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Massacre in Syria; New Developments in Etan Patz Case

Aired May 28, 2012 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It's 10:00 here on the East Coast.

Tonight, the world has a massacre on its hands, the wholesale slaughter of dozens of children in Syria. There is video of the aftermath. We're going to show it to in a little bit. It is horrific. There's no doubt about it, and we have blurred out the most graphic parts, but there's no mistaking what the camera shows.

And if you want to look away, by all means do, but I do hope you will at least listen to this report.

This is from Houla, a Sunni neighborhood just outside Homs, row after row of children, children shot in the chest, children with their skulls blown away, some with what appear to be powder burns covering what's left of their faces, the kind of powder burns you get from a gun being pressed up against your face shot at close range.

That's because their murderers, reportedly government militias, did their killing face to face, Friday night after a day of anti-Assad protests in Houla. First, tanks shelled the neighborhood. Then, at about 7:00 p.m., local time, reports say men in uniform began going door to door.

One neighborhood boy says he watched as a militiaman grabbed his friend, a 13-year-old, and shot him in the head. A human rights watcher says the militiamen handcuffed one family's children, forced their father to watch as they killed them.

"I watched the bodies of nine children," he's saying, "one with less than nine months old." "Did the infant carry an RPG?" he asks. "Was he a fighter? He had a pacifier in his mouth."

Over the weekend, that baby and dozens more were washed according to Islamic law, covered in white sheets, as you see, and laid if rows, row after row of shrouded figures. Then, with a war raging all around them, the bodies were buried.

You can see the makeshift cinder block walls being used to try to keep the rows of bodies separate to preserve at least some shred of dignity in death. They had no dignity in life because of what this regime did to them. The Assad regime naturally denies it all, blaming it, as always, on terrorists.

We will have more on that in a moment.

First, though, "Keeping Them Honest," all this is happening with U.N. observers on the ground in Syria, not very many of them, to be sure. They're unarmed. They can't do a thing to stop the slaughter. They're supposed to be monitoring the truce brokered by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who's in Damascus tonight, a truce that his host, the Assad regime, has flagrantly violated literally from day one.

Now, yesterday, the U.N. Security Council issued a statement saying the -- quote -- "outrageous use of force against civilians violated international law and commitments the Syrian government has made." It also demanded that the regime comply with the Annan plan, something, as we have reported night after night, it has never, ever done.

Also, the final Security Council statement did not directly blame the regime for Friday's massacre. That's remarkable. An earlier draft did, but Russia, which has veto power, objected. Russia's foreign minister bizarrely likened the slaughter in Syria, the slaughter of children, to a night at the disco.


SERGEI LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): It takes two to dance. It takes two to tango. Even though -- in the current situation in Syria, what we have is not the -- really tango. We're having a disco party, where many players are dancing. And they should all dance in the same way.


COOPER: Syria, he says, is a disco party.

As we mentioned, the Assad regime disavows it all.


JIHAD MAKDISSI, SYRIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN (through translator): We absolutely deny that the government's armed forces had any responsibility in committing such a massacre. And we strongly condemn the terrorist massacre that targeted our Syrian people in a blatant criminal manner. And we also condemn this absurdity in blaming the government's armed forces on the foreign ministerial level, and not just on the level of the media outlets.


COOPER: These people have been lying now for more than 14 months. They have repeatedly denied the murder of children. This whole uprising, as you will remember, began after children who had graffitied anti-government slogans in Daraa were arrested. That's how it began, with children.

Over the past 14 months, we have seen the bodies of countless children shot, some of them tortured. This latest massacre is in Houla is happening a year almost to the day since the broken body of this little boy, a Syrian boy named Hamza, was returned to his family.

He'd been tortured, his body reportedly mutilated, killed by the Assad regime's security forces. Now, a year later, the world is apparently stunned that so many children would be killed at close range in Houla. I don't know why anyone is surprised by this slaughter. We can't pretend we haven't seen it before in Syria. We cannot pretend we didn't know that this was happening or would happen again.

We have watched it day after day, night after night. We know the names of the dead. We have seen their small shattered bodies. We cannot pretend we did not know.

Alex Thomson is a correspondent for Britain's Channel 4. He was in Houla over the weekend. Tonight, he's in Homs, joins us there by phone.

Alex, as you say , the world has only seen fleeting glimpses of what's happened in Houla. Describe what you witnessed, what you saw for yourself.

ALEX THOMSON, ITN REPORTER: I hope you're hearing me. There's a big firefight going on about a half-a-mile from where I am right now.

We got into the southern sector, which is where there are some Syrian troops, and we stopped. And there was a firefight at that point. So we went and took shelter in a building. I looked across from where I was and about four feet away from where I was, there was a body covered in a blanket.

When I pulled that blanket back, it revealed an old man way beyond fight age, at least 75, 80 years old, who had a gunshot wound to the head. A few feet away, I pulled over another blanket and there was the body of a girl. She could not have been more than 5 or 6. And she had a wound, a gunshot wound in her chest. And I put the blanket back and gave her whatever little dignity you can give to somebody in that situation.

Now, those bodies will not have been discovered by the U.N. convoy because they bypassed them and went further into town. So, I'm telling you tonight that however many bodies they think were recovered and how many people have been killed in Houla, the number is in fact greater than that.

COOPER: The regime, the Assad regime is denying any responsibility for this. But, as we know, over the last 14 months or so, they have lied repeatedly. And we have seen children repeatedly targeted, tortured to death and sent back to their families.

Is there any reason to believe anybody other than government forces or government supporters did this massacre?

THOMSON: I don't believe there is. But there's proof on the ground.

If you go to Houla, tell me this. Why is it that the area which is connected, which is controlled by the government, by the Syrian army troops is a ghost town? It's deserted. There are no civilians there at all. Why is that? And why is it the case that there are lots and plenty of civilians in the other sector of town which is controlled by the rebels?

Why is it that the civilians flee the areas where their own government soldiers are, yet they remain in areas where the rebels are? The obvious inference from that situation, from that evidence on the ground clearly is that the people, the Syrian people, feel safer with the rebels.

COOPER: Alex, do you find it extraordinary that after 14 months of this crackdown and all the deaths that we have seen, people are still coming out to protest after being in the mosques on Friday? And apparently that's what started and was what caused the government to go into this town, in Houla after Friday prayers.

But the fact that people are still willing to go out on the streets and protest, I find extraordinary.

THOMSON: I think that when people have the mood for freedom and have the bit between their teeth, that matters more to them than putting bread on the table and almost life itself.

That said, what you have to understand is that 99 percent, perhaps, of the Syrian country is relatively peaceful. It's very specific where the fighting is going on. And the fact that the Russian foreign minister has said only today that the only thing Russia is interested in pursuing is the Assad plan, it's a plan put forward by the Syrian government, I have to say is an invitation to civil war.

COOPER: Alex, we have seen children killed throughout this conflict, but to see so many over the weekend, so many people ask the question, how is it possible? Why would a regime kill children like this?

THOMSON: What goes through the minds and what the tactic is involved from these Shabiha, these people, these armed militias who went building by building, house by house, family by family and slaughtered people in Houla is beyond the comprehension tonight of most Syrians, as it is of most people around the globe.

COOPER: Alex Thomson, we can hear the fighting in the background. Stay safe. Thank you.

THOMSON: Thank you.

COOPER: Well, the question is what can, what should be done about it? There are global sanctions on Syria now. The Obama administration has called for Assad's departure, promised communications equipment of opposition forces.

Over the weekend, Mitt Romney called on the president to arm Syrian opposition forces, and Senator John McCain said this.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Horrible things are happening in Syria. This administration has a feckless foreign policy which abandons American leadership.

I know because I visit with these people that they are ready to help these people. And they are already helping them some. But it cries out for American leadership. American leadership is not there.


COOPER: His departing Senate colleague, though, Republican Senator Richard Lugar, says President Obama has been cautious on Syria, in his words -- quote -- "I think properly so."

You also heard Alex Thomson describe a country potentially on the brink of civil war in the middle of a regional power keg.

Want to talk about it with national security analyst Fran Townsend and Fouad Ajami, senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution.

Fouad, you and I were on the border just a couple weeks ago. I mean, the world cannot say they didn't know that this was happening. Everybody is shocked at the death toll over the weekend and this massacre of children. But we have seen children killed now for 14 months.

FOUAD AJAMI, PROFESSOR OF MIDDLE EASTERN STUDIES, JOHNS HOPKINS SCHOOL OF ADVANCED INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: You were in the tents and you talked to people. You even talked to children. You talked to one boy.

I will never forget him, a boy named Saleh (ph) from Aleppo, who said, we can't live like this. We want our freedom.

So these people want their freedom. But I will tell you one thing, Anderson. This is now -- this massacre, the Houla massacre is a turning point in a fight which we never thought we would have a turning point. This is a turning point.

COOPER: You really believe it's a turning point?

AJAMI: Well, it's a turning point for the Syrians. I will tell you why. Because most of the killing was down by the Alawi villages that surrounded Houla. So in fact here you have Houla, a very, very quaint place. In my childhood, we thought of Houla as a place of no significance.

So, in fact, it wasn't just the army. It wasn't the forces of -- quote -- "Bashar al-Assad." It was the surrounding villages that came and did most of the killing face to face. I think we're in the midst of a Sunni-Alawi fight. We always knew we would end up there if this fight goes on. And we have come to that point.

COOPER: Do you think that this could be a turning point? FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: I hope -- Anderson, I hope so.

But this is, as you point out, had been going on for 14 months as the world has sat and watched this. It really is extraordinary to me to see this kind of bloodshed and this level of violence visited upon children where the world seems unwilling to act. Look, Syria is a much more complicated situation -- we have said it before -- than Libya.

It has more sophisticated air defense, more sophisticated military. And it has clients. Russia, who made the -- the Russian foreign minister made these outrageous statements yesterday at the U.N. Russia is responsible for providing the arms that are being used against Syrian civilians.

COOPER: Saying it's a disco party or it takes two to tango, that there's some sort of equivalent between the regime or the regime supporters and the opposition forces is just not true.

TOWNSEND: Right. Well, it's not true. And it really does belie the outrageous sort of cover that Russia and the Iranians are providing to the Assad regime.

If ever there was a point that we could say this is the turning point, between the massacre in Houla and these outrageous statements by the Russians and the Syrians -- and the Iranians -- we now hear this Quds force, their militia forces, are also in there advising the Syrians.

These things coming together ought to be a turning point for the international community.

COOPER: So for those though who, you know, are horrified by what happened, but say, look, the U.S. should not be intervening in this or should not be -- what are the options?

AJAMI: Well, look, we are now talking about -- in deference to the Russians -- I love that. We have been going to the Russians. We went to them about a year ago and they vetoed the resolution.

We went to them last February. They vetoed the resolution. We know that the Russians -- we know what the Russians will do. And we are going to the Russians. The Obama administration has been going to the Russians repeatedly in order to be rebuffed and in order to have a cover for its own moral abdication.

A lot could be done. A lot could be done. But the Obama administration has brilliantly depicted this fight and the choices for the United States as either boots on the ground or head in the sand. Since we don't want to have boots on the ground, then the argument is we do nothing.

And, in fact, you don't even hear the president talking about Syria. There's no passion. And for all the time that the Obama administration spent saying, oh, Syria is not Libya, guess what? Now they say Syria is Yemen. So now we have in deference again to the Russians.

The (INAUDIBLE) variant that we can have in Syria...


COOPER: Somehow get the president to resign or step down, have the vice president take over.

AJAMI: Well, good luck to that, good luck to that. It truly is in this case Syria ain't Yemen. And Bashar al-Assad and his clan, and his Alawi sect, 10 percent of the population, aren't Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen, who is willing to take a hike.

COOPER: This is a man, by the way, whose father, for those who don't know, slaughtered 10,000 people, conservative estimates, in -- you know, in 1982, it was.

So he comes from a tradition. I mean, it does not seem there's any limit to the number of people they are willing to kill.

TOWNSEND: No. That's exactly right.

Bashar al-Assad's disadvantage, however, is so many decades later there's the Internet, there's YouTube. We can see the pictures of the slaughter. And so the notion that this could go on -- this is why I say that the notion that it could go on 14 months with the videos, with the pictures, with the international community...


COOPER: Well, where is the rest of the Arab world? I mean, Saudi Arabia, Qatar has talked about funding, giving money to and maybe giving money for opposition forces to buy arms. But where is the rest of the world on this?

AJAMI: Well, I think alas we will remain in this kind of American world. We remain in the American world. If the United States doesn't come to the rescue, no one will ride to the rescue.

Once the United States leads, then the Turks will follow. And they will provide the buffer that the Syrians need. Then the Qataris will follow. They will provide the money. The Saudis will follow.

But without American leadership, believe me, everyone will dodge. And everyone will wait for the United States. And I used to believe that if there is a Syrian Srebrenica, to go back to the Balkans, that we were forced, if you will, we were pushed into Bosnia by the horror of what happened in Srebrenica, I now don't -- I don't even know.

If there is a Syrian Srebrenica, I'm not even sure we would come to the rescue.

COOPER: It doesn't feel -- you go to these camps and the Syrian people you talk to feel like they have been abandoned. They know they have been abandoned. They know this. TOWNSEND: And to Fouad's point, what you need is American leadership. It isn't -- it is a false choice that we can do nothing or we can put boots on the ground.

Frankly, the Americans can provide the infrastructure and the support to pull together the international community. We can help to arm the rebels. We can give them the communications gear so they can get out of the way of Syrian forces. We can help try to provide them safe haven and safe passage. There's many things we can do, short of boots on the, short of ground dropping missiles, frankly, that we're not doing.

And I frankly don't understand it.

COOPER: Well, we will see if this is in fact a turning point of some sort. It has certainly got a lot of attention this weekend, which all the deaths of all the children up to now really have not, which is a shame for all of us.

Fran, appreciate you being here, And Fouad as well.

Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook. I'm tweeting about this right now @AndersonCooper. Let me know what you think.

New developments also tonight in the disappearance of Etan Patz. The alleged killer may have actually confessed to a church group decades ago. The question is, why didn't anyone in that church group come forward? Should they have? "Crime and Punishment" next.


COOPER: Welcome back. "Crime & Punishment" now.

Late developments in the case of Etan Patz. The New York City Sanitation Department is telling us that the NYPD, the New York Police Department, has been in touch asking about their pickup and dumping schedules dating back to 1979, which is obviously the year that Etan vanished. No comment yet from police.

You will recall a man has confessed to killing the school after luring him to the basement of the corner store bodega where he worked and disposing the body inside a garbage bag.

His name is Pedro Hernandez. That's him. He's now being held on murder charges and being kept on suicide watch at New York's Bellevue Hospital.

Tonight, a relative who we're keeping anonymous claims to have reported a similar confession to police in Camden, New Jersey, back in the '80s. Relatives said that they went into police and told them that Pedro Hernandez had told them he had killed a child. Nothing ever came of it, according to the relative. The source says that Hernandez also confided to a church group.

A lot of talk about tonight with Lisa Cohen, author of "After Etan: The Missing Child Case That Held America Captive," also former Los Angeles deputy district attorney Marcia Clark. She's recently out with the courtroom thriller "Guilt By Association."

Lisa, were you surprised? You did so much research on this. You worked on this for years to write the book. Did you know the name Pedro Hernandez?



And that's not to say that he wasn't talked to or he wasn't considered, but I had never heard -- of the many suspects whose names sort of came across my view, I had never heard his name at all until last week.

COOPER: Does the story to you make sense? This was such a huge story in New York City at the time. I grew up in New York, I remember it well as a kid. The idea that Pedro Hernandez would be able to just put Etan in a bag or in a box and leave him out on the street to be picked up by garbage, I find hard to believe.

COHEN: Well, especially since it was Friday of Memorial Day weekend. So it's unclear when exactly he put him out on the street.

But then there would have been Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, during which time there were hundreds of police swarming the streets looking everywhere for this missing child.

COOPER: And you would think the police at the time -- if you look at any cop show, they always check the garbage routes or who has picked up garbage. You would think that they would have done that back then.

COHEN: Yes. I honestly don't know.

I know that there were people going rooftop to rooftop. There were helicopters flying overhead. There were dogs. There were -- I mean, in hundreds. And it is a little bit surprising.

COOPER: Marcia, this is a case right now with no forensic evidence that we know of, no eyewitness evidence, just the confession of a man with a documented history of mental illness who is now pleading not guilty. There are reports that the Manhattan DA, Cyrus Vance, was reluctant to sign off on the arrest, that he wanted to see more corroborating evidence.

What do you make of the decision to bring charges now?

MARCIA CLARK, FORMER PROSECUTOR: It's difficult. It's very difficult. As you mentioned, Anderson, without any forensic evidence to corroborate this confession, it makes it very difficult to believe him.

This is a man who has been noted to be mentally unstable, who's been diagnosed as schizophrenic. This is a problem in -- fundamental problem with, what do we credit? Now, the more statements you have from more sources that are independent of one another, the more it makes that confession possibly more reliable.

So you have this church group that didn't report -- no one in the church group to whom he confessed reported these statements. But if they do match up to the statements he made to his family, and if they are statements that also indicate an intimate knowledge of details that he couldn't have known by reading the paper or watching television, then perhaps you may have something.

But it takes a great deal to make a confession all by itself stand up in court.

COOPER: Marcia, I was asking people on Twitter if they thought people in that church group should have reported to authorities what this man allegedly said in a church kind of group, kind of public forum. Does it surprise you -- is a church group under any obligation, Marcia, legally to report?

CLARK: Well, there is an obligation to report when you have seen a felony be committed. I don't know that it could be prosecuted, especially after all this time.

The problem with a crime like that is, if they say, oh, well, this guy was prone to saying all kinds of things, we didn't take him seriously, then you are going to have a very hard time prosecuting these people for not reporting.

But, in general, yes, there is a duty to report when you have evidence of a felony, as particularly a homicide. So whether anyone will be held accountable for that is very doubtful. But someone really should have, yes. And, yes, apart from the law, Anderson, if someone is sitting in a church group and here is a person confessed to murder, you don't wait to find out whether or not you rely on it.

You go and report it to the police, because you never know.

COOPER: Right.

Lisa, the flip side I guess of the argument is that, well, he's on medication or he's mentally unstable, is , well , who else would do this other than somebody who may be mentally unstable or has some serious issue? So I guess that kind of cuts both ways.

You actually spoke to Etan's father today. How are they doing in all of this?

COHEN: They're doing OK. You know, one of the things that happens in these sorts of developments is that they get besieged by the press.

COOPER: Right.

COHEN: So that sort of actually ends up being kind of front and center in their minds, because they're stuck in their house. They can't go outside. And I think he...

COOPER: And they have been through this for now on and off now for 33 years.

COHEN: Yes. And he -- Stan Patz is one of the most methodical, calm people that I know. He doesn't ever pass judgment quickly. I mean, he's had 33 years to think about things. And, usually, the investigation is moving along very, very slowly.

COOPER: It surprises you how this investigation has been handled. You're saying it's almost kind of done backgrounds.

COHEN: Well, it is. And, by definition, I think that's the way it had to be done. Right? Because last week somebody walked in and confessed. So I guess they had a choice. Someone has in a very emotional way, in a detailed way, given us a statement. What are we going to do?

But they don't have any of the investigative part of it done. So now is the time to go back and try and piece together everything he said and see whether they can check it out.

COOPER: Lisa Cohen, I appreciate you being on.

Marcia Clark as well, thank you.

I should say "Guilt By Association" was a prior bestseller. "Guilt By Degrees" is the new one.

Marcia, I'm sure it will be a bestseller as well.

Marcia, thank you very much.

Coming up: Protesters gather in a small town in North Carolina to speak out against a pastor who we have reported on who said that he wanted gays and lesbians put behind electric fences until they die. The pastor has been hiding from reporters. Our Gary Tuchman, though, tracked him down. That's next.


COOPER: A teacher who sent sexually suggestive e-mails, even spent in jail, so how come she can't be fired and is still teaching kids? Find out and why it should matter to you.


COOPER: Well, the North Carolina pastor who preached that gays and lesbians should be rounded up and put behind electric fences to die was back on the pulpit this weekend.

A local newspaper says that Pastor Charles Worley got a standing ovation at Providence Road Baptist Church. Meanwhile, hundreds of people gathered to protest the pastor's message outside.

Gary Tuchman went to North Carolina to try to ask him if he stands by his words. We'll have that in a moment. But first, just a reminder of how this all happened with that sermon on May 13. Pastor Worley railed against President Obama's support for same- sex marriage and then talked about how he would eliminate gays and lesbians.


REV. CHARLES WORLEY, PASTOR: I figured a way out -- a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers. But I couldn't get it past the Congress. Build a great, big, large fence -- 150 or 100 mile long. Put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals. And have that fence electrified so they can't get out. Feed them. And you know what? In a few years they'll die out. Do you know why? They can't reproduce.


COOPER: Well, since that sermon gained nationwide attention, the pastor has refused to talk to reporters. He's not returned our calls, so Gary Tuchman went to ask him in person.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We haven't seen or heard from Pastor Charles Worley since his anti-gay sermon went viral. Until now.

(on camera) Pastor would you like to take back anything you said? Pastor, we want to give you a chance to take anything back, if you care to.

(voice-over) Pastor Worley had plenty of opportunity to answer either question. He chose not to. Instead he was on his way to his church for a Sunday service on the same day that hundreds of people from North Carolina and other parts of the country protested the pastor's now infamous sermon.

WORLEY: Build a great, big, large fence 150 or 100-mile long. Put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I felt that he was preaching bigotry. My God is a loving God. My God loves everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not a preacher. This is a bigot.

TUCHMAN: The protesters demonstrated several miles away from the church.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And to that which is against nature is against very nature.

TUCHMAN: ... where they encountered a small but loud opposition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't be a practicing lesbian and sodomite and be saved by the grace of God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We must repent, friend, because we've broken God's laws.

TUCHMAN: Pastor Worley's supporters carried signs that many here felt were nasty and antagonistic, as well as not necessarily accurate.

(on camera) Let me ask you: where does it talk about AIDS in Romans 1:27.


TUCHMAN: Why do you have that here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's just a phrase that we put on there.

TUCHMAN: There's been all kinds of opportunity for confrontation here. People on one side of the issue are marching on the sidewalk; people on the other side of the issue are yelling back at them. But so far there's been no problems.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm glad I'm a proud member of Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, North Carolina. My pastor, and his brother.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): For the most part Worley's supporters were ignored and instead the focus was on the pastor's anti-gay sermon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's absolutely anti-Christian. Which is why I wrote this message, "Would Jesus really do this?" No.

TUCHMAN: And many protesters brought their children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want my teach my kids to love everyone. I don't want them to see black or white, gay or straight. I want them to show up and love everybody.

TUCHMAN: Nobody was arrested.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But I'm telling you the reason that heterosexuals go to heaven is because they repent for their sins.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need your identification.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, sir.

TUCHMAN: But this pro-Worley supporter got a citation for using a bull horn, which had been banned.

Meanwhile, at church a few miles away, we asked one of the church board members if Worley would talk to us there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not issuing any comments or statements.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Can I can't talk to the pastor?


TUCHMAN (voice-over): There would be no talking to Charles Worley, at least on this day.

(on camera) Pastor, any comment at all?

(voice-over) The pastor is either not ready or not interested to publicly defend his sermon. But as far as defending him, his family and supporters seem ready to step up. Five men walked out the door of his house when we asked the pastor questions. Notably, one of the men appeared to have a gun in his waistband.


COOPER: Gary Tuchman joins us now live from North Carolina. What did you learn about -- about what went on inside Pastor Worley's church service yesterday, Gary?

TUCHMAN: Well, I should tell you first, Anderson, we wanted to go into the church, but we were told that no reporters were allowed on the grounds of the church. And people know who I am.

But there was a reporter who wasn't as well known, a local reporter with the newspaper "The Hickory Daily Record." And they were saying in the beginning that -- he told us that the pastor got a standing ovation.

In addition to that, the pastor told the congregants -- hundreds of people were inside -- that he appreciates their support. And he also added, "I've been preaching for 53 years." And, quote, "Do you think I'm going to bail out on this now?"

COOPER: It's interesting, though. For someone who, you know, says he's not bailing out, he still refuses to answer any questions to anybody.

TUCHMAN: Yes. And I don't think he's interested at all in talking to outsiders. Particularly the news media.

I have been told, though, by that director who I talked with, that they are consulting with their lawyers right now. So ultimately, perhaps their lawyers will advise the pastor to talk. But as of now, it's clear. You saw, Anderson, I gave him every opportunity to make a statement. He decided not to.

COOPER: Of course, our invitation is open for him to come on this program any time. Gary, appreciate the reporting. Thank you.

When a New York state teacher sent sexually suggestive letters and e-mails to a former principal and violated a restraining order, she spent time in jail, but guess what? That did not end her teaching career. Wait until you hear what she's accused of now, and why her current school district is finding it nearly impossible to fire her.


COOPER: The pope's butler arrested, accused of leaking confidential papers to the media. Did he have help from a cardinal? The story that's rocking the Vatican when we continue. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Another "Keeping Them Honest" report. We all know it's hard to fire teachers who misbehave. But this next report is pretty hard to believe.

Tonight, a Phys Ed teacher with tenure and a long history of misconduct still has her job, even though her school district has been trying to fire her for three years. Three years.

And when you hear what she told students in her gym class to do, you're going to understand why parents in her district are pretty outraged. As we said, she has tenure, which gives her certain protection. But "Keeping Them Honest," who's protecting the students? Tom Foreman reports.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here in Rochester, New York, Olivia Holley is finishing high school and excited about college. Yet she and her mother, Lorraine (ph), are still talking about a day back in eighth grade when a female teacher, under the pretense of a medical exam, told every student in the girls' gym class to do something they found shocking.

OLIVIA HOLLEY, STUDENT: She told us all to remove our shirts and our bras.

FOREMAN (on camera): Right there in the class?

HOLLEY: Right there in the class. Told us all to remove it.

FOREMAN: What did you think?

HOLLEY: It was something un-normal about it. It was something just extraordinarily, like, out of the ordinary.

LORRAINE HOLLEY, MOTHER: I called the school. Like any parent would. I was enraged.

FOREMAN: Turns out, "Keeping Them Honest," people around Rochester have been outraged about teacher Valerie Yarn for years. Court records indicate she's been repeatedly accused of inappropriately touching female co-workers, of sending sexually suggestive cards, letters and e-mails, telling one colleague she was "smooth like ice cream" and suggesting she, Yarn, knew a million ways to please a woman.

And even after being told to stop by the women and supervisors, even ordered to stop by a court, Yarn was accused by a colleague of persistently calling to play sexually suggestive music over the phone.

Court records show she's been cited for skipping work, showing up late, not having a lesson plan, and giving failing grades to some students for no reason. So why, after all of that, is she still employed by the Rochester school system? The school board would not comment because Valerie Yarn's status is the subject of an ongoing court case. Officials have been trying to fire her since 2009.

JAY WORONA, NEW YORK STATE SCHOOL BOARD ASSOCIATION: This tenured teacher disciplinary process is broken.

FOREMAN: Jay Worona, who represents the state school board, says the teachers' union and its lawyers too often put the protection of teachers, even bad ones, above the needs of taxpayers and students.

WORONA: What's happened here in New York is we've taken that right that the supreme court has interpreted to be embedded in the 14th Amendment, the Due Process Clause, and we have raised it by about a thousand.

FOREMAN (on camera): While people on all sides of this dispute admit it is unusual, the state association of school boards insists trying to fire even a single tenured teacher is daunting. On average, the legal wrangling takes close to a year and a half.

And it can cost $280,000.

Is that reasonable?

ADAM URBANSKI, ROCHESTER TEACHERS' ASSOCIATION: No. It's not reasonable. And no reasonable person would say it's reasonable.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Adam Urbanski is with the teachers' union, and while he admits some cases can get out of hand, he challenges the notion that tenure, and all it entails, just protects bad teachers.

URBANSKI: That's a cop out. For somebody to say it's because of tenure, that's a cop-out. Teachers in Rochester know -- and we're proud of the fact that they know -- that the union is not a place to hide. That you won't get any more empathy from the union president than you would from the superintendent.

FOREMAN (on camera): Then how can a case like this go on and on and on?

URBANSKI: Because here you have the right to due process as a citizen. You have the right to have your day in court.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Valerie Yarn has certainly had her day, over and over again for the past five years. An arbitrator ordered the school district to suspend her for a year without pay, though it is still on the hook for her health insurance.

And under this ruling, Yarn could possibly return to the classroom after her suspension, if she passes a psychiatric evaluation.

Our attempts to reach Yarn directly or through her union lawyer proved unsuccessful. So we don't know what she might have to say about all these accusations. But we know what the Holley family thinks five years after that incident with Olivia.

(on camera) If anybody had told you back then that this thing would still be lingering on...

L. HOLLEY: I wouldn't believe them.

O. HOLLEY: I'd tell them they've got to be out their mind.

FOREMAN (voice-over): New York state offers tenure to teachers after three years in the classroom, and the union insists it weeds out a lot of bad teachers early on. But admits the process must be streamlined when it comes to troubled tenured teachers.

URBANSKI: We don't want to see them anymore than any parent or grandparent whose children we serve.

FOREMAN (on camera): That has to be changed?

URBANSKI: Has to be changed.

FOREMAN (voice-over): On that, Loraine Holley agrees.

L. HOLLEY: Tenure is supposed to mean that you're protecting somebody's job, but who's protecting the students?

FOREMAN: Tom Foreman, CNN, Rochester.


COOPER: Well, a lot of critics say the case of Valerie Yarn is the window onto a broken system and makes it very hard and expensive to remove a teacher from the classroom. Disability rights attorney and children's advocate Areva Martin joins me now.

Thank you so much for being with us. No one is saying that teachers shouldn't have rights. But you say the word "tenure" has evolved from meaning "due process" to "job for life"?

AREVA MARTIN, ATTORNEY: You know, Anderson, this case is really troubling. And unfortunately, it's not an isolated case. There are lots of cases like this all over the country where it takes three, four, five, up to in one case involving eight years the procedure it took to remove her from the school district and cost the district over $300,000.

You know, I am all for protecting the teachers' rights. I believe that their right to due process or their right to have a fair and neutral proceeding to determine whether there should be a termination is important. Because we want teachers to feel secure in their jobs.

What we don't want is a protracted process that takes years and years and costs districts hundreds of thousands of dollars when they're egregious situations like this one.

I can't imagine a teacher asking young girls... COOPER: Yes.

MARTIN: ... to take off their tops and bras. It's just really an egregious situation.

COOPER: And if it's hard to fire and discipline teachers who have incidents of misconduct, it must be even harder to get rid of those who are simply underperforming, or bad teachers.

MARTIN: Absolutely, Anderson. The whole process of removing a teacher with all of the administrative obstacles in the way of school districts, makes it very impossible to remove a teacher.

But I'm encouraged by something. We're seeing on the national level, you know, federal policies, educational policies that are starting to tie performance to teacher promotions, to raises, and to, you know, the quality of teaching. I think those policies are starting to have an impact.

And it's sending a loud message to schools that teachers that are performing, let's praise them; let's promote them. But those teachers who are engaged in the type of conduct involved in this Rochester case and those teachers who are poorly performing, let's get rid of them.

COOPER: That's a tough proposition. Areva Martin, I appreciate you being on. We'll continue to follow it.

A bizarre, horrifying story out of Miami -- you probably heard about it -- over the weekend. A man caught eating another person's face. Strange details next.


ISHA SESAY, CNNI ANCHOR: Anderson, the pope's spokesman is denying reports that a cardinal or a woman are also being investigated in the document-leaking scandal surrounding the pope's butler. The butler has been charged with aggravated theft for allegedly stealing confidential documents and leaking them to the press.

A horrifying story from Miami, where a police officer killed a man who was reportedly chewing another man's face off and growling. Surveillance video from "The Miami Herald" shows the two men next to each other. The victim was rushed to the hospital with most of his face missing.

Reports tonight that cars in southern Ontario were damaged from debris that fell off a plane. The Air Canada flight bound for Tokyo had to return to the airport in Toronto after one of its engines shut down after takeoff. Air Canada says it's investigating the debris reports.

And an Army veteran in Duquesne, Indiana, likely won't forget this Memorial Day. Cole Fisher (ph) won $10,000 in the Mega Millions jackpot. The unemployed vet plans to use the money to pay bills and get a flat-screen TV -- Anderson.

COOPER: Isha, thanks.

On this Memorial Day, as we honor American troops who paid the ultimate price, we also remember their children left behind.


COOPER: In Washington this Memorial Day family members of fallen service members gathered by for a seminar organized by taps, tragedy assistance program for survivors. It includes a camp for kids who had a parent killed in the line duty. Here are some of their stories.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My dad died when I was 13 months in 2005. It really makes me sad when I think of him. We have lots of things of him like pillows and blankets. We even have a poster of him in our room. He is always in my heart.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He would lead me to the biggest wave he could find and then he'd let me boogie board down that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When he played the guitar, he was really bad so we all had to run up into our rooms and had to shut the door.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We would always -- we would go around the zoo and I would be on his shoulders.

MEGAN STODDARD, FATHER KILLED IN IRAQ: He liked to joke around. He was really funny.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The awesomest guy I ever met.

CALEB ELLEDGE, SON OF ARMY STAFF SGT. MICHAEL ELLEDGE: Back in the army he held his own religious service with a lot of other soldiers where he was the pastor. He would preach to all the soldiers and tell them that they're in good hands with God.

C.L. FRY, FATHER KILLED IN IRAQ: He was a marine, and he was really nice.

CASSIDY ELLEDGE, DAUGHTER OF ARMY STAFF SGT. MICHAEL ELLEDGE: Sometimes I would think what would happen if my dad had died, but I have figured that out now because my dad did die.

JAY STODDARD, SON OF ARMY STAFF SGT. JAMES STODDARD: We used to play football in the front yard. And we had the video of it. And I -- now I kind of don't have anyone any more.

FRY: Right now that we're at TAPS, it's happy but sad. Because the soldiers lost. But happy because we're free.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just seeing other people having fun with their dad and seeing how I can't do that anymore.

CALEB ELLEDGE: I'm also very mature since his death brought me to be the man of the house. And I had to take care of my little sister and of my mom.

MEGAN STODDARD: I think I'm definitely, like, a lot more independent and stronger.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is a type of strength that you find in yourself when you lose someone close to you, especially a parent. And you learn to be a lot more autonomous at times. There's not as many people to rely on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can still have fun with the people you have and who love you still.

CALEB ELLEDGE: My best advice would be to not, like -- you shouldn't just stay in your sea of grief.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Think of happy thoughts, not things that bring you down. Just things that keep you up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Definitely cry. There's nothing wrong with crying.

FRY: It's OK to cry and laugh. It's OK.

J. STODDARD: It's OK to cry, but never give up on life. Just keep on going and don't stop.

MEGAN STODDARD: You don't take -- you learn not to take, like, anyone for granted. Like, I'm extra grateful for my mom now because she's the only one I have.

MCKENZIE STODDARD, DAUGHTER OF ARMY STAFF SGT. JAMES STODDARD: I would say that -- don't cry. He will always be in our heart.

CASSIDY ELLEDGE: It's kind of sad with your dad being gone. It's, like, just -- it's like -- but I still know he's in my heart forever.

CALEB ELLEDGE: Memorial Day is when we go out to Dad's grave a lot, and we put flowers on it.

CASSIDY ELLEDGE: We go and we kneel on his grave, and we take pictures. Then after that we pray. And I think our dad really likes doing -- having us around with him.

MCKENZIE STODDARD: If one of your friends comes and sees your grave with you, they can, like, give flowers and stuff.

MEGAN STODDARD: Everyone should take a second on Memorial Day to remember all those who've served in the war.

FRY: It means to me that Dad will always be in my heart.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That he's always in my heart.

J. STODDARD: He's always with me. Even though I do cry, I miss him, but I always know he's with me. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was very humble. He loved the outdoors. He loved to laugh and live.

MEGAN STODDARD: I love him, and I wish he was here.

CASSIDY ELLEDGE: I knew forever that my dad would still always be in my heart. And I knew he was my hero and he protected the world around me. And that was a big favor for me and the rest of the world.


COOPER: That's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.