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August 27, 2009

For the parent of a missing child—the ultimate dream and the worst nightmare

Mike Misheloff admitted, in a conversation about a year ago, that something terrible probably happened to his daughter, Ilene, after she disappeared while walking home from school in Dublin in January 1989.



Misheloff is a rational, scientific man, with a PhD in physics. He’s not the kind of person to shy away from facts—evidence. At the same time, he is a father who loves his family and who loves his little girl—who was taken from him at the age of 13.

Admitting that terrible things happened to Ilene could not have been easy, but during this conversation, Mike Misheloff kept his gaze direct, his voice steady. Yes, terrible things probably happened to his daughter, he acknowledges, but he and his wife, Maddie, have made the choice to believe that one day she will return.


My conversation with Mike Misheloff took place as he and the rest of his Dublin community prepared to remember a difficult milestone—the 20th anniversary of his daughter’s disappearance. Ilene was one of three East Bay girls to go missing within seven months. The first was Amber Swartz, seven, who vanished while jumping rope in front of her Pinole home in June 1988. Then, Michaela Garecht, nine, was snatched by a man in front of a Hayward market in November 1988.

But then other girls in other Northern California communities disappeared, and one was Jaycee Lee Dugard, 11, who was kidnapped from in front of her South Lake Tahoe home in 1991.


Mike Misheloff told KTVU in an interview Thursday that the discovery of Dugard, alive and in good physical health, renewed his hopes that he and his wife will see Ilene again. "It just shows that nothing is impossible," he said.

Mike Misheloff expressed happiness for Dugard's family, but he is aware of the difficult truths that her family will have to face, saying "It's horrendous," referring to the circumstances of her captivity. "But at least she's alive."

Dugard, at 11 a blond haired, blue-eyed 4-foot-six-inch girl, was kidnapped as she waited for a bus to take her to school. Her stepfather, Carl Probyn, watched helplessly from two blocks away as a sedan pulled up next to Jaycee and yanked her inside.

Probyn, seeing his stepdaughter kidnapped, was the last public sighting of Dugard, until she turned up at a Concord parole office on Wednesday, accompanying the 58-year-old convicted sex offender, Phillip Craig Garrido, who allegedly kidnapped her 18 years earlier.


Dugard's discovery, yes, is a miracle, as Misheloff declared, but the circumstances of what she's lived through are, as he said, pretty horrendous. Imagining the circumstances she's endured makes me, yes, think of a Nazi concentration camp--despite the fact that Garrido, in a jailhouse interview Thursday, claims that there is a "powerful, heartwarming" story that will come out.
Is there any way for her or her family to get past this horror, this madness?

We’ve learned that after Dugard was kidnapped, she was brought to a two-acre property in a semi-rural area of Antioch, where, over the next 18 years, she lived, isolated, in an elaborate but hidden backyard compound of sheds, tents, and outbuildings. Through those 18 years, she didn’t live there entirely alone, but with the two daughters, now 15 and 11, that she bore with Garrido.

During those 18 years, Garrido raped Dugard, authorities said. He also did not let her go to school or see a doctor. She gave birth to her daughters in the compound, which was outfitted with the barest of necessities: a rudimentary shower and outhouse toilet. Garrido did not let his daughters with Dugard go to school; rather he told neighbors he was homeschooling them.
At the same time, Garrido attempted to drum up attention for himself by conducting religious revivals, claiming to hear the voices of angels and of God, and claiming to have developed a device through which he could control sound with his mind, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. He also ran his blog, Voices Revealed, in which he claims to speak in tongues, among many things.

He also did some stints in prison. He served time in federal prison in the 1970s for kidnapping and was granted parole in 1988, according to the Contra Costa Times. A violation landed him back in prison from April to August 1993. In 1999, he was out on parole again for a rape conviction, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Details about that conviction were not available, and it's not clear when, during Jaycee's captivity, that Garrido was behind bars.


Garrido and his wife, Nancy, 55 were arrested Wednesday he came to a state parole office in Concord, accompanied by Nancy. Also with them was a 29-year-old woman—who turned out to be Dugard and who went by the name of Alissa—and Dugard's two daughters.

Dugard and her mother have reunited, and Dugard is with her daughters at an undisclosed Antioch motel, sources told the Chronicle.

Phillip Garrido is being held without bail in the El Dorado County jail on suspicion of kidnapping, rape by force, lewd and lascivious acts with a minor, sexual penetration and conspiracy. Nancy Garrido was booked on suspicion of conspiracy and kidnapping is being held on $4.2 million bail.

Yes, it's a miracle Dugard is alive. But now what?

With all their heart, Mike and Maddie Misheloff want Ilene back alive. But there are all the years that the Misheloffs have lost with Ilene, and that Dugard's family have lost with her. There is the trauma that everyone, individually and collectively, has been through. Dugard's mother is also learning and meeting, for the first time, that she has granddaughters, ages 11 and 15. Who knows what sort of trauma these girls have endured growing up, under the shadow of Phillip Garrido and his wife Nancy.

Let's hope that Jaycee and her family can rebuild something for a future, somehow, together.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Honestly, it's hard to know what would be worse: to have a quick end at the hands of some depraved killer or endure years of captivity and abuse from a depraved person of another sort. Let's just hope the now-grown-woman and her children get the emotional and professional support they need in the years ahead to somehow cope with the aftermath of this incredibly disturbing series of events.

Soccer Mom said...

I'm sure that Jaycee Dugard, through authorities is being inundated with requests to "tell her story." As a former newspaper reporter, I can understand the desire to "get" this story. But from a personal standpoint, I hope the media leaves them alone. And, like 12:49 a.m., I hope they receive the emotional and professional support they need to cope with this.