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Initial Reports that 12 Miners had been Found Alive in a West Virginia Mineshaft Proved Untrue, and Families Learned Hours Later Only One Man Survived the Accident that Trapped Them; Marine Sergeant Todd Sommer`s Death was Initially Ruled a Heart Attack, but some believe he was poisoned.

Aired January 4, 2006 - 20:00:00   ET


NANCY GRACE, HOST: Tonight: Hopes, dreams, prayers destroyed in the early morning hours in a West Virginia coal mining town, 13 miners trapped far below the earth`s surface. First, a miracle announced, they were alive. Then the truth, all dead but one. What caused the blast that claimed their lives? Did the Sago mine have warnings that they refused to heed? Did it cost the lives of 12 hard-working miners?
Good evening everybody. I`m Nancy Grace. I want to thank you for being with us tonight. Tonight, live to San Diego. He served his country in Iraq, came home safe and sound. It was U.S. Marine Sergeant Todd Sommer`s (ph) time to be home, home with his family. But there he lost his life not to enemy fire, not to Iraqi insurgents, but to his wife by way of poisoning, according to California prosecutors.

But first tonight, to the coal mines of West Virginia. Overnight, tears of joy turned to tears of pain.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are ringing the bells of the church. This is the first time that has occurred.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Charlie, Charlie, we got to come back...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t know how this information could come out that this (INAUDIBLE)

COOPER: But where -- where have...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There`s one person alive, and he`s en route to the hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... talking to them, and they was bringing them out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We feel like we`ve been lied to. We feel like we`ve been lied to all along.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It had to be a miscommunication, misinterpretation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Finally, he come up and he said they was all living. He was going to bring them to the church, to the families. He was supposed to come back within an hour. He come back three hours later with news that they`re gone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I`m not kin to none of these people under that hill over there, but each and every one of them is a brother to me, each and every one of them, because you`re my brother and you`re my brother, the way I look at it, because I love Christ.


GRACE: After announcing 12 of 13 trapped miners were found alive comes word all but one are dead. Tonight, deep in the mine, why did the explosion happen? Is it because Sago mine ignored safety infraction warnings? And why, in the early-morning hours, were these families tortured with the promise of a miracle?

Straight out to Anderson Cooper, standing by there in West Virginia, Anderson Cooper, CNN anchor and correspondent. Welcome back, friend. Bring us up to date.

COOPER: Well, Nancy, there was just a prayer vigil held by a number of miners. A miner from a nearby mine decided to hold a vigil for two of his friends and all the miners who were lost here. That vigil has just broken up a short time ago. It happened right over my shoulder, back at the church.

That church, of course, was the scene, Nancy, as you well know, in the early morning hours today, of just -- I mean, there was -- it was every emotion you could possibly imagine, Nancy. There was, you know, despair throughout most of the day, then optimism, then hope and joyful elation and praise of God, and then just heartbreak hours later and feelings of betrayal. People felt they had been misled by government officials and by mine officials.

I mean, it was a morning -- it`s hard to put it into words, the feelings that all of us went through, but especially those miners` families. It was a sickening final resolution. And to know that company officials for hours knew that the information that was out there was not the correct information, the information that had been given by other mine officials down to desperate families in the church -- you know, they knew about 45 minutes after the families were breaking out and crying and full of elation -- they knew that information was not correct, and they chose not to come forward and at least try to dampen down the enthusiasm until all the facts were in.

It was a very difficult morning for everyone who was here, and it continues -- there continues to be a lot of anger and a lot of questions, Nancy.

GRACE: Anderson, before I go to the big story, the big question, why this blast happened, did it have anything to do with these 208 safety infractions, Anderson -- I want to know about this announcement. Why? Why did they do that? Why did they allow this announcement to be made and the families to be tortured even more?

COOPER: Yes. That`s a good question. It`s a question we`ve asked today, I asked today. It was asked last night, as well. Let me tell you what they said last night, or I should say this morning at about 3:07, when they finally came forward with the information they`d had for several hours. They said, Well, you know, we -- you know, yes, we knew at 12:30 AM or so...

Let me quickly give you the timeline. Around 11:45, the families break out into elation because they get a bunch of calls from people who`ve been working on this rescue effort, calls made on cell phones, saying, You know what? Twelve people have been found alive. The church breaks out into elation. The bells start ringing. Forty-five minutes later, the rescue -- first team of rescuers come back, and mine officials learn, Oh, you know what? Actually, it`s only one miner who`s alive.

But they were elated, too, and they didn`t want to -- they didn`t -- they weren`t sure that report was accurate. So before they put out any other information, they just decided to hold onto that information and allow the families to kind of continue the elation going for more than two hours. And that`s, you know, what they said last night, or this morning, was, Well, the families have already been on a roller-coaster of emotions, and we didn`t want to, you know, do anything imprudent, and you know, we wanted to be prudent and not, you know, make them go through another roller-coaster.

That doesn`t really make much sense. Today they came forward and said, Look, we`re sorry. We made a mistake. Clearly, now, we should have just come down to the church and said, You know what? There`s conflicting information. We don`t know.

These are were the guys -- these guys were the only people who had access to that mine, and we are -- we are more than a mile away from that mine. We don`t have access to it. We had to rely on what the governor said. The governor gave a thumbs-up and said, Miracles do happen. Mine officials -- numerous mine officials were calling the family members, telling them they were found alive. We had a congresswoman telling us she had been told that they had been found alive.

You know, it`s -- I`ve never seen anything like it, Nancy. And it`s just one of those things that it`s still hard to wrap your mind around.

GRACE: You know, Anderson, that goes so far askew of what I see is the big question tonight. Yes, that`s bad enough. That`s bad enough, to allow these families to be joyful and thankful and thank God for three hours that their husband, their father, their son is alive and then to tell them, Oh, sorry. OK, that`s bad enough.

I want to talk about the blast, Anderson. I want to talk about what we know, if anything, tonight. Everybody, Anderson Cooper there in West Virginia, bringing us the latest. Did Sago mine have warning? Did these hard-working miners, blue-collar American workers, lose their lives because of something Sago mines knew about and did not heed?

COOPER: And we simply don`t know that answer. And the investigation meetings have already begun today. You know, there are going to be multiple investigations, at this point. What we learned in the early morning hours last night, or I guess it was the late hours of yesterday night, was that the explosion -- this surprised a lot of people. It certainly surprised the governor. The explosion actually took place in what was apparently or supposed to be a sealed-off part of the mine, so a part of the mine that had already been worked on, had been allegedly sealed off. Somehow, methane gases just have -- or some sort of gases must have built up, and somehow, there was some sort of ignition. They still don`t know what that ignition was.

So there -- I mean, the questions are flying here, Nancy, and there are no answers, at this point.

GRACE: But Anderson...

COOPER: There has to be a thorough investigation. I mean, literally -- Nancy, they just brought up the bodies of these hard-working men, you know, just earlier this morning.

GRACE: I know, Anderson, but as a trial lawyer, I`m looking for answers. And I can`t help but see the obvious connection between the fact that they were written up with safety infractions for carbon monoxide, for bad air quality with the miners, and now, suddenly, there`s an explosion. Was it methane gas? Do we believe that, at this juncture, Anderson?

COOPER: You know, they won`t even say. They simply are saying, We`re not going to go down the road of speculation, and we simply don`t know. And there`s no way for us to find out until investigators actually get down in that hole, and they have yet to do that.

GRACE: Well, you know what? As a trial lawyer looking at it, Anderson, completely different. You`re there on the scene. You`re seeing the bodies being taken out, stored at a nearby elementary school, protected by fire trucks so the public can`t see what`s going on. It`s Trial 101, Anderson, infliction of emotional distress by negligently or intentionally, you cause pain and suffering to another human being. And Anderson, you said it yourself! They let these people be joyful, believe that their husbands were coming home, and then they tell them, they lowered the boom. That`s bad enough.

And let me tell you something, Anderson. If they knew ahead of time that some of these safety infractions could result in a blast, they are looking at a bankruptcy, Anderson. Anderson, what can you tell me about the families tonight? Where are they?

COOPER: Well, they`re all over the place. I mean, you know, most of them are staying in their homes. There was just this vigil. I don`t know that there are many, you know, immediate family members were at this vigil. I think it was more sort of friends and people around the families, maybe some distant relatives.

You know, these families had been out here for 40-plus hours in the cold, in the damp. I mean, it is miserable out here at night. They were here all night long, literally wrapped up in blankets, huddled around fires. I mean, it was like something out of, you know, the films you`ve seen in the Depression, families kind of huddled around fires just for warmth, trying to gather strength from one another.

And there`s a lot of strength in this community tonight, but there`s, of course, a lot of anger and a lot of just feeling of betrayal. And you`re seeing some of this vigil that took place just moments ago. I mean, you know, there`s hope here tonight, but a lot of people just feel -- they just feel let down. And of course, the bottom line is, is there`s 12 families in mourning right now, waiting to bury their loved ones, waiting to return their loved ones to the earth that they were just brought out of a short time ago, earlier today, Nancy.

GRACE: Anderson, I guess we do have one miracle tonight that it would be wrong to overlook, and that miracle is Randal McCloy, Jr. He survived. Tell me, Anderson, how do we believe he survived, where the others died, where the others perished? And also, Anderson, it`s my understanding that the remaining 11 had barricaded themselves, in a loose sense of the word. That means to me that they lived for a period of time only to suffer, wondering what would become of them.

COOPER: Nancy, when the full story of what went on deep in that hole is told, I think it`s going to be a hair-raising one indeed. This is a young man. He`s in his mid-20s. He`s the only survivor. He hadn`t been mining for very long. He`s got two kids. He`s got a wife out there who does -- and they, of course, are all happy tonight. It`s a bittersweet kind of happiness.

But just imagine what this young man went through. I mean, surrounded -- when he was found, they only found him by the sounds of his moaning. I mean, it is pitch black down there. It is wet. It is cold. And they heard this young man moaning, and they went toward the moan in the dark of this pit, and they found him amidst 11 other bodies, 11 of his buddies, of his friends.

And this is a man who hadn`t been mining very long, but so many of the others who died, Nancy, I mean, they`d been mining 30-plus years. Terry Helms (ph) had been a miner I think it`s 32 years, if -- I`m pretty sure it`s 32, maybe 33 years. And that`s an extraordinary length of service and extraordinary knowledge of the mines and survivability in the mines. The fact that it`s this young man who hadn`t spent so much time in the mines who survived, it`s a bitter irony. Of course, they are -- perhaps the fact that he was young helped. We simply don`t know how he survived, at this point.

But imagine what he went through for 40-plus hours, just hoping. I mean, and they had all -- we understand they -- the mine officials have told us that they did don their breathing apparatus, so they were alive. They were able to try to barricade themselves in. But man, that wait, it must have just been every second just felt -- it must have felt like hours.

GRACE: You know, Anderson, how many times have you or I, when something befalls us, we go, Oh, why me? Why me? Here`s a guy that lived to tell the tale, who has really been blessed tonight. So he was right there, Anderson, with the others that perished. He was not separated from them. They were all there together. He lived and they died.

COOPER: That`s the way it is. And one by one, they died off. We don`t know how quickly they died. We don`t know how long they were alive for. We don`t know those details. But imagine just being surrounded by your buddies and your friends, and one by one, they just go to sleep.

GRACE: Well, Anderson, what have you learned today about Sago mine`s history?

COOPER: To be honest, Nancy, I haven`t even had time today to look into it. You know, we have been dealing with trying to talk to family members and following the story of the retrieval of these bodies, trying to find out as much information about what happened. The company has given us one press conference today, and you know, they`re obviously not going into too much details about the mine violations, which you have up there right there on the screen.

I mean, yes, you know, the injury rate in 2004, three times that of other, you know, similar -- similar-sized underground mines. All that information is out there. And that`s certainly something the federal authorities are going to be poring over and reporters are going to be poring over in the next couple of days. And that process is probably going to begin tomorrow.

But it`s -- you know, today was a day of mourning and bringing back the dead and remembering the dead and trying to take care of these families out here.

GRACE: And Anderson -- Anderson, how do they believe the miners likely died? Did they asphyxiate?

COOPER: They`re not saying. And you know, certainly not going down the road of speculation, at this point.


COOPER: I mean, they simply don`t know. But you know, autopsies will no doubt be done, which will probably be able to determine a time of death. And of course, once Randal McCloy is able to actually start talking, you know, we should learn a lot more about actually what went on in those dark, desperate hours.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They even told us 30 minutes ago that the miners agreed to come up here to the church instead of going to the hospital first. Now, how could they agree if they didn`t know?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If they`re dead, how can they agree to come up here...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who said that? Who said that?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people that were bringing the information.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was an outsider that came in that said the mine officials had told them they were working their way over to the church to tell us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You all know more than they do, and they`ve been trying to run you off.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... that there was 12 miners, yes, 12 survivors. And my dad was supposedly one of them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They know more than the (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I call this unjustice, and I will tell you all right here, right now, I will -- I plan on suing.


GRACE: Did you wake up to this? Did you go to bed last night with your knees on the floor, praying, praying for these 12 miners? I did, and I woke up to this. How wrong we all were. To add insult to injury, to tell these families, these men, these fathers, these husbands, these brothers were alive, to allow the families to be joyous and make merry, all the while knowing all but one was dead?

Back to Anderson Cooper. Anderson Cooper, everyone, CNN correspondent and anchor there in West Virginia. Anderson, I know you`ve got to go, but tell me, what is the climate there? What is the air? How are people responding? Not just to this, alive and then the horrible news, but to the blast. I mean, people go to their jobs every day, and they try not to think about what could happen. What now?

COOPER: Yes, you know, I think a lot of people ask themselves, What now? I mean, how do you move forward from something like this? And I don`t know that there is an answer to it. I mean, a couple of people come up to me, and they said, you know, they`re at least glad to meet -- you know, reporters were here because even if we hadn`t been there, all of this would have happened anyway. They would have gone through this roller- coaster anyway. They would have been misled in the same way. But no one else would have known about it, no one beyond this small community would ever have known about what happened here in the dark hours this morning. And I think people want it known, what happened here. They want to know -- others to know what they have been put through these last several days, and especially in the early hours this morning.

You know, this is a community of very strong people, and they have bonded together. There are signs all throughout this town, Pray for the miners, Pray for their families. Those signs are going to be up for a long time. The people don`t need signs to tell them what to do around here. They know it. They know to support each other. We`ve seen that since Monday from 6:30 AM when that explosion occurred. There have been people coming by here, Nancy, bringing food, bringing coffee, just bringing their support and their well wishes. And that`s going to continue, and let`s hope that continues for the miners` families because they`re going to need a lot of support in the coming days. When a lot of the reporters leave and the hoopla dies down, you know, the cold, hard facts remain, 12 miners have died here. And that is a hole in the heart of this town.

GRACE: You know, Anderson, you said something really striking. You said, looking for answers that -- you of all people, after you cover covered Katrina the way you did -- there`s not always an answer, and that`s something we have to accept. But you know what, Anderson? I just don`t buy it right now. I just don`t buy, with all those safety infractions, there was not some warning of what was to come. Anderson Cooper, friend, thank you.

COOPER: Thank you, Nancy.

GRACE: Very quickly to Kwung Lah, CNN correspondent. Kwung, can you tell us what`s going on with the investigation?

KWUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this afternoon the federal government, the lead inspectors in the state and even the company, they had an alignment meeting this afternoon, late this afternoon. That alignment meeting, basically, you get all the people together who are going to conduct this investigation, and they lay out a plan as to what they do next.

We don`t know the results of that meeting. We just simply know that they probably scheduled how the investigation is going to continue.



BEN HATFIELD, CEO INTERNATIONAL COAL GROUP: What would I have done differently? I would have personally gone to the church when we got the conflicting information, if I had to do it over again, and say, Something may be wrong here. But I in hindsight, I don`t know what (INAUDIBLE)


GRACE: What caused the blast that claimed the lives of 12 hard- working American coal miners? That remains to be seen. This turn of events unlike any other we have seen, unlike any other legal story that will be in a courthouse.

Very quickly now, out to Ronnie and Anna Casto. They are the cousins of Alva Martin Bennett, who died in this West Virginia coal mine. Mr. and Ms. Casto, thank you for being with us.


GRACE: Ms. Casto, tell me about Mr. Bennett.


GRACE: Tell me about Mr. Bennett.

RONNIE CASTO: Oh. He`s -- he`s my wife`s -- her -- his wife is her cousin. And we -- he`s been a coal miner for approximately about 35 years. And he loves the coal mines. He loves to work. And we`ve been friends most of our lives. We`ve done a lot of things together, hunting. He`s always happy with what he does. He`s just a good guy. If you need help, he`s there.

GRACE: To Alva Martin -- Anna Casto. Question. Is it true that his dad was a coal miner, as well?

ANNA CASTO: Now, that I can`t answer for sure, but I believe so.

GRACE: Tell me how your family reacted when you first learned that they were alive.

ANNA CASTO: Oh, we was excited. I mean, we rejoiced. We was happy. But we also was sad for the one that did not make it.



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: They are ringing the bells of the church. This is the first time that has occurred.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ve got 12 lives. It`s good news.

COOPER: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Charlie, Charlie, we`ve got to come back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t know how this information could come out that this, that there`s people alive.

COOPER: Wait. Where have...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There`s one person alive, and he`s en route to the hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... talking to him, and they was bringing them out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We feel like we`ve been lied to. We feel like we`ve been lied to all along.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, they informed us, all right.

GOV. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: It had to be a miscommunication, misinterpretation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Finally, he come up, and he said they was all living. He was going to bring them to the church to the families. He was supposed to come back within an hour. He come back three hours later with news that they`re gone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I`m not kin to none of these people under that hill over there. But each and every one of them is a brother to me, each and every one of them, because you`re my brother and you`re my brother, the way I look at it, because I love Christ.


GRACE: At first, we thought a miracle, and then the disappointing news that 12 of the miners were dead. The reactions by the family, horrible. And overarching is the question: What caused the blast that claimed the lives of innocent coal miners, hard-working Americans? Did Sago mine have a warning that they did not heed that cost the lives of these 12 workers?

I`m going to try and go back to Ronnie and Anna Casto. They are cousins of one of the men who lost their lives in the mine. To Ronnie Casto, how long had Marty worked in Sago mine?

RONNIE CASTO, COUSIN ALVA MARTIN BENNETT DIED IN MINE: The sago mine, I don`t know. It`s maybe a few years, but he`s worked in and around the mines around 35 years. He started at a young age.

GRACE: When did you first learn about the blast?

R. CASTO: Well, it was about 8:00. We got a phone call from my brother that lives here in Sago. And we knew that Marty was working that morning, but we didn`t know about his son that works at the same mines.

So my wife called them and told his wife. And then his wife related the message to him. Then he come to the mines where his dad was at. Then that`s when me and my son came up to be with him. But they would not let us back in where the mine was.

GRACE: Mr. Casto, are you hearing anything about the cause of this blast that took these lives?

R. CASTO: No, just what I`ve been hearing on the media. They come to think it might be where they closed the one part of the mines, the third level, gas built up in the mine and (INAUDIBLE) where the men was at the left of the main part when it blowed, so they didn`t get any of the far -- or anything like that, so, they did get back...

GRACE: Mr. Casto, what is the reputation of Sago mine there in the community? Do they believe that it is a safe place to work?

R. CASTO: Well, it had been in the past. They never had anybody hurt, to my knowledge, until now.

GRACE: When is Marty`s funeral?

R. CASTO: When is his funeral?


R. CASTO: It`s not completed yet. They don`t know when it would be.

GRACE: You mean the autopsy, so you don`t know when the funeral is going to be.

Very quickly, I want to go over to Bruce Dial. He`s a mine safety expert. He`s got 30 years in the mining industry under his belt.

Bruce Dial, welcome. Could you tell me, after a blast like this, how does the investigation proceed?

BRUCE DIAL, MINE SAFETY EXPERT: After the investigation, after they get the bodies out, they will start an inspection of the total mine. They`ll continue to use these rescue crews to make it safe for other people to go in and start doing investigations.

They`ll look at every possible thing that might have been involved with this explosion to find out what caused it so they can find out how to prevent it from happening again. Once they find out how this happened, they will continue to do a full inspection of the complete mine. And every violation that they find, even if it was involved in the accident or not, will be cited.

GRACE: To Ali Velshi -- everybody, you know Ali, CNN anchor and correspondent -- Ali, was this a union mined?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, it wasn`t. And, in fact, one of the things, Nancy, that`s happened over the last number of years, you know, coal was really big, and then coal prices collapsed, and all sorts of other forms of energy were used.

But we`re back to using a lot of coal. About half of the electricity in this country is produced by burning coal. And as a result, a lot of those mines that were closed have been reopened. New mines have been reopened. This Sago was one of those that had been closed because it was run by a bankrupt company. When it reopened, it...

GRACE: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! Run by a bankrupt company? That doesn`t sound good. You mean a company that might cut corners?

VELSHI: Well, you know, when the industry got tight, what happened is a lot of these companies reopened as non-union shops. And Sago`s one of those companies that runs as a non-union shop. It was...


GRACE: But why? Why?

VELSHI: It`s cheaper.

GRACE: So they don`t have to follow union rules? Listen, you`re talking to a union girl here from the railroad.

VELSHI: Right. And there are a lot of industries in this country where unions have been busted. There are some that matter more than others. There are some where you would like to have unions running them. And this is one dangerous industry.

There`s no two ways about it. Nancy, you don`t think it sounds like fun to go down into a mine that`s damp, and dark, and dangerous everyday. Well, that`s the reality. But in some of these places, the low wages that these miners earn are a good living. And it`s a tough job. And even with things like this, they`ll still keep taking those jobs.

GRACE: Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. What are you talking about, Ali? I`m asking you: Is this a union mine? And if it`s not a union mine, why isn`t it a union mine?

VELSHI: Well, that`s what the unions say. They say that, if it were a union mine, workers who worked in a mine that was thought to be unsafe, if they thought it was unsafe, they could complain to their shop foreman. They wouldn`t have to go into that mine, and the union would force an investigation and make sure that it was made safe.

The mining industry, the companies, when I spoke to them today, they say, sure, that`s true. In union mines, that structure exists. In non- union mines, they watch safety as closely as they do in union mines.

GRACE: Uh...

VELSHI: I spoke to a union miner who said, if he worked in that mine, he would have made such a racket about it he wouldn`t have gone to work and would have made sure everybody else didn`t.

GRACE: Wait, wait, wait, wait. That`s the first I`m hearing of this, Ali. Ali Velshi, everyone, with us. Ali, why? Why? What would he have made a racket about? What condition?

VELSHI: Well, you know, he says that, if he knew of things, those citations, those 208 safety violations that Sago was cited for last year, 46 alone in the last three months, he would have said, "Fix these, or I`m not going to work." And his union would have protected his job.

GRACE: Ali, Ali, it wasn`t even -- it wasn`t even three months. It was 11 weeks.


GRACE: You`re right, 46 violations. Now, for all I know, that could be that your ash can`s full.


GRACE: OK, on the other hand, it could be there`s too much carbon monoxide in the air, which is deadly. You can`t see it. You can`t smell it. You don`t know that it`s there. Ali Velshi, don`t you move a hair.

To Dr. Jonathan Arden, what is the effect of carbon monoxide on the human body?

JONATHAN ARDEN, MEDICAL EXAMINER, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: Well, Nancy, carbon monoxide is a poison, as you said. It`s colorless. It`s odorless. You can`t detect it. People think you can smell it, because you think of about car exhaust, that kind of thing. But you`re smelling the other products there. And it basically asphyxiates you. It prevents your cells from using oxygen...

GRACE: Would it have caused the explosion, Doctor?

ARDEN: It would not be the cause of the explosion.

GRACE: Or would it have to be something more like methane gas to cause an explosion?

ARDEN: Methane gas, and you have to worry about coal dust in the coal mining industry, as well. Those kinds of things can cause the explosion. The carbon monoxide is a byproduct of combustion. It is highly toxic, especially at high concentrations. And it will poison you by asphyxiating you, and it causes -- basically, it prevents your blood from carrying oxygen, as well, so that you -- it is a chemical asphyxiate.

GRACE: But if that, Doctor, is what killed the miners, what would they have lived through?

ARDEN: Well, the early experience will be relatively mild. It eventually starts to take over and make you ill or sick. People get nauseated and vomit. You get light-headed. You get fatigued. You get headaches, that kind of thing. And then, eventually, it depresses your consciousness to the point where you start to become unconscious and you slip away and die in a coma.

GRACE: To Howard Messer -- everybody, Howard is a special guest joining us tonight, a veteran civil trial attorney, and he represents eight of the nine Quecreek, Pennsylvania, mine workers. We all recall that rescue. Eight of those nine made it out alive.

Howard, welcome.


GRACE: My biggest fear is that this investigation is going to turn political. You know how strong the mining lobby is on Capital Hill?

MESSER: I`m fighting it in Pennsylvania. What these folks need down in Sago is a voice and a person that can help them through this process. Everybody down there has a voice, the government, the mine company, the various investigators that are down there. But none of the mining families have anybody to point them in the right direction, to take away all of the miscommunication, to understand exactly what is going to happen.

GRACE: Wait, you know, wait, you just said something. I`ve only got a few seconds before break. But, Howard Messer, about communications, I don`t understand why we can put people to walk around on the moon, but we don`t have the communication setup for these miners so they could be found.

MESSER: Well, let`s look at it this way. We have software that we use to protect the safety of nuclear power plants. If we can do that, we can protect miners.


GRACE: The autopsies on 12 miners expected to be performed tomorrow and Friday. Our prayers and our thoughts with them, their families.

We`re now taking you across the country to another story. Elizabeth, let`s hear that sound.


ROBERT GENTILE, CYNTHIA SOMMER`S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It`s a very, very difficult thing to foreclose the likelihood of extradition. It`s not a normally successful thing to prevent, from a defense point of view.


GRACE: Straight out to WPEC reporter Chuck Weber. Chuck, bring us up-to-date.

CHUCK WEBER, WPEC REPORTER: Well, Cynthia Sommer appeared in a courtroom here at the Palm Beach County Jail, where I`m standing, earlier today for an extradition hearing. She`s charged with murdering her husband back in 2002 in San Diego. Her husband, Marine Sergeant Todd Sommer. She`s charged with poisoning him with arsenic.

Now, the extradition hearing today really didn`t go off. It was simply reset because the extradition request has not been received here in Florida from California.

GRACE: Hey, Governor Schwarzenegger, take a listen. Send us the paper.

To Lauren Lake, Lauren, an extradition proceeding takes about 10 minutes. It`s a form. "Are you this person? Is this a crime? Murder, is that a crime in your jurisdiction? And do you waive, or do you want to contest the fact that you`re going back home to face trial?" It`s very simple, Lauren.

LAUREN LAKE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, you`re right. And I don`t know where Governor Schwarzenegger is on this situation. It`s pretty one, two, three. She`s going to go back to California, but he needs to get on the job.

GRACE: Very quickly, to Pat Lalama, Pat, investigative reporter, joining us out of the California jurisdiction, this is a San Diego case, what can you tell us, Pat?

PAT LALAMA, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Well, I can tell you I spoke to the deputy district attorney on the case today. They got a 60-day extension on this matter. And like your guests have said, I mean, this is a slam dunk. There`s no legal -- I can`t see any legal issue for why she`d be able to stay in Florida, but apparently her lawyers are trying to stretch it out to get more time. She has got -- get this -- three different lawyers in Florida. Three.

GRACE: More time for what?

LALAMA: Listen. Let me tell you. This woman, she must have some magic. She has three kids and marries this marine, and then allegedly kills him, and then she hooks up with another marine, and gets a felony child negligence conviction while she`s with him, but he sticks with her. And now she`s got three lawyers who are going to fight, fight, fight. They`re even thinking about a writ of habeas corpus on this. Can you...

GRACE: They`re going to fight, fight, fight until that $250,000 life insurance policy...


LALAMA: Exactly. Exactly.

GRACE: Hey, speaking of the new boyfriend, take a listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): In a phone interview with News 8, Sommer`s boyfriend, Ross Ritter, read us a letter written by Cynthia Sommer in jail. In it, she writes, "Todd and I had a very good marriage. We would have been married forever. After he died, I wanted so much to replace that void."


GRACE: Dr. Saunders, "We had a good marriage, until I killed him?" It was great, until the arsenic showed up.

DR. PATRICIA SAUNDERS, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Right. Well, I think this is not Susie Homemaker. We know that. But the coldness of poisoning your husband, and the fact that she reportedly was partying a few weeks after his funeral, she was out drinking the day of the funeral with his friends and had...

GRACE: Now, Patricia Saunders, I think you`re forgetting about the presumption of innocence. Just because she went out and got quotes on some big breast implants right after her husband died of poisoning, that in no way suggests that she`s guilty.

SAUNDERS: It`s like Mark Geragos said, "This guy, Peterson, everybody mourns in a different way."

GRACE: Yes, thank you for reminding me of that.

I want to go to constitution defender Joe Ingber. Joe, we know that she is being teed up to face the California death penalty, probably under the poisoning special circumstance.

JOE INGBER, CONSTITUTIONAL DEFENDER: Well, she probably also is for financial gain, which will add another special circumstance. And there may even be lying in wait. Who knows?

GRACE: What do you make of it?

INGBER: Well, as I read the materials and I learn a little bit, I`m trying to explain the Web site that was allegedly set up by them both where they both are in it.

GRACE: You mean...

INGBER: Does this sound like a strict marine to you?

GRACE: ... the dating -- wait, does it sound like what?

INGBER: Like a strict marine to you?

GRACE: I don`t know. But I don`t believe he`s on trial for being promiscuous.

INGBER: No, I don`t.

GRACE: I think even that doesn`t call for the death penalty, Joe Ingber. Now, I thought you were a defender. And you`re attacking the victim.

INGBER: I`m not saying anything about the victim.

GRACE: Oh, yes, you were, Mr. Ingber. I need you here on the set.

INGBER: Nancy, I`m trying to understand what went on prior to the death.

GRACE: I think it has something to do with arsenic and not a Web site. But you know what? I`ll be right back with you after this break.


GRACE: Very quickly to tonight`s "All-Points Bulletin." Law enforcement on the lookout for Michael D. Johnson, in connection with the November 2005 murders of three people, Vicki Banale (ph), Lars Yazi (ph), and Bobby Fulton (ph).

He`s 26, 6`4", 210 pounds, black hair, brown eyes. If you have info, call the FBI, 505-889-1300.

Local news next for some of you, but we`ll all be right back. Live coverage of the Florida teen drunk driving death, 3:00 to 5:00 Eastern, Court TV. Please stay with us as we remember Sergeant First Class Jason Bishop, 31. Bishop, an American hero.


GRACE: Marine Sergeant Todd Sommer, just 23, died Feb. 18, 2002, in his home at the Marine Corps Air Station, San Diego. Death initially ruled heart attack.

Straight out to Dr. Jonathan Arden, medical examiner. How toxic is arsenic? Can you taste it?

ARDEN: No. Actually, arsenic is colorless, and odorless, and tasteless, which is one good thing, if you`re trying to poison someone. The problem is it really isn`t very toxic. It`s probably the most popular poison that`s been used in history, but not very toxic.

GRACE: To Pat Brown -- Pat, everyone, criminal profiler -- how can she be linked to the poisoning? It`s proven that he ingested the arsenic.

PAT BROWN, CRIMINAL PROFILER: That`s going to be the difficult part, Nancy. And that`s where three years may make the difference between whether they can prove it or not. That he died of it is one thing. To prove that she did it is another. So they`re going to have to look at that.

GRACE: You know, I believe, it`s my understanding that it was found on some of his medicine. He kept going to the hospital. Don`t you think, Pat, that they would take a look at who had access to that medicine?

BROWN: Well, they will. But she had access to it, but so did he. And theoretically, some defense lawyer can say, "Well, maybe he wanted to kill himself and leave her all that money."

GRACE: You want to kill yourself by arsenic?

BROWN: And leave your wife all the lovely money.

GRACE: Suicide by arsenic?

BROWN: Exactly. I mean, a defense lawyer can come up with anything. I mean, it`s more likely that what Cynthia did was look at that, you know, is your life better off with him or without him? And with him, she had a hot man, debt, and little breasts. And without him, she got lots of men, lots of money, and big breasts. But, you know, a defense lawyer might be able to fight that.

GRACE: Pat, that was beautifully put.


Thank you.

BROWN: You`re welcome.

GRACE: But thank you to all of my guests. Our biggest thank you, to you, for inviting us and our legal stories into your home.

Coming up, headlines from around the world. And tonight, a special get well to a beautiful lady and friend in Macon, Georgia, Joanne Cox (ph). Her battle against cancer has inspired so many people, including me. To Joanne, keep fighting.

I`m Nancy Grace signing off for tonight. I`ll see you right here tomorrow night, 8:00 sharp. Good night, friend.


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