Shawn Hornbeck

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Shawn Hornbeck born 17 Jul 1991

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Shawn Damian Hornbeck (born 1991) is an American child from Richwoods, Missouri who disappeared in 2002 and was found more than four years later. The police have stated that he was kidnapped and subjected to forcible sodomy by Michael J. Devlin.



His family reported him missing October 6, 2002, when he did not return to his home in rural Richwoods after a bicycle ride. Following his disappearance, his parents appeared on several high-profile television shows to help gain national attention for the search. They enlisted the help of professional psychics such as Sylvia Browne and James Van Praagh, both of whom stated that Shawn was dead, and gave instructions on where to search for his body. His parents founded the Shawn Hornbeck Foundation, a charity devoted to the search for and rescue of abducted children.


On January 12, 2007, he was discovered living with Michael Devlin in Kirkwood, Missouri. Devlin has been charged with kidnapping Hornbeck as well as 13-year-old Ben Ownby . He has also been charged with 52 counts of forcible sodomy on Shawn, four felony counts of production of child pornography, two felony counts of transportation of a minor for a criminal sex act, inflicting injury, terrorizing and attempted murder by suffocation. Since February 2007 he is being held on a $1,000,000 bond.

While living with Devlin

Neighbors report that Shawn Hornbeck was allowed outside unsupervised, while Michael Devlin worked as a manager at Imo's Pizza and also at a funeral home.

Oprah Winfrey made him the subject of the January 18, 2007 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show. The show contained a pretaped interview and live introductions from Oprah. Oprah said during the live part of this show that Shawn told her off camera that he never tried to escape because he was "terrified". He also stated that he often prayed to be reunited with his family. When asked if they thought Shawn had been sexually abused, his parents nodded their heads yes. During his stay with Devlin, Shawn did not attend school, but he had friends. Tony Douglas, a neighbor who lived in the same apartment complex, was Shawn's best friend and spent nights over in the Devlin apartment. Shawn told Douglas that his mother had died in a car accident, that he attended a private school, and that he was later home schooled. According to Douglas' stepmother, Shawn had seen coverage of his disappearance on TV but brushed off inquiries. "There was [sic] times when we would see something about Shawn Hornbeck on TV," Douglas said. "He would be in the room. We would even kind of giggle, you know, 'you look just like Shawn Hornbeck.' He never acted upon it, no response, nothing. He didn't look sad, get up and go out of the room, anything that would lead to us believing that he was actually Shawn Hornbeck." Tony Douglas also was seen in a truck, with Shawn driving. Students from Visitation Academy of St. Louis, a private girls school, say that on December 9, 2006, Shawn attended a school dance with his girlfriend, who is a student at the school.

Some news organizations say he also may have posted messages to the guest book of, the website his parents created to find him. At 1:59 a.m. on December 1, 2005, a "Shawn Devlin" posted on the site's forum, asking "How long are you planing [sic] to look for your son?". Then at 2:56 p.m. the same day, "Shawn Devlin" posted on the forums again, asking if he could compose a poem for the family. The poem never appeared on the website. Online profiles were also created on Yahoo, in the name of Shawn Devlin, and on, which described a Shawn from St. Louis. Pictures were included, showing a boy presumed to be Shawn.

Why he did not return home

Some news sources suggested Shawn may have fallen victim to Stockholm syndrome, in which hostages or kidnapping victims sometimes befriend their captors.

Shawn reportedly told Oprah Winfrey off-camera he was "terrified." Other children kidnapped and held for a long time have also rejected the Stockholm Syndrome diagnosis, explaining that terror was the motivating force behind their decisions to remain and live rather than attempt to escape and risk death. Other victims of childhood sexual abuse have explained their understanding and support of Shawn's decisions.


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