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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Two Murders, Two Mysteries; Interview With Pastor of Runaway Bride; Profile of Tony Blair

Aired May 5, 2005 - 20:00   ET

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


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening, everybody. Welcome.
Tonight, two crimes shrouded in mystery, one finally solved, the other still open. The first involved a murdered little girl, the second, a dangerous fugitive who is the focus of an international manhunt.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: He was once a respected cop, the image of authority and trust.

LESLIE, MOTHER OF ALLEGED VICTIM: He stepped in as a father to my daughter.

ANNOUNCER: Until disturbing reports of unspeakable crimes and a secret marriage that ended in murder.

DALE COKERS, HIERS' KARATE INSTRUCTOR: We never saw a wife. He never brought her here.

ANNOUNCER: How Daniel Hiers became a man on the run.

And a young child known only as Precious Doe brutally murdered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We cannot believe that someone can do this to a child.

ANNOUNCER: For years, her identity a mystery, until now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today is a day we have closure for the Kansas City community.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, two murders, two mysteries.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: We continue now with the disturbing stories of those two little girls, both of them victims. One was found murdered four years ago in Kansas city, Missouri, her headless body discovered in a wooded area. No one knew who she was until today. And now her mother and stepfather are charged in that crime. We will have more on that in just a few minutes.

But we begin with the harrowing story of another girl, allegedly molested by a police officer she trusted. That case is still open because, tonight, he's a fugitive who is also wanted for murder.

Here is Randi Kaye.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He was once a respected police officer in Charleston, South Carolina. Now Daniel William Hiers is the focus of an international manhunt, accused of molestation and murder.

LESLIE: I was scared. I was in shock.

KAYE: This woman, Leslie, asked us not use her last name. Her 11-year-old daughter is one of Hiers' alleged victims.

Hiers and the little girl met in this karate class. Hiers took no interest in the mother, but a strong interest in the girl, who was 20 years younger. He took her shopping, bought her expensive gifts, drove her to karate, and sent her flowers twice.

Leslie, a single mom, was suspicious at first. But Hiers assured her his intentions were good. She even planned to make Hiers the girl's legal guardian, should something happen to her mom.

LESLIE: He stepped in as a father to my daughter. And I used to -- I used to thank God for him. I would pray and think, my God.

KAYE: That all changed when, after watching a video about inappropriate touching at school, Leslie's daughter told her Hiers had been touching her.

LESLIE: I gave her a hug. And I told her everything was going to be OK.

KAYE (on camera): How tough was that moment?

LESLIE: That was hard.

KAYE (voice-over): According to police, Hiers would take the girl to places like this Wal-Mart parking lot, fondle her repeatedly, even make her touch him.

LESLIE: She said that every time that they passed by there, that she knew what was going to happen, especially -- when he -- noticed that the truck was slowing down, and that she was just too scared to do anything.

KAYE (on camera): Why didn't the little girl come forward sooner? Her mother told me Hiers threatened her. He told her, if she talked about the abuse, she would get in trouble, that no one would believe her because he was a police officer.

(voice-over): But investigators did believe her and moved to arrest Hiers and charge him with lewd acts with a minor. It was then they discovered Hiers had a wife, that had been leading a double life. Hiers met Mila Cohe De Aruz (ph) in 1996. She was vacationing in Miami from Brazil. Hiers was 23, Mila just 15. They married two years later.

ALESANDRO COHE DE ARUJO, SISTER OF MURDERED WIFE: I believe -- I believe my family, my sister, everybody, we were fooled by him.

KAYE: Mila's sister Alesandro, remembers how charming Hiers could be. She also remembers how distant he became as his wife started to mature into a woman.

DE ARUJO: They didn't have a normal sexual life. They used to pass a month or three months without having any kind of contact.

KAYE: Hiers began to ignore his wife. The couple stopped going out together.

(on camera): Did you have any indication at all that he had a wife at home and was married?

COKERS: No. That's the biggest shock. We had no clue that he had a wife. None of us knew.

KAYE (voice-over): Dale Cokers owns the karate school where Hiers befriended Leslie's daughter. He talked with Hiers every week and there was never any mention of a wife.

COKERS: We never saw a wife. He never brought her here for any special events we had. We have never seen her.

KAYE: Leslie and her daughter never met Hiers' wife either. He told them she had gone back to Brazil to file for divorce.

DE ARUJO: He's mysterious, very much mysterious.

KAYE: Alesandro says her sister pleaded with Hiers to stop spending so much time with Leslie's daughter.

(on camera): Did your sister ever think that he liked little girls?

DE ARUJO: She thought that -- she used to told me, Dan loves to stay with the little girls. I think, when we have children, he want to be father of a girl. It's what everybody thought.

KAYE (voice-over): Then police began to uncover disturbing evidence of Hiers' treatment of Leslie's little girl. As he was about to face more serious charges of molestation, the case took a deadly turn.

(on camera): When Hiers didn't turn himself in the morning of March 15 to face a second round of molestation charges, investigators came here to his home. They found his wife dead and Hiers missing, launching an international manhunt.

(voice-over): According to police, Mila was shot while she slept. Neighbors reported seeing Hiers going in and out of the house at about the time of the murder.

Hours later, this surveillance camera captured Hiers at a South Carolina gas station. He calmly withdrew several hundred dollars from the store's ATM, waved to the cashier on his way out, and he hasn't been seen since.

In Hiers' hometown of Hampton, South Carolina, wanted posters hang in store windows. And the manhunt is still front-page news. But many who know him and his bride refuse to believe the charges.

TRACIE ANDERSON, FAMILY FRIEND: They were very happy. He would he would whisper in her ear and, you know, and hug up on her. And she was real shy. She was a shy girl. And it was cute to watch them. And he was very loving to her.

KAYE: Pastor Kelly Fox is the family's spiritual adviser. He hopes Hiers turns himself in and proves his innocence.

KELLY FOX, FAMILY SPIRITUAL ADVISER: I would have to have a picture of him doing it before I could believe it. It just does not make sense to me.

KAYE: But, as the charges against Hiers mounted, authorities say he may have been preparing for life on the run. This grainy picture taken with a friend's cell phone shortly before he disappeared, authorities say, shows Hiers experimenting with altering his appearance.

He grew a beard and gained weight. Still, the U.S. Marshals say they're developing strong leads as they hunt for a man many now believe was leading two lives.

LESLIE: We're stuck here until he's found and at least we know that he's not going to hurt anybody else.

KAYE (on camera): The waiting is very hard for your family?

DE ARUJO: Yes. It is terrible, something that we don't have a word to say what we are feeling.

KAYE: Two families trying to cope with two tragedies. Both are haunted by a man they once trusted, a police officer. Did Hiers harm Leslie's little girl? Is he really capable of murder? And most important, where is he?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Randi Kaye reporting from Charleston, South Carolina.

U.S. Marshals tonight have upped their ante in the search for Dan Hiers. They are now offering a $10,000 reward for any information leading to his arrest. They also say he is considered armed and dangerous.

Coming up next, another mystery, this one about murdered little girl whose name wasn't even known until today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNETTE JOHNSON, PRECIOUS DOE COMMITTEE: I have children of my own. And we in the community felt like this was our child and we had to protect her. And we had to come out here and rally for her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: How this case may finally have been solved.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Tonight in Oklahoma, the mother and stepfather of a little girl are facing murder charges in her death. The headless body of the girl who became known as Precious Doe was found four years ago in Kansas City, Missouri.

Today, we learned her name as Erica Michelle Marie Green. The break in the case came from a man who said he hadn't seen his granddaughter for several years. He had answered an ad placed by people in Kansas City who had vowed to never forget the child and to find her killer.

Here is Drew Griffin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNSON: This is -- right here is where her body laid, where I will take you.

(CROSSTALK)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Annette Johnson has walked this path dozens of times and wondered just who the little girl was, her headless nude body dumped on the road, the head found a week later dumped in a bag, no name, no family, no one in this little girl's life who even reported her missing. It was up to strangers to keep at least her case alive.

JOHNSON: I decided to put together a committee, which is called the Precious Doe Committee. That's the name that we gave her because we didn't know who she was. And to us, she was precious. And we named her Precious Doe.

GRIFFIN: Vowing not to let her die anonymously, the Precious Doe Committee held a vigil in this park every week for the past four years.

JOHNSON: Every vigil, she was there with us.

GRIFFIN (on camera): She wanted you to find her.

JOHNSON: She did. And every night, I pray about it. I have children of my own. And we in the community felt like this was our child. And we had to protect her. And we had to come out here and rally for her. GRIFFIN (voice-over): The citizens group pushed police to stay on the case and watched as detectives tracked down hundreds of leads that seemed to go nowhere.

JOHNSON: We thought she was the child in Florida. We thought she was from Jamaica. So, I was always very optimistic.

GRIFFIN (on camera): And, each time, you had your hopes up that...

JOHNSON: And they crushed them. They got crushed. But I knew it would come. I knew the day would come.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Thursday, Annette Johnson and everyone in Kansas City who adopted a girl they never knew heard the news they had waited four years to hear.

JIM CORWIN, KANSAS CITY POLICE CHIEF: The little girl that we have known for four years as Precious Doe has a name.

GRIFFIN: Erica Michelle Marie Green would have been 8 years old this month.

JOHNSON: I felt so relieved. I felt so happy. And then I started to feel sad, because I had to think about all night and I tossed and turned and said, what happened?

GRIFFIN (on camera): But along with the joy of finding out who this little girl was, Kansas City also learned how precious Erica Green died. And there was nothing precious about it.

(voice-over): Police say the mother told them it was the husband who kicked the girl in the head. She lay on the floor for two days, unresponsive, until she finally died. Police say the parents then disposed of the body just down the street because they feared they would be arrested.

The family had been in the home only weeks, apparently looking for work they never found and returned to Oklahoma. After four years, police received a tip that led to the mother. She is under arrest. And the prosecutor here says everyone else who may be responsible is in custody, too, not a happy ending. How could there be one? But at least for those who have waited and prayed for a precious little girl, the ending has a name.

(on camera): Do you wish Erica Green -- maybe she does in your mind -- know how much she's loved by this community?

JOHNSON: She does. I know she does, because I feel her presence. Every time when I'm here, I feel her presence. She's happy. She's running around. When we're holding hands, she's running between us, laughing, looking at her Teddy bears, touching them, smelling her flowers, and said, boy, they love me. They love me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: It's all so terribly sad.

Drew Griffin joins us now from Kansas City, where a memorial service is now under way for Precious Doe.

Oh, Drew, it's impossible to even know what to say after a piece like that. It sort of hits you in the gut. But I guess we need to talk about the number of leads the police have had consistently over the years. But there seemed to be one reason in particular they paid attention to this last lead. What was it about it that seemed so credible?

GRIFFIN: Well, Paula, it was this ad that a man who said he was the grandfather of this girl finally responded to. And he brought forth not only pictures of the girl he thought was missing, but also some hair. That was delivered to police, who had talked to this grandfather before, but never had that much detail. It was this detail, this tip that this week led directly to the arrests in Oklahoma.

ZAHN: I can only imagine what some of those people are thinking behind you who have prayed and hoped for answers over the years. Just describe to us the reaction among those folks tonight as they gather to honor this precious little girl.

GRIFFIN: It is so interesting. It has been part celebration, part prayer service, part vigil. They have had to drive by this park every day and remember that this little girl, who was only here maybe a couple of weeks, died here. And they adopted her. They literally took this girl into wings after she died and made sure that her death would not be in vain and made sure that she would some day have a name. Today, that name came.

ZAHN: Thanks, Drew. It's hard to take any part of that story.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Still ahead tonight, it looks like a third term for Tony Blair. We're going to show you how he went from rock 'n' roll wanna- be all the way to the top of British politics.

And now the runaway bride says she's sorry. I'll be speaking live with her pastor.

First, though, just about 20 minutes past the hour, time to check the top stories with Erica Hill at Headline News.

Hi, Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Paula. Good to see you tonight.

Prosecutors say they will demand the death penalty for Brian Nichols, the suspect in the Atlanta courthouse shootings, who surrendered after a huge manhunt in March. Nichols was indicted for the killings of four people, including a judge. He also faces kidnapping, hijack, robbery and weapons charges.

Investigators hope an enhanced security tape might show who tossed a crude bomb that shattered windows and damaged a planter at a Manhattan office building early today. The British Consulate is among the tenets, but the target and the motive remain a mystery.

The Army Reserve brigadier general who was in charge of Abu Ghraib prison while Iraqi detain detainees were being abused has been demoted now to the rank of colonel. Janis Karpinski was demoted by President Bush for what the Army called a lack of leadership. Karpinski insists that higher-ranking officers should bear responsibility for prisoner abuse.

And a little more explanation today, as you mentioned, Paula, for runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks, this time coming through her minister.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. TOM SMILEY, FAMILY PASTOR: "At this time, I cannot fully explain what happened to me last week. I had a host of compelling issues which seemed out of control, issues for which I was unable to address or confine. Please, may I assure you that my running away had nothing to do with cold feet, nor was it ever about leaving John."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: so, why did she run? Well, Wilbanks says she simply had to get away.

Paula, she said she does still plan to get married. So, I'm sure we'll be hearing more about this. And, of course, you'll have more later tonight when you speak with her paster.

ZAHN: We certainly will. And that's coming up after this short break.

Erica, see you in about a half-hour.

Still ahead, I will be speaking with that runaway bride's pastor, who you just heard delivering her apology for her today.

And that brings us to our person of the day. The nominees, Kenneth Souza for allegedly faking his death on his wedding day and reappearing a month later with virtually no press coverage, Bruce Springsteen for climbing to the top of the charts, even with some mixed reviews, to put it nicely, and Alonzo Washington, who led the effort in Kansas City to keep the Precious Doe case alive all those years.

Vote at CNN.com/Paula. I'll let you know who wins a little bit later on in the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Well, today, we sort of heard from Georgia's runaway bride, Jennifer Wilbanks. Her pastor went before reporters with a statement for her, in which he said she had apologized, promised to make amends for the money and time spent searching for her and has started some professional treatment.

Joining me now from Gainesville, Georgia, Thomas Smiley, senior pastor of Lakewood Baptist Church.

Dr. Smiley, thanks so much for being with us tonight.

SMILEY: Thanks, Paula.

ZAHN: We know the mayor of Duluth has said that she thinks it is a good thing that Jennifer has apologized, but listen to what the man in charge of investigating had to say -- her -- had to say about her sense of remorse earlier this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Is Jennifer Wilbanks sorry about what has happened?

DANNY PORTER, GWINNETT COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I wasn't there when she was interviewed. I think the GBI agent, Agent Brank, said that she expressed remorse, but didn't seem remorseful.

Sometimes, I'm not sure she has the capability for remorse. I'm not even sure she really understands the magnitude of what happened here.

ZAHN: You have a look of skepticism on your face. Is it because you...

PORTER: Do I?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: So, Dr. Smiley, does Jennifer understand that there are people out there who are questioning the sincerity of her apology?

SMILEY: I think she understands that very well, Paula.

But I can assure you, I've spent numerous hours with her. I don't understand where that kind of evaluation comes from. But I can assure you, she is extremely remorseful and saddened and sorrowful, as she indicated in her statement today.

ZAHN: You heard what the DA had to say. We should make it clear he made that statement before she ever publicly made this statement through you.

But he didn't even think at that time she understood the magnitude of what she had done. Is it clear to her how many people she hurt in this process?

SMILEY: I think it is getting more and more clear to her. It has not been really that long of a time since she's been back. And I think she's beginning to understand more and more.

And I think her first initial treatments and therapy have gone a long way in helping her understand a little more of what has happened.

ZAHN: It is interesting in her statement today, because she said her running away had nothing to do with getting cold feet, about the impending marriage. It had to do with some inner demons that she was wrestling with.

Were there any warning signs that any of her friends or family or fiance saw that might have been able to predict something like this happening?

SMILEY: Well, I don't think -- I know that she didn't use the word inner demons, but did use the words some uncontrollable emotions and some issues in life that she just couldn't quite figure out.

I think, you know, hindsight is always better. And maybe some folks looking back now see some stuff. But I can tell you this. In talking to her family and her friends, no one knew anything and failed to respond. I can assure you of that.

ZAHN: Dr. Smiley, she also said that she would like to make amends for her actions. Does that mean she plans to reimburse the city for all the costs incurred in her search?

SMILEY: I think that's a question really that her attorney, Ms. Sartain, needs to address. And I know that they have discussed that. But that really would be more appropriate for her to address, I think. And she's more than capable to do that.

ZAHN: But what do you think personally? You know her just about better than anybody who has followed this case. Would that be the appropriate thing to do?

SMILEY: Well, I know that there has to be some decisions made by people who have authority over those decisions, Paula. And I just really think it is inappropriate for me to respond to that kind of question. I'm here to serve her, to encourage her, to love her, as well as this Christian community. And we're going to leave those kind of issues and questions up to those that really can respond to them.

ZAHN: And very quickly, in closing, are you encouraged by how you think she's doing?

SMILEY: I'm very encouraged by how she's doing. I talked to her today twice after the press conference on her way to some additional treatment.

And she seems to be making some good progress. I hope people will pray for her and remember that, you know, we just need to ask forgiveness and offer forgiveness. And she's done that. And let's give her a chance to grow some and develop now.

ZAHN: Dr. Thomas Smiley, thank you so much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate your time. SMILEY: Thank you, Paula. It is a pleasure.

ZAHN: Our pleasure as well.

When we come back, how Tony Blair went from would-be rock star to driven politician.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He met this renegade priest called Thompson (ph), who sort of had these chats about putting the world to rights in his room late, late into -- late into the night. And that sort of got the young Tony Blair going on a sort of crusade to change the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: An inside look at the British leader who is on the verge of claiming his third term.

And a little bit later on, why No Child Left Behind is having devastating consequences for some American children, like this 11- year-old boy facing third grade for the third time.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Tonight, history is about to be made in Great Britain. The British TV network ITN is projecting Tony Blair to become the only Labor prime minister ever to be elected to a third straight term. But exit polls predict his margin of victory will be less than he had just four years ago, and many observers believe his support of President Bush in the war in Iraq cost Blair dearly.

Jonathan Mann looks at Blair's rise to power in tonight's "People in the News."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He's been one of the most successful politicians in British history. When Tony Blair first took office in 1997, he became the fresh face of British politics, returning his Labor Party to power after an 18-year absence.

But lately, the lights have dimmed on Tony Blair's golden career. Since committing Great Britain to the war in Iraq, his popularity has slipped amid endless attacks by a British electorate who feel he betrayed them, and lied to them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has been weakened by being seen as somebody who is too dependent on George Bush, too willing to do his bidding.

MANN: Blair campaigned vigorously to remain at Number 10 Downing Street, even as some in his own party looked to remove him.

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SR POLITICAL ANALYST: A lot of Labor members don't like him. They don't trust him. The left certainly has always mistrusted him.

MANN: Now, after a grueling campaign, Blair has managed to hold on to power, becoming the first Labor leader ever to win three consecutive terms. It's the latest victory on a career built on political savvy.

Tony Blair was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on May 6th, 1953. His father, Leo, was an active communist, who later turned to conservative politics and law. When Tony was one, his family left Scotland for Adelaide, Australia. Three years laid later, the Blairs moved to Durham, back in northern England. Leo Blair was doing well enough to send Tony and his brother to The Chorister School, where he excelled academically, skipping a grade.

PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR, GREAT BRITAIN: We had a perfectly good, average, middle-class standard of living. I was very lucky in my background. I got a decent education. That's one of the reasons why I think education is so important.

MANN: At the age of 40, Leo Blair was nearing his dream of landing a conservative Parliamentary seat, but his political career came to a sudden end on July 4th, 1964, when he had a stroke. Eleven- year-old Tony was devastated. Leo Blair lost his ability to speak for three years. It was during this period that Tony was sent to Fedes (ph) College, an elite boarding school in Scotland. But he didn't like being away from home and rebelled against some of the traditions that were still being upheld in British schools.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He got into trouble with the authorities at school a lot. That posture of being a sort of rebel drove him to the left in politics, I think.

MANN: Tony was not a straight-A student, but he did well enough to be accepted as a law student at St. John's College in Oxford. But Tony wasn't ready to go back to school. Instead, he decided to take a year off and move to London, where he managed rock bands. This image landed him a gig as a singer in a group called Ugly Rumors. Bandmate Mark Ellen remembers Tony's audition.

MARK ELLEN, FRIEND: He sat there and kind of did this Mick Jagger impression, actually sitting in an armchair, you know, sticking the old chin out, stabbing his finger into the air, and the microphone was plugged into a record player, and we thought, if this guy can dance so well sitting down, he's going to be sensational standing up. So, get him in. This is our man.

MANN: Oxford was still recovering from the politically charged student revolts that had swept across Europe and the U.S. when Blair arrived there in 1972. But as a student, Blair wasn't active in politics. Instead he chose a spiritual path.

JOHN RENTOUL, BIOGRAPHER: He met this renegade priest called Thompson who sort of had these chats about putting the world to rights, in his room, late, late into the night. And that sort of got the young Tony Blair going on sort of crusade to change the world. BLAIR: Basic motivation, the belief in social justice, the notion that a fair and more decent society helps the individual, to me that is a Christian as well as a Socialist idea. Or ideal. But I don't preach God on people, and I don't like politicians that do. And it is something -- it is part of me.

MANN: Tony Blair had just graduated from Oxford in June of 1975 when his mother Hazel died of throat cancer at the age of 52. Later that summer, he joined the Labor Party, a party formed by trade unions to fight for workers' rights. In the fall of 1975, Tony Blair started preparing for his bar exam. While applying for a scholarship to sponsor his law residency program, he found himself alphabetically seated next to another contender named Cherie Booth.

RENTOUL: I don't think she had much time for him to start off with, because she thought he was too posh. She didn't have a lot of time for white middle class men who had been to elite universities. But he's got charm.

MANN: Cherie Booth's background was very different. Her father, Tony Booth, was one of the stars of the 1970s BBC series "Till Death Us Do Part." He walked out on his family when Cherie was a child. Cherie and her father have since reconciled.

Tony and Cherie were married in Oxford on March 29th, 1980. Then, in 1983, at the age of 30, Tony became the youngest member of Labor in Parliament.

PETER MANDELSON, FMR BLAIR CMPGN MANAGER: The party was in a state of civil war. We were tearing ourselves apart and heading for many successive electoral disasters, and into that situation, Tony Blair was elected to Parliament and started his ascent up the political greasy pole.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: So, coming up next, we'll watch Tony Blair reach the top and then cheat political death.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHNEIDER: He was going to the brink and when his own survival at is at stake, he always knows what buttons to push, how to play the press, how to spin the story so that he survives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: That sound like the comeback kid to you? The survivor, hanging on one more time.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: British Prime Minister Tony Blair has brought a new kind of leadership to his party and his country. But he did it with a little help from some friends in the White House. Jonathan Mann continues our look at Tony Blair for tonight's "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS." (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I therefore declare that Tony Blair is elected leader of the Labour Party.

MANN (voice-over): In 1994, Tony Blair was elected the party's leader. Blair, now the voice of his party, was on a mission to redefine it and take back power. He renamed the party New Labour and borrowed some ideas from a new friend.

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The third way that's what Bill Clinton and Tony Blair supposedly had in common. Neither left nor right, but a third way that borrows some things from the left and some things from the right.

BLAIR: Thank you.

MANN: On the campaign trail in the spring of 1997, Blair was riding high on the wave of a new generation of young and trendy pop groups, fashion designers and restaurants. The press called it "Cool Britannia" and Blair's youthful image fit right in.

BLAIR: We started from the experience of Clinton in '92.

MANN: In 1996, his campaign manager Peter Mandelson visited the U.S. to see what he could learn from the success of the Clinton campaign.

PETER MANDELSON, 1996 BLAIR CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Gave me a lot of confidence. Gave me a lot of insight. We tailored it to British circumstance and British needs. They taught us about modern communications.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is beginning to sound as though there may be an election.

MANN: A sluggish economy and the repeated discovery of corruption among senior ministers, left Torrey Prime Minister John Major on shaky ground. Blair took to the offensive.

BLAIR: Isn't it extraordinary that the prime minister of our country can't even urge his party to support his own positions? Yes. Weak, weak, weak.

MANN: 18 years of conservative rule in Britain ended with a whimper on May 1, 1997. Britains looking elsewhere for leadership voted overwhelmingly in favor of Tony Blair. At 43, he became the youngest prime minister since 1812.

BLAIR: A new dawn has broken, has it not?

MANN: Now in office, Blair continued preaching and practicing his old mantra, family values.

BLAIR: If if you don't make time for your family, then I think your politics becomes much less effective. MANN: Tony and Cherie had three children when he became prime minister, but moving into 10 Downing Street didn't seem to disrupt his personal life as much as one would expect. On May 20, 2000, Leo Blair was born, making Tony Blair the first British prime minister to have a child in office in more than 150 years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There has been a lot said about how different you are.

MANN: When George Bush became president in 2001, there seemed to be little common ground between the two leaders.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We both use Colgate toothpaste. I don't know if you found any common ground or not.

BLAIR: Hey, that's enough to be getting on with.

MANN: But 9/11 and the Iraq war soon brought the two leaders closer.

ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN EUROPEAN POLITICAL EDITOR: On the level policy, they need each other. Because there weren't many other people around who were prepared to support the war in Iraq.

MANN: Blair has paid quite a price for being bush's close ally.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This house has been suspended.

OAKLEY: People have been rather disillusions with Tony Blair on the question of Iraq. After all, it was -- it brought up bigger protests on the streets of Britain than anything we have ever seen in British history.

MANN: Throughout, he's remained a steadfast supporter of Bush. But some in Britain feel Blair hasn't received anything for his loyalty.

SCHNEIDER: That's what a lot of British commentators and politicians and voters say. What have we gotten from this? We have gotten trouble in Iraq. We have gotten a huge expense. We have been isolated from Europe just as the United States has. What have we really gotten?

BLAIR: What we have shown...

MANN: But even his unpopularity over Iraq, and public distrust couldn't deny Tony Blair a third term as prime minister. Surviving has become a familiar theme at number 10 Downing Street.

SCHNEIDER: He keeps going to the brink and when his own survival is at stake, he always knows what buttons to push, how to play the press, how to spin the story so that he survives. It has been a politically amazing tight rope walk his entire career.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ZAHN: And according to the exit polls tonight it looks like Tony Blair has indeed survived.

Still ahead, nationwide standards for schools are supposed to be a good thing. The unintended consequences of No Child Left Behind through the eyes of one little boy still in third grade after three years.

And our person of the day, will it be Kenneth Souza for allegedly faking his death on his wedding day, turning up a month later and getting almost no press coverage? Bruce Springsteen whose new CD hit No. 1 on the charts despite some mixed reviews. Or Alonzo Washington for keeping the case of Precious Doe alive until the mystery of the little girl's death was solved.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Still ahead tonight, why No Child Left Behind is turning into a painful lesson for some American children.

First, though, at about 10 minutes before the hour, let's check the top stories with Erica Hill of HEADLINE NEWS -- Erica.

HILL: Paula, sexual predator just released from prison last month is now on the loose in Florida. Police say Patrick Bell removed his electronic tracking bracelet and disappeared. He was convicted in 1999 for sex crimes against a child.

Was most wanted terrorist Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi really treated at a hospital in Iraq? Today, a high-ranking Iraqi army officer called that doubtful. Al-Zarqawi has been eluding capture with $25 million reward on his head for series of kidnappings and beheadings.

And the Michael Jackson defense coming on strong, with witnesses who said the king of pop slept with them when they were boys and never touched them sexually. Jackson could use the good news. This week, an accountant said he'd been spending $20 to $30 million more than he makes every year.

And there are reports he could lose his ownership also of royalty rights to Beatles songs like "Money Can't Buy Me Love." Tough day. That is the latest from HEADLINE NEWS, Paula. Back to you.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Erica. Pretty big deficit to close there.

So who is the person of the day? Kenneth Souza, for allegedly faking his death on his wedding day, turning up a month later and getting no press? Bruce Springsteen, for his chart topper despite some middling reviews? Or Alonzo Washington, for keeping the Precious Doe case alive? And the winner, with more than 80 percent of the vote, Alonzo Washington. Here is Heidi Collins with more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After four agonizing years, the unsolved murder mystery of the little girl with soulful brown eyes, we now know that Precious Doe is Erica Michelle Marie Green. The child who never saw her fourth birthday.

MICHAEL SANDERS, JACKSON COUNTY PROSECUTOR: It's good to finally be able to give a name to the child. It really gives us, and the community, and us in law enforcement a sense of purpose.

COLLINS: The case made headlines and deeply touched a nation. But despite massive efforts made by local volunteers and the media, hopes of identifying the little girl seemed unlikely.

But the flame was kept alive, largely by this man, a Kansas community activist named Alonzo Washington. A father himself, Washington made it his personal crusade to not let Precious Doe fade from the public eye.

ALONZO WASHINGTON, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: This was a metaphor. If we're here in Kansas City and we allow our children to be thrown away like garbage, something is wrong.

COLLINS: Washington placed an ad in a local newspaper on the anniversary of Precious Doe's death, which prompted a phone call from a man who said he was the little girl's great grandfather. And Washington finally got the break he had been waiting for.

Earlier today, Erica's mother, Michelle Johnson, was charged with the murder of her daughter. She would have turned 8 this month.

MAYOR KAY BARNES, KANSAS CITY, MO: This is a bittersweet day because we have lost Erica. And yet, it is a day of closure.

COLLINS: Alonzo Washington's persistence in searching for the truth has made him the person of the day.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Not the way you want to get there, unfortunately. Heidi Collins, thanks for that.

When we come back, why are so many children falling behind under No Child Left Behind?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: The federal government will spend more than $320 million this year on No Child Left Behind, President Bush's program to toughen school standards. But there is an awful lot of debate about whether it actually works. And this week, Utah decided to opt out of much of the program, and more than a dozen other states may also follow suit.

The little boy you're about to meet in this report from "CNN PRESENTS" is one example of the unintended consequences of No Child Left Behind.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to get up at 6:00 and go to the bus stop at 7:15, get to (INAUDIBLE). UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every morning, Melvin Love Jr. (ph) travels to school from the cramped apartment where he lives with his mother and three siblings.

Like every third grader in the state, Melvin must pass the Florida comprehensive assessment test, or F-CAT, to be promoted to the fourth grade.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a lot of test-taking in school. We take tests every week and I don't like it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What Melvin really doesn't like are the consequences of his test scores.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I got my last report card, it said on the thing that I am retained in third grade.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most third graders are 8 or 9 years old. But Melvin is 11. That's because he has been held back three times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell me the life span of a star fish. Average life span. Melvin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seven.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Melvin is a student who I think could have handled fourth grade. He is at the top of our class. If a teacher would have had a say, he would have been in the fourth grade, and he would be just fine in fourth grade. But now he becomes another statistic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Melvin is just one of the 45,000 third graders across the state of Florida who failed the F-CAT last year.

At Melvin's school, Blanton Elementary, 41 percent of the third grade class flunked.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, today, we're going to take our math practice F-CAT test.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I get nervous when I take the test. There is a lot of pressure on kids.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you think about retaining a child in a grade, it is a social death. They don't move forward. If a child is retained once in a grade, there is a 50 percent chance that they will be dropouts. Twice, it's a virtual certainty. Up to 90 percent. This then becomes a pathway to the criminal justice system. Not that all of them end up there, but rather that in the criminal justice system, about 90 percent or more of them are dropouts from school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But promoting children who fail is worse, according to Jay Greene of the Manhattan Institute.

JAY GREENE, MANHATTAN INSTITUTE: What actually produces positive psychological development is actually learning the skills that you're supposed to learn. And so, telling students, lying to students essentially by saying you're ready to go to the next grade even if you're not, doesn't even help them emotionally.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Melvin's story is just part of the picture, and you can well understand why this all has stoked a fierce debate. Tune in to "CNN PRESENTS: "High Stakes, the Battle to Save Our Schools," Sunday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern for an in-depth look at the results of No Child Left Behind.

That's it for all of us here tonight. Thanks so much for being with us. We'll be back same time, same place tomorrow night. "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.

END

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