LAPORTE, Indiana – Three weeks after an American business man was abducted in Iraq (search), his house has been put up for sale, a family phone number has been disconnected and those closest to him refuse to speak about him.
No word from those who abducted Jeffrey Ake (search) in Iraq. Only brief comments from the U.S. government. And no word from the the northern Indiana businessman's closest friends and family, even to simply say how much they love him and pray for his safe return.
The only public reaction from the Ake family came through the LaPorte city police chief on April 13 — the day Ake was seen in a video televised two days after he was kidnapped at a water treatment plant near Baghdad — saying they were following the FBI's (search) advice in not commenting.
A red, white and blue ribbon has been tied around a tree in front of Ake's home since reporters and camera crews stood outside for days awaiting any comment from his family.
A "For Sale" sign also has been added to the yard as his wife put the house on the market last week. One telephone number for the family has been disconnected. The other rang unanswered on Monday.
Ake's business, Equipment Express in nearby Rolling Prairie, has been just as quiet. No employee has said a word to reporters about Ake's disappearance. A man answering the phone Monday said no one at the company could comment.
Even LaPorte Mayor Leigh Morris, an acquaintance of Ake who gave several interviews in the days after the videotape was aired, has not commented since a planned April 15 prayer vigil for Ake was abruptly called off without explanation.
Wendy Osborne, a spokeswoman for the FBI's Indianapolis office, said Monday the decision to keep silent was the choice of the family.
"We don't put any restrictions on the family," she said. "It's their decision on whether to go public or not. In this particular case, the Jeffrey Ake family has chosen not to go public at all."
The only information about Ake came from the videotape broadcast by Al-Jazeera television, which showed him being held at gunpoint by at least three assailants as he held what appeared to be a family photo and a passport. In the video, Ake asked the U.S. government to withdraw from Iraq and save his life.
No group has claimed responsibility for the abduction, simply adding to the silence around the abduction.
Ken Coe, president of radio station WCOE in LaPorte, said callers to the station's talk shows are perplexed by the silence.
"People are calling wanting to know what's going on, saying it's so quiet it's eerie," he said.
Coe said the family asked the station to try to avoid talking about Ake, saying they feared any attention could endanger his life.
Experts in abductions say there is good reason for the silence.
"The secrecy, or the silence, is beneficial only because every element of information that goes out should be very measured," said former FBI agent Bob Scigalski.