Deano/Splash News Online
Alex Tresniowski
September 02, 2009 07:15 AM

It’s a grotesque half-acre unfit for animals, much less a young woman and her two daughters.

The backyard where Jaycee Dugard, 29, and her girls – Starlit, 15, and Angel, 11 – apparently lived is a stinky maze of rundown shelters littered with oddities, from toys to romance novels, with cages that could have been used for dogs or, chillingly, people, a source who toured the grounds tells PEOPLE.

After years of home inspections, authorities missed it all, and neighbors never realized what was going on behind the walls. Only last week, police discovered the grounds after they arrested Phillip Garrido, 58, for allegedly kidnapping Jaycee 18 years ago, then fathering her children. This is what they saw:

Piled Like a Dump

Nick Stern/Red Think Media

Behind the garage, and through an opening in a high fence that looked like the end of Garrido’s property, is a twisting maze of tents and sheds, sealed off by a border fence and shrouded by dense locust and mimosa trees. The land, once a walnut orchard, features damp, loamy dirt; the yard smells moldy and fetid. The four camping tents and five windowless shacks were each strewn with clothes and debris, and outside “there was rubbish piled as high as five feet in places,” says the source, who toured the yard shortly after Garrido’s arrest. “The only place where there was any order at all was the clothing racks. Otherwise everything was piled up like a dump.”

The source could not even be sure which tents and shacks had been lived in. Beds and futons were piled high with boxes and clothing; none of the spaces resembled a young child’s room. “In one tent there was a mattress against one of the walls,” says the source. “In another there was a five or six foot high cage with a tennis ball inside it. I don’t know if it was for dogs or people who’d done something wrong.” In another room, “there were bits of carpeting and dirty old rugs. There was a big dark stain on one of the floors.”

Books, Toys, Goldfish

Nick Stern/Red Think Media

Everywhere, the scattered debris of disordered lives-books, boxes, Barbie dolls, old Christmas decorations. In one area, a small bookcase was packed with books – Danielle Steele romance novels, Dean Koontz thrillers, books about cats and birds and gardening. Along with an old TV, VCR, microwaves and even a Wii game console, there was a photo of Garrido in his younger days as a musician, bottles of printer ink and an opened box of lice treatment.

One of the strangest sights: a fish tank filled with dark green gunk, so muddied it was hard to see anything in the water. “But there was a couple of goldfish in there,” says the source, “miraculously swimming around.”

Reporting by HOWARD BREUER

For much more on Jaycee Dugard’s incredible story – including details of her years in captivity and more pictures from the compound – pick up the new PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

1991: Jaycee is abducted by strangers in front of her stepfather

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