UNION, Mo. A former pizzeria manager who snatched a teen off a rural road a crime that led to the discovery of another missing boy was sentenced to life in prison Monday as the sprawling case neared an end.
Michael Devlin, 41, said little at the brief hearing, the first of several this week in which he is expected to plead guilty to abducting and sexually abusing the boys, one of whom was held captive for four days, the other for four years.
Prosecutors painted the most detailed portrait yet of Devlin as a predator, laying out evidence showing how he hunted the area for months before taking 13-year-old William "Ben" Ownby at gunpoint after he stepped off his school bus Jan. 8.
In the three months before Ben's abduction, Devlin visited rural areas, driving near schools and following school bus routes "in hopes of finding a boy," Franklin County prosecutor Bob Parks said.
One day, Parks said, Devlin "followed one boy as he walked down the road by himself. This turned out to be Ben Ownby."
With duct tape, a brown hooded sweat shirt and a 9 mm gun in his pickup, Devlin drove up to Ben and asked him if he knew where some people lived, Parks said.
When Ben appeared nervous, Parks said, Devlin grabbed him and shoved him into the truck. Ben asked Devlin why he was taking him, Parks said.
"The defendant said, 'Just because,"' Parks said, and drove back to his apartment in Kirkwood, Mo.
Police followed a tip to Devlin's apartment four days later, where they found Ben and Shawn Hornbeck, 15.
Devlin's attorneys said he accepted a plea deal after reviewing the evidence collected by authorities. The boys' families said they were relieved because the pleas will spare the teens from testifying and publicly reliving the case.
"Nothing good could have come from a trial," said defense attorney Michael Kielty. "The evidence ... is just absolutely overwhelming."
Don Ownby, Ben's father, stared stoically and silently as Circuit Court Judge Stanley Williams sentenced Devlin to life for kidnapping and 20 years for armed criminal action. Ben's mother, Doris Ownby, nervously clenched her fists.
Devlin did not apologize.
"I have no feelings for that person," Don Ownby said afterward, adding that his son had returned to the life he knew before the abduction and chose not to attend the hearing.
Washington County prosecutor John Rupp said Devlin will plead guilty Tuesday to kidnapping, abusing and attempting to murder Hornbeck in 2002. Rupp said Devlin kidnapped Shawn at gunpoint when the boy, then 11, was riding his bike in the remote town of Richwoods.
Devlin also is due in court Tuesday in St. Louis County and in federal court in St. Louis by Wednesday. Prosecutors say they expect Devlin will receive multiple, consecutive life sentences, all but assuring that Devlin will die in prison.
"This is a predator. This guy is evil. This is evil incarnate. You will never see anybody worse than this because this is a guy that preys on our kids," Parks said after Monday's hearing.
While it is The Associated Press' policy not to identify suspected victims of sexual abuse in most cases, the story of Shawn and Ben has been widely publicized and their names are well known.