I got this e-mail over the weekend. It is very long, but I have read it now many times. I get a lot of e-mails, and many of them are wonderful, compassionate, full of feeling, and I love to read them. But this one is haunting me. It is full of empathy, for certain, but just something more that keeps drawing me back to it.
You are an amazing writer, perhaps its where you daughter got her own talent as we can see from the hauntingly beautiful poem. When I heard about Jaycee I found it to be such an incredible miracle and I started searching the net for more information. I somehow ended up on your website dedicated to Michaela and your words truly shook my soul. I felt like I just wanted to get up, run out my house and somehow find Michaela myself and bring her home to you, if only it was that easy. Michaela was a child when she was so cruelly ripped away from her family, why did God let this happen? Why does he let any child suffer? I know that they are not suffering because of God's actions but because of the actions of evil humans but sometimes you wonder how does the All powerful, All mighty Lord let these evil people get away with thier crimes. I am not daring to question God; I am simply putting across the questions which are usually asked by so many people. I believe there is a very good reason for this which we may not understand as humans, and maybe we will one day but of course we have to realize that God knows better than us and we have to trust him that one day, goodness will prevail. In your daughter's case I believe she was a chosen one, she was the epitome of pure goodness as are all children and she was chosen by God to fight this particular form of evil in the world. God knew her inner strength would overcome any evil thrown at her; her faith in God would never subside. Therefore the devil will never win and God has nothing but pride Michaela, he told the devil, 'do your worst but she will always love me'. In the same way God loves Michaela he is proud of her; he chose to show her off in front the devil because through Michaela the devil will never win. In any war, you choose your strongest fighters and God chose Michaela just like he chose Jaycee, and just like Jaycee survived through her darkness and made it to the light with radiant smile on her face, showing the world her incredible strength and that miracles really do come true, so will Michaela too.
God will never give a person any burden greater than they can bear, he won't give you any more pain greater than you can take. Each person has a limit and God never allows any person to exceed their limit. You may get to the point of breaking down and screaming 'I can't take it anymore' but remember God knows better than us, he knows how much you can take and how strength you have within you. It can only mean that God knows that like Jaycee, Michaela was strong enough to take this pain and bear this burden. There is evil in this world because of the devil, and we have to fight this evil, and overcome the devil and being chosen as one of God's fighters can be nothing but an honor. When faced with my own personal crisis and I realized this. I thought to myself, God believed in me this much? He had so much trust in me? So much belief in my faith in him? God knew that I had this strength in me when I didn't even know myself. Perhaps the day Michaela was taken, the devil sent his worker to take a child, but that child wasn't strong enough, that child didn't have that inner-strength, this child's mother couldn't bear the pain that came with this and so God sent Michaela to take this child's place. Not because he loved that child more than he loves Michaela but because he loved them both so much but he knew out of the two of them just like any mother knows the difference between her two children, he knew Michaela was the strongest. This decision of God's would have been so very hard for him but he had faith in Michaela and he has pride in the strength she has shown. He knew that other child would not survive this ordeal but Michaela would; exactly like Jaycee and so many others, Michaela was and is a survivor. Out of all the innocent children it could have been that horrible day God knew Michaela was the only child at that time and place that had the strength to survive it.
Perhaps God already asked Michaela's soul if she would be willing to help that child by taking her place and Michaela's soul agreed to help. Perhaps it was the week before she was taken, the morning when Michaela heard the 'people in the attic' and she felt the sudden conscience urge to write the forewarning poem.
God will reward Michaela for the strength and patience she has shown, I am positive God has a special place waiting for her alongside him in heaven. I see Michaela as a beautiful white rose so stunning and so pure. But she’s currently trapped in a garden full of thorns and you’re pushing your way through these thorns trying to get to her but you’re buried so deep you can't actually see her. You don't know how close you are to her or which direction to go in, your scratched and torn, bleeding and feel like you've been ripped to pieces and you have no idea how you’re going to get to her although you do know one thing, she's there. One day I'm positive you'll get to her where you'll be able to pick her up and replant her in your garden of love and happiness, in fact I believe you a very close.
I truly believe its this hope of yours, this ever lasting, never fading, ever burning hope and faith you have that you will one day be reunited with your daughter is exactly what is keeping your daughter alive and not only alive but well. I truly believe this energy and passion and desire of yours is reaching her and is giving her the strength to carry on.
I don't believe your crazy for thinking that Michaela is alive out there somewhere; I believe it is very possible for many reasons. First of all I think it would a lot easier to keep a person hidden for 21 years in comparison to keeping a 'body' hidden for that long. You can't exactly carry around a 'body' with you every where you go so you would have to hide it somewhere. But where could someone have hidden it in order to avoid it being found by now. No matter where, no matter how well you may have hidden it, somebody would have discovered it by now.
It is much easier I believe, to take a child and change their identity and present them as your own child, maybe not straight away when the kidnapping is fresh in everybody's mind, but a few years after. Meanwhile you would keep them so cut off and so hidden from the world for so long that they eventually submit themselves to you. By this time their appearance would have changed so much as well as thier will and personality. As would focus on the case in the media and therefore the public's memory of it.
So many cases of kidnap victims being kept hidden for so long have come to the light recently and in the past that it really makes you wonder how many of them are out there. How many children who simply disappeared are adults now and are living somewhere with someone and have no idea they were taken. Or have a full understanding that they were kidnapped like Jaycee obviously did and Michaela probably does too, yet still stay with thier captors. If Michaela has been with her abductor for 21 years its likely that she, like the others has had the chance to try and escape but there is something keeping her there. Amnesia? Emotional ties- Children? Fear? Stockholm syndrome? Who knows? It comes back to the others, what kept Jaycee there? Remember she too was taken in similar circumstances as Michaela- she was kidnapped at around the same age but what stopped her from seeking help when she had so many opportunities? No doubt whatever it was that stopped her, is also stopping Michaela from running away too. Remember Jaycee was found by accident, it wasn't because of any conceited effort she made herself to get help. It was because her captor made a mistake, he got lax and he thought after 18 years off getting away with his crime, taking Jaycee out with him and presenting her as his daughter would be easy enough. We just have to pray that Michaela's captor makes a similar mistake. But if it hadn't of been for that mistake would Jaycee still be living with the Garido's as she has done for the past 18 years? Most likely, I don't think she would have ever run away, if she was going to do that she would have done so by now. I am not blaming her, I am sure there was nothing more she wanted than to be free, but I think somehow she got stuck in a rut, she became so accustomed to her life there it felt safe to her, I think running away into the big, bad world seemed like the scarier option to her, its probably the same case with Michaela too.
When Jaycee spoke to her mother after her rescue reportedly she told her, 'I remember everything' meaning her childhood. Yet something still stopped her from getting help and returning to this childhood. Amongst other reasons it was probably also because of her kids.
What then can be said of Shawn Hornbeck? His was an even more unusual case, he had so many hours free and away from his abductor when hi abductor was at work, he apparently had friends, a girlfriend, a cell phone, he was allowed to drive his abductors truck by himself, so what stopped from running away or telling someone. There were even two occasions when he had contact with the police, once when he was alone- the abductor was at home and another time when he called them himself over a lost bike. He had internet access and even wrote on the website dedicated to the fact that he was still missing, he asked his own parents through this website 'how long do you plan on looking for your son', it was almost like he was saying 'stop looking for him, your wasting your time'. He had seen on TV. and on the internet his parents extreme distress, his parents who he obviously loved and missed very much yet once again he didn't feel the need to stop this distress by letting them know he was still alive, why not? If not for himself for them. He was only found by coincidence, so what kept him there? The shame of being sexually abused? Perhaps, but it must have been something else that even his abductor knew too or else why would he allow him so much freedom. What gave him so much confidence that Shawn wasn't going to run away? At what point did his abductor realize that this young boy was completely under his control enough to leave him by himself with out him worrying that he would to police or his parents. There is obvious some sort of power these people have over their victims, that no one can understand unless they are in that situation. Often when the victim is taken out of the situation, they too can not explain why they didn't run away, Shawn described it as going in to 'autopilot' and becoming kind of like a robot under the captors control. Steven Stayner said he simply 'didn't know' why he didn't escape sooner.
Over all I believe the more cases that are coming to light, it is defiantly something that psychologists should investigate- what stops these victims from running away? It goes way beyond the Stockholm syndrome theory. I don't think any real research has been conducted on this so far because it has been such an uncommon thing to find a person in this situation. I don't believe it is uncommon that it happens, I believe there are thousands of missing children out there being kept this way, I just believe they are not being found because if you think about the ones who have been found, they were found by coincidence, Shawn Hornbeck, Jaycee Dugard, Elizabeth Fritzl etc, they were essentially 'rescued' by accident, the police weren't looking for them in that moment, they just happened to come across them. Who knows how long more they would have been hidden for otherwise? And like I said how many more of them are out there?
Children are different to adults in that they seem to accept sudden changes easily. If you have ever seen a child from a foreign country who can't speak English put in an English speaking school, in an English country, they soon pick it up very quickly, usually quicker than most adults. They are very malleable and adapt to thier surroundings very quickly. One report that particularly striked me was of a man who believes he spoke to Jaycee as a child through his garden fence not long after she was kidnapped. He asked whether she 'lived there' or was 'visiting' to which she answered that she lived there. This was maybe only a few months after she was taken.
You mentioned once, that this was maybe because of Jaycee's laidback nature and perhaps Michaela wouldn't be as complacent as someone like Jaycee and for this reason she may not have survived. I think that's not true, if you read about Natasha Kampusch, she was a very feisty young girl and still is, yet she stayed with her kidnapper for so long. She even says it was very obvious that her kidnapper regretted picking her because of her strong willed attitude but it was this strong will which allowed her to build up the courage to eventually run away 8 years later although she had missed some previous opportunities. Similarly, Shawn Hornbeck's captor had every intention of killing Shawn when kidnapped him and it was actually at the point of being strangled that Shawn managed to somehow talk this very obviously determined man out of killing him. What a smart and brave child and once again it just proves that you don't have to be 'laid back' to survive.
Michaela was 9 and seems like she was very smart. She was also very aware of the situation she was in, as she had been educated about what to do in kidnappings, she would have realized the dangerous situation she was in so I am very sure survival instinct would have kicked in. I think she would anything to survive the situation even if that meant not running away or getting help and I think because of this she is still alive. If she had been killed (which I don't believe she has) like I said previously I have no doubt that in 21 years her body would have been found along time ago. In the same sense, if her kidnapper had killed her than I am also sure he would have kidnapped another girl to replace her for his sick urges, maybe he would then kill this child and gotten away with it again and then he would grab another and this pattern would have continued BUT I am absolutely positive this couldn't have carried on for 21 years without this evil person being caught. Someone that distinctive (acne pockmarks are very distinctive, can be seen from far away and can never be hidden) and grabbing children in broad day light, most likely in the same area (unless he was traveling all over the country and grabbing kids in which case where exactly did he put the bodies which would have piling up by now?) either way, no doubt been caught by now. If the person was caught then ultimately the Michaela connection would have been established (a pockmarked kidnapper). The only thing that makes sense to me is that this person, they 'retired'- stopped kidnapping and avoided the police or anything that would put them on the police radar after they grabbed Michaela. I believe once again there was no reason for them to kidnap again, why? Because like Philip Garido had Jaycee- this person has Michaela. If we had heard about another child being grabbed by a similar looking person then we could assume that Michaela was no longer with us and she was being replaced but as far as I am aware, this never happened. Like Michaela this person was never seen again, they simply disappeared somewhere. Why haven't they been caught? Because they stopped doing anything that would allow them to be caught. Even if they had, let’s assume, done his crime and left the country to carry out his crimes somewhere else, there’s still the point of where he put the body. As far as I can think, there’s nowhere he could have really put it without it being found by now. So it’s most likely because there is no 'body'.
Perhaps he left the country with Michaela? Is that possible without a passport? That’s doubtful, although he could have gotten a fake passport, but wouldn't have somebody at the airport recognized Michaela? I don't know we are talking 21 years ago with out any of the technology we have these days. Plus it’s very easy to disguise a child, perhaps he dyed her hair? Cut it short? May be even presented her as a boy? He may have been with a woman and they could be presenting themselves as a normal married couple with Michaela as thier child? And because of this nobody had any reason to suspect. Perhaps he is still in America and has been passing Michaela off his child for the past 21 years?
Please forgive me if I am making assumptions as I am not aware of the details of the investigation. And I have only recently learnt about Michaela and her story the reason for all my passion and why I have written such a long email.
My final point I would like to express to you in another email as I am sure you must be sick of reading my message by now.
I want you to know that I am praying for Michaela to return home safely in my every prayer, everyday. You are a good woman Sharon and you deserve your happy ending.