Tahoe never forgot lost girl
Kidnap victim’s recovery hailed
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. - Some knew her, others only knew of her. But they will never forget the day 18 years ago when the blond, blue-eyed 11-year-old was snatched in broad daylight on her way to a bus stop.
Her scream. A frantic sprint on a mountain bike by her stepfather up the twisted mountain road as he tried to catch up to the Ford Granada and the unknown man and woman who had just ripped his family’s lives to shreds before his eyes.
A world-renowned tourist destination, South Lake Tahoe on the Nevada-California line is dominated in summer by gamblers, boaters, and beach-goers, in winter, by gamblers, skiers, and snowboarders.
But beneath the façade of a tourist town, where workers come and go with each passing season, is a tight-knit community that never forgot Jaycee Lee Dugard, a little girl who loved the color pink.
Her mother, Terry Probyn, and stepfather, Carl, were relative newcomers to the Tahoe community.
“They were brand-new to the district,’’ Sue Bush, Jaycee’s fifth-grade teacher, said Friday. “I met them at parent-teacher conference twice.’’
But the community shared their nightmare and embraced them, holding fund-raisers, putting up fliers, and adorning the town in pink ribbons to keep Jaycee in their hearts after she was kidnapped June 10, 1991.
In 2001, more than 100 people marched in a parade to remember the girl and raise awareness of child safety and Jaycee’s unsolved kidnapping.
Terry Probyn, who left Tahoe in 1998 and moved to southern California, returned for the anniversary. “Someone out there knows what happened,’’ she said at the time. “We need peace. Give us that gift.’’
It arrived, out of the blue, Wednesday night when she received a call from investigators, saying her daughter had been found alive. Nearly two decades of questions, and suspicions against Dugard’s stepfather, Carl Probyn, were replaced by tears of joy.
Phillip Garrido, 58, and his 54-year-old wife, Nancy, were arrested last week on suspicion of abducting Jaycee Lee Dugard. They pleaded not guilty Friday to a total of 29 counts, including forcible abduction, rape, and false imprisonment.
Investigators said Dugard was taken to a house in Antioch, 170 miles from home, where she was kept hidden from the world in a secret, leafy backyard, where she lived in a shed compound.
Yesterday, investigators expanded their search to a property next door to the home of the couple. Neighbors say Phillip Garrido once served as a caretaker at the adjoining property, which sits behind a white house with a chain-link fence.
Also yesterday, investigators armed with rakes, shovels, and chain saws continued combing Garrido’s property.
In South Lake Tahoe, the shy girl last seen in a pink jacket and pink stretch pants is in everyone’s hearts again, this time as a grown woman, now 29, and the mother of two children fathered by her alleged abductor.
Joy that she was alive was mixed with anxiety about her physical and emotional well-being, and sadness over the loss of youth and innocence.
“I used to drive by that bus stop all the time,’’ Sue Pritchett, a retired South Lake Tahoe middle school teacher, said.
“I’m absolutely ecstatic that she’s been found,’’ Pritchett said. “But I hope she’s OK.’’
James Tarwater, school district superintendent, said news of Dugard’s reappearance was shocking and disturbing.
“I think about all the students I’ve had and watched grow during the last 18 years,’’ he said. “You think of their potential.’’