The hair is darker, bordering on brown, but Jaycee Dugard’s clear blue eyes still sparkle in a face lit by a brilliant smile. Looking out from the cover of People magazine, the young woman who was kidnapped at the age of 11 appears to be 10 years younger than her 29 years.
“I’m so happy to be back,” reads the headline on the cover of the Oct. 26 issue, which hits newsstands this Friday. The cover photo of Jaycee, the first since she was rescued on Aug. 26, can be viewed now on People.com.
People first wrote about Jaycee in November 1991, five months after she was kidnapped outside her home in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., allegedly by convicted sex offender Phillip Garrido and his wife, Nancy. The Garridos were taken into custody after a campus cop at Berkeley thought something was suspicious about the man who was seeking a permit to hold a religious meeting on campus.
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Dugard was not interviewed by the magazine, although people close to her spoke at length about her rehabilitation and that of her two daughters, Angel, 14, and Starlit, 11. Dugard and her daughters are recovering from her long ordeal with her mother, Terry Probyn, at an undisclosed location in northern California.
The 10-page article is accompanied by many pictures of Dugard and her mother. Dugard’s daughters are shown only from the back.
A therapist is using horseback riding to help Dugard and her daughters cope with their years of captivity in a makeshift encampment behind Garrido’s home. “Jaycee loves animals,” family spokeswoman Erika Price Schulte told People.
“I’m so happy to be back with my family,” Dugard said in a statement to the magazine. “Nothing is more important than the unconditional love and support I have from them.”
Schulte said Dugard provided the photos to “People” because she wanted to “lift the veil and acknowledge that she is doing well. She wants to thank everyone for their support and best wishes and to let people see that this is her.”
She is staying with her mother, a 50-year-old middle-school secretary, and her daughters. Schulte told People that despite never having gone to school, both Angel and Starlit have been tested and are performing at grade level. That, Schulte said, is a testament to Dugard, who educated her daughters despite not having gone to school beyond the fifth grade herself.
“This has been such a miracle – that Jaycee was able to do all that she’s done under those circumstances just tells us what a strong woman she is and how extremely intelligent she is,” Probyn’s stepmother, Joan Curry, told the magazine.
Schulte said the mother and daughters spend their time catching up, cooking and reading. “They’re not hiding,” Schulte told People. “They’re enjoying their privacy.”
Curry said that everyone understands that challenges lie ahead. Dugard was raped repeatedly by Garrido and her daughters thought that she was their sister, not their mother. “Jaycee’s realistic,” Curry told People, “She knows this is not going to be the easiest road that she’s ever traveled, but she is just very upbeat, giddy that she’s with her family.”
Dugard has also taken delight in getting to know her half sister, Shayna Probyn, 19, who was just a toddler when Dugard was kidnapped and is now a college student.
Schulte said that Dugard does not want to dwell on the past, choosing instead to look to the future and more forward.
“She is never looking back,” Schulte told the magazine. “They are just taking things one day at a time. She wants to have a home with her girls, and a happy, quiet, normal life.”