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Police Investigate Drowning Deaths of Children

Aired September 4, 2003 - 19;21   ET

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

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Now the latest on the tragic drowning deaths of three children in Illinois. The boyfriend of the children's mother, the man who was behind the wheel, has been charged with driving under the influence.
The adults got out before the car went under the water. The children did not.

Here now, CNN's Jeff Flock.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A first look at the car, a green late model Olds Cutlass, that earlier this week ended up here in Clinton Lake with 6-year-old Christopher Hamm, his 3-year-old brother, Austin Brown, and their almost 2-year-old sister, Kyliegh Hamm, trapped inside.

A memorial now for the dead children on the lake bank near the boat ramp where the car plunged in Tuesday night. Not far away, the pay phone used by their 28-year-old mother, Amanda Hamm, to dial 911.

But how it all unfolded and who may be responsible, DeWitt County sheriff Roger Massy (ph) won't say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to investigate this completely and fully to the best of our abilities and then we'll give you the results.

FLOCK: All the sheriff will say is that at some point Hamm's boyfriend, Maurice LaGrone, was behind the wheel of the car. Authorities charged him with driving under the influence of drugs and on a suspended license. They point out that though the incident happened on a boat ramp there was no boat involved.

More serious charges are possible if authorities find evidence anyone was either negligent or intended to harm the children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She loved her children.

FLOCK: Brenda Foust (ph) was Amanda Hamm's boss here at the Grecian Gardens restaurant.

Both here and in the neighborhood where Hamm and LaGrone live and their children's toys are quiet, those who know them say they were good parents who are now devastated. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maurice actually this morning, he said it's like a nightmare he can't wake up from. It's so horrible. He can't believe -- He wants the kids back. Amanda, all she keeps saying is, "I want my babies back. I want my babies back."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FLOCK: Daryn, those in law enforcement here say quite openly we know why you reporters are interested in this story, it is because of Susan Smith. She is, of course, the woman who purposefully drowned her children in a car in a lake.

There is no suggestion or any evidence, we should point out, that this case at this point is anything like that, though with three children between the ages of 1 and 6 dead, I think it also fair to say it is no less a tragedy -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Absolutely. And to take the cynicism away for just a moment, perhaps that is why we are interested in the story, the tragic death and loss of life of those three young children.

Jeff, thank you for that.

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