ANTIOCH, Calif. — Police on Saturday searched the home of a California couple charged with kidnapping a little girl 18 years ago looking for evidence linking them to other open cases in the area, including the unsolved murders of prostitutes.
The investigations are "preliminary," said Jimmy Lee, a spokesman for the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department, east of San Francisco Bay. He declined to discuss what cases were being reviewed.
Police in Pittsburg are investigating whether Phillip Garrido, whose home is in nearby Antioch, is linked to several unsolved murders of prostitutes in the early 1990s. Antioch police are also looking into unsolved cases but declined further details.
About a dozen agents scoured the modest house and the acre of land it sat on Saturday afternoon as the temperature soared into triple digits.
Residents on the once-quiet street complained about the media circus that has engulfed their working class neighborhood since the arrest of Phillip and Nancy Garrido on Wednesday. Television trucks were parked on both sides of the street and about a dozen journalists paced in front of the home, which was cordoned with yellow, crime-scene tape.
Phillip and Nancy Garrido are in jail, suspected of abducting Dugard 18 years ago and subjecting her to nearly a lifetime of torment in a squalid backyard compound. They pleaded not guilty Friday to a total of 29 counts, including forcible abduction, rape and false imprisonment.
Authorities say Jaycee Lee Dugard, the little girl abducted in 1991 who is now 29, has had two daughters with Garrido.
Neighbors in Antioch had complained to law enforcement that a psychotic sex addict was in their midst, alarmed that Phillip Garrido was housing young girls in backyard tents. A deputy showed up to investigate, but never went beyond the front porch.
Probation officers showed up at the home, too, but had no inkling that his backyard was actually a labyrinth of tents, sheds and buildings that were Dugard's prison. They didn't even know he had children on the premises.
Garrido wore a GPS-linked ankle bracelet that tracked his every movement, the result of earlier sex-crime convictions in Nevada.
Outrage came as the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department acknowledged it missed an opportunity to arrest Garrido in 2006 after the neighbor's complaint about children living in the yard.
"I cannot change the course of events but we are beating ourselves up over this and continue to do so," Sheriff Warren E. Rupf said Friday.
"We should have been more inquisitive, more curious and turned over a rock or two."
Garrido gave a rambling, sometimes incoherent phone interview to KCRA-TV from the county jail Thursday, saying he didn't admit the alleged kidnapping to investigators and that he had turned his life around since the birth of his first daughter 15 years ago.
Garrido came under suspicion in the unsolved murders of several prostitutes in the 1990s, raising the prospect he was a serial killer as well. Several of the women's bodies — the exact number is not known — were dumped near an industrial park where Garrido worked during the 1990s.
Dugard, now 29, was reunited with her mother, sister and another relative Thursday. She is said to be in good health, but feeling guilty about developing a bond with Garrido, said her stepfather Carl Probyn. Her two children, 11 and 15, remain with her.
"Jaycee has strong feelings with this guy. She really feels it's almost like a marriage," said Probyn, who was there when little Jaycee was snatched from a bus stop in 1991 and has been in contact with her mother since they found out the girl was alive.
"Hi, mom, I have babies," was Dugard's first words to her mother when they were reunited Thursday, Probyn said, adding it appears she never told them she was kidnapped by their father.
She is now free thanks in large part to two quick-thinking police employees at the University of California, Berkeley. Garrido was on campus with his two daughters earlier this week saying he wanted to hold some sort of religious event.
Garrido seemed incoherent and mentally unstable, and the girls wore drab-colored dresses, were unusually subdued and had an unnaturally pale complexion, said Lisa Campbell, a special-events unit manager with UC Berkeley's police department.
Garrido's parole officer was alerted. On Wednesday, Garrido arrived at the probation officer's building with his wife, the two girls and a woman who initially identified herself as Allissa — who was in fact Dugard. Investigators said Garrido confessed to the kidnapping.
Authorities say they do not yet know whether Dugard ever tried to escape or alert anyone of her whereabouts. During her period of captivity Garrido did a stint behind bars.
After his release, Garrido met with his parole agent several times each month and was subject to routine surprise home visits and random drug and alcohol tests, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman Gordon Hinkle said. The last unannounced visit by a team of local police agencies was conducted in July 2008.
"There was never any indication to my knowledge that there was any sign of children living there," Hinkle said.
The heavily wooded Antioch compound was arranged so that people could not view what was happening, and one of the buildings was soundproofed.
Garrido was required to register as a sex offender because he was convicted in 1977 of kidnapping a 25-year-old woman from parking lot in South Lake Tahoe, the same town Jaycee Dugard lived in when she was kidnapped.