Suspect Attended School, Lived & Worked In Community

January 19, 2007
In a Jan. 13 written statement to the media, Michael Devlin's family expressed its gratitude to law enforcement agencies for safely reuniting William Ben Ownby and Shawn Hornbeck with their families.

"As parents, the Devlin Family along with all compassionate people have prayed for the safe return of these young men to their loved ones — and yesterday those prayers were answered."

Now the Webster Groves family faces its own crisis. Michael Devlin, 41, is accused of kidnapping two boys — holding one of them in his Kirkwood apartment for more than four years. He faces one count of kidnapping in the Ownby case, and kidnapping and armed criminal action in the Hornbeck disappearance. Authorities say Devlin used a weapon in Hornbeck's abduction.

Devlin grew up in Webster Groves, was graduated in 1984 from Webster Groves High School, and has worked since graduation in both the Webster Groves and Kirkwood Imo's pizzas.

More recently, Devlin took a part-time job answering phones at Bopp Chapel in Kirkwood.

Long-time Imo's customers seem to agree that Devlin was "a nice guy." Friends say he had a quiet side, others have been quoted in the press as saying he had a temper. Friends and fellow workers were in agreement on at least one issue — none believed Devlin capable of the crimes for which he now stands accused.

Devlin is one of three boys adopted by Jim and Joyce Devlin of Webster Groves. The couple also has two daughters. While the family's thoughts and prayers were for the safe return of the two boys, many in the community now direct their concerns toward the Devlin family.

On Tuesday, the first day of school after the Martin Luther King holiday, some 80 staff members at Avery Elementary School gathered before the arrival of students in a show of support for Avery teacher Jamie Devlin, Michael Devlin's brother.

"What the administration wanted to do was to let staff members know that there could be a possibility of media attention outside of the school. Jamie was there to talk to his colleagues and to let them know that his focus would be on his fourth graders. The staff showed their support for him," said Cathy Vespereny, director of communications for the school district.

The Webster-Kirkwood Times profiled Jim and Joyce Devlin in a 2004 column written by publisher Dwight Bitikofer. The column highlighted the couple's 50 years of marriage. They spoke of of devotion to one another, and to their children.

It was in 1960 that the Devlins purchased the first of their five Webster homes. They adopted children — Jamie, Michael and Patrick.

The Devlins are known for having included many friends into their family circle.

"These past few days have been incredibly difficult," the Devlins write. They hope that their son, Michael, "will be safe as the facts of his case are revealed."

The Devlin family "respectfully asks that their privacy be preserved."

  1. report reply print email
    Communication Between Parent and Son
    January 20, 2007 | 10:22 PM

    How is it that the Devlins spoke of their devotion to their children in 2004, but by then their son had possibly been holding a kidnapped child for approx. two years? Was there never any contact with Michael? Were they never at his apartment? Don't devoted parents have more contact than that, especially since they didn't live that far apart? This is just hard to comprehend.

    B Price
  2. report reply print email
    Devlin abused as a boy?
    January 21, 2007 | 04:01 PM

    Abuse is often a sign the abuser himself was once victimized. Michael's status as an adoptee raises even more questions about his childhood, both before and after adoption. These are legitimate questions the media should investigate.

    D B
    St Louis
  3. report reply print email
    How old was Michael when he was adopted
    February 06, 2007 | 08:16 AM

    Children who have been in the system are usually quite traumatized by the experience.

  4. report reply print email
    Brian Devlin
    February 06, 2007 | 08:23 AM

    Did the Devlins not even mention their fourth adoptive son, Brian?

    Katie G
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