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State prison watchdog strongly criticizes procedures in Jaycee Dugard case

State parole agents failed to properly supervise Phillip Garrido for a decade and missed obvious clues that could have led them much earlier to Jaycee Dugard, whom he is accused of kidnapping in 1991 and harboring in his Antioch backyard, a prison watchdog reported Wednesday.

Many warning signs were overlooked or ignored, according to Inspector General David R. Shaw. Utility cables led to a hidden backyard compound where Garrido kept Dugard and the two girls he fathered by her. Data from the satellite tracking device the state made him wear could have alerted his parole agent to his presence in that area, had it been reviewed.

Federal parole records, not obtained by the state, noted that he had a soundproof room in his yard. Young girls had been spotted at his house but did not trigger further investigation.

Last year, Shaw’s report says, Garrido’s parole agent met a 12-year-old girl at Garrido’s house, accepted his explanation that she was his brother’s daughter and did nothing to verify it.

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“No one can know, had the parole agents done everything right, whether we would have discovered Jaycee and her children any sooner,” Shaw, who conducted a two-month investigation, told reporters Wednesday. “However, our investigation revealed that there were missed clues and opportunities to discover their existence sooner than they did.”

The state prisons chief, Matthew Cate, acknowledged “serious errors” and said his department had improved its supervision of high-risk offenders and would continue to do so to protect the public from this sort of “abject evil.”

“We obviously deeply regret any error that could have possibly resulted in the victims living under these conditions for even one additional day,” Cate said.

Garrido and his wife are accused of kidnapping Dugard outside her South Lake Tahoe home when she was 11. Local police agencies also have been criticized for missing chances to find her earlier. So have federal officials for imprisoning him for just 11 years for a rape and kidnapping in Nevada in 1976, though he received a 50-year federal sentence and five years to life in Nevada.

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El Dorado County Dist. Atty. Vern Pierson, from whose area Dugard was kidnapped, praised the report and lamented that California’s budget woes could lead to “further reduction in funding which is necessary to ensure the incarceration of dangerous criminals and their supervision.”

In August, Garrido and his wife, Nancy, were arrested and Dugard was reunited with her family. In his report, Shaw revealed, without explanation, that she tried to protect her kidnapper when initially questioned Aug. 26 by a parole agent and police. She told them her name was Alyssa, and pretended that she was on the run from an abusive husband in Minnesota.

The stinging report details what Shaw characterized as serious problems at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation relating to training, supervision and activities of parole agents, and the ineffective use of satellite tracking to monitor offenders.

In Garrido’s case, the lapses dated to 1999, when California took over his parole supervision from federal authorities. He had been in prison for the Nevada rape until 1988. A California parole agent improperly classified Garrido, saying he needed only low-level supervision, a category in which he remained until he was arrested and one that allowed him to avoid more intensive oversight.

Garrido, who had at least six different parole agents over a decade, was barely supervised for several years after the state began monitoring him, Shaw said. Agents often failed to make required home visits and conduct drug tests, and did not interview neighbors who had witnessed children and strange behavior.

Parole supervisors often failed to review his case files. Overall, the state met its parole specifications for Garrido in only 12 months out of 123, failing 90% of the time, Shaw said.

In recent years, as the state began to scrutinize sex offenders more closely, he was visited at home much more often. Still, his agent had a caseload of 40 parolees, double the ratio used for high-risk sex offenders.

Cate said the state had made improvements on the “antiquated” parole system that was in place in 1999, and said changes were on the way to focus parole supervision on high-risk offenders.

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Measures approved by lawmakers and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, which take effect in January, will allow the state to reduce supervision on lower-risk parolees. The state could then give smaller caseloads to agents supervising more serious offenders, such as Garrido.

Shaw, who was appointed by Schwarzenegger, also harshly criticized the satellite tracking, known as the Global Positioning System, that has been embraced by state prison officials and the governor as a tool for monitoring sex offenders, often with ankle bracelets.

Shaw said the tracking systems give the public a false sense of security. He faulted the state for using a “passive” tracking system under which an offender’s whereabouts are reviewed only rarely, and only if an alarm indicates that they have gone somewhere that is not permitted. He also said parole agents are not properly instructed in how to use them. Cate said the state is going to intensify satellite supervision.

Garrido’s tracking system, had it been reviewed, could have revealed that he spent time in the hidden compound. In addition, agents often ignored alarms that showed he had traveled beyond a permitted 25-mile radius of his home, or broken a nighttime curfew.

And state officials did not investigate why the signal from his tracking system often went out, including for nine or more hours almost every night for one month last summer.

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michael.rothfeld@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Report details Dugard interview

Jaycee Dugard first told authorities that her name was “Alyssa” and tried to protect Phillip Garrido, who is accused of kidnapping her 18 years ago, when she was 11, raping her and fathering her two children, according to a report released Wednesday by David Shaw, California’s inspector general for state prisons.

Below, Shaw publicly describes for the first time Dugard’s interaction with authorities at a state parole office in Concord on Aug. 26. A UC Berkeley police officer had notified Garrido’s parole agent that he had been on the campus with two young girls -- Dugard’s daughters by Garrido -- and was acting strangely.

From Shaw’s report:

As the parole agent was on the phone with the officer, he observed that Garrido was accompanied by his wife and three young girls. After completing his conversation with the officer, Garrido’s parole agent wisely isolated the females -- including Garrido’s wife -- to identify them.

The oldest of the three young females identified herself as Alyssa, the second oldest as Angel, and the youngest as Starlet. During further questioning, Alyssa advised that she was the girls’ mother.

The parole agent believed that Alyssa looked too young to be the mother and asked her age. Alyssa said that she was 29 years old, laughingly explaining that she often gets that comment and that people believe she is the girls’ sister.

As the parole agent continued his questioning, Alyssa and Garrido’s wife became defensive and agitated, wanting to know why the parole agent was interrogating them . . . .

Alyssa said she was aware that Garrido had taken the girls to UC Berkeley and that he was a sex offender who was on parole for kidnapping and raping a woman. She added that Garrido was a changed man and a great person who was good with her kids.

Alyssa subsequently stated that she didn’t want to provide any additional information and that she might need a lawyer. The parole agent then directed Garrido to a room and asked him to explain the relationship of the three young girls.

Garrido thought for a moment and responded that they were all sisters and that the father was his brother who lived nearby in Oakley, California. Garrido stated that the parents were divorced, the girls were living with them and other people, and he did not know his brother’s address or phone number.

Because of the inconsistencies in their stories, the parole agent isolated Garrido in an office with another parole agent and returned to the females. The parole agent told Alyssa that she needed to provide him with identification or with the phone number of a relative or friend whom he could call for verification of her identity. . . .

Being suspicious about the identities provided, the parole agent called the Concord Police Department and requested an officer respond to assist in the questioning. As they waited for the officer to arrive, Alyssa said she was sorry that she had lied.

She explained that she was from Minnesota and had been hiding for five years from an abusive husband. She was terrified of being found, she said, and that was the reason she could not give the parole agent any information.

Shaw goes on to explain that after further questioning, Garrido admitted that the girls were his daughters and Dugard revealed who she was and that Garrido had kidnapped her in 1991.

Source: Michael Rothfeld, Times staff writer


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