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One of rescued Mo. teens fades into background

Shawn Hornbeck has a new Web site and is getting a new home. Mitchell Hults was given a truck, a $5,000 scholarship and free tickets to see his favorite comedian.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Shawn Hornbeck has a new Web site and is getting a new home. Mitchell Hults was given a truck, a $5,000 scholarship and free tickets to see his favorite comedian.

When asked what kind of big gifts have been given to 13-year-old Ben Ownby, his uncle laughed.

"Um, nothing," Loyd Bailie said. "Lots of people calling."

That's just fine with Ben's parents, Don and Doris Ownby. For four days after their son was abducted Jan. 8, they tried to remain hopeful even as the chances of finding Ben alive grew thin.

Now, they are just happy to be out of the spotlight and healing with their son, Bailie said.

They're not looking for gifts from strangers.

"We're looking at material things here that, yeah, they would be nice to have, but the most important part about this whole thing is that Ben is back and Ben is doing well," Bailie said. The parents did not want to comment for this story, he said.

'The Missouri Miracle'
The three boys unwittingly swept up in the global media storm dubbed the "Missouri Miracle" have taken very different paths in the public eye. Two have embraced the attention while one has faded into the shadows.

Mitchell, 15, has become the hero of the story — the eagle-eyed youth who spotted a pickup speeding from the site of Ben's abduction. The tip led authorities to the apartment of 41-year-old Michael Devlin, where they found Shawn and Ben. Devlin is charged with two counts of kidnapping.

Shawn has become the tale's miracle. Abducted more than four years ago, the boy last seen by his parents as a spunky 11-year old came home a lanky 15-year-old with faint sideburns, bushy hair and a lip ring.

Ben and Shawn appeared together publicly only once, on Jan. 12., when police brought them from Devlin's home to the Franklin County Sheriff's Department. They walked into the building in front of a crowd of shocked and tearful onlookers.

Interviews suggest the boys have not spoken with one another since. The boys and their families have taken markedly different stances with the media.

Just days after the boys were freed, Shawn appeared with his parents, Craig and Pamela Akers, on the "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Don and Doris Ownby appeared, too, but kept Ben off camera.

1,100 notes posted on Web site
Shawn's parents became adept at dealing with the media years ago. They formed the Shawn Hornbeck Foundation to bring attention to their son's case and the plight of other missing children.

The foundation this week launched a Web site containing photos of Shawn and message boards where more than 1,100 notes have been posted for the boy and his family.

On Tuesday, a St. Louis company announced it would build a home on the Akers' property in Richwoods. Ground was to be broken Friday, but the family — which has asked for privacy so Shawn can begin healing — was not scheduled to attend.

Mitchell was honored at a school assembly earlier this month. On Wednesday, he received a new truck from DaimlerChrysler and was later honored at Gov. Matt Blunt's State of the State address.

A good country boy
Mitchell was given backstage passes to see comedian Larry the Cable Guy perform in Columbia on Thursday, and the comedian even posted a message on his Web site praising the boy.

"When I first saw Mitchell giving a description of the truck earlier in the week, I told my wife, 'now that's a good country boy right there,'" it said.

On Friday, the teen was to receive a $5,000 scholarship from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

The Ownbys are elated that Mitchell is receiving such praise, Bailie said.

But the family has taken a less conspicuous path. Ben still has not returned to school, instead attending counseling sessions to help him overcome the trauma of his abduction and captivity, Bailie said.

The family already feels indebted to friends and neighbors who helped search for Ben and brought food to the house to feed volunteers.

"There was enough that we could have kept a camp going for several weeks," Bailie said.