ST. LOUIS – Wednesday marks the 15 year anniversary of the “Missouri Miracle”, the day missing boys Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby were found.
Hornbeck had been missing for more than 4 years, Ownby four days. The boys were discovered in a Kirkwood apartment. Michael Devlin is serving life in prison after being convicted of kidnapping them.
Hornbeck vanished on October 6, 2002, while riding his bike near his home in Richwoods, Missouri, about 55 miles southwest of St. Louis.
A man behind the wheel of a white pickup truck knocked young Shawn off his lime-green bike. The driver grabbed Shawn, put him in his truck, and left. That man later turned out to be Devlin.
A search went on for Hornbeck and his parents eventually started a foundation in his name to assist in searches of abducted children.
What nobody knew at the time was that Shawn was still alive and had been taken to an apartment in Kirkwood, where he’d live with his kidnapper for the next four years. He was even made to pose like his abductor’s son.
On Jan. 8, 2007, Ben Ownby was taken while waiting at a bus stop in Beaufort, located in Franklin County. The kidnapper put the 13-year-old in a white Nissan pickup truck and sped away, but not before Mitchell Hults, one of Ownby’s friends, got a good look at the vehicle and provided a detailed description to authorities.
The FBI followed a tip on a white pick-up truck that brought them to a pizzeria in Kirkwood. One of the store managers, a man named Michael Devlin, owned the truck.
An FBI agent was able to get a confession from Devlin. Devlin led the agents to his apartment where the two boys were sitting playing video games.
In a 2013 interview with FOX2, Hornbeck spoke about how he survived. “I knew my family was out there and they would never give up. And I’m sure these girls felt the same way. I mean you just have to hold on to your life because if you don’t, you’re just going to be lost within yourself and you can’t have that,” said Hornbeck.
Hornbeck also said he’s been able to put what happened behind him. “It’s a part of my life that I’ve had to accept and I have. With my family there, they’ve just made me strong and I’ve been able to move on with my life because they’ve been there to help me move on with my life.”
Shawn Hornbeck married and became a father. Both he and Ben Ownby still live in the St. Louis area.
Devlin pleaded guilty to all the charges and received 74 life sentences and an additional term of 2,020 years. He was transferred to Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron, Missouri. He won’t be eligible for parole until he’s 100.