CALIFORNIA ALBUM : The Kidnaping No One Will Forget : A year after Jaycee Lee Dugard was taken, 400 townspeople march to express their anger and hope.
Terry Probyn shook her head in awe and appreciation as she marched with about 400 parents and children beside the gentle shore of Lake Tahoe in support of her missing daughter.
Carrying lighted white candles and wearing pink ribbons, they proceeded solemnly up the main street of this resort town to deliver a simple message: Even in these violent times, when acts such as kidnaping seem commonplace, one little girl’s abduction won’t be forgotten.
For the record:
12:00 AM, Jun. 13, 1992 Kidnaped Girl
Los Angeles Times Saturday June 13, 1992 Home Edition Part A Page 27 Column 1 Metro Desk 1 inches; 35 words Type of Material: Correction
Jaycee Lee Dugard, now 12, was kidnaped from her neighborhood in South Lake Tahoe a year ago. The case has become a cause celebre in the Sierra resort area. Her photograph was unavailable for use with a California Album story published Friday in The Times.
PHOTO: Jaycee Lee Dugard
“It’s a message to her--that I’m still looking for her,” Terry Probyn said. “It’s a message for all the other kids, that parents will not give up.”
The Wednesday evening rally and march marked the one-year anniversary of Jaycee Lee Dugard’s kidnaping. It happened as she walked to the school bus stop in the last week before summer. She had hoped to spend the vacation working at a horse stables.
An older gray Ford pulled sharply in front of her. Arms reached out and dragged her inside. Her stepfather, Carl Probyn, watched in horror from the family garage a third of a mile away, and grabbed a bicycle to give chase, too late.
For the Probyns and this High Sierra community, the search goes on for Jaycee, whose 12th birthday was last month. Working with a handful of friends, Terry and Carl Probyn have blanketed the Sierras with their daughter’s picture. Posters hang in markets, gas stations, casinos, car windows, on T-shirts. Pink ribbons are tied around pine trees and car antennas. A plaque with her picture is on a granite boulder outside the county library.
“It took me a month of crying and carrying on and going crazy,” Terry Probyn said. Then after her family had left, she found herself alone in a big house and it struck her: “I can’t sit here and cry. I have to fight for what I want.”
She moved a desk and a personal computer into Jaycee’s room and positioned it under a poster-sized photo of her daughter. From there she works full time, gathering addresses, writing letters and worrying.
Each Wednesday night, the Probyns and a small core of friends can be found sitting around long tables in a conference room of the El Dorado County Library. There, they address posters that plead for Jaycee’s safe return.
Librarians marvel at their tenacity. Over the months, they’ve mailed 1.3 million posters nationwide, paid for by donations.
The money comes from Lake Tahoe merchants, from churches and from casinos. Wednesday night, $530 came from South Lake Tahoe Middle School. Nikki Lettas, an eighth-grader, presented the check, one dollar for each school yearbook sold--"just to let them know we haven’t forgotten,” Nikki said.
A year ago, the Probyns knew almost none of the people who now are their closest friends and strongest supporters. They had lived in South Lake Tahoe only nine months when their daughter vanished.
Back in their old hometown, Garden Grove, they had lived in a security building. They were forever cautioning Jaycee not to play outside unattended. In Tahoe, they hoped, Jaycee and their other daughter, Shayna, 2, could grow up safer and freer. That this crime took place in such an idyllic setting only adds to the shock and community outrage.
“To think a little girl can’t even walk to school without getting snatched,” Sandra Faris said. Mother of a 10-year-old son, she joined the search last summer and marched in the twilight on Wednesday. “It makes me mad. People should take a stand.”
The kidnaping of Jaycee Lee Dugard is the top priority of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department, said Lt. Bob Altmeyer. In all, deputies and FBI agents have interviewed 5,375 people and followed 4,066 leads, all leading no where. Altmeyer said police assume she is alive, but he offers no motive or theories about the crime.
“There are a hundred theories. We won’t know until we get her back,” said Trish Williams, director of Child Quest International, a San Jose group that is involved in the search and helped organize the march.
At the family home, a swing hangs from a pine tree, kittens wrestle and a sandbox is well used. Other than her mother’s desk and computer, Jaycee’s room remains as she left it. The same dirty clothes are stuffed in dresser drawers. Her favorite nighttime stuffed animal, a big pink bunny, rests on her pillow.
On a wall hangs one of her fifth-grade assignments, a description of herself written in near-perfect penmanship:
“Blond hair. Blue eyed. Freckled. Sibbling of Shayna. . . . Lover of chocolate. Cats. Horses. Who feels happy on Holidays. Pain when hurt. . . . Who needs loving care. Friends. Family. . . . Who fears Bumble bees. spinach. Spiders. Who would like to see My friends. Less Homework. More trees.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Carl Probyn, a stoic man, sat in the front room and struggled once more with the painful thought that he could have done more: If only he had gotten the car’s license plate number.
The toll of it all affects every part of their lives--"mentally, physically, financially,” he said.
“You can’t be happy,” he said. “Someone asks, ‘How you doing?’ You say, ‘OK,’ but you’re thinking about Jaycee. You think about it every day. Having her kidnaped is like tearing your heart out.”
Across the room, Terry Probyn talks by phone to yet another reporter. “The sighting number is 1-800-248-8020,” she says. She has repeated the number countless times. All day on the one-year anniversary, the phone rings.
The Probyns take all the calls and answer all the reporters’ questions. It’s a good way to spread the word. Time magazine has run a story on Jaycee, and her case has been publicized on national television.
On the anniversary day at Meyers Elementary School, a fifth-grader had a birthday. But she asked that her classmates not sing “Happy Birthday.” Instead, they joined in a moment of silence, said Sue Louis, Jaycee’s teacher.
Today, the last day of school at Meyers, the students will place a plaque at the school entrance dedicated to Jaycee’s safe return. They already planted a crab apple tree, chosen for its pink springtime blossoms.
Jaycee’s mother will speak to the classes. She isn’t sure what she will say, but vows she won’t cry.
She doesn’t want to upset them as they head off for the summer: “I think I’ll thank them for remembering.”