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CNN Live Event/Special

Smart Family Receives Suspicious Letter

Aired July 10, 2002 - 13:04   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We've got to go to Salt Lake City where Ed Smart is going to address reporters.


ED SMART, FATHER OF ELIZABETH SMART: : ... was wanting to release Elizabeth, and I don't know how credible the correspondence was. It seemed kind of questionable to me.

But I felt that it was very important to come out today and to ask the abductor or the person that is out there holding Elizabeth to, you know, please communicate or correspond with me; that we -- you know, we really want Elizabeth back. We want her back now. We are anxious to receive any correspondence that are credible. And I would just ask you to, you know, whether you correspond by phone, by the tip line, 799-info, which is anonymous, or by mail, I would really appreciate it if you would, you know, let me know what your intentions are. And, you know, if there is anything that I can do to help you release her, I want to do that.

I want to -- we are just anxious. Elizabeth, if you are out there and you can hear me, we are doing everything. We feel like we are getting very close to you, and please hang in there. You know, we are coming. Thank you.

QUESTION: Is this a ransom note?

SMART: It wasn't a ransom note. It was just -- they were -- it indicated that they wanted to negotiate a release.

QUESTION: Did the police department say it was all right, and the FBI, to come out and talk to us about this?

SMART: I haven't talked to them. They have received a copy of this letter. I felt in my mind that it was important to come out and make whoever is holding her -- I don't know if this letter was truly from the abductor. I really -- I honestly can tell you that. I don't know. It was -- it seemed suspicious to me. But it was -- you know, it was one that was not -- it was an anonymous letter.

QUESTION: Have you had others like this?

SMART: I haven't seen one like this, and that's why I felt a need to come forward and ask, you know, the media to get this out, because I want to make sure that if he for some reason -- I am sure he must, whoever it is out there, has got to be, you know, very concerned and probably in hiding and afraid to death, because of all the attention that we have received. But I -- you know, I want to do whatever it's going to take to get Elizabeth back.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that letter led you to believe that perhaps it's legitimate?

SMART: You know, I don't know. I have received so many, you know, psychic phone calls and phone calls from so many different people. You know, this was the first one that seemed to be, you know, directed from a perpetrator. But it seemed quite questionable to me.

QUESTION: Do you have a copy of that, Ed?

SMART: You know, the police have that, and they would have to be the ones to release it.

QUESTION: Did it go to your house, Ed?

SMART: No, it didn't.

QUESTION: Where was it postmarked from?

SMART: You know, I don't feel like I can really go into that. If the police want to release that information, they can. My whole purpose and my meaning in coming out here and talking about it is that, you know, I hadn't really gone out there with a plea for them to correspond with me. And I -- you know, I am just anxious to do whatever it's going to take get her back.

QUESTION: Was it a long letter, a short letter?

SMART: You know, it was about a page.

QUESTION: Any monetary, any money that they...

SMART: No. There was no monetary...

QUESTION: Any proof of Elizabeth still being alive with the letter?

SMART: Not to my feeling.

QUESTION: You said something was suspicious about it, that maybe it's not a credible letter. Can you tell us what that might be?

SMART: You know, unfortunately, I can't.

QUESTION: Can you say where the letter came from?

SMART: I can't.

QUESTION: Ed, we realize you can't -- because of the police investigation, you can't go into it as much as you would like to. Is it frustrating though? I asked you this just a couple of days ago as well, the last time you were out here to speak to us. Is it frustrating at all? It has been at least two-and-a-half weeks since any FBI or police conferences -- press conferences, or they haven't come here and spoken with us at all. Has it been frustrating that you have to provide this information, and they are not here to handle it?

SMART: No, no. This isn't -- because this is -- to me, this information is something that I personally felt I needed to address to the perpetrator. That -- you know, the police, I know that they are working on several things. And they are working very hard, and I am anxious to see some fruit borne from it. And I am very anxious to see that happen.

QUESTION: When did you receive this letter?

SMART: I received it yesterday. Yesterday is when it came into my hands.

QUESTION: Was it handwritten?

SMART: No, it wasn't handwritten.

QUESTION: Yesterday in the mail or yesterday you received it?

SMART: Yesterday I received it. It was -- I think it was dated like July 3.

QUESTION: On the one hand, you say it's suspicious. On the other hand, you are talking directly...

SMART: Well, it's -- when I say "suspicious," it's the first letter that I have had come to me in which supposedly the abductor was addressing me and wanting to do some kind of negotiation.

QUESTION: Was there anything in the letter that gave it credibility? Did he talk about things that only a perpetrator would know?

SMART: That's the thing. I don't know. I mean, he did not come through and give me any pertinent information that made me feel like, yes, this is the one that has her.

QUESTION: Was there any way for you to contact him?

SMART: No. There wasn't any way for me to contact him.

QUESTION: How did this letter get into your person, into your possession?

SMART: Well, we have, you know, several places that mail -- I mean I am receiving mail constantly that's not even addressed to my address, but it comes to me. And there are several places that letters come to us from that are here in the city.

QUESTION: And this one specifically came to where? (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that's my question.

SMART: I know. That's your question. I can't go into it, but it was addressed to our family.

QUESTION: Was it typewritten?

SMART: It was typed, yes.

QUESTION: Were there any kind of threats?

SMART: There were no threats in there, no.

QUESTION: Was it specifically addressed to you?

SMART: It was addressed to "the parents of Elizabeth Smart."

QUESTION: How are you supposed to get back?

SMART: There was no way for me to get back to him. That's why I am asking that this information go out, so that he can, you know, write me a letter, leave a tip on the tip line, do whatever. You know, I just want it to be credible. As you have said, you know, give me some sign that you know that it's Elizabeth.

QUESTION: But you say that he wants to negotiate with you, Ed, but he didn't leave any way of you communicating back to him...


SMART: That's right, that's right.

QUESTION: What do you think he wants to negotiate?

SMART: I can't go into it. It wasn't monetary.

QUESTION: How was it signed?

SMART: What? It wasn't signed.

QUESTION: No name, nothing?

SMART: No name, nothing.

QUESTION: Did it come through the U.S. Postal Service?

SMART: Yes, it did come through the U.S. Postal Service.

QUESTION: Where it was it postmarked from?

SMART: I have been asked that. I don't feel like it's something that I can say.

QUESTION: Have investigators given you any indication of how they are treating this?

SMART: No, I haven't heard any word from them.

QUESTION: Are you surprised they are not here today?

SMART: No, I am not surprised they are not here today.

QUESTION: Can you say whether or not (UNINTELLIGIBLE) if it was in state or out of state, the postmark?

SMART: I would love to be able to tell you, but I don't feel like I can.

QUESTION: You said you gave a copy to police.

SMART: Right.

QUESTION: What about the original? Have they looked for fingerprints on that or the envelope?

SMART: No, not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: Where is the original, then, right now?

SMART: I have it.

QUESTION: You have it. And authorities have not asked for the original?


QUESTION: Did you do any kind of forensics on it?

SMART: I haven't heard that request.


SMART: Well, the thing about it is, is that I receive so much mail. I mean this one was a little bit different than the others, and I don't know how credible it is. And I am just trying to be very up front with you with regard to that. So I don't -- you know, I don't know what the police's feelings are. The real purpose in me coming out isn't saying that I received this letter, that you know, I am corresponding with this perpetrator. But my meaning is that I am out here to try to address him, to ask him to please, you know, correspond with me, to give me a reason to believe that he truly does have Elizabeth.

QUESTION: Is this the first type of letter of this sort?

SMART: This is first type of letter.

QUESTION: You have never received letter in the past?

SMART: I haven't received a letter like this, no.

QUESTION: Ed, did you go to the police yourself?

SMART: No, I didn't.

QUESTION: Whoever gave you...



QUESTION: ... did Chief Dense or anybody express the fact that they are not coming out and talking to us, but they might come out and talk to us?

SMART: No. I -- you know, I don't know that it was deemed as being credible. I don't know that it is credible. I just -- to me, it opened an avenue that I had not considered, which was trying to address whoever is holding Elizabeth to please, you know, correspond. I am concerned that he is so frightened and afraid of having her that he can't see how he can release her. And I just -- I want to do whatever it's going to take to help facilitate her release. That's what I want to do.

QUESTION: Do you think the police have an opportunity to look at the letter before you got it?

SMART: Yes, oh, yes.

QUESTION: Going back to the postmark, it was on the 3rd of July...

SMART: The 3rd of July.

QUESTION: ... it was dated. And obviously the 4th had been a holiday.

SMART: Right.

QUESTION: Friday would have been the 5th. The 6th, 7th, 8th, that would sort of indicate that this came from out of state.

QUESTION: Ed, was it postmark or dated?

SMART: It was postmarked. It was postmarked.

QUESTION: And so that could indicate that it came from out of state?

SMART: I would really like to help you out there, but I just -- you know, I feel like I have gone as far as I can with regard to information on it.

QUESTION: Anything to identify the sender? You keep referring to this person as "he."

SMART: Well, it was -- basically, it was from a person who said that they had talked with the abductor. And the person was indicating that he wanted to release her, and you know, wanted to find a way of doing that.

QUESTION: Any indication as to Elizabeth's condition...

SMART: No. QUESTION: ... from the letter?

SMART: No, there is nothing.

QUESTION: Ed, let's break this down for a second. You first said that it was from the perpetrator. Now, you are saying it's from somebody that had contact with her?

SMART: OK. I received a letter, and basically the letter was written like by another person on behalf of the abductor. You know, it's all kind of -- I mean, I really don't know how credible it is.

QUESTION: What do you assume the relationship is between the writer and the abductor?

SMART: I can't even imagine.

QUESTION: Ed, do you think this sort of scenario, whether it's whoever is attached to this letter or not, is a credible scenario? Do you think that it could happen?

SMART: I mean, to me, he hasn't given me, you know, credible evidence to believe that he has Elizabeth. And I am just -- that's why I'm out here is asking if there is someone out there, if there is a perpetrator or abductor, he has her, he wants to release her. I just want her to come home. I want to do whatever it's going to take to help you to release her to bring her back home.

QUESTION: Did you say the police saw the letter before you?

SMART: The police had a copy of the letter before I did.

QUESTION: How credible do you think this is?

QUESTION: So did it go to the police department?

SMART: How credible do I think it is?

QUESTION: No, how credible do the police?

SMART: I don't know. I haven't really heard anything substantial from them on it.

QUESTION: So was the letter addressed to the police department on behalf...

SMART: No, no. It was addressed to our family.

QUESTION: So the police made a copy of it and turned over the original to you?

SMART: You know, it was faxed to them.

QUESTION: Was it faxed?

QUESTION: You said you had the original, but do you have original?


QUESTION: Who faxed it if they saw it before you?

SMART: The person that received it.

QUESTION: Oh, OK. So they faxed it to police and then forwarded it to you?



QUESTION: Don't you think you are taking things into your own hands here? Like the police, you know, are supposed to be looking into it?

SMART: No, no, I don't, just because I feel that I receive so many letters, the police receive faxes all day long from psychics, whomever. And you know, it's hard to know how much credence you can give to something that does not substantiate her. And I haven't received anything that substantiates her, so I don't know. But I feel that it's important to basically come forward and ask the perpetrator to please correspond with me. I want to do whatever it's going to take to bring her home.

QUESTION: In terms of Mr. Ricci (UNINTELLIGIBLE) their perspective, we asked the question yesterday, would you like to see Mr. Ricci charged? How do you feel about that?

SMART: I feel that whoever the perpetrator or captor is out there, I would like to see them charged as soon as they are found out.

QUESTION: Do you worry at the moment Mr. Ricci is charged, even it's on a burglary that has nothing to do with your daughter's disappearance, at that point, he will be assigned a public defender and then all -- you know, any kind of talking to him is off.

SMART: You know, I have left that completely in the -- you know, FBI and police's hands to determine. I mean, to my knowledge, they haven't set him as a suspect. He is a focus, and when that comes to a point of where they feel they are in that position, I am assuming that they'll do that. At the moment, I don't know -- I don't know that Richard is. I don't know it.

QUESTION: But even a simple burglary charge that has nothing to do with the investigation, your daughter's disappearance, ultimately would pluck (ph) him out of the ability to negotiate with them, do any kind of plea agreement, because any public defender assigned to that case will immediately pull him out.

SMART: Well, I am assuming that, you know, Richard's attorney is hearing all of this, and that he knows that if there is a time to negotiate or to come forward, the time is now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A couple of more questions please.

QUESTION: So Mr. Ricci has been forthcoming to authorities within this investigation.

SMART: Well, we still don't know about the Jeep. I would like to know about the Jeep.

QUESTION: There's a couple of interesting articles in the paper this morning that kind of detail what has been (UNINTELLIGIBLE) filtering through this part of the investigation (UNINTELLIGIBLE) part. One of them obviously concerns the police department. She had talked to only the paper and nobody else really in the last two-and-a- half weeks. And the other one talked about keeping this in the media's eye by providing certain pieces of information, yet not providing everything that maybe that we want, because you want to keep some privacy. Is this something like that, this letter? Is this something the police say, hey, you know what? We don't...


SMART: This is not -- the police have absolutely nothing to do with this. You know, I am sure when the chief feels like there is something credible that needs to come forth, is he will come forth, that they will come forth. I am not out here to try and get you to do something that is going to hype the media. I am out here to make this plea to the abductor to please correspond with me; that I would like to do whatever it's going to take to bring Elizabeth home.

It has been five weeks now, and I would really like her home. I would like this whole thing to be over with.

QUESTION: Ed, you have been (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with the abductor, or pleading with the abductor (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

SMART: I have been. I have been, and I don't know what his mindset it. I don't know what his thinking is. I don't know why he took her. I have no idea. And I am -- the fact that this one letter came, say it doesn't mean anything to me. The thing that I want him to know is that I want to be able to hear from him, to tell me what it is he wants. Why? And I don't know that. I truly do not know that. OK?

QUESTION: Back to Mr. Ricci, yesterday I had (ph) correspondence to you asking you how you paid Mr. Ricci, and I got that correspondence back, and I was told you paid cash to him. Is that unusual at all?

SMART: I paid him, you know, with the car. We had a contract on the car, and he was supposed to work, you know, to help pay that off, which he did. And I did pay him, you know, some cash. I can't remember if I paid him a check or not. I have had -- you know, over the course of building my home, I have had, you know, temporary work that I have picked up for the day. And you know, I have paid them cash. Sometimes there is a problem where they don't have I.D. They can't cash checks. So you know, that's basically... QUESTION: Could you just describe your feelings yesterday when you read this letter? I know it has been a roller coaster of emotions for you. Talk a little bit about, was hope renewed at all?

SMART: You know, I truly still feel that Elizabeth is out there. You know, I don't know if the abductor has an accomplice. I don't know how or why I haven't heard anything from him. I just -- yesterday when I got this, I just thought, you know, I have not addressed him to please make some correspondence. I have made pleas with him. You know, there is the reward. There is everything else out there. I just want him to come forward and -- you know, and let me do whatever I can. OK, thanks.

PHILLIPS: Ed Smart, the father of 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart, as you know has been missing since June 5, coming out to talk about this mysterious letter that he received. He says it's a typed letter, saying to Ed Smart that they do have Elizabeth. It wasn't a ransom note. It was just an anonymous letter. It stated that it wanted to negotiate a release for Elizabeth.

Police now have that letter. Don't know if this letter is truly from the abductor, if it's for real or if it's just a joke.

Our Mark Potter has been standing by listening to this announcement also. Mark, what do you make of this? The letter didn't make any threats, but still, you have to wonder how credible it is.

MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Even Ed Smart wonders that. And this is a man desperate for information, desperate for anything that will convince him that his daughter is alive. But even he is using words such as "suspicious" and "questionable." One of his quotes: "I really don't know how credible this is."

It's instructive to know that there have been some crank letters already in this case. There were three phony ransom demands earlier that were made. This is even less than that. And the police got this letter before he did. And while the police, so far, are not commenting on this, they haven't said anything about it today, I will tell you that yesterday and in the last few days, I have been talking to a lot of law enforcement sources, and none of them, none of them has said that there has been any break in this case; anything that leads them to think that they are on the cusp of charges in the abduction case, in fact, quite the opposite.

Police are saying that because of where they stand now with Richard Ricci, only the focus, not even a suspect, certainly not charged, this thing could go on for weeks if not months without charges being filed. They still need that big break. They haven't gotten it. And from putting all of this together, including Ed Smart's doubts, this may not be that big break and probably is not.

PHILLIPS: So, Mark, quickly, police, are they going to study this letter? Are they going to look for fingerprints and pursue it to the very end here?

POTTER: I would assume that they would do that, because that's what they have done in the past. But they have gotten all kinds of letters and e-mails and tips, and my presumption is because they have been pursuing a forensic case, that they will do that. But I can't say that for sure. That's an assumption based on what they have done in the past.

But, again, they have said nothing about this that leads me to think that this is that magic bullet that they are looking for.

PHILLIPS: All right. Mark Potter live from Salt Lake City -- thanks, Mark. We'll continue to check in with you on that.