By: Anne Geggis
Without specifics, a Coral Springs family announced they and U.S. officials have been forced to conclude that Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent who disappeared in Iran more than 13 years ago, is dead, according to a statement on the family-run page, Help Bob Levinson.
Levinson, 72, who disappeared March 9, 2007, was the longest-held hostage in U.S. history. The FBI had offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his safe location, recovery, and return. His body has not been recovered, according to the statement.
“We recently received information from U.S. officials that have led both them and us to conclude that our wonderful husband and father died while in Iranian custody,” the statement reads. “We don’t know when or how he died, only that it was before the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Bob Levinson’s children at a rally held for him in Coral Springs in 2016.
Iran has been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus, which has become a global pandemic, with an estimated 14,000 infected and more than 850 killed.
Levinson had been a resident of Coral Springs for more than 30 years, with all seven of his children attending Broward County Schools. His wife, Christine, still lives in Coral Springs.
The family last received “irrefutable proof” that the FBI retiree was still alive in 2010 in the form of a videotape of him pleading for help in returning home. He appeared shackled, unkempt, and considerably thinner than when his family last saw him. Four photos of him were delivered in April 2011.
The family condemned the “cruel, heartless” Iranian regime they blame for his imprisonment, according to the page. The Iranian government has largely denied all involvement in his disappearance from Kish Island, Iran, where he was working under murky circumstances.
“Bob Levinson should have spent his last moments surrounded by his family and all the love we feel for him,” the statement reads. “Instead, he died alone, in captivity thousands of miles away, in unbelievable suffering.”
In 2010, the family received “irrefutable proof” that Levinson was still alive via a videotape.
The family’s statement said that a memorial service would be held when the COVID-19 pandemic is over. But a certain finality is still missing.
“We don’t even know when, or even if, his body would be returned to us,” the statement says. “This is the very definition of cruelty.”
The Help Bob Levinson Facebook Page has almost 16,000 followers. The FBI increased its reward for information leading to his location, and safe return from $1 million to $5 million in 2015. That and the other rewards offered totaled more than $25 million, according to the Washington Post.
“It is impossible to describe our pain,” the statement reads. “Our family will spend the rest of our lives without the most amazing man we have ever known, a new reality that is inconceivable to us. His grandchildren will never meet him. They will only know him through the stories we tell them.”
The family also thanks President Trump, U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, and Senator Bob Menendez, and their staff members, “who fought for Bob Levinson in every possible way.”
U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch’s office issued a statement praising Levinson’s noble service for the country and his continued commitment.
“We will never stop fighting to bring Bob home,” Deutch’s statement reads. “Sadly, that’s now a fight to bring him to his final resting place with his family. “
The family will spend the rest of their lives seeking to hold those responsible for the death of their husband, father, and grandfather accountable, the family’s statement says.
“… The Iranian regime must know we will not be going away,” the statement says. “We expect American officials, as well as officials around the world, to continue to press Iran to seek Bob’s return, and to ensure those Iranian officials involved are held accountable.”
It is signed, “Christine, Susan, Stephanie, Sarah, Daniel, David, Samantha, and Douglas and the entire extended Levinson family.”
- Anne Geggis has been a newspaper reporter for 30 years, most recently at the Sun Sentinel. She graduated from St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vt., with a double major in journalism and sociology.
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