Couple confess to kidnapping Jaycee Lee Dugard, attorney says

Phillip and Nancy Garrido have confessed to authorities that they kidnapped Jaycee Lee Dugard in 1991 and held her captive for 18 years in a ramshackle compound in Northern California, where she gave birth to two daughters after being repeatedly raped, a defense attorney said Monday.

Stephen Tapson, Nancy’s court-appointed attorney, told reporters outside El Dorado County Superior Court that the couple confessed to the crimes, which made international headlines when Dugard was discovered nearly two years ago, because Phillip, 59, is hoping that his wife’s sentence will be reduced.

Tapson said authorities have offered Nancy, 55, a plea agreement that would put her behind bars for nearly 242 years to life and have offered Phillip a sentence of 440 years to life.


After a brief hearing Monday afternoon, Tapson said the couple had met with sheriff’s investigators within the last month and had given a “full confession.”

They have been charged with nearly 30 counts of kidnapping, rape and false imprisonment. According to a grand jury indictment, Phillip videotaped some of the rapes. He fathered Dugard’s children.

“As far as being involved in any of the sexual stuff, she wasn’t,” Tapson said of Nancy. “She’s guilty, obviously, of kidnapping and a bunch of other charges…. She should be able to walk on the beach, probably with a walker, at some point in time before she dies.”

The couple were married in 1981 at the U.S. penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan., where Phillip was serving a 50-year sentence for a 1976 kidnapping and rape.

“Listen, she had a normal life, goes to Leavenworth, gets enthralled with Mr. Garrido, never uses drugs, never been in trouble, gets in his grasp and things go down the tubes from there,” Tapson said, when asked why Nancy should be shown leniency.

“Admittedly, she cooperated with him under his authority, under his thumb,” he said. “Obviously, at trial we’re going to have to argue Stockholm syndrome and Patty Hearst stuff and so on. There’s already psychiatric evidence to show that she was under his thumb, or his whatever you want to call it. Even the D.A. says he’s a master manipulator.”

Neither Susan Gellman, Phillip’s attorney, nor Dist. Atty. Vern Pierson returned calls for comment.

Dugard, now 30 and living in seclusion, was an 11-year-old schoolgirl when the Garridos drove down her quiet South Lake Tahoe street and snatched her, screaming, as her horrified stepfather watched.

Phillip was the driver and Nancy grabbed the girl, Tapson said Monday.

They took her to Antioch, Calif., where they kept her imprisoned for 18 years in tents and soundproof shacks in their backyard. She was repeatedly raped. Nancy, a former nurse’s aide, delivered Dugard’s two babies there.

After the kidnapping, Dugard never saw a doctor and never set foot in a classroom.

Nancy “was their mother,” Tapson said, in what he described as “a bizarre family” that formed “after all the evil stopped.”

“She fed them, took them places. They had that kind of relationship,” he said. “Jaycee has admitted she was like a mother.”

The Garridos are being held in El Dorado County Jail.

Judge Douglas C. Phimister ruled last month that Phillip, who now sports a salt-and-pepper beard, is competent to stand trial; he has yet to enter a plea. His arraignment was scheduled for Monday but has been continued until March 17.

Nancy has pleaded not guilty. A trial date has yet to be set.

Tapson said the Garridos “gave full, complete statements to the Sheriff’s Department in the last month or so” at the request of investigators. The sheriff’s officials had asked to speak to the defendants, and Tapson and Gellman approved the request.

The couple told authorities “everything they wanted to know,” Tapson said, “except they didn’t produce any missing bodies. There’s no other victims.”

The interviews occurred at the detectives bureau here, and Dugard was present when Nancy spoke to the authorities.

Tapson said he believed the encounter was designed “hopefully to get an opinion from [Dugard] about Nancy.”

Nancy’s attorney, who was present, said he could not see Dugard’s reaction, but he could see his client’s. “Tears,” he said.

Tapson said that he thinks Nancy deserves a sentence of 20 to 30 years in prison for the crimes she committed, and that 241 years and eight months to life is inappropriate.

He said he wants to know what Dugard thinks.

“Tell Jaycee to give me a call,” he said to reporters Monday.