11-Yr-Old Disappears Without A Trace — 4 Years Later Officers Find Him Alive With Another Missing Boy

Dec 01, 2021 by apost team

In 2002, 11-year-old Shawn Hornbeck disappeared without a trace while riding his bicycle to his friend's house in Richwoods, Missouri.

Shawn, who had been kidnapped by the manager of a local pizza shop, 41-year-old Michael Devlin, lived in fear for four years, as Devlin kept him captive at home in Kirkwood, Missouri. Shortly after Devlin kidnapped Shawn, he kept the young boy tied up, according to the Daily Mail. And even after Devlin unbound Shawn, the young boy didn’t run, as he worried that Devlin might hurt his family if he escaped.

As Shawn grew older, Devlin gave the boy more freedoms, providing him with a cell phone and allowing him to meet with friends. However, Devlin didn’t allow the boy to go to school, and so he remained missing and in captivity for years — until 2007.

In January of that year, Devlin kidnapped another boy, Ben Ownby, from a bus stop. But this time, someone spotted Devlin and informed authorities that a white truck had sped away from the crime scene. That led police to Devlin’s house in Kirkwood, 50 miles from where he kidnapped Shawn in 2002. When police made their arrest, not only did they find Ben, but they also found a 15-year-old Shawn.

When the news first broke in 2007, media outlets called the rescue the “Missouri Miracle,” and Shawn shared his story on TV with Oprah Winfrey and other prominent hosts. 

Today, nearly two decades after Shawn first went missing, Devlin continues to serve 74 life sentences at Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron, Missouri.

“It is the phone call I will remember most for the rest of my life,” Craig Akers, Shawn’s father, told reporters of the moment police told him that they had found his son.

“This is the best day of our lives. It is hard to even come up with words to express the feeling. It has been like a dream, and we are afraid that we are going to wake up,” Akers said at the time.

During his four years of captivity, Shawn tried to reach out to his parents online, hoping that he might provide them with a hint or a little extra hope.

“I had read that you had gone to the Internet site to ask ‘How long will you be looking for your son.’ What did you feel doing that? Was that a way to connect with them?” Winfrey asked Shawn in 2007. 

“I was hoping it might give some sort of hint,” Shawn replied.  

It turns out that Shawn’s cry for help wasn’t ignored.

“I remember reading it,” Shawn’s father told Winfrey. “I remember thinking to myself either this is someone with that name or this is someone trying to yank my chain.”

“We knew the world knew the answer to that, we had been saying all along we would never stop looking for our son. It was strange."

“You get so many of these messages. On a daily basis you get so many weird, out there messages.”

Since police reunited Shawn with his family in 2007, media outlets have reported on several updates.


In 2013, Shawn spoke to reporters for the first time in years after authorities had rescued Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Georgina "Gina" DeJesus in a similar kidnapping case in Cleveland, Ohio.

“My emotions and the thoughts that I had was obviously joy. It’s showing that there is still miracle and hope out there and people just don’t need to give up because there’s always hope. You can’t go through life without it,” a 21-year-old Shawn told a local Fox station as he reacted to the rescue of the three women.

“When I hear about people coming home I instantly think about when I came home and seeing my parents for the first time because you will never feel another moment like that and I’m sure the girls felt the same thing I did when they were reunited with their family,” he added.

Shawn’s story was in the news again in 2019 when his father, Craig Akers, passed away. Family members and friends remembered Akers for his selflessness and his dedication to helping other families find their missing loved ones.

Even in 2020, new details about Shawn’s kidnapper continued to emerge. That year, Kevin Palmer was reading stories online about missing children when he stumbled upon Shawn’s story. When he saw Devlin’s photo, he yelled out, “That’s him!” 

Palmer said that Devlin tried to kidnap him while walking back from a video rental store in 1998. 

“During the investigation, we found out that he did go looking for other children, and he had about a 60 mile radius around the area where he lived,” said former Franklin County, Missouri, Sheriff Gary Toelke, who worked on Shawn’s case. 

Palmer said that he contacted the FBI and that he plans to file charges against Devlin.

Have you heard about Shawn's story? Have you heard of similar kidnappings? Let us know — and be sure to pass this story on to others.

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