Steven Sotloff remembered as conscientious, learned reporter

Last Updated Sep 3, 2014 12:30 PM EDT

Steven Sotloff's reporting trips took him to Libya, Egypt, Bahrain, Somalia and Turkey. But he disappeared in the country known to be most dangerous to journalists, Syria.

A video tweeted by Sotloff in 2012 shows the journalist was well aware of the risks, CBS News correspondent Jan Crawford reports. He said a Syrian jet was hunting him outside the city of Aleppo.

Almost one year later he had dinner with his friend, filmmaker Matthew VanDyke. Sotloff was about to return to Syria.

"He was a little apprehensive about going," VanDyke said. "Kidnappings had started around that time. ISIS had appeared just a few months before. He knew that each time he went back it was getting more and more dangerous."

The 31-year-old was a news reporter for much of his adult life. He was pepper sprayed by police and shot at by a sniper. But even when he was in danger, he managed to keep up with his favorite sports teams back in Miami.

His last tweet, one day before he was kidnapped, was about the Miami Heat signing center Greg Oden.

Sotloff grew up in the gated community of Pinecrest, the older of two children. His mother Shirley taught pre-school at the family synagogue.

"I remember him as a completely fun-loving beautiful spirit, really joyful, kind of goofy," said childhood friend Danielle Berrin.

As a child, Sotloff attended boarding school in New Hampshire, where he played football and rugby and discovered his passion working on the school newspaper. Sotloff studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. He eventually went to the Middle East.

"He was somebody who took the time to learn the culture and ways of the region," VanDyke said. "He wasn't just somebody who lept from conflict zone to conflict zone."

On Tuesday, friends gathered at the Sotloff home to offer condolences. His family asked to be left alone to mourn in private.

"The reason that we all know that Syria is dangerous is because of guys like Steven and James Foley, that went and told us that," VanDyke said. "Otherwise we would have no idea what's going on in Syria."

Sotloff spoke Arabic and Hebrew, and also worked and studied in Israel. It was revealed today that he had dual American-Israeli citizenship; a fact he tried to keep hidden from his kidnappers.

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