By Michael Winter, USA TODAY
The 65-year-old retired truck driver who held a 5-year-old autistic boy hostage after killing a school bus driver last week is dead and the child is safe, according to news reports.
Law enforcement sources said Jimmy Lee Dykes was killed Monday afternoon, the Associated Press, CNN and other news organizations reported. An ambulance was seen leaving the scene in Midland City, Ala., where Dykes had held the boy in a homemade bunker since abducting him from the bus last Tuesday.
The Dale County coroner confirmed that Dykes is dead, ABC3340 reported.
There were reports of one or two loud bangs on the property, and a neighbor who lives about a quarter-mile from where Dykes was holed up told the Associated Press that he heard a boom followed by a gunshot.
Authorities said they would be making a major announcement shortly.
Earlier Monday, the Dale County sheriff said the suspect, who is holed up in an underground bunker, believes he has an "important" story to share, though he offered no details.
Authorities had continued for a sixth day to communicate with Dykes through a ventilation pipe and to supply the boy, identified only as Ethan, with medicine and treats, including coloring books, crayons, potato chips, cheese crackers and a toy car, ABC says.
CBS News reported that Wednesday will be the boy's sixth birthday.
In an interview with ABC, 14-year-old Tarrica Singletary, who was aboard the bus, described what happened last Tuesday afternoon aboard the bus in rural Midland City, tucked in the red-dirt hills of southeastern Alabama near the Florida panhandle.
"He said he was going to kill us, going to kill us all," she said. "The bus driver kept saying, 'Just please get off the bus,' and [Dykes] said, 'Ah, all right, I'll get off the bus.'"
She said the driver, Charles Poland Jr., "tried to back up and reverse and [Dykes] pulled out the gun and he just shot him, and he just took Ethan."
Poland, 66, was buried Sunday.
Surveillance drones have flown over Dykes' property, officials said.
"It gives them more time to study this bunker," said former FBI profiler Brad Garrett, who is an ABC News consultant. "Does Mr. Dykes have any explosives? Has he booby trapped the doors if ever they tried to get in?"
At a brief Monday afternoon news conference, Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson said authorities "are engaged" with Dykes "around the clock."
Dykes "feels like he has a story that's important to him. Although it's very complex, we're trying to make a safe environment," Olson said.
AL.com reported less visible activity around the law enforcement command center along Highway 231 in Midland City than in previous days.
The FBI was also restricting what images photographers could take.