MIDLAND CITY, Ala. —
Officers stormed an underground bunker in Alabama where a 5-year-old boy had been held hostage for nearly a week, rescuing the child and leaving the boy’s abductor dead, officials said Monday.
Steve Richardson with the FBI’s office in Mobile said at a news conference Monday afternoon that negotiations had deteriorated with 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes, a man neighbors described as an isolated loner. Dykes had been seen with a gun, and officers believed the boy was in imminent danger, Richardson said.
Officers stormed the bunker just after 3 p.m. CST to rescue the child, who was taken to a hospital in nearby Dothan. Officials have said the child has Asperger’s syndrome.
However, it was not immediately clear how Dykes died.
Melissa Nighton, the city clerk in Midland City, said a woman had been praying in the town center Monday afternoon. Not long after, the mayor called her with news that Dykes was dead and that the boy was safe.
“She must have had a direct line to God because shortly after she left, they heard the news,” Nighton said.
Neighbors described Dykes as a 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, serving on active duty 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 also 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.
Dykes, described as a loner who railed against the government, lives up a dirt road outside this tiny hamlet north of Dothan in the southeastern corner of the state. His home is just off the main road north to the state capital of Montgomery, about 80 miles away.
The FBI said in a statement Sunday that authorities continue to have an open line of communication with Dykes. The little boy requested Cheez-Its and red Hot Wheels cars, and both were delivered to the bunker, FBI spokesman Jason Pack told The Associated Press. Authorities had said they also were delivering medicine and other comfort items, and that Dykes was making the child as comfortable as possible.
In the nearby community of Ozark on Sunday, more than 500 people filed into the Civic Center to pay a final tribute to Poland.
Poland is now “an angel who is watching over” the little boy, said Dale County School Superintendent Donny Bynum, who read letters written by three students who had ridden on Poland’s bus. “You didn’t deserve to die but you died knowing you kept everyone safe,” one child wrote.
Outside the funeral, school buses from several counties lined the funeral procession route. The buses had black ribbons tied to their side mirrors.
Dykes grew up in the Dothan area. Mel Adams, a Midland City Council member who owns the lot where reporters are gathered, said he has known Dykes since they were ages 3 and 4.
He said Dykes has a sister and a brother, but that he is estranged from his family.
Adams said he didn’t know what caused the falling-out, but that he knew Dykes “had told part of his family to go to hell.”