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PAULA ZAHN NOW

BTK Sentencing

Aired August 18, 2005 - 20:00   ET

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


PAULA ZAHN, HOST: Good evening everybody, glad to have you with us tonight.
A gripping drama in a Kansas courtroom as a murderer is put away for the rest of his life.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): A killer's tears.

DENNIS RADER: There's no way that I can ever repay.

ZAHN: At last the BTK killer is confronted by his victims' families.

JEFF DAVIS, BTK VICTIM'S SON: If I were to sink to your level, I would say that this world would have been much better off had your mother aborted your demon soul.

BEVERLY PLAPP, BTK VICTIM'S SISTER: This man needs to be thrown in a deep, dark hole and left to rot.

ZAHN: Fumbling for air, what happens when a plane loses cabin pressure and just seconds make the difference between life and death?

Child abuse in the name of God?

ANYA POURCHOT, VICTIM OF THE HARE KRISHNA MOVEMENT: I just remember walking down a hallway and having this horrible experience of hearing the blood curdling scream of a child.

A lawsuit reveals this secret torment of children raised in the Hare Krishna set.

JOE FOURNIER, VICTIM OF THE HARE KRISHNA MOVEMENT: Fondled, raped, you know, stuff like that, yes, pretty bad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: We start tonight in a Kansas courtroom. Today was the day the families of the victims of Dennis Rader, the BTK killer, made their pleas for a judge to show him no mercy. They did that in painful statements in court but when they were done Rader stood up to speak and it was if he was trying to control the hearing the way he controlled his crime scenes. He rambled on and on, even correcting the prosecution on some of the details of the killings, thanking his defense team and apologizing for his crimes. Then, the judge sentenced him to at least 175 years in prison.

We're going to hear some of what Rader said in just a moment.

But first, let's hear from the families.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): It was an unforgettable day of pain and outrage. One by one spouses, relatives and children of Dennis Rader's victims looked him in the eye and told of the anguish he caused.

STEPHANIE KLINE, BTK VICTIM'S DAUGHTER: It's been almost 19 years now that my brother and I had the most important woman in our lives taken from us.

ZAHN: Stephanie Kline's mother was Vicki Wegerle. Rader killed her in 1986.

KLINE: 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 ten years with her and Brandon only had two.

ZAHN: Then, there was Kevin Bright. Rader killed his sister Kathryn but Kevin got loose, fought back and even though he was shot twice in the face he got away and survived.

KEVIN BRIGHT, BTK VICTIM'S BROTHER: I just also would like the court to give him the maximum sentence that he could get but also that he could be isolated. I don't know, you know, if this is possible but I'd like to see him just serve the rest of his -- I want him -- the death penalty doesn't, you know, isn't going to -- is not an option but, like I said, my sister and the other victims they received their death penalty by his hands.

And I would like to see him spend the rest of his life, I hope he lives 40 more years but I want him to be, you know, aware. Right now he's not any remorse, no remorse, no compassion and he had no mercy an I think that's what he ought to receive.

ZAHN: One after another the victims' families pleaded with the judge to put Dennis Rader in prison forever. Rader also killed Beverly Plapp's sister Nancy Fox.

PLAPP: Nancy's death is like a deep wound that will never, ever heal. As far as I'm concerned Dennis Rader does not deserve to live. I want him to suffer as much as he made his victims suffer but then when I think about that in his sick, perverted way he'd probably find that as some kind of pleasure or reward. This man needs to be thrown in a deep, dark hole and left to rot. He should never, ever see the light of day.

ZAHN: Jeffrey Davis is the son of BTK's last victim Dolores Davis. His chilling emotional statement was long and it took everyone's breath away.

DAVIS: For the last 5,326 days I have wondered what it would be like to confront the walking cesspool that took my mother's precious life. Throughout that time, I always envisioned this day as being one for avenging the past. I can think of nothing but savoring the bittersweet taste of revenge as justice is served upon this social sewage here before us today.

Now that it's arrived, surprisingly I realized that this day is not just about avenging past crimes. Sitting here before us is a depraved predator, a rabid animal that has murdered people, poisoned countless lives and terrorized this community for 30 years, all the while relishing every minute of it.

As such, there can be no justice harsh enough or revenge bitter enough in this world at least to cause the pain and suffering which a social malignancy like this has coming.

Therefore, I have determined that for the sake of our innocent victims and their loving families and friends with us here today, for me this will be a day of celebration, not retribution.

If I were spiteful, I would remind you that it is only fitting that a twisted narcissistic psychopath obsessed with public attention will soon have his world reduced to an isolated, solitary existence in an 80-square-foot cell doomed to languish away the rest of your miserable life alone.

If I had your devil nature, I would delight in the fact that your congregation has turned its back on you, that your friends have deserted you, that your wife has divorced you, that your own children have disowned you and then I would remind you that you will never have any warm, loving human contact again for the remainder of your twisted existence.

If I were cynical, I would remind this court that you would return to your murderous ways in a heartbeat if given the opportunity. So, for the safety of society, you must remain caged forever like any other vicious predatory animal.

If I were to sink to your level, I would say that this world would have been much better off had your mother aborted your demon soul before you were unleashed on this world, sparing ten innocent lives and avoiding untold heartache for this community.

If I were vindictive, I would wish you many long emotionally tortured years in your cage, haunted every night by your victims' hopeless pleas for mercy as you played God and pronounced their death sentences upon them.

If I had your sadistic nature, I would delight in the pain you feel now in realizing that your own arrogance and ego got you caught that if you just kept your big mouth shut you'd still be a free man today able to eat pizza and walk your dog Dudley.

If I wanted revenge, I would pray that you develop a lingering illness from which you suffer for many, many years before you ultimately choke to death one lonely night on your own vomit.

If I were judgmental, I would call you the most despicable form of hypocrite for profaning Christianity by daring to associate yourself with my faith and for blaspheming God's house with your demonic actions.

If I were unforgiving, I would tell you that I will accept any shameful, meaningless attempts on your part to feign remorse by responding that I will grant you forgiveness the same day that hell freezes over, although I know that my mother in her Christian grace has already long since forgiven you.

But I won't hurl these invectives at you or I won't rain these curses down upon you because you're not smart enough to understand most of the words I would use anyway. And, even if you could begin to fathom the depth of my hatred for you, I would still refuse to waste any breath on you because that would once again allow you the satisfaction of being in the limelight and that attention I refuse to allow you. As of today, you no longer exist.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: When all of the family members finished talking, it was then Rader's turn but many of the family members walked out, even before that rather than face the pain of hearing their loved ones' killer speak.

We're going to listen to some of Rader's statement now in just a moment with Larry Hatteberg of KAKE-TV, who has covered the BTK story from the very start 30 years ago was in the courtroom today and with criminal profiler Pat Brown, author of "Killing for Sport: Inside the Minds of Serial Killers," welcome to both of you.

I think you both would agree Dennis Rader took all of us on a very sick journey today, first openly admitting that he had craved the attention of the media. He described himself as self-centered, described himself as a sexual predator and even, as our audience will see now, went as far as to compare himself to some of his victims. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DENNIS RADER, BTK: Stephanie Bright and I hope I don't tread on the media because (INAUDIBLE) some of this from the media because I didn't know this much from the people. She spent time at her grandparents' farm. Well, I did too as a kid. I have many, many, many fond memories of that and I took that from her.

Dolores Davis, she loved animals. I worked as animal control. She was a neighbor, one I walked by and waved to, a gardener. I love to garden flowers. She attended church, the same church I went to.

Shirley Otero, is a lot like my wife, a loving mother, raised kids. They're a lot like my daughter at that age playing with her Barbie dolls. She liked to write poetry. I like to write poetry. She liked to draw. I like to draw. People will say I'm not a Christian but I believe I am. I know the victims' families won't ever be able to forgive me but I know somewhere deep down eventually that will happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: So, Pat, talk about out and outright arrogance here. What did he want us to hear, these revealing things about his victims that we didn't know before?

PAT BROWN, CRIMINAL PROFILER: Well, Paula, I think the biggest thing he wants us to hear is how he's taken away these wonderful people in society. This is his -- this is his anger letter to society, his hate mail to society to say, look, these were your trophies and I took them away. I, Dennis Rader, took them away from you. This is just another insult to society, an insult to the families.

And when he described some of the things happening in the crimes, when he described what somebody said during the crime, I mean a lot of the families have said, oh, I've heard the last words of my mother. I've heard the last words of my sister. You did not hear the last words of anybody. You heard Dennis Rader making up whatever he felt like making up to make you think that you're hearing the last words.

Everything from Dennis Rader you cannot believe necessarily. He's playing his own game. He's enjoying it. Everything is about Dennis Rader and for Dennis Rader, so you can pretty much just attribute it all to a pathological liar. You don't know what's truth, you don't know what's a lie, so don't believe him, so just ignore him.

ZAHN: Larry, during this part of his rant, the camera was focused on Dennis Rader, so we could not see how the victims or families of the victims were reacting to this very twisted talk of his. What did you observe?

LARRY HATTEBERG, KAKE-TV ANCHOR: Well, the families were very stoic and, as he started comparing himself in many cases to some of the relatives, I could hear people just -- and I turned around at one point and I saw some of the family members just rolling their eyes and kind of grabbing onto the seat a little bit.

Some were dabbing their eyes. Some were just shaking their head like this. They just couldn't believe that this man would compare himself to their loved one. And, you know Paula, today is the day that Dennis Rader lost control.

For 30 years he's been in control of the media, the public and the police. Today he lost all that control and in the courtroom today he became a parody of himself.

ZAHN: Particularly when he took on the prosecution, as our audience will see right now as we all listen together.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RADER: As everybody knows Rader has to complain a little bit so I would like to do some minor ones, not because I want to complain today but I want to set the record. This is my last time.

Again, I don't want to pick on the law enforcement. They've done a very good job but I do want to clarify a few things. It was perceived that I was strangling Shirley and I stopped to comfort the kids. That's just the opposite. She or I both put the kids back in the bathroom to comfort them there before we went in (INAUDIBLE). The other thing is with the law enforcement there seems to be -- I was rated as a dog catcher. I did go to HA law enforcement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: So, here you have Dennis Rader taking on the prosecution's PowerPoint presentation even pointing out little mistakes and congratulating them when a job was well done. What was that all about?

BROWN: Well, I think, Paula, that he was trying to one-upsman everybody. He's going to always have the last word and all this stuff about, you know, he's starting to cry now and say he's like the victims, one of the things he's doing is he's setting up his time in jail.

He's looking forward to getting those women. You know there's women out there who just love serial killers, who are going to write him letters and become his little mail lover and maybe even marry him in jail if we allow such horrible things like that.

He's setting up his future. He's getting a sympathetic side so he can work with journalists and work with the public, so he's got a plan for everything and that's why we have to be very careful not to -- I'd like to see him in that black hole they were talking about having no access to the public whatsoever.

ZAHN: That might happen after all.

Meanwhile, Larry, what was the reaction of family members to his taking apart prosecutor Nola Foulston's presentation?

HATTEBERG: Oh, I think it's just another one of the things that they just couldn't believe and by this time they're all used to Dennis Rader. I think that they were very stoic in the courtroom and I think that they were just glad to have the day over and it was really their day.

Today they got a chance to confront him. Today they got a chance to get that emotion out and that's really what they wanted to do and it was the families, as I said earlier, they were in control.

And what you saw from Dennis Rader was a drowning man grasping for those last moments of air time and believe me at this point his future is -- he'll have very little time on television.

ZAHN: There was a time, Pat and Larry, where I thought I was listening to him handing out Golden Globes. Let's listen to the part of his presentation where he was actually thanking members of the defense team.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RADER: I think you have to appreciate the police department. They've done a lot of work. Even though it took a long time they gathered evidence. They had the evidence. When they got the key suspect they zeroed in on it very rapidly. So, they had the dedication like (INAUDIBLE) for all those years. It was great so I think Sedgwick County really has a good police force.

Defense, this has been a unique, probably a different type case that they've ever had. We've had our ups and downs but also they've been good. It's just like a new learning curve.

Sedgwick County Detention Center, well, I was really scared when I first came in here. I've never been -- I've never been arrested before. I really didn't want to look -- I was basically 43 days, 42, 43 days up there in isolation. At first the officers, the control officers, they call them deputies down there, pod deputies they didn't know me. I didn't know them but they finally opened up and they became human and I think they realized I was human too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Pat, we even saw him go on to thank his social worker, his pastor, his doctor, the woman who cut his hair, the person who brought him his clothes in jail and even apologized when he mangled some names. He was really enjoying his time in the courtroom today wasn't he?

BROWN: He was, Paula, and as I said he's setting it up for the future. A lot of times when we see serial killers go to jail they have ideas of what they're going to do there. One thing he may do in the future is go on a road trip with some law enforcement, you know, when he maybe confesses to some other crimes that they haven't convicted anybody for.

So, he's going to say, hey, I did those too so maybe we can go on a road trip and they do take these guys on road trips. They put them in a car and they drive them around. They give them McDonald's hamburgers and he wants to be a friend of the police.

He wants to be a friend of the prosecution, a friend of everybody because he's going to need all the friends he can get from now on and because he's not in that dark hole because America doesn't do that he's probably going to get to use a lot of those people. I'd like to see them all tell him, "Go to hell and we're not going to associate you in any way, shape or form, even if you have some more stuff to say to us. We're just not going to go for it."

ZAHN: Finally, Larry, at the very end of his statement, he rambled off with some poetry that I think not many of us made sense of and actually quoted scripture from the Bible. How insulting was that to family members? HATTEBERG: Oh, I think it was not only insulting to family members. I heard a number of people talking about it afterwards and they said it was insulting to the Christian religion.

And you just saw him walk out there, Paula. The last gesture, the last public gesture that he made was a thumbs-up gesture to his pastor who was sitting right at the exit right as he went out. That was the last public gesture that he made was to his pastor.

But I think as he was quoting the scripture I don't think anybody believed that. I don't think anybody for one minutes believes that he is a Christian. He was -- I was told by the detectives today that he was actually embarrassed over the past 48 hours in court because he didn't want those pictures released of him in women's clothing and in those bondage positions. He didn't want any of that released, so he's been embarrassed and it was his last moment of trying to regain control but in reality he turned out to be simply a parody of himself.

ZAHN: Well, I guess we all expected him to be narcissistic but I don't think anybody could have anticipated him being that self absorbed and arrogant given the platform that he had. Larry Hatteberg, Pat Brown, thank you very much for your insights tonight, appreciate your time.

BROWN: Thanks, Paula.

ZAHN: And, in just a minute the story of a man who as a little boy saw Dennis Rader kill his mom.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEVE RELFORD, BTK VICTIM'S SON: I'd just like for him to suffer for the rest of his life.

ZAHN (voice-over): Steve Relford says the BTK killer ruined his life and his brother and sister's. How does he feel today?

Also, this afternoon's shocking turn of events in Texas, why is Cindy Sheehan giving up her vigil outside President Bush's Crawford ranch?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back.

Imagine being just five years old and watching your mother murdered right before your eyes. That is the painful legacy BTK killer Dennis Rader left for Steve Relford. Relford spoke in court today during Rader's sentencing hearing and David Mattingly has his story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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, BTK VICTIM'S SON: (INAUDIBLE) alcohol, druggie, a recovering druggie.

MATTINGLY: On March 17, 1977 Relford was just five 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: He (INAUDIBLE) 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 the methamphetamine and alcohol.

SUSAN PETERS, KAKE-TV ANCHOR: Going in to his home is 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 cry 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 says 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 contained his anger throughout Rader's cold recounting of his mother's murder.

RADER: I 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 my mom, looking where I was. There were 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 five 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 (voice-over): NO longer alone in his pain, Relford was ready for his toughest test, speaking in court in front of Dennis Rader.

(on camera): 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.

MATTINGLY: Why?

RELFORD: Why? 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: Relford's plan for life after BTK is pretty simple, maybe find some steady work and take it just one day at a time -- Paula.

ZAHN: Encouraging that at least he's seen some outpouring of support, maybe a little late but I hope he can get his feet back on the ground. David Mattingly thanks.

We're going to move on to other news in just a moment, including a really big surprise outside of President Bush's ranch in Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CINDY SHEEHAN, LOST SON IN IRAQ: We'll be going back to Los Angeles. I'm going to assess the situation. If I can, I'll be back. If I can't, I won't be back.

ZAHN (voice-over): So, why is Cindy Sheehan leaving Texas and what will happen to her antiwar protest?

And a little bit later on, some pictures you'll never forget. CNN Anchor Kyra Phillips shows us exactly what happens when you're in a jet that loses cabin pressure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Some light news today out of the peace encampment near the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas. The woman at the center of it all, Cindy Sheehan, told reporters she now has a family emergency back home in California.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CINDY SHEEHAN, SON KILLED IN IRAQ: We just had a terrible phone call, my sister and I. My mom just had a stroke. So, we'll be going back to Los Angeles. I'm in -- going to assess the situation. If I can, I'll be back. If I can't, I won't be back. But, I will be back as soon as possible. Until then, we have other gold-star moms here, gold-star family members, military families to speak out and they'll continue the mission while we're gone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Sheehan has been in Crawford for 12 days now, demanding a meeting with President Bush, so she can ask him what her son died for in Iraq. Joining me now from Crawford, White House Correspondent Dana Bash. Hi, Dana. So, What kind of effect do you think this will have on the encampment there?

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Paula.

Well, you know, it's probably too soon to tell. You know, Cindy Sheehan has been telling us over the past couple of days that this is movement that is now bigger than her. This will certainly be a test, at least temporarily.

But you can see behind me, there are some folks meeting here still. Trying to figure out what, sort of, their next move is. They're planning -- actually, they are going to physically move tomorrow. That's primarily what they're talking about. But I can tell you that the public relations firm representing Cindy Sheehan, is making it very clear in a press release -- even she said that they want to make sure that people to understand that her cause is still going to go on and the people here are determined to do that.

ZAHN: So, as a result of that are there any new developments right there at the demonstration site?

BASH: Well they had planned and they actually continued on with a march from here to the security check point of President Bush's ranch. That's a few miles away and it was mothers delivering letters to Laura Bush. Letters, written apparently from all over the country and a White House aide was there to take the letters, he said on behalf of the president. And we're told by a White House official that they say that it was privilege to accept the letters. Every letter will be responded to, but it's unclear, Paula, whether the President and Mrs. Bush will actually read the letters.

ZAHN: I guess we'll soon find out. Dana Bash, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, a story that left CNN Anchor Kyra Phillips literally grasping for breath.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any of those symptoms off to the right? Have you circled any of those yet?

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm feeling a little dizzy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. You don't have to worry about putting the mask to your face when you talk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: See what happens when you're in jet that loses cabin pressure. You wont ever ignore the flight attendant's lecture about oxygen masks again.

And a little bit later on, some shocking allegations about what it was like to grow up with a Hare Krishnas and the group's even more surprising response.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: This story gets more bizarre every time we hear about it. It seems like the more we learn about the crash of that Cypriot airliner in Greece, the more mysterious it becomes. All 121 on board died. From the start, the suspected cause of the crash has been cabin decompression: Something went wrong and there wasn't enough air inside the plane for anyone to breathe.

Well, investigators aren't saying much, but Greek media are. They're saying the F-16 pilots who followed the airliner, actually saw someone in the cockpit taking control of the plane, possibly a flight attendant who knew how to fly it.

The plane first descended to 2,000 feet, then climbed back up again to 7, 000 before running out of fuel and crashing near Athens, which may make you wonder what it's like when a plane loses cabin pressure. To find out, Kyra Phillips went to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, where pilots get life-saving training to cope with the sudden loss of oxygen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS (voice-over): What you are seeing right now is every pilot's nightmare: Losing cabin pressure, losing oxygen. This is simulation, but the effects on the body are very real and can be deadly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have reached 5,000 feet. Can I get a thumbs up if you made it OK?

PHILLIPS: We'll show you what happened to me when I went into this altitude chamber to see what it feels like. But first, October 25th, 1999...

(on camera): ... The CNN Center in Atlanta. We're talking about a Leer jet that has crashed. It's believed that there was a loss of cabin pressure. All five people have been killed.

(voice-over): Champion Golfer Payne Stewart's Leer jet lost cabin pressure. The planes we fly on are pressurized, otherwise we'd become what's called hypoxic, where a lack of oxygen causes great mental and physical impairment, unconsciousness and eventually death.

That's what happened to the passengers and crew on Stewart's plane. Now, investigators say they believe it was a similar loss of cabin pressure that caused 121 people aboard this Cypriot Boeing 737 to die when it crashed in Greece this past weekend.

Medical findings now show a lack of oxygen may have caused the co-pilot and others aboard to pass out before the plane went down. Air Force flight engineer, Master Sergeant Rudy Newsome (ph) knows what it's like to survive a potential disaster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oxygen masks dropped. So, that's when we knew that, you know, we had a situation on our hands.

PHILLIPS: He and his crew were on mission when he felt, what the military understately calls, a malfunction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You just knew that in matter of a few moments that you may lose oxygen, but the training just kicked in.

PHILLIPS: training that Rudy received in this altitude chamber at Andrews Air Force Base; training we got to see and feel for ourselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, what were going to do now is we're going to start on the main portion of our flight.

PHILLIPS: Staff Sergeant Sean Hanson (ph) takes me to a simulated 25,000 feet. Watch what happens when he has me drop my oxygen mask.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you actually feel something's wrong right now, you can notice something wrong?

PHILLIPS (on camera): Absolutely.

(voice-over): In less than two minutes, I'm showing the effects of oxygen deprivation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Alright, 100. Go back by fours for me.

PHILLIPS (on camera): One hundred, 96, 9 -- 3.

(voice-over): I keep losing my train of thought...

(on camera): Eighty -- is it 85?

(voice-over): ... as my body is starved of oxygen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's try the airplane game. All right? Flying. Flying. Down. All right.

PHILLIPS: As I put my oxygen mask back on, I realize I'm on the brink of losing consciousness. My brain is shutting down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know if you notice it or not, but toward the end you were shaking and that's another symptom.

PHILLIPS (on camera): I felt my hands shaking and jittering -- my arms, my legs.

(voice-over): For just a few minutes, I could just imagine what the people on the on board Stewart's plane felt or maybe what the passengers and crew experienced aboard that ill-fated flight in Greece.

Attention to detail in the cockpit could mean life or death. We felt it in this chamber and we heard it from survivors like Master Sgt. Rudy Newsome (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you're at a high altitude, there's no room for mistakes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: So, Kyra, we know you're really good at math, but it was pretty clear to see how quickly it affected you once you took your mask off. But besides your hands shaking, what else did you feel?

PHILLIPS: I was amazed. Because I had done this a number of times. I had to go through this type of training, Paula, in order to fly military aircraft during the war and before the war. So I was shocked at the muscle spasms, the dizziness, the blurred vision. I felt a little nauseous, I got a lot of hot flashes. And usually, when you're in pretty good shape, you don't experience all of that, but they really pushed me to the limit so we'd be able to show you exactly what, for example, one of those passengers went through on that aircraft in Greece.

ZAHN: So what did you learn that we as passengers should be alerted to when we're flying?

PHILLIPS: Oh, boy. Well, pay attention to those symptoms. Know what it means to become hypoxic and pay attention to that. And let a flight attendant, let the crew know if you start feeling something like that. But there's a lot of warning systems that are supposed to take place before that happens, before a passenger or a pilot passes out. There are lights that flash. There are bells that ring. And there are oxygen masks that are supposed to drop. So when you look at something like the Greece airliner and what happened, there is a lot -- a lot more to that investigation to take place.

ZAHN: It was incredible to watch you, because we just how quickly it affected you. For the record, can you count now backwards by four from 192 for us?

PHILLIPS: Actually, to be honest with you, math is one of my worst subjects. So it really didn't surprise me, Paula.

ZAHN: Oh, don't admit that. Ninety-six -- 92, not 93, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: OK, I'm practicing right now. I'll be ready next time.

ZAHN: All right. Thank you for bringing us some very important information tonight.

Coming up, a CNN investigation that is going to make you absolutely angry. What was it like for the children growing up inside the Hare Krishna religious sect?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WINDLE TURLEY, ATTORNEY: For her punishment, she's locked in a dark closet, told that it's filled with rats, and that the rats will eat her if she whimpers. And she's told to stand on this wooden crate and not cry, and stay there for hours.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Harrowing revelations about the fate of some Hare Krishna children, and the group's eye-opening effort to make amends.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And we're moving up on just about 15 minutes before the hour. Time to go to Erica Hill at HEADLINE NEWS.

HILL: Thanks, Paula. In Iraq, a roadside bomb kills four U.S. soldiers today north of Baghdad. Meantime, in Georgia, a statewide moment of silence for the state's soldiers who died in Iraq. The Georgia National Guard's 48th Brigade has lost 16 members since arriving in Iraq in June.

Israeli troops say they've cleared protesters and settlers from two synagogues in Gaza after a day of bitter confrontation. Defiant holdouts at one synagogue, hiding (ph) behind high razor wire, threw paint and debris at soldiers. The military says 14,000 unarmed troops have cleared all but four of the 21 Gaza settlements.

And doctors saying now Coretta Scott King will need intensive physical therapy and speech therapy as she recovers from a stroke suffered this week. The 78-year-old widow of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has been in an Atlanta hospital since her stroke on Tuesday. She also had a mild heart attack. Doctors say she is aware of her surroundings, but is unable to speak.

And Paula, those are the latest headlines from HEADLINE NEWS at this hour. We'll hand it back to you.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Erica. Appreciate it. We want to give you a heads up about our next story. Some onetime children of the Hare Krishnas are now going public with allegations that will deeply disturb you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He raped you?

ANYA POURCHOT, VICTIM OF THE HARE KRISHNA MOVEMENT: Yeah.

TURLEY: This is the worst case of abuse in children I've ever seen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: So the question is, how are the Hare Krishnas reacting? Not with denials, but something that's actually braver. Stay with us to find out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: So if you have kids, you probably don't want them to listen to this next report. This story deals with children and sex abuse.

It used to be you couldn't go to any airport without seeing a group of Hare Krishnas, followers in robes chanting and begging. It might not have occurred to you that some of them had children of their own, and sent their children to boarding schools run by the Hare Krishna movement.

Well, now, some of the people who went to those schools are coming forward with frightening stories of abuse. Here's investigative correspondent Drew Griffin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Anya Pourchot says she escaped the Hare Krishnas at 17. It's been 20 years, but she says she still gets physically sick the moment she hears the chanting.

ANYA POURCHOT, VICTIM: I usually have to just run so that I can keep myself together.

GRIFFIN: Joe Fournier, who was brought into the Krishnas at the age of 7, says it's taken years for him to be able to talk about what happened.

JOE FOURNIER, VICTIM: Very painful. Yeah. Gone through years of therapy to come out of it, yeah, to survive.

GRIFFIN: What they and hundreds of other survived were childhoods inside a movement that in the 1960 and '70s attracted thousands of youthful seekers. Followers were expected to devote their lives to pure living, pleasing God and chanting praise. But behind the saffron robes, shaved heads and happy songs, many hare Krishnas were hiding a dark secret -- a secret kept inside the Krishna boarding schools, where the children of devotees were sent for training.

This lawsuit, filed in Texas in 2001, pulled back the veil from Krishna society, and according to the attorney who filed it, exposed a movement plagued by violence, abuse and sexual exploitation of children.

WINDLE TURLEY, ATTORNEY: This is the worst case of abuse of children I have ever seen.

GRIFFIN: Dallas attorney Windle Turley sued the International Society of Krishnas on behalf of 92 people, who complained of years of emotional and physical abuse.

TURLEY: When you took a little 6-year-old girl who has not behaved, and for her punishment she is locked in a dark closet, told that it's filled with rats, and that the rats will eat her if she whimpers. And she's told to stand on this wooden crate and not cry, and stay there for hours, that kind of terrorizing as a way of enforcing discipline is just beyond the thought of anything civil.

POURCHOT: I just remember walking down a hallway, and having this horrible experience of hearing the blood-curling scream of a child. And all the other children shuffling around like it was just -- you know, something that happened every day.

GRIFFIN (on camera): Did it happen every day?

POURCHOT: Oh, yeah.

GRIFFIN: And it happened to you?

POURCHOT: Oh, yeah.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Anya Pourchot was 4 when her parents joined the movement, whose teachings discouraged family life and parental affection. Anya was sent to a Krishna boarding school. By 16, she found herself promised to a 32-year-old man she didn't know.

(on camera): He raped you?

POURCHOT: Yeah. He convinced -- well, he convinced me to masturbate him. And it was not a very nice experience.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): The lawsuit details the claims made by the Krishna children. Beatings, children forced to live and sleep in filth, to eat garbage. Children denied medical care, and some tied up and placed in trash barrels. And according to Fournier, constant sexual abuse.

FOURNIER: Fondled, raped, you know, stuff like that, yeah. Pretty bad.

GRIFFIN: Fournier was just 9 years old when he was sent to a Krishna boarding school in Dallas. Within a month of his arrival, he says, the nightly visits began.

FOURNIER: You had to pretend you weren't awake or conscious or something, to survive it, you know.

GRIFFIN: The International Society of Krishna Consciousness admits no one was looking out for the children. During the 1970s and '80s, when most of the abuse is alleged, children were sent away to boarding schools so parents could focus on begging and recruiting other converts.

TURLEY: And they were literally asked to give up all parental control over their children. And that -- great efforts were made to sever the parental relationship.

GRIFFIN (on camera): With their parents out of the way or off raising money, the children were sent to boarding schools, like the one run here in Dallas. The victims say this is where some of the worst abuse took place.

(voice-over): In what the organization now admits was a horrible lapse in judgment, the Krishna converts unfit for other duty were the ones assigned to watch the children.

ANUTTAMA DASA, INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY FOR KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS: Too many of them were former hippies and people that were trying to get away from social restraints, and things like that. And were looking for an opportunity to kind of find maybe some easy solutions to some of the problems that they faced.

GRIFFIN: What sets this story apart from so many other lawsuits involving religious organizations and abuse is what the Krishnas decided to do this past spring.

Krishna communications director Anuttama Dasa says the society admits it was wrong, admits the abuse took place in many of its school, and has agreed to pay compensation for the horrible abuse. The society is also begging for forgiveness.

DASA: This is really part of an ongoing healing process. We're organizing meetings around the country, and later in Europe and probably in India, with people in leadership positions within the organization, to meet with the young people, to hear more about what else we need to do to try to help them, to offer our own personal, genuine apologies to them for the suffering that they'd undergone.

GRIFFIN: Fearing the impact of a multi-million-dollar lawsuit, six temples of the Krishnas declared bankruptcy. In the reorganization, nearly $10 million will be set aside for victims. More is being sought from insurance companies, and across the globe, Krishna temples are collecting even more money.

The Krishnas have opened the door to anyone with claims of abuse. Since the original lawsuit, more than 500 former Krishna children have come forward, and, says Windle Turley, the Krishnas have done what no other religious organization charged with sexual abuse has done, at least not to this extent: They Krishnas, he says, have truly apologized.

TURLEY: We were wrong. You were entrusted to our care. We didn't take care of you. We are to blame and we're profoundly sorry. That was a real apology. And to many of these children, that was just as important as the amount of money they're going to recover in this settlement.

GRIFFIN: Joe Fournier says the apology has helped, but insists the true abusers and predators of his childhood have gotten away. Anya Pourchot says no apology will ever be enough. Her childhood is lost forever. Seh struggles to retrieve what she can for a book she is writing. It's titled, "Traded for Cattle." It's a reference to how the Krishnas handed her into an abuser's arms, for the promise of a cow.

POURCHOT: I hope that this never happens to anyone else again.

GRIFFIN: The Hare Krishnas say they have that same hope, and a new vow to make sure it doesn't.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Drew Griffin, reporting for us tonight.

We'll take a short break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And that wraps it up for all of us here tonight. Thanks so much for being with us. Tomorrow, there modern-day divas. They're sexy, outrageous, and even though they've grown up in the spotlight, you'd really be surprised about what you don't know about Britney, Jessica and Lindsay. That's tomorrow night.

Again, thanks for dropping by tonight. Prime-time continues now with "LARRY KING LIVE." Good night.

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