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AMERICAN MORNING

Charlottesville, Virginia Police Continue Seven-year Search For Serial Rapist

Aired August 27, 2004 - 08:30   ET

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


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Just about half past the hour now on this AMERICAN MORNING.
I want to tell you about a story out of Virginia. Police in Charlottesville are struggling to get an accurate description of a man who has terrified the city, a serial rapist with at least seven victims now.

We're going to talk to a member of the police department about their investigation and where it's going.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: A lot of concern, too, there.

Also, in a moment here Sanjay' back looking at new medical research in statins -- information now showing as many as one in three Americans could benefit from the drugs. We'll talk about it with Sanjay, in a moment.

First to Carol Costello and the news. Carol, good morning.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Bill. Thank you.

Russian officials this morning say they found traces of an explosive material in at least one of the two plane crash sites. Officials also tell CNN they found data that could enable them to identify suspects involved in the crash.

No one yet has been taken into custody. Earlier a Chechen rebel leader denied any involvement in the incident.

President Bush is expected to ask Congress today for $2 billion to help victims of Hurricane Charley. Senior officials say the announcement is expected when the president heads to Miami this afternoon.

And within the half hour, Senator John Kerry will attend a town meeting in California. He'll then head to a reception in Seattle, Washington tonight.

The Supreme Court in Chile has stripped former dictator, Augusto Pinochet, of immunity from prosecution. That paves the way for a possible trial of the 88-year-old general on charges of human rights abuses.

Previously, the court had refused to revisit the immunity issue because Pinochet had been found mentally unfit to stand trial. Sudan's officials says their government has made serious progress in improving security and humanitarian relief in the troubled Darfur region. Some one million people have fled their homes, and many are in refugee camps in what the United Nations is calling a major humanitarian crisis.

The U.N. has set Monday as a deadline for Sudan to reign in the militias or face possible economic sanctions -- Heidi?

COLLINS: All right, Carol, thanks so much.

A serial rapist has been stalking women in the Charlottesville, Virginia area for more than seven years. Now frustrated police are asking people to change their way of life by locking their doors and reporting anything suspicious.

Albemarle County police chief, John Miller, is in Charlottesville now to give us an update on all of this.

Boy, it's been going on an awfully long time, sir. The victims range quite a bit to UVA students, to middle-aged women. They have been of different races: white American, Asian, African-American. He's attacked people in their homes, in public places -- not much of a pattern here.

JOHN MILLER, CHIEF OF POLICE, ALBEMARLE COUNTY, VIRGINIA: No, and it has been very frustrating, Heidi. Certainly the age range of the victims have ranged from 17 to over 40 years old.

Physical characteristics of the victims have been varied and certainly his selection of breaking into either apartments or to single-family dwellings. He has been very elusive.

COLLINS: How odd is that, that there is no pattern, though? I'm sure you've worked with these types of cases before. It seems a little different.

MILLER: Well it is very odd. But I think one thing that we are getting information out to the community and certainly warning women in the community is that fact that we believe that he is spending a lot of time in surveiling his victims.

We don't know where or how he selects his victims, but certainly he has been spending a lot of time in identifying when the best opportunity to strike.

COLLINS: Any leads in this case? I know that you have a sketch, which I have read that you're not really very happy with. We're looking at it right now. Where do the leads point, if any?

MILLER: No, we're not very happy with that composite. In fact, that composite may be working against us because out of the seven cases that have been linked from DNA, as well as others, have been dealing -- been linked by behavioral patterns.

We feel that the ranges of the descriptions range from 5'5" to 6'3". So we don't want people concentrating on that composite that we've given out.

What we want, certainly, is the community to be educated with what's going on as well as we are really stressing that we know that rape, or serial offenses, have gone, certainly, unreported. And we're asking people who have, may have been victims in our area to please come forward.

We are sending two detectives to another location outside the commonwealth of Virginia to head a similar problem. And after they made an arrest, they found out through the suspect that there were over 40 unreported victims that had identified.

COLLINS: Wow.

Quickly before we let you go, you do say, in fact, it's actually OK for women to be afraid now. Why do you say that?

MILLER: Absolutely, I think that certainly we have a serial predator in our community, and we need women to be very vigilant in their environment.

We feel that they are being followed. We feel they're being watched before he determines what the opportunity is. We don't know how he's selecting his victims. We don't know where he's selecting his victims.

So we're asking not only women but the community, at large, call, such as prowler calls, or peeping Toms or suspicious circumstances.

COLLINS: Right.

MILLER: We need people to be involved. And I think one thing that we have in this community, we have a great partnership between Central Virginia law enforcement and the community. And the community has always been helpful to us; and, you know, we're looking for their help again.

COLLINS: All right. So everybody, keep your eyes open. That's for sure. Chief John Miller, appreciate your time, thanks.

MILLER: Thank you, Heidi.

HEMMER: Best of luck to them down there.

Almost 22 minutes now before the hour.

It is Friday, time for "Gimme A Minute" now on a Friday morning. Our entire panel here in New York City.

Mark Simone, conservative radio and talk show host with WABC Radio. Mark, good morning to you.

MARK SIMONE, TALK SHOW HOST, WABC RADIO: Good morning.

HEMMER: Democratic consultant Jenny Baucus (ph). She is involved with planning for the Democrat's rapid response to next week's Republican convention and a first timer on "Gimme A Minute."

Jen, good morning to you.

JENNY BAUCUS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, thank you.

HEMMER: Also, the man responsible for borowitzreport.com. Say hello to Drew -- Andy, good morning to you.

ANDY BOROWITZ, "BOROWITZREPORT.COM": Good morning.

HEMMER: And good morning to you, as well.

Mark, start us off. Apparently, the Swift Boat ads starting to show some erosion for Senator Kerry, that's for now, though. Sixty- seven days from now, does it still do the same, Mark?

SIMONE: Yes, I think what the Kerry camp didn't get was it doesn't matter who's behind it. We assume Democrats are behind all the Democratic ads attacking Bush and vice versa.

The problem is, when Michael Moore came along and this Beavis and Butthead character, Democrats treated him like he was Edward R. Murrow. And when 250 decorated veterans came along, they called them liars and lunatics.

I think that made an impression on...

HEMMER: Jenny, what about it?

BAUCUS: I think Mark is a little bit engaging in a little bit of revisionist history here.

This is all about -- this election is all about leadership and courage. And today the president of the United States said, John Kerry's record in the war is honorable, but he refused to show leadership and say, these ads, which are put out by liars, need to come down.

And that's going to come back on George Bush. I think America saw a little bit about George Bush's character here.

HEMMER: How about it, Andy?

BOROWITZ: Well, now, President Bush is under attack from a group calling itself Alabama National Guard Veterans For Truth.

HEMMER: Hello, Birmingham.

The second topic now, Jenny -- NAACP chairman Julian Bond saying that the Republican Party is using Jim Crow intimidation tactics, trying to get at the black vote and to take that away from the Democratic side.

Explain that for us. Is he right? What's happening there?

BAUCUS: I think that it's definitely a very disturbing trend out there. I mean, talk about shadowy 527 groups. J. Patrick Rooney, who is the head of a secret insurance company, has been funding a bunch of attack ads against Mrs. Heinz-Kerry through the American-American community on American-American radio.

Republicans and George Bush don't have very much to say to the American-American vote. They've been ignoring them. They have not gotten to major events, like the NAACP.

I think that the Republicans are making a very deliberate calculation in this election cycle...

HEMMER: Deliberate, Mark?

BAUCUS: Yes, to suppress the turnout of the vote.

HEMMER: It's only a minute, Jen.

SIMONE: Well, I don't think they're trying to keep them out of the polls. First of all, in the cities you're talking about, Philadelphia, Detroit, the election commissioner is a Democrat. The governor is a Democrat.

And every poll, it's always two little old ladies working the polls there. I don't think they're going to intimidate the whole black community.

HEMMER: Is there something to this, Drew?

BOROWITZ: You know the irony of this...

HEMMER: Yes?

BOROWITZ: ... is that President Bush -- President Bush won the 2000 election because of a black voter, Clarence Thomas.

HEMMER: Ooh.

BOROWITZ: That's true.

HEMMER: Roll out the ballot.

Abercrombie & Fitch came out with new ad. I don't know if this is the kind of P.R. you want - "West Virginia, no lifeguard in the gene pool."

The governor is not happy. How about it, Mark? Is this the kind of P.R. you want?

SIMONE: Well, are they really slow in West Virginia? The governor said he's planning a response. I guess he's still putting the finishing touches on the response to deliverance, but...

HEMMER: Do you work for Abercrombie?

SIMONE: Well, he said if he ever runs into this guy Gene Pool...

HEMMER: They took a swipe at Kentucky, too, Jen.

BAUCUS: I've just got to say that I guess Mark's not counting up electoral votes. West Virginia is a pretty important state.

HEMMER: And five total.

BAUCUS: Exactly. Exactly.

HEMMER: Andy?

BOROWITZ: Well actually, West Virginia is now coming out with a t-shirt that says "Abercrombie & Fitch are first cousins."

I don't know what that means, it just sounds dirty.

HEMMER: How about a shout-out for Charleston.

Under the radar, Jen, what did we miss this past week?

BAUCUS: I think what we missed is that the president of the United States went out yesterday all over the campaign trail and sort of neglected to miss to the headline news that's on the front page of the "USA Today."

He didn't say one word about the fact that one million more people are up in poverty and didn't say anything about the rapidly rising number of uninsured.

That's not good. I think it's mission not accomplished for George Bush there.

HEMMER: Mark?

SIMONE: Well, you can always tell who's behind. It's always the guy who asks for more debates. This week Kerry challenged Bush to weekly debates, not realizing if you're on every week it becomes a reality show then.

HEMMER: In today's day and age, you're right.

Andy?

BOROWITZ: Well, news out of the convention, President Bush's acceptance speech will be simulcast in English.

HEMMER: Subtitles, second option? Good one.

Andy, Jen, Mark, thanks. Have a good weekend -- Heidi?

BOROWITZ: Thanks, you too.

COLLINS: Going to get to the weather, now. Chad Myers is going to do that for us. Hi, once again, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Heidi.

(WEATHER BREAK)

MYERS: Heidi?

COLLINS: Glad I'm not there.

MYERS: Me too.

COLLINS: All right, Chad, thanks so much.

A Florida man is his dog's best friend. Matthew Gauss (ph) saved his dog Sugar from a vicious attack on Wednesday. Look at Sugar.

The two were walking past a pond in Gainesville, Florida when suddenly a five or six-foot long alligator grabbed Sugar by the head and pulled him into the water. Matthew went into action.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEW GAUSS, FLORIDA PET OWNER: Without even thinking, I just -- I jumped in the water. I jumped on the gator's back. I stabbed him in the throat, which didn't really seem to phase him; and then I stabbed him in what I think was his eye. And then he let go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Matthew carries the four-inch knife for work. He and Sugar are just a little scratched up, but authorities plan to hunt the gator down today.

HEMMER: And a much better speaker than gator-boy two months ago.

COLLINS: Yes...

HEMMER: In a moment...

COLLINS: People may not remember that.

HEMMER: They may not.

COLLINS: You shouldn't bring it up.

HEMMER: We don't want to remember it, either.

We'll page Sanjay, in a moment. He's got the latest on so-called super drugs and statin. Should users be worried about the side effects? We'll look at that today.

COLLINS: Also ahead, some people say abandoning SUVs could help save the environment. But another group now says it would cost lives in the long run.

Andy Serwer "Minding Your Business" ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: Medical news now. About 11 million Americans take cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins. But what we do not know at this point, anything about the long-term results of taking these drugs.

Sanjay looks at that this morning at the CNN Center. Good morning, doctor.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Bill.

Really interesting, you know, we've been talking about these statin drugs so much. One pretty well-known cardiologist says this is a drug that you may want to consider putting in the drinking water.

Why? Because it seems to have so many benefits, at least at flush level: talking about heart decease, talking about potentially Alzheimer's, talking about glaucoma, talking about stroke.

The question, though, for a lot of people was how well does it work into the long term? And that is a subject of a study I'm going to talk about now out of "The Lancet" -- that's a British journal -- the first 10-year study where they were looking at the effects of these medications.

What they found, now, this is folks who took the medication for 10 years compared to those who just took it for five years -- 7 percent fewer heart-related deaths and 24 percent fewer heart attack deaths, period.

So this is in people who took that medication for five extra years. Questions, Bill, always arise about side effects from these medications. Do the side effects increase? Do they go away after 10 years?

The study also looked at that and found really no change in terms of side effects overall. That's also good news for people who may need to take this medication in perpetuity, for the rest of their lives, Bill?

HEMMER: OK, so two questions, then. What are the side effects, and how concerned should people be?

GUPTA: Well, the side effects for most people are going to be pretty minimal. And I say minimal -- I've never had them -- so, they can be serious for some people but, you know, things like fatigue, upset stomach, abdominal pain or cramps.

Most people aren't going to stop taking the medication because of these sorts of side effects, but some might. There are some rare incidences of more serious side effects -- worth talking about that -- liver toxicity.

Some doctors who prescribe these statin medications do check your liver function periodically to make sure you're not suffering from that. There's also some side effects of muscle and nerve irritation causing some pain, swelling sometimes in the limbs, hands or feet, Bill.

HEMMER: The bottom line, though, on the surface it looks like people could benefit from this study, could they not?

GUPTA: Yes, I think that, you know, that's what we're starting to see, who should take this medication. Some estimates say up that it could be up to 100 million people that potentially could benefit from statin medications.

Heart patients we've talked about, diabetics as well, hypertensives, those who have atheroschlerotic disease in places other than the heart, called non-coronary atheroschlerotic disease.

Listen, Bill, you and I have talked a lot about the fact that how low should your cholesterol be in order to make sure that you don't develop significant heart disease. And those guidelines keep changing.

We don't know what the number is going to end up being, but we know this, that these statin medications do tend to work in terms of lowering your cholesterol. So that could be a benefit for a lot of people at risk of heart disease -- Bill?

HEMMER: Thank you, Sanjay.

GUPTA: Thank you.

HEMMER: Good, interesting results there, thanks -- Heidi?

COLLINS: The shipment of about half the nation's supply of flu vaccine is being held up. It's because of tainted doses found in a factory.

The Chiron Company is holding up about 50 million shots, shipments of them, while it investigates what went wrong and it tries to figure out if the vaccine is actually safe now to use.

That company supplies about half of the nation's flu vaccines, so that's an awful lot, as you would imagine.

Still to come, though, this morning, a woman in Ohio says her life was saved by a phone call from God. Jack's got that in the "Cafferty File."

Also a look at business straight ahead with Andy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Welcome back.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Latest in the SUV versus car argument and guess where it's going on? Why it's going on in California, of course.

Andy Serwer, "Minding Your Business."

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Doesn't it always go on in California?

CAFFERTY: You know, all the newscasts would be half as long if they seceded from the union out there.

SERWER: Well, I know. And this is a lot of good stuff. And this is really good one.

The California Air Resources Board will be voting on September 23rd whether to limit emissions from SUVs. A lobbying group is running a radio spot in opposition to new regulations. And it's pretty darn good, so we thought we'd play it for you this morning.

Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: SUVs cause global warming, so they shrunk them down and jacked up the price. But they sent Squeezey, the climate clown, to help us choose our next car.

Squeezey, meet Linda.

LINDA: What a clown?

CLOWN: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Remember Squeezey at the circus, all those clowns crammed into a little car? He's a pro at helping Californians downsize from SUVs.

LINDA: Look, we need a safe, family-sized car, not a clown car. Why is California the only state doing this? And what does Squeezey know anyway? He's a clown!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, honey, look. Now you hurt Squeezey's feelings.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SERWER: Now, why is California doing this, the only state that's doing this being the operative line in there; and of course, that ad was paid for by "Swift SUV Owners For Truth."

COLLINS: Yes.

CAFFERTY: There you go.

SERWER: That's a joke. It was actually paid for by the Sport Utility Vehicle Owners of America. And they're also talking about SUVs being more safe than small cars, and on and on. We've heard this debate going on for quite a while.

CAFFERTY: Market today may be driven by the GDP numbers. What do they look like?

SERWER: Actually, we had the revision of the second quarter, the first revision. It comes out three times...

CAFFERTY: Right.

SERWER: ... just to confuse everyone. They do the preliminary, the middle one -- well that's the second one -- and then the third one.

This is the middle one, and it was revised downward, Jack. Originally we thought the economy grew 3 percent in the second quarter, now they're saying 2.8 percent.

Futures have turned southward on that news a bit. And obviously, more fodder for the politicians on both sides of the aisle.

CAFFERTY: There you go. Thanks, Andy.

SERWER: You're welcome.

CAFFERTY: Time for the "Cafferty File." Here's the scorecard.

Number of days since the 9/11 commission made recommendations on how to protect this country against terrorism, 36.

SERWER: Thirty-six.

CAFFERTY: Number of recommendations adopted by Congress, zero?

SERWER: Zilch.

CAFFERTY: Nothing. They are on vacation.

Time now for the "Cafferty File." Mary Dooms (ph), Sutherford, Ohio (ph), was minding her business sitting in her living room. The phone rang. She got up, went in another room to answer it. And just as she did, an out of control truck crashed through the wall of her house right on the spot where she had been sitting seconds before.

Here's the weird part, there was nobody on the other end of the line when she answered the phone.

HEMMER: Whoa.

SERWER: Ooh.

CAFFERTY: She thinks -- she thinks it was God calling to tell her to get out of the living room.

HEMMER: Wow.

COLLINS: Maybe it was.

CAFFERTY: Yes, ain't going to argue with that. What if she's right?

If you're an undecided voter, the polls show there's lots of you out there. You can get your dog to help you find the answer you're seeking.

There's a company, Van Gogh Creations is out with "Bush bites" and "Kerry waffles." Get it? These are doggy treats. That's not what they look like.

SERWER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: But that's what they are.

Now your dog can get involved in the political process by trying both alternatives. I'm sorry about that.

SERWER: That's food for dogs, not the...

CAFFERTY: They give some of the money to charity.

COLLINS: That one looks...

SERWER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: Now, Republicans can, at times, be a bit stuffy. Know what I'm saying? One of the plays offered by the New York City Tourist Bureau to visiting Republican delegates was deemed unsuitable for them to attend.

It's an off-Broadway play, and it's titled "Naked Boys Singing."

SERWER: Oh my.

CAFFERTY: Now this seems a little silly to me. It's not like the sign out in front of the theater says, "Picnic In Paris" and then when you go in there it's "Naked Boys Singing." It says right on the marquee, inside here "Naked Boys Singing."

SERWER: You decide.

CAFFERTY: You would think that the Republicans, each individual one all by themselves because they are grown-ups, could decide whether or not they want to go see "Naked Boys Singing." I don't know that they need a lot of guidance on that.

SERWER: Is there real nudity in that, by the way, do you know, Jack?

CAFFERTY: I haven't seen it.

SERWER: You didn't?

COLLINS: You're going though, right?

CAFFERTY: Well, it's been banned. I'm not going there.

HEMMER: Thank you, Jack.

SERWER: Too bad. HEMMER: In a moment, we're going to get back to Moscow, this morning. Russian authorities have found a clue, they say, in those twin plane crashes from Tuesday that may confirm the worst of fears.

Back in a moment. Top of the hour, after this.

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