Advertisement
 

Jaycee Lee Dugard book: Chilling memoirs of years in captivity

Jaycee Lee Dugard's book chronicles her growth from victim to survivor, from terror to strength. It also is an indictment of the parole system and a meditation on loneliness.

July 13, 2011|By Maria L. La Ganga, Los Angeles Times
  • Gina Balistreri, a clerk at Barnes and Noble in Antioch, Calif., looks through reserved copies of 18-year kidnap victim Jaycee Lee Dugard's memoir that went on sale Tuesday.
Gina Balistreri, a clerk at Barnes and Noble in Antioch, Calif., looks through… (Dan Rosenstrauch / Contra…)

Reporting from San Francisco -- There are graphic details of her years as a sex slave, descriptions so unsettling that a judge has refused to make much of Jaycee Lee Dugard's grand jury testimony public.

There are chapters dedicated to her life today — a mix of intensive therapy and simple pleasures, of healing from 18 years as a captive and seeing her teenage daughters blossom, finally, in freedom.

But while Dugard's memoir "A Stolen Life" chronicles her growth from victim to survivor, from terror to strength, it also is an indictment of the parole system and a meditation on loneliness.

PHOTOS: Kidnapping victim found after 18 years

Dugard, now 31, writes about missing her mother in the harrowing 288-page volume, which was released Tuesday. She writes about fearing she would forget that beloved face and then realizing she had.

"I wonder what she thinks about," Dugard says about her mother, Terry Probyn. "I wonder if she ever thinks about me."

And she describes her growing dependence on Phillip Garrido, who snatched her when she was a gap-toothed 11-year-old heading for the school bus and who fathered her two girls during years of methamphetamine-fueled rape.

Garrido, who is in state prison after being sentenced in June to a 431-year-to-life sentence, was her captor. But he was also her provider and the only other human Dugard saw for long stretches in the first months after she was abducted.

He tied her up. He played out his fantasies. He threatened her. He talked to her. He brought her food.

"When he is not hurting me," Dugard wrote, "he likes to make me laugh."

This is what she wrote about "day 907 of my captivity": "It is Christmas Day. I am alone. I am mostly always alone. No one to talk to. No one to hug me unless Phillip comes in. He gives me hugs sometimes and makes me feel loved."

It was 1993, and she was 13.

Perhaps the most chilling sentence of Dugard's book, which alternates between detailed memories of captivity and "reflections" on her experience, is this: "With time I grew used to all kinds of things."

She became so used to life in the ramshackle compound where Garrido and his wife, Nancy, imprisoned her that she was terrified of venturing out in the world. When her purse was stolen during a thrift-store shopping trip with Nancy, she wrote, "I feel it is not safe to leave the safety of Phillip's backyard. At least I know what to expect there."

Dugard kept a journal during much of her captivity, and long entries are quoted in the memoir. She wrote in 2002 that she was not afraid, "Not when I'm home, it's when I'm out with Nancy and around people that I get so scared. Do they see me?"

The answer was no.

No one recognized her on their excursions away from the compound. Neighbors along the scruffy street of single-family homes east of San Francisco said nothing.

"Funny, how I can look back now, and notice how the 'secret backyard' didn't really look so 'secret,'" Dugard wrote. "It makes me believe no one cared or was even really looking for me."

Garrido was convicted of kidnapping Katherine Callaway in South Lake Tahoe and raping her in Reno in 1976. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison but served about 11. He was paroled Jan. 20, 1988.

California parole officers paid 60 visits over a 10-year period to the Antioch home where Dugard and her daughters were held, according to a 2009 report on Garrido's supervision.

"I can't understand why Phillip's parole officers didn't know anything about the property and the size of it," Dugard wrote.

On Tuesday, El Dorado County District Atty. Vern Pierson released video clips and parole documents in the Garrido case "to highlight the gravity and severity of the mistakes made, and in hopes of improving the supervision and detection of sexual predators," he said in a written statement.

The Garridos pleaded guilty to charges against them and were sentenced in El Dorado County. One of the video clips shows a parole officer on a surprise visit to the Garrido home. He does not go near the backyard. Nancy does the filming and sneers to her husband after the officer leaves, "He's an arrogant little guy, isn't he?"

Another clip shows Garrido singing in a park. Nancy is filming. At one point, he asks her, "Got me good?" "I can see you really good," she answers. But she has moved the camera away from her husband's face and is filming a little girl on playground equipment behind him, her legs splayed.

The videos and documents will be part of an Aug. 3 public hearing in Sacramento that will "examine what went wrong in the Dugard case, identify reforms to the system and introduce legislation to better protect our citizens from becoming the next victim," state Sen. Ted Gaines (R-Roseville) said in a written statement.

Dugard describes what went wrong from her particular vantage point in "A Stolen Life." Through the years, parole agents saw at least one of her daughters in the house — and spoke at least once to Dugard, who had been coached to protect her captors.

The night before she was scheduled to testify before a secret grand jury last September, she had a dream, she wrote. She was in an interview room. Garrido was interrogating her. When he got up to hug her, she fled to find a police officer.

The officer was down the hall, in his underwear. He told her he needed to get dressed first.

"This is a dream about how it is hard for me to trust in law enforcement," she wrote. "I know when I go into the grand jury room I will be well protected and cared for.

"On the other hand, the government failed me for 18 years. And that will take time to heal from."

PHOTOS: Kidnapping victim found after 18 years

maria.laganga@latimes.com

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|