NEW YORK -- Standing calmly and holding hands, two little boys who were kidnapped in Los Angeles six weeks ago were discovered unharmed in a bus shelter on a desolate service road at Kennedy International Airport shortly after midnight yesterday.
The brothers, a 3-year-old and a 4-year-old, were found hungry and dirty but in good health. An FBI official said they were shy and reluctant to talk at first but began to open up after an agent gave them models of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Still, they gave no details of their ordeal, which began Aug. 17 when the two boys, Anthony Dixon, 3, and Cassel Dixon Jr., 4, and their mother, Beverly, 29, were kidnapped by four armed men outside a Los Angeles grocery store.
Authorities said they did not know why the kidnappers released the brothers or how they ended up in New York. The mother was released Sept. 4 in Los Angeles. A $50,000 ransom demand was never met.
Authorities also found a letter in an envelope pinned to the shirt of one of the boys, said Charles Knox, director of public safety and superintendent of police for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. But neither he nor James M. Fox, assistant director of the New York office of the FBI, would comment on the contents. The words FBI-L.A. and the mother's telephone number were on the envelope.
Lt. Michael Murphy, who was one of the Port Authority police officers who went to the bus shelter when called by a Port Authority employee, was quoted in an Associated Press article as saying that the note made "allegations this was a drug-related family and that the father was bringing people in from Jamaica and buying drugs in Mexico."
Later yesterday, however, he and other officers declined to be interviewed. Mr. Fox, speaking at a news conference in downtown Manhattan, said, "We have no indication, no evidence to that effect."
Officer Cheryl Dorsey, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Police Department, said, "Whether or not it's drug-related, we don't know."
Los Angeles police alerted local news media of the kidnapping Tuesday to gain more information and to appeal to the kidnappers to let the brothers go. They released photos of the boys and composite drawings of two of the kidnappers.
Mrs. Dixon and the children were forced at gunpoint into a black Toyota Camry with tinted windows, Los Angeles police said. Mrs. Dixon's eyes were covered. Afterward, the kidnappers usually wore nylon coverings over their heads, police said.
The father, Cassel Dixon Sr., 30, part owner of a small auto body repair shop, alerted police and cooperated with the investigation. After several unanswered demands for $50,000, Mrs. Dixon was released and told to exert influence on her husband. She told police she had been struck several times in the face but was not sexually molested.
Several times the kidnappers called on the telephone and forced the children to plead with their parents to bring them home. The phone calls stopped 10 days ago, and police decided to make the story public.
The story was in the first edition of yesterday's Los Angeles Times, which became available at 8 p.m. Tuesday Los Angeles time.
After midnight yesterday in New York, a Port Authority transportation supervisor, Joseph Interligi, 33, was in a Jeep inspecting airport parking lots when he saw the two boys in Bus Shelter 23 on the northbound service road of the Van Wyck Expressway.
"I was just driving along and, bango, there were two boys, standing hand-in-hand," Mr. Interligi said. "When I asked them what they were doing there, they told me they were waiting for their mommy and daddy to pick them up."
He said he was struck by how calm they appeared, adding, "The oldest was holding on to what was once a large peppermint stick."
Lieutenant Murphy was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that the boys said "a lady dropped them off from a cab."