Child hostage makes it out alive
MIDLAND CITY, Ala. — Authorities stormed an underground bunker on Monday in Alabama, freeing a 5-year-old boy who had been held hostage for nearly a week in the tiny shelter and leaving the boy's abductor dead.
After days of fruitless negotiations, talks had deteriorated with an increasingly agitated Jimmy Lee Dykes, who had kidnapped the child from a school bus and fatally shot the driver.
Dykes had been seen with a gun, and officers concluded the boy was in imminent danger, said Steve Richardson of the FBI's office in Mobile.
Officials refused to say how the 65-year-old died.
“Ever since this started, there's never been a moment that (the boy) wasn't on my mind,” said Michael Senn, pastor of a church near where reporters had been camped out since the standoff began. “So when I heard that he was OK, it was just like a thousand pounds lifted off of me.”
The rescue capped a long drama that drew national attention to this town of 2,400 people nestled amid peanut farms and cotton fields that has long relied on a strong Christian faith, a policy of “love thy neighbor” and the power of group prayer. The child's plight prompted nightly candlelight vigils.
Throughout the ordeal, authorities had been speaking with Dykes though a plastic pipe that went into the shelter. They also sent food, medicine and other items into the bunker, which apparently had running water, heat and cable television but no toilet. It was about 4 feet underground, with about 50 square feet of floor space.
Authorities said the kindergartner appeared unharmed. He was taken to a hospital in nearby Dothan. Officials have said he has Asperger's syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
FBI bomb technicians were clearing the property for explosive devices and planned to look more closely at the scene when it's safe, FBI spokesman Jason Pack said.
Daryle Hendry, who lives about a quarter-mile from the bunker, said he heard a boom Monday afternoon, followed by what sounded like a gunshot.
Melissa Knighton, city clerk in Midland City, said a woman had been praying in the town center on Monday afternoon. Not long after, the mayor called with news that Dykes was dead and the boy was safe.
“She must have had a direct line to God, because shortly after she left, they heard the news,” Knighton said.
Neighbors described Dykes as a menacing, unpredictable man who once beat a dog to death with a lead pipe, threatened to shoot children for setting foot on his property and patrolled his yard at night with a flashlight and a firearm.
Government records and interviews with neighbors indicate that Dykes joined the Navy in Midland City and served from 1964 to 1969. His record shows several awards, including the Vietnam Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal. During his service, Dykes was trained in aviation maintenance.
He had some scrapes with the law in Florida, including a 1995 arrest for improper exhibition of a weapon. The misdemeanor was dismissed. He was arrested for marijuana possession in 2000.
He returned to Alabama about two years ago, moving onto the rural tract about 100 yards from his nearest neighbors.
Ronda Wilbur, a neighbor of Dykes who said the man beat her dog to death last year with a pipe, said she was relieved to be done with the stress of knowing Dykes was patrolling his yard and willing to shoot at anyone or anything that trespassed.
“The nightmare is over. It's been a long couple of years of having constant stress,” she said.
On Sunday, more than 500 people attended a memorial service for bus driver Charles Albert Poland Jr., who was hailed as a hero for protecting the two dozen other children on the bus before he was gunned down and the little boy grabbed.
“This man was a true hero who was willing to give up his life so others might live,” Gov. Robert Bentley said upon learning of the boy's rescue.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Road closed by mudslide reopens after six months
- Seattle residents told to compost or be hit with fines
- Sprawling wind farm eyed in Wyoming
- Prison population drops, feds say
- Bin Laden’s son-in-law gets life in prison
- White House committed to ethanol, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack says
- FBI, federal marshals join manhunt for survivalist accused of ambushing troopers
- New DNA testing in twins welcomed by prosecutors
- March around the world seek to put focus on climate change
- Obama pushes climate treaty