The parents of a 15-year-old Missouri boy said Friday their son was amazed to find his room virtually the same as when he had last seen it before he was abducted 4 1/2 years ago.
"Believe it or not there was one T-shirt in that drawer that did fit him and he kept and he was able to wear," Shawn Hornbeck's stepfather, Craig Akers, told NBC's "Today" show. "He was just tickled pink that everything was just the way it was left."
Michael Devlin, a 41-year-old pizzeria manager, is accused of taking 13-year-old Ben Ownby just after the boy got off a school bus Jan. 8 in Beaufort, about 50 miles southwest of St. Louis. A schoolmate's tip about a white pickup helped lead authorities to Devlin's apartment in a St. Louis suburb, where they found Ben and Shawn on Jan. 12.
Devlin pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of kidnapping Ben. Devlin also is charged with kidnapping Shawn in 2002 but has not entered a plea in that case.
In another nationally televised interview Thursday, Akers and Shawn's mother, Pam Akers, said that even though Shawn hasn't told them directly, they believe he was molested while he was missing.
While it is The Associated Press' policy not to identify alleged victims of sexual abuse in most cases, Shawn's case has been widely publicized and his name is well-known. Also, the family has gone public, conducting several national interviews.
Devlin's attorney, Michael Kielty, declined Thursday to respond to the claim of sexual abuse, saying he hasn't seen evidence in the case. "The only thing I have is an allegation," he said.
Shawn's grandmother, Anna Quinn, told the AP on Thursday that the boy has not spoken Devlin's name, and that he has said little to relatives about what he went through. She said Shawn did say that at times during the last four years, Devlin would wake him every 45 minutes. Prosecutors said Devlin terrorized Shawn with a handgun to get him to cooperate.
"You can be bound mentally as well as physically," Craig Akers said Friday on the "Today" show. "You can be just terrified, so afraid that it can control your life which obviously it did."
Akers also said he was haunted by having dismissed a series of messages Shawn apparently posted on a Web site his parents had created in their search for him. "How long are you planning to look for your son?" read one of the messages, signed "Shawn Devlin."
"Never in my wildest dreams would have I have imagined it was my son who had done that," Akers said, adding that he had assumed the messages were like many others sent by people who falsely claimed to be Shawn or know where he was.
The parents told Oprah Winfrey on her show Thursday that they have not asked their son about his ordeal on the advice of child advocacy experts.
Shawn, who also was on Winfrey's show, hasn't spoken publicly about his captivity. He said he was grateful Ben's arrival led to their rescue.
"I'm thankful that he held in there for those few days. I told myself a long time ago I never wanted any kid to go through what I went through," Shawn said.
Winfrey said Shawn told her off-camera that he was "terrified" to contact his parents while he was missing.
Devlin's arrest has prompted authorities to investigate him in at least one other missing child case. Lincoln County, Mo., authorities have called Devlin the "most viable lead" in the case of Arlin Henderson, who was 11 when he disappeared while riding his bike in 1991 and has never been found.
The boy was, like Ben and Shawn, about 100 pounds and from a rural town about an hour from St. Louis.
Story courtesy of the Associated Press.