Published: Jan 17, 2007
Media Probes Shawn Hornbeck, Ben Ownby "Holding" By Mark Devlin
by Toshiba Reynolds

As soon as kidnap victim Shawn Hornbeck was returned to his parents, everyone was willing to slap a "Stockholm syndrome" label on his 4-year captivity and walk away, or so says media pundit Bill O'Reilly as he harshly questioned the nature of 15-year-old Hornbeck's prolonged captivity.

Casting doubt upon the young Hornbeck's story, at least as far as O'Reilly and some in the media infer, is the fact that many feel he had sufficient opportunity to escape long ago, but chose not to take advantage of the opportunities because he preferred his "captive" lifestyle.  He didn't attend school during the 4 years he was held, and was found healthy and playing videogames when located.  Also, he had been in trouble a few times and actually in contact with police, so he could have said something.  And since he had access to the internet, it's hard to understand why he didn't take try to get help that way.

Experts believe that Hornbeck may have been a victim of what is commonly referred to as "Stockholm Syndrome", wherein a captive forms a bond with their captor in order to preserve their own life, and then are unable to break that bond.  The term came out of a 1973 incident in Sweden when an armed robber took some bank workers captive, held them for six days, and apparently "stole their hearts."

Hornbeck was 11-years old when he was taken from his bicycle near his home while out playing.

Ownby, on the other hand, was only 4 days into his captivity and therefore had not yet been pulled fully into the circle.

The assertion is that at such a young age and under the duress of the kidnapping, not knowing who the person is or what they'll do exciting extreme fear in the victim, along with possible threats from the captor of death for them or their family members if they don't cooperate, lend to the overall need to survive in whatever way they must.

Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby have been safe in the arms of their loving parents for a couple of days now thanks to the efforts of the community and police in Kirkwood, Mo.  Their abductor, meanwhile, is safe and sound in the capable hands of the Sheriff's Dept. under the watchful eye of Sheriff Gary Toelke.

Thirteen year-old Ben Ownby, who had been the subject of a statewide search for 4 days, and 15-year-old Shawn Hornbeck, who had been the subject of a search for 4 years, were both found alive and unharmed in the apartment of Michael Devlin, 41, a pizza parlor worker who moonlights at a funeral home.

Police officers staked out Devlin's apartment, according to FOX News. He suspected Devlin might be holding a 13-year-old boy captive inside and worried what the 300-pound-man might do to the boy. They are currently investigating possible sexual child abuse charges.

Authorities won't say how they believe Devlin kept the boys confined in his home or what his motive may have been. 

Neighbors said Shawn was not physically held captive. He was living with Devlin on the ground floor of a modest apartment complex next to a railroad track. Residents say they often spotted Shawn out and about, visiting friends on his bicycle or playing video games with the apartment door open.

Most believe that Shawn was simply surviving as best he knew how, having been silenced in some manner by Devlin.  Also at question is whether he was the victim of sexual crimes, which may have contributed to the amount of control Devlin was attempting to exercise over the child.

Regardless, Devlin was certainly not afraid to snatch these boys from the streets for his own deviant or psychologically unsound reasons, and both of these boys will require professional care to overcome their ordeal.

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