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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Grandparents Willing to Murder for Custody

Aired August 27, 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: Police in central Florida say a couple were so determined to gain custody of their grandson they were willing to commit murder.
John Zarrella is in Orlando, following this unbelievable case.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fifty-six-year- old grandparents stood in court. Police say Kenneth Fennewald and his wife Shirley were going to kidnap their grandson, flee to Mexico and then have their ex-daughter-in-law murdered.

There was one big problem. They told it all to an undercover Palm Bay, Florida, detective who was posing as a hit man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you want to happen to her? Tell me.

KENNETH FENNEWALD, TRIED TO HIRE HITMAN TO KILL EX-DAUGHTER-IN- LAW: I would rather see her no longer around.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you say no longer around, what do you want to happen to her?

ZARRELLA: Police used a camera hidden in a cell phone to make this audio and video recording. After the video stops, the audio continues and within minutes the undercover officer gets Kenneth to spell out what he wants done.

FENNEWALD: I would like to see her taken out of the picture so she's not there anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Out of the picture.

FENNEWALD: Dead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

FENNEWALD: Dead. I don't want her to come back.

ZARRELLA: Detective Mark Mynheir was outside listening. Mynheir says it's hard to believe two grandparents were planning a murder.

DET. MARK MYNHEIR, PALM BAY POLICE DEPARTMENT: It's a freaky thing. I don't understand it. But I think that they let the anger and hate consume them. That's the only explanation. ZARRELLA: Police say the grandparents have been embroiled in a long and oftentimes nasty custody battle with their ex-daughter-in- law. Police did not believe Fennewalds' son was involved in the alleged plot.

The Fennewalds have not yet entered a plea. We tried to contact their attorneys, but they could not be reached.

(on camera) Detectives say they were tipped off to the Fennewalds' alleged murder and kidnapping plot, but they were skeptical about how serious it was until, they say, the tapes started rolling.

John Zarrella, CNN, Palm Bay, Florida.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Unbelievable. To find out more about this case, let's go to police headquarters and hear from someone you just saw in that report. Mark Mynheir, he's lead investigator from the Palm Bay Police Department.

Appreciate you being with us, Mark.

I understand an acquaintance -- John Zarrella just said an acquaintance tipped you all off to this. How did you set up what I guess was a sting, really?

MYNHEIR: Yes. We have -- we were tipped off from a good citizen source who was familiar with the Fennewalds. And they had approached this person and asked him to actually carry out the crime. And through this person's intervention, he was able to introduce the undercover officer.

COOPER: Now I know at this point, I guess, do you know how involved or if the son of these grandparents were involved at all? Was involved at all in these plans?

MYNHEIR: I've had several contacts with him, and it doesn't appear that he was directly involved in these plans right now, but it's still under investigation. We're still looking at him.

COOPER: But the relationship between the son and his former wife was just very bitter?

MYNHEIR: Oh, yes. It is a really ugly custody battle, and it seems like the majority of the anger really came from the grandparents. So they're the ones who really wanted to have custody of their grandson. The Fennewalds' son seemed to be not nearly as, how can I say, motivated to get his custody...

COOPER: And we're watching this videotape that you and the other officers shot in a hidden camera, I guess, in a cell phone. You were outside listening in on this. What was going through your mind?

MYNHEIR: Well, like I said at first we had to verify the credibility of it. And as soon as the tapes started rolling and we got in there, it was pretty credible pretty quick. And it was amazing. We were definitely confirmed everything we were told.

COOPER: You know, I'm sure you've been a police detective for a long time. You probably -- I can't even imagine all the stuff you've seen. But did it surprise you to have not only a set of grandparents trying to organize, or allegedly trying to organize a hit against their daughter-in-law or former daughter-in-law, but that they actually just spelled out, you know, we want this person dead?

MYNHEIR: Yes. I've been doing this a long time, and I didn't think I could be surprised any more but I guess I'm wrong. Because yes, they spelled it out. They were not ambiguous. They wanted her dead.

COOPER: Now, these grandparents, they are behind bars right now and they have not been give a bond, is that correct? Because I suppose, what, they're a flight risk?

MYNHEIR: Correct. They're a flight risk and just the serious nature of the crime. But they are definitely a flight risk. They have residence in several places and there's been trips to Mexico and some other things, so no bond was appropriate.

COOPER: Detective Mark Mynheir, appreciate you joining us. Thank you very much for shedding some light on this just bizarre case. Thanks very much.

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