The Predator's Partner: Nancy Garrido

05/25/2011 02:15 pm ET
  • Robin Sax Attorney, Law Offices of Robin Sax, victim advocate, legal commentator

Some say that Nancy Garrido, 54, is the "real monster" in the 1991 abduction of 11-year-old Jaycee Dugard. There is no doubt that her husband, Phillip Garrido, 58, is a horrific figure. But it's the predator's partner who sends shivers down my spine.

I don't know if this qualifies as a love story, but let me take you to the beginning of their romance. Nancy met Phillip Garrido while he was serving time for rape and kidnapping -yes, you read that correctly. The Garridos' love story began in prison. If you were looking for a clue that something is wrong with Nancy Garrido, here's clue number one!

While serving his prison sentence in Leavenworth, Kentucky for the abduction and rape of a young girl, Nancy "fell in love" with felon, rapist, and kidnapper Philip Garrido. Of course, Nancy "falling in love" with a convicted sex offender isn't exactly the version of prison romance that we've heard about before. No, this is a woman falling love with a man who preyed on children. I find this even more troublesome than hearing about women who fell in love with notorious murderers like the Menendez boys--or even Charlie Manson!

This woman knowingly struck up a romance with someone who had been convicted of kidnap and rape. But Nancy wanted to be with him so badly, she exchanged letters with him and finally married her Prince Charming behind prison walls! They have been married for almost 28 years.

During their marriage, Nancy worked in the outside world. She was not kept captive in the home herself. It's pretty ironic that Nancy worked as a state-licensed nurse's aide, serving adults and children with disabilities even as she stood by and watched her husband father two children with their captive, young Jaycee Dugard.

Nancy helped keep Jaycee Dugard isolated so the girl could be available to her husband to satisfy his sick needs. As a result, young Jaycee was a victim of Philip's repeated sexual attacks for 18 years! What could Nancy have been thinking?

Which brings us to another question: how, while acting as a captor, could she have simultaneously chosen to care for disabled patients? Could it have been because, in a twisted way, it made her feel more powerful?

Nancy was, after all, unable to stop the abuses and tragedy occurring in her own home. But perhaps, in her role as nurse, she could be a source of comfort, a sharp contrast to her roles at home--jailor and the source of another woman's pain. Some psychologists argue that she herself was a victim of Stockholm Syndrome (a condition seen in abducted hostages in which the hostage develops signs of loyalty to the hostage-taker). Others speculate that she was afraid of Phillip and so "went along" with his evil ways.

For 18 years...??? Even while, for a time, her husband was in prison on a parole violation. In my mind, Nancy Garrido was not a victim. She was a sick, vicious, abuser herself who must now be held accountable for what happened.

There was a time, when Jaycee was 13, when Phillip Garrido was sent back to prison for four months. That meant Nancy Garrido had to step in as Jaycee's captor and continue the imprisonment her husband started.

Nancy clearly had an opportunity to release Jaycee while Phillip was away. She did not, and as a woman, I find it truly unthinkable that Nancy, on her own, could continue to keep Jaycee captive for four months in the belief that it was the "right" thing to do.

While we can ask, "How can a woman do this to a child?" we need to examine a possibility that there may be something bigger going on--perhaps an emerging trend.

Do you recall the Austrian man, Josef Fritzl, who was arrested in April, 2008 for imprisoning and raping his own daughter for 24 years in a windowless dungeon he had built beneath his home. People worldwide were horrified, especially at Mrs. Fritzl - the wife - who never went to the authorities to urge them to find her missing daughter, Elizabeth. Even when Joseph "found" babies on the doorstep, he had her convinced that their runaway daughter had dropped off the babies to be raised by her parents...! How can a woman be so blind!?

Earlier this month Michigan police took a 35-year-old mother, Aimee Louise Sword, into custody after finding she used the Internet to track down her biological son (whom she gave up for adoption a decade ago). Then, she seduced and raped her teenage son. It is still unclear whether or not the boy knows it was his biological mother.

The Sacramento Bee has also reported a trend:
Charlene Williams of Sacramento lured six teenage girls and four young adults to their deaths as her husband demanded the perfect "sex slave." Michelle Lyn Michaud, also of Sacramento, customized curling irons to help her boyfriend torture and murder a 22-year-old student abducted from a Pleasanton street. In Utah, Wanda Eileen Barzee was accused of helping her husband kidnap 14-year old Elizabeth Smart at knifepoint from her Salt Lake City bedroom so that he could secure another "wife." And now along comes Nancy Garrido of the Bay Area.

Allegedly, it was Nancy Garrido who actually snatched Jaycee from the street in 1991 while her husband drove the getaway car. Now in jail18 years later, Nancy claims to truly love her and her two daughters "very much." Is this a sick, twisted case of a woman who was brainwashed and manipulated by a religious fanatic and convicted felon? Or was Nancy a monster in her own right? The other question is this: could Nancy have made up her own mind to end the horrors happening in her own home? Certainly, the answer to this question will be critical to her criminal defense case.

Investigators have charged Nancy Garrido with almost as many offenses as her husband. She faces 2 counts of rape, 7 counts of forcible lewd acts and 4 counts of forcible rape - in addition to the kidnapping charge. The charges against Nancy do not indicate whether police believe she participated directly in the sexual assaults or acted more as an accomplice.

Ted Cassman, a criminal defense lawyer not involved in the Garrido case, told the LA Times in September that any lawyer who claims Nancy was "brainwashed" will have a difficult time persuading a jury. "I bet they are going to claim her husband was abusive, controlling and dominating and that she was under his spell - but that is a really difficult defense," Cassman told the Times.

I'm not particularly interested in the reason why Nancy Garrido sat by and watched (or participated) in the brutal rape of Jaycee and her 18-year captivity. The legal system will determine whether Nancy was "unstable" or "mentally ill" and how that will affect her criminal sentencing (once the trail takes place). But the fact remains that Nancy participated in the kidnapping of Jaycee and did nothing to return the girl to her family for 18 years.

In my view, Nancy Garrido is a monster who ripped a family apart and scarred three innocent people - Jaycee and her daughters -for life. As far as I'm concerned, she should (and probably will) receive significant jail time for her actions.