Guests: Michael Pettry, Norman Early, Yale Galanter, John Wisely, Kathy Reichs
SUSAN FILAN, GUEST HOST, “ABRAMS”: Coming up, police give the all clear after evacuating the U.S. Capitol when someone reported hearing gunfire.
The program about justice starts now.
Hi everyone. I’m Susan Filan. Dan is off today. Capitol Hill police say the Rayburn Building is now—quote—“safe for normal activities”. This after they imposed a lockdown just after 10:30 this morning, that lockdown lasted more than four hours. An anonymous caller phoned in a report of a loud noise that sounded like gunshots in the building’s garage near a gym and a shooting range for Capitol police.
Tactical squads went through the garage and searched the Rayburn Building floor by floor, looking for any intruders. Many congressional staffers have been locked in their offices for hours, waiting for police to knock on the door, check the premises, and give them an all clear and then escort them out of the building. Here’s how it unfolded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: We’re just getting some news into MSNBC. AP is reporting that police say shots have been fired at the Rayburn Office Building there in Washington, D.C.
REP. PETER HOEKSTRA, ®, MICHIGAN: It’s a little unsettling to get a BlackBerry message put in front of you that says there’s gunfire in the building.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Apparently the Capitol police believe this is isolated enough over there in the Rayburn House Office Building that they are not closing down business in the Senate.
MIKE VIQUEIRA, NBC NEWS (via phone): There is no widespread sense of panic at this point. Again, I do not know whether or not shots were actually fired or it was simply the sound of shots that have led to this lockdown.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: U.S. Capitol police are investigating the sound of gunfire in the garage level of the Rayburn House Office Building. All staff are to remain in your office until further advised.
CAPT. KIM SCHNEIDER, CAPITOL HILL POLICE: We have not gotten any reports of anybody being captured, anybody being arrested. We have not identified anybody who might have a weapon on them at this time. We continue to investigate.
SCHNEIDER: We have no reports of any injuries at this time. The information came in as a call-in. It was called into the Capitol Police Dispatch Center.
JASON STEINBAUM, CHIEF OF STAFF, REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D-NY): We have had substantial training about what to do in the event of an emergency. We have plans for evacuation and really what it comes down to is listen to the Capitol police.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FILAN: Mike Viqueira is the NBC News producer on Capitol Hill. Mike has been there throughout this incident today. You’ve heard part of one of his reports moments ago. Hi, Mike.
VIQUEIRA: Hi, Susan.
FILAN: So what are Capitol police saying now? Do they know what happened today?
VIQUEIRA: Well it turns out that those reports were based not only on an anonymous caller that you indicated in that report leading up to this, but that there was at least one congressman who said he heard something that sounded like shots as he was making his way to that Rayburn garage. Rayburn incidentally is just down Independence Avenue from where I’m standing here on Capitol Hill.
A number of relieved staffers making their way out of the Rayburn Building, they’ve been in lockdown for as much as five hours now, but it all happened when that anonymous report came through, at least one congressman and perhaps some members of the Capitol police themselves also heard the noises. It turns out, however, that it was only some repairmen working on an elevator doing their duties. It was just reported to us by the Capitol police spokeswoman.
FILAN: Wow. That’s unbelievable. Mike, was there panic when the announcement came to lockdown? I mean, how did everybody take that at the Capitol?
VIQUEIRA: Well you know it’s funny you should say that. Since 9/11, since September 11, we have sort of had a number of instances, reports of suspicious substances, suspicious packages, suspicious vehicles, suspicious individuals that have led—and I might add airplanes wandering in the D.C. airspace that have led to very frenzied evacuations of the Capitol. The more of those that we go through, the more sort of a newer the staff, those who work in the Capitol Hill community get toward these evacuations.
Whereas before there was a widespread panic, members of Congress losing their shoes as they ran down the steps trying to get out of the Capitol, now it’s something that’s much calm, concerned yet calm. I should add that after these reports surfaced, Capitol police assisted by the FBI, went through the Rayburn Building office by office.
They told everybody to shelter in place, that’s the term of art, shelter in place. Everybody was locked down in their offices. Law enforcement authorities, including the FBI, Capitol police went office by office with guns drawn, according to the protocol, had a password that they e-mailed around to all the offices.
Says we’re going to—they said we are going to knock a certain number of times. We’re going to say a password and then you let us in, and I’ve had a number of staffers tell me that when the door opened and they let the officers in, they came in guns drawn, a very traumatic experience for a lot of staffers, and it all turned out for naught.
FILAN: That is absolutely unbelievable. Mike, thank you so much for joining us.
Now to Missouri, where after a week on the run, police captured Richard Davis and Dena Riley, the Missouri couple wanted for kidnapping, raping, and murdering 41-year-old Marsha Spicer, and videotaping all of it. Police say Riley called 911 yesterday, and said they were preparing to commit suicide, but they wanted police to come get Riley’s 5-year-old niece who they had kidnapped.
The couple reportedly planned to be dead when police arrived, but when authorities found them, they were located in a wrecked vehicle alive and the 5-year-old niece was in the vehicle with them. The couple had been on the run since last Friday. Police believe they killed this victim in Davis’ home in Independence, Missouri, on May 14.
Her body was found on May 15, in a shallow grave near Bates City. Then police just missed the couple in Perryville on Sunday and on Wednesday, a reported sighting at a gas station in Columbia, Illinois, before they were captured yesterday in Lamar, Missouri.
Joining me now, FBI Kansas City division spokesman, special agent Michael Pettry. Michael thanks for joining us.
SPECIAL AGENT MICHAEL PETTRY, FBI, KANSAS CITY, MO: Thank you.
FILAN: So what’s the story with this? I mean this is an absolutely gruesome, grisly murder captured on videotape and now we’ve got the suspects in custody.
PETTRY: Well it is fortunate, obviously, that they were apprehended yesterday and although the FBI assisted in the nationwide fugitive investigation, the investigation and eventual prosecution of the two individuals with respect to the homicide offenses will take place in Kansas City, Missouri. As you may know, the FBI is now investigating a child kidnapping as a result of these individuals, transporting a young minor child across the state line from the Pittsburgh, Kansas area to Barton County, Missouri.
FILAN: Wow, this is bad. Hey can you tell us what the scene was like at the arrest yesterday?
PETTRY: Details are still coming in, and it’s our understanding that it was a fairly rural area and that the two individuals, one with the minor child, were located again in rural Missouri around the town of Barton—excuse me Lamar.
FILAN: And do you know how the niece is doing at this time?
PETTRY: At this point, I don’t want to comment on her condition or whereabouts, for privacy reasons obviously. We are still attempting to determine the circumstances or events that led her to be in their company yesterday when they were eventually apprehended in southern Missouri.
FILAN: And what about the suspects, how are they doing? I guess they tried to kill themselves and then they were in a car crash and then they called 911, I guess to say when you come, we’ll be dead, but at least come get the niece. How are they doing now?
PETTRY: I can’t really comment on their medical condition at this point. You know, the important thing is that obviously they were captured, and that the child was located and recovered.
FILAN: Can you tell us if there’s any suspicion that they’re linked to any other murders?
PETTRY: Well, I know that local authorities, namely the Independence, Missouri Police Department, in conjunction with other investigative agencies in the state of Missouri are aggressively pursuing any leads in connection with this case, and the FBI’s focus at the current time is providing any assistance that we can in their investigation but focusing on this child kidnapping investigation.
FILAN: I’ve heard it reported and I don’t know if there’s any truth to this, that the video is so gruesome that law enforcement who have seen it have had to get counseling themselves. Can you comment on that?
PETTRY: Well it’s my understanding—again, something of that nature would be disturbing to view. That’s one of the things that those of us in law enforcement have to do, but you’re correct, there are things that really are beyond the pale and are disturbing even to seasoned veterans or people who are accustomed to seeing disturbing or graphically—disturbing material.
FILAN: Michael Pettry, you are one of the good guys. Thanks so much for coming on the program.
PETTRY: Thank you.
FILAN: Coming up, defense attorneys in the Duke rape case insist the D.A. has more on the case that he hasn’t turned over, especially information about what the accuser says her alleged attackers looked like.
And the FBI is tearing up a Michigan horse farm looking for Jimmy Hoffa. But more than 30 years after he disappeared, just exactly how much can they expect to find. Well, we ask the forensic anthropologist, who is the inspiration for the show “Bones”.
Plus, she went to prison for having sex with her 12-year-old student. But Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau just celebrated their first wedding anniversary. We’ll hear from them in an exclusive interview.
... firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember to include your name and where you’re writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
FILAN: We’re back. New motions have been filed in the Duke rape case. Collin Finnerty’s attorney saying—quote—“It is readily apparent that the state has withheld or otherwise failed to produce several categories of documents, which the state is required to produce for inspection.”
Specifically, Mr. Cotter says what D.A. Mike Nifong left out of the almost 1,300 pages of discovery are the accuser’s descriptions, if any, of her attackers. Joining me now is criminal defense attorney Yale Galanter and Norman Early, former Denver district attorney and spokesperson for the National District Attorneys Association.
Hi Yale. Hi Norm. Thanks for joining us. Norm, let me start with you. Now is this just another defense spin to try to get us all exercised to be critical of Nifong once again, saying he’s withheld important information.
NORMAN EARLY, FORMER DENVER DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Susan, one of the things we’ve got to assume by virtue of the fact that Nifong has been in the office for 27 years handling very difficult cases, is that he knows what his obligation is under the discovery statutes of his state, and he knows what the penalty is if he doesn’t meet those obligations, that being potential suppression of the evidence, meaning the evidence would not come in.
In a case of this magnitude, you can’t possibly believe that he would intentionally withhold information from the defense and run the risk of a judge suppressing his evidence. To me, it’s just one more instance where defense in this case, the whole defense bar in the state of North Carolina practically is attempting to color the public’s opinion about Nifong and his prosecution.
FILAN: Well he better not be withholding anything. Yale, doesn’t the defense have to have some basis for filing this motion or is this just more, let’s go on a fishing expedition and see what we can do to make Nifong look bad?
YALE GALANTER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, there are really two issues. First of all, I agree with Norm. I don’t think there’s a chance in a prairie that Mike Nifong would have intentionally withheld this. Not only does he have a statutory obligation under the discovery rules, he told the judge and Norm, Susan, we all know what that means, that he had given everything to the defense. So he really is answering to a higher authority in terms of turning it over.
The defense may be speculating that Mike hasn’t—Mr. Nifong really hasn’t received some of the reports from some of the law enforcement people, and my indication from defense sources is that’s what’s going on here, because what they’re saying is, somebody had to have asked her more than one time to describe these boys, and all we have in these 1,300 pages is this one note about the one time asking, so we just want to sure it up.
GALANTER: Is it the one time or is there anything else out there?
FILAN: Let’s look at what they’re saying. This is exactly what they’re saying. They’re saying that on 3/21/06, at 1810 hours, victim arrives with—redacted. I asked her questions trying to follow up on a better description of the suspects. She was unable to remember anything further about the suspects.
So aren’t they saying that there’s got to be more police documentation, a police report, an interview report, something else to tease out what the conversation was between law enforcement and the alleged victim, asking her, so what did these guys look like that attacked you. Norm?
EARLY: Well, according to the statute in the state, the obligation of the district attorney is to turn over anything he has...
FILAN: No, no, I get that, Norm, but let me ask you...
EARLY: ... and anything law enforcement has.
FILAN: ... do you think that there are more reports? Let’s say he doesn’t have them or the police have them. But do you think there are more reports? In your background, years of experience, would there be more stuff relating to asking a suspect what did your attackers look like than just one small line in 1,300 pages?
EARLY: Well if you end up with three people having been arrested and charged by the grand jury, it seems to me that there would be more, but I’m not willing to accept the defense version in this case or anything—any other case as to what those 1,300 pages say. It seems to me that unless you’ve read those 1,300 pages, anything that’s happening now is something that’s being interpreted in favor of the defense and something again that’s being interpreted to color the public’s opinion about the case.
FILAN: And Yale, see that’s exactly my point. I mean the defense is trying to get essentially I think the media to buy into their point of view on this case and now for whatever reason, District Attorney Nifong isn’t coming forward, maybe appropriately, maybe not appropriately, but now we’re not hearing the state side, so my feeling is if the defense really wants us to jump on their bandwagon, let us look at the 1,300 pages ourselves. If we then agree that their spin on it is correct, that there isn’t anything that incriminates them, there is only things in there that exculpate them, well wouldn’t that be the more honest way to approach this?
FILAN: I want to see those 1,300 pages myself. I want to look at them myself.
GALANTER: Susan, and I’m hoping that sometime in the near future you and I get to go to Durham and we get to look at those 1,300 pages so we can verify what Mike Nifong has and what the defense has been saying, but this motion is a little different. Remember, this is something that a member of the North Carolina Bar filed in a court filing, saying this is all there is. So that’s not defense spin, because if he lied in that public pleading...
FILAN: No, no, no, but Yale, we don’t know...
GALANTER: ... that official pleading, he’s going to have to face the judge.
FILAN: Right, but we know...
GALANTER: No, we do know...
FILAN: No, no, no. No, we know that...
GALANTER: We do know...
FILAN: Yale, we know that in the 1,300 pages, there’s only that one line, but we don’t know if there are any other reports. It’s possible that law enforcement has them, didn’t turn them over to the district attorney; therefore the district attorney doesn’t have them yet. I mean I know that sounds like hair splitting to our audience and they may not appreciate that difference, but the D.A. can’t turn over something that he doesn’t himself have.
Yes, he has a duty to go to the police and get it, but it may be that he didn’t himself have it. Guys, let’s just turn our attention to this issue with respect to a gag order. There is—the NAACP trying to ask the court for a gag order, silencing essentially the defense. Their position is basically this case is getting trashed in the media.
The accuser is looking really bad. Let’s all stop talking about it and wait until it comes in a court of law. Norm, do you think they even have standing to raise this motion?
EARLY: I’m not sure they do have standing, and the other thing is that it’s kind of like closing the barn door after the horse is already out. The trashing has occurred. The coloring of the case has occurred. The attempts by the defense in this case have been masterful in terms of trying to create in the public’s mind an image of a case that just doesn’t exist. I’ve had police officers of all things in my city tell me that there is no case here, and I say based upon what?
EARLY: All you have is snippets...
EARLY: ... of what the defense wants you to know.
EARLY: And out of those snippets, you have formed an opinion about this entire case.
FILAN: I hope they’re not going to be...
EARLY: I mean it’s just absolutely incredible to me, but I would say that...
EARLY: ... that the judge ought to really consider a gag order in this case.
FILAN: Yale, two seconds...
GALANTER: Susan, real quick...
FILAN: ... do you think there should be—two seconds, yes, no, gag order?
GALANTER: No gag order. They don’t have a dog in the fight. They won’t have standing.
FILAN: Yale Galanter, Norm Early, thank you so much as always for joining us.
EARLY: Thank you, Susan.
FILAN: Next, the search for Jimmy Hoffa. Cadaver dogs are brought to the site where the FBI is searching. Do we have reason to think the decades old mystery of what happened to Hoffa might finally be solved?
And just one year ago, wedding bells rang for perhaps one of the best-known teacher-student couples. Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau. Matt Lauer checked in on their first year of wedded bliss.
And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike again. Our search today is in Texas.
Police need your help in finding Juan Garza. He’s 25 years old, five-foot-nine. He weighs 170 pounds. He was convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a child and he hasn’t registered his address with the state.
If you’ve got any information on his whereabouts, please contact the Texas Department of Public Safety, 512-424-2000. We’ll be right back.
FILAN: FBI agents still on the hunt for the remains of Jimmy Hoffa in Michigan. Literally digging up and tearing apart a horse farm in suburban Detroit, not far from where Hoffa vanished more than 30 years ago. Investigators are taking photos and videos; they’re even sifting through some of the dirt by hand. And they’re working with cadaver dogs. The search is in its tenth day.
Joining me now on the phone is John Wisely, “Detroit News” reporter, and forensic anthropologist, Kathy Reichs, who’s also the author of the book “Cross Bones”, now in paperback, and a creator of the TV drama “Bones”. Thank you for joining us.
JOHN WISELY, “DETROIT NEWS” (via phone): Thank you.
FILAN: John, first, give us an update. How is the search going today, what’s happening, what’s going on?
WISELY: Well, it’s been kind of thunder storming throughout the day here, so they—but they’ve worked through it all. The hole has gotten deeper and wider, and they’ve stopped and started a couple of times during the day, but I just spoke with the FBI a few minutes ago and there’s nothing significant found thus far.
FILAN: They didn’t find him yet?
WISELY: Not yet.
FILAN: How much longer do you think they’re going to go?
WISELY: You know they have not given a clear indication on when they will stop. They’ve been pretty mum the whole time about the cost and how much effort they will put into it, so we really don’t know at this point.
FILAN: Do you get any sense that they’re getting anywhere, they’re narrowing in, that they’re getting close?
WISELY: You know, there’s—it looks a lot like it’s looked in the past couple of days. It’s pretty much just an earthmover digging through it and people poking around. And it really doesn’t look any different than it did a couple of days ago other than, as I said, being wider and deeper.
FILAN: Wow. Kathy, what’s the best that they could hope to find when they’re looking for Jimmy Hoffa 30 years later?
KATHY REICHS, FORENSIC ANTHROPOLOGIST: Well the best they could hope to find would be a skeleton fully clothed with a driver’s license in the pocket. That would be very helpful.
FILAN: All right then. What do you think they could find?
REICHS: Well, I think it’s very likely they could find a very well preserved skeleton. Teeth and bones last a long time. There’s no question, I’ve worked on cases that are considerably older than 30 years. If you’ve got bone, you can get DNA. If you’ve got teeth, you can get DNA.
I would assume there are dental records that have already been submitted.
FILAN: But Kathy, don’t they have to have DNA of his already to begin with to match it from whatever they find of whatever remains of his? Do you know, do they have some DNA to match against?
REICHS: Well they can use a family member. They can get a comparative sample. If the remains are really degraded, they might have to use mitochondrial DNA, in which case they’d need someone related to him maternally, through his mother, through a female. But if they’ve got regular old nuclear DNA, then they can amplify that and you can just compare it again to someone who is living. Unless there’s something of him left behind, you know gall stones or...
FILAN: Well that’s what I was wondering.
REICHS: You don’t have to have that though.
REICHS: You don’t have to.
FILAN: Now, do you know if they’re going to be able to tell, I know this is hard because you don’t know what they’re going to find...
FILAN: ... but assuming they find something like you what you were saying, a skeletal remain, can they tell how he died?
REICHS: Well that’s possible depending on how he died. If he was poisoned, you’re probably not going to find any indicators of that, if he was smothered, that’s something that’s really tough to pen down. But if there’s any blunt instrument trauma, he’s going to have perhaps fracturing in the bones, perhaps if there is a shotgun, obviously that’s going to be there.
You’re going to pick up bullet entrances, maybe bullet exits, sharp instrument trauma, strangulation. You would see fracturing in the hyoid bone in the throat, so it’s very possible if he died a violent death that there’s going to be some indication. And the other thing that they could find if they actually locate a grave is not just Jimmy Hoffa, but there is always that remote possibility there’s going to be evidence of those who put him in that grave. People are usually in a hurry when they’re doing that. If you’re burying Jimmy Hoffa, you’re probably not really relaxed.
FILAN: Like what kind of evidence?
REICHS: Like a cigarette butt that’s been left behind that might have DNA on it...
FILAN: But again, you’d have to have a known sample to match that DNA against.
REICHS: That’s correct. That’s correct.
FILAN: Yes. What’s the deal with cadaver dogs? How do they work?
REICHS: Cadaver dogs, there are three types of dogs that are trained.
One would be a dog that’s trained to sniff out drugs, those are the kinds you see in airports, then there are dogs that are tracker dogs, they’re trained to actually locate a living human being, they’re the ones that you see them showing the dog your shoe and they say go find George or whatever. And then there are cadaver dogs and they are specifically trained to alert on the smell of human decomposition.
FILAN: And John, are they going to put this place back together once the search is all over?
WISELY: Our understanding is it that yes, they did remove a barn to get where they are now and our understanding is that they will replace that barn. The farm owner has been assured that they will be restored to the condition they were in before.
FILAN: And maybe a little bit better hopefully.
FILAN: John, I hope it gets a little more interesting for you out there. Kathy, thanks so much for joining us. Your expertise is amazing.
REICHS: Thank you.
FILAN: Coming up next, Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau just celebrated their first wedding anniversary and they spoke exclusively to NBC’s Matt Lauer. That interview coming up next.
And later, a Memphis pediatrician disappeared four years ago in the middle of the night. No trace of her since. This is a cold case and police need your help. The details in our next half-hour.
Your e-mails, send them to email@example.com. Remember to include your name and where you’re writing from. I’ll respond at the end of the show.
FILAN: Ten years ago in a Seattle suburb, Mary Kay Letourneau, a 34-year-old teacher and married mother of four began an affair with her sixth grade student, 12-year-old Vili Fualaau. The relationship shocked and horrified much of the country. Letourneau was convicted of second-degree rape and spent over seven years in prison. Less than a year after she got out, they got married. Last week, they celebrated their first wedding anniversary. Mary Kay and Vili spoke exclusively to Matt Lauer.
MATT LAUER, CO-ANCHOR, “TODAY” (voice-over): Theirs was truly a love against all odds. He was a sixth grader in suburban Seattle, she was a star teacher and a married mother of four. What began as a mentorship quickly developed into a sexual affair.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I allowed it to happen.
LAUER: After school administrators received an anonymous tip, Mary Kay was arrested in February of 1997. Just three months later, she gave birth to a daughter, Vili still a child himself was the father. That August, Mary Kay pled guilty to charges of child rape. Just months later...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I give you my word that it will not happen again.
LAUER: Taking mercy...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please help me.
LAUER: Judge Linda Lau handed down a suspended sentence but ordered Mary Kay not to have any contact with Vili. Shortly after, the two were discovered in a car at 3:00 a.m.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These violations are extraordinarily egregious.
LAUER: This time, she returned to prison for her full seven and a half year sentence, pregnant again. Through it all, they pledged to stay faithful to one another.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would really like to be with her and start off where we left off.
LAUER: Now nearly 10 years after Mary Kay and Vili’s affair began it is a marriage. The couple recently celebrated their one-year anniversary. On Thursday, I had an opportunity to speak with them.
(on camera): Talk to me a little bit about how this last year has gone. I mean any new marriage requires adjustment, but I would imagine, the circumstances surrounding your marriage in particular may have required some more adjustment than normal. Describe it for me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We really started with nothing and there was something nice about that, but it was also very, very difficult. And took a lot of time because our priority was and is to build a home for all of our children.
LAUER: Let me just ask you if there’s someone watching this interview right now, Mary in particular, who still is shaking their head about this relationship saying you know what, there’s just something wrong. What would you say to that person?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We’re just really good people loving our family.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say that she’s, you know, that, you know, she’s done her time. I mean, she’s done seven years and there’s a lot of other male rapers out there that do six months and they’re out.
LAUER: Let me ask you where you stand in the process of gaining full custody of your daughters.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We already have been awarded custody. We’re just in a natural transition, and they spend nights with us, and nights with their grandmother and as soon as the school year is over, which is coming up pretty soon, then they’ll be home full time with us.
LAUER: I have a 5-year-old, Mary and Vili, and you know, from time to time he asks me those questions, you know, how did you meet mommy and all things like that. What at their ages have you shared with them and what haven’t you shared with them?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Audrey, our 8-year-old, she just recently—she does this with my son and his girlfriend also, she started with them and she said, tell a story, how did you meet, and so I—I don’t know, I was expecting it to come our direction.
LAUER: Well how honest were you with her?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was actually very honest with her. She already knew that her dad was a student of mine, I said, well I had a hunch that he really liked me and that I was trying to ignore him.
LAUER: There was a time, Mary and Vili, where your pictures were on front of newspapers and on television shows and so when you all go out now as a family, do you ever get the sense that there are whispers behind your back?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sometimes. I get that feeling probably like 50 percent of the time when I walk to the grocery store. I always feel like the cashier are whispering something about me, but I just pretty much, I just, you know, so what, you know, I’m here—I’m grocery shopping just like everyone else.
LAUER: Do you think Mary in some ways, the fact that you two are still together after this year of marriage, proves some of the naysayers wrong?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We’re just working hard to be a family. It does feel good that people do—they say congratulations to us and there’s a lot of heartfelt emotion from people. Just, you know, people that said they prayed for us all those years and...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don’t cry.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anyway, so about—I think there were more people with us than the loud voices that were having opinions that you’re talking like right now that maybe misjudged.
LAUER: There’s a 22-year age difference and I would imagine when you first met that was pronounced even though you two clearly hit it off in some areas. Obviously besides the two adorable girls you have, what do you have most in common?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Outlook on life, people, and the way we live.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We both have an appreciation for art and music.
LAUER: All couples fight from time to time. What do you guys fight about?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don’t fight...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Usually she’s really bad at directions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here’s what it is. I’m really good at directions and I expect him to be better and I don’t expect to have to give the kind of directions that he needs. That would be a little fight right there.
LAUER: Yes, exactly. So you have, you know, almost a decade of turmoil behind you and now you have a year of marriage, successfully behind you, and you have a lot in the future. What are your hopes and dreams from this point on?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The best next step right now would be to find—finally find a house.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There’s something really life giving about the whole process of looking for a home.
LAUER: Do you envision having more children?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I don’t really think—yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Definitely.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A boy.
LAUER: Vili and Mary, I appreciate your time and again, let me just say congratulations on your year anniversary.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
FILAN: Coming up, a Memphis pediatrician disappears four years ago after attending a basketball game. Tennessee police need your help cracking this cold case. The details up next.
And later, an admitted child molester is walking free this morning, receiving only probation instead of jail. A judge says he’s too short to serve time. A lot of you disgusted like me. Your e-mails up next.
And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike again. This week we’re in Texas.
Authorities are looking for Sabino Luna. He’s 62 years old, five-foot-ten. He weighs 180 pounds. He was convicted of indecent sexual contact with a child and he hasn’t registered his address with the state.
If you’ve got any information on his whereabouts, please contact the Texas Department of Public Safety, 512-424-2000. We’ll be right back.
FILAN: We’re back. This time with a mystery that has stumped police for more than four years now. A 37-year-old pediatrician disappeared in the middle of the night. Now police are trying to solve this mystery and they’re looking close to home.
“Dateline NBC’s” Rob Stafford has more.
ROB STAFFORD, “DATELINE NBC” (voice-over): The neon lights of Memphis fade as you cross the city line into Bartlett, Tennessee, where the memories of a woman’s mysterious disappearance never fade.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any time I see a missing person’s report, I relive that night, just wondering where could she be. What happened that night?
STAFFORD: She’s talking about her friend, Cherryl Pearson, a 37-year-old doctor who left behind more clues than in many missing person cases, but four agonizing years later, her parents are still waiting for an answer, still struggling every single day.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you do something to one person, it’s a ripple effect. It affects a lot of people for a long, long time.
STAFFORD: Cherryl is the youngest of Hazel and Leon Pearson’s three children, a high achiever who earned a degree in chemical engineering, then completed med school and became a well-respected pediatrician.
(on camera): You must be incredibly proud of her.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, no doubt about it. Yes, sir.
STAFFORD (voice-over): Cherryl accomplished all that, even though she was a severe diabetic. She was independent, but over the years, remained very close to her parents. They last heard from her when she called from a Memphis Grizzlies basketball game on Friday night, January 4, 2002. Cherryl, who was single and a season ticket holder, went to the game alone.
(on camera): More than four years ago.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: More than four years ago.
STAFFORD: You haven’t heard her voice.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
STAFFORD (voice-over): Cherryl drove home from the game around 10:30 that night. Andrea Fox and another friend stopped by to visit.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She seemed fine.
STAFFORD (on camera): Was she expecting to see anyone that night?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, not that night. She did mention that her sister was going to work early the next morning and was going to drop off the kids. She loved those children. And she spent a lot of time with them. She was excited to see them the next morning.
STAFFORD (voice-over): Andrea and her friend left about 1:00 a.m. Cherryl’s sister arrived early the next morning to drop off her kids, but Cherryl who was supposed to baby-sit was gone and so was her car.
(on camera): How do you know she didn’t just leave on her own accord?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don’t know.
STAFFORD (voice-over): Frantic, they called police, at first fearing their daughter had become disoriented by her diabetes and might have driven off the road. Colleagues from her medical practice hit the streets to search and hand out fliers, but there was no sign of Cherryl.
(on camera): When police checked Cherryl’s phone records, right away something stood out. About an hour after her friends left, someone called her house at 1:58 a.m. in the middle of the night. It came from this pay phone at a convenience store about a half-mile away. The call lasted just five seconds.
(on camera): And was the call answered?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.
STAFFORD (voice-over): That tells Bartlett police inspector Steven Johnson and Detective Ken Lee that Cherryl was home when the call came in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It could be, I’m on my way over, I’m down here at the service station, meet me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It could have also just as easily been to see if she was home. She could have answered the phone, hello, hello, no response, and they hung up.
STAFFORD: They say that phone call was not the only odd thing about this case.
(on camera): You get to the house and what do you find?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Find that the cell phone is on the table along with her pager, and incidentally, she was on call that evening. And so she would have those with her.
STAFFORD (voice-over): Important clues indicating to police she left suddenly, but was it by choice or by force? Police found no signs of a struggle at the house. And a few days later, they found clues that were even more puzzling. Inside Cherryl’s car, which was discovered at a nearby apartment complex.
(on camera): Any signs a struggle inside the car?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, sir.
STAFFORD: Are the keys inside?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir, we found the keys and in the trunk of her car is her medical bag, she apparently was carrying it like a purse, because she had a lot of personal items in there, including the keys.
STAFFORD (voice-over): Car keys locked in her trunk. That told police she was the victim of foul play, but why.
(on camera): Any money left?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was $140 in 20’s in a First Tennessee envelope.
STAFFORD: So as far as you can tell, nothing was stolen?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct. Tells me that the motive was not robbery.
STAFFORD (voice-over): And there was one more thing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The car was just too clean. Cleaner than normal, detailed even.
STAFFORD (on camera): As though somebody had wiped away prints?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir. It had been totally detailed. We didn’t even find her prints in there.
STAFFORD (voice-over): A quick call in the middle of the night, her cell phone and pager left behind, no signs of a struggle. Those clues at least suggested to investigators Cherryl probably knew her assailant.
(on camera): Is there anyone within her circle of friends or relatives who has a criminal history?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir. She has a brother-in-law that has a criminal history. Bank robbery.
STAFFORD: Does he an alibi for January 4, 2002?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He’s been interviewed and we’ve taken statements from him.
STAFFORD: Are you satisfied with the alibi for that night?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. There are certain inconsistencies that are not explainable.
STAFFORD (voice-over): Police also say Cherryl had a life insurance policy worth $150,000. So far not paid out since there’s no proof Cherryl is dead.
(on camera): Who’s the beneficiary of that life insurance policy?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cherryl’s sister.
STAFFORD: Who’s married to the brother-in-law who served time for robbery.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.
STAFFORD (voice-over): The brother-in-law, Chuck Hildreth, is the father of the children Cherryl was going to watch the day she disappeared. While police have expressed suspicions about him, they are not calling him a suspect. They say he’s denied any involvement in Cherryl’s disappearance, and her parents told us they don’t believe he was responsible. Focusing on him they say is unfair.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It’s wrong, unless you got some facts to back it up.
STAFFORD: The Pearsons say no matter where the clues lead, no matter who is responsible, they want to solve the mystery of what happened to their daughter.
(on camera): Do you think there’s any way Cherryl is alive?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this point, I don’t think so. And now I’m beginning to—at this point, I don’t think so.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We still love her, and she’s, you know, she’s still a part of us and will be forever and ever.
FILAN: Cherryl’s parents have contributed to a $41,000 reward, hoping that someone knows what happened to their daughter. If you have any information on Cherryl Pearson’s disappearance, please call the Memphis police at 901-382-6669.
Coming up, an update on the Nebraska judge who sentenced an admitted child molester to probation. She says he’s too short to go to prison. It turns out, Dan’s not the only one who thinks her sentence is outrageous.
FILAN: Yesterday we told you about a Nebraska district court judge who sentenced a five-foot-one-inch admitted child molester to probation, not jail time, because she says he’s too short for prison. Well, today the state attorney general said he will appeal the judge’s decision, calling the sentence—quote—“excessively lenient”.
That brings us to “Your Rebuttal”. Most of you outraged by the sentence, except for one. Andrew Wallace who writes, “The judge was right. What this guy did was really bad and he should be punished, but this guy would be raped to death in prison. If society wants to sentence this guy to death, they should do so straight out. I don’t support this guy one bit, but you and everyone else knows this guy would be tortured to death in prison.” Yes. And? That’s what protective custody is for.
Patty Pascale from New York, “I’m a 51-year-old female. I’m three-feet-eleven-inches tall. Does that mean I can go out and commit a felony and just get probation? If the judge is so worried about him, put him in solitary confinement.”
F. Houston writes, “Let’s get this straight. Mickey Rooney, Prince, and Gary Coleman can get probation for serious crimes due to their stature. But Larry Bird, Shaq and Michael Jordan would go to the pen? What you talking about?”
Bonnie writes, “First, a judge says a teacher is too pretty to go to prison and now a judge says a man is too short to go. What is in the minds of these judges?”
Stephanie from Nevada, “Do you think the child who was molested by this short guy is less entitled to justice? Besides, isn’t this discrimination against tall people?”
And last night, Dan came out as one of the few Americans who doesn’t care about and didn’t watch the finale of “American Idol”. Well, it appears he’s got some company.
Lonnie Henderson writes, “Thank you for saying on TV and in front of God and everyone that you don’t watch ‘American Idol’. I thought it might only be Olbermann and me, but I’m happy to add you to the list.”
And Kim in California says, “Thank goodness. I thought I was the only person in America who didn’t give a rat’s (BLANK) about ‘American Idol’. It bewilders me that we have to listen to so much about this show in the news. It’s not news.” Well, guys, for the record, I’ve never seen it either.
That does it for us.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2006 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.