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Wife of Phillip Garrido largely a mystery

Police allege Nancy Garrido was a full partner in the kidnapping and rape of Jaycee Lee Dugard, while acquaintances describe her as being under her husband's control.

September 03, 2009|Maura Dolan and Molly Hennessy-Fiske

ANTIOCH, CALIF. — Nancy Garrido, tears running down her face, nodded as her husband confessed to a business acquaintance that angels were speaking to him and had helped him forswear his sexual compulsions.

The couple had barged into Maria Christenson's recycling shop in Pittsburg, and Nancy Garrido rested her hand on her husband's shoulder as he revealed his transformation.

"He kept saying he was a changed man," Christenson said. "And she kept nodding, it is true, it is true."

Although much is known about Garrido, his wife of almost 28 years remains largely a mystery. Acquaintances and family members have described her as being under her husband's control and a believer in his religious convictions.

Police insist Nancy Garrido, 54, was a full partner in her 58-year-old husband's alleged crimes, and she faces almost identical charges in the kidnapping and rape of Jaycee Lee Dugard.

In fact, for more than a month in 1993, authorities say, Nancy Garrido was apparently the sole jailer of the then-13-year-old Dugard while her husband was in prison for a parole violation.

The woman who allegedly grabbed Dugard as she walked the few blocks to her school bus stop 18 years ago told her lawyer that she loved Dugard and her daughters as "family."

She appeared to do much of the work at their home near Antioch and sometimes helped her husband in his printing business, though she stayed in the background.

Garrido, a nurse's assistant, is believed to have helped Dugard deliver the two babies that police say Phillip Garrido fathered.

Investigators have charged Nancy Garrido with nearly as many offenses as her husband. She faces two counts of rape, seven counts of forcible lewd acts and four counts of forcible rape in addition to the kidnapping charge.

Described as quiet, dour and dutiful, the former Nancy Bocanegra of Denver married her husband in 1981 at the U.S. penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan., where he was serving a 50-year sentence for a 1976 kidnapping and rape. She is Garrido's second wife.

The couple reportedly met when she visited a relative at the prison, and they began exchanging letters.

Her attorney told television interviewers Wednesday that she misses Dugard and her daughters.

"What she said that I can tell you about is that there came a time when she felt they were a family, and she loved the girls very much, and she loved Jaycee very much," Gilbert Maines, Garrido's court-appointed lawyer, said on NBC's "Today."

He said her "state of mind" could become important to her defense.

"She's distraught. She's scared. She seems to be a little lost," said the lawyer, who did not respond to calls to his office.

"She doesn't seem to be able to really focus well at the moment," he said.

During her arraignment last week, Garrido looked exhausted, frequently crying into her hands.

Ted Cassman, a criminal defense lawyer not involved in the case, said any lawyer who claims Garrido was "brainwashed" will have a difficult time persuading a jury.

"I bet they are going to claim [her husband] was abusive, controlling and dominating and that she was under his spell," Cassman said. "But that is a really difficult defense. That is what Patty Hearst argued."

The charges against Garrido do not indicate whether police believe she participated directly in the sexual assaults or acted more as an accomplice.

Some female sexual abusers, known as "male-coerced" or "male-accompanied," engage in abuse after being introduced to it by a man, research shows.

These women tend to suffer from low self-esteem, antisocial behavior, poor social and anger management skills, fear of rejection, passivity and other mental problems.

By most accounts, Nancy Garrido was indeed passive.

Christenson, who did business with the couple for more than a decade, remembered that Nancy Garrido said little when she was in the shop and always deferred to her husband.

"She never was a happy-go-lucky person," Christenson said. "She always looked a little down."

It was in that meeting a year ago that Christenson said she saw Phillip Garrido's usual weirdness flare into something more intense.

"He kept saying, 'I am a changed man.' He said, 'I don't masturbate anymore.' "

In the semirural neighborhood near Antioch where the Garridos lived, many of the neighbors said they never saw Nancy Garrido. When her husband went out walking at night, he was usually alone, they said.

But Helen Boyer, 78, a retired cemetery manager, said Nancy Garrido moved into the ramshackle home before her husband, who apparently was still in prison.

She was caring for his ailing mother, Patricia Franzen, who owned the house.

Boyer said Nancy Garrido worked at local nursing homes, where Phillip Garrido did maintenance work.

"She took good care of her mother-in-law," Boyer said, describing her as a "good person."

Franzen was a retired maintenance worker for the Antioch school district, and Phillip was her favorite child, Boyer said. "That was her world," she said. "He really catered to her, he and Nancy both."

After Franzen could no longer walk, Nancy Garrido would push her wheelchair over to Boyer's white picket fence, where Franzen would praise her daughter-in-law, Boyer said.

Boyer said she knew Nancy Garrido was from Colorado, but she never saw any relatives or noticed the Garridos taking trips. She said she saw Dugard and her daughters but was told they were the children of a friend.

"Nancy worked hard out in that yard when she wasn't inside -- weeding, watering, mowing," Boyer said.

When Boyer recently adopted a cat, Nancy Garrido became enamored and the cat started to stay in her yard. When the elderly neighbor on the other side of the Garridos' house moved to a nursing home, the Garridos took in his dog, Boyer said.

"I really feel bad for Nancy," Boyer said. "I think he had her so brainwashed."

--

maura.dolan@latimes.com

molly.hennessy-fiske

@latimes.com

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