The child's plight prompted nightly candlelight vigils. Fliers appealing for his safe release and ribbons placed on a chain-link fence at the school where the kindergartner was enrolled.
While a town anxiously waited for days, authorities had been speaking with Dykes though a plastic pipe that led into the bunker. The shelter was about 4 feet underground, with about 50 square feet of floor space, built like the tornado shelters frequently found in the South.
Authorities sent food, medicine and other items into the bunker, which apparently had running water, heat and cable television but no toilet.
The standoff unfolded just a few hundred yards from U.S. 231, a busy four-lane highway where both sides of the road were lined with law enforcement vehicles from local, state and federal authorities.
When it was over, one acquaintance, Roger Arnold, commented: "He always said he'd never be taken alive. I knew he'd never come out of there."
FBI bomb technicians later scoured the property for any explosive devices as they prepared to more extensive study the site, FBI spokesman Jason Pack said.
But authorities did not immediately say whether they had determined the property had been rigged with any explosives.
Asked about local disclosures that Dykes had been killed by law enforcement officers, Pack responded in an email early Tuesday: "The facts surrounding the incident will be established by a shooting review team" from Washington in coming days.
At the request of law enforcement authorities, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta had approved the provision of certain equipment that could be employed to assist in the hostage situation, according to a U.S. official who requested anonymity to discuss a pending law enforcement matter. It is not clear whether the equipment was actually used.
Neighbors described Dykes as a nuisance 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, expressed relief like other neighbors who described the suspect as volatile and threatening. "The nightmare is over," Wilbur said.
On Sunday, more than 500 people attended a memorial service for bus driver Charles Albert Poland Jr., hailed as a hero for protecting nearly two dozen other children on the bus before he was gunned down.
"This man was a true hero who was willing to give up his life so others might live," Gov. Robert Bentley said in a statement after the rescue.