We see it on the news every day, missing children, some found in hours, others found dead and some never to return. When a child is kidnapped, law enforcement has about a forty-eight-hour window to find the missing child before the odds of finding the child alive dramatically decrease. Most of the time, after this forty-eight-hour window the kidnapper has graduated to killer, and our worst fears are generally confirmed when we find the bodies of these missing children days, or weeks later.
However, what happens to these children after the forty-eight-hour mark if they are not killed by their abductors? We’ll take you through the fifteen most harrowing cases of child abduction, but that’s not all, these children lived to tell. The thing each of these children has in common is the man made hell they all lived in forced upon them by their creepy captors.
15 Elizabeth Shoaf Kept in a Shallow Bunker
In 2006 North Carolina teen, Elizabeth Shoaf was abducted by Vinson Filyaw. Filyaw posed as a police officer, telling the young girl she was arrested. Brandished in his fake police gear, he placed her in handcuffs. Soon Shoaf’s nightmare would begin as she was led into the nearby woods by the man she thought was a police officer. Unbeknownst to Shoaf, her abductor had actually dug a shallow bunker in preparation for the abduction. It’s unclear to investigators if Filyaw had specifically planned to kidnap Shoaf, or if she was simply a victim of convenience. However, once the pair got to Filyaw’s bunker, he chained her up by the neck and assaulted her several times a day for the next ten days. Shoaf, when she was initially being led into the woods had left her shoes nearby in hopes that they would lead to her discovery, she had also left strands of her hair. However, she would finally be rescued when her abductor fell asleep and she sent a text to her mother from Filyaw’s cell phone.
14 Shasta Groene Kidnapped by the Killer Who Murdered Her Family
On May 16th, 2005 three members of the Groene family was found bludgeoned to death in their Idaho home. However, immediately investigators noticed that two of the children that lived in the home were missing, eight-year-old Shasta and nine-year-old Dylan. The three bodies in the home were the children’s mother Brenda, Their stepfather Mark McKenzie and thirteen-year-old Slade. Immediately an Amber alert was issued in the hope of finding the missing children. However, it wasn’t until July that Shasta was discovered. She was in the company of a man named Joseph E. Duncan III and not in the company of her brother Dylan. The Denny’s employees alerted the police and Duncan was apprehended, shortly after his arrest the remains of Dylan were found. Shasta reported that over the course of her two-month abduction, Duncan had assaulted her and Dylan repeatedly before killing Dylan, often telling them about how he bludgeoned to death the rest of their family.
13 Sabine Dardenne Kidnapped by the Monster of Belgium
In 1996 Belgian school girl Sabine Dardenne was abducted at the age of twelve while riding her bike to school by Marc Dutroux. He would take her back to his home and chain her up in his basement for an astonishing seventy-four days. Unknown to Sabine, Dutroux was a serial killer and rapist who was already responsible for the kidnapping and killings of other young girls, he was known as “the Monster of Belgium”. One of Dutroux’s victims even died of starvation while being chained in his basement after he was imprisoned for car theft. Sabine was finally rescued after she had reportedly asked for a companion while being chained up in the basement, prompting him to kidnap yet another young girl. However, this time, the monster’s plates were recognized and he was arrested in relation to the kidnappings. Sabine reported that he had often called himself her “savior” constantly reminding her that “the boss” wanted to kill her, this led many to believe that Dutroux was part of a secret pedophile ring.
12 Anne Sluti Leaves Notes in Abandoned Houses to Lead to Her Rescue
Seventeen-year-old Anne Sluti had spent a day at the Hilltop Mall in her hometown of Kearny when she was abducted while walking to her car. She was pulled into a Suburban by Anthony Steven Wright and beaten over the head until she lost consciousness on April 6th, 2001. Wright chained Sluti up and duct taped her mouth, all while assaulting her repeatedly on the road trip from hell that would eventually them to Montana. Once in Montana, Wright broke into several cabins looking for a place to house his new victim. In a stroke of genius, Sluti left notes behind to alert people of her capture, even successfully calling her mother after telling Wright she was calling a friend. Finally, Sluti managed to call 911 and lead them to her location where her abductor and the police would engage in a two-day standoff before Sluti’s safe return.
11 Shawn Hornbook Rescued When His Abductor Kidnaps Another Young Boy
Eleven-year-old Shawn Hornbeck would leave his home in 2002 for a bike ride, unaware that a predator was watching him. Michael J. Devlin followed the boy and abducted him once the time was right, Devlin would ultimately have the boy for four whole years, even making him take on the alias Shawn Devlin. The boy reported that in the first month of his captivity he was tied to a futon with duct tape over his mouth, rarely ever leaving that spot. The boy assaulted several times a day by Devlin, often being the subject of Devlin’s twisted photo shoots and home movies. Four years after Shawn’s abduction, Devlin kidnapped thirteen-year-old Ben Ownby. However, Ownby’s neighbor was able to relay a description of the abductor’s car to police, which eventually lead to the capture of Michael J. Devlin. When police raided Devlin’s apartment looking for Ben Ownby, to their horror they had stumbled upon another boy in captivity, that boy was Shawn Hornbeck.
10 Steven Stayner Enrolled in School by His Abductor
Seven-year-old California boy Steven Stayner was approached by Ervin Edward Murphy in 1972. Murphy was an acquaintance of convicted child molester, Kenneth Parnell. Murphy convinced the seven-year-old to get into Parnell’s car, Parnell then took Steven to his cabin and repeatedly assaulted him for the next seven years. Parnell told Steven that his parents had given him to Parnell because they simply could not afford to have as many children. Shockingly, Parnell renamed the boy Dennis Gregory Parnell and even enrolled the boy in school. Years later Parnell began to look for a younger victim and eventually found one in five-year-old Timothy White. While Parnell was away at work, Steven took Timothy and ran to the police station telling them of his twisted seven-year hell. Tragically, in 1989 at twenty-four years old Steven Stayner was killed in a hit and run motorcycle accident. A then fourteen-year-old Timothy White, was a pall bearer at Steven’s funeral.
9 Natascha Kampusch Kept in a Five Foot Closet for Eight Years
One of the most notarized and terrifying kidnapping cases was that of then ten-year-old Natascha Kampusch in 1998. Natascha had been snatched by Wolfgang Priklopil in his white van. After the kidnapping Priklopil took Natascha back to his home where he had made a small five-foot closet in his basement, reinforced with steel and concrete. For the first six months in captivity Natascha was not allowed out outside of the closet at all, losing all sense of time and place. Finally, after some time Natascha was allowed upstairs where she would do chores for Priklopil, but he was extremely paranoid about her leaving any trace of her existence. He made hear wear a bag over her head so that she would not leave any hair, and he made her wipe all her fingerprints. However, after eight years of being beaten, starved and as she would later confess, raped, she was let outside of the house to vacuum Priklopil’s car. She saw her opportunity and began banging on the door of a nearby house for help. Shortly after her rescue, Priklopil committed suicide by jumping in front of a moving train.
8 Fusako Sano in Her Own Japanese Horror Film
Fusako Sano was only nine-years-old when she was kidnapped in 1990, in Japan. Fusako had been abducted by a local, nearly 30-year-old man named Nobuyuki Sato, the man had a reputation for being mentally disturbed. After kidnapping Fusako he tied her up and began to cut her hair and make him wear his clothes, all in the apartment he shared with his elderly mother. Eerily Nobuyuki Sato lived not even three hundred yards from the local police station, even at one time having his apartment searched by police, yet they never found Fusako. It wasn’t until Fusako had already been in captivity for nine years that the kidnapper’s elderly mother alerted police because she claimed her son was acting strange and having violent outbursts. Finally, police found Fusako. She would never make a full recovery, suffering from severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and reportedly still having the mental capacity of her nine-year-old self.
7 Elizabeth Thomas Kidnapped by Her Teacher
The twisted tale of Elizabeth Thomas started unbelievably enough at her small high school in Tennessee when she was just fifteen-years-old. Her health sciences teacher, fifty-year-old Tad Cummins had allegedly taken a keen liking to Elizabeth, who at the time was a troubled teen who had been severely bullied. Cummins helped Elizabeth with homework, gave her money and even bought a microwave so Elizabeth could warm up her food in his room. Witnesses say he immediately began grooming the girl, a term used to describe the process in which a predator becomes close to the victim working up to the eventual sexual assaults. Before Cummins would kidnap Elizabeth on March 13th, 2016 he had been suspended for kissing Elizabeth on school property. Elizabeth’s father says that she began to be even more ridiculed by her peers due to Cummins’ inappropriate attention toward her. Finally, they would leave town together, Cummins’ alleged it was voluntary, but Elizabeth claimed that he had threatened her, groomed her and manipulated her until she felt she had no other option but to run away with Cummins. They were on the run for a little over a month.
6 Jessyca Mullenberg Her Appearance Changed by Her Abductor
Perhaps one of the most shocking cases of kidnapping involved a then thirteen-year-old Jessyca Mullenberg, who was abducted by a deranged man who had seemingly woven himself in every fold of young Jessyca’s life. A man named Steven Oliver was not only her neighbor, but a teacher’s aide at her school as well as a father of one of her classmates. He began to abuse her when she was nine, often at his own home when she was over visiting his children. On September 16th, 1995 Oliver told Jessyca that a publisher was interested in a story she had written, and her parents allowed her to go with the man that they had known for years, blissfully unaware of what he would do next. Jessyca says that she fell asleep in the car and woke up to her feet and hands bound, their next stop would be an airport to fly to Houston. There, in a seedy motel he cut and dyed Jessyca’s hair and told her that her new name was Cindy Johnson. She recounts being severely abused every day by Oliver, lasting an excruciating three-and-a-half months in that very same seedy hotel room until she was rescued.
5 Elizabeth Fritzl Held Captive by a Monster: Her Father
Elisabeth Fritzl was only eleven-years-old in 1977 when her father began to abuse the young girl, however, it wasn’t until Elisabeth was eighteen that he would do the unthinkable. One evening, Elisabeth’s father, Josef Fritzl lured his teenage daughter down to their basement saying that he needed help with a door. Unbeknownst to Elisabeth he had been working on her own personal prison for a long time, Elisabeth went into that basement and did not emerge again for twenty-four years. Upon Elisabeth’s sudden “disappearance” the Fritzl’s filed a missing persons report, all the while her mother was unaware that Elisabeth was tucked neatly away in her very own basement. Josef Fritzl told police that Elisabeth ran away to join a religious cult, and showed them the letters he forced Elisabeth to write about her whereabouts, postmarked from different cities. During her time in captivity her father would assault her nearly daily, eventually resulting to Elisabeth giving birth to seven children, all fathered by Josef Fritzl. The oldest child was eighteen at the time of discovery, the same age as Elisabeth when she was taken into captivity.
4 John Paul Getty III's Severed Ear is Mailed to His Parents
John Paul Getty the third was only sixteen-years-old in 1973 when he was kidnapped in Rome for ransom. Getty’s grandfather John Paul Getty Sr. was at the time the richest man in the world when he received a ransom note for $7 million in exchange for the safe return of his grandson. However, Getty Sr. unlike most frantic relatives, was unamused by the ransom and thought his grandson had some involvement in his own kidnapping in order to extort money to his grandfather. Days passed, and still no action was taken, until the Gettys received a strange package in the mail, and still no word from the kidnapped John Paul the third. In the envelope they found a lock of hair and John Paul’s ear, the ear had been cut off by the kidnappers and mailed to the Gettys in order to push the royal Italian family to take them seriously. However, Getty Sr. was a fragile man, steadfast in the belief that had he paid the kidnappers their ransom, his other fourteen grandchildren might become targets as well. Finally, he agreed to pay a ransom but only worth $2.2 million.
3 Elizabeth Smart's Nine-Year-Old Sister Witnesses Her Kidnapping
The kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart was perhaps one of the most publicized kidnapping cases of all time, but what really happened on that warm June night in 2002? Elizabeth Smart, the fourteen-year-old blonde beauty from Salt Lake City, Utah was tucked in bed on the early morning of June 5th, alongside her nine-year-old sister Mary Katherine. As the two slept Mary Katherine reported that she was awoken to the sound of her sister Elizabeth being abducted, she pretended to be asleep until she felt it was safe to tell her parents. From then the search for Elizabeth erupted, Mary Katherine claiming she never got a good look at the abductor’s face, but thought his voice sounded familiar. Finally, Mary Katherine identified the man only known to the family as “Emmanuel” he was living at a nearby shelter and did odd jobs for the Smarts. After his face was aired on America’s Most Wanted, he was spotted by a biker with Elizabeth. She was in captivity for over nine months.
2 The Ohio Three
Beginning on August 23rd, 2002 the terrifying reign of Cleveland resident Ariel Castro would last an incredible eleven years, all beginning with the kidnapping of twenty-one-year old Michelle Knight. Michelle Knight was abducted by Ariel Castro, after he offered to give her a ride home when he spotted her walking alongside the road. Instead, Ariel Castro, a bus driver for the neighboring school district would take Michelle Knight back to his home where he had already made a room meant for a captive. There, he kept her as a sex slave until April 21st, 2003 when Castro would bring home yet another captor, a girl he kidnapped from a local Burger King, sixteen-year-old Amanda Berry. The two girls were held in captivity together for almost a year when incredibly, a third girl, fourteen-year-old Gina DeJesus was added to Castro’s secret bedroom after kidnapping Gina from a playdate with his own daughter. The girls were held captive all the way until May of 2013, repeatedly being assaulted, beaten and starved by Castro. Amanda Berry even having a child, fathered by Castro. The girls were rescued after Amanda called 911 and said “help me, I’m Amanda Berry I’ve been missing for ten years.”
1 Jaycee Dugard, Eighteen Years in Captivity
The case of Jaycee Dugard is widely regarded as one of the most severe cases of Stockholm Syndrome, a mental condition that derives from being held captive for so long you no longer see your jailers as enemies, but rather grow a fondness for them out of habit. Eleven-year-old Jaycee Dugard was subdued by a stun-gun on her way home by a man named Phillip Garrido and his wife Nancy. Jaycee was taken back to the Garrido’s sound proof storage unit, where she was assaulted and abused repeatedly. Garrido would come visit Jaycee, often on meth binges, and make her dress up in doll clothes and wear makeup. Even more shocking, during Jaycee’s captivity Phillip went to prison for a drug charge, and his wife Nancy kept Jaycee prisoner for him until his return. When Jaycee was only thirteen she gave birth to a child fathered by Garrido and then a few years later gave birth to another. After a stunning eighteen years in captivity, when Jaycee was finally found she was still not ready to admit what had happened to her. It was only when Garrido confessed to the crime that she felt comfortable revealing her true identity.