Inside the mind of Philip Garrido

Stephen Foley: A picture of the man who abducted Jaycee Lee Dugard is beginning to emerge.

Philip Garrido believes that God has set him free. The man accused of kidnapping Jaycee Lee Dugard from a Californian suburb 18 years ago is incarcerated now and faces charges that would certainly keep him behind bars for the rest of his life. But he believes he has been set free from his violent past.

As police in the blue-collar town of Antioch continue to search Garrido's home – and now the home of his neighbour – for clues on this kidnap and other crimes he may have committed, others are searching for ways to characterise his derangement. It is a task that will almost certainly never be complete: after all, how can one piece together the mind of a man with such a catalogue of grotesque crimes, a mind clearly disordered and disconnected, and probably ravaged by the effects of psychedelic drugs?

New details have emerged of the squalor in which Ms Dugard was kept, with the two daughters sired by Garrido, in a litter-strewn tent encampment hidden by fences and trees in his back garden, up to the day last week that all of them strolled in to see Garrido's parole officer and their identities were pieced together. But the victim herself, 11 when she was snatched from a quiet residential street in 1991, remains sequestered with her mother and with psychologists.

Not so silent Garrido. His words are still out there, a portrait of mental illness on a shocking blog that chronicles the increasing derangement of his last two years. It is a period during which he has convinced himself that his addiction to sexual violence is behind him, and sought to proselytise on the basis of the extraordinary powers he claims he has been granted by God. Media outlets are still replaying the rambling interview he gave with a local television station shortly after his arrest, in which he promises that his story will be "heartwarming" and "a revealing of something that needs to be understood".

This appears to refer to the voices in his head which, by 2007, he had decided were the voices of angels and which he believed he had the means of revealing to others. His "Voices Revealed" website is studded with testimonials from local residents he claimed could attest to his abilities; it was the voices that gave him the determination to found his own church, and that sent him out proselytising for it.

"This all began by God removing a problem from my shoulders that behavioural scientists believe is not possible to remove," Garrido wrote, in one illuminating passage. "Since then my life has seen major improvements allowing me to stand here today a free man."

He added: "There is a new insight that has the potential of helping people who hear voices to possibly stop and re-examine their thinking before committing a violent act on themselves and/or others."

A week ago, Garrido's blog may have seemed just one yelp of nonsense in the great howling of the internet. Now it is the focal point for public fury over his alleged crimes, deluged with angry calls for justice. Public authorities will be called on again this week to explain some of the remaining mysteries about his case, first, how he came to be released from a 50-year prison term for kidnapping and raping a casino worker in 1977 despite having told police officers that he could only achieve sexual satisfaction by applying violence. It was three years after his release – and in the same town of South Lake Tahoe – that Garrido kidnapped Jaycee Lee Dugard.

Over the weekend, police said he was now being considered a "person of interest" in a string of unsolved prostitute murder cases. They say at least 10 sex workers were strangled, stabbed and dumped in ditches in industrial parks in 1998 and 1999, their bodies found in places to which Garrido "had access".

At 1554 Walnut Avenue, the scruffy street where Garrido and his wife, Nancy, kept Ms Dugard for 18 years, some 20 officers were on the scene again yesterday. Police have released photographs of the encampment where the kidnapped girl lived, showing the floor strewn with toys, cardboard boxes and clothing. Other items include an open box of lice treatment, a Bible on CD and pictures of Garrido playing guitar.

The garden of the next-door house has also now been taped off and is being treated as a crime scene, police said. Garrido acted as a caretaker to the house for several years, neighbours have said, and he would visit and feed an elderly woman who used to live there.

Residents are increasingly nervous about what might be found there. Garrido's relatives, meanwhile, are in little doubt that he had the ability to carry out unspeakable crimes. "Crazy, crazy, crazy," was how his brother, Ron, described him. And his father, 88-year-old Manuel Garrido, told reporters that it is 18 years since he stopped being able to deal with his son, which was when they last spoke.

"He's out of his head," the elder Mr Garrido told ABC television. "He was on LSD and he had a very serious motorcycle wreck and hit his head. He was still a young teenager, he wasn't even 17, because they had to call me at work that he had an accident and had surgery and that's it," he said. "He was hurt and he went on LSD and the LSD killed him."

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