Shawn Hornbeck was an 11 year old boy who was kidnapped while riding his bike to a friend’s house near Richwoods, Missouri. Shawn had taken this path many times before but this time, Shawn passed by Mike Devlin who bumped him with his truck. Devlin initially seemed concerned for Shawn’s safety, but moments later, put him into the back of his truck and told him “You were just at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Shawn’s parents, Pam Akers and stepfather Craig Akers focused all of their time looking for their son. They even set up a foundation to help look for missing and abducted children which they called the Shawn Hornbeck Foundation. Both Shawn’s mother and stepfather spent all of their money and retirement savings looking for Shawn and paying investigators to help aid the police. Shawn would remain missing for four years.
Shawn was physically abused throughout his time living with Mike Devlin. Shawn told reporters that Devlin had guns and would threaten to murder him if he ever thought about leaving or calling for help. Eventually Shawn became too old for Devlin’s tastes and Devlin decided to find a replacement for Shawn.
Devlin decided to kidnap a 13 year old boy named Ben Ownby on January 8, 2007. This time a 15 year old neighbor saw Devlin’s truck and knew something was wrong when he saw Ben crying and the truck peeling out from the bus stop. The neighbor was able to give the police a description of the white truck and the FBI was able to link the truck to Devlin relatively quickly.
When the FBI came to Devlin’s house to question him about the kidnapping, Devlin seemed distant and nervous and kept referring to his godson named Shawn that he had to return to. The FBI quickly realized that the Shawn that Devlin was referring to was Shawn Hornbeck. Both children were rescued and returned to their families and Devlin was charged with 80 counts of sexual assault, kidnapping, and attempted murder. Devlin pled guilty to all counts and was sentenced to 72 life terms.
Both Ben and Shawn are attempting to live as normal a life as possible after such horrific circumstances. In 2013, the Shawn Hornbeck Foundation closed and was replaced by the Missouri Valley Shawn Hornbeck Search and Rescue Team.