updated 5/11/2005 3:34:48 PM ET 2005-05-11T19:34:48

Guest: Christopher Whitcomb, Mary Lamping, Dennis Prince

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

A grenade thrown towards President Bush as he speaks in the Republic of Georgia.  Whatever the intent, the results so minor that the Secret Service didn‘t even know anything had happened until the presidential traveling party had left the country hours later.  Exclusive details on what might have been an attack on the president, or something else.

The nightmare outside Chicago.  A day after the bodies of two little girls are discovered, the father of one of them arrested, charged with their murders.

Move over, Rodney King.  The latest black eye for the LAPD, 120 bullets fired into an SUV during a shootout with an unarmed suspect.

Not too many bullets, but too few recruits volunteering for the U.S.

Army, down 42 percent in April.

If only the real Michael Jackson could do this much good.  Puppet Theater puppet bidding passes the five-figure mark.  No, I‘m not kidding.

And a statue of my old friend, the late Elizabeth Montgomery?  Sounds like a great idea so far.  Dressed up as Samantha from “Bewitched”?  I‘m with you.  And in the city park at Salem, Massachusetts where they hanged all those people during the witch hunts?  Uh-oh.

All that and more now, on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

It is almost impossible to believe that in this time of super security and instant communication that the president of the United States might have been the target of a grenade-throwing assailant, and neither he nor his immense Secret Service entourage know anything about it until hours and hours after the threat had passed.

Yet that is the exact scenario unfolding tonight after Mr. Bush gave a speech in front of approximately a quarter of a million people in Tbilisi, the capital of the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.  As we speak, it is 4:00 a.m. there, more than 12 hour since Mr. Bush wrapped up his four-nation European tour and 19-hour visit to Georgia with an address in what was once called Lenin Square in Tbilisi.

It was a speech in which the president described the not-yet-two-year-old democracy there as a, quote, “beacon of liberty,” and during which he was greeted with chants of “Booshie, Booshie” from the huge throng, and greeted, evidently, with a grenade thrown towards the stage from which the president spoke, apparently not getting very close to him, and, according to the early evidence, not even being noticed by American security, nor the American media present.

It was left, using his government sources, to our own correspondent, NBC‘s Pete Williams, to get the worldwide break on this startling story from our Washington bureau.

And from there, he joins us now.  Pete, good evening.

PETE WILLIAMS, MSNBC JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT:  Keith, good evening to you.

Let‘s start with what we do know.  The president is home.  He‘s safely here.  Air Force One landed several hours ago.  Period, end of what we know.

Now, here is what we are told, two sources removed.  This is what Georgian security officials have told the U.S. Secret Service, which, in turn, has told us, that while the president was speaking in that huge crowd on what they now call Freedom Square in Tbilisi, somebody threw a hand grenade that landed within 100 feet of the stage.

It apparently struck somebody in the crowd.  A nearby Georgian security official saw it, picked it up, and ran away with it.  And it has since been, quote unquote, “rendered safe.”  Now, we don‘t know exactly what that means.  Sometimes that‘s law enforcement code for, We blew it up.  But we don‘t know whether it was disarmed or exactly what “rendered safe” meant.

Now, all of that is according to the Georgian security officials to the U.S., word which came, Keith, as you noted, after the, as a matter of fact, two hours after the U.S. contingent had left Georgian airspace.  Not two hours after he left the stage, two hours after he left the country.

We‘ve looked back through the videotape of the speech.  We don‘t see anything that looks like it.  It‘s impossible to tell precisely what happened.

And tonight, the U.S. Secret Service has not actually laid eyes on any device.  There is a team of Secret Service officials on its way to Tbilisi now to investigate this.  And there‘s conflicting statements tonight about whether this even happened, Keith, because some people in the Georgian government are quoted as saying that this is a lie.  But if it is, it is one that came from the government of Georgia itself.

We simply don‘t know what happened.

OLBERMANN:  And whatever did or did not happen, Pete, the Secret Service knew nothing until two hours after they had all left the country.  I cannot imagine that they would be too happy about that part of this equation either.

WILLIAMS:  Well, that is a subject of real concern here tonight.  I mean, nobody‘s saying anything official.  But let me tell you this.  You can be sure that our government is very concerned that they were told nothing about this until two hours after they left the country.

Now, who might have thrown it?  We‘re told that parts of this crowd had gone through magnetometers, but not the whole crowd.  You know, you couldn‘t mag a quarter of a million people.  The estimate—the crowd estimates are pretty wild.  They range from 100,000 to 300,000 people.  But you can see how immense this crowd is.  And they were not all magged.  Only the people who were close.

So you can be sure that the people within 100 feet of the stage had to go through a magnetometers.  But you can throw a hand grenade a pretty good distance, if, in fact, it was a hand grenade.  Now, one official told us tonight that the pin had been pulled.  That‘s the, you know, you know, basic hand grenade 101.  You pull the pin out.  That allows a little arm on the side of the grenade to go out.  That starts a little timer.  And then at some point, the grenade blows up.

Now, it didn‘t blow up we‘re told.  (INAUDIBLE), in fact, all this happens, we‘re going by what the Georgian official said.  But there apparently was—it did—what they said is, it looked like a hand grenade, and the pin had been pulled.

OLBERMANN:  The point of the president‘s speech in Tbilisi was about that Rose Revolution nearly two years ago, when the pro-Western democracy suddenly came into existence after the years of flux since the Soviet Union broke up in the ‘90s.  We have seen elsewhere the enormous blowback by ousted communists and such.  We have the Chechens in this region in particular.

WILLIAMS:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  Is it conceivable that that event today, as it happened, or as it proves to have happened, really could have had nothing to do with President Bush?  It might have been somebody taking a shot at one of the Georgian leaders?

WILLIAMS:  Without question.  I mean, it—that certainly—the answer is, yes, it‘s certainly a possibility.  And when Edvard Shevardnadze was the president, he was the subject of repeated assassination attempts using grenades.  So certainly it‘s possible.  Nobody knows who the target was.

OLBERMANN:  Has anybody, Pete, yet used this term, either in the sources that you‘ve been in touch with or from the Secret Service now, or even out of Georgia, used this dreaded term, “assassination attempt”?  Has anybody characterized it in that term?

WILLIAMS:  No, nobody has.  And, you know, that would require some knowledge that this thing was real.  We don‘t even know that.  If this happened, we don‘t know whether it was a real grenade that simply, for whatever reason, failed to go off, or it was a dud, or it was a fake, or a lookalike.  We just don‘t know.

So if it wasn‘t a live grenade, if it never had the capability of going off, then obviously it wasn‘t.

OLBERMANN:  And that, of course, brings us to the final point, which, as I remember hearing years ago, Nikita Khrushchev‘s son, Sergei, saying that the one thing the United States the other Western powers did not understand about the cold war was that half of all that the Soviet Union had ready to go in the event of a hot war, half of the munitions, the missiles, the nuclear warheads, the armaments, wouldn‘t have gone off, did not work.

I‘m wondering if we might have just seen an illustration of that during this event.

WILLIAMS:  Well, that‘s certainly possible.  I remember what Andy Rooney always used to say, that he would fear Soviet weapons a lot more if he hadn‘t seen Soviet ballpoint pens.  So perhaps you‘re on to something there.

But again, there‘s a lot we don‘t know tonight.  As a matter of fact, we don‘t know much, (INAUDIBLE), is the (INAUDIBLE) fact here.  It certainly is starting if it happened.  And the Secret Service is very concerned about it.  That‘s why they‘ve got a team of agents going there.

But whether it was a close call or not, we‘re going to have to wait to see.

And, you know, Keith, when the president was visiting Central America, when he came out of Colombia, there was a report that there had been an explosive device, and then it turned out not to be true.  So we‘re still pretty close to the cusp of whether this thing is right or not.

OLBERMANN:  And what we do know about it, we have to thank Pete Williams for.  Great work.

WILLIAMS:  OK.

OLBERMANN:  And thanks for staying late with us in the Washington bureau, sir.

WILLIAMS:  You bet.

OLBERMANN:  Let me read you briefly an official Secret Service statement that has been issued over the public affairs spokesperson‘s signature, Laurie Lewis.

“After the president departed the country of Georgia, U.S. Secret Service was notified by Georgian authorities of a report that during the president‘s speech in Tbilisi, a device described as a possible hand grenade was thrown within 100 feet of the stage.  It was reported that the device hit an individual in the crowd, and that the device then fell to the ground.  It was reported that a Georgian security officer picked up the device, which did not detonate, and removed it from the area.  At this time, Secret Service has not seen the reported device.  Agents on the ground in Tbilisi,” the statement continues, “are working with the FBI, State Department, and host country security authorities to look further into the report.”

So official confirmation, at least, of the report that Pete Williams broke on NBC “Nightly News” about an hour and a half ago, that Georgian security believes that a device, perhaps a hand grenade, was thrown in the direction of the president while on stage in Tbilisi at what was once Lenin Square there.

We now know some substance of this, it‘s pretty much as Pete said, all we know about the facts to this hour.  But how in the world could it have all happened without the Secret Service knowing about it?

Let‘s—to try to help us work that one out, I‘m joined on the phone now by NBC News counterterrorism analyst and former FBI agent Christopher Whitcomb.

Good evening, Chris.

CHRISTOPHER WHITCOMB, FORMER FBI AGENT (on phone):  Hi, Keith.  Nice to talk to you.

OLBERMANN:  Does this entire story, with these component parts, Secret

Service doesn‘t know, nobody gets notified till they‘re out of the country

by two hours, does it seem plausible to you?

WHITCOMB:  It does seem plausible.  Look, it‘s quite an embarrassment for the host nation to have the president of the United States in for a speech of this nature and this importance, and to have something like this happen.  I think it‘s very, very possible.  They were embarrassed by it.  And because of the nature of this information, we don‘t know exactly what happened.  They may have—may be now trying to place it, put it all together themselves.

OLBERMANN:  How reduced would Secret Service capacity be in a place like Tbilisi compared to Cleveland, just to pick a name out of the hat?  If the speech is in front of 300,000 people in Cleveland, and you were to measure the Secret Service prep and control and focus under those domestic conditions at 100 percent, can you put a number—what would the percentage be like in a place like the Republic of Georgia?

WHITCOMB:  Well, I don‘t know a number specifically.  It would be dramatic.  And I‘m saying less than a quarter, because you not only have the Secret Service, which is relatively small organization, it‘s very small compared to the FBI or many other federal law enforcement agencies.  But they also have all the (INAUDIBLE) all the late—local state and federal agencies that help out, 18,000 agencies in the United States, all of which provide a lot of resources in some major event like this.

And that‘s become an art form in the United States, major events, planning and high-risk personnel, dignitary protection is a very, very well-thought-out science.  It‘s not necessarily that in Georgia, and you have to rely on the host nation and their intelligence and their security agencies.  And it‘s just not the same as Georgia.

OLBERMANN:  Would this additional fact make this more strange or would it make it more explicable, that—it‘s my understanding that some of the Georgian security services received training from the U.S. Secret Service in the past.  Is that correct, to your knowledge?

WHITCOMB:  Oh, it is, yes, absolutely.  Look, the United States doesn‘t go into a country unless they‘ve done a great deal of preparation.  The Secret Service is an extraordinarily capable agency. They‘ve protected the president, presidents all the way back to, excuse me, to John F.  Kennedy.  So you‘re talking about a very, very difficult job.

But they work with other countries around the world.  And one thing that‘s important to remember is, the FBI actually does the investigation when there‘s an assault on the president.  The Secret Service is going to go over there and try to find out what happened, but the FBI statutorily is going to do the investigation.  And the FBI has an academy, for example, in Hungary.  So it‘s in Budapest.

So we have very strong relations with countries around the world.  We‘ve done a great deal in the past few years trying to extend our cooperation with those countries, and I‘m sure that that helps here.

OLBERMANN:  So if this happened, as we are beginning to see it probably happened, then the Georgians—can you see a scenario in which the Georgians, who have experienced a lot of training at the hands of the United States and the Secret Service in particular, might be loath to mention anything?  I mean, was this, might this be a cover-up on their part?  I can‘t imagine it‘s an oversight, not to mention to the Secret Service on the way out, By the way, they threw a grenade in the direction of your guy.

WHITCOMB:  No, but you‘re talking about a huge number of people.  200,000, 300,000 people in the crowd.  And we don‘t know what happened.  I think it‘s very possible they had something, they recovered something in the crowd, and then it has to go up through the agencies.  First of all, they‘ve got to render it safe, meaning they‘ve got to explode it or they‘ve got to try to get fingerprints off it before they explode it.

But then you have information moving through the agency.  You have the political repercussions.  It certainly went up through the various stages of government.  And then they have to make a decision as to what they give the Secret Service and what they give the president.

There‘s an awful lot of information flowing through a very difficult situation.  And I think it‘s possible it took that much time for them to find what they believe happened before they gave it to the Secret Service and the president.

OLBERMANN:  Last question, Chris.  You mentioned repercussions.  What about the repercussions here?  What will they be saying at the Secret Service tomorrow to Karl Rove and to the State Department and to the president‘s other immediate advisers, if somebody says, We‘re never going to Georgia again?

WHITCOMB:  Well, look, I think that the Secret Service certainly had to advise the president of dangers in a large open-air environment where you have 200 -- 200,000 or 300,000 people, that they could not manage the way...

OLBERMANN:  And phone service with Christopher Whitcomb, our connection there, obviously, was disconnected as he was getting to the conclusion of his last answer.  The former FBI agent, now NBC News counterterrorism analyst, on this extraordinary story that we continue to follow and will continue to follow for you throughout the hour here on COUNTDOWN.

Now Secret Service confirmation, at least, that they were told by their equivalents, their parallels in the Republic of Georgia, that a device of some sort, possibly a hand grenade with the pin pulled, was thrown in the direction of the president of the United States, George W.  Bush, as he spoke to a crowd estimated at 300,000 in Tbilisi, that the device never got more than 100 feet close to the president, and was either disarmed or simply never went off.

And as we said, we‘ll continue to follow that story throughout the evening here on MSNBC.

Also tonight, a day after the small town of Zion, Illinois, woke up to news that two small girls there had been murdered, today they hear that police have charged a father of one of the girls with both slayings.

And a police chase in Southern California ending in a hail of gunfire.  The suspect behind the wheel is unarmed.  An investigation has been launched.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  There was a time when the police forces of the city and county of Los Angeles were the definition of corruption.  The bribes required to gain a sergeant‘s stripes in L.A. proper, or to become a captain, were as fixed and as well known as the prices on the menu at the Brown Derby Restaurant.

And the violence and mob connections there were probably worse than they have been depicted in films such as “L.A. Confidential.”

All that began to change in the ‘50s, and Southern California‘s police evolved from corrupt controversial departments to the comparatively honest controversial departments of the Watts riots, Rodney King, and the O.J.  Simpson case.

As our correspondent Peter Alexander reports, the latest element in that tradition of controversy occurring in the city of Compton, where deputies had a shootout with an unarmed man.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETER ALEXANDER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  First there was a call to police, shots fired.  Then the chase, L.A. County sheriff‘s deputies pursuing the suspect‘s white SUV, racing through the residential streets of Compton at speeds of up to 70 miles an hour.

Finally, blocked by a patrol car, the suspect was trapped.  Deputies opened fire.

Two people were hit, the suspect struck at least four times, and a deputy, who may have been caught in the crossfire, one shot glancing off his bullet-proof vest.

The sheriff wondered if too many shots were fired.

LEE BACA, LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF:  In this case, we fired actually 120 rounds.  In the nucleus of the battle, the intensity is such where even in listening to the tape, you could not discern that there are that many rounds, because it‘s like rounds being fired on top of each other.

So the questions that we‘ll ask ourselves, when we do the investigation and complete it, through my Office of Independent Review, through the district attorney‘s office, our own tactical unit, and the homicide investigative unit, is, why did we do what we did?

Mr. Hayes was not armed.  He acknowledged that he had been under a crack cocaine influence earlier in the day.  And he had been driving around that neighborhood for four straight hours.

ALEXANDER (on camera):  As investigators pieced together what happened, witnesses say they were terrified, as the neighborhood quickly turned into a shooting gallery.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It was gunshot at OK Corral.

ALEXANDER (voice-over):  In what some called the country‘s car chase capital, new questions about what happened and why, once the chase ended.

Peter Alexander, NBC News, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, from a heavy night of news to just plain heavy.  A cake, a clock, and a mission.

And do not delay, the clock is also ticking on our big eBay auction if our Michael Jackson puppets.  Or if you can‘t afford them, for free, we will offer you our Michael Jackson Puppet Infomercial.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It‘s at this point in the program each evening we pause our COUNTDOWN of the day‘s real news for a brief segment of strange video and other silliness.  But tonight, we‘re going to try something a little different.

We‘re not?

Well, never mind, then.  Let‘s just play Oddball.

We begin in New York‘s Grand Central Station, the latest stop on the competitive eating circuit.  Today‘s rules of engagement, pound cake, the verb.  A five-pound cake, to be exact.  First to finish wins, but the competition was fierce.  The guy in the hat is William “Refrigerator” Perry, who is has gone from the 1985 Chicago Super Bowl champion Bears to this.

Next to him, Eric “Badlands” Booker.  You remember him from the time he stuffed 27 hot dogs in his face at Coney Island, New York.

And the guy dressed as Marie Antoinette, I think I remember him from “La Cage aux Folles.”  In the end, though, it was the newcomer Rich Lefevre (ph) who stuffed the most in his cake hole.  He‘ll go home with the trophy, and, of course, a mild case of enduring diabetic shock.

Now to the Gercian (ph) Glacier high in the Alps, where global warming has apparently been solved by our friends the Swiss.  You may remember our friends the Swiss from our report last night on cow fighting there.  Now, a textile company and officials from a ski resort have a new solution to stop the effects of global warming on their glacier.  They are covering the entire thing, the entire Crystal Trench, as they call it, in polyester.  Just during the summer months, mind you.  No self-respecting mountain wears white after Labor Day.

Officials are hoping the reflective material will fend off the sun‘s rays, which have shrunk the glacier by 60 feet over the last 15 years.  It‘s white, so it won‘t clash with the snow or creep out any of the local wildlife.  Plus in Switzerland, after all, they are all about neutral colors.

Thank you very much (INAUDIBLE).

Also tonight, the city‘s founder envisioned it as a religious Utopia.  But tonight, it‘s a scene of sorrow.  A father arrested, accused of murdering his 8-year-old daughter and her best friend.  A hint of the possible motive has surfaced as well.

That story ahead.

But now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Benjamin Hylands of Ashburton, New Zealand.  Seventeen-year-old told police he was bored when he started tampering with the door of a large shipping container down at the docks.  He got the door open, and before he knew it, he was buried in an avalanche of peas.  The fire department had to use a forklift to get him out.

Number two, Darren Lipnicki of the Australian National University—we have an Australia-New Zealand theme here—he says his new research indicates people are smarter when they are lying down, as opposed to standing.  This actually contradicts my scientific work, which was—I‘m going to—going to need to lie down now.

Number one, Millard Greg Dwyer of Somerset, Kentucky.  He was charged with driving under the influence.  Blood alcohol level, more than three times the legal limit.  Police say Dwyer‘s horse was all over the road late Sunday night when they found him five miles from his house.  He admitted to drinking a 12-pack of beer before he saddled up.  The horse, however, refused to take the breathalyzer test.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It is an image almost too horrific to contemplate, a father out of jail just four weeks after having served time for having chased people around a trailer park with a chainsaw, beating and stabbing to death his own 8-year-old daughter and her 9-year-old best friend on Mother‘s Day.  And yet that tonight is the nightmare picture authorities in Zion, Illinois, are painting and alleging of what happened to Laura Hobbs and Krystal Tobias.  Their bodies were discovered at 6:00 AM local time yesterday, 150 feet into the woods at a place called Beulah Park in Zion, which is about 50 miles north of downtown Chicago, near the Illinois-Wisconsin border.

The bodies were found by Laura Hobbs‘s father and grandfather.  And late this afternoon, while just hinting at a motive, officials said they were charging Laura Hobbs‘s father with the murders.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL WALLER, LAKE COUNTY, ILLINOIS, STATE‘S ATTORNEY:  Today we are filing two counts of first-degree murder against Jerry Branton Hobbs III of Zion.  He‘s charged with the stabbing and beating death of both girls, which occurred on Mother‘s Day.  There‘s no rational explanation or reasonable motive that can be ascribed to an act of horror like this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Prosecutors said they were required to withhold details until after Jerry Hobbs had his bail hearing tomorrow morning.  State‘s attorney Waller told our Dan Abrams that Hobbs had told investigators he had a disagreement with his daughter over money.  And somehow, this all pertained to the child‘s mother.  Officially, all they would say was that Hobbs was in the wooded area, looking for his daughter when he encountered her, with her best friend Krystal Tobias, riding one bike between them.  He allegedly murdered them in the early evening hours near where they were found.

And a, quote, “compelling case” against the defendant developed quickly, they also said, after his answers to the initial questions of the investigative officers, quote, “piqued their interest in him” as a suspect, and also that the charges would make him liable for death penalty.  The state‘s attorney, Mr. Waller, said they were releasing the limited information now to put their community at ease, to reassure residents that the suspect was in custody and that there was no random murderer still threatening their children.  Waller also said that rulings by the Illinois supreme court prevented him from providing further details, but one of his other comments carried an ominous undertone.  Speaking of Jerry Hobbs, Waller said, quote, “It was obvious he wasn‘t celebrating Mother‘s Day the way the rest of us were.”

In a moment, the analysis of former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt.  But just a few moments ago, I spoke with the assistant superintendent of special services for the elementary school district there, Mary Lamping.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

Ms. Lamping, thanks for your time tonight, especially under these circumstances.

MARY LAMPING, ZION ELEMENTARY SCHOOL DISTRICT:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  It may sound cold to a lot of people, I think.  This is a horrible thing that happened.  But I imagine that from your community‘s point of view, from your kids‘ point of view, from the point of view of their parents, given what‘s happened, that this actually is the best possible way that this awful thing could have turned out, isn‘t it?

LAMPING:  Well, it brings some closure to what happened.  It‘s nice to know that there‘s not somebody running around that may be going after other children.  So it does bring some closure, even though it‘s tragic any way you look at it.

OLBERMANN:  Obviously, the parents would be greatly relieved under these circumstances, but is that—is that sort of situation also true also for the kids?  Is there a way of measuring which they would recover from more easily, the idea that there might have been a killer on the loose or this apparent fact, this allegation, anyway, the charge that the suspect was one of the girls‘ own fathers?

LAMPING:  I think either way, I mean, we are working with our children.  They did quite well today in their school building.  This is going to take a long time to sink in.  It‘s not going to be immediate reactions.  We‘ll get reactions from our students for days and weeks, delayed reactions.  So either way, we‘ve got still some work to do.

OLBERMANN:  What kind of work did you do today?  What, in fact, did you do to help these kids today?

LAMPING:  We brought together a crisis intervention team, which consisted of social workers and psychologists from our district, as well as some surrounding school districts.  Zion (INAUDIBLE) Township High School and Beach (ph) Park school districts sent their social workers over.  And we debriefed the teachers.  We met with the teachers.  We looked to try to address their needs and then prepare them for what their children might be asking and to strategize how to best support them in the classroom.

Once we did some whole group things with our kids, any child that needed more intense, you know, intervention or individualized support, we took them out of the classroom and then counseled them individually.  Every child that we talked to individually received a letter home alerting the parents, to let them know that we did meet with their child individually and that they may still have more questions when they get home.

OLBERMANN:  Last question.  That‘s your community there.  We‘re the outsiders and intruders.  Do you have a sense—can it get back to normal or close to normal, or was there more permanently lost in the last three days even than the precious lives of those two girls?

LAMPING:  I think with many communities, we‘re resilient.  We‘ll bounce back.  These children will always be in our memories.  I think as much as we love the media, sometimes once we get back to normal and all the vans and the cameras are gone, that will help.  We need to get back to school business and living and having fun and getting the kids back out and enjoying themselves again, so that we can bounce back and recover and we can get the kids the help they need and the families the help they need to recover.

OLBERMANN:  We will take your advice and try to help by getting out of the way as quickly as we can.  Mary Lamping, the assistant superintendent of the elementary school district in Zion, Illinois, thanks for your time.  And all of our best wishes in healing those wounds there.

LAMPING:  Thank you so much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  As we mentioned, by law, the state‘s attorney, Mr. Waller, had to withhold all but a few scraps of information at the hellish scene that unfolded yesterday in the woods of that town.  But unfortunately, from his own sad experiences, our next guest can probably now pretty much reconstruct this story just from those scraps.  Clint Van Zandt is a former FBI profiler, now an MSNBC analyst.  Good evening, Clint.

CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER:  Hey, good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  That one quote from the state‘s attorney has haunted me all day, Clint...

VAN ZANDT:  Sure.

OLBERMANN:  ... of Jerry Hobbs, when he said it was obvious he was not celebrating Mother‘s Day the way the rest of us were.  Is that the whole thing here?  Was this some sort of twisted vengeance against the mother of his own child?

VAN ZANDT:  I tell you what, from now on, when you look in the dictionary under sociopath, you‘re going to see a picture of Jerry Hobbs.  You know, I‘m a parent.  I‘m a grandparent.  I‘ve dealt with these guys for 35 years now.  And this is as bad as it gets.  I mean, when you think that he first beat them and then stabbed them, if you can imagine this monster on top of these little 8 and 9-year-old girls, and the last thing he‘s doing is stabbing them in the throat—for a very utilitarian purpose.  They were probably screaming, and he wanted to shut them up, and that‘s what he did.

OLBERMANN:  The state‘s attorney also said there was no rational explanation for the crime.  But from what little we do know about this, can you put together an estimate, if you will, of the likely sequence of events that led up to this?

VAN ZANDT:  Yes.  I think there was probably an argument between Hobbs and his wife and this child over some minor thing.  I think that this sociopath, this psychopath, life hasn‘t gone the way he wanted it to.  And he went out and he was going to straighten this little girl up.  And for one reason or the other, he didn‘t get the immediate response.  He didn‘t have his chainsaw in his back pocket this time, so he went for a knife.  And as he was taking out his anger, revenge, frustration on his own daughter, of course, he had to do it on the other little girl because she was a witness to what happened.  So as he‘s working out all this horrible activity on his child, he had to do it on the other girl, too.

And he will come up with some drummed-up quasi-reason.  It was over money.  She didn‘t give me respect for anything else.  Keith, you know, the bottom line, when you got a rabid dog, you don‘t take him for counseling, you put him down.  And this guy—this guy belongs down.  There‘s no other explanation for it.

OLBERMANN:  And that leads to what I guess is a rhetorical question, but maybe you have some further thoughts on this.  The suspect has a criminal record dating back to 1990.  He was in jail for two years after he chased these people around the trailer park with a chainsaw.  That was after a dispute with his wife.  How does he wind up anywhere near that wife or those kids?

VAN ZANDT:  Yes.  Isn‘t it just great?  It‘s our society.  We tell someone,, You have a debt to society.  We set it X number of years, and we turn these people loose again.  And they go back.  They‘re just like a homing pigeon carrying a bomb, and that bomb is inside of them.  In this case, within a month, it blew up.  And he has been only killed these two children, but you know, the person you just had on from school district—can you imagine in the future, children saying, Daddy, if you‘re mad at me, are you going to do the same thing that Krystal‘s (SIC) dad did to her?  It‘s just horrible.

OLBERMANN:  MSNBC analyst, former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt.  As always on these sad occasions, Clint, our great thanks.

VAN ZANDT:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  And of course, he was referring to the Hobbs girl.  The Tobias girl was named Krystal.  It‘s not Krystal Tobias‘s father who is being questioned or arrested in this case.

Also tonight, tough times for military recruiters leading to some unusual measures, the government trying to replenish our ranks of fighting men and women.  And one day, apparently, they‘re going to take off.  They‘re not going to do any recruiting.  The story that never goes away, the runaway bride, updates on the health front and the paying-back front.

Those stories ahead.  Now, though, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of this day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I learned firsthand what it means to be fed by a Georgian.  I‘m really full.  I should have eaten my meal first and then danced.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Right behind Sally and David Eichmann‘s home in the highlands, 2,200 sheep.  Wait.  That was a dog in the backyard on Wednesday morning, and heard them.  It‘s so noisy.  It sounds like a party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s muscle (ph) but it‘s (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is an epidemic of sex in cheerleading. 

People call it drop and grind.  Some say dropping it low.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Go, team!  Go, team!  Go, team!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  No further developments to this hour on the Social Security confirmation that their counterparts in the Republic of Georgia believe a hand grenade was thrown in the direction of President Bush during his speech today in Tbilisi, their capital.  It did not explode.  It landed 100 feet away from the president.  Nobody apparently knew about it until the entire American traveling delegation had been out of that country for two hours.

Meantime, the job of throwing hand grenades for the United States is getting more and more difficult by the month, CBS News reporting tonight that the Army will actually halt recruiting for one day later this month and devote that day to reinstructing recruiters as to what they can and cannot legally do to fill the suddenly gaping holes in their quota totals.  Our Pentagon correspondent, Jim Miklaszewski, has the hard data on the deepening deployment deficit.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  After more than three years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the all-volunteer Army is facing its toughest test yet.  In April, the Army missed its recruiting goal for the third month in a row, short by nearly 2,800 recruits, 42 percent off its target.  And for the first time in 10 years, the Marine Corps missed its recruiting goal for the last four months.  And there‘s no immediate relief in sight.

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, U.S. ARMY (RET.), NBC ANALYST:  Because the Army and Marines are too small and we‘re employing them in constant operations, our recruiting posture is now coming apart.

MIKLASZEWSKI:  In a desperate attempt to recruit volunteers, the Army has increased cash incentives, signing bonuses up from $8,000 to $10,000, college scholarships hiked from $50,000 to $70,000.  But it‘s an uphill battle.  A decent economy is steering many potential volunteers into private-sector jobs, and concerned parents who don‘t want their son and daughters going to war are convincing them not to sign up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  My parents don‘t want to pay for me to go to college.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MIKLASZEWSKI:  In fact, new recruiting commercials are aimed not at recruits but at their parents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK.  Tell me more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK.  Well...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MIKLASZEWSKI:  But the current problem with recruiting could have long-term ramifications on America‘s ability to take on other potential conflicts.

LOREN THOMPSON, MILITARY EXPERT:  This raises questions about whether the all-volunteer force can really cope with a long war.

MIKLASZEWSKI:  In a direct appeal to the nation‘s patriotism, Army vice chief of staff General Richard Cody warns this issue is about far more than military service alone.

GEN. RICHARD CODY, U.S. ARMY, VICE CHIEF OF STAFF:  This recruiting problem is not just an Army problem, this is America‘s problem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Now to our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news.  And you might or might not get many folks in Salem, Massachusetts, to sign up for the network TVland.  It has struck a deal to put a statue in the middle of a park in that city.  The statue is of the late actress Elizabeth Montgomery in her role as Samantha Stevens in “Bewitched”—in the middle of Salem, where they had the witch trials in 1692.  One Salem historian compared it to TVland putting up a statue of Colonel Klink at Auschwitz.

Although the city‘s mayor says Salem takes its grim past seriously enough that it can have a little fun with “Bewitched,” since a couple of episodes had Samantha going to Salem for a witches‘ convention.  Salem‘s redevelopment authority is scheduled to vote the statue up or down tonight.

Actually, Elizabeth Montgomery was a friend of mine, and she‘d probably prefer that the statue be not in Salem, Massachusetts, but rather Fall River, Massachusetts.  That‘s where another character she once played used to live, the alleged 19th-century axe murderer, Lizzie Borden.  With a mischievous twinkle in her eye, she always used to say that she used to identify with Lizzie Borden.

And speaking of a twinkle in the eye, Jennifer Wilbanks has now officials moved into the category of news comic relief.  The latest, she is not just getting treatment, she‘s at a treatment center.  And her attorney says her client wants to pay the city back for the trouble she‘s caused.  Her church reveals that Wilbanks has checked into a, quote, “highly regarded inpatient treatment program.”  Won‘t say where, why, for what or for how long.

If you saw Dr. Drew Pinsky on this program last night, he pointed to the revelations of Wilbanks‘s past history of shoplifting, and said from his private practice, he had almost never encountered a woman repeat shoplifter where there was not an addiction involved.

In any event, as to the question of repaying Duluth, Georgia, for the resources used up in searching for her, her attorney, Lydia Sartain, who once prosecuted Wilbanks in those shoplifting cases, has told “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution” that she is not convinced Wilbanks is legally obligated to pay that city anything.  But quoting here, “Jennifer wants to do whatever she needs to do to pay the city back for the trouble she‘s caused them.  It‘s something she wants to do.”

Attorney Sartain says she‘s been in communications with Duluth‘s city attorney.  The city mayor, who estimated the costs at $40 to $60,000, suggests some combination of the options of restitution and community service might be a perfect marriage, you should pardon the expression.

Also tonight, there is the Michael Jackson who‘s made of flesh and blood.  Not all of it his originally, but what the heck.  Now about the Michael Jackson made of photos and popsicle sticks.  We are auctioning them off for charity, and for them, somebody is willing to $14,440.02.  The full, completely unbelievable details are next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hey, America, you love the Jackson trial, but boring sketches and scary talking heads don‘t get close to getting you into courtroom.  Until now.  Finally, COUNTDOWN with Keith Olbermann has brought America‘s love affair with celebrity trials and puppetry together in this very special TV offer.  It‘s the “Michael Jackson Puppet Theatre” home starter kit, hand chiseled from real popsicle sticks by unskilled laborers at MSNBC.  COUNTDOWN‘s puppets are only the highest quality.  Just watch it slice through this ripe tomato.  You‘ll get the Jackson puppet, the Sneddon puppet, Mesereau and the judge.  But that‘s not all.  Act now, and we‘ll throw in Bubbles the Chimp and Fancy Pajama Michael.  That‘s six puppets, all autographed by Keith Olbermann.  Log onto eBay.com, search “Michael Jackson Puppet Theatre” and make your bid today!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Well, all that having being said, it still boggles our minds here that we put our six Michael Jackson stick puppets up for sale in a charity auction on eBay, and within 24 hours, they‘d be at $14,400.  Seriously.  I was thinking of preempting the show tonight so the staff could sit around all day and do something important: Make more puppets!

Having seen the success of novelty items on the Internet auction, we figured we‘d give it a whirl, with the proceeds, of course, going entirely to charity, in this case, the Ciliac-Sprue Association, one of the leading research and awareness groups for this disease, of which I have a mild case.  It is an intolerance for wheat.  And before I hosed my make-up off last night, the lot was up to $600.  By the time I left here, it was at $4,000.  And the rest was history: $14,400 for the lot of six so far, with bidding to close at 9:00 PM Eastern time on Thursday.

Now, of course, when you‘re dealing with responsible, reliable and trustworthy eBay sellers like the fine staff at COUNTDOWN, why, you can be just as confident as if you were dealing with Enron or ImClone.  But what if the seller has a dubious reputation?  You know, if these were, say, Fox News puppets?  eBay, the last frontier, the place where you can make thousands or lose them.

I‘m joined now by Dennis Prince, author of several books about the Internet auction site, including, “How to Sell Anything on eBay and Make a Fortune.”

Mr. Prince, good evening.

DENNIS PRINCE, “HOW TO SELL ANYTHING ON EBAY”:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Well, let‘s start at the “buyer beware” stuff.  What is the simplest step as a buyer that you can take to make sure that you don‘t get ripped off on eBay?

PRINCE:  Simplest step, really, is just to review that seller.  eBay keeps a feedback rating next to each seller ID.  Check out the seller.  See what other people have said about their interactions with that seller, and let that be your guide.

OLBERMANN:  When the Jennifer Wilbanks wedding invites started to show up there, I noticed something deceptive.  In among the real copies of the invitation, actual invitations, was something listed as an authentic copy of Jennifer Wilbanks‘s wedding invitation.  And it was a Xerox or something, and people had unthinkingly already bidded it up to about 50 bucks.  Is this prevalent, this “authentic copy” kind of rip-off?

PRINCE:  Yes, it can be.  I mean, you‘ve got an opportunism element there.  Really, as a buyer, you need to really understand exactly what you‘re going to be looking at, make sure you understand what “authentic copy” means, it‘s like “real simulated.”  And just proceed with caution.

OLBERMANN:  From the selling point of view, it must be, if not as easy to get ripped off by buyers, at least it‘s possible.  How do you protect yourself that way?

PRINCE:  Well, the best thing about selling is the protocol at eBay is the buyer pre-pays.  So you don‘t ship anything to a buyer until you‘ve got the cash in hand as the seller.  And naturally, you‘ll take that same caution when you ship off the puppet theater.

OLBERMANN:  Well, now that you mention it, I‘m going ask you your professional assessment of the puppet theater auction item.  If you were looking on this and you did not know where it came from, have we done it right?  Do we look legit?  Does it look like it‘s not a rip-off?

PRINCE:  Well, you look legit.  There‘s a lot of earmarks on there that show that, you know, this is coming directly from you folks.  It‘s got your highly coveted autograph on each one of the popsicle sticks.  And the only thing is that you don‘t have a feedback rating out there, and you‘ve really got to get that feedback rating up to lure those potential buyers.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, but the best we‘re going to get on the feedback rating after we do this sale is a 1.  Does a 1 look worse or better than a 0 on your feedback rating on eBay?

PRINCE:  Really, the best thing I tell people to do, if they‘re going to start selling on eBay, is become a good buyer first and earn at least 10 points as a good buyer, and then start selling.

OLBERMANN:  So we should go out there, and as COUNTDOWN at MSNBC, we should go and buy a bunch of Jennifer Wilbanks wedding invitations or something.

PRINCE:  Not a bad idea.

OLBERMANN:  All right, $14,000 for these—for these things.  Is that the weirdest thing you‘ve heard of?

PRINCE:  No, not at all.  Come on.

OLBERMANN:  Not even close?

PRINCE:  No.  Come on.  We‘re talking about a place where, you know, human kidneys have gone on the auction block, so...

OLBERMANN:  Well, we have one of those signed by Michael Jackson, too, but let‘s just leave that one alone altogether.  Dennis Prince is the author of “How to Sell Anything on eBay and Make a Fortune.”  We are doing what we can.  Thank you for your time, sir.

PRINCE:  You‘re doing a fine job.  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN.  Thanks for being a part of it.  The auction closes Thursday night.  Ooh, I‘m all a-tingle.  Good night, and good luck.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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