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Jaycee Dugard family felt 'same joy' when Cleveland women rescued

Cliff Owen / AP

Jaycee Dugard, who was abducted as a child and held for eighteen years, right, and her mother Terry Probyn appear with their Hope Award at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children annual Hope Awards in Washington, Tuesday, May 7, 2013.

WASHINGTON — A day after the discovery of three kidnapped Cleveland women who had been missing for nearly a decade, former captive Jaycee Dugard and her mother said they are feeling the same joy they felt when the two were reunited after 18 years of being held hostage.

The mother and daughter were being honored here Tuesday at the annual Hope Awards Gala, sponsored by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The event just happened to be held 24 hours after one of the biggest recent victories for those committed to finding missing children — the rescue of Amber Berry, Michelle Knight and Gina DeJesus, who were all kidnapped as youths in the early 2000s.

"Another miracle happened yesterday and three girls are alive and I feel the same joy and relief I felt when Jaycee was returned to me after 18 hellish years," Terry Probyn, Jaycee's mother, told the audience.

"We must never lose hope. Keeping hope alive is what got me through the 18 years," she added. 

Jaycee Dugard spoke briefly before her mother, thanking her family along with the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which helped her transition back into society after her abduction that last nearly 20 years.

"It's hard to believe that that story is me," Dugard said. "Thank you for tonight and I want to say what an amazing time to be talking about hope, with everything that's happening."

When she was 11-years-old, Dugard was abducted by strangers at a bus stop in her hometown of Lake Tahoe, Calif. For 18 years, she was help captive and sexually assaulted by a married couple at their home outside Antioch, Calif., eventually having two of her captures children. 

She was discovered in 2009 when her kidnapper, Phillip Garrido, raised the suspicions of University of California at Berkeley campus police while applying to hold a religious event on school grounds. In 2011, Garrido was sentenced to 431 years in prison.

Tuesday's gala was largely a celebration of Monday's news from Ohio. But while those who devote their lives to finding missing children were ecstatic about recent  developments, they also cautioned that the recovery for the newly freed Cleveland women will not be quick or easy.

Katie Beers, who at 10-years-old was held captive in an underground cell by a family "friend" for 17 days in New York, said getting professional help and the continued support of family was what helped her recover. Maintaining her privacy in the days and weeks after her release was also key in Beers recovery, she said.

"I would most certainly suggest to them seek out counseling right away, even if they don't want to talk about their captivity, if they just want to talk about what's going on in their life that day, for themselves and their family," she told reporters before the dinner. "And also I would suggest they stay out of the public eye as they need to recover, they need to assimilate back into a normal so called life."

Beers dropped out of the public eye until the 20-year anniversary of her 1992 rescue when she released a book about her ordeal titled "Buried Memories." 

Beers was taken captive near her Long Island home by a man she knew and trusted. The women on the west side of Cleveland were held by suspects that neighbors described as friendly, unlike anyone else in the area.

The descriptions of seemingly normal, well-meaning people committing these types of crimes should no long surprise people,  America's Most Wanted host John Walsh told media before the event.

"These guys live amongst us, they hide in plain sight, they are sociopaths that believe it is OK to kidnap women and children," Walsh said. "They are cunning, smart and they don't operate like we do. They don't have a moral code, they dont have empathy, they dont have compassion." 

Walsh praised neighbor Charles Ramsey, credited for helping save the women, for acting quickly and allowing Berry to make the emergency call that would lead her, Knight and DeJesus to the freedom they had long yearned for.

Walsh, whose son was abducted and murdered in 1981, said he hopes the men who are accused of imprisoning the women in Ohio "never see the light of day again."

And while the experts in attendance shifted focus to the next steps for the Ohio women's long road to recovery, they also called it a major breakthrough for those families with missing children.

"Breaking Bad" star Bryan Cranston was still smiling late Tuesday from news of the rescue.   "It's fortuitous to have this [Ohio rescue] the night before the Hope Awards, because that's what we're celebrating — hope," Cranston told reporters. "And the message to all the parents out there that have missing children is that there is still hope."

Related:

Five missing-child cases with happy endings