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High Fire Danger Wednesday

Boy Held Captive In Ala. Bunker May Celebrate 6th Birthday As Hostage

By: CBS
By: CBS
Police SWAT teams and hostage negotiators are gathered at a standoff and hostage scene in Dale County near Midland City, Ala (Credit: AP/Montgomery Advertiser)

Police SWAT teams and hostage negotiators are gathered at a standoff and hostage scene in Dale County near Midland City, Ala (Credit: AP/Montgomery Advertiser)

The Alabama hostage drama is now in its seventh day. The 5-year-old boy held captive underground by Jimmy Lee Dykes remains underground and could spend his birthday as a hostage. The boy, identified only as Ethan, turns six on Wednesday.

Police tell CBS News they still have an open line of communication with the Dykes, but almost a full week into this standoff, very little has changed.

Details about communications with the suspect Dykes, remain scarce. Dykes did allow police to lower crackers and a red hot wheels car into the underground bunker for his hostage.

Cindy Steiner, a friend of Ethan's family, told CBS News he has autism. She said, "He's crying, he wants his momma, he's never really been away from her."

Police said Dykes appears to be caring for Ethan. Sheriff Wally Olson said in a recent press conference, "Thank you for taking care of our child."

Neighbors remember Dykes for his anti-government rants. CBS News has learned Dykes is a decorated veteran. He served in the Navy in the late 1960s, based in Japan and California and received awards for good conduct.

CBS News senior correspondent John Miller, a former FBI assistant director, who has been involved in other hostage and standoff situations, said there are some good signs in this situation. He said Dykes' caring for the boy is a sign of bonding. "You can see that when Dykes asks for coloring books, crayons. He allows medication to come in," he said. "He's trying to provide for this boy, so as time goes on, that bond should increase.

For John Miller's full analysis, watch the video in the player below.

"It also happens with the negotiators. There's going to be a primary negotiator who started this conversation and a backup negotiator and then over this many days they're going to be others. He's going develop relationships and trust as he asks for things and they give him things and they ask for things in return. ... That can only get better, probably not worse."

Miller said the situation with Dykes may be controlled to some extent by negotiators, but depends largely on Dykes' own rollercoaster or emotions. Miller explained, "One would argue this might not be a stable person, so they have to manage that in that conversation and sometimes they may want to do a controlled probe to stir things up if there's no conversation, but otherwise they may want to talk him down if he's getting excited. But they want to keep that even if they can."

Explaining what a controlled probe is, Miller said it's a possible tactic "when somebody breaks off conversation, you can stir things up. Make some noise, do something provocative. That will usually generate a phone call. And then at least you've got a conversation going on. On the other hand, when somebody is getting very excited for perspective, they say, let's see where things are. 'The kid's fine, you're fine, let's bring this down a notch.'"

Children in the area will return to school Monday for the first time since the shooting.

On Sunday, just miles from the standoff, hundreds gathered to remember slain bus driver Charles Poland, Jr. Police say Dykes shot Poland Tuesday, when he stormed this school bus demanding child hostages.

Robbie Batchelor, a fellow school bus driver, said of Poland, "He laid down his life for the kids on the bus."

Twenty children on that bus escaped.


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