Four full days have passed since law enforcement brought an end to a weeklong hostage situation in Dale County.
Yet even after Jimmy Lee Dykes’ death at the hands of FBI agents on Monday, questions remain about the man, his motives and the future of his property on Private Road 1539.
FBI investigators and other members of law enforcement remained at the scene on Friday processing evidence and sifting through the underground bunker where Dykes held 5-year-old Ethan Gilman captive for seven days.
FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said agents may be at the bunker for “another day or two” after being delayed by rain on Thursday.
After the FBI finishes processing the scene, the case will likely be turned over to the Dale County District Attorney’s Office and the Dale County Sheriff’s Office.
Bresson said much of the FBI’s focus is now on identifying Dykes’ motive.
“We have our behavioral analysis unit who are going to look at that, and they do that anytime there’s an incident like this,” Bresson said. “They try to go back and learn all the facts and circumstances, and they try to understand what was driving this, what the motive may have been. They try to learn as much as they can about the subject and find out what drove him to get to this point.”
Jason Pack, a supervisory special agent for the FBI’s National Press Office, said the motive may never become fully clear.
“We may never know exactly,” he said.
While law enforcement focuses on Dykes, a community is trying its best to move on.
Some of Dykes’ neighbors told the Dothan Eagle they were escorted back to their homes around 5:30 p.m. Friday.
The Dale County School System is also trying to get back to business as usual.
Classes have resumed and Superintendent Donny Bynum said students are holding up “better than expected.”
“We’ve been pleasantly surprised at how things have gotten back to normal,” Bynum said. “They’ve done surprisingly well considering what all they’ve been through, especially those near to the tragedy.”
The school system is providing counseling to students and faculty, both on an as-needed and a regularly-scheduled basis.
He became emotional when discussing school bus driver Charles Poland, who was killed by Dykes while trying to protect the children on his bus.
Bynum has spoken with an FBI agent familiar with the video shot inside the school bus during the incident.
“(The agent) said, ‘We don’t use the term hero very often, but there is no doubt that Mr. Poland was a true hero and he saved the lives of all those students on the bus,’ because it could’ve been catastrophic if more children were taken off that bus and put in the bunker,” Bynum said. “(Poland) told (Dykes) something to the extent of ‘These are my students, they are my responsibility, and you are not taking them off this bus.’”
Bresson agreed with Bynum’s description of Poland.
“You’d have to characterize him as hero in every sense of the word,” Bresson said. “He resisted the demands made by Dykes, and he paid the ultimate price for that to protect the children on the bus.”
Those who were closest to the ongoing situation continue to express gratitude to the community for its cohesion in dealing with an unprecedented-for-the-area situation.
Steve Richardson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Mobile Division, said he is "very humbled and extremely grateful for the support of the community and the volunteers who helped, particularly pastors Jevon and Vivian Goode of the Destiny Church. We came in as uninvited guests and the entire community has welcomed us like neighbors who have known each other for a long time. We will never be able to thank them enough."
Bynum sensed divine intervention throughout the crisis that helped law enforcement agencies, churches, volunteer organizations and individuals remain unified.
“God has the biggest part in this whole thing,” he said.