Task Force Investigating Missouri Kidnap Suspect Devlin Checks for Connections to Unsolved Cases

A task force investigating kidnapping suspect Michael Devlin is talking to investigators elsewhere in the nation, checking for any connections between him and their cases, a spokesman said Thursday.

The task force formed after Devlin was charged in the alleged abductions of Ben Ownby, 13, and Shawn Hornbeck, now 15, who had been missing more than four years from near his home in Richwoods.

Ben disappeared in Beaufort on Jan. 8, four days before the boys were found about an hour from their homes at Devlin's apartment in the St. Louis suburb of Kirkwood. The discovery came after police spotted a vehicle that matched the description of a white pickup that was spotted speeding away from where Ben disappeared.

Devlin, 41, has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping the boys.

"The task force feels they're at the foothills of this investigation," said task force spokesman Sgt. Al Nothum, who works for the Missouri State Highway Patrol. "They've got a long way to go."

Nothum said the task force is "getting calls from other states," though he declined to discuss specific missing children's cases. Investigators previously confirmed they were looking into at least three cases in Missouri and one in Illinois.

Most notable among them is that of Charles "Arlin" Henderson, then 11, who disappeared in 1991 while riding his bike on a rural road in Moscow Mills — like Beaufort and Richwoods, about an hour's drive from St. Louis.

Nothum said some days about 15 investigators may be working the cases, on others, as many as 40, he estimated. There's no time frame for how long they'll work, he said.

"Remember a lot of these families, their kids are gone, and they're holding their breath right now," Nothum said. He cautioned that it's quite possible the investigation will not turn up any links between Devlin and the other cases.

Devlin's attorneys declined comment through a spokeswoman, Annette Mandel.

Nothum said eight agencies are involved in the task force: the FBI, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the sheriff's departments in Lincoln, Franklin, Washington and St. Louis counties and the city police in Kirkwood and St. Charles.