Melissa Nighton, city clerk in Midland City, said a woman had been praying in the town center Monday afternoon. Not long after, the mayor called with news that Dykes was dead and that the boy was safe.
"She must have had a direct line to God because shortly after she left, they heard the news,'' Nighton said.
Neighbors described Dykes as a menacing, unpredictable man who once beat a dog to death with a lead pipe, threatened to shoot children for setting foot on his property and patrolled his yard at night with a flashlight and a firearm.
Government records and interviews with neighbors indicate that Dykes joined the Navy in Midland City and served on active duty from 1964 to 1969. His record shows several awards, including the Vietnam Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal. During his service, Dykes was trained in aviation maintenance.
He had some scrapes with the law in Florida, including a 1995 arrest for improper exhibition of a weapon. The misdemeanor was dismissed. He also was arrested for marijuana possession in 2000.
He returned to Alabama about two years ago, moving onto the rural tract about 100 yards from his nearest neighbors.
Ronda Wilbur, a neighbor of Dykes who said the man beat her dog to death last year with a pipe, said she was relieved to be done with the stress of knowing Dykes was patrolling his yard and willing to shoot at anyone or anything that trespassed.
"The nightmare is over. It's been a long couple of years of having constant stress,'' she said.
On Sunday, more than 500 people attended a memorial service for bus driver Charles Albert Poland Jr., who was hailed as a hero for protecting the two dozen other children on the bus before he was gunned down and the little boy grabbed.
"This man was a true hero who was willing to give up his life so others might live,'' Gov. Robert Bentley said in a news release after learning of the boy's rescue.