Grandmother of kidnapped Alabama boy speaks out

MIDLAND CITY, Ala. (AP) -- The grandmother of a 5-year-old held hostage for a week in an underground bunker said Tuesday the boy is OK physically, but she fears the ordeal could stay with him the rest of his life.

Betty Jean Ransbottom told The Associated Press that she cried herself to sleep every night while the boy was being held hostage, and that she didn't sleep much while she awaited news.

"It was horrible. I never went through anything so horrible," she said.

Ransbottom said the boy seemed fine in the hospital on Monday after his rescue, but the family isn't sure yet how he is doing mentally.

She said an FBI agent stayed with the family the entire time the boy was being held hostage, but officials are not giving the family much information because of the ongoing investigation. They learned of his rescue when an FBI agent at the scene called the agent staying with the family.

Debra Cook, Ransbottom's sister, said the family was grateful for the community's prayers and support. Fliers around town asked people to pray for the boy, and others gathered at nightly vigils to pray for his safe return.

"He has gone through a terrible ordeal, and I don't know if he will ever get over it," Cook told the AP. "I just want him to be all right."

Earlier Tuesday, Cook had told ABC's "Good Morning America" that the boy was happy and playing with toys, including a dinosaur.

The boy was abducted from a school bus last week after 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes shot the driver and took the child back to a bunker on his property. Authorities raided the shelter after determining Dykes had a gun, saying he appeared to be increasingly agitated and that negotiations had deteriorated.

School officials said at a news conference Tuesday that they planned to have a party to celebrate the boy's birthday, which is Wednesday, though they had not yet set a date for the party. The celebration, likely at the high school football field, would also honor the memory of Charles Albert Poland Jr., the bus driver credited as a hero for his actions to keep nearly two dozen other children on the bus safe.

Principal Phillip Parker said his colleagues were eagerly awaiting the boy's return, though he did not know when that would be.

"We'd love to have him back tomorrow," he said.

Parker stands at the entrance to the school every day as the children arrive, and described the boy as a friendly, energetic child who comes up, shakes his hand and then continues on into the school as if he's in a hurry.

After FBI agents determined that talks with an increasingly agitated Dykes were breaking down, they stormed the shelter Monday afternoon and freed the kindergartner. The 65-year-old armed captor was killed by law enforcement agents, an official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the official wasn't authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.


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