Shawn Damian Hornbeck should have been home by five. When he was not home by six his family went looking for him and at eight when Pam and Craig Akers could still find no sign of Shawn, Pam called the police. On that Sunday afternoon October 6, 2002, it seemed as if he disappeared without a trace. He had mounted his 20-inch Next Boy’s bright lime green mountain bike to head for a friend’s home only half a mile away; he was not wearing a helmet.
Local authorities in Richwoods, Missouri searched for three days before the FBI joined the search on October 9. Shawn left home wearing his orange Astros little league jersey, blue jeans and Nike shoes.
The Akers created the Shawn Hornbeck Foundation, which helps educate children, parents, and communities in preventing child abduction. When a child is missing, they go out and help search for the missing child. They have helped search for over 40 missing people, including lost or disoriented hunters and Alzheimer’s patients.
The Shawn Hornbeck Foundation has also photographed, fingerprinted, and collected DNA on over 45,000 school-age children in the MyID4Life Program, which will provide law enforcement with accurate information if a child disappears. The information digitally recorded on a CD becomes a permanent record for the parent or legal guardian.
Craig Akers created the “sitting with an angel program.” This program sponsors benches outside businesses, like grocery stores, featuring the story and picture of a missing or abducted child on the back of the bench.
There was much speculation after Shawn disappeared, about the theories of Shawn’s disappearance. Those theories ranged from Shawn hit by a driver who panicked and took Shawn’s body to dispose of it or that Shawn came across a Meth Lab and his abduction is to prevent him from talking. Shawn’s parents felt strongly their son had not runaway.
As in, most cases of missing children Shawn’s parents, the media, and law enforcement thoroughly studied the Akers as possible causes for Shawn’s disappearance. Law enforcement cleared the Akers of all suspicion or any involvement early on. Pam Akers is Shawn’s biological mother and Craig Akers is Shawn’s Stepfather, although in reality he is the only father Shawn has known, as Shawn’s biological father died in 1999.
After Shawn disappeared in 2002, the Akers both quit their jobs to continue to search for Shawn and to create the Shawn Hornbeck Foundation. They have been awesome missing children advocates. Craig Akers spent six weeks living in a trailer he hauled up to Foley Missouri, where he searched daily for Bianca Piper when she disappeared two years ago.
Sadly, he ignored his personal health and on returning home to his wife, Pam she immediately took him to the hospital as one leg was blue. Craig has peripheral vascular disease; because of the lack of circulation, his leg needed amputation. This does not stop slow Craig’s down when it comes to searching for a missing child.
How is it then the Aker’s own son is an hour away in Kirkwood living in an apartment in plain site of the entire complex and no one recognizes him? Shawn Hornbeck calling himself Shawn Devlin may have even left clues to his disappearance on the Shawn Hornbeck Foundation Website. In one post, he signed as Shawn Devlin from Kirkwood Missouri he asks the Akers, “How long do you plan to look for your son?” That post was in December 2005. Later that same day he apologizes for the post and asks to post a poem he has written in honor of the missing boy.
Michael Devlin called the police to his complex when someone parked in his reserved space one day and refused to move. The police officers that responded remember a boy getting out of the car and walking into Devlin’s apartment while they spoke with Devlin and the other tenant. They now realize it was Shawn Hornbeck.
Shawn once broke a neighbor’s window with a ball, and the tenant told Shawn to bring his father back with him. Shawn returned with Michael Devlin who claimed to be Shawn’s father. The property owner shows the lease has Michael Devlin listed with a son living on the apartment lease and remembers being in the apartment working and seeing a boy asleep in another room.
Finally, late one night Shawn was out after curfew and a police officer stopped Shawn and his friend. After questioning, the boys on why they were still out, the officer drove both boys home to the apartment complex.
Shawn had multiple opportunities to ask for help from grown-ups and even law enforcement officials and he did not choose to seek help? Why is that? Shawn could have left anytime as Devlin did not physically restrain him, yet one must remember there are ways to paralyze a person with fear. Abductors use intimidation, mental, physical abuse, sleep deprivation, and even worse tactics to keep their victims in compliance.
Authorities believe Devlin threatened to kill Shawn and he threatened to kill Shawn’s family if Shawn tried to tell authorities that he was Shawn Hornbeck and not Shawn Devlin. A child of 11 years old is protective of his parents and the threat of harm is often enough to prevent them from doing something they are told not too.
A final theory is the. In the Stockholm Theory after the victim has spent time with the abductor, the victim begins to magnify even small acts of kindness, while trying to identify the relationship. The victim is under great duress. After all, how does one classify their relationship with their abductor? Yet, the abductor becomes the one person the victim is dependent on for survival. The Stockholm syndrome is strange but a foreseeable syndrome.
Regardless of why Shawn stayed, I am happy Shawn and his family is reunited. I pray he is healing quickly from his ordeal. I am sending Angels to Shawn and his family. Angels above you~ Angels below you~ Angels all around you~