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BTK Killer Sentenced; Violence Escalates in Jewish Settlements

Aired August 18, 2005 - 22:00   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, HOST: Good evening, everybody. I am Heidi Collins, in for Aaron Brown tonight.
Today in Wichita, Kansas, Dennis Rader got the maximum, 10 consecutive life sentences. He'll be 100 before he's even eligible for parole. In fact, the serial killer, known as BTK, will almost certainly die in prison. That is the headline. It does not, though, do justice to the day, what, for many, was a strange, infuriating and heartbreaking one. For that, we begin with CNN's Jonathan Freed.


CAPT. SAM HOUSTON, WICHITA POLICE: Blood trickled out of her nose, ear, mouth, and she felt no more pain.

JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dennis Rader sat in silence as a police witness read from his journals about the 1991 murder of Dolores Davis, the last of the BTK's strangler's 10 victims. NOLA FOULSTON, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: She knew he was going to kill her?

HOUSTON: Yes, she did.

FOULSTON: And that, in fact, it took two to three minutes to kill her, as he tightened and tightened the garrote around her neck.

FREED: Next, District Attorney Nola Foulston led the head of the BTK strangler police task force through disturbing evidence, much made public for the first time, and found at Rader's home -- what Rader called BTK's layer.

FOULSTON: What do you call a person who has a sexual interest in little girls?


FREED: Police say, Rader had thousands of clippings that Rader called slick ads, cut-outs from store circulars of young girls and women which he kept on index cards, complete with his fantasies written on the back. Many items were in a box in a closet.

FOULSTON: How did the family not know or have any idea of what was in these boxes?

LANDWEHR: Mrs. Rader would not go through those items. They just thought that it was paperwork from his work or something that he would keep, and that it was something that she didn't even notice.

FREED: Police found stress balls that Rader used to strengthen his grip for strangulation -- one of the balls, marked with the saying "life is good." They found photographs of Rader practicing self- bondage, saying he enjoyed autoerotic asphyxiation; and there were Rader's drawings of various bondage fantasies, some in explicit detail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today is my final judgment.

FREED: When the time came for Rader to make a statement, he actually started comparing himself to his victims.

DENNIS RADER, CONVICTED MURDERER: Joseph Otero was in the Air Force; I was in the Air Force. He was a husband; I was a husband. Although I always wanted to be a pilot, always had a fascination with aerodynamics, he was a pilot. At one time, I even thought about taking pilot lessons -- and a veteran; I was a veteran. So our threads are close.

Julie Otero is a lot like my wife, a loving mother, raised kids, and she also worked at Coleman. She also -- she would have been a lot like my daughter at that age, played with her Barbie dolls. She liked to write poetry; I like to write poetry.

FREED: He congratulated the prosecution:

RADER: State, your PowerPoint presentation was very powerful. A couple things I'd like to point out toward the last that, overall, most of that was true. And I think the Sedgwick County ought to be proud.

FREED: At one point, Rader sounded like he was accepting a lifetime achievement award, and taking a final bow.

RADER: I already mentioned Steve, Sara (ph), my panel. Everybody knows Steve. Another one that helped me was Joanna Mitchell (ph). I think she's on a case today. Probably -- is that correct? (INAUDIBLE) Leann Staridge (ph), she was a social worker that did a lot of research for me earlier. I appreciate your help. Jenny Bonn (ph) was the special investigator; and Jamie Trimmer (ph), she is the one that cut my hair and brought my cloths up. So I have a, you know, there were basically my family. So I appreciate that.

FREED: And he couldn't resist taking parting shots. In this case, referring to himself in the third person, as he's been known to do.

RADER: As Rader, everybody knows, Rader has to complain a little bit.

FREED: Correcting what he saw as errors in the way some of the evidence was presented.

After speaking for about half an hour, Rader did what many thought he would never do: reach out to the families of his victims. But only at the very end. And only for a moment.

RADER: Finally, I final apologize to the victims' families. There's no way that I can ever repay them. That's all, sir.

FREED: Jonathan Freed, CNN, Wichita, Kansas.


COLLINS: Serial killers don't just murder -- they maim, physically and spiritually. For every life taken, countless more lives are torn apart.

Here's CNN's David Mattingly.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Of all the sons and daughters who lost a parent to the cruelty of Dennis Rader, few have fallen harder in life than Steve Relford.

STEVE RELFORD, VICTIM: I'm an alcoholic druggy, recovering druggy.

MATTINGLY: On March 17, 1977, Relford was just 5 years old when he was approached by Dennis Rader, who duped the boy into letting him into the family home. Rader locked Relford, his brother, and sister in the bathroom, then tied up their ailing mother, Shirley Vian, in the bedroom. While the children watched through cracks in the door, Rader strangled her.

RELFORD: Stripped my mother, taped her hands behind her back, plastic bag over her head, and rope tied around her neck.

MATTINGLY: In this remarkable video, we see Relford visiting his old Wichita house for the first time, 28 years later. Unable to deal with the trauma of the murder, he had spent years in and out of jail, addicted to methamphetamine and alcohol.

SUSAN PETERS, KAKE ANCHOR: Going into his home was helping him get on with his life. He said, "I had to do it to go on to tell my mom that I did it."

And he kneeled down in the bedroom where his mother was killed. And he just started to pray and cry. And pray, and cry.

MATTINGLY: Susan Peters is the anchor at Wichita affiliate KAKE, who accompanied Relford for that pivotal moment. And she said she was unprepared for the avalanche of moral support that followed. Strangers volunteered to give Relford a place to stay. There were hundreds of calls, letters, and E-mails,

"I pray for you all. Peace and peace of mind."

"I cried with you when you told your story."

"You have lots of people rooting for you. You are a survivor." With this help, Relford found the strength in June to face his mother's killer in court, and contain his anger throughout Rader's cold recounting of his mother's murder.

RADER: Went ahead and tied her up, and then put a bag over her head and strangled her.

MATTINGLY (on camera): There were people in that courtroom watching you, wondering how you managed to stay in your seat while you were listening to that.

RELFORD: Sir, it wasn't easy.

MATTINGLY: How did you do it?

RELFORD: Looking at him, my momma, looking where I was, with so many security guards around me. But still, yet, it was not easy for me to sit in that damn chair. I'll be honest with everybody.

PETERS: This is support he has needed for 27 years. When his mother was murdered when he was 5 years old, he was shipped off to Oklahoma with his grandparents, and no one ever talked about the murder. This is the first time people are coming up to him and saying, "We understand your pain. We support you. We pray for you."

MATTINGLY: Relford's biggest surprise came days ago when he reunited with his stepfather, whom he hadn't seen in 27 years. Suddenly, he had someone who shared in his loss and his pain firsthand. And he was ready for his biggest test yet: to stand up in court and tell the judge exactly what he thinks of Dennis Rader.

When all is said and done, how do you want him to remember you and your mother?

RELFORD: Well, first of all, he remembers my mother, quite well evidently. He's going to remember me when it's all said and done, quite frankly.


RELFORD: Why? I cannot -- I cannot speak with you about that. But I assure you, he's going to remember me.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): But what would Steve Relford say? How do you articulate the loss, the trauma, the decades of misery? Unlike others, Relford had no prepared remarks as he approached the microphone.

RELFORD: You know, I'd just like for him to suffer for the rest of his life.

MATTINGLY: Short, to the point, and utterly honest.

If he had something else to say at that moment, Steve Relford could not find the words. He left the courthouse in silence, not knowing what the future may hold, only that he won't have to face it alone.

David Mattingly, CNN, Wichita, Kansas.


COLLINS: For District Attorney Nola Foulston, the Dennis Rader case was, in many ways, a slam dunk. It is also one she'll never forget, even is she might want to, given the evidence she had to present.


NOLA FOULSTON, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Sexual satisfaction, to him, can be drawn from the environment in which he lives. So whenever we would put up a drawing or a photograph or some piece of information from the crime scene, you always wince when you do it because you know from our past experience that Mr. Rader has a continued sexual prurient interest in these kind of pictures or even drawing that he has made. We know that because he's told us so, when he's been dealing with law enforcement officers, and has told officers that he gets a sexual thrill. He got an erection when he looked at documents that he, himself, had drawn of one of the victims, and it had to be taken away from him.

So we know that all of these things are somewhat environmental to him. And -- but the hearing had to go on. And these things needed to be shown.


COLLINS: And in that light, many of the families spoke today of holding back in court, of not wanting to show emotion in front of Dennis Rader -- as someone said, not wanting to give him the attention he so craved. Understandably, they didn't always succeed.


STEPHANIE CLYNE, MOTHER KILLED BY RADER: I'm speaking to you today on behalf of myself and my brother, Brandon. It's been almost 19 years now that my brother and I had the most important woman in our lives taken from us. My brother and I had to go through so many important moments in our lives without her. Every day is a struggle to get through without her. It's not fair that we had so little time with her. I only had 10 years with her; Brandon only had two.

It's not fair that her three grandbabies will never get to know her. She doesn't get to see me with her grandchildren. She would have loved being a grandma. It's not fair that my 4-year-old son has to ask, "Why is me maw (ph) can't come home." He draws her pictures. We should be able to take these to her. But they just sit on the fridge. Even at 4, he knows it's not right -- that she should be here with us.

My mother begged for her life, yet he showed no remorse. He saw that she had a family and a little boy right there in the house with her, yet he continued with his sick plan. I ask you today, Your Honor, to show no remorse for him. Don't let this monster have any comforts as he lives out his remaining years in prison. He isn't worthy.


COLLINS: Charlie Otero, Danny Otero, and Carmen Otero Montoya have lived with this the longest. Their parents and their brother and sister were Dennis Rader's first victims, back in 1974.

We spoke with the Oteros earlier tonight.


COLLINS: Carmen, if you could speak for the rest of the members of your family, tell us a little bit how you're feeling tonight, after going through what you went through today, and actually seeing Dennis Rader again in the courtroom.

CARMEN OTERO MONTOYA, FAMILY KILLED BY RADER: Well, today was very exhausting, and seeing his face in the courtroom, well, that's just what we had to do. So I'm just glad that we all went through it, and we got through it fine.

COLLINS: Did it seem odd to you that he was so calm, and throw you off at all that he was wearing a suit and very composed and had notes he referred to in the courtroom?

OTERO MONTOYA: I was just very disgusting in his whole mannerisms, the way he walked, the way he held himself. Everything about him was just totally disgusting to me today.

COLLINS: Is there any sense of satisfaction that you have or happiness after this day is through, knowing what the sentence is now for Dennis Rader?

CHARLIE OTERO, FAMILY KILLED BY RADER: Well, yes, I'm very happy that this whole Dennis Rader issue has been brought to an end, and that he got the sentence that we all had hoped he would get. The D.A. and the prosecution did a great job of getting the families the maximum penalty allowable, and that was all we could really hope for, and that's what we got. It's a great day for everyone.

COLLINS: Danny, let me ask you this question, as we talk about the proceedings and what went down today in the courtroom, does it bother you to know that parole was ever even an issue in this case?

DANNY OTERO, FAMILY KILLED BY RADER: Well, I knew it was just merely a formality. The prosecution did such a good job that I knew that wasn't going to be an issue. They pretty much put all the nails in the coffin. I think they did a great job. And I didn't think that was really going to be an issue because of all the circumstances involved.

I think the judge heard plenty, and it wasn't -- it just wasn't going to mean anything. It was far beyond parole. COLLINS: Have you had a chance, Carmen, to get to know any of the other families who suffered like you have, throughout the course of this, or get to know them better? If so, has that helped you in any way?

OTERO MONTOYA: Yes, we've talked quite a few times and spent a little time together. And it's been wonderful. The people of Wichita have just been so fantastic. As I said before, when we left 30 years ago, it was nothing but evil and ugly. And I had nothing good to say. But the people here have just proven that it's a wonderful community.

COLLINS: Charlie, let me ask you something about that: What is next for you and your brother and your sister?

C. OTERO: Next for me is to rebuild my immediate family and get closer to my son and my two daughters. And to spend more time with Danny and Carmen than I have in the last 20 to 30 years, and just to enjoy their love.

COLLINS: I can't help but notice something on your jacket there. Can you tell me what that pin is?

C. OTERO: It's a little silver hangman's noose. It is kind of like a symbol of what Dennis Rader got today, which really is a -- his death from society. He is no longer an entity to be feared, and, pretty much, the BTK issue has been killed, as far as I'm concerned.

COLLINS: Will you ever be able to put any of that anger aside?

C. OTERO: Well, I don't know about putting anger aside, but I sure know it will take a back seat to these new emotions that I'm finding that are coming back in my life.

COLLINS: Well, to all of you tonight, we certainly appreciate your time -- Carmen, Danny, and Charlie Otero, and also Peter Gorski, the attorney. Thank you so much to the four of you.

OTERO MONTOYA: Thank you very much.


COLLINS: In a moment, keeping young crime victims from becoming criminals themselves.

First, though, about a quarter past the hour, time for some of the other headlines today.

Erica Hill, in Atlanta -- hi, Erica.


We begin tonight in Iraq. Four American soldiers died today, victims of a roadside bombing in Samarra, just a day after a Baghdad bombing killed 43 people, mostly Iraqi civilians.

Meantime, back home, Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel says, the rising death toll makes a mockery of Vice President Dick Cheney's claim that the insurgency is in its last throes.

War protestor Cindy Sheehan has said she won't budge from outside the presidential ranch in Crawford until she speaks to President Bush. But Sheehan, who lost her son in Iraq, said today she will leave for a short time; this because her mother suffered a stroke.

Supreme Court nominee Judge John Roberts objected to a proposed equal rights amendment while working as a White House lawyer. He said, the amendment was neither theoretically nor practically sound. These comments, included in Reagan administration documents, released for the upcoming confirmation hearings.

Heidi, that's the latest at just about 18 past the hour. We'll check in with you again in a little bit.

COLLINS: Sounds good. We'll see you then, Erica -- thanks.

Much more ahead on the program tonight, starting with the young victims of crime who are far too often overlooked.


COLLINS (voice-over): Their parents are in prison. They used to suffer in silence -- used to.

DEQUALAH WOODS, FORMER STUDENT, NO MORE VICTIMS: I'm telling you all, you're all ignorant, and I'm telling you all to you all faces, because I'm not one to bite my tongue.

COLLINS: Meet the children of convicts and the woman who is helping them confront their parents and grow up right.

Also tonight, an outpouring in Gaza, literally: a soldier's story on the receiving end.

Later, gas prices have you hot under the collar? Even Mr. Softee is losing his cool.

And Mr. Softee or Guns n' Roses? It's all the same.

AUSTIN DENNARD: I don't know why my dad doesn't want one.

COLLINS: This could be why: Your iPod could be driving you deaf. So listen up and listen good. This is NEWSNIGHT.



COLLINS: In the interest of perspective, it's worth mentioning, even before Israeli troops began pulling settlers out of Gaza, many settlers and many ordinary Israelis did not especially care for one another. Settlers seeing ordinary Israelis as soft, and ordinary Israelis regarding settlers as extreme.

That history and those feelings can't be making the evacuation of Gaza any simpler. Soldiers cleared one of the tougher settlements late today. But more remain.

Here's CNN's John Vause now.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For two days, this had been evacuation by general persuasion, but not at Kfar Darom, one of the first Jewish settlements in Gaza. Two-hundred protesters had barricaded themselves inside the settlement's synagogue. When they refused to leave quietly, riot police forced their way in. Some came out kicking and screaming, many wearing prayer shawls. Police women carried out young children. But the last determined holdouts were on the roof.

From behind razor wire, they threw not only eggs and paint but also some type of acidic mix. Police, men, and women, came running from the building, many in pain, others stripped down to their underwear.

MAJ. GEN. DAVID TZUR, ISRAELI POLICE: They start to throw on us the paint and the oils and the all the things they had there with their hands -- onions, potatoes, everything, turpentine. And it was very hard to be there.

SGT. YOSSI ATTARI, ISRAELI POLICE: We think it's a mix -- water with acid with a paint, and all kind of stuff.

VAUSE: A water cannon forced protesters to back off as police on ladders cut through the razor wire; others reached the roof in shipping containers, hoisted by cranes.

Few, if any, of these protesters actually live here. Most had sneaked into the settlement weeks before, coming from the West Bank in Israel. They chose a synagogue for this violent confrontation, because they believed God promised Gaza to the Jews, and to leave is to defy his will.

ATTARI: Jewish people stand in front of us and cries and pray and take him out from a synagogue. It's a very, very hard thing. It's one part of our -- it's part of our symbol in Israel, the synagogue. It's a very holy place.

VAUSE: This holy place, for the best part of the day, was a place of violence. But now, it too has been cleared, like almost all the Jewish settlements in Gaza.

(on camera): Kfar Darom was always going to be one of the toughest. And the Israeli government says, this evacuation comes with a message: If any of the remaining settlements were considering a violent confrontation, don't.

John Vause, CNN, Kfar Darom, Gaza.


COLLINS: If it's true, there's no such thing as objective reality, then the tangled history of the Israelis and Arabs is a prime example. They share a story, but the same time, they don't. One set of facts seen two very different ways -- seen differently, and reported differently, around the region.


COLLINS (voice-over): This is how much of the world saw the evictions in Gaza playing out.

VAUSE: Right now, another protester being carried away by police, this one going quietly, the rest on the roof, however, are not.

COLLINS: And if you were watching the biggest Arabic television network, Al Jazeera, you saw mostly the same pictures, but this is the analysis you heard:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The protesters are turning this evacuation into a dramatic play forgetting that this is the Palestinian land.

COLLINS: And if you were watching another Arab television network, Al Arabiya, a commentator reminded his viewers that, while things may have looked bad, they really were not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There were reports that everything was planned, so they can show the world that they cannot leave without a show. It is only that they were produced as a media message.

COLLINS: For its part, Israeli television tonight was fairly straightforward, reminding its viewers of the anguish and pain the Jewish settlers in Gaza had felt.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At the end of the day, they broke in and, at the same time, they tried to hoist up two containers containing riot police.

COLLINS: Arabic newspapers were harsh in their appraisals of the forced evacuations. This London-based paper showed a cartoon of the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, as a dinosaur, with a star of David on his large body. Another newspaper shows him carrying a basket of settlements on his back as he flees bullets and mortars in Gaza. That dynamite, in the lower corner, is what awaits Israel in the West Bank.

Throughout the coverage on both television and in newspapers across the Arab world, there was little doubt that history was being made. And one newspaper widely read across the region asked the most pointed question: Who governs Gaza after the pullout, it wanted to know -- Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, or chaos?


COLLINS: Coming up on the program, what happens to kids when their parents go to prison, and how one woman came to their rescue. And a hero's welcome, but also a homecoming. Pope Benedict in Germany.

Around the world, this is NEWSNIGHT.


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: When it comes to crime and punishment, too often the punishment falls on the young. Young victims and people we almost never think about, the children of the men and women who are sent to prison.

Two and a half years ago, we introduced you to an extraordinary woman named Marilyn Gambrell, in Houston, Texas. She's dedicated herself to helping those children, to keeping them from following in their parents' footsteps. After we ran our story, Ms. Gambrell was swamped with e-mails and phone calls from many of you offering help. One of those phone calls turned into a movie deal, and this Monday night, her story, "Fighting the Odds: The Marilyn Gambrell Story," will air on Lifetime Television, 9:00 Eastern.

We caught up with Ms. Gambrell and her students on the set for the filming. It turns out they are still fighting harder than ever.



JAMI GERTZ, ACTRESS: Hey, did you see that?

BROWN (voice-over): On a movie set in Calgary, Canada, art is trying to do more than imitate life; it's trying to duplicate it.

GERTZ: I'm going to fight for you, Cody, whether you like it or not. That's why I stood up to the faculty for you.


BROWN: Actress Jami Gertz has the lead role in a new Lifetime Television movie, "Fighting the Odds: The Marilyn Gambrell Story." Watching from the side, the real Marilyn Gambrell, thousands of miles and a world away from the rough side of Houston, Texas.

MARILYN GAMBRELL, FOUNDER, NO MORE VICTIMS: A movie? I would have -- you couldn't have told me that this would ever happen in my life.

BROWN: Her life took a dramatic turn in 1985, when she was working as a parole officer in Houston. She gradually began to realize how many of her often troubled and violent parolees had children, and what a terrible pressure, terrible dangers those children faced.

The children of parents who had done time in prison are several times more likely than other kids to wind up behind bars themselves. GERTZ: You think that if someone's in prison, if someone rapes someone, if someone kills someone, if someone as a drug dealer, go to prison. That's it. You don't realize they had four kids.

GAMBRELL: It's this population that is in the most pain of all and has been the most neglected of all.

BROWN: The turning point in Gambrell's story happened five years ago, when she started No More Victims, a daily class at MB Smiley high school in Houston, where administrators estimate that half of the 1,400 students have a parent in prison. Students say that number is actually higher.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'd say it's like 90 percent of the kids here that have parents incarcerated or going through some type of problem at home, where they're getting molested, beaten, beat or whatever.

BROWN: Molested, beat, beaten down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All my life, my grandmother always told me, you're going to be just like your daddy, you're going to end up in jail. Or she would tell me, you're going to be just like your momma, die at an early age. So I always thought, well, I might as well just help you out then and just kill myself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is y'all's message to people that make those statements, that you're going to prison anyway, so why should we do anything? What do y'all have to say about to America about that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To all those people who believe that, I want to let you know, we are -- we are precious, we'll not follow our parents' ways, and we're going to do something with our life.


GERTZ: I know who your daddy is. Question is, do you? You have a choice, son. You can either end up in jail like him, or not. It's on you.

BROWN: Those words, that strong voice were deeply, personally familiar to five of what Gambrell calls "her babies." Students from MB Smiley high who are on the set for the filming.

GILLEYANIRA FIGUEROA, STUDENT, NO MORE VICTIMS: Without Marilyn Gambrell, I know I'd be on drugs, and I wouldn't be here. I would be six feet underground. I had no reason to live. I was trying to commit suicide. Now, I have something that stops me.

BROWN: Not everything the students saw acted out was as intense, as graphic as what they'd actually experienced. Producers had to water down a scene where Gambrell stops a rival gang member from shooting one of her students.

That student was Brandon. BRANDON MCBRIDE, STUDENT, NO MORE VICTIMS: At one point in time when there was a gun pointed at me, Ms. Gambrell stepped in the way of the gun to protect me, and that right there means a lot to me, because if it wasn't for that, I wouldn't be right here in Canada today.

BROWN: If Gambrell has literally saved at least one life, she's figuratively saved hundreds more.

In the five years since the group started, despite the odds, only a handful of her nearly 500 students have gone to jail. And in an effort to prevent the damage incarcerated parents can knowingly or unwittingly do, Gambrell has taken her students and their hard truths to those behind bars.

DEQUALAH WOODS, FORMER STUDENT, NO MORE VICTIMS: He ain't never told me he loved me, and I'm 18. Never, not once in my life. That's all I want to hear is that he loved me, but he never told me that.

When I was raped, I told him I was raped. You're lying, shut up. Y'all sitting up in here, and even though you know your daddy or your momma did it to you and you know how that hurt and you know how you felt, why would you put your kids through the same stuff? I think that's ignorant. I really do. And whoever do it, I'm telling you y'all ignorant and I'm telling y'all to y'all's face, because I'm not one to bite my tongue.

BROWN: Those wrenching scenes are in the movie too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Y'all are a bunch of liars. You break promises and your plan is wasting the rest of your lives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't know me. I'm not your daddy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, but you're somebody's daddy.

BROWN: Made-for-TV movies rarely score big points for realism, but for Gambrell's students, every scene was painfully real. Real stories, based on real events. Even actors with real experiences.

VERONICA ROGERS, STUDENT, NO MORE VICTIMS: I never thought that the actors would actually be kids whose father left them behind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Lisa, it's me, baby, your daddy.

ROGERS: Kids whose parents were incarcerated. There's three actors here who are just like us, and it just shows me that we can be anything that we want to be.

STACY VANCE MEADOWS JR., ACTOR: I actually was officially on my own at 16. I am actually a survivor. And in that respect, I can relate to all of them.

BROWN: And relate painfully well to Marilyn Gambrell.

MEADOWS: This woman gave up her life. Everybody else wanted to look at these kids almost as though they were hopeless, so just leave 'em where they are. And when there's somebody who has their hand out and when somebody is genuinely trying to help you, it means the world, man.

BROWN: The TV movie will have an ending scene, but the story of Marilyn Gambrell continues. There is so much to do, much more than she can do alone. More than one and a half million American children have a parent in prison.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just hard. I mean, but I -- if he was here right now, I'd just, I don't think like other people would be like, I'd cuss him, I'd do stuff like that. I don't think I would. I just -- he's still my daddy in my life, because I miss my dad.

GAMBRELL: I'm not going to stop at all costs. No matter how many demons I have to fight. I've actually gotten pretty good at fighting them now. But I have a whole army with me that's much greater than me. The war is on.


BROWN: If you're interested in helping Marilyn Gambrell and her students, you can visit the No More Victims Web site. The address is, or e-mail them at


COLLINS: Terrific story. Thanks, Aaron.

And moving on now. Fuel prices. See why Mr. Softee has a case of the gas pains lately.

And later, why pumping up the volume may be putting your music- loving kids in jeopardy. A break first. This is NEWSNIGHT.


COLLINS: After dipping a little bit yesterday, the price of a barrel of oil edged back up today, $63 and some change. People are feeling the bite, too. So are companies, large and small. From Microsoft to Mr. Softee. Here's CNN's Chris Huntington.


CHRIS HUNTINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It may just look like sprinkles and swirls to you, but selling soft ice cream from a truck is one tough business. If you scream at the prices you're paying at the pump, imagine how this guy feels.

DOC GUISHARD, MR. SOFTEE DISTRIBUTOR: We're finished with the gas on this side, we're going to go for diesel.

All right, have a good one.

HUNTINGTON: Doc Guishard is a distributor for Mr. Softee Ice Cream in Brooklyn, New York. His business and the livelihood of the vendors who work with him depend on fuel. Their custom-built trucks run on gasoline, and each carries a heavy-duty diesel-powered generator to run the freezers, ice cream dispensers, and air conditioning.

The heavy trucks get terrible gas mileage in stop-and-go city driving, and those generators run constantly. The trucks need to fill up every other day, with 40 gallons of gas and up to 22 gallons of diesel.

GUISHARD: $60 on pump 11.

HUNTINGTON: At New York City prices, that's a killer.

GUISHARD: The guys can't go out and make the kind of profit that they're accustomed to making, and so there are a lot of complaints. And you know, they're looking for alternatives. Hopefully, we can keep them here.

HUNTINGTON (no camera): Even with gas and diesel prices up by 40 to 50 percent this year, Mr. Softee is holding firm on prices. Vendors like Sam here are essentially eating the cost of higher fuel so their customers don't have to.

(voice-over): The vendors are, in effect, small businessmen. They own their own trucks, pay for the ingredients and operating expenses, and pocket the profits.

Jim Conway, co-owner of Mr. Softee, says higher fuel prices hit them hard.

JIM CONWAY, CO-OWNER, MR. SOFTEE: If you're a small mom-and-pop business, which our people are, that translates into maybe $2,000 or $3,000 more per year. And that money becomes significant. That money could just as well have gone to pay for your health insurance or a child's college tuition, and, instead, it's going to Exxon and Saudi Arabia.

HUNTINGTON: And despite the pain at the pumps, the generators are cranking, and so is the soft ice cream -- doing what it does best, making little customers happy.

Chris Huntington, CNN, Brooklyn, New York.


COLLINS: Little customers? Big customers like it too.

Now to the airlines. As the price of fuel has soared, profits have melted away. Airlines are on track to lose $7 billion this year, which means in some cases, saving fuel may truly add up to saving the company. Here's CNN's Allan Chernoff.


ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Don't flush too often to be sure there's water to wash your hands. American Airlines is filling water tanks only part way to lighten the load. Fuel tanks, too. No longer topped off, because a lighter aircraft is more fuel- efficient. Taking 50 pounds off every flight, American calculates, will add up to a savings of $1 million a year. So American is unloading whatever it can. Only in-house magazines are on board flights. Ovens are gone from the galley in coach. American is even asking passengers to help conserve.

CAPT. STEVE CHEALANDER, AMERICAN AIRLINES: As we're taxing up to the gate, we'll ask the passengers to reach over and pull down the window shades, so that while the airplane sits there at the gate, it doesn't heat up as readily.

CHERNOFF: The airline is using less paint, hardly any for these au naturelle planes that are lighter than fully painted aircraft. Airplanes now taxi using only one engine. And at the gate, pilots try to plug in rather than using an onboard generator.

American's energy efficiency plan calls for annual savings of $150 million. But unless the cost of fuel takes a nosedive, the airline still expects to lose hundreds of millions of dollars this year.

Allan Chernoff, CNN, New York.


COLLINS: Still ahead, traveling with the pope in the original German. A break first. This is NEWSNIGHT.


COLLINS: In a moment, the danger lurking in your iPod. We'll tell you about that. But first, at about quarter until the hour, time for the other headlines now, and Erica Hill at HEADLINE NEWS. Hi, Erica.

HILL: Heidi, that sounds a little scary. I have to warn you, I just got an iPod. Now I'm worried.

All right. Starting off now in Germany, where Pope Benedict urged thousands of young Germans to find room in their lives for God. This during his first trip home as the head of the Catholic Church. Tomorrow, Benedict will visit a Jewish synagogue once destroyed by the Nazis.

Coretta Scott King is recovering in an Atlanta hospital after suffering a stroke. The 78-year-old widow of Martin Luther King Jr. was admitted earlier this week. A family friend tells CNN she's recovering quickly.

And on the loose in L.A. A frisky alligator dodges his would-be captors by, how else, chewing up a fishing net. Nobody knows exactly how it got there, but the gator is making the most of its freedom in city park. Can't blame the guy. This, of course, to the frustration of city authorities, who have hired an $800 a day specialist to capture it. There you go. It's a living.

COLLINS: Yeah, and it's an expensive one. All right, Erica, here's your story now.

For as long as stereos have existed, parents have been telling their kids to turn them down. But now, thanks to iPods and Earbuds and other mp3 gadgets, they no longer need to. Or do they? Here's CNN's Ed Lavandera.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To say Austin Dennard loves her digital music player would be an understatement.

AUSTIN DENNARD, DIGITAL MUSIC PLAYER FAN: I don't know how I lived before I had my iPod, which is silly, since I've only had it for about a year. I don't know why my dad doesn't want one.

LAVANDERA: Well, her dad, David Dennard, doesn't, because he spent 40 years on stage as a rock musician. He lost about 20 percent of his hearing and lives with a constant ringing sound in his ears.

But just because loud music affected her dad's hearing, Austin doesn't plan to turn down the volume.

A. DENNARD: I like to say that it's one of the priorities in my life, thinking about whether or not I'm hurting my hearing from my iPod, but I have other things to worry about.

LAVANDERA: Hearing specialists say mp3 players are threatening the hearing of more and more young people. There aren't any reliable statistics at this point, but experts say since these digital players carry so much music that young people are listening longer than ever. They also say that popular earbud headphones can channel the sound too intensely into the ear canal.

DR. ROSS ROESER, HEARING SPECIALIST: It's like the difference between using a shotgun when we're listening in our environment versus a rifle. It directs the sound into the ear canal, and it just -- it's much more intense.

LAVANDERA: The most popular digital music player is Apple's iPod. The company refused to comment, but the Consumer Electronics Association says many manufacturers, like Apple, include tips on how to use the player safely. But that ultimately, it's up to listeners to make sure they use the equipment properly.

Doctors say if you play your music at a reasonable volume, it poses no danger. The general rule is, if the person next to you can sing along to what you're hearing, it's too loud.

(on camera): But sometimes, that's just not loud enough. Let's say you spend a lot of time in an urban area, you got downtown Dallas. Cars, buses, construction all around you. To give you an idea, I've got a sound level meter here. As we've walked around, it registers anywhere between 85 and 100 decibels, which means if you're listening to your mp3 player, you've got to blast it above that just to hear it, which is where the trouble starts.

(voice-over): Hearing specialist Ross Roeser took us into an audio booth to make the point.

ROESER: This is measuring about 85 decibels. This is where hearing starts being affected.

This is 95 decibels. This is as loud as I want to go.

LAVANDERA: Dr. Roeser points out most digital music players can pump out music at 120 decibels.

But even an old rocker like David Dennard knows his daughter and other young people aren't hearing the warning.

DAVID DENNARD, MUSICIAN: Some kids are bulletproof, or they think, anyway, and they're going to turn it up to excruciating levels, because it rocks their world.

LAVANDERA: Some doctors say if more young people aren't careful, they'll be jamming out to music with middle-aged ears. Turning up the peace and quiet just doesn't have the same ring as blasting the rock 'n' roll.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dallas.


COLLINS: Oh, the producers screaming in my ear.

Coming up, a graphic reminder of where your money is going these days. The picture of the day. Stick around.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This week in history, beginning August 15th, 1969, a milestone in the history of rock n' roll, when thousands gathered for three days of peace, love and music.

JIMI HENDRIX, MUSICIAN (singing): Purple haze is in my brain...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On August 16th, 1977, Elvis Presley was found in his bathroom, and pronounced dead that same day. Said to be the King of Rock n' Roll, Presley was most known for his hip-thrusting moves and earthy singing style. Presley died at the age of 42 in Memphis, Tennessee.

And that is this week in history.



COLLINS: All right, so it's the time you've waited for, the picture of the day. And yes, here it is. Gas is going to cost you an arm and a leg. Ft. Payne Service Center in downtown Ft. Payne, Alabama. Actually, it's about $2.59 a gallon out today. That's it for now. Good night, everybody. I'll see you again tomorrow night.


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