The 5-year-old boy held hostage for a week in an Alabama underground bunker was “just his lovely sweet little self” after his dramatic release, said a state lawmaker who has kept daily contact with the boy’s mother.
“Lots of hugs and kisses are going on,” State Sen. Harri Anne Smith said Tuesday on TODAY.
After a six-day standoff, a federal hostage team stormed an underground bunker in Alabama, where Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, was holding five-year-old Ethan hostage. Ethan was freed safely, while Dykes was found dead. NBC’s Gabe Gutierrez reports, and Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson and former FBI hostage negotiator Clint van Zandt discuss the case.
FBI agents rescued the boy, known only as Ethan, after storming the bunker Monday afternoon. Authorities feared the boy was in danger, but have since said he appears unharmed. His kidnapper, Jimmy Lee Dykes, is dead.
Smith said she met Ethan’s mom as she headed to the hospital to be reunited with her son.
“Lots of smiles. I was actually going over for my afternoon visit and she was being rushed out the door, along with her mother, the grandmother,” she said. “You could see she was visibly shaken. Nervous, but I could see this little smile and she gave me a big hug. Grandmother turned around and smiled and said, ‘We love you,’ and they put them in a vehicle.”
The boy was released just in time for his sixth birthday Wednesday.
“I would image it’s going to be the greatest birthday that family and that little boy has ever experienced and probably will ever experience,” local pastor Michael Senn told TODAY.
Smith said Ethan’s mom has described her son as a child who wins over everyone he encounters.
The mom said “if you just took the time to get to know him, that everybody who meets him just loves him. He’s such a likeable little boy, brave,” Smith recounted.
The boy has Asperger’s syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, for which he takes medication. Authorities had provided the medicine to the kidnapper.
"They said Ethan is doing really well," Smith said.
The boy's rescue ended a standoff that began when Dykes snatched Ethan at random from a school bus on Jan. 29. Dykes was accused of fatally shooting the bus driver before escaping to his bunker.