The story of Philip Garrido, the convicted rapist accused of abducting Jaycee Lee Dugard and holding her captive in his backyard for 18 years, darkened further yesterday when he was linked to the disappearance of three other schoolchildren.
Police searching 1554 Walnut Avenue in Antioch, where Garrido held his 11-year-old victim and fathered her two daughters, say they are searching for evidence that may implicate him in the cases of Amanda Campbell, Ilene Misheloff and Michaela Garecht.
All three were snatched from the street, in outwardly similar circumstances to Dugard, between 1988 and 1991, after Garrido left prison on parole. None of the abductions — which all took place in broad daylight, within an hour's drive of Garrido's home — was solved.
Garecht (9) was thrown into the back of a car outside a supermarket in nearby Hayward in November 1988, three months after Garrido was freed from prison for rape and kidnapping. With blonde hair and blue eyes, she bore a striking resemblance to Dugard.
“If Jaycee can be alive, Michaela can be alive,” her mother, Michaela Murch, told reporters. “It really has my hopes up. I would give anything for her to be able to come home and hold her in my arms and give her the love I've been holding on to for the past 20 years.” Miseheloff (13) went missing on her way to an ice-skating lesson in nearby Dublin, in January 1989. Campbell was abducted in Fairfield, 40 miles away, while cycling to a friend's house in 1991. She was four-years-old. There were no witnesses. None of the three girls’ bodies has been found.
A team of 40 detectives is combing through the tents and sheds on Garrido's property where Dugard, who is now 29, is believed to have been hidden away with her two daughters. Sniffer dogs were also brought in to help search for human remains.
The property next door was sealed off and searched at the weekend after it emerged that Garrido acted as caretaker there during the early 1990s, building another series of sheds in its sprawling garden.
The properties are in a blue-collar neighbourhood on a semi-rural patch of land near the Sacramento River.
Police have also declared Garrido a “person of interest” in the murders of up to 10 prostitutes who were strangled, stabbed and dumped in ditches near Antioch in the late 1990s.
A spokesman said Garrido “had access” to the various crime scenes, which were all on industrial parks, but did not elaborate further.
So far the evidence linking Garrido to other cases is circumstantial at best. But he has a history of sexual violence, and in an interview last Thursday admitted fathering Jaycee's daughters.