Guests: Fran Curry, Clint Van Zandt, Marcus Jones, Gary Pate, Todd Jones, Larry Kobilinsky, Neal Vickers
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, a 34-year-old Alabama attorney abducted at gunpoint this morning from a parking lot. It‘s caught on surveillance tape, late breaking developments. Police have just found the car, still no sign of her.
The program about justice starts now.
Hi everyone. We‘ve got breaking news coming out of Birmingham, Alabama. Authorities searching for a gunman who abducted this attorney at about 8:30 this morning near her apartment. A security camera shows 34-year-old family law attorney Sandy Gregory, opening the door to her boyfriend‘s silver green four-door Lexus SUV as the gunman approaches her, and then eventually, forces her into the vehicle. We‘re going to enhance that tape. We‘ll show it to you in a minute.
The latest development, this video just in. Authorities have just found that Lexus at a nearby parking lot at a housing project. Now Sandy was wearing a red tank top, black Capri pants and hoop earrings. And authorities describe the gunman wearing a striped white black and gray short-sleeve shirt with dark pants and sunglasses. There are also reports her ATM card has been used at three different banks in the region.
Joining me now, Fran Curry, co-anchor at our Birmingham station WVTM. Thanks a lot for taking the time. We appreciate it. All right, so this is a big development, the fact that they have found the car, right?
FRAN CURRY, CO-ANCHOR, WVTM: Exactly, a huge development. We‘ve waited all day for any sign of Sandy and finding that car was huge. Police right now, as you said, are doing a door-to-door search through an area called the Cooper Green housing project. But what we‘ve just heard in the last couple of seconds is that police have gone into another home in that same area of town close to the housing project, guns drawn.
No outcome from that yet, but apparently that just happened a few moments ago in southwest Birmingham. And as you said, Sandy Eubank Gregory is a 34-year-old attorney, just went into private practice last year. Before that, she worked with family court as an attorney and as a social worker, well known in the community, well thought of. And people have really been on high alert today looking for her.
Police looked in the car. Once they found the car, which everyone had been looking for all day long, and said there was no foul play there, no sign that anything had happened in the car. So that‘s why the search continued into that housing community. One thing officers were concerned about was the fact that much of that housing project is vacant.
There are a lot of empty projects and a lot of empty apartments in the Cooper Green housing projects, so that door-to-door search, as we know, continues right now but just moments ago, police were seen, guns drawn, going into another home in the southwest section of Birmingham—Dan.
ABRAMS: All right and Fran, if you get anything on that, feel free to look off camera or talk to people on camera to let us know what‘s going on there even as we‘re speaking. You said no evidence of foul play found inside the car, meaning they did not find any blood or any other evidence like that, right?
CURRY: That‘s correct. That‘s what police are telling us, that there was no evidence of foul play in the car or around the car. And that‘s when they started going door to door in the area where the car was found.
ABRAMS: Any confirmation of these reports that her ATM card was used at these banks?
CURRY: That‘s what we‘ve been hearing throughout the day from Birmingham police that the ATM card has been used at a variety of banks all across the city and so apparently that was how this started and still later today, as you know, still looking for Sandy Gregory Eubank—Sandy Eubank Gregory, rather. And another footnote about her. She is a mother.
She has a 3-year-old daughter. I was in touch with some friends of her family. They are keeping a close watch, a prayer vigil right now and also some of them have been summoned to the Birmingham Police Department, no word on why that was so, but a lot of people are closely watching this case.
ABRAMS: Yes, her ex-husband apparently picked up the child at daycare. Good to hear the child is doing—all right, Fran, look, if you get anything else, please let us know because we want to stay on top of this story. We appreciate your help.
CURRY: All right, Dan. Thank you very much.
ABRAMS: Joining me now, Clint Van Zandt, MSNBC analyst and former FBI profiler. Clint, a big development they found the car there (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER: Yes, this is big, Dan. Well, I think where it puts us now, I think we can assume this guy has been on foot. He came to her car this morning. The premise was that he wanted her to use her ATM card and get money. He took her to three different locations. But, Dan, instead of leaving town, he circled back probably to where he lives or works, so that‘s why we find this car back here.
He made the money run. Now he‘s back there again. And there is a very good chance he is sitting listening to the radio or watching you and I talk about this on TV. And if he is, he needs to understand right now all he‘s done is take a little bit of money. He hasn‘t hurt anyone. Let‘s not make this any worse than it is.
This can be resolved real easily. The last thing police want to do is see him hurt or see this woman hurt. She is a mother. She‘s got a young child and this whole thing can be resolved very peacefully as soon as he wants to.
ABRAMS: Yes, you‘re right. If he‘s watching, he should know that there is a lot less time behind bars if it is just kidnapping and theft of money than if somebody gets hurt.
VAN ZANDT: Yes, this is just dollars and cents. This is not—the money is not a big thing right now, so...
VAN ZANDT: ... the only person who can make this worse is him.
ABRAMS: It‘s good news, is it not, that there was no evidence of foul play found in that car. I mean I was very relieved to hear that there is no blood or anything like that.
VAN ZANDT: Yes, I mean we‘ve got one of two things. He either put her out of the car someplace after he made the third ATM run and used her car to get back to where he lived again or he brought her back and is holding her until the situation is resolved. Those are the two theories I think that law enforcement has to work with right now.
ABRAMS: The guns-drawn part doesn‘t necessarily mean that they‘ve got the right place though, right?
VAN ZANDT: No, no, it doesn‘t. I mean any building you‘re going to go into, you don‘t know what is on the other side of the door, so I think the officers are just being prudent. They‘re not there. They don‘t want a shootout.
They don‘t want to hurt anybody. They don‘t want to hurt this guy. But lord knows, they don‘t want to get hurt themselves. So you know this whole thing can be resolved very easily by this guy letting the woman come out and coming out himself. Right now all he‘s done is take a few dollars. It‘s not that big a thing.
ABRAMS: All right. Clint Van Zandt, thanks very much. There is the number we just had up, the tip line was 205-254-1764. If you‘ve got any information, please call.
Joining me now on the phone, Judge Gary Pate, a Jefferson County domestic relations judge, who knew—knows Sandra Eubank Gregory and Marcus Jones, her law partner. Thanks to both of you for coming on the program. Appreciate it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.
ABRAMS: All right, Mr. Jones, let me ask you—we just heard Elizabeth talking about the family law practice. Does she—is she involved in cases where there‘s a lot of hostility, a lot of anger where this could be somehow related to that?
MARCUS JONES, SANDRA EUBANK GREGORY‘S LAW PARTNER (via phone): I don‘t see this being related to this at all. I just—your reporter said it best; it‘s a random hostage situation.
ABRAMS: And Judge, is that the impression you‘re getting as well?
GARY PATE, JEFFERSON COUNTY, AL JUDGE (via phone): Well yes, and certainly I think it‘s silly to jump to any other conclusions at this time, until everybody knows a whole lot more, but apparently—I haven‘t seen the video, but apparently from it, there‘s certainly no sense in there of recognition or anything on her part as to who this person was.
ABRAMS: Well in fact, it almost seems like she‘s resisting at one point. It almost seems like...
PATE: That‘s what I‘ve heard.
ABRAMS: Yes, because we‘ve now—we‘re showing this—we‘ve also enhanced it—consistent with the woman you know?
PATE: Oh, absolutely. Listen, she is as clever and as feisty and as sharp as anybody you would run into. She‘s—really has her act together and it will be real interesting to hear her take on this after all of this is over.
ABRAMS: Marcus, I assume the type of person who might be able to talk her way out, if possible?
JONES: There is no question about it. Judge Pate described her.
She can talk herself—she‘s an attorney.
JONES: She can talk her way out of it.
PATE: Yes, but Marc, she‘s not just a lawyer, she‘s a really good lawyer.
JONES: She‘s a good lawyer.
PATE: She really is. She‘s not only a really good lawyer, but a really good person, so...
PATE: ... you have to have a whole lot of confidence in Sandy at this point.
ABRAMS: All right. Judge Pate and Marcus Jones, thanks a lot.
JONES: Thank you.
PATE: Thank you very much.
ABRAMS: And again, if we have any information on that story, we will bring it to you.
Coming up, will Marines be charged with murder in the deaths of 24 Iraqis? We‘ll hear what happened from a Marine who was injured in the incident that led to the shootings.
And new developments in the search for the person who strangled a Clemson student to death with a bikini top. Could the case be linked to two previous unsolved murders in the area?
Plus the story you heard here first. An admitted Nebraska sex offender sentenced to probation. The judge saying he‘s too short to survive in prison. Nebraska‘s attorney general joins us next.
Your e-mails email@example.com. Please include your full name and where you‘re writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: We‘re learning more about those allegations that American Marines murdered 24 Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha last November and then tried to cover it up. Again, allegations, we‘re going to look at what their defense might look like if charges are brought.
“The New York Times” reports that a military investigator who looked into the incident last winter found the Iraqis involved had been shot. Marines had claimed the Iraqis were killed by a roadside bomb. And with two more investigations underway, and a dozen Marines being held or restricted to base, President Bush spoke about it today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If in fact these allegations are true, the Marine Corps will work hard to make sure that that culture, that proud culture will be reinforced and that those who violated the law, if they did, will be punished.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: NBC‘s Richard Engel has laid out a timeline based on information from witnesses, doctors, and an Iraqi human rights group.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 7:15 a.m., a convoy from the first Marine division is attacked by a roadside bomb. A Humvee destroyed. Twenty-year-old Lance Corporal Miguel Terrazas is killed. Terrazas was from a family of Marines and always wanted to enlist.
JORGE TERRAZAS, GRANDFATHER: We were very proud of him. Absolutely.
He was 18 when he joined the Marines.
ENGEL: 7:25, witnesses say Marines searched the area for the bomber. They storm a house directly across from the attack, shooting as they approach. This video shot by a local journalism student purports to show the bloody aftermath of what happened inside to 76-year-old Abdul Hamid, blind and in a wheelchair, his 66-year-old wife and nine of their sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren. Local coroner‘s reports obtained by NBC News say Abdul Hamid was shot in the stomach and head. The reports say his wife and five other relatives were also killed, all by multiple gunshot wounds. Four inside the house survived, including 10-year-old Iyman (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The Americans came into the room where my father was praying and shot him. They went to my grandmother and killed her too.
ENGEL: During the raid, Abdul Hamdi‘s house caught fire. Witnesses say Marines then moved next door to the house of Eunice Hamid (ph), nine people are inside, eight are killed, five of them children. Twelve-year-old Sofa (ph) says she survived hiding under the bed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): They came in and shot all of us. I pretended I was dead.
ENGEL: Witnesses say Marines then moved to a third location, a taxi parked by the side of the road. In it, residents say are four university students and a driver. A witness watching from a nearby rooftop says Marines took the five men out of the car and executed them. The driver screamed in English, he said.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please, please, please...
ENGEL: Please, please, please, but they shot him in the body. Other witnesses say two hours passed as more Marines and helicopters arrived to lock down the neighborhood. Around 10:30, Marines then storm the house of Ayad Ahmed (ph). Here they allegedly separate his four sons from the women and children before killing the men. Nine-year-old Hallad (ph) is in the house.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
ENGEL: This is my father he screamed. God will take my revenge.
ABRAMS: Richard Engel reporting from Baghdad.
Marine Lance Corporal James Crossan was in the Humvee, blown apart by the roadside bomb in November. He talked with NBC Seattle affiliate KING about the attack, his buddies on the squad and what it was like to fight in that combat zone where you can‘t tell friend from foe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LANCE CPL. JAMES CROSSAN, USMC, INJURED IN HADITHA ATTACK: Insurgents are getting a lot smarter, just how they plant their bombs and how they act towards Americans, so one minute you could be talking to them, next minute they‘ll be stabbing you in the back. I remember taking a left and a right, and then remember waking up on the ground for a split second and I could hear Marines behind me saying that I‘m going to be OK, grab the morphine, and then I could see my Humvee all blown to pieces.
And then I passed out again. Next time I came around, I was on the helicopter, asking for water and all that stuff, and then I passed out again and woke up in the hospital. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) another family. We were more close knit than any other squad. We just kind of joked around.
We lost Lance Corporal Miguel Terrazas. He was a good guy. He was from El Paso, Texas, and he was my point man, and he was pretty much the guy that I went to if I needed anything. It‘s pretty much me and him that ran my team. They knew that he was dead, just by looking at him and they thought I was dead too, but—and they didn‘t think I was going to make it according to them. So it had a major effect on them.
You see your friend get killed and all that stuff, you‘re going to do something irrational and all that stuff and probably just weren‘t thinking and killed a bunch of people. Probably half of them were Baghdad, and you just never know. So, it really doesn‘t cross my mind. Little kids I can see being bad and even some of the women, but just over there, you just can‘t tell who the bad guy was.
All these guys are good guys. You‘re just mad and irrational decision, and all that, but they did something stupid and now they‘ve got to pay for the consequences for it, which could be time in prison or anything. I don‘t know, worse than that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Under some circumstances, soldiers convicted of murder could face the death penalty as well as Marines. Todd Jones is a former military prosecutor and defense attorney and a former U.S. attorney in civilian life, joins us now on the phone. Thanks a lot for coming on the program. Appreciate it.
All right. So what about that as a possible defense. What if they say, look, we had just seen our friend get killed and we had to figure out who was responsible and we weren‘t in the ordinary mental state that one might be in.
TODD JONES, FORMER MILITARY DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I think you put your finger right on it, Dan, in terms of questions of intent in addition to just your good old bread and butter evidence, you know, the previous pieces illustrate sort of the diverging stories, a number of witnesses, you‘ve got video after the fact that‘s not particularly relevant in terms of what actually happened on the ground during the moments of the explosion and the initial reaction of that Marine squad to the death of a pretty close colleague.
ABRAMS: I guess there reaches a time though, I mean, for example, that‘s going to be a stronger defense, is it not, for the initial shootings, because I mean it seems that they probably thought that the bomb came from one of the buildings that were on the side of the road. It seems that it‘s a stronger defense to say, we thought it was coming from there, we were in a mental state, which was our friend had just been killed, than it would be to say to people possibly hours later.
JONES: Right. You know, Marines are trained to react to rules of engagement. I don‘t know what the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in that particular situation, but it sounds very much from the news reports and the allegations that they went into react mode, to a certain extent, training kicks in, in terms of response to an explosion and a Marine being down, and I think the question becomes when does sort of rational thought processes kick in and events slow down enough, so that if they are going to be prosecuted for charges such as murder, when is the prosecutor going to make that break point.
ABRAMS: All right. I understand we now have your picture back. All right, so on the question, again this crucial question of intent here, you know what other kinds of defenses could there be? I mean in other military cases we‘ve seen defenses which include I was ordered to do it, I wasn‘t trained properly. Are those the sort of things we might hear?
JONES: Well, I think that once the fact gathering is done and we‘re beyond the allegation and hearsay and anecdotal evidence phase, that that question of intent, and whether or not there were orders given in response to take some of the actions that obviously happened and, you know, war is horrific and the video that people have seen should preclude them from jumping to any conclusions. It‘s a very, very difficult situation. And I‘m just speaking about the events on the ground in Haditha, not the reaction of the chain of command afterwards, which as I understand it, from news reports, is a separate investigation.
ABRAMS: That‘s right. And that‘s the question of the cover-up versus the crime, but, you know, you can make the argument that had there not been the cover-up, there might not be as much anger in terms of the crime. I mean, you know, it‘s a tough argument to make. If people were executed, people were executed—you know that‘s a tough thing to defend against if it happened, but the cover-up it seems here is one of the key issues.
JONES: Well, it will be a key issue with respect to those officers that are involved in the chain of command, some of whom as I understand it, have been relieved of their duties. I think it has less relevance to the defense of any of the Marines that were actually on the ground that may ultimately face charges. As I understand it, right now, they have not been charged with anything and an investigation is ongoing. At some juncture soon, there may be a court-martial convened.
ABRAMS: Would you expect that there will be?
JONES: I would expect that there will be, a court-martial convened and it will be a capital offense. If I were a betting man, I‘d think that some of the charges against some of those Marines may include capital offenses.
ABRAMS: Todd Jones, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
JONES: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, new details in the search for the killer of a Clemson University student strangled with a bikini top. We‘ve got new information about what happened that night, this as some ask whether her murder could be connected to two other unsolved murders in the same area.
And we were first to tell you about a Nebraska judge who sentenced this child molester to probation because in part, he was too short to survive in prison. Now the state attorney general is appealing the sentence and he joins us live.
Our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing offenders before they strike. Our search today is in Vermont.
Authorities want your help finding Allen Miller. He‘s 39, five-nine, 221, was convicted of lewd and lascivious and hasn‘t registered his address with the state. If you‘ve got any information on his whereabouts, please contact the Vermont Department of Public Safety, 802-244-8727. Be right back.
ABRAMS: We have got new information in the case of South Carolina college student Tiffany Souers, who was found murdered in her apartment last week, strangled with a bikini top tied around her neck. We now have a copy of the incident report, which gives an approximate timeline of the murder. After Tiffany was dropped off at her apartment around 11:00 p.m. on Thursday night, she was likely killed somewhere around 1:00 or 1:30 a.m. on Friday morning according to police.
She was found later that day around 1:30 in the afternoon reportedly by a former roommate and the roommate‘s boyfriend. The report also says that in addition to Tiffany‘s computer, $500 was recovered from the scene and the dumpster for her apartment complex was thoroughly investigated. Prosecutors are exploring all possible leads, including the possibility of a connection to other unsolved murders of female Clemson University students. One in 1992, one in 1997, seem to believe they‘re making progress. Robert Ariail is the Greenville County, South Carolina solicitor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT ARIAIL, GREENVILLE COUNTY, SC SOLICITOR: The information that has been developed through this investigation is significant. I feel very confident at the rate they‘re going that a resolution is certainly achievable in terms of finding out who committed this act.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Joining me now is Michelle Hofland, who is in Greenville, South Carolina, former FBI profiler and MSNBC analyst Clint Van Zandt joins us, and forensic expert and professor at John Jay College of criminal justice Larry Kobilinsky.
All right, Michelle, what‘s the latest?
MICHELLE HOFLAND, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well right now the county solicitor or county prosecutor is up in the building behind me holding a brief press conference. I have to tell you he looks very confident right now. He says that he‘s confident that they will be able to catch this killer fairly soon.
They believe that he‘s still in this area and what the county solicitor said because of events that have occurred afterward. They also are getting numerous calls, numerous leads from witnesses and people around the Clemson area and around that apartment complex and what he said to us is that people have reported other incidents in that area, similar to this, similar—not in terms of the murder, but other instances similar to this.
He wouldn‘t elaborate, over the past—in this recent time, so that‘s what they‘re investigating right now. He also says that they‘re hopeful that they will have a DNA profile on this person fairly soon, from evidence taken at the scene and also evidence seized at Tiffany Souers‘ apartment. But the district attorney says he wishes that he could tell us everything that he knows in this case, because it would be very reassuring to the people who live around here, but he cannot at this time because of the laws governing what he‘s allowed to say and all, so because he doesn‘t want to tip off this killer right now.
ABRAMS: And let‘s be clear that the prosecutor is saying that they have witness accounts that may be able to tie this guy to other crimes?
HOFLAND: You know, he was—it‘s hard to tell, because...
ABRAMS: All right.
HOFLAND: ... he really cannot give us any specific information. All he would say is that witnesses to other similar incidents and I‘m not exactly sure what he means by that...
ABRAMS: All right.
HOFLAND: ... and other things that have occurred afterwards that lead him to believe that the killer is probably still in the area and around the Clemson and around the apartment complex and also other similar incidents, and people are calling in, and giving them tips and giving them leads and they are hoping that they‘ll be able to track this guy down very soon.
ABRAMS: All right. Larry Kobilinsky, a DNA profile, what does that mean?
LARRY KOBILINSKY, FORENSIC EXAMINER: Well, what it means is that they very likely have some biological evidence that they are able to extract DNA and get a genetic profile, then check the national database and pull up a suspect cold. Meaning that they determined whether there‘s a match over 13 genetic sites and if there is, they‘ve got their man.
ABRAMS: Clint, no sign of a struggle? As far as we know, at this point no sign of a sexual assault, although that could change depending on the results of certain tests. How significant is that?
VAN ZANDT: Well I think part of the significance, Dan, is what we—was just reported on your show, with what the prosecutor has suggested. You know, to kind of unravel the code that he‘s talking in, it appears to be that he‘s talking about perhaps peeping toms, perhaps somebody who‘s broken into other apartments in that area, that someone may have witnessed someone doing that recently, so you could have a peeping tom, you could have a cat burglar who perhaps has escalated to this, who actually confronts his victim now, in this case, murdered the victim, but you know that sounds—if that level of confidence is there, they may well have physical evidence from other crimes that they can link to this too and hopefully identify the offender.
ABRAMS: And Clint the fact that they say they believe he‘s still in the area.
VAN ZANDT: Yes. Again, in investigative talk, that means we‘ve got somebody who we believe lives in the area, works in the area and commits crimes in the area. We‘ve got no reason to believe this offender would have necessarily fled to some other part of the state or another state. Therefore we think the guy is still here and we‘re pursuing the investigation as if he is.
ABRAMS: Here‘s Tiffany‘s mom on Tuesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BREN SOUERS, MURDERED STUDENT‘S MOTHER: We generally talked after she got out of classes at noon and she didn‘t have plans for the weekend yet, she was just—that‘s generally what we talk on Thursdays, what she‘s going to do on the weekend. She didn‘t have plans. Just general stuff and then, you know, it was just our normal conversation. No concerns about anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: All right. Michelle Hofland, Clint Van Zandt, and Larry Kobilinsky, thanks a lot.
Coming up -- I‘ve got to shift gears here for a minute because we‘ve got some breaking news to report out of Birmingham, Alabama. That story we‘ve been reporting to you all day. That kidnapped attorney, 34-year-old Sandra Eubank Gregory. According to our affiliate in Birmingham, Alabama, she has been found safe in a hotel in Birmingham. And a suspect is in custody. This is a story we have been following closely for you all day after seeing that surveillance video of her abduction at about 8:30 in the morning.
You see her being forced into a car. There are reports that she was forced to take money out of an ATM and then we learned about 20 minutes ago, that her car, at least the car of her boyfriend had been recovered, that same car that she was abducted in, they were searching at a housing project and now we are told that she has been found safe in a hotel in Birmingham. The suspect is in custody.
What we‘re going to do here is we‘re going to take a break. When we come back, we are going to bring you the very latest on this story and try and figure out exactly what happened. But most important, great news. She‘s been found. She‘s safe in a hotel. Back in a minute to try and tell you exactly what happened.
ABRAMS: Coming up, we‘re going to bring you the very latest on that story out of Alabama, a 34-year-old lawyer abducted at 8:30 this morning, and we have just gotten information in that she has been found at a hotel in Birmingham. There is a suspect in custody. We‘ll have more in a moment.
ABRAMS: We are just getting in incredible details in connection with that Birmingham, Alabama attorney who was kidnapped this morning. Caught on videotape, Sandra Gregory, a family law attorney, kidnapped at 8:30 this morning, forced into her car, was actually her boyfriend‘s car. And there has been a massive search on for the person who abducted her. We are now learning that she has been found. That she is safe.
But this is what we have just learned. Apparently the police were about to break down the door of a hotel that they believed that the suspect could be holding her. At the moment when they were going to break down the door, apparently the suspect opened the door. They found Sandy Gregory on the floor with her hands and feet bound, covered with a sheet.
But that is the hotel where she has just been recovered. Again, we‘re told that she is safe. But that she was found with her hands and feet bound, covered with a sheet. Joining me now on the phone, Neil Vickers from WERC Radio. Neal, this is great news. It sounds like the police got there just in time.
NEAL VICKERS, WERC RADIO (via phone): It was like a huge sigh of relief that was felt all across the region here where they‘ve been looking for her all day long. She disappeared early this morning, about 8:30 this morning in the parking lot of her loft apartment, surveillance video that everybody has been watching on television all day long. And it has now become a staple of the day. But when they found the car about two hours ago, I believe it was, Cooper Green...
ABRAMS: Yes, that‘s what I was going to ask you...
ABRAMS: ... is how far away is that...
ABRAMS: ... housing project from the hotel?
VICKERS: It‘s a pretty good hike. We‘re—just to give you a frame of reference, that‘s located on the west side of Birmingham. And Birmingham is located in a valley. At the top of—at one side of the valley is Red Mountain, which is where I‘m located right now, right down the street from where she was located at the Comfort Inn on Oxmoor Road in a town called Homewood, which is basically a suburb of Birmingham.
It is its own municipality, but it is adjacent to the—to Birmingham proper. That‘s where she was found on the second floor of this Comfort Inn. Apparently, as you reported just a moment ago, bound and covered with a sheet. That‘s a new one on me.
ABRAMS: Yes, that‘s what we‘re being told from our local affiliate. And apparently—again, the amazing part is the police were there. They were apparently about to break down the door and the suspect then opens the door and lets them in. Clint Van Zandt I believe is with us, the former FBI profiler. Clint, this is some good police work.
VAN ZANDT: This is great police work, Dan. This is the way you want to see these things end. And you know the interesting thing is they‘re in a hotel. You have to assume they have a television, probably sitting there watching your show and others where this guy, whoever he is, had to make a decision. It was, what is he going to do? He‘s got the victim with him. He knows law enforcement is looking for him.
Perhaps somebody in a hotel even called and said hey, there is a guy here that doesn‘t look right. He forced a woman up to the second floor. All of this came together. I think the reality is though he had to make a hard decision. That decision is, you do something negative. Do you hurt this woman? Or do you tie her up and try to figure out what you‘re going to do from here?
This guy did the right thing after doing some terribly wrong things. He left her alive. And the police, Dan, as you suggest, they were able to take that information, bring it in. If that door hadn‘t opened, I guarantee you the door was going down. And the police would have been in there to save this woman‘s life.
ABRAMS: The Comfort Inn, I‘m told, is five miles south of where she was abducted and a very short distance. And Clint, you had said on this program a couple of hours ago on our initial 4:00 program—you had said that you thought he might be sitting somewhere possibly watching coverage. And as it turns out, that may be exactly what he was doing. Why would someone do that?
VAN ZANDT: Well...
ABRAMS: Just to avoid getting caught?
VAN ZANDT: No. This is someone, Dan, he had a short plan. I think the short plan was to grab someone and get some money, maybe for drugs or something like that. But the guy had no way—he had no closure. In his own mind, he had no way to go from here.
His plan may have well been, I‘ll take the woman, I‘ll get the money and then I‘ll just jump out of the car and move on. Now all of a sudden, he‘s listening to the radio. They‘ve got a description of the car. They‘ve got...
ABRAMS: Let me...
VAN ZANDT: ... a picture of him...
ABRAMS: Let me add something here. Clint, I apologize for interrupting you. But witnesses are now saying that she may still be inside being treated by paramedics. Unclear. But the most important thing is, you know that she‘s alive.
VAN ZANDT: Absolutely.
ABRAMS: And because I think there was—you know, there was some level of concern about that any time you get an abduction like this. Neal Vickers, I‘ve got to assume this has been a day in Birmingham where the entire city has been following the fate of Sandy Gregory.
VICKERS: From what I understand, the law enforcement agencies that were involved there, the U.S. Marshals were actually the ones that were getting ready to go through that door. And they were also being backed up by the police departments and of course the sheriff—the county sheriff‘s department. The law enforcement from all across this region had been alerted and were on the lookout for this vehicle and for this woman and the reported abductor.
ABRAMS: All right. Let‘s do this. We‘re going to take a break. If you could both stick around for a moment, because we‘re still getting in details about this story as we speak. So let‘s take a quick break here.
When we come back, we want to try and bring you any new details. Neal Vickers, if you‘ve got any sources you want to make a phone call real quick, we‘re going to just have you right back on the program to let us know exactly what is happening at that Comfort Inn in Birmingham, Alabama.
Again, 34-year-old Sandy Gregory has been found. It seems that she is safe. She is certainly alive. This after she was kidnapped at 8:30 this morning. We‘ll have more in a moment.
ABRAMS: Continuing now with our breaking news story, this hotel was the scene of a crime where only moments ago, Sandy Gregory, a 34-year-old family law attorney has been found. She was bound. Her hands and legs were bound. She was under a sheet. But the suspect has been captured. This after that man allegedly, presumably, was the one who abducted her.
It sure looks that way from the tape.
You see him there on the tape. Eventually, forcing 34-year-old Sandy Gregory into a Lexus car at 8:30 this morning. There has been a search out all day for her. They found the car about two hours ago, and now only moments ago, we learned that as the authorities were about to break down a hotel room door, the suspect opened the door and there they found Sandy Gregory alive. Here is what the official from Birmingham said only moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At approximately 5:20 p.m. this evening, Birmingham Police Department detectives, along with local law enforcement, arrived at the Comfort Inn located at 195 Oxmoor Road and took a male suspect into custody. The female victim was also inside of the room with the suspect. She is being seen at this time by paramedics, she is reportedly all right. The case is still under investigation. The room is still being processed. So far, we‘ve secured money and one weapon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: That was Lieutenant Henry Irby from the Birmingham Police Department, a spokesperson there speaking at that hotel where only moment ago, the U.S. Marshals and the Birmingham police together arrested a suspect and found Sandy Gregory alive, but bound.
Clint Van Zandt is back with me. Clint, really this is happening as we‘re speaking.
VAN ZANDT: Sure.
ABRAMS: But the fact that he is able to say at this point that she is safe...
VAN ZANDT: Yes.
ABRAMS: ... is a big statement.
VAN ZANDT: Yes. This is a great statement. It shows a number of things, Dan. Number one, as the police spokesman said, there were city, county, state and federal agencies and something like this, everybody drops everything else that they‘re doing. They throw their manpower at a case like this. They get SWAT teams staged around the town and they‘re ready to take down a room just like this if they have to.
No, number two, I think we‘re going to find out that this woman, the tenacity she probably showed, you know as some of your earlier guests suggested, that you know she was smart. She was verbal. I think this was someone who was probably talking for her life. And it looked like the—it looks like the combination of her perhaps dealing with these individuals, the efforts of law enforcement, and the efforts of you know, you, the media, other people on other media outlets kept the pressure on.
Any station this guy turned to, radio or television, he saw law enforcement was closing in. He had to make a decision. He had nowhere to run to and nowhere to hide, so he wound up holed up in this hotel, probably using the money from the ATM machine to rent the room. And while he was trying to figure out his next move, citizens helped. They saw this on TV.
Law enforcement was ready to take it down and Dan, they did the right thing. They got in. They got this woman back out alive. These are the type of terrible crimes we hate to see take place, but we sure love the happy endings.
ABRAMS: Oh, yes. All right, Clint, let me play another—a little piece of sound. This is from Lieutenant Henry Irby from the Birmingham Police Department only moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. HENRY IRBY, POLICE SPOKESMAN: I think any information that we received was critical in the location of the victim and the suspect. So any information that we received, the videotape, also calls, also people telling us the location of where they may have seen this victim and suspect played a key in everything.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was there any one piece of...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: You know, Clint, it is not that often that we see everything fall into place as it seems to have in this case.
VAN ZANDT: This is like a made for TV movie, Dan. Everything took place. We resolved it in a day. I mean you know you see the TV series, “24 Hours”. This took place in less than 12, from the initial kidnapping, from the crime, from the theft of the money, from the suspect driving her around the town. You know the interesting thing is going to be, too, number one, did she know this guy at all or was it just a random crime?
And number two, as you suggest, there is five miles difference between where the car was dropped and the hotel. How did he travel that distance? Does he have another car...
ABRAMS: No, Clint...
ABRAMS: It was five miles from where the abduction took place to where that hotel is. I believe that the location of the housing project was closer to the hotel than that.
VAN ZANDT: OK, so then the question is you know did he walk her that distance? How did he get her there? You know all of these things are nice to know, but the best thing to know is that she is alive.
ABRAMS: Yes. And it looks like that may be the room where she was being held. You can understand why there are some smiles going on there after a day of hard work by the authorities in Birmingham, by the federal authorities. Again, Sandy Gregory has apparently been found alive and is safe. The most important issues in a bizarre case where, again, it was caught on videotape this morning at 8:30.
Presumably she was going to work. And you see that man approaching her. And eventually, forcing her, apparently at gunpoint into the car that she had been driving. It seems that she was forced to withdraw money from her bank account three times. And then she was—we don‘t know what happened. Presumably she was driven around. But Clint Van Zandt, you had said the he might just be sitting around somewhere watching.
VAN ZANDT: That‘s kind of the way this impressed me, Dan, when you and I were first talking. It was this guy, this type of crime is someone who‘s very shortsighted. They want the money, but they don‘t know what to do when it blew up in his face. All he could do was go to ground and try to sort out his life.
VAN ZANDT: Turn the TV on and see what Dan Abrams had to say about the crime.
ABRAMS: Well look, whether it was Dan Abrams or any other show...
VAN ZANDT: Sure.
ABRAMS: ... the most important thing is that Sandy Gregory is alive and well.
VAN ZANDT: Amen.
ABRAMS: Congratulations to the authorities out there...
VAN ZANDT: High fives.
ABRAMS: ... for doing great work. So glad to see that we had a good ending to this one. Clint, thanks a lot.
VAN ZANDT: Thank you, Dan.
ABRAMS: We will be back in a minute. To Sandy‘s family, hey, it‘s the best we could have hoped for.
ABRAMS: Time for “Your Rebuttal”. Yesterday we told you the FBI called off its search for the remains of Jimmy Hoffa after tearing up a Michigan horse farm looking for his body. They‘ve been looking for almost two weeks.
David Ladewig writes, “What a colossal waste of time and money.”
Andy Zildjian, “Would you please explain the purpose and expense to find the body of Jimmy Hoffa? What will happen if the body is discovered? A Christian burial?”
But Patricia Ippolito “I did not like what you said about finding Jimmy Hoffa, like it was a bother. Jimmy Hoffa was the best Teamster leader that will ever be.”
Finally, Jessica Yengst from San Diego, “I think it‘s hilarious that you rile so many people to the extent that they will cuss you out in an e-mail. Even funnier still, you read it on the air for all the world to see.”
Now Jessica, I actually don‘t read the worst of them, I promise you. We get—they are a lot worse than the ones we actually read on the air. We get some good ones, too.
Your e-mails firstname.lastname@example.org. “HARDBALL” up next.
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