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Salt Lake Police Chief Briefs Press About 14-year-old's Abduction

Aired June 6, 2002 - 13:35   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Now we have the latest from Salt Lake.

Let's go ahead and listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

CHIEF RICK DINSE, SALT LAKE CITY POLICE: ... progress of the investigation is that any information that would be relative to the investigation for the community and for the media alike.

Today, we have reached -- and I don't have an exact figure, but certainly in the thousands of tips have come in to our various numbers and are being subject to follow-up by our investigators, who are actively working this case. As we speak now, we have 36 investigators assigned. We have commitments by the entire -- virtually the entire valley of Salt Lake in the law enforcement to assist us with personnel. And we are looking at expanding our investigative capability with that assistance.

I also want to announce at this time that a reward for the safe return of Elizabeth Smart of $250,000 that has been offered by the community, and so we are going forward with that and putting that out front. Again, that is for the safe return of Elizabeth Smart, of $250,000.

This investigation is a joint effort between, as I said, the law enforcement community of Salt Lake -- the federal government, the FBI, is actively working with us. And we hope, as a result of this reward and some of the other tips that are coming in, that we are going to be successful in locating this lady safely.

With the help of the Laura Foundation, the people today who are conducting these secondary searches, my understanding is some 700 people involved in that search.

With all of that information, we certainly are hopeful to bring a successful resolution.

With that, I will take any questions.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

DINSE: So far, none of the tips have proven to be anything but good leads. But nothing has given us in the direction of any one individual.

QUESTION: How are the volunteers helping? (OFF-MIKE)

DINSE: Volunteers are coming up with some information. They are taking that information and passing it on as, again, additional leads, which we will follow up on, each and every one of them.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

DINSE: Yes -- unless somebody behind me has the answer to that, I am not aware of that. That could be the case -- maybe one of the searchers found that, and that's a particular lead that our investigators are on, but I'm not aware of that.

QUESTION: Yesterday, detectives talked about a critical two-hour window. Are they concerned (OFF-MIKE)

DINSE: Well, I think the two-hour window, I'm not sure where that came from. In most of these cases, you know, we look at a 24-to- 48-hour window of trying to get on information and develop leads and follow up on evidence. Certainly, we are reaching the area where we're going to be beyond that. However, considering the number of leads that we have, the number of people we have involved in this investigation, I believe that, you know, a lot is going to be done and can be done in resolving this case successfully.

QUESTION: What's being done in terms of the national sex offender registry and profiling?

DINSE: Obviously, we're in contact with them. We have registered this. All of these people -- anybody who has the ability to put the information out before the public is involved, and we are working with them.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

DINSE: Through the FBI, we are communicating with all of those different agencies that have had these kinds of situations.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

DINSE: Yes, we have. And we haven't found a connection as yet.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

DINSE: Well, out of state, you know -- we are relying on all of the law enforcement agencies out of state that provided this information, are on the look out for anything suspicious or any activity. And certainly, if they stop somebody that fits this description or find a little girl with somebody of this description, we are to be notified.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

DINSE: Not to my knowledge, it wasn't considered.

QUESTION: Can you address suspects, motive at this point?

DINSE: We certainly have looked at motive and looked at, as many in the media reported, is it random, or was it a targeted victim? We certainly have looked at all of that, and we're not in a position where we can conclude one way or the other whether there was a random or targeted victim. As far as suspect goes, we are still looking for a suspect.

QUESTION: Are we to assume this girl vanished without a trace, that there is no physical evidence at that home?

DINSE: No, I wouldn't assume that.

QUESTION: Are you any closer today than you were yesterday morning?

DINSE: We have a lot more information. We know a lot of things right now that have not panned out. But as far as solving the case, we don't feel we're any closer, no.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) but is it really realistic to think she is still in this general area?

DINSE: Realistic, maybe not. But possible. It is possible always. And so having people go over and relook at areas that we did yesterday I'm fully supportive of. I have no problem with that. And certainly they may very well find something that could be very useful, and we are willing to follow up on that.

QUESTION: Chief, (OFF-MIKE) somebody saw a car hanging around and (OFF-MIKE)

DINSE: There were tips similar to what you have described, and we have followed up on that. And we have nothing to report on those leads at this point.

QUESTION: What about the house for sale? Any people contacted that have been through the house: contractors or potential home buyers?

DINSE: Yes, we've followed up on all of those people that we can identify, and we've located most of them, if not all of them, and we have nothing that would target those individuals.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

DINSE: No, nothing on the age of the suspect other than what we have given you now -- or prior.

QUESTION: Is there any lead that would point you to the family at all at this point?

DINSE: You know, there is nothing. The family has been very cooperative in almost every area that you can imagine. They've submitted to interviews, they are continuing to cooperate. And at this point, we are very pleased with that cooperation and look forward to continuing.

As far as eliminating any suspects, we haven't eliminated anybody at this point, nor are we targeting in on anybody at this point.

QUESTION: So the family has not been eliminated then?

DINSE: Nobody has been eliminated.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

DINSE: You know, I would have to go to the investigators and see, but to my knowledge, no. But it has good merit.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

DINSE: Well, our long-range plan is to build a task force of investigators that can deal with these leads in a timely fashion and get out and deal with every piece of information that we are gathering, and do it quickly, and determine whether it's valid or invalid. As those start to dwindle, then we will have to start evaluating what our next course of action is going to be.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) did you find on the computer?

DINSE: At this point, I'm not able to discuss that.

QUESTION: How frustrated are you guys right now?

DINSE: We're very -- "frustrated" isn't, I think, a term; I think we are concerned. I think that we're concerned. We're concerned for the safety of this little girl. We want her back.

I had a meeting this morning at 9:00, a strategy meeting with the investigators. I talked to them. Each and every one of our investigators is committed to finding this little girl safe. There's no higher priority for them. They are all, virtually all, parents themselves, and they all have this feeling that is so strongly felt by the family. So our goal is commitment to get her back safely.

QUESTION: Chief...

QUESTION: There are hundreds of volunteers out in the fields looking. They may find something. What do you suggest to people who are out there looking, may possibly find something that they think may be a clue?

DINSE: If they find it as a clue, they should note it, they should report it, they should come here. If they are part of this search, there is a process in place for it to be reported, recorded, and hand it to us as a lead. If it is something physical that is significant, then it needs to be telephonically reported, and we have to make a determination whether it's something we should come out and take a look at -- and we'll do that.

QUESTION: You talked about 24-to-48-hour-window that is so critical. (OFF-MIKE) DINSE: Well, in most -- in almost any crime investigation, that period of time is critical because that's when most of your evidence and information is available. And as you get beyond that, your information and evidence starts to thin out. So we try to gather it as thoroughly and as completely as we can at the beginning and try to investigate it as quickly as we can, in hopes that will lead on to different and a more secure kind of information. But up to this point, we haven't given up on that. We are still within a good window.

QUESTION: Chief, what do you think the odds are, or maybe given your experience, that Elizabeth and the perpetrator may still be in the area?

DINSE: I think the odds are good. You know, I couldn't give a percentage to it, but I think they are still good, and we are still working on the premise that she is there. But we're not discounting the fact that she may very well be out of the area.

QUESTION: Can you describe the police work that is going on up at the house in that area?

DINSE: We're still talking to the family. We're trying to gather any information. Over time, things come to mind. So we are talking to family in an ongoing basis. We are certainly analyzing some of the forensics that we have gathered at the house. And in trying to see where that may lead us. So notwithstanding the fact that our investigators are out following up on many of these leads.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

DINSE: I can't comment on that.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

DINSE: No.

QUESTION: Was blood found at the scene?

DINSE: I'm not going to comment on that.

QUESTION: What about the police that are searching now? Are police actually searching, or did you leave that to the volunteers here?

We leave that to the volunteers here. We did yesterday. We did what we believe is a thorough search of the area and part of the area that we thought was the right area to be searching at that time. And so, in fact, we probably did it more than once yesterday, with about 100 law enforcement volunteers and police officers. So we feel pretty confident that we did a good job of the immediate area that we thought was the most relevant.

This area is much wider, they are going broader, and we are very supportive of that.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

DINSE: No, I didn't say that. I just said we have talked to them, and we haven't focused on anybody as a result of that. We haven't targeted on any one of the individuals as being a possible suspect at point.

QUESTION: Is it still a possibility?

DINSE: As I said, we haven't eliminated anybody from being a suspect.

QUESTION: Has a sketch artist been brought in to work with the little sister?

DINSE: No.

QUESTION: Will that be happening in the future?

DINSE: It could be. But at this point, we don't think it is necessary.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

DINSE: You have got to have something more concrete in the description before you go to a composite.

QUESTION: Are you saying she wasn't able to provide a lot of details?

DINSE: Well, we are talking a 9-1/2-year-old, dark -- in a dark room. And so at this point, we don't think that a sketch artist would be probably of that much value.

QUESTION: I thought the lights were turned on?

DINSE: Well, I'm not going to discuss what lights were on or not on. But at this point we just don't think a sketch artist would be probably viable.

QUESTION: Much of the story comes from that 9-1/2-year-old (OFF- MIKE).

DINSE: We have talked to her a couple of times already, and she has been very consistent. We think she -- we think she has provided a very accurate picture of what she saw that night, to the best degree that she can. We're not eliminating the fact that we may need to talk to her again. But we are pretty satisfied she has been as accurate as she can be. I will leave it at that.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

DINSE: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: What is the 9-year-old Mary Katherine's (ph) state?

DINSE: What does she state? QUESTION: What is her state?

DINSE: Oh, her state of mind? She is a very brave little girl. I haven't personally talked to her, but I'm told that she is holding up well, albeit very traumatized but what is going on. And I have nothing but admiration for the way she handled herself.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

DINSE: You know, the family is -- some of the family is at the house, but the whole family is at other locations. And I would rather not comment (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Their state of mind, as you can imagine, is traumatized. And certainly, if anybody saw Mrs. Smart, you can certainly see on her face the feelings of any mother under these circumstances.

QUESTION: You went nationally this morning. (OFF-MIKE)

DINSE: Every time we go out publicly through the media, we get information back. And as a result of today's and this morning's activity, we have received a lot of phone tips. In fact, I just, on the way over here, it was estimated that the number of calls coming in is about one a minute. So you can guess at what the number of calls that we're getting and the kinds of tips (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

QUESTION: Have there been any sightings at all?

DINSE: We've had some reported sightings, but none of which prove to be accurate.

QUESTION: Is there a possibility that the suspect could have gone overseas at this point?

DINSE: Well, when you say a possibility, I suppose anything is possible. But we don't believe that's the case.

QUESTION: What information can you tell us about the conversation that this suspect had with either one of the girls during this apprehension?

DINSE: The conversation generally dealt with just do what I tell you and go where I say, and if you make any noise, he'll hurt her.

QUESTION: Chief, what can you tell us about (OFF-MIKE)

DINSE: I'd rather not discuss that at this time.

OK, if there's nothing further.

Behind me, just for your information, so I can identify the people, this is Capt. Kenny Pierce (ph). He is the captain in charge of our...

KAGAN: We've been listening in to a news conference with the latest on the search for Elizabeth Smart. She is the 14-year-old girl who was apparently taken by gunpoint two nights ago from her own home, in Salt Lake City. The update from Chief Rick Dinse, the police chief of Salt Lake City. He tells us that thousands of tips have come in; in fact, he is saying about a tip per minute is coming in as people try to help find this 14-year-old girl.

There are 36 investigators working on the case, and now a $250,000 reward has been posted for information leading to the rescue and the find and the search of Elizabeth Smart.

The chief could not say if he believed that she is a random or a targeted victim. Right now, there is no suspect -- specific suspect -- in the case, and no one has been eliminated, including family members.

They are still in the 24-to-48-hour critical window in the time of when a crime takes place, when they are trying to gather the most pertinent and important information.

And they are widening their search area outside of the Salt Lake City area.

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