Of the many horrors Shawn Hornbeck's parents and loved ones faced during the four years their son was missing, some news they received early on -- just four months into the ordeal -- perhaps was the cruelest ... perhaps.
They had looked everywhere for Shawn. There were no fresh leads, no rumors, no trails to follow. His parents were beyond desperate when they went on Montel Williams' syndicated television program, where they were brought together with renowned psychic Sylvia Browne. The following is the transcript of the exchange between Craig Akers (Shawn's stepfather) and Pam Akers (Shawn's mother) and the psychic Sylvia Browne:
CRAIG AKERS: Can you tell how far from the area he was taken?
SYLVIA BROWNE: Maybe about 20 miles.
CRAIG: And he's still within a 20-mile radius even now?
BROWNE: He's still within a 20-mile radius of -- let's say, here's where you are, 20-mile radius, but it's really southwest of where you are.
BROWNE: So whatever is southwest, because it looks like this is -- here we go again with the wooded, with the -- you know, the wooded areas. So southwest of you.
PAM AKERS: Is there any landmarks around?
BROWNE: Yeah. Strange enough, there are two jagged boulders, which look really misplaced. Because everything is trees, and then all of a sudden, you've got these stupid boulders sitting there.
MONTEL WILLIAMS: And he could be found near there?
BROWNE: He's near the boulders.
PAM: Is he still with us?
CRAIG: Do you see the bicycle anywhere?
BROWNE: I think the -- see, here's what's strange. I think the--the--the bicycle is in another state in a dump.
In other words, Sylvia Browne was telling his parents the worst possible news -- that Shawn was dead, and that his body was in a rocky, forested area within 20 miles of their home. For the next three weeks, the search reportedly focused on finding Shawn's body in that prescribed area.
Of course, they failed to find the body because last week -- four years after he went missing -- Shawn Hornbeck turned up very much alive.
We wanted to talk to Sylvia Browne about her responsibilities and about delivering that kind of information to a desperate and vulnerable family, but she chose not to speak with us in person. In a written statement, her publicist said, "She cannot possibly be 100 percent correct in each and every one of her predictions. She has, during a career of over 50 years, helped literally tens of thousands of people."
All this is a lot to think about, especially if you are family desperate to find your missing child. What do you think? It's something Anderson will discuss with a number of experts on tonight's show.