Devlin pleads not guilty to kidnappings

The man found with missing boys faces multiple charges.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:13 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 12, 2008

POTOSI — Michael Devlin, appearing clean-shaven and thinner, pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that he kidnapped, sexually abused and tried to kill Shawn Hornbeck in 2002.

Devlin’s arraignment Monday at the Washington County Courthouse in Potosi marked the first time he has left the Franklin County jail since he was arrested Jan. 12. He was driven to Potosi but did not appear in person in the courtroom, instead hearing charges against him over a closed circuit video feed while he remained in a jail cell.

Devlin’s appearance had clearly changed. Gone was the facial hair from his previous arraignment in January in Franklin County. He also appeared to have lost considerable weight.

Devlin stared into the camera and showed no emotion as the judge read the charges spelling out in graphic detail allegations that he sexually abused and tried to suffocate Shawn in October 2002.

Shawn, now 15, was 11 when he was allegedly abducted while riding his bike near his home in Richwoods. In January, authorities searching for another missing boy, 13-year-old Ben Ownby of Beaufort, were stunned when they found both Ben and Shawn in Devlin’s apartment in the St. Louis County town of Kirkwood.

Ben had been missing four days after being abducted shortly after getting off a school bus.

Devlin, 41, is facing multiple charges in four jurisdictions. In addition to the charges in Washington County, he is charged with kidnapping Ben in Franklin County; is charged with two counts of kidnapping and 69 counts of forcible sodomy in St. Louis County, where he allegedly kept the boys; and faces federal charges of pornography and transporting a boy across state lines.

Devlin’s attorneys have received about 2,000 pages of evidence that state and federal authorities have amassed against their client. One of his attorneys, Ethan Corlija, said it would be wrong to assume Devlin’s case is a “slam dunk” that might be finished in one deal among all the jurisdictions.

Corlija said he plans to request that Devlin be permanently transferred to the St. Louis County jail, saying it is closer to family as well as his attorneys.

Meanwhile, a task force of local, state and federal law enforcement officers continues to dig through Devlin’s past to see if he was involved in other unsolved missing child cases. The task force includes investigators from Washington, Franklin, St. Louis and Lincoln counties, along with the FBI, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, and Kirkwood and St. Charles police.

While it is The Associated Press’ policy not to identify alleged victims of sexual abuse in most cases, the story of Shawn and Ben has been widely publicized and their names are now well-known. Also, their families have gone public, conducting several media interviews.

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