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Widow reflects on 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis more than 40 years later

Posted at 5:35 PM, Jan 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-07 20:42:37-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — The escalation in Iran is stirring up terrifying memories for the family of a San Diego man, held there for more than a year during one of the most intense hostage standoffs in history.

"I was trying to get information. All I had heard from the State Department was that the embassy had been overrun," said Dotty Morefield, whose husband, Richard, was one of 52 people taken hostage in Iran in November 1979. "I picked up the phone and thought if anyone was going to know it would be the news agency, and Brad picked up."

It's been more than 40 years since Morefield picked up the phone and called 10News for the first time. 10News assignment editor Brad McLellan picked up the phone.

"Mrs. Morefield told me her husband had just been taken hostage in Iran and I was shocked. I didn't know what to say," McLellan recalls. "I kept looking up information for her as it came over the wire service and would always call her."

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Morefield's husband was a high-ranking diplomat at the time when Iranian students protesting outside the U.S. Embassy in Tehran took over. For more than 400 days after that, it became her mission to keep her husband's name relevant.

"It's a kind of fear where you can't function, you're just sitting by the phone waiting," Morefield said. "I have to face the fears. The uncertainties and the worries. It kept me very busy and it kept me informed."

Day in and day out, Morefield made sure the hostages were kept in the spotlight. Finally after 444 days, the hostages were released.

"I was just I was beyond excited," Morefield said.

And here, Morefield and her kids — and a sea of supporters — celebrated her husband's return.

"He was stunned," Morefield said. "There were people from Lindbergh Field to the townhouse I was renting in Tierrasanta. There were people the whole way, waving to us and they were so happy to see him."

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But for 30 years after his release, until his death in 2010, Morefield's husband never fully recovered.

"He never slept through a night. Never," Morefield said. "He would wake up afraid, startled. He hated to have a door shut."

Morefield now lives in North Carolina. Her lawyer says each hostage was promised $4.4 million, or $600,000 for a spouse or child, but to this day they're still waiting. He said so far the hostages have only been awarded about 16 percent of the amount they were promised.

"I don't understand the hold up," Morefield says.