CLAYTON, Mo. (MCT) Michael J. Devlin pleaded guilty Tuesday of all 71 offenses of kidnapping and sexual assault against two boys he kept in his apartment in Kirkwood, Mo., and was sentenced in St. Louis County Circuit Court to 18 consecutive life terms and 52 additional concurrent life terms, for a total of 70 life terms, and 15 years for kidnapping.
Devlin entered his guilty pleas in a 45-minute hearing before Circuit Judge Mark D. Seigel in the courthouse in Clayton. Devlin did not speak other than to answer the judge's questions.
Seigel ordered that the 18 consecutive life terms run after the life sentences Devlin already had received in Franklin and Washington counties. Consecutive sentences are served one after the other, and concurrent are served together.
Devlin's plea in federal court is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. A pre-sentence investigation is required by law, suggesting that sentencing in the case might not come for two or three months.
Devlin admitted to kidnapping Shawn Hornbeck, then 11, from near the boy's home in Richwoods, Mo., on Oct. 6, 2002, and taking him back to his apartment in Kirkwood, where he repeatedly sexually assaulted the boy over more than four years. He also admitted to having kidnapped a second boy, William "Ben" Ownby, 13.
Police closed in on Devlin's apartment four days later to rescue Ben and were amazed to also find Shawn, who hadn't been heard from since his disappearance.
During the hearing this afternoon in Clayton, Devlin never looked at the two boys' parents Don and Doris Ownby and Craig and Pam Akers, who sat together in the front row of the third-floor courtroom.
Before Seigel sentenced Devlin, the Akers each read victim-impact statements in the courtroom while Devlin sat quietly at the defense table, between his lawyers Michael Kielty and Ethan Corlija. He wore a tan jail jumpsuit and was handcuffed throughout the hearing.
"The day the defendant stole my son away from me was the beginning of a nightmare no one should be forced to live," Pam Akers read from her statement. "... (Devlin) kept (Shawn) from his loving family all the while knowing how much we loved him and missed him. Knowing he was breaking our hearts to many pieces."
Craig Akers, Shawn's stepfather, told Seigel that Devlin "tore an 11-year-old child from his family, destroyed his innocence and attempted to end his life. He ripped the hearts of caring parents, family, relatives and friends. He stole away so many of the wonderful life experiences a boy shares with his father learning to shave, the birds and the bees, learning to drive, his first date. Shawn was also forced to leave behind his true loves in life, baseball and his dirt bike."
Craig Akers said, "We can now continue on with our healing, safe in our knowledge that the monster is caged and can hurt our family no more."
The Ownbys did not speak. Neither boy was present in the courtroom.
Assistant county prosecutor Rob Livergood outlined a bare-bones description of the charges against Devlin, staying primarily with a rendition of the indictment itself.
Livergood said that Devlin took Shawn to his apartment, tied him to a futon and went to work at his job at the Imo's pizza restaurant in downtown Kirkwood. Livergood said Devlin sexually assaulted Shawn until the boys were rescued, and frequently videotaped the assaults.
Livergood said the tapes show a screaming victim. He also outlined the offenses against Ben.
Seigel had Livergood recite the charges several at a time, then would turn to Devlin and ask if he was guilty of those charges.
"Yes, sir," Devlin would say, repeating the answer to each grouping of charges.
Seigel said Devlin had caused "unimaginable carnage on the people in this case."
When the hearing ended, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch and the victims' parents walked onto the plaza just outside the courthouse and spoke to reporters.
McCulloch said Livergood's description in court "was a very small taste of what (the boys) went through ... The boys are both heroes. It's a testament to how resilient they can be."
Asked whether Devlin pleaded guilty to spare the boys from having to testify, McCulloch said, "He pled guilty for Michael Devlin, so you wouldn't know the full atrocities on those boys."
Pam Akers said it was hard to sit in her seat during the court hearing. "It took every ounce of energy to stay in my seat. I wanted to get to him." As for Devlin never having looked at the parents, she said, "That shows how much of a coward he is."
When Craig Akers began answering a question about Devlin's lack of a public apology in any of the court hearings, Pam Akers interrupted and said, "Any apology he would have attempted to give would be just words. The only remorse he has is that he got caught."
Craig Akers said Shawn was "overjoyed that the defendant is going to be in prison the rest of his life. It brings him a great deal of relief."
He said Shawn "is slowly but surely returning from hell... We're seeing a lot more of the boy we knew in 2002."
He said Shawn was getting A's at an undisclosed private school and, at age 16, has progressed to the ninth-grade level. He said Shawn is riding a motorcycle and hoped to enter competitive racing next year.
The Ownby parents spoke briefly. "We're going to have some closure coming to our family now." His wife added, "It's been hard," and then the Ownbys left the plaza under escort.