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Texas Authorities Explain Initial Findings in Immigrant Bodies Found

Aired May 14, 2003 - 18:02   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: The news conference is starting. This is Sheriff - let's listen in.
DEXTER EAVES, VICTORIA COUNTY D.A.: First of all, before we start out, I want to make sure that everybody starts off understanding that this is not about numbers. It's not about jurisdiction. It's about 18 people that lost their lives. So if we could keep it in that vein.

QUESTION: Could you start with your name and your title?

EAVES: Yes. I'm Dexter Eaves. The last name is E-A-V-E-S. I'm the district attorney in Victoria County. The basic facts of this case are - we're going to limit that as much as possible to make sure that we bring these people to justice. But about 2:30 in the morning we found out that there was probably something going on out here. And they started investigating. Our sheriff's office has been out here along with DPS and all of the other agencies. And they have been working since 2:00 this morning, or 2:30 this morning. What they found is ultimately 18 bodies. As I understand it, we have 44 survivors at this point that are in different places here in Victoria. Some are in the hospital. We have two hospitals, I think, they were taken to. We also have some here at our community center, the Victoria Community Center, where they're going to be set up with cots, blankets, food. We're going to do everything that we can to take care of these folks.

There's a lot of things going on right now. As you can see, there's agencies from both the federal government and also from the state government and the local government. And we are all working together to make sure that this gets done right for the ultimate victims in this case. I don't know exactly how it's going to come out yet. We have a lot of work do yet. We'll be meeting with Michael Shelby (ph) from the U.S. Attorney's Office. And we'll be discussing what's the best way for us to get every ounce of justice.

QUESTION: Can you tell us more about the man arrested or anything else?

EAVES: Yes. I asked you to hold your comments until the end. Wait until I'm finished and then you can ask your questions. I want to make sure that we get every ounce of justice for these people that's coming their way. And whether that's through the federal government or through the state government, it matters not to us. We want to make sure that that's done properly for the ultimate victims. I'd like to introduce Sheriff Mike Radcliffe. He's going to be talking with you a little bit more specifically about the numbers and those types of things.

Thank you.

SHERIFF MICHAEL RATCLIFF, VICTORIA COUNTRY, TEXAS: Thank you, Mr. Eaves. Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for your patience today and working with us on this to give us time to do the tough job that this investigation will call for. I'm going to update you on some of the numbers that are reflective of what has gone on today. We have a total of 62 victims, 18 of those victims are deceased, 13 of them were found inside the trailer, four were found on the ground outside the trailer. We have a total of 44 survivors that, as Mr. Eaves explained, are being housed right now in the shelter at the Victoria Community Center. The American Red Cross have been dynamic in supplying food and shelter for these individuals. And we thank them for their cooperation.

We have four individuals in hospitals today at two different locations in Victoria: Citizens Medical Center, which is a county hospital, and Detar (ph) Hospital which is another private hospital in Victoria. It is interesting to point out that despite the tragedy today, there was a little light for everyone who was at the community center. A 15-year-old girl, a survivor, today celebrated her birthday. And amidst all of this hard work that our officers have been engaged in through today, they found time to go out and buy a cake and some cookies and refreshments for a little party for the young girl at the community center. So it lightened up things over there at the community center a little bit. And I'm proud of our folks for taking time to be a little compassionate with these people who I said earlier are victims. And we will treat then as victims, offer them compassion, offer them assistance in making contact with their relatives who I'm sure are very concerned about their welfare and then working with our law enforcement team. We have all levels of law enforcement on the scene today. We have been hard at work making decisions for, as Mr. Eaves said, the best prosecution possible so that justice is served.

Once again, we thank you for your patience. And I think Mr. Eaves will answer questions associated with the investigation or call upon us to assist, if necessary.

QUESTION: Sheriff, if you could just tell us of the people hospital hospitalized at the community center at this point, how many of those are children, how many women, how many men? Do you have a breakdown on that?

RATCLIFF: No, ma'am, we do not have a breakdown at this time. We'll certainly try to get one for you this evening so that you can have one tomorrow, if not late this evening.


EAVES: At this time, we're not going to be discussing the person in custody. That's going to come at a later time. We have to make sure that our investigation goes correctly.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what happened with the truck? How did it get to be here? What sequence did things happen? How did four of them come to be outside when the sheriff deputies discovered them? Why were 13 inside? Did they spill out when the door was opened? What happened?

EAVES: Very good question. Sure. I understand. And I appreciate your inquisitiveness, but at this point we cannot discuss that. We won't discuss the case.

QUESTION: How did the truck come to your attention?

EAVES: I'm sorry?


EAVES: Unfortunately, there wasn't an invoice in the...

DOBBS: This is Dexter Eaves who is making it pretty clear he's not going to answer many questions on this, as I said, gruesome discovery: 18 people killed, suffocating in the back of this tractor- trailer truck in Victoria, Texas; 44 others in hospitals or shelters.


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