Jaycee Dugard's rapist pleads guilty in echo of terrible Kristen Stillman case

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In early 2010, the media circus surrounding the trial of Willie Clark for the murder of Darrent Williams completely overlooked a real show in a nearby courtroom -- but law-enforcement authorities didn't miss the irony. The case of Eric Torrez and his crimes against Kristen and Will Stillman was worse than the Dugard case in California, they said. Except that this horror was in Denver's back yard... and no one was watching.

Yesterday, Phillip and Nancy Garrido pleaded guilty to kidnapping and raping Jaycee Dugard, the girl they'd snatched in 1991 and kept in a backyard compound, where she gave birth to two daughters both fathered by Phillip Garrido. Jaycee was finally rescued in 2009, a development reported in front-page stories across the country; she and her family ultimately received $20 million in compensation from California's victim's fund.

Now thirty, Jaycee Dugard was ready to testify at the Garridos' trial, but the plea deal spared her that. "I'm relieved that Phillip and Nancy Garrido have finally acknowledged their guilt and confessed their crimes against me and my family," she said in a statement. Phillip Garrido faces up to 431 years in prison; his wife can get up to 36.

Eric Torrez, who'd held Kristen and Will Stillman hostage in his home in northwest Denver for over a decade, subjecting the twins to psychological and physical abuse, and fathering four children with Kristen, ultimately pleaded guilty to his horrific crimes, too -- but not before Kristen had taken the stand in the Denver courthouse and spilled out her stunning testimony -- testimony ignored by the media covering Clark's trial next door.

She finally made the front page when I told her story in "Spreading Her Wings" last September. Eric Torrez is now serving over 300 years in prison. Will and Kristen have their own life sentence, too: Coping with all the damage done to them over the years, when the agencies charged with protecting children failed to do their job.

They have received no settlement from the state.

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