Phillip Garrido selected the pretty blonde girl with the gap-toothed grin as his prey during a “child shopping” trip because she looked “cute”, his wife Nancy has revealed.
Mrs Garrido told investigators in California that the couple decided not to try and snatch 11-year-old Jaycee Lee Dugard on a day in June 1991 because she was walking through South Lake Tahoe with a bunch of school friends.
Instead, they apparently trailed her to her home before returning the next morning to complete their horrific mission.
Mrs Garrido allegedly jumped out of their car and grabbed Jaycee as she walked to a nearby bus-stop, while her husband remained behind the wheel.
She has described the chilling precision that went into the abduction as prosecutors put together the case for multiple charges of kidnapping and rape against the husband and wife.
“That's the one I want,” Garrido told her when he saw Jaycee in the resort town. “She's cute, but she's with the other kids. Let's come back later and get her.”
Michael Cardoza, a Californian attorney and former prosecutor, relayed the details after being briefed on Mrs Garrido's testimony by law enforcement contacts. Another source close to the investigation has confirmed that was her account.
“This was nothing less than a child shopping trip,” said Mr Cardoza. “It just makes their actions all the more horrendous and reprehensible.”
The disturbing revelation will further fuel the anguished debate in California about the state's child protection laws, which effectively encourages scores of former sex offenders to congregate in neighbourhoods — like the outskirts of Antioch — where there is little local government and not much sense of community.
It will also add to the frustration across America that so many people who interacted with the Garridos — including police, public officials and neighbours — failed to grasp what was going on.
Mrs Garrido's version of how Jaycee was snatched throws an even more sickening light on the advice her husband dispensed a decade later to a child safety campaigner for whom he was printing a kidnap prevention fact sheet.
“Phillip offered a couple of suggestions if we were updating the leaflet,” Janice Gomes said.