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Media outlets paying for information in Jaycee Lee Dugard kidnapping case

September 1, 2009 | 11:17 am


At week’s end, the Antioch street where Jaycee Lee Dugard lived after she was allegedly kidnapped as a child 18 years ago by Phillip and Nancy Garrido was swarming with media. Satellite trucks parked in driveways, and cameramen and photographers tromped on lawns and knocked on doors up and down Walnut Avenue.

Neighbor Damon Robinson was in his backyard, talking with reporters across a chain-link fence, while another group lined up in the side yard, behind a clothes line, waiting to interview him.

Robinson eventually spoke with reporters from CNN, the Associated Press and The Times about the years he’d lived next door to the Garridos and about the time that his former girlfriend, Erika Pratt, had called 911 to tell authorities about her suspicions that something was seriously amiss in the gray cinder-block house.

Suddenly, a British reporter pushed to the front. He told Robinson that he worked for a media outlet in London and his deadline was fast approaching. He offered to write a check for $2,000 on the spot if Robinson would stop talking to other reporters and give him "an exclusive." Robinson complied.

In the days since, locals who knew the Garridos said they have repeatedly been approached by reporters -- American and foreign, print and television -- who have offered thousands of dollars for information and photographs of the Garridos, Dugard, now 29, and the two daughters she bore Phillip Garrido, ages 15 and 11.

The money can be tempting for some who live in an area pummeled by the foreclosure crisis and the sagging economy.

Manuel Garrido, who lives in nearby Brentwood in Northern California, at first spoke freely with reporters about his son’s past. But now he says he wants to be paid. "No more free information," said Garrido, 88. "Other people are getting paid.”

The elder Garrido said he had received $2,000 from one news outlet for an exclusive interview. "From now on, it’s going to be more than $2,000," he said. "You’re making big stories, and you are getting paid for it. Here I am suffering, so I should get some money out of it."

He said reporters have been hounding him ever since the story broke last Thursday about his son allegedly kidnapping Dugard from her South Lake Tahoe neighborhood when she was 11 years old and holding her for 18 years. Phillip Garrido, 58, and his wife, Nancy, 54, were arrested and charged with 29 criminal counts in the case.

Concord resident Marc Lister, who knew Phillip Garrido and had some of his promotional business materials, said he sold one of Garrido’s own business cards, featuring a photo of Dugard, to a media outlet for $10,000.

Lister said he does not consider the money a payout. He said his mother, a retired teacher who died in 2000, housed battered women for years at her Walnut Creek home, and he plans to use the money to help the cause.

Lister, a retired insurance company worker who described himself as a "devout Christian," said he does not feel guilty about charging the news media for information, because it would benefit the less fortunate.

"I’ve got morals," he said. "This would make my mom proud."

Cheyvonne Molino, 35, who runs an auto wrecking yard with her husband, said Phillip Garrido printed their business cards and often stopped by with his daughters. After his arrest, Molino said reporters hacked into her Facebook page and stole photos she had posted of Garrido’s daughters, who had attended a party for her daughter’s 16th birthday on Aug. 15.

Now reporters are tying up her phone lines and filing in to her office to look for more photos.

On Monday afternoon, a television crew stopped by her office with an offer to pay for information. Despite rumors to the contrary, she declined.

"This is people’s lives," Molino said. "As much as I need to pay my bills, I can’t be greedy. I’m a good Christian woman. You’re not supposed to sell this."

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Maria L. LaGanga in Antioch and My-Thuan Tran in Los Angeles

Photo: Journalists and news media gather outside the home of Phillip Garrido and his wife Nancy Garrido on Walnut Avenue in Antioch, Calif., last week. Credit: Arleen Ng / EPA