SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The recovery of kidnapped women in Ohio sparks memories of the disappearance and discovery of Jaycee Dugard, similarities Dugard herself referenced at an awards ceremony Tuesday in Washington.
Dugard was kidnapped as a child in South Lake Tahoe in 1991, then held captive by Phillip and Nancy Garrido for 18 years before being found in 2009.
She was forced to live in Antioch as a sex slave in a series of hidden outdoor “rooms” during her captivity, and gave birth to two children by Garrido.
As Dugard was honored by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at its annual Hope Awards, she spoke from the heart about her journey.
Dugard said about the years of her captivity and since she was found, “I can’t say they have been easy, but anything in life worth doing is sometimes hard, like speaking. I want to thank my mom for the hope she has always had for me, even when I was far away.”
Two people involved in the Dugard investigation spoke with CBS 13 Reporter Laura Cole.
El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson handled Dugard’s case, and knows the judicial process to come will be tough for the three Cleveland women, Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus and Amanda Berry.
He says, as in Jaycee’s case, investigators will have an enormous amount of evidence to examine.
Pierson said, “It’s a horrible thing, to see somebody have to go through that.” He added, “Everything is potentially relevant.”
As investigators comb through the house in Cleveland owned by suspect Ariel Castro, a former school bus driver, Pierson knows how crucial every step of the search is.
He explained the entire house is a crime scene, with potential evidence inside dating back a decade.
Retired FBI agent Jeff Rinek said it’s rare to recover kidnapping victims after so long, but says this case shows it’s important for families and investigators never to give up hope.
Rinek said, “Statistically, it’s like winning the Lotto.”
He continued, “It reinvigorates those cold cases that are sitting there… and gives those detectives and those agents and those investigators… the realization, that if it happened here, it can happen again.”
Pierson admitted, in this difficult case, investigators will certainly try to avoid putting the victims through any further mental anguish as they prepare for prosecuting suspects.
He said, “You have to balance by how do we protect the people and how do we do what’s right at the end of the day and how do we minimize the trauma to people who will have to go through the system.”
Editors Note: It was mistakenly reported that Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped in 2009. She was kidnapped in 1991. Also, retired FBI agent Jeff Rinek was mistakenly attributed to providing information on the entire house being a crime scene, instead of El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson. The errors have been corrected in the story.