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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Smart's Relatives, Salt Lake City Police Brief Reporters

Aired June 14, 2002 - 13:08   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Sorry, we are going to have to interrupt our programming there on the U.S. Catholic bishops. We are going to Salt Lake City now for a press conference already under way.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

CYNTHIA SMART OWENS, ELIZABETH'S AUNT: We are now trying to decide how we can best utilize his help, instead of duplicating efforts. We know that there are specific ways that people can help, and we are trying to evaluate how this will be most effective.

There are still areas that have been determined by our mapping division that are crucial to cover, and we need people to still come to the center today to help us to successfully cover those areas. We would like to emphasize that we are not slowing down the search in any way. Every day that goes by, we feel more strongly that we need to find Elizabeth, and soon.

Today at the press conference at 4:00, we will present a plan in which we will be able to take some new directions to intensify our search for Elizabeth. We hope that you will be with us then, and look forward to finding out how you personally can continue to help.

DAVID FRANCOM, ELIZABETH'S UNCLE: Good morning. Hopefully today will be the day that we can find Elizabeth, and this is what we are all here for. This is what we are all hoping for.

People approach every member of the Smart and Francom family and ask, "What can I do to help?" We know everybody out there is praying. We know everybody is concerned, and we are so deeply grateful for that. Lois and Ed would like to be here, would like to give their love and gratitude. They are overwhelmed with the support that has been given. And we as families are united in helping the effort of the police, the FBI, and we have cooperated in every way, every single one of us. And we know that the police are doing a great job. We support them in everything they have done, and we appreciate it.

We appreciate you, as media, and for those of you who are able to get the word out about Elizabeth and keep the focus on her. This is what we are here for, and we are going to continue until we find her. Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. You have been listening to family members of Elizabeth Smart. And now police officers.

CAPT. SCOTT ATKINSON, SALT LAKE CITY POLICE: ... statement that I would like to make, so I'll just take questions.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

ATKINSON: The latest word out of Texas.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

ATKINSON: I am sorry, I don't know anything about anything in Texas.

QUESTION: Have you been in touch with authorities in Hereford, Texas, where convenience store owner or personnel claim they have seen him?

ATKINSON: I'm sorry. If we have, I don't know that. I don't have that information.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) car was abandoned and he offered to leave it with the family. He walked off, went to a liquor store and tried to make a purchase of wine. His credit card came up stolen and then he took off.

ATKINSON: I'm sorry. I don't have any information on that.

QUESTION: Can you tell us about Mr. Edmund's encounter with police at the candlelight vigil last Sunday?

ATKINSON: He was, in fact, seen at the candlelight vigil last Sunday. At that point, he got in his car and left was not pursued.

QUESTION: What do you make of that? I mean, obviously he is homeless, and he might be hanging out in that park. But does that make you more suspicious that this guy was hanging out at the vigil?

ATKINSON: The question was, is does it make us more suspicious that he was hanging out at the vigil? That's one of the reasons we want to talk to him to ask him why he was there.

QUESTION: What evidence do you have that he was at the vigil? Do you any photos or video, or is it an eyewitness?

ATKINSON: I have eyewitnesses.

QUESTION: Yesterday, you said, "We do not believe that Mr. Edmunds was involved." That's a direct quote. Would you make that statement again today? You still don't believe that he was involved?

ATKINSON: The question was, is would I still make the same statement that I don't believe he was involved? I don't believe he was involved.

QUESTION: A lot has been said about polygraphs, and you didn't want to talk about that yesterday. However, can we talk alibis? It has been insinuated that Tom Smart had a dirty -- excuse me -- polygraph. Are you willing to say he had a steal-clad alibi the night Elizabeth disappeared?

ATKINSON: I am not willing to talk about that. I believe that Mr. Smart has been very cooperative with us. I believe the family has been very cooperative with us. Any time that we have asked them to come and talk to us, they have come and talked to us. We have asked them to -- whatever we have asked them to do, they have been very cooperative. They come in, they talk to us. If we have questions, they answer our questions. They are very cooperative.

QUESTION: Why do you believe the suspect exited the house through the kitchen door?

ATKINSON: I can't talk about evidence.

QUESTION: Captain, we have heard two things about the sighting of Mr. Edmunds in the park. One was that an officer saw him and wanted to arrest him at the time, and people said, no, don't arrest him. The second is that the officer followed Mr. Edmunds, saw him in the car, checked out his plate, the 266 plate, which turned out to be stolen. Mr. Edmunds took off. The officer wanted to chase him, and the chase was nixed. Can you say if either of those things are true?

ATKINSON: What I can say is that he was spotted -- Mr. Edmunds was in fact spotted in the park. It was determined that we would not approach him at that time for safety reasons. When he left the park, he was followed, and he left and fled from the police, and we did not pursue him.

QUESTION: Was there a request by officers to arrest him at the park and a request to pursue him?

ATKINSON: There were some requests. I am not sure if those were the exactly requests.

QUESTION: We have asked to review the tapes, the dispatch tapes, and that request has been denied. Is there a reason why people can't look at the dispatch tapes to see what happened?

ATKINSON: The question is, why we can't look at -- it's the Salt Lake City Police Department's policy not to release 911 tapes.

QUESTION: But these weren't 911. There were just tapes.

ATKINSON: It's our policy that we don't do that.

QUESTION: OK. Is there...

ATKINSON: Is there another question? I think I have talked about that enough.

QUESTION: Have you received any reports of stolen license plates since this incident?

ATKINSON: I don't know of any specific reports of stolen license plates, since they found the ones up in Centerville.

QUESTION: Captain, we have gone back and forth...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, since the incident, not since those were discarded, but since the abduction.

ATKINSON: We get reports of stolen license plates a lot, and we will be following up to see if those have connection, yes.

QUESTION: So you have gotten some since the abduction?

ATKINSON: Yes, we have.

QUESTION: Captain, we have gone back and forth, conflicting answers to the question: Did the nine-year-old sister see the abductor? Did she get a glimpse of him? Was she sleeping the whole time? Was it dark, and she saw nothing? Can you clarify that for us?

ATKINSON: The question is about the nine-year-old and her story, and no, I'm sorry. I can't clarify for you.

QUESTION: You can't say whether she saw the suspect at all? I mean, you said there was a partial composite, because she saw the side of his face at one time. Did she see anything?

ATKINSON: I don't think I have ever said anything about any composites. We have the description that she gave us, and that's all that we have.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

ATKINSON: You have the description as the same description I have.

QUESTION: Can you give us that description again?

ATKINSON: A male white, 5 foot 8. He had on a light-colored hat, a light-colored shirt, and I believe it was tan pants.

QUESTION: So then, she did see him? Because she wouldn't be able to have a description without seeing him.

ATKINSON: She saw something.

QUESTION: Did the FBI interview any family members last night?

ATKINSON: Did the FBI interview any family members? I can't say for sure, but I would -- that is very possible.

QUESTION: Can you clarify why the dogs were taken back to the house last night and today?

ATKINSON: The question was, is can we clarify why dogs were taken back in the house? They are looking for evidence.

QUESTION: Anything specific that you can comment on? ATKINSON: I can't talk on specific evidence.

QUESTION: What can you say about the delay in calling the police, sir?

ATKINSON: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: What can you say about the delay in calling the police?

ATKINSON: I don't know why -- apparently the little girl was worried about something, and she didn't talk to her parents until a couple -- well, I don't know how long after she talked to her parents. All that I know is that at 4:01 a.m., they called us.

QUESTION: Has the police effort started to diminish at all? Do you still have 60 officers on this and 40 FBI agents?

ATKINSON: The question is, has the police effort diminished? And, no, the police effort has not diminished.

QUESTION: Getting back to delay. Did Mary Catherine fall back to sleep? Or was she just -- did she not tell parents out of fear?

ATKINSON: The question was, is did Mary Catherine fall asleep, or did she not tell parents out of fear? My understanding is that it was out of fear.

QUESTION: So she lay in her bed for two hours petrified with her eyes open, didn't fall back sleep.

ATKINSON: And I can't answer where she was, but my understanding is that she was fearful to go tell anyone.

QUESTION: Sir, I know we have been down this road before. There has been a description obviously about the clothes of the abductor. Has there been any description whatsoever of the facial features of this abductor?

ATKINSON: I'm sorry. I can't talk about that.

QUESTION: Is there any plan at this point to get a sketch artist?

ATKINSON: The question is, is there any plan to get a sketch artist? And the answer is no.

QUESTION: Captain, and is there reason for that?

QUESTION: Are you any closer to solving this crime today than you were one week ago?

ATKINSON: The question is, are we any closer to solving this crime than we were a week ago? We believe that we are. We have eliminated a lot of the leads that we have had come in. We are getting information that would -- that we can now follow up on. We are conducting specific interviews and doing those kinds of things that we normally do in any police investigation. There were lots and lots of information a week ago that was out there, and we have narrowed a lot of that information down.

QUESTION: What have you eliminated?

ATKINSON: I'm sorry. I can't tell you all the stuff we have eliminated.

QUESTION: Any message you want to say the abductor?

ATKINSON: I'm sorry. I have no message for him.

QUESTION: Was it the police who called -- was it the family who called the police, or was it a representative of the church who called the police?

ATKINSON: The question was, was it a representative of the family that called the police, or was it a church person? My understanding is that it was the father.

QUESTION: Captain, if they apprehend Edmunds in Texas, will you send detectives there or will you extradite him back to Utah?

ATKINSON: The question is, is if we apprehend Edmunds, will we go to Texas or wherever he is, or will we extradite him? I believe we will go speak to him. I think we will go there.

QUESTION: Have you ruled out anyone?

QUESTION: The milkman says that Edmunds isn't the guy he saw in the car. He says the guy he saw in the car fits the description of 5 foot 8. Can you comment on that, about that Edmunds isn't actually the guy spotted by the milkman?

ATKINSON: No, I don't think I have anything to say about that.

QUESTION: Have you ruled out anyone as a suspect yet?

ATKINSON: Have we ruled out anyone as a suspect yet? No, I still think that we are wide open as to who it is. Again, we have narrowed some things. We have talked to people. We have got their stories. If there is something that needs to be followed up on those people, we follow that up. If there is nothing significant, then we just keep them on the list.

QUESTION: Why are you unable to vindicate the brothers in this situation, in this case?

ATKINSON: The question is, is why are unable to vindicate the brothers in the case?

QUESTION: Why are you unable to vindicate him if he has iron- clad alibi?

ATKINSON: Well, as I said before, we are still looking at families and friends and anybody who has come in contact with that, and Mr. Smart has -- fits that. He has been in contact with Elizabeth. He is an uncle just like any of the other uncles. And we haven't eliminated any of the family at all. We are continuing to look at all those people who have come in contact with her. He is one of those, as are all the other uncles and all the other male members of that family. And again, they are -- again, they are very cooperative with us.

QUESTION: The morning of the abduction, were there any other family members or friends in the house before the police got there?

ATKINSON: The question is, were there any other family members or people in the house before the police arrived? And the answer to that is yes.

QUESTION: Could you classify the scene as perhaps contaminated. That's why it's difficult?

ATKINSON: Can I classify the scene as contaminated? I am not sure that it was contaminated. What I would say about that is that any time that people enter a scene before the police do, there is that possibility.

QUESTION: What we heard is this: That neighbors were called first, and that neighbors came over and looked around the house, and that therefore, there had been a number of people in and out and around the crime scene. And that it was some time after the younger daughter got over her fright and spoke until the police were called. Can you tell me what part, if any, of that is true?

ATKINSON: I am not sure if they searched the house or not. What I know is that the morning -- when we got there, when the police arrived that there were other people in the house besides the family. What actions they took? I am sorry. I am not privy to. The investigators have -- I am sure have looked at that and talked to those people and found out what they know.

QUESTION: Are you confident that you know everyone who was in there?

ATKINSON: The question is, are we confident that we know everyone who was in there? And I would say we are confident that we have identified those people.

QUESTION: Do you have a sense of who was in there?

ATKINSON: I'm sorry. I don't know who was in there.

QUESTION: Do you have timeline of about when the young woman spoke, the nine-year-old spoke until when the police were called? Can you tell us how much time elapsed between those two things.

ATKINSON: I would just be guessing. I think between an hour and two hours.

QUESTION: Between when she spoke -- so she spoke at 2:00. ATKINSON: I'm sorry. Between when she spoke to her parents and when they called us?

QUESTION: Yes.

ATKINSON: I think that was pretty immediate.

QUESTION: Could you confirm the report today in the "Tribune" that it was so dark in the bedroom that she was unable to get a good look at the face of abductor, Mary Catherine?

ATKINSON: Can I confirm the "Tribune" story about the -- about the -- I can say that the room was dark.

QUESTION: You can say the room was dark?

ATKINSON: Absolutely.

QUESTION: Captain, wasn't the closet light on or at least he turned on the light when he told her to get some shoes, the abductor? Wasn't the closet light on?

ATKINSON: The question is, wasn't the closet light on? I'm sorry. I don't know that the closet light was on.

QUESTION: Captain, was Tom Smart at the home that night, or did he have reason to visit earlier in the evening? Was he there?

ATKINSON: I'm sorry. I don't know the answer to that.

QUESTION: You haven't been willing to say who has been given a polygraph. But can you tell us how many members of the family have been polygraphed?

ATKINSON: The question is, is can I tell you how many member of the family have been polygraphed? And I'm sorry. I don't know. Again, as we have asked the family to do polygraphs, as we have asked them to give us information, they have been very cooperative in doing that.

QUESTION: Is it fair to say that it's more than just two people though?

ATKINSON: Is it fair to say that it's more than two family members? I think there have been more than two polygraphs given. I don't know the number. I am sorry.

QUESTION: Captain, do you have any information -- have you uncovered any information since the beginning of this investigation about where Elizabeth might be?

ATKINSON: Have we recovered or gotten any information during the investigation about where Elizabeth might be? And the answer to that is no.

QUESTION: Captain, do you know if Elizabeth had a boyfriend? ATKINSON: Do I know if Elizabeth had a boyfriend? And I don't think she did.

QUESTION: Do you mind if I ask another question of Cynthia (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

OWENS: I'd be willing to hear it.

QUESTION: It seems to me that the underlying statement that you made is a fear that as this investigation drags on, there will be a natural (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of public attention. That it's just inevitably as it drags on that's likely to happen. And I'm just wondering, how concerned you are as a family about that? I mean, does that -- is that what is underlying the statement that you are making today?

OWENS: We have had such incredible support that we want to make sure that these people who are supporting in this effort know that their efforts count. You know, if someone canvases the same area six times, it becomes a little bit less effective. We want to use it in the most effective way as possible. And so we are -- we have concrete ways, areas that need to be searched today. And we hope that people will continue to come out, so we that can complete this.

However, we know that there are also other ways which may be more effective, and we want to get Elizabeth home. We are thinking as much as we possibly can what are every way -- what is every way that we can to find Elizabeth. That's what we are strategizing on, and we do have new ideas, and we will be announcing that at 4:00.

If I might just use this moment. I appreciated the comment from one of the media about, do we have a message for this perpetrator? I have a message for this perpetrator. God knows where you are. God knows where Elizabeth is. And we are praying with all our hearts to find her. The satisfaction that you might have dreamed of, of having Elizabeth, cannot possibly be there. And the best you can do is to let her go. Thank you.

QUESTION: Scott, when Mary Catherine came to her father and reported that Elizabeth was missing, did she report that the abductor had a gun at that time?

ATKINSON: Did Mary Catherine report that the abductor had a gun? Yes.

QUESTION: Why did Ed not call the police immediately?

ATKINSON: I don't know that Ed didn't call the police immediately.

QUESTION: The police watch log says the family called neighbors and then police.

ATKINSON: I don't know what watch log you are talking about.

QUESTION: The watch log that came out Wednesday morning. The initial report of this incident.

ATKINSON: Well, there have been a lot of reports of what we have and haven't said and a lot of things talking about evidence and those kinds of things. And if people have information about the evidence or things that they think that we don't know, they should really contact the police department and give us that kind of information. Because at this point, the investigators are a little bit frustrated that there is a lot of information that is going out and being reported that they don't have direct knowledge of.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) your own office. It said the neighbors were called before the cops. If that's confusing, isn't it because you guys reported to us? Unless that's inaccurate.

ATKINSON: I'm sorry. I don't know about the report you are talking about. I haven't seen it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the daily watch log.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you said that there is a lot of information that they are hearing that they don't have direct knowledge of. Such as what?

ATKINSON: Well, there have been some things reported about evidence that we wish that the police department had knowledge of. The thing about it is, is that if someone knows or has evaluated the evidence, and we are unaware what that evidence represents, we wish they would come forward and give that to us, because we are in the process and have been in the process of evaluating the evidence with the experts, both here and in the FBI, and no conclusions have been reached on that evidence.

QUESTION: Have media reports jeopardized the investigation? I mean, is that what you are saying?

ATKINSON: The question is, is have media reports jeopardized the investigation? And I don't think I will comment to that.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) saying is, is that there may be lab work that's being done on physical evidence that you don't have the results yet, but the results have been reported. Is that what you are saying?

ATKINSON: The question is, is that there seems to be evidence that has been reported on in the media that we don't have conclusions to, would that be fair to say? I think that's correct.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what they are then? Maybe we can help you out.

ATKINSON: I'm sorry. I can't comment on the evidence.

QUESTION: Scott, you said that Mary Catherine reported that the intruder had a gun. Did she also report that he had a duffel bag?

ATKINSON: I am not sure if she did. I'm sorry. I don't know that.

QUESTION: Did police receive reports that a scream or screams were heard in the neighborhood the night of the abduction?

ATKINSON: The question was, is did police receive reports of screams or a scream reported in the neighborhood? If there was, I am not aware of that.

QUESTION: Consistent is how you described the remarks of Mary Catherine. Is that today still what you are saying about her consistency?

ATKINSON: Yes. Mary Catherine has been consistent the times that we have talked to her.

QUESTION: Are her reports too consistent that would arouse suspicion that they were rehearsed?

ATKINSON: The question was, are they so consistent that they might be rehearsed? And we don't believe so.

QUESTION: Scott, do you personally believe her story?

ATKINSON: Do I personally believe her story? I am leaving that up to the investigators.

QUESTION: Has the property owned by any extended family members been searched?

ATKINSON: The question is, has property of any of the -- I'm sorry, say it again.

QUESTION: Has extended family...

(CROSSTALK)

ATKINSON: Has extended family been searched? I don't know that we, the police have gone out and searched any properties, but if that request was made, I am sure the family would be cooperative, as they have been.

QUESTION: Captain, tapes that were sequestered (ph) by the media, were you looking specifically at the family, specifically Tom Smart?

ATKINSON: The question was, were we looking at a particular person, Tom Smart, when we requested tapes from the media. No. What we've requested tapes for, in an investigation that large, sometimes the person or persons involved will come back to the scene, try to be involved in what's going on, try to attend vigils, those kinds of things. We specifically requested those tapes so that we might look at those tapes and look at anyone who might continually be in those things, and that we'd then identify a suspect if that suspect is in those tapes. We're not looking at any specific...

WHITFIELD: You've been listening to Captain Scott Atkinson of Salt Lake City Police. What's interesting is this case has taken a lot of interesting turns out of Salt Lake City, and now involving the states of Texas and New Mexico.

You heard from the captain who said that they're looking -- they're zeroing in on videotapes, because most recently they saw the image of Bret Michael Edmunds. He is the man that they've been looking for for questioning -- in a vigil last week.

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