Guest: Susan Filan, Walter Zalisko, Lisa Salvati, Bertha Propst, Hubert Propst, Tommy Wright, Clint Van Zandt, John Goglia, Dr. Werner Spitz
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, exclusive new details in the mystery of that Connecticut man who went missing on his honeymoon cruise.
ABRAMS (voice-over): We‘ve got the tape of police interrogating one of the last people to see George Smith. They partied together the night Smith disappeared.
And Missouri police on a massive manhunt for a woman nine months pregnant with her second child. They found her car unlocked and empty. We‘ll talk with her parents.
Plus, investigators stop searching that landfill for Natalee Holloway in Aruba. Apparently, there‘s not enough money or equipment to keep going. Does this mean they‘re giving up?
The program about justice starts now.
ABRAMS: Hi everyone. First up on the docket tonight, another exclusive, this time in the disappearance of missing honeymooner George Smith. We have got exclusive new video of police questioning one of the last people to see Smith before he vanished from a cruise ship six weeks ago today.
Josh Askin says he was in Smith‘s room just hours before Smith‘s new wife, Jennifer reported him missing. The question everyone‘s asking is was there foul play or maybe did Smith just fall over board.
NBC‘s Dawn Fratangelo has the story.
DAWN FRATANGELO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is a confusing interrogation. Turkish authorities question cruise passenger Josh Askin about the missing honeymooner George Smith.
AUTHORITY: You were in the casino of the ship with George and his wife?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
FRATANGELO: In videotape obtained exclusively by NBC News, the 20-year-old from California explains to an interpreter who‘s holding her child that he and three other men were with Smith shortly before he disappeared.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is—yes, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
FRATANGELO: On a honeymoon cruise with his new bride, Jennifer Hagel, Smith was reported missing July 5 after blood was found on the side of the ship. Askin says the night before after partying together in the casino, he and the other men fellow passengers left Smith in his room just before 4:00 in the morning alive and without his wife.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I said bye to him. I didn‘t see if he was laying on the bed or not.
FRATANGELO: The timing coincides with what Cleat Hyman (ph) heard in the room next door.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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.
FRATANGELO: At one point, the interrogation appears over. The camera is stopped.
(on camera): According to his attorney, Josh then asked the prosecutor off camera what was to happen next. He was reportedly told George‘s wife Jennifer may be charged.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She has no idea what happened. She was with another man.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The casino manager (UNINTELLIGIBLE). You need to get him in here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m not letting her go to jail. I‘m not letting her go to jail.
FRATANGELO (voice-over): Askin is later seen signing a statement on the videotape. His account of George Smith‘s puzzling disappearance at sea.
Dawn Fratangelo, NBC News, New York.
ABRAMS: We‘ve got more of that interview, but it‘s a puzzling case. All right. Joining me now, former Connecticut state prosecutor, Susan Filan, who has been follow this case closely; Walter Zalisko, a police chief in Oak Hill, Florida, who was also a passenger on that cruise ship at the time that Smith went missing; and Lisa Salvati, a reporter with NBC‘s Hartford station WVIT, who‘s been covering this story from the beginning.
All right, Susan, as far as you know from the people you‘re talking to, are you getting the sense that this guy, Josh Askin, is a possible suspect or no?
SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: What I‘m getting a sense is that he may very well hold the key to what did happen to the missing honeymooner that night. Because by all accounts, he was one of the last people to see George alive that night. And there‘s an inconsistency with him saying that they left him alive and well and the next door passenger saying that after he heard the altercation and the thud, he opened his door and saw them walking down the hallway.
ABRAMS: All right, let me just lay out the timeline so we‘re clear on what we‘re talking about here. 3:30 to 3:45 in the morning, the man you just saw, Askin, Smith and three others, go to George Smith‘s room. George Smith is the one who‘s missing. They find that his wife is not there.
The five men then look for his wife in a Jacuzzi and a solarium. At 4:00 a.m., they put Smith to bed. They go to another room, they say, and they order room service. Then at 5:15, Askin says he returns to his room and then 7:30 to 7:45, Askin hears a page looking for George Smith.
Chief Zalisko, can you add anything to this, from having been on that ship at the time?
CHIEF WALTER ZALISKO, OAK HILL, FL POLICE DEPT.: Good evening, Dan. Yes, there seemed to be a lot of inconsistencies there. First we heard just recently that the cruise line had indicated that they had brought Mr. Smith back to his room. However, we have heard all along that Mr. Smith went back to the room with these three individuals. The—they also said that the—that they had left the room.
However, the deputy from California had indicated that he heard them—he heard noise of partying going on and then some type of an altercation like furniture being moved around and then all of a sudden a thump. So there are an enormous amount of inconsistencies with what‘s coming out in the investigation, the statements by the one suspect and the cruise line industry.
ABRAMS: All right. Here‘s Josh Askin‘s attorney on the “Today” show sort of laying out some of the issues with regard to timing, et cetera, in this investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEITH GREER, ATTORNEY FOR JOSH ASKIN: We still have that 20-minute window after the boys left. And as you know Cleat Hyman (ph) said that the boys were saying goodbye, goodbye and they left, and there was silence and then for that next 20-minute period, there was moving furniture, sounds in the room and Cleat Hyman (ph) only heard it (UNINTELLIGIBLE) one voice, which we presume was George at that point in time, dropping furniture and moving furniture.
It‘s speculation at this point. We don‘t—was George upset? You know, his wife was not there. She was missing. He had been drinking all night. Did he injure himself hitting something? Did he cut himself on some broken glass? The only logical thing we see with a towel is that it was probably to wrap a hand or to protect a wound.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Bottom line, Lisa, is are you getting the sense that they‘re investigating this as a crime or more likely as an accident?
LISA SALVATI, WVIT-TV REPORTER: Dan?
ABRAMS: Yes, Lisa, can you hear me...
ABRAMS: I was saying are they viewing this more in terms of the people you‘re speaking to, are they looking at this more as a possible crime or more likely as an accident?
SALVATI: Well any time you have the FBI investigating a disappearance, I mean there is a potential to have some sort of foul play involved here and the FBI has confirmed with me they are coordinating this investigation. Now, as far as the blood being found, the cruise ship did go on record as saying that blood was found on that metal over hang.
They have never said anything about blood being found in the room. However, they did go on record saying that it was on that metal overhang and the Turkish authorities did investigate. I got word from the FBI that they have—they are now coordinating the investigation. So it does come into play here that there is a very strong possibility that there is foul play involved here.
ABRAMS: It seems that in much of the interview with this guy, who was one of the last people to see George Smith, he was very concerned about saying that Smith‘s wife had absolutely nothing to do with anything. Here‘s more of that interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AUTHORITY: How were George and Jenny? Were they happy? Did they look happy?
ASKIN: George and Jenny weren‘t talking very much. George and Jenny...
AUTHORITY: All night I am asking.
ASKIN‘S FATHER: On the trip.
ASKIN: On the trip? Yes, they were very happy, very happy. They were on their honeymoon. He was happiest. He was happy...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
ASKIN: He was happy when we left him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Susan, all right, so they‘re saying that he was happy when they left him and they seem—Josh Askin seemed very, very concerned about making sure they know that everything was great between husband and wife as you know someone who has to evaluate things like this for a living. What do you make of this?
FILAN: Huge inconsistency, Dan, in him saying that when they left him, he was happy to his lawyer saying that maybe he was so upset that he was banging things around in the room to the point where he actually cut himself because maybe he was so upset that his wife wasn‘t there. These stories simply don‘t add up and the lawyer going on record this morning and making these statements that already are consistent with other witness accounts and with what law enforcement is able to piece together so far, I find extremely curious and very interesting.
Also for Josh to say, you know rule out the wife, rule out the wife. Doesn‘t that suggest to you, Dan, that he does have pretty good information about what happened and knows that she isn‘t involved.
ABRAMS: And Chief Zalisko, I mean it does seem clear from the ear witnesses, at least Cleat Hyman (ph) says that he hears people talking in the room and then he hears arguing. We‘re not talking about someone who‘s just saying that he hears furniture being moved around. The bottom line is he‘s saying he hears arguing in the room.
ZALISKO: Absolutely. And these were the statements that were first taken. Well first you‘ve got to understand the investigation didn‘t commence until after maybe a week, so the first statements that were taken from the deputy was that he heard a number of individuals in that room. And now the lawyer is claiming that there was possibly just one voice or possibly George talking to himself or to somebody else. We don‘t know.
But there obviously is a problem with the stories and the fact that the one suspect trying to convince everyone that Mrs. Smith had nothing to do with it, how would he know that? The investigators should be prying a little more into that and I‘m sure that, you know as a seasoned investigator, that he has a lot more information to give us and possibly implicate the two other individuals that were in that room.
ABRAMS: It could also be, Lisa, on the other hand, that he just liked her, right, and he just was thinking to himself, you know what, I just don‘t want the authorities to start looking at this woman who seemed like a very nice, loving, newly married woman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That‘s true also.
ABRAMS: Let me let Lisa Salvati in. Go ahead Lisa.
SALVATI: Well that‘s right., Dan. You know Jennifer Hagel, I‘ve been to the town where she grew up and she was a very well liked young lady in that town. And it‘s very possible that Josh took the same sort of liking to her and is trying to just protect her...
ABRAMS: Where is she now, Lisa?
ABRAMS: Lisa, where is she now?
SALVATI: I don‘t know, Dan. I‘ve been to the town of Cromwell numerous times. Her family is a very prominent family in Cromwell. They own two businesses there. What I did sense by going and asking around about her is that there is a wall of protection that has been built around this family. They are protecting this family‘s privacy.
I‘ve talked to the police chief. Her father is a former police sergeant for 25 years and I‘ve talked to the police chief there. I‘ve talked to the captain there. They have not seen John Hagel, her father, and they will continue to say exactly what they said to me from the very beginning...
SALVATI: They will give this family their privacy.
ABRAMS: Yes. Very quickly, Chief, was it odd being on the boat at that time or did people not really realize what was going on until later?
ZALISKO: I think people didn‘t begin realizing until later on, possibly the second day that something serious had occurred when they did spot some officials questioning...
ZALISKO: ... people and looking at the crime scene...
ABRAMS: Susan Filan...
ZALISKO: I just...
ABRAMS: I‘ve got to wrap it up, Chief. We‘re going to keep talking about this (UNINTELLIGIBLE) back. Susan Filan, Walter Zalisko, Lisa Salvati, thanks a lot.
And Josh Askin‘s attorney will be Joe‘s guest on “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” tonight. Make sure you tune in 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time right here on MSNBC.
Up next, a Missouri manhunt for a mother nine months pregnant with her second child. She was last seen on Sunday. We‘ll talk to her parents.
And the investigation into Natalee Holloway‘s disappearance. A witness said he saw the three suspects after they claim they were already in bed. But now, there are some new questions about his credibility.
Also new details in the investigation of that deadly plane crash in Greece. Coroners saying some passengers, maybe the flight attendant, maybe the co-pilot were alive when the plane crashed. This could become a criminal investigation.
Your e-mails, firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: We‘re back. It seems it‘s happened again, another pregnant woman disappears. This time police in Hillsboro, Missouri are searching for a nine-month pregnant woman missing for more than 48 hours now. Twenty-six-year old Amanda Jones, last seen Sunday at about 5:00 p.m. wearing a pink shirt and pink sandals, after she went to meet with her child‘s father at a local civic center.
Police later found Jones‘ car there. It was unlocked but offered no clues about what could have happened to her. Joining me now is Amanda Jones‘ parents, Hubert and Bertha Propst. Thanks very much for coming on the program. We appreciate it.
All right, let me ask you, first of all, Bertha, when did you first realize that she was missing?
BERTHA PROPST, MOTHER OF PREGNANT MISSING WOMAN: Well, we didn‘t hear from her. Amanda‘s always one to call home because we had her 4-year-old daughter. So at 3:00 we started trying to get a hold of her with no avail to be able to contact her, so by 8:30, 9:00 we knew something was wrong.
ABRAMS: When is she due?
B. PROPST: She‘s due between the 27 -- 22nd and 27th of this month.
ABRAMS: All right. Hubert, tell me about the father. She‘s going to apparently meet the father of the baby at a civic center. Can you tell me about him? And do you have any sense of why she was going to meet him at a civic center?
HUBERT PROPST, FATHER OF MISSING PREGNANT WOMAN: First of all, let me clear up something about what she‘s wearing. The reports are not correct on what she‘s wearing. She‘s wearing a pink shirt, maternity blouse and also a pink and white flowered skirt. They don‘t mention the skirt in these broadcasts...
ABRAMS: OK, good, I‘m glad...
ABRAMS: I‘m glad you clarified that for us because that‘s important.
H. PROPST: Right, along with—now, what was the question again?
ABRAMS: I was asking you about the father of the baby. That what do you know about him and do you know why she was going to a civic center to meet him.
H. PROPST: Well, personally, I know very little about him. I only talked to him some the other night, Sunday night. But she was going to the civic center to meet him because he told her—he called her Sunday morning at her home and said that a car, a red cavalier with a young couple in it with a blond-headed woman with short blond hair and a man—he didn‘t describe the man -- came to his home and said you have to call Amanda.
So he called Amanda, told her what happened. He did not know—he says he did not know these people and my daughter does not know anyone that drives a red cavalier. So he calls—called my daughter and said—told her about this couple and suggested that they meet at the civic center at 1:00 Sunday afternoon and from there, they would go to the fish restaurant in Desoto, which I think is called “Fish Off the Hook” (ph) in Desoto and eat lunch. And so she left the church at about—between 12:15 and 12:30 to meet him at the civic center at 1:00.
ABRAMS: And just so we‘re clear, who told her it was her—the father of the baby who said meet me at the civic center or it was this couple.
H. PROPST: Correct.
ABRAMS: OK. All right.
H. PROPST: No, it was the father of the baby.
ABRAMS: All right. Let me bring in Lieutenant Tommy Wright from the Jefferson County Sheriff‘s Office. He‘s investigating this case. All right, so what do you know, Sheriff, about this father of the baby and about this meeting that was supposed to take place at the civic center, et cetera.
LT. TOMMY WRIGHT, JEFFERSON COUNTY SHERIFF‘S OFFICE (via phone): Hi Dan. Thanks for having me. Actually, at this point, I can‘t really comment on his status as the father of this baby. I know that he did arrange for this meeting and that she did in fact make it to the civic center for the meeting.
ABRAMS: All right. So she makes it there and that‘s the last place she‘s been seen?
WRIGHT: Yes. Yes. We were able to track the timeline down to between 2:00 and 5:00. The gentleman that seen her last has been cooperative with us. He has retained an attorney but he has been cooperative.
ABRAMS: And who is that? Who is the—is the gentleman who seen her last the father of the baby?
WRIGHT: Well I—obviously, I can‘t comment on that because I don‘t know.
ABRAMS: Oh, OK. Well Bertha, do you know—is it clear who the father of the baby is?
B. PROPST: Well, there has been no DNA test but he would be the only one that would be because he was the only one she was with at the time that she got pregnant.
ABRAMS: OK. And do you know, Bertha, whether your daughter actually was able to meet him at the civic center?
B. PROPST: No, I do not. Only by what he told us that she—that he did meet her but we had not had any contact with my daughter.
ABRAMS: And just—we need to rule this part out, Bertha. I mean knowing your daughter the way you know her, any chance—we‘re talking about 48 hours here—any chance she ran off or decided you know what, I want to put this behind me, et cetera?
B. PROPST: No, not at all. She has a 4-year-old daughter and Amanda was the type of person that she was constantly calling home. Even though she didn‘t live at home with us, she was always calling us and let us know where she‘s going. And if we had her daughter, she would call at least two or three times during the time we would have her daughter just to check on her.
ABRAMS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) What about...
B. PROPST: So it‘s highly unusual.
ABRAMS: Hubert, what the about ex-husband, the father of the 4-year-old, can you tell us a little bit about him?
H. PROPST: He seems to be—they get along real good now. When they first divorced, they wasn‘t getting along well at all, but in the past year since they‘ve been divorced, they‘ve gotten along—they‘ve learned to get along. I mean...
B. PROPST: They‘re friends now.
H. PROPST: They‘re friends. They‘re good friends.
ABRAMS: Final—Sheriff, you found the car that she had been driving and no clues in there?
WRIGHT: Yes, there was nothing in there that would provide us any leads or anything like that, anything that would indicate foul play. No signs of a struggle. Nothing really of evidence, other than just some minor stuff that most people normally have in their vehicle. You know this behavior is totally uncharacteristic of her. Everybody we talked to—she‘s a nice lady, our hearts certainly go out to the family and we are doing our best to find her.
ABRAMS: And Sheriff, do you know anything about this couple that supposedly that the father of the baby supposedly talked about some couple that had called him and said you‘ve got to call Amanda et cetera.
WRIGHT: No, he—well we do know a little bit about that based on what he said. We‘ve been unable to substantiate that information. We don‘t know who this could have been.
ABRAMS: All right. Hubert and Bertha, good luck to you. Thank you so much for coming on the program.
B. PROPST: Thank you.
ABRAMS: We appreciate it. Lieutenant Wright, thank you for taking...
WRIGHT: Thank you.
ABRAMS: ... the time. And this is—look, this is the reason that they‘re all coming on the program here. If you‘ve got any information about Amanda Jones, please call the Jefferson County Sheriff‘s Office. Here‘s the number -- 636-797-5515.
Coming up, new details in the search for Natalee Holloway, one of the brothers‘ attorneys—one of the brothers who are suspects in this case, attorneys says that a mystery witness who supposedly saw all three suspects together that night couldn‘t identify one of them.
And Natalee‘s grandmother speaks out. She‘s in Aruba helping Natalee‘s mom in the search.
Plus, police launch a criminal investigation into that airplane crash in Greece, searching the airline‘s offices, as autopsies seem to show that many on board were alive when the plane went down.
And our continuing series “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike again. Our focus this week, Alabama.
Lance Lindell Jones was convicted of taking part in the rape and kidnapping of a 16-year-old female and an 18-year-old female and has not registered with the authorities. They‘re looking for him. He‘s 38 years old, 5-foot 9, weighs 145 pounds. If you‘ve got any information on where he is, here‘s the number -- 334-353-1172. Be right back.
ABRAMS: Coming up, new details about what happened in an Aruban court. The prosecution‘s key witness or one of them a bust. Plus, we sent our former FBI man, Clint Van Zandt, down there to do some investigating on his own. He‘ll join us after the headlines.
ABRAMS: We‘re back now to the latest in the search for Natalee Holloway in
Aruba. We‘re learning new details about the credibility of that—quote -
· “witness” who gave sworn testimony yesterday, said he saw suspects Joran van der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers the night Natalee went missing.
Remember, they told police they were home sleeping at the time the witness allegedly saw them. And a team of searchers have been picking through a landfill hoping to find some shred of evidence about what happened to Natalee, but now that search has been called off reluctantly. Seems these private searchers have run out of resources and equipment before they could completely finish the job.
NBC‘s Michelle Kosinski is in Aruba. Michelle, thanks for joining us. All right, first, is this witness a bust? I mean does this just simply mean that the witness is a bust or is that jumping the gun a little bit?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well we wish we could have heard his testimony ourselves. All of these proceedings, remember, are completely closed to outsiders and for weeks, prosecutors have been trying to get this guy to come to court. He‘s an illegal immigrant. They were afraid he was going to leave the country. But this is somebody whose testimony was considered so credible and so consistent early on that his statement caused the draining of this entire field over the period of several days by police and the FBI—they were also out there.
So they got him into court. They were afraid he was going to leave. They got a warrant for him. He tells his story. But defense attorneys are the ones who leave feeling very confident they say about his testimony. One of the defense attorneys tells us that they didn‘t feel he had very many details clearly remembered about that early morning when he said he saw all three suspects in a car together, that was the morning that Natalee disappeared, but also remember after the time the Kalpoe brothers said that they were already at home.
The defense attorney also said that he clearly remembered the rims on what he said was the Kalpoe brothers‘ car. The attorney asked well, if he was looking at the rims the whole time in the darkness, how did he see all of the faces so clearly. And they say in fact they don‘t think he saw those faces clearly because he couldn‘t pick Satish Kalpoe out of the photo line up.
ABRAMS: All right, so—all right, issue two, the landfill. They really
· they‘re giving up the search? I‘m not saying that in an accusatory way, but is that the practical reality of what we‘re talking about?
KOSINSKI: For the time being, yes. They have had so many problems out there. Right now (UNINTELLIGIBLE) two small teams of searchers. One of them are local people and the others are people who came here from the United States after EquuSearch volunteers had to leave because they couldn‘t find anything.
So the local searches have had problems out there. They can‘t get enough equipment. They had a fire out there a couple of days ago that‘s still keeping them out of there, and they said here‘s the heartbreaking thing. They‘ve spent weeks tirelessly searching over there in these horrible conditions, 10-hour days in the sun and the stench of this landfill, but they‘re using one backhoe and they say all they can do is watch what falls out of the digger on that backhoe.
And what they should be using are rakes. They need more manpower, so they feel like it could be a case where they spent so much time working out there and they still never know if Natalee is there or not. So these other searchers who are still here from the United States who also say they need more resources, sat down and met with the top prosecutor today, asked her flat out for more help.
They say they need it. They also told us they left feeling very confident that she would help them. But the court system told us via e-mail only that nothing has been decided yet and that if they felt they needed to search the dump again and if police needed some help doing that, that they would do what they can to have those local searchers and other searchers possibly involved as well.
ABRAMS: All right, Michelle, finally you‘ve gotten an opportunity to speak to more family members. Tell us about it.
KOSINSKI: What was that, Dan?
ABRAMS: I was saying that you‘d had an opportunity to speak to more family members, right? And I was just saying you could tell us about it.
KOSINSKI: That‘s right. That‘s right. Yes, Natalee‘s mother has been here, and all these ups and downs, of course, have been really hard on the family, but now she has a new source of strength here on the island with her. Her own mother is here.
ANN REYNOLDS, NATALEE HOLLOWAY‘S GRANDMOTHER: She told me in the very beginning that she‘d rather that I didn‘t come. She said this is no place for you, mom. I knew that she was busy, she was upset.
KOSINSKI: Now, Ann Reynolds is in Aruba, as desperate as her daughter, Beth to know what happened to her granddaughter, Natalee.
REYNOLDS: I‘m just furious. Just absolutely furious.
KOSINSKI: This mother and daughter are so close, they really do finish each other‘s sentences.
BETH HOLLOWAY TWITTY, NATALEE HOLLOWAY‘S MOTHER: You really can‘t begin to go through the...
TWITTY: ... yes until you have some answers.
KOSINSKI: Give us a sense of what it‘s like seeing your daughter have to go through something like this.
REYNOLDS: Oh it‘s horrible. I told people, I said I not only have to worry about Natalee, I worry myself sick about her.
TWITTY: Just to start facing these people I had not faced since I had Natalee at home. So I‘m just getting to face them, you know, a few at a time and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) it‘s important to do that. You have to begin to put this into reality.
REYNOLDS: I‘m praying all the time, all day long, you know, and when I‘m awake, Natalee, Natalee, Natalee.
KOSINSKI: Now, they give each other strength and they had the support of all the people from the Unites States who write to them.
REYNOLDS: What tickles me is they said Beth Holloway Twitty, Aruba, and that‘s all they say.
TWITTY: I know.
REYNOLDS: What I do is tell her I love you. I say I love you Beth, and we hang up. That‘s all I can tell her. I just—she knows I‘m there.
KOSINSKI: The family‘s very happy now to also be getting some high-profile help with funding. Actress Courtney Cox, formerly one of the stars of the TV show, “Friends” is from where Natalee is from, the same town, and she‘s helping organize this big auction later this month there in Alabama. Back to you, Dan.
ABRAMS: All right, Michelle Kosinski, thanks very much. And Courtney Cox, you‘re invited to come on the program as well to talk about the work you‘re doing.
Let‘s check in with former FBI investigator and MSNBC analyst Clint Van Zandt. Clint arrived in Aruba over the weekend. He‘s met with members of Natalee‘s family and investigators on the ground. Clint, what have you turned up?
CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER: Hi Dan. Well, there‘s a number of things. Number one, you know this case is not going to be solved in Aruba. Bottom line is—it‘s my opinion, Dan that Joran van der Sloot is—he‘s a sexual predator. I think this guy didn‘t fall off the turnip truck. I think he‘s done this before.
I think he‘s done it to Americans before who‘s been visiting here and what it‘s going to take, Dan, to break this case is other victims in the United States to say, I know I‘m embarrassed, I know I‘m ashamed, but I‘m not going to let this guy walk. That is what is needed for people to raise their hand and say, if they have been victimized, come forward and say it and give this judge reason to hold this guy. Otherwise, he‘s going to walk...
ABRAMS: What are you basing that on, your theory that he‘s a sexual predator. I mean what evidence is there of that?
VAN ZANDT: Well, the evidence is, you know again, my background talking to investigators who are involved in the case, looking at this guy‘s background, looking at what he does. I mean you just don‘t zero in on someone for the first night and handle her the way that he did...
ABRAMS: What do you mean?
ABRAMS: Handle her in what way?
VAN ZANDT: ... this guy. As far as the way he would manipulate her. He met her a couple of days in advance but again, the chance that he has to go away, to take her up to the light house or something, this was the last night she was leaving. Dan, it‘s my gut opinion. You know sometimes you‘ve got to go on your gut shot on this...
VAN ZANDT: ... and it‘s my gut opinion that he didn‘t do this for the first time.
VAN ZANDT: That this is someone who zeros in on women, who finds them, who‘s going to be in Aruba, the last night, who takes advantage of them and instead of reporting it to the police, they‘ve got to catch their plane, they‘ve got a nonrefundable ticket...
VAN ZANDT: That‘s where I think this case has got to go.
ABRAMS: There‘s a big jump, isn‘t there Clint, from the idea that he‘s trying to hit on women and as a whole wrap down or whatever, the last night they‘re there, and the jump to that he‘s been regularly preying on women, meaning hurting them, forcing himself on them.
VAN ZANDT: Well, yes and the question is, is how long has he been doing this. Has he had assistance? But how has he been able to force himself or how has he been able to manipulate other women...
VAN ZANDT: ... into a similar-type of situation. If he‘s the primary suspect, Dan, if he had anything to do with this at all, this wasn‘t the first time...
ABRAMS: All right...
VAN ZANDT: ... he‘s been involved in a situation and other people know it.
ABRAMS: All right. If, if, if, if—Clint Van Zandt, we‘re going to keep checking...
VAN ZANDT: That‘s what they‘ve got. That‘s what they‘ve got, Dan...
VAN ZANDT: They‘ve got a tank full of ifs and they‘ve got to connect it to something.
ABRAMS: Yes. No. Understood. All right, Clint, good to see you. Thanks for coming on.
Coming up, mystery in the skies over Greece. That passenger plane that crashed, killing all 115 on board. The coroner now saying the co-pilot and stewardess were alive at the time of impact. The authorities have had a lot questions for the airline.
ABRAMS: Coming up, a mystery plane crash in the skies over Greece. The coroner now saying the co-pilot and flight attendant were alive when the plane crashed. Details up next.
ABRAMS: New information coming that many of the people aboard that airliner that crashed Sunday in Greece were alive when it went down. It‘s forcing the airline company to answer questions while authorities try and pull together information on the firm that could lead to a criminal investigation. Here‘s what happened.
Sunday night, the Helios Airways Boeing 737 heads for the Island of Cyprus to Prague with a scheduled stop in Athens, Greece. The pilot reports a problem with the plane‘s air conditioning. Then just over an hour into the flight, air traffic controllers lose contact to the plane.
Greek F-16 fighter jets are scrambled. They intercept the jetliner at its cruising altitude 35,000 feet. The fighter pilots report oxygen masks deployed on the plane. The co-pilot is slumped over in his seat, no pilot and later a flight attendant trying to get control. Whatever she tried didn‘t work. The plane crashed north of Athens. All 121 people aboard were killed.
The first report said bodies at the scene were found frozen, which would mean the plane lost cabin pressure, decompressed and that people died before the plane went down. At that altitude cruising at 35,00 feet, you‘re higher than Mount Everest. The company admits this plane had a decompression problem before. But the investigating coroner in Greece can‘t confirm that any bodies were found frozen. And autopsies on 26 victims including the co-pilot and two flight attendants show that they were alive at the time of the crash.
There‘s also been a second major plane crash, this time in Venezuela, where a chartered MD-82 airliner crashed on its way to the Caribbean island of Martinique. All 160 on board that plane were killed. John Goglia is a professor of aviation science at St. Louis University and a former National Transportation Safety Board member and Dr. Werner Spitz is a medical examiner who has taken part in investigations and autopsies that have followed major U.S. crashes. Gentleman, thanks very much for coming on the program. Appreciate it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My pleasure.
ABRAMS: All right, Mr. Goglia, first let me start with you. This is a very unusual scenario, is it not?
JOHN GOGLIA, FORMER NTSB MEMBER: It is quite unusual. And it would be very interesting to see just what the medical team finds in the lungs of those victims, especially the first officer.
ABRAMS: Dr. Spitz, why is it important to look in the lungs? What is that going to be able to tell us about what happened here?
DR. WERNER SPITZ, MEDICAL EXAMINER: Well you can—you may be able to see air bubbles and you may be able to see a lot of fluid that accumulated in the lungs.
ABRAMS: And what would that tell us?
SPITZ: However—well it would tell you that there wasn‘t intact or a functional blood circulation. But you know, if you ask me were the people alive, my answer is I doubt it very much. At that altitude, at that—with the information of decompression, with lack of oxygen, with those air masks dangling and the co-pilot sitting there with his head bent forward as if collapsed. All this and especially the height of the plane, certainly more than suggests that they were—they may have had a blood circulation at that time, in other words, quote, unquote, “alive” but really not alive because I think they were brain dead. Because if you have lack of oxygen for this duration, it seems apparent in this case you‘re not alive.
ABRAMS: Mr. Goglia, what do you make of that?
GOGLIA: Well I agree with that, but there‘s also a number of other areas that we have to be looking at and be concerned with. You know the oxygen system for the cockpit is a different bottle than the rest of the airplane.
ABRAMS: What do you mean? Explain that to us.
GOGLIA: Well there‘s two different systems. They segregate the oxygen supply for the pilots and I‘d be interested to see if that bottle survived intact and where it was found and that gets to what‘s in the lungs of the first officer. You know, making sure that in fact was oxygen in that bottle.
ABRAMS: Now, in the case of Payne Stewart, the golfer, his plane went off course, lost radio contact soon after takeoff. The pilots—the chased pilots reported windows frosted, no one at the controls. It eventually crashed in that case. How do you compare what happened there to what we‘re seeing here?
GOGLIA: Well the potential for those being similar is very real. You know in that case, the cabin pressure controller and the operation of it by the first officer is the suspected cause.
ABRAMS: You‘re saying pilot error?
GOGLIA: Yes. And that certainly could be the case here. They may have been playing with the cabin pressure controller, it may have had a problem and suddenly, they could decompress the airplane themselves.
ABRAMS: I think a lot of people say that this was a plane that it had a similar problem in the past and yet this seems like such a rare problem. How do you let a plane like that back in the air again?
GOGLIA: Well it was quite a while before, as I understand, and you know those things happen and you fix the airplane and you go on. You know before we make any judgments about that, we need to see the shot findings for the components that were changed and just what they found, but I wouldn‘t put a lot of faith in that yet. There‘s other more interesting elements of this like where is the captain...
GOGLIA: ... for example, and why didn‘t these guys follow procedures. You know, the procedures are pretty clear. And pilots are trained to them all the time and that is decompression at altitude, you dawn your mask, and at the same time you head for 10,000 feet, get the airplane down. You don‘t leave it on autopilot and keep on flying. So there‘s something there that needs to be looked at...
ABRAMS: Dr. Spitz, at 35,000 feet, how long can you survive without the oxygen masks?
SPITZ: Well, you have approximately 10 seconds of reserve of oxygen in the brain. After that, you are on zero and you go unconscious.
ABRAMS: All right. John Goglia and Dr. Werner Spitz, thanks a lot.
Coming up, we didn‘t have time last night to read your e-mails on CNN‘s Anderson Cooper and my response to the shot he took at me and some of my colleagues about our coverage of the Natalee Holloway case. Your e-mails are up next.
And our continuing series “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike again. This week some of Alabama‘s most wanted, William Eric Ellington, convicted of taking part in raping a woman at gunpoint, 36 years old, 5-foot 8, 165 pounds, has not registered with the authorities. If you‘ve got any information on where he is, please call 334-353-1172. Be right back.
ABRAMS: I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”. Last night, I had an exclusive with Cathy Cadmus and her daughter Shelby from New Jersey who met suspect Joran van der Sloot and his family while on vacation in Aruba. They stayed close with them. Joran even lived with their family in the U.S. for a month. They‘re convinced he is innocent. A divided response.
Charlene Daly in Poughquag, New York, “It was very nice to see your program presenting the other side of this case.”
And D. Vaughan in New York City, “Hats off to you Dan for not succumbing to the lynch mob hysteria of your cable competitors. The New Jersey mother and daughter who spoke out on behalf of young Joran van der Sloot made a welcome and enlightening interview. Thanks to your thoughtful questions.”
But G.M. O‘Connor from Carrollton, Texas, “I find it hard to believe these people think they know someone so well that they believe he‘s not capable of committing a crime. Do they think the Peterson family really knew their son? Did the parents of Oklahoma City bomber really know their son? Did O.J.‘s family really know him?”
And Karen Roy in Rocky Hill, Connecticut, “The young girl only dated Joran for three weeks. As she will learn through life, men are always on their best behavior for the first 30 days. The real stuff shows up a few months later.”
To be fair, Karen, they knew each other longer than that, but—and mixed reaction on my calling CNN‘s Anderson Cooper out for criticizing his—quote—“cable competitors‘ coverage of the Natalee Holloway investigation”, including me. I pointed out that he might want to start with an interoffice memo to his colleagues down the hall, Nancy Grace and Larry King. And I highlighted some of the less than crucial issues his show has covered.
Kim in California, “Thank you for pointing out the hypocrisy that is CNN news.”
Beverly Klatt, “Your criticism of Anderson Cooper was underhanded and childish. It was not becoming of a newsman or a lawyer.”
Polly Legman in Washington writes, “Dan, Dan, you handsome man. Please leave my other cutie alone, Anderson Cooper. Love you both.”
Finally Rhea Palmer in Minneapolis seems to have a solution. “I have a proposition on how to handle this falling out with Anderson Cooper, mud wrestling. You could have a special on MSNBC called ‘Fight Club: Anchor Style‘, then wrestle shirtless in the mud in front of a live studio audience, but keep the ties.”
Good times. Your e-mails abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com. We go through them at the end of the show.
Coming up, it seemed like three convicts on the loose, but after scores of motorists called in about them, it turned out something very different. Our “OH PLEAs!” is next.
ABRAMS: “OH PLEAs!”—they looked like inmates, acted like inmates and they almost became inmates. Three people shackled and dressed in prison jumpsuits were walking along the road in Land O Lakes, Florida, led motorists to think well, just what it looked like. That they were prisoners who‘d escaped. The—quote—“inmates” were trying to hitch a ride.
But apparently, they were just contestants in a competition held by a radio station for a free trip to L.A. The goal of the game, to be the first player to get a ride back to the radio station dressed as a prisoner. No worry, all three contestants were picked up by the police, that is, after over 30 phone calls to authorities from scared drivers and residents. Sheriffs placed the contestants in custody. No charges filed and the phony felons were released after an hour because they didn‘t use any force to hitch a ride.
Out of time. See you tomorrow. Thanks for watching.
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