The abduction of Jaycee Dugard in 1991 horrified, baffled and outraged America as few kidnappings in the country's history.
Now, its remaining mysteries may at last have been resolved, with the full confession by the couple who snatched her off the street near her home in northern California and held her captive for 18 years.
The decision by Phillip and Nancy Garrido to tell all — disclosed this week by one of their defence lawyers — clears the way for a plea bargain that will almost certainly send both to jail for life and avert the necessity of their victim testifying about her ordeal in a public courtroom.
Since Ms Dugard was finally freed in 2009, the outlines of the astounding story have gradually emerged: how the then 11-year-old fifth-grader was kidnapped while waiting for her school bus in South Lake Tahoe and then driven more than 200 miles to the Garridos' home in the San Francisco suburb of Antioch.
There she was made to live in tents and makeshift sheds in the squalid backyard of the house and there she was sexually abused and forced to father two daughters by Garrido — a convicted sex offender who, it transpired, was being regularly visited by unsuspecting parole officers.
“Essentially, they (the Garridos) confessed to the kidnapping,” said Stephen Tapson, the lawyer who is representing Nancy Garrido and who described the couple's statements as “full confessions”.
Details of the plea bargain are yet to be agreed, but prosecutors are seeking a sentence of 440 years for Garrido (59), and 241 years for his wife.
Almost as shocking as the events themselves was the failure of the system that allowed them to happen. Garrido had been convicted in 1977 of kidnapping and sexual assault and had a record of violence and drug abuse.
The victim has not spoken publicly and almost certainly will not have to do so in court. But Ms Dugard is writing a book, due to be published this year, in which the secrets of the missing 18 years of her life may finally be revealed.