Grand jury indicts accused kidnappers of woman held for 18 years in California

By Lisa Leff, AP
Friday, October 1, 2010

Grand jury indicts accused California kidnappers

PLACERVILLE, Calif. — California kidnapping victim Jaycee Dugard and her two young daughters will be spared from having to testify in open court any time soon following a grand jury indictment of the couple charged with kidnapping and holding her captive for 18 years, a prosecutor said Friday.

Phillip and Nancy Garrido were each indicted on 18 counts that ranged from rape to false imprisonment, plus multiple special allegations in a process that will eliminate the need for a preliminary hearing where their alleged victim likely would have taken the witness stand.

Authorities said the Garridos abducted Dugard, then 11, from a South Lake Tahoe bus stop in 1991 and held her captive until she and her children surfaced at the office of Phillip Garrido’s parole agent. Garrido fathered the two children, authorities said.

El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson said outside court the indictment was sought to protect Dugard’s privacy and to prevent much of the evidence from becoming public.

“It’s a better way to get a case to a final conclusion and move it along to trial” when it has attracted a lot of publicity, Pierson said.

The preliminary hearing that had been scheduled to begin next week was canceled in light of the indictment.

The indictments were returned Sept. 21 but kept confidential until Friday, when Superior Court Judge Douglas Phimister sealed the transcripts of the proceedings.

Pierson would not say if Dugard had appeared before the panel. A witness list attached to the indictment names a Jane Doe, which is how Dugard has been referred to in all previous court documents.

Stephen Tapson, Nancy Garrido’s court-appointed lawyer, said outside court that he heard from a juror that Dugard spent a full day before the panel and that her testimony brought many in attendance to tears.

The revised charges against the Garridos include kidnapping, forcible rape, lewd acts on a child and false imprisonment. The indictment also alleges Phillip Garrido videotaped sex acts involving himself and his wife with the victim. Both defendants were charged with possession of child pornography.

Nancy Garrido pleaded not guilty to the new charges. Criminal proceedings against her husband have been suspended to evaluate his mental competency.

On Friday, the district attorney urged the judge to enter a not guilty plea for Phillip Garrido, saying he was concerned that an untimely arraignment might later derail the case. But Phimister declined and asked to be briefed on the issue.

The judge also appointed a psychiatrist who already had evaluated Phillip Garrido to prepare a report offering his views on whether the defendant was capable of participating in his defense.

The couple previously were charged by prosecutors with 29 counts each. Those charges were superseded by the indictment.

The Garridos each face eight special allegations, including kidnapping for sexual purposes and victimizing a stranger. Phillip Garrido faces five additional special allegations related to his prior record as a sex offender from a 1977 rape conviction.

The special allegations could lead to tougher sentences if the Garridos are convicted.

Katie Callaway Hall, a woman Phillip Garrido was convicted of raping and kidnapping 34 years ago, attended the hearing and told reporters she was distressed he might avoid trial in the Dugard case because of mental competency claims.

“He shows extreme competence in his ability to make a lot of people believe exactly what he wants them to believe,” she said. “He was able to hide three people, their very existence, for 18 years.”

Dugard, now 30, is writing a memoir for Simon & Schuster. The publisher says the book will cover her life from the abduction to how she is doing now.

(This version CORRECTS Corrects to say Nancy Garrido entered not guilty plea herself instead of her lawyer. Clarifies to say grand jury transcript sealed Friday. Adds details and quotes.)

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