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Syrian Massacre; Etan Patz Case Closed?

Aired May 28, 2012 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: John, thanks very much. Good evening, everyone.

Tonight the world has a massacre on its hands. The wholesale slaughter of dozens of children in Syria. There is video of the aftermath. I warn you it is horrific and though we've blurred out the most graphic parts, there's no mistaking what the camera shows.

If you want to look away do so but I hope you will keep listening at the very least because you need to know about what has happened in Syria. This is from Houla, a Sunni neighborhood just outside Homs. Row after row of children, children shot in the chest. Children with their skulls blown away. Some with what appear to be powder burns covering what's left of their faces. The kind you get from being shot at close range.

That's because their murderers, reportedly government militias did their killing face to face. Friday night after a day of anti- Assad protest in the town of Houla. First tanks shelled the neighborhood. Then at about 7:00 p.m. local time reports say men in uniform began going door to door. This was intimate killing. Personalized murder.

One neighborhood boy says he watched as militia men grabbed his friend, a 13-year-old, and shot him in the head. A human rights watcher says the militia men cuffed one family's children, forced their father to watch as they killed him.

"I watched the bodies of nine children," he's saying. "One less than nine months old. Did the infant carry an RPG," he asked. "Was he a fighter? He had a pacifier in his mouth."

Over the weekend that baby and dozens more were washed, according to Islamic law, covered in white sheets as you see and laid in rows. Row after row of shrouded figures.

Then with a war raging all around them, the bodies were buried. You can the makeshift cinder block wall being used to try to keep the rows of bodies separate to preserve at least some shred of dignity in death. They had no dignity in life because of what this regime did to them.

The Assad regime naturally denies it all, blaming it, as always, on terrorists. We'll have more on that in a moment. First, though, "Keeping Them Honest." All this is happening with U.N. observers on the ground in Syria. Not very many of them, to be sure. They're unarmed. They can't do a thing to stop the slaughter. They're supposed to be monitoring the troops brokered by former U.N. secretary general, Kofi Annan, who's in Damascus tonight. A truce that his host, the Assad regime, have flagrantly violated literally from day one. Now yesterday the U.N. Security Council issued a statement saying that, quote, "Outrageous use of force against civilians violated international law and commitments the Syrian government has made." It also demanded that the regime comply with the Annan plan, some things we reported night after night it has never ever done.

Also the final Security Council statement did not directly blame the regime for Friday's massacre. That's remarkable. An earlier draft did, but Russia, which has veto power, objected. Russia's foreign minister bizarrely likened the slaughter in Syria, the slaughter of children, to a night at the disco.


SERGEI, LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (Through Translator: You know it takes two to dance, takes two to tango. Even though in the current situation in Syria, what we have is not the tango having a disco party where many players are dancing. And they should all dance in the same way.


COOPER: Syria, he says, is a disco party. As we mentioned the Assad regime disavows it all.


JIHAD MAKDISSI, SYRIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN (Through Translator: We absolutely deny that the government's armed forces had any responsibility in committing such a massacre. And we strongly condemn the terrorist massacre that targeted our Syrian people in a blatant criminal manner. And we also condemn this absurdity of blaming the government's armed forces on the foreign ministerial level and not just on the level of the media outlets.


COOPER: These people have been lying now for more than 14 months. They have repeatedly denied the murder of children. This whole uprising as you'll remember began after children who graffitied anti-government slogans in Daraa were arrested. That's how it began, with children.

Over the past 14 months we have seen countless children shot, some of them tortured. This latest massacre in Houla is happening a year almost to the day since the broken body of this little boy, a Syrian boy named Hamza, was returned to his family. He'd been tortured, his body reportedly mutilated. Killed by the Assad regime security forces. Now a year later the world is apparently stunned that so many children will be killed at close range in Houla. I don't know why anyone is surprised by this slaughter. We can't pretend we have not seen it before in Syria. We cannot pretend we didn't know that this was happening or would happen again.

We have watched it day after day, night after night. We know the names of the dead. We have seen their small shattered bodies. We cannot pretend we did not know.

Alex Thomson is a correspondent for Britain's Channel 4. He was in Houla over the weekend. Tonight he's in Homs. Joins us there by phone.

Alex, as you say the world has only seen fleeting glimpses of what has happened in Houla. Describe what you witnessed, what you saw for yourself.

ALEX THOMSON, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, CHANNEL 4 NEWS: I hope you're hearing me. There's a big firefight about a half mile from where I am right now. We got in to the southern sector which is where there are some Syrian troops and we stopped. And there was a firefight at that point. So we went and took shelter in a building.

I looked across from where I was and about four feet away from where I was there was a body covered in a blanket. When I pulled that blanket back, it revealed an old man way beyond fighting age, at least 75, 80 years old, that had a gun shot wound to the head.

A few feet away, I pulled over another blanket and then it's the body of a girl. She could not have been more than five or six. And she had a wound -- a gun shot wound in her chest. And I put the blanket back and gave her whatever little dignity you can give to somebody in that situation.

Now those bodies were not to have been discovered by the U.N. convoy because they bypassed them further into town. So I am telling you tonight that however many bodies they think were recovered and how many people have been killed in Houla, the number is in fact greater than that.

COOPER: The regime -- the Assad regime is denying any responsibility for this. But as we know, over the last 14 months or so they have lied repeatedly. And we have seen children repeatedly targeted, tortured to death and sent back to their families. Is there any reason to believe anybody other than government forces or government supporters did this -- did this massacre?

THOMSON: I don't believe there is. But the proof is on the ground. If you go to Houla, tell me this. Why is it that the area which is connected -- which is controlled by the government, by the Syrian army troops is a ghost town. It's deserted. There are no civilians there at all. Why is that? And why is it the case that there are lots and plenty of civilians in the sector of town which is controlled by the rebels. Why is it that the civilians flee the areas where their own government soldiers are yet they remain in there where the rebels are? The obvious difference from that situation, from that evidence on the ground clearly is that the people, the Syrian people, feel safer with the rebels.

COOPER: Alex, do you find it extraordinary that after 14 months of this crackdown and all the deaths that we have seen, people are still coming out to protest after being in the mosque on Friday? And apparently that's what started -- what caused the government to go into this town in Houla after Friday prayers. But the fact that people are still willing to go out on the streets and protest I find extraordinary.

THOMSON: People have the mood for freedom and have the bit between their teeth. That matters more to them than putting bread on the table and almost life itself. That said, what you have to understand is that 99 percent, perhaps, of the Syrian country is relatively peaceful. It's very specific why the fighting is going on. And the fact that the Russian foreign minister has said only today that the only thing Russia is interested in pursuing is the Assad plan. It's a plan for (INAUDIBLE) Syrian government, I have to say, is an invitation to civil war.

COOPER: Alex, we've seen children killed throughout this conflict, but to see so many over the weekend, so many people ask the question, how is it possible? Why would a regime kill children like this?

THOMSON: What goes through the minds and what the fact is involved on these shabiha, these people, these armed militias who went building by building, house by house, family by family, and slaughtered people in Houla is beyond the comprehension tonight of most Syrians as it is of most people around the globe.

COOPER: Alex Thomson, we can hear the fighting in the background. Stay safe. Thank you.

THOMSON: Thank you.

COOPER: The question is what can and what should be done about it. There are global sanctions on Syria now. The Obama administration has called for Assad's departure. Promise communications equipment for opposition forces.

Over the weekend Mitt Romney called on the president to arm Syrian opposition forces and Senator John McCain said this.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Horrible things are happening in Syria. This administration has a feckless foreign policy which abandons American leadership. I know because I visit with these people, that they are ready to help these people. And they are already helping them some. But it cries out for American leadership. American leadership is not there. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: His departing Senate colleague, though, Republican senator, Richard Lugar, says President Obama has been cautious on Syria, his words, quote, "I think properly so."

You also heard Alex Thomson described a country potentially on the brink of civil war in the middle of a regional powder keg. Want to talk about it with national security analyst Fran Townsend and Fouad Ajami, a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution.

Fouad, you and I were on the border just a couple of weeks ago. I mean, the world cannot say they didn't know that this was happening. I mean everybody is shocked at the death toll over the weekend, this massacre of children. But we have seen children killed now for 14 months.

FOUAD AJAMI, SR. FELLOW, STANFORD UNIVERSITY'S HOOVER INSTITUTION: You were in these tents and you've talked to people. You even talked to children, you talked to one boy. I'll never forget him, a boy named Saleh from Aleppo who said we can't live like this. We want our freedom.

So these people want their freedom. But I'll tell you one thing, Anderson. This is now, this massacre, the Houla massacre, is a turning point in a fight which we never thought would have a turning point. This is --

COOPER: You really believe it is a turning point?

AJAMI: Well, it's a turning point for the Syrians. I'll tell you why. Because most of the killing was the done by Alawite villages that surrounded Houla. So in fact here you have Houla, a very, very quaint place. In my childhood we thought of Houla as a place of no significance. So in fact, it wasn't just the army. It wasn't the forces of Bashar al-Assad. It was the surrounding villages that came and did most of the killing face to face.

I think we are in the midst of Sunni-Alawite fight. We always knew we would end up there if this fight goes on. And we have come to that point.

COOPER: Do you agree that this could be a turning point?

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: I hope -- Anderson, I hope so. But you know, this is, as you point out, had been going on for 14 months as the world has sat and watched this. It really is extraordinary to me to see this kind of blood shed and this level of violence upon children where the world seems unwilling to act.

Look, Syria is a much more complicated situation, we've said it before, than Libya. It has more -- more sophisticated air defense, more sophisticated military. And it has clients. You know Russia who made -- the Russian foreign minister made outrageous statements yesterday at the U.N. Russia is responsible for providing the arms that are being used against Syrians --

COOPER: Saying it's a disco party or takes two to tango that there's some sort of an equivalent between the regime or the regime's supporters and the opposition forces, I mean, it's just not true.

TOWNSEND: But it's not true. And it really does belie the outrageous sort of cover that Russia and the Iranians are providing to the Assad regime. If ever there was a point that we could say this is the turning point. Between the massacre in Houla and these outrageous statements by the Russians and the Syrians -- and the Iranians, we now hear the Quds forces, their militia forces, are also in there advising the Syrians. These things coming together ought to be a turning point for the international --

COOPER: So for those, though, who, you know, are horrified by what happened but say look, the U.S. should not be intervening in this or should not be -- what are the options?

AJAMI: Well, look, we are now talking about indifference to the Russians. I love them. We have been going to the Russians. We went to them about a year ago and they vetoed the resolution. We went to them last February, they vetoed the resolution.

We know that the Russians -- we know what the Russians will do. And we are going to the Russians. The Obama administration has been going to the Russians repeatedly in order to be rebuffed and in order to have a cover for its own moral abdication.

A lot could be done. A lot could be done. But the Obama administration has brilliantly depicted this fight and the choices for the United States as either boots on the ground or head in the sand. Since we don't want to have boots on the ground, then the argument is we do nothing.

And in fact, you don't even hear the president talking about Syria. There's no passion. And for all the time that the Obama administration spent saying oh, you know, Syria is not Libya. Guess what, now they say Syria is Yemen. So we have now indifference again to the Russian the (INAUDIBLE) variant that we can have in Syria --

COOPER: Somehow get the president to resign or step down, have the vice president take over.

AJAMI: Well, good luck -- good luck to that. Good luck to that that, you know, it truly is in this case Syria and Yemen. And Bashar al-Assad and his clan, and his Alawites, 10 percent of the population aren't Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen who's willing to take a hike.

COOPER: This is a man, by the way, whose father, for those who don't know, you know, slaughtered 10,000 people, a conservative estimates, in -- you know, in 1982. It was. So he comes from a tradition. I mean, it does not seem there's any limit to the number of people they are willing to kill.

TOWNSEND: No. That's exactly right. Bashar al-Assad's disadvantage, however, so many decades later there's the Internet, there's YouTube.

COOPER: Right.

TOWNSEND: We can see the pictures of the slaughter. And so the notion that this could go on, this is why I say, the notion that it could go on 14 months with the videos, with the pictures, with the -- with the international community --

COOPER: Where is the rest of the -- I mean Saudi Arabia, Qatar has talked about funding, giving money to and maybe giving money for opposition forces to buy arms. But where is the rest of the world on this?

AJAMI: Well, I think alas we remain in this kind of American world. We'll remain in the American world. If the United States doesn't come to the rescue, no one will ride to the rescue. Once the United States leads, then the Turks will follow. And they will provide the buffer that the Syrians need. Then the Qataris will follow. They'll provide the money. The Saudis will follow.

But without American leadership, believe me, everyone will dodge. And everyone will wait for the United States. And I used to believe that if there is a Syrian-Srebrenica to go back to the Balkans that we were forced, if you will, we were pushed into Bosnia by the horror of what happened in Srebrenica, I now don't -- I don't even know if there is a Syrian Srebrenica, I'm not even sure we would come to the rescue.

COOPER: It doesn't -- I mean you go to these camps and the Syrian people you talked to feel like they have been abandoned. They know they've been abandoned. I mean they know this.

TOWNSEND: And to Fouad's point, what you need is American leadership. It is a -- it is a false choice that we can do nothing or we can put boots on the ground. I mean, frankly, the Americans can provide the infrastructure and the support to pull together the international community. We can help to arm the rebels. We can give them the communications gear so they can get out of the way of Syrian forces. We can help try to provide them safe haven and safe passage.

I mean there's many things we can do short of boots on the ground, short of dropping missiles, frankly, that we're not doing. I frankly don't understand it.

COOPER: We'll see if this is, in fact, a turning point of some sort. It's certainly gotten a lot of attention this weekend which all the deaths of all the children up to now really have not and which is a shame for all of us.

Fran, appreciate you being here. And Fouad as well.

Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook. I'm tweeting about this right now @Andersoncooper. Let me know what you think.

New developments also tonight in the disappearance of Etan Patz. The alleged killer may have actually confessed to a church group decades ago. The question is why didn't anyone in that church group come forward? Should they have? "Crime & Punishment" next.


COOPER: Welcome back. "Crime & Punishment" now. Late developments in the case of Etan Patz. The New York City Sanitation Department is telling us that the NYPD, the New York Police Department, has been in touched asking about their pickup and dumping schedules dating back to 1979 which is obviously the year that Etan vanished. No comment yet from police. You'll recall a man has confessed to killing the boy after luring him to the basement of the corner store bodega where he worked and disposing the body inside a garbage bag.

His name is Pedro Hernandez. That's him. He's now being held on murder charges and being kept on a suicide watch at New York's Bellevue Hospital.

Tonight a relative who we're keeping anonymous claims to have reported a similar confession to police in Camden, New Jersey, back in the '80s. Relatives said that they went in to police and told them that Pedro Hernandez had told them he killed the child. Nothing ever came of it, according to the relative. The source says that Hernandez also confided to a church group.

Lots to talk about tonight with Lisa Cohen, author of "After Etan: The Missing Child Case that Helped -- that Held America Captive." Also former Los Angeles deputy district attorney, Marcia Clark. She's recently out with a courtroom thriller, "Guilt by Association."

Lisa, were you surprised? I mean you did so much research on this. You worked on this for years to write the book.


COOPER: Did you know the name Pedro Hernandez?

COHEN: No. I didn't know it at all. And that's not say that, you know, he wasn't talked to or he wasn't considered. Doesn't mean he wasn't considered, but I've never heard of the many suspects whose names sort of came across my view. I've never heard his name at all until last week.

COOPER: Does the story to you make sense? I mean this was such a huge story in New York City at the time. I grew up in New York, I remember it well as a kid. The idea that Pedro Hernandez would be able to just put Etan in a bag or in a box and leave him out on the street to be picked up by garbage I find hard to believe.

COHEN: Well, especially since it was Friday of Memorial Day weekend. So it's unclear when exactly he put him out on the street. But then there would have been Saturday, Sunday, and Monday during which time there were hundreds of police swarming the streets looking everywhere for this missing child.

COOPER: And you would think the police at the time -- I mean if you look at any cop show, they always check the garbage routes or who's picked up garbage. You would think that they would have done that back then.

COHEN: Yes. I honestly don't know. I know that there were -- there were people going rooftop to rooftop. There were helicopters flying overhead. There were, you know, dogs. There were -- I mean in hundreds. And it is a little bit surprising.

COOPER: Marcia, this is a case right now with no forensic evidence that we know of. No eyewitness evidence. Just the confession of a man with a documented history of mental illness who's now pleading not guilty. There were reports that the Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vans was reluctant to sign off in the arrest, that he wanted to see more corroborating evidence. What do you make of the decision to bring charges now?

MARCIA CLARK, FORMER L.A. DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: It's difficult. It's very difficult. As you mentioned, Anderson, without any forensic evidence to corroborate this confession, it's very -- makes it very difficult to believe him. He; -- this is a man who has been noted to be mentally unstable who's been diagnosed as schizophrenic.

This is a problem -- fundamental problem with what do we credit. Now the more statements you have for more sources that are independent of one another, the more it makes that confession possibly more reliable. So you have this church group that did not report -- no one in the church group to whom he confessed reported these statements.

But if they do match up to the statements he made to his family and if they are statements that also indicate an intimate knowledge of details that he couldn't have known by reading the paper of watching television, then perhaps you have something. But it takes a great deal to make a confession all by itself stand up in court.

COOPER: Marcia, I was asking people on Twitter if they thought, you know, people in the church group should have reported, you know, to authorities what this man allegedly said in a church kind of -- kind of public forum. Does it surprise -- I mean is a church group under any obligation, Marcia, legally to report?

CLARK: Well, there is an obligation to report when you've see a felony being committed. I mean I don't know that it could be prosecuted especially after all this time. The problem with a crime like that is if they say well, this guy was prone to saying all kinds of things, we didn't take him seriously. Then you're going to have a very hard time prosecuting these people for not reporting. But in general yes, there is a duty to report when you have evidence of a felony particularly a homicide.

So whether anyone will be held accountable for that is very doubtful. But someone really should have, yes. And apart from the law, Anderson, if someone is sitting in a church group and here a person confessed to a murder, you don't wait to find out whether or not you rely on it, you go report it to the police because you never know. COOPER: Right. Lisa, the flip side, I guess, of the argument is that well, he's on medication, I mean he's mentally unstable is well who else would do this other than somebody who may be mentally unstable or has some mysterious issue so that I guess that kind of cuts both ways.

You actually spoke to Etan's father today. How are they doing in all of this? COHEN: They're doing OK. You know, one of the things that happens in these sorts of developments is that they get beseeched by the press.

COOPER: Right.

COHEN: So that sort of actually ends up being kind of front and center in their -- in their minds because they're stuck in their house. They can't go outside. And -- I mean I think --

COOPER: And they've been through this for now on and off for 33 years.

COHEN: Yes. And he -- Stan Patz is one of the most methodical, calm people that I know. He doesn't ever pass judgment quickly. I mean, he's had 33 years to think about things. And usually the investigation is moving along very, very slowly.

COOPER: It surprises you how this investigation has been handled. You say it's almost kind of done backwards.

COHEN: Well, it is. And I just, by definition, I think that's the way it has to be done, right? Because last week somebody walked in and confessed. So I guess they had a choice. You know someone has in a very sort of emotional way, in a detailed way, given us the statement of what we're going to do. But they don't have any of the investigative part of it done. So now is the time to go back and try and piece together everything he said and see whether they can check it out.


Well, Lisa Cohen, appreciate you being on. And Marcia Clark, as well.

Thank you.

I should say "Guilt by Association," which is prior best-seller "Guilt by Degrees" is the new one. Marcia I'm sure will be bestseller as well.

Marcia, thank you very much.

Coming up, protesters gather in a small town in North Carolina to speak out against a pastor we've reported on who said that he wanted gays and lesbians put behind electric fences until they die.

The pastor has been hiding from reporters. Gary Tuchman, though, tracked him down. That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, the North Carolina pastor preached that gays and lesbians should be rounded up and put behind electric fences to die was back in the pulpit this weekend. A local newspaper says that Pastor Charles Worley got a standing ovation at Providence Road Baptist Church. Meanwhile hundreds of people gathered to protest the pastor's message outside. Gary Tuchman went to North Carolina to try to ask him whether if he stands by his words. We'll have that in a moment.

But first, just a reminder of how this all happened with that sermon on May 13th. Pastor Worley railed against President Obama's support for same-sex marriage and talked about how he would eliminate gays and lesbians.


CHARLES WORLEY, PASTOR, PROVIDENCE ROAD BAPTIST CHURCH: I figured a way out -- a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers. But I couldn't get it past the Congress. Build a great, big, large fence -- 150 or 100 mile long. Put all the lesbians in there.

Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals. And have that fence electrified until they can't get out. Feed them. And you know what? In a few years they'll die out. Do you know why? They can't reproduce.


COOPER: Since that sermon gained nationwide attention, the pastor has refused to talk to reporters. He's not returned our calls. So Gary Tuchman went to ask him in person.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We haven't seen or heard from Pastor Charles Worley since his anti-gay sermon went viral -- until now.

(on camera): Pastor, would you like to take back anything you said? Pastor, we want to give you a chance to take anything back if you cared to.

(voice-over): Pastor Worley had plenty of opportunity to answer either question. He chose not to. Instead he was on his way to his church for a Sunday service on the same day that hundreds of people from North Carolina and other parts of the country protested the pastor's new infamous sermon.

WORLEY: Build a great, big, large fence 150 or 100 mile long. Put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same with the queers and the homosexuals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I felt he was preaching bigotry. My God is a loving God. My God loves everybody. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not a preacher. This is a bigot.

TUCHMAN: The protesters demonstrated several miles away from the church.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And to that which is against nature is against very nature --

TUCHMAN: Where they encountered a small but loud opposition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't practice in lesbian and be saved by the grace of God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We must repent because we've broken God's laws.

TUCHMAN: Pastor Worley supporters carried signs that many here felt were nasty and antagonistic as well as not necessarily accurate.

(on camera): Let me ask you. Where does it talk about AIDS in Romans 1:27.


TUCHMAN: Why do you have out there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's just a phrase that we put on there.

TUCHMAN: There's been plenty of chance for opposition here. Many are yelling back. So far there had been no problems.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm glad I'm a proud member of Providence Road Church in North Carolina.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): For the most part Worley's supporters were ignored. Instead the focus was on the pastor's anti-gay sermon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's anti-Christian, which is why I wrote this message. Would Jesus really do this? No.

TUCHMAN: Many protesters brought their children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want my kids to love everyone. I don't want them to se black or white, gay or straight. I want them to love everybody.

TUCHMAN: Nobody was arrested.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The reasons heterosexuals go to heaven is because they repent for their service.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need your identification.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, sir. TUCHMAN: But this pro-Worley supporter got a citation for using a bull horn, which should have been banned. Meanwhile, at the church, a few miles away, we asked one of the church board members if Worley would talk to us there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not issuing any comments or statements.

TUCHMAN (on camera): So we can't talk to the pastor?


TUCHMAN (voice-over): There would be no talking to Charles Worley at least on this day.

(on camera): Pastor, any comments at all?

(voice-over): The pastor is either not ready or not interested to publicly defend his sermon. But as far as defending him, his family and supporters seem ready to step up.

Five men walked out of the house when we asked the pastor our questions. Notably, one of the men appeared to have a gun in his waistband.


COOPER: Gary Tuchman joins us now live from North Carolina. What do you learn about what went on inside Pastor Worley's church service yesterday, Gary?

TUCHMAN: Well, I should tell you first, we wanted to go into the church, but we were told that no reporters were allowed on the grounds of the church. People know who I am.

But there was a reporter who wasn't as well known, a local reporter with the newspaper "The Hickory Daily Record" and he told us that the pastor got a standing ovation.

In addition to that, the pastor told the congregants, hundreds of them were inside that he appreciates their support. And he also added I've been preaching in 53 years, and quote, "do you think I'm going to bail out on this now."

COOPER: It's interesting though for someone who says he's not bailing out, he still refuses to answer any questions to anybody.

TUCHMAN: Yes. And I don't think he's interested at all in talking to outsiders particularly the news media. I have been told, though by that director who I talked with that they are consulting with their lawyers right now.

So ultimately perhaps their lawyers will advise the pastor to talk. But as of now, it's clear. You saw, Anderson, I gave him every opportunity to make a statement. He decided not to.

COOPER: Right, and of course, our invitation is open for him to come on this program any time. Gary, I appreciate the reporting. Thank you.

And a story that's surprising. When a New York state teacher sent sexually suggestive letters and e-mails to her former principal and violated restraining order. She spent time in jail.

But that didn't actually end her teaching career. Wait until you hear what she's accused of now and why her current school, she is still teaching, her current school district is finding it nearly impossible to fire her.


COOPER: The pope's butler arrested and accused of leaking confidential papers to the media. Did he have help from a cardinal? The story that's rocking the Vatican when we continue.


COOPER: Another "Keeping Them Honest" report. We all know it's hard to fire teachers who misbehave. But this next report is pretty hard to believe.

Tonight, a phys-ed teacher with tenure and a long history of misconduct still has her job even though her school district has been trying to fire her for three years.

When you hear what she told her students in her gym class to do, you're going to understand why parents in that district are pretty outraged.

As we said, she has tenure, which gives her certain protection, but "Keeping Them Honest," who's protecting the students? Tom Foreman reports.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here in Rochester, New York, Olivia Holley is finishing high school and excited about college. Yet she and her mother, Loraine, are still talking about a day back in eighth grade when a female teacher under the pretense of a medical exam told every student in the girl's gym class to do something they found shocking.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She told us all to remove our shirts and bras.

FOREMAN: Right there in class?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right there in class.

FOREMAN: What did you think?

OLIVIA HOLLEY, STUDENT: It was something unnormal about it. Just extraordinarily, like, out of the ordinary.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I called the school. Like any parent would. I was enraged.

FOREMAN: Turns out, keeping them honest, people around Rochester have been outraged over teacher Valerie Yarn for years. Court records indicate she's been repeatedly accused of inappropriately touching female co-workers, of sending sexually suggestive cards, letters and e-mails.

Telling one colleague she was smooth like ice cream and suggesting she, Yarn, knew a million ways to please a woman. Even after being told to stop by the women and supervisors, even ordered to stop by a court, Yarn was accused by a colleague of persistently calling to play sexually suggestive music over the phone.

Court records show she's been cited for skipping work, showing up late, not having a lesson plan and giving failing grades to some students for no reason. So why after all that is she still employed by the Rochester school system?

The school board would not comment because Valerie Yarn's status is the subject of an ongoing court case. Officials have been trying to fire her since 2009.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This tenure teacher disciplinary process is broken.

FOREMAN: Jay Worona who represents the state school boards says the teachers union and its lawyers too often put the protection of teachers, even bad ones, above the needs of taxpayers and students.

JAY WORONA, NEW YORK STATE SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION: What's happened here in New York is we've taken that right that the Supreme Court has interpreted to be embedded in the 14th amendment, the due process clause, and we have raised it by about a thousand.

FOREMAN (on camera): While people on all sides of this dispute admit it is unusual, the State Association of School Boards insist trying to fire even a single tenured teacher is daunting.

On average, the legal wrangling takes close to a year and a half and it can cost $280,000. Is that reasonable?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. It's not reasonable and no reasonable person would say it's reasonable.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Adam Urbanski is with the teacher's union and while he admits some cases can get out of hand, he challenges the notion that tenure and all it entails just protects bad teachers.

ADAM URBANSKI, ROCHESTER TEACHER'S ASSOCIATION: That's a cop out. For somebody to say it's because of tenure, that's a cap out. Teachers in Rochester know and we're very proud of the fact that they know that the union is not a place to hide. That you won't get any more empathy from the union president than you would from the superintendent --

FOREMAN (on camera): Then how can a case like this go on and on and on?

URBANSKI: Because here you have the right to due process as a citizen. You have the right to have your day in court.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Valerie Yarn has certainly had her day over and over again for the past five years. An arbitrator ordered the school district to suspend her for a year without pay though it is still on the hook for her health insurance.

And under this ruling, Yarn could possibly return to the classroom after her suspension if she passes a psychiatric evaluation. Our attempts to reach Yarn directly or through her union lawyer proved unsuccessful.

So we don't know what she might have to say about all these accusations. But we know what the Holley family thinks five years after that incident with Olivia.

FOREMAN (on camera): If anybody had told you back then that this thing would still be lingering on --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wouldn't believe them.

HOLLEY: I'd tell them they've got to be out their mind.

FOREMAN: New York State offers tenure to teachers after three years in the classroom and the union insists it weeds out a lot of bad teachers early on. But admits the process must be streamlined when it comes to troubled tenure teachers.

URBANSKI: We don't want to see them anymore than any parent or grandparent whose children we serve.

FOREMAN (on camera): That has to be changed.

URBANSKI: That has to be changed.

FOREMAN (voice-over): On that Lorain Holley agrees.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tenure means you're protecting somebody's job, but who's protecting the students?

FOREMAN: Tom Foreman, CNN, Rochester.


COOPER: A lot of critics say the case of Valerie Yarn is the window to a broken system. It makes it very hard and expensive to remove a teacher from the classroom.

Disability rights attorney and children's advocate Areva Martin joins me now. Thank you so much for being with us. No one is saying that the teacher shouldn't have rights, but you say the word tenure has evolved for meaning due process to job for life.

AREVA MARTIN, DISABILITY RIGHTS ATTORNEY AND CHILDREN'S ADVOCATE: You know, Anderson, this case is really troubling and unfortunately, it's not an isolated case.

There are lots of cases like this all over the country where it takes three, four, five up to one case involving eight years, an English teacher took to remove her from the district and cost the district over $300,000.

You know, I am all for protecting the teachers' rights. I believe that their right to due process and their right to have a fair and neutral proceeding to determine whether there should be a termination is important because we want teachers to feel secure in their jobs.

What we don't want is a protracted process that takes year and years and costs districts hundreds of thousands of dollars when they're egregious situations like this. I can't imagine a teacher asking young girls to take off their tops and their bras. It's just really an egregious situation.

COOPER: And if it's hard to fire or discipline teachers that have incidence of misconduct, it must be even harder to get rid of those that are simply underperforming and bad teachers.

MARTIN: Absolutely, Anderson. The whole process of removing a teacher with all of the administrative obstacles that are in the way of the school district makes it very impossible to remove a teacher.

I'm encouraged by something. We're seeing on the national level, you know, federal policies, educational policies that are starting to tie performance to teacher promotions, to raises, and to the quality of teaching.

I think those policies are starting to have an impact. And it's sending a loud message to schools that teachers that are performing, let's praise and promote them.

But those teachers who are engaged in type of conduct involved in this Rochester case and those teachers who are poorly performing, let's get rid of them.

COOPER: Yes, well, it's such a hard job being a teacher. I have a great respect for them. Areva Martin, I appreciate you being on. We'll continue to follow it.

A bizarre, horrifying story out of Miami you probably heard about over the weekend. A man caught eating another person's face. Strange details next.


COOPER: There are a lot of other stories we're following. Isha is here with the "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the pope's spokesman is denying reports that a cardinal or a woman is also being investigated in the document leaking scandal surrounding the pope's butler. The butler has been charged with aggravated theft for allegedly stealing confidential documents and leaking them to the press.

A horrifying story from Miami where a police officer killed a man who was reportedly chewing another man's face off and growling. Surveillance video from the "Miami Herald" shows the two men next to each other. The victim was rushed to the hospital with most of his face missing.

Reports tonight that cars in Southern Ontario were damaged from debris that fell off a plane. The Air Canada flight bound for Tokyo had to return to the airport in Toronto after one of its engines shut down after takeoff. Air Canada says it's investigating the debris reports.

And Anderson, Tropical Storm Beryl has been downgraded to a tropical depression, but it is still causing lots of rain and dangerous currents from North Eastern Florida to North Carolina. Beryl made landfall near Jacksonville Beach, Florida and brought more than five inches of rain. Beryl still very much in the --

COOPER: How was your weekend?

SESAY: It was good, thank you very much. Did some grilling, that's how I grill.

COOPER: Is that how it is? Well, I'm glad you're with us tonight. I think we're the only folks actually -- who actually are working tonight.

SESAY: That is indeed the case. How was --

COOPER: It was good. I'm told we're out of time.

On this Memorial Day, as we honor troops who paid the ultimate price, we also remember the kids left behind. Coming up, kids who've lost a parent in the line of duty tell their stories.


COOPER: In Washington this Memorial Day, families of fallen service men and women gathered for a seminar organized by a group called TAPS, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.

It's an annual event includes a camp for kids who had a parent killed in the line of duty. Here are some of their stories.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: My dad died when I was 13 months in 2005. It really makes me sad when I think of him. We have lots of things of him like pillows and blankets. We even have a poster of him in our room. He is always in my heart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He would lead me to the biggest wave he could find and then he'd let me boogie board down that.

CASSIDY ELLEDGE, FATHER KILLED IN IRAQ IN 2008: When he played the guitar, he was really bad so we all had to run up into our rooms and had to shut the door.

MYA WILLIAMS, FATHER KILLED IN IRAQ IN 2003: We would always -- we would go around the zoo and I would be on his shoulders.

MEGAN STODDARD, FATHER KILLED IN IRAQ IN 2005: He liked to joke around. He was really funny.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: The awesomest guy I ever met.

CALEB ELLEDGE, FATHER, ARMY STAFF SGT. MICHAEL ELLEDGE: Back in the army he held his own religious service with a lot of other soldiers where he was the pastor. He would preach to all the soldiers and tell them they're in good hands with God.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: He was a Marine. He was really nice.

CASSIDY ELLEDGE: Sometimes I would think what would happen if my dad had died, but I have figured that out now because my dad did die.

JAY STODDARD, FATHER, ARMY STAFF SGT. JAMES STODDARD: We used to play football in the front yard. We had this video of it and I -- now I kind of don't have anyone anymore.

C.I. FRY, FATHER KILLED IN IRAQ IN 2006: Right now that we're at TAPS, it's happy, but sad because the soldiers lost, but happy because we're free.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Just seeing other people having fun with their dad and seeing how I can't do that anymore.

CALEB ELLEDGE: I'm also very mature since his death brought me to be the man of the house. And I had to take care of my little sister and of my mom.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think I'm definitely, like, a lot more independent and stronger.

JENA GREENE, FATHER KILLED IN IRAQ IN 2004: There is a type of strength that you find in yourself when you lose someone close to you especially a parent. And you learn to be a lot more autonomous at times.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: You can still have fun with the people you have and who love you still.

CALEB ELLEDGE: My best advice would be to not, like -- you shouldn't just stay in your sea of grief.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Think of happy thoughts, not things that bring you down. Just things that keep you up.

GREENE: Definitely cry. There's nothing wrong with crying.

FRY: It's OK to cry and laugh. It's OK.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: It's OK to cry, but never give up on life. Just keep on going and don't stop.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't take -- you learn not to take anyone for granted. I'm extra grateful for my mom now because she's the only one I have.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I would say that -- don't cry. He will always be in our heart.

CASSIDY ELLEDGE: It's kind of sad with your dad being gone. It's, like, just -- it's like -- but I still know he's in my heart forever.

CALEB ELLEDGE: Memorial Day is when we go out to dad's grave a lot and we put flowers on it.

CASSIDY ELLEDGE: We go and we kneel on his grave and take pictures. Then after that we pray and I think our dad really likes doing -- having us around with him.

MCKENZIE STODDARD: If one of your friends comes and sees your grave with you, they can give flowers and stuff.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyone should take a second on Memorial Day to remember all those who've served in the world.

FRY: It means to me that dad will always be my heart.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: He's always in my heart.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: He's always with me even though I do cry I miss him, but I always know he's with me.

GREENE: He was very humble. He loved the outdoors. He loved to laugh and live.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love him and I wish he was here.

CASSIDY ELLEDGE: I knew forever that my dad would still always be in my heart. And I knew he was my hero and he protected the world around me. And that was a big favor for me and the rest of the world.


COOPER: We remember them and thank them today and every day. We're back one hour from now with another edition of "360." "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" starts now.