Originally created 09/21/04

Beheading hits home for Marietta family



MARIETTA, Ga. - Family friends were seen coming and going from Jack Hensley's house as news spread that a Web site posting claimed one of the American hostages in Iraq was beheaded Monday.

An al-Qaida-linked group threatened in a videotape Sat-urday to behead two Americans and a Briton within 48 hours. The tape was the first word on the fate of 48-year-old Mr. Hensley, fellow American Eugene Armstrong and Briton Kenneth Bigley since the three construction workers were kidnapped from their Baghdad home Thursday.

The Web site later had a 9-minute video showing the beheading of Mr. Armstrong, although it could not be verified.

An initial statement posted by a Web site contributor using the pseudonym Abu Maysara al-Iraqi, who has put up past statements signed in the name of the Tawhid and Jihad group, said the group's leader, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, "has beheaded the first American. The group will next behead the others."

A police barricade was set up on the leafy suburban street in Marietta that ends with a cul-de-sac, as local officers stopped all vehicles, trying to prevent reporters and television cameras from getting any closer to the Hensleys' home Monday afternoon. Media vehicles were parked along the otherwise quiet street leading up to the checkpoint near Mr. Hensley's modest ranch home.

Friends and neighbors approached the home Monday and gave notes to a Cobb County police officer, who took the notes inside. Two children, schoolmates of the Hensleys' daughter, Sara, arrived in the afternoon with a stack of cards and messages.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Hensley's wife, Patty, told ABC's Good Morning America in a taped interview that her husband had always been optimistic about his work in Iraq and in his safety. But that had changed during the past week or so, she said.

Security guards who had been with the workers in Iraq morning and night stopped showing up for work, she said. She said her husband told her, "If they did, they had an excuse and they needed to leave."

Mrs. Hensley also appeared on Al-Jazeera television Monday, saying she believed her husband, like all Americans in Iraq, was there to help the Iraqi people.

She told ABC that the couple raised their 13-year-old daughter to believe that everybody in the world is good.

"Her first question to me is, 'Why would anybody hurt my daddy?' I can't explain," she said.

Mr. Hensley's family has asked for privacy.