updated 8/17/2004 8:15:29 PM ET 2004-08-18T00:15:29

The Army reservist who tipped off investigators to abuse of Iraqi prisoners by his fellow soldiers is in protective military custody because of death threats, family members said Tuesday.

Spc. Joseph M. Darby, 24, received the threats after his role in the scandal was publicly revealed in May, said his sister-in-law, Maxine Carroll.

Carroll said in a telephone interview from her home in Windber, Pa., that she doesn’t know where Darby is, and she refused to put a reporter in touch with his wife, Bernadette, who is Carroll’s sister.

Darby’s mother, Margaret T. Blank, of Corriganville, said soldiers moved his and his wife’s belongings out of their nearby apartment weeks ago. She said she gets a weekly call from the Army Reserve’s 99th Regional Readiness Command “telling me my son’s OK and my daughter-in-law’s OK, and that’s all I’ve heard from them.”

A spokesman for the command did not return a call from The Associated Press.

Seven members of Darby’s unit, the 372nd Military Police Company of Cresaptown, have been charged with abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad last fall. One of them, Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits, has pleaded guilty and been sentenced to a year in prison.

‘Iraq’ scrawled on a fence
Darby testified by telephone Aug. 6 at a pretrial hearing for Pfc. Lynndie England. He said he agonized over whether to turn in photos of his fellow soldiers’ acts, but ultimately did so because he feared the mistreatment would continue.

On Monday, Carroll appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” with Bernadette Darby, who said she was surprised by the vicious response of some friends and neighbors to what she considered an act of bravery.

“People were — they were mean, saying he was a walking dead man, he was walking around with a bull’s-eye on his head. It was scary,” she said.

Carroll said someone wrote “Iraq” on the fence outside her home.

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