By Andrew Malone
Last updated at 1:28 AM on 31st August 2009
(This is such a bizzare and sad, sick, twisted situation.)
After work each night, builder Mike Rogers liked to sit on his porch in Antioch, recover from the sweltering heat of the day and relax. But not when 'Creepy Phil' was having one of his strange parties.
The next-door neighbour was a wild-eyed 'crazy' with tents in his garden, odd male guests and a penchant for making the deadly drug crystal meth using household utensils. And, we now know, the kidnapper of Jaycee Lee Dugard.
As details of this dark and troubling story slowly come to light, the question that America is asking itself above all others is: how on Earth was Garrido able to carry out his despicable crimes in the heart of suburban California, without anyone noticing - and for 18 years?
Worse still, could others have known what was taking place there - and even been complicit in Jaycee's torment?
One thing is certain: at the heart of this inquiry lies the nature of the community where Garrido chose to make his home after serving just 11 years of a 50-year sentence for a previous sex attack. For contrary to initial reports, this is far from being mainstream, middle-class, suburban America.
Together with his new wife, Nancy, whom he had met while she was visiting her uncle in jail, Garrido settled in a crime-ridden backwater where nobody pries into anyone else's business - unless they are willing to pay the price.
'The people here are like hillbillies,' says one local film-maker. 'They are all shady and want peace to do what they do. You're liable to get shot if you go into someone else's yard.'
It was the perfect lair for Garrido. Prison had done little to suppress his predatory sexual instincts.
Details of Jaycee's torment have been beamed around the world. Yet according to his neighbour, the full, awful truth about what really took place here might be worse than imagined - far worse.
For with FBI agents now digging-up Creepy Phil's backyard and exploring his neighbour's property, Mr Rogers shudders at the memory of the sounds he heard when it was 'party time' next door.
Mr Rogers says 'perverts' in the area were regularly invited over by Garrido for sex, beer and drug parties and that the Garrido home was, in effect, being used as a brothel.
He watched groups of men arriving at the house on hot summer nights. They carried crates of beer. Mainly of Mexican appearance, they lit bonfires, played music and shouted and laughed late into the night.
They also took it in turns to enter a tent erected amid the junk in Garrido's backyard. 'I saw them entering the tent one by one,' he says. 'I saw them bobbing up and down and I thought, "My God, there is something sexual going on in there".'
Once, he peeped through a crack in the fence separating their land. 'These guys were unsavoury looking men,' he says.
'They were drinking beer and smashing the bottles on the ground. I thought they had a prostitute or something in there. I thought it might have been some kind of sex party or something. It happened quite often. They were different men each time.'
The men gave each other 'high-fives' when they emerged from the tent.
Mr Rogers discussed the matter with his brother Dean, who lives along the street. Both men agreed not to contact the police. They have since agonised over whether Jaycee and her two daughters were being 'pimped out' to strangers. 'I hope to God not,' says Dean.
By way of explanation he says: 'People don't even wave to each other or say hello here. You just pay no attention to what is going on with other people. That way, you don't get shot.'
Certainly, Walnut Avenue is a grubby, primitive and predominantly white area. Many of the homes are little more than wooden shacks with children playing in the dirt outside.
Drug and alcohol addiction are widespread; back yards are littered with cars and fridges. Astonishingly, the area is home to 144 rapists and paedophiles.
'People here live off the grid,' says one local police source. 'That means they use drugs, don't pay taxes and never pay their bills. They live as they want to - and pay no attention to anyone else. And everyone who lives here is very happy with that arrangement.'
The surrounding streets offer another insight into Garrido's twisted mindset as he held two generations hostage for his own sexual gratification. As darkness fell on Saturday, people scurried from dusty yard to yard, buying and selling crystal meth.
Highly addictive and responsible for making users' teeth fall out in a syndrome known as 'meth mouth', crystal meth, also known as crank, is an amphetamine which has swept the U.S. Experts say users experience unstoppable sexual urges.
Locals say Garrido, who had previously been addicted to LSD, was a 'tweaker' - the slang word for crystal meth addicts, whose habit leads to characteristic spasms of twitching - and that he was also reputed to 'cook' the raw materials for crystal meth in an old van in his garden. This 'laboratory' reportedly exploded last month. Again, neighbours did not call police.
That is the Antioch way. And there may yet be far worse to come. With the FBI diggers now in action, Mike Rogers suspects that murder will soon be added to the long list of sordid secrets emerging from his neighbour's home at 1554 Walnut Avenue