed she was dead, despite no evidence to suggest this. When she was found, her brother had been killed by the abductor. Both likely could have been found safe if anyone had made the connection between them and two missing children. As I have written about this extensively before, I will only state now that this was a stranger abduction. But the child was still found safe.
Shawn Hornbeck was a case that did not get extensive attention from the media. There were some stories, and an active family search, but he had just vanished after going on a bike ride. People who just vanish do not get much media attention. Theories abounded; he had been abducted, he had been killed in a hit and run accident, he had stumbled upon a meth lab and had been killed or held because of it. Personally I felt the third option was most likely, but was not positive that it was the answer. After a few years, I typically mentally assign cases like Shawn's to "unlikely to be solved without further information." Then in January 2007 I saw a post on a message board not normally concerned with the missing "Two missing boys found." Before I opened the thread, I assumed it was about the cases of Mark Degner and Bryan Hayes, as this was the only case I could think of that involved two boys missing together that would make the news in the event they were found. Needless to say, my jaw fell open when I saw that Shawn Hornbeck was one of them. My surprise quickly became elation. He was found, he was alive, and his family had answers. Now the media clamored for information about his case. And it was discovered that a few factors I had speculated on before were involved in the case. Shawn did indeed feel some loyalty to his abductor, and he was indeed still being held against his will. He was not dead, but did not directly contact his family for those reasons. (He did leave a message on the guest book of his family's web site devoted to his case, asking how long they would look for their son, but even then he must have known they would not understand it was him.) He became my first example I used to show how non-family abduction, even stranger abduction, did not mean foul play.
Francisco Andrade Vega was abducted by a non-family member, but a family acquaintance. He was a convicted child abuser. Francisco was found in March 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. He only contacted his family after police brought him to a station on a presumed curfew violation. (Francisco was nineteen at the time and therefore not subject to the curfew, but he had no identity papers.) I have been unable to find further details about where he stayed and why, but I can only presume that his reasons for not contacting his family (who he states he never forgot and always thought of) were similar to Hornbeck's.
Jaycee Dugard is of course the most recent, and has received extensive media attention after she was found being held prisoner in a backyard in California. Her abduction was witnessed by her stepfather, who saw a woman pull her into a van and drive off. (Some authorities doubted his story and thought he had killed and buried Jaycee, which there was never any evidence for, but I will not go into that here.) Unlike many people, I considered it very possible that Jaycee was still alive. This was in part due to theories I had heard involving other missing girls from the area, and part the simple fact there was no evidence she was dead. Of course this did not mean I was not stunned to hear she had been indeed found, and if it had not been for some good observations on behalf of a few police officers she would likely still be in that backyard. Once again, many of the same motivations concerned in Hornbeck's case were there. She did remember her family, but was held against her will and seemed to have some loyalty to her abductors. Also, she had two children who were born in captivity, which was an angle I never thought of during my past essay but now seems a perfectly reasonable addition to that list of reasons, at least for females who were kidnapped.
The motto of the For the Lost site is "If you look for a person, you may find a body. But if you look for a body, you may miss a person." These four cases are perhaps some of the best examples of that motto I can think of. Hopefully others will remember that motto in the future.
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