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PAULA ZAHN NOW
The Miracle in Missouri
Aired January 15, 2007 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much for joining us. Paula is on assignment tonight.
Tonight, CNN devotes its entire prime-time coverage to "The Miracle in Missouri" -- in this special hour, the amazing stories behind the disappearance and the rescue of two Missouri boys.
We're going in-depth on the lucky breaks and the hard work that got them home safely, as well as the missed clues that allowed their alleged kidnapper to hide one of them in plain sight for years.
Tonight, authorities are still deciding what charges will ultimately be filed against 41-year-old Michael Devlin. He is the man that police say was hiding two teenage boys. One of them vanished a week ago today. The other disappeared back in October of 2002.
Both boys were found in Devlin's apartment on Friday. He is already charged with 1st-degree kidnapping, although his lawyer says he will plead not guilty.
Jonathan Freed begins our in-depth coverage.
JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Michael Devlin moves closer to his first court appearance, expected this week, there are more questions than answers about him and about how he was allegedly able to hold on to Shawn Hornbeck, now 15, for more than four years.
Co-workers at both his funeral home and pizza parlor jobs describe a quiet and efficient man.
But we heard a different view from some of his neighbors.
(on camera): How often would you see Devlin around and Shawn around?
RICK REICHARD, DEVLIN'S NEIGHBOR: I would see him every couple times a week.
FREED: Rick Reichard and Tom Garner live directly upstairs from where Devlin is accused of keeping Hornbeck and 13-year-old Ben Ownby, who allegedly was kidnapped last week.
They say they often were disturbed by sounds they heard coming from the floor below. TOM GARNER, DEVLIN'S NEIGHBOR: Abusive discipline is what it sounded like, just -- couldn't tell you if there was anything physical. But Mr. Devlin would seem to be fairly loud and abusive, as far as in a speaking manner.
FREED: If Devlin had a temper, he was able to hide it for years from two police officers, who eventually became suspicious of him. They knew Devlin as the guy who managed the pizzeria around the corner from their police station.
Last Thursday, when they happened on Devlin's truck, and realized it could be the one involved in Ownby's abduction, they confronted Devlin.
(on camera): Did something in the eyes change? Was it physical? Did he get cold?
CHRIS NELSON, KIRKWOOD, MISSOURI, POLICE DEPARTMENT: All of those. I mean...
FREED: So, what was it?
NELSON: All of it, I mean, his -- his eyes -- his speech, his attitude towards us, just it wasn't the same person that was -- we were talking to two seconds ago. ` FREED: Devlin wouldn't let them into his apartment. They saw an older boy through the window, who would turn out to be Shawn. And it was enough for them to alert the FBI.
People around here say Shawn did normal things, riding a bike with friends. So, why, over the four years he was captive, didn't he go for help on the many occasions he could have?
Adding to the confusion about the extent of Shawn's freedom is the question of whether he may have had Internet access. In December 2005, someone calling himself Shawn Devlin posted a message on a Web site set up by Shawn's parents, saying: How long are you planning to look for your son? Later that day, someone using that same name apologized for that message, posting a new one, asking to write a poem for Shawn.
The two officers say, the public may still be able to help solve the puzzles of this case.
NELSON: No question is a dumb question. Well, no -- no gut feeling is probably a dumb gut feeling.
FREED: Now, the police are telling us that Devlin's first court appearance could come as early as tomorrow -- John.
ROBERTS: Jonathan Freed for us inside the courtroom there in Kirkwood, Missouri -- Jonathan, thanks very much. So far, Michael Devlin has not made a public statement. But, as we just heard, a lot of people are talking about him. At first glance, he might be the least likely person that you would ever suspect of being a kidnapper. Devlin grew up in Missouri, and still has a lot of family in the area.
One of his brothers worked at the same pizza place that Devlin now manages. The pizzeria is also a popular hangout for off-duty police officers. And a few police officers remember Devlin. And, as Jonathan Freed mentioned, Devlin has also been moonlighting a couple of nights a week, answering telephones for a funeral home.
Michael Devlin has worked at the same pizza shop for two decades, more than two decades, actually, almost 25 years.
Joining me now it his boss -- is his boss, the owner of Imo's Pizza, Mike Prosperi.
Mike, you have known Mike Devlin for some 25 years, a quarter-of- a-century. What was your reaction when you heard that he had been arrested for allegedly kidnapping these two boys?
MIKE PROSPERI, BOSS OF MICHAEL DEVLIN: Just absolute shock. It was just jaw-dropping shock.
ROBERTS: What are other people saying there, as well? I mean, was there ever a...
ROBERTS: ... a hint?
PROSPERI: Nothing whatsoever.
Everybody -- we had several reporters today at the restaurant. And I explained to them -- I said, normally, our kitchen is happy. There's people single songs of whatever is on the radio and joking around. And it's just a very, very sullen atmosphere.
ROBERTS: Now, was -- was there ever any kind of indication that he might be living this alleged double life? Did you ever have any suspicions about what was going on with this fellow?
PROSPERI: Never. Never. It was -- just, as far as we knew, led just a perfectly normal life.
ROBERTS: But -- but there -- there was one time, just -- just recently, though, when -- when your radar went up, wasn't there, when -- when you heard about the kidnapping of Ben Ownby?
PROSPERI: Well, yes, that -- the radar went up simply because of the -- the description of the vehicle. And he had been off work.
So, I had gone over on Tuesday to go by his house just to, you know, more or less just to -- to stop the -- the -- the thoughts that I had. And I noticed that his vehicle had gray lettering. And I believe that the report that initially came out had black lettering. So, that was a -- kind of sigh of relief to me.
But, then, I noticed that he had road dust on his fenders. And I said, you know, if he's sick, he shouldn't be out driving on a -- especially on a country road.
PROSPERI: And, at that -- at that time, I mulled it over. I said, do I want to go over and talk to the police about something that may not be true, and, you know, cause this guy some grief?
So, I mulled it over on Wednesday. And, then, earlier Thursday morning, I went over and talked to Captain...
PROSPERI: Excuse me -- Captain Fulio (ph), and told him what I thought. And, from then...
ROBERTS: And what was -- what was his response?
PROSPERI: He told me that he was going to contact the...
PROSPERI: ... FBI task force.
ROBERTS: And -- and -- and in -- and, in the meantime, this other situation was developing, where these two officers were about to go over to his apartment and discover the vehicle there.
What kind of an employee was he? Did he ever talk about his personal life? Did he ever mention family? Did he ever mention this idea that he had this faux son?
PROSPERI: No. No, no, no.
He was -- he was a great employee. Her was always on time, trustworthy. I trusted him with my restaurant, with my money. So, you know, he obviously was a trustworthy man.
And, in -- and, in hindsight, Mike...
ROBERTS: ... any -- any -- any red flags that you missed?
You know, initially that's what you start doing, is thinking back: Did I miss something? Did -- you know, he -- he never brought extra pizza home, like he was feeding somebody else. And he had ample opportunity to do that. Nothing, nothing to even slightly indicate that -- that -- that this was going on.
ROBERTS: Wow. Wow. It's got to be a shock to everybody there.
Mike Prosperi, the owner of Imo's Pizza, where Devlin worked, thanks very much. Appreciate you joining us tonight, sir.
The unavoidable question in the case of Shawn Hornbeck is, why didn't he ever try to escape? The answers may lie in what's known as Stockholm syndrome, a strange bond that sometimes forms between hostages and their captors.
One striking example unfolded more than two decades ago, a case that has remarkable similarities to the miracle in Missouri.
Ted Rowlands has that story for us.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twenty-five years ago, the nation was shocked and overjoyed to hear that two missing children had been found alive. One was a 5-year-old named Timmy White, who had been missing for about two weeks. The other was Steven Stayner, a 14-year-old boy who had been gone for an incredible seven years. Like what's happening now in Missouri, there were press conferences and joyous homecomings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're so happy to have him back with us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Down deep, I still thought Stevie would be home someday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROWLANDS: In this case, Steven Stayner had actually rescued Timmy White, sneaking out of this cabin, and bringing him to a police station.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 1980)
STEVEN STAYNER, KIDNAP VICTIM: I didn't like what was happening. And it happened to me. And I just didn't want to see it happen to somebody else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROWLANDS: Over the years, through court testimony and even a television movie, Steven Stayner told his heartbreaking story of abuse and twisted manipulation at the hands of his kidnapper, a sexual predator named Kenneth Parnell.
Stayner said he didn't try to contact his real family for seven years because Parnell had brainwashed him, making him think his parents didn't want him. In the beginning, Stayner said Parnell even made fake telephone calls in front of him, pretending to talk to his parents. And Parnell eventually told Stayner that a judge had granted him custody, as seen in this clip from, "I Know My First Name Is Steven."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "I KNOW MY FIRST NAME IS STEVEN")
ARLISS HOWARD, ACTOR: Your new name is Dennis, Dennis Gregory Parnell.
CORIN NEMEC, ACTOR: I don't want a new name. I want to go home.
HOWARD: Well, your family, your parents don't want you anymore.
NEMEC: Yes. They do. They love me.
HOWARD: I know. I know it's tough to understand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROWLANDS: Stayner said he started going by the name Dennis and started calling his kidnapper dad. He said Kenneth Parnell did care for him like a father during the day, but sexually abused him at night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
S. STAYNER: I have been dealing with them memories, you know, ever since I came back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROWLANDS: Once he was home, it was difficult for Stayner to readjust, something his mother talked about in an interview years later.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAY STAYNER, MOTHER OF STEVEN STAYNER: He came back different, very different. And we had a rough time getting used to having him home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROWLANDS: Eventually, Stayner married, had two children, and said he was finally getting comfortable with his life. But, in 1989, he died in a motorcycle accident, a tragic end to a very difficult life.
(on camera): The Stayner case is an example of what the experts say is the incredible power that an adult kidnapper can have over a child victim and the very difficult road to recovery, something that's just beginning for the boys in Missouri.
Ted Rowlands, CNN, Los Angeles.
ROBERTS: Well, let's find out a little bit more about the bonds that can form between hostage and captor.
Joining me now is forensic psychiatrist Dr. Helen Morrison.
Dr. Morrison, from what you have heard of this case, what do you believe was -- was -- was keeping this young fellow, Shawn, in the clutches of this alleged kidnapper?
DR. HELEN MORRISON, FORENSIC PSYCHIATRIST: Well, there was an obvious bond between the two of them.
If it started out with fear, or with him being told that his parents didn't want him, or they were glad to be rid of him, the fear certainly didn't last long enough. And, so, this young man, Shawn Hornbeck, began to develop a relationship.
And it's very similar to what we do in adults called a Stockholm syndrome, where the captor has a type of power over the individual, just on the basis of the fact that the hostage or the individual depends on this person for their life, essentially.
ROBERTS: What's -- what's most surprising about this case is -- is that, you know, according to what we know about it, Shawn Hornbeck was not shackled to a bed 24 hours a day. He was allowed to go outside. He had a skateboard. He rode his bicycle.
ROBERTS: He went to the shopping mall. He even had, according to a -- a friend of his, three run-ins with police for staying out late. He had Internet access. And at no time did he ever tell anybody what the situation was.
MORRISON: The emotional bonds, the emotional ties are stronger than any physical shackle or any physical or emotional threat.
ROBERTS: Can -- can he be OK? Can he return to a normal life, after being in, essentially, captivity for four years?
MORRISON: There are so many factors that go into that.
First is his capability, his strength, his -- his ability to work through the obvious trauma that he had. Not everybody will develop a Stockholm syndrome. He will probably need to be with a very experienced therapist, who will attempt to have him go through this process.
But, at the same time, it's not just him. It's his environment. He's been out of school for four years. He has parents who thought -- who will automatically think he's still 11 years old.
ROBERTS: How -- how long do you think it's...
MORRISON: And, so, it's going...
ROBERTS: How long do you think this process...
MORRISON: Go ahead.
ROBERTS: ... is going to take? And what about integrating him back into the family?
MORRISON: Well, that's going to take an extensive period of time. It's not going to happen in one month, two months or six months. It will take an extensive period of time and active working with all of the people who were involved...
ROBERTS: Right. And -- and what...
MORRISON: ... to help him begin.
ROBERTS: What -- right. And what suggestion would you give to his parents?
MORRISON: Please understand that he's not 11 anymore. The clothes you had in your drawer will never fit him, just as your concepts and expectations will never fit him.
ROBERTS: It's got to be difficult.
Dr. Helen Morrison, thanks very much.
ROBERTS: Appreciate your time, ma'am.
The miracle in Missouri...
MORRISON: Thank you.
ROBERTS: ... has given the families of other missing children new hope tonight.
Next, in our special coverage, we will take you to the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children to see what it's doing to help reunite families.
Also: the amazing story of why a Tennessee family put Shawn Hornbeck's picture on the hood of a race car, and how they feel now that he has been found.
ROBERTS: Welcome back to our special hour.
Details are still unfolding about the discovery of two boys in Missouri, one of them missing for more than four years. Their safe return is boosting the hopes of other families, praying for the return of their own missing children.
Georgina DeJesus was 14 when she vanished on the way home from school in Cleveland, Ohio. That was more than two years ago, almost three now. The miracle in Missouri has had an incredible effect on her family.
Her mother, Nancy Ruiz, joins us tonight from Cleveland.
Nancy, first of all, let -- let me say how terrible we feel about the fact that your daughter has gone missing. And we certainly hope that, one of these days, like these two boys, she comes home.
But I'm wondering, when you -- when you first heard about this miracle in Missouri, where did your thoughts, where did your emotions run to?
NANCY RUIZ, MOTHER OF TEEN MISSING SINCE 2004: It went -- it went straight for the parents, for the children's parents, because I'm in their -- I'm in their shoes.
It was so ecstatic. It was so -- the happiness that our hearts filled up for them, for me, because it gives me the chance to have that hope that my daughter also can come home.
In -- in terms of that hope, is there ever a point -- or has there ever been a point in the last three years where -- where hope has diminished, or -- or you even came close to losing hope?
ROBERTS: You have always thought to yourself that, one day, Gina is going to come home?
ROBERTS: So, when you look at the parents, and -- and you know what they have gone through, help us out here. Give us a little bit of an idea of -- of just what a parent goes through in a situation like that. What have you and your family gone through?
RUIZ: A lot. It's -- it's our -- it's the worst nightmare that could happen to any parent.
It's -- I mean, it's like you want to stop breathing, you want to stop eating, because you don't have your child next to you.
ROBERTS: And what keeps you going through all of that?
RUIZ: The hope and faith that she -- that I know she's going to come walking through my front door any day.
ROBERTS: And the lesson that we can take from the -- the case of these two missing boys is that one tiny little piece of evidence, even four years later, can turn this case around. It was -- it was the young classmate of -- of Ben Ownby's, who saw that truck speeding away from the scene where Ben Ownby went missing.
Do you hold on to hope that maybe just one piece of evidence will come the way of the investigators, and that's going to bring Gina home?
RUIZ: Yes, because we do believe that somebody saw something that day. And they need to come forward. But it's...
RUIZ: But it's just that missing piece that we need.
ROBERTS: What has the FBI told you about her -- her disappearance and I don't want to say her possible whereabouts, but the circumstances surrounding her kidnapping?
RUIZ: At first, it was very hard, but they came up, and they said that she was abducted. They gave us -- they went in percentage, and they said that 97 percent was family. Three percent was stranger.
ROBERTS: So, there's -- there's a -- a very good chance, almost 100 percent, that somebody she knows...
ROBERTS: ... was her abductor?
ROBERTS: Now, you don't conduct active searches for her anymore, but how -- how -- how do you keep the search alive?
RUIZ: We try to always get the picture out. We still do take out flyers. We try -- we do -- we do everything we can in our power just to keep it out there, to keep it alive.
ROBERTS: And do you believe she's still alive?
ROBERTS: Well, Nancy, again, our heart goes out to you. Our hearts go out to you.
I know how difficult it must be. And -- and we wish you all the best. And we hope that, one day, Gina comes back in that front door.
Nancy Ruiz, thanks very much for joining us. Appreciate it.
RUIZ: Thank you.
ROBERTS: The Missouri cases are helping to expose dramatic facts about child abduction in America. Take a look at these figures from the Justice Department for the year 2005.
Nearly 800,000 children younger than 18 were reported missing. That's more than 2,000 every day. And, while many were taken by family members in custody disputes, more than 58,000 were abducted by strangers or by other non-relatives.
More than 100 were victims of the worst-case scenario, taken for long periods of time and sometimes held for ransom. Nearly half of those children were never seen alive again, which is why the Missouri case is so extraordinary.
For more on that, let's go to Jeanne Meserve now, who joins us from the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children in Alexandria, Virginia.
Good evening, Jeanne.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John.
The center takes about 600 calls a day, reports of missing kids, tips from people who think they might have seen them. And their success rate has skyrocketed from about 62 percent in 1990 to 96 percent today.
Joann Donnellan joins us now, director of communications for the center.
Why this incredible increase in the success rate?
JOANN DONNELLAN, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS, NATIONAL CENTER FOR MISSING AND EXPLOITED CHILDREN: You know, Jeanne, technology has revolutionized the way that we help find children across the country.
With the advent of the Internet, we can develop posters and shoot that out worldwide within seconds. As -- before that, we were using the mail system, Amber Alerts. More than 300 children have been found because -- using radio and television to saturate a community with the pertinent information about the crime, engaging the public. They're helping to bring children home today.
MESERVE: But there are still some kids who aren't home. Let's took a -- talk about...
MESERVE: ... some of these cases.
DONNELLAN: Let's take a look.
We have Avery Stately, who is 2 years old, and his half-brother, Tristan White. They're missing from Lake -- Red Lake, Minnesota. And they went missing back in November.
They live on a -- an Indian reservation. You know, we really don't have too many leads, because they just sort of vanished.
MESERVE: Just vanished?
DONNELLAN: Just vanished.
MESERVE: These are young kids. You have older kids, too, of course.
DONNELLAN: We do. The next one is 15-year-old Coreen Wiese. She is missing from Buxton, Maine. She went missing in November. And no one has seen her. She was at her school. That was the last time that -- that anyone saw her.
MESERVE: So often, people see a teenager missing and think, ah, runaway. Can you cross that out in a case like this?
DONNELLAN: No. You know, we need to believe that she's in danger, and everyone needs to search for her. There -- there's nothing that tells us otherwise. So, we need the public's help.
MESERVE: This recent case, Elizabeth Smart, too, cases where kids were being hidden in plain sight, are there certain things that people in a community should look out for to try and detect these kids in their midst?
DONNELLAN: Well, a few things.
If you see a school-age child who is home alone, who is not going to school, you know, that's a red flag. They could have trust issues. They could be fearful. They may not want to talk about the history. They also may not want to invite other kids to their home.
And, also, maybe a mother who has a baby, and she's never spoken once about adoption, or she's never been pregnant -- those are just a few signs.
MESERVE: Joann, I think John has a question for you -- John.
ROBERTS: Joann, I'm just -- I'm just wondering, in a -- in a case like this, where Shawn Hornbeck was actually asked by friends if he was Shawn Hornbeck, because fliers with his photo had been distributed in the neighborhood where he was living, and -- and he denied it, if -- if we hadn't had this break in the case with Ben Ownby being kidnapped, and -- and that -- that classmate seeing that pickup truck speeding away, could you have ever hoped to have identified Shawn Hornbeck and gotten him back to his family?
DONNELLAN: We always have hope, John. That is the one message here at the center. We never close a case until we get some sort of resolution.
So, whether they're gone, you know, a day, a week, five years, 10 years, we distribute information. We saturate communities. We work with law enforcement every day on every case here. So, we don't give up on hope. And we would hope that we would find Shawn by all the methods that we have, in terms of helping law enforcement to do that...
ROBERTS: And -- and...
DONNELLAN: ... and to help these families.
ROBERTS: And was this really a case of the community being alert, as opposed to a national program? I mean, it seems as though this was very local.
DONNELLAN: Yes, absolutely.
Again, we get back to the Amber Alert issue, engaging the public to help. We want, you know, regular citizens to know that they can do extraordinary things by paying attention, by getting involved, looking at missing-child posters.
John, we know one out of six kids are found through our photo distribution center, because someone took the time to take a look at the picture, recognize that child, and called the police.
So, that eagle-eyed high -- classmate of Ben helped get information about that truck. And, you know, every citizen has the potential to bring a child home.
ROBERTS: All right.
MESERVE: Joann, thanks so much.
And I should mention, John, still, 4,000 kids, open cases here.
ROBERTS: Yes, I mean, too many. One is too many.
Jeanne Meserve and Joann, thanks so much. We will be coming back to you a little bit later on in this hour.
A Tennessee man knows the heartache of having a missing child. But that's only part of the reason why he put Shawn Hornbeck's picture on the hood of his race car -- coming up, a story of amazing generosity.
ROBERTS: More now of our special hour, "The Miracle in Missouri."
As you have seen, the case of the two missing boys was cracked by one simple clue, an observant student who just happened to notice a white truck in the area right around the time that his schoolmate, Ben Ownby, vanished last Monday.
That break is boosting the hopes of other parents praying for their own miracle, including a family in Tennessee with a surprising connection to the Shawn Hornbeck case.
Here's Rusty Dornin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First birthday.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, that was her first birthday.
RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the Tuders family, life has been filled with agonizing uncertainty. Their 13- year-old daughter, Tabitha, disappeared after leaving for school from her Nashville home in 2003.
Then, the incredible news: Two kidnapped boys had been found in Missouri. Craig Akers' stepson, Shawn Hornbeck, was discovered safe, along with another missing boy, Ben Ownby -- the alleged kidnapper, Michael Devlin, jailed on a $1 million bond.
Here in Nashville, the reaction was electric.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then, I -- I just burst out in tears. I just cried. I was so happy for that family.
DORNIN: An emotional response for a family that shares a special bond with reunited father Craig Akers. Just weeks after Tuders' daughter was reported missing, Akers showed up...
CRAIG AKERS, STEPFATHER OF SHAWN HORNBECK: What's in there, huh? Nothing? Good boy.
DORNIN: ... search dog in hand, eager to help. At that time, in 2003, his own child had been missing for more than six months.
CRAIG AKERS, STEPFATHER OF SHAWN HORNBECK: Now, as soon as I heard that they needed help, we dropped everything and headed here.
DORNIN: The Tuders were so grateful, they put a picture of the Akers son, Shawn, on the hood of the family's race car. They're taking special note that it took just one witness remembering a truck to lead investigators to the two boys.
IRVIN "BO" TUDER, FATHER OF MISSING TEENAGER: Maybe we can get that one vital piece of information that we need and we can get Tabitha back, just be reunited with her like Shawn's reunited with his parents.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I kept all of her animals and stuff in places where she had put them. I pretty well keep it the same.
DORNIN: Home for Tabitha Tuders would be this room, which her parents have kept just as she left it nearly four years ago. Outside, a banner hangs over their front porch, letting everyone who passes by know about the empty space in this home.
But Craig Akers' words this past weekend have inspired a family that has been in limbo for a very long time.
AKERS: That's one of the primary reasons that we wanted to do this today, to give some of that fuel to some of the other parents that are in this situation, to let them know that miracles do happen, good things can happen, they don't always end bad.
TUDER: Any kind of hope is better than no hope at all. She could be found. She could be found tomorrow. Nobody knows when she's going to be found.
DORNIN: When a miracle does happen, it gives renewed hope to families like the Tuders that maybe, just maybe, they might be next. Rusty Dornin, CNN, Atlanta.
ROBERTS: Well even after the headlines and the camera crews fade away, most parents never give up the hope of finding a missing child. You heard that from Nancy Ruiz (ph).
Mark Klaas has dedicated much of his life to helping parents search for their children. His daughter Polly was abducted from her home and killed back in 1993. Her killer was eventually sentenced to death. Mark Klaas established the KlaasKids Foundation in her memory and he joins us tonight.
Mr. Klaas, as you've seen by that story about the Tuders, this miracle in Missouri has had such an extraordinary impact on the families of missing children who are hoping that one day, their missing child will come home. But really how realistic is that hope when a child has been gone for months on end? How often do they come back?
MARK KLAAS, KLAASKIDS FOUNDATION: Well, it's becoming more realistic all the time, don't you believe? I mean, we're seeing children return because of the Amber Alert. We have developed the poster distribution system through the Internet at Beyond Missing, that was quite frankly copied by others.
And we know that the technologies are better than they were before. We have a much better understanding about the issue than we did before. Law enforcement has protocols. There's better legislation. Media has stepped up to the plate. So more and more, we're going to see more and more children recovered as a result of these situations.
Remember John, the children that are murdered as a result of a predatory abduction are going to be dead within a couple of hours. If they survive that first few hours, the chances of a recovery and survival I think are very great.
ROBERTS: Mr. Klaas, you talked to Ben Ownby's father a couple days after his disappearance. What did you tell him?
KLAAS: Actually, I spoke to Ben's uncle. And what I told them is that, you know, what they might start doing is considering this for the long term. Understanding they don't have to get up every morning and try to reinvent the wheel, but to put together a six-week plan or a two-month plan and work out three different things every week that they can do to redraw attention to the case.
Because the thing that's key is keeping his face out there, making sure he's human and, you know, regenerating interest in it on a regular basis. Then if they were to do that and start planning it out well in advance they were to do that and start planning it out well in advance, that they would then be able to get up every morning knowing exactly what they had to do and they would be able to move forward much more effectively. ROBERTS: I just can't imagine how difficult that process must be. We mentioned earlier tonight that that one critical little piece of evidence is what broke this case wide open. Do you see that as really being a textbook case of community involvement here?
KLAAS: Well, I think that the great lessons of this case are, No. 1, the thing that Craig Akers, who is a marvelous advocate himself, has pointed out. That you should never give up hope. That you should always keep hope alive. And No. 2, law enforcement has to follow-up on every piece of evidence that's given to them or every lead that's given to them because you never know what innocuous piece of information is going to turn a case and change lives forever.
ROBERTS: And what do you think about Shawn Hornbeck? Can he ever return to a normal life? You met with Elizabeth Smart last summer. What was your impression of her and how do you think that might translate to this case?
KLAAS: Well, isn't she lovely? I mean, she really is. And I think just like Elizabeth, who seems to be doing very, very well, Shawn also now represents the hope of a generation, at least as far as missing children go.
And I believe what Shawn needs right now is love from his family, and support from his community and I think he needs inner strength to be able to understand that it's not his fault. The things that have happened to him, happened to him. And they weren't caused by him. And then he's going to need some pretty intensive, probably psychotherapy in order to get through this. But I think, you know, kids are resilient. Elizabeth made it. I think he'll make it as well.
ROBERTS: Well, I'm sure he's going to get all that help, no question about it. Mark Klaas, thanks very much for being with us, appreciate your time, sir.
KLAAS: Thank you, sir.
ROBERTS: Critics say that race plays too big a role in the media's coverage of missing children. In just a minute, we'll take a look at who makes the news and who doesn't if they've gone missing.
ROBERTS: The rescue of two missing boys in Missouri is miraculous. But when stories of missing children grab headlines, it seems like we hear almost exclusively about missing white kids. The numbers don't seem to add up. According to one estimate, a third of missing children reports in the year 2005 were of African-American children. We asked Dan Lothian to look into the race factor and the coverage of missing kids.
EUREKA SCALES, MOTHER OF MISSING GIRL: I want my daughter to come home. I miss everything of her. I miss her growing up. I'm missing her school, I'm missing all the holidays, her birthday.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's still painful for Eureka Scales, more than five years after her daughter, Jacquilla, was abducted from her grandmother's Wichita, Kansas home. She was just four years old.
SCALES: Somebody had took her out of my grandmother's bed out the back door.
LOTHIAN: There was some local new coverage, but Scales says there's been no national appetite for her daughter's disappearance, nothing like what happened in the Elizabeth Smart case one year later.
Race, she believes, was a factor.
SCALES: And I was like, you know, my daughter is out there missing just like their daughter is up there missing. You know, their child is missing. Why can't they put her on a talk show?
LOTHIAN: Another African-American girl, 7-year-old Alexis Patterson disappeared on her way to school in Milwaukee in 2002. She has gotten some publicity, but has never become a household name, like Jessica Lunsford.
(on camera): Race and what role it may or may not play in getting attention for missing children has been going on for several years. Some are convinced that it's as clear as black and white, that color makes a difference in what's covered.
(voice-over): That thinking, in part, is the driving force behind this website devoted to missing black kids, the ones the site's creator says can't grab media attention.
KEONA WRIGHT, WEBSITE DESIGNER: Maybe it's the media think the public doesn't want to hear about the black children, which I don't think is true.
LOTHIAN: So if the public does want to hear not only about missing white children but also other minority groups like African- Americans and Hispanics, what is really going on?
DAVID FINKELHORN, DIR., CRIMES AGAINST CHILDREN RESEARCH CTR., UNH: It's more about social class and resources.
LOTHIAN: David Finkelhorn, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, says race may play a role but is not at the heart of this issue.
FINKELHORN: People who have savvy in that area, who know how to use the Internet, who can mobilize contacts and friends, who have money to spend, to take time off, I think they are able to get more attention.
LOTHIAN: Eureka Scales (ph) admits that her status, where she lives or other factors like major news stories can influence response. But race, she believes, was just another road block to getting her young daughter back home.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wake up and I go to sleep every night thinking about this. I mean, I'm stressing out. I'm depressed. I'm not happy because she's missing. And she's missing out of my heart. I want her to come home so bad. Just, you know, let her come home. Let's let her come home. I miss her so much.
LOTHIAN: Dan Lothian, CNN, Boston.
ROBERTS: And as you can see, everybody feels the pain.
Joining me now is Kristal Brent Zook, who writes for "Essence Magazine", teaches journalism at Columbia University and is the author of "Black Women's Lives: Stories of Power And pain".
You know, Gwen Ifill of PBS coined a phrase, Missing White Women Syndrome, MWWS. Do you believe there's a bias.
KRISTAL BRENT ZOOK, "ESSENCE MAGAZINE": Well, there's a proven bias. You know, there was a study last year that showed white children were about 53 percent of those missing. But in some news outlets, they were 76 percent of the stories that were covered.
ROBERTS: So what drives it?
BRENT ZOOK: Well, it's a combination, as your guest said earlier. you know, it's also class issue. It's a social class issue. We don't see the teenagers with missing teeth who wandered off from a trailer park. I mean, there are many, many issues that get in the way of, you know, us saying, "Well, that's a sexy story, that's a glamorous story, that's a story the American public wants to hear about."
But, you know, I believe that we're underestimating the public. I think people want to hear about all of the missing children no matter what their class, and I should add the missing senior citizens, many of whom wander off with Alzheimer's and you never see coverage of those.
ROBERTS: Sure, I mean, as we've seen, there are so many people that go missing. It's interesting to point out, though, that there wasn't a whole lot of national coverage about Shawn Hornbeck's case. A couple or three articles, maybe television stories about it until what happened on Friday came to pass.
BRENT ZOOK: Right. Because it's, you know, a happy ending story. It's a success story. And everyone loves those. And it's a feel-good story.
But, you know, I think we could do better. I think that we have a responsibility as journalists to dig. I mean, that's our job, to be a little more creative rather than just following the pack like a herd of sheep and telling the same story. I think there are a lot of kids out there that we'd want to hear about. ROBERTS: There was a lot of coverage, though, of a couple of kids in Milwaukee last spring. Quadrevion Henning and Purvis Parker, who went missing. It was believed that they were kidnapped. It turned out a month later their bodies were found. They had tragically drowned in an accident in a pond. So there's an example of African- American children getting the national attention.
BRENT ZOOK: Right. It's very rare. You know, and this is where local media is so important. People forget a lot of these cases get the vast majority of their coverage from the local papers. So we have to ask how -- why -- how does the story cross over and become national news where others don't?
ROBERTS: Right. And there was one story that you wrote about in "Essence", about Tamika Huston, a girl from Spartanburg, South Carolina who had gone missing. It wasn't until "America's Most Wanted" picked up her story and hired a locksmith to look at this key that it broke open, despite all the local coverage that it was getting.
BRENT ZOOK: Right. And you know what's interesting about that story is Tamika Houston's aunt was -- is a publicist. And she is -- she was vigilant in contacting the media news outlets. She didn't get any attention for her story. So, you know, when "Essence" covered it it was really, I think, the first time that you saw a full spread of coverage about just African-American women. We had maybe seven women who were missing.
ROBERTS: Well, it would be great if we could cover every missing child that's out there. But perhaps the media does need to do a better job.
Thank you very much, Kristal. Appreciate you time.
BRENT ZOOK: Thank you.
ROBERTS: As we've seen, it only takes one clue to break open a mystery and bring a missing child home. Coming up, the incredible story of how a mother was able to track down her daughter even though she was 5,000 miles away.
Stay with us.
ROBERTS: We're focussing tonight on the Missouri miracle, the amazing story of those two missing boys who were found safe over the weekend outside of St. Louis. One of them had been missing for four years. All that time his parents never gave up hope.
And the same is true for the mother that you're about to meet. Her daughter was gone five years before they were finally reunited, thanks to one of those missing child flyers that you see every day.
Susan Candiotti has that story
ELKE HOERSCHER, MOTHER: I never gave up hope, never.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For five years this Florida mother kept a diary of her search for her daughter.
HOERSCHER: And they got 320 leads. Please, God, let there be one that leads us to you.
CANDIOTTI: One lead did. It came from a flyer, the kind you get in your mailbox and all too often, barely give a glance.
DET. TIM WATLEY, DEL RAY BEACH, FLORIDA: That's it. That's the flyer that went out that, you know, broke the case.
CANDIOTTI (on camera): How many of these were sent out?
WATLEY: Eleven million.
CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Years later, Detective Tom Watley has saved that flyer like a trophy. Incredibly, one of the 11 million recipients, a stranger, recognized the blonde haired little girl from the missing child mailer. Police say she was kidnapped by her father and taken to Hawaii nearly 5,000 miles away. Her mother has asked that we mask her daughter's face and withhold her name because she doesn't want to reopen old wounds.
Before her daughter was found, police say no one in Hawaii knew the truth, certainly not the child. Police say she was told her mom abandoned her.
WATLEY: Well, I think children are so impressionable. And you have one of two parents telling you a story. And, you know, when you're four and five and six years old, anything your parent tells you is the truth.
CANDIOTTI: In Missouri, it's not yet been disclosed what Shawn Hornbeck was told after he allegedly was kidnapped by a stranger and not heard from for your years.
When her father was arrested in Hawaii, police say first his 11 year-old daughter was frightened for him.
WATLEY: You could see the trauma.
CANDIOTTI: Her mother had to convince her daughter she had never abandoned to her.
HOERSCHER: I called her shots (ph).
CANDIOTTI (on camera): What does that mean?
HOERSCHER: It's like an expression, like "Honey" in English.
CANDIOTTI: And she said?
HOERSCHER: She said, "Yes, Mama, Mommy."
CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Therapy began as soon as mother and daughter were reunited. Police say John Bryant (ph) was convicted of parental kidnapping and is now on probation.
For other parents of missing children, Detective Watley has this advice:
WATLEY: You don't give up. You can never give up.
CANDIOTTI: As for those missing child postcards:
(on camera): What do you like to tell people who just consider this junk mail, these flyers?
WATLEY: It's not junk mail. It's somebody's child.
CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Susan Candiotti, CNN, Delray Beach, Florida.
ROBERTS: Well, we're about to go back to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in just a minute for some life-saving advice. If the unthinkable happens and your child disappears, do you have the vital information that authorities will need most urgently? This special hour of PAULA ZAHN NOW is just the start of CNN's prime- time coverage of the miracle in Missouri. The story continues on "LARRY KING LIVE" and "ANDERSON COOPER 360." Stay with us throughout the evening.
ROBERTS: Welcome back. During our special hour, we have seen the heartbreak, the hope and the hard statistics behind child abduction. But there are things that every parent needs to know to protect their child. For that, let's go back to Jeanne Meserve. She's at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Alexandria, Virginia. Hey, Jeanne.
MESERVE: Hey, John. Every time there is one of these high- profile abductions, it puts fear into the heart of every parent. But the experts say there are some things that you can do.
One, trust your kids. Teach your kids, rather, to trust their instincts. If they're in a situation that feels uncomfortable, tell them to get out of them. They do say that you should talk about safety with your kids. And if possible, go through what-if scenarios. What would you do in certain kinds of situations?
They say that parents should have on hand detailed descriptions of their child, including their height and weight. And every couple of months, you should take color photographs of your children. Also, you should know how to locate their dental and medical records.
If your child does go missing, the experts say it is imperative that you act quickly. If you cannot find your child with a quick search, immediately contact local law enforcement and fill them into this situation. Also, request that your child's name and information immediately be entered in the National Crime Information Center missing person file.
Joining me again is Joann Donnellan. Thanks so much again.
It used to be that we were told, don't talk to strangers. That was the rule. Is that still the rule for kids?
DONNELLAN: You know, Jeanne, we've been trying to dispel the myth of stranger danger for years. We know that most children are taken by someone they know. It can be the teacher, the coach, the neighbor, the baby-sitter. And plus, children don't understand the concept of stranger. You and I talk to strangers all the time when we go to the grocery store.
MESERVE: Another question. Technology. There are new things being marketed, supposedly, to keep your kids safe, even including chips that can be implanted in children. What do you think of those technologies?
DONNELLAN: You know, Jeanne, there are a lot of issues surrounding this technology, both legal and scientific. What we do know is that there is no substitute for supervision. And we encourage all parents to take a proactive role in protecting their children and educating them about the rules of safety.
MESERVE: Is it hard to do? Is it hard to approach kids about this issue and not terrify them?
DONNELLAN: No, it's easy. All you have to do is say, we want to do some role-playing. What would happen? The what-ifs.
You know, we live in an age where all of this is played out on television. Parents see this; kids see this today. So you need to be honest and open, and just sit down with your children and say, you know, listen, if you feel uncomfortable, we want you to get out of that situation. Know that you have the right to say no.
We need to do a better job of building self-esteem and self- confidence in our children, so they can get away in these uncomfortable situations.
MESERVE: Self-esteem, why is that so important?
DONNELLAN: Self-esteem because they need to believe in their instincts. You just said it, right on the head, that trusting the instincts. They're with someone, it makes them feel uncomfortable, they need to get out of there.
MESERVE: Joann, thanks so much.
John, I'm going to send it right back to you.
MESERVE: All right, Jeanne Meserve, at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, along with Joann Donnellan. Thanks.
CNN's prime-time coverage of the miracle in Missouri continues at the top of the hour on a special edition of "LARRY KING LIVE." Among Larry's guests are Ed Smart and John Walsh, two fathers who endured the kidnapping of their children.
ROBERTS: And that's all for tonight. Tomorrow, Paula will be in Durham, North Carolina at Duke University for an "Out in the Open" special. Join her at 8:00 p.m. Eastern for "The Duke Assault Case: The Question of Race."
And now, CNN's prime-time coverage of the miracle in Missouri continues with "LARRY KING LIVE."
I'm John Roberts for Paula Zahn. Thanks for joining us.
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