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Old Beatles Song Involved in New Killing

Aired June 20, 2003 - 20:33   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, "Helter Skelter" would be one of the more forgettable songs ever recorded by the Beatles were it not for the fact that Charles Manson listened to it over and over while planning his 1969 mass murders.
Well, now, unbelievably, the song is back in the news in a way. The last Friday in May, a 16-year-old boy named Jason Sweeney -- you see him right there -- that's his photograph -- headed off from his Philadelphia home to see a girl. According it a pair of confessions read in court, it was a trap. The statements say the girl was waiting in a secluded spot along with three teenage boys. Together, says the confession, they beat Jason Sweeney to death. They took his money, they bought drugs and -- quote -- "partied beyond redemption."

This week, a judge called the crime -- quote -- "something out of the Dark Ages" -- and ordered the four to be tried as adults for murder. And according to the statement, the four plotted the killing while listening over and over to that song "Helter Skelter."

Joining me now from Philadelphia is Jason Sweeney's mother, Dawn Sweeney. Dawn, thank you for being with us. I know it is very difficult.

How are you doing? This happened three weeks ago. How are you -- how are your other children doing?

DAWN SWEENEY, JASON SWEENEY'S MOTHER: It's basically a moment- to-moment thing. You know, some moments are good. Some moments are bad. It's been extremely difficult to accept. All of us, you know, keep waiting for him to walk back in.

COOPER: Yes. And I know you went -- he was missing for two days. You went looking for him. When you heard -- when police apprehended these three people who had been friends of his, these four people had been friends of his, what did you think?

SWEENEY: I just couldn't believe that they would actually do it. I suspected his best friend was at least there and knew something and was just too afraid to say something. But to find out that they all actually took a part in this was horrifying to know that, you know, this child went on vacation with my son. These kids -- I used to drop off my son to -- at their house in third grade had done this hideous, heinous crime to him. And what they did, no one deserves.

COOPER: And there is this now preliminary hearing going on. You were in court yesterday. You saw them for the first time. What was that like?

SWEENEY: It was really difficult. Justina Morley came in crying.

COOPER: This is the girl.

SWEENEY: Yes. This is the girl. And I found myself lunging forward, screaming, "You have no right to cry. No right." You -- it was horrible. It was -- you know -- you tear my life apart and you're going to cry? I don't -- no.

COOPER: What do you want to have happen to these four?

SWEENEY: Unfortunately, what I would like to happen to them isn't legal. I would like them stoned, but we're not allowed to do that. I think that's the only just punishment for the four of them after what they did to my son. The death penalty is too gracious for them.

COOPER: Did you know these four? I mean did you know them well? I mean you said your son had traveled with one of them. Had you seen them? did they hang out at your house?

SWEENEY: Eddie Batzig was last child he was allowed to hang with. And even then, as of last summer he was no longer allowed to. Eddie, he went down the shore with Eddie. And I -- him and Eddie went down to my parents' house in Florida for a week. And -- I mean this is a child that slept at my house, ate dinner at my house.

COOPER: It's unbelievable.

Apparently, you know, it's come out in court they list to the song "Helter Skelter" something like 40 times apparently before they did this or are alleged to have done this. Do you think that played any role?

SWEENEY: I think that's a cop-out that people like to use as an excuse for the behavior. If music was so damaging, you know there would be no society today, the world would have ended a long time ago when music began.

I think these are just four very sick, sick demented kids who thought killing someone would be, you know, a wonderful idea.

COOPER: It's awful.

SWEENEY: Because if they would have asked my son for the money, he would have given it to them and they knew that.

COOPER; Dawn, you know, oftentimes we focus on the perpetrators, the alleged perpetrators of crime. We lose sight of who the victim is. What you to want people to know about your son Jason?

SWEENEY: My son Jason is - is the most beautiful boy. I mean, this is a child who on weekends, if my husband was working a lot, would stay home with me, if my daughter was working also. You know, he would sit and watch TV with me. He'd stay up all night. He was just absolutely beautiful. He didn't -- he wanted to believe the best in everyone. And even when I told him, you know, that his best friend was going down the wrong road and I didn't want him near him, you know, he turned and said, "Mom, you know, maybe if Eddie hangs with me, he'll change because I don't do these things. "

COOPER: Yes. Well, Dawn, I don't know what to say. I appreciate you coming in and I'm so sorry for your loss. And I hope -- I hope justice is done. Thank you very much for being with us.

SWEENEY: Thank you.


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