Courts & Crime

Sheriff apologizes for missed chance to rescue Jaycee Lee Dugard

As anger mounted over how law enforcement missed the chance to rescue Jaycee Lee Dugard for 18 years as she was held by a convicted rapist, the Contra Costa County sheriff issued an extraordinary apology today for missing an opportunity two years ago to save her.

"I can't change the course of events, but we are beating ourselves up over this and are the first to do so," Sheriff Warren E. Rupf told a press conference.

Rupf confirmed that neighbors of suspect Phillip Garrido, accused of hiding Dugard in his back yard for 18 years in Antioch, called 911 Nov. 30, 2006, to warn that there were children in the home and that people appeared to be living in tents in the backyard.

But the deputy who responded never entered the house or checked the yard, Rupf said, missing "an opportunity to rescue Jaycee."

"There are a lot of reasons that go into these things," he said. "There are no excuses. I am not offering excuses."

Rupf said that 911 call was the only record of law enforcement being called to the home. He added that Garrido was an "animal" who never could have abducted Dugard if he had not been released early from a 50-year federal sentence for an earlier kidnap and rape conviction.

The apology came as concerns mounted today over whether various agencies had missed opportunities to rescue the 11-year-old girl who was kidnapped from her neighborhood in El Dorado County near South Lake Tahoe in 1991.

State corrections officials were still unable today to pinpoint the last time Garrido, a registered sex offender on lifetime parole, was visited at home by his parole agent.

They also could not explain how Garrido was able to allegedly conceal Dugard in his back yard for 18 years without parole agents noticing.

Garrido and his wife, Nancy, were scheduled to be arraigned in El Dorado Superior Court today at 1 p.m. on kidnapping, rape and conspiracy charges.

A 16-page criminal complaint filed a short time ago charges both with multiple counts of kidnapping, rape and other counts, and seeks to charge Phillip Garrido with two prior strikes from his kidnap-rape convictions in 1977. That means be could be subject to 25 years to life as a third-striker, if convicted, although District Attorney Vern Pierson said in a statement that both suspects could face multiple life terms.

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