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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview with Mike Sherrill

Aired July 29, 2003 - 20:34   ET

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

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Almost 17 years ago, 6-year-old Shannon Marie Sherrill disappeared after playing outside her mother's mobile home in Thorntown, Indiana. As the years went by, her family never gave up hope that they might one day see her again, no matter how improbable such a reunion seemed.
Tonight, it appears those hopes may not have been in vein. Authorities say a woman has contacted the family of Shannon Marie Sherrill saying she may have been the girl who vanished that day back in 1986. Shannon would be 22 years old now. Police have said little else about the case other than their investigation is at a critical juncture and it is ongoing. The girl's family has issued a statement saying they are hoping beyond hope that the woman who called them is indeed Shannon. Her father, Mike Sherrill, said he is ecstatic, that he never stopped hoping his daughter would be found.

In an exclusive interview tonight, Shannon's Father joins us from Indiana. Welcome, sir. Thank you very much for being with us.

MIKE SHERRILL, MISSING GIRL'S FATHER: Thank you.

ZAHN: First of all, tell us what your reaction was when you heard the little girl, who you believe was your daughter, made contact with your ex-wife?

SHERRILL: Well, I was ecstatic. I was full of joy and just so excited.

ZAHN: You never gave up hope. You always believed she was alive, didn't you?

SHERRILL: Yes, I did. She -- they never gave me kind of indication that anything had happened to her, anything. No proof that she wasn't alive. So I never gave up hope. Never at all.

ZAHN: I guess that's so remarkable. Because after that period of time, it must have been very hard to maintain any degree of optimism. But somehow you did.

SHERRILL: Yes. Well, she was out there.

ZAHN: Now, I understand that...

SHERRILL: I... ZAHN: Sorry about the delay in the signal here. I understand you then had an opportunity to talk with this young woman you believe to be your daughter.

Can you share with us what the two of you had to say to each other?

SHERRILL: Before I talked to her, I had a million questions that I wanted to ask her. And when I got her on the phone, I just totally spaced everything. I just went blank. And I just asked her how she was. And she said she was fine. And it was so good to hear her voice.

ZAHN: How soon do you think you might be able to see her?

SHERRILL: That I'm not sure of. They're working on the investigation now and the media has been great. I just hope it's going to be soon. They're not giving me any kind of time line.

ZAHN: Yes, that must be hard to live with the uncertainty now that you've gotten what you think is a piece of good news. And yet, you also have to live with the cruel reality that this could be a hoax.

Have investigators told you to be wary of that?

SHERRILL: Yes, they've told me. And I'm just hoping that it's not. After talking -- after hearing her voice, you know, it's different.

ZAHN: And let me ask you this.

When you say that these authorities continue to work on the case, is it true that some DNA testing will need to be done here?

SHERRILL: It will need to be done, yes. But it hasn't been done yet. And there's been a lot of unconfirmed reports that have been broadcast that shouldn't have been.

ZAHN: And do you want to set the record straight?

SHERRILL: Yes, I do, because, like I said, there has been a lot of unconfirmed reports that they have talked about that have already been done that haven't, and it needs to stop.

ZAHN: Well, I hope the folks that you think are putting out those reports are listening to you tonight. Finally, I think you probably have seen the digitally enhanced photos that legal authorities have come up with to try to project what Shannon might look like today. We showed pictures of what she looked like at 6.

When you see this picture, what do you think?

SHERRILL: I -- could you repeat the question? I'm sorry.

ZAHN: I don't know whether you've had the opportunity to see that picture that legal authorities have come up with where they tried to to project what Shannon might look like today.

SHERRILL: Yes, I've seen them, and I don't know. That may be -- may look like what she looks like. I'm not saying it's not and I'm not saying it is.

ZAHN: Well, we know you've got a lot of pressure on you right now. And we very much appreciate your stopping by. And wish you great luck. And I know you're going to have to have a lot of patience in the days to come. You certainly had an abundance of that over the last two decades. We wish your whole family a great deal of luck and joy.

SHERRILL: Thank you.

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