A couple who snatched an 11-year-old girl and held her captive in their backyard for 18 years have admitted kidnap and rape and are expected to spend the rest of their lives behind bars.
Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped in June 1991 as she left home in California to walk to a school bus stop. Despite intensive searches, she was kept hidden until August 2009. During her captivity, she gave birth to two children conceived after she was raped.
Phillip and Nancy Garrido, who had initially pleaded not guilty when they appeared in court earlier this month, finally confessed their guilt yesterday, sparing Ms Dugard, now 30, the prospect of having to give evidence against them, or to see her daughters put in the witness box.
Phillip Garrido, 60, admitted 14 offences of kidnap and sexual assault, including rape, and faces a maximum sentence of 431 years to life in prison. His wife, who helped to deliver the babies her husband sired, faces a maximum sentence of 36 years to life after admitting one count of rape and one of kidnapping.
Nancy Garrido, 55, is technically eligible to be released on parole eventually but county District Attorney Vern Pierson said it was "extraordinarily unlikely" she would ever be released from prison. Both husband and wife waived their right to appeal and are to be sentenced on 2 June.
Mr Pierson added: "Jaycee's courage and willingness to confront her abductors in court directly led to the defendants' plea and life sentences."
Stephen Tapson, a lawyer representing Nancy Garrido, said both defendants agreed to change their pleas on Wednesday when prosecutors agreed to drop several charges against her if her husband would admit to almost all of those he faced.
He claimed his client felt terrible about what had been done to Ms Dugard. "She obviously committed a serious wrong, but in her view now, she's made peace with God and wants to get on with life, what's left of it," he said.
After being snatched in South Lake Tahoe on her way to school, Ms Dugard was hidden in a ramshackle backyard filled with tents and sheds in the town of Antioch. She never again went to school or received medical attention, and was rescued only when Phillip Garrido took her and her daughters, now 13 and 16, with him when he had to see a parole officer.
Garrido was a known sex offender long before he and his wife kidnapped Ms Dugard and the case highlighted problems with California's system for monitoring sex offenders. Parole officers missed several clues and opportunities to rescue her. Since being freed, she has received a $20m settlement, with the state acknowledging repeated mistakes were made.
She has been reunited with her mother and remains in California with her and her daughters. She is writing her memoirs, which are expected to be published in September.Reuse content