In March of 1977, Phillip Garrido was 25 and in federal prison pleading with a judge to reduce his 50-year prison sentence for kidnapping a stranger.

In neat handwriting and misspelled words, Garrido wrote in a letter that drugs had caused a "downfall" that led to his conviction a month earlier. He promised he had seen the error of ways during his brief time behind bars.

Garrido, now charged with the 1991 kidnapping and rape of Jaycee Dugard, told U.S. District Court Judge Bruce R. Thompson he was "ashamed" for what he had done and had later admitted on the witness stand.

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He said he had finished his high school education during his time behind bars, was seeing a psychiatrist and learning the carpentry trade.

He was contrite and pleading.

"When living at home and going to school, my life was free from the influences of drugs," his letter began after he misspelled the judge's first name as "Bruse."

"I was the baby of the family and spoiled in the long run," he said.

The letter contained in court records provides new insight into the man accused of keeping Dugard locked away in his backyard for 18 years and fathering two children with her.

There was no hint of the sexually obsessed kidnapper and rapist who testified a month earlier to prowling through neighborhoods as a Peeping Tom and exposing himself to girls as young as 7.

Garrido told Thompson that by 1969, marijuana had found its way to his rural neighborhood east of San Francisco. He also began using copious amounts of LSD.

"Slowly it began to take me to another style of living and thinking, in the long run I lost much of my reasoning powers," he wrote. "Seven years of using made me fall from reality."

He assured the judge, however, that he had rediscovered the right path after seeing a psychiatrist.

"Of course that is because I wanted to, knowing this is my chance to get my life in line," he wrote. "Drugs have been my downfall. I am so ashamed of my past. But my future is now in controle (sic)."

Garrido failed to persuade the judge to order his early release. His appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also was unsuccessful.

Still, he was freed on parole in 1988 because federal sentences meted out in the 1970s allowed prisoners given 30 years or more to apply for release after serving 10 years.

In documents previously detailed by The Associated Press, Garrido wrote the judge from jail in Reno shortly after he was convicted by a federal jury on Feb. 11, 1977. He said he was firing his trial lawyer and wanted a new one appointed for his appeal.

His handwriting was neat and the letter was also full of misspellings.

"My appointed counsel from beginning to end has not been in my best behalf," Garrido complained. "I stayed with him because I have no insight on the law."

Garrido testified during his three-day trial and hurt his cause. He freely told the jury that he abducted his victim and raped her at a storage shed he rented in Reno. He discussed at length his rape fantasies and discussed exposing himself to little girls.

"I had this fantasy that was driving me to do this, inside of me; something that was making me want to do it without — no way to stop it," he said.

The victim testified that Garrido had discussed his sexual fantasies while driving her to the storage area, where he assaulted her for more than five hours until a police officer knocked on the door after becoming suspicious of the victim's car parked nearby.

More than three decades later, Garrido and his wife Nancy are being held in El Dorado County on charges of kidnapping and raping Dugard then holding her at an Antioch home, even as parole officers and police occasionally turned up to check on him. They have pleaded not guilty.

Hayward police are investigating any possible links between Garrido and the unsolved 1988 abduction of Michaela Garecht. She was snatched from a parking lot after the 9-year-old and a friend rode their scooters to a market.

"We immediately just from news reports heard there were enough similarities in the case that it was worth looking," police Lt. Chris Orrey said. "So far nothing has eliminated him as a suspect."