WASHINGTON – The remains of two U.S. contractors kidnapped in Iraq more than a year ago have been recovered, the FBI said Monday, weeks after families of several long-missing men gained hope that they might be found alive.
Ronald Withrow of Roaring Springs, Texas, and John Roy Young of Kansas City, Mo., were among six Western contractors kidnapped separately. The disappearances received new attention this month when the severed fingers of several men were sent to the U.S. military in Iraq.
Several relatives had taken the discovery of the fingers as a hopeful sign, including the father of Jonathon Cote, who remains missing.
"We feel very sad that this is how it turned out. We wish it turned out a better way," Francis Cote said from his home in Getzville, N.Y., near Buffalo.
Cote said he had spoken to the families of Withrow and Young. He said that he was holding out hope his son is still alive but that the discovery of the bodies dampened those hopes.
"Let me say this: I'm not as optimistic as I was in the past," he said.
Withrow worked for JPI Worldwide when he was kidnapped in January 2007. Young worked for Crescent Security Group when he was kidnapped in November 2006. Withrow was among those whose severed fingers were sent; Young was not.
Withrow's mother, Barbara Alexander, said an FBI agent visited her Sunday night.
"You just can't really be prepared for any news like that, especially when you had hope that your son is alive," Alexander said by phone from her home in Afton, Texas, about 270 miles northwest of Dallas.
"I know he's safe from all harm now," Alexander said. "We're bringing him home. That was what our main concern was. And that they're not going to hurt him anymore."
Reading from what she said was the final entry in a notebook, Alexander addressed her son directly:
"I know God has taken you home. I'm just someone that's taken care of you," she said. "It's hard to believe that you're gone. But you're in a more peaceful place than here. I'll see you when I can. Wait for me at the gates of heaven."
Young's mother, Sharon DeBrabander, declined to comment after the FBI's confirmation. A woman who answered the door at the family's home said relatives were expected to discuss Young's death Tuesday.
The other men still missing are Paul Reuben of Minneapolis, Joshua Munns of Redding, Calif., and Bert Nussbaumer of Vienna, Austria. A finger from each was received by the military recently.
Francis Cote said he and other families were visited by the FBI last month and told DNA samples had been identified as those of the hostages. The agents would not say how they had gotten the samples, but one family member said she provided a sample after the FBI asked for one.