Hostage Ethan and his Mother Speak With Dr. Phil


By Ashley Thompson

The boy who was held hostage inside an underground bunker in Dale County and his mother are speaking out about their frightening ordeal. They sat down with Dr. Phil for an exclusive interview.

Jennifer Kirkland says she knew something was wrong when Ethan's bus hadn't arrived on schedule, which is around 3:45 everyday.

"Around 4:15 I started just walking in circles out in the yard," Kirkland explains. "Then the neighbor next door had come out and she says her little boy and Ethan, their bus driver had been shot and killed."  

Ethan sat right behind driver Charles Poland on the bus everyday and Kirkland says the two had developed a special relationship over some time.

"Ethan has always been scared of coming down the bus steps and Mr. Poland would always cheer him on... 'Come on little buddy, you can do it.' And there was one time when I was going to help him and Mr. Poland said 'let him do it, just let him do it.' And from that point on, he just did it by himself."

Investigators say 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes stormed Ethan's bus, armed and demanded two hostages. After Mr. Poland failed to release any children, Dykes shot him and Ethan may have been an easy target.

"When he saw Mr. Poland shot, Ethan passed out and he went down to catch him and he picked him up and I think in his own way, he was trying to care for him," she says.


Kirkland says she constantly worried that her son had lost faith in her after not hearing from her for days and even asked if she could talk to her child's kidnapper.

"I asked to speak to Mr. Dykes," she says. "They said that that wouldn't be the best thing because if Ethan heard me…how Ethan might react if he heard me. I felt like he may feel like he may have been abandoned by me and I would never do that. I wanted to go to him."

Ethan has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, ADHD and a mild form of autism but he is well aware of what happened to him as evident throughout the interview. The little boy whispered in his mother's ear "My bus driver is dead" after Dr. Phil asked him how he gets to school.

Kirkland says she had to forgive Dykes early on, even while her son was still held in the bunker to have some peace of mind. But she says she continues to deal with the aftermath everyday.

"I still feel like I'm dreaming but as far as coping with it...I'm just doing it day by day I guess."

Dr. Phil says after experiencing what he has, Ethan has the potential to develop Post Tramatic Stress Disorder and other medical conditions but he says with the proper treatment, he'll be just fine.

There has been a trust fund set up for Ethan to pay for medical expenses and treatment. If you would like to contribute you can just go to In the 'Dr. Phil Foundation' section, you can find "Ethan's Fund."



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