Shawn Hornbeck

In January 2007, Pam and Craig Akers and Doris and Don Ownby came to The Oprah Winfrey Show to give their very first interview after being reunited with their sons Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby, who were abducted by the same man more than four years apart.

On October 6, 2002, while on his way to a friend's house, Shawn disappeared. At first, the family thought he was just running late, but after 45 minutes, Pam says she had a gut feeling that something terrible had happened. Immediately, Pam and her husband, Craig, jumped in the car and scoured their neighborhood for a sign of their son.

For four long years, Pam and Craig continued the search for Shawn. They even started a website in hope that someone may have information leading to his return. "We've always believed that there was absolutely hope that he was out there and that we would find him. That's what got us up every day," Craig said.

"I couldn't give up hope on him, and I knew the Lord knew where he was at, and if he wanted him brought back to me, that's the way it was going to happen," Pam said.
Don and Doris Ownby

Four and a half years after Shawn vanished, 13-year-old Ben Ownby was abducted after getting off his school bus. Ben was a straight-A student and Boy Scout who always let his parents know where he was. So when Ben was late coming home from school on January 8, 2007, his parents knew immediately that something was terribly wrong.

Doris and Don began frantically searching for their son and called to see if friends and neighbors had seen him. An eyewitness tip led police to the apartment of 41-year-old Michael Devlin. When authorities searched Devlin's apartment, they rescued Ben—and in a shocking twist, discovered 15-year-old Shawn.

Ben and Shawn's captor is currently serving 74 life sentences for sexual assault, kidnapping and attempted murder.
Shawn Hornbeck today

Two years after his return, Shawn's parents, Pam and Craig, say they have seen their now 17-year-old son grow in confidence and start to move forward with his life. They have each had individual therapy as well as family therapy to help during the recovery process. Pam admits, "[Shawn] doesn't really like to talk about [what happened to him] because he doesn't want to see us cry anymore."

"But it seems now he's standing straight up, his shoulders are back, he's looking forward—you know, he's talking to people with eye-to-eye contact now and just seems to be so much more comfortable with himself. And to know that he's okay and everything that, to me, has been a great, you know, transition in him," Pam says.

Shawn is now in high school and has started to become active in a variety of sports. "He's been racing motocross," Craig says. "There's a lot of what we see every day that reminds us so much of that little 11-year-old kid that disappeared that afternoon. There's a lot of things we'll never be able to bring back, but at the same time, it's still that same Shawn." Craig also says that they have so much to be thankful for. "Number one, having our son back and having our family whole again."

In the time since being reunited with his family Ben Ownby has started the healing process and trying to move forward with his life. Ben's family shared an update on his progress with this statement: "Ben is happy, he's healthy and doing what a normal teenage boy needs to be doing at this time. We're back to being as normal as normal can be."
FROM: Elizabeth Smart, John Ramsey: The Stories That Captured the Nation
Published on September 10, 2008


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