The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

February 2, 2013

South Alabama authorities mum about talks with alleged abductor

(Continued)

While much of what is going on inside the bunker remains a mystery, local officials who have spoken to police or the boy's family have described a small room with food, electricity and a TV. And while the boy has his medication, an official also said he has been crying for his parents.

Meanwhile, Midland City residents held out hope that the standoff would end safely and mourned for the slain bus driver and his family. Candlelight vigils have been held nightly at a gazebo in front of City Hall. Residents prayed, sang songs such as "Amazing Grace" and nailed homemade wooden crosses on the gazebo's railings alongside signs that read: "We are praying for you."

"We're doing any little thing that helps show support for him," said 15-year-old Taylor Edwards said.

Former hostage negotiators said authorities must be cautious and patient as long as they are confident that the boy is unharmed. Ex-FBI hostage negotiator Clint Van Zandt advised against any drastic measures such as cutting the electricity or putting sleeping gas inside the bunker because it could agitate Dykes.

The negotiator should try to ease Dykes' anxieties over what will happen when the standoff ends, and refer to both the boy and Dykes by their first names, he said.

"I want to give him a reason to come out," Van Zandt said,

Police seemed to be following that pattern. At a brief news conference to release a photo of Dykes, they brushed off any questions about possible charges.

"It's way too early for that," said Kevin Cook, a spokesman for the Alabama state troopers.

Police have described the bunker as about 4 feet underground, with about 6-by-8 feet of floor space and the PVC pipe that negotiators were speaking through.

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