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Texas Death Row Escapee Captured; France Riots; Year-End Tax Tips; Tornado Press Conference

Aired November 7, 2005 - 10:00   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Carol. You have a great day in New York City.

We want to go live right away to Evansville, Indiana. This is where a news conference is going on in the wake of the tornados that touched down there last night. Let's listen in.

LT. ERIC WILLIAMS, VANDERBURG COUNTY, INDIANA: People that left, you know, after the incident and have not checked back in. We do not have an accurate count at this point in time.

QUESTION: So there could be (INAUDIBLE).


SHERIFF BRAD ELLSWORTH, CANDERBURG COUNTY, INDIANA: I think it's just it's just fair to say that we don't do not have an accurate count of the people that are missing. We do not expect to find that the people on the list are going to be found in this area. People walked out, people drove out and there were people who were not at home. At this point, we don't have a definitive list and we were adding those to the list.

QUESTION: Do you have a strong reason to believe there may be more bodies in that (INAUDIBLE)?

ELLSWORTH: Not a strong reason. We know there's a lot of debris in that lake and that's why we're going to breach that. And then the storm came and blew things into that lake, and that's why we're going to go ahead and breach that and drain the lake.

QUESTION: How long will that take?

ELLSWORTH: It's a one-scoop track hoe move to let that out. It's only about six feet deep. It shouldn't take long at all. But there is a lot of debris in the lake we know.

QUESTION: Can you guys talk about the efforts to rescue one of those people yesterday. (INAUDIBLE).

WILLIAMS: It was phenomenal. You know, within the first hour of the incident, our, you know, our department, along with volunteers and bystanders, you know, we rescued, you know, over 40 different people from structures. That was within the first hour and that was just by, you know, digging people out by hand. You know, then throughout the day then we had a couple of active rescues, you know, going on with the last one about 2:00 yesterday afternoon.

QUESTION: Why are you going to with the search now and not the rescue (INAUDIBLE).

WILLIAMS: With the with the search that we did yesterday, we turned over every piece of debris, you know, on this site. We backed it up with search dogs throughout the day and then with our team that we brought in yesterday from Indianapolis. We are confident that if somebody was still there we would have found them. This is a team that travels, you know, throughout the nation. They're an elite group from Indianapolis and, you know, they assured me, you know, to a degree that there was no one left.

QUESTION: Can we talk about hospitals here. Is there enough (INAUDIBLE).

WILLIAMS: I cannot comment on that. I know there are three hospitals involved and Henderson, Kentucky, and the two hospitals that we have here. We have not heard of any, you know, overload to the point where they couldn't handle it.

QUESTION: How rare is it for a storm of this magnitude to hit at this time of year?

WILLIAMS: It's very rare. It's just something that, you know, we haven't experienced in this part of the tri-state area.

QUESTION: How long will it take to recover to clean up? Days? Weeks?

WILLIAMS: Oh, more than weeks. Yes, you know, you can look at the debris and I mean, it's going to be a hand cleaning effort. If you just look at the woods there, it's going to take months, maybe, you know, a year.

QUESTION: What about the (INAUDIBLE).

WILLIAMS: I can't really comment on that. You know, I heard it myself, you know, before we were even dispatched. So, you know, I know they were working. It's just hard to say, you know, on an individual basis.

QUESTION: Chief, we see a lot of the homes are obviously destroyed. Are there homes in this mobile home (INAUDIBLE) that were untouched?

WILLIAMS: Yes, there's several homes that you have a home that's completely gone, then you have a home that's next to it that wasn't even damaged at all. So, you know, that's kind of how, you know, tornados work. It's just amazing.

QUESTION: Chief, what about the emotional recovery? How long is that going to take here? WILLIAMS: It's going to be tough. It's been very tough on the rescue personnel, the EMS, fire, police. We're just we're still running on adrenaline. We had a lot of guys that saw a lot of death and a lot of agony and a lot of families that were separated. So it's going to take its toll. And, you know, we're going to get that in place today with support staff to come in and work with these guys. But in our business, you know, guys don't like to admit that they're having problems. So we have to monitor our people closely because it's going to be tough.

QUESTION: Chief, is there one area that (INAUDIBLE).

WILLIAMS: Basically, it was the southern third of the facility.

QUESTION: How long do you think you guys will be on site the rescue effort?

WILLIAMS: We're going to stay on site as long as we so have to. We're going to send several teams out this morning. We're going to do continue to do walks throughout the site. You know, like I said before, we're confident that there's no one left but we're going to continue to walk to find, you know, anything that we can, any personal effects. We're just going to be out here for a while.

QUESTION: What about the eight-year-old that was found. Has he been reunited with his (INAUDIBLE) at all?

WILLIAMS: I'm not aware of that. You know, the sheriff and chief might be able to tell you a little bit more about that.

QUESTION: Sheriff, do you know if he was (INAUDIBLE).

ELLSWORTH: No, we don't have that information once they've been transferred to the hospital and that information is guarded by them and they would be only the hospital or the family would release that information.

QUESTION: A few of the victims that were killed here, were they all (INAUDIBLE).

WILLIAMS: It was spread out. Within a damaged third of the facility. It wasn't just like on one street, you know. We had people everywhere.

QUESTION: When people are in the mobile home park like this and they hear these did they hear the sirens? Where are they supposed to go? What do you tell them to do?

WILLIAMS: I'm not sure. You guys we don't, you know, they're kind of vulnerable. You know, they tell you to get to a ditch. You know, but we found several people that were in their cars. So it's I'm not sure.

QUESTION: There's no best advice for someone (INAUDIBLE)?

ELLSWORTH: Mother nature picked the worst place to drop in a tornado in this event. It's an open farm field, 350 mobile homes that are more vulnerable in a storm of this magnitude and there is not a close place to go. I mean, as you see here from the scene, there's not a place to escape to in the short amount of time, in an 11-minute period in the middle of the night. There's not a good place to go. You're just up to fate at that point.

WILLIAMS: If all the residents try to leave at one time, you can imagine trying to get out. There would be a bottleneck. You know, it's just a difficult situation.

QUESTION: What will residents do (INAUDIBLE)?

ELLSWORTH: Go ahead.

WILLIAMS: We're going to work on that this afternoon as far as making sure we have everything in place as far as security, utilities. It's still too unsafe to let people back in. So we are trying to get to that point where maybe you think tomorrow?

ELLSWORTH: Possibly.

WILLIAMS: Possibly tomorrow. But we're not make any guarantees at this point.

ELLSWORTH: We know the families are going to want to come in and look for personal belongings and personal items. Things that mean something to them. We're very cognizant and aware of that. We're going to facilitate that as soon as possible, as well as the ones the mobile homes that will be able to be lived in again and get those people, like the chief said, we've got the utility companies on scene right now. They'll do a mobile home by mobile home assessment of when it's safe to move back in those. We'll then let the families come in to look through the items where the home was, where they believe it was, and search and look for items. We know that's important to people. It helps them with their closure of this. And we'll get them in here as soon as possible.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) who you're looking for and who was here when the tornado hit? I mean, how do you (INAUDIBLE)?

ELLSWORTH: That's what we're coordinating through the American Red Cross. We're asking people to call them at their headquarters to check in with them. We've got detectives that are working with them to cross. We're checking license plates here in the facility, running those, cross-referencing with all through the American Red Cross and our investigative agency.

WILLIAMS: We have 60 live animals that we have taken to the humane society or the animal control shelter here in our county. So, you know, if people are missing animals, you know, we can have them check there and we're still finding live animals today. They're kind of appearing.

QUESTION: What kinds?

WILLIAMS: We have a snake, a ferret, a gerbil, dogs, cats, you know, you name it. So it doesn't just affect, you know, the humans, you know, it affects, you know, our pets and animals as well.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) pets that didn't make it?


QUESTION: Does there need to be a (INAUDIBLE) warning system (INAUDIBLE).

WILLIAMS: Yes, it was 2:00 in the morning, you know. I'm not sure what else you could do. We you know, we heard I heard the sirens. You know, it woke me up right before we were dispatched. So, you know, the system is in place. I'm not sure what else you could do at 2:00 in the morning other than you need to have your own personal, you know, weather radio that you can program that's going to wake you up.

QUESTION: Some people said those didn't work.

WILLIAMS: I can't comment on that.

KAGAN: We've been listening into a news conference. This is Evansville, Indiana, bringing us the latest on the situation after a tornado hit there very early on Sunday morning. They said they believe that they have found everybody who has not been accounted for. They're not sure, though, on an accurate count of the missing and the dead. We're going to get back to that story just in a minute.

First, though, other breaking news. And this comes out of the Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court today agreeing to hear the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan. He is an enemy combatant that faces a military tribunal, but the whole process has been challenged and his attorneys took it up to the U.S. Supreme Court. He, Hamdan, is allegedly an al Qaeda leader and was allegedly Osama bin Laden's personal driver and bodyguard. Now these military tribunals haven't even started yet. They're waiting to see how this case plays out.

Once again, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear this case and it's considered a pivotal case and a pivotal challenge to the military powers and the special military commission that was set up two months after the September 11th attacks. We'll have much more on that decision to hear that case at the Supreme Court in just a minute.

First, though, let's talk about the weather and what happened early Sunday morning and what the situation now faces this area now faces. Chad Myers, our severe weather expert is here in the weather center.

Hello, Chad.


KAGAN: Now the story of the Texas death row inmate who walked out of a Houston jail last week. Well, this convicted killer is now due in a Louisiana courtroom today. He'll be facing new charges stemming from his capture last night in Shreveport, Louisiana. That's more than 200 miles away from that Houston jail where Charles Victor Thompson brazenly conned his way past several corrections officers. Our Keith Oppenheim will join us with details in just a minute.

First, though, let's show you these pictures that we're getting in from Panama. And that's President Bush and Mrs. Bush laying a wreath at the Corazol American Cemetery in Panama. A fascinating place. This is about three miles north of Panama City in Panama. And we should let you know that there are more than 5,300 Americans and others who were entered at this cemetery. They contributed to the construction, the operation and security of the Panama Canal. Let's listen in.

Only people who worked at the Panama Canal Zone are allowed to be buried at the cemetery, as I said, just north of Panama City. More on President Bush's visit to Panama as the morning goes on.

Right now, let's go back to Houston, Texas, which is where a convicted killer will be headed back very soon from Shreveport, Louisiana. Let's check in with Keith Oppenheim.


KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, this really is an odd tale because Charles Victor Thompson, the death row convict who escaped from the jail behind me, he seemed to have done that with apparent cunning and then 78 hours later he is caught intoxicated in front of a liquor store in Shreveport, Louisiana.

The task force that was assigned to go find him started to get tips last night that Shreveport was the place they might find him. And indeed, officers found him in front of a liquor store on a pay phone talking to someone. Next to him, they say, is a bicycle that he was using for transportation. And, yes, he was not sober.

Earlier today, CNN's Miles O'Brien spoke to Mickey Rellin, from the U.S. Marshall's Service, and Mickey talked about what Thompson said when he was confronted.


MICKEY RELLIN, DEPUTY U.S. MARSHALL: It was obvious who he was even before we approached him. But when we did approach him, and he was restrained, I did ask him for his identity. He admitted that he was Charles and that he knew we were looking for him.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: That was it. You said, who are you? And he said, you know who I am. Or did it go farther than that?

RELLIN: Yes. You know I'd asked him three times. I asked him, who are you? No answer. Who are you? No answer. Who are you? I then, you know, made sure that he could see my badge and my credentials and he said, are you the U.S. Marshall's Fugitive Task Force. And I looked at him and said, what do you think? Then he said, then you know who I am. And I said, well who are you? And then he said, yes, I'm Charles. I know you're looking for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP) OPPENHEIM: So perhaps he was a bit defiant or maybe a little disconnected because of alcohol. But, at any rate, he was taken to the Cato Parish Jail in Shreveport and later today or at some point today we are expecting that there will be a hearing for him. The question is whether or not he'll be coming back here to this jail in Houston immediately or not. If he waives extradition, as Harris County officials hope he will, that means that he could be back here at the jail that he escaped from as early as today.

Greater likelihood, I'm told here, is that he won't want to come back to Texas too soon and it could take a couple of weeks before they can go through the legal machine to get him back here and then ultimately back to death row. Back to you.

KAGAN: Keith, any more clues about how he was able to pull this off in the first place? Not only the civilian clothes, but a fake I.D.

OPPENHEIM: That's right. Well, the I.D. was actually a prisoner I.D. that he kind of rigged up. He put a piece of tape over the word offender on the I.D. and his clothes, along with that I.D., were found close where I'm standing, behind another jail facility across the street from the building behind me. It was because those clothes were found a day later after he left that officials here started to think, well, someone probably helped this guy get a new change of outfit after he quickly ditched the clothes that he was wearing when he left the building.

On the other hand, there is a real contrast between the idea of this guy getting help, possibly contacts with the underground to make at least a temporary life for himself once he got out, and the fact that he was found intoxicated out in the open in front of a liquor store.

KAGAN: Yes. Not the most brilliant execution, but he's headed back.

Keith, thank you.

OPPENHEIM: All right.

KAGAN: Still ahead on CNN LIVE TODAY, a family plunged into danger when its SUV goes over a bridge into a river. But a series of heroic acts helped save lives. How it all played out. You're going to hear from one of the heroes when CNN LIVE TODAY returns.


KAGAN: Let's go ahead and travel across the Atlantic. That's where 11 consecutive nights of rioting in and around Pair have claimed their first fatality. Police say a man who was attacked by rioters for simply trying to extinguish a trash can fire has died from his injuries. Overnight violence has also left three dozen police officers injured.

So let's get the latest on the riots in France and how copycat violence may now be flairing in other regions of the country. Robyn Curnow with us from Paris.

Robyn, hello.


Well, indeed, there is some fears that there is an escalation in the violence. Of course, you said one man now dead. A 61-year-old man who died of his injuries after being punched in the face. He fell to the ground. He's been in a coma for the past few days and died of his injuries, as you said, today. This day, along with the fact that the violence is no longer contained to the outskirts of Paris. But we're also seeing incidents of violence in the north, on the Belgium border, all the way down south to the Mediterranean Rivera areas in the south of France.

Also worryingly for the police. They say they're being targeted. There have been a number of incidences where police have been ambushed and fired at. And at least two policemen are seriously wounded. So, indeed, Daryn, there is some concern. And as we go into the 12th night, there is a real sense that the government is battling and struggling to deal with this violence.

Back to you.

KAGAN: Robyn, any discussion of bringing the military in to really clamp down on these rioters?

CURNOW: Well, that is one that has been muted by one of the police unions here. Other people say it's unlikely they have called for the army and for a curfew. But I think in terms of the government, they had an emergency meeting yesterday and there is a sense they are going to put (INAUDIBLE) police on the streets. They're going to try and clamp down that way.

But, of course, it's difficult because as soon as they contain one area, it spreads to another area. There's also a softer approach of trying to speak to, say, community leaders in some of these areas. These poor areas where much of this violence is flaring up. So dialogue, also, though, clearly not working. So I think the French government is very clearly failing at trying to deal with this problem with a hard line and a soft line issue.


KAGAN: Robyn Curnow live with us from Paris. Thank you.

Safety first when it comes to family, but not all family minivans are created equal. The good and the bad when it comes to side-impact crashes. That's ahead.

And gearing up for the holiday season. Yes, it's here. Don't forget your gifts or your taxes?

Gerri, you're a party pooper.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I know. It's time to start planning. If you want to get the most out of the tax return, Daryn, you'll start planning now. "Five Tips" is next.


KAGAN: Let's go ahead and check the markets on this Monday morning. You have kind of competing information both trying to pump up the markets and bring them down and that's why you don't see a lot of movement with the markets open just about an hour. The Dow down three points. Very little movement in the Nasdaq as well. Down two points on that side.

OK. So your frantic pace of the holidays rapidly approaching, but so this pre-season lull may be a good time to make end of the year tax plans. Yes, we're talking taxes. Joining us with her "Top Five Tips" on how to minimize that tax fight, our personal finance editor, Gerri Willis.

Gerri, good morning.

WILLIS: Good morning. Good to see you, Daryn.

Tip number one, you've got to think alternative minimum tax. I call this alternative nightmare tax because if you fall into this trap, you're going to be paying much higher federal taxes because you lose your deductions. So now is the time to figure out if you're going to fall into that trap. Go to the IRS website, look for Form 6251. Fill it out. You'll be able to find out if you're really going to have to pay this thing. Now there's not a whole lot you can do if you do fall into the trap, but at least you can start planning for the big bill that's coming.

KAGAN: How does Hurricane Katrina fit into tax plans?

WILLIS: Well, it's all about charitable giving, charitable donations and the IRS has a little gift for you this year, particularly if you housed Katrina victims, you can get a tax deduction, $500 to $2,000 break on your taxes if they stayed with you for at least 60 days.

The other thing that is critically important here, if you were a victim of Katrina, you can deduct your loses over and above the amount that your insurer did not pay. So if the insurer did not cover all of your losses from Katrina, you can deduct that on your federal taxes. That's a very big deal for people who fell into that terrible, terrible situation.

KAGAN: I know you're a big proponent of flexible spending accounts.

WILLIS: Yes, and now is the time to think about them for the next year. That's going to save you money in the long run. Remember, you set aside pre-tax dollars. It's a great deal for people out there who have medical expenses, dependent care. Different companies offer different plan. But remember, you're saving 25 percent, 30 percent depending on you tax what tax level you're paying.

KAGAN: How about deducting costs for your home office? WILLIS: You know, Daryn, the amazing thing about this is that people who should get the home office deduction don't even file for it because they're worried that the IRS is going to come after them.


WILLIS: But you should take it if you're owed it. And a couple of things to know to understand whether you're owed it or not. Does your boss require you to do some work at home? And, do you do that work in a place where nothing else happens? It's not a second bedroom. It's not the corner of the kitchen. It's a place where you can actually close the door. If so, if you have this situation, then you can deduct the cost of your computer, your office equipment, your desk, you name it. It's definitely worth checking out because it's going to save you some money.

KAGAN: Something within the last week that I know caught a lot of people's attention, this proposal to take away the tax deduction you can do with your home mortgage.

WILLIS: That's right. This is a very big deal. The president's tax advisory panel last week put out its report to the Treasury secretary. One of their suggestions is, get rid of deep six, eliminate the mortgage deduction in return for a tax credit for your mortgage. Now for most of us that will mean less of a tax break for the mortgage. But, that's not going to happen this year. You don't have to worry about it. If you've heard about it, you're concerned, chill out because it's not going to happen right away. And I know people out there are really concerned about the effect that might have on their taxes every year.

KAGAN: Yes, understandably. That's everyone's big chunk.

WILLIS: That's right.

KAGAN: I mean, most people's biggest chunk there.

WILLIS: The biggest deduction and the biggest gift from Uncle Sam that you get.

KAGAN: And one of the few that's left.

WILLIS: That's right.

KAGAN: Gerri, thank you.

WILLIS: You're welcome.


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