Nancy and Phillip Garrido stand with his attorney, Susan Gellman, center,… (Randy Pench / Associated…)
A married couple in Northern California pleaded guilty Thursday to kidnapping Jaycee Dugard when she was 11, raping her and confining her in a hidden backyard encampment for 18 years in a plea deal that will spare the victim from having to testify at a trial.
Phillip Garrido, 60, and his wife, Nancy, 55, entered their pleas in an El Dorado County courtroom in a case that drew international headlines after Dugard and two daughters she bore with Phillip Garrido were discovered in August 2009. The Garridos faced 29 charges of kidnapping and sexual assault.
Under the plea deal, Phillip Garrido will receive a maximum possible sentence of 431 years to life in prison. He pleaded guilty to kidnapping and 13 counts of sexual assault.
Nancy Garrido, who snatched Dugard in 1991 and later helped deliver her babies, pleaded guilty to kidnapping, one count of rape by force for aiding and abetting, and other charges in exchange for a sentence of 25 years to life, in addition to 11 more years.
She will be eligible for parole in 31 years, but El Dorado Dist. Atty. Vern Pierson said he was "confident she will spend the rest of her life in prison." He said she agreed to the plea only because her husband also pleaded guilty and waived his right to appeal.
"The enormity of the defendants' actions has caused tremendous pain and suffering to Jaycee, her mother Terry Probyn and their family," Pierson said in a written statement. "With a guilty plea by both defendants, Terry, Jaycee and her children can now be spared the grief and trauma of having to be dragged into the court process to testify at a jury trial."
Pierson praised Dugard's "strong cooperation" in the prosecution of the couple and said her "courage and willingness to confront her abductors in court directly led" to the plea agreement.
Both Garridos are scheduled to be sentenced June 2. They waived their rights to appeal.
Dugard, now 30, and her family received a $20-million settlement from the state after filing a claim that charged authorities with failing to supervise Phillip Garrido, who was on parole for rape when he and his wife kidnapped Dugard while she was waiting for a school bus in view of her South Lake Tahoe home.
A state investigation found that parole agents missed opportunities to rescue Dugard during visits to the Garrido home. At least three parole agents spotted Dugard but failed to determine her identity, the state said.
Even after receiving a tip that children were living with the Garridos, authorities did not search the backyard, where Dugard and her daughters lived behind a fence in tents and soundproof sheds.
Dugard and her daughters never attended school or visited a doctor or a dentist while in captivity. She took the name "Alyssa" and pretended to be the eldest daughter of the Garridos. Her own daughters thought she was an elder sister before the Garridos' arrest, authorities said.
They were rescued after UC Berkeley police officers became suspicious when Phillip Garrido brought the two girls to campus to distribute religious fliers. The girls called Garrido "Daddy" and mentioned they had an older sister.
When first questioned by parole agents, Dugard tried to protect Garrido and refused to reveal her true identity. She reportedly has been receiving therapy and lives with her family in Northern California.
In a written statement, Pierson pointed out that the law does not permit the death penalty or life without possibility of parole for the Garridos' crimes.
Thursday's actions "can finally bring certainty and closure to Jaycee and her family who have waited almost 20 years for justice in this case," Pierson said.
Attorneys for the Garridos did not respond to requests for comment.