Kidnaping Suspect's Diary Tells of 3-Month Planning : Abduction: Fugitive in snatching of Santa Barbara teen-ager kept detailed notes, videotaped victim's movements and copied his mail, police say.


For at least three months before the abduction of teen-ager Ryan Curtis, the suspects carried out meticulous plans that included videotaping the victim's movements with a remote-controlled camcorder and secretly copying his family mail, according to authorities and a diary kept by fugitive suspect Stephen G. Gillen.

The plans culminated Sept. 13, when Gillen hid behind surfboards in the teen-ager's van, listened as Curtis said goodby to his girlfriend, then pulled a gun on the youth as he drove away, the diary notes in minute detail.

"I grabbed his hear (sic), pulling his head back," wrote Gillen, the only one of three suspects who is not in custody. "I presented the gun to him. He let out a little whimper and his eyes got very big."

The 80-page diary, expected to be a key piece of evidence, and other documents made available to The Times shed light on the mysterious kidnaping of Curtis, a UC Santa Barbara student who was held captive nearly two weeks in an exclusive neighborhood while his abductors demanded $600,000 to $800,000 in ransom.

Before any ransom was paid, Curtis was freed early Sept. 26 by FBI agents who stormed the Hope Ranch home of Eric A. Panizzon, 24. Arrested with Panizzon was a roommate, Jeffrey R. Locas, 21.

Panizzon and Locas appeared in court Thursday but a Santa Barbara Municipal Court judge postponed their arraignment until Oct. 14. They remain in custody without bail. In addition to kidnaping charges, Panizzon faces nine counts of sexually assaulting Curtis. The defendants face life in prison without parole.

Gillen, who also lived at the Panizzon residence, will be featured today on the television show "America's Most Wanted." FBI agents said he may have left the state.

In his diary, Gillen calls himself "Ranger" and describes performing various tasks such as auto thefts and the surreptitious copying of the keys to Curtis' van. Panizzon, or "Captain" in the diary, graded his performance on the tasks.

"It's clear that the threesome planned this crime many, many months before and, as reflected by the diary, had mapped out the kidnaping step by step," Deputy Dist. Atty. Darryl Perlin said.

The kidnaping is first mentioned in a July 30 entry under "Problems List." Several entries in August describe surveillance of the Curtis family home in Hope Ranch using a remote-controlled camcorder hidden in shrubbery.

On Sept. 13, the plan proceeded. While Curtis went to church and visited friends' houses, the kidnapers followed him, according to police reports. Around 9 p.m., the diary notes, he was seen heading to his girlfriend's house.

While Curtis was in the house, Gillen crept into the van. Using a walkie-talkie, he radioed "Captain," who was waiting at a nearby gas station, that "everything was going well."

When the kidnap victim came out of the house with his girlfriend, Gillen wrote that he thought: "I am just sitting there . . . thinking thank God I am here tonight because this situation isn't going to happen again for a long time."

When Curtis was confronted by the kidnaper, Gillen wrote: "He said: 'Take the car, take the surfboards. . . . Just take everything and let me go. . . . Why are you doing this?' " Curtis was handcuffed and a ski mask was placed over his head, the diary said. Gillen radioed "Captain" "all rapped (sic) up," according to the diary.

The van was left at Curtis' nearby church and the victim was transferred to another vehicle and taken to the Panizzon residence, police said. Before midnight, Eric Panizzon allegedly made the first ransom call to the Curtis home.

Credit card receipts show that Panizzon started buying sophisticated equipment used in the kidnaping three months before the crime. A 5-foot-long toolbox, in which Curtis was initially confined, was bought in late June. Police also found a dozen newspaper articles about Curtis' exploits as a high school water polo player among Panizzon's possessions.

According to other documents:

* The suspects broke into lines at telephone company "blocking boxes" to make their early ransom calls, thwarting FBI attempts to trace the calls. In one call that lasted nearly an hour, Panizzon discussed the insurance business with Curtis' father, an insurance broker.

But late on Sept. 25, Panizzon broke his pattern and made a call from a pay phone in Santa Barbara. The call was traced and he was arrested nearby. He led agents to Curtis.

* Panizzon initially told FBI agents that Curtis was involved in his own kidnaping. But he later recanted, explaining that he had only implicated the teen-ager because he feared agents would storm his house.

* While they were in custody at the Santa Barbara sheriff's office, Panizzon and Locas were tape-recorded having a discussion about the case. "It's gonna be a sick Christmas . . . story," Panizzon said. "They're gonna make a big sick movie out of this."

Panizzon also expressed regret about the impact on his family: "I have flushed my family's name down the toilet."

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