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American's ordeal: 9 months as hostage

June 3, 1993, is a day Dick Daugherty will remember. He could actually sleep in a bed again, wear clean clothes, take a shower and have a decent meal.

He was free at last _ a hostage no more.

Daugherty is a coal-mining entrepreneur. He saw a promising business opportunity in northern Colombia, a region dominated by rolling hills, wrenching poverty and leftist guerrillas.

Last Sept. 5, Daugherty was stopped by members of the National Liberation Army.

"We have an order from the executive committee to take you prisoner," he was told.

For the next 272 days his life would be transformed in ways that demonstrated his extraordinary capacity to survive.

The 54-year-old husband and father of three said he had been assured it was safe to open a coal-mining operation despite the presence of two guerrilla groups that control the area.

Daugherty envisioned 500 mining jobs. The FARC (Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces) guerrillas had the inside track for these jobs, causing resentment among the National Liberation Army, or ELN, rebels.

The ELN wanted a piece of the action and kidnapped Daugherty.

His captors offered to free him for $500,000 ransom, then lowered it to $100,000 when he refused. Daugherty considered those amounts beyond his means.

As Daugherty spoke, it was hard to tell which of his experiences were the most trying. Perhaps it was the food, which was cooked in the morning and by nightfall was infested with cockroaches and flies. Or perhaps it was his health problems _ fever and diarrhea that he was unable to shake for the entire nine months. He was a 200-pounder when seized, but life as a captive shriveled him at one point to 120 pounds.

To fight boredom, he would spend part of each morning killing flies. "My record for two hours was 525," he says.

His ordeal ended June 3 when a guerrilla commander told him he was being freed. Three days later, he left Colombia.