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Ala. school bus abductor had Navy past

Feb. 4, 2013 - 06:45PM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 4, 2013 - 06:45PM  |  
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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 former sailor. Dykes, who a week earlier had abducted the child from a school bus after fatally shooting the driver, had been seen with a gun. Officers believed the boy was in imminent danger, Richardson said.

Officers stormed the bunker just after 3 p.m. Central time 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.

Daryle Hendry, who lives about a quarter-mile from where Dykes' bunker was located, said he heard a boom Monday afternoon, followed by what sounded like a gunshot, all around the time officials said they stormed the bunker.

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 1964-69. 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.

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.

Authorities have said Dykes gunned down 66-year-old bus driver Albert Poland Jr. before taking the boy from the bus. Poland, who was buried Sunday, has been hailed as a hero for protecting nearly two dozen children on board from harm.

"This man was a true hero who was willing to give up his life so others might live," Gov. Robert Bentley said in a news release Monday after learning of the boy's rescue.

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