Suspect pleads not guilty to kidnapping

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UNION, Mo. – Attorneys for Michael J. Devlin say they instructed their client to plead not guilty of kidnapping 13-year-old William “Ben” Ownby as a matter of procedure and that they have not seen the evidence against their client.

“How can you enter a plea of guilty if you haven’t been given any of the information?” attorney Michael Kielty told reporters. “We don’t have any more evidence than you have.”

Devlin was arraigned Thursday on charges that he kidnapped Ben in Franklin County on Jan. 8.

As a security measure, Devlin made his court appearance by way of closed-circuit television. The judge set a preliminary hearing for March 15. But after the arraignment, prosecutor Robert Parks said he would take the case to a grand jury next month. Parks said Devlin had confessed to the kidnapping, but he declined to reveal what Devlin had said or to whom he had confessed.

Devlin also faces charges in neighboring Washington County of kidnapping Shawn Hornbeck, now 15, in 2002. Both Shawn and Ben were recovered at Devlin’s apartment in Kirkwood, Mo., on Jan. 12.

The court appearance lasted only a few minutes. Devlin, 41, appeared wearing a short-sleeve orange jail jumpsuit.

As Judge David Tobben asked questions, Devlin replied “yes” or “no.” Asked whether he wished to make any statement, he said “no.”

At a news conference afterward, Devlin’s attorneys said they would ask that the case be moved to another jurisdiction because of media coverage.

“I think it would be next to impossible to have a fair trial in this county,” Kielty said.

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