Mother of bunker boy hostage sympathizes with kidnapper

Jennifer Kirkland with her son Ethan, 6, who survived after he was held hostage by a deranged killer, in a bunker for six days. Screen shot via Dr. Phil Show.

I know I will likely get some hate mail for stating the obvious here, but after seeing the mother of the boy who was held hostage for almost a week underground by a man he had just seen kill his bus driver, I don’t understand why she a) chose to put her son on television after he’d been through so much and b) why her sentimentalization of her son’s tormenter can be considered anything but a coping mechanism.

Ms. Kirkland, who originally said she would not be doing interviews, decided to go on Dr. Phil and rehash her son’s story.

While 6-year-old Ethan was in the room, Dr. Phil asked him a few questions, one about how he gets to school in which Ethan went over to his mother and whispered something into her ear. Apparently Ethan whispered, “…my bus driver is dead.”

Ms. Kirkland claims she has not spoken to Ethan about anything that has happened. She said she’s there if he wants to talk.


Kirkland also said that Ethan is suffering from night terrors, thrashing around in his bed.

For the second time, Ms. Kirkland publicly stated that she had forgiven Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, for holding her son hostage for almost a week. Dykes held the youngster captive after he stormed the boy’s bus, shot the bus driver and took Ethan after Ethan fainted from the trauma.

While Ethan was held hostage, Ms. Kirkland pleaded with the Sheriff not to hurt Jimmy Lee Dykes, her child’s captor. She felt he was mentally ill and should be spared.

I would say that Ms. Kirkland is a better woman than I, because had it been my son, I would not have been been so forgiving nor would I have cared what the hell happened to Mr. Dykes or whether he was spared. I believe there is a tendency to humanize and rationalize despicable behavior for the sake of coping. The sentimentalization of the criminally insane has often been a societal barrier in getting dysfunctional, unproductive and dangerous the help they need before they commit acts against humanity because people don’t want to admit that many killers lack any sort of sympathy for their victims. Further, the true irony in sympathizing with the criminally insane is in the majority of cases, they don’t appreciate, respect or value others forgiveness and sympathy. They are incapable of processing those kinds of feelings so the desire to humanize them is wasted.

If it were my kid, I would say, do whatever you need to do to Dykes in a manner that keeps my son safe. This asshole’s sense of self worth is not my concern, my son’s life is my concern.

Even more revealing and curious in the mother’s sympathy for Dykes is that she said that Ethan, her young victim son, described the killing of Dykes as, “The army came in and shot the bad man.”

So, Ethan, who is supposedly on the Autism spectrum and has ADHD, intellectualizes the “evil” of Dykes as a “bad man”, yet Ms. Kirkland still speaks of Dykes fondly, describing him as almost a caretaker even though, the police say that they felt Ethan was in imminent danger when they saw Dykes pick up a gun and get agitated shortly before rescuing Ethan. It’s hard to tell, but it’s still not clear if Kirkland is satisfied with the outcome, as if Dykes were treated unfairly or something.

I also cannot understand why Kirkland has not asked about young Ethan’s experience. I don’t know what psychologists have to say about it or what is the “right” way to proceed, I just know, had it been my kid, I would start asking questions so that I could know how to proceed. Be it counseling, assurance or therapy, I would ask. I would have to know. I would want to know so that I could address my child’s fears. If he’s having such bad nightmares, it’s obviously on his mind. He many not know how to broach the subject, so counseling and communication would be important to me. (Although it is also not clear if she has sought out counseling for the youngster.)

Would you feel sympathy for a man who allowed your baby to cry, 4 feet under the surface of the earth for almost a week before potentially killing him? Would you not ask him to talk to you about what happened?