updated 6/16/2005 2:39:27 PM ET 2005-06-16T18:39:27

Guest: David Gibbs, Dr. Werner Spitz, Dave Holloway, Robin Holloway, Clint Van Zandt, Ruben Trapenberg

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, police search the home of a key suspect in the disappearance of Alabama teen Natalee Holloway. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS (voice-over):  Authorities dig threw the home of the Dutch teen believed to be one of the last people to see Natalee.  They towed two cars away.  We get the latest from the teen and we‘ll talk with Natalee‘s stepmother. 

And Terri Schiavo‘s autopsy is complete.  It sure seems her husband was right.  That Terri was in a persistent vegetative state.  She was blind and never abused, but the attorney for her parents is still refusing to concede, even now.  We‘ll talk to him, along with a prominent medical examiner. 

Plus Michael Jackson‘s attorney is with...

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket tonight, police in Aruba return to the home of Joran Van Der Sloot, a 17-year-old Dutchman who remains one of the key suspects in the disappearance of Alabama high school student Natalee Holloway.  Van Der Sloot has been in police custody since last week when he and two other men were arrested on suspicion of being involved in Natalee‘s disappearance.  We‘ll speak with Natalee‘s stepmother a later in our hour, but first let‘s check in with NBC‘s Martin Savidge, who is in Aruba with the latest.

So Martin, what do we know? 

MARTIN SAVIDGE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well good evening, Dan. 

Second time in the week that they have gone through the 17-year-old‘s home.  It‘s not just his home of course.  It‘s the home of his mother and father as well and authorities were seen leaving that home with a number of bags, unclear what was inside.  They also towed away the two family vehicles.  Of course, it‘s possible that those vehicles could have some forensic evidence it is believed as, of course, could some of the material taken from the home. 

The 17-year-old Van Der Sloot is considered, as you point out, one of the prime suspects.  There are two others, his friends.  All three of them were seen with Natalee Holloway on the night she disappeared and they have been considered by the family a suspect ever since then.  Also, the three suspects were themselves in court today.  Apparently, their attorneys are asking from investigators more information. 

They want to know what is going on.  How is it coming as far as this investigation, presumably to plan some sort of possible defense.  And then also, the father of Van Der Sloot was in court today.  Keep in mind he‘s a judge.  He is also an attorney.  He is suing for the right to visit with his son.  We are told the way that works is that he has not been allowed to see his son because he is an attorney. 

There have been some concerns on the part of investigators that if he were to meet with his son while he‘s being held in custody, that he might offer some advise or coach him on how he should handle talking to investigators.  It is unclear how the court is going to rule on that, but it would be very interesting—Dan. 

ABRAMS:  Martin, the cars, they towed away the two cars.  We know that apparently Natalee was in a car with Van Der Sloot and these two other men.  Was it one of Van Der Sloot‘s cars that they were driving or was it someone else‘s car? 

SAVIDGE:  No the car was linked to actually the two other men that are from Surinam and that is the gray Honda that Natalee was seen getting into it.  Now, of course...

ABRAMS:  Right.

SAVIDGE:  ... authorities had taken that vehicle.  They looked at it before they even took the men into custody and then took the vehicle when they arrested them.  So presumably they are done with that vehicle and didn‘t find too much, hence why they may want to look elsewhere at these two other cars.

ABRAMS:  All right, Martin thanks.  We‘ll check back in with you a little bit later in the program.  We‘ll also be joined by Natalee Holloway‘s stepmother as well. 

All right.  There is news in connection with the Terri Schiavo case today.  Her autopsy has been completed.  Remember on March 31, Terri Schiavo died at a Florida hospice room.  Her parents and siblings insisted to the end that tapes like this proved Terri was at times awake, alert and aware of them.  That Terri was not in a vegetative state as the vast majority of the medical community had found. 

Her husband, Michael, successfully argued in court that she never would have wanted to live in a brain-dead state.  Well an autopsy was performed after Terri died to try and resolve questions about her medical condition and maybe to resolve allegations that he may have abused her over the years.  Those results came in today. 

Dr. Jon Thogmartin is the Pinellas-Pasco medical examiner, talked about her mental state. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Her brain was profoundly atrophied.  The brain weighed 615 grams, roughly half of the expected weight of a human brain.  There was massive neuronal loss or death.  This damage was irreversible and no amount of therapy or treatment would have regenerated the massive loss of neurons.  Her vision centers of her brain were dead.  Therefore, Mrs.  Schiavo had what is called cortical blindness.  She was blind and could not see. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  As for other questions about Terri...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did Terri Schiavo starve to death? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did she suffer any neglect or abuse? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Will we ever know what caused her death? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t know. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Meaning no one will probably ever know how Terri or why Terri Schiavo collapsed 15 years ago.  David Gibbs is the attorney for Bob and Mary Schindler, Terri‘s parents, and Dr. Werner Spitz is a prominent forensics pathologist who has read today‘s autopsy report.

Gentlemen, thanks very much for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.  All right, Mr. Gibbs, let me start with you.  So even in light of this autopsy report you are not willing to say that as it turns out Terri‘s husband was right about her condition, that the autopsy is entirely consistent with what he said? 

DAVID GIBBS, ATTORNEY FOR TERRI SCHIAVO‘S PARENTS:  Dan, the issue that you have to realize is we knew Terri was brain injured before the autopsy and now after the autopsy we have more verification that she was severely disabled and brain injured.  But there is a larger moral and legal issue, is that should disabled people like Terri be put to death in what we perceive to be a very barbaric fashion?  She was dehydrated to the point of death and I think the quality of life analysis is missing the bigger picture.  Was Terri—she wasn‘t terminal—was she a life that should have been killed in the way she was? 

ABRAMS:  But Mr. Gibbs, that‘s really somewhat of a disingenuous argument because you know that was only part of the discussion.  I mean part of the discussion was that the family insisted that Terri was watching them.  Her eyes could follow them.  That she was not in a persistent vegetative state.  And if you‘re going to talk—let‘s first deal with that.  That was one of the family‘s primary arguments throughout this process and the autopsy is saying not so. 

GIBBS:  Well no, the autopsy did not rule on the persistent vegetative state and they said clearly that you cannot tell by looking at a dead corpse how the body was functioning and what was happening.  What we know is she was severely brain injured.  But for example, she could have been minimally conscious exactly like the doctor from the Mayo Clinic ruled, the neurologist, just weeks before she died.  And Dr. Thogmartin, the IME (ph), was very clear that he cannot ascertain by looking at a corpse whether she was in PVS or whether she was indeed minimally conscious. 

ABRAMS:  But here‘s Dr. Stephen Nelson at the press conference today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. STEPHEN NELSON, NEUROPATHOLOGIST:  Based on her anatomic findings of her brain she is very definitely blind and would not be able to register any type of thought, cognitive understanding of what is going on.  That is the definition, the clinical definition of persistent vegetative state. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Doesn‘t that answer the question, Mr. Gibbs?

GIBBS:  No, I disagree.  Because in terms of what they are talking about, they are looking at a very injured corpse and they are looking at a brain that is been dehydrated to death.  And Dan, the bigger question is I mean should blind people be put to death?  Should people with disabilities...

ABRAMS:  But it happens every—that is fine and that is a fair discussion to have in this country, I don‘t disagree with you about that, that there can be a debate about whether anyone should be able to do it because thousands of people do it each and every year, take loved ones off of life support because they are—they don‘t want them to live in that state.  If we want to have that debate, fine, but that‘s not the primary debate that was happening here.  This was a case about Terri Schiavo and about Terri Schiavo‘s condition, and I think that in a way you are shifting the discussion now. 

GIBBS:  Well regardless of her quality of life, what the medical examiner is saying is she may have been more brain injured than previously realized.  But again, he admits he‘s looking at a corpse that was dehydrated over a period of 13 days and he did rule out the bulimia.  He did rule out the heart attack, and he leaves a very open-ended question, which is what happened to Terri to cause this condition?  And really, the only person that knows the answer to that is Michael Schiavo.

ABRAMS:  Right.  Dr. Spitz, what do you make of what you are hearing and of what you saw in the autopsy report? 

DR. WERNER SPITZ, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST:  Well what I see in the

autopsy report is without any question that this is a very, very severely

shrunken brain like my colleagues have already indicated.  The—there is

no question that the centers that register eyesight or what you see are

deceased, are gone.  They do—she did not follow anybody in the room with

her eyes or otherwise.  And there is also very little question about the

fact that her brain condition did not substantially deteriorate in the 13

days where she was dehydrated.  Her brain was like that over the 15 years -

·         developed into this condition over 15 years. 

ABRAMS:  So...

SPITZ:  And this is all the result, in my view really, without much to do about the fact that she sustained brain damage, brain injury, as a result of lack of blood circulating, blood bringing oxygen, blood bringing nutrients over a substantial period of time.  As a result of that, she really, if we are going to be strict about it, she died on the day on which she collapsed. 

ABRAMS:  But let‘s be clear then, Dr. Spitz.  So according to this autopsy, which you have read carefully, no treatment could have improved Terri‘s mental state and her cognitive ability? 

SPITZ:  No that would be impossible.  Anybody who maintains that, who thinks that way is just plain wrong. 

ABRAMS:  All right, let me ask Mr. Gibbs...

SPITZ:  That could not have happened.

ABRAMS:  Mr. Gibbs, are you still maintaining that? 

GIBBS:  We are not debating with what the IME (ph) has said about Terri‘s ability to improve and that‘s really a moot point with her now dead.  But we do believe that the family was willing to take care of her even in her injured condition and we believe her death was wrong and that the law should not have allowed her to die in the barbaric manner she did. 

ABRAMS:  See, I think it is perfectly acceptable for the family and

for you to say look, you know, exactly what you just said, which is that we

·         the family would have taken care of her.  We didn‘t want her to die in any way.  And—but I think there also has to be a concession that you were wrong, that the family was simply wrong.  That the doctors that you brought forward to say it is not a persistent vegetative state, she can actually come across—she can actually improve significantly were simply wrong. 

GIBBS:  Well I think we have to take Dr. Thogmartin‘s statement that that is a clinical diagnosis and that it‘s impossible to do on a dead body. 

She was severely brain injured Dan, and we don‘t dispute that

ABRAMS:  But Dr. Spitz is saying it‘s not impossible to do; he‘s saying that it‘s actually very possible to do and based on the autopsy it‘s quite definitive.

GIBBS:  Later in the press conference he said you cannot tell from an autopsy the difference between a minimally conscious person and a persistent vegetative state.  From an autopsy looking at a dead brain cut up outside of the body, they have no studies to know the difference and so they have acknowledged that publicly. 

ABRAMS:  And again, we just played that piece of sound from a neuropathologist who said that‘s the definition, the clinical definition of persistent vegetative state.  But Dr. Spitz, why don‘t you weigh in on that last comment? 

SPITZ:  You know, to suspect that somebody with a brain of 615 grams, when double that weight is in fact the—what we think of as a normal brain is utopia to think that that person will ever recover, that that person is not in a—even in a minimally conscious state, I cannot believe that a person such as that, when we consider the Quinlan case where the lady lived for 10 years, “lived”—in quotes—for a 10-year period, that really doesn‘t make sense.

ABRAMS:  All right.

SPITZ:  These people are unconscious.  They are beyond recovery and anything else is imaginary. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  David Gibbs, as always, we really appreciate you taking the time to come on the program.  Always a great advocate for his side and we appreciate it.  And Dr. Spitz, thank you as well.  Appreciate it.

SPITZ:  Thank you Dan.

GIBBS:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, we go back to Aruba for more on the search for the Alabama teen, Natalee Holloway.  We‘ll talk to two people who have been there since the beginning of the search, Natalee‘s father and stepmother. 

Your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  I respond at the end of the show. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back with more on the search for Natalee Holloway.  The Alabama high school graduate went missing over two weeks ago while on a school trip to Aruba.  Today, police again searched the home of Joran Van Der Sloot, the Dutch teen, along with two Surinamese brothers, remains a suspect in her disappearance.  Natalee‘s family has been doing whatever they can to help.  Visiting search sites, going door-to-door with pictures of Natalee, handing out homemade prayer bracelets to people across the island.

Joining me now Natalee‘s father and stepmother, Dave and Robin Holloway.  Thank you both very much for coming on the program.  We appreciate it.  Before I ask either of you any details about what is going on, the investigation, I know that so many of my viewers have been asking us about you all and how you‘re doing.  So on their behalf let me start with you, Mr. Holloway.  How are you doing?  How are you holding up?

DAVE HOLLOWAY, NATALEE HOLLOWAY‘S FATHER:  Well, as good as expected.  The first day I arrived here I mentioned earlier that it was like if you ever had a child that got out of the house and got lost momentarily, that‘s the type of feeling I had in my heart.  It was just sheer panic and I went through that process for probably a week.  And if it hadn‘t been for my brothers and sisters and my wife and all of my family and friends, and a prayer of God, I wouldn‘t have made it through it.

ABRAMS:  Mrs. Holloway, let me ask you the same question. 

ROBIN HOLLOWAY, NATALEE HOLLOWAY‘S STEPMOTHER:  It is 17 days now, and it is just torture.  We just—I mean where is Natalee?  This is just—we don‘t know.  I mean each day we say we‘re going to get that phone call.  I mean they‘ve got to tell us where she is.  I mean anybody with a child—

I hope nobody else ever has to go through this.  So...

ABRAMS:  And I think that—I think I reflect the views of many of my viewers when I say that I think that the two of you are handling it in exactly the way, the ideal way one would hope that two parents would.  Doing everything you can, staying there, passing out the bracelets, et cetera. 

All right, let me ask you a couple of questions on how things are, how things are going.  Are the authorities working with you?  Are they keeping you up-to-date on the investigation, et cetera? 

D. HOLLOWAY:  They are.  In fact, I‘m very confident that the investigation is moving forward and that we‘ll finally get a resolution to this sometime.  When no one knows, but I‘m confident that the steam is picking up and one of these days will come to a conclusion. 

ABRAMS:  And you‘ve gotten to meet with the suspects, have you not, at least with some of them? 

D. HOLLOWAY:  I have not met with the suspects, no. 

ABRAMS:  OK.  Maybe it was the mother who—your ex-wife who I think had spoken to one of them at one point. 

R. HOLLOWAY:   I think she did. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Yes.  The authorities are now not allowing the FBI apparently to question any of the suspects.  Do you know anything about that?  Do you have any feelings about it? 

D. HOLLOWAY:  I‘m not aware of any non-cooperation between the two authorities.  I could not answer that question. 

R. HOLLOWAY:   We haven‘t been told that. 

D. HOLLOWAY:  As I understand it, they‘re cooperating—both of them are working together and being cooperative. 

(CROSSTALK)

R. HOLLOWAY:   Yesterday...

ABRAMS:  I‘m sorry...

(CROSSTALK)

R. HOLLOWAY:   Yesterday—there was a big search yesterday, and it scared us, but it was nice to know that you know they do have the equipment and the dogs.  I mean they are really extensively looking for Natalee.  And it was reassuring that they didn‘t find her, but it was nice to know how hard they were looking with the equipment and everything and working together. 

ABRAMS:  Has some of the misinformation that‘s come out been very frustrating or have you been getting accurate information such that people who are hearing, reporting things that are turning out not to be true, you simply can ignore it because you already knew it wasn‘t the case? 

D. HOLLOWAY:  Well, a lot of times what happens is we kind of get a briefing in the morning, and then we tried, you know, to be out looking all during the day and then later on in the evening we‘ll get another briefing on what has transpired.  Yes, there has been some information in the news media, and you know, that‘s to be expected.  So we just don‘t believe everything you hear I guess. 

R. HOLLOWAY:  But they have been good about trying to inform us before these rumors come out that they are not true.  So...

ABRAMS:  You know I think sometimes in these kinds of stories when we all get—we all meaning the news media, not you, have a tendency to get caught up so much in the investigative side of this, I think we lose sight of the human side sometimes and we have a little time, so if you don‘t mind, I mean can you—would you mind just talking to us a little bit about Natalee?  I think that so many people now feel that they know Natalee in a way.  They are rooting for you.  They‘re so hoping for Natalee and it would be nice if you could just share a little bit about, you know, the side that maybe people aren‘t hearing enough about. 

D. HOLLOWAY:  Do you want to take that, Robin? 

R. HOLLOWAY:   Well I mean she was a smart cookie.  She was beautiful, wonderful, just a dynamic personality, just amazing and we just want to find Natalee.  I just wish everybody could have gotten to know her like we did. She was just wonderful... 

(CROSSTALK)

R. HOLLOWAY:   ... is just wonderful.

(CROSSTALK)

D. HOLLOWAY:  Go ahead.

R. HOLLOWAY:  I mean we still hope for that miracle to bring her home alive.  I mean we have not given up on that.  I hope you guys do get the chance to meet her one day...

ABRAMS:  Mr. Holloway, anything you can share about sort of what made Natalee, Natalee?  What makes Natalee, Natalee? 

D. HOLLOWAY:  Well, she‘s determined-type individual.  She wanted to do well in school, and she did do well in school.  And you know, just wanted—she had her future ahead of her and had planned things in advance of going to college, and going into possibly pre-med or some other field in that area.  And a lot of times when she was around us she would spend a lot of time studying.  She wanted to do well in school, and my other children looked up to her, you know.  They knew she was intelligent and made good grades and they always looked up to her as—my 7-year-old called her the smart cookie, so—and they all—they had a pretty good bond there, so...

ABRAMS:  All right, if you could just stand by just for a moment, let me just take a...

D. HOLLOWAY:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  ... quick break here.  More with the father and stepmother of Natalee Holloway in a moment.  We‘ll also talk later about the investigative side.  There you see one of the cars being towed away from the home of one of the key suspects.  More in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, more with the father and stepmother of missing Alabama teen, Natalee Holloway, in a moment.

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  We‘re continuing with our coverage from Aruba of Natalee Holloway, been missing for 17 days now.  Her family is still hoping that she is going to be found alive.  Just telling us moments ago that they have been pleased with the way the investigation has gone.  That they have been kept updated on a regular basis. 

We are joined once again by Natalee‘s father and stepmother, Dave and Robin Holloway.  Let me ask you this.  Have you been tempted to or have you brought in any of your own investigators, private investigators to help in this, or do you think that that would end up being a distraction? 

D. HOLLOWAY:  No, I have not brought any outside help in other than my immediate family. 

ABRAMS:  And I‘m sure the authorities would appreciate that.  My guess is that they would view that as merely meddling and not particularly helpful.  Have you had...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Have you had a chance, Robin, to speak to Natalee‘s friends about what they say they saw, and has that been helpful? 

R. HOLLOWAY:  I haven‘t talked to anybody that was with her, her friends, no have I not.  We live in Meridian, Mississippi and they are in Mountain Brook, Alabama and I have not talked to them, so...

ABRAMS:  Mr. Holloway...

R. HOLLOWAY:   I know they want her home, though...

ABRAMS:  Have you, Dave? 

D. HOLLOWAY:  No, I have not. 

ABRAMS:  And finally, the—we spoke about the Aruban authorities.  Have you been also in regular contact with American authorities as this investigation continues? 

D. HOLLOWAY:  Yes, I have. 

ABRAMS:  And they have been helpful in providing you with the information you need, et cetera? 

D. HOLLOWAY:  Yes, they have, very helpful. 

R. HOLLOWAY:   And we feel the FBI is working very close with the Holland authorities, too, and we—they give us status on a regular basis, so... 

D. HOLLOWAY:  But there again, they‘re not going to give us enough information that would jeopardize any investigative efforts and we realize that and we respect those decisions not to divulge all the information, so...

ABRAMS:  And that‘s why I‘m being careful not to ask you too many questions about the investigation.  I don‘t want to put you in an uncomfortable position.  Thank you so much for taking the time, and we all wish you the best of luck, and we‘ll keep the tip line number up on our show just in case anyone hasn‘t been watching the news as of late, flips it on and says maybe they do know something about it.  Maybe they‘ve seen her.  We‘ll keep showing it.  And we really appreciate you both taking the time. 

Good luck to you. 

R. HOLLOWAY:   Thank you so much. 

D. HOLLOWAY:  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) let me tell you—I mean you know these—an interview like that is not easy to do.  It‘s just—you know there is something uncomfortable about it.  I feel so much for those parents. 

Clint Van Zandt joins us now, the former FBI profiler, a regular here on MSNBC.  All right, Clint, let‘s talk investigative side of this.  We‘ve talked the human side of Natalee.  They are dragging two cars out of the house of Van Der Sloot.  What does that tell you? 

CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER (via phone):  You know, first thing it is good you put a human face, Dan.  I mean there are so many people who are quick to say well this is just one pretty girl that‘s missing and it‘s not.  It‘s somebody‘s daughter, it‘s somebody‘s granddaughter.  It could be any of our kids or grandkids.  That‘s why we are all interested, because any child could have been in the same situation. 

So I think that‘s positive that we think about the personal side.  From the investigative side, of course, the FBI agents and the authorities down there, they have to keep focused.  They can‘t get caught up in the emotion.  By taking these cars away, Dan, we know in the investigation that we placed the three current suspects and Natalee in one car together.  We know that, they have admitted it.  The witnesses have said that. 

Now let‘s say hypothetically Mr. Van Der Sloot places himself with Natalee at the last day we saw her, and says, perhaps, well I walked one way and she walked another.  And if they find hair, fibers from her clothing, anything that would place Natalee in one of those two cars, that would suggest that he had her, she was with him in that car, it was after the time he said they were together.  That would change the entire complexity of this whole investigation.  One hair, one fiber found in one of those cars...

ABRAMS:  Because—right because that‘s a different car, let‘s be clear.  I mean the car that she was seen in was the car of one of the Surinamese brothers, who is also under suspicion along with him.

VAN ZANDT:  Yes.  So if we found hairs or fibers in that car that‘s fine, unless of course they were yanked out or pulled out.  But altogether different, if anything is found in these two vehicles that links Natalee to those cars, a whole change, a whole new direction for the investigation. 

(CROSSTALK)

VAN ZANDT:  They have got one person to center on then. 

ABRAMS:  You know, Clint, it seems to me that they are almost investigating the brothers and then they‘re investigating the Dutch boy almost as two entities.  And yet you would expect if that‘s the case that they would be able to get one of them to effectively tattle on the other. 

VAN ZANDT:  Well and I think the best they are going to get is perhaps, as you say, the two brothers are really basically one person linked at the head.  So if they have those two brothers, or if they have Mr. Van Der Sloot, one of the two, if one or the other is finally identified as having been the last two people or the last person with her, that‘s what they have to do now. 

They have to split and divide.  They to say we are down to three suspects, now who is it?  Is it the two brothers which common sense would say they probably would have stayed together, they probably would have stayed with her, or was it the guy that she was in the back seat with having some level of intimacy, of course, the primary suspect that we‘re looking at right now. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Clint, if you can stick around for a minute. 

VAN ZANDT:  Absolutely. 

ABRAMS:  Joining us now is Ruben Trapenberg, spokesperson for the Aruban government.  Thanks very much for coming back on the program.  We appreciate it.  Look, I know you can‘t get into details of the investigation, so I‘m going to try and steer clear of asking you specifics.  Let me ask you some general questions.  Do you feel that you‘re making major progress on this investigation? 

RUBEN TRAPENBERG, ARUBAN GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN:  From what we have heard and again I spoke to—from the office, from the prosecutor this morning, and they said that they are moving ahead.  They did use the phrase, a critical phase.  If you see it as puzzle, they are getting pieces that they need to solve this puzzle or to put it together. 

ABRAMS:  Is it fair to say that this is the largest investigation that has been conducted on Aruba as far as you know in terms of the amount of man hours? 

TRAPENBERG:  Absolutely.  I‘m about—I‘m over 40, so I have seen investigations, well I‘ve worked in the media for a number of years, and I cannot remember one island search like this one that has ever gone on.  People have gone on—missing on a local level, but you always find them the next day, people that run away or things like that. 

Never a tourist has ever gone missing, and we don‘t have a problem with crime on the island, so what you do in those instances, you prepare.  So the local guys always go out to the U.S. or to Holland to get their training.  And when necessary, those experts come down to Aruba to assist.  And this is one of those cases. 

Again, it is a question of national priority for us.  It‘s top of our list because we don‘t want to be seen as an island that doesn‘t care.  We do care for everyone on the island, and we resolve—we try to resolve all cases. 

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you a question, and since I don‘t think you can answer this one, let me ask it of Clint.  Clint, as a practical matter, if she is alive, it is likely, is it not, that she‘s no longer on the island of Aruba? 

VAN ZANDT:  I think that potential exists, Dan.  I mean we have seen the Aruban authorities search as much as they can.  But you know you and I have talked about this before.  If we all think back to the Chandra Levy disappearance here in the Washington, D.C. area, a geographic area the same size as Aruba and the authorities knew that Chandra Levy was somewhere in a certain part...

ABRAMS:  Right.

VAN ZANDT:  ... and yet it took them a year to find her.  Now in that case, she was deceased. 

ABRAMS:  Right.

VAN ZANDT:  But you know, we are still—I mean a human being is a big thing.  But when you‘ve got a big island, multiple caves, homes, buildings, storage areas and as you say, it would be very easy for someone to have a boat or something else and take her from the island.  And I‘m sure that‘s what the Aruban authorities and the FBI are pursuing especially with the other local governments to make sure she hasn‘t been transported to another island. 

ABRAMS:  And I would think that you could answer that, Mr. Trapenberg.  Has the Aruban government been working with neighboring law enforcement agencies to make sure that something like that hasn‘t happened? 

TRAPENBERG:  Well the first few days that immediately was brought up. 

Contact was taken with other police forces of countries in the area.  Remember, they do keep regular communication and exchange, if you will, with cases.  So it depends on what case that they share their information with.  But yes, all surrounding countries and then you have countries that are far away such as Holland and the U.S., this is a pretty international island, so they do have communication with all other...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

TRAPENBERG:  ... countries that‘s around. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Ruben Trapenberg thanks again for coming back on the program.  We appreciate it.  And Clint van Zandt thanks a lot. 

Coming up, we spoke exclusively with the mother of the Dutch teen being held in connection with Natalee‘s disappearance really only hours after he was taken into custody—there it is.  They are searching her house today.  That interview coming up next. 

Plus a story about my time in Santa Maria, California that has absolutely nothing to do with Michael Jackson.  Coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, my interview with the mother of the Dutch teen being held in connection with the disappearance of Alabama teen, Natalee Holloway.  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Continuing with our coverage of missing teen, Natalee Holloway in Aruba, just spoke with her parents, talking about the investigative side.  Last Friday I talked exclusively to Anita Van Der Sloot, the mother of that Dutch suspect, that boy who may have been the last person to see her.  Their house was searched for the second time earlier today.  Authorities removed several bags from the home, towed two of the family‘s vehicles.  On Friday, I asked her what her son told her about the night he was with Natalee, the last night she was seen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANITA VAN DER SLOOT, DUTCH SUSPECT‘S MOTHER:  My son told me exactly the same he told the police.  I believe in him.  I believe he is innocent.  He is a young teenager.  He would never harm somebody.  He is loved here.  He‘s a great child.  He is ready to go to college.  He is an honor student and we just believe that he was telling the truth. 

ABRAMS:  Is there anything else about the details of what it is he says happened that night that you would like to share with us? 

VAN DER SLOOT:  No.  I would only like to share like—and maybe I can be very open with this.  I think the media coverage here in Aruba is getting totally crazy and there is so much pressure on everybody of us.  I believe fully and with me, my whole family, my husband, my other children, my family, all over the world, believe that Joran is 200 percent innocent.  And of course...

ABRAMS:  Right.

VAN DER SLOOT:  ... as a mom you are very angry that they drive a kid to the hotel, to—these are three boys that just like any other 17-year teenager, he wanted to do his best to bring somebody to the hotel safe.  And this happened, and we don‘t know what happened after that.  Why would he do something evil?  Why would he do something like this? 

For us there it‘s no question that he‘s innocent, and that there will be a conclusion in this.  And we just pray the best, and we feel for the parents and we just want to support them as much as possible, too.  And it‘s just all a big, big nightmare for all of us. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  My exclusive interview Friday with the mother of the Dutch teen being held in connection with Natalee Holloway‘s disappearance. 

Coming up, on my trip from Santa Maria, I had an experience that had nothing to do with the Michael Jackson case.  It‘s a reminder about what is really important.  It‘s my “Closing Argument”.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—a story about my time in Santa Maria, California that has nothing to do with Michael Jackson.  I was flying out of Santa Maria for the weekend and was approached in the airport by a guy named John who said he was a fan of the show.  He was with what I assumed were two friends.  One on crutches, they just looked like three guys on vacation.  I quickly learned that their trip to the area was anything but. 

They were in town for the funeral of a colleague, one of their quote -

·         “teammates”, Captain Derek M. Argel of Lompoc, California, who along with three others died in a plane crash on Memorial Day in Iraq.  Captain Argel, 28, was survived by his wife Wendy and 11-month-old son Logan.  Argel was the first of three funerals they would be traveling to attend. 

Also that of Captain Jeremy Fresques of Farmington, New Mexico, and Sergeant Casey Crate of Spanaway, Washington, all members of the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron out of Hurlburt Field, Florida, an elite Air Force unit that has among other things, been helping to locate bombing targets in Iraq and Afghanistan.  So here I am consumed with the minutia of a celebrity trial in California while these guys are doing the nation‘s work.  I was almost ashamed that Sergeant John—they‘ve asked me to only use their first names—had walked up to me to tell me how much he liked my work rather than me walking up to him. 

But that‘s just the beginning.  I learned that the one on crutches, Sergeant Brad, I‘ll call him, was recovering from a gunshot wound he received in April in Afghanistan.  His team had been called in to support an ambushed coalition convoy.  He apparently killed a number of enemy fighters and performed life saving treatment on another wounded soldier after he was hit with a round from an AK-47.  OK, so now I‘m thinking about the relative insignificance of my life on my short flight from Santa Maria to L.A. 

As we‘re leaving the plane, Sergeant John was offering up some suggestions for better coverage of our men and women in uniform when an elderly man about 10 yards in front of us falls flat on his face.  I later learned he just had chemotherapy.  His head and his hands severely bruised and bleeding, immediately Sergeant John called to Sergeant Brad and Major Mike and instructed them to stay with the fallen man while he ran for help. 

Sergeant Brad on his crutches ran down the gateway.  It was if they had trained for this mission, too, to help anyone in need.  They called for first-aid.  There was none.  They did what they could, eventually got a wheelchair and took him to the men‘s room, helped him clean up.  About 30 minutes later, a medic arrived and all was well. 

These guys are heroes on the battlefield, but they‘re also living heroic lives, making sure their fallen comrades are remembered properly and while they‘re there, helping out anyone else in need.  Sergeant John, Sergeant Brad, and Major Mike, I salute you guys. 

Coming up, your e-mails on the Jackson jurors.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  A lot of you writing in about my interview yesterday with three of the jurors in the Michael Jackson case. 

From Texas, Judith Nolan, “After seeing interview after interview with juror after juror, I must say that the jury members in the M.J. trial are without a doubt the most inarticulate, confused dolts I‘ve ever seen in my life.  No wonder he walked.”

Christie O‘Sullivan writes in about one of the jurors getting the math wrong when talking about the initial divide on the jury on certain counts.  “I wonder if certain cases such as child molestation and homicide should be decided by jurors with a higher education level.  One of the jurors concluded that 7+3+4 somehow added to less than 12.”

From New York, Matthew Johnson, “The jury set him free and you and others are still trying the case.  You grilled the lady when she didn‘t answer the question the way you wanted when asked about Mr. Jackson ever touching a child.  She said no and you kept on her to change her mind.  In other words, you bullied her.”

Chris C. in Florida, “One could not count to 12 and the other found Jackson to be normal.  It is clear Clarence Darrow, Roy Cohn, and Edward Bennett Williams combined could not have secured a guilty verdict.”  Those are three famous lawyers.

From Virginia, Susan Spaulding, “I was impressed with their thoughtfulness, their reasoning and their commitment to properly discharge their duties.  Why can‘t the media and the prosecution take them at their word?”

Finally, Becky Dodd in Missouri writes, “Dan, could you wish my grandmother a happy birthday?  Her name is Minnie.  I know she‘s watching because she said we couldn‘t go out for her birthday dinner until your show is over.”  Minnie, go have a great dinner.  Happy birthday. 

Your e-mails abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com.  We go through them at the end of the show.

That‘s it for this edition of the show.  We had promised that we were going to have Tom Mesereau, the attorney for Michael Jackson, on the program today.  We had some logistical problems with that and as a result, he will be on this program tomorrow night.  And for his first—this is what I like to call it—his first live lawyer-to-lawyer interview.  How about that?  But I‘m going to ask him questions that no one else has asked him yet.  You know, a lot of questions that I don‘t think have been answered yet. 

Thanks for watching.  Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews. 

Have a good night.  It‘s good to be back.

END

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