Prosecutors charge Missouri kidnapping suspect with molesting boys nearly 70 times
Monday, February 5th 2007, 8:18 pm
By: News On 6
CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) _ A Missouri man accused of kidnapping two boys and holding one for more than four years was charged Monday with molesting them nearly 70 times.
The charges were the first time authorities have openly accused Michael Devlin of molesting the children.
Devlin, a 41-year-old pizzeria manager, was charged with 69 counts of forcible sodomy, all felonies and each punishable by up to life in prison.
St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch said 17 of the counts related to 13-year-old Ben Ownby, who disappeared Jan. 8, and the remaining counts were related to Shawn Hornbeck, now 15, who was abducted in 2002.
McCulloch said the evidence includes interviews with all of the people involved. ``Devlin acknowledged committing these acts,'' McCulloch said.
Both boys were found inside Devlin's apartment in the St. Louis suburb of Kirkwood on Jan. 12.
The charges allege that Devlin forced Ben to have ``deviate sexual intercourse'' four times each day for the four days he was held.
The charges also allege that after kidnapping Hornbeck in October 2002, Devlin kept Shawn isolated in Devlin's apartment for the first month. The boy was forced to have intercourse with Devlin throughout that month and at least once a month until Shawn and Ben were found in January.
Authorities refused to discuss other details of the allegations beyond what was described in the charges.
Less than a week after the boys were found, Shawn's parents appeared on Oprah Winfrey's talk show, saying they believed he had been sexually abused during the ordeal.
In a written statement, defense attorneys Ethan Corlija and Michael Kielty said they have explained the charges to Devlin and that he understands they are ``very serious.''
``We have also told Mr. Devlin that we have received no evidence from any of the prosecutors about any of the charges,'' the statement said. ``Common sense and the Constitution would suggest that everyone should wait to hear any evidence before reaching any final judgment.''
Devlin has pleaded not guilty to the kidnapping charges.
Authorities have said Devlin used a gun to threaten Shawn when he was abducted in 2002.
Scott Sherman, a lawyer representing Shawn and his family, said Shawn is willing to testify if the case goes to trial.
``I think he's committed to justice, as painful as it might be,'' Sherman said.
Shawn was 11 when he vanished while riding his bike near his home in Richwoods. Ben disappeared after he got off the school bus in Beaufort. A white pickup seen speeding away led police to Devlin, authorities said.
While it is The Associated Press' policy not to identify alleged victims of sexual abuse in most cases, the story of Shawn and Ben has been widely publicized and their names are now well-known. Also, their families have gone public, conducting several media interviews.