Police said today they had found a bone fragment on the property next door to the home of a man charged with kidnapping a little girl and hiding her in his back garden for 18 years.
Authorities revealed the discovery after FBI and law enforcement agencies in the San Francisco Bay area finished combing Phillip Garrido’s property in Antioch, Northern California, and the one next door for possible links to unsolved crimes in the area.
Garrido, 58, and his wife, Nancy, 54, were arrested last week and charged with 29 counts connected to the kidnapping, rape and imprisonment of Jaycee Lee Dugard, who was snatched outside her home in South Lake Tahoe in 1991. They have pleaded not guilty.
The bone fragment was found on Sunday in the next door neighbour’s back garden, said Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Jimmy Lee. Garrido once lived on that property in a shed.
Neighbours say he once worked as the property caretaker and helped out an elderly man who lived there several years ago.
Lee said it would take several weeks of testing to determine if the recovered shard belonged to an animal or a human. Investigators recovered several other pieces of evidence during the four days they spent searching the two parcels with shovels and cadaver-sniffing dogs.
Antioch and Contra Costa County authorities have not provided many details about what they are seeking at the properties in relation to other cases.
The land includes the garden compound of tents and sheds where Garrido and his wife allegedly hid Jaycee and her two daughters, now 11 and 15, fathered by Garrido.
Police in the nearby city of Pittsburg, however, have said they are investigating whether Garrido, who served more than 10 years in prison for raping and kidnapping a Nevada woman in 1976, was involved in the murders of prostitutes in the 1990s.
Garrido’s victim in the rape case, Katie Callaway Hall, said during an interview on Larry King Live that she was scared and distressed when she found out he was paroled from prison in 1988. Under the terms of his 50-years-to-life sentence, she thought the soonest he would get out was 2006.
Ms Callaway Hall said that when Garrido surfaced last week in Jaycee’s kidnapping, she trembled for hours with relief and anger.
“The only thing I can think of worse than what happened to me, is it happening to my child,” she wrote on a blog that accompanied the television interview.
“I can’t imagine what Jaycee is going through. He had me for eight hours. He had her for 18 years. I was an adult, with instincts that helped me deal with the situation. She was a child. This is going to be with her for the rest of her life. I can only wish her the best.”
Another woman from Garrido’s past also came forward with a harrowing tale.
Christine Murphy, who said she was married to Garrido from 1973 until after his rape conviction, told Inside Edition that her ex-husband was a violent drug abuser who once dug a safety pin into her face in a fit of jealousy.
“I was always looking for a way to get away,” Ms Murphy said of her brief marriage to a man she had met in high school in Contra Costa County. The couple later lived in Reno, where Ms Callaway Hall was raped and a stone’s throw from where Jaycee was kidnapped in South Lake Tahoe.
Meanwhile, an FBI agent who spent 18 years on Jaycee’s kidnapping case said the Garridos never were considered suspects.
Special Agent Chris Campion said the bureau exhausted thousands of leads about Jaycee’s whereabouts, sometimes with the help of confidential informants and court-ordered wiretaps.
Yet he said in the interview posted on the FBI website that Phillip and Nancy Garrido “just did not come up on the radar screen”.
“We’ve gone through and checked our records and my memory is no, we didn’t have any thing that remotely was close to these people,” Mr Campion said.
“We can tell you several thousands of people that didn’t kidnap Jaycee Lee Dugard.”
The secrets of the Garrido home began to surface early last week when Garrido arrived for a meeting with his parole officer with his wife, Jaycee, now 29, and the two girls. Authorities say he confessed to snatching Jaycee in 1991.
Over the years, Mr Campion said he made a point of calling Jaycee’s mother every year on her daughter’s birthday. He was the one who called to give her the news that her daughter was alive and he was present last week when they were reunited.
“It was a very emotional scene – both of them were just overjoyed to be with each other again,” he said.
“There’s going to be a period of adjustment, no doubt, but they’re doing very well at this point. And the two daughters are probably as happy as Jaycee is to be part of this family as well.”