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Kidnapped Iowa Native Freed

October 17, 2001

ACAPULCO, Mexico (AP) _ Kidnappers have freed one of Acapulco’s most prominent U.S. residents after four months in captivity. His captors had demanded a $2.5 million ransom, but it was not known if any money was paid for his release.

Ron Lavender, a 75-year-old, Iowa-born realty agent, was kidnapped June 22 when two cars intercepted his vehicle. Kidnappers e-mailed ransom demands to newspapers, sometimes accompanying them with photos of Lavender or letters from him.

He was freed Tuesday along a busy boulevard.

In Iowa, Lavender’s brother Don said he spoke by telephone with his brother, who told him he was having trouble walking because he had been kept in leg irons in a small cell throughout his captivity. Ron Lavender also told his brother food was passed to him under a door and he had no human contact during his captivity.

``For someone who has been active all of his life and who could go sailing or play golf anytime he wanted to, I would think it would be unbearable to be trapped like an animal in a cage,″ Don Lavender said. ``He said he had seven magazines that he had read cover to cover more than once.″

Ron Lavender has made no public comment since his release. He was resting and meeting with relatives and close friends. It was not immediately known if any ransom was paid.

Authorities said Lavender’s family did not report the kidnapping to state officials. Other kidnap victims have expressed suspicion that Guerrero state police or former police were involved in the crimes.

Acapulco and the surrounding area are hot spots for kidnappings. The state of Guerrero reported 110 kidnappings in 1999, 80 last year and 30 so far this year.

In a Sept. 11 message sent by the kidnappers, Lavender urged relatives to sell or mortgage his house, called ``Los Patitos,″ on Acapulco Bay to help pay the ransom.

He also wrote, ``I am miserable, completely alone, isolated and above all, frankly, very afraid.″

Ron Lavender has lived in Acapulco since 1954. He owned a restaurant before opening his real estate company in 1964.

Lavender was one of the founders of the Friends of Acapulco charity group, which supports local orphanages, and was a president of the Association of Foreign Residents of Acapulco.

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