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Michael John Devlin
Born November 19, 1965 (1965-11-19) (age 44)
Missouri, U.S.
Conviction(s) Kidnapping, child molestation, production of child pornography
Penalty Three life sentences
Status Incarcerated
Occupation Manager, funeral home worker

Michael John Devlin (born November 19, 1965[1]) is a convicted American child molester currently serving three life sentences. He is known for his confessed kidnapping of two boys, Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby.


Early life

Devlin was adopted into a large family, with three brothers (also adopted) and two sisters. He grew up in Webster Groves, Missouri. His parents and siblings all live in Missouri.

Before his arrest, Devlin worked as a manager for Imo's Pizza and as a part-time funeral home worker at Bopp Chapel in Kirkwood, Missouri, the town where he resided at the time of his arrest.[2]

According to a friend, Devlin had once been outgoing, but had changed "to a much quieter person" after he developed diabetes and had a toe amputated in 2002.[3]


On January 12, 2007, Devlin was taken into custody and charged with the abduction four days earlier of 13-year-old William Benjamin "Ben" Ownby, whom police found that day. Upon his discovery, law enforcement officials found another missing teenage boy, Shawn Hornbeck, who disappeared on October 6, 2002, at age 11 while riding his bike to a friend's house in Richwoods, Missouri. No one had heard from him until he was discovered in Devlin's apartment. The children were discovered after police noticed Devlin's white pickup truck, which matched the description of a vehicle in the vicinity of the 2007 abduction, in the parking lot of his apartment complex where they were serving an unrelated warrant.[4] Hornbeck lived with Devlin, who presented the boy as his son. He was separated from his family for a total of four years and three months, and during that time the Shawn Hornbeck Foundation and Search and Rescue Team were established. Both boys were reunited with their families after their discovery.


Devlin was charged with one count of kidnapping in Franklin County, Missouri, as well as one count of kidnapping and armed criminal action in Washington County.[5] On January 18, 2007, Devlin pleaded not guilty via closed circuit television on the charges of child kidnapping. Prosecutors in the case said Devlin already confessed.[6] He was held at the Franklin County Sheriff's Department on a $US1 million cash-only bail.[7] He also has a $US3 million bond in Washington County.[5] In a January 2007 interview with The New York Post, Devlin was quoted as saying "I don't know how I'm going to explain myself to my parents." During the same interview he claimed to have been happy while Hornbeck lived with him, and lonely prior to that, since most of his friends had gotten married and disappeared.[8]

On February 5, St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch added 71 new felony charges to the existing charges previously filed by Washington and Franklin County Prosecutors. The first 18 counts (one count of kidnapping and 17 counts of forcible sodomy) pertain to the 2007 abduction. The remaining 53 charges are kidnapping and forcible sodomy charges related to the 2002 abduction.[1] Each of these individual counts is a felony and carries the possibility of life in prison.[9]

On February 6, a motion by Devlin's attorneys, Ethan Corlija and Michael Kielty, for a gag order against the New York Post and reporter Susannah Cahalan was denied in Franklin County Court. Franklin County Associate Circuit Judge David Tobben also denied a motion for her to turn over her notes to the attorneys, and denied or refused to immediately hear two other requests by Devlin's attorneys.[10]

On February 28, a felony indictment in Franklin County charged Devlin with one count of child kidnapping and one count of armed criminal action for allegedly using a deadly weapon in kidnapping Ownby. This grand jury indictment replaces the previous Franklin County kidnapping charge against Devlin and adds the weapon charge.[11]

On March 1, Devlin was charged in federal court with four counts of producing child pornography and with two counts of transporting a minor across state lines to engage in sexual activity in both Arizona and Illinois. According to prosecutors, all six counts relate to the kidnapping of the older child.[12]

On April 16, Washington County prosecutor John Rupp filed additional charges against Devlin, accusing him of attempted murder, kidnapping, armed criminal action, three counts of forcible sodomy and one count of attempted forcible sodomy.[13]


On October 6, prosecutors announced that Devlin would plead guilty to all charges against him in all four jurisdictions.[14]

On October 8, Devlin pleaded guilty to the charges against him in Franklin County. During that court appearance, he was sentenced to life in prison for child kidnapping and to a shorter, concurrent sentence for armed criminal action. He appeared in the three other jurisdictions in which he has been charged in the Ownby, Hornbeck and child pornography cases, on October 9 and 10.[15] On the morning of October 9, Devlin pleaded guilty to charges against him in Washington County. During that court appearance, he was sentenced to three life sentences for kidnapping and other crimes against Shawn Hornbeck.[16] The sentences are to begin after he has served the life sentence imposed on October 8 for kidnapping Ben Ownby. He is expected to plead guilty in the two other jurisdictions in which he has been charged in the Ownby, Hornbeck and child pornography cases.[15]

On December 21, Devlin was sentenced to an additional 170 years for making pornography of one of the boys while in captivity.[17] Devlin was transferred to the Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron, Missouri, to begin serving the first of his life sentences on January 30, 2008.[18]

Other cases

Soon after Devlin's arrest, prosecutors and investigators from Washington, Franklin, St. Louis and Lincoln counties, along with the FBI, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, and Kirkwood and St. Charles police, formed a task force to investigate Devlin's possible involvement in other unsolved cases.[19]

Until his arrest in January 2007, Devlin had no criminal record.[20]


  1. ^ a b County Prosecutor's Press Release of Complaint: from St. Louis County Council website, May 2, 2007.
  2. ^ ""Suspect is called 'kind of a plain guy'"" (http). Retrieved January 21, 2007.  
  3. ^ The Times (Jan 2007). ""Fears for pizzeria kidnaps suspect" (http). Retrieved April 28, 2009.  
  4. ^ Patrick McGeehan; Malcolm Gay (2007-01-13). "2 Missing Boys Are Found Near St. Louis". Retrieved 2009-08-26.  
  5. ^ a b ""Devlin faces new charges"" (http). Retrieved January 21, 2007.  
  6. ^ Fox News "Missouri Kidnap Suspect Pleads Not Guilty to Abducting Ownby; Other Parents Assume Abuse" January 19, 2007.
  7. ^ St Louis Post-Dispatch, "Their dreams come true", By Kim Bell January 14, 2007.
  8. ^ ""I AM STILL TOO SCARED TO TELL MY MOM AND DAD, 'KIDNAP' CREEP ADMITS"" (http). New York Post. Retrieved January 28, 2007.  
  9. ^, "Boys' kidnapping suspect faces sodomy charges", February 6, 2007.
  10. ^ ""Judge denies gag order on Devlin interviews"" (http). Retrieved February 6, 2007.  
  11. ^ Missourian, online edition, "Devlin Indicted in Kidnapping Case", February 28, 2007.
  12. ^ USA Today, "Mo. kidnapping suspect Devlin indicted on child porn charges", March 1, 2007.
  13. ^ KSDK NewsChannel 5, "Prosecutors File Attempted Murder Charges Against Devlin", April 17, 2007.
  14. ^, "Man accused of kidnapping boys expected to plead guilty", October 6, 2007.
  15. ^ a b "Devlin Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges for Photographing, Taping Kidnapped Boy", October 10, 2007.
  16. ^, "Michael Devlin Sentenced to Three Life Terms in Hornbeck Kidnapping", October 9, 2007.
  17. ^, " Boys' kidnapper gets 170 more years", December 21, 2007.
  18. ^ STLtoday, "Devlin shipped to NW Missouri prison" January 30, 2008.
  19. ^ CNN Transcripts giving mention of the investigation task force: website, April 13, 2007.
  20. ^ stltoday, "Michael J. Devlin: The man" January 28, 2007.

External links

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