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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Child's Body Recovered From Mississippi River; Mother Charged

Aired July 7, 2003 - 19:37   ET

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

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: A mother faces charges of murdering one of her children and attempting to murder another. A complaint filed in St. Paul, Minnesota says Naomi Gaines kissed her 14-month-old twins, said she was sorry, then tossed each one of them off a bridge into the Mississippi River before jumping in herself.
Rondah Kinchlow of CNN affiliate KARE picks up the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUSAN GAERTNER, RAMSEY CO. ATTORNEY: These are babies, vulnerable babies and she tried to kill them. How can you not have a hard time with that?

RONDAH KINCHLOW, KARE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They were babies, twin boys, one day shy of turning 15 months when their mother allegedly threw them and herself into the Mississippi River.

GAERTNER: A lot of people in this room are mothers and fathers, including myself.

KINCHLOW: Only one of the twins and the mother, 24-year-old Naomi Gaines, survived. Gaines is now charged with murder and attempted murder.

In the criminal complaint, Gaines tells police she went to the Taste of Minnesota celebration but felt uncomfortable. She was looking for a friendly face. She said she felt that people were staring and that she did not want her children to live in this world and that they would be better off dead.

GAERTNER: I don't think that even the most hardened veteran prosecutor -- and I guess I put myself in that category -- can look at a case like this in quite the same way as you would with adults involved.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, thousands of people were at the Taste of Minnesota festival in downtown St. Paul, where Gaines is alleged to have thrown her children into the Mississippi.

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher was also in the crowd that night. He joins us now from Minneapolis to talk about the troubling details of this case. Sheriff, thanks for being with us. I understand you have been talking to investigators, hearing from investigators who have interviewed Miss Gaines. What do you know about the circumstances surrounding this incident? What happened on that bridge?

BOB FLETCHER, RAMSEY COUNTRY, MINNESOTA: Well, put simply, she was very unhappy. She wanted to kill her -- take her own life and unfortunately the tragedy took a worse turn when she decided she didn't want to leave her own children and that they would be better off dead as well. So she kissed each of them, said I'm sorry, and sent each of them over the edge and followed herself. But clearly she was an unhappy person. There are some family members said she had a new relationship that may not have been working out. But she told us she did not intend to kill the children until the last minute.

COOPER: Is it at this point known how premeditated this was in terms of killing herself? Because, I mean, I read the police report. My understanding is -- I mean, she was cleaning her apartment earlier in that day. She went down this river festival, was looking around for other single parents, single mothers with children and -- I mean, this whole thing of people looking at her, that doesn't sound all that rational to me.

FLETCHER: No, it sounded like her unhappiness got worse as she attended. She had some hopes of running into other single moms and maybe connecting with some other people. That didn't happen. In fact, she ran into a person that she described as rude when her stroller ran into them. So things seemed to go downhill for he. It doesn't appear that she intended to do that initially.

She did make some reference to not wanting to go quietly in an apartment about five years earlier in the same housing complex that she lives in. And the mother killed six of their children. So that may have been a reference, a quiet reference to that.

COOPER: I also understand as she jumped over the bridge herself she yelled the word freedom. Not sure how that plays into all of it. This happened at the Taste of Minnesota festival. I imagine just thousands of people there. What what was the scene like afterwards? I mean, I guess a lot of people saw this.

FLETCHER: Well, it was chaotic. We had six witnesses on top of the bridge and, of course, dozens below. Quite frankly, many people didn't go into the water because they thought it was a prank. They really didn't believe that they were real baby at first.

Fortunately there were a couple of people that did wade into the water and rescue one child and the mother. But there is 50,000 people plus in that half- mile vicinity. We had several of our deputy sheriffs in boats beneath the bridge on the other side of the bridge. But it was chaos after that. And, of course, it ended in tragedy with the recovery of sincere understanding yesterday.

COOPER: Well, I mean, it's a miracle so many of the deputies were on the scene, because I know you were able to get to her within a minute or so of her actually hitting the water. So I guess instrumental in at least saving the life of one of the children.

FLETCHER: Well, really it was the citizens that waded in. They deserve the credit. A couple of individuals saved the lives of one child and the mother.

COOPER: All right. Sheriff Bob Fletcher, appreciate you joining us tonight. Thank you.

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