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Ecstatic parents of boys found in Missouri hail 'miracle'

Story Highlights

• Father says family kept boy's clothes in his dresser for four years
• Ben Ownby, 13, and his family appear at news conference
• Shawn Hornbeck grins broadly at briefing with his mom and stepdad
• Now 15, Shawn was found Friday more than four years after going missing
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ST. LOUIS, Missouri (CNN) -- Two very relieved and beaming families hugged their sons at news conferences Saturday, the day after the two missing boys were found -- one after four days, the other after four years.

Police had been searching for Ben Ownby, 13, who disappeared Monday, when they found him with another teenager in a man's apartment in suburban St. Louis, Missouri. That boy told the officers that he was Shawn Hornbeck, who was last seen riding his bike in 2002, when he was 11.

The man who lived in the apartment, Michael J. Devlin, 41, was arrested Friday and charged with one count of first-degree kidnapping, according to Franklin County Prosecutor Robert Parks. (Watch what acquaintances say about Devlin Video)

He is being held on $1 million bail and may also face federal charges. (Full story)

The rescued boys' families told their stories at separate news conferences, each filled with emotion and overwhelming relief.

Shawn's mother, Pam Akers, and his stepfather, Craig Akers, said they had never given up hope. (Watch a tearful Craig Akers describe the phone call he says he will remember for ever Video)

"We've got a lot of catching up to do," said a tearful Pam Akers. "He's grown up on me, that's for sure."

"Shawn is a miracle here," she said.

"This is one of those rare, rare things. To have one missing child found is just extraordinary," Craig Akers told reporters. "To have two found at the same time is one of those things -- you don't even read about things like that."

Shawn sat at a table close to his mother, exchanging hugs with her and smiling as he watched his stepfather talk excitedly to reporters. At one point, he put his forehead on the table in mock embarrassment as Craig Akers relayed, to much laughter, that Shawn's first request was a hamburger from McDonald's.

Akers said there's one task the family will need to attend to right away.

"We really don't have any plans as of yet other than to go shopping and buy some clothes," he said. "His old stuff doesn't fit him, obviously.

"However, they were still in his dresser at the house. You can open up the dresser drawer, and there's his clothes just the way he left them four years ago."

At his news conference, Ben appeared at ease and happy as he stood with his sister and his parents, Don and Doris Ownby.

Doris Ownby said she was "just, just ecstatic" to have Ben back. "I didn't say anything, I just grabbed him and held him." (Watch Ben's sister Amanda welcome him back Video)

She said the first thing Ben wanted to do was to play a computer game, and the first thing she did that morning was check to see if Ben was still there.

Family wants to spread hope

The Akerses, who have spent the past four years helping in other missing children cases, said they wanted to give hope to those parents. Craig Akers said he remembered the day he heard Utah teenager Elizabeth Smart was found -- on March 12, 2003, nearly a year after being kidnapped. (Watch how you can help look for children who are still missing Video)

"I remember how much that raised our hopes, how much fuel that gave us to keep going," he said.

The conference was held in a room decorated with balloons and handmade posters that read "Miracles Do Happen" and "We All Missed You, Shawn."

"I want to give that hope to the families, to the family that their kids can come home," Pam Akers said. "It may be years later, may be days later, may be weeks later, but they can come home safe and just always keep that faith and hope." (Watch the boys shortly after being rescued Video)

The boys were found in Kirkwood, Missouri, about an hour away from the Akers' home in Richwoods. (Full story)

The break came after reports of a sighting of a rusty white Nissan pickup truck that matched the description of one sought in the disappearance of Ben, last seen getting off his school bus in Franklin County, near St. Louis.

Two police officers in suburban Kirkwood went to the apartment complex to serve an unrelated warrant and spotted the pickup, Franklin County Sheriff Gary Toelke told reporters Friday. (Watch how police found the boys Video)

"That resulted in the recovery," Toelke said.

It is not clear what happened to the boys while they were with Devlin, but Craig Akers said Shawn did not go to school during the four years he's been missing.

"All the questions will come later," said Pam Akers. "We're just trying to absorb that he's home."

'That's my son'

Craig Akers described driving home from work and getting the call that Shawn might have been found. "It took a minute to find a suitable place to pull over," he said.

"The words -- 'We think we found Shawn, we're 95 percent sure that we found Shawn and that he's alive' -- were the sweetest words I ever heard in my life," he said.

Driving to see their son was "the longest drive we ever had to do," he said.

When the parents and Shawn saw each other, there were no words, he said.

"Just a split second of shock," Akers recounted. "The last time we saw him, he was yea tall and 11 years old. It kind of throws you for a second. But ... once we saw the face, we said, "Oh, my God, that's my son...

"That was pretty much where we were the first five minutes. Not a lot of words spoken, except a lot of 'I love you's,' kisses, and 'We're so glad that you're home.' "

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Shawn Hornbeck, 15, smiles next to his stepfather, Craig Akers, at a news conference on Saturday.



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