KIRKWOOD, Mo. - While his alleged kidnapper was at work, teenager Shawn Hornbeck apparently had access to a computer, and he - or someone pretending to be him - may have put photos of Shawn online and posted a chilling message on a site created by his desperate parents: "How long are you planning to look for your son?"
A series of Web postings under the name "Shawn Devlin" - Devlin is the last name of the man suspected of kidnapping Shawn and posing as his father - came to light after Shawn's rescue from an apartment in Kirkwood last week.
Investigators would not comment on the postings, and it was not immediately known if they were created by Shawn or by someone trying to taunt his parents. Either way, they add to the long list of clues that no one seemed to pick up on during the 41/2 years that the boy was missing.
They also deepen the mystery of why Shawn apparently made no attempt to escape or notify authorities.
Shawn, now 15, was 11 when he was kidnapped in 2002 while riding his bike near his rural home. Astonished police found him Friday in a St. Louis-area apartment where they also found Ben Ownby, 13, who had been missing for four days.
Their alleged abductor, Michael Devlin, 41, a pizza-shop employee who also held a job answering telephones at night at a funeral home, was jailed on $1 million bail. So far, he is charged only in the kidnapping of Ben, but authorities also plan to charge him with abducting Shawn.
Investigators have given no motive for the crime and no details on what the boys went through. Officials said Devlin did not appear to have a criminal record.
Devlin's attorney, Michael Kielty, said that he had not seen any evidence and that he would enter a not-guilty plea at his arraignment later this week.
During his captivity, Shawn may have offered clues on the Web that went overlooked.
At 1:59 a.m. on Dec. 1, 2005, someone using the name "Shawn Devlin" asked in a forum on the Shawn Hornbeck Foundation Web site: "How long are you planing [sic] to look for your son?" Shawn's parents, Craig and Pam Akers, started the foundation to help find their son and other missing youngsters.
Later that day, at 2:56 p.m., "Shawn Devlin" wrote to ask if he could compose a poem for the family. The poem never appeared in future postings.
Several Web profiles also appeared to be of Shawn. One, on mindviz.com, described a Shawn from St. Louis as a white atheist with a pet cat. A Web page created on Yahoo in 2004 carried a photo of a youngster who resembled Shawn, though with shorter hair. The youngster had an eyebrow piercing. The day after Shawn was found, he appeared in public with a lip ring and three ear piercings.
A separate Yahoo profile was taken out under the name Shawn Devlin in November 2005. It, too, contains a picture resembling Shawn; the page said the user lived in Kirkwood.
That Shawn may have had so many ways, and chances, to contact police or others has confounded relatives and friends.
Rick Butler, who lives across the street from the apartment, said that last fall he found a cell phone outside Devlin's apartment. Butler called a number on it and Shawn came to Butler's apartment to retrieve it.