Today marks 14 years since Shawn Hornbeck was reunited with his family after four years in captivite

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Today marks 14 years since Shawn Hornbeck was reunited with his family after four years in captivite

On this day in 2007, Shawn Hornbeck was finally reunited with his parents after he vanished without a trace while out riding his bike in Missouri f

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On this day in 2007, Shawn Hornbeck was finally reunited with his parents after he vanished without a trace while out riding his bike in Missouri four years earlier. 

Shawn was out riding his bike on October 6, 2002, aged 11, when he was kidnapped by 41-year-old by pizza shop boss Michael Devlin. 

After years of unimaginable dread, his parents were finally able to welcome their son home after Devlin was caught kidnapping another boy- 13-year-old Ben Ownby.

Ownby had been missing for four days when police entered a small apartment in Kirkwood, Missouri to find two boys. 

A white truck had been seen speeding away after Ownby had been snatched, and when police tracked down the perpetrator’s home, they found Shawn Hornbeck too. 

This led police – four days later – to Devlin’s cluttered one bedroom apartment, where they found Shawn sitting on the couch.

Police called his parents, who had never given up hope, to give them the miraculous news that after four years, their son had been found. 

Shawn Hornbeck

Shawn Hornbeck

Shawn Hornbeck was out riding his bike on October 6, 2002, aged 11, when he was kidnapped by 41-year-old by pizza shop boss Michael Devlin

41-year-old by pizza shop boss Michael Devlin. He is currently serving 71 life sentences after being convicted of kidnapping and child sexual abuse in Cameron, Missouri

41-year-old by pizza shop boss Michael Devlin. He is currently serving 71 life sentences after being convicted of kidnapping and child sexual abuse in Cameron, Missouri

Speaking at the time, Craig said: ‘It is the phone call I will remember most for the rest of my life.

‘This is the best day of our lives. It is hard to even come up with words to express the feeling. It has been like a dream, and we are afraid that we are going to wake up.’

It transpired that Devlin had kept Shawn tied up for a month in his Kirkwood apartment, and even tried to strangle him at one point, but stopped when the boy promised he would never tell anyone.

For the four years that followed, Shawn believed that his family would be harmed if he tried to run. The two lived alternatively as father and son, or family friends.

Devlin eventually allowed Shawn to go out with friends, get a cellphone and go on dates, but he didn’t go to school.

Shawn told no one about his situation, and nobody in Kirkwood suspected that he was the missing boy from Richmond – 50 miles away.

At home, Shawn was subject to sexual abuse, with Devlin later telling FBI agents that as Shawn got older, he had begun looking for a younger boy to take. 

In Beaufort, on January 8, 2007, he kidnapped Ben Ownby from a bus stop, with Shawn in the pick up truck with him. Mitchell Hults of Franklin County saw the truck near the scene of the crime, telling investigators.

Three days later, two Kirkwood police officers answered another unrelated call at Devlin’s apartment building, but as they were leaving, spotted the truck outside.

The officers questioned Devlin, but he refused to let them search his apartment.

When investigators confronted Devlin, he finally confessed to Ben’s kidnapping – and stunned the detectives when he said he also had Shawn.

With the world transfixed on his story, Shawn spoke to Oprah Winfry about his experience in 2007.

Speaking to the host, he said that he had used the internet to ask his parents a heartbreaking question.

‘It was surprising. They’ve changed, but I could recognise them in 20 more years, instantly,’ he told Winfry, before adding that while he had access to the internet and a phone, he was unable to contact them.

Devlin was caught kidnapping another boy- 13-year-old Ben Ownby. He had been missing for four days when police entered a small apartment in Kirkwood, Missouri to find two boys

Devlin was caught kidnapping another boy- 13-year-old Ben Ownby. He had been missing for four days when police entered a small apartment in Kirkwood, Missouri to find two boys

Shawn Hornbeck (bottom right) stays close to his mother, Pam Akers (left), and step-father, Craig Akers, during a press conference in 2007

William "Don" Ownby, center, and Doris Ownby, left center

Left picture: Shawn Hornbeck (bottom right) stays close to his mother, Pam Akers (left), and step-father, Craig Akers, during a press conference in 2007. Right picture: William ‘Don’ Ownby, center, and Doris Ownby, left center

Residents of Beaufort, Missouri, gather at the Voss Market on Friday, January 12, 2007, to celebrate after the news that Ben Ownby was safe, along with Shawn Hornbeck

Residents of Beaufort, Missouri, gather at the Voss Market on Friday, January 12, 2007, to celebrate after the news that Ben Ownby was safe, along with Shawn Hornbeck

But he was able to send them a message on a website that had been set up to help find him, using his real name. 

In the interview, Oprah asked: ‘I had read that you had gone to the Internet site to asked ‘how long will you be looking for your son’. What did you feel doing that? Was that a way to connect with them?’

Shawn relied: ‘I was hoping it might give some sort of hint.’

His father Craig said he could remember the message, telling the host: ‘I remember reading it, I remember thinking to myself either this is someone with that name or this is someone trying to yank my chain.’

‘We knew the world knew the answer to that, we had been saying all along we would never stop looking for our son. It was strange.

‘You get so many of these messages. On a daily basis you get so many weird, out there message.’

Shawn Hornbeck, center, talks with members of the media in St. Louis, Missouri in 2013. He was being asked questiong about a missing woman who had been found in Cleveland

Shawn Hornbeck, center, talks with members of the media in St. Louis, Missouri in 2013. He was being asked questiong about a missing woman who had been found in Cleveland 

The two doors, bottom left and right, that access the apartment in the complex in the 400 block of South Holmes where police found two missing boys in the apartment of Michael J. Devlin on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2007

The two doors, bottom left and right, that access the apartment in the complex in the 400 block of South Holmes where police found two missing boys in the apartment of Michael J. Devlin on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2007

Shawn said the message had been a cry for hope, and at the time, he just wanted his life to get back to normal – to return to school, to work and to spend more time with his family – including his two sisters.

‘It’s very comforting knowing I’m back with my family, but I’ve missed out on a lot of stuff,’ he said.

Craig sadly passed away in 2019 from bladder cancer aged 57, with Pam saying she was ‘so grateful he got to spend more time with Shawn’.

Devlin pled guilty to all the counts against him and was sentenced to 72 years behind bars. 

He is currently serving 71 life sentences after being convicted of kidnapping and child sexual abuse at Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron, Missouri.

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