Two young brothers kidnaped six weeks ago were reunited with their parents in Los Angeles Wednesday evening after a cross-country flight from New York, where they were found at John F. Kennedy Airport.
Anthony Dixon, 3, and Cassel Dixon Jr., 4, were found early Wednesday morning holding hands, hungry and frightened but in good condition at the airport. Police said a New York Port Authority supervisor discovered the boys standing forlornly on a curb in a long-term parking lot, where they said a woman had let them out of a taxi sometime earlier.
Two FBI agents accompanied the youngsters to Los Angeles, where they had been kidnaped. The boys, wearing sweat suits and appearing groggy, met the assembled media at Los Angeles International Airport. They played with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys FBI agents had given them, but did not respond to any questions asked by reporters.
Charlie Parsons, FBI Special Agent in charge of the Los Angeles office, said a letter found with the boys alleging that their father was engaged in drug trafficking and smuggling illegal aliens was being investigated.
But he and Los Angeles Police Lt. Ronald Lewis would not discuss the letter further. The boys' parents did not meet reporters with their sons and law enforcement officials.
When the youngsters were discovered at Kennedy Airport, Jim Fox, assistant FBI director in New York, told reporters:
"Last night, two young visitors to New York found themselves alone and in strange surroundings at JFK Airport around midnight. . . . Fortunately, the children were found by a warm-hearted Good Samaritan who happened to be an employee of the Port Authority."
"They had been well kept," said Port Authority Police Lt. Michael Murphy. "Their clothes are clean. . . . We gave them jelly and cream cheese and they seemed fine. . . .
"They had no recollection of how they had gotten from Los Angeles to New York."
Murphy said a letter was found with the boys alleging that their father, 30-year-old Cassel (Prentist) Dixon Sr., has been involved with illegal drug dealing and smuggling Jamaicans into this country. However, FBI officials in New York said they "had no indication or evidence" of any involvement by Dixon in drug trafficking or other illegal activities.
The boys and their mother, Beverly Dixon, 29, were abducted in front of a market in the Hyde Park section of Los Angeles on Aug. 17, Los Angeles police said. Investigators said that after several unsuccessful demands for $50,000 in ransom, the kidnapers released the mother Sept. 4, hoping she would persuade her husband, a partner in a small auto body shop, to pay.
On several occasions, the kidnapers forced the children to get on the phone and plead to come home, detectives said. The kidnapers eventually dropped their ransom demand, apparently concluding that it would not be met.
Until Tuesday, Los Angeles police had "absolutely no reason to believe they had left this city," Lewis said. He added that although some of the ransom demands came in calls from New York City, "other indications suggested that the children remained in Los Angeles." He did not elaborate.
At the request of the family, the kidnaping was kept from the news media while Los Angeles police labored to solve the case. Finally, 10 days after the kidnapers had stopped calling the family, the Los Angeles Police Department released information on the case, along with photos of the boys and composite drawings of two suspects.
On Wednesday, Lewis credited media coverage of the kidnaping with persuading their kidnapers to release them.
Bernard Interligi, 33, a transportation supervisor with the Port Authority in New York, said he was driving along an airport service road at 12:20 a.m. Wednesday when he glanced out a window and "did a double take. . . ."
"I couldn't believe it, to see two children that young standing there, hand in hand, at that hour of the morning," Interligi said.
"I turned around, went back and asked them what they were doing," he said. "The older boy said they were waiting for their mom and dad to pick them up."
Interligi said he put the boys in his car and called Port Authority police. He said he tried to talk to the children while waiting for police to show up, "but they were very quiet. . . ."
"I asked them were they came from," Interligi said. "They said nothing."
Port Authority police wrapped the boys in blankets and took them to the airport's police station, where further questioning and a check of nationwide police reports revealed their identities.
The case was then referred to the FBI, which held a news conference in Manhattan a few hours later, during which the children posed for pictures while wearing FBI hats and holding Ninja Turtle dolls that agents had given them.
The boys were too shy or frightened to respond to reporters' questions, but Fox, the assistant FBI director, said they were less nervous with a woman agent who had been with them since their transfer to the custody of the bureau.
"They are just starting to talk with her a little bit," Fox said. "So, hopefully, they will be able to reconstruct the hours they were at JFK. How much more they can tell us, we have no idea.
"Since 12:30 last night, Port Authority police and FBI agents have been changing the diapers and feeding the kids," Fox said. "They ate three times since midnight."
Goldman reported from New York and Malnic from Los Angeles. Staff Writer Scott Harris in Los Angeles contributed to this story.