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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Father of Missing Girl Shares Heartache at News of Fraud

Aired July 30, 2003 - 19:21   ET

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

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We told you earlier about the hoax that devastated a family hoping to reunite with their missing daughter after 17 years.
Just last night Paula Zahn specifically asked Shannon Sherrill's father Mike about the possibility that a woman's claim she might be Shannon could be a hoax.

Take a look. This is from last night.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA ZAHN, ANCHOR: So investigators told you to be wary of that?

MIKE SHERRILL, MISSING GIRL'S FATHER: Yes, they told me, and I'm just hoping that it's not. After hearing the voice, you know, it's different.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, the hopes Mike Sherrill expressed last night were dashed today, as we mentioned earlier. He joins us now from Thorntown, Indiana.

Mike, thank you for being with us. Can't imagine what this day has been like for you. How are you doing?

SHERRILL: I'm trying to stay calm.

COOPER: You, I understand, learned that this was a hoax right before this press conference that a lot of us watched earlier in the day.

When you first heard about the press conference, when they told you they were having this press conference at 3 p.m. Eastern time, what did you think?

SHERRILL: I thought Shannon's home. I'm going to see my baby. And it didn't happen.

COOPER: What did they say to you to break the news to you?

SHERRILL: They told me that it was a hoax, that this lady wasn't Shannon. And it's just like kidnapping her all over again.

COOPER: I know investigators had, I guess, warned you of the possibility it might be a hoax. But, obviously, it's something -- it's almost unimaginable to believe. What did you think when you heard that word, "hoax"?

SHERRILL: No, not again. They took her again. Somebody find this lady, somebody report this lady. She's got to be found.

COOPER: The lady you're talking about is Donna L. Walker, who is the person purported to have mimicked not only your daughter's voice, several other people, as well.

If she's out there, if she's listening, what would you say to her?

SHERRILL: Why? Do you know how much you hurt everybody by doing something like this? And I just want to know why. What was the point in it?

COOPER: Do you believe your daughter is still...

SHERRILL: She ripped my heart out again.

Yes, I do, I believe she's out there somewhere. She's still out there somewhere and I'll never stop looking for her. Never.

COOPER: You've never given up hope. I mean, it's been 17 years or so and you -- you've never given up.

SHERRILL: I never gave up hope, no. She's out there somewhere and I'm going to keep looking until I find her.

COOPER: How is the rest of your family doing?

SHERRILL: They're helping me. They haven't really broke down or anything like I have, but they're there for me. And that helps tremendously.

COOPER: Mike, you know, again, I mean we all watched this press conference earlier in the day and we were just -- I mean, I was just stunned when I heard that word, that horrible word "hoax" used. And my thoughts and I know the thoughts of just millions of people are out there thinking about you and the rest of your family, as well as your still missing daughter.

We appreciate you coming in. I know it's just been a hellish day. We appreciate you coming in to talk.

And let's put up that photo again of Donna L. Walker. This is the woman accused of...

SHERRILL: Find this lady.

COOPER: And you spoke to her? I mean, you spoke to this woman and she was pretending to be your daughter. What was that conversation like?

SHERRILL: Oh, I was glad to hear Shannon's voice -- what I thought was Shannon's voice. And I was so relieved and I was ready to bring her home. And I was -- everybody that saw me said that I just lit up inside. They could tell. There was a difference.

And when I found out it was a hoax it just ripped my heart out, and I wasn't prepared for the hoax. I was prepared to see my daughter.

COOPR: Again, Mike, appreciate you coming in. And our thoughts our and prayers are with you and the rest of your family and with Shannon tonight. Thank you very much.

SHERRILL: Thank you.

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