Shawn Hornbeck’s Story
Posted by KindraLore on January 19, 2007
In my earlier post I reported that Shawn Hornbeck and his mother and step-father Craig and Pam Akers went on the Oprah Winfrey Show. At the time it was being reported that he didn’t speak but now reports are coming out that he did and this is some of what he had to say:
“Every day I prayed to God that one day I would be back with my family. Every night I crossed myself. We’re a very Christian family,” Shawn, 15, said in a pre-taped interview that Winfrey included in her one-hour show. “There was a time when I was thinking about giving up, then I just thought of what (my parents were) doing and searching for me, and then I know they (weren’t) giving up so I figured I shouldn’t.”I felt their hope and love.”
Winfrey’s show was a combination of pre-taped interviews with Shawn and his parents, and then a talk with the parents and an aunt before a studio audience. Winfrey said she asked Shawn off-camera why he didn’t try to escape, and, “He said to me he did not because he was terrified to do so.”
His parents, Craig and Pam Akers, told Winfrey they hadn’t asked Shawn whether he had been sexually abused during the more than four years he had been missing.
“When this stuff comes out, we need professionals there that know how to deal with the specific circumstance, whenever we find out what that circumstance is,” Craig Akers said. “The last thing we want to do is put him through any more mental anguish. “Certainly we want to know and the world wants to know, but that’s not the important thing. That’s insignificant. The important thing is that Shawn is back home.”
Missing since Oct. 6, 2002, Shawn was reunited with his family on Jan. 12 after police rescued him from a Kirkwood, Mo., apartment along with another missing boy: William “Ben” Ownby, 13, who had disappeared Jan. 8 after getting off a school bus near his home in Beaufort. Officers who went to the apartment seeking Ben were astonished to find Shawn there as well.
Michael J. Devlin, 41, a pizza-store employee, was arrested that day and is charged with kidnapping both boys. He pleaded not guilty Thursday in Franklin County in the case of Ben, and he awaits arraignment in Washington County on charges accusing him of Shawn’s abduction.
Winfrey’s broadcast was the first to include an interview with Shawn. The one-hour show also included interviews with Ben’s parents, William and Doris Ownby, and Kirkwood police officers Gary Wagster and Chris Nelson. The officers became suspicious of Devlin while talking to him about his white pickup truck parked outside his apartment on the night of Jan. 11. Such a truck was seen near where Ben disappeared.
Ethan Corlija, a lawyer for Devlin, had no comment on the statements on Winfrey’s show.
The Akerses said they thought their son didn’t escape because he felt threatened.
“I honestly and truly in my heart feel that in some way or another, he had to have felt either he was going to be threatened or his sisters or myself or his dad,” said
Pam Akers. “I honestly believed if the alleged person would have said, `You can
leave at any time’ everything would be fine, and Shawn would have come home in a
Shawn said he spent his days sleeping, watching television, playing video games and playing with friends, and he said he had told people a story about his life that his kidnapper had concocted. He said he was the “Shawn Devlin” who posted a question on his parents’ website asking how long they planned to search for their son.
“I was hoping to give some kind of hint,” Shawn said.
Craig Akers said he remembered the posting, but he didn’t take special notice of it “because you get so many weird messages.”
Shawn said he was grateful to Ben Ownby.
“(I feel) thankful that he held in there for those couple of days, and I’m sorry for what he went through, because I told myself a long time ago I never want any other kid to go through what I went through,” Shawn said. “But I am thankful for him holding in there, and I’m happy that he’s back with his family.”
The Akers said they never gave up hope.
“We’ve always believed that there was absolutely hope that he was out there and that we would find him,” Craig Akers said.
Shawn said he wanted to return to his old life: “Go back to school, spend time with each other, work on stuff, fix cars – (Dad’s) transmission needs it. It’s very comforting knowing that I’m back with my family, but then I’ve missed out on a lot of stuff.”
Said Pam Akers, “It’s definitely not the little boy that I had at 11. There’s going to be a lot of adjustments. . . . We just won’t let him out of our sight, and he’s just not
understanding that yet. I can tell that there is a lot on his mind. I can tell that I think he will eventually talk to us, that he wants to, but there’s still some distance between us.”
Kim Evans, family spokeswoman and office manager for the Shawn Hornbeck Foundation, said neither the Akers family nor the foundation received money for appearing on Oprah.
She said other media outlets offered to pay for the first interview, but the family chose to go on Oprah because they hoped to reach a larger audience.
“We wanted to get the message of hope out to as many people as we could that there is hope for their sons and daughters,” Evans said. “They took Oprah for that reason, because she has the largest audience. To my knowledge, there was no money involved.”
From early morning to late night Thursday, the family gave interviews with local, national and international news organizations. The family required each to sign a contract promising not to publish or broadcast any report on the interview until 6 a.m. Friday. One provision of the two-page contract required news organizations that violated the embargo to pay $100,000 to the Shawn Hornbeck Foundation.