Pizza manager's links to 1991 abduction investigated - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

01/18/07 - Union, Missouri

Pizza manager's links to 1991 abduction investigated

Arlin Henderson at 11 and how he would look today. Arlin was last seen riding his bike near his Moscow Mills home in 1991. Arlin Henderson at 11 and how he would look today. Arlin was last seen riding his bike near his Moscow Mills home in 1991.

Authorities are examining similarities between the disappearances of Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby and the disappearance in 1991 of 11-year-old Arlin Henderson.

Meanwhile, Missouri authorities said they are looking into the possibility that Michael Devlin, 41, may have also monitored -- or even participated in -- a 2005 search for another missing child in order to learn police investigative techniques in such situations.

Lincoln County detective Chris Bartlett said Devlin was, at the very least, aware of the search for Bianca Noel Piper, 13, who disappeared in March 2005.

"Whether he was a part of it, in it, or in the middle, or just watching from afar, he absolutely knew what was going on," Bartlett said. "I certainly believe Michael Devlin was monitoring our search and the disappearance of Bianca Piper."

Police are examining similarities between Shawn, 15, who was found in Devlin's suburban St. Louis, Missouri, apartment Friday, and the 1991 disappearance of Henderson, then 11, from rural Moscow Mills.

Both Shawn and Henderson were last seen riding bicycles.

Henderson had a crew cut and was wearing a camouflage shirt and pants.

Henderson bore a physical resemblance to Ben, a 13-year-old who was allegedly kidnapped January 8 as he got off the school bus near his home in Union, Missouri.

Ben was found with Shawn in Devlin's apartment.

Ben had been missing for four days; Shawn for more than four years.

Sheriff: Shawn taken at gunpoint

Police said the recovery of Ben and Shawn has breathed new life into the Piper and Henderson investigations, and prompted a few more tips in those cases. Lincoln County Sheriff's Lt. Rick Harrell told CNN Devlin's name is being checked against archived logs and investigation files from both disappearances.

Devlin will be arraigned at 8:30 a.m. (9:30 ET) Thursday by videoconference because of security concerns.

Meanwhile, Wednesday afternoon prosecutors announced Devlin has been charged with two counts of kidnapping, which carry a maximum of 15 years each, and armed criminal action, which carries a minimum of three years.

The latter charge stems from an allegation that Devlin kidnapped Shawn at gunpoint, said Washington County Sheriff Kevin Schroeder.

Addressing reporters Wednesday, prosecutor John Rupp said there is no question that Shawn was kidnapped and was not with Devlin voluntarily.

"Shawn was abducted against his will. Period. End of the story," Rupp said.

Devlin's bond has been set at $3 million cash.

Franklin County Sheriff Gary Toelke said Devlin will make his court appearance via closed-circuit television from his jail cell two miles away to avoid transporting a suspect in such a high profile case.

Franklin County prosecutor Robert Parks said he and his counterparts in other counties involved in the case are "pooling all of our evidence" to determine what other charges will be brought against Devlin.

Ben's parents said Tuesday their son is recovering from the ordeal, but has not discussed what happened.

"Ben's doing fine," said Doris Ownby.

She and her husband, William, have sought professional counseling for the entire family.

"They said not to push a child that's been through something like that," William Ownby said. "Eventually, they'll come to terms and volunteer that -- or not. That's fine. He hasn't volunteered anything -- yet. But they say it takes time."

Though the boy wanted to return to school Tuesday, his parents said they kept him at home to give him more time to regain a sense of normalcy.

Devlin's attorneys plan to provide their client with civilian clothing for Thursday's court appearance, fearing that the standard orange prison jumpsuit could taint his image.

"We are anticipating a long week of battle to protect his rights and preserve the integrity of the system." attorney Michael Kielty told CNN's "Larry King Live" Monday night.

After his arrest last week, many people who knew Devlin said they were shocked that the middle-aged, heavy-set man who grew up in the St. Louis suburbs could be involved in the alleged crimes.

"I hate to be the guy to use the cliche that he seemed like a normal guy, but he really did," said Rob Hart, who said he was a friend of Devlin's.

Devlin confronted

Kirkland police officer Gary Wagster and fellow officer Chris Nelson started questioning Devlin outside his apartment building after they realized his truck matched the description of the suspect's vehicle in Ben's kidnapping.

They said that initially Devlin was happy and respectful to them.

"As the questions began to get more specific, that's when the attitude changed," Wagster said. "It threw a lot of red flags up for us."

The officers know Devlin because they frequented Imo's pizza parlor, where Devlin worked.

After the officers' encounter with Devlin, they said they walked away with an uneasy feeling that things weren't right and alerted agencies involved in the Ownby case.

Officials then discovered the two boys inside Devlin's apartment and made the arrest.

Devlin's landlord described him as an ideal tenant and Mike Prosperi, his boss for 25 years, said his employee never gave him trouble.

"I mean, he was my manager, he counted my money. ... And you just don't do that with somebody that you don't trust," Prosperi said.

But Prosperi said he became suspicious because Devlin had called in sick the day Ben disappeared and the police description of the vehicle involved in Ben's abduction matched Devlin's white truck.

Prosperi said he called police. Police said investigators were getting ready to look into the tip when Wagster and Nelson spotted the truck themselves.

Story courtesy of CNN Newsource.

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