updated 10/2/2005 10:02:35 PM ET 2005-10-03T02:02:35

Guests: Jim Holcomb, Al Seib, Janet Pelasara, George Peterson, Melissa

Castora, Ashley Burns, David Haggard

RITA COSBY, HOST:  Tonight, everybody, shocking news for the family of a murdered 13-year-old.  Their own safety could be in jeopardy.  Melvin Keeling is on the run after the murder of a girl who told police that he molested her friend.  We have some new details that he may now have a hit list of other targets.

And also LIVE AND DIRECT exclusive, accused Tennessee courthouse killer George Hyatte gives us his story about what he says really happened during his deadly getaway.  Plus, stunning developments in the case of a missing college freshman.  Wait until you hear what police found in her ex-boyfriend‘s home.

But first tonight, some breaking news in southern California.  Late word that just as firefighters are getting the upper hand on a massive blaze outside of Los Angeles, another fire breaks out in Burbank.  NBC‘s Michael Okwu is LIVE AND DIRECT tonight in Thousand Oaks, California.  Michael, tell us about this new blaze.

MICHAEL OKWU, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, we understand that there‘s a new blaze in Burbank.  There‘s also a blaze, we understand, in the San Bernardino mountains.  We understand that some 1,200 people have been evacuated from their mountain communities there.  And the combination of those two fires, in addition to the fire that we‘ve been telling you now about for the past 48 hours here, is creating something of a health hazard.  As a matter of fact, officials basically saying that anybody who has a heart or a lung ailment should try to stay indoors as much as possible and to basically shut their windows.

In the meantime, though, Rita, there is other very good news to report.  We understand now from officials that evacuees here are being allowed to go back into their homes.  That means literally hundreds of people.  This fire here has charred now more than 21,000 acres.  It is about 20 percent contained.  But the good news in all of that is that it is likely, given what firefighters are indicating to us, that that percentage will go much higher than that 20 percent as each hour passes.

This has been a massive coordinated effort on the part of the firefighters, some 3,000 firefighters down on the ground.  We understand more than a dozen fixed-wing aircraft, as well as helicopters, dropping chemicals on this fire, basically getting the upper hand on it.

But they got a major assist from the weather, Rita.  We understand that those Santa Ana winds, those dry winds that at the height of this fire were fanning the flames at about 40 miles per hour, started to die down tonight and the cooler, more humid ocean winds were able to blow in.  This allowed firefighters to try to start much more aggressively pinpointing those hot zones and to try to start building containment lines.

So at this hour, firefighters very confident about what‘s happening here, but two other fires now blazing in the general Los Angeles region—

Rita.

COSBY:  All right, Michael.  Thank you very much.

We want to get the very latest now on the men and women who are out there battling the flames.  LIVE AND DIRECT tonight is Tony Varela.  He‘s the assistant chief of the LA Fire Department.  And again, as we‘re looking at pictures of the fires, you just heard from Michael, the latest is we‘ve got about 21,000 acres between the fire in LA County, also the latest one in Burbank.  And the latest we got, as you heard from Michael, about 20 percent contained, but they were hoping that that number will go up.

Let‘s bring in Chief Varela.  Chief Varela, what is the latest?  Are you getting a better handle on the fires?  Are they more contained?

TONY VARELA, LOS ANGELES FIRE DEPT. ASST. CHIEF:  Yes, at this time, we‘re about 20 percent contained.  I‘d like to use a little higher figure, but I‘m waiting on a report—for a report from our operations chief.

COSBY:  How much has it complicated the situation—now we hear about this Burbank fire.  You know, right when you seem to get a handle on one, another one is breaking out.

VARELA:  Truly, it does complicate the situation because what we‘re trying do, especially with the wind conditions, is make sure that we get this mopped up properly so we don‘t get additional starts (ph).  And what‘s happening is our neighbors, Burbank Fire Department, is requesting additional resources from LA County and LA city fire.  So it does put us in a compromising position.

COSBY:  How many firefighters are working right now in how many different areas?

VARELA:  Well, at this time, we have approximately 3,000 people assigned to this fire.  I would estimate, based on the length of the fire and the acreage they have in Burbank, they probably have about 700 or 800 people assigned to that fire.  And then the fire that‘s growing out in San Bernardino, I would guess they probably have 1,500 to 2,500 people on that fire at this time, and growing.

COSBY:  And I notice that you‘re also doing some drops, some water drops from the sky.  How many of those are taking place?  And is that just a sign of how ferocious these winds and these flames are?

VARELA:  Actually, that‘s a tactic that we use to support our crews.  So those water drops are very important because the crews are working on the ground.  They go ahead and cut line and actually work on the firelines.  With the water drops from the helicopters, it allows them to be in a good position to continue with the cut lines.

COSBY:  What‘s the latest on evacuations?  I was just reading a number of folks are allowed to come back in, but there‘s still Lake Manor (ph), Bell Canyon.  These areas still evacuations in effect, correct?

VARELA:  Absolutely.  And the reason for that—today was a great example.  The winds came up a little bit.  The temperatures were probably at the high 90s.  And we landed up (ph) break in the fire in what we call Liberty Canyon.  And again, that would have been a direct threat to the Manor and Box Canyon area.  So at this time, we have to be a little judicious in allowing people into those particular areas because we don‘t want to get them hurt, and we definitely want to be able to get our tools and equipment in there to protect the homes.

COSBY:  You bet.  Well, Chief Varela, we wish you lots of luck.  Thank you for being with us during a very busy time.  We appreciate it.

VARELA:  You‘re very welcome.

COSBY:  And the California wildfires have already damaged a handful of homes and are now threatening some 2,000 more.  LIVE AND DIRECT tonight, we have with us a resident, Debbie Selden.  She‘s a resident of Calabasas, California.  And earlier today, the flames were very close to her home.  She had about 30 firefighters on her lawn today.  And apparently now joins us now.  I know we‘re in the thick of it all.  Debbie, you‘re with us right now.  You had all these firefighters on your lawn.  What was that like for to you wake up and see that?

DEBBIE SELDEN, CALABASAS, CA, RESIDENT:  We woke up at about 4:30 in the morning.  The sheriffs were evacuating Malibu Canyon apartments below us.  At that point, we had about six fire engines that came up onto our street.  And you know, you think that‘s comforting, but the fact that they were so close just was—it was just absolutely nerve-wracking.  We sat and watched the fire crest up over the hill of Los Virgenes (ph).  And it was just an amazing sight.  The fire line just went for miles.  It just seemed like it had no end.

COSBY:  Yes, what did it look like?  And also, what did it smell like?  I understand you‘ve got some smoke in your house, or at least the smell of it.

SELDEN:  At first, it didn‘t smell because we were really, really lucky with the winds.  But towards the end, after—with all the water-dropping helicopters and the super-scoopers, when the air started to lay down, it was very thick and smoky.  And now the inside of the house—it smells like a cigar convention went on in there.  Everything stinks.

COSBY:  What about the rest of your neighborhood?

SELDEN:  My neighborhood, thank God, was saved.  The fire department did a great job.  My brother and my boyfriend stayed by to make sure everything was OK and helped them.  And it‘s just amazing.  When you stand in my house, everything—everything I can see around my house is burned.  It‘s like God protected us in a little bubble, and we‘re really very thankful.

COSBY:  Now, there‘s some evacuation orders, I know, in some areas.  Were you ever told you got to get out of your house?  Or did you feel like you had to?

SELDEN:  At 4:30 in the morning, they evacuated below us and behind us.  They (INAUDIBLE) we were under voluntary evacuations until about 4:30.  We started to get nervous then because the fire was getting closer and we were afraid we were going to lose the air support that we had.  So as—after it crossed over Los Virgenes, we started to get very nervous.  And then the sheriffs came by, and it was a mandatory evacuation.  And at that point, I left with my dogs and my child, and that was when I started to—you know, you look around your house and you think of what you packed, which was papers and photos, and you just think, Oh, my God, I‘m leaving, and I don‘t know if anything is going to be here when I get back.

COSBY:  What is it like for you facing this every year? 

Unfortunately, this is also the beginning of fire season.

SELDEN:  At this point, for me, the area around me is so thoroughly burned that I don‘t really think I have to worry anymore.  But I‘ve lived there for 18 years, and I‘ve never seen anything like it.  I‘ve been through two fires that burned all the way through to the beach, and it—I don‘t know.  It—I walked in my house and started crying because I was so happy that I just really—you take for granted so much, and it was just a blessing to be able to go back in that house and be there.

COSBY:  Well, I‘m glad your house is safe and sound and also that of your neighbors.  Debbie, thank you for sharing your story us.

SELDEN:  Thank you so much.

COSBY:  Well, is there any hope for the people whose homes are being threatened by the flames?  Jeff Ranieri with NBC Weather Plus has more on the latest on the conditions out west—Jeff.

JEFF RANIERI, NBC WEATHER PLUS:  We certainly have seen weather conditions improve throughout the Southwest today, helping the firefighting effort, helping to get it a little bit more contained.  We had highs in Los Angeles in the mid-80s.  Still very hot in those desert areas, with 101 in Palm Springs, 80 in San Diego.  But these temperatures have decreased by about 10 to 15 degrees from what we had on Thursday.

Humidity values also up, as well, still relatively low, but certainly not dealing with humidity values in the single digits for a lot of the Southwest.  The lower the humidity level, the drier the air is, and the more that can help to fan the fires.  So with those levels increasing, temperatures decreasing, we are going to see much better effects in terms of fighting the fires.

Now, winds have primarily been out of the north for today, but the key thing here is that as we head into the weekend, we are going to start to see those winds shift, which should help to get this fire contained better than that 20 percent we are at right now.  The winds will be coming more out of the west, giving us an onshore flow, help from the Pacific Ocean, Pacific cooling, which will also bring in cloud cover over Saturday, Sunday and Monday.  Temperatures should be dropping into the 70s, with humidity values increasing, all signs pointing towards Mother Nature helping us with this fire over the next several days.

Here‘s a look at our temperatures we can expect on Saturday, 73 degrees in Los Angeles, a huge departure from our triple-digit temperatures we had on Thursday.  Still hot in the desert areas, as it always is this time of year.  And San Diego looking for 73.  So certainly, much better in terms of our weather situation as we head into the upcoming weekend.

That‘s the latest from here, Rita.  Back to you.

COSBY:  And Jeff, thanks so much.

And coming up, you‘re going to hear a shocking 911 call that started the hunt for a suspected triple murderer.  Police worry he could strike again.  And that‘s just the beginning of what we‘ve got on tap tonight.

Still ahead, frightening new information about the man accused of killing a 13-year-old girl.  Now we‘re hearing he may have a hit list and a violent plan to end his time on the run.

And a LIVE AND DIRECT exclusive, the first word from accused courthouse killer George Hyatte.  Just a few hours ago, we received a letter Hyatte wrote directly to us.  Wait until you hear what he‘s saying to the victims‘ families.

And an eyewitness who captured the final moments before an undercover bust turns deadly.  She‘ll tell us what she saw seconds before one cop killed another.

It‘s all ahead LIVE AND DIRECT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

LINDA WILSON, KATELIND‘S GRANDMOTHER:  I don‘t know!  I heard two bangs!  She‘s laying on the floor with blood all over her head!  Please!  Oh, God!  Oh!

(END AUDIO CLIP)

COSBY:  That was the dramatic 911 call from the night that 13-year-old Katelind Caudill‘s grandmother found her in the wee hours of the morning.  She had been killed just days after telling police that her best friend was being molested.  And this is the man that she pointed out to police, Melvin Keeling, the same man that they believe killed Katelind and possibly two other people.  And if he‘s the killer, police worry that the killing may not be over.  Right now, there is a massive manhunt on for Keeling.  We‘re going to get to some exclusive information that we have learned about Keeling in just a moment.

But first, joining me live is Katelind‘s grandmother, Linda Wilson, who made that dramatic 911 call, also her aunt, Franki Phelps, and for the first time with us is Katelind‘s mother, Gina Eaton.

Linda, I‘ve got to start with you because, you know, when you think back to that morning when you had to make that 911 call, it must be painful to relive, Linda.

WILSON:  Yes, it is.

COSBY:  You know, I want to show another chunk because it seems right away, you know, everybody, you zeroed in on Melvin Keeling.  Let me play another chunk and then get your reaction.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

911 OPERATOR:  Now, do you think you might know who it might have been?  Has she been fighting with anybody, an angry boyfriend?

WILSON:  Oh!  We‘ve—we‘ve been into it with Melvin in the back here.

911 OPERATOR:  With Melvin?

WILSON:  He molested his children, Veronica‘s children.  That‘s the only thing I can think of!

(END AUDIO CLIP)

COSBY:  Linda, why did you believe right away that Melvin was responsible?

WILSON:  Because there was no one else that would have done anything like that.  There was no one.  Everyone loved Katie.  We get along with people.  And the only thing that was—we were arguing with Melvin and had a thing ongoing with him for a while.  So you know, it had to be him.  There was no one else.

COSBY:  And Gina, I want to bring you in because I‘m sure this was just so difficult of you, as we‘re looking, you know, at some home video of your beautiful little girl.  How did you find out that she was killed?

GINA EATON, KATELIND‘S MOTHER:  Actually, I got a call from Franki about 7:00 o‘clock in the morning, telling me to—I needed to get to my mother‘s, that Katelind had been shot.  It actually wasn‘t until I got there, you know, and realized that there was no ambulance there—you know, and I asked Franki, I said, Where is she?  And Franki just yelled, She‘s gone!  You know, never in my mind would I ever have thought that someone would actually walk into our home and kill my child.

COSBY:  I‘m sure it is the worst nightmare anyone could ever imagine, especially a mother, and I know you loved your daughter very much.  What did Katelind tell you about Melvin Keeling and also his relationship with his own stepdaughter?

EATON:  Katelind had just told us the things that, you know, Tiffany (ph) had relayed to her.  This had actually gone on for months that he was doing things to her.  She would not go into detail as to what was happening.  Probably a week before Katelind was actually shot, she had confided in Franki as to, you know, the events that had actually he had done to her.  And that‘s when we decided to bring the police into it because something had to be done about it.

COSBY:  You bet.  And we‘re looking at some great pictures here of your beautiful daughter with you, Gina.  And Franki, you know, she actually told you—as we‘re looking at pictures of Katelind—what happened, right?  She actually said, you know, Tiffany said she‘s being molested, right?

FRANKI PHELPS, KATELIND‘S AUNT:  She did.  I asked her—I pulled her to the side after Melvin and I had words, and pulled her to the side.  And I asked her, you know, I need to know so we can protect you.  I need to know what he has done to you.  And I asked her specific questions, and she said yes to several things that I asked her.  And I told her right then, You won‘t go back.  You won‘t go back.  You won‘t ever have to go back there to him.

COSBY:  All of you, please stay with us.  And I want to bring in right now bounty hunter Duane “Dog” Chapman, who has some shocking news that I think the family has to hear.  Dog, what have you learned from your contacts about a possible hit list that this monster has?

DUANE “DOG” CHAPMAN, BOUNTY HUNTER:  Yes, Rita.  You know, through my sources—I‘m looking at my notes here—after the murder, Melvin went to his wife‘s workplace and met with his wife.  His wife told him to turn himself in.  Then Melvin went to his mother‘s house, OK?  At his mother‘s house, his mother noticed that, Rita, he had more than one gun.  What he did was had a hit list of five people on the list.  The mother, of course, told him, you know, Melvin, turn yourself in, same as his wife.

Melvin then wrote a will out and gave it to his mother.  In the will, he said he wanted to be cremated, you know, so on and so forth, and said that he was going to shoot it out with the cops, that he was not going to kill himself but that he had a hit list of five people.  On the five people, of course, is, you know, the one little girl as a victim.  There were two or three other people.  Now, of course I have not seen the hit list, so I can‘t confirm, but I think, you know, a couple of family members were on it.  The—his stepdaughter is on the list, I‘ve heard.  And he has vowed to get these people before he goes down.

My sources say, Dog, this guy is a killer.  He has not left the area.  If he has, he‘s coming back.  And I‘d like to, you know, ask Melvin, if he‘s watching—and we think he is—Melvin, who‘s Mark?  Who is Mark that you left your mother‘s house with?

COSBY:  And Dog...

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  And Dog, just so (INAUDIBLE) and just so everybody knows, that‘s because, what, you got a tip that he had left with someone?

CHAPMAN:  Correct.  When he was at his mother‘s house, he left with a guy named Mark.  Now, I have the last name.  So you know, we‘re—Rita, we‘re right on him.  You know, he‘s right—he left with this guy named Mark.  He has this hit list with him.  He—the mother has the will.  So you know, this guy said he‘s not going to commit suicide, but he‘s going to make the cops shoot him.  And again, I say he has more than one gun.

COSBY:  Oh, this is frightening!  You know, Franki, you know, as a family member—and I know you were on our show the other night, worried about this—this has got to be upsetting to hear that this monster is—you know, is -- (INAUDIBLE) his intentions.

PHELPS:  It‘s very frightening.  I think I‘m more afraid now than I was before.  Somebody please has to stop him.  They have to catch him.  Somebody, please turn him in.

COSBY:  And that‘s exactly why we‘ve got Dog on this show.  And that‘s why we want to—in fact, let‘s bring in, if we could, Lieutenant Kurt Byrd.  He is with the Cincinnati Police Department.  Lieutenant Byrd, can you guarantee, first of all, most importantly, because we hear this news, that this family, this beautiful family‘s going to be safe?

LT. KURT BYRD, HAMILTON CO., CINCINNATI POLICE DEPARTMENT:  Well, what I can tell you, Rita—actually, the family is outside of our jurisdiction.  The homicide, the ugly murder of their daughter, occurred outside of our jurisdiction.

COSBY:  Will you make sure...

BYRD:  I can tell you, here in the city...

COSBY:  Will you make sure, Lieutenant, that at least, you know, someone with the other departments, at least the appropriate...

(CROSSTALK)

BYRD:  Absolutely.  We‘ve remained in contact with the sheriff there in that county.  I can tell you, in our jurisdiction, we‘ve made many radio runs to a (INAUDIBLE) for people who have thought they had seen him in our area, one particular yesterday.  Actually, it almost came to shots fired by our officer.  There was a person who was identified to be him.  The car was from Gary, Indiana.  We know he had left the car there at some point.  When our officers confronted this man, he would not take his hands out of his pockets.  And ultimately, when enough cars were on the scene, they had him trapped.  They were able to get him under arrest.  They did find a loaded, cocked semi-automatic pistol in his pocket when they were able to get him in handcuffs.  The shame about it was that it wasn‘t Melvin.

COSBY:  Right.  It turned out not to be.  But Lieutenant Byrd, we heard this new information, you know, from Dog tonight, particularly that he may have left with a co-worker.  Have you heard anything like that?

BYRD:  Well, again, I have not heard that, but it‘s—that—the investigation is actually outside of our jurisdiction.  It‘s one county away from us.  We‘ve been assisting them in any way we can because he‘s been known to be in our area and hang in our area and have friends in our area.  And that‘s what we‘re in here for.  That‘s what I‘m here for, is to let you know that we are, from the city of Cincinnati, absolutely working the area—the areas he‘s been known to hang.  And we‘ve got all our undercover officers and everybody else working on this case in our area.

COSBY:  And I would imagine, Lieutenant, it‘s also very concerning for you, you know, as a law enforcement (INAUDIBLE) obviously, this man is now accused of killing three people, and to then hear that information from Dog that he‘s talking sort of about going down with guns blazing, suicide by cop, if you will.  That‘s got to be very concerning for your officers in your county and elsewhere, right?

BYRD:  Absolutely.  And that‘s—and that‘s again, like yesterday—and I‘ve said it before in some of the other interviews—it appears that he has nothing to lose, and he may be looking to go with a suicide by cop or trying to take a cop with him.  And certainly, we‘re going to do everything within our power to keep him from doing that.

COSBY:  Dog, do you believe that you‘re hot on the scent of this guy? 

Sounds like you got some leads.

CHAPMAN:  Rita, I believe we‘re hot on the scent.  And Rita—you know, I don‘t care who catches this guy.  I was told by my sources that—the exact words were, Dog, you better wear more than a bulletproof vest.  You better wear a bulletproof helmet because this guy is a head shooter.  And obviously, as we see, he is.  I don‘t care who catches him, but the guy must be caught right away.

I‘ve—also, Rita, I want to add that my sources tell me that he‘s like a survivalist.  So if there‘s a wooded area, my source tells me he absolutely could hide in there.  He‘ll come out.  But his main goal, his last statement to his mother is that, I‘m going to get everybody on the list.  And I hope law enforcement—I‘m right now trying to locate the mother.  I hope they can locate the mom and talk to her because it sounds like the mom, if someone would talk to her, would work with the police department.

COSBY:  You bet.  And that‘s Melvin Keeling‘s mom.

Let me bring in, you know, Gina, of course, the mother of this beautiful little girl.  I want to ask all three of you because we are just hoping and praying for this man, who is obviously incredibly dangerous, after the information that Dog got and with the hit list—I‘d love to just go through each one of you.  If someone out there, especially if a friend or a family member or a co-worker, this guy, Mark, is helping him tonight...

Let me start with you, if I could, first, Franki.  What do you want to say to anyone who‘s helping him or Melvin Keeling, if he‘s watching tonight?

PHELPS:  Well, like I said before, you know, we are in fear.  He killed a 13-year-old girl and two other women for what reason?  There was no reason.  He just shot them.  He has to be stopped.  He‘s not a human being.  He‘s on this earth taking oxygen for decent people.  He needs to be taken out.  Somebody please turn him in.  He‘s not worth it.

COSBY:  Linda, what would you like to say, too?

WILSON:  Just the same thing.  I just—I really don‘t have words to express my feelings right now.

COSBY:  If there‘s anything that someone at home—if there is anyone helping him, particularly, what do you want to say, as a grandmother who obviously loved her?

WILSON:  I say, if you‘re helping him, then you‘re no better than he is.  And you don‘t have a heart, either.  And we need to get him off this earth.  I hate him.  But somebody—he‘s got to be stopped.  Whoever‘s helping him, please, please find some conscience somewhere and tell.  Call the police.  Call anybody.  Get him off this earth before he kills again.

COSBY:  You bet.  And Gina?  If there‘s something that someone has seen anything, as we‘re showing a picture of Melvin—and we are just praying that he, of course, gets captured soon.  Gina, what would you like to say?

EATON:  You know, the same thing.  Just, you know, somebody please turn him in.  You know, you have to have a conscience.  He has killed three innocent people.  You know, to blatantly walk into somebody‘s home, you know, while other members are sleeping and to shoot someone in cold blood - - you know, somebody has to know.  Somebody has to be helping him.  He has no vehicle, no money.  Somebody has to turn him in.  No human in their right mind could do this to somebody and not care.

COSBY:  You bet.  Well, all of you, we care very much.  And Lieutenant Byrd, thank you.  I hope you and the feds and any other local agency—please protect this family.  And Dog, keep up the great work.  I hope you get him soon.  And please keep us posted.  We will do whatever we can to help all of you.  Thank you so much.

And coming up, everybody, we‘re going to head to the front lines of the wildfires raging in California for the latest on this breaking story.  Plus, incredible images you will only see here.

And disturbing developments in the case of a missing college student, as police find a box of bones and a machete in her ex-boyfriend‘s apartment.  The girl‘s mother is going to join us live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I try (ph) not to worry, it‘s just that the 24 have been panicked, frantic, packed, stop (ph). 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  And we want to go back now to the breaking news out of California.  New developments at this hour in those massive fires burning in California.  We‘re joined now by KNBC pilot reporter Jim Holcomb.  He‘s live in the air for us tonight.  Jim, what are you seeing from your vantage point? 

JIM HOLCOMB, KNBC PILOT REPORTER:  Well, Rita, right now, we‘re at about 6,000 feet—a little more than 6,000 feet over the Burbank fire that took off yesterday.  It started with just 10 acres and over the night it went into 50 acres.  And right now it‘s at 700 acres, so it‘s quite a large fire.  And it‘s starting to resemble the Topanga fire in the respect that it‘s spreading out and it‘s got a lot of hot spots both on the flanks as well as in the middle. 

Right now the fire is burning up some very steep terrain towards the

community of La Crescenta.  It has crested the hill to see whether it goes

how far it goes on the downside is going to be just a matter of time and to see how the wind cooperates. 

There‘s a natural break with the 210 freeway before it actually gets to the major portions of the residences, but firefighters are battling this as virulently as they can.  They‘ve got the CL-415 super scoopers as well as the Erickson Sky Cranes and along with L.A. County fire department, the L.A. city department, and the California Division of Forestry are all working on this fire. 

COSBY:  You know, Jim, talk about—you talked about that 210 freeway sort of being the break off point before it really hits the residents.  Are you seeing residents scrambling getting out? 

HOLCOMB:  We understand there‘s voluntary evacuations in progress.  I don‘t know of any mandatory evacuations at this time because, once again, it‘s got to go back downhill.  And, of course, you know, the fire burns a little slower downhill. 

And we‘re being aided right now because there‘s little wind and it‘s mostly a terrain-driven fire, meaning that the—as it burns up the hill, it‘s burning much quicker.  Now we‘ll have to see exactly what happens after dark.  And remember, typically, a fire tends to lay down after dark.  So this could help the firefighters in that respect. 

COSBY:  And Jim, you know, on one side of the screen, I want to tell our viewers we‘re showing the live picture that you‘re taking right now.  On the other side, are some incredible other pictures that you‘ve been taking just the last day or so of the fires.  How dramatic is it for to you see from the sky? 

HOLCOMB:  Well, right now, the Topanga fire that was burning the last couple of days, it‘s about 20 miles away from us.  It‘s consumed 21,000 acres.  It‘s got a 20 percent containment right now.  The good news on that is that there were only seven structures were lost.  Two of them were homes. 

And as far as we know, there was only one injury, and that was to a firefighter.  So the loss has been kept down quite a bit in that fire.  In this fire over here in Burbank, once again, there‘s no homes actually in the path of the fire right now, so we‘re hoping that they can contain it at least at the 210 freeway. 

COSBY:  Jim Holcomb, thank you very much for sharing these great pictures with us.  Incredible to see mother nature very much. 

And one man who has gotten up close and personal with the California wildfires including Jim is somebody else in the past few days.  And he has the still pictures to prove it.  LIVE & DIRECT tonight from Thousand Oaks, California is Al Seib.  He is a photographer with the “L.A. Times.”  Al, we‘re looking at some of these amazing pictures.  How bad it was out there when you shot these? 

AL SEIB, “L.A. TIMES” PHOTOGRAPHER: Thank you. 

COSBY:  What was it like when you were out there in the thick of it? 

SEIB:  At times it was difficult.  The thing that‘s difficult about this fire is the breadth of where it‘s at.  And being on the ground, it‘s hard to know exactly where this fire was going to go. 

And so logistically, it was you have to get a handle on it since we‘re not aided by, you know, being up in a helicopter to look at it.  And from the ground level trying to see and stay ahead of where the flames and the smoke is going, that was the biggest thing is logistics. 

COSBY:  Yes, and you know, as you pointed out, you‘re literally there on the ground.  How intense is the heat?  And how nervous were you about your own safety? 

SEIB:  You know, to be honest, not as concerned.  I would be concerned about my own safety but I had so much confidence in the firefighters and their abilities which are the people that I tend to hang around with.  And they had such a great handle on this. 

You could see the flames marching as they come through the real dense brush but the firefighters knew—and I‘ve had a lot experience covering fires—that as soon as it hits no fuel, and it sets down and the intensity drops rather quickly.  And that‘s what protected a lot of the structures on a natural front, that the homeowners have the brush clearance.  And then, secondly, the firefighters were right there at the ready. 

COSBY:  Yes, you know, you talked about the fire crews that you got to spend a lot of time with.  It‘s amazing to see these guys in action.  How are they holding up? 

SEIB:  You know, they seem to be holding up really great.  They‘re coming from all over the state and all over the area and they‘re an amazing crew.  They‘re doing a terrific job and also, you know, they‘re probably not unsung heroes, but the real in part heroes are the guys in the aircraft because the drops that they‘ve been making have been amazing, with the precision that you see the aerial drops of water and phoscheck and that.  It‘s amazing to see the pilots do their jobs. 

COSBY:  Yes, it is.  And real quickly, what is sort of the most shocking—sort of the worst damage you‘ve seen so far? 

SEIB:  Well, I understand—I think there were two single-family homes and a couple of out buildings.  And I haven‘t seen those.  All I‘ve seen really is charred hillside.  A lot of it is back country, 21,000 acres.  But in this area, there‘s a lot of that open land, range land, that hasn‘t burned in a long time. 

So to some degree, firefighters let it burn.  Why fight it over there?  They do structure—you know, the protective structure is the houses.  And I didn‘t see any houses get damaged in any way, so I didn‘t see anything that horrific, just charred hillside.  But that‘s part of a natural process out here. 

COSBY:  Well, that‘s nice to hear.  It‘s nice to hear that the homes at least what you saw weren‘t damaged.  Al Seib, some amazing pictures.  Thank you for sharing them with us. 

SEIB:  Well, thank you. 

COSBY:  Thank you. 

And some shocking developments tonight in the case of missing Virginia University student Taylor Behl.  She disappeared more than three weeks ago.  And now tonight, police say that they‘ve discovered some bizarre items in Ben Fawley‘s apartment, the man who at one point was a person of interest in this case. 

Joining me now is Taylor‘s mother, Janet Pelasara, and also her attorney, George Peterson.  Janet, let me show just sort of—this is a list of things that were actually found in Ben Fawley‘s apartment—really stunning. 

I mean, fabric from a mattress that authorities are saying may be stained with blood, a cell phone that they say may belong to Taylor, a .32 caliber cartridge, also a machete, a box of bones and several student IDs.  Janet, I‘m sure you‘re just shaking your head.  This has got to be concerning for you. 

JANET PELASARA, TAYLOR‘S MOTHER:  This has been the most upsetting news that I‘ve received.  Hearing that there‘s blood, that there‘s women‘s clothes, the hammer and—that things that he threw away that they found in his trash can are just very, very upsetting. 

COSBY:  Have they given you any sense, Janet—I mean, the fact that they‘re saying the cell phone may belong to Taylor.  Have they given you anything more concrete to say—confirming that it is, indeed?  I mean, you just check the phone number on it.  That‘s pretty easy to confirm. 

PELASARA:  Right, no.  All I know is that I think there‘s three cell phones that they found.  Is that what the list says?

COSBY:  Yes, I think—I know it was several cell phones. 

PELASARA:  And no, I don‘t know if any of them are Taylor‘s.  They‘ve not confirmed any of that with me. 

COSBY:  Had they given you, Janet, any indication to know if this is just, you know, obviously a crazy, wacky person or indeed anything in there is tied to her, whether it‘s cell phones or something else? 

PELASARA:  They haven‘t confirmed anything belonged to Taylor, but I know they‘re doing their testings, their forensic testings.  And I‘m sure they‘re testing the—what they think is blood.  And I‘m sure they‘re trying to—and they took cigarette butts and so I‘m sure they‘re trying to see if any of this could be belonging to Taylor. 

COSBY:  I hope you get some answers soon.  Mr. Peterson, your attorney, stands out in your mind when you hear the sort of lists and apparently some other things?  What, some sex toys were found too? 

GEORGE PETERSON, PELASARA‘S ATTORNEY:  Well, there were, and there was apparently some chains and straps.  And you mentioned before that there was a bag of bones that was seized.  We‘re not sure whether those were human or whether they were animal.  It certainly is very disturbing, but keep in mind we don‘t have any evidence at this point that he has anything to do with Taylor‘s disappearance. 

There‘s certainly a lot of suspicious circumstances around Ben Fawley, the 38-year-old man who was arrested on 16 counts of child pornography.  And that‘s what he‘s currently sitting in jail for.  But we certainly don‘t have any evidence that he‘s actually involved at this point, although we do have suspicions. 

COSBY:  Yes, and it sounds like the family still believes that he‘s tied somehow.  Janet, let me bring you in because does it bother you that right now he‘s not technically a person of interest given everything that‘s been happening here? 

PELASARA:  I think that it‘s just the term person of interest that‘s been deleted, but I know that he‘s still being looked at and so are several other people. 

COSBY:  And real quick, have they told you when you may get answers on these items in the home?  Have they given you any sense of timing? 

PELASARA:  No, and I don‘t usually press them for time since I‘m in contact with them—with the Richmond police daily.  They give me what they can and I share with the media what I can.  So when I know something and I can share it, I certainly will. 

COSBY:  Well, thank you, and please let us know whatever we can do to help, Janet.

PELASARA:  Thank you, Rita.

COSBY:  Thank you very much and, Mr. Peterson, thank you too. 

Still ahead, everybody, an undercover bust turns deadly.  One of the officers of the law killed another one.  Now, an eyewitness shows her eye-opening photos of what really happened.  She‘s going to share them with us. 

Plus, a LIVE & DIRECT exclusive.  Accused courthouse killer George Hyatte tells us what he says really happened when there was a nationwide cross country manhunt out for him.  Plus, wait until you hear what he says he wants to stay to the victim‘s family.  That‘s coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  And tonight, some shocking photos of an undercover bust gone horribly wrong.  One police officer ends up shooting another.  Take a look at these pictures that we have.  These photographs show the final moments before the death of a University of Central Florida policeman. 

This is officer Mario Jenkins, gun drawn just moments before being shot by an Orlando, Florida cop.  Jenkins was working undercover during a football game.  Melissa Castora took the photos and she joins me now, along with Ashley Burns, with the “Central Florida Future,” the newspaper that first published the photo.  Melissa, why did you take the camera out?  Did you have any idea what was happening at the time? 

MELISSA CASTORA, PHOTOGRAPHER POLICE SHOOTING:  Someone had said that there was a man with a gun in the crowd.  I already had my camera out ready to take pictures of good times, but unfortunately this situation unfolded, and I was already there with the camera. 

COSBY:  Oh my gosh.  And did you have any idea as we look at this pictures, the green shirt, of course, is officer Mario Jenkins, now it turns out, an undercover officer.  Did anybody know it was a cop? 

CASTORA:  Not at the time it was happening, I didn‘t know that he was an officer. 

COSBY:  You didn‘t?  And when did you learn that he was? 

CASTORA:  I‘m not really sure to be honest with you.  I think the word spread pretty quickly right after it happened. 

COSBY:  What was the reaction in the crowd?  And what was your reaction as you were seeing this unfold? 

CASTORA:  It was surreal.  I didn‘t know what to think at first.  I mean, everyone was in shock. 

COSBY:  And how many people were around?  It looks like a big crowd.  This was tailgating.  This was just, you know, a moment—give us a sense of how many folks were around and what was going on at the time. 

CASTORA:  UCF is a pretty large school, so thee was a lot of people tailgating.  I mean, it was a full parking lot full of people tailgating, so there was a lot of people around.

COSBY:  Oh, it must have just been stunning.  What went through your

mine when you captured the shot, if we can go back to, you know, the shot -

there he is. 

CASTORA:  I was just trying to take as many pictures as quickly as possible.  I was trying to take more than I was able to get.  I wasn‘t really thinking about what happened.  I mean, I really didn‘t know what happened until afterwards.

COSBY:  Oh, that must have been stunning.  Ashley, how are students handling what happened on campus, and you know, just a tragic accident.

ASHLEY BURNS, “CENTRAL FLORIDA FUTURE”:  It‘s a heavy grieving process, actually, because a lot of the students had a great relationship with Mario.  He was—he was just a spectacular person, and he was very friendly with the student body, especially the Greeks, and it‘s just a very somber attitude on campus right now.

COSBY:  Do they have a sense of sort of what went wrong?  We had a guest on the other night that said that they though maybe Mario was wearing the opposing school‘s colors, there was some confusion.  Do you have any sense of what sort of triggered this horrible, you know, train of events? 

BURNS:  Well, as long as I‘ve known Mario, I would know that it would take something very drastic for him to have drawn his gun, but we do know from eyewitness accounts—and we‘ve talked to over 20 eyewitnesses with our newspaper—and we do know that his badge was out the entire time that this scuffle was going on and, in fact, it‘s been reported he was IDing underaged drinkers when in fact we know when he went into the crowd, he was there actually breaking up a fight. 

COSBY:  Oh, well, I know the cops are investigating this just tragic accident of a cop killing, unfortunately another cop. 

And coming up, an accused courthouse killer, George Hyatte, tells us exclusively about his deadly getaway next on LIVE & DIRECT. 

And an update on the raging wildfires in California.  As many as 2,000 homes in danger.  We‘re going to give you some late breaking details coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  And tonight a LIVE & DIRECT exclusive.  Just a few hours ago we received a stunning letter from the man accused in the Tennessee Courthouse shooting.  George Hyatte and his wife were on the run after he got lose in a violent getaway.  Both of them had a courthouse appearance today.  In a handwritten letter that he addressed to us—and this is exclusively to us—he talks about himself and his wife saying, “I‘ll assure you, you‘ll see we‘re not the monsters you think.”  He further tries to explain the actions saying, “We‘re good-loving people who have had it hard as regard to matters of the heart and found each other and the greatest love in this world and wanted desperately to full share it with each other.  But would never intentionally take a precious human life to get it.”  Again, a quote from our exclusive letter from George Hyatte.

And joining me now on the phone is Roane County, Tennessee, Sheriff Dave Haggard.  Sheriff, first of all, what do you think of George Hyatte and do you believe—in his letter he says he didn‘t have any intent. 

DAVID HAGGARD, SHERIFF, ROANE COUNTRY, TN:  He can say in his letter whatever he wants, but the proof is there, the intent was there, the premeditation was there, and there‘s a corrections officer dead, and his family doesn‘t have him anymore. 

COSBY:  And that officer is of course Officer Morgan.  I want to read another quick line in the letter that George Hyatte sent us—in the exclusive letter—he says, “Please tell the Morgan family we‘re very sorry and tell my wife I love her more than anything.”  Have you seen any signs of remorse, Sheriff? 

HAGGARD:  From what I saw of their appearance today in the courtroom, I didn‘t see any remorse or regret.  They were apparently calm and occasionally got to smile at each other. 

COSBY:  I understand there was also some emotional things happening behind the scenes, Sheriff, that he did.  He sort of erupted at one point?  Tell us about that appearance. 

HAGGARD:  The Hyattes were brought into the courthouse earlier than the court was open and they were going to have a chance to be with their attorneys, and apparently his attorney hadn‘t arrived on his schedule to suit him, so he had a short outburst of some profanity and some bad behavior, and the Tennessee Corrections Department officers escorted him out of the courthouse and counseled him for a few minutes and brought him back.  He had a change of attitude and then they took him on into the courtroom later. 

COSBY:  Let me show another quote from the letter:  he says, “I tried to do the right thing when I saw that Mr. Morgan”—this is the officer—

“had died and stayed in the hotel ... we didn‘t just get caught.  We just held each other as long as we could and waited.”  This is when all the officers cornered—swooned (sic) in on him, especially the U.S. Marshal Service.  Do you think that they were just waiting to get caught as he phrases it, Sheriff? 

HAGGARD:  I seriously doubt it.  I‘m sure that hotel room had a telephone.  He could have called the authorities anytime he wanted to if he‘d wanted to surrender.

COSBY:  Real quick:  any changes in the security in the court procedure, because that was such a horrible accident that happened to the officer? 

HAGGARD:  We had a lot more security for the hearing this morning.  Like I said earlier, you know, we‘re available, you know, when the Tennessee Department of Corrections feels they need any extra security, they can notify us and we‘ll provide it for them. 

COSBY:  Sheriff Haggard, thank you very much for being with us, sir. 

We appreciate it.

When we come back, some new pictures of the wildfires in California and an update on whether anymore homes are in danger tonight. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  And now back to the top story tonight.  Parts of California are still burning at this hour after another day of battling ferocious blazes.  The largest wildfire has already destroyed about 21,000 acres.  Two homes have been destroyed but 2,000 more could still be at risk.  Mandatory evacuation orders have been lifted in some places but remain in effect elsewhere.  Firefighters say right now about 25 percent of the blazes have been contained.  Meanwhile, the newest worry is that fires in the hills of Burbank, overlooking L.A.  The flames have consumed over 500 acres so far.  Luckily there no homes are in danger.  Fire crews are hoping that improving weather conditions could help them fight the flames in the coming days. 

Before we go tonight we want to let you know about a very special event that I‘m going to be taking part in tomorrow night.  You‘re going to be able to see it right here on MSNBC.  I‘m going to be heading to Mississippi for a special fundraising concert and telethon called Mississippi Rising.  Also working with me on this big event, a lot of celebrities:  Morgan Freeman, Whoopi Goldberg and Ray Romano.  All the donations raised tomorrow night will go to the Mississippi Hurricane Relief Fund, and also Louisiana as well.  It is a great cause, and having witnessed the destruction of Katrina firsthand, I hope all of you are going to tune in and be generous as possible to help all those folks who have lost so much.  And I do hope you tune in.

That does it for me tonight.  Scarborough Country is going to start right now.  It has a guest host, the lovely and talented and charming Monica Crowley, and the show starts right now.

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

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2005 NBC.  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 NBC 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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