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Cleveland Case Brings To Mind Jaycee Dugard's Kidnapping


In Ohio, prosecutors say they are considering whether to seek the death penalty for Ariel Castro. He's the Cleveland man who allegedly kidnapped, raped and imprisoned three women for about a decade. The possible aggravated murder charges would come because according to police, he forced at least one of the women to suffer miscarriages. He's already been charged with kidnapping and rape, and he's being held on $8 million bond.


Now, when the news first broke about the three women in Cleveland, it quickly brought to mind similar cases, including that of Jaycee Dugard. She was sexually abused during an abduction that lasted 18 years. And the kidnapper might still be at large, except that he took a trip to the University of California at Berkeley; where he ran into Ally Jacobs, a campus police officer who realized something was wrong and began looking into the situation, leading to the kidnapper's arrest. Ally Jacobs is on the line now from Brentwood, Calif. Welcome to the program.

ALLY JACOBS: Thank you for having me, Steve.

INSKEEP: Given your background, you must have watched the events from Cleveland this week with quite a bit of interest.

JACOBS: Absolutely. I was speaking in Florida at the Amber Alert Family Roundtable Conference. And what that is, is when families get together every year, their children have either been kidnapped and are still missing, have been kidnapped and recovered deceased, or have been kidnapped and recovered. So I was just finishing up that presentation when we all heard the news about Amanda Berry.

INSKEEP: So you were in a room full of people who have lost loved ones, or have loved ones missing?

JACOBS: Yes, yes.

INSKEEP: Wow. We should mention to people that you've become a public speaker after your experience of discovering this kidnapper, and helping to rescue Jaycee Dugard. But when we think about Cleveland, we do have this story of a man who saw something wrong, and helped. But we also have a neighborhood asking how they didn't notice sooner; how those young women could be kept in a house for a decade.

JACOBS: Yes. I mean originally, the neighbors said that Ariel was a nice guy and that nothing was amiss; and then all of a sudden, the reports started coming in - that oh no, we've been calling the police. So I'm just trying to figure out which is true.

INSKEEP: Is this a special problem for police? Because with other kinds of crime - with a bank robbery, you've got a bank; it's been robbed. With a missing persons case, you start out not being absolutely sure if there was even a crime.

JACOBS: Missing persons cases are one of the most frustrating cases a police officer can get because there's the whole runaway factor. Everyone assumes that they'll turn up, but there's that chance that no, that's not what's going to happen. And unfortunately - you know - for us, we have to go by the laws and what we're allowed to do and not do. And it's very frustrating. It's very similar to how I felt when I was speaking with Philip Garrido. I knew something was up - I didn't know what. And I wanted to do something about it. I wanted to take the guy to jail, but I couldn't.

INSKEEP: Let's remind people - Philip Garrido is the man who in fact, had kidnapped Jaycee Dugard and had fathered two children by her; and actually brought the two children with him. There was something strange about the whole crowd of people that caught your eye, I guess.

JACOBS: Absolutely. If he didn't have those young women with him that day, I probably would have disregarded him as just speaking nonsense, and just typical - person that we deal with in Berkeley, and thought nothing of it.

INSKEEP: This guy had come to U.C.-Berkeley wanting to stage some kind of event. You became suspicious. What did you do?

JACOBS: What I did was, I started focusing in on the girls and the behavior they were exhibiting, compared to his. He was very smelly; irrational at times. He was talking about how he can speak to God. And I clued into the fact that his daughters weren't reacting to that in - in my opinion - a normal way. If my dad was talking about how he could talk to God, I'd probably be a little embarrassed.

After the interview was over, I called the parole agent and asked them to do a home check. My main concern was, I want to make sure that their home life is OK because it didn't seem like it, at that point, and there was nothing I can do. Again, my hands were tied. I couldn't check their home from U.C.-Berkeley; but I did have resources that I could reach out to, that could do that for me.

INSKEEP: Ally Jacobs, I want to ask one other thing. You said you were at this Amber Alert conference. Statistically speaking, when you look at a room full of people like that, will most of them ever find their relatives?

JACOBS: I mean, that's the hard part. I mean, I didn't want to provide them with any sense of false hope, but you just never know. It's like winning the lottery. But the more we educate people to pay attention, the more we actually remember that you know what? There are missing people out there that have been missing for a long time, so maybe I should clue myself in to strange behavior.

It's not like I went out looking for Jaycee. It's not like the neighbor went out looking for Amanda Berry. It happened, but it can happen to anybody. And the likelihood of finding someone is higher if that person actually acts instead of just disregarding it as nothing.

INSKEEP: Ally Jacobs is a retired U.C.-Berkeley police officer and now, a public speaker. Thank you very much.

JACOBS: Thank you, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.