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CNN Today

Manhunt for Escaped Sex Offender Continues in Florida

Aired June 6, 2000 - 1:07 p.m. ET

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

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Police today in Martin County, Florida are trudging through forests, farms and swamps looking for the sex offender who choppered out of a so-called "treatment center," and the student pilot who choppered him out.

CNN's Mark Potter joins us now from the eastern edge of Lake Okeechobee, with more on this made-for-TV, movie-of-the-week escape -- Mark.

MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that it is, Lou.

Well, police say they still have not found the two men, but believe they may have them holed up in an area about a mile from the Martin Treatment Center, where that dramatic escape occurred yesterday.

Today, the police are setting up road blocks. They're searching cars. They're searching trucks -- just in case the two men tried to escape the area by either hiding in a car or hijacking it.

Now lieutenant John Wardle of the Martin County Sheriff's Department, who is supervising the search and who is in charge of the area inside a perimeter set up by the sheriff's department, says he believes the men may be holed up in a 300 acre, densely wooded area -- as I said a about a mile from the treatment facility. It is the last place where tracks and dogs placed the men.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. JOHN WARDLE, MARTIN CO. SHERIFF'S DEPT: Real large area densely wooded with palmettos and pine trees. And the last human track that we had, the dogs are on, and that we've seen have led us to that area. We have not been able to take it out at this time from that area.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

POTTER: Now, the escapee from the treatment center is identified as 28-year-old Steven Whitsett, a convicted sex offender. The man believed to have piloted the helicopter is 23-year-old Clifford Burkhart.

Lt. Wardle says that because it is very hot and dry here now, the fugitives must be suffering and must be very thirsty. He said that officers have set up a perimeter around that 300 acre area and are patrolling it, hoping that eventually the men will be driven out into the open because of the harsh conditions.

Lou, back to you.

WATERS: OK, Mark Potter watching for developments near Lake Okeechobee, Florida.

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