Just Another Guy with Opinions

Michael Devlin to Plead Guilty

Posted by shadmia on October 7, 2007


Michael Devlin, the former pizzeria manager, accused of kidnapping and sexually abusing two young boys, Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby, is scheduled to appear in court to plead guilty. He is facing 86 charges in four jurisdictions (three different counties in Missouri plus federal charges). Some of the charges carry life sentences. Starting Monday 10/8/07 he will be appearing in court according to the following schedule:

  • 10 a.m. Monday before Circuit Judge Stanley D. Williams in the Franklin County Courthouse in Union, where he faces charges of kidnapping and armed criminal action in the abduction of Ben.
  • 9 a.m. Tuesday, in the Washington County Courthouse in Potosi to plead guilty. Devlin faces seven counts, including kidnapping, attempted murder and sexual assault of Shawn.
  • 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Devlin is scheduled to appear before St. Louis County Circuit Court Judge Mark Seigel to answer 71 charges, including kidnapping and sexual assault.
  • Later that afternoon or on Wednesday β€” he is to be taken to the federal courthouse downtown to plead guilty to six federal counts, including producing child pornography and taking a child across state lines for sex.

The pleas are the result of coordinated negotiations among four prosecutors’ offices and lawyers for Devlin. He has been jailed since Jan. 12 with bail set at $1 million. “Upon conclusion of the proceeding in U.S. District Court, Devlin will be returned to the custody of the state of Missouri for transportation to the appropriate facility,” St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCulloch said. Sources among the prosecutors said Devlin is to receive multiple life sentences through the plea arrangements, which the judges must approve.

“Obviously, we’re elated,” said Scott Sherman, attorney for Shawn’s family. “But, until it’s done, we’re still a little reserved. If it all goes the way it’s advertised, it would be the best of everything for everyone.”

Toelke, the Franklin County sheriff, said he spoke to Ben’s family Friday morning. “They were very happy that Ben didn’t have to go through the court process,” he said. “This is justice for Ben and Shawn,” Sherman said. “We’ve always wanted this day for both of them.” Toelke and Sherman said family members would attend the court hearings. Sherman said Craig and Pam Akers would not make a public statement until the case was resolved.

Shawn was 11 when he went missing while riding his bike near his Washington County home in 2002. Ben, 13, had been missing four days after being abducted after getting off a school bus in Franklin County. A tip from a classmate describing a white pickup truck speeding from the scene led police to Devlin. Investigators were stunned when they found Ben inside the apartment with Shawn, who by then was a 15-year-old with shaggy hair and a lip ring. Shawn had lived with Devlin for years, telling neighbors he was the man’s son. He made friends, surfed the Internet and roamed Kirkwood, without revealing who he was. Devlin, 41, was arrested Jan. 12. 2007. He is jailed in Franklin County.

Shawn and Ben were returned to their parents after they were freed. Shawn has been home-schooled since his return to the Washington County community of Richwoods. He turned 16 this summer. Ben returned to school soon after he was freed.

In any criminal case, a victim is allowed to confront the defendant by reading a “victim’s impact statement” in court. That means Shawn and Ben could both speak to Devlin next week, but neither has decided if they will.

In a couple of interviews from his cell, Michael Devlin shed some light on his life. He however refused to talk about anything to do with his case. He talked about his lack of interest in sex, his passion for poker and video games, the amputation of his toes and his solitary confinement in a 10-by-7 foot cell.

He said he has had no visitors other than his lawyers despite having a large family – five siblings and his parents, who adopted him and three of his brothers β€” nearby. He declined to answer if he’s ever had a girlfriend but said he doesn’t care about romantic relationships. “I was never really interested in that,” he said. Asked if he was attracted to women, Devlin said, “I can’t talk about that because it has to do with the case.”

Devlin, 41, said his life took a dramatic turn in 2002, when he was diagnosed with diabetes, which led to amputations of the big toe and another toe on his right foot in 2003, shortly after Hornbeck went missing. The loss of his toes made it difficult for him to maintain his balance and he had to give up his passion for hunting and fishing, Devlin said. “I’m an outdoorsman, but not anymore,” he said.

At the same time, he began to lose contact with his close circle of friends – most of them current or former employees of Imo’s, the pizza parlor he managed in Kirkwood and where he’d worked since he was 16. “I guess you could say I was lonely. All my friends starting getting married and having kids,” he said. “Hanging out with friends just becomes a lower priority [for them].”

“They keep me away from everyone because they think I’m dangerous,” Devlin said. He said his lawyers and the guards believe his fellow prisoners will likely attack him if they put him in the general prison population. “They think I’ll be beat up,” he said. He seemed resigned to the possibility that he could be assaulted. “I’m not worried. It’s inevitable. I will eventually have to deal with it.” He added, “I haven’t exactly done a great job of representing myself so far.”

He also talked about family life with his adopted parents and siblings; about his education and briefly entering the priesthood; about his love of video games, especially “Final Fantasy”; about his favorite movies like “Lord of the Rings”.

Devlin’s friends and co-workers corroborated much of his story. Mike Prosperi, who owns Imo’s pizza and has been Devlin’s boss for more than 20 years, said: “I don’t know if he ever had a girlfriend. If he did, he never talked about it.” He said Devlin was on good terms with his parents, James and Joyce Devlin.

Rob Hart, a friend who used to work at Imo’s, said he and his wife, Stephanie, would sometimes join Devlin and others for poker games at Imo’s. “He was into video games, poker and politics,” he said. Hart said he was shocked his friend has been charged with the kidnappings. “It’s too hard to believe.”


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