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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Elizabeth Smart Press Conference

Aired June 21, 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: We need to take our viewers out to Salt Lake City, where the family members are now addressing reporters and cameras there, talking about their missing 14-year-old.

Let's listen in.

ED SMART, MISSING GIRL'S FATHER: I'm asking and I'm pleading with whoever has her that I would do anything to have her back in my arms. And please realize how much she is missed. She's missed tremendously.

I want to read a comment that President Hinkley (ph) made on faith, which I feel really demonstrates our feelings. Faith is something greater than ourselves, that enables us to do what we have said we'll do, to press forward when we are tired, or hurt or afraid, to keep going when the challenge seems overwhelming, and the course is uncertain."

I want to reinforce to you that we still feel that Elizabeth is out there. We still need each one of your help. We need you to be the eyes and ears in the neighborhood. We need you to be the eyes and ears wherever you are going, and one of the most important things is that each person is a searcher. It doesn't matter where you are, please keep your eyes and ears open. I truly feel that this is the way Elizabeth is going to come back to us.

I want to thank all of you for being here today and for supporting us, because this is truly the way that Elizabeth will come back. I just would like to, again, thank everyone for all of their love and support, for the incredible community that we have, for the support of the community, the support of the nation, and the support of the world. It's been very humbling to us, and I'm really grateful for all of your prayers and all of your help, and I know that Elizabeth is still coming back to us. I really have a tremendous faith that she is. I still have a feeling that she is out there waiting for us to find her. And it will take everyone's effort out there to find her.

Thank you.

Louis would be here. She was sick last night. And she's sick this morning, and she just needs a day to rest.

QUESTION: You seem a little bit more upset than you did yesterday. Are you OK? Is there something...

SMART: No, I'm fine. I just want everyone to really know it's not a feeling of upset. It is a feeling of thankfulness. I really want everyone to know how thankful I am. I am just overwhelmed at the response that we've had from everyone, and for the caring and the love. It is just -- it's -- it's just overwhelming. And -- but I want everyone to keep going forward, because I know that's how we will find her.

QUESTION: Mr. Smart are you disappointed that the police have decided not to continue these briefings?

SMART: No. No, I am not. I know when we get to a point were there is a briefing that's needed, they will be here, they will be supportive. I want them to be out there working and doing everything that they can.

Thank you.

QUESTION: ... momentum to keep the search going in your opinion?

SMART: I feel that the momentum is continuing. I have felt it very strongly, and I am so grateful for it, and just I'm praying it continues, because I know that this what is going to bring Elizabeth back. Thank you. Thank you.

I'm grateful. You know, all of that stuff is worth commenting, but I just -- I'm so grateful for the support and the love. I truly, truly am thankful. Thank you.

I'm very grateful for the support. I really am.

DAVID FRANCOM, ELIZABETH'S UNCLE: Definitely, we appreciate the media keeping the attention and the focus on Elizabeth and finding her.

ANGELA SMART DUMKE, MISSING GIRL'S AUNT: With the media's focus on Elizabeth, it makes it so that we can keep Elizabeth in everybody's forefront, and be able to keep searching for Elizabeth, and remind people that everybody is a searcher. Everyone is a searcher. All of us can give information continually.

QUESTION: Is the family still 100% confident with the police department and happy with the way they're handling...

SMART DUMKE: Yes, we are.

FRANCOM: Absolutely.

QUESTION: What keeps your confidence in the police department?

FRANCOM: We know that they're our best resource, that they know how to handle these situations. We have confidence what they are telling the public is what they need to tell them. And what they are not telling them what they need to keep to themselves, and we do have every confidence, and we have hope and faith. We believe that's the way Elizabeth will be found, is through their efforts, and through all of our efforts to keep looking and to have everybody open their eyes and their ears to this situation.

QUESTION: You said you believe that the suspect is a trusted person. Any member of your family -- have you taken perhaps more critical look at some of your friends, colleagues? In any way have you found yourself looking at people differently?

FRANCOM: We have all racked our brains to figure out why this could have happened to such a wonderful family, to such a sweet girl. And we have no answer as to why or how this could have happened. We are leaving in the hands of the police to determine that. And we do have confidence that they will find that.

QUESTION: But are you looking at people differently, perhaps friends or colleagues around you?

FRANCOM: I do not have any question that anybody in the family has any involvement in this, if that's what you are asking.

QUESTION: Sources close to the investigation are now saying 4-6 people are under serious scrutiny that are outside the family. Have they talked to you all about that?

SMART DUMKE: No, I think they're trying to keep their primary leads quiet, so that they can continue to search...

QUESTION: Has the family considering private investigator at all?

FRANCOM: We are keeping all of our confidence and trust in the police. At this point, we don't see there's any reason not to do that. To not keep our -- to keep our efforts and focus on the police and what they're doing.

QUESTION: In other missing persons cases, Chandra Levy, for example, a private investigators key piece of evidence that the police missed?

SMART DUMKE: We don't want to do anything that would ruin the investigation. We want to be able to make so they can focus on what they need to focus on, follow through on what they need to follow through on. We don't want anyone muddling in, making a mess of things.

QUESTION: Has the family sought legal counsel?

FRANCOM: There's no reason to.

SMART DUMKE: No.

QUESTION: Is it difficult getting up in the morning when you know you are facing tabloids in every grocery store in the state that are defaming your family and making hurtful accusations?

FRANCOM: We don't believe there's of course any reason to even respond to any of those types of stories.

SMART DUMKE: We haven't read them, we don't know.

FRANCOM: The response we get from community and the people around us and the volunteers and all of the effort, the love that's coming forth, that's the focus we want to maintain.

SMART DUMKE: We want to focus on finding Elizabeth. That is our focus. That is your focus. Let's find Elizabeth.

QUESTION: You've had two or more weeks of superhuman effort with Elizabeth's immediate family and extended family. At this point, are you trying to get to some kind of a routine or changing the routine to keep up the effort?

SMART DUMKE: We're trying to make it so we talk to you at 11:00, so that we have some sort of stability and some sort of routine. We want to be open. We want to be here. We want to answer questions. We want to be able to clarify things. That's why we try to say this is specific time. We get hundreds of calls for interviews. We are trying to say, this is when we're doing it, this is why, so that we can have some sort of stability in routine.

QUESTION: How about general family life?

FRANCOM: I think we're still all very much in the attitude of whatever it takes we will do it to bring Elizabeth home to her parents and her family.

QUESTION: Talk to us about some of Elizabeth's strengths that you think will help her go through this ordeal and come out OK on the other end. Knowing her, can you talk to us. Been a while since we've talked about her. Can you remind us some -- we know about her artistic skills. Can you talk to us about the survival skills that you think she may have learned that can help her get through this.

SMART DUMKE: She's courageous. She is very smart. And I think she is going to use that to her advantage.

QUESTION: I would also add that I have noticed that she has a lot of faith and trust in God, and I think that will help pull her through.

FRANCOM: That will lead her.

QUESTION: ... bringing the family and extended family some concern that Elizabeth was taken? Does that mean I'm next? How do you reassure them that that won't happen?

FRANCOM: Certainly we have had to discuss this with them. And, yes, there is quite a bit of concern on their part, because their cousin is missing. And we don't know why. We don't know how, or what's going to happen. But there's a peace still. There's an understanding that this doesn't happen to every child, but we still have to be reassure them, certainly.

QUESTION: All the attention this case is getting is humbling and the help you are getting. Are you surprised by it, though?

SMART DUMKE: Well, we are surprised by the coverage. You know, we thought you would be gone long ago.

FRANCOM: We're thankful that you are not.

SMART DUMKE: We are thankful for the responsible journalists who continue to be here for Elizabeth and continue to be here for the family. We can't say enough to the responsible journalists that have helped in all of this in keeping the focus on Elizabeth. That's what we're after.

FRANCOM: Our purpose for this media attention is not for any other purpose than to keep Elizabeth Smart's picture in front of everybody, so that they can remember what she looks like, what tragedy has happened, and, again, to keep everybody eyes and ears open to where she may be. And we realize that this person who has taken her is not somewhere that hopefully someone cannot see him. And if everybody is watching and looking, somebody will see him and somebody will find Elizabeth.

FRANCOM: Nobody lives in a bubble. Somebody has to have contact with the man who has taken her. And so we're just asking, we're pleading for everybody to continue to watch, to continue to pay attention to what has been happening around you. It may be across the United States. We don't know. That's why be appreciate all of your coverage. We just don't know.

QUESTION: You've taken significant time of off work. Can you tell us about how your employers are working with you, and if they're going to continue working for a while, or if they're starting to get frustrated and need you back?

SMART DUMKE: People have been very generous, and the family as well has just said we will do whatever it takes.

QUESTION: Well, recognizing that you don't feel it's appropriate, convenient to comment on the allegations in "The National Enquirer" story. There has been an effort to get information from wherever it is possible to get it related to this investigation. If any of that information is pertinent to the investigation, do you think that police ought to be looking into it?

FRANCOM: I understand that the police have looked into every aspect, and they will continue to look into every aspect. So whatever it takes to get Elizabeth back is where -- we are there with it, whatever it takes.

SMART DUMKE: The family has cooperated completely. We have laid open the books and said, take a look. What do you want to see. So they are looking at every aspect. They know. So we're not worried about that at all. The police are looking at everything.

QUESTION: There is one assertion in that article that mentioned that one family member did not have an alibi, an adequate alibi. Do you have any thoughts on it? FRANCOM: I haven't read the article. I don't know where anybody gets their information, because I understand that the police need to keep information to themselves and quiet. We don't want to jeopardize any aspect of the investigation.

QUESTION: You and your family have continued to remain not only hopeful, but confident that Elizabeth is alive. Do you have any inclination. You said that she could be anywhere. But do you have any inclination that -- where she could be -- do have a feeling that she's still in Utah, that's she's close by? Is there any sort of, I don't know, gut feeling?

SMART DUMKE: I pray for inspiration daily, as all of us do.

QUESTION: But is there a gut feeling that she's close by?

SMART DUMKE: My gut tells me she's out there, and that's what we want to focus on. She's out there. We need to find her. That's what my gut tells me. She's out there. I don't know where.

FRANCOM: Well, we are definitely keeping a variety of photographs, because as you know, with hair pulled back or hair down and different lighting or angles, we do -- we are keeping different photos.

SMART DUMKE: That was just the photo we had at the time. We were -- somebody was kind enough to donate 600,000 -- not cost -- 600,000 fliers. If you're seeing a lot of fliers, it's because of that donation. We're just very grateful to such generous people.

FRANCOM: Trying to keep her out of the limelight, out of the media. We're trying to help her fill as innocent as she possibly can at this time, Keeping her close to her family.

SMART DUMKE: We're trying to keep her happy and comfortable. That's what is most important to us right now.

FRANCOM: Thank you.

SMART DUMKE: Thanks.

WHITFIELD: All right, for two weeks now, the Smart family has held up remarkably well as they address reporters there daily now as it pertains to the search for 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart. Today, for the first time in two weeks, we've seen a family that seemingly is very devastated. We've seen tears, but conspicuously absent, the police this time in their briefing.

Our Jeanne Meserve is in Salt Lake City.

And, Jeanne, what's the explanation as to why police did not want to address cameras today.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN ANCHOR: Well, police say that they only want to talk to the press when they have some new information to present. They feel that they've come here day after day. Often their peppered with the very same questions. They have to give the very same answers. They feel their time could be better spent on the investigation. They also in recent days have come in for some criticism, because there have been some inconsistencies in what they told the press. They saw no point in coming out here and subjecting themselves to a battery of critical questions.

So for all those reasons, the police choosing to stay away today. They promise us, though, they will come back if they have some new, significant new information in the case -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD:: All right, Jeanne Meserve from Salt Lake City, thank you very much.

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