- The Washington Times - Monday, February 5, 2007

CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri man accused of kidnapping two boys and holding one for more than four years was charged yesterday with molesting them nearly 70 times.

St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCullough said that Michael Devlin has “acknowledged committing these acts” and that the evidence includes interviews with all the people involved.

Mr. Devlin, who has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping charges, was charged with 69 counts of forcible sodomy — all felonies, and each punishable by up to life in prison.

The charges were the first time authorities have openly accused Mr. Devlin, a 41-year-old pizzeria manager, of molesting the children.

Mr. McCullough said 18 of the counts related to 13-year-old Ben Ownby, who disappeared Jan. 8, and the remaining counts were related to Shawn Hornbeck, now 15, who was abducted in 2002.

Both boys were found inside Mr. Devlin’s apartment in the St. Louis suburb of Kirkwood on Jan. 12. The charges say that after kidnapping Shawn in October 2002, Mr. Devlin kept Shawn isolated in his apartment for the first month.

Less than a week after the boys were found, Shawn’s parents appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show, saying they thought he had been sexually abused during the ordeal.

In a written statement, defense attorneys Ethan Corlija and Michael Kielty said that they have explained the charges to Mr. Devlin and that he understands they are “very serious.”

“We have also told Mr. Devlin that we have received no evidence from any of the prosecutors about any of the charges,” the statement said.

“Common sense and the Constitution would suggest that everyone should wait to hear any evidence before reaching any final judgment.”

Authorities have said Mr. Devlin used a gun to threaten Shawn when he was abducted.

Scott Sherman, a lawyer representing Shawn and his family, said the teen is willing to testify if the case goes to trial.

“I think he’s committed to justice, as painful as it might be,” Mr. Sherman said.

Shawn was 11 when he vanished while riding his bike near his home in Richwoods, Mo. Ben disappeared after he got off the school bus in Beaufort, Mo. A white pickup seen speeding away led police to Mr. Devlin, authorities said.

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