BATAVIA, Ohio – People who have banded together in hope and prayer since a hometown soldier was captured April 9 in Iraq sought to keep their spirits up, even after an Arab television report that captors had killed Spc. Keith M. "Matt" Maupin (search).
"I want this boy to come home," said April Parton, 50, who owns an auto body repair shop near Maupin's home. "I'm on pins and needles over this."
Al-Jazeera reported Monday that insurgents who had held the 20-year-old soldier hostage for nearly three months had shot him in the back of the head. The Army, with no body and confronted with a grainy videotape of the killing, said it had to investigate further.
Maj. Mark Magalski, an Army officer assigned to support Maupin's family, said Tuesday that the family will refrain from making a public statement until military investigators reach conclusions about Maupin, still listed as captured by the Army.
Yellow ribbons have been in place for weeks on utility poles, signs and at businesses near Maupin's home about 15 miles east of Cincinnati. Residents and community leaders have convened a series of rallies in a park and at the Clermont County Courthouse to show support for Maupin's family.
Drivers in a caravan of about 10 cars displaying yellow ribbons honked their horns and passengers waved American flags out of the windows as they moved past Maupin's mother's house on Monday night. Police kept reporters away, saying the family wanted to be left alone.
The family chose to be cautious and say nothing because it has struggled with conflicting reports before about Maupin's safety, Army officers said.
About 200 people held a vigil for Maupin in the rain early Monday night in Batavia.
"I was real impressed when I saw the folks gathering out in the pouring rain," said Dan Haglage, of Batavia. "That's quite a commitment to him and his family."
Haglage said the community has come together to support the family.
"I think everybody shares the sorrow of his parents and what they've had to go through the last couple of months," Haglage said.
Yellow ribbons, plus flowers, messages of support and a poster of Maupin in uniform, have been fastened to a chain-link fence surrounding school buses at Glen Este High School (search), where Maupin graduated in 2001 as a football player and scholar-athlete. The fence display bore special significance because his mother, Carolyn Maupin, works for the school district's bus transportation office.
At Willowville Elementary School, not far from her house, the message board said: "Thank you for serving, Matt. We're thinking of you." It was signed: Mrs. Branham's class.
News of Maupin's killing came hours after the United States returned sovereignty in Iraq to an interim government. Army officers at the home of Maupin's mother said they knew of no link. The Al-Jazeera report did not say when Maupin was killed.
Maupin was captured during an ambush on a convoy west of Baghdad on April 9.
Al-Jazeera aired video showing a blindfolded man sitting on the ground. The Arab satellite station said that in the next scene, gunmen shoot the man in the back of the head, in front of a hole dug in the ground. It did not show the killing.
Maj. Willie Harris, public affairs spokesman for the Army's 88th Regional Readiness Command, said the videotape is being analyzed by the Department of Defense (search).
"There is no confirmation at this time, that the tape contains footage of Matt Maupin or any other Army soldier," he said, adding that the Maupin family was briefed "as to the existence of a videotape."