The already bizarre kidnapping case of two Missouri boys took an even weirder turn when it was reported one of them, Shawn Hornbeck, had actually met with police and was carrying on a relationship with a girl.
According to a report in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Hornbeck spoke with a Kirkwood police officer to report his bike stolen about 10 months after he was kidnapped from nearby Washington County.
The report says Hornbeck identified himself to police officer Christopher Moss as Shawn Devlin and gave police no indication that he had been kidnapped. He told police the bike had been taken from outside the apartment where he lived with his alleged captor Michael Devlin.
Moss wrote in his notes "I spoke with Shawn Devlin and his father Michael Devlin." After detailing the bike's disappearance, Moss wrote "the Devlins had no suspect information."
The bicycle Hornbeck reported stolen had been bought for him about a month earlier, around the time of his birthday, and wasn't the same one he used when he went out for a ride the day of his disappearance.
The paper also reported that Hornbeck, while kidnapped, carried on a relationship with a girl at one of St. Louis' most elite private schools.
Students at Visitation Academy, an all-girls school, say Hornbeck dated a freshman there for several months. The students said Hornbeck and the girl were even spotted holding hands at an area mall.
The couple even went to what's described as the "social event of the season," the Visitation-Priory Dance, at the St. Louis Priory school.
While police policy prevented the department from commenting, a Hornbeck family spokesperson addressed the news.
Kim Evans, a friend of Shawn's family who has been speaking for them, said she was "speechless" that Shawn was seen by police 10 months after his kidnapping.
"You would think someone would have recognized him," she said. "But it's hard to say."
The Post-Dispatch previously reported that on Sept. 29, 2006, a police officer in suburban Glendale stopped Shawn late at night because he was wearing dark clothes and didn't have reflectors on his bike.
According to the police report on that encounter, Hornbeck told the officer his name was Shawn Devlin and gave him the birth date July 7, 1991, 10 days off his true date of birth. He told the officer he was riding his bike to his apartment in Kirkwood after visiting a friend's home.
Glendale police have said the officer had no reason to suspect Shawn Devlin was someone else.
On Friday, Hornbeck's stepfather, Craig Akers, said he was haunted by having dismissed a series of messages he 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 to know where he was.
Hornbeck was missing more than four years before he was discovered Jan. 12 with 13-year-old Ben Ownby, who had been reported missing four days earlier. Devlin, 41, has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping Ownby and has been charged with kidnapping Hornbeck.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.