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Alabama hostage standoff: Negotiators talking through a pipe (+video)

A PVC tube has become the conduit for food, medication, and ongoing negotiations between law enforcement and the Alabama man who shot a bus driver and took a child hostage on Tuesday.

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Speaking into a 4-inch-wide ventilation pipe, hostage negotiators tried Thursday to talk a man into releasing a kindergartener and ending a standoff in an underground bunker that stretched into its third day.

The man identified by multiple neighbors and witnesses as 65-year-old retired truck driver Jimmy Lee Dykes was accused of pulling the boy from a school bus on Tuesday and fatally shooting the driver. The pair was holed up in a small room on his property that authorities compared to tornado shelters common in the area.

James Arrington, police chief of the neighboring town of Pinckard, said the shelter was about 4 feet underground, with about 6-by-8 feet of floor space and a PVC pipe that negotiators were speaking through.

There were signs that the standoff could continue for some time: A state legislator said the shelter has electricity, food and TV. The police chief said the captor has been sleeping and told negotiators that he has spent long periods in the shelter before.

"He will have to give up sooner or later because (authorities) are not leaving," Arrington said. "It's pretty small, but he's been known to stay in there eight days."

Midland City Mayor Virgil Skipper said he has been briefed by law enforcement and visited with the boy's parents.

"He's crying for his parents," he said. "They are holding up good. They are praying and asking all of us to pray with them."

Republican Rep. Steve Clouse, who represents the Midland City area, said he visited the boy's mother Thursday and that she is "hanging on by a thread."

"Everybody is praying with her for the boy," he said.

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