The investigation of child kidnapping suspect Michael Devlin has expanded, with authorities searching one of his previous homes and investigators in Illinois looking into a possible connection to the 2003 murder of a 7-year-old boy.
Devlin, a 41-year-old pizzeria manager, faces kidnapping charges in two rural Missouri counties in the abductions of Shawn Hornbeck and 13-year-old Ben Ownby.
Shawn, now 15, was 11 when he was kidnapped in 2002 from near his home in Richwoods. Ben was abducted in Beaufort on Jan. 8, and a white pickup seen speeding away led police to Devlin. The boys were found Jan. 12 at Devlin’s apartment in the St. Louis suburb of Kirkwood, about an hour from the towns where the boys were taken.
A police source confirmed Wednesday that investigators have searched a Kirkwood house Devlin had rented before moving into the apartment. Police wouldn’t say what, if anything, they were seeking.
Landlord Graciela Hartenbach said she was told nothing was found during Tuesday’s search, but added that investigators didn’t tell her what they were looking for.
Hartenbach said Devlin lived there for about six months in 1999. She recalled him as a quiet man who kept the house clean but sparsely decorated, paid the rent on time and “didn’t give me any trouble.”
“He’s very big and poker-faced — not too much expression,” she said.
Devlin, held in lieu of $1 million bail, has pleaded not guilty.
Ties to other missing children?
Besides the kidnappings of Shawn and Ben, a special task force made up of federal, state and local police agencies is looking into whether Devlin was involved in other unsolved missing child cases in rural areas of eastern Missouri.
The investigation has crossed into Illinois, where Livingston County Sheriff Robert McCarty said Wednesday investigators are looking for links between Devlin and the unsolved 2003 killing of 7-year-old Dalton Mesarchik but so far have found nothing.
Dalton was abducted from his front yard in Streator, Ill., on March 26, 2003. A fisherman found his body in the Vermilion River the next day.