Guest: Andy Kahn, Richard Kanka, Mark Lunsford, Candice DeLong, Clint Van Zandt, Ed Smart
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: Tonight‘s top headline: the missing bride-to-be. Is her disappearance foul play or a case of a real runaway bride? We are going to be going live to Georgia for answers.
Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, no passport required, only common sense allowed.
SCARBOROUGH (voice-over): The wedding is tomorrow, 600 guests expected, but the bride is missing.
MIKE SATTERFIELD, UNCLE OF JENNIFER WILBANKS: We love Jennifer very much. We would give our life and everything that we own to have her returned.
SCARBOROUGH: Tonight, the latest news on the whereabouts of 32-year-old Jennifer Wilbanks, the search called off. Hair that may be hers, it‘s being analyzed, while her fiancee takes a polygraph test that some family members say he passed. What are the clues that could break open the case?
Then, the SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY campaign, protecting our kids from repeat sexual offenders.
MARK LUNSFORD, FATHER OF JESSICA LUNSFORD: We should not be afraid to walk our streets or let our children run and play. They should be afraid. They should be afraid of harming our children and what we will do to them if they do.
SCARBOROUGH: A lot has been accomplished by courageous parents like our guests, Mark Lunsford, Richard Kanka and Ed Smart, but much more needs to be done. What can we do right now to keep your kids safe?
SCARBOROUGH: Welcome to our show.
Police in Duluth, Georgia, say they have turned over every possible leaf, looking for the missing bride-to-be, Jennifer Wilbanks. There‘s still no sign of her, now three days since she went out for an evening jog and never returned. Tonight, she was to have been surrounded by family and friend at her rehearsal dinner, preparing for her wedding day in the morning to John Mason. Instead, there is no sign of Jennifer.
MSNBC‘s Don Teague joins us live tonight from the church where she was to be married tomorrow.
Don, tell us, what is the very latest in this very tragic case?
DON TEAGUE, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, good evening, Joe. It‘s been a really difficult day for family and friends of Jennifer Wilbanks today here in Duluth.
I want to step out of the shot and give you a look at this beautiful church, where the couple was to have been married tomorrow, as you mentioned, some 600 people supposed to be in attendance, 14 bridesmaids, really an extravaganza that was planned here. And instead of a rehearsal dinner, tonight, family and friends are gathered at the couple‘s house where they are praying and grieving and still hoping that this turns out all right.
Jennifer has, of course, been missing for three days now. There have been searches every day, including another one this morning, with dozens of police officers checking out some rugged terrain. But, as you mentioned, they called off that search at about noon today, the police chief saying they had turned over every leaf and found no real evidence that a crime had even been committed.
Now, there were some articles gathered, some pieces of clothing, and a few strands of hair. And here‘s what the police chief said about that hair.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RANDY BELCHER, DULUTH, GEORGIA, POLICE CHIEF: We did find some hair. The hair appears to have been cut. The hair was located in a local business complex here in the city. The GBI is currently doing tests on this hair.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TEAGUE: Of course, they have no indication that either the hair or the clothing is directly related to the case, but, of course, they have to check out every possible lead.
And, right now, that‘s really all they have. The family then held an emotional press conference today. There were tears. I can tell you Jennifer‘s mother was there. Her fiance, John Mason, was also there in the arms of that family, and in tears as well. We were told by the family that Mason had taken a polygraph test today by a private investigator or by a private company, that he had passed that polygraph test, that they were still negotiating with police over taking a police polygraph test.
And the family also announced a substantial reward.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SATTERFIELD: We love Jennifer very much. We would give our life and everything that we own to have her returned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TEAGUE: Well, I will tell you, that reward is for $100,000. Police are also asking the governor of Georgia to kick in more money from the state, clearly a top priority to find out what happened to Jennifer.
Also, on that polygraph test, according to the police chief, the reason Mason hasn‘t agreed to take a government polygraph test, if you will, yet is because of one stumbling block. He wants it to be videotaped, so they can make sure that everything is done correctly, which falls outside of the boundaries of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. They say they won‘t do it, so there‘s still some negotiations there. And we don‘t know if he will be given a polygraph test.
Meanwhile, as for tonight, well, the family again is gathered at the home, which is just about two or there miles from this church. Again, they are praying. And at that home tonight is the pastor who was supposed to marry them. This is Alan Jones. I spoke with him just a few moments ago.
ALAN JONES, PASTOR: The family has been amazingly strong. It was really tough about midday, when we realized that we had a wedding rehearsal tonight, and we had to make some decisions and would we change the wedding plans to a prayer service tomorrow night and postpone the wedding. So, after we made it over that hump, they began to recover, a lot of prayer, a lot of tears.
TEAGUE: And that decision has been made?
JONES: Yes. Yes, we will be at Duluth Methodist Church, First Methodist Church up in Duluth, 6:30 tomorrow night.
TEAGUE: What—I heard you saying earlier that the family still has hope. How important is that for them right now and for you?
JONES: I think it‘s for most. You know, if we give up hope—we have got to have hope. And their faith in God has just been so incredibly strong. And we believe Jennifer is out there. And we want her back.
TEAGUE: Is there anything that you haven‘t had an opportunity to say about this that you would like to?
JONES: Not really. You know, you look at a family that is mourning, whether it‘s a car accident or just someone missing, and they go through all the emotions. You know, one moment, you are laughing. One moment, you are crying. One moment, you are angry. All those are normal emotions. And it‘s a grief process. And they are doing that in a very healthy way.
TEAGUE: Well, Pastor Jones knows this couple and this family very well. In fact, he has been counseling them for several months in the preparation for marriage, but knows them in the church as well, said they were planning to do some missionary work together over the summer.
And I can tell you, he has very nice things to say about John Mason. And from what all of the family, their reaction here, you know—in the media, we talk about this polygraph test, and, of course, the police want to question him because he is the closest person to her at this point. But no one in the family is treating John Mason publicly in any way as any sort of suspect. They are embracing him as another person suffering a terrible loss—Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Don, is that the attitude right now, though, of law enforcement officers in Georgia? Certainly, we know—and, again, we are drawing no comparisons here. We have to be very careful, but, certainly, the beginning of the Laci Peterson case, when she disappeared, the families were talking also. We know they are talking tonight, but it seems so many law enforcement officers immediately look at husbands, fiances, boyfriends. Any indication that their focus is primarily on Mr. Mason tonight?
TEAGUE: Well, you know, that is the profile, so that‘s the direction they have to look when they do one of these investigations.
But, at the same time, they have really given no indication that they consider him a suspect at all. They say they haven‘t ruled him out, but they haven‘t ruled him in either. They are just doing due diligence in this investigation. So, clearly, they want to spend time talking to him. As you know, they have taken computers from the home, three of them, and they are looking through e-mails and files for any evidence.
But, really, the body language and the things we see just don‘t point to him being considered a suspect at this point. In fact, this evening, he was outside the home chatting very friendly and casually with some of the police officers out there. So, no, at this point, they are not giving us that indication.
And, as you also may have heard from the police chief today, they still haven‘t ruled out that this could possibly be a case of a runaway bride. Now, clearly, the indication aren‘t really there, but they really just don‘t know what they have right now, because there‘s been no trace of Jennifer Wilbanks.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Don Teague, NBC News‘ Don Teague, thank you so much for joining us. Great update. Great report. We really appreciate it.
You know, I just try to put myself in the position of this man who was going to be married tomorrow. And, you know, it‘s—certainly, it‘s not fair. We all know it‘s not fair that Mr. Mason, again, is missing his fiance tonight and immediately the attention of law enforcement officers and, in fact, unfortunately, to many of the media focuses on this man almost immediately.
And just think about being hit with the loss and being in that shock and then having to deal with what he is having to deal with tonight. It‘s got to be absolutely terrible. Unfortunately, though, as Don said, it fits the profile. That‘s why a lot of people right now are focusing on him.
Now, as we just saw, Jennifer‘s uncle spoke today talking about the family‘s anguish during this terrible crisis. Let‘s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SATTERFIELD: The families have come together and are supporting each other. We are doing that through our faith, through our friends and through prayer.
Today, we would, first of all, like to request a prayer for Jennifer and her safe return. Anyone who would like to do that, we certainly would request that and appreciate it.
We cannot describe the emotional effect this situation places on our family. We apologize if we have seemed distant. But I think it‘s a natural occurrence, and it‘s a process that we are going through. Our emotions appear to be driving many of our actions. And, hopefully, we will try and control that the best we can.
We love Jennifer very much. We would give our life and everything that we own to have her returned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SATTERFIELD: It‘s so sad.
And, you know, news of the family‘s $100,000 reward preceded a police announcement that law enforcement has suspended its search effort and also gave news of a polygraph test.
Let‘s go to that press conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BELCHER: At this point, we have searched what we can search. We have exhausted our manpower. We have turned over probably every leaf in this city. So, I have suspended all future searches as of this moment, unless some other evidence is brought forward.
Mr. Mason did take a polygraph today by a private examiner. We have requested that he take a polygraph now through the GBI. He has agreed to take the polygraph, but under certain conditions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: We have a lot more tonight on the mysterious disappearance of Jennifer Wilbanks, including tough questions for the man who was set to marry her tomorrow. His story in his own words coming up next.
And if you know anything about the whereabouts of Jennifer Wilbanks, call this number.
We‘ll be right back.
SCARBOROUGH: She was supposed to get married in just hours, but now Jennifer Wilbanks is nowhere to be found. What is her fiance saying? We will talk about that next when our coverage continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SATTERFIELD: Our faith and our prayer, our friends. And we are a close-knit family. And we‘ll make it through this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: You know, it‘s our breaking story.
In a matter of hours, Jennifer Wilbanks was to marry John Mason in a lavish ceremony before her 14 bridesmaids and 600 guests. Now that wedding ceremony is likely to be prayer vigil tomorrow night. Jennifer Wilbanks has been missing, of course, since Tuesday. And police have few answers to the many questions that surround her disappearance.
Let‘s bring in Former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt, also, Ed Smart, father of Elizabeth Smart, who was abducted and later found months later, also, Candice DeLong, an FBI profiler.
Let‘s start with you, Clint.
You know, you just hate to assume anything early on, but let‘s face it.
CLINT VAN ZANDT, MSNBC ANALYST: Yes.
SCARBOROUGH: Whether you are the FBI or whether you are the Georgia law enforcement community, you have got to draw assumptions very quickly. You have got to focus the force, because those first couple of days are so critical to the investigation. Is John Mason, the fiance, the man who is at the center of everybody‘s suspicion?
VAN ZANDT: Well, you know, part of the problem here, Joe, is that we all remember, of course, Scott and Laci Peterson. We remember Mark and Lori Hacking from Salt Lake City last year, the young wife who went out jogging and never came back again. Both were killed by their significant others.
But part of this whole thing, Joe, as a profiler, you start to look at victimology. You look at what was going on. And, in this case, this young missing woman‘s background, and you look at what is going on in her fiance‘s background.
In the case of Scott Peterson, you had lies; you had deceptions; you
had infidelity. In the case of Mark Hacking, you had lies again. You had
· he trumped up this whole story he was going to med school, and it never happened. So when you start to take their lives apart, both of the victims and of the significant others, you find motive. You find reasons.
So far, we haven‘t heard that in this particular case. So, do you always look at the significant other, the person that is closest? Yes. But does that make this young man guilty of anything, other than perhaps loving a woman who has disappeared? And what are the chances she is going to disappear three days before her wedding? But that‘s all we have right now, is chance and possibility. That doesn‘t put him at the sights of this investigation.
SCARBOROUGH: And, you know, Candice DeLong, also a profiler, the Associated Press is reporting that John Mason is an office manager. He is a Sunday school teacher. He coaches his church basketball team.
But, regardless of all of that, if you are a profiler, is he the first and only suspect that you are looking at tonight?
CANDICE DELONG, FORMER FBI PROFILER: Not the only, but definitely the first. He was the last person to see her before she disappeared. He is the closest intimate person in her life. We don‘t know if she has been murdered. I hope that she hasn‘t.
But, statistically—and Clint will back me up on this—one of the
things that is a looming presence in situations like this is the
overwhelming statistic that about 75 percent of American adult women that
are killed are killed by someone that they know, and 33 percent are killed
by an intimate, either current or former.
So, in most investigations like this, the police would be looking at the—as what we call the usual suspects and running a parallel investigation to see if anything else may have happened.
If she is a runaway bride, it‘s hard to go somewhere in America and not use your credit cards, your cell phone. That is certainly some things that they are looking into. Is there any evidence that this woman is living her life anywhere else? They should be able to determine that.
SCARBOROUGH: And yet they have called off the investigation. They say...
SCARBOROUGH: ... she is nowhere to be found around here.
Talk about the hair that they found in a parking lot. What does that make you suspect? Anything?
DELONG: Well, I don‘t want to say to much about that yet. I think it‘s—I have never even heard of a situation, they found some hairs in a parking lot?
VAN ZANDT: No. That‘s...
DELONG: What the heck is that? That could be anything, anybody‘s.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, Clint, I hear you also muttering under your breath.
VAN ZANDT: Yes.
SCARBOROUGH: I am just wondering, why would the police even bring that up if they didn‘t think it some way attached back to her?
VAN ZANDT: Because they are so desperate for anything right now, Joe.
I mean, how many women sitting there watching our program have not sat in a parking lot and taken their hair brush and cleaned it out and dropped it outside the window, or how many people have not taken the trash out, that had hair in it and it blew out as they took the trash out? I mean, the police are so desperate.
And, of course, this was found by a civilian searcher who held it up and said, look. Well, at this point, at this juncture, when you got nothing, you have to run with what you got, which is, take this hair. Let‘s match it up. Let‘s make DNA stew out of it, and let‘s match it up to the DNA of the missing woman and see if they are the same. I mean, you have to do it. You can‘t just throw it up in the air.
But the odds are, especially if this hair was cut, if it hasn‘t been yanked, if there aren‘t root balls at the bottom of it to indicate that it had been taken out of someone‘s head forcibly, the chances are this is just one of dozens of items that are going to look like clues, but in a case like this, turn out to be nothing.
SCARBOROUGH: Ed Smart, talk about what this family is going through right now three days into it. You have been there. You don‘t know where your daughter is. What was it like for you and your family three days into the disappearance of your daughter?
ED SMART, FATHER OF ELIZABETH SMART: Well, you know, I think that all of us, we didn‘t care about our personal lives or whatever we were putting on the line.
We submitted to the polygraph tests. The first thing that we wanted to do was whatever it takes to get Elizabeth back. That‘s what we wanted to do. And I feel like this family is trying to do the same thing. You don‘t care. You just want to find out, and whatever you can do to find that out. You know, the pain that any parent feels when their child is missing is very deep. And it‘s very difficult to deal with. And, you know, God bless that family.
SCARBOROUGH: Ed, I had one law enforcement officer tell me that they were a little concerned about the fact that this fiance was negotiating with the police at this point. They say, at this point, usually, you will do anything to get your loved one back.
Let me ask you, were you negotiating with the police three days into it, or did you willingly say, hey, I will take the lie detector test; I will do whatever you want me to do?
SMART: You know, we would do whatever they asked us to do. But I do understand his position.
I mean, what is so bad about videotaping it? You know, I think that in cases, there‘s concern about coercion and pressure to say something that, you know, might have nothing to do with it. I know, going into mine, you know, I was so worried that—I mean, what do you do in this kind of a test? How do you deal with it? Am I going to say something that is going to make me show up as being guilty, or did I pass, or didn‘t I pass?
I think there‘s a lot of issues there that—you know, I understand what Jason (sic) is going through, and I—or—I just think that it‘s a difficult situation.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes. It‘s got to be a very tough situation.
And, Candice, I got to tell you, if I were Mr. Mason‘s attorney, I would tell him not to take the polygraph test, because I would say, you know what? If you pass it, the police officer is going to say, well, it‘s not binding. But if you fail it for some reason, if you are nervous, then everybody focuses on you and it‘s in the media. And so I kind of agree with Ed here. What about you?
DELONG: Well, I am a little troubled by a couple of things regarding this polygraph issue. First of all, we all know they are not admissible in court. He knows they are not admissible in court. And he has already taken one. He sought out a private polygrapher, took it, and now he‘s negotiating with the police. And he‘s basically—as far as I can see, he has thrown up a roadblock to the official government polygraph.
Maybe he is hoping, you know—OK, he thinks he is asking something simple. Just videotape it. Well, that‘s not their procedure. In terms of coercion, look, this is a real simple thing. It‘s an interviewer sitting on one side, and next to him, the person being interviewed, the polygrapher, and the interviewee, a series of questions. Obviously, the hot seat questions do come up.
I don‘t know where there‘s coercion. I have taken a polygraph exam myself. They are simple, straightforward things, and he has already taken one. So, I am troubled by this roadblock that it seems he has put up. Either take it or don‘t, but don‘t negotiate. It seems to me that‘s the patient telling the surgeon how to do the operation.
SCARBOROUGH: All right.
Well, I will tell you what. It is really a mystery. And we are going to continue to watch what goes on in Georgia. I want to thank all of you for being with us tonight, Candice DeLong, Clint Van Zandt and Ed Smart.
And coming up straight ahead, we have got much more, our SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY campaign to keep our children safe from repeat sexual predators. We are going to be talking about what urgently needs to be done in Congress, and we are also going to talk about some incredible parents who have turned their grief into action. It‘s our special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY up next.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, we in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY have gone to Capitol Hill. We have talked to the parents of children that have been tragically killed. We have also talked to law enforcement officers on what we need to do to stop repeat sex offenders from preying on our children. We are going to give you the results straight ahead with more of our SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY campaign in a minute.
But, first, let‘s get some news that you and your family need to know.
ANNOUNCER: This is a SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY campaign, “Stopping the Predators.”
SCARBOROUGH: Now, as you know, we started this campaign about a month ago, especially focusing in on the tragedy that happened after Jessica Lunsford went missing. We have talked to people on Capitol Hill. I have been talking to a lot of my former colleagues, been pushing them to take action.
Your e-mails have played such an important role in this campaign, and we are taking those campaign—those e-mails up to Capitol Hill. We, of course, have also talked to parents of children who have been sexually abused and some who have, tragically, been killed. We also, of course, are talking to law enforcement officers. We believe, together, we all can make a great difference, and we can do what so many brave parents have already started to do, where they take a tragedy, an unspeakable tragedy for parents, and they try to turn it to good to try to save other people‘s lives.
You know, right now, there are an estimated 400,000 registered sex offenders in this country, and, believe it or not, the authorities have lost track of as many as 100,000 of them. That‘s 100,000, one in four, 100,000 missing. And that‘s because, really, one of the big reasons that we started this campaign, because the rate of repeat offenses for these convicted criminals is high, dangerously high for our children.
Now, we have got three immediate goals for this campaign. And we want you to help us achieve the goals. Number one, make Dru‘s Law the law of the land. That would give any parent out there access to a national database of sex offenders to allow them and allow you to actually be able to see if there‘s a potential threat in your neighborhood or your backyard.
Two, we want Congress to designate $4 billion to track all sexual predators, because so many of them get out and then disappear, only to commit the same crime or worse. We have got to get that money and be able to track all of these sex offenders, certainly the repeat sex offenders.
And, third, let‘s increase the amount of time that these predators, once convicted, stay in jail. Now, make no mistake about it. There have to be harsh sentences for these heinous crimes. In a few minutes, we are going to be joined by a courageous panel of parents who have dedicated themselves to fixing the broken system regarding child predators.
But, first, let‘s go back to MSNBC headquarters, where Milissa Rehberger reports on the most important reason we have to stop these sexual predators—Milissa Rehberger.
MILISSA REHBERGER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Joe, they are the faces of the innocent, the victims, little girls who were just starting out in life, only to have them cut brutally and tragically short by repeat sex offenders.
MARC KLAAS, KLAAS KIDS FOUNDATION: Our future is in our children. They are our greatest treasures. And believe me, if you lose one, you lose more than you realize you had.
REHBERGER (voice-over): October 1993, 12-year-old Polly Klaas is kidnapped out of her Petaluma, California, bedroom as two terrified friends looked on.
Nearly two months after she disappeared, Polly‘s body was found 25 miles from home. Days later, Richard Allen Davis confessed to the kidnaping and murder of the 12-year-old. Davis, a paroled rapist, was convicted of rape, murder and sentenced to death.
July 1994, Megan Kanka, just 7 years old, was lured to her New Jersey neighbor‘s home. He had promised to show her a puppy. Jesse Timmendequas was a twice convicted sexual offender, living with two other convicted sex offenders diagonally across the street from the Kanka family. Timmendequas was sentenced to death.
February 2002, Danielle van Dam‘s parents woke to discover that the 7-year-old was gone from her bed in San Diego, California. Two weeks after the girl‘s disappearance, neighbor David Westerfield was arrested, child porn found on his computer. Later, volunteers find Danielle‘s body. David Westerfield, who had no criminal record, but did have a vast child porn collection, was convicted and sentenced to death.
July 2002, Samantha Runnion is lured to a stranger‘s car. Then she is pulled in, screaming to a friend to help her get free.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don‘t sleep. Don‘t eat, because we are coming after you.
REHBERGER: Alejandro Avila, who had been acquitted in the past of molestation charges, was arrested. Yesterday, he was convicted of kidnapping and murder.
November 2003, Dru Sjodin, an attractive college student, disappeared from the parking lot of the mall where she worked. A massive manhunt through freezing temperatures follows. Alfonso Rodriguez, a registered sex offender who had just served 23 years behind bars, is now charged with kidnapping, rape and murder.
The heartbreaking Florida cases. Jessica Lunsford disappeared in the night. Convicted sex offender John Evander Couey now faces murder charges. And Sarah Lunde, kidnaped and killed. Now her mother‘s former boyfriend, David Onstott, a convicted sex offender, is charged with her murder.
REHBERGER: Each of these stories so heartbreaking—Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Thank you, Milissa.
You know, those girls and so many like them are the reason why we are doing this, to honor them and to stop these crimes from happening to anybody else.
With us now, Richard Kanka. He, of course, is the father of Megan Kanka. Mark Lunsford, the father of Jessica Lunsford. And still with us, Ed Smart, Elizabeth Smart‘s father.
I want to start with you, if we could, Mark.
Of course, all of America follow the tragic case of Jessica. It broke everybody‘s heart. I have got to be honest with you. As a father, I don‘t know how you keep one foot in front of the other, let alone go to Tallahassee and help make the sweeping changes that you have made there, and now you are storming Capitol Hill.
If you could tell the American people one thing tonight on what Congress needs to do, what is that?
LUNSFORD: Protect our children a little better, make things a little tighter, get rid of these loopholes that these people are slipping there. I mean, everything is different everywhere in every state. Every state, you almost have different laws. And we just need one law for sexual offenders in every state.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, talk about the law that you helped pass in the state of Florida. It toughened up a couple of different things for sexual predators. Talk about that.
LUNSFORD: Well, it tightened things up on registration, on how they register.
People that have sex offenders in their home, and they don‘t make them register, or they know they are not registered, they will be punished. It just tightens everything up, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Richard, let me ask you. Let me bring you in here, Richard.
Obviously, you helped passed Megan‘s Law. But I understand that there are actually some loopholes, that, after 10 years, a lot of those people go off the list. So, there will be even more sexual offenders in our society. We won‘t be able to track them. Tell us about that.
RICHARD KANKA, FATHER OF MEGAN KANKA: Well, there is going to be a problem with that. We find that a lot of the legislation that was passed years ago was for a 10-year registry. But we are working right now with many of the local governments to extend those registrations to lifetime supervision.
SCARBOROUGH: As someone who has lost a beautiful daughter, that‘s been through this pain, who is fighting to stop other parents from having to suffer how you have suffered, what is your top priority? What is the one thing you think we as a nation need to do to stop this epidemic?
KANKA: What I think we need to do is create a national database for these sex offenders. We also need to, I feel, make a crime against a child a federal crime. That way, it tightens the—it closes a lot of loopholes that these sexual predators fall through when it comes to specific state legislation.
If we can keep this on a federal level, I think we can tighten this thing up a whole lot.
SCARBOROUGH: Richard, I think that‘s so critical. I think we do need to federalize these crimes. So many of them go across state lines.
Ed Smart, let me talk to you about this. Obviously, you are blessed. Your daughter survived, but what a terrible time you went through and other parents go through. What is the one thing that you would recommend, from all the time—I mean, you have stood in the Rose Garden with the president of the United States. You have sat in the Oval Office. You have talked to the top leaders of this country. What is the number one thing that you want to tell the president and members of Congress tonight that they must do to stop this national epidemic?
SMART: You know, to me, I think that they have got to be supervised.
In Dru Sjodin‘s case, he finished his full term, went out unsupervised. In too many cases, they basically fall through the cracks. And I agree with Mark and the others, that we have got to basically know where they are. And they need to be accountable for their actions. We can‘t afford to have them living next to schools and next to areas where our children are at risk,you know, whether they need to have a colony.
You have previously talked about castration. I think that they need to be on the radar. And, right now, there is a national sex offender registry with the FBI, NCIC, but that is—right now, about 30 percent are off that chart, whether it‘s because of errors of entry, the information isn‘t complete, the fingerprints aren‘t complete. There‘s something there.
And it needs to be effective. And, right now, it‘s just not effective. So, I think the one thing I would ask for is that we know where they are, that there is actually some control out there on them.
SCARBOROUGH: I think that‘s absolutely critical.
So many people have said, Ed, if we track Martha Stewart, when we know where she is on a farm in Connecticut, we ought to be able to track these sex offenders. And I will tell you what. So many people out there have been so angered by all of these cases. But, you know, I think the tipping point just may have been Jessica‘s case. I think, at that point, Americans said, enough is enough.
And I will tell you what. That‘s why so many of you are angry.
That‘s why we are taking this fight to Washington.
Gentlemen, stay with us. Progress has been made, but we have got a lot more to do.
And when we come back on this special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, our expert panel is going to tell us what lawmakers must do right now.
But, first, take a look at these faces. The FBI says these are predators who are out on the loose tonight. And they need to be taken off the street.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIN RUNNION, MOTHER OF SAMANTHA RUNNION: Nobody should get away with this. And, in honor of Samantha and in honor of Jessica and Molly Bish and Polly Klaas and Adam Walsh, how many children do we have to take away before we as Americans get organized?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Unbelievable. What a question to ask. That was Erin Runnion, again, yesterday. A jury convicted the man who killed her 5-year-old daughter, Samantha.
And thanks to you, we are getting organized. The result of our e-mail campaign and the response from you has been overwhelming.
And I want to go back, Mark Lunsford, to you, and ask, what should Americans do tonight to get organized? What should they do to help you and your campaign in Washington, D.C., and help us in our campaign on Washington, D.C.?
LUNSFORD: Well, there‘s three bills, Joe, on JessicaMarieLunsford.com, on that Web site. It‘s a federal registration bill, Congressman Poe‘s predator bills, Ginny Brown Waite‘s Jessica Lunsford Act, federal bill. Read them. If you like them, call your congressmen.
I mean, we need to start getting real loud with these people. And we need to quit letting them out of prison before they do their time. Every one of them, they just keep doing it over and over again.
SCARBOROUGH: And it‘s JessicaMarieLunsford.com?
LUNSFORD: Yes, sir.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. And I will tell you what. We are going to put it up on our Web site, and we are going to help you with your fight on Capitol Hill, as well as everybody else. Thank you all so much for being with us. We greatly appreciate it.
Now, joining us once again is former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt. And also back with us, Andy Kahn. He‘s the director of the Crime Victims Unit in Houston.
Clint, this seems like such a big mountain to climb. What is the first logical step?
VAN ZANDT: Well, Joe, the first logical step, I think, is, we need some type of national database where anyone can go and find a name and background information and address of a sexual predator, either by searching your community, your street, your neighborhood, whatever it is.
We don‘t need to go to separate databases. You and I have talked. And we have got a Web site, LiveSecure.org, where people can go and they can search every known state and local database, but they have to do it one at a time still. You can‘t do it at one time. We need to get information out there, Joe. People have to be able to search and find these people, and children need to know that they don‘t have to be offended against, whether it‘s somebody in their family or an unknown predator.
So, it‘s going to be education and it‘s going to be getting the federal government behind something like this.
SCARBOROUGH: And that certainly is. That‘s our top goal, is getting that database nationwide, so every American can find out if there is a convicted sex offender in their neighborhood.
Andy, the question to you is, you are on the ground. You are fighting this locally in Houston day in and day out. What do you need to make your job easier?
ANDY KAHN, HOUSTON MAYOR‘S OFFICE: Well, one thing that‘s really remarkable is the onus of reporting and changing their addresses falls upon convicted sex offender predators. Nowhere else do you ever find where the responsibility for alerting law enforcement and others relies on the offender itself.
When we rely on convicted sex offenders and molesters to be truthful, we are only asking for trouble. When you realize, Joe, that 25 percent of the sex offenders in this country have failed to meet their requirements for registering, they fail to meet the requirements for parole and probation, you have over 131,000 sex offenders nationally who are either missing or are wanted.
SCARBOROUGH: That is that just outrageous, Andy.
KAHN: It is incredulous.
SCARBOROUGH: So, what do you do? You slap the ankle bracelet on them?
KAHN: If you are serving your sentence in a community, and you have violated your conditions, we need to have zero tolerance, and we need to do what you started doing tonight. And that is publicizing fugitive sex offenders as soon as we find out they are missing.
I mean, think about it. In Florida, the last two cases, particularly John Couey, he was a wanted fugitive sex offender. Imagine what might have happened if we found out earlier that he was wanted, we publicized it, somebody saw him and we got him.
SCARBOROUGH: Andy, we‘re going to have to leave it there. I‘m sorry.
We are out of time.
Gentlemen, thanks for being with us.
We‘ll be right back.
SCARBOROUGH: It‘s time for the SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY champion.
And, tonight, well, the champions, you have already met them a few minute ago. They‘re Richard Kanka, Mark Lunsford, and Ed Smart. Now, these three parents literally went through hell. And they came out on the other side to do something to help your children and mine.
Richard Kanka, of course, who pushed Megan‘s law. Now it‘s the law of the land. It requires that neighbors be notified that there‘s a sex offender in their neighborhood.
Mark Lunsford, with his pain still so fresh, got Jessica‘s Law passed, longer sentences and ankle bracelets for all sex offenders in Florida. And now Congress is looking to make it federal. That Web site, JessicaMarieLunsford.com. And we are going to help him with that fight.
And, of course, Ed Smart, who was fortunate and blessed enough to get his daughter, Elizabeth, back. He lobbied and got a national Amber Alert, so, everybody knows when a child goes missing—and what a difference that has made.
All heroes, all SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY heroes. We are proud to have them here tonight.
Get a part of this campaign. We are going to make a difference.
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