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NANCY GRACE

NANCY GRACE for September 14, 2005, CNNHN

Aired September 14, 2005 - 20:00:00   ET

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


NANCY GRACE, HOST: Tonight, police rescue 11 children, children kept in cages, cages built of chicken wire and 2-by-4s. And to top it all off, the parents get paid for it, up to $250 a month per kid. There were 11 kids, ages 1 to 14. That`s quite a sum of money. We go live to Ohio, and to Louisiana, where the owners of St. Rita`s nursing home charged with homicide in the deaths of 34 seniors, now facing 170 years behind bars.
Good evening, everybody. I`m Nancy Grace. I want to thank you for being with us tonight. Tonight, 170 years in the slammer. But is it enough for owners of St. Rita`s nursing home outside New Orleans? Thirty- four seniors left to die in their wheelchairs, in their beds as the rising waters of Katrina moved in on them. We`re going to Mary Snow in just a moment to give us all the latest on St. Rita`s. Don`t go anywhere, Mary. We`ll be right back with you.

But first to Ohio. Foster/adoptive parents walk free tonight, still uncharged, after social workers found their children in cages made of chicken wire. The kids had been eating batteries, blankets, wood, carpet, you name it. Now, why aren`t these two in jail tonight? The parents have not been formally charged.

Let`s go straight to a reporter with "The Morning Journal." Alex Parker is joining us. Alex, what happened?

ALEX PARKER, "THE MORNING JOURNAL": Well, Nancy, last Friday in Huron County, 11 children were taken out of a home. The sheriff said that they found nine cages in that home, which they believe the children were kept in on a regular basis. The children ranged in age from 1 to 14, and they had several disorders, ranging from illnesses such as HIV to things like Down syndrome. The family today released a statement saying that they believed that they were simply enclosures, not cages.

GRACE: Wait, excuse me! Hold on. Elizabeth? Ear problem! Did you say they were enclosures, not cages? They were chicken wire and 2-by-4s, right?

PARKER: This is just what the family is saying.

GRACE: OK.

PARKER: They`re saying that they were enclosures constructed around their bunk beds, which they said were necessary to keep the children from hurting themselves. And they said that...

GRACE: OK. You know what, Alex? Hold on. Here`s what the cops had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. HANDY SOMMERS, HURON COUNTY, OHIO, SHERIFF`S DEPUTY: We found the cages to be bare, small. There was no bedding or anything in the cages. The beds, if you will, had minimal bedding, but no other indication that they were provided for, other than just a bare floor.

SHERRI HALL, NEIGHBOR: Now, we used to hear the kids cry, like in the evening. But we -- you know, you can`t see in the house. You didn`t hear them like they were hurting or -- we never seen them hurt the kids. That makes me ill!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: So Alex, the cops are saying they slept on mats on the bare floor, surrounded by chicken wire. The defense attorney is saying they were enclosures. What`s the truth?

PARKER: Well, what I have to go on is that the caseworker who -- or the children`s services investigator who first came into the house said that they were -- described them as cages made out of wood and wire. They were equipped with alarms to go off if the children ever tried to open. They were about 40 inches high, 4 feet long and about 30 inches wide.

GRACE: OK, 40 inches -- 30 inches high. That`s not even three feet. Four feet long. Take a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SOMMERS: Basically, the parents felt that they were providing for the protection of the children from themselves and from each other. They felt there were circumstances with these children that warranted the cages at night.

They basically -- the parents, they felt it was OK. They felt that this was something that was in the child`s best interest. The logic escapes me, so I can`t explain that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: Now, this is what the parents` attorneys had to say. Their defense is, "These are special needs children, serious emotional disorders caused by violence and drug addiction of the children`s parents. Because of these disorders, traditional methods of behavior control unsuccessful. The children have been out of control, have caused serious harm to themselves and each other."

Let`s go to Dr. Lisa Weinstock, psychiatrist. Lisa what about this? Some of the children have eaten batteries, clothes, blankets, mattresses, wood, carpets, chemicals, anything they can get their hands on. Why are the kitchen cupboards locked? Some have also started fires, cut themselves, pulled out their hair, destroyed carpets, wallpaper, blankets, pillows, other items, have been violent and injured each other.

Now, Lisa, you`re the psychiatrist, but when children are abused, when they`re not given food, not given love, they`re kept in things like cages, they begin to mutilate themselves when they`re not given food. They start eating things like blankets, insulation, batteries, whatever they can get?

LISA WEINSTOCK, PSYCHIATRIST: That`s true. I mean, you`re bringing up the point of which came first, the chicken or the egg? But clearly, we know that it sounds like these kids did have some special needs. However, I don`t think that`s a justification for putting the kids in cages. And in fact, kids with special needs, whether it`s emotional disturbances or specific medical problems, need more care, more attention to making sure that these kids do not feel traumatized, do not feel taken advantage of. So I can`t see any rationale why these kids would have been put in cages that makes any medical or psychiatric sense to me.

GRACE: Take a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MILDRED BRENT TIMTERMAN, GRANDMOTHER: My family is not guilty. Do you have a lot of money? Have you tried to raise 11 children?

SHERIFF DICK SUTHERLAND, HURON COUNTY: We didn`t have any problems at the residence with the parents. They were -- they were not understanding. They didn`t think there was anything going wrong with their operation. But it was plain -- as plain as anybody could see that this was not the way normal children would be brought up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: Back to Alex Parker, a reporter with "The Morning Journal." Interesting that the wording he used was the parents` "operation." Let`s talk about money for a moment. And remember, these two parents have not been charged. The children have been taken out of their custody in juvenile court and are in other homes right now, but they have not gotten any serious charges. No charges, as a matter of fact. They are free tonight.

Alex, let`s talk about the word "operation." Were these parents, adoptive/foster parents, being paid money to take in these kids?

PARKER: Was the question, were they paid money?

GRACE: Yes.

PARKER: It appears so, yes. They received subsidies from various counties.

GRACE: How much?

PARKER: That I don`t -- we`re looking into that.

GRACE: Well, to my information right here, in 2001, legal documents of separation, the Gravelles -- these are the parents -- the mother, I believe, had filed for separation in 2001. Court documents showed they made $51,180 annually in Social Security and state subsidies for caring for these children.

Jason Oshins, you`re a defense attorney. What`s your defense?

JASON OSHINS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, clearly, as you stated, Nancy, they haven`t been charged yet, and that`s important to note.

GRACE: That`s your defense? That`s your defense?

OSHINS: No. They haven`t been charged yet. And obviously, you know, they have a church there. They have something completely set up, self- contained. You`re trying to indicate to the court if there is a finding and there is -- and they are charged, that they were well fed. They weren`t malnourished, as the reports have indicated. So the issue becomes their -- their deviant behavior, whether it rises the level of a criminal finding, with the ability of the prosecutor to go ahead and make a case for a conviction.

GRACE: You know, you said a church. Let`s clarify. There was a barn on the premises that they said they were using as a church. My question is, what did they have to hide? Why didn`t they take the kids to a regular church, if they wanted to go to a church? Why did they take them to a barn behind the house.

OSHINS: Well, part -- they`re a -- they`re a white couple. The children they adopted are all black and...

GRACE: And the problem with that is?.

OSHINS: There`s no problem. There had been some concern on their part -- at least reports indicated that they were concerned about bringing them out in public because of the difference...

GRACE: Oh!

OSHINS: ... in the races of themselves to the children.

GRACE: Oh, I get it! They adopt the kids, but they`re ashamed to take them out of public. Is this still part of your defense?

OSHINS: No. They haven`t been charged yet, Nancy, as you know, so there`s nothing specifically to work against. Obviously, the juvenile court has got to investigate, along with the sheriff, to determine if there is a level of, you know, criminal activity that would warrant charging.

GRACE: Anne Bremner, defense attorney, as well, I want to hear your defense. But you know, Anne Bremner, it`s hard enough to get a DFAC, department of family and children`s services, worker out to a home.

ANNE BREMNER, TRIAL ATTORNEY: True.

GRACE: Hard enough. but when this one got there, Anne, she walked in and saw the cages, picked up her cell phone and called the sheriff`s department. Now, that speaks volumes to me because, normally, we hear how cases are neglected, DFACS never does anything about them.

BREMNER: Right.

GRACE: She walks in the home and goes, Holy moly, 911!

(LAUGHTER)

BREMNER: Yes.

GRACE: So what`s your defense, Ms. Bremner?

BREMNER: Well, you know, the only thing I can think of? Remember B.F. Skinner, you know? I mean, you remember the behavioral psychologist. He had his daughter in a Skinnerian box for the first two years. "Ladies Home Journal" came out and said it was abusive, and he explained that it kept her warm. I mean, what is it...

GRACE: And what year was that?

BREMNER: That -- 1944.

(CROSSTALK)

GRACE: ... in the last decade. Hit me with something recent.

BREMNER: Here`s what it is, and it`s simply this. It`s not that they haven`t been charged yet, but it is important they haven`t been because they have to investigate and find out was it clearly abusive and is it criminal. And it sure looks like it, at first glance. But the question is, Does it meet the criminal statutes.

GRACE: OK. Here`s a note to everybody that`s getting ready to try a case. When the defense says, We don`t know all the facts yet, OK, they`re at the bottom of the barrel. Take a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUTHERLAND: There`s two bedrooms in the upstairs residence. The one on the left was for the males, and the one on the right for the females. But every one of them had alarms on them in case the doors were opened. Upon our initial investigation, it was reported that one of the children was in one of the cages, with a dresser placed in front of it.

I talked to every one of them, and every one of the children had something special about them. And it was -- it was hard to have to make that decision, but it was the best thing for the kids.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: So not only were these 11 children adopted into this home, but each one had a handicap, be it Down syndrome, HIV. What were the other disorders, Ellie?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They had a disorder called pica, where they ate things that aren`t food, like chalk, dirt, batteries, things like that.

GRACE: Long story short, not only are these the most vulnerable members of our society, they also had handicaps to deal with.

I want to go back to Alex Parker with "The Morning Journal." Alex, how did the search warrant come about?

PARKER: Well, what happened is, actually, somebody contacted the sheriff`s department and said that he had seen some sort of abuse or something strange going on at the house a year ago. Unfortunately, that wasn`t enough for the sheriff`s department to...

GRACE: Wait, wait, wait! I did not know that. You`re telling me something new. So the sheriff`s office got a complaint a year ago, and they just went out there last week?

PARKER: No, they got a complaint in August, and the complaint was that a year ago, something had happened.

GRACE: OK. OK.

PARKER: And -- but that`s not enough for them to have probable cause to search, or that`s what they said. So they decided to ask the investigator from children`s services to come over to the house and just see if they would let them -- the family would let them in. The family let the social worker in. She, as you pointed out, saw the cages. And then three hours later, a search warrant was executed by the sheriff`s department.

GRACE: Quick break, everybody. We`ll be right back. In Ohio, 11 children taken out of a foster, adoptive home, the children being forced to live in cages, 3-by-4, mats on the floor inside the cage.

Hurricane warning tonight. Ophelia`s wind speed is rising, reaching 85 mph. National Hurricane Center predicting Ophelia hits North Carolina tomorrow. The storm is moving slowly. North Carolina governor predicts the hit could last up to 48 hours. Mandatory evacuations in parts of the state. National Guard troops activated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. MIKE EASLEY (D), NORTH CAROLINA: If you have been asked to evacuate, please do so because these floods are going to be worse than anticipated yesterday. And some are under mandatory evacuation, some are under voluntary evacuation. But either way, once the high winds come, we cannot get in and get you out, cannot get there by boat, cannot get there by helicopter, cannot get there by plane. Help us help you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SOMMERS: It was a containment facility for children. And like I said, I`ve never seen anything quite like it before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lieutenant Randy Sommers with the Huron County sheriff`s department is talking about this Wakefield (ph) home, 15 miles south of Vermillion (ph). Police say eight adopted children, ages 1 through 14, were forced to sleep in wood cages in a second floor bedroom. The cages, no more than the average size of three foot by three foot, were no bigger than this dog house and were built into the walls of the house. All 11 children are now in the custody of Huron County Children and Family Services. Mike and Sharon Gravelle have still not been charged, but police say the cages set up in this house were in use for more than three years and even had alarms on the doors.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: It`s hard for those of us who grew up in loving homes to imagine being raised up in cages -- 11 adopted children, many of them with special needs, handicapped.

To Alex Parker with "The Morning Journal." I didn`t know one family could adopt 11 children, much less 11 children with handicaps.

PARKER: I didn`t know that, either, until now.

GRACE: Well, can they? Is that allowed in Ohio?

PARKER: Well, that`s what everyone`s really looking into. It appears they were adopted in many different counties, and even from different states, by both private agencies and public entities.

GRACE: OK. So maybe the state of Ohio would not have realized -- but wait a minute. When you have all these kids, don`t you have to enroll them in either school or special school? I mean, wouldn`t the state of Ohio know how many kids are in a home?

PARKER: Well, the children were all home schooled. People I`ve talked to in children`s services say there`s no limit. It`s something people decide on an individual basis.

GRACE: Now, are you sure that these kids just weren`t shuttled off to this home because they were handicapped and they didn`t have anywhere else to go, so the adoption agencies thought anywhere but here? Thought about that?

PARKER: It`s a possibility.

GRACE: Now, is it true, Alex, that the parents had air-conditioner downstairs, but the kids in the second floor, in their cages, had no air- condition?

PARKER: Yes, I think that`s what the Huron County sheriff said. There was only a fan to circulate air on the second floor.

GRACE: Take a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SOMMERS: I explained to them after we had conducted the search and made our decision that they were going to be leaving with us, that the conditions, we felt, that they were sleeping in and some of the other concerns we had were not healthy, weren`t good for them. A couple of the children, the older ones, nodded their heads and looked at each other. And I, you know, asked them if they would be orderly and behave for the social workers. And they loaded up in the vans and they were then transported.

SUTHERLAND: One of them wanted to be a volleyball -- or a soccer player. One wanted to be a basketball player. They all had their ideas on what they wanted to do after -- you know, when they grow up and everything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: You mean when they grew up and got out of the cage because their parents were keeping them in cages up on the second floor.

Very quickly to psychiatrist Dr. Lisa Weinstock. I`ve got a statement here from the attorney that is representing these parents. His name is David C. Sherman. And he wants me to reiterate these people have not been charged. And also, Lisa, they say that the cages made of chicken wire that the children were kept in gave the children a feeling of safety and a sense of internal control. Now, what does that mean?

WEINSTOCK: You`re asking me what that means? I mean, there`s no doubt that children with emotional problems sometimes need a great deal of structure, and there`s no doubt that these -- some of these kids may have been acting out. But again, there`s ways of giving structure. There`s ways of giving kids a sense of control. And I don`t know that any of them include chicken wire and cages.

And the other question is, if these kids were so troubled and there was so much difficulties, how is it that the parents ended up with 11 of them? Who was watching over? Who was, you know, giving them feedback that maybe this wasn`t such a great idea to have 11 kids with all these problems and try to take care of all of them at the same time? That`s a big concern.

GRACE: Jason Oshins, how does one family get to adopt 11 kids, much less special needs kids?

OSHINS: Well, you raise the right question, Nancy, as did Lisa. How did this happen with the various state agencies and municipal agencies and...

GRACE: No, no, no, no! See, you`re the defense attorney tonight.

OSHINS: Yes.

GRACE: OK? You`re supposed to explain why it`s all OK.

OSHINS: I don`t know why it`s all OK. That`s a really legitimate question, if you`re looking to point fingers. And sometimes when you find something as, you know, horrendous as seeing children living where bunny rabbits should live, that presents a serious problem. And prosecutors, obviously, are looking focusedly to go after those responsible for keeping them in this environment. But the real question gets begged is, How did it happen? That`s the mystery of, Where`s the accounting process.

GRACE: You know what? You know what? Last I looked in the criminal law book, Anne Bremner, the state doesn`t have to prove motive, they only have to prove what happened and that it`s a crime.

BREMNER: It`s true, Nancy. You`re right on, on all fronts.

GRACE: Quick break, everybody. We`ll all be right back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUTHERLAND: ... go through the residence, we did observe makeshift cages made out of 2-by-4s, plywood and either rabbit screen or chicken screen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: The question is now, What are Ohio prosecutors going to do about it, if anything? These parents remain free tonight. They are not charged with any crime.

Anne Bremner, if they are charged with child abuse, what`s the max?

BREMNER: Well, there could be multiple counts for multiple acts and multiple children, so the max is decades in prison. I mean, it`s potentially life.

GRACE: Got you. And to Alex Parker with "The Morning Journal." You know, you say potato, I say potato. The defense attorney calls it enclosures, I call it cages. They say it`s bunk beds. I say it`s mats on the floor, Alex. What`s the truth?

PARKER: ... I can answer. No one`s been able to see the pictures yet of the cages or enclosures or whatever they are. So...

GRACE: So we`ve got to decide who`s telling the truth, the defense attorney or the police?

PARKER: All I know are what the defense attorneys and the police have told me.

GRACE: Now, another issue. All these kids were home schooled, and the parents also said they took them to church in the barn in the backyard?

PARKER: That`s right.

GRACE: OK. What else can you tell me, Alex, before we go to break?

PARKER: Well, they -- the people around the neighborhood said they often saw the children playing, that they -- there was a skateboard ramp built right by the church. However, the detectives said that when you go inside the house, what`s really striking is that there are very few toys or things that you normally see when you have children in a house. The children -- like you said, they didn`t go out in the community much and...

GRACE: When are they back in court, Alex?

PARKER: When are they going to be back in court? Well, I...

GRACE: Yes.

PARKER: That`s something that we`re looking -- we`ll find out. They -- as you know, they haven`t been charged yet, so...

GRACE: Yes, I understand there`s a 1027 calendar about the kids being put in other foster homes, so I guess we`ll know more October 27. Alex Parker, "Morning Journal," thank you. Stay with us. We`re going to Anderson Cooper.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SOPHIA CHOI, CNN HEADLINE NEWS: Hi, I`m Sophia Choi, and here`s your HEADLINE PRIME NEWS BREAK. North Carolina`s governor says anyone who was asked to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Ophelia should get out. Ophelia could be a Category 2 hurricane when its eye makes landfall tomorrow. The storm`s slow movement could cause severe flooding along rivers, low-lying areas, and the Outer Banks.

A few major airlines in trouble tonight. Delta and Northwest Airlines have both filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The carriers say they intend to keep normal flight operations. Delta and Northwest join United Airlines and US Airways in bankruptcy.

Some school children in northern California may not be putting their hands over their hearts anymore. A federal judge in San Francisco has ruled it is unconstitutional for public school children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance because its reference to "one nation under God." The judge made the ruling in a suit brought by Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow.

That`s the news for now. I`m Sophia Choi. Now back to Nancy Grace.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thirty-four people drowned in a nursing home, when it should have been evacuated. I cannot say it much plainer than that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just -- I do not know what the owner was thinking or contemplating by staying put. He was told to get out. The parish was evacuated. He was offered help. I just do not know what his thought process was.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Intersects (ph) that inaction was ultimately the death of these people.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRACE: Thirty-four oldsters like your grandparents, some of your parents, left in St. Rita`s Nursing Home in their wheelchairs, in their beds, drowned to death as Katrina rose up around them. We`re going to take you to some disturbing photos of inside -- video inside St. Rita`s, but first I want to go to my friend and colleague, Anderson Cooper standing by in New Orleans. Anderson, what`s the latest?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You know Nancy, just hearing you talk about that, I mean, I just keep thinking those poor people inside that nursing home as the waters came in. You know, from some of the pictures we`ve seen, apparently people had places, you know, dresser drawers against the doors to try to prevent the water from coming in, you know, nailing boards against the windows, hoping that might stop the water.

Well, these poor people -- I mean, let`s hope they -- some of them didn`t know what was going on around them, let`s hope they weren`t aware of their surroundings, because I can only imagine the horror as that water came in and rose and rose and rose and just didn`t stop until it reached the ceiling in that place, Nancy.

GRACE: I understand that a local politician got a pretty fancy ride, Anderson.

COOPER: Well, ABC News reported that a congressman, Democratic congressman by the name of William Jefferson, who represents a district here, on Friday -- now this is not last Friday, when things were relatively calm. This was the Friday before that when people were still being evacuated, there were still people on rooftops begging for help -- got a truck of National Guard troops to give him a tour of his district and in the tour, he decided to stop off at his house and pick up some personal items.

ABC News reporting that it took about an hour. The truck was sitting there as he took out a computer and some of his disks. I believe he`s also under investigation by the federal government on a couple things. And so they`re curious about what he took out. He says, look, this wasn`t something he requested. They just gave him the escort. And it didn`t take an hour.

You know, he was helping out his neighbors that he -- it only took him a few minutes to get stuff out of his house. But, you know, on first blush, when you see that, you know, it is -- if someone had the money and the political power, they could have brought in their own security people if they wanted to go around their district. There are a lot of people who might argue here that there are resources that needed to be used to help evacuate people. And so, you know, I think we`re going to be looking a lot more into that one.

GRACE: So Anderson, let me get this straight. Was this at a time when people were still sitting on top of their roofs begging for help?

COOPER: Yes, yes it was.

GRACE: OK, so he just stops off to go in the house and make a little PBJ and come back out?

COOPER: I don`t know about that, Nancy, but he did bring out a computer, according to ABC News, this report, and a box and a couple of personal items, some suitcases, and you can still see -- we sent over a camera crew today to the home.

You can still see the tire tracks where the truck pulled up to his house, you know, to help him offload the stuff, because I understand it was pretty muddy. So they brought the truck right up to the house to, you know, make it a little easier for him, I guess.

GRACE: We`re about to show you those shots, that video of the Superdome. And joining us will be Les Trent with "Inside Edition" who got the video. But before I lose my satellite with Anderson, Anderson, I understand you went back into the Superdome?

COOPER: Yes, I did. I went to the Superdome today with an escort from the 82nd Airborne. A soldier took me around, and I`ve got to tell you, two weeks into this thing, two weeks after that, I mean, it was -- the smell, Nancy, when you walk in that door, it hits you like a ton of bricks.

And to think that`s two weeks after it, they`ve been cleaning up that building now for two weeks. You can only imagine what it was like when the people were actually there. There was still human waste, you know, in the astroturf of the Superdome. Shoes, children`s shoes, a child`s football we found.

And, you know, you can still see the holes in the roof, the sun shining through. And there are people there working. I mean, they`re in heavy respirators, they`ve got goggles on, they`re cleaning that stuff up.

You know, the people who were stuck there for days and days and days, they didn`t have the respirators, they didn`t have the goggles to protect their faces, to protect their eyes from this -- you know, these chemicals and this liquid getting in them.

What went on there is a horror and what we`ve talked to some people who were there and what they`re worried about is that this thing gets cleaned up, the garbage taken away, you know, the air freshener is sprayed around, and it`s forgotten. And they don`t want it to be forgotten, because they want -- they don`t want it to ever happen again, to be left, to be told to go to a place, dropped off and left without adequate food and water and medical supplies and adequate protection.

And they`re worried that as this thing just gets cleaned up, it`s just going to be forgotten and a couple months from now, business as usual and, you know, who knows? It could happen again.

GRACE: Well, I`ve got a feeling, Anderson Cooper, that you for one are not going to let anyone forget what happened in the Superdome. Anderson, are they still finding bodies in homes in New Orleans?

COOPER: Oh, yes. This has -- we`ve just begun, Nancy, this process. I mean, they`re out there every day, 82nd Airborne men and women. A lot of people are out there every day, first responders. They`re literally knocking on doors, they`re breaking down windows, cutting holes in attics.

They`re going to every house in New Orleans. And you know what? I talked to a soldier today. I said, well how do you -- when you break a window what do you do? And he said you stick your head in and you smell and you can smell pretty darn quick if there`s somebody inside that house.

GRACE: You know, Anderson, you`re reminding me of so many crime scenes that I went to as a prosecutor and you`re right. There is nothing like it and you`ll never forget it.

COOPER: Yes.

GRACE: Anderson, what`s the body count there?

COOPER: You know, I don`t have the latest figures. I know the body count is in the 400 range. I should have had the number for you. I`m sorry, Nancy, I don`t.

GRACE: I`ll get it for you.

COOPER: But you know, this thing is changing. OK, this thing is changing, you know, hour by hour. I was at Charity Hospital today, first time anyone was allowed back inside Charity Hospital.

That`s the place where snipers were firing at people as they were trying to evacuate the patients. This is where doctors were heroic, where nurses were standing for hour after hour after hour because the ventilators had broke down, pumping air into patients` lungs to keep them alive.

They`re trying to reopen the hospital. I went there. The smell when you first walk in, it makes you want to vomit. And I said, what`s going on? They were pumping out the basement. The morgue is in the basement. There are 50 bodies down in there still. There`s four bodies in the stairwell still. They got to get all the water out in order to start to remove those people and bring them back to their families.

GRACE: Anderson, I got the count for you. It`s 474 right now. And that`s a very important fact you brought up, because we`re talking about St. Rita`s. In fact, Anderson, we`re about to show video from inside St. Rita`s that "Inside Edition" got for us.

And Anderson, we`re hearing about these other hospitals that had a body count that were not evacuated. But some of them were already -- had already passed away and were in the hospital morgue. So that`s a lot different than what we see at St. Rita`s?

COOPER: Absolutely. Charity Hospital, that is very much the case. A lot of those people had passed away they were being stored in the morgue. And when the waters rose, that`s when the problems developed. But people did die, no doubt about it, because, you know, these people were stranded. These doctors were stranded.

They had no electricity. They`re trying to practice medicine without any supplies. And, you know, they stayed on their posts, these doctors and nurses did. This wasn`t a case of them fleeing. They were there. Our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta was there for a time. And what he saw, you know, with his own eyes, I mean, it`s truly heroic.

And I know, you know, it`s important to focus on the people who failed to, you know, bring those who should get punished to punishment and correct things that were done wrong. But there were so many people who did the right thing and stood up and became heroes in a time of crisis.

GRACE: Anderson Cooper, joining us from New Orleans. Thank you friend.

Very quickly to Les Trent. He is with us from "Inside Edition." Les has managed to get a hold of some video of inside St. Rita`s. Elizabeth do we have that queued up? OK. Les, thank you for being with us. What was the condition inside St. Rita`s?

LES TRENT, "INSIDE EDITION", SENIOR REPORTER: Oh, you can imagine. First of all, the water line -- I`m 5`11" and the water line was a good six inches over my head. There was a layer about three or four inches on the ground of mud, silt and water. Every piece of furniture in the nursing home was overturned. Anderson made mention before, I believe, of just the thought that these people were in, you know, six-and-a-half feet of water.

GRACE: Hey, Les. Les, we`re showing your video right now. Can we hear that, Elizabeth?

TRENT: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRENT: This is like a horror show. I can`t imagine how difficult this must be for the families of the loved ones to see what this is like inside. But this has got to be shown. You have got to see it. Take a look inside this room right here, the furniture that fell over from the flood waters. I mean, who knows if there was anyone in this room, when it happened. But we know that there were at least 34 people left behind here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRACE: You know, we`re going to be right back with Les Trent to tell us what else he saw at St. Rita`s. I just keep thinking of my own grandmother. I think she was 82 when she passed away in those conditions. Stay with us, Les. Very quickly to trial tracking.

A federal judge out of the kooky ninth circuit gave Lady Justice a kick in the pants, ruling today it`s unconstitutional to say the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance in public schools. The Supreme Court previously dodged the case. Judge Karlton wrote the words under God coerces school children to accept the existence of God. He plans to ban the pledge at public schools.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRENT: Authorities don`t know yet how the people inside died. The owners have allegedly told authorities that they were too sick to move, but clearly, some of the people in here probably drowned. There`s a wheelchair. This is in someone`s bedroom. This is like a horror show. I can`t imagine, I can`t imagine how difficult this must be for the families of the loved ones to see what this is like inside, but this has got to be shown. You have got to see this.

Take a look inside of this room right here, the furniture that fell over from the flood waters. I mean, who knows if there was anyone in this room when it happened? But we know that there were at least 34 people left behind here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRACE: Can you imagine your grandmother in that? Drowning in Katrina. Welcome back. I`m Nancy Grace. I want to thank Senior Reporter with "Inside Edition," Les Trent for that. He`s with us tonight.

Very quickly to Mary Snow. Mary, the owners of St. Rita`s say that they saved 52 people. But, Mary, weren`t some of those 52 people themselves and the staff of St. Rita`s? I mean, weren`t there only about five to six of them patients?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And their family members, Nancy. The attorney for the Manganos was speaking to reporters today, and you`re right. He mentioned that the Manganos rescued 52 people, but he also mentioned that their family members had come to the nursing home. Their daughters and sons and grandchildren, and also some family members of the staff. So he said that that was part of the group rescued. Now in terms of the patients, though, he said, he claims that 26 of the patients were rescued. But that, of course, that video you just saw, that horrifying video of 34 people who died. And, you know, this is such a story that has struck such a chord with people. Even the attorney general pressed the charges mentioned yesterday that his own sensitivity -- he said his father died recently and this has just struck a chord with him.

GRACE: Quickly to Kris Wartelle, she`s the public information director with the Louisiana Department of Justice. Where does the case go from here Kris?

KRIS WARTELLE, LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: Well right now we`re in the process of building the case for the prosecution. We`re in discussion with the St. Bernard district attorney to see who is going to prosecute the case. Usually in matters that we`ve brought the case, we like to confer with the district attorney to see who is going to be the prosecutor. As you know that`s going to be a horrendous task, because St. Bernard Parish is pretty much under water and wiped away. So rebuilding the court system has been a priority of ours, and we`re going to have to figure out where it is we can bring the charges and where it is we can hold trials.

GRACE: Yes, that`s right. Not only for them, but everybody. Because the trial has to be in the correct jurisdiction, unless the venue is changed. Back to Kris Wartelle with the Louisiana Department of Justice. How much was the bond for the owners of St. Rita`s?

WARTELLE: I don`t know exactly what the bond ended up being. I know what they were asking for in the beginning was a $50,000 bond. I have no idea what they bonded out on in the end.

GRACE: And very quickly to Les Trent. What struck you the most about inside St. Rita`s?

TRENT: I think the point you just made, Nancy. You think about your mother, you think about a grandparent, and you think about the fact that 34 of these people were left behind. Now, who knows what happened inside of that home as the flood waters were rising. There could very well have been some individual acts of heroism on the part of the people who worked there. But the bottom line is that these 34 souls were left behind to fend for themselves.

GRACE: You know, we would talk about it all we want to, but until I saw this video that you provided us, it didn`t hit home until I see how awful it was.

I want to quickly go to WTAE TV reporter, Jennifer Mielle. Jennifer, on another note, how many people are still in the Astrodome?

WTAE MIELLE, WTAE REPORTER: Well, Nancy, that number is well under 4,000. If you believe it, two weeks ago they started with close to 30,000. So it`s just amazing how quickly they were able to turn things around at the Astrodome. And one of the things that I wanted to tell you about inside the Astrodome, that is so moving. The back wall where the football players used to run out from the locker rooms, is now a wall covered with homemade missing persons posters. They are everywhere. Handwritten, Mom if you see this call me. Dad, if you see this, call me. And what`s going to happen, Nancy, is when these people move into permanent housing, it`s a double-edged sword, certainly, because they`re going to be harder to track down, all those missing people. But there is a national data base that is going to be built that is underway. So, hopefully, these people will come into contact with some internet access, and they will be able to start tracking down their loved ones.

GRACE: Jennifer, I`ve only got a couple of minutes left with you. But I really want to know, what is being done to help reunite people?

MIELLE: Well as I said, the national data base. Also, Nancy, your show has been incredibly helpful. I mean, there are so many moving stories just by putting people on the air. You wouldn`t believe the calls that they`re getting. Local affiliates have made it a policy to end every break of every show with two or three people who are missing a loved one. And that`s really, really helping them. And I think those missing posters, missing person posters are really getting things done.

GRACE: Jennifer Mielle, speaking of, I want to go to Bruce Bernard. Bruce found his mother. We told you about her the other night, Marian (ph) Bernard. Bruce, I am so happy. How did you find her?

BRUCE BERNARD, FOUND HIS MOTHER: Thank you, Nancy. We`re happy too. Our prayers were answered. And it was a long story, but we found her in Decatur, Georgia, in the Manor Care Nursing Home.

RACE: Holy moly, she got from there to there?

BERNARD: We have no idea how she got here. But she is doing well. And she`s getting excellent care.

And the way we found her, you know, in a few words, is we had a team of people looking for her. And along the way -- of family and friends -- and along the way we encountered another woman whose name was Tammy, who was looking for her roommate`s mom. Her name is Ruth Rule (ph). We offered to help each other find our respective mothers.

And the next day she called and said I think I`ve found your mom. And she did. And she had the wrong name. They had switched her name tag.

GRACE: They had the wrong name tag on her?

Very quickly, I`ve only got a few seconds left, but I want to ask, what was the first thing you said to her when you saw her?

BERNARD: I just said, mom, we`re going home. And she knew it.

GRACE: I want to thank you so much for being with us. We`ve been flooded with calls and e-mails since you spoke to us the other night about your mother.

When we come back, another family torn apart. We want your help.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRACE: Welcome back. I`m Nancy Grace. Thank you for being with us. We need your help.

Let`s go straight out to Mindy Finney. She is missing three daughters from Gulfport, Mississippi. Welcome, Mindy. Tell us what happened.

MALYNDA FINNEY, MISSING THREE DAUGHTERS: The storm was going to hit Sunday. And I spoke to my ex-father-in-law about what their plans were before the storm was going to hit. And he said that they were going to ride it out. Their house survived Camille and they were going to sit through it. And he said that my kids would be fine. That they`re with my husband`s new woman that he`s with on 28th street in Gulfport, Mississippi.

GRACE: When was the last time you spoke to them?

FINNEY: It`s been months, it feels like. It`s been a long time.

GRACE: Was it before the hurricane?

FINNEY: Yes. And I also got a letter from my daughter, saying that she missed me.

GRACE: Now, OK. Let me get this straight. Have you had any contact with them since the hurricane hit?

FINNEY: No. None.

GRACE: hand did you speak to them just before the hurricane?

FINNEY: I spoke to his father. I didn`t get to speak to them. I spoke to my ex-husband`s father.

GRACE: Have you heard from the ex-husband`s father?

FINNEY: No. They don`t have a clue where he`s at. We`ve gotten people calling in saying maybe they were trying to get to Alabama. But all that`s just rumors. We need some facts. And we need to know where these kids are and bring them home.

GRACE: Are you planning to go to Gulfport yourself?

FINNEY: I`ve already made two trips down there.

GRACE: And what happened?

FINNEY: It was appalling. The roads were open. I walked through shelters. I went through businesses. One business that was still standing was Dunnaway Glass (ph) off of Pass Road and 28th Street. I wrote a handwritten note that I was looking for my children and peeled their chamber of commerce sticker off their front door and stuck it on top of the note that I left. And the guy came in the next morning and said he was crying when he got through reading the letter.

GRACE: Everybody, Mindy Finney has been tromping through flooded streets and shelters looking for these three girls. Summer Elizabeth, 10. Ginger Nicole, 8. Melanie Briar, 7. Please help us. 270-293-9295.

I want to thank Mindy and all of my guests tonight. But our biggest thanks is to you for being with us, inviting us into your home.

Coming up, headlines from all around the world. Larry on CNN. I`m Nancy Grace signing off for tonight. Hope to see you right here tomorrow night, 8:00 sharp Eastern. Until then, good night, friend.

END

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