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Hunt Is On for Couple Accused of Torturing, Starving Children; BTK Killer Sends Postcard to TV Station

Aired February 4, 2005 - 19:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, HOST: Good evening from New York. I'm Soledad O'Brien.
A house of horrors, and the parents are on the run.

360 starts right now.

The hunt is on for a couple accused of torturing and starving children in their care. Tonight, details of the unbelievable acts of horror committed behind closed doors.


GAIL TIERNEY, CITRUS COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: I've been seen pictures of the children.

When you look at their bodies, it looks like Auschwitz.


O'BRIEN: A television station gets another postcard from a person claiming to be the notorious BTK serial killer. Are the tantalizing clues leading the police any closer to capturing the elusive murderer?

A 360 special, Chasing the High. Tonight, inhaling poisons, a teenager addicted to inhalants.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) little girl whose parent kept her at a ballet every day (UNINTELLIGIBLE).


O'BRIEN: Shares her story of her hard and difficult journey to stay clean.

A 12-year-old kid on trial for killing his grandparents and setting them on fire. But did the antidepressant drug Zoloft make him do it?

And the guy doesn't like your back, the author of the best- seller, he's just not that into you. He says before you fret, consider this, you might not be that into him either. ANNOUNCER: Live from the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.

O'BRIEN: Good evening, everybody. Anderson is off tonight.

Call it the big sell. President Bush was back on the road selling his plan for what to do with (UNINTELLIGIBLE) retirement money. Today, he warned against what he called scare tactics in the debate over Social Security.

White House correspondent Dana Bash has been traveling with the president. She joins us from Tampa, Florida, tonight. Dana, good evening.


And trying to overcome what the president calls scare tactics, but of course his opponents call legitimate questions, has been the primary focus of all of his Oprah-style events in these (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the five stops in two days, his tour to sell his personal retirement accounts plan, of course, that we heard about first in the State of the Union.

Now, here in Florida, which, of course, has a huge elderly population, the president repeated over and over that those who are 55 and older won't be affected. They will not lose benefits.

And also, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the other big way he's trying to overcome criticism is by trying to appeal to younger workers, in telling them he does, in fact, think, his words, that the Social Security trust fund will "go bust" in their lifetime, and not to listen to his opponents who say he's exaggerating the problem.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) summed up by this chart that says in 2018, the facts are in 2018 that the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) money going out of Social Security is greater than the amount of money coming into Social Security. And as you can see from the chart, it gets worse every year. That's what that red means.


BASH: Now, the strategy of these trips is to try to pressure Democrats who are up for reelection in states that Mr. Bush won in November to try to come his way on these ideas. Most Democrats, of course, are vehemently opposed to anything that calls for diverting any of Social Security into a private account.

Earlier today, though, in Nebraska, Mr. Bush did get a little bit of a nibble, if you will, from that state's home senator, Ben Nelson, who said he's open to talking to the president, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) open to ideas. He still, of course, wants to hear a lot more detail.

There in Nebraska, Soledad, the president did admit that his plan alone for personal retirement (UNINTELLIGIBLE) accounts won't make the Social Security system solvent. But he did say he's open to other ideas, just not raising taxes, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Hey, Dana, quick question for you. Five states, two days, how is the president's momentum? Is the sell working, do you think?

BASH: Is the sell working? That is obviously something that we are going to have to wait and see. But he certainly hasn't -- interesting that you ask that, because he has a different feel and a different sort of style than we saw, for example during the campaign in November.

He definitely is somebody who looks like he's not up for reelection. But obviously the key here is to try to make people who are up for reelection feel more comfortable with his plan.

O'BRIEN: Dana Bash is in Tampa, Florida. She's traveling with the president. Dana, thanks.

Half a world away in Iraq, the results are beginning to come in from last weekend's historic elections.

CNN's Nic Robertson has more on the early winners and losers.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Apparent losers in the election so far, supporters of radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Although far from conclusive, partial results for the provinces so far counted in the predominantly Shi'ite south indicate the firebrand cleric is making a poor showing.

His supporters, as they have done when they've appeared marginalized before, upping the ante, calling for U.S. troops to leave.

HASHIM ABU RAGIF, AIDE TO MUQTADA AL-SADR (through translator): I call on all political and religious forces that embolden and contribute to the elections to put a time frame on the occupation.

ROBERTSON: Out ahead in all 10 provinces partially tallied, the United Iraqi Alliance, supported by Iraq's top religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. A poor second of the 3.3 million votes so far counted, Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's more secular political grouping.

But electoral commission officials warn, results so far cannot be used to predict the final outcome.

Also in Baghdad, an Italian journalist was kidnapped. Giuliana Sgrena was snatched at gunpoint from her car just after talking with displaced families from Falluja at the city's university. An experienced reporter, and knowledgeable about Iraq, her editors in Rome hope her common touch will help keep her safe. (on camera): Elsewhere in Iraq, three U.S. servicemen were killed in separate incidents, the postelection lull in violence now well and truly over. The next political phase, the horse trading to determine key government positions awaiting the final election results now expected early next week.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Baghdad.


O'BRIEN: Back in this country, in a wooded neighborhood some 70 miles north of Tampa, sits, by all accounts, a tidy home. From the outside, all seemed right. But on the inside, authorities say, what was happening was shocking and criminal.

Five children, ages 12 to 17, virtual prisoners in that home, starved, electroshocked, hit with a hammer, and worse by the two adults who were supposed to be taking care of them. The children are safe tonight, but the man and woman accused of torturing them are on the run.

CNN's John Zarrella reports on the manhunt.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Police say tips have been coming in all day from around the country, people who say they have seen John Dollar and his wife, Linda. They skipped out on a court hearing, charged with abusing their children in this house in Beverly Hills, Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't understand anybody abusing children. It's just very difficult to fathom that someone would do that.

ZARRELLA: They have been charged in Citrus County, north of Tampa, with aggravated child abuse and the torture of five of seven children living in their home. The children tortured were malnourished and told police they had received electric shock, were forced to sleep in a closet, had toenails pulled out with pliers, and were chained to walls.

GAIL TIERNEY, CITRUS COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: I've seen pictures of the children that have been, you know, been taken in connection with this case. And, you know, I mean, they have very sweet faces, but when you look at their bodies, I mean, it looks like Auschwitz.

ZARRELLA: The investigation began January 21. Paramedics responding to a 911 call at the house found a 16-year-old boy bruised and bleeding. But most disturbing, he weighed just 59 pounds.

Six days later, the other children were removed. Fourteen-year- old twins weighed just 40 pounds apiece.

Child advocates are questioning why it took Florida's Department of Children and Families six days to get all the kids out. KAREN GIEVERS, CHILD ADVOCATE: There's no excuse for leaving children in danger under the circumstances that we're hearing about.

ZARRELLA: Florida's governor says even though the children were not in the state's foster care system, the agency acted swiftly to get the kids to safety.

GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: It's just tragic that parents, in this case adoptive parents, these are parents that received these kids under adoption in the early 1990s, would do what they did. It's -- I hope they find them, and I hope that they put them away for a long, long time. It's disgusting.

ZARRELLA: Here's what we know about the Dollars. In 1995, they lived near Tampa, and for six months had a license to care for foster kids. In the late '90s, they lived in Knoxville, Tennessee, and ran a small school. By 2001, they were apparently back in Florida, eventually winding up in Beverly Hills.

(on camera): Now, police say that the two children who were not abused were apparently the Dollars' favorites, and according to DCF records, we've learned that three of the children were related, the two twins, and they had a younger sister. DCF officials are telling us tonight that under the circumstances, quote, "the children are doing OK," Soledad.

O'BRIEN: John Zarrella, what a terrible story. Thank you very much for that update.

A somewhat disappointing jobs report, that's what tops our look at news cross-country tonight.

Washington, D.C., the Labor Department reports that America's employers added 146,000 jobs last month. That's a higher number than the month before, but lower than what analysts had been expecting.

Also in Washington, the new attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, spent his first day on the job. He told Justice Department employees that fighting terrorism will be job one.

Dana Point, California, a wild high-speed chase with the driver of a stolen ambulance. Police noticed the ambulance, siren blaring, was all over the road. The chase began, and ended when the ambulance spun out of control and onto its side. The driver, now in custody, was taken by another ambulance to the hospital to be treated for his injuries.

And that's a look at some of the stories cross-country tonight.

360 next, a serial killer on the run for decades sends another chilling message.

Also ahead, 38 days stranded on an island, surviving only on coconuts and wild boar. Hear a remarkable story of survival.

Plus, a boy kills his grandparents and now blames a common antidepressant. Will the jury buy it? We'll have the latest in his case.

But first, your picks. the most popular stories on right now.


O'BRIEN: The postcard sent to a Wichita television station begins innocently enough. "Thank you for your quick response," it says. Of course, there is nothing innocent about the message. Police believe it was written by the elusive BTK serial killer, a killer who this week seems to be daring cops to catch him.

CNN's Randi Kaye reports.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three decades after their first communication, Wichita television KAKE and someone believed to be the BTK killer are back in touch. This is the latest postcard delivered to the station.

Anchor Larry Hatteberg covered this case from the start.

LARRY HATTEBERG, KAKE ANCHOR: Then he gets even more personal. He says, "Thanks to your news team for their efforts." Obviously, in covering the story and trying to communicate with them. And then, even more personal, by saying, "Sorry about Susan and Jeff's cold."

KAYE: The sender apparently referring to the anchors' colds, mentioned on air.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We got the crud or something.


KAYE (on camera): This is the first postcard the station has received in the last week, the ninth since last March, when the killer appears to have resurfaced. The latest one thanks the station for its, quote, "quick response" to numbers seven and eight, referring to the last couple of notes.

(voice-over): One of those mailings sent investigators searching for clues. It led them to this cereal box, filled with items that may be related to previous murders.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A tip from a local news station directed us to a suspicious package in a rural area northwest of Wichita...

KAYE: The name on the latest return address is Happ Kakemann. Wichita police acknowledge the postcard appears authentic and could be from the killer. The FBI will determine that.

This was a familiar scene decades ago. BTK, which stands for "Bind, Torture, Kill," is linked to eight unsolved murders from 1974 to 1986. The case has stumped investigators, leading them to collect more than 4,000 DNA samples.

HATTEBERG: We thought BTK was dead. And now that he's back, we know he's very much alive, and we know he is among us. He's going to the theater with us, he's to the shopping with us, he's at the mall with us. He is amongst us.

KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN, Atlanta.


O'BRIEN: From Wichita this evening, KAKA anchor Larry Hatteberg joins us.

Larry, nice to see you again.

What do you think...

HATTEBERG: Thanks, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: ... he's trying to accomplish with these messages?

HATTEBERG: Soledad, he absolutely loves the publicity. He loves to see his name in the newspaper, he loves to see his name on the network newscasts and on the local newscasts. We know he's been a viewer here at our television station now for some 30 years. And we know right now he's probably watching us somewhere here in Wichita.

O'BRIEN: So then aren't you conflicted...

HATTEBERG: He loves the publicity. He feeds on it.

O'BRIEN: Aren't you conflicted, then, about giving him all this publicity?

HATTEBERG: As long as we're keeping him happy, the feeling is, he's not killing. And if you'll notice in your report -- as your report just stated, the feedback in the cards is that he's very relaxed when he's writing to us now, so he's not uptight, he's not mad, he seems to be fairly relaxed.

He's getting what he wants, and as long as he gets what he wants, we hope that he won't kill again. And that's what this is all about, keeping him active. We want to hear from him, we want to keep that communications going. And he likes to communicate with this television station.

O'BRIEN: I know you've turned over some information to the police from the postcards. Have the police told you what they've been able to glean from these cards?

HATTEBERG: No, they haven't. The police department keeps this investigation very close to their vest. When they have a news conference, they release a certain amount of information, but then they take no questions. They are holding everything very close. They don't want to have any links in this case. And I don't think anything will be released of major importance from the Wichita Police Department until they go to trial, if ever.

O'BRIEN: Your DNA was tested along with thousands of other people's. Was there ever a time when police indicated that they felt that possibly the BTK killer was someone in the newsroom?

HATTEBERG: Well, no, they've never said it was -- he was somebody in the newsroom. What the police have done is, they've taken DNA from me and 4,000 other males here in the Wichita area. They've taken it from the police, they've taken it from the media, they've taken it from anyone who might fit in the profile.

And the reason they took it from me was because of all the media exposure, like right now here on CNN, people called into the BTK tipline and said, Well, if Larry Hatteberg is talking about it, then he's probably BTK, because he knows so much about it. That's why.

O'BRIEN: Larry Hatteberg, joining us this evening. Larry, thanks. Appreciate it.

HATTEBERG: Certainly.

O'BRIEN: Condoleezza Rice's swing through Europe tops our look at the global stories in the uplink this evening.

Berlin, Germany, the secretary of state says a U.S. attack on Iran is not on the agenda, for now. However, she says, Iran is not immune to the democratic changes going on in the region and urged the Islamic Republic to cooperate on its nuclear program.

After Europe, Rice heads to the Middle East to try to reinvigorate the peace process.

Rome, Italy, improving health. The Vatican says Pope John Paul II is getting better. He's apparently eating regular food for the first time in weeks, and he hopes to deliver his regular Sunday address this weekend. The pope was hospitalized four days ago with a respiratory infection.

And in deep space, an exploding star. The Hubble space telescope has captured this dramatic moment 20,000 light-years away. It shows a searing pulse of light from an exploding star as it races across the vast void of deep space.

And that's tonight's uplink.

Well, it sounds like a reality show, nine people stuck on an island, forced to survive for more than a month on coconuts and the wild boar they hunt and kill. It turns out it is not a reality but, in fact, reality. Those nine people survived the tsunami in South Asia and lived on that island.

CNN's Suhasini Haidar has the story of their amazing survival and hope.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SUHASINI HAIDAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the first time Justin Edwards has been in clean clothes in more than a month. He's one of nine survivors of the tsunami who were rescued 38 days after the wave swept through their homes on the western side of this island in the Indian Ocean.

"We saw the tsunami submerge our village," he says, "and ran for our lives. We lived on coconuts for days. Then we met some jungle tribals who showed us how to make a fire and to hunt wild boar."

Police officials who found the group say they stumbled upon them when they took a motorboat on a random search operation. They say the route was made especially difficult because of trees that had fallen into the water and a dense jungle environment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very difficult for a normal person like (UNINTELLIGIBLE) person. You can't move more than four or five meter, 100 meters, in a whole day.

HAIDAR (on camera): News of their discovery has reenergized search and rescue operations here, say officials. More than 5,000 men, women, and children are missing in tsunami-hit regions of India.

(voice-over): Most of them from here in this string of islands off the mainland, just about 100 miles from the earthquake's epicenter.

Officials hope others are still living off the land, waiting to be rescued.

"We were so happy when we saw the police," says Edward. "And so very tired, too tired in days to think about the future," says 12- year-old Clara. "My parents probably died in the tsunami," she explains. "I don't know what I'll do next."

But these survivors say they'll take care of her and each other. They're all that's left of their village now, the only family they have.

Suhasini Haidar, CNN, Campbell Bay, in the Indian Ocean.


O'BRIEN: 360 next, a bus of horrors. Its driver passes out with students on board, but one saves the rest from danger. We'll hear his amazing story.

Also tonight, kids getting high, even dying, from common products found around the house. Our special series continues.

And a little later, you can't always get what you want, but ladies, maybe you don't really want him. It's a new twist on relationships.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) O'BRIEN: Every day in this country, more than 25 million kids ride a bus to school, and the overwhelming majority get there uneventfully. Then there's the story of Bus 260, where the children arrived just fine, thank you, but uneventfully? Not exactly.


O'BRIEN (voice-over): On their way to high school Tuesday morning, the 33 students on board School Bus 260 felt something was wrong. Their bus was swerving and speeding through the streets of Charlotte, North Carolina, not slowing for speed bumps. It even went through a road barricade.

The driver seemed to be asleep at the wheel. Worried, one kid decided to call 911.


RAY COOKS: I'm on the school bus, and our bus driver is falling asleep, and he's driving.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the bus moving?

COOKS: Yes, it is, but he's, like, he's, like, he's dozing off.


O'BRIEN: The 911 caller was 16-year-old Ray Cooks.

COOKS: In my mind, I was, like, call for help. My life is in danger, my friends' life are in danger. There was this girl on the bus who's pregnant. Her child is in danger.

O'BRIEN: Ray stayed on the phone for 38 minutes with the 911 dispatcher, trying to give directions in the dark.


COOKS: We're on Kilbourne.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're on Kilbourne?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where on Kilbourne?

COOKS: I don't know where on Kilbourne. T.J., where are we on Kilbourne?


COOKS: In my mind, I was, like, Come on, the cops, like, hurry up and find us.

O'BRIEN: The police finally did. They stopped the bus and arrested the driver. Twenty-three-year-old Vernon Wallace admitted drinking the night before. He was charged with driving students under the influence and fired from his job.

Ray Cooks received high praise for his judgment call, yet he says some students are angry at him for what happened to the driver.

COOKS: They was like, I was lying, he wasn't falling asleep, I ruined his life, he has children to take care of, he can't get no other job.

O'BRIEN: But Ray says he's proud of what he did that morning.

COOKS: Children on the bus would be dead right now, and I would be living with the guilt. And that's why I'm proud today that I called and that everybody is safe, and stuff like that.


O'BRIEN: A 360 special, Chasing the High. Tonight, inhaling poisons. A teenager addicted to inhalant.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a little girl whose parent took her to ballet every day too, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) know her.


O'BRIEN: Shares her story of her hard and difficult journey to stay clean.

A 12-year-old kid on trial for killing his grandparents and setting them on fire. But did the antidepressant drug Zoloft make him do it?

360 continues.


O'BRIEN: Nail polish remover, rubber cement, and varnish, they all seem pretty harmless. Perhaps you have them in your home right now. But you may not know that these items contain potential deadly inhalants. And kids are getting high off them.

The DEA says the number of young people who have used inhalants has nearly doubled in the last decade. And the biggest users are 10 to 12-year-old children. Tonight, as our "Chasing The High" series continues, our Gary Tuchman introduces us to one young woman who was hooked.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jessie Stotz' life used to be very uncomplicated.

JESSIE STOTZ, SUBSTANCE ABUSER: I went from a little girl whose parents took her to ballet every day to I don't even know who. TUCHMAN: Seven-teen-year-old Jessie is a drug addict, addicted to a litany of substances, including some you might not even consider dangerous. But you would be wrong.

STOTZ: You couldn't go to a party without having a can of, you know, computer dust or air dust. So there would be numerous, numerous cans that would go around at a time.

TUCHMAN: Jessie inhales poisons and has been ordered by a court to attend this rehab facility, the Pathway Center in Minneapolis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, most teenagers in general go through that, you know, feeling like "I'm not approved of. I'm not loved. I'm not accepted."

TUCHMAN: She could be here for a year to treat addictions that include computer dust, or nitrous oxide, rubber cement, paint thinner and hairspray aerosol cans.

HARVEY WEISS, NATIONAL INHALANT PREVENTION COUNCIL: Anytime an inhalant is used, it could be a fatal episode. It's called Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome. It could be the first time, the tenth time. You just don't know. It's like playing Russian roulette with your life.

TUCHMAN: In the U.S., first-time inhalant use among youth has approximately doubled over the last decades estimates the federal government. In Canada we spent time with teens who sniff gasoline and rubber cement.

(on camera): Why do you sniff rubber cement?


TUCHMAN: How come?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's making me high.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Experts say inhalants could cause damage to the brain, heart and other organs.

TERRI NISSLEY, CEO, PATHWAY FAMILY CENTER: When I look at 12, 13 years ago, when we were starting out, it was alcohol. It was cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana. Those were the common drugs that we saw. And today inhalants are in that -- in those common drugs that we see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... made mistakes.

TUCHMAN: Jessie was very angry when she was forced to enter the rehab center two months ago.

STOTZ: When I came in here -- I think my exact words to my parents when I came in here was, "F off," actually.

TUCHMAN: Her parents, heartbroken by their daughter's substance abuse, were already used to her verbal abuse.

DEB STOTZ, JESSIE'S MOTHER: She was embarrassed to see me, but it was hard. It hurt.

TUCHMAN: Jessie feels like the rehab is working, but she knows if she left the program right now...

J. STOTZ: I would go instantly right back and just progressively just start, you know, going back to my old behaviors and using my old drugs.

D. STOTZ: I love you.

J. STOTZ: I love you too.

TUCHMAN: So for now, she's working hard to succeed and looks forward to her twice a week parental visits.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you girl.

J. STOTZ: I love you too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're doing a good job.

(on camera): You brought her here and she was rebellious. She was mad at you. Now she's beaming, the smiles, she's hugging you. How does it make you feel?

D. STOTZ: Right now it feels like conception, that you just found out you're expecting your first child. And going through the program -- I'm sorry -- will be like giving birth.

TUCHMAN: Do you feel like this is a new lease on life for you?

J. STOTZ: Yes. I -- they usually refer to like being clean as a rebirth. And I do. I feel like -- I don't know, I feel like I'm a little girl again in a way, that it's all starting back over.

TUCHMAN: Gary Tuchman, CNN, Indianapolis.


O'BRIEN: You could say that Jessie Stotz was lucky. Inhalants have been known to kill people before they ever get the chance to go to rehab.

Ricky Joe Stem was one victim. He was just 16 when he died from huffing freon, a substance in air conditioners. His mother, Diane Stem, joins us from Nashville, Tennessee.

Diane, thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.

Take us back to the day that you discovered that Ricky was dead. What happened?

DIANE STEM, SON DIED USING INHALANT: Well, it was June 20, 1996. Ricky was out of school for the summer. We had just returned from a family vacation from Florida.

Ricky was home. Our son was home for a while. I called him from work around noon, like I always did, to check on him, and he -- we exchanged "I love yous."

My husband, Ricky Sr., also called him and talked to him for a few minutes and exchanged "I love yous." But later that afternoon, at 3:45 in the afternoon, my husband called me at work, and I knew from the tone of his voice that I didn't want to know why.

He said, "Come home immediately." I knew something was very, very wrong. And I drove home to find an ambulance driver, a cul-de- sac full of people, our family, friends, and then I heard the dreaded words "Ricky is dead."

O'BRIEN: He had died with a bag over his head. When they told you that he had been huffing, did you even know what they were talking about?

STEM: No, I didn't. In fact, when we first found him, we didn't know what had happened.

My husband and my daughter came home to find him in our own home with a bag over his head. And it was only later that we learned that he might have been huffing, because that is one of the ways that kids huff.

We later learned Ricky had just recently been introduced to this fad, and he had tried it a couple times with some friends. And the friend was there to pull the bag off of his head. But this time Ricky tried it alone and there was no one there to pull the bag off. And he died instantly from what's known as Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome.

O'BRIEN: It's so scary, I think, when you consider the common substances that kids are using from the home. Why do you think kids are attracted to huffing?

STEM: I'm not really sure, except, number one, I don't think kids see the harm. They are everyday household products in every home and workplace in America, and kids don't see the harm, and parents don't know to warn them.

It's a silent epidemic. A lot of times, just like our son, he was a good kid, he was a loving son. Kids maybe that wouldn't try an illegal drug are trying inhalants.

It's so-called harmless fun. It comes -- that's how it comes disguised. But harmless fun killed our fun.

It's easy to conceal. The products are cheap. And, you know, the kids don't realize that they're playing Russian roulette with their life.

O'BRIEN: Diane Stem, the mother of Ricky Stem. Diane, thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.

STEM: Thank you so much.

O'BRIEN: And we'll be right back.


O'BRIEN: Did taking the antidepressant Zoloft lead a boy to kill? Defense attorneys are hoping a South Carolina jury says yes in the trial of a teen accused of murdering his grandparents when he was just 12. But prosecutors are painting a much darker picture of the defendant who they insist was driven not by medication, but by hate.

CNN's medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen reports.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Freed on bail after three years in jail, Chris Pittman walked out a night ago with the same hangdog look he wears in court. But after hugs and kisses from his family he showed a smile.

His freedom may be temporary. Fifteen-year-old Chris could face life in prison for shooting his grandparents as they slept. That's why his lawyer is trying to convince the jury that an antidepressant, Zoloft, made Chris Pittman kill. His confession read in court was chilling.

LUCINDA MCCELLAR, LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENT: "When they went to bed I waited about 10 minutes. I got the shotgun out of the cabinet. I took it my room and loaded it."

"I took a box of shells from the cabinet. I put three in it, jacked one and put another one in it. I went in their room. I just aimed at the bed. I shot four times."

COHEN: The boy, only 12 at the time, burned down the house in rural South Carolina and fled with the shotgun in the car.

DAVID BLACK, CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATOR: I developed a print here. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) from the defendant.

COHEN: This was a troubled child from an unhappy hope in Florida sent to live with the two people he loved most.

MITCHELL SNELGROVE, BEST FRIEND: I don't know many people that would just get up on their grandparents' lap and say, "I love you pop- pop," or something like that in front of one of their friends.

COHEN: Yet police say there was no remorse.

MCCELLAR: "I'm not sorry. They deserved it. Everybody hates me. I'm useless."

COHEN: "I'm useless," familiar words from someone diagnosed with depression, as Chris Pittman was by his family doctor who put him on Zoloft. ANDY VICKERY, DEFENSE LAWYER: He was a 96-pound 12-year-old boy, a shy, decent boy, who was acting under the influence of a powerful mind-altering drug.

COHEN: Three years after the shootings, the Food and Drug Administration did warn drugs like this could cause suicidal behavior in some children. But the FDA has not linked the drug towards violence to others. Still, the FDA has warned doctors to carefully monitor their young patients for agitation and aggression. A psychiatrist for the defense said this could lead to violence.

DR. DAVID HEALY, DEFENSE PSYCHIATRIST: The only reason I'm here is that I think there is a very strong argument that can be made for the fact that the drug has caused a problem.

COHEN: The prosecution version, Chris was furious at his grandparents because they wanted to send him back to his father after a school fight. The prosecution psychiatrist.

DR. JAMES BALLENGER, PROSECUTION PSYCHIATRIST: You know, I think he did it because he was very mad, very angry.

COHEN (on camera): The key question for the jury is did Chris Pittman know right from wrong when he killed his grandparents? The defense says he didn't. Prosecutors say he's a smart, angry boy who knew exactly what he was doing.

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Charleston, South Carolina.


O'BRIEN: In a statement, Pfizer, the makers of Zoloft, said this: "The murders of Christopher Pittman's grandparents, while tragic, are in no way connected to the use of Pfizer's antidepressant Zoloft. A vast amount of clinical and patient experience continues to support the safety and efficacy of this medication."

"There is no scientific evidence to establish that Zoloft contributes to violent behavior in either adults or children. It's unfortunate that unfounded allegations in this case may create undue concern on the part of patients who benefit most from this medicine."

Helping us cover all angles of the trial, Court TV anchor Lisa Bloom. And joining us this evening from Miami, defense attorney Jayne Weintraub.

Good evening to both of you. Thanks for being with me.

Root of this case, of course, Lisa, is who's to blame. At the end of the day, the defense expert -- defense team called its own medical expert on Zoloft. How was his testimony do you think?

LISA BLOOM, COURT TV ANCHOR: He testified today, Dr. Healy. I think he did a terrific job.

You know, he's from Ireland, so he may not have the home court advantage. But he's clearly well-qualified. And he testified that there's a great deal of knowledge and a great deal we don't know about how these antidepressants work on the children. It was only in 2004 that the FDA said there was significantly increased risks of suicidality when antidepressants are prescribed to kids, while homicidality, he said, not much of a stretch, and it may have clearly influenced this young man on the night he murdered his grandparents.

O'BRIEN: You have to imagine, Jayne, though, the prosecution is going to have their own little team going. And to some degree, when you have the battle of the experts, doesn't that open the doors to reasonable doubt, which would be, of course, good for the defense?

JAYNE WEINTRAUB, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think it does, Soledad. And it's not just a battle of experts, as we often see in criminal cases.

These are scientists that are not used to coming to court or being hired to come to testify before a jury. These are people who have done research and are clinicians. So I think they really know and I think they'll help.

O'BRIEN: But at the end of the day, aren't they trying to prove, Lisa, that somehow the Zoloft clouded the ability to know right from wrong? And as they pointed out in the statement from Pfizer, there's really been no scientific evidence that would lead you down that road.

BLOOM: Well, not according to the defense, though. And as you say, it's going to be a battle of the experts.

The defense is involuntary intoxication. And it boils down to when a 12-year-old boy is taking a prescription drug that already has a black box warning on the label with side effects, and he suffers from those side effects, are we going to send him to prison for the rest of his life because of the behavior that's occasioned by that drug? That's what the defense is putting squarely in front of this jury.

O'BRIEN: At the same time, Jayne, isn't the bar higher for him by the virtue of the fact that all the conditions around why he was taking the drug -- I mean, obviously he was depressed. Obviously he had problems already.

WEINTRAUB: He tried to kill himself. That's why he was on them to begin with. This is a boy who was abused, whose mother abandoned him.


WEINTRAUB: Probably a victim of child abuse. He's a little boy. He was 12 when this happened.

O'BRIEN: He's -- it's a given, though, then, that he's a troubled child. The jury could say, "He's a troubled kid. You know what? With the drugs, without the drugs, he killed them."

WEINTRAUB: He was a little boy... BLOOM: Well, but the argument is that his behavior changed significantly on Zoloft. While he was engaging in some minor misbehavior at school, it wasn't anything like murder.

Look what he did in this case, Soledad. He shot and killed both of his grandparents, the two people who took him in and loved him, set fire to their house, took their car, took their money, ran off, and blamed it all on an unnamed black man. So the prosecution says, he knew what he was doing, he knew right from wrong, he wasn't under the influence of anything that clouded his judgment. This was manipulative, angry behavior.

WEINTRAUB: I'll tell you, Soledad, as a mom and as a very concerned person today, I think that the prosecutors, if they need to prosecute someone, they need to be taking a good look at this drug manufacturer and determine whether or not this was covered up in the '80s and the '90s, as the defense expects to say, and whether or not people knew at that drug company or should have known that this was a potential consequence.

BLOOM: And Jayne, I'll take it one further. What about the father that gives him a gun a week before? Gives a troubled 12-year- old a gun? Are you kidding me?

O'BRIEN: You're raising all sorts of issues, but you know what? They're not on the stand. Right now it's the young man. We're going to see what the jury decides in his case.

BLOOM: The father's not even at the trial.

O'BRIEN: You guys, as always, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

WEINTRAUB: Thank you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: 360 next, so he's just not that into you, huh? Well, ladies, maybe you're not all that into him, either. Meet a man who wants to help women feel powerful and avoid what he calls the booty call blues.

Also tonight, a heavyweight champ who took enormous risks outside the ring.


O'BRIEN: We've got this just into CNN to tell you. A Florida couple whose adopted children told authorities their tales of starvation and physical torture have now been captured in Utah. This is coming to us from officials.

Citrus County sheriff's spokeswoman Rhonda Evan (ph) confirming that John and Linda Dollar, who were wanted on felony charges of aggravated child abuse, were captured. Very few details, though, to talk about. Of course we're continuing to follow this story this evening and throughout the morning tomorrow. Turning now on a much lighter note, ouch. For Miranda and "Sex and the City," things like that have to hurt. But should it hurt for real?

What if, ladies, you're just not that into him? That, of course, is the message behind a new book which was written by sex therapist Ian Kerner. It's called "Be Honest, You're Not That Into Him Either."

Ian Kerner joins us now.

We're talking, of course, about the scene from "Sex and the City" where basically Miranda is shut down by a guy, and the idea being that if the guy turns you down, he's just not that into you. You can say women can actually be empowered by that. What do you mean?

IAN KERNER, SEX THERAPIST: Yes. Well, first of all, as I recall, at the end of that episode, it turned out that the guy was into Miranda, but he actually had a case of the runs. So, I want to say, you know, you can't reduce very guy...

O'BRIEN: You never know.

KERNER: ... to a simply tagline. Men are a little more complex than just a simple tagline.

But, you know, that book made such a cultural splash. And when it came out, women everywhere -- I was doing a number of readings and events on my own work, and women everywhere sort of were coming up to me and saying, "Help, he's just not that into me. What do I do now?" And what I really wanted to do was sort of pick up where that kind of left off and sort of try and offer women a road map for dealing with sex, dating and finding love in the age of the booty call.

O'BRIEN: You talk about in your book about three elements of what you call the three elements of courtship: lust, romantic love, moving into attachment.

KERNER: Correct.

O'BRIEN: What's the best way, then, if it's not the booty call? What's the best way to get from lust into love?

KERNER: Well, you know, I think for a lot of women, I think one of the contemporary dilemmas is, "How do I reconcile my sexual entitlement and my sexual empowerment and my sexual desire with a desire -- with an ability to be in a long-term committed relationship?" So I find that a lot of women who want to be in long- term relationships are sort of ending up jumping into bed, because they feel like there's almost sort of a cultural pressure to do so.

You know, the first date is now like the third date. And so a lot of women are sort of jumping into bed and then sort of having regret and remorse over it.

O'BRIEN: So then your advice is don't for women?

KERNER: Well, I don't think it's as simple as rules. I mean, I think it's all about choices.

And I think you have to go into every situation very clear-headed and ask yourself what are you getting out it? But I think that we live in an age these days where we treat sex extremely lightly. And that sex doesn't always treat us lightly in the end.

O'BRIEN: Why do you advise that couples spend time apart when they're dating? I mean, you'd almost think that that's the time to be spending a lot of time together.

KERNER: Well, you know, first of all, it's interesting. When couples are first getting to know each other and getting infatuated with each other, something in the brain called dopamine gets produced. And that dopamine is really exhilarating, and it allows us to focus, and it sort of sweetens the chase.

And very often, when we spend sort of too much time together, or the sex becomes too easy or the relationship becomes too easy, the dopamine stops produces and we sort of lose our interest in the courtship process. So, you know, in terms of going from lust, which is sort of raw and unfocused, to romantic love, I think we have to let lust find its focus on our significant other on that object.

O'BRIEN: Sex therapist Ian Kerner. Nice to see you. The book again is called "Be Honest, You're Not That Into Him Either." It's a great title. We appreciate it.

KERNER: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Now let's find out what's coming up at the top of the hour on "PAULA ZAHN NOW."

Good evening, Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, HOST, "PAULA ZAHN NOW": Hi, Soledad. Thanks.

Tonight, the professor whose opinions about the 9/11 attacks have set off a firestorm. Ward Churchill could lose his job because of his essay about the victims of 9/11. The battle over what he wrote ranges from free speech to political correctness, some say. I will be talking with him exclusively in just a few minutes.

Also ahead, the big business of Super Bowl ads and Super Bowl gamblings, Soledad. Go Patriots, go.

O'BRIEN: That's right. I'm right with you there.

ZAHN: Good. Happy to have you on my team.

O'BRIEN: Well, thank you.

There's more 360 right after the break.

Plus, next week, we begin our special series, "Family Secrets." You'll meet a mother of three who's been living a double life as a shoplifter. But first, good-bye to a legend on and off the screen and stage.


O'BRIEN: Finally tonight, we remember two men who died this week. They were two very different people, yet they shared something quite similar: achieving fame for what they did and for what they fought against.


OSSIE DAVIS, ACTOR: Thank the lord. The sun is going down. Well, I guess I'll be on my way.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): We learned today that Ossie Davis died. He was 87 years old. His acting career began in 1939.

DAVIS: Cynthia (ph) says that I am a piece of Americana.

O'BRIEN: At the time of his death, he was shooting a movie in Miami. For more than half a century, Davis was a fixture on the stage and screen. He was also an activist, a champion for civil rights, equality and racial justice. Davis spoke at the funeral of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.

In December, he received the Kennedy Center honors. By his side, the woman who was always be his side, actress Ruby Dee, his wife and partner for 56 years.

DAVIS: In 1936, Max went back to America and turned on Miami Beach.

O'BRIEN: We also say goodbye to a boxing legend, Max Schmeling, who was 99. The German's bouts against Joe Lewis in the 1930s are now etched into the history of the 20th century.

In 1936, Schmeling did the unthinkable, defeating the great American boxer Joe Lewis in one of the biggest sports upsets of all time. Lewis made sure it didn't happen again with a first-round knockout of Schmeling two years later.

Many considered Schmeling a symbol of the Nazis and considered the matches with Lewis a battle between good and evil. Schmeling, though, never joined the Nazi party, refused to fire his Jewish manager, and hid two Jewish children in his Berlin apartment in the days leading up to World War II.

And long after the fights were over, Schmeling never forgot Joe Lewis. When Lewis needed money he gave it to him. And when the boxer died in 1981, Schmeling paid for his funeral.


O'BRIEN: They'll be missed.

Thanks for being with us tonight. I'm Soledad O'Brien. Anderson's back next week.

"PAULA ZAHN NOW" continues our prime-time lineup. So we're going to hand it over to her.


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