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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Laci Peterson Case: Back to the Bay

Aired May 20, 2003 - 20:07   ET

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

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Want to switch our focus now. Laci Peterson case. Investigators today went back to San Francisco Bay looking for clues in that case. How is the search today?
Our Rusty Dornin is live in Richmond, California, watching this story from the very beginning, live again with us tonight.

Rusty, good evening there.

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Bill.

Well, divers spent about seven hours in the water today before pulling up their air hoses and going back to the docks. Now that's been about the average that they're spending out there.

We didn't see from shore them bring anything aboard the boats today. Yesterday we saw them pull what looked like some kind of black cloth. We understand it was a sail. They do have to bring up anything they find, just so that the divers aren't pulling those things out again. Got to get rid of those things in the search area.

But from what we understand, as you can see, it's a little bit windy behind me here, and one of the sonar experts we talked to said, you know, every day has been the same. He goes out in the morning, it's beautiful, it's very glassy, they're getting great images off the bottom. Then by the afternoon, and when the waves are two or three feet high, that really smears the images and they're not able to get a good computer image. They end up having to come back to the dock and then try again the next day.

Now they have seen -- what they're looking for, really, is anything that looks like it does not belong in the bay, anything odd shaped. Says he's seen -- you know, they saw a couple of things they sent down divers for, they turned out to be tree stumps, things like concrete blocks that were not of something they were looking for.

So -- Gene Ralston (ph) out of Idaho says that the same problem has come up every day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Early in the morning, we can make some pretty good, pretty decent images, when the water's calm, and we don't have a lot of velocity. But when the waves get two to three feet high, sends pretty good rollers, that starts messing up our images and smearing them pretty badly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DORNIN: Says it's difficult, because often they go to places where they know that there's been a drowning or an accident, and they know perhaps the point of entry.

In this case, they have absolutely no idea what happened in this case. They really don't know where to look. They're depending right now on a U.S. GSI scientist who's told them that because the body washed up here on the beach where I'm standing, they believe that because the winds came from the southwest, that's the area that they decided to go backwards and begin searching from.

So that's about all they're going on. They have absolutely no idea if they're searching in the right place. But from what we understand, they will be continuing to search through Friday.

HEMMER: Rusty, thanks.

DORNIN: Bill.

HEMMER: Rusty Dornin, Richmond, California, in the Bay there.

Today the fifth straight day again of searching. Since Friday of last week scuba divers and boats equipped with sonar have searched the waters looking for possible evidence. What then are the conditions for investigators underneath the waters there?

Our guest might be able to shed some light here. Sergeant Rene LePrevotte, a 33 year veteran of the San Francisco underwater unit. He's not working on the Peterson case (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but he is working, has worked in the bay for about 33 years. And we talked earlier with Rusty about the silt and the conditions and what investigators are trying to do right now with this sonar. Sergeant LePrevotte, knows this all too well he has been on the force out there in San Francisco, going through these waters. In a moment we'll bring him up there live in San Francisco.

Sergeant, good evening to you. Thirty-three years, what are the dangers and the conditions below the way? DAVID THIS IS FOR YOU.

SGT. RENE LEPREVOTTE, SFPD UNDERWATER, RECOVERY UNIT: Yes. I hear you.

HEMMER: Yes, go ahead sir, we're live on the air tonight. Tell us about the conditions that you come across beneath the water?

LEPREVOTTE: Well, there's no visibility at all. It's pretty much all searches are done by grope and feel. You put out a couple of weights, spring a line between them. You hold onto a line with one hand and grope through the mud with the other hand.

HEMMER: What about the sonar that's being used. How helpful that is that?

LEPREVOTTE: San Francisco Police doesn't have side-scan son sonar. However, it's a very advanced piece of equipment. And it shortens the amount of time that you're going to be sifting through mud because it can see through the mud.

HEMMER: I apologize for the interruption. How deep is that water, sir?

LEPREVOTTE: Well, it depends where you go. The shipping channel's around 40 feet. There's places that's been filled in that's only four or five feet deep.

HEMMER: Do you know in the area they're searching, how deep is that area?

LEPREVOTTE: Well, I'm not -- I have no specific knowledge of exactly where they're searching today it. But ranges from four feet to 40 feet.

HEMMER: Tell us about the silt and the difficulties that presents?

LEPREVOTTE: Well, on a good day, you'll have maybe two feet of visibility, if there's a lot of bright sunlight. Once a diver gets down onto the bottom. A diver stirs up the silt, and there's no visibility whatsoever. A good analogy would be if you throw some piece of evidence out into the lawn at Candlestick Park and blindfold a searcher and put them on their hands and knees out there looking for it. That's what it's like being on the bay.

HEMMER: Wow, day five, does it surprise you as gone five days and could go much longer?

LEPREVOTTE: We spent five days looking for cars in the bay.

HEMMER: Wow. And this is much more important than a car.

Sergeant Rene LePrevotte, live in San Francisco.

Thank you, sir, for talking with us tonight. Appreciate it. Good luck to you.

LEPREVOTTE: Your welcome.

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