UNION, Mo. – A former pizzeria manager said Tuesday that he attempted to kill a boy he kidnapped and held captive in his apartment, but the child persuaded him not to do it.
Michael Devlin, 41, pleaded guilty to kidnapping, sexually assaulting and attempting to murder Shawn Hornbeck, and received multiple life sentences. He pleaded guilty Monday to kidnapping another boy, and is expected to enter more guilty pleas in other courts.
During Tuesday's hearing, Devlin — standing just feet away from Shawn's weeping parents — admitted in graphic detail how he abducted Shawn in 2002. He described the point at which the boy apparently turned from being an abduction victim to a captive forced to stay alive by following Devlin's horrific orders.
After Shawn was abducted at gunpoint while riding his bike in rural Washington County, Devlin took the then-11-year-old to his apartment in suburban St. Louis where he repeatedly sexually assaulted the boy. Days later, Devlin took Shawn back to rural Washington County in his pickup truck, apparently intent on killing him.
He said he pulled Shawn from his truck and began to strangle him. Shawn resisted.
"I attempted to kill (Shawn) and he talked me out of it," Devlin said.
Devlin stopped the choking, but then sexually assaulted the boy again. Prosecutors said it was at that point that Shawn told Devlin he would do whatever was asked of him in order to stay alive.
"This boy made this contract, this deal with the devil, only to survive," Washington County prosecutor John Rupp said.
Devlin kidnapped William "Ben" Ownby in January, and police who found Ben four days after he was taken were shocked to discover a 15-year-old Shawn in Devlin's apartment.
Devlin pleaded guilty Monday to one charge of child kidnapping and one charge of armed criminal action in Ben's abduction.
Prosecutors said the combined pleas mean Devlin will not be eligible for parole until he is more than 100 years old. He was sentenced to three life terms plus 60 years in prison Tuesday, in addition to a life sentence he received Monday.
Rupp said he was satisfied with the sentences Devlin received.
"You heard it from his own mouth. You've heard what kind of a monster he is," Rupp said after the hearing.
Devlin's defense attorneys and Shawn's parents declined to comment Tuesday. Devlin was expected to plead guilty later Tuesday in St. Louis County to 71 felony charges, including kidnapping and sexual assault, and was to appear in federal court in St. Louis by Wednesday.
Devlin's attorneys have said he accepted a plea deal after reviewing the massive body of evidence collected by state and federal authorities. The boys' families said they were relieved because the pleas will spare the teens from testifying and reliving the ordeal.
"Nothing good could have come from a trial," said defense attorney Michael Kielty. "The evidence ... is just absolutely overwhelming."
While it is The Associated Press' policy not to identify suspected victims of sexual abuse in most cases, the story of Shawn and Ben has been widely publicized and their names are well known.