Jaycee Dugard’s words tell vividly of her long ordeal
Reporting from Placerville, Calif. -- At times, the voice is young and terrified — an 11-year-old girl who was kidnapped during the last week of school, raped for years and kept in line under threat of pain.
At times, the voice is brave and resilient — a mother protecting her vulnerable daughters, struggling to give them a normal life under the most horrific of circumstances.
And at times, it is angry and defiant — a survivor facing down her abusers and prevailing.
Always, though, the voice is Jaycee Lee Dugard’s. On Thursday, it was heard loud and clear for the first time since she was abducted 20 years ago while heading to the bus stop.
Revealing the child she was and the woman she has become, Dugard’s voice rang out in Department 7 of El Dorado County Superior Court, where Phillip and Nancy Garrido were sentenced Thursday for kidnapping and rape, and in the unsealed transcript of the secret grand jury hearing that led to the couple’s 2010 indictment.
Dugard’s own words give the clearest picture of her ordeal to date. Her memoir, “A Stolen Life,” will be published July 12. But until then, the transcript and the statement read at the Garridos’ sentencing are the first windows into the life of a young woman who was held in captivity for 18 years and gave birth to two daughters by the man who raped her.
“Phillip wanted us to be a family,” Dugard testified. “He was our dad, and Nancy was their mom. You know, that’s what we did … to give the kids, you know, normal as possible” a life.
After sentencing the Garridos on Thursday to prison terms that could keep them behind bars for life, Superior Court Judge Douglas C. Phimister unsealed the transcript from the grand jury hearing. It was the only time Dugard testified. The Los Angeles Times, the Sacramento Bee and several other media outlets had intervened in the case, seeking to have the transcripts made public.
Attorney Karl Olson argued on behalf of the media that the right to privacy does not justify continued secrecy on behalf of a rape victim whose name was made public by law enforcement officials and who has chosen to write a memoir of her ordeal.
Dugard’s family, the El Dorado County district attorney and lawyers for the Garridos vehemently disagreed. Phimister was only partly supportive, keeping more than 20% of the transcript under seal, calling the segments in which Dugard’s sexual attacks were described as “disgusting” and “inappropriate,” material that “would qualify as pornography.”
Phimister decried the media for “asking the court to assist in the exploitation of this child,” and declared that he would not do so.
The 123 pages that were unsealed paint a terrifying portrait of a sick man who kidnapped a little girl to satisfy his sexual perversions. Who intimidated his wife into taking part in the abduction and condoning the rapes. Who believed he was doing nothing wrong.
On June 10, 1991, the Garridos were driving in South Lake Tahoe when they spied Jaycee, heading up the hill for her school bus. She was 11 and had just yelled goodbye to her stepfather, who was in their garage. It was about 7:30 a.m.
The Garridos’ car “creeped up” behind the little girl. A voice called out, asking for directions. “And then,” Dugard testified, “all of a sudden his hand shoots out and I feel tingly and like losing control, and I’m in the bushes, trying to go back, and somebody is dragging me.”
The couple had hatched plans to go “shopping for a victim,” Phimister said in court Thursday, and they were equipped with blankets and a Taser. Garrido, who was driving, shocked Jaycee, and Nancy dragged her into the car. She was laid face down on the floorboards of the back seat and covered up. She blacked out.
The Garridos took Jaycee back to the ramshackle warren of tents and sheds they had constructed behind their house in Antioch, northeast of Oakland. The drive, Dugard said, “seemed like forever.” Garrido sexually assaulted her on arrival.
“I was very scared,” Dugard testified. “I didn’t know who he was. I didn’t know why he was doing this. I just wanted to go home. I think in the bathroom I kept telling him that, you know, ‘I don’t know why you’re doing this.’
“ ‘If you’re holding me for ransom, my family doesn’t have a lot of money,’ ” she continued. “I didn’t know — I didn’t know his purpose.”
The Garridos gave her “Barbie stuff” during her first birthday in captivity. Garrido gave her a cat to keep her company when she complained about loneliness. But then he took it away because it messed up the small space where he kept her prisoner. She would figure out the date by watching the morning shows on television.
For the first three years, until the birth of her first daughter in August, 1994, Garrido would force himself on Jaycee once a week or more. After the birth of the child, the frequency of the rapes slowed. Nancy, who would take Jaycee food, offered to have sex with her husband instead. She would say, “Oh, I’ll take this run for you.”
After the first birth, Dugard testified, “things really changed. He said that he was eventually going to stop having sex with me and that, you, know, he’s just really trying to change and he wants us all to be a family.”
The last time Garrido raped Dugard was the day her second daughter was conceived. That child was born in November 1997.
The Garridos let Dugard pick a name. She chose Alissa. The “family” began to celebrate the little girls’ birthdays together. A swing set was installed in the compound. Dugard told the grand jury that she did what she could to give her children a normal life.
But there wasn’t much that she could do. She couldn’t leave. At first because she was terrified.
There were Doberman pinschers on the property, Garrido told her on the day she arrived in Antioch, and they were vicious. “I didn’t know where they were,” she testified. “So I was afraid to do anything. I didn’t know what he would do either.”
Garrido never used the Taser on Dugard again after the abduction. But he kept the weapon lying around, an implicit threat. When she refused to follow his commands, he would turn the weapon on and tell her, “You don’t want it to happen again. You should be good.”
“I didn’t want it to happen again,” Dugard testified. “So I was good…. Tried to do what he wanted me to do even though I didn’t like it.”
Later she stayed in part because she felt she was “helping somebody, even though it was in a really sick, perverted way.”
Dugard testified that Garrido told her he had a “sex problem and that, you know, he got me so he wouldn’t have to do this to anybody else. So I was helping him.”
And finally, she said, she stayed because she had no place to go. During 18 years in captivity, she never tried to escape.
“We went places later as a family, but never by myself,” Dugard testified. “And I wanted him to teach me how to drive and stuff. And that never came. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t leave. I had the girls. I didn’t know where to go, what I would do for money or anything.
“I didn’t have anything.”
Dugard has been free for nearly two years, and she has spent that time in seclusion with her mother and daughters, writing her book, seeing therapists, working to build back the life that the Garridos stole from her.
She is angry, she said in the statement that her mother read in court on Thursday, but she will prevail.
“Everything you have ever done to me has been wrong, and someday I hope you can see that,” she said. “Thankfully I am doing well now and no longer live in a nightmare. I have wonderful friends and family around me. Something you can never take from me again.
“You do not matter anymore.”