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'The Abrams Report' for August 5

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guest: T.J. Ward, Harold Phipps, Stacy Brown, Harvey Levin, Susan Filan, Daniel Horowitz, Walter Zalisko, Larry Kobilinsky, Erin Runnion, Linda Walker

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, we‘ve got the interview with the witness who says he saw three men dumping a blond body at a landfill in Aruba. 


ABRAMS (voice-over):  And two former Michael Jackson jurors planning tell-all books about the trial, apparently saying Jackson is really guilty of child molestation.  But they also say all sorts of shenanigans were going on in the jury room.  What does that mean for the case? 

Plus, George Smith went missing on his honeymoon aboard a Mediterranean cruise.  Now authorities are focusing on two Russian brothers and a California man seen partying with the newlywed couple. 

And our series “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose” concludes with the parents who know the dangers of sex offenders all too well.  We‘ll talk to Samantha Runnion and Dru Sjodin‘s mothers. 

The program about justice starts now.  


ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket tonight, we‘ve got an interview with the witness who lead investigator to a landfill in the search for Natalee Holloway.  He‘s telling NBC News what and who he saw just days after Natalee‘s May 30th disappearance.  Also Natalee‘s mother met with the lead prosecutor in the investigation today and while the landfill continues to be searched and lead suspect Joran Van Der Sloot is interrogated for the fourth straight day by a team of behavioral specialists. 

NBC‘s Michelle Kosinski remains in Aruba.  So Michelle, the authorities really believe that this witness with regard to the landfill is credible, don‘t they? 

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, the authorities, including the FBI, we found out had checked this witness out early on, just days after Natalee disappeared.  And we just found out about this witness a couple of weeks ago.  That‘s when his existence became widely known through private investigators and other sources. 

And it had been reported that he was afraid to come forward.  Well it turns out he was just afraid for his identity to be known.  But we learned that he came forward very quickly after he says he saw what happened in the landfill that day just days after it happened.  He talked to police.  He talked to the FBI. 

The FBI actually went out to that landfill with dogs, looked around that area, even before it became piled up with garbage and they didn‘t find anything.  It‘s the EquuSearch volunteers who really said, hey, we believe this guy.  His story doesn‘t change.  He seems to pan out.  He seems to be a lucid guy.  He seems to also be insistent that he saw something.

So he says he saw some men drive up in a white pickup truck, men that he says he later recognized to be the three suspects in this case.  He says they took what looked like a body out of the back of the pickup truck.  It was wrapped up in a bag.  But when the wind blew, he says he saw the upper part of a woman‘s body, blond hair, and then he says they buried this body there in the landfill.

Well over a period of weeks some 10 feet of garbage has piled up.  EquuSearch will tell you too that when they brings out dogs, it‘s very difficult for a dog to catch a scent in that landfill when they‘re coming across things like medical waste, but they‘re determined to keep going. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Saw a woman‘s body inside a bag.  Her hair was blowing out with the wind and he didn‘t say this now but he told me that the bag kind of came off and he saw the woman—half of the woman‘s body. 


KOSINSKI:  One of the most compelling reasons searchers say they believe this guy very much is they say he gave them some clues as to things they would find buried deep within that garbage around that same area where he claims he saw a body.  Things like a plastic pool.  He says that there was a dirt road buried under all that garbage.  Well they found those things and a couple of other items that he said would be there.

The problem is they just haven‘t found any sign at all of Natalee Holloway.  But they want to clear that place out and just feel satisfied that they looked as best they could because it‘s disturbing.  I mean his story has panned out in some ways...


KOSINSKI:  ... so they just don‘t—they don‘t want to give this up. 

ABRAMS:  That‘s the question I have for you Michelle.  So are you saying that the authorities looked into this guy‘s story early on and they kind of pooh-poohed it and then EquuSearch came in a couple of weeks later and said, wait a sec, wait a sec, let‘s give this guy a shot here and they followed up on it. 

KOSINSKI:  Yes, pretty much.  The witness told us directly that in the beginning he felt nobody was believing his story.  But we talked to a high-level source in law enforcement and turns out they did check it out.  They sent the FBI out there with a dog.  But EquuSearch says hey maybe we can do something more thoroughly here.  We can bring out teams of dogs.  But here‘s the thing.  They still haven‘t found one sign of her, but they are determined to keep it up through the weekend at least. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Michelle Kosinski, as always, thanks a lot.  And as Michelle reported, Natalee‘s mother, Beth Holloway Twitty met with the lead prosecutor in the investigation this afternoon, Karin Janssen, where she told Janssen about a girl came forward, said she had an encounter with Joran Van Der Sloot, the chief suspect.  And on our program last night, Beth told me the story. 


BETH HOLLOWAY TWITTY, NATALEE HOLLOWAY‘S MOTHER:  A beautiful 18-year-old blond-headed girl from New Jersey and you know, was able to recant an encounter that she had with Joran Van Der Sloot, Deepak Kalpoe and Satish Kalpoe, during the month of April ‘05. 

ABRAMS:  And what did she say happened?

TWITTY:  You know it‘s a pretty long scenario.  We have a lot of details.  You know, the main thing to sum it up is, you know, Joran how he entered this establishment, I believe that you know if you enter on the right side, you have to have a valid I.D.  If you enter Carlos N‘ Charlie‘s on the left side, you must have some type of, I don‘t know if it‘s a VIP pass or what to enter, but Joran enters the establishment on the left side, approaches these group of tourists. 

You know it‘s interesting how he is able to—tried to work his way in and connect, establish himself in that—in Carlos N‘ Charlie‘s, was walking her around and these other tourists and was able to point out Satish and Deepak Kalpoe.  They‘re sitting ironically in the same corner, the same stools that they were seated that in the picture that‘s been all over international media, so that must be their spot that they wait while Joran is working. 

And you know it was so interesting how everyone in the casino knew Joran.  He had—you know he knew everyone, was greeting all the guys with this grip handshake.  All the girls approaching with the kiss on the cheek.  It was interesting how you know he was able to order these group of girls, by just merely leaning over the bar and ordering four shots of 151, one for himself and three for the tourists with no money. 

So he‘s got an open tab at Carlos N‘ Charlie‘s, able to run a tab.  You know then, you know as the evening is proceeding, he‘s even approaching these girls, getting close to closing time so that‘s another unique pattern that he had.

ABRAMS:  Did she say anything about violence? 

TWITTY:  No, she didn‘t say anything about violence, but what I was looking for was a history, is a predatory-type behavior which I think Joran and Deepak and Satish have...


TWITTY:  ... and how tightly connected the three are. 


ABRAMS:  Joining me now is the private investigator who has been working with Natalee‘s family, T.J. Ward and his associate Harold Phipps.  Gentlemen thanks very much for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.


ABRAMS:  T.J., let me start with you on this issue of this woman who came up to Beth.  Have you been able to follow up on that and how relevant do you think it is? 

T.J. WARD, NATALEE‘S FAMILY‘S PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR:  We have followed up with it.  Beth and I have talked about it and we will be following up on it here shortly. 

ABRAMS:  Is it relevant?  I mean a lot of my viewers wrote in saying, all right, so what.  So this guy‘s a pick up artist.  How does that really impact the case? 

WARD:  Well, it just shows it‘s a pattern of what his activity is when he hangs out at Carlos N‘ Charlie‘s and trying to pick women up and take them from the bar and whatever he‘s doing with them after that. 

ABRAMS:  But if there‘s no violence associated with that, is that—does that help you in the investigation? 

WARD:  Well, again, we don‘t think there was a violent issue with him, with Natalee.  We think probably something has happened to Natalee and they panicked and went forth and did what they were supposed to do.  I mean there‘s issues of that‘s come up...

ABRAMS:  What do you mean by that? 

WARD:  We know that there‘s—well, we feel something happened when Natalee was with them.  Either she passed out or regurgitated, something had happened and on top of that, now there‘s a statement that‘s come up from Joran Van Der Sloot that he‘s given to the police, one of the 22 statements he‘s given by the way, that Deepak had killed her—raped her and killed her on the beach.  So at this point, what the police have, you know again we‘re unaware because we‘re not getting any information from law enforcement so we have to go on the course of information that we‘re gathering on behalf of the family. 

ABRAMS:  Let me ask, Harold, how do you all know that?  I mean that information, for example, about that particular statement that T.J. was just mentioning? 


ABRAMS:  Yes, how do you know that that statement was actually made by Joran Van Der Sloot? 

PHIPPS:  Oh, we don‘t.  This is the statements that were being contributed to us on Natalee.  Since we haven‘t interviewed Joran, we don‘t know exactly what he has said but some of that statement has been let out and—through a chain of different individuals.  They have told us what it is—what the statement was. 

ABRAMS:  T.J., just so I‘m clear, where are you getting that from, that statement was made by Joran about Deepak.

WARD:  I have seen a copy of the statement from one of the local newspapers here, “Diario”.  Jossy Mansur produced and showed me a copy of that statement that Joran Van Der Sloot made.  The last time I was here in Aruba and he conveyed it from Dutch into English and showed me the statement. 

ABRAMS:  T.J., are you in any trouble there?  I mean there‘s been a lot of discussions about the authorities getting annoyed about you knocking on doors and things like that. 

WARD:  No, it‘s not that.  There was some—the Aruban authorities—and we‘ve had conversations about this—it‘s been squared away.  It‘s been straightened out.  There was some evidence that leaked out to the fact (INAUDIBLE) had an arrest warrant for my arrest on Wednesday and that I was working without a work permit, and I was going to be deported by law enforcement and Wednesday night, the law enforcement was looking for me to arrest me. 

All that is untrue and I want to make that perfectly clear.  This was brought up by another media station here on the island that...

ABRAMS:  All right.

WARD:  ... made claim to that. 

ABRAMS:  It‘s not true.  We‘ll move on.  All right. 

WARD:  But I can (INAUDIBLE) yes.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Harold, finally, this landfill.  Are you hopeful that EquuSearch is going to find something.  How credible do you think that witness is who says that he saw three men dumping what looked like a blond body? 

PHIPPS:  Well, as a retired FBI agent, I‘m always hopeful for an outcome.  We interviewed the individual at length and having experienced hundreds, if not thousands of interviews during my 31 years, this guy was very online.  He didn‘t go (INAUDIBLE).  He was—I mean he was like telling a story and it didn‘t appear to me at all like he was coached or practiced. 

He just told a story from the end—from the beginning to the end and

I believe him.  I think there was something there.  Whether there‘s a body

·        if there is a body, whether it‘s still there is another story.  There‘s been a period of time since then and it could have been removed again but his story, I think is credible.  He also had a...

ABRAMS:  T.J.—sorry go ahead.  Finish up. 

PHIPPS:  No.  Go ahead. 

ABRAMS:  I was going to—I‘m out of time.  I was going to ask T.J.  bottom line, do you think that you‘re going to be able to crack the case in the next couple of weeks? 

WARD:  Well it depends.  I believe that law enforcement, since the FBI has been here has been working very credibly, and I believe that they have something that‘s probably solid enough and hopeful come September 4, that Joran Van Der Sloot will stay where he‘s positioned right now...


WARD:  ... and that there will be additional arrests in this matter from parties and individuals that we already know that they‘re possibly involved in this disappearance. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  T.J. Ward and Harold Phipps, thanks a lot guys for taking the time.  Really appreciate it.

Coming up, two former jurors in the Michael Jackson case, writing tell-all books about the case.  They now apparently say Jackson is guilty and they‘re apparently saying that they broke all kinds of rules in the jury room, sneaking in tapes of news reports.  An insider on the new books joins me next. 

And it‘s been a month since this man went missing on a honeymoon on a Mediterranean cruise.  Police now looking at three men who might have had something to do with his disappearance, maybe foul play. 

And our weeklong series “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose” wraps up tonight.  We‘re trying to get these guys before they strike again.  We‘ll check in with Erin Runnion, 5-year-old daughter Samantha raped and killed by a sex offender.

Your e-mails  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  I respond at the end of the show.


ABRAMS:  New York “Daily News” today reports that jurors are saying there were all sorts of shenanigans going on in the jury room at the Michael Jackson case.  That a juror wanted to convict Jackson.  Smuggled in a medical dictionary to prove Jackson fits the definition of a pedophile.  She was later she says intimidated into changing her vote to not guilty.  Same jury we told you about yesterday, Eleanor Cook, who‘s reportedly writing a tell-all book titled “Guilty as Sin, Free as a Bird”.

News also reports another allegation that—quote—“another juror sneaked a forbidden video of Court TV broadcast featuring the prosecution-friendly Diane Dimond and Nancy Grace into the jury room, but a faulty VCR prevented a sneak peek.”  And that a—quote—“gang of three female jurors were such rabid Jackson fans that they cooed not my Michael when the panel discussed the felony charges against the pop idol.”

Yikes.  Stacy Brown, MSNBC analyst, author of “Michael Jackson: The Man Behind the Mask” and a name who keeps popping up with all these books.  Stacy, are you writing any of these books, first of all? 


ABRAMS:  All right.  But you‘ve been talking to—you actually talked to these juries about writing a book? 

BROWN:  That‘s correct.

ABRAMS:  All right.

BROWN:  And I was approached. 

ABRAMS:  You were approached?  All right, and so they are saying the things that the “Daily News” reports, are they not?

BROWN:  Well they are saying a lot more than just that. 

ABRAMS:  What else are they saying? 

BROWN:  Well let‘s just clear up with the medical book.  She didn‘t actually bring it into the deliberation room.  The jurors were meeting.  They rendezvoused at Juvenile Hall in Santa Maria and she brought it there.  And as they were getting to the vans, they ordered her to put it back in her car.  But she wanted them to understand, Ellie Cook this is, that this fits Michael to a tee. 

ABRAMS:  So she wanted them to know Michael Jackson‘s guilty as a pedophile and what, then she just caved.

BROWN:  She said she was pressured.  She was threatened—they were threatening to throw her off the jury. 

ABRAMS:  Oh come on, this is the one who‘s been wanting to write a book since the beginning, right?

BROWN:  Yes, absolutely.  Her granddaughter had put out feelers from the very—since she was picked for the jury.

ABRAMS:  What other kind of shenanigans were going on back there do they say?

BROWN:  Well they mentioned the—as you had mentioned in your open about the Court TV video, someone had apparently taped some Court TV stuff and they tried to play it.  Apparently, it was a malfunction in the videotape and...

ABRAMS:  Let me give you what the juror‘s explanation for this.  This is Pauline Coccoz.  We talked to her today, juror number 10.  It‘s number four.

The bailiff brought in a TV with a VCR so we could review the sheriff‘s interview.  When we went to put in the tape, we realized there was another tape already in the VCR.  The tape was marked Court TV.  The people at the courthouse had left this tape in the VCR.  We told the bailiff about this and he seemed concerned about whether or not we reviewed the tape.  We told him we didn‘t watch it.  We didn‘t find out until later what was on the tape.

BROWN:  Yes.  According to Ellie, though, someone taped that show.  It wasn‘t left there and there was a problem.  Now, I know that someone else mentioned that there was a problem as well with a VCR, but if you remember, the disk, well, the interview with the sheriff and the young was on a disk and not a VCR. 

ABRAMS:  And this is number five.  This is, again, the “Daily News”.  That Cook admits that she frequently winked at Jackson‘s mother, Katherine, in court and exchanged wardrobe tips with the entertainer‘s mom, which resulted in them wearing the same colors on certain days.

BROWN:  Ellie cook talks about that.  Yes, she mentioned that she would wink—they would wink and nod at each other. 

ABRAMS:  I don‘t understand.  So on the one hand, this juror is saying, I was convinced he was guilty.  You know and they‘re saying oh she was trying to bring in a medical text.  On the other hand, she‘s sitting there winking at Katherine Jackson, talking about what clothes they‘re going to wear.

BROWN:  Saying everything was going to be OK. 

ABRAMS:  And that‘s why you didn‘t believe the story. 

BROWN:  That‘s why I don‘t—yes...

ABRAMS:  That‘s why you wouldn‘t write the book? 

BROWN:  I‘m not writing it because I just think that there‘s a lot of issues with this.  If you felt that this guy was guilty, you felt he was a pedophile, he lives in your community, he a very powerful member of your community, why let him free...

ABRAMS:  Do you just not believe these jurors?  Is that the problem?

BROWN:  I just don‘t believe them. 

ABRAMS:  Why?  I mean...


ABRAMS:  Are they making this up for money? 

BROWN:  Well you know I think in both their cases, they feel now in retrospect, maybe we made a mistake and see I can live with that if that‘s what they are saying, but they‘re not saying that.  They‘re saying that they believed all along he was guilty and I‘m having a hard time with that. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Stacy, stick around for a minute.

Joining me now NBC News legal analyst and former prosecutor Susan Filan, and attorney and “Celebrity Justice” executive producer Harvey Levin, criminal defense attorney Daniel Horowitz. 

Harv, what do you make—look you followed this closely.  What do you make of all this? 

HARVEY LEVIN, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, “CELEBRITY JUSTICE”:  Well, I think Eleanor Cook is a whacko, Dan, and I think if any of these allegations are true, these jurors need to be prosecuted.  I mean this is jury tampering from within the jury if these allegations are true.  And if there is ever to be a fair celebrity trial again, especially in California, somebody needs to say look, we are drawing the line, you‘re not going to get books at the end of the rainbow and do things inappropriate.  If it pans out it‘s true, I think Tom Sneddon himself should prosecute without respect to whether it would have been pro or anti-Michael Jackson. 

ABRAMS:  So Susan, let‘s assume for a minute it‘s true.  Again, you‘re the prosecutor and you‘re sitting there going are you kidding me?  There were two or three jurors who wanted to convict and they caved because they were pressured or whatever?  You can‘t do anything, can you? 

SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  Nothing.  Game over.  You can‘t take an appeal from an acquittal.  The problem that I have with this is as members of the media, we had an awfully difficult time with access to this trial.  If this is going to set a precedent to shut media out because these highly publicized celebrity trials yield these faulty verdicts, she‘s doing far, far more harm than she ever...

ABRAMS:  Yes, forget about the media stuff.  I mean the bottom line is the prosecutors can‘t do anything about this, right?  I mean if the jurors were tampering with evidence, if they were playing with evidence, et cetera, back there the prosecutors have to just suck it up and be depressed. 

FILAN:  There‘s no remedy.  They have to eat it.  It‘s over. 

ABRAMS:  Daniel, doesn‘t—I mean I don‘t know.  Stacy doesn‘t really believe them, but what do you think?

DANIEL HOROWITZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well, Dan, I believe them.  You know, jurors are people.  We expect them to be perfect little robots doing what the judge says and they don‘t.  They are going to watch television.  I‘m sure they all watched your show and they watched Susan try to convict Michael Jackson, but then I hope they listen to me and to reason.

But the bottom line is, they reached a fair and just verdict.  You have to trust people and nail those attempt to control and hyper control this case.  Just backfired.  It made the jurors feel isolated and now they‘re all quiet.  They won‘t talk to us about what really went on. 

ABRAMS:  Here‘s my problem is this woman saying she was forced and bullied, right, into reaching the verdict that she did.  And there she is saying, I didn‘t like the way that this woman snapped at me, talking about the accuser‘s mother, et cetera.

HOROWITZ:  You know, Dan, I don‘t even talk to is juries afterwards unless I win because you‘re always going to hear things like that.  People in a jury room in a bar room brawl.  It‘s not supposed to be pretty.  And when it‘s over, there‘s always second thoughts and regrets...


HOROWITZ:  ... but it‘s the system and it works. 

ABRAMS:  Harvey...

FILAN:  But Dan, your point is...

LEVIN:  If I may say, you know, a bar room brawl is one thing.  They were acting like outlaws if these allegations are true.

ABRAMS:  Right.

LEVIN:  And you know I agree, Susan, that the prosecutors can‘t do anything to Michael Jackson, but they certainly can do something to the jurors and I think it is more important right now to say—I‘m telling you, Dan, you and I have covered a lot of trials in this city and we have seen a lot of weird things happen since O.J. Simpson with books and everything else.  If jurors realize that there‘s a backend, if you will, which is a Hollywood term, to these trials, and if they get caught, so what, they get caught but they can still publish a book.  If they believe that...


LEVIN:  ... everything is going to change...

ABRAMS:  Harv, here‘s the thing that—and this is why Stacy made the right call on this.  All right, Stacy may say he didn‘t believe them or whatever.  I don‘t think that many people are going to buy this book. 


ABRAMS:  Is that the reason Stacy?


ABRAMS:  Is that the real reason you didn‘t want to write the book, Stacy...

BROWN:  No, that‘s not...

ABRAMS:  You didn‘t think you were going to make any money.  Come on. 

That‘s the real reason, isn‘t it?

BROWN:  No.  The real reason is, Dan, believe it or not, I have a conscious.  I wrote “Man Behind the Mask” with Bob Jones because I believed in Bob Jones and I still believe in the material.  I don‘t believe in this material.

ABRAMS:  Bob—Harvey, do you agree with me that the book is not really going to sell much. 

LEVIN:  Absolutely for two reasons.  Number one, I think it would have been a better book if he would have been found guilty...


LEVIN:  ... and secondly, I think the credibility of the authors mean a whole a lot and I think that, you know I just think everything is so off kilter, people aren‘t going to be particularly interested in it.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  A reminder, you can hear from those two jurors who now say Jackson is guilty.  Premiere of “Rita Cosby, Live & Direct”, Monday night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on MSNBC. 

Susan Filan is going to stick around.  Harv, Daniel Horowitz, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

Coming up, no clear explanation for what happened to a honeymooner who disappeared from a Mediterranean cruise last month.  Police now focusing on three men, seem to be telling some inconsistent stories. 

And our series wanted sex offenders around the country concludes tonight.  It‘s called “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”.  College student Dru Sjodin allegedly raped and murdered by a sex offender two years ago.  Her mother joins us, along with Erin Runnion whose 5-year-old girl was raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender. 


ABRAMS:  Coming up, a man disappears on his honeymoon cruise ship.  Police on the case focusing now on three men, seem to be telling some inconsistent stories.  More on the investigation coming up, but first the headlines.


ABRAMS:  Exactly a month after 26-year-old George Smith vanished from a Royal Caribbean ship, cruising in the Mediterranean, NBC News has learned federal investigators are now focusing on three men who were traveling on the cruise ship called Brilliance of the Seas.  Two Russian brothers who live in Brooklyn and one man who lives in California.  The attorney for the California man issued this statement.

We‘ve been cooperating with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney‘s Office in their investigation and will continue to do so.  However, we‘ve been asked by the authorities not to speak with the media while the investigation is pending and we intend to honor that request.

This photo taken the day after Smith‘s disappearance shows what appears to be blood on the awning below the cabin where Smith and his wife were staying.  Smith was traveling on his honeymoon and had left Barcelona, Spain on June 29.  It was meant to be a 12-day cruise.  Halfway through the trip on the morning of July 5, he disappeared.

He was reported missing later that day when the ship docked in Kusadasi, Turkey.  NBC has also learned that Smith‘s new wife, Jennifer Hagel, has been questioned, is not a suspect.  The two were married on June 25 in Newport, Rhode Island.

Joining me now, former Connecticut prosecutor and NBC News analyst—legal analyst Susan Filan, who‘s been covering the case closely, and Orlando police chief Walter Zalisko, who was on the same cruise that Smith traveled on, as well as forensic expert Larry Kobilinsky.

All right, so Susan, what do you know about the investigation? 

FILAN:  Well NBC News has learned from a law enforcement source that the wife is not a suspect.  And that they are focusing in on these two Russian brothers, as you said, who live in Brooklyn.  The California teen is apparently the key to the case at this point.  That‘s law enforcement‘s focus.

If this young man will talk, this could break open what happened to George.  The key question is, is this a tragic accident or is this foul play.  Right now, law enforcement seems to think it‘s foul play. 

ABRAMS:  U.S. Attorney Kevin O‘Connor said we have reason to believe there could have been foul play here.  All right, Mr. Zalisko, do you know anything from your personal experience of having been on the cruise as to what happened? 

WALTER ZALISKO, OAK HILL, FL POLICE CHIEF:  Good evening, sir.  First, I‘d just like to clarify; I‘m a police chief in Oak Hill, Florida, not Orlando.  Now, as far as the cruise, I was on that cruise that day and the way I became aware of what occurred was that the morning of the 5th, a relative of mine had mentioned that there was a blood stain on the canopy beneath her balcony.  At that point, we kind of dismissed it.  We didn‘t know what was going on.  We then went on our daily excursion.

However, later on into the cruise that day, the ship‘s captain went on to the P.A. system and made an announcement that authorities were on the ship and they were investigating the possibility that an individual had gone over board during the night or early morning hours.  When I asked my cousin the size of the blood splatter, she had indicated it was relatively the size of a small dog of a beagle type.  However, viewing those photographs on TV, that blood splatter is much larger than a small dog. 


ZALISKO:  In fact, it‘s maybe three to four feet in length.  And then we‘ve been hearing many stories that there were a lot of people going into and out of their staterooms, which would indicate that the crime scene was not properly secured in the early stages of the investigation. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me play this piece of sound from one of the passengers who was staying right nearby this particular room. 


CLETUS HYMAN, CRUISE PASSENGER:  We were awakened about 4:00 in the morning by loud yelling coming from the cabin.  It sounded like people cheering, like a drinking contest type thing. 


ABRAMS:  And he says later, Chief, that he saw—that he heard a horrific thud. 

ZALISKO:  Well, yes, that would indicate that something did go on there and we know that the three individuals were in a room with Mr. Smith.  And the question that has to be presented to everybody is why is it taking so long for authorities to interview the individual that was in a cabin next door?  Any seasoned investigator would know that you would want to conduct your interviews of possible witnesses immediately...


ZALISKO:  ... after the crime. 


ZALISKO:  And you would not just interview that individual next door. 

You would have to take a step to interview people above, below...


FILAN:  But Dan...

ABRAMS:  Susan, what‘s the answer to that?

FILAN:  There are jurisdictional problems here.  You know it‘s not a clear-cut case as to who gets to prosecute this case.  Turkey can‘t do anything without a body.  The United States can.  Fair play of the United States for stepping in.  Fair play to law enforcement for getting involved.  Jurisdiction isn‘t clear, but they‘re working very hard to solve the crime. 

I don‘t think the criticism is well placed against law enforcement in this case.  Also, the crime scene was—if you want to call it that—was cleaned up by the cruise ship who got their investigators and their lawyers in from what I understand right away to make this go away.  So I think law enforcement put in a bad position of trying to play catch up and I think they‘re doing an amazing job. 

ABRAMS:  Larry, so any chance now based on the fact that things have been cleaned up, et cetera, to get any usable evidence? 

LARRY KOBILINSKY, FORENSIC SCIENTIST:  Well it‘s very difficult, Dan.  Obviously, as we keep saying, we do not have a body.  Therefore, we do not have a cause or matter of death.  But we do have some physical evidence.  Unfortunately, examination of the photograph tells me it was not done the proper way.  It wasn‘t a forensic photograph, so I really do not know how large the stain was in its dimensions, but it is pretty clear that there is an awful—there‘s a lot of blood there, great deal of blood. 

It makes you think that something criminal occurred.  But again, getting back to how you solve the crime, you‘ve got to go to the crime scene and I think there are multiple scenes here.  Every place there‘s blood it‘s a crime scene.  But the most important place is the cabin, because that‘s presumably where the trauma, where the injury took place. 

Now there was some rumor about some arguments going on in the casino the night before and it could very well be that he was arguing with these individuals.  So that could be the tie, the connection, and I think good police work would connect the individuals in question, with the casino, with Mr. Smith and that might help us understand what happened. 

ABRAMS:  Here‘s—this is a little bit more sound.  This is again from Cletus Hyman who was literally in a joining or nearby cabin as to what he heard around he said 4:00 in the morning, the day before Mr. Smith went missing. 


HYMAN:  At times, it sounded like furniture was being actually picked up and dropped and then that horrific thud. 


ABRAMS:  Yes.  I mean that sure sounds to me, Chief, like we‘re not talking about someone who—I mean, I guess it‘s possible.  You‘re talking about loud yelling coming—look, if there‘s loud—if this guy‘s right, right, that loud yelling is coming from the cabin, right, and the wife is not a real suspect here, it means that there was probably someone else in there. 

ZALISKO:  Well there absolutely was someone else in that room.  And what‘s interesting is there was a witness who had informed ship authorities that she had heard a scream earlier that morning.  And what‘s really interesting is that witness hasn‘t been interviewed.  We don‘t know if she‘s been interviewed at this point.  But it was five days later that the ship‘s attorneys had begun to question her. 


ZALISKO:  Not law enforcement but ship‘s attorneys. 

ABRAMS:  We will continue to follow this.  Chief Zalisko of the Oak Hill Police Department.  Sorry about that.  Susan Filan and Larry Kobilinsky, thanks a lot. 

Coming up.  Two mothers, both their daughters kidnapped, raped, killed.  Join us for the final installment of our series “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”.

And you know I sort of pooh-poohed the idea that two jurors in the Michael Jackson trial are now writing tell-all books, saying that they apparently think Jackson is guilty.  You respond to me, coming up. is where you send your e-mails.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  I respond at the end of the show. 


ABRAMS:  Coming up, our series “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose” continues with two mothers who lost very loved ones to really these monsters, coming up.


ABRAMS:  All week we‘ve been continuing with our series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”.  In a moment, I‘m going to talk with two very courageous mothers who both lost daughters to sex offenders.  But first I want to highlight some of the wanted sex offenders running free before they strike, this time in New York State. 

Thomas Meddaugh is a 30 -- oh he‘s not 30.  He‘s—that guy is what, 50?  All right, 50-year-old white male, 5-foot 7, 168 pounds with scars near his left eyebrow and shoulder, his neck and abdomen.  He has got a prior conviction for rape and his current offense involved deviant sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl.  He‘s considered armed and dangerous.

Francisco Paulino is a 46-year-old Hispanic male, 5-foot 9, 140.  No scars or tattoos that they know of.  He does have a prior conviction for the knifepoint rape of a 14-year-old girl.  He‘s violated his parole.  He‘s wanted. 

Dion Bryant, 24-year-old black male, standing 5-foot 6, 156.  Convicted for attempted rape, three under aged girls involved.  He too has violated his patrol, wanted.  Anyone with information about their whereabouts should call New York‘s 100 most wanted tip line, 1-800-262-4321 and keep in mind that these guys really may be dangerous, so...

The women you‘re about to meet lost their children to vicious predators.  Samantha Runnion was just 11 days away from her sixth birthday when she was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered by a man named Alejandro Avila.  He‘s been sentenced to death for those crimes.


ERIN RUNNION, SAMANTHA RUNNION‘S MOTHER:  In choosing to destroy Samantha‘s life, you chose this.  You chose to waste your life to satisfy a selfish and sick desire.  You knew it was wrong and you chose not to think about it.  Well, now you have a lot of time to think about it.  Don‘t waste it.  Write it down so that the rest of us can figure out how to stop you people.  You‘re a disgrace to the human race. 


ABRAMS:  And Dru Sjodin was a 22-year-old college student.  She was abducted and killed.  Alfonso Rodriguez, a man with prior convictions for assaulting women is facing trial, accused of kidnapping and murder.  Convicted, he too could get the death penalty.

Joining me now is Samantha Runnion‘s mother, Erin Runnion, and Dru Sjodin‘s mother, Linda Walker.  Thanks so much for coming on the program.  We appreciate it. 

All right, Erin...


ABRAMS:  ... let me start with you.  What do you think the biggest problem is out there when it comes to these sex offenders? 

RUNNION:  Well, I think that there‘s a gross misconception about sex offender crimes.  I think most people do not realize how pervasive the problem is.  The sex offenders that we have caught are a very small percentage of those that are out there.  Statistically, one in four girls and as many as one in six to 10 boys are sex sexually assaulted before they are 18.  That‘s nationwide.  This problem is much bigger than I think people are realizing. 

ABRAMS:  And Linda, I guess we‘re realizing as we have been highlighting these wanted sex offenders around the country is how many of them are still out there and wanted. 

LINDA WALKER, DRU SJODIN‘S MOTHER:  Well, currently there‘s right now over 100,000 that are missing. 


WALKER:  We know that there‘s over 500,000 registered.  So yes, there‘s a vast amount that are running through the system.  That‘s of May of 2005 statistic, so we don‘t know as far as those before that time and date. 

ABRAMS:  Linda, how much has this—when I say change your life, I mean in addition to the obvious loss of your daughter, but in terms of what you are doing every day with your life.  You‘ve really, both of you have devoted much of your lives to this cause now.  Linda, why don‘t you tell me a little bit about what you‘ve been doing? 

WALKER:  Well, I‘ve been working with governor—pardon me, Byron Dorgan, senator of North Dakota, working legislation on what has been called Dru‘s Law, which we hope will be national sex offender registry database through computer and obviously, we know that this nation is more and more mobile and the—they access it—they‘re able to access cross you know state lines, so I think it‘s important that people are aware of predators living amongst us, across you know the country and be vigilant besides leaving the law enforcement...


WALKER:  ... the pressure on them. 

ABRAMS:  Erin, every time I listen to that tape of you talking to your daughter‘s killer, I get chills.  Was it at all cathartic for you to be able to stand across from him? 

RUNNION:  Definitely.  Definitely.  I had to say what I said to him.  I needed to address him and I feel like I got it off my chest.  You know, I hope to never ever see him again.  The whole trial process is really built around the defendant and it was very important to me that I bring it back around and make it about Samantha because that‘s what it was really about. 

ABRAMS:  Do you watch these other stories in the news and does it just get your blood boiling as you see these cases where someone was on the loose, should have been arrested, could have been arrested et cetera.

RUNNION:  You know, the technology is there, so yes, it infuriates me.  I can‘t understand why we‘re so behind in terms of tracking sex offenders and I really think it‘s because people don‘t realize how pervasive it is.  We have got to—there‘s no reason that there shouldn‘t be a nationwide movement to stop these people, to have them register at the very least, have them reregister their driver‘s licenses ever year. 

If they don‘t, they go on a most wanted list.  It‘s made public nationwide, at the very least every state could do that.  It adds to state revenue.  It doesn‘t take away.  It‘s a good way to track them and I have to just on a personal note, applaud Linda.  I met her before they had found Dru and I‘m so sorry for your loss.  I think you‘re just amazing. 


RUNNION:  You‘re doing such a good job. 

WALKER:  Well, as well for you, too.  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  Linda, are you psychologically prepared for this trial?  I mean you know you can tell from seeing Erin on that tape that it‘s not—obviously, it‘s not easy stuff I mean to sit there next to these guys. 

WALKER:  You know it‘s just another part of this whole horrific story. 

There‘s no script for it.  I don‘t know if anyone could ever be prepared.  Obviously, it‘s something that we look to have it put behind us so we can really draw more on what Dru gave us in her life and now how tragically she was taken from us. 

ABRAMS:  And also, I have to say that what both of you are doing in working with legislators to move forward, to not just say we‘re going to only look past what both of you were doing and that‘s why we‘re so glad and proud to have you both on the program.  It‘s because of what both of you were doing to have things change and I think that is what—go ahead, Linda.

WALKER:  Well and also, thanks goes to you and the media to help us...

RUNNION:  Absolutely. 

WALKER:  Obviously, we couldn‘t scream loud enough to bring the attention, so...


WALKER:  ... our hat is off to all of you as well. 


WALKER:  And realize you know why you‘re out here doing what we‘re doing on the scale that we are able to. 

ABRAMS:  And that‘s why—I have to tell you and I‘ve said this before on this special series we‘re doing.  I just—I was just getting so tired of hearing these stories about these guys where they were always on the loose and people say, oh, you know it would have been nice if he was captured, et cetera.  I just—we‘re getting tired of it and as a result, you know we‘re doing the little bit that we can, but you guys are the ones who are really going to get things done.  Your voices, your presence, I think is really what‘s going to make the difference and that‘s why I thank you both so much for coming on the program. 

WALKER:  Well thank you.

RUNNION:  Well thank you.

WALKER:  It‘s...

RUNNION:  You know it‘s so important...

WALKER:  ... really the least we could...

RUNNION:  ... know too—absolutely.  Absolutely.  It‘s so important that people realize at home that in our own homes, in our own lives, we can work to prevent these crimes.  It is really just about communicating with your neighbors, communicating with your children, getting a watch going in your community, talking—report every suspicious behavior there is.  You never know.  It leads to convictions time and time again later down the road. 

ABRAMS:  Erin, Linda...

WALKER:  Absolutely. 

ABRAMS:  Thank you both so much for coming on the program.  We really appreciate it. 

RUNNION:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Be right back.

WALKER:  Thank you, Dan. 


ABRAMS:  I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  Last night I said if the two jurors in the Michael Jackson case are really now saying that he‘s guilty, that‘s shameful.

Leslie Birdwhistell from Bowling Green, Kentucky, “Man, you were harsh.  Can‘t these people step away from the trial and the 10 other jurors take in some information that was not presented in court and change their minds about the verdict?” 

No, it‘s too important.  They saw all the evidence.  The only thing that might have changed their minds this quickly I think is money or peer pressure.  Neither of which are very good reasons. 

David Becker from Bradenton, Florida, “Why is it so difficult to believe these jurors believed Michael Jackson was guilty but didn‘t believe there was sufficient evidence to convict?”

Well maybe Dave, but the “Daily News” reported that they  -- quote—


And in our weeklong series “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose” trying to stop wanted sex offenders before they strike, Chris O‘Rourke from Gardner, Massachusetts, “I‘m happy that someone is finally trying to do something to ward off these child attacks before rather than focus on them after.”

But Jeffrey Hanen from West Hollywood, California, “Dan, I know your intentions are good, but your drive to stop sex offenders before they commit a crime sounds a bit like a southern lynch mob in the ‘60‘s.”

Really, it‘s a lynch mob mentality that want to find wanted sex offenders?  Your e-mails abramsreport—one word --  We go through them at the end of the show. 

Coming up, how one penny-pinching motorist thought he was getting back at the cop who gave him a speeding ticket.  Didn‘t really work.  Our “OH PLEAs!” is up next.


ABRAMS:  “OH PLEAs!”—if you ever wondered how to get back at the police for writing you a speeding ticket?  One man in Moorhead, Minnesota thought he could do just that by finding good use for all those pennies that you can‘t use at the tolls.  Yes, the driver paid for the $120 ticket with 12,000 pennies.  The Seattle man was issued the speeding citation for driving 70 in a 55-mile-per-hour zone.  The speedster showed up to court hauling a small garbage can full of pennies. The court had the final laugh, though, making the guy wait at court until every penny was counted offsite at a bank.

That does it for us tonight.  Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  Have a great weekend.  We‘ve got a big week next week, so see you.



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