CLAYTON, Mo. – A Missouri man accused of kidnapping two boys and holding one for more than four years was charged Monday with forcible sodomy.
The charges were the first time authorities have openly accused Michael Devlin of molesting the children.
Devlin was charged with 71 counts, two for kidnapping and the others for forcible sodomy, all felonies and each punishable by up to life in prison.
St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch said the charges related to two abductions, although he said he would not disclose the victims' names, in keeping with department policy when sexual abuse is alleged.
McCulloch said 18 of the counts related to an abduction last month, an apparent reference to the Jan. 8 disappearance of 13-year-old Ben Ownby. The remaining counts were related to an abduction in 2002, an apparent reference to Shawn Hornbeck, now 15.
McCulloch said the evidence includes interviews with all of the parties involved.
"Devlin acknowledged committing these acts," McCulloch said.
In a written statement, defense attorneys Ethan Corlija and Michael Kielty said they have explained the charges to 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.
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.
"The family is relieved that the speculation and the wondering with respect to what happened over four years is now over," Scott Sherman, a lawyer representing Shawn and his family, said in a telephone interview.
He said Shawn is "absolutely" willing to testify if the case goes to trial.
"I think he's committed to justice, as painful as it might be."
Devlin, a 41-year-old pizzeria manager, already faces kidnapping charges in Washington and Franklin counties for the abductions of Shawn and Ben.
Washington County authorities have said Devlin used a gun to threaten Shawn when he was abducted in 2002.
Devlin has pleaded not guilty to the earlier charges.
Shawn was 11 when he was taken in 2002 from near his home in Richwoods in rural Washington County. Ben was abducted in Beaufort on Jan. 8 in Franklin County, and a white pickup seen speeding away led police to Devlin.
Both boys were found inside Devlin's apartment in the St. Louis County suburb of Kirkwood on Jan. 12.