SPOKANE — Six years after his abduction by Muslim extremists in India, missing Spokane psychologist Donald Hutchings has been declared officially dead by the U.S. State Department.
His wife, school teacher Jane Schelly, is planning a public memorial Sept. 15 after receiving her husband’s death certificate this week from the State Department.
Hutchings’ body has never been recovered.
Schelly was with her husband on a trek in the Indian state of Kashmir when he was abducted with another American, two Britons, a German and a Norwegian in July 1995. American John Childs of Simsbury, Conn., escaped.
The decapitated body of the Norwegian was found a month later.
Schelly believes her husband and the three other Western tourists were killed by their captors and buried near Dooru Anantnag in Kashmir after a December 1995 gun battle with the Indian military.
Hutchings’ death certificate indicates his date of death is believed to be sometime in December 1995, five months after he was taken hostage. Others taken hostage were Dirk Hasert of Germany and Britons Keith Mangan and Paul Wells.
The cause of death is listed as unknown. The death certificate includes attachments, such as a 2000 Global Report on Terrorism and interviews with Muslim militants.
Hutchings and the other tourists were abducted by militants who demanded that Kashmir be turned into an independent Muslim state. The separatists demanded the release of three leaders by the Indian government.
The Indian government initially refused to capitulate, but did release rebel leader Masood Azhar after an Indian airliner with 155 passengers was hijacked in December 1999. The two other extremist leaders were killed in an escape attempt.
Schelly said her husband’s memorial will be held at the summit of Mount Spokane, where he skied and hiked.
He was a member of the Spokane Mountaineers and an avid cross-country skier. He had worked as a neuropsychologist at Sacred Heart Medical Center before going into private practice.
Schelly, a teacher at Arlington Elementary, has made six return trips to India in vain efforts to learn the whereabouts of her husband.
She set up a series of post office boxes, hoping she would be provided with anonymous information.
"I have heard nothing," she said. "We have been assured by authorities in the Jammu Kashmir region that they will continue following up any leads."
Schelly said she now accepts that her husband is dead and that his body may never be located.
She requested a death certificate in November 2000 from the State Department, she said. Its workers and FBI investigators coordinated their efforts to find Hutchings with governments of India, Great Britain and Pakistan.
Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.