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New Orleans Nursing Home Owners Charged With Homicide
Aired September 13, 2005 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NANCY GRACE, HOST: Tonight, breaking news, the owners of St. Rita`s nursing home behind bars, while over 30 seniors drowned, sitting their wheelchairs, lying in their beds, the owner-operators literally rowed away in boats, leaving the elderly to be overcome by the rising water. Tonight, the charge, 34 counts negligent homicide. And tonight, literally thousands of sex offenders released in Louisiana after Katrina. Now they can`t be found. Have they made their way into the hurricane shelters? Tonight, a primetime exclusive, Natalee Holloway`s mother is with us.
Good evening, everybody. I`m Nancy Grace. I want to thank you for being with us tonight.
Tonight, thousands of registered sex offenders loose in the Gulf states. On top of the devastation suffered by millions on the Gulf Coast, a new threat, sex offenders relocated to shelters, hotels, local neighborhoods with no supervision. And tonight, in a primetime exclusive, Natalee Holloway`s mother is with us, following the release of all three suspects in the disappearance of her daughter.
But first, what does Lady Justice have to say about the owners of St. Rita`s nursing home near New Orleans? They allowed nearly half their patients to drown.
Tonight, let`s go straight out to CNN correspondent Mary Snow. Mary, what happened today?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What happened today, Nancy, is the attorney general for the state of Louisiana announced that the owners of St. Rita`s nursing home are being charged with 34 counts of negligent homicide. Those owners are Mable Salvador (SIC) and her husband. And what the attorney general said was that 34 bodies had been recovered from St. Rita`s nursing home last week. And he said there had been some rumors, he had heard stories, he looked into it. And today, the couple turned themselves in.
Now, we just spoke to their attorney, who said that they have been released on their own recognizance. And in a statement, he said that he promises that there is another side to the story. But basically, what happened -- really, a horrifying, heart-breaking story after Hurricane Katrina. This nursing home is about 20 miles outside of New Orleans. And there was an evacuation, a mandatory evacuation in place.
What happened was, the attorney general pointed out that every nursing home in the state has to have an evacuation plan. And he says that people died, in his words, because of their inaction. He said that buses were offered to the owners of that nursing home before the hurricane, and they were refused. They also have a contract, he said, with an ambulance service, and he says the ambulance service was never called to evacuate.
GRACE: Here`s what the AG had to say today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLES FOTI, LOUISIANA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Thirty-four people drowned in a nursing home when it should have been evacuated. Now, I cannot say it any much plainer than that.
The pathetic thing is, in this case, once again, is that they were asked if they wanted to move them. They refused to move them. They had a contract to move them. They did not. They were warned repeatedly, both by the media and by the St. Bernard parish emergency preparation people, that the storm was coming. In effect, their inactions resulted in the death of these people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Joining me now from New Orleans, Anderson Cooper, CNN correspondent and anchor. Anderson, I know you have heard about this St. Rita`s story. Today, formal charges being handed down. You know, Anderson, I`m wondering if this isn`t just the tip of the iceberg.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It very well may be. I mean, we don`t know what`s inside a lot of these buildings. Most of them haven`t been gone through. We`re just -- you know, one by one, day after day -- you know, the death toll nearly doubled today. So we are now getting into homes, police, urban search and rescue. And who knows what other houses of horror there are in this city.
And when you think of those poor people just abandoned and left to float on mattresses, to be smothered in their beds, to drown -- you know, I read one account in the paper that they had pushed the dresser drawers against the window, hoping that might keep the water out. I mean, it`s just so -- it boggles the mind that anybody would do that, leaving people behind. Whoever it was -- you know, there -- it remains to be seen exactly who`s responsible. Charges have been leveled. There will be a trial, more than likely. But you know, there`s a lot of blame to go around, Nancy.
GRACE: Well, of course, they`re released on their own recognizance tonight, Anderson. They`re not even behind bars, these two owner- operators. But the reality is, where are they going to put them anyway?
COOPER: Well, that`s right. I mean, you know, there`s a jail now in the Greyhound bus station where they moved some folks. They moved some other folks to different towns. But they`re just -- you know, New Orleans is down on its knees. I mean, you know, everyone who`s ever been here and wants to come here will know that this city will rise again, but it is on its a knees right now.
And they -- you know, a murder investigation -- I talked to the chief of police last night, he said, you know, they could handle a murder investigation. But you know, that might be a little optimistic. It is tough to see how they could do that, at this point. They are still struggling day by day, Nancy.
GRACE: You know, regarding this St. Rita`s, there are 34 counts. You`re right, there will be a trial. But what is the state there in New Orleans of, really, the justice system? The courthouse, the files, everything, gone.
COOPER: Yes, everything gone. Even, you know, dental records are gone. So identifying, you know, our neighbors, our countrymen who have died here, that`s going to be a difficult task. Visual identification -- I mean, it`s impossible. These people have been left out for two weeks now. And who knows how long some of them are going to be out there all alone, just, you know, laying in their homes, waiting to have their dignity restored.
So yes, it is a mess. And when you start to actually think systematically about, you know, court records and dental records and all of this, you realize the enormity of this, Nancy.
GRACE: Well, speaking of St. Rita`s, Mr. Joe Galladoro is with us. I think I`m losing Anderson, Elizabeth. If you can try to get that satellite back? In the meantime, I want to go to Joe Galladoro, whose father died at St. Rita`s nursing home. Joe, thank you for being with us again. What`s your response to the charges handed down today?
JOE GALLADORO, FATHER DIED AT ST. RITA`S NURSING HOME: Well, first of all, Nancy, I really want to thank you because I believe what you did last night -- I heard that these people actually turned themselves in. And I believe after your newscast last night, I think they realized that they had no choice but to stop running and to turn themselves in.
GRACE: Yes, I`m glad they came off their shopping spree and decided to hand themselves in. Of course, they`re out on their own recognizance, which means they didn`t even have to post bail. They just signed a piece of paper. They`re out of jail. But long story short...
GALLADORO: Yes, that really confuses me. I don`t understand, you know, why they never had to post bail or were that easily released. That doesn`t make sense.
GRACE: Joe, don`t move. Here`s what the AG had to say today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FOTI: When you accept that patient, you have a duty and a standard of care to provide to these people. In this case, we felt it was not done. The determination of that will be by a court of law, as it should be. But it`s also -- I want to reemphasize the warning that we will investigate each and every one and will not hesitate, either civilly or criminally, to bring a prosecution or file a lawsuit to protect the interests of our senior citizens and those people that are not able to care for themselves, that need around-the-clock care.
I believe that the nursing home administrators had an evacuation plan, should have effectuated an evacuation plan. And by not doing that, they did not show the standard of care necessary for patients.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Back to Anderson Cooper. Anderson, they had an evacuation plan. They had a contract with an ambulance agency. My understanding, you know, in those little private, like, ambulet (ph) things that drive around, the vans, is my understanding. And not only that, St. Bernard`s parish, which you`re very familiar with, Anderson, offered to help them. And they turned it down! Anderson, the owners were there and rowed away, literally rowed away on boats, leaving these people there, according to one of the nurses!
COOPER: Yes, you know, the fact that the coroner called and checked and said, You know what? We`ll give you a hand if you need it, and they said, No -- that`s very damning, indeed.
But you know, Nancy, I wish I could tell you that this is -- I mean, it`s shocking. Yes. It`s horrific. Any adjective will do. But I wish I could tell you that it`s surprising. But after two weeks here, after what the entire country, the world has seen happening here, it`s not all that surprising. You know, I mean, we`ve seen indignities upon indignities that these people have had to live through and continue to have to exist with. So you know, maybe the fact that it isn`t all that surprising makes it, I guess, even more horrific. It`s -- I think, as you said earlier, Nancy, you`re right on, this could just be the tip of the iceberg.
GRACE: Well, Anderson, before I lose your satellite again -- everybody, Anderson is with us from New Orleans, and he told us last week he didn`t want to come home. And every night, we hear a new story from Anderson Cooper. Sometimes we don`t want to hear it, but it`s the truth.
Anderson, last night you told me a story about some evacuees -- you know, they don`t want us to call it refugee, an evacuee, people, Americans, no home, nowhere to go, no food, water, nothing -- go across the bridge. Cops say go to the other side. They go to the other side, and they actually fire into the air on fellow Americans. What else did you find out about that, Anderson? I could hardly believe it.
COOPER: Yes, you know, getting answers to exactly what happened, it`s -- you know, it`s tough. I mean, you`re a prosecutor, you know this better than I. But I mean, I just talked to another sheriff, the head of Jefferson parish, who first said his officers weren`t on that bridge. And I said, Well, wait a minute, the head of the -- the other small-town sheriff told me your officers were there and they were helping them keep these people back. And then he said, Oh, yes, well, that was later in the week.
You know, it`s very hard to get your hands around it. This sheriff did say, you know, at least one shot was fired. He didn`t say shots. The people on the bridge -- hundreds of people were on the bridge -- four of them say multiple shots were fired over their head.
And all they wanted to do -- they weren`t looking to loot. They weren`t looking to rob. They wanted safety. They wanted a dry place to sleep, you know, food, if they could get it, water, if they could get it, great. But they wanted someplace that was safe, and across that bridge was safe. There had been a mandatory evacuation. There wasn`t the flooding. There hadn`t been the level of looting that there was.
And what I tried to understand is, well, what did these sheriffs, who were preventing these people from this parish, preventing New Orleans residents from coming across -- what did they want them to do? I mean, they were just sending them back to New Orleans, but I mean, where -- what were they sending them back to? And I can`t get an answer to that question.
COOPER: Frankly, you know what? There`s probably not an answer to it.
GRACE: You know how, so often here in America, we look around the world and we discuss and pontificate about how we value human life so much here in America, how much it means to us, life and liberty. You know what? I wouldn`t even treat a dog the way they treated those people trying to get off that bridge, or the way they treated those elderly in that nursing home. It seems like you`re in another country, Anderson!
COOPER: It`s -- what I learned here, which I had known before but I`d never seen it here in the United States, is that in a very short amount of time, good, decent people who maybe were good and decent before something terrible happens, within a very short amount of time, anybody can turn into a monster. You can also turn into a hero in the same blink of an eye.
And that`s the choice people had to make here on the ground. Some people turn into heroes. And we have met so many of them, and they are the people I think about as I go to sleep at night. But there are people here who didn`t become heroes, who chose to just protect themselves, who chose not to help their neighbors. And those are the stories we`re trying to get at. And you know, it`s easy to tell the hero stories because people want to talk about heroes. But I think it`s important to look at the people who didn`t turn into heroes, who didn`t step up and help their neighbors when help was so desperately needed, Nancy.
GRACE: Hey, Anderson, last night, when we were breaking the story about St. Rita`s, did you see the little nurse`s aide that came on this show? She`s about that big, and she managed to pull out multiple of these elderly and get them in boats and save their lives. That little bitty thing tried so hard to save people`s lives. And that is an American hero. And I know you see those stories, too. So Anderson, I guess you`re still not ready to come home, are you.
COOPER: I`m really not, you know, and it`s not about me. I mean, I just -- I feel privileged to be here with these people, with these heroes. I mean, these are -- you know, it`s often said, you know, there aren`t any heroes, you know, around today. But I mean, this is -- this is a city of heroes and this is a state of heroes. And Mississippi is a state of heroes, the people who stepped up and rolled up their sleeves and, you know, grabbed a pickax, if a pickax was needed, grabbed a stethoscope -- and God knows so many of those were needed -- or grabbed a rifle, if that`s what it took, but they made a stand here. And I`m just -- I`m honored to just be able to be in their company and try to tell some of their stories, Nancy.
GRACE: OK, Anderson. You walk slow and hurry back, OK?
COOPER: All right.
GRACE: Quick break, everybody. Tropical Storm Ophelia, upgraded to hurricane status, winds 75 mph, outer bands already lashing the Carolinas. Center expected to hit the coast tomorrow afternoon. If Ophelia hits, it will be the third hurricane to hit the U.S. this year. Hurricane season not over until November 30.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) Hurricane Katrina. These are the houses (INAUDIBLE) and I drew one cart (ph) in there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I started crying, like, because (INAUDIBLE) And I say, Mama, are you safe? She say yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: There are so many reunions of families torn apart by Hurricane Katrina. But tonight, we have confirmed that will not happen for 34 seniors that drowned in their beds and their wheelchairs at St. Rita`s nursing home, St. Bernard`s parish near Louisiana.
I want to go straight back out to Joe Galladoro. His father died at St. Rita`s. Today the attorney general announced homicide charges, negligent homicide charges, 34 counts. Mr. Galladoro, did it bring you any solace, any comfort, to hear that these charges will be filed?
GALLADORO: Yes, a little. I`m just still confused. He continued to reassure us, my brother and my sister and I, that he had made all the necessary arrangements. He had an evacuation plan. He had ambulances. He had buses that were all ready to take them out. There`s three other facilities, nursing homes, in the immediate area. Those nursing homes got out. They did not lose anybody. They got out well ahead of the storm.
I just -- I do not know what the owner was thinking or contemplating by staying put. He was told to get out, that the parish was evacuated. He was offered help. I just do not know what his thought process was.
GRACE: Joe, you called him to ask him the plan, correct?
GALLADORO: My brother and sister did. They actually went and met with him, and he assured them that he had a plan, he had everything to get the elderly out.
GRACE: Joe, when did you realize your father did not get out?
GALLADORO: Tuesday -- Tuesday night, I got a phone call from my brother. He`s a St. Bernard firefighter, in St. Bernard parish. He went to the facility -- he was the one that had spoken to Sal a couple of days before -- went to the facility. He pulled up. The facility looked empty. He felt real good, got out of the boat, got into the water, opened the door of the facility. Again, he was feeling real good, called out, no one answered, no one was there, continued to go into the facility, again, feeling good that everybody had gotten out.
Took a few more steps. He bumped into a body. Took a few more steps. He bumped into another body. At that point, he realized it was -- it was going to be bad. Real concern for my father at that moment set in. He backed out of the facility, got to his radio and called his headquarters, or whatever makeshift communications they had at the time. He was informed that they already had -- knew about the situation at St. Rita`s.
He asked them where they were evacuated. He went over to the evacuation center, where they had -- where some of the ones they were able to rescue were staying, spoke to the nurse`s aides, who immediately ran up to him and sobbing and crying and telling -- telling him that -- how sorry they were. And in fact, a lady who worked there who actually graduated from high school with me, Thelma Levron (ph), cried in my brother`s arms for half an hour, just couldn`t stop sobbing and telling him how sorry she was that they were not able to save my dad. And at this time, he asked the whereabouts of Sal, and he was told that, you know, Sal was out riding around in a boat, which my brother and I were just -- we were just dumbfounded.
GRACE: Welcome back. I`m Nancy Grace.
I want to go straight back out to Joe Galladoro. His father died in St. Rita`s nursing home -- totally unnecessary. It is totally contemptible! Today, 34 charges coming down, negligent homicide, against the owners of St. Rita`s. And I say, run consecutive, one after the other.
Joe, tell me about your father. He was in pretty good health.
GALLADORO: He was in real good health. Mentally, the man still had all of his faculties. He would get on my brother and sister and I when we went down there, and you know, he`d say, Hey, you know, y`all missed a night last night. You know, Where were y`all? And you know, we went down quite regular. We just lived a couple of miles away. We`d go down, and we would shave and bathe him. And my nephew would pitch in and help us, you know, when -- on those days when we couldn`t get down. But one of us was always down there, you know, like I said, shaving him, bathing him, feeding him. He loved his chocolate chip cookies and his cheese nips. He was -- you know, he loved life, and he told us he wasn`t ready to die.
GRACE: Joe -- Joe, you said he loved life. Why do you say that? What did he love?
GALLADORO: He loved his wife. He loved his children. He loved his many grandchildren. His last birthday, we were all down there. We shared cake, we shared ice cream. He`s most probably the kindest and gentlest man that I`ve ever known. He was just a good father, a good husband. Like I said last night, you know, I know he`s in a better place. He`s in heaven. He`s looking down on us, and he`s wishing that, you know...
GRACE: But Joe -- Joe -- Joe, it was just so easily avoidable. Joe Galladoro lost his father in St. Rita`s. Joe, thank you for being with us.
GALLADORO: Thank you, Nancy.
THOMAS ROBERTS, CNN HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: Hi everybody. I`m Thomas Roberts with your "Headline Prime News Break." The search and rescue phase is winding down in New Orleans. Officials have updated the official death toll in Louisiana to 423, up from 279 yesterday. Mayor Ray Nagin says only 30 people were rescued yesterday and airlift evacuations are now ending.
Meanwhile, the owners of a flooded New Orleans nursing home are charged with 34 counts of negligent homicide. Thirty-four bodies were found inside St. Rita`s Nursing Home in St. Bernard parish. The state`s attorney general says those people should have been evacuated ahead of the storm.
President Bush says the U.S. won`t waver in its support of Iraq`s new government despite insurgent attacks. President Bush met with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani at the White House today.
And it is day two of confirmation hearings for Supreme Court chief justice nominee Judge John Roberts. Pressed on the abortion issue, Judge Roberts said the 1973 ruling legalizing abortion was settled as a precedent but didn`t want to get into specifics about the case itself.
That is the news for now. Thanks for joining us. I`m Thomas Roberts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was our very first house we bought together. Hi honey, I`m breaking in. You see the mold has already come in here. It`s getting in here, and it`s probably really toxic. I can honestly say I`m one of the luckier ones, able (ph) to get my family out. There`s a picture of my wife and kids doing a recital. I`ll try to save that before we go.
GRACE: Welcome back everybody. I`m Nancy Grace. Thank you for being with us. On top of the devastation you are seeing in these photos and videos, now the residents of New Orleans have to worry -- and Louisiana, have to worry about 4,500 registered sex offenders -- 4,500 registered sex offenders. And that`s simply out of the 14 parishes affected by Katrina alone.
But let`s just think about who`s a registered sex offender? What about John Evander Couey? He allegedly is responsible for the death of a beautiful, beautiful little girl in Florida. Joseph Duncan -- remember the two Groene children he kidnapped after slaying their whole family? Alejandro Avila, finally facing death for the death of Samantha Runnion.
There`s so many others, but these are registered sex offenders. And there are 4,500 of them now unaccounted for in Louisiana. I want to go quickly to Jennifer Miele. Jennifer, are these shelters doing background checks?
JENNIFER MIELE, WTAE REPORTER IN HOUSTON: Nancy, I really hope that your show can have the same impact on this story as it did on the St. Rita`s story. You know, here in Houston, 50,000 people came here from the flooded New Orleans places. So imagine, you know -- you look at people as they walk by, and you have no idea, Nancy, could that be a registered sex offender?
And that`s a real problem they`re having here in Houston. So they sent close to $1 million to step up patrols here in Houston to make sure that the crime rates stay stable. And not only did it stay stable here it went down 1.2 percent. So when they`re coming into the shelters, to answer your question, no, they`re not doing background checks. They simply do not have the facilities, the capabilities, the money, to do something like that. It`s so scary.
GRACE: And the thing is, even if someone gives their identity, you can`t confirm it. People don`t have identification with them. I mean, you`d have to have AFIS, the fingerprint -- the national fingerprint system, set up in the shelter.
MIELE: Nancy, you`re exactly right. But what you have to remember is there is no national sex offender registry. It doesn`t exist. So even if you have someone`s name, and would run it through some sort of registry, it doesn`t exist. So what they`re having to do here is when they apply for a license or when they apply for identification, that is the one place where these sex offenders could be flagged.
Because when you do apply for identification here in Texas, they will run your name, they do have access to a Louisiana database, so hopefully they`ll be able to flag some people there.
GRACE: Marc Klaas, that is exactly why I went to Washington, to get the Child Safety Act of 2005, so we have a national registry for just this purpose.
MARC KLAAS, PRESIDENT, BEYOND MISSING: Yes, well that`s one of the things. And that registry has to be able to be searched using a wide variety of criteria, including name, including ethnicity, including body marks and tattoos, because we see that these guys are a very transient kind of a population.
But even more importantly, in the Child Protection Act, Nancy, is they are going to be funding some pilot programs to use best technologies to give law enforcement the ability to track and monitor these individuals.
And we can only hope that they`re waiting for emerging technology, because quite frankly the GPS stuff out there right now would not have survived the water. It does not work indoors, and it`s very iffy oftentimes in certain areas.
GRACE: Well, Marc, while we wait for Congress to twiddle their thumbs on the Child Safety Act of 2005, let`s go to state trooper Julie Lewis with the Louisiana State Police. Ma`am, as if you don`t have enough to worry about, you`ve got 4,500 registered sex offenders just wandering around. What are you guys going to do about it?
JULIE LEWIS, LOUISIANA STATE POLICE: Well, unfortunately, that`s the case regardless if we`re having a state of emergency. Now there`s never been a way to track and monitor sexual offenders 24/7. There`s just nothing in place to do that. However, we do have via our Web site www.lsp.org, you can check by the person`s name. You can also check by your parish or city. And there`s other factors, criteria they can look at to see if possibly a person is a sexual offender in their area.
GRACE: Well, with me state trooper Julie Lewis with the Louisiana State Police, www.lsp.org. Officer Lewis, that`s not helping these people in this shelter. I doubt they`ve got an Apple laptop, one of those $2,000 things on their laps, or electricity to plug it into. So what can be done to protect these children that are being put in the shelter?
LEWIS: It`s a very valid point, Nancy. Unfortunately, we do have to refer back to the parental responsibility of constantly monitoring your children. Now, granted, we are, you know, in extraordinary circumstances right now due to Hurricane Katrina.
However, that does not relieve sexual offenders of their legal responsibility to report, if they change residency to another state or another jurisdiction. They still have to do that. But still, as parents you still have to watch your children just as you would if you were going to a local department store because sexual offenders could be just about anybody. There`s no scarlet letter marking them as such.
BRACE: You know, you`re right about that. Another issue, Anne Bremner -- don`t leave, lady trooper. Anne Bremner went to the Astrodome to try to figure out people`s legal problems, the evacuees from New Orleans. You know, she`s right, it`s ultimately up to the parents. But some of these children no longer have their parents.
ANNE BREMNER, TRIAL ATTORNEY: That`s exactly right, Nancy. And, you know, the impact of your program after I went to Houston and Houston lawyers got into the Astrodome and then the American Bar Association got all those thousands of volunteers and your impact from the nursing home report last night, hopefully there will be an impact from this, because there are children without parents there in the Astrodome.
There were rumors when I was in Houston, Nancy, about sex offenders and released prisoners right there in the Astrodome. Everyone`s together. It`s a recipe for disaster.
GRACE: Also with me, Debra Opri, a high profile defense lawyer. You know, Debra, are you familiar with the Florida sex registry statute? Because with it, you actually have to have an evacuation plan in Florida, anyway, or else you know what? You`re back in the can.
DEBRA OPRI, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, Louisiana is very deficient in many ways. And, you know, let`s just be honest with each other. I agree with Anne, those children and sex offenders should not be all in the mix. It is a recipe for disaster.
I believe from are three things you should do. One, you have to identify, then you have to individualize, and then you have to isolate. How do you do it? You start with the fingerprinting. You start with asking for the identification. And you know right from the get-go that these sex offenders are going to lie.
They don`t register. They`re defunct in that. How do we handle it? You have to separate them from the masses and just do your investigation the best you can and get them out of that emergency district. Because right now, they have enough to handle other than these sex offenders.
GRACE: And back to state trooper Julie Lewis. Ms. Lewis, how long do you think it`s going to take to round up about 3,300 to 4,500 displaced sex offenders?
LEWIS: There is no time line, and there really is no way to know if al of those 3,300 have actually been displaced. However, we are receiving phone calls to the state police bureau for the sexual offenders. Some are reporting they do plan on changing residency so they will do so in writing. I understand Department of Corrections is also looking to round up those who are still under their supervising.
GRACE: With me, state trooper Julie Lewis with the Louisiana State Police. If you have computer access, www.lsp -- Louisiana State Police -- dot org. Stay with us.
GRACE: That`s right. Him. Joran Van Der Sloot. He left Aruba. He`s in college now. I don`t know if he`s going to return for police questioning or not. In the chaos and the disaster of Hurricane Katrina, did Joran Van Der Sloot slip through the cracks? With us tonight, a very special guest, Beth Twitty.
Beth, thank you for being with us. What is your response to these three, the three chief suspects, being released?
BETH HOLLOWAY TWITTY, NATALEE HOLLOWAY`S MOTHER: Well, you know, Nancy, I was thinking, I knew there was corruption and cover-up involved. But I certainly didn`t know they were cowards either, and to hide beneath the cloak of Hurricane Katrina is just reprehensible. And you know, I think -- I think of the Dutch government, and I want to keep the focus on this political party in place, NEP (ph). I think of this judge, Rick Smit. And I can`t imagine putting the suspects` rights or the suspects, you know, before the victim of Natalee, and that why should he choose to be concerned about Joran attending university in The Hague? It just is unbelievable.
GRACE: That`s why he let him out, so he could go to school?
TWITTY: Well, I think that the judge was concerned about Joran beginning college and wanted to have him pursue that.
GRACE: What about Natalee starting college? Is anybody worried about that?
TWITTY: Evidently, they`re not.
GRACE: What was the grounds? Why did they release them?
TWITTY: You know, Nancy, there was absolutely no -- no grounds for them to be released. And I spoke with the Dutch interrogators. And even as of September the 1st, things were really progressing well, and Joran and Deepak and Satish, they had -- these young men had divided, and they were not denying a crime anymore. They were merely implicating each other. And the list of inconsistencies was presented before Judge Smit. The reasonable doubt was there. I don`t have any idea why he fled the island and then faxed a reversal decision. It just is incredible.
GRACE: Beth, where were you when you got the news that Van Der Sloot was going to be released?
TWITTY: I was in my hotel room. But Nancy, you know, here`s another example of how the defense attorneys and this judge and Paulus Van Der Sloot are running the show, because do you know that Anita and Paul Van Der Sloot were bragging to -- and Antonio Carlo were bragging to international media four and half hours -- four and a half hours -- before they had the decency to tell me. The FBI didn`t know. The American consulate didn`t know. My attorney didn`t know. You know, it just shows they`re running the investigation.
GRACE: I want to go to Jossy Mansur, managing director and editor of "Diorio" newspaper. Jossy, I am stunned that these three have walked. Not only that, one`s off the island. One is back at his job at the Internet cafe, running the cash register. But Jossy, what do the residents of Aruba have to say about this?
JOSSY MANSUR, EDITOR, DIORIO: You know, it wasn`t a very happy reception by the people. The people were as flabbergasted as we are that this happened, the more so because the arguments that the judge used, if that Mr. Joran Van Der Sloot expresses desires to continue his studies, and he gave that preference over everything else.
GRACE: Where is Van Der Sloot now?
MANSUR: He`s in The Hague, in Holland.
GRACE: So he can travel freely between Aruba and other Dutch territories? He can get on a plane and just leave?
MANSUR: Yes, ma`am, he can go to Holland, he can go to Aruba, Curacao, Bonair (ph), St. Martin, Saba (ph) and San Bestaces (ph).
GRACE: Debra Opri, response?
OPRI: I`m flabbergasted too, but let`s look at the facts. The judge is the ruler here. He said there`s no evidence to further hold him beyond that September deadline, and he released him, and he let him stay within the jurisdiction.
However, my heart breaks for Beth. And if you`re listening, all I can tell you is, you may have to face the fact that you may never know what happened to your daughter. And these gentlemen, unless the guilt eats away at them at a point later in life where they eventually talk, this may, in fact, become an unsolved crime. I mean, even if -- even if that body were to wash ashore today, what`s left of it.
GRACE: You know, Debra Opri, I`m not quite ready to give up on the investigation and accept that it`s all done, just because some judge makes an erroneous ruling, for Pete`s sake. You know, this doesn`t have to be the end of the story.
I want to go back to Beth Twitty and ask you, Beth, is there anywhere to go at this juncture?
TWITTY: Well, Nancy, I actually think there is, and I`ve had five of Joran`s statements that are printed in Dutch translated for me. You know, he states specifically in one of his statements, he prefaced it with, well, now, my third statement was not true, now here`s the truth. We drove -- I drove Natalee to my home at 1:40 a.m. on May 30th. He says he has sex with her. You know, if kidnapping -- and she`s coming in and out of consciousness when -- as he`s describing her in these statements.
You know, if kidnapping and rape is not a crime within the Dutch government, well, then there is -- then the Dutch government is serving no purpose.
GRACE: Beth, what do you have to say to people that suggest you just have to accept this laying down?
TWITTY: Well, Nancy, I just don`t feel that we have to accept this. And you know, we`ll hopefully -- you know, hoping tomorrow that maybe some of these rulings will be appealed and that Joran could possibly be reincarcerated, you know. I just can`t give up hope on this, Nancy, because the evidence was presented before the judge -- the inconsistencies, the reasonable doubt, it was there.
KLAAS: Well, I`ll tell you, this is -- it`s a sleazy and corrupt system, justice system, and sleazy and corrupt systems exist all over this world. And people have to understand that if they`re going to foreign countries or if they`re sending their children to foreign countries, they`re going to be subject to the laws of those countries. And there`s very little that the United States government will do to help anybody. I think that they`ve probably helped more in this case than almost any other international case that I`ve ever been witness to. But still, she`s standing there with fewer options every day.
GRACE: Beth, the way you described Joran Van Der Sloot`s statement to me is overwhelming evidence of guilt.
TWITTY: Absolutely, Nancy. And Doug and Dave and I, Natalee`s father, have had knowledge of these statements since before July. But we have been so respectful of the system and trying to allow it to work. But as we`ve seen, that it, you know, this present political party in place has just failed Natalee greatly.
GRACE: Beth, I`m stunned at the judge`s ruling. You talked about appeals coming up. What are they?
TWITTY: Well I know that one of them is seeking for the re- incarceration of Joran Van Der Sloot. And also for the three young men to submit DNA. So of course...
GRACE: This beautiful girl, Natalee Holloway, went missing on her high school senior trip. Last seen with three locals. They have now been released. With us tonight, Natalee`s mother, Beth Twitty. Beth, how do you keep going? That`s my question for you tonight.
TWITTY: Well, Nancy, the support group in Birmingham is just incredible. And, you know, from there, it just spread throughout the world. I mean, whether in California or Florida, people are coming up to me, and they are just, you know, everyone is expressing genuine -- that their thoughts and prayers are with us, and they`re supporting us. And that`s what keeps us going every day.
GRACE: Beth, do you think we`re ever going to know what happened to Natalee? Where she is?
TWITTY: You know, Nancy, that will be unbelievable if we don`t know, because there are so many individuals within her -- that involve involvement with her crime that know exactly where she is. And it can be - - it can happen. They can let us know. This is not something that should be a secret there, Nancy.
GRACE: You know, Beth, it amazes me that justice is left up to the possibility that one day Joran Van Der Sloot may get drunk or inebriated and tell someone what happened. That is not justice. This is not justice.
TWITTY: And you know, Nancy, I keep thinking, you know, what would happen if? What would happen if Joran Van Der Sloot met the judge`s daughter one night, and she were to wind up missing the next day with all these sexual assaults committed against her? I mean, you know, people have to stop and think of the what if. And you know, when you stop and you put yourself or your daughter in Natalee`s shoes, then you begin thinking a little differently.
GRACE: With us tonight, Natalee`s mother, Beth Twitty. Beth, I know you`ve heard this so many times. But our thoughts and prayers are with you still and with Natalee.
TWITTY: Thank you, Nancy.
GRACE: Thank you to Beth and all of my guests. Our biggest thank you is always to you for being with us. Coming up, headlines from all around the world, Larry on CNN. I`m Nancy Grace signing off for tonight. See you right here tomorrow night 8:00 sharp Eastern. Until then, good night, friend.