With Horrific Detail, Devlin Pleads Guilty In Kidnapping Case

Tuesday, October 9th 2007, 8:32 pm
By: News On 6

CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) _ The horror faced by two boys abducted in rural Missouri was revealed Tuesday in court, where their captor pleaded guilty and prosecutors said a video showing him torture one of them underlines why he should die in prison.

Michael Devlin offered no apologies but shed light on why one of his victims stayed with him more than four years: The terrorized boy cut a deal just as Devlin was beginning to strangle him.

``This boy made this contract, this deal with the devil, only to survive,'' Washington County prosecutor John Rupp said.

Devlin abducted the second boy early this year, days before both victims were discovered alive in his apartment in a St. Louis suburb.

Devlin received dozens of life sentences after his pleas in Washington and St. Louis counties Tuesday. He pleaded guilty in Franklin County on Monday and is to appear in federal court on Wednesday.

The hearings were part of an elaborate deal his attorneys struck in the four jurisdictions, where Devlin was charged with more than 80 counts, including sexual assault, kidnapping and attempted murder.

Devlin said through his attorneys that he accepted his punishment because he knew what he did was wrong _ a statement quickly dismissed by prosecutors and the boys' families.

``He pleaded guilty because he does not want the world to know the full extent of what he did,'' said St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch.

During the Washington County hearing, Devlin admitted in graphic detail how he abducted Shawn Hornbeck in 2002 and described the point at which Shawn apparently turned from a kidnap victim into a powerless captive.

Several feet away, Shawn's parents wept.

After the boy, then 11, was abducted at gunpoint while riding his bike in rural Washington County, Devlin took him to his apartment in suburban St. Louis and repeatedly sexually assaulted him. Days later, Devlin took Shawn back to Washington County in his pickup truck, apparently intent on killing the boy.

He said he pulled Shawn from his truck and began to strangle him. Shawn resisted.

``I attempted to kill (Shawn) and he talked me out of it,'' Devlin said Tuesday.

Devlin stopped the choking, but then sexually assaulted the boy again. Prosecutors say it was at that point that Shawn told Devlin he would do whatever was asked of him to stay alive.

It was a ``devil's bargain'' that kept Shawn under Devlin's sway, even as the boy had phone and Internet access, said Shawn's stepfather, Craig Akers.

``We know now the details that made him not run away,'' Akers said after the hearings.

At the St. Louis County hearing, prosecutors said Devlin kept Shawn tied for weeks to a futon or a couch, with duct tape over his mouth. Devlin left the boy alone when he went to work at the pizzeria during the days and returned at night to sexually assault him.

Prosecutors said Devlin also made a videotape of himself torturing Shawn while the boy screamed for him to stop.

Devlin abducted Ben Ownby in rural Franklin County on Jan. 8. A schoolmate's tip about a white pickup truck helped lead authorities to Devlin's apartment, where Ben and Shawn were rescued Jan. 12 as Devlin, a pizzeria manager, worked the day shift at his shop.

Prosecutors said Devlin abused Ben every day before the boy was rescued.

Devlin's attorneys said the evidence against him made a trial ``impossible.'' Attorney Michael Kielty specifically referred to the videotape prosecutors described.

Devlin is set to have a final hearing Wednesday morning in federal court on charges of making the videotape and transporting Shawn across state lines. Kielty said he wouldn't comment on what sentence he expects Devlin to receive then.

Devlin pleaded guilty to six counts in Washington County and received the maximum sentence of three life terms in prison plus 60 years for kidnapping, sexually assaulting and attempting to murder Shawn in 2002.

In St. Louis County Circuit Court, he pleaded guilty to two counts of kidnapping and 69 counts of forcible sodomy, and received 18 consecutive life sentences. He received a life sentence in Franklin County on Monday.

Rupp, the Washington County prosecutor, said he was satisfied with the sentences, which mean Devlin would have to live to more than 100 to even have a shot at parole.

``You heard it from his own mouth. You've heard what kind of a monster he is,'' Rupp said.

While it is The Associated Press' policy not to identify suspected victims of sexual abuse in most cases, the story of Shawn and Ben has been widely publicized and their names are well known.