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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Freddie Get Ready; Killer Bug; State of New Orleans; Killer Priest?

Aired May 30, 2007 - 23:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome. You're watching the only live newscast on cable right now.
Tonight, a big new sign that actor and former Senator Fred Thompson is getting closer to a run for the White House.

Also tonight, the search for people who may have been exposed to a deadly strain of tuberculosis. And new details on the lawyer who may have spread it halfway around the world.

And a spelling bee contestant's very last chance to W-I-N before he gets too old to compete.

First, word that Fred Thompson will begin hiring staff and raising money towards a run for the White House. He's not yet running, not even walking exactly, but he's standing tall as far as the public is concerned. Third among GOP candidates in our latest poll.

Oh, and in addition to appearing virtually around the clock on "Law and Order," he can also be seen playing a president, Ulysses S. Grant, in a made-for-TV movie.

More on real life, though, from CNN's Candy Crowley.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's taking on the feel of a political striptease, inch by inch he's getting there and the audience cheers him on.

STATE SENATOR JOHN HAWKINS (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think he's got the experience. I think he's got the character. I think he's got the gravitas. And I think he's the guy we need.

CROWLEY: Sources close Fred Thompson say he's ready to start raising money and putting together a staff for a possible presidential run. It's called testing the waters.

Basically, the former Senator and "Law and Order" actor is not quite a candidate, but he plays one on the campaign trail.

FRED THOMPSON (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: And I think the American people are looking for somewhere to go. And we've got to give them somewhere to go.

Great to be here with so many...

CROWLEY: In less than a month, he's given three speeches to political groups. He does a daily Internet podcast, recently taking on the immigration bill and Michael Moore. He's a regular blogger of all things political.

Even not running, perhaps because he's not running, Thompson runs third in the polls.

WILLIAM BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Fred fills a gap in the imagination. Whether once he gets in if he gets in, under scrutiny he still satisfies, remains to be scene.

CROWLEY: Though seen as a mostly reliable conservative on social and fiscal issues, Thompson's Senate record shows an independent streak, occasionally running up against party orthodoxy.

His popularity is seen as a reflection of dissatisfaction among Republicans with the 10 people already in the race, especially the upper tier, where McCain is criticized as too much of a maverick to be trusted, Romney is too much of a flip-flopper and Giuliani is too liberal on social issues.

On a cool night of baseball in New Hampshire, it's not hard to find some wishful thinking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like Fred Thompson.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm rooting for Fred Thompson to get in there, I think, because I think for core values that I stand for, he is the most like them.

CROWLEY: At the very least, the Thompson flirtation indicates that conservatives are not convinced they found the perfect date.

BENNETT: There's this sense that someone else needs to step in or it would be a great thing if someone else stepped in, and Fred seems to be where that light is now.

CROWLEY: The truth is, this shadow campaign is working rather well, but with 10 candidates already in the field, competition is fierce for money and staff. Sooner, rather than later, the tease has to stop.

Did you catch the final moments of the "Law and Order" season?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "LAW AND ORDER")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm no politician, Arthur.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Everybody says that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Friends believe Fred Thompson will officially announce his presidential candidacy sometime in July. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Joining us for more on Fred Thompson's chances in '08 are Candy Crowley and CNN's Chief National Correspondent John King.

Candy, who's hurt most by a Thompson candidacy?

CROWLEY (on camera): Look, there's a finite amount of money, a finite amount of top staff. Everybody gets hurt in this.

Thompson's coming in at a time when the field is still pretty unsettled. He draws from Rudy Giuliani, he draws from John McCain. He draws from Mitt Romney in varying ways.

COOPER: Who -- John, is anybody helped by a Thompson candidacy besides Thompson?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's myth of Thompson right now, Anderson. He is helped in that he has star power, he's freezing the race. But the big question is, once he actually gets in, if he gets in, and we're told fundraising committee next week, a formal declaration of candidacy right after July 4th.

Then he's a politician again. He's not an actor, he's not a potential candidate. He's a candidate. And when you call around today, people say, I'm interested. I'm intrigued. But I want to hear what he says on abortion. I want to hear what he says on immigration. I want to hear what he says on stem cell research. So the gloss comes off, the glow comes off pretty quickly once you're a candidate.

COOPER: But, Candy, as John mentioned, the gloss comes off, but he consistently right now is polling third behind Giuliani and McCain, ahead of Romney. Has his acting career helped that? And going forward, does the acting career help or does it backfire?

CROWLEY: Sure, no, no, I mean it absolutely helps.

Number one, what do you have to do in politics but communicate? What is acting but communicating in one way or another. It gives him name recognition. That's a lot of why you're seeing this number three in the polls. So it certainly helps.

Now, you know, it wouldn't help if he'd only been an actor. He was in the U.S. Senate for eight years. That record will be gone over. But in terms of the skills that you bring to acting, many of them the same that you bring to politics.

COOPER: John, he was also a former lobbyist for many, many years for some major corporations. That's not necessarily a positive in an age where people are looking at corruption.

KING: No, it isn't. And look what has happened to Rudy Giuliani. People have looked at his business interest, the people he has associated with and they're looking at all those records. And certainly if Senator Thompson gets in, he will run through the same thing. They are putting together, though Anderson, a pretty impressive group of people. Some of them go back to the Ronald Reagan days, some George H.W. Bush, Mary Matalin (ph) who most recently worked for Dick Cheney and the Bush White House.

Remember, Fred Thompson not only helped "Scooter" Libby, the vice president's former chief of staff, raised money for his defense, he stood up publicly for him. So there are a number of people in the Bush political operation who like him and respect him for that. So he's putting together a pretty good team that should help him fight off that scrutiny.

But that's a key point. Everything he has done, whether it's in the Senate, whether it's in Hollywood, whether it's in a lobbying or legal practice, will be looked at once he crosses the line and is a real candidate.

COOPER: And Candy, do we know how he is planning to position himself?

CROWLEY: Well, he's going to position himself the way everyone else is trying to do, and that is to get at those conservative Republican voters. That is the bulk of the primary voter for the Republican Party.

So he has already positioned himself as a man with conservative credentials, although he has some maverick streaks that are going to come up when they start to study that Republican record in the U.S. Senate.

So he will position himself as the conservative-conservative. When you look at Rudy Giuliani, he's the man as seen as too liberal on social issues. You look at Mitt Romney, he's the man criticized for flip-flopping. You look at John McCain, he's seen as the maverick that can't always be trusted on conservative issue.

So what Thompson will seek to do is sort of move in there as the solid conservative.

COOPER: Thompson opposes civil unions, but says it should be left up to the states. He also obviously opposes abortion rights.

John, Republican Strategist Scott Reed said, quote, "Thompson is a credible conservative. He has a strong voting record. He has strong, almost Reagan-esque communication skills. And like Reagan, he believes in an ideological agenda in an undiluted way."

The American Conservative Union gave him, I think an 86 rating. They gave McCain an 82. Is he a guy who can rally conservatives around him?

KING: He is. I was talking to some pro-family, social conservatives, call them what you will, today who say he seems right on abortion, seems right on gay rights. They want to know where he stands on embryonic stem cell research. His campaign aides say that they're still fleshing out their position, but that it should satisfy conservatives.

Look, Anderson, he is trying to position himself as the heir to Ronald Reagan at a time when the Republican Party has a president right now who is very unpopular. The candidates don't mention George W. Bush much, only when they're talking about the Iraq war.

What Fred Thompson wants to do is try to say in this race, we've had the White House for eight years. Everyone thinks the Democrats are going to win it because of the war in Iraq, because of the president's unpopularity. I can communicate, like Candy said, I can win the White House. That is his main message. These other guys are OK, but I'm better. And that is his big hope, to convince Republicans he can keep the White House in GOP hands.

COOPER: Candy Crowley, John King, thanks.

Well, the presidential candidates will face off in debates starting this weekend on CNN. We'll be in New Hampshire on Sunday, June 3rd, for the Democrats and next Tuesday, June 5th, for the Republicans.

Now, the Atlanta lawyer with a potentially deadly drug resistant form of TB. He was told not to travel, but he insisted on flying halfway around the world for his wedding and his honeymoon.

He also refused to get immediate treatment when he was told to in Rome. Flying instead to Prague, then Montreal, and driving back into the U.S.

Now he's under federally ordered medical isolation, the first kind of case in more than 40 years.

Authorities are trying to contact people who got closest to him on his longest flights. They estimate that number is about 80 people. The patient, meantime, may be flown at some point to a hospital in Denver that specializes in treating extensively drug resistant TB.

I talked about the case earlier tonight with 360 M.D. Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: A lot of attention being given to this TB scare. Put it into perspective for us. Is it being overblown?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I don't think it's being overblown, necessarily.

I think the risk to the average person out there listening, the risk to the average person in Atlanta, and even on those planes is very, very small. But this is a potentially very, very big problem for a very small number of people.

You know, when you talk about these infectious diseases, you're talking about something that can be potentially deadly, but, in this case, won't affect many people. You know, we have been doing a lot of homework, a lot of investigating on this today, Anderson, looking into, specifically, has tuberculosis, for example, ever been transmitted on an airplane from one passenger to another?

The World Health Organization actually released a statement specifically on that specific topic, saying this, that no case of clinical or bacteriologically confirmed TB disease has been identified as a result of air travel-related exposure during flight.

So, there you have it. It's never happened before. And I should point out, with this -- what's called XDR-TB, vs. -- vs. normal TB, there's no increased risk of being contagious.

Anderson, a lot has been made of these airplane flights. I have been trying to put this in a little bit of perspective myself, just to give you a sense. If you look at these airplane charts, trying to figure out where this man was specifically sitting, we know that he was sitting somewhere near the back of the plane -- a little bit hard to put out there, but look for that red dot there. You can see that in one of the rows back there.

In someone who had tuberculosis, a couple of rows in front or back may be affected, as you can see there. Now, the reason they -- they say that is because the -- the bacteria is pretty heavy, so it's really not going to travel much further than that.

With SARS, for example, look at all those rows that light up. People were very concerned about SARS, as you will remember, Anderson, a couple of years ago. It's a much lighter bacteria. It travels much quicker. So, that makes a bigger difference, Anderson.

But I -- I think, again, for the average person, there's really no concern here.

COOPER: So, if -- if he's not that contagious, and the risk of transmission is so low, why is he being kept under isolation?

GUPTA: Well, you know, it's one of these things in medicine where you -- you -- you hope for the best, and you prepare for the worst. And I think that that's exactly what is happening here. We know that he has this potentially very bad problem, this XDR- TB, that can be spread. We think the likelihood of spread is very small, based on a couple of things.

One is that it didn't appear that he was very sick. And, you know, you have to actually cough or sneeze or get this bacteria out in the air for someone to actually catch it, or -- or for it -- for the person to be contagious.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: So, breathing in and out is not enough?

GUPTA: What's that?

COOPER: Breathing in and out is not enough?

GUPTA: No. I mean, if you're just breathing in and out, you're probably not going to actually move the bacteria from your lungs out into the air, which brings up a good point.

They did this what is called a smear test or a sputum test, looking at what he was spitting out, if you will. And they didn't find any evidence of the bacteria there. It means it's very deep in his lungs, Anderson.

COOPER: So, I mean, I know, next time I'm going to get on a flight, this is going to be in the back of my mind. Is there anything you can do when you're on a flight to just lower the risk of getting any kind of communicable disease?

GUPTA: You know, this is something that people ask me about all the time. And I was actually curious about it as well, so we did quite a bit of examining of this today.

It's interesting. On airplane flights, for example, there are some things you can do. First of all, the -- the high doses of vitamin C and all that, that doesn't seem to work. People spend a lot of money on that. It doesn't seem to make a difference, in terms of catching a cold or something else.

But there are some things you can do with regards to air on the plane. If you look at the way people breathe in air, there -- there's actually vents above you, and then there's intake valves below you. Half the air on an airplane is actually from interior and half is actually coming from outside the plane. So, it's actually pretty good circulation.

You can ask the pilot to turn on the air pack, for example, which will actually give constant circulation of outside air. You can also put a tank from above you -- that costs a little bit of extra money -- to get your own air.

Stay as hydrated as possible. Keep the mucous membranes wet. That makes you less likely to actually catch anything. Wash your hands, as well, Anderson, obviously.

COOPER: All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Just ahead on the program, the mayor of New Orleans speaks out. Tonight almost two years since Katrina hit and the levees broke.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER (voice-over): First came catastrophe, then controversy.

MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: This city will be chocolate at the end of the day.

COOPER: Twenty months after Katrina, with the murder rate rising and the recovery still stalled, the mayor's new take on New Orleans.

NAGIN: We need help. We need fairness. And we need it now.

COOPER: She was beaten, raped and murdered. A suspect emerged early.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do you think you know who committed this murder?

JUAN TREVINO, MCALLEN POLICE DEPARTMENT: Yes.

TUCHMAN: Is there any doubt in your mind?

TREVINO: No.

COOPER: So why nearly half a century later has no one been charged? A cold case gets white hot tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER (on camera): Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath revisited today by New Orleans' Mayor Ray Nagin. The crescent city's CEO, delivering his first state of the city address since the deadly storm.

His message that NOLA is on the road to recovery, only marginally reassuring with the lower Ninth Ward and much of his city still mired in devastation and neglect. And Nagin, perhaps predictably, fingered Washington for most of the blame.

We're keeping them honest tonight with Gulf Correspondent Susan Roesgen in New Orleans -- Susan.

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, this is the prepared state of the city speech that the mayor read tonight. In this speech he touted things like cleaner streets since Hurricane Katrina, less trash in the city's famous French Quarter, higher pay for police recruits.

But he also tonight blames state bureaucracy for holding up money that the city needs to recover. And he also did blame the federal government, President Bush by name, for not following through on promises made to help the city.

Now that was all in this prepared script. But then the mayor went off the script and really got going.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: It's not our fault that the levees breached that the federal government built. It's not our fault that we were stranded and left. It's not our fault that the Road Home program only has issued 12 percent of the grants after almost two years. It's not our fault that our water system is leaking today. We need help. We need fairness. And we need it now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROESGEN: Now that really got the audience fired up. Almost all of them were invited guests of the mayor. But a couple people told me afterwards the mayor should do less blaming and more fixing.

So here is a reality check of where the city stands now, 21 months after Hurricane Katrina.

In terms of population, the latest statistics say we're at about 255,000. that's less than half of the pre-Katrina population.

FEMA trailers -- some 40,000 people in New Orleans still live in those FEMA trailers, down from 90,000 just after Hurricane Katrina hit.

Rebuilding -- the mayor mentioned that 12 percent for the Road Home program, said that was a really disappointingly low number. More than 140,000 people in Louisiana have applied for federal money through this Road Home program. And as we reported just a couple of nights ago, fewer than 20,000 people have actually gotten some money.

Health care -- just four out of eight New Orleans hospitals have reopened. And the number of beds is down by two-thirds since before Katrina.

And in terms of crime, outside of a hurricane, that is the one thing that is most scariest -- the scariest thing in this city right now is crime -- 78 murders so far. The latest was a cab driver who was shot to death just today, Anderson.

And Anderson, I talked to your friend, Captain Tony Canatello (ph), with the New Orleans Police Department. He says they're still down about 400 officers. Really need more people to fill that gap.

Tomorrow, the mayor's going to give his official hurricane plan for the city. But on that one, Anderson, you have to remember that the city still has not worked out a deal with Amtrak to get people with special needs out of town and they still don't have any firm commitments on shelters in the state, where people would go if they did evacuate.

COOPER: It's stunning that you say that about Amtrak because I mean, as you well know, that's one of the things, Amtrak offered up a train to the city the day before Hurricane Katrina hit, actually it was the Saturday before Katrina hit. Katrina hit on a Monday. The mayor's office declined that request for a 1,000-seat train. The train left empty from New Orleans. That could have taken out, you know, 1,000 people who were desperately in need. It's amazing that they don't have a deal yet.

ROESGEN: No, they still haven't crossed all the Ts and dotted all of the Is. The city's emergency director told me tonight that they would like to get that train to make like three different shuttle runs between New Orleans and Jackson, carrying 5,000 people out. But they can't go through with that until they get the actual agreement with Amtrak. COOPER: Unbelievable.

Susan, appreciate the reporting.

To get some further analysis on Mayor Nagin's address, I spoke earlier with Julia Reed, senior writer for "Vogue" magazine and a contributing editor at "Newsweek." She lives in New Orleans. We talked just after she heard Nagin speak.

By the way, you're going to hear some music in the background while she's speaking. It's coming for a reception for the mayor that was happening nearby.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Mayor Nagin says the state of the city of New Orleans is one of strength and determination. He said that he's got -- it's got stable and improving finances. What do you make of how he's saying things are?

JULIA REED, SENIOR WRITER, "VOGUE" MAGAZINE: Well, you know, we can only hope that we have stable and improving finances. I mean, the whole speech was one of slight exaggeration and optimism, but he didn't have a whole lot of good things to report as far as from his office because, you know, I've said it a lot, there are a lot of things to brag about in New Orleans recovery right now, but none of them emanate from the mayor's office and none of them have anything to do with him.

COOPER: The mayor talked about the state turning its back on New Orleans. Do you think that's true?

REED: Yes, I think that's absolutely true. It's the only point of his speech that I agreed with and wholeheartedly. And he really hammered it.

There's an unprecedented $3 billion surplus in Baton Rouge right now. The Road Home program, because of their mismanagement, is now $3 billion short. They could plunk the money into the Road Home program, they could plump it into health care services that we drastically need. We're talking about building new hospitals here, but that's going to take years and years. As this mayor said, we have a very serious shortage here in doctors and health care in general, but especially the mental health department. So the state should be thinking of ways to help us. So they've already forgotten about us.

COOPER: One of the things I'm struck by every time I still go back, is that it still seems to be boiling down to individuals standing up and making a difference and volunteers from church groups, from other parts of the country, and just the residents there, you know, saying enough is enough and banding together and doing stuff on their own. That seems to be the biggest sign of progress there. Is that accurate?

REED: That's absolutely accurate. And it's been a good thing because I -- you know, I complained before the storm that this city had the lowest level of civic activism and involvement than any big city I had ever been in. And it needed the most. So, the hurricane has turned that equation on its head and you've got citizens banning together.

The only neighborhoods that were really storm damaged that are rebuilding have done it on their own. I mean, the things that Ray touted the most in the speech was that we have a lemony fresh scented French Quarter. Well, I ain't so worried about how good the French Quarter smells. It's not supposed to smell good. It doesn't need to smell like a can of Pledge. I would rather like start to talking about, you know, what we can really do to fight crime around here.

I mean, you know, he announced his ongoing love for the city. He loves it more than ever. I don't know how he knows that because he is never here. He just got back from a globing warming conference.

I mean, even if you agree with Al Gore that global warming is the single worst problem facing the world, Ray is not the guy that needs to be addressing that right about now.

I mean, it's just ridiculous. So his speech was just, you know, isn't this wonderful, I love the city, everything is great, and Baton Route, you know, you're messing with us and turning your back on us. And, you know, end of the speech, saying it's not our fault, it's not our fault, it's not our fault. It was like a tent revival meeting.

Well, it wasn't our fault that we had a hurricane hit us, but you know, a lot of the problems here were exposed by the hurricane that has been the fault of elected officials and, you know, of sort of lazy citizenry for a long time.

The only good news in that speech tonight would have been if Ray Nagin announced his resignation. That would have brought the city into a collective standing ovation. I think he's got a 16 percent approval rating right now.

COOPER: Well, it certainly wasn't a surprise...

(CROSSTALK)

REED: Sadly, we re-elected him.

COOPER: It was an emotional way to end the speech. Certainly wasn't a surprise to hear politicians saying it's not our fault, it's not our fault, it's not our fault.

Hey, Julia, Julia Reed, appreciate it. We'll see you soon in New Orleans.

REED: Thank you so much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Just ahead on 360, tonight more than 40 years later, a murder mystery heats up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER (voice-over): She was beaten, raped and murdered. A suspect emerged early.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do you think you know who committed this murder?

JUAN TREVINO, MCALLEN POLICE DEPARTMENT: Yes.

TUCHMAN: Is there any doubt in your mind?

TREVINO: No.

COOPER: So why nearly half a century later has no one been charged? A cold case gets white hot tonight.

At the super bowl of spelling, a legend without a title, not yet. Now, for the fifth straight year he'll try again. His last chance to bag the bee, next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER (on camera): Tonight, a fascinating true crime story to tell you about.

It began a long time ago and it's far from over. It's about a one-time beauty queen. It's also about a former priest who stands accused of the unthinkable.

CNN's Gary Tuchman has our in-depth report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is John Feit. He's a retiree in Arizona -- married, children, former Catholic priest, still involved in Catholic charities. By all accounts, he's done much to help the unfortunate.

(on camera): My name's Gary Tuchman with CNN. I wanted to ask you about Irene Garza.

JOHN FEIT, FORMER PRIEST: Yes.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): But it's Irene Garza who keeps making John Feit's life complicated. Irene Garza, who has been in a grave for 47 years.

LYNDA DE LA VINA, IRENE GARZA'S COUSIN: Irene was my first cousin. My mother and her mother were sisters.

TUCHMAN: Irene's parents have passed away, but Lynda De La Vina and Noemi Sigler are both cousins.

NOEMI SIGLER, IRENE GARZA'S COUSIN: She was kind. She was a loyal daughter to her parents. She was very involved with the church. She was a staunch Catholic. DE LA VINA: She was Ms. South Texas. She was the first Hispanic drum majorette in McAllen High School. She was the Bronco Queen. She was somebody to look up to because she went to college. She finished college. She was successful in many ways.

TUCHMAN: On the day before Easter 1960, Irene Garza disappeared. The apparent abduction of the 25-year-old schoolteacher frightened the community of McAllen, Texas.

Police still hold the evidence discovered during the search, which includes Irene's petticoat, her handbag.

Five days after she disappeared, her body was found in a canal. Her death certificate declares, she had been raped, beaten on the head, and suffocated.

DE LA VINA: Everybody showed up from McAllen at the funeral. It was probably one of the hugest funerals I have ever seen.

TUCHMAN: Juan Trevino is with the McAllen Police Department's cold case squad.

(on camera): Do you think you know who committed this murder?

JUAN TREVINO, MCALLEN POLICE DEPARTMENT: Yes.

TUCHMAN: Who do you think committed this murder?

TREVINO: John Feit.

TUCHMAN: Is there any doubt in your mind?

TREVINO: No.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Officer Trevino has tried to interview Feit, but the former priest has refused to talk.

The opinion about Feit is shared by the Texas Rangers and also the victim's family.

(on camera): Who killed your cousin?

DE LA VINA: John Feit.

TUCHMAN: Of all the pieces of evidence in this case, this is one of the most key. This is a 1950s-era Kodak slide viewer. It was found near Irene Garza's body. Police say this slide viewer was owned by John Feit.

(voice-over): Sonny Miller was an investigator with the McAllen Police Department.

SONNY MILLER, RETIRED POLICE INVESTIGATOR: It could have been lying under her body in the car, and, when he pulled her out of the car to throw her in the canal, it just went with -- hung on her dress.

SIGLER: I believe there's a cover-up.

TUCHMAN: The family believes the district attorney back then and the one now protected Feit in order to protect the church.

Today's DA denies that.

RENE GUERRA, HIDALGO COUNTY, TEXAS, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I don't know why people don't want to let Irene Garza rest in peace, to be honest with you.

TUCHMAN: John Feit has always been considered the primary suspect by police. The night Irene Garza disappeared, she had come to this church in downtown McAllen.

In a statement to police shortly after the murder, Feit said he took her to one of the offices in the rectory. Feit said, she discussed a personal problem of hers with me.

Police also talked with a different priest who worked with Feit. Father Joseph O'Brien told authorities he noticed Father Feit's hands were injured. One hand had two or three scratches on it. The other was injured more seriously. One finger was swollen. And the rest of the hand had small cuts.

Interest in Feit intensified when police found out that the month before another woman had been attacked at another church in a nearby town.

The 20-year-old college student told police she went into the empty church and knelt at the communion rail. It was there she was attacked by a man with dark hair and horn-rimmed glasses.

She said she bit the man's fingers until she drew blood, and ran away. The next day, Tilly Sanchez, who was a secretary in the church, says she put a bandage on John Feit's finger.

(on camera): What did you say to him?

TILLY SANCHEZ, FORMER CHURCH SECRETARY: Who bit you? Who bite you? Your hand? And, of course, he -- you know, he -- he said, no, nobody bite me.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Sanchez told police about what she saw, and later told them about a phone call she received.

(on camera): And who did you think it was?

SANCHEZ: Father Feit, Father John Feit.

TUCHMAN: And what did he say?

SANCHEZ: He said, you're next. You're next, honey.

TUCHMAN: You're next?

SANCHEZ: You're next. And I said, what?

And he say, you are next.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Feit would fail lie-detector tests regarding the murder and the church assault.

In the polygraph report, Feit is quoted as saying, "Your machine is probably functioning correctly," but added, "I have a vague respiration and a bad heart. That's probably the explanation."

Feit ended up going to trial on the assault case, the jury voting 9-3 for conviction. But, because it wasn't unanimous, it was declared a mistrial. Rather than go through a second trial, Feit made a deal. He pleaded no contest, paid a $500 fine, and, while waiting to see if a murder charge might be filed, spent time with this man.

(on camera): So, you were a monk?

DALE TACHENY, FORMER MONK: I was a monk. Yes, sir.

TUCHMAN: Dale Tacheny was living in this monastery in Ava, Missouri, a life of solitude and piety. The Assumption Abbey Monastery still exists in a new building, the monks waking up every day at 3:15 a.m., spending their day in solemn contemplation and prayer.

But not all the faithful have come here on their own. In 1963, the Dale Tacheny says, the head of the monastery took him aside and said...

TACHENY: I have a priest in the guest house who committed a murder of a woman.

TUCHMAN: That priest, he says, is the same person who put this signature in the monastery guest book -- John Feit.

We caught up with Feit in Arizona.

(on camera): What do -- what do you know about her murder? Did you -- did you commit the murder of Irene Garza?

FEIT: Interesting question. The answer is no.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): But he did have more to say.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And you'll hear what more he has to say, coming up. He's not the only one talking, however. A monk, who says Feit confided in him, reveals what the former priest allegedly said about the murder of the young woman.

Plus, a young word whiz, who's tired of being an altaran (ph). He's had one last chance to take home the title of the national spelling bee. His story, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Before the break, we told you how a priest named John Feit became a prime suspect in the rape and murder of a young woman from Texas.

While the investigation into the crime was picking up steam, Feit was sent to a monastery far away. And it's there that he allegedly revealed his darkest secrets.

Once again, here's CNN's Gary Tuchman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TUCHMAN: The Assumption Abbey Monastery in Southern Missouri has been around for 57 years. When murder suspect John Feit was sent there in 1963, Monk Dale Tacheny says he was told to counsel him, because the church could deal with Feit better than the justice system.

(on camera): And what did he say? Do you remember what he said to you at first?

TACHENY: Well, I knew about the murder. So I asked him, and he would respond to questions I would ask him. Is it true? Yes, it's true. Well, what did he do? How did it come about?

Well, he heard the woman's confession in the priest house and, after the confession, he then subdued her and took part of her clothes off from the waist on up and then fondled her breasts.

TUCHMAN: The former monk says he didn't badger Feit about details, but says the priest told him he put something over the woman's head.

TACHENY: Before he left, he put Irene in the bathtub, and as he was closing the door of the bathroom, he heard her saying, I can't breathe. I can't breathe. But he left any way.

TUCHMAN: During his say here in Missouri at the monastery, John Feit went on a mission of sorts. Dale Tacheny says Feit was sent on a most unusual field trip, to churches in other cities, to see if he could go out in society and not attack women.

Feit was apparently successful. And after about six months living with the monks, he was permitted to leave and go on with his life.

(voice-over): Eight years later, Feit left the priesthood. Former Monk Tacheny says Feit was never remorseful or concerned.

TACHENY: I asked him one time, why are you here and not in prison?

And he said, I was protected by the church authorities and I believe I was protected by the legal authorities and by the confessional secrecy.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): But Dale Tacheny didn't tell police any of this until just a few years ago, when he says the guilt became too much about what he was concealing.

TACHENY: I told the people down in McAllen that I was sorry, that I was part of the cover-up for all these years.

TUCHMAN: Around the same time, Father John O'Brien, who had told police four decades earlier Feit had that hand injury, also started feeling guilty. He, too, told police that John Feit killed Irene Garza.

Irene's cousin tape recorded a phone conversation she had with Father O'Brien.

FATHER JOHN O'BRIEN, PRIEST: I think he took that cord and bound her with it.

SIGLER: OK. Oh, my goodness. And when in the world did he ever tell you that he killed Irene? Do you know?

O'BRIEN: Well, I sort of tricked him, to be honest with you.

SIGLER: At the church?

O'BRIEN: Yes. I told him, I said, how can I help you if I don't know the truth?

SIGLER: Yes.

O'BRIEN: So he told me the truth, and that was that.

TUCHMAN: Father O'Brien then continued.

O'BRIEN: I kept hitting him with questions.

SIGLER: Yes.

O'BRIEN: And he was -- kept saying this prayer in his prayer book.

SIGLER: Uh-huh.

O'BRIEN: And then finally he got tired of my questions and he came at me.

And I said, oh, this is great.

I said, one more step, I said, buddy, you're dead.

SIGLER: He came at you physically?

O'BRIEN: Yes. He knew he was going to lose so then he went right back to the prayer book. TUCHMAN: After more than 40 years, the case was active again. Police had the testimony of two religious men. They were anxious for D.A. Rene Guerra to bring what they regarded as a powerfully persuasive case to the grand jury. The D.A. tells us he's a tough law and order man.

RENE GUERRA, HIDALGO COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I wanted the person who perpetrated the crime to be found and hung, because I believed in hanging back then. I still believe in hanging and other things that we can to do people that are guilty of capital murder.

TUCHMAN: But Guerra sees the evidence in this case much differently. Father O'Brien, he says, was not a credible witness.

GUERRA: I felt that Father O'Brien was in a delicate state of mind and physical health.

TUCHMAN: And he feels the former monk has been fed information.

GUERRA: I think that he was desperate to be a witness. And I don't think he can be a witness. He got all the information from the police, from the cause of death to the place, everything. He got it from the Texas Rangers.

TUCHMAN: Police vigorously defend their investigation.

(on camera): Do you think Dale Tacheny, the monk, the former monk, is a good witness?

CHIEF VICTOR RODRIGUEZ, MCALLEN POLICE DEPARTMENT: Yes.

TUCHMAN: And did you think Father O'Brien was a good witness?

RODRIGUEZ: Absolutely.

TUCHMAN: Strong witness?

RODRIGUEZ: Yes.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And remember that slide viewer that even the D.A. acknowledges was bought by John Feit?

GUERRA: That would be one piece of evidence that -- that the person that was connected to the death of Irene Garza was connected to the church. Now, who put it there?

TUCHMAN: The D.A. did not want to go to the grand jury.

GUERRA: From my view, the case was not tryable. But if I -- if I made that decision, I would still be crucified in the press. I would be crucified in the national media.

TUCHMAN: So the case did go to the grand jury, but Guerra decided it wasn't necessary for the former monk or Father O'Brien to testify in person. Instead, police tapes of interviews were played. He also did not call John Feit to testify. As a matter of fact, the D.A. says he has not been interested in talking to Feit about the case at all.

GUERRA: If I make him a target, he's got the right to tell me to go to hell.

TUCHMAN: The grand jury did not indict John Feit, and just over one year later Father O'Brien died.

Irene Garza's family is angry with what they regard as a halfhearted prosecution effort.

DE LA VINA: I still -- I believe fundamentally it's because it's a church issue.

GUERRA: There's not true. That's not true.

TUCHMAN: Police said John Feit said more to us than he has to them.

(on camera): Do you think the monk, Dale Tacheny, lied? Do you think the police are lying when they say you're the main suspect?

FEIT: I think I'm an investigative lead.

TUCHMAN: OK, but can you stop for one second, sir?

FEIT: No, I can't.

TUCHMAN: OK. But do you think Dale Tacheny, the monk, is lying? Did you -- he says you told him you committed the murder.

FEIT: I think he's demented.

TUCHMAN: What about the priest, Father O'Brien. He says you committed the murder, too. He knew you very well, sir.

FEIT: (speaking Latin)

TUCHMAN: What does that mean, sir?

FEIT: Look it up.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): It was Latin, a reference to the late Father O'Brien. Feit said, only speak good of the dead.

They speak good of Feit at the Society of St. Vincent DePaul in Phoenix, where Feit helps the poor, the hungry and the sick. The administrators did not want to go on camera, but in a statement told us, "His many years of tireless service to the neediest in our community are in direct contrast to how he is being portrayed in this story. Our heart and prayers go out to the family and friends of Irene Garza."

(on camera): Mr. Feit, can I ask you, why won't you talk to the police when they come? They said you wouldn't say anything to them.

FEIT: Bald faced lie.

TUCHMAN: Do you think everybody is lying? The police, the Texas Rangers, the former monk, the priest who you worked with for so long? That's a lot of liars. Why do you think there would be such a big conspiracy against you? Sir?

(voice-over): Feit did not answer that question.

Before we left the district attorney, we asked him if he thinks he'll ever bring a murderer to justice in this case.

GUERRA: I don't believe that this case will be solved unless you have a deathbed confession by a killer.

TUCHMAN: If that killer is John Feit, don't count on any confession coming from him.

(on camera): Sir, this family has suffered for almost five decades. Anything you want to say to them? Anything you want to say to the family, sir?

(voice-over): Because as the years have gone on, John Feit has been fairly masterful at keeping his mouth shut.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Phoenix.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Unbelievable case.

A lot of people weighing in on this story on the blog.

Lydia, in Donna, Texas, writes, "The people of South Texas appreciate your coverage of this "cold case" gone possibly completely dead. I was 14 years old and remember this story vividly. If only we had CSI teams then, as we do today, Mr. Feit would not have gone free."

M.G. in Dunmore, Pennsylvania, has this to say, "Don't let those DAs, churchmen in Texas, get away with hiding the police records of that ex-priest. I am so sick of having guilty clergymen getting away with murder and other felonies. The faithful they preach to deserve better."

And on New Orleans, Mayor Ray Nagin's state of the city speech...

Kathrina, in New Orleans writes, Ray Nagin is full of blank. He talks about the French Quarters and tourism. What about us that need a house and housing? The rent is still $1,200 and we are still getting paid $6.00 an hour. Help the people that want to come back.

As always, if you've got something to say, just head to CNN.com/360blog. Weigh in. We appreciate your comments.

Still ahead on the program, at the Vatican, the desperate parents of a missing 4-year-old are granted a rare private visit with the pope. Madeleine disappeared a month ago on a family vacation to Portugal. Her parents say they are not giving up. Tonight, the search goes on.

Plus, a 13-year-old spelling whiz who wants more than almost anything to bag the bee. It is his fifth and final chance. We'll see how he's doing, next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Decor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: D-E-C-O-R, decor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: In Washington, the Scripps National Spelling Be is underway. And that was 13-year-old Samir Patel. He aced the first round today. Many of the kids competing having been to the bee before, but Samir holds the record. This is his fifth time at the bee. And his last chance to clinch the title. Pressure is too small a word to describe what this kid is going through.

Here's CNN's Tom Foreman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The word is eremacausis. It means gradual decay. But for the dauntless seventh grader, Samir Patel last year, it meant sudden downfall.

SAMIR PATEL, SPELLER: A-E-R-O-M-O-C-A-U-S-I-S.

FOREMAN: Over the past five years, this young man from Texas has emerged as an undeniable star of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. A skilled competitor who has the best overall record of success ever, but who has never finished first.

In 2003, as a 9-year-old, he made it to the final three, dazzling the crowd. But the Creole sausage boudin stopped him. The champion's cheers went to a boy from Dallas.

The next year, Samir hit the word corposant, which refers to an electrical phenomenon. And he shocked the crowd by finishing 27th. Indiana took the prize.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roscian or roscian.

PATEL: Definition, please?

FOREMAN: In 2005, the word was roscian, which has to do with acting. PATEL: Roscian, roscian. R-O-S-S-I-A-N, roscian.

FOREMAN: The cup was raised by a boy from California. Samir finished second, acting like it didn't hurt.

And last year, a girl from New Jersey captured the crown. Samir tied for 14th.

So once again, he stands on the brink. He's already made it into the quarter finals this year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Decor.

PATEL: Decor. Origin and definition, please.

FOREMAN: But this is his last chance. He'll be out of the eighth grade and the running next year. He is the only kid in the room competing for a fifth time and the only one who will truly know the meaning of this victory if it finally comes his way.

PATEL: Decor.

FOREMAN: Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Wow, the pressure is on.

You should see a documentary called "Spellbound," if you're interested. It's a great documentary about what it's like to be in the spelling bee.

Still to come on 360 tonight, an update on the war in Afghanistan. A deadly day today. A helicopter apparently shot down. Erica Hill has details.

Plus, more of that monster hog. A former shot of the day. Is it for real? Tonight, wildlife officials are asking some questions, 360 next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Let's check in now with Erica Hill for a 360 bulletin -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson.

COOPER: Whoa. Whoa. Let's bring her back. Where did Erica Hill go? What happened there? A little technical snafu. A little late at night technical snafu. Nothing better than that for live television.

Let's take a look -- don't miss the day's headlines with the 360 daily podcast. This kind of stuff doesn't happen on the podcast because we really get it down to the most bare essentials. You don't need an iPod for the podcast. You can watch it on your computer, CNN.com/AC360 podcast or go to the iTunes store.

Let's quickly go to Erica. Let's see if we have her back -- Erica.

HILL: Anderson, a U.S. military helicopter, apparently shot down in Afghanistan. All five crew members and two passenger aboard died. It so far looks like that chopper was hit by a rocket propelled grenade. The violence, though, did not end there. The team that responded to the crash was ambushed and had to call in an air strike.

In Texas, the 8-month-old baby girl found hanging alongside the bodies of her mother and three sisters seems to be well on her way to full recovery. She was released from the hospital today to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Investigators believe the horrific incident may have been a murder/suicide.

An emotional meeting at the Vatican today. Pope Benedict XVI, holding hands with the parents of a 4-year-old girl who disappeared May 3rd on a family vacation in Portugal. The pope blessed the photo of the girl as her parents asked for prayer for her daughter's safe return.

And Anderson, turns out you're not the only one who is skeptical about that monster pig story. Alabama wildlife officials are now questioning the whopper of a hog. They want to know just how that huge monster pig got into a fenced hunting preserve where allegedly it was chased down and shot by an 11-year-old boy.

COOPER: I don't know whether it's true or not, but it's an unbelievably big pig there.

HILL: That...

COOPER: I've never seen anything like it.

HILL: I don't understand how the pig could even get around. Because I think the...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Right.

HILL: ... kid chased it for like three hours. Bu how could the legs of that pig carry it?

COOPER: How -- also, how a big that size has never been seen before?

HILL: That -- exactly. And I think it's interesting they're investigating because it was in this, you know, sort of fenced off reserve, which is fairly large, but still.

COOPER: I'm not taking anything away from the hunting skills of this 11-year-old boy.

HILL: No. I mean, apparently a very talented hunter, in his own right, but I just don't know.

COOPER: Well.

HILL: I'll believe it when I see the 700 pounds of boar sausage. And the head, which is apparently with a taxidermist. Then I'll believe it.

COOPER: Oh really? Wow.

HILL: I think I heard that on "AMERICAN MORNING," but.

COOPER: All right. Well, we'll be watching for that. Mmm, good eating.

Erica, thanks.

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