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Sad Relief For Slain Contractor's Family

Relatives of a U.S. security contractor held hostage in Iraq for more than a year said Thursday that they felt a mixture of sadness and relief when they learned his remains were found.

Though it wasn't the news they prayed for, Paul Johnson-Reuben's loved ones said they know his suffering is over.

"Today, we do get to feel better," said Kathy Reuben, Johnson-Reuben's first wife. "It's over. Paul's in heaven, he's a happy man today."

Officials announced Thursday that they had identified the remains of Johnson-Reuben of Minneapolis and Joshua Munns of Redding, Calif. The men were among six contractors kidnapped more than a year ago in two separate incidents in Iraq.

The remains of two other contractors - Ronald Withrow of Roaring Springs, Texas, and John Roy Young of Kansas City, Mo., were identified earlier this week. FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said authorities were awaiting forensic testing on the remains of a fifth body.

The FBI said the men's remains have been returned to the U.S.

"We're really sad that this has happened," Kathy Reuben said. "We've been waiting 16 months to hear something positive. ... It's hard to imagine that he's gone."

Munns' mother, Jackie Stewart of Ridgefield, Wash., said she had felt certain that her son was dead since she learned Sunday that the bodies had been found.

"When I first knew about it, it was relief, No. 1, that I finally know the answer and, No. 2, that he's not suffering," Stewart said. "He's not scared. He's not in pain. He's not being mutilated. He's not being tortured."

At the same time, Stewart said, she will continue to press for answers about her son's abduction and the effort to track him down.

"I think because he was ex-military that they could have done a lot better job protecting him or looking for him than they did," she said.

The other contractors still missing are Jonathon Cote, of Getzville, N.Y., and Bert Nussbaumer, of Vienna, Austria.

Cote's family said on its blog Wednesday night that the body still awaiting identification is not Jonathon's. "Please remember to pray for Jon's safety and the loss of the other hostages and their families," the post said.

Reuben, Munns, Young, Cote and Nussbaumer worked in Iraq for Crescent Security Group, a Kuwait-based private security firm. They were kidnapped Nov. 16, 2006, by men in Iraqi police uniforms who ambushed a convoy they were escorting. Months later, the U.S. military reportedly stripped Crescent Security of its license to operate in Iraq over alleged weapons violations.

Withrow was a contractor working for JPI Worldwide. He was abducted on Jan. 5, 2007.

The cases of the missing contractors was back in the news earlier this month when the severed fingers of five of the men - including Johnson-Reuben - were sent to the U.S. military in Iraq. Some relatives initially took that as hopeful news their loved ones were still alive; others did not.

"I had hope up until the last two weeks, when his finger (was) cut off. Then we knew it was going all downhill," said Johnson-Reuben's 17-year-old daughter, Bree Reuben.

Johnson-Reuben's family has said he had been working in Iraq for about two years. The last time he was seen alive was on a video obtained by The Associated Press in January 2007 - he said he was being treated well.

Bree Reuben and her twin sister, Casey, were among family members who spoke to the media Thursday. Bree brought along her 5-month-old daughter, Ka'Leah - the granddaughter Johnson-Reuben never met.

The sisters said they weren't surprised their dad was working in Iraq because he loved to help people. In addition to providing security, he taught EMT classes. They said they last spoke to him about a week before he was kidnapped.

"He said it was getting really dangerous out there and he was really scared for his life," said Casey Reuben.

Bree said their father liked the work he was doing "up to the point where he started seeing people die in front of him. And he just got scared. He was shaking over the phone. I never heard my dad shake like that."

Johnson-Reuben worked as a St. Louis Park police officer from 1994 to 2003. He was 39 years old when he was kidnapped.

His twin brother, Patrick Reuben, said in a telephone interview that he and Johnson-Reuben had an inexplicable connection and could sometimes sense how the other was doing.

"It's just been really weird over the last month. I felt like something happened," he said.

Patrick Reuben said the last 16 months have been hard, and there have moments when he felt guilty about enjoying his own life. For now, he said he's trying to focus on the happy times with his brother, whom he followed first into the Marine Corps and then into law enforcement.

"I'm just staying busy," he said. "I'm staying very busy because if I don't, I'm going to cry."