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Interview with Don Clark; Police Wrap Up Search of Woods

Aired October 9, 2002 - 13:37   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Now, as we have been reporting, authorities in Maryland are searching a wooded area in the search for the Washington-area sniper. They are there in response to a tip concerning a man being seen with a suspicious looking case.
Joining us now from Houston to talk more about the search, former FBI Special Agent Don Clark -- hi, Don.


PHILLIPS: Good -- I am actually -- there we go, I got you back. I was hearing the control room there. Now I'm with you.

Let's talk about the murderer, and why it's so difficult right now to profile this individual.

CLARK: Well, Kyra, I think what you have here is that one of the most complex murders or crime scenes that you have seen. You have got not only multiple crime scenes, but you have mobile crime scenes.

PHILLIPS: Don, hold that thought, hold that thought, we are going to come right back to you, but right now quickly we are going to go to Fort Washington, Maryland, with an update on the search for the sniper.


DIANE RICHARDSON, SPOKESPERSON, PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY POLICE: ... they have broken down the scene, and we will be clearing here momentarily.

QUESTION: So you found nothing, no sign of this guy?

RICHARDSON: There was no signs that anybody had been back in there.

QUESTION: What about surveyors, are there surveyors in the area?

RICHARDSON: We have contacted some of the surveying companies, and they said that they didn't believe anybody was out here today, but we're still in the process of contacting all of the other companies that might have been out here.

QUESTION: What about the young woman who was taken into custody just before 11:00?

RICHARDSON: Let me stress that nobody was really taken into custody. We were questioning a woman as to why she was in the area. We are still talking with her, and we expect that she will be leaving soon.

QUESTION: How cooperative was she? Can you characterize that?

RICHARDSON: I'm not going to elaborate on what she is saying. We are going to pass all the information on that we have obtained so far to the task force.

QUESTION: Corporal, does this show how nervous people are in this area?

RICHARDSON; I think that people have a reason to be concerned, obviously, and I think that the quick response of the police department in reference to this incident, the mere fact that somebody called in the information was a sign that everybody is nervous, but we are responding to those fears as quickly as we can. I think we did a really good job today searching this wooded area, and calming everybody's fears that somebody may be out here armed with a gun. We feel confident that nobody is in there.

QUESTION: When you say she's going to be released soon, what does that mean? In the next hour, the next half hour...

RICHARDSON: I'm not in a position to talk about this woman and what people are questioning her about. I do know that they said she would be released soon, and that's all I have.

QUESTION: Is this the Prince George's Police Department that is in charge of this investigation with this woman?

RICHARDSON: Yes. That's it, thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

PHILLIPS: Diane Richardson there at Prince George's County Police Department. She is the representative for them. Basically saying the search in that wooded area you see behind her has been broken down. The woman that they were questioning, that they came across in this area, she's still being detained -- she's still being questioned by police. Meanwhile, Richardson is saying they feel confident that this wooded area is secure, and there is no one with a gun in that area. All right.

Let's go back to Special Agent -- former Special Agent Don Clark at the FBI. We were talking about the search for this sniper, and why it's been so difficult to profile this murderer -- Don, let's take it from there.

CLARK: Well, we're talking about, again, Kyra, the complexity of this case, and just sort of as a sound bite, we heard just a moment ago, is that the police are looking in every avenue, because you have these multiple crime scenes where victims were, and you also have a mobile crime scene because it's obvious that the person is moving from place to place. So, that makes it extremely difficult, but the law enforcement appears to be countering that, and I know certainly as my experience as a investigator and a manager, that the idea is to gather those resources that you can use to try to cover as much of this territory as you can to develop some leads.

PHILLIPS: All right. So, we have heard serial killer, thrill killer, mass murderer. Is there -- is it important to put a label out like this? I mean, are -- is a serial killer investigated in a different way versus a mass murderer?

CLARK: Well, here is what I think, Kyra, that again, my experience has been that these labels are usually placed historically after someone has been clearly identified, or at least the activities have been clearly identified, and the profilers and all of the other analytical people have had an opportunity to place them in a particular category.

We know the difference in them: the mass murder is a group of people killed, perhaps, at one time, and a serial killer continues over different scenes.

But I don't think that's important at all, certainly, to the victims, and perhaps not even to this police department. What's important for them is to gather evidence, and then they can let that label attach itself at some time in the future.

PHILLIPS: Well, does the fact that there's no similarity in the victims here tell you anything? Obviously, it probably means it's not gang related, right?

CLARK: I would suspect, if I were involved, that it is probably not gang related, but having said that, I too, would not rule out anything at this point. I don't think you can rule any type of criminal activity at this point. You may prioritize the different types of theories that you come up with, but not to rule them out.

PHILLIPS: All right. You captured spree serial killer Rafael Recendes Ramirez (ph). Why did you call him a spree killer, and what was it that clinched that case for you?

CLARK: Well, the reason that he was eventually labeled as a serial killer because the evidence has demonstrated that he went from city to city, different towns, really brutally murdering his victims, and using different types of criminal activities along the way to do so.

So, he was, again, labeled historically as a serial killer, and I think that fits the mold of what we generally accept as a serial killer.

But our success was, in that case, was doing a lot of what I have seen from the outside here what's going on down in the Maryland-D.C. area, is bringing together a team of all different types of people and resources, and gathering all the techniques that you possibly can so that you can track them. Now, one thing that we did differently in that case, and it's been used since then, is that we used the media to our advantage in trying to get this person out there, once we identified who he was, so that the populous, the people, could come in and help, and they really did in that case.

PHILLIPS: OK, Don, you bring up an interesting point. You say you used the media, yet the police chief, Charles Moose in Montgomery County came out really upset with the media about interviewing so many profilers and leaking information, so it is sort of mixed messages here. I mean, is this a bad thing that you and I are sitting here talking about profiling a murderer?

CLARK: Well, I will speak for myself that in some of the cases that I used the media to help locate, happened to work to the law enforcement advantage, and I certainly thought that that was proper, and I would do it again. I can't speak for the chief down in Maryland. I think they're doing a pretty good job down there, and I know these cases become frustrating to them. But using the media at the appropriate time to me is the right thing to do.

On the other side of that coin, I have been involved in many investigations, Kyra, where information has been leaked on our ongoing investigations, and was subsequently put out by the media, and I think the person who leaked that makes it very bad and terrible, and I don't think that is a good thing.

PHILLIPS: Former FBI Special Agent Don Clark. Always a pleasure. Thanks, Don.

CLARK: Thank you, Kyra.


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