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Actor James Gandolfini Dead at 51; New Claims: Cause of Flight 800 was Outside the Plane; Fourth Suspect in Ohio Forced Labor Case Turns Herself In

Aired June 19, 2013 - 22:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN HOST: The breaking news tonight is sad news.

James Gandolfini, one of America's best actors and the man who brought America's best known fictional gangster to life, has died. He was in Rome when he was suffered what is believed to have been a heart attack.

Gandolfini, just 51, went from character actor to superstar playing mob boss Tony Soprano.

Late today, "Sopranos" David Chase had this to say: "He was a genius, Chase said. Anyone who saw him even in the smallest of his performances knows that. He is one of the greatest actors of this or any time. A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes."

We will be talking tonight to the people who knew him, who admired his work and who watched this New Jersey native become a kind of folk hero in the Garden State and around the world.

First, let's begin the discussion with Larry King, who joins us by phone tonight, Bonnie Fuller, editor in chief for, and our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Dr. Gupta, I want to begin with you.

We need to be careful. We're just getting this information in, but 51 years old, three months short of 52 years old, indications are a heart attack or a stroke. What would your questions be?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, clearly, this is young to have a heart attack, even when you look at, you know, any preexisting health conditions.

Average age of someone having a first heart attack, if this is in fact what we're talking about is, usually in the mid-60s. But, John, as you are suggesting, I think it's very important here, there's very limited information that we know.

And so the I think medical personnel, people who are trying to figure this out on the ground there are going to want to know are there any other potential risk factors here? If this was, in fact, heart disease, heart attacks typically cause something known as a cardiac arrest. The heart attack itself is usually caused because you're not getting enough blood flow to the heart, but what can cause death is when the heart as a result of that starts to go into abnormal rhythms, but there are other things that can cause abnormal rhythms as well. Did he have some sort of preexisting condition that he didn't know about?

Were there medications or drugs in his system at the time of this? You're also hearing this notion was there a stroke involved? Could that have been because of poor blood flow to the brain at the same time as this problem with the heart?

There is a lot of things that we still, as you're suggesting again, John, we need to figure out, but this is young for really a first-time heart attack, certainly a first-time stroke and there's a lot of questions still to be answered.

J. KING: Dr. Gupta, please stay with us.

Larry King joins us now on the telephone.

Larry, 51 years old, as I said, three months short of 52, a man who had had many, many roles, but then became a super star with Tony Soprano. You sat across the table from him many times, a man with a great sense of humor, a man who loved what he did and appeared very much to love life.


He was a great guy. It's a little ominous. I'm in Vegas and the last time I saw Mr. Gandolfini was in Vegas. He were at a dinner thing honoring Muhammad Ali. We were at the same table. And he was a great fan of Muhammad Ali.

As I just -- I told Erin Burnett that a man next to him at the table had bid on this cruise over like $250,000 and invited James to go with him and he said, of course I will go. He was exuberant. He was lively. It's very, very hard to hear.

I had Sanjay say -- I had my heart attack when I was 53. So, I have outlived that a long time. Heart attacks can occur in your 50s, and he did, Sanjay, he did -- he loved his food and he was not he -- didn't push back from the table.

J. KING: Larry, when he went from being a very good, don't get me wrong, character to a superstar with Tony -- as Tony Soprano, what did that mean to him?

L. KING: He was very appreciative of it, but he always remained, John, a character actor.

He did a very successful Broadway play a couple of years ago. He recreated the role in Hollywood, a four-character play, a very funny play. He loved comedies. He was classic character actor thrown into stardom in a role that was unbelievable that he created -- he was so Tony Soprano. I mean, when you see someone embrace a role like that, he was Tony Soprano. He totally enveloped the role. And it's rare that a character actor becomes a major star, but it happened to him. But he handled it so well, John. You would have -- if you would had known him, you would have liked him very much.

If he was on the show with you tonight, he would gone and had a pizza with you after the show.

J. KING: He was the mayor of New York City in "Pelham 123." He was the defense secretary in "Zero Dark Thirty."

Larry, you talk to him at all about that? When you're a character actor and you have done a number of different things, Broadway, the big screen, television, and then you do sort of become defined, known, famous for one role, that's a great blessing. Is it also sometimes a frustration?

L. KING: Correct, because it hampers you with other roles.

I asked him in fact the other day, well, do you think there's roles you didn't get because of Tony Soprano? He said I -- probably true, probably -- they were saying, we will cast -- no, he can't do that because they will see him and they will think Tony Soprano.

So, sometimes, when you stamp a role, it might affect you in other roles. But he was a Broadway actor first. And I think he liked that the best. I think he preferred theater. And there's always going room in theater for the good actors and he was certainly that. I'm really shocked. Aren't you?

J. KING: I am shocked. It's sad news tonight as we try to digest it.

Helping us well as Krista Smith. She is a CNN contributor and the "Vanity Fair" West Coast editor.

Krista, you met Mr. Gandolfini early in his career. Give us some reflections.


And to his point about Broadway, I remember when he used to come to L.A. and he would -- we had a mutual friend, and he would stay at my apartment when he was auditioning for pilots. And then when he was on street -- when he started "A Streetcar Name Desire," I remember that very well with my friend Aida Turturro. They played the neighbor couple upstairs with that version with Alec Baldwin and Jessica Lange.

And he definitely loved theater. He was a brilliant actor and then of course he got "The Sopranos," which hit the cultural sweet spot of everybody for about over a decade. That character is legendary. And "Vanity Fair," certainly, we covered it. And Tony Soprano is its own -- I don't think you can think of a more iconic character that he created than that one.

J. KING: You say you recall him staying at your apartment early on. SMITH: Yes.

J. KING: Any indications of any kind of health issues that maybe we didn't know about, but that he did?

SMITH: You know, I never did. At that point, it's just -- he was a really smart guy. He was fun. He had a certain kind of natural sex appeal for a guy that wasn't a traditional leading man.

And, no, not at all. I mean, later in life, obviously, he was heavier. I don't know if that played a part into it. It's just so sad. It's so, so, sad.


SMITH: And he's a father. It's just terrible.

J. KING: I'm sorry. Please stay with us, Krista.

Matthew Warchus is also with us. He directed James Gandolfini in "God of Carnage" on Broadway.

Matthew, just tell us what was he like to work with from beginning to end of a big project like that.

MATTHEW WARCHUS, DIRECTOR: Well, he was great. It was a privilege to work with him, I have to say.

He's one of my favorite actors to spend time with. He was terrified about the idea of coming back onto Broadway in a play like that, and repeatedly would say that he wasn't be as good as the other people in the cast and that he was going to let them down, and, you know, the irony of course, that he was perfect in that role, and that sort of extreme sensitivity and very high standards that he had of himself, he was so, so brutal on himself, that that is what made him such on outstanding actor and really one of our great actors.

I was thinking just the other day of more work that I would like to do with him, direct him. But he really did appreciate, I think, being part of that Broadway scene again. I remember him coming in one day after we opened the show and he was a big success in it and really started to enjoy it, having traveled from sheer terror, panic to actually beginning to enjoy it.

And he said, you know, I was in a restaurant last night and someone called across to me and they said, hey, Jim, and he said that's the first time in years anyone has called me by my name. They usually say, hey, Tony, and I really feel like being on Broadway has given me that whole side of myself back again.

He was proud to be a part of the acting community again, I think.

J. KING: And for our viewers who might only know him as Tony Soprano, tell us a little bit about the role in "God of Carnage."

WARCHUS: Well, very suited to this big bear-like personality. He was kind of a -- you know, well, we would say a low-middle-class, sort of working-class-background character, and blue-collar, I guess, and -- but somebody who was married to a very deep-thinking, socially aware wife.

And it's a story about that family and friends of theirs, their sons getting into a fight and how the parents are trying to resolve it in the most adult way possible. Of course, in the course of the play, they would all degenerate into children, squabbling and fighting in the most sort of debased and pathetic way.

And it was great to see this huge man, very, very strong man breaking down, you know, in the role, shoving, shouting, yelling, degenerating, as all the characters in that play do. It was kind of a firework display.

But he was just so good at the emotions in that, was a very passionate man and very, very tender man. You know, we went through -- I think we went on the journey together, he and I and the rest of the cast doing that play. And I -- I really loved him and admired him a great deal. It's still -- it's a real shock today.

J. KING: Did he talk at all -- you mentioned the sensitivity required in this role. He was a very gruff, a very cutthroat killer as Tony Soprano.

Did he think at all that maybe the audience won't find me credible, the audience will have difficulty digesting me in a different kind of role?

WARCHUS: Well, I think he came in with expectations of playing it in a certain way that wasn't maybe too far away from Tony Soprano, and maybe that had become his comfort zone, his comfort zone, possibly.

But each day in rehearsals, when I sort of indicated to him there was another area more out of control, more wonderful and more childlike, and what have you, he would chuckle. He said, yo, you really want me to do that? And he would chuckle to himself. He had great comic instincts, but he realized that the audience would get a kick, I think, out of seeing him do these other things and showing that other side.

But it was -- he didn't find it easy to get there, and so it was a real act of courage. I can't emphasize that enough. He pleaded with me on one occasion to be allowed to leave the show when we were still in rehearsals and he thought he wouldn't be able to just live up to the rest of the company.

And I hope he wouldn't mind me sharing that. It was a private thing at the time, but I think it's a good indication of the courage that he showed. And all of these things, the sensitivity, passion, the courage, the brutal sort of self-criticism, were all great ingredients for being the great actor that he was.

J. KING: It speaks volumes to his dedication to his craft.

Matthew, let me ask you this. And then please stay with us as we continue the conversation. It's the -- the stamina required for the theater is demanding. It's quite the haul first in the pre- production, then in the production of a show. Any indications at all from you that Mr. Gandolfini had any health issues at all?

WARCHUS: You know, there was talk that he had health issues in the past.

And I think that was just common knowledge. And he was as clean as a whistle for us and incredibly dedicated, rigorous, scrupulous. And, yes, yes, as was required, he behaved and looked like an athlete when he was doing the show on Broadway. It was a long run and he continued to do it. He came back for a second run on Broadway and then a third run over in L.A. And he was in good shape.

It was a -- you're right. It's strenuous. It was eight shows a week, but also it was a particularly -- a particularly strenuous show. No, this is -- I would say he was clearly a big guy, but when he was doing "God of Carnage," he was a healthy guy.

J. KING: And we will talk about some of those issues with Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

More next on the death and incredibly creative life of James Gandolfini.




UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: You're not going to believe this. Your sister is here.





GANDOLFINI: Yes, I wonder what the scam is this time? Whatever it is, I'm going to be five grand lighter before she rain dances back to the commune.




GANDOLFINI: I don't even know why I come here. I got nothing else to do, I guess.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Do you think it would help if you went someplace so you could rest up awhile?

GANDOLFINI: You mean like Vegas?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: No, not Vegas, someplace where you could be looked after.

GANDOLFINI: What, you mean like a hospital, with the padded rooms and straitjackets?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: No, no straitjackets. A residential treatment center.

GANDOLFINI: Do you got any idea what my life would be worth if certain people found out I checked into a laughing academy?


J. KING: The breaking news tonight, very sad news indeed for friends and fans alike. Actor James Gandolfini has died in Rome, apparently of a heart attack. He was 51.

Some reaction from colleagues on Twitter. Steve Carell says simply, "James Gandolfini, what a great loss. James Gandolfini there, unbelievably sad news. A fine man."

Also, Richard Kelly tweeting: "James Gandolfini was a lovely man and huge talent. RIP." Rest in peace.

We're back now with our chief medical correspondent, Sanjay Gupta. Krista Smith is editor of "Vanity Fair." Matthew Gandolfini directed Mr. Gandolfini in "God on Carnage" on Broadway, also "Variety"'s Jon Weisman.

Dr. Gupta, I want to start with you. And again we're in the early stages here so we need to be careful. But 51 years old, three months short of a 52nd birthday, he was, you could tell by looking, overweight, perhaps meeting the technical definition of obese. What are you're questions when something like this happens, when is your hear apparently of a heart attack?

GUPTA: Well, you certainly want to know about any existing health conditions that he had. You're hearing some of that from the people that knew him best, also his family history.

I mentioned earlier -- and we were talking with Larry King about this -- that the average age for someone having a first heart attack is typically in the mid-60s and it is certainly some of these risk factors that we're talking about, whether it be his weight alone, high cholesterol, high blood pressure. Was he a smoker? Had he used any drugs either currently or even in the past? Could put that rate of first heart attack a little earlier in life.

So, you know, you -- about 10 percent of people who have first heart attacks are having them before age 45, so while the vast majority do occur in the early -- or mid-60s, there are risk factors that could move that up. Also, John, in the United States or depending which state you live, if someone dies sort of unexpectedly, unusually, suspiciously, even in many cases, the medical examiner may be involved and try to get to -- get a better answer as to what exactly happened here by doing an examination.

I don't know what happens in Italy, specifically, but that's something else that I would want to know and the medical personnel on the ground I'm sure are trying to figure that out as we speak, John.

J. KING: Matthew, I know we are going to lose you soon.

As you worked in the theater, we were talking a few moments ago about some concerns. What was your take on his physical health, physical stamina?

WARCHUS: No, I have nothing to say, other than he did a very, very strenuous job rigorously, scrupulously, and with great self-control.

And during the months that he was involved with us, other than, you know -- other than just the anxiety that he was battling when we were -- before we opened as a show, which is something that consumed him -- and I was -- and that's not uncommon. And I was happy to walk with him through that process.

And, no, he was -- he was -- he did really well and seemed to be healthy. You know, I mean, it's like I say, this is a big guy in a very strenuous production, with lots of running around, and leaping around and fights and falling over furniture. And so, at that stage, there were no alarm bells, I would say, at all.

J. KING: You become a family in a production like that. Tell us something about Jim Gandolfini that perhaps the public never gets to see about the man, the person.

WARCHUS: Just to say that he was extremely gentle, tender, soft- hearted, vulnerable, kind.

Yes, he was very funny, sharp-tongued sometimes and kind of explosive. This is not -- this is not a negative for me. I love passionate people. And I love people with very high standards. And, you know, we would be rehearsing away, and rehearsals, as you probably know, is just a time when everybody gets everything wrong over and over again and gradually you work out together how you are going to get it right.

And he would sometimes, you know, beat the table just because he -- just because he got a line wrong. And we would say, Jim, this is what we're here for. This is fine. And I love that. You know, people said to me beforehand, you know, he's going to be a big personality and you got to be -- people always talk to directors, you have got to be careful about these people with very high profiles, might be divas and all.

None of that. He was -- he was a big personality. And -- but he was a humble and a gentle, tender man with high standards and great, great talent. I hope you can hear I have got -- I had such genuine fondness for him as a person, everything about him, his own struggles with his own -- well, whatever they were, demons in his life to do with his high standards and his anxiety and his passion and need to get things right.

And all of that stuff, that's normal for a performer and a performer of his caliber and performer of his profile. So, some stuff that he had to deal with, he dealt with it with great rigor, high standards, dignity. Yes, I loved him.

J. KING: Matthew Warchus directed James Gandolfini in "God of Carnage" on Broadway. We appreciate those reflections on the life, the work and especially the man.

"Variety"'s Jon Weisman is also with us.

This is sad and shocking news tonight.

Jon, when you think of James Gandolfini and the full variety of his work, not just Tony Soprano, what runs through your mind on this sad evening?

JON WEISMAN, "VARIETY": Well, that's thing he -- Tony Soprano will always be his legacy, but he actually had a pretty diverse career. And he had a good touch with comedy, as well as the ability to inhabit different dramatic roles.

And I saw him in "God of Carnage" in Los Angeles. So, he really was an actor of many talents.

J. KING: One of the things perhaps many people don't know is his love of the American military and the veteran. He produced a documentary for HBO about the difficulty of troops coming home from Iraq, also produced another documentary on dealing, going all the way back to earlier wars, but especially Afghanistan and Iraq, dealing with PTSD.

Was that something that -- anyone in the conversation -- Jon Weisman is with us, Krista Smith is with us -- how did he -- any idea how he came to that, that affinity, that affection and his desire to help support that cause?

WEISMAN: I think that was just something that he was passionate about for a long time.

I mean, to be definitely clear, I mean, he was not Tony Soprano in real life. He was a very -- person very interested in the world, and I think that was just a cause that was near and dear to him.

J. KING: Krista Smith, you say you knew James Gandolfini early in his career. How did he change as his career became more successful and then superstar?

SMITH: Well, I think that the experience that I knew with him is he's a very, very loyal guy.

He always -- he had the same amount of friends that he had with him when he wasn't famous as when he was famous. He didn't change. He didn't suddenly move on to a different stratosphere. He kept the same kind of family around him that he had when he wasn't famous.

And he really -- it's been nice to hear everyone's reflections. And I have to say the one thing is he was definitely an actor's actor. And every time I'm like interviewing actors or talking about other actors, he was always mentioned. People had a tremendous amount of respect for him, for his -- just his sheer talent, also his big personality, but yet his gentleness and his humor. He was very, very well-liked.

J. KING: Also with us is Melena Ryzik of "The New York Times," who profiled Mr. Gandolfini back in 2010.

Melena, what surprised you? You can look at the body of work. You could maybe go Broadway. You can look at the television shows. You can watch all "The Sopranos" you want. What, when you sat down and when you walked away from the interviews, do you say, hmm, that was a surprise?

MELENA RYZIK, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": He was quite funny and very dry.

And he was an unpretentious sort of guy. He didn't mind talking about his work, but he didn't want to sort of do it in the Hollywood froufrou fashion that sometimes people are used to. And he wanted to just have a conversation. He was interested in your honest opinion about things. And if you could face giving him your honest opinion, he would listen to it.

J. KING: Some people in the business like to be treated as if they are extra special. Others have a little bit of, I will call it disdain for that. How about Jim?

RYZIK: He didn't -- he didn't strike me as somebody who wanted a lot of extra attention. He didn't -- he told me he didn't think about playing Tony Soprano. He didn't think about him as a character, even though of course that's what he was known for and people -- he would walk down the street and people would shout that at him.

And he did his best to disappear into his roles. And he chose roles that really you wouldn't necessarily expect for somebody with his past, with his career, with his physical attributes. He really went for kind of softies sometimes.

J. KING: And was he worried -- I don't know if that's the right word. Was he concerned that he would be overdefined by Tony Soprano?

RYZIK: I think he liked giving people a different take on him.

He went for a different direction. He did a lot of indie movies. He did Broadway. He told me that he loved sort of dumb comedies. That's what he called them, stupid comedies that you might catch on cable. That's what he watched. He wasn't out there worrying about being typecast. I don't think so, no.

J. KING: And he was the defense secretary, if my memory is right, in "Zero Dark Thirty," an interesting role for somebody who is best known to the American people as a mobster. RYZIK: Yes. And he had a lot of interaction with the military. He went abroad. He did stuff with the troops and he did a lot of documentaries for HBO about people in combat. And that was something that I think he was really proud of.

J. KING: You know where that came from, where that passion came from? You see a lot of people who go on one trip for the USO or two trips for the USO or when they're putting out a new film maybe they do a few public relation appearances, but this was something clearly that he viewed as a cause that he would stick with.

RYZIK: Yes. He learned about the troops abroad having a real connection to "The Sopranos." And that's what kind of turned him on to it, as well as some of his "Sopranos" cast mates being -- having been in the military themselves.

And that's when he started going over and then HBO came to him with ideas about doing documentaries, and he started doing it and he didn't stop. And even when he played Leon Panetta in "Zero Dark Thirty," he, of course, interacted with some of those guys a little bit.

And he -- I remember at one of the many awards shows that we attended together, he made a joke how he apologized to Panetta for not -- for not doing him right physically. He said he had a bad wig in the movie.

J. KING: A bad wig in the movie.

A common theme from everyone we have spoken to about this sad news tonight is how hard he worked and how dedicated he was to his craft. Any indication when you did this profile back in 2010 of any health issues?

RYZIK: No, I wouldn't say so.

I mean, everybody who knew him, you could see what he was. He was a big guy. He didn't hide that. There is no way you could hide that. But I think -- we had lunch and I think he ate a salad. He was not somebody who gave any indication that he was concerned about his health, no.

J. KING: Where did he see his career going? We have talked it's sometimes frustrating for an actor who wants to have diversity, who enjoys the stage of the theater, who wants to be on the big screen, who, as you said, likes to do funny films, stupid comedies maybe he would call them or indie movies, but who -- the mass appeal, the mass of the audience out there thinks of him as Tony Soprano. Where did he see himself going?

RYZIK: I didn't have any sense that he was dissatisfied with the roles that he was getting.

He was certainly well beyond the moment when he had to read for anything. He was getting sent scripts. You would imagine that he had some choices in the matter and he was choosing roles that were smaller, that were left field, that were indies that he played a softer character, or -- you know, doing eight shows a week on Broadway is certainly not an easy thing.

So, you could see that he was still interested in stretching as a performer. And his co-stars and colleagues, writers, directors that I know that have worked with him had nothing but praise for his work ethic.

J. KING: Any sense of who he had admired in the business?

RYZIK: When I talked to him, he was having -- he had just done a movie with Kristen Stewart.

And he said that he was interested in working with her, not because of "Twilight," which he said he had never seen, but because he had seen her in an earlier movie, "Into the Wild."

So he was working at those kind of things. And he had this dedication. He was interested in the movie because it was made by Jake Scott, who was a nephew of Tony Scott, who gave him his first role. And he was dedicated to that -- to that relationship. You know, he wanted to pursue that. So I'm sure he had no shortage of opportunities.

KING: Helena Ryzik of "The New York Times," appreciate your insight. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, everyone else, thank you so much for helping us understand the gravity of this moment. Sorry it had to be under these circumstances tonight. Actor James Gandolfini, just 51 years old, dying on vacation in Italy.


KING: There are striking new claims tonight about a plane crash that really hit the country hard. A 747, one of the safest airliners on earth, blown out of the sky.

One minute, everything aboard TWA Flight 100 -- 800 was normal. The next, the plane falling in pieces into the Atlantic off the coast of Long Island, New York, killing everyone on board. And prompting perhaps the most thorough investigation anyone had ever seen. Among other things, you see it here. Investigators literally reassembled the aircraft to better determine just how it came apart. It still exists, by the way, in a hangar in Virginia.

But now the producers of a new documentary and some retired investigations say the official theory blaming a fuel tank, an explosion in the fuel tank, they say that's wrong. Not only that, they claim, in the words of the film's own promotional material, that the investigation was systematically undermined. They claim they've got solid evidence the explosion came from outside the 747.

And today, they petitioned the National Transportation Safety Board to reopen the investigation. In a moment, one of those retired investigators, as well as the assistant FBI director who oversaw the criminal investigation.

First, though, the background from 360's Gary Tuchman.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a hot summer night in 1996.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: TWA 800 climb and maintain one-five-thousand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just saw an explosion out here. And it just went down to the water.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was no saving anyone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It blew up in the air. And then we saw two fireballs go down to the -- to the water.

TUCHMAN: Family members, witnesses in utter shock. TWA Flight 800 had just taken off from JFK Airport on its way to Paris and crashed into the Atlantic off the coast of New York's eastern Long Island. All 230 people aboard, dead.

The investigation as to why the plane went down ribbed at the nation. The two main theories: mechanical failure or terrorism. The suspicion of terror was only heightened by the fact this disaster happened only three years after the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

Jim Kallstrom was the man in charge of the TWA investigation. He was the head of the New York City field office of the FBI.

JIM KALLSTROM, FBI: We talked about the possibility of a missile taking down the airplane. First time we've ever said that in law enforcement in the United States.

TUCHMAN: The origin of the missile theory originated and was sustained partly by eyewitnesses. Naneen Levine was with her baby at the time, outside overlooking the water.

NANEEN LEVINE, EYEWITNESS: It looked like a little red dot that went up. It didn't leave a tail or anything behind.

TUCHMAN: She even drew a sketch for the FBI, and then drew it for me.

LEVINE: The little red dot went up like this, sort of curved, came to just a point where like little fireworks were going to come down or just fade and be a flare, and then like big, big -- these would be thick streams of fire coming down.

TUCHMAN: Another witness was a man named Mike Wire, who said he saw a flare-like object head up in the sky and strike the plane.

MIKE WIRE, EYEWITNESS: I think it was a missile that went up.

TUCHMAN: A TWA pilot who had on occasion flown the actual 747 that had been in the accident also believed the missile theory. Pilot Terrell Stacey was one of TWA's representatives in the investigation.

TERRELL STACEY, FORMER TWA PILOT: The FBI and NTSB are political animals. They'll do whatever it takes to cover their political rear ends.

TUCHMAN: But there has never been any substantiation of evidence of an external explosion. And 16 months after the most thorough and extensive air crash investigation in U.S. history, the FBI announced no evidence had been found of a criminal act. The probable cause: an explosion of flammable fuel and vapors in the center fuel tank.

As far as the eyewitnesses who thought they saw a missile, investigators explained that after the explosion, the front of the plane plunged into the water, but before it plunged into the water, the back half continued climbing, which could have appeared to look like a missile in the night sky.

The man who led the NTSB investigation at the time was Robert Francis.

ROBERT FRANCIS, HEADED NTSB INVESTIGATION: A missile doesn't hit an airplane and you recover 98 percent of the airplane and still not see a single scratch or indication on the airplane that a missile hit it.

TUCHMAN: But a new documentary called "TWA Flight 800" will try to convince viewers otherwise. The documentary's conclusion: it wasn't a mechanical malfunction, but instead -- you guessed it -- an external explosion, suggesting a missile.

Not only that, the documentary says information was suppressed and some investigators were essentially coerced into supporting the mechanical failure explanation.

Former NTSB accident investigator Hank Hughes is one of the people in it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What would your analysis have been?

HANK HUGHES, FORMER NTSB ACCIDENT INVESTIGATOR: The primary -- primary conclusion was the explosive forces came from outside the airplane, not the center fuel tank.

TUCHMAN: The NTSB and the FBI stand by their findings. But today, as the wreckage of the plane still sits in a hangar, authorities promise they are open to a new investigation if new evidence is presented.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Atlanta.


KING: Again, the new documentary is called "TWA Flight 800." It features six former investigators, including Hank Hughes, who joins us tonight.


KING: So Hank Hughes, this is a pretty weighty allegation. You say there's solid evidence that the original NTSB finding was untrue. What is that evidence and what are you and your colleagues now saying happened to that plane? HUGHES: Witnesses say a missile or missiles shot down Flight 800. The physical evidence supports that. But in terms of penetration, nitrate deposits found on the aircraft, when we reconstructed the interior of the airplane, which is a job that I supervised, we found that there was absolutely no correlation between the victims, the interior, and for that matter, the explosion, which suggest a high degree of separation of parts or high ordnance explosion.

In addition to that, we, after painstakingly filing requests and suing the FBI, the CIA, and trying to get factual information that should have been made available to the public, we were able to analyze the radar data. At the time of the explosion, there were particles of debris and matter traveling at Mach 4 coming out the right side of the airplane.

KING: Are you saying -- you answer yes or no and tell me your evidence -- that the FBI, with the help of the CIA and the help of your bosses at the NTSB, manipulated evidence, doctored evidence, lied to the American people and covered up a crime or something caused by the United States military?

HUGHES: I never said that. What I'm saying is the facts and circumstances of the accident were not as portrayed by the NTSB's final report.

I will say that, from my own personal experience, I saw people lie. I saw information exfoliated. I testified before a Senate oversight -- judicial oversight committee hearing in May of 1997, along with two other safety board investigators, and talked about the irregularities and mismanagement by the NTSB and the problems with the FBI. And our concerns fell on deaf ears.

I know apparently, Mr. Kallstrom is upset about it, but I think he needs to look a little more closely at what really went on, because he's blowing a lot of smoke.

KING: You're -- you say he's blowing smoke. You're making serious accusations. Who told people to lie?

HUGHES: I have no idea. I have no idea. And it's the first and only time in my career where anything like that has ever happened.

KING: And you allege and this documentary alleges there were some shenanigans. FBI agents going into the hangar at weird hours of the night?

HUGHES: That's not an accusation; that's a fact.

KING: What were they doing?

HUGHES: I don't know. I went in the hangar one morning to open up and get it ready for my team to do work on the interior reconstruction, found that some of the parts had been disturbed. It was fairly evident to the folks that were with me.

We reported it to the FBI security chief, who came over, viewed what we showed him, concurred that, yes, someone had been there and disturbed it. They put some surveillance cameras in our hangar.

And two or three nights later, in the wee hours of the morning, three FBI agents from another office were caught in the hangar by the FBI security people. And then, of course, later when we said, "Who are they, what were they doing there?" we got no answer.

There's no motive in this other than we want to get it straight. It's a matter of personal integrity for us. You know, we're volunteers. We have nothing to gain financially or otherwise. And to be quite honest with you, a lot of us are sticking our necks out because of something we believe -- believe in, and it's all as a result of being able to look at evidence that not everybody has been able to see before.

KING: Hank Hughes, appreciate your time.

HUGHES: Yes, sir.


KING: The Hank Hughes allegations, at the very least, reopen a lot of old wounds. To some, they also raise new questions.

Others, though, including retired FBI assistant director James Kallstrom, believe the big questions were asked and answered conclusively years ago. Mr. Kallstrom joins us tonight.


KING: James Kallstrom, you just heard the allegations made my Hank Hughes. He said not only did the FBI blow it. This was 16 months of your life. This was 7,000 interviews. He said not only did you blow it, but there was some kind of a cover-up. What do you say to that?

JAMES KALLSTROM, RETIRED FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: I think it's preposterous. You know, if he had that kind of trouble speaking with his own NTSB hierarchy, you know, I was in that hangar there pretty much every day. He could have come over to me and said, "Hey, you know, I think they're leading you down a one-way street the wrong way."

But in fact, any of those fellows could have done that. And I don't question their motive. I just wish that, if someone felt that strongly about something like that, they could have brought it to someone's attention, you know, commensurate with the investigation and not wait 17 years till they get their pensions in their pockets and then come out with it.

KING: You mentioned pensions in their pockets.

KALLSTROM: I don't want nothing but...

KING: Mr. Hughes says this is about personal integrity. He says he's got no financial stake in this, that it's about personal integrity. What do you think it's about?

KALLSTROM: Well, I don't know what it's about, and I don't -- I don't challenge him on that. But why didn't he do this 16 1/2 years ago?

And I have no knowledge of any of these things he speaks about. First off, it's clear to understand one thing: the FBI and the NTSB are two separate agencies. The FBI has criminal jurisdiction under Title 18 of crime aboard aircraft or destroying American-flagged aircraft. The NTSB is the investigative agency for crashes and things like that, mechanical failure, electrical failure, pilot error, things like that.

And we both have our own jurisdiction; we both have our rules. We operate under the rules of federal procedure. We operate under the rules of evidence collection and chain of custody. And so it's not unusual to have FBI agents in the hangar and looking at bringing things down to our laboratory, back and forth.

KING: So when he says video surveillance sees three FBI agents in the hangar at weird hours of the night, up to what he thinks is hanky- panky, you would say what?

KALLSTROM: If my people were out there, they were there 24/7. Thought there was some hanky-panky going on? I certainly would have known about it. So I have no knowledge of that, and I don't believe that -- if that took place it had good reason.

You know, we had a whole team of lab technicians there that worked around the clock looking at evidence. And at the peak, John, I had a thousand agents on this investigation. And we took the missile theory, the possibility a missile brought down the plane, very, very seriously.

You know, at that time in '96, we were at a very high state of alert here in the United States. And 747s don't blow up in fireballs, you know, seen for 40 miles.

KING: As you know, the missile theory is not new. Back at the time, former journalist Pierre Salinger came forward. He said he had evidence from the French intelligence service that it was some sort of friendly fire from the Navy gunners. What do you make of that?

KALLSTROM: Pierre Salinger, you know, this is a guy who was the press secretary of John F. Kennedy, spent some time in the U.S. Senate.

Over in Cannes, France, apparently three sheets to the wind, you know, waving a piece of paper saying this is a report from French intelligence that says the USS Normandy, a proud frigate of the U.S. Navy, shot down this plane, which was absolute total bunk. It was the rantings of some nut on the Internet, you know, and it was totally debunked.

KING: The technology has changed a lot since then. Do you think it would make sense for the NTSB, for the FBI to bring together a team and at least run the same tests using the new technology to see if they see anything different?

KALLSTROM: I don't see anything wrong with that. The day that I had my closing press conference for an hour and a half, I talked about the fact, you know, we could find no evidence, and we were 99 percent sure that this was not a terrorist. However, we'll put the case pending inactive. That plane is rebuilt, and it sits in a hangar in Virginia. You know, if some brain child can look at that and come up with some other idea of how that happened, you know, God bless them.

But it's been 17 years, and that hasn't happened. But I wouldn't be opposed to that.

I'm just a little bit upset, because we are very close with the families. We were really bonded with the families and spent a lot of time with them. We showed them things; we talked about it. We tried to dissuade them of all the chatter the Pierre Salingers and all the crazy stuff, you know, that was out there. And here now, this hits 17 years later.

And I don't say it because I'm defensive about our investigation. You know, that can be -- that's open to the world. That plane is sitting there. It's not been buried; it's not been melted down. It's right there.

So I'd love to see what this definitive science is that somebody who's got a degree in physics and sits in an armchair and watches this on television could bring that the most prestigious metallurgists in the world couldn't bring.

KING: Let me ask you one last question. As you heard Mr. Hughes say that people were coerced, people lied. At any point in this administration -- you're deputy director of the FBI, you're leading this investigation -- at any point did you face any political pressure at all, any pressure at all from anywhere to make this not be a crime or make this not be an accident involving the military?

KALLSTROM: Absolutely not. And you know, I'm not the most bashful person, John, in the word. You know me, and I know you. And you know, that just would not have ever carried the day.

KING: James Kallstrom, appreciate your time, sir.

KALLSTROM: My pleasure. Thank you.


KING: A lot more happening tonight, including breaking news in that Ohio captive case, including exclusive video in the case of the woman who says she and her daughter were held captive in this house.


KING: Breaking news tonight on a story that, if true, goes beyond shocking.

A mentally-disabled woman and her young daughter allegedly held captive for more than a year, forced to eat dog food and menaced by a pit bull, a python. Those are the allegations.

Now tonight, in addition to the two men and one woman already in custody, a fourth person has turned herself in. Her name is Dezra Silsby (ph). She's scheduled to appear in court tomorrow.

In the meantime, video has surfaced of the home where the alleged victim says she was held, along with video she says was used to keep her from going to the authorities.

Pamela Brown is covering the story for us and joins us now from Ashland, Ohio, where this is all unfolding.

Pam, as this was starting to break last night, boy, it sounds horrific. What more have you learned today?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's horrific, it's confusing and it's complex, John. We've learned some new details today.

Prosecutors are standing by what they said yesterday, that the suspects in this case forced this 29-year-old woman and her little girl into captivity in the home here behind me. That they threatened her, that they used her daughter against her to keep her in line as their personal slave. So really horrifying details here.

When the victim was caught shoplifting last October, she told police about her alleged captors. And this is where it gets murky. When cops confronted the suspects, they gave them this very disturbing cell-phone video. Let's take a look here.




BROWN: As you can see there, it shows what appears to be the alleged victim beating her child a year earlier, smacking her on the face repeatedly. And then there's more video. There's video of her spanking her child repeatedly over and over again.




BROWN: Prosecutors are saying that the mother claims she was forced into this so that the -- so that her captors could use it as blackmail so that she wouldn't leave captivity -- John.

KING: Pamela, as you mentioned, this is very confusing. If the woman, the mother, was free to leave the house, why didn't she go to authorities sooner?

BROWN: That's a good question. And a lot of people are asking that, John. What we're told by authorities is that her little girl was forced to stay inside the home when the mother would run errands so that the mother would return back to her little girl.

I have to say, I've covered several human trafficking cases as a reporter, and it's not that clear-cut. Oftentimes victims in these trafficking cases feel powerless. They're fearful. They're scared to cry out for help, because they're afraid that their captors will come after them; hurt them; hurt their family. So it's very complex when it comes to that.

We did look at some police reports, though, and we found out that police over the last couple of years did have interaction, not only with the suspects in this case, but also with the alleged victim.

In fact, in one of the cases, the alleged victim called police about stolen Food Stamps.

So the question remains, John, if the mother and her child were living in subhuman conditions, as the U.S. attorney alleges, why didn't anyone intervene sooner?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has anyone else tied her up or just you?




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has anyone else taped her or just you?



KING: Explain first, Pam, the significance of that video.

BROWN: Yes. This is video that was actually taped by police. This is the day after the victim was caught for shoplifting. And she was giving police a tour of the home here behind me.

And in this video, she says -- she actually admits that she tied up her little girl, and that she taped the little girl, as we heard her say there in that video.

So we spoke to one of the suspect's attorneys, and he says that the video there is proof that her accusations aren't credible.

However, the U.S. attorney in this case is standing by what he has said. He says that there are several witnesses that corroborate the mother's story, and he continues to put the blame squarely on the accusers.

KING: Pamela Brown on the scene for us, trying to sort through this conflicting information; a bizarre story. Pam, thanks so much.

There's a lot more happening tonight. Isha Sesay now joins us with a "360 Bulletin" -- Isha. ISHA SESAY, HLN ANCHOR: John, the FBI revealed today that it has used drones inside the United States. The unmanned surveillance aircraft were employed in hostage and barricade situations where law- enforcement personnel could be at serious risk. The agency did not say how many drones it has or how often they're used.

We have a "360 Follow" to a story we reported on Monday. Three midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy were charged today with sexual assault. A female classmate claims she was raped by the men following a night of drinking at a party off campus last year.

And in a vote today, the American Medical Association reclassified obesity as a disease. The change diagnoses nearly one third of Americans with a medical condition, though the group has no official say in deciding what qualifies as a disease -- John.

KING: Isha, thanks.

And before we go this evening, we've been looking at the tributes tonight to James Gandolfini, who sadly died tonight at the age of 51. "The New York Times" obituary, quoting the actor and his reaction to getting what would be the role of any actor's lifetime, Tony Soprano. Before telling you what he said, we would be remiss in not paying tribute with a clip.


JAMES GANDOLFINI, ACTOR: I'm going to live a nice, long, happy life, which is more than I can say for you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Keep her moving. Keep moving.

GANDOLFINI: I try to do the right thing by you, and you're telling me what?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He doesn't understand you.

GANDOLFINI: Go ahead. Look at the look on her face. Look at her face. She's smiling. Look at her face. She's got a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) smile on her face.


KING: James Gandolfini, as we said, was characteristically modest about snagging that magnificent part. Quote, "'I thought it was a wonderful script,' he said, recalling his audition. 'I thought I can do this, but I thought they would hire someone a little more debonair, shall we say, a little more appealing to the eye.'"

James Gandolfini, dead tonight at the age of 51. He'll be deeply, deeply missed.

That does it for this edition of 360. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.