Just Another Guy with Opinions

Shawn Hornbeck Memorial Vandalized

Posted by shadmia on July 10, 2007


Shawn Hornbeck was abducted in October 2002, at age 11, by Michael Devlin. He would not see his parents again for 4 years and 3 months, until he was rescued in January 2007, at age 15. Whether it was a prank or maliciously done, someone destroyed a garden and a bench set up as a memorial to him while he was missing. Whatever the reason for the vandalism, it was no accident.

“There were two intentional passes. One over the tree and the other over the bench. There’s no way it was an accident,” says Craig Akers, Shawn’s stepfather. That’s what made Craig angry initially. I think it’s very childish. You may think it was fun. You might have thought there’s not much to it, but to us, this is priceless.”


Priceless, the Akerses say, because the four years that Shawn was missing are years he and his family will never get back. You dreamt of all the things you would do with your child. But you didn’t get to do them. So now we play catch-up and do what we can.”

To the family the site is a constant reminder of what they went through when Shawn was missing:

“I would drive down here and either sit on the bench with him, talk to him, and felt like he was still here with me,” recalls Shawn’s mother, Pam Akers, of the time when her son was missing.

Whether or not someone is caught doesn’t really matter to the Akerses. They said they’ve already been through the worst, and nothing can stop them now. “They can knock us down, but we’ll get right back up,” says Pam. The Akerses plan to eventually replace the bench. They’re still trying to decide whether or not to use the bench to advertise pictures of missing children, or to simply use it as a thank you to the community.


The case of Shawn Hornbeck made national and international news when he was found with another boy, Ben Ownby, 13, living with their abductor Michael Devlin, a 41-year-old pizzeria manager. Ben had been abducted just 4 days before being discovered. Shawn had been abducted more than 4 years previously. Devlin is charged with multiple offenses the most explicit coming from Washington County Prosecutor John Rupp, who does not identify the victim as Shawn Hornbeck but refers to the minor by the initials S.H.:

The indictment (unveiled April 16) charges that after abducting Hornbeck, who was eleven years old at the time, the former pizzeria worker “attempted forcible sodomy” by “pulling down his pants and placing his penis close to S.H.’s rectum.” The indictment charges Devlin with three counts of forcible sodomy, alleging the 41-year-old Kirkwood man placed “his hand on S.H.’s penis,” forced the boy to perform oral sex and penetrated him anally.

Devlin is also facing charges from other jurisdictions:

• On February 5 St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch charged Devlin with 69 counts of forcible sodomy and two counts of kidnapping.

• On March 1 a federal grand jury charged him with four felony counts of producing child pornography and two felony counts of transporting a minor for criminal sex acts.

• Devlin also faces one count of kidnapping in Franklin County, where he allegedly abducted Ben Ownby on January 8 of this year.

Since returning home, Shawn Hornbeck has been tutored privately but may be ready attend a private school in the fall. “Initially, we thought this would be the easy part,” said Craig Akers, whose stepson did not attend classes while missing. Readjustment, he said, “is difficult in its own way. There’s not a handbook on how to deal with this.”

Among those reaching out to the boy have been celebrities. Shawn met skateboarding legend Tony Hawk last month. He and his friends got basketball tips from former St. Louis University and Boston Celtics star Ed Macauley. His family tries to keep such meetings, which happened in the St. Louis area, out of the public eye. “When we do take advantage of an offer, it’s to let Shawn enjoy something he normally wouldn’t have an opportunity to do,” Akers said.

The family is considering a private school with limited class sizes for the coming school year. He has done well in his studies, especially in science and math. “It would be feasible for him to rejoin his grade level some time next year,” Akers said. Shawn is also doing well socially. He loves to ride his all-terrain vehicle and is hoping for a motocross bike for his 16th birthday next week. His parents have allowed overnight stays with friends, but he is always supervised and in the presence of a relative or family friend. “As you can imagine, it’s hard to let him out of your sight.”



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2 Responses to “Shawn Hornbeck Memorial Vandalized”

  1. Brooke said

    It’s terrible that anyone would try to cause more hurt to this poor family. Stupid Vandals!

  2. Nobody deserves to be treated with such horror. I would’nt understand what made him want to take Shawn.

    Im positive it was a very scary experience what Shawn went threw. Of corse i felt very sorry for him but atleast he trys to put it behind him and try to make the best of what he has now.
    Nobody would ever forget something like this.Even if it were you.

    Like people say, you always get something good from the bad, which was…life.

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