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Devlin pleads not guilty in Ben Ownby kidnapping

Michael Devlin, standing in the Franklin County Jail during his court appearance this morning. He appeared in court via video link.


St. Louis, MO – Michael Devlin went before a judge in Franklin County this morning and entered a not guilty plea to charges that he kidnapped 13-year old Ben Ownby.

Devlin's lawyers spoke to reporters shortly after that plea. Michael Keilty says the not guilty' plea was in part a formality and also necessary because he hasn't received any evidence yet from the prosecution.

Despite the plea, Franklin County Prosecutor Robert Parks says the evidence against Devlin is overwhelming. "Basically when Mr. Devlin was taken into custody he did confess that he had kidnapped Ben Ownby from Franklin County," said Parks.

If Devlin's lawyers do seek a trial, they say they'll ask for a change of venue because of all the attention the case has received.

Devlin also faces charges in Washington County that he kidnapped Shawn Hornbeck four years ago.

Washington County Sheriff Kevin Schroeder says it's impossible for anyone to put themselves in Shawn's shoes.

"This is something that is so bizarre that the normal individual cannot grasp what this then 11-year old boy went through. There is no way that anybody can project what he should have, could have or would have done," said Schroeder.

Prosecutors say Devlin kidnapped Shawn at gunpoint more than four years ago.

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey that's set to air today, Shawn reportedly says he was terrified during the years away and prayed his family would find him.

Ben Ownby and his parents are also slated to appear on the show.

The show airs in St. Louis at 4:00 p.m. on KSDK-Channel 5.

Meantime, authorities are checking to see if Devlin is connected to the 1991 disappearance of another Missouri boy who hasn't been found. They say Charles Henderson was eleven when he disappeared. And they say he bears a striking resemblance to Hornbeck.

KWMU's Matt Sepic prepared a report for NPR's Morning Edition on Thursday. To hear that report, click here.


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