The family of Paul M. Johnson Jr., the New Jersey helicopter engineer beheaded by terrorists in Saudi Arabia, mourned in seclusion on Friday after spending the previous three days pleading with his captors to let him live.
The small frame house of Johnson’s sister, Donna Mayeux, was still festooned with yellow ribbons and an American flag. On Friday, in a CNN interview, she had made a final appeal to the kidnappers. ‘‘We just ask that they treat him with the dignity and respect he’s often talked about, that they have in their culture,’’ Mayeux said. ‘‘Please don’t murder him.’’
After news reached here that images of Johnson’s decapitated body and head had been shown on a website, a Little Egg Harbor police officer kept a stream of TV crews and photographers away from Mayeux’s house. Across the street, neighbours fastened 13 yellow ribbons and two US flags to wooden poles, which also held a sign that read: ‘‘Our prayers and thoughts are with Paul Johnson II and his family. Bring him home safe!’’
Since Johnson’s Muslim kidnappers released a video of him, residents of this community had spent the days wrapping yellow ribbons around trees, telephone poles and porch railings. Among the many signs of support was a digital bulletin board at Southern Regional High School: ‘‘Our prayers are with the family of Paul Johnson, Class of 1973.’’
Friends and acquaintances of Johnson reacted with horror and anger. ‘‘It’s unbelievable,’’ said John Hayes, a friend. ‘‘He didn’t deserve that. This man wasn’t even fighting a war over there.’’
‘‘Paul was a valued and respected employee who bravely carried out his duties,’’ Lockheed Martin said in a statement. — (LAT-WP)