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Two missing boys reunited with familes

Michael Devlin, 41, is charged with kidnapping and will likely face more charges.
Michael Devlin, 41, is charged with kidnapping and will likely face more charges.

By Tom Weber, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – Police and the FBI made a stunning discovery Friday in an apartment in Kirkwood. They found a 13-year old boy who had been missing for four days, and a 15-year old boy who had been missing for four years.

Authorities say both teens appeared to be in good condition and were reunited with their families last night.

KWMU's Tom Weber prepared a report on this story for NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday. To hear that report, click here.

Gary Toelke, sheriff of Franklin County, spent the week before television cameras, updating media on an abduction case that had gone dry.

Ben Ownby disappeared Monday between his school bus stop and home near the rural Missouri town of Beaufort.

But Friday afternoon, Toelke walked to the cameras with a smile on his face: "We have some good news for you this evening and probably some unbelievable news."

Ben had been found alive and safe, and that was good news. But so had Shawn Hornbeck, who had been missing for more than four years from a town about 30 miles away, in the next county.

Nearly 60 miles away, news trucks congregated in a cold rainstorm at the suburban apartment complex where the boys were found.

Monseiiat Urias, 14, lives in the same complex and encountered the hub-bub as she came home from school Friday. "Me and my mom thought that we knew this neighborhood pretty good, that it was a pretty nice one," she said.

"But when we realized, I don't know, we just felt fear for a second and we know that we're not going outside for a pretty long time."

The landlord of the apartment complex told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he had seen a boy there before and assumed it was Michael Devlin's son.

Devlin, who had a job delivering pizzas, is now charged with kidnapping and will likely face more charges. Police say he has confessed to the abductions. They are not saying whether the boys might have been harmed.

Police initially had gone to the apartment complex for a completely different reason, to serve a warrant on someone who lived nearby. That's when they saw a white pickup truck that had been on the news.

One of Ben Ownby's classmates had reported seeing the truck near where the boy was last seen this week.

Sheriff Toelke says finding the truck raised hopes that the boy might be nearby, but no one expected Shawn to be there, too even though his name had come up.

"We had information that there was a 15-year-old boy in this apartment and we were just saying... wouldn't that be something if it was Shawn Hornbeck?" Toelke recalled. "Just unbelievable that it was."

For Toelke, it was his second chance in four months to report good news. In September, fears turned to joy after an 11-day-old baby was returned safely after she was abducted.

Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, says Shawn Hornbeck is likely to face a long recovery.

"It's going to take patience and Shawn has got to get back into a normal situation as quickly as possible and hope that the world will let him be a normal kid again," Allen said.

An intensive search for Shawn went on for weeks after he was reported missing more than four years ago. Later, his parents stared a foundation in Shawn's name to help other families in similar circumstances.

But this morning (Saturday), Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby are home safe with their families.