Courts & Crime

Families of other victims find hope in Dugard's return

SACRAMENTO — It was a stunning end to an 18-year mystery when Jaycee Lee Dugard resurfaced last week, one that has given grieving families and frustrated law enforcement officials something they'd almost lost: hope.

For Sharon Murch, hope was renewed when her husband woke her Thursday morning and whispered in her ear, "Do you know who Jaycee Dugard is?" Of course she did. Dugard was the girl taken three years after Murch's own daughter, 9-year-old Michaela Garecht, was kidnapped from a Hayward parking lot.

"I would ... give anything for her to be able to come home and hold her in my arms and give her the love I've been holding onto for the past 20 years," she said.

For Minnie Norrell, hope for resolution came as she learned that police are looking at a possible connection between Phillip Craig Garrido, the 58-year-old registered sex offender accused of kidnapping Dugard, and the murder of her daughter. The body of 15-year-old Lisa Norrell was found in 1998 in an industrial area near where Garrido worked at the time.

Investigators in agencies from El Dorado County to the Bay Area, too, look to long- unsolved cases like Dugard's for clues that might help them find those – alive or dead -- who disappeared.

The bizarre details uncovered this week when Dugard turned up in a Concord parole agent's office with the couple accused of snatching her when she was 11 have set off comparisons to other cases throughout Northern California.

Dugard, now 29, had two girls – 11 and 15 years old – with her captor while living in a hidden compound of tents and sheds in the backyard of his Antioch home.

Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said comparing details of missing persons cases with those that have been resolved is normal.

"It does provide these families hope. More importantly than that, it provides an opportunity for investigators to find new evidence and new links to cases that might not have been evident before," Allen said. "Jaycee's case is re-energizing and awakening law enforcement to long-term cases all across the country."

There is no known evidence that Garrido had anything to do with other kidnappings or any killings.

It's possible investigators won't be able to tie him to other cases. But Allen points out: "There's no such thing as false hope."

Hope – false or not – sprang for Murch early Thursday morning.

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