Shawn Hornbeck had been held captive for a month when his abductor decided to dispose of him. The older man drove the boy to an isolated area of woods in Washington County, Missouri and dragged Hornbeck out of the pickup truck. The man clasped his hands around the child’s throat. Then he started choking the life out of Hornbeck.
Hornbeck – a dark-haired boy with a bright smile and a distinctive hoop earring in his left ear – had been just 11 years old when he was abducted. At that time, he had been living with his mother and his stepfather, Pam and Craig Akers, in Richwoods, where he attended a nearby elementary school.
Then, on October 6, 2002, Hornbeck was out riding his bicycle near his home when a driver knocked him over. The individual responsible subsequently bundled the boy into his truck and drove him to Kirkwood, a suburb of St. Louis – some 60 miles away. “You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” the man told Hornbeck, according to an account of the kidnapping published in the Missouri Daily Journal in 2013.