The rescue this week of three Ohio women who were held captive by a man for more than 10 years brought back memories — and a flurry of media calls — for Franklin County Sheriff Gary Toelke.
It was more than six years ago that the county sheriff’s department began investigating the abduction of Ben Ownby, then 13, from his home east of Beaufort.
The abduction was reported Jan. 8, 2007, followed by an intensive investigation that led to the rescue four days later of Ben and Shawn Hornbeck, Richwoods, who had been held captive for four years by Michael Devlin at his home in Kirkwood.
Devlin currently is serving multiple life prison sentences in the Missouri Department of Corrections in those abductions. He also faces a 170-year federal sentence that he would begin serving if he’s ever released from state prison.
Toelke told The Missourian that after the news broke about the three captive women in Cleveland, Ohio, he began receiving calls from reporters and producers around Missouri as well as from some national news organizations.
For the most part, Toelke said he provided some information and referred questions to Hornbeck’s family members who have granted interviews, but not Ownby’s family who have declined to be interviewed in the past.
“There are differences” between the Franklin County abduction case and the ones in Ohio, Toelke noted.
The women in Ohio were held by suspect, Ariel Castro, 52, and not allowed to leave the home, police allege.
While Ben was held by Devlin only four days, Shawn was Devlin’s captive for four years and in that time Devlin eventually gave him the freedom to leave the house.
“He could’ve run off at any time,” Toelke remarked, however he remained a psychcological prisoner.
“We can’t understand what he went through unless we went through it ourself,” the sheriff added.
He said the case in Ohio likely will be studied for years by the “behavioral science guys. There will be a tremendous amount of information we’ll get from this case.”
When he first heard about the Ohio case, Toelke said he immediately thought about a suspected abduction in Springfield, Mo., many years ago. A woman, her daughter and the daughter’s friend disappeared and have not been seen since.
Toelke said there have been some leads in that case over the years but the missing women have not been found.