Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Neighbors: Alleged kidnapper kept to himself
So often when reporting on stories like the Missouri kidnapping, I encounter neighbors and co-workers of someone who has become the focus of an investigation and am told how that suspect was quiet and stayed to himself.

But according to Michael Devlin's neighbors, he fits only part of that description.

Late last summer, neighbor Rob Bushelle says he got into a loud argument with Devlin over a parking space. It ended when Devlin called the police, according to Bushelle. In hindsight, this move appears baffling, given that the abducted boy Shawn Hornbeck was living in Devlin's apartment at the time.

Another neighbor complained of shouting and loud noises from inside Devlin's apartment.

But beyond these negative encounters, no neighbor we found could say they really knew him at all. Devlin worked two jobs and never socialized around his apartment complex or was known to engage anyone in conversation.

People who worked with Devlin also now wonder if they really knew him either. Devlin worked at one pizzeria for 20 years. He became a manager and was known to be dependable and friendly with the customers, including the occasional police officer.

There was nothing to suggest to those around him that he might be an abductor of children.
Posted By David Mattingly, CNN Correspondent: 11:20 AM ET
  33 Comments
Hi David,
I think it all proves that once again, we really can't claim to know anyone. Secrets can be hidden forever if someone chooses to hide them. Add to the mix that most people don't want to get involved and tend to look the other way. Perhaps there's a balance we all should be striving for..Mind your own business but don't turn a blind eye. Someone may need our help. Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 11:41 AM ET
He seems to be a person that doesn't believe he did anything wrong. I'm sure he will try to convince the courts that the boys wanted to live him and everything was consensual too. Scary thing is there are many people just like him. How can we expect them to fit into a profile?
Posted By Anonymous Nicki, Calgary, Alberta : 11:50 AM ET
This is a really creepy and disturbing story. It's just so disturbing because you would never think that someone you've hired for 20 years actully has kidnapped and abused a boy for years!
Posted By Anonymous S Masaki TX : 12:16 PM ET
This whole story has felt devastating in a way. I'm elated that those two boys were found and brought home! But this story has brought to light some deeply disturbing facts, such as the kidnapping statistics and the fact that anyone can be a predator. The pleasant quiet neighbor, the local pizza parlor guy, the jr high security guard, even an official in Homeland Security. This guy Devlin seemed harmless to those who knew him and meanwhile....
Posted By Anonymous Ariel M., Crockett California : 12:42 PM ET
What about the neighbors who say they saw the boy coming and going. Why didnt any of them question his obvious lack of school attendance?
Posted By Anonymous Angela Summerville, SC : 1:15 PM ET
Evil disguises itself in many forms...
Posted By Anonymous Kim Greensboro, NC : 1:56 PM ET
People often have two personalities. Their work persona and their home persona. I know people who are crabby, negative people at home and outgoing, helpful, and friendly at work. You just never know.
Posted By Anonymous Jess, Paris, KY : 2:19 PM ET
This could be an example of how when we are disengaged, intentionally or not, from friends, neighbors, or co-workers, crucial and important aspects of a person's life go unnoticed. Maybe if someone took the time when they saw this boy just hanging around outside, which it sounds like he did alot, to ask him where he went to school or who his parents were or other friendly conversation questions, a red flag may have gone up causing someone to alert authorities. Let's talk to each other people!!
Posted By Anonymous Michael - Rochester, NY : 2:32 PM ET
David,

I just don't get it. Why didn't this kid run away from his abductor? Reports say that he had plenty of opportunities to do so. It doesn't make sense. Does anyone have any thoughts on this? I know if it were me, all fears in mind, I would be out of there and on the phone with my family within seconds of him leaving me alone.
Posted By Anonymous Tom, Malvern PA : 2:33 PM ET
Everyone is asking, "Why didn't Shawn Hornbeck try to escape?" I must ask, "Why, in a very populated area where there was significant exposure, didn't any responsible adult question the presence of a young teen who wasn't enrolled in school?" Our society owes shawn a hugely inadequate apology.
Posted By Anonymous Jenifer Rizza, Marlborough, CT : 2:38 PM ET
I don't understand why no one questioned the kid about not being in school? from reports that i have heard the sean H had a good friend. did his friend not question him about not being in schooling? what about the friends mother? 4 years gone and no one thought it was strange a kid was not going to school?
Posted By Anonymous Chanda, Bayonne NJ : 2:39 PM ET
Maybe because the kidnapper threatened the boy and/or his family. Its been brought to light that the kidnapper threatened the boy and that he only started hanging outside recently. He could have been kept inside for the first part of his ordeal even tied down or something; brainwashed until the kidnapper decided he had enough mind control to give him a little freedom. This is just SO sad. I haven't heard any details on the kidnappers motive nor do I want to but I agree with the person who commented why didn't anyone ask what school he went to or how come he didn't go to school? People were asking him if he was Shawn Hornbeck? What an odd little apartment community! I'm nosy as heck and would be asking questions!
Posted By Anonymous Tanya, Boynton Beach, Florida : 2:43 PM ET
You have to remember this kid was only 11 years old when he was kidnapped. Eleven! There is no telling what this man Devlin told this kid to keep him there. He most likely threatened to kill him and his parents if he should ever try to get away. This kid had to endure several years of this type of brain-washing. I am sure at some point he "gave up" and just accepted this man and the life he had. We cannot blame a child for doing what it took to survive. There are plenty of others who had similar experiences - i.e.: Patty Hearst, Elizabeth Smart, Natasha Kampusch (the German girl kidnapped for 8 years) the people held hostage in Stockholm, Sweden during a bank robbery for 5 days, etc., (the latter being where we get the term Stockholm Syndrome).
I really feel for this boy and hope through counseling and the love of his family can rebuild his life.
Posted By Anonymous Sherry, Aberdeen, MD : 2:45 PM ET
The boy cannot be made responsible for his perceived lack of desire to escape. He was kidnapped at 11 years of age. The kidnapper had plenty of time to bombard the boy with psychological damage which can be deep and longlasting. The boy is an innocent victim here.
Posted By Anonymous Michael - Rochester, NY : 2:47 PM ET
This is what happens when a society forsakes community and concentrates so heavily on the private realm of life. Its all me me me. We really are our brother's keeper you know. It is our responsibility.
Posted By Anonymous Sam from York Pa : 2:53 PM ET
In response to Tom, Malvern PA, do a Google search on the Stockholm syndrome, it's where the abductor and abductee form a bond from the common experience. It also might offer some insight into why that child did not escape at the first opportunity.
Posted By Anonymous Al, Durham NC : 2:58 PM ET
Anyone who knows an abused child can tell you why these boys didnt run even when they had the chance. Abused children always feel a connection with the abuser and will protect them at all costs because the abuser, for the most part and partially society, makes the child think that he did something wrong. Just like now, with all these people questioning why they didnt escape this man. Questions like that only stem to put further guilt on the child.
Posted By Anonymous Sharon Tampa,FL : 3:08 PM ET
I too am very happy for the families of the two boys. Now I hope that America's quest of the lurid details about what must have happened to the children will subside so that they can regain their lives as quickly and quietly as possible.
Posted By Anonymous Natalie-Kansas City, MO : 3:11 PM ET
Dear David,

Hi! It just goes to show you, it pays to know your neighbors. People that commit these crimes are always the "quiet type." Unfortunately, if this case goes to trial that kind of information will work to Michael Devlin's benefit. We will see a string of "character witnesses," including some of his police customers, who will reluctantly admit that he seemed like a "regular guy."

I am not so sure the landlord, or his neighbors (unless they were new to the apartment complex) didn't have a clue or suspicion about the sudden appearance of Shawn Hornbeck. Most likely, they didn't want any trouble. Weren't they suspicious when he just "showed up" at Devlin's apartment and didn't attend school? Even an anonymous phone call to the authorities might have helped.

After watching the sickening display put on by Devlin's attorneys on Larry King last night, I was left with the impression that they will either plea bargain the punishment down to almost nothing to spare the family a stressful trial, or they will attempt to place some of the blame on one or both of the boys. Maybe they will just use the old "standby" that he was abused as a child.

The punishment for predators is never enough.

Jo Ann
Posted By Anonymous Jo Ann Matese, North Royalton, Ohio : 3:17 PM ET
I don't imagine Shawn was ever left alone until he'd been thoroughly brainwashed. He might even have tied him up at first when he went to work. I think I understand this Stockholm theory, his abductor was probably quite nice to him once he had him brainwashed. What I don't understand is why none of the neighbors ever reported that he didn't go to school, they've said they knew so its no wonder this guy got confident after awhile and didn't think he'd ever get caught. Another thing is Devlin's Mother and brothers are mentioned as living close by, how on earth did THEY never know.
Posted By Anonymous Bev Ontario Canada : 3:24 PM ET
Looking at the way abusers careful look for victims and then procede to control them is mind-boggling. From kidnapped victims to those in families the story is pretty predictable. Kids and spouses will protect the abuser. Society tends to protect the abuser. How about some discussion on how 'home schooling' is covering a multitude sins. FDLS to some cases in FL have been in the news.
Posted By Anonymous linda, bella vista,ar : 3:50 PM ET
My family doesn't understand my consistent phobia of knowing where my kids are every minute of the day (3). My oldest Daughter thinks I'm obsessive, but today she is alive at 20 yrs old. This confirms my concerns more and more. It may be your neighbor or your pizza man who takes your children, the frequency of this occurance just seems to be increasing. We should all step back and realize, our children are not safe even after stepping off the bus out of the drivers eyes even for a moment. I pray for those youngmen and their families during this time of healing, as we readers do not know of their sufferage- we can only assume.
Posted By Anonymous Hb, Pensacola FL : 3:53 PM ET
I know a lot of people that are home-schooled and are often out and about during the time that other children of that age are in school. It would be very hard to identify him from the next person in the crowd.
Posted By Anonymous Jemaul, Savannah Georgia : 4:11 PM ET
Hi David,
I think some people are not understanding just what this young man went through. I am sure he was told many awful stories regarding his parents,, even a threat againest them. Its not our right to judge this young man. Thank God he is home safe with his mom and step dad. For the monster who took him,,,shame on you. But know you didn't succeed in your evil deed.
Posted By Anonymous B Edmonton, Cananda : 4:13 PM ET
Regardless of what happened in this case and the possibility of Stockholm Syndrome, I do agree with some of the posters' comments about our lack of community these days. We've become increasingly self-centered in our protective worlds of internet access. I also think we're too afraid of people. Not everyone is a terrorist or a child molestor, you know. We need to start being human again.
Posted By Anonymous Bob, San Francisco, CA : 4:24 PM ET
If criminals had any obvious patterns that suggested that they were in fact criminals, then we�d probably catch them all and have them behind bars where they belong.
Posted By Anonymous Lucy, Toronto, ON : 4:26 PM ET
It's not up to me to determine why Sean did not try to escape for all those years. I'm just happy to see that these boys made it back to the people that love them. This story is a beacon of hope for all those out there who have missing loved ones. My hat is off to these two young men and there families, and those two police officers who had that "gut feeling." GREAT JOB guys! The world is a better place for at least 2 young men and their families because of your actions. I wish Sean and Ben the best in their lives. As for Michael Devlin, may justice be swift and harsh for him. I hope he's put in general population, and is dealt with properly.
Posted By Anonymous Tony San Diego, CA : 4:34 PM ET
i am a mother of 3 and i always tell my youngest, 11 to always shout & fight if anyone tried to abduct him. i told him if he ever got kidnapped to run away at his first opportunity even if the person threatens his life or his families life. i am sure shawn & ben's parents did the same but we don't know what trauma or methods this man used to get these boys to stay put & not flee. our children think highly of their families & love their parents & would comply if they thought if would spare their families lives. Im just glad they are home safe & poor shawn will have a difficult time ahead (reminds me of "my name is steven"). that man should hang as fast as they hung sadam hussein.
Posted By Anonymous niki, houston tx : 4:40 PM ET
The water cooler discussion at work has centered around Shawn's chances to leave that were not taken. I work with kids and an eleven year old is extremely impressionable and easily intimidated by anyone older or bigger. The fact that this little eleven year old had the brains to survive a situation that would have devastated most people speaks to his tenacity and great character. The saddest part for me is that he obviously was still hoping his parents loved and wanted him when he reached out on his website in 2005. It is a good lesson for parents... let your kids know you will love them unconditionally despite what anyone else tells them.
Posted By Anonymous B. Reid, Idaho Falls Idaho : 4:42 PM ET
I'm not sure why the neighbors didn't think it to be strange that Shawn didn't go to school ??
Posted By Anonymous christine windsor CT : 4:46 PM ET
I can tell you first-hand that some people freeze in fear that they would be caught and hurt worse by the person if they tried to get help. That is what happened to me at 11 or 12 years old when I was molested by my sister's 30-year-old Godfather. He didn't say a word or make a threat - I just felt it. I told my brother what happened when I got home. We later learned he raped my little sister who was only 9 or 10. She didn't tell us until she was in her 20s because he shot a bb pellet into a stuffed animal to explain to her what he'd do to her and the rest of our family if she told anyone. I pray people stop thinking Shawn should have run away or told someone - that just further victimizes him!
Posted By Anonymous Marie, Chicago, IL : 5:13 PM ET
Thank-goodness those boys are home and are safe. I don't think we ever take the time to know people anymore. We are too wrapped up in our own lives and always in a hurry. I hope we all take a step back and start to be more aware of our surroundings. We need to start watching out for each other. Thanks for the story.
Posted By Anonymous Kathy Chicago,Il : 6:51 PM ET
Jo Ann,
More and more researcheres are learning that there is no one type of predator. They aren't always the "quiet" type. The one thing they all seem to have in common is that they don't care about what they do to someone else, ie... sociopath. I do agree with you though, they never punish these people enough. Right now it seems like too many people are punishing Shawn for not reacting in a way, that they "think" they would. But they wouldn't really know unless they are in that situation. Give the boy a break! Please!
Posted By Anonymous Kerri Beaudoin, Corinth TX : 7:31 PM ET
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