Psychic Sylvia Browne mistakenly told family boy was dead

Montel Williams’ psychic pal Sylvia Browne told the family of missing Shawn Hornbeck he was dead shortly after the Missouri boy vanished – and later allegedly offered to help locate his body for $700 per half hour.

The popular TV clairvoyant appeared on the “Montel Williams Show” in February 2003, four months after Shawn disappeared, and told Pam and Craig Akers she believed their son was “no longer with us.”

She also advised that his body could be found in a wooded area 20 miles from their Richwoods, Mo., home, near two large jagged boulders.

Shawn, now 15, was found alive and well last Friday, living just miles away with a man now charged with snatching the boy when he was 11.

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Browne’s “vision” of his death caused search teams to redirect their efforts and drew dozens of calls from the public who believed they lived near the woods matching Browne’s descriptions.

The family also claims the psychic then tried to cash in, which Browne vigorously denies.

“She called Pam and Craig about one month after the show and pretty much offered her services to continue their discussion for a fee,” said Wayne Evans, a spokesman for the Shawn Hornbeck Foundation.

“Pam was that desperate that if she had had $700 in her bank account she would have put it on the table. We are talking about a mother who would have sold her soul to have her boy back.”

“Everybody was angry,” he added. “Sylvia Browne’s name was never brought up again until Shawn was found. He’s home now, and that’s all that matters.”

Browne, a regular guest on the “Montel” show, apologized for her misfire, exposed first by, a blog dedicated to tracking the psychic’s every blunder.

“I’m terribly sorry that this happened,” she told the Daily News. “But I think my body of work stands by itself. I’ve broken case after case.”

“I think it’s just cruel to jump on this one case in which I was wrong,” she added defensively. “I’ve said thousands of times I’m not God.”

She also denied ever offering her services to Shawn’s family for cash.

“There’s never been a case that I’ve ever charged for a missing child,” Browne said. “I would never do that. Never, never.”

A spokeswoman for Williams said the talk show host was taping more shows and unavailable for comment. Browne was his only guest on yesterday’s show.

Michael Devlin, the 300-pound pizza parlor manager charged with kidnapping Shawn four years ago and a second boy just last week, is to be arraigned today in Missouri courtroom.

He is also under investigation for the disappearance of another boy, Charles Arlin Henderson, 16 years ago.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog)
New York Daily News, USA
Jan. 18, 2007
Christina Boyle

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This post was last updated: Jan. 18, 2007