EAGLE RIVER - A man believed taken hostage in Iraq was considered the new neighbor by the mostly lifelong residents of this birch- and spruce-covered hill overlooking downtown.
Ronald Schulz, who is divorced, often leaves his home to family members or caretakers for months at a time because his work involves long international trips.
That's largely why residents of Lugene Lane didn't realize their neighbor was the same man his friends and family say is shown as a captive of insurgents on a videotape played throughout the world.
"He is so new to us and to the neighborhood, a lot of people didn't realize who it was at first," neighbor Sandy Boswell said Wednesday.
Schulz kept a low profile in this Anchorage suburb of about 30,000 people.
A former captain of his high school cross-country team, Schulz was often seen jogging past these sizable lots frequented by bears and moose, during the rare times he came back.
Neighbors would sometimes see him mowing his neatly kept lawn or shimmying up the electric poles that run through his property to do repairs or knock off snow.
"He's got beautiful trees in the fall, and I say that in the present tense because we're still holding out hope," Boswell said.
Schulz, 40, served in the Marine Corps from 1984 to 1991 and is originally from Jamestown, N.D. Friends say he moved to Alaska about six years ago.
Three years later he purchased a two-story, cedar-paneled house in Eagle River, where a large U.S. Marine Corps seal hangs in the front window.
Schulz was not a well-known member of the community. Family friend Bonny Stark says he was close to three families in this suburb about 10 miles north of Anchorage.
Stark, of Eagle River, described Schulz as "the ultimate Boy Scout," and wondered why anyone would take him hostage.
"He doesn't know any military secrets," she said.
She says he is "quick to smile, very quiet and mellow, into camping and fishing and hunting and hiking, rock climbing."
Family and friends said Schulz works throughout the world as an industrial electrician, while insurgents on the video claim he is a security consultant.
The video was broadcast Tuesday by the Arab television network Al-Jazeera.
The footage shows a blond man sitting with his hands tied behind his back. It also shows an American passport and an Arabic identification card with the name Ronald Schulz.
The authenticity of the video had not been confirmed. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said American authorities are investigating.
Schulz's former brother-in-law, Lou Gregory, reached on his cell phone in Florida, confirmed the man shown in the video is Schulz, but declined further comment.
The FBI office in Anchorage is collecting information locally about Schulz and coordinating that with other agencies, Special Agent Eric Gonzalez said.
"I really can't go into specifics. We are aware and we are working on it," he said Wednesday.
Gov. Frank Murkowski's liaison in Washington, D.C., tried Wednesday to get official confirmation from the U.S. Department of State that the hostage was from Alaska.
"In any case, the governor's thoughts and prayers are with this man and his family," spokesman Mike Chambers said.
Juneau Empire ©2013. All Rights Reserved.