As U.S. officials scramble to corroborate the Islamic State's reports last week that an American hostage died in a Jordanian air strike, the woman's family is trying to stay positive.
"This news leaves us concerned, yet, we are still hopeful that Kayla is alive," wrote Kayla Mueller's parents, Carl and Marsha, of Prescott, in a statement addressed to ISIS.
They asked the terrorist group to contact them privately about their 26-year-old daughter's fate.
"You told us that you treated Kayla as your guest," they wrote. "As your guest, her safety and wellbeing remains your responsibility."
Publicly, the Muellers had kept Kayla's disappearance quiet until ISIS released a statement Friday reporting that Jordan had bombed the building where she was allegedly being held, burying her in the rubble. Quietly, though, the Muellers have been working with U.S. officials to bring Kayla home since she was abducted August 4, 2013 outside a Spanish Doctor's Without Borders hospital in Aleppo, Syria.
Former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett said Kayla's father reached out to him for help a few days after Kayla disappeared.
Bennett was in Prescott, where Carl Mueller runs an auto body shop, guest-hosting a talk show. Carl Mueller heard Bennett on air and drove to the studio where he asked to speak with Bennett privately.
"His eyes were half filled with tears. His pain and anguish was visible in his face and body language," Bennett said. "He told me, 'I have a daughter, Kayla. She's been working with humanitarian groups in the Middle East. She's been kidnapped by terrorists and I don't know what to do."
Bennett, who said he was "shocked", but never questioned whether Mueller was telling the truth, put the worried father in touch with U.S. Senator John McCain and U.S. Congressman Paul Gosar.
"They had decided as a family that it was important to keep Kayla's name out of the media," Bennett said. "For some reason, they thought that would jeopardize her safety."
U.S. forces attempted to rescue Kayla Mueller and other ISIS captives last summer. According to Foreign Policy, her parents were against the risky mission, asking the Pentagon to, instead, negotiate for their daughter's release. ISIS had reported demanded $6 million for the aid worker's return . Bennett said, all things considered, the Muellers were doing "pretty well."
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The family asked him, he said, to keep the focus on their daughter's humanitarian work. At the time of her abduction, Kayla Mueller was working with the aid agency Support to Life. She kept as a motto, he said, a quote from Bertrand Russell: "Three passions, simple but overwhelming strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind."
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