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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Sexual Assault Suspect Still at Large in West Virginia

Aired July 14, 2003 - 20:21   ET

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

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: It is every parent's nightmare: their child coming to harm in a familiar, seemingly safe public place, like the neighborhood discount store. Police are searching for a man suspected of sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl Saturday night at a Target store in suburban Charleston, West Virginia. You have to watch this tape closely to understand. They say this man caught on this videotape threatened the child with a knife and moved her from department to department, before letting her go.
Sergeant Robert Yeager of the South Charleston Police Department is standing by to bring us up to date on this case.

Sir, thank you very much for joining us.

Do you think you have a pretty good line on the suspect tonight?

SGT. R.T. YEAGER, SOUTH CHARLESTON POLICE DEPARTMENT: Well, at this point, we're just trying to sort through all of the tips that the viewers have sent in. And we don't have an exact suspect yet, but we're definitely working on it.

ZAHN: What can you tell us about the victim tonight?

YEAGER: Like I say, she's 11 years old, female, doing well at home with her family, and just trying to get her life straightened out after this.

ZAHN: Have you had a chance to speak with her mother, who happened to be in the store when this happened?

YEAGER: Yes, I have. And...

ZAHN: And what has she shared with you that you're comfortable sharing with us?

YEAGER: Like I say, just that they've got the girl and the family in to see some counselors. And the family is just trying to work through this and recover from such a traumatic experience.

ZAHN: In all your years of being in law enforcement, did you ever think you would see a case like this happen, when someone would so brazenly attack a little girl and actually moving from aisle to aisle, so he wouldn't get caught?

YEAGER: No, I never thought I would. And I hope I never see this again.

ZAHN: Now, is it true, when he approached this young girl, he told her he was a security guard?

YEAGER: Yes, it is.

ZAHN: And he didn't appear to be dressed in any special kind of uniform, did he? These pictures are kind of grainy. I don't know how clearly anybody in the audience can see them right now.

YEAGER: No, no, he was dressed in a pair of khaki shorts and a sleeveless gray T-shirt.

ZAHN: Tell us a little bit about the security in the store. How was it he was able to get inside with a knife on him?

YEAGER: Target has a very sophisticated surveillance system, but the particular knife used in this incident was just a pocket-type knife. It would have been very easy for anyone to enter just about any store with a knife like this.

ZAHN: And I understand, although there were a bunch of cameras in the store, the outside surveillance camera was not working that might have allowed you to track him in the parking lot. Is that true?

YEAGER: Yes, that's true. They have a very sophisticated camera in the parking lot, but I understand, on this particular day, it was not in service.

ZAHN: And is it your belief that you might have caught him, had that camera been working, or do you know?

YEAGER: I'm sure it would have helped. We've dealt with Target on numerous occasions. And, in the past, that camera in the parking lot has been a great help.

ZAHN: And large public spaces are scary for any of us that have young children. A final word of advice upon separating -- I know we all think of 6- and 7-year-olds as needing to be holding on to mom's and dad's arms, but 11, 12, 13, teenagers as well should not stay separated from their parents?

YEAGER: It appears that's the case. I don't know at what age it is OK to turn them loose, but, apparently, 11 years old is not old enough.

ZAHN: Well, we wish you tremendous luck with this case. And thank you for taking some time out of your busy day to bring us up to date on it.

YEAGER: Well, thank you.

ZAHN: Detective Robert Yeager.

Live from the headlines contacted Target's national headquarters. They say they're appalled by the situation. They are working with local law enforcement and hope that their security equipment will help catch the perpetrator. Target is also conducting an internal investigation into this matter. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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