OKLAHOMA CITY – Making his third trip to Russia, Sandy Booker was visiting his mail-order bride and hoping to speed up the red tape so she could join him here.
John Day, a friend, said he became worried when Booker, 49, didn't e-mail him from Russia as promised. Then he heard on television that Booker was among the 800 people in the Moscow theater seized by Chechen gunmen last week.
Now Booker's family says he was one of the more than 100 people killed when Russian authorities used a mysterious knockout gas to end the standoff Saturday.
Relatives told Oklahoma City television station KWTV Tuesday that U.S. consulate officials called from Moscow at 5 a.m. to tell them Booker had died.
His fiancee, who also was exposed to fumes in the theater, identified his body Tuesday after she regained consciousness. Svetlana Gubareva then called Booker's Oklahoma relatives.
"She feels like we're family," said Booker's brother, Rick, who was choking back tears. "From talking with her this morning, I feel that she's family."
The U.S. Embassy in Moscow said it had located a body believed to be that of Booker, a 49-year-old industrial electrician for General Motors.
At least one other American was believed to have been in the theater and survived. Her name has not been released.
Sandy Booker was at the theater with his fiancee and her 13-year-old daughter when armed Chechen rebels raided the theater Wednesday night.
The girl was killed by the fumes Russian authorities pumped into the theater before ending the 2-day siege, said Lucy Shropshire, a Russian-American who helped arrange Booker's trips to meet potential brides.
She said Booker's fiancee was initially unconscious because of exposure to the gas, which U.S. officials say was an opiate related to morphine.
Shropshire, who works at the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, has been in contact with relatives in Moscow who showed Booker around the city on a previous trip.
She helped Booker by having her Russian relatives place a newspaper ad for a wife.
Booker made his latest trip to see if he could speed up marital arrangements for Gubareva, who had to go through a background check before moving to the United States.
Day said Booker did not tell his mother or brother, who live in the Oklahoma City area, that he went to Russia.
"He wanted to keep this one a little low-key, and I understand that," he said. "That whole mail-order-bride thing was just controversial."
Booker met another woman on his first trip to Russia, but that relationship did not work out. He met Gubareva on his second trip, Day said.