JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, special one-hour SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY investigation. George Smith III, disappeared on July 5. Now, passengers tell us what they heard that night. His wife tells us what she knows about that night, and his grieving family on what they are demanding from that night, justice for George.
Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, no passport required, only common sense allowed.
Thanks for being with us tonight. On June 25, George Smith married Jennifer Hagel. It was a storybook wedding, a picture book ceremony in Newport, Rhode Island. And the couple set out on the perfect romantic cruise in the Mediterranean, ready to begin their wonderful life together. But in the early morning hours of July 5, as a Royal Caribbean ship sailed from Greece to Turkey, passengers reported hearing a loud thud in the middle of the night. Another passenger took this photo of a blood stain on an awning just below the Smith's cabin.
And when everybody awoke that morning, George Smith was gone. What followed can only be described as a botched investigation. With a scene that was cleaned up by the cruise line. With witnesses who were interrogated by Turkish authorities with a screaming baby in the room. And with a ship that hurriedly left the Turkish port as if nothing had ever happened the night before.
We are going to be spending the full hour examining the mystery of George Smith's death and the mystery of the investigation into what happened, and we are going to be raising some big questions about how the cruise industry protects passengers. But first, at the heart of this story is a tale of two young people who loved each other very much. Last week, five months after her husband disappeared, Jennifer Hagel Smith finally broke her silence and sat down with us in Washington. And she told me about her husband, George.
JENNIFER HAGEL SMITH, GEORGE SMITH IIII'S WIFE: George really was the all-American guy. George had it all. He was funny and romantic and handsome. He was a good friend, he is a loyal person. He is the type of person that you are proud to bring home to mom and dad. My dad was so proud to say yes when he asked me for my hand in marriage.
SCARBOROUGH: Did George do that? Did he ask your dad .
J. H. SMITH: Yes.
SCARBOROUGH: Your dad's a big guy. I would be very polite when I asked your dad. But he .
J. H. SMITH: He did. And my dad actually couldn't—barely contain himself. He ended up telling a few people. Not my mother. She was furious that she found out last. But, yeah, he was really proud of George and proud of us, and everyone was so excited for us, starting our life together. They were—both of our parents were just beaming at our wedding, and it was just the perfect day. It was magical.
Everybody just that was there just said this is something, you know, this is one of those once in a lifetime days, and we are so happy to be a part of it, and it was, it was just that. It was the best day of my life, and George and I were so excited to even come home from our honeymoon to look at wedding pictures and look at our wedding video and just, you know, talk to people and just say, didn't we have such a great time?
SCARBOUGH: So talk about that day.
J. H. SMITH: That day was Mykonos and it was going to be one of our best days. George was so excited. George loves Greece and just couldn't wait to get off the boat that day, so the two of us had walked around for a little bit, and we stopped and had lunch, and we just sat and watched people walking by. And it was just such a breathtaking place that we were saying, can't wait to come back here, and we had visited a couple of ports already, but this was definitely just breathtaking. I kept snapping pictures of George, and he was saying, I think that, you know, 200 pictures was OK. We were only halfway through the trip.
SCARBOROUGH: And he was happy, you were happy.
J. H. SMITH: So happy. And we just said, this is life. And in fact, we were talking about maybe we should buy a time share here, or maybe we should retire here. This is great. And he said, well, maybe. How would our parents feel about that? And George says, I really don't care. It's too beautiful.
SCARBOROUGH: So what really happened that night George disappeared? One of the first and most crucial pieces of information comes from a passenger in the cabin right next door to the honeymoon couple. Clete Hyman told me about what he heard in those early-morning hours before he was even interviewed by the FBI.
CLETE HYMAN, PASSENGER ON CRUISE: Well, our first contact with the couple next door was the second night of the cruise. They appeared to be having quite a party in their room that lasted from about 11:00 at night until well past 3:00 in the morning. Our next time, we would only pass them in the hallways. We really had no contact with them. However, early on the morning of the 5th, at about 4:00 in the morning, we were awoken by a loud .
SCARBOROUGH: Excuse me, Clete. That was the night—The 5th was the night he disappeared, correct?
HYMAN: The morning of the 5th, yes. Night of the 4th, morning of the 5th.
SCARBOUGH: So that's the night—Go ahead. I'm sorry.
HYMAN: Yes. We were awakened about 4:00 in the morning by loud yelling coming from the cabin. It sounded like people cheering, like a drinking contest type thing. There appeared to be numerous people in the room. This went on two separate times that we know of, the one that woke us up and then one about a minute later.
Then all we could hear was loud talking in the room for, oh, probably three minutes. At that point, we heard people just outside of the door of the cabin. It sounded like people maybe saying good night, and it sounded like maybe three or four people.
At that point, we heard talking in the room off and on for the next about five minutes, but then all of a sudden there became some very loud arguing out on the balcony. This went on for a couple of minutes, and then we heard someone saying good night, good night, just repeatedly like they were trying to usher people out of the room. After about, oh, 30 seconds of that, we did hear the cabin door open, and some male voices outside, and then the males went down the hallway.
SCARBOROUGH: You are in there, you are awakened in the middle of the night. You hear voices, a party going on. They took it outside. Soon you said an argument began. I also understand that you heard something that you said sounded like furniture being moved around out there, and then you said—I understand that you heard a thud. Talk about that.
HYMAN: Yes. Well, after the young men left the room, for the next about five minutes, you could hear someone going about the cabin and opening and closing cabinet doors, and it also sounded like they were actually moving furniture around. That went on for, like I said, five to seven minutes, and then .
SCARBOROUGH: What time was that? Clete, what time was that about?
HYMAN: A little after—approximately 4:20 in the morning.
SCARBOROUGH: So they were cleaning up the place, somebody was cleaning up the place at 4:20 in the morning.
HYMAN: Well, that was the assumption I made, that maybe they were straightening up a little bit. However, the noise went out onto the balcony, and you could hear furniture being moved, and then at times it sounded like furniture was being actually picked up and dropped. That they weren't too careful about, you know, the way they were moving the furniture. I only heard one voice in the cabin at that point. This - outside the movement was sporadic. Stuff would be moved. Then there would be some silence. Then furniture would be moved again. Then there was just total silence. This was probably maybe two minutes or so of total silence, and then that horrific thud.
SCARBOROUGH: Talk about that horrific thud.
HYMAN: Well, the thud originally my first thought was someone had fallen on the balcony, but it was way too loud for that.
SCARBOROUGH: So that night you thought somebody may have been—either fallen overboard or been thrown overboard and hit the balcony?
HYMAN: No. At no point did I really—that didn't go into my mind because it actually reverberated in the room and on our balcony, so I thought maybe someone had literally fallen on their balcony or that they had thrown furniture overboard, because of the impact, it sounded like something very heavy, and my first thought was maybe throwing furniture overboard.
SCARBOROUGH: So what happened the next morning when you woke up? Obviously you heard the loud thud, went to sleep. Woke up the next morning. What did you do then?
HYMAN: Well, a little after 7:00 in the morning, I had gone out to look at the scenery on our balcony, as we were pulling into port. And I did look around the partition between our balcony and the balcony of the Smiths, and I was curious whether, in fact, the furniture had been thrown overboard. However, everything was still on the balcony. I noted that the door going into the room was open, but there didn't seem to be anything of any importance.
SCARBOROUGH: So the furniture, all the furniture was still up there, accounted for, so obviously the thud you heard was not a piece of furniture from the balcony. Did you talk to investigators that morning?
HYMAN: No, I did not. We went ahead and went into Kadasi (ph), Turkey, we had a tour, and I did not speak to anyone until we returned.
SCARBOROUGH: As our SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY investigation continues, we will hear from George Smith's parents and sister, who are demanding answers from the cruise line. And, later, Royal Caribbean responds to what Jennifer Hagel Smith—happens to her in the tragic hours after her husband vanished.
SCARBOROUGH: George Smith's family wants answers they filed a lawsuit against the cruise line, and they fought for the recent congressional hearings that rocked the cruise industry. This is a family that kept its silence. Month after month, even as they got no answers from the cruise lines about what really happened to their beloved son. When they were ready to talk, they came and talked to us first.
BREE SMITH, GEORGE SMITH'S SISTER: Jennifer's father called us about 6:30 in the morning, of July 5, and said that something terrible happened to George, and so that's where we learned of the news, but, of course, our initial reaction was, oh, well, maybe he fell asleep someplace.
MAUREEN SMITH, GEORGE SMITH'S MOTHER: Party animal, you know, he likes to party, George does.
B. SMITH: Yeah, he was having the time of his life. He must have fallen asleep somewhere, and I said to Royal Caribbean, I said, he hadn't been missing 24 hours at this point, and I said, have you done a search? And they said, yes, we did a search. I said, will you be doing another search? And they said, no, we have done one search, and we are finished with our search.
And this was before we had heard about the blood on the overhang. And they refused to do any further searches for George, even though he had only been missing not even 24 hours.
I think the hardest part was when we were being told the search was being called off.
M. SMITH: Right, right.
B. SMITH: Because four or five days later, I was pushing to extend the search, and the Greek authorities agreed to extend the search. We were trying to get the U.S. Navy in, and we had contact with a lot of high-level captains and admirals to extend the search, but we were told that if the American vessels went into a foreign water, it would be a declaration of war without their permission.
M. SMITH: When we went to Greece, what was it, a week later? We really still thought maybe he was somewhere. We went to the coast guard, we went to the hospitals. We went all around the hospitals, we put flyers out, didn't we? And we went searching at nighttime, and we left after about a week, because my daughter was alone at home, and we still just couldn't believe it. We couldn't believe that he was gone.
B. SMITH: And to this day, we still can't believe it. If we had the information about what happened to him, or if we had him, then we could sort of move on, but we don't have that, and it's just—the uncertainty is what really eats away at us, I think.
SCARBOROUGH: You talked about your son. Is there a particular time when you miss your brother the most? Is it when you are with him?
B. SMITH: I think it's thinking about how my son is growing up from week to week, and the fact that, you know, George doesn't see this. He sat up by himself a few weeks ago, and George isn't here to see it. His first two teeth came in weeks ago, and George isn't here to see it.
M. SMITH: I miss his phone calls two or three times a day, and he was not a mama's boy, not at all. He was not a mama's boy. He would say, ma, and he would tell me things two or three times a day. And I just had the cell phone, and he's not calling anymore.
GEORGE SMITH III, GEORGE SMITH'S FATHER: Basically I worked with George every day, so you walk in the door in the morning, not there.
SCARBOROUGH: Tell people something you want them to know about George. Let's start with you, Bree.
B. SMITH: I think what was very touching was when I met my son for the first time, because Grayson was born in Hong Kong, and we flew back for the wedding. He took a picture of Grayson on his cell phone, and that was his screen saver, and he emailed the photograph to all of his friends, and I just think, that's one of the most recent things that really touched my heart before we lost George.
SCARBOROUGH: Mrs. Smith, what do you want people to know about your son?
M. SMITH: His kindness. He always bought lovely gifts for people,
didn't he? He always thought out well gifts. Didn't he? He would always
· You would open it, and think, how did he think of this gift? This is what he always did—and his friends coming to me all the time and saying, they have never met such a loyal friend, and the best man came to me the other day and he said to me, I will never have another best friend.
SCARBOROUGH: Mr. Smith, what would you want them to know about George?
G. SMITH: George has been so special to me, working with him and sharing our life.
M. SMITH: He was just .
G. SMITH: He was always there. If I had a problem with the computer, George was there.
M. SMITH: He would get very antsy about it.
G. SMITH: I don't want to do this again. But he was always there for me, and, you know, it's just special.
M. SMITH: We were just a family. And we have broken apart. We have been destroyed, haven't we? And we would like to know why.
SCARBOROUGH: In the weeks after George disappeared, SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY pieced together a timeline of events of what really happened that night. We tracked down guests who were in rooms on both sides of the Smiths, from Clete Hyman, and they told us of the tremendous noise they heard from the Smiths' room in the critical hours that early morning.
GREG, STAYED NEXT DOOR TO THE SMITHS: That night, we were obviously in the cabin next door, and this was the early morning of July 5. We were having a wake-up call early because we were on a day trip that day. Normally that's what we did on the cruise. We went to bed early, got up early. Probably a little different schedule than what you saw of the Smiths. We never saw them. We never ran into them, and we only really knew what they looked like after they got back and saw them in the media, but about, I would say 3:30 in the morning, that fateful morning, there was some voices outside, and it sounded like it was maybe in the hallway.
I heard what I would consider to be an American accented voice of a male, and he said something to the effect of, you know, take it easy, George, or take care, George, and my wife heard more clearly some other male voices, and all I heard—I will let her describe a little bit about those.
SCARBOROUGH: What were they saying, Pat?
PAT, STAYED NEXT DOOR TO SMITHS: Well, all of the voices were very kind. That was the first thing that I noticed. The young boy sounded like a teenager. He did sound like a young voice, and I heard two voices that were a little quieter. I perceived them to be police officers or somebody from the cruise ship, because I did not see them. But I perceived them to be somebody that was helping someone to the room, and they also were speaking very kindly. There was no type of altercation, and my perception at the time was that they were taking someone who was possibly drunk back to their room and getting them settled down. And the words we heard were, settle down, George, and that was that. And that was the last thing that we heard.
SCARBOROUGH: 4:00, though, about 30 minutes later, everything just exploded, and you started hearing things being thrown around the room, is that right?
GREG: Exactly right. What happened maybe 15 minutes, maybe 30 minutes later, after the voices basically stopped, it sounded like somebody in the cabin next door was trashing the room. It sounded to me like somebody was in there just throwing furniture around, and the curious thing about that, during that short period of time, was there were no voices during that episode. It just was a lot of thumping and throwing things around, and that period of time ended with one big thump, and it sounded to me like somebody picked up the couch and threw it against the wall, and then it went quiet. Absolutely quiet.
PAT: I'm sorry.
SCARBOROUGH: Go ahead, pat. I'm sorry. Go ahead. We have a delay here. Go.
PAT: I was going to say the thing that was unusual too, is because we
were looking at each other, and we were thinking, boy, do we have to report
this? Because it was getting a little noisy, and I was saying, what in the
heck are they throwing around? But there was not one voice. There was no
· there were no grunts. There were no sounds of pain. There was no form of altercation in terms of verbalization. It was just physical. That's all that we heard.
SCARBOROUGH: So it didn't sound like a fight was going on. I am wondering, though, you just said it sounded like around 4:15, 4:20, that somebody threw a couch up against the wall. In retrospect, it sounds an awful lot like what Clete Hyman. Around 4:15, he heard a sickening thud. In retrospect, do you think that may have been George's body hitting the deck?
GREG: I think it probably could have been, because I think our stories are consistent in that area, about the same time, and about this one big thud. So I think they are consistent there.
SCARBOROUGH: This is the part of the story that is new. You all obviously—your timeline and Clete Hyman's timeline just is almost lined up right on top of each other. But then you say around 4:30 or so, you heard knocks on the door, and you looked outside of your door, after the thud, and what did you all see?
GREG: Well, yeah, this occurred. The thud, after the thud, it went quiet for a while, and then we heard a little tap, tap, tap at the door. My wife nudged me and said, Greg, there's somebody at the door. I said, no, it's next door. Another tap, tap, tap, she said, there's somebody at the door. I get up, I opened the door, and I lean out, and I see two Royal Caribbean staff members knocking at the door of the George Smith cabin, and there were two of them. I could tell they were Royal Caribbean because the white shirts with the black pants and the R.C. on the shoulder.
And I will tell you exactly what I said to those guys, I said, hey, you guys, you better get in there, because that room is trashed. Now, they didn't say anything, they sort of gave me the hi sign, like, OK, something like that, so I went back to bed, and it went quiet again. Then 15 minutes later, another tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap at the door. I ignored it that time. I stayed in bed, so my conclusion on all of that is they really didn't enter the room, and that's puzzling because something really happened in that room, and I would have expected them to, you know, use their master key or their master card, slightly open the room, and say, this is security. Is there anything wrong in here? That never happened.
SCARBOROUGH: More of Jennifer Hagel Smith's story when this special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY continues. And I asked her about what happened that night. About the Russians that other passengers claim she was with, and about what she thinks really happened to her husband.
And later, the cruise line's response to what Jennifer says they did to her in the tragic hours after her husband vanished.
SCARBOROUGH: Coming up, I ask Jennifer Hagel Smith what happened the night her husband disappeared. And she tells us what happened when she found out he was gone. But first, here's the latest news you and your family needs to know.
SCARBOROUGH: Welcome back. Now, during our interview, Jennifer Hagel Smith was very open, but when we got to the issue of that terrible night when George disappeared, she was guarded. She says because the FBI asked her not to talk while they were ramping up their investigation. But Jennifer was willing to shed some new light on what happened the night George Smith IV, the love of her life, vanished.
SCARBOROUGH: So, let's talk about that night. What can you tell us about that night?
HAGEL SMITH: I know you are doing your job and you have to ask.
But, again, my number-one priority—and I am going to say this again and again—is just, you know, doing what the FBI has told me. And, basically, you know, there's nothing that I am going to sort of release that—that happened to me that night. I am excited in the future to be able to talk freely and openly, because that will mean that the FBI has solved their case.
HAGEL SMITH: And that will mean, you know, that I have freedom to speak and say, you know, whatever.
SCARBOROUGH: How about leading up to that night, the afternoon, the early evening?
HAGEL SMITH: George and I probably got back to the ship, I want to say, around 6:00 p.m., or so.
Times are a little difficult to remember now. But we—you know, we were planning on meeting a friend of ours—or a couple. It was another honeymoon couple that we had became fast friends with, and we were spending probably most of our evenings with them. They had already eaten, so they said, you two go on, and, you know, we will catch up with you later. We will meet you at 11:00.
So, we had this just great dinner, a very romantic dinner. And we were just, you know, toasting to the future, toasting to life, and just saying, God, we are the two luckiest kids in the world. And we kept saying that. And it's ironic now.
HAGEL SMITH: We just kept saying, you know, knock on wood. This is -
· life is so good to us. We are so lucky. You know, we have had so many opportunities in life. And here we are in the Mediterranean, toasting to our future.
And it was, you know, a moment that I will—that I won't forget. And, of course, you know, we met our friends. And the evening goes on, of course, and, obviously...
SCARBOROUGH: At 11:00, did you meet in the restaurant or...
HAGEL SMITH: We all meet together. George and I go back to the room to—quickly.
And then we—on our way up, he wanted to just drop off his sport
coat, because, the other night, when we were—we would usually meet our -
· this other couple. You know, we would go to the casino, meet them, just play at the craps table or play Blackjack for a little while, and call it a night.
This particular night, we did our same routine.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes. HAGEL SMITH: We dropped off George's jacket and came back down, and...
SCARBOROUGH: What time was that, that you dropped off the jacket?
And, again, I know, it's hard to remember exact times.
HAGEL SMITH: Right.
SCARBOROUGH: It was, like, around midnight?
HAGEL SMITH: Around 11:00. Around 11:00.
SCARBOROUGH: Eleven? Eleven?
HAGEL SMITH: So—and that's the point where, you know, I—and I can't speak of. And I wish I could.
I know that there's a lot of questions that a lot of people have. And that's where sort of the FBI picks up the story.
SCARBOROUGH: So, you can't say what happened in the casino that night, from that point on?
HAGEL SMITH: Right.
SCARBOROUGH: Is that where the FBI tells you not to talk?
HAGEL SMITH: Right.
SCARBOROUGH: Tell you about—what about who you saw and...
HAGEL SMITH: Yes, that's all under that same FBI category.
SCARBOROUGH: Can you talk about the Russian guys? Because, at the beginning, everybody was looking at you, because—and, again, it wasn't just about you. It's...
HAGEL SMITH: Which I didn't even realize, yes. Yes.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, but, in any investigation—I think we talked about this.
HAGEL SMITH: Right.
SCARBOROUGH: If the spouse dies, the first thing they do, they just play the numbers. It sounds cold and callous.
HAGEL SMITH: Which they never tell you before you get married.
SCARBOROUGH: Right. Yes.
HAGEL SMITH: That if something was to—is going to happen to your spouse...
SCARBOROUGH: If something happens.
HAGEL SMITH: ... that—that you will be looked at.
SCARBOROUGH: That they look at you with suspicion.
But—and then we started hearing about these Russian guys and some teenager from California.
HAGEL SMITH: Yes.
And I will just say that for—I don't know when people learned of certain details surrounding the case. But I will say that I literally didn't watch any news coverage for the first two months. So, a lot of this information, I found out in only the past few months.
HAGEL SMITH: And, as George and Maureen have told you, they would take notes.
George's parents would literally take notes, watching your show and watching other shows. And that's—some of the information that we have come to know since what happened has come from that.
SCARBOROUGH: Can you talk about anything about these Russian guys?
Was that the first night you saw them?
HAGEL SMITH: I can't really—I wouldn't speak of those things, because I think that it's not appropriate. I think...
SCARBOROUGH: You say it's not appropriate because the FBI told you not to talk about them?
HAGEL SMITH: And they have families, too. And I am very sensitive to that. So, I think that I am very careful and guarded in anything I would say, just for—I am sure this is a tough experience for anyone who is involved in it.
SCARBOROUGH: Do you think the FBI is going to solve this case?
HAGEL SMITH: I hope so.
SCARBOROUGH: Let me ask you, do you think that—do you think George was murdered?
HAGEL SMITH: It's a good question.
SCARBOROUGH: What do you think?
HAGEL SMITH: I guess we will see.
I am looking forward to ending this investigation. I am hoping—the FBI said, initially, it will be months, not years. And I am going to remind them, they have six more months, because I am hoping that they will come up with something.
This is—I have been told that, you know, our case has more evidence, whether it be, you know, blood stains on the awning or things of that nature, that has more than any cases in the past. So, I think that this is—this is—this could be the one, you know? This could be the one for the FBI. I know that there haven't been many successful convictions in the past, but I am praying this is the one.
SCARBOROUGH: So, we get through the night. You wake up in the morning. And there are two different stories about where you woke up. And, again, one said you woke up in the room. The other said you woke up three flights up. Can you tell us where you woke up?
HAGEL SMITH: It's nothing scandalous. I can say that, if that's what people are wondering. It's not scandalous.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, but you can understand why they would...
HAGEL SMITH: Right.
SCARBOROUGH: ... why they would ask the question.
HAGEL SMITH: Right. Of course.
SCARBOROUGH: You're on your honeymoon.
HAGEL SMITH: Of course.
HAGEL SMITH: Sometimes—sometimes, you know, the answer, the truth is—is more basic or more simple than people like to think it is. So, people can, you know, read into that as they will.
SCARBOROUGH: But you have been told by the FBI not to talk about that?
HAGEL SMITH: Right. Right.
SCARBOROUGH: Jennifer says her nightmare was just beginning after she found out her husband was gone. When we come back, her story of what happened in the hours once George Smith IV went overboard. And George's parents tell me why they filed a lawsuit against the cruiseline, and the questions that they have to have answered about what really happened to their son.
SCARBOROUGH: George Smith and Jennifer Hagel Smith, celebrating what was to be the beginning of a long life together. House, children, big plans. But of course, in the early morning hours of July the 5th, all that tragically changed. As my exclusive interview continues, Jennifer shares the horrors of the hours after she found out, from a group of Royal Caribbean employees that her newlywed husband was dead.
HAGEL SMITH: It was three men dressed in white uniform from Royal Caribbean.
They basically approached me and said, you know, your husband has gone overboard. And, you know, that—they told me about the blood on the awning. And, at that moment, I just—it's hard to remember, you know, my reaction to it at the time. But I just literally remember grabbing both of my arms and just squeezing so tight, thinking, I have got to still be dreaming. This has got to be a nightmare, because it's—it was too much.
Like, physically, emotionally, you're—you're—I couldn't quite comprehend what they were saying. It was just...
SCARBOROUGH: Did they tell you he was dead, he had gone overboard and died?
HAGEL SMITH: They said he had gone overboard, and they found blood, and over—actually, I had found out from them that they believed he went over in Greek waters. And here we are in Turkey.
So, as you can imagine, you just—you—you play back in your mind at that time just the wedding. And just—everything just flashes. And you think, like, this is a sick joke, right, because we just got married, right? You're kidding me.
You just can't—you can't fathom, like, the reaction. I think—I think I just felt so numb, and I just was so shocked. And I really thought I was going to have a heart attack. Like, my heart just—it just was—like, my chest just got so tight. And I just thought—I didn't know what to think. I didn't know what to do.
Everything just—everything I knew in that moment was just gone.
SCARBOROUGH: The world you knew ended.
HAGEL SMITH: Everything was gone.
If George is—we joked with each other, you are the center of my universe. And we would tell each other that all the time. And he really was. And when that is gone, what do I do? You know, what does my world revolve around now? It's everything we had planned together, our life, our future. I think I—like, my—literally, everything was just flashing, flashing, my parents, his parents. It was just, this can't be happening.
SCARBOROUGH: This was the beginning of, from what I have read, just an unimaginable, hellacious day.
HAGEL SMITH: I was taken to a cabin somewhere in one of the lower decks.
And I was told to take a shower. And I was then given Royal Caribbean T-shirt, Royal Caribbean gym shorts, and Royal Caribbean tank top, because they said, we cannot, you know, obviously give you any of your own clothing, which was all in our room.
I was eventually brought to a different meeting area, again, from Royal Caribbean. At this point now, there comes back the ship's officers, their—the security officers and the ship's captain now. And I have now the honeymoon couple that George and I used to, you know, hang around with. They were also, you know, around or at my side.
And they just basically said, you know, they want you to get off the ship in Turkey. They want you, you know, to come for some questions. I didn't realize at that time that I was a part of or even a focal point of an investigation or an interrogation.
I was taken, you know, away from the ship. So, now I am in town. I am the only one there of all the other passengers. I am the only one who is in Turkey, in a Turkish police station. And there I am with all of my, you know, Royal Caribbean logo attire, and just feeling—just falling deeper into just this feeling of shock.
SCARBOROUGH: Is that the first time that you had time to just sit back and realize that he wasn't coming back?
HAGEL SMITH: Yes.
I think that, you know, there are certain things that remind you of
somebody or—that are personal. And I think, you know, it's a person's
clothes. It's a person's—we have so many memories in your own—every
· I remember when he wore that shirt. I remember when he did this.
And there I am, with all of his clothes, and without George.
SCARBOROUGH: After we first aired this interview, Royal Caribbean responded in a statement that said in part: “On July the 5th, Jennifer was accompanied by a ship staff member, a female guest relations manager from approximately 10:00 a.m. to approximately 6:00 p.m. when she was placed in the care of a female U.S. consulate official and an FBI agent. The only time Jennifer and the guest relations manager were not together was for a brief period at the Turkish police station, when Jennifer was being questioned by a Turkish judge. At which point she was joined by representatives from both the U.S. consulate and the FBI.”
Can there ever be justice for George? When we come back, his parents tell us what his legacy should be and what they're looking for from the cruiseline that they feel let him down, and from the congressional hearings that rocked the cruise industry.
SCARBOROUGH: George's family, his parents and sister Bree are fighting for answers and for changes in the cruise industry that would keep something like this from ever happening again.
BREE SMITH, SISTER: Well, I think, you know, foremost in our minds is who would have done this and why. You know, we just—we don't know any of those things right now. You know, there haven't been any arrests. We don't have—we know the FBI has a lot of information, but we don't have that information. and we just want to know what happened to him.
And secondly, I think we would like to know where he is. I mean, I think we have an idea, but if we had at least George, we could bury him and have a grave to visit and pray for him, but instead, you know, he is in the middle of sea, and we don't have anything of him. So it's really devastating for my family.
MAUREEN SMITH, MOTHER: We have been robbed. We have really been robbed, haven't we?
SCARBOROUGH: You have been robbed. You don't know who robbed you.
M. SMITH: No, no.
SCARBOROUGH: You don't know how you were robbed.
M. SMITH: Our lives will never be the same again, never.
SCARBOROUGH: And again, he is with you all the time. If you lose a son or daughter ...
GEORGE SMITH, SR., FATHER: It's for this reason, you know, we feel that Congress needs to make changes in the laws, so other families don't go through what we have to go through now, and go through this suffering, and the not knowing. Every day, it's a struggle, you know, but we're holding it together.
M. SMITH: For the first ...
SCARBOROUGH: It seems to me like there were so many things the cruise industry could have done ...
M. SMITH: Right.
SCARBOROUGH: ... in those first two days ...
M. SMITH: Right.
SCARBOROUGH: ... to help solve this case, but they didn't do it.
M. SMITH: No.
B. SMITH: No, they did the complete opposite.
M. SMITH: At Turkey, it was a crime scene. At Turkey, that ship was a crime scene.
SCARBOROUGH: It should have been a crime scene.
M. SMITH: Should have been yellow taped, passengers sent on their way that weren't guilty. They could've—and then paid to send them home.
B. SMITH: They should've been shut down. Now the FBI has to do a catch-up game.
G. SMITH: They have to put it all back together.
B. SMITH: There's answers all over the world, you know, there's agents all over the world working on this case, and it's because that ship was not locked down.
SCARBOROUGH: Let's talk about what you hope to accomplish if a lawsuit is filed. Mr. Smith, I will start with you. You put the cruise line on notice that you want answers.
G. SMITH: Yes.
SCARBOROUGH: If you don't get those answers and you are forced to sue them to get those answers, what do you want to come out of this terrible tragedy regarding your son?
G. SMITH: Well, you know, I want them basically to change their policy. It's got to change. They just can't do what they would like to do. There has to be regulations set down.
If there's sexual assault on a boat, there should be, say, rape kits or something like that. If there's somebody overboard, they should follow certain procedures. Stop the boat, not continue going on. You know, in Turkey, right there they should have stopped that boat and just shut it down and interview all passengers, keep them apart. Do a proper investigation, not just some, you know, half deal that they felt like putting a little bit of an effort before they took off for the next port.
The FBI needs more power. There's no doubt about it. The FBI has minimal power. They do have power, but they need more power to go on and search ships. It took them two or three days to get onto that boat, and they should have been able to walk on that boat immediately.
I think there just has to be a load of changes made. For years, the Cruise Industry Council has been making changes that have been helping them. We have got to reverse this trend and give the trend back to the people.
SCARBOROUGH: Protect the people that actually go and pay, like you said, all that money that they make.
G. SMITH: My son, you know, all that money there, and, you know, what they did—they didn't even—you know, it was just like, well, he is overboard, and it's over.
B. SMITH: Business as usual.
G. SMITH: Business as usual.
SCARBOROUGH: All business.
M. SMITH: It's all business, and the people that call you, they are not humane. They speak to you like he's gone. This is an accident.
B. SMITH: It's the risk management department.
M. SMITH: Yes, they are not humane.
G. SMITH: It's started by—every person that you talk to that has had somebody go overboard, it's like after the one phone call to the cruise line, you are basically passed from one secretary to the next, and eventually you just get frustrated, and since you can't meet the six-month time limit to file a lawsuit, then basically they have won.
SCARBOROUGH: We'll be right back with more. Plus, “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON” is just minutes away. Stay with us.
SCARBOROUGH: Jennifer Hagel Smith has established a reward of $100,000 for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for her husband's murder. Now, for more information, you can log on to www.hagelsmith.com. And if you have any thoughts on this case, any information that can help us out, help us all find justice for George, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Well, that's all the time we have for tonight. Thanks for being with us. “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON” starts right now. Hey, Tucker, what's the situation tonight?
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