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Alleged kidnapper left few clues to secret life

Story Highlights

• NEW: Michael Devlin's friends say he gave few hints about home
• NEW: Landlord called Devlin 'fine tenant' and 'pleasant'
• Devlin kidnapped two young boys, holding one for four years, police said
• He is charged with kidnapping; held on $1 million bond
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KIRKWOOD, Missouri (CNN) -- The 41-year-old pizzeria manager in suburban St. Louis may have had a short temper, but otherwise, he betrayed few clues about a possible secret life as a kidnapper.

Police say Michael Devlin -- known to friends as "Devo" -- kidnapped two young boys, holding one for four years.

Authorities found William "Ben" Ownby, 13, and Shawn Hornbeck, 15, last Friday in Devlin's apartment in Kirkwood, a suburb of St. Louis. (Read full story)

"He was a fine tenant, he paid his rent on time, he was always pleasant to me," said Bill Romer, Devlin's landlord.

Romer is frustrated he didn't sense anything was amiss. "I never received any calls complaining about him directly.

"From what I understand, even if I had done a background check, I would have maybe pulled up a traffic violation."

Hot tempered

Neighbor Rob Bushelle said he saw a short-tempered side to Devlin.

"He called the police on me for parking in his parking spot one time," said Bushelle.

Parking is unassigned at the apartment complex.

"I was kinda in the spot right next to where he normally parks -- double parked a little bit -- and he just got completely irate about the situation," said Bushelle.

"The gall that he had. I can't believe that he would be in the process of a crime and call the police and draw attention to himself."

But Devlin appeared to have had little fear of police. For two decades, he worked at Imo's Pizzeria, a popular hangout for off-duty officers who liked its St. Louis-style thin crust and heavy cheese topping.

Mike Prosperi, Devlin's boss at Imo's for 25 years, trusted his manager.

"I never had any problem with him at all," he said. "He counted my money and you just don't do that with somebody that you don't trust.

"Up until the time they showed him being arrested and taken away in the orange jumpsuit, I was convinced they had the wrong guy. I mean, there's just no way, you know."

Prosperi said he doesn't do background checks for any of his employees.

"They don't have any background yet because they're only 16 years old. I've known 80 percent of them since they were born."

In fact, that was about Devlin's age when he started working as a pizza cook at a restaurant Prosperi owned in nearby Webster Groves -- the same job his brothers Jamie and Patrick worked.

After five years, Devlin transferred to Prosperi's restaurant in Kirkwood. "I've never put a 'Help Wanted' sign out," Prosperi said. "It's all family that worked for me."

Prosperi said he has spoken with Devlin's brothers since the arrest.

They "are holding up, but they're not doing well," said Prosperi.

One brother told Prosperi, "Mike, he's my brother, he's our family and we're lost."

The three boys were adopted, a family friend told CNN.

Devlin never once mentioned having a girlfriend in all the years he worked at Imo's, Prosperi said.

But that didn't strike Prosperi as odd. "A lotta my guys, if they are dating somebody, they don't say, 'Hey, I'm dating.'"

Prosperi said he and Devlin went hunting together once about 15 years ago, but otherwise had little interaction outside of work.

About three years ago, Devlin was diagnosed with diabetes, which Prosperi said appeared to have been a good thing.

"His demeanor got much better, because he didn't have the sugar swings," he said.

Still, the possibility his employee had a kidnapped boy living with him for several years has left Prosperi dumfounded.

"Everybody that worked for us thought he lived alone," he said. "He'd come to work, do his job, leave and that was it. He never even took a pizza home -- a 16-inch pizza -- home to feed two people."

He added, "I guess it's finally starting to sink in, but I still can't understand how, for that amount of time, that nobody ever knew."

A second job - at a funeral home

For less than a year, Devlin had moonlighted two nights per week at Bopp Chapel, a funeral home, as a telephone attendant from 10 p.m. until 7 a.m.

"He was prompt, well-mannered and efficient in receiving calls," the chapel said in a written statement.

Lawyers Ethan Corlija and Michael Kielty met Friday with Devlin and told WMOV in St. Louis that Devlin will plead not guilty to one count of Class A felony kidnapping for which he is currently being held on $1 million bond.

He could face federal charges, too. (Read full story)

"His demeanor is calm," Corlija said. "He's nervous, but he understands quite specifically the accusation against him."

Citing the "media frenzy" the case has attracted, Kielty is concerned it could affect his client's chances of getting a fair trial.

"We need to guard against a rush to judgment," Corlija said.

In a written statement, Devlin's family said, "Just as we are relieved that both Ben and Shawn are now safe, we hope that Michael will be safe as the facts of this case are revealed."

Devlin may face other charges, including federal ones, related to the abductions of Shawn, allegedly kidnapped in 2002, and Ben who police said was kidnapped last week as he made his way home from school.

Schroeder predicted other charges would be filed "early this week" with an arraignment as late as next week.

Franklin County, where Ben was abducted, is also expected to file charges, as soon as this week.

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