Missouri boy found safe, search locates another lost boy

BEAUFORT, Mo. (AP) " A 13-year-old boy who vanished from the gravel road near his home five days ago was found alive about 60 miles away in a suburban St. Louis home, along with a 15-year-old boy missing since 2002, authorities said Friday.

The boys were found in a Kirkwood home belonging to Michael Devlin, 41, who has been charged with one count of first-degree kidnapping, Sheriff Gary Toelke said.

The sheriff said both boys appeared unharmed. William Ownby, who goes by Ben, appeared somewhat dazed as he walked inside the sheriff's department, where he was reunited with his family Friday night.

The straight-A student and Boy Scout was last seen after he stepped off his school bus and ran toward his home down a gravel road on Monday.

A friend who left the bus with the boy told authorities that after the two parted, he saw a small white pickup with a camper shell speeding away from where Ben had been walking.

Searchers on foot, horseback and all-terrain vehicles looked for Ben in the hilly area about 60 miles southwest of St. Louis.

Toelke said the break in the case came Thursday night. Kirkwood city police officers were serving a warrant on an apartment complex when they noticed a white truck matching the description of a vehicle authorities had been searching for in the Ownby investigation.

Kirkwood officers contacted the Franklin County Sheriff's Department and determined where the owner of the truck was and then searched Devlin's house.

Toelke said authorities were surprised to find another boy who identified himself as Shawn Hornbeck.

Hornbeck disappeared from his home in rural Washington County in October 2002, when he was 11. He went for a bike ride and never returned.

Hornbeck's parents, Pam and Craig Akers, were coming to meet their son in Union, the Franklin County seat, Toelke said.

His parents have devoted themselves to bringing missing people home since Hornbeck vanished over four years ago from his hometown 65 miles southwest of St. Louis.

His parents, dozens of volunteers and sniffer dogs searched for weeks. The couple set up a Web site and listened to anyone who offered a tip.

Craig Akers, Shawn's stepfather, quit his job as a software designer to devote his time to a foundation bearing his son's name. They depleted their savings, borrowed against their retirement and talked to psychics. The financial strain forced both of them back to work.

A retired police officer volunteered to work on the case until Shawn was found.

Even though so much time had passed, Pam Akers said her son is frozen in her memory as an 11-year-old boy.

"It's been four years," she said on the anniversary of his disappearance last fall. "But for me, it's just been one long continuous day."

Toelke said authorities were still investigating the motive behind the abductions. Franklin County Prosecutor Robert Parks said more charges are likely to be filed.

"There are a lot of things we don't know right now," Toelke said.

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment