31 Aug 2009

Police extend US kidnap investigation

6:21 am on 31 August 2009

California police investigating the kidnapping of Jaycee Lee Dugard have extended their inquiry to the property next door to the one where she was held for 18 years.

Jaycee Lee Dugard disappeared on 10 June 1991, when she was 11 years old, from outside her Lake Tahoe home.

She reappeared last week with two children, who were apparently fathered by her captor.

The BBC reports a second house in the Californian town of Antioch is now wrapped in yellow police tape.

The owner of the property says for a time before he bought it, his next-door-neighbour, Jaycee Dugard's alleged captor, Phillip Garrido looked after the house.

Convicted rapist Phillip Garrido, 58, is accused of abducting her and fathering her two children. He and his wife Nancy, 54, have pleaded not guilty to multiple charges, including rape.

Ms Dugard and the children, aged 11 and 15, lived in squalid tents and sheds in a "hidden back yard within a back yard" at the Garrido property in Antioch, east of San Francisco.

Neighbours say they told police several years ago that children were living in tents there. But Contra Costa Sheriff Warren Rupf says that the deputy who went to the property "did not enter nor request to enter the back yard".

"This is not an acceptable outcome," Sheriff Rupf says. "Organisationally we should have been more inquisitive, more curious, and turned over a rock or two."

The sheriff says that the officer did not know that Phillip Garrido was a registered sex offender, though he is listed as such on a public database.

On Friday, police searched the Garrido home for evidence that might also connect him to the killing of prostitutes in the 1990s.

Accused couple plead not guilty

At a five-minute hearing in a packed El Dorado County Superior Court on Friday, the Garridos pleaded not guilty through court-appointed defence lawyers and did not speak.

Nancy Garrido sobbed throughout the hearing; her husband showed no emotion. The couple wore red jail jumpsuits and were handcuffed.

They each face six charges of rape, seven of committing lewd acts upon a child, two each of kidnapping and one each of false imprisonment. Both were ordered to be held without bail until a further hearing on 14 September.