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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Did Syria Use Chemical Weapons?; Manhunt Under Way for Colorado Killer

Aired March 20, 2013 - 22:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It's 10:00 here on the East Coast and a very big night tonight, including the manhunt for the killer of a top law officer gunned down in Colorado. He was the chief of prisons in that state. He was killed at his own home on his doorstep of his home. The question is, who did it? We will bring you the latest.

Also tonight, children and autism, a new study putting the number at a truly eye-popping one in 50. Previously, a study said one in 88 kids in America has autism. Has there been a dramatic increase? That's the question tonight. Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us for that.

Also tonight, we're going to tell you about a major break in the biggest art heist ever, precious works valued at half a billion dollars stolen. We will have got an exclusive interview tonight with a guard from the museum where the art was taken. We will tell you what the FBI now knows and take you inside the daring crime.

We begin, though, with that manhunt, a massive search for a brazen killer who walked up to the doorstep of Colorado's prison chief, rang the bell and shot Tom Clements dead.

Now, this is a fast-moving story. Casey Wian is right in the middle of it. He joins us from Monument, Colorado.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest is, Anderson, that authorities are asking for help from the public because they don't have a good sense of who this shooter might have been.

The latest bit of information they are pursuing is they're looking for a woman who they describe as a speed walker, who was walking through this neighborhood. She's described as a woman between the ages of 35 and 50 years old, wearing a cap, a jacket, and pants, light-colored pants, exercising through the neighborhood. They say she is not a suspect, but they believe she may have information that could help them potentially identify -- help to identify who the killer might be.

They are also looking for a vehicle, a late '80s, early '90s model vehicle described as boxy in nature, perhaps an older Lincoln or a Cadillac, shiny vehicle. They say it was parked about 200 yards from Tom Clements' house 15 minutes before the killing, before the 911 call was made by a family member. They say witnesses saw that car idling and unoccupied. Those appear to be the two best leads that investigators have tonight, Anderson. COOPER: Have authorities determined whether this was a random shooting or somehow related to his job as prison director? When you hear he's the prison director, you would think there's a lot of people who don't like him.

WIAN: Absolutely. They have not ruled anything out at this point, including a random shooting. But what they do say -- you can see the neighborhood behind me. It's very sparsely populated. Homes here are on two to five acres. Very large.

It would be unlikely for a random shooting to have occurred. They are looking into, of course, his work as director of Colorado's prison system. But I can tell you, I spoke with a reverend who worked a lot with Tom Clements in youth gang prevention programs. And he said Clements was the last guy who would have enemies. Even the people in gang programs, in gangs had high regard for him and the work that he did. No one really has a good sense of who did this and why, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Casey, appreciate the update.

Now a question, the answer to which could take this country into another war in the Arab world. Are these patients in a Syrian hospital the victims of chemical warfare, not tear gas or pepper spray or other crowd-dispersing agents, but something like mustard gas or any number of nerve gases like sarin and V.X., in other words, classic chemical weapons, weapons of mass destruction.

Unlike Iraq 10 years ago, the Syrian regime has them. Yesterday the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said there is a high probability that chemical weapons were used on those people. Today some leading experts are casting doubt on that notion, however. President Obama meeting today with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu repeating his warning that Syria would be held accountable for the use of chemical weapons -- quote -- "or their transfer to terrorists."

The stakes obviously cannot be higher for making the right call.

Joining us tonight is chief national correspondent John King, who is traveling with President Obama in Israel, also Fran Townsend, former homeland security adviser to the Bush 43 administration. She's currently on the CIA's External Advisory Committee. And former CIA officer Bob Baer.

Bob, this video we just showed, it's from the Assad regime, it was shown on Syrian state television. Want to show it again. It's supposedly a victim suffering from a chemical weapons attack. No one shows any physical signs of injury, no convulsions, no vomiting. At least three experts on chemical weapons quoting reports today say that judging from what they see here, this doesn't seem like a chemical weapons attack.

Knowing what you know about these type of agents and their effect on humans, do you agree?

BOB BAER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, it's difficult to tell without examining the patients.

And you need sophisticated equipment to do that. A lot of the symptoms you're seeing in these patients could be caused by insecticide, for instance, any organophosphate, which sarin is. But the fact that so few people have died or if any have died tells me that this probably wasn't a sarin attack, but we can't rule out some sort of diluted chemical had been used.

COOPER: Fran, the regime is obviously saying it's the rebels who are using chemicals. The rebels are saying it's the regime that are using it.

If it was something like a diluted chemical, a dispersal agent or something, would that be crossing the red line?

FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Sure.

Look, it may be. What we know about Syria's weapons, chemical weapons program is through intelligence. And we know that's an imperfect art. Right? So it may be that these are aged, not properly assembled. There's a whole bunch of things that it could be. But Bob is quite right. You can't really tell much from this video. And it doesn't really matter from the U.S.' perspective in answering the question.

If a chemical weapon has been used against a civilian population, the international community has to send the message that that's intolerable. There's a number of ways they can do that. We're hearing they're going to go to the U.N. Security Council. But that doesn't really stop it from continuing or escalating.

And that's what I think the president's grappling with.

COOPER: You do have a very difference response, though, from congressional -- those on congressional intelligence committees, who yesterday were saying there is a high probability that chemicals were used. From the Obama administration, you hear much more kind of a neutral message.

TOWNSEND: That's right, Anderson. And the two people we heard in Congress are greater among equals, let's say. It's the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers, and the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein.

They admitted they had been briefed. This isn't sort of their opinion. And that's an awkward fact for the Obama administration. The president is in the region. We're hearing now from officials that it's going to take a couple days for them to determine whether or not a chemical weapon is used. And let's be honest.

By then, President Obama will be out of the region, safely back here and in a better position to make a decision.

COOPER: John, you're there in Israel for the president's visit. Has this changed the tone, the tenor of the president's trip?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Without a doubt.

Look, the nuclear confrontation with Iran is still number one when the president sitting down with Prime Minister Netanyahu to talk issues. But, Anderson, I'm in Jerusalem. It's 135 miles to Damascus. So, because of the threat of chemical weapons, because of the instability and uncertainty in this region, Israel has the best intelligence about Syria. Israel also has, and Bob and Fran know this terrain better than I do, not only human intelligence, but there are drones, there are satellite images and there are other technological ways, if these weapons were used on a big scale of sniffing them out, if you will, and finding out.

Israeli officials are telling us they do believe some form of chemical agent was used. The question is, what's the proof? They won't tell us about that. That's why what the president said today is so important, because he's drawn this line before. But today he said it would be a game-changer if he had conclusive evidence. But he didn't say how it would change the game.

Holding Assad and the regime accountable, going to the United Nations, that's one thing. This president has been very, very, very -- and I could keep going with the verys -- reluctant to have any U.S. military involvement here. The question is, would he feel additional pressure if there is straight-up proof the regime did this?

COOPER: He was asked about that. He is standing by what the U.S. has done thus far, President Obama, John.

KING: He is standing by. He is standing by and he's faced a lot of criticism, as you know, Anderson, after Libya, with all of the other events unfolding in the Arab spring. There has been this whole conversation about leading from behind. John McCain and others in Congress have said he has to do more in Syria.

The president said today, look, it's not easy, these are hard choices. The administration has had what it says are legitimate questions about just who is in the opposition and is it risky to support them. But you already see in recent days the administration trying to do more to help the opposition. The question is, if you have evidence of chemical weapons being used against the Syrian people by the regime, how much could the president escalate U.S. help?

I'm not saying U.S. military help, but other U.S. help.

COOPER: Bob, the president today said he's deeply skeptical over the idea that the opposition, that the rebels would have used chemical weapons against the regime or against civilians.

One thing the Assad regime, though, is pointing to as proof that the opposition has chemical weapons and is preparing them is a video that surfaced late last year on YouTube, and it's has been shown on Syrian-government-controlled state television. It shows somebody, unknown exactly who, testing chemical weapons. You can see agents like potassium chlorate.

Two rabbits are actually killed at one point in the video and again the origin of the video is not clear. We don't know if rebels made this video, if the regime made this video to make it look like rebels. What do you make of it?

BAER: Well, Anderson, I don't trust either aside, neither Bashar al-Assad, nor the Salafis which are doing the major fighting.

They both want to implicate each other to bring in the West, to bring in other countries. The intelligence in Syria is bad, through no one's fault. But they're just -- we don't have people on the ground. It's too dangerous. Even the Syrian opposition can't tell you who is fighting in many of the cities.

And is it possible the Salafis got -- using some sort of chemical formula to imitate sarin or V.X.? Yes, it's easy to do in any -- in a lab -- an unsophisticated lab could do this. And, yes, they could implicate, frame the Bashar al-Assad administration, Damascus very easily.

COOPER: Certainly, I remember those videos that our Nic Robertson found in the wake of the war in Afghanistan of chemicals being tested in Afghanistan.

What do you make of the president saying he's skeptical, Fran, that the opposition would have had access to them?

TOWNSEND: It's sort of a much more difficult feat, right? We know for a fact that the regime has, we have heard numbers upwards of four dozen weapons, chemical weapons sites. So we know for a fact that the regime has got access to this.

It would be a new fact that the opposition had gotten their hands on them, and been able to actually assemble this, because these are binary weapons. See, there are things that have to be done for you to actually get the effect of the chemicals and detonate it, release it, if you will. So it's not clear that the oppositions got that capability or that access and it is clear the regime does.

COOPER: All right, Fran, appreciate it, Bob Baer, John King as well.

Let us know what you think. Let's talk about this on Twitter during the commercial break @AndersonCooper.

Up next, a new report saying one in 50 children in America might have some form of autism disorder. That's up sharply from just a couple years ago. The question is, can we really trust the new numbers? We're "Keeping Them Honest" with Dr. Sanjay Gupta ahead.

Also later, new developments in the hit-and-run killing of an African-American man in Mississippi. It's a killing that went almost entirely uninvestigated for three-and-a-half years in this rural county in Mississippi. Some pretty damning new details reveal how much investigators actually had to go on three-and-a-half years ago, if only they had made the effort. We're "Keeping Them Honest."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest now.

Today, the Centers for Disease Control said that one in 50 children in the U.S. now have autism, one in 50. No doubt it's a headline and it's an attention-grabbing figure. Last year, the same government agency, the CDC, put that number much lower at one in 88.

So, at first this new number sounds like a huge increase, which led us to dig in and dig deeper and look closer at just how the CDC arrived at the new number of one in 50. It turns out, it was through a phone survey of parents. The CDC didn't actually evaluate any children. They didn't look at a single medical record or any other documentation. They just called up parents and those parents who responded said ultimately it came out to be one in 50.

We're not suggesting these parents lied or misled the CDC, but the question is how accurate was this phone survey? And the CDC is, of course, a serious outfit, not prone to throw around faulty information. What is behind all this and what exactly are the facts?

We're joined by Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, a year ago, everybody was shocked to hear the prevalence of autism was one in 88. Now they're saying one in 50. Has there really been an increase?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think in part it depends how you count these cases.

I don't think there's been that significant an increase, but this is more reflective of increased awareness and increased diagnosis. This is what you always, you know, worry about when you hear numbers like that. Also, let me just point out something that I think that is important. When you heard that one in 88 number, that came up from a study where they specifically looked at medical records of children who are 8 years old.

They looked at the medical records from children in several different places around the country. Here, with this particular survey, they actually called parents, and they called parents of children anywhere between the ages of 6 and 17, and they asked them about autism. And it's a phone survey vs. an actual medical record.

Now, those can be good studies, but, again, very difference, so it's a little bit like comparing apples to oranges here.

COOPER: Can you expect accuracy from a survey conducted over the phone?

GUPTA: You know, you can get pretty good accuracy. But I looked at the study pretty carefully. And what you find is that with this particular survey, only about 23 to 25 percent of parents responded.

Now, if you think about that, parents who are more likely to respond are parents who are probably more interested in autism, in part maybe because they have -- are more likely to have a child with autism. So it does bias it a little bit here is what I'm saying.

Also, you know, the best way to actually tell and get a accurate reading of how many children there are with autism in this country is to directly observe the children. None of the surveys have done that. One looked at medical records, the other one relied on phone surveys. So neither one of them are perfect here, Anderson.

COOPER: So are the number of autism cases really going up?

GUPTA: Well, you know, I think that they have probably certainly gone up over a 10-, 15-, 20-year period. But I think with regard to the most recent data, you're talking about 2012 to 2013 now, I don't think it's gone up from one in 88 children to one in 50 children.

I do think this reflects a greater awareness. But when we looked at the study more specifically, there were three groups where the numbers seemed to increase more than you would expect, even with awareness. One was in just milder cases of autism. So there's a whole autism spectrum. But the mild cases, the concern is they may be getting missed, and they may be getting missed until they become older children.

That was a sort of second group, so children getting diagnosed later. You can diagnose autism as young as 18 months. But many of these children aren't getting diagnosed until they're second, third, fourth grade. Finally, it's boys more so than girls, four times as many boys as compared to girls. We don't know exactly why that is. But those are the three things that really jumped out at me.

COOPER: I guess the bottom line for a parent at home, is this cause for concern?

GUPTA: I don't think you can say, look, obviously based on what we're seeing today there is something that's happening in the environment that's obviously causing more cases of autism.

I just don't think you can say that. Despite the fact that the headlines are going to say, you know, one in 50 as compared to one in 88, this is now 2 percent of every -- 2 percent of children in America, I still think that, you know, we know that the numbers are high. We know that over longer periods of time, over decades, they have gone up.

And I think the bigger focus is while there is increased awareness and diligence about this, it probably needs to happen earlier in life. The ideal thing with these kids actually be diagnosed, if they have autism, as young as 18 months or even 2 years old, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, appreciate it. Thanks.

GUPTA: Thank you.

COOPER: If you want to hear more about this story, you can go to CNN.com. Up next, new developments in a cold case that likely didn't need to go cold -- what police in Mississippi are doing now that CNN's Drew Griffin started asking questions about an unsolved hit-and-run killing of an African-American man some three-and-a-half years ago.

Plus, it was his job to help protect priceless works of art. Tonight, for the first time, we are hearing from one of the security guards on duty when thieves pulled off the biggest art heist in U.S. history. Our exclusive interview ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Another "Keeping Them Honest" report tonight.

There is a new and troubling development in a story that we have been pushing hard on, because frankly a mother in rural Mississippi named Ruby Burdette Ellis deserves no less. For the last three-and-a- half years, she has been waiting to know who killed her son, Garrick, and thinking mistakenly that local law enforcement was actually trying to find out.

Recently, our Drew Griffin and producer Scott Bronstein began knocking on doors down there, asking questions that the local authorities have not wanted to answer. What they discovered is that three-and-a-half years ago the local authorities seemed to have let what could have been a murder case, they let it go. They let it go cold.

Now we're learning that the case may have been solvable back then and we're learning this from new details of the killing that they themselves just fed to the local newspaper. That news story that ran in today's paper about the unsolved hit-and-run killing of Ruby's son three-and-a-half years ago, well, it makes it pretty plain.

It turns out there was evidence at the scene. There were clues to follow. There was even a potential witness. That would mean tracing the evidence, locating the witness, finding the death car, anything and everything you would think that any sheriff's department can do these days. But they didn't do it at the time, it seems.

And, as we said, we don't know exactly why. We don't know, because they refused to answer our questions. In fact, just about the one and only thing the local sheriff did do was try to intimidate our producer, Scott Bronstein, telling him not to -- quote -- "stir up trouble in his county."

By the way, he added, just to make it clear -- quote -- "You do something with this, and I will be coming after you."

So, aside from that, which you could interpret as a threat, Sheriff Dennis Darby is not talking to CNN. However, once our reporting brought national attention to this story and to another more recent hit-and-run murder of an African-American, his department did actually start to do something. His department is now talking, at least, to the local paper, "The Panolian." Investigator Bryan Arnold reaching out with a new account of the night that Garrick Burdette was killed, Arnold telling the newspaper that before spotting Burdette, the investigating deputy noticed a car lingering at and then leaving the scene, likely not the death car, but, quoting from the story -- quote -- "He thinks that whoever was in that car might have seen something."

Yet there is no indication that anyone ever looked for that car or the potential witness who was driving it. And there's more. There was also physical evidence at the scene from the car that killed Burdette. According to the deputy -- quote -- "There was radiator fluid all over the road," meaning a broken car, yet no indication the deputies checked local garages at the time to see if a car had maybe come in for repairs, brought possibly by a driver claiming to have hit a deer or something.

And then there's this. Between leaving his mother's house and his killing, Garrick Burdette was seen someplace too far away to get to on foot. But no one, apparently, canvassed his mother's neighborhood for anyone who might have known where he was heading that night or who might have given him a lift. Again, these new details come in a story that the sheriff's department fed to the local paper, new details more than three-and-a-half years since his death.

And, again, they continue to avoid answering our questions, and they're sure not talking to Drew Griffin, who I spoke with moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Drew, the new information that the local sheriff's department is now releasing is pretty stunning. I just want to start with this suspicious car that they now say was at the scene they say resembled a 1985 Oldsmobile Cutlass. Is there any indication that they investigated that vehicle back when this happened nearly four years ago?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: None at all.

And, in fact, the article, the new article in which the sheriff's department seems to be releasing all this information, the deputy said that he thought about going back and trying to find that car, but he just didn't. It's almost as if it slipped his mind. That would seem like an invaluable clue that you would track down or chase down if you were trying to find out what happened on that road that very night.

COOPER: Well, the sheriff's department is also now saying -- they're telling the local paper that the car that hit Burdette must have had a broken radiator and the driver may have taken it to a body shop. Did they canvass auto repair shops in the area four years ago for leads?

GRIFFIN: You know, as we have reported, they really did nothing, Anderson.

But think of how, again, invaluable that information would have been at the time of the accident. There was radiator fluid, apparently, all over the scene. So that car would have been inoperable. The car would have gone right to a repair shop. Armed with that information, it would have been somewhat easy to find out where that car was.

It would have to have been either towed or taken directly to a shop in the area. But, again, there was no follow-up in this investigation until, really, now.

COOPER: And the victim's mother, Ruby Burdette Ellis, told us that no one from the sheriff's department in the three-and-a-half years since her son's death had interviewed her as part of their investigation until a few weeks ago, hours after one of our producers informed the sheriff's department that we were looking into this story.

I mean, that in and of itself to me seems stunning.

GRIFFIN: Yes.

In fact, the investigator who went to talk to Ruby actually apologized for not doing anything, for letting this case slip through the cracks. Her ex-husband says he wasn't contacted either. The neighbors weren't contacted, the normal canvassing of the area. They didn't even trace the man's steps that very night, Gary (ph) Burdette's steps that very night through his relatives to find out where he was, where he was going, what he was doing.

It's all very, very curious, made even more curious by the fact that this sheriff's department, for whatever reason, refuses to return any of our calls, Anderson.

COOPER: And they talked to you about not wanting you to stir up trouble, which, again, is just -- I find stunning that they would say that to you.

The first officer on the scene, Panola County Deputy Sheriff Billy Lambert, is quoted by the local paper as saying, "This man was a citizen of this county and deserves the attention that anyone else would get."

But I mean, is there any indication that Burdette's death got that attention? Because, I mean, what he says is certainly true. But it doesn't seem like he got that attention.

GRIFFIN: It certainly seems that he didn't get any attention, for three-and-a-half years. Perhaps now he's getting the attention that he and any citizen in this situation would. We can only hope that is indeed the case. It seems like the police are now doing the due diligence that should have been done to try to, you know, solve this mystery right now.

But for three-and-a-half years, this Burdette family just wallowed in a sheriff's department that was doing nothing, not even contacting them.

COOPER: It's incredible. Drew, we'll stay on it. Thanks very much, Drew.

There's a lot more happening tonight. Isha is here with a "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, HLN ANCHOR: Anderson, President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu facing reporters today. The two leaders met for two hours after President Obama's arrival in Tel Aviv today. They say they share a common assessment of Iran's nuclear program, and they announced new talks on extending U.S. military aid.

And a "360 Follow," guilty verdict in the corruption case against the former mayor of Bell, California. Jurors convicted Oscar Hernandez on five felony charges of misappropriation of funds. Prosecutors accuse him and other former city officials of treating the city's treasury as their own piggy bank.

A team of researchers raising a set of rocket engines used in NASA's Apollo program from deep waters off the coast of Florida. Anderson, founder and CEO Jeff Bezos led the recovery effort.

And a bowl that once sold for $3 at a yard sale just fetched 2.2 million at a New York auction. The previous owner displayed it on a shelf for several years before learning its real value. Wow.

And in tonight's "Connection," a community of home cooks who share meals but not at the same table. It's a service called Meal:Coop. And it's connecting people who love to cook and eat home- cooked meals. You sign up online and post meals and recipes you plan to make. Others sign up to have your meals delivered to them by bike messenger. You earn credits from cooking and spend it by eating meals that others make. Interesting -- Anderson.

COOPER: Isha, thanks.

The largest art heist in U.S. history remains unsolved. Twenty- three years later, the FBI says they now believe it knows who's behind it. We're going to speak to one security guard who was on duty when the priceless pieces disappeared. It's the first time he's telling his story on TV. A 360 exclusive, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Big change could be coming to late-night TV. There are reports Jay Leno is out and Jimmy Fallon will soon be taking over "The Tonight Show." We're going to talk to Bill Carter of "The New York Times" ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: In "Crime & Punishment" tonight, the FBI says it believes it knows who is behind the biggest art heist in history in the United States. But there is still no sign of the missing masterpieces.

It happened 23 years ago this week. Thieves dressed as police officers duped security guards at Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and got away with 13 pieces of art, including works by Rembrandt, Vermeer and Monet. In all, the art is worth an estimated half a billion dollars.

Now, for the first time, one of the former security guards is sharing his story on camera in an exclusive interview with our Randi Kaye.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is a beautiful and priceless collection. Hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of art housed inside these walls, The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

Visitors from all over the world come to see these masterpieces. But that's not all they're looking at. They are also looking at a crime scene. In fact, a crime scene from the biggest art heist in history. Still unsolved. And this is all that's left.

(on camera): I'm Randi Kaye outside the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in Boston. This is where it all began, the night of March 18, 1990. It was St. Patrick's Day weekend. There was a house party at the building right behind the museum.

Sometime after midnight, a group of young men left the party and spotted a car with what looked like two Boston police officers inside. They had no idea these two men weren't really police officers. And no clue that just a short time later these two men would pull off the greatest art heist in history.

RICK ABATH, GUARD WHO WORKED DURING HEIST: Come in, clock in, there would be two guards.

KAYE (voice-over): Rick Abath was one of the night watchmen on duty the night of the crime. Until now, he'd never done a television interview about what happened that night.

ABATH: Cops were at the hotel (ph). They said, "Boston Police. We've got a report of a disturbance on the premises." So I buzzed them in.

KAYE: That decision to buzz them in is something Rick Abath has had to live with for the past 23 years.

ABATH: The cop that was dealing with me turned to me and said, "Don't I know you? Don't I recognize you? I think there's a warrant out for your arrest. Can you step out from behind the desk?"

KAYE: Here, Rick makes another grave mistake. He steps away from the security desk and away from the panic button, his only way to contact the outside world; his only way to prevent what was about to happen. In a matter of minutes, the two thieves had both night watchmen completely under their control.

ABATH: He finished cuffing me, and he cuffed my partner and very dramatically said, "Gentlemen, this is a robbery." KAYE: The thieves lead Rick and his partner down to the basement to different areas. Rick is taken to the boiler room and cuffed to an electrical box. His eyes and mouth were duct-taped, and he feared for his life. It all happened so fast, he never had a chance to hit the one panic button by the guard desk. He knew no one was coming to help.

Did the thieves know that, as well? It appears they did. Since they were in no rush to get out.

ANTHONY AMORE, FORMER MUSEUM SECURITY DIRECTOR: The path is interesting. The -- they took the guards, after they handcuffed them and taped them, and brought them into the basement. About 24 minutes elapsed, though, before we see them again.

KAYE: Motion detectors placed throughout the building picked up their trail for nearly an hour and a half. But that didn't matter. Those motion detectors weren't connected to police outside. They only alert the guard sitting at the computer by the entrance. A computer that was now unmanned.

AMORE: It's in this hallway where we see the first motion detectors go off. So that's how we know that it was 24 minutes. So it's about 1:48, and they're walking down this hallway together, and they enter the Dutch Room.

KAYE (on camera): Which is right there.

AMORE: Exactly. And from the Dutch Room, they took six pieces. And that's where...

KAYE: Including the Rembrandts.

AMORE: The -- they had three Rembrandts, the Vermeer, and the flank (ph) and the Chinese vessel.

KAYE (voice-over): The real work had begun for the thieves. But as they get ready to remove Rembrandt's "Storm on the Sea of Galilee," his only seascape, a high-pitched alarm sounds.

Pulitzer-Prize-winning reporter Stephen Kurkjian has investigated this case for "The Boston Globe" for decades. He says this alarm was designed to keep visitors from getting too close to the Rembrandt.

STEPHEN KURKJIAN, REPORTER, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": That seascape, even if you look at prints of it now, images of it now, you will see a vision, an etching of Rembrandt himself. Art experts, art specialists, common folk, knew that. And they would come up, and they would put their finger close to, point out the image of Rembrandt. And if they got too close, then the alarm would sound.

KAYE: Like the motion detectors, this alarm was not connected to the outside world. But did the thieves know that, as well? Because they didn't pack up and leave at that point. They continued on with their crime. And they took their time. AMORE: Same path backwards. Goes through the Early Italian Room, the Raphael Room, all the while passing incredibly priceless art. Famous art. Raphaels, important Chinese pieces. And walk back through to the Short Gallery, where the thief takes five sketches by Degas, and a Napoleonic finial from the top of a flag that Napoleon's First Regiment carried.

Throughout his actions in the Short Gallery, he's going back and forth about a half dozen times, again, passing things that any art expert would say, "My God, these are two Raphaels, small and portable. Why wouldn't you take those?" It's a great mystery to the -- to the theft.

KAYE: At 2:41 a.m., the door to the museum opens and closes. The thieves were gone.

KURKJIAN: Once they leave, they were never heard from again.

KAYE: The next morning, Rick was relieved to be found and to be alive. But he knew almost immediately that he was a suspect.

ABATH: I knew I was. I mean, I opened up the door. You know? I mean -- once I sat -- you know, sat down with the FBI, I think the first thing I said was, "What do you want to know?" Because I knew. I mean, I was like, well, I'm the guy who opened up the door. They're obviously going to be looking at me.

KAYE: The FBI certainly was looking at him. Was it an inside job? How else could the thieves have pulled this off? And who else did the FBI suspect?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Randi Kaye joins us now live. It's such a fascinating mystery, and it's been one now for more than 20 years. What about that security guard that you heard in that interview? Do investigators think he had anything to do with the heist?

KAYE: Anderson, to this day, not a single museum employee has been charged in connection with the crime. But not one of them has been fully cleared, either. That's the thing.

The guards' role to this point is really unclear. I mean, was it an inside job or was he perhaps just careless?

Because he told us that he used to complain about the lax security at the museum in public. So anyone could have overheard him. Maybe they jumped on the opportunity.

And here's the kicker, Anderson. It has been so long, so many years have passed, that the statute of limitations has run out. So even if it was that guard or anyone else, we interviewed or anyone else, the thieves can no longer be charged.

And Anderson, just this week the FBI said that they finally know, after 23 years, who did this. They're not naming the suspects, but in our reporting, we put together quite a list of suspects under consideration.

COOPER: And it is an incredible story. There's a lot more to it. We're going to have a special 81 minutes inside the greatest art heist in history. That airs Friday at 10 p.m. Eastern this week. I hope you join us for that.

Coming up, some big changes ahead for the "The Tonight Show." The "New York Times" says Jimmy Fallon will replace Jay Leno when his contract expires. It's basically a done deal. And the show will reportedly move to New York City. Billy Carter from "The Times," who got the story, joins me ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, the "New York Times" is reporting that Jay Leno is on his way out at NBC and Jimmy Fallon will be taking his seat. NBC executives are not saying so publicly, not yet, but a late-night shake-up has long been rumored. It's no secret that Leno has mocked his bosses without mercy in his monologue. Here's just a taste.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, HOST, NBC'S "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": You know the whole legend of St. Patrick, right? St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland, and then they came into the United States and became NBC executives. It's a fascinating -- fascinating story.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Calling your bosses snakes on television probably doesn't seem like a great career move, although it certainly is something a lot of late-night comics have done for a long time.

NBC brass reportedly didn't think it was funny. The feud between them and Leno is factoring into all the rumors. But to be fair, all -- as I said, all late-night show hosts skewer their bosses. Leno's ratings are good . Let's talk about it more on "The Back Story" with Bill Carter, the shakeup.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Joining me now is "New York Times" media reporter Bill Carter, author of the fascinating book, "The War for Late Night."

Thanks very much for being with us.

So officially, publicly, NBC is denying this, saying Jay Leno is still our guy.

BILL CARTER, "NEW YORK TIMES": They're not denying anything, particularly. They're denying that there's a timetable to make a change.

COOPER: OK.

CARTER: They're not denying that Jimmy Fallon will get "The Tonight to show" at some point in time because that is, in fact, true.

COOPER: But behind the scenes, what are they saying about a timetable?

CARTER: They're -- I believe they don't have a specific timetable. I don't think they know dates certain when this is going to happen. For one thing they're now building a studio for Jimmy Fallon in New York which I think is the real news. Everybody kind of knew Jimmy Fallon was going to get "The Tonight Show." They just didn't know when. Because Jay is 62 and clearly is coming to his end of his term of "The Tonight Show." But moving it to New York to me is remarkable. This thing has been in L.A. for 41 years, and it's coming back to its ancestral home.

COOPER: Is there a sense of how soon this could happen?

CARTER: There are several ways they could go. I mean, Jay's contract runs through, I believe, the fall of 2014, so you could wait until then, which I think may be the most likely scenario, because they don't want to have another fracas on the air.

They could do it after the Olympics, because the Olympics takes late night off for two weeks.

COOPER: Right, late night would be off the air anyway. And that would allow them to promote it.

CARTER: Exactly. So that might make sense.

The other thing they've done in the past, both with Jay and with when Conan got it, was to do it in the spring in June. Just because then he gets a running start into the season.

COOPER: Jay Leno is doing well in the ratings.

CARTER: Yes, he's winning. He's always won. He's remarkably resilient in terms of winning.

COOPER: Winning not just in households with older viewers but in the demo, younger viewers.

CARTER: He has won the younger viewers consistently and they concluded when ABC moved Jimmy Kimmel in there it would be a problem for Jay, because Jimmy is hot. He's a very hot act and terrific, really.

You can't -- let's say assume that Kimmel will pick up young viewers. Well, if you let that happen over a period of two, three, four years, then you've got a guy established. Right? Until you get your competitor in there, you really don't want to do that.

But Jay is very strong, especially strong in the middle of the country. And I think people have always underestimated that. Because if you think about it, in St. Louis, Chicago, that's 10:30 at night. That's not 11:30 at night. So there's more viewers up and available. So if you do well in the middle of the country, and Johnny Carson always said this, that's the key, do well in the middle of the country. And Jay has honed that really well.

COOPER: So what is behind this? Is it fear of losing Jimmy Fallon? Is it fear of Jimmy Kimmel?

CARTER: I think it's -- the knowledge that the business is moving on. And Jay has been, you know, a traditional act, "The Tonight Show," and think it's time to alter "The Tonight Show." Because as you get an audience that follows things online much more than on TV now. And you don't see Jay on YouTube like you see Jimmy Fallon.

COOPER: Jimmy Kimmel does a lot of innovative stuff.

CARTER: Jimmy Fallon does his hash tag game, right, and everybody's supposed to check in with their -- what they think is funny. And he uses the Internet like that.

COOPER: Jimmy Fallon has a laptop on his desk.

CARTER: On his desk.

COOPER: So the bottom line, the headline from today is "The Tonight Show" is moving to New York.

CARTER: Yes.

COOPER: Jimmy Fallon is going to take it over. It's just a question of when.

CARTER: That would be my full take, yes.

COOPER: Bill Carter, thank you.

CARTER: Thanks.

COOPER: All right. Coming up, "The RidicuList" is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Time for "The RidicuList." And tonight, we're adding "Splash" skeptics. Now let me explain. NBC launched a new show last night called "Splash," and as far as I'm concerned, it is genius. Not since "Skating with the Stars" have I been so intrigued by something on television.

The show resolves around a group of celebrities, including a few I've never heard of, competing in high-stakes high dives. Among the celebrities, basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, comedian Louie Anderson and Chelsea Handler's sidekick, Chuy Bravo. Oh, and did I mention this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOEY LAWRENCE, CO-HOST, NBC'S "SPLASH": Hey, everybody, I'm Joey Lawrence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That's right, co-hosted by Joey Lawrence.

Another reason I love this show is that, upon entering the arena in their bathrobes, the contestants are greeted, naturally, by a group of dancing paparazzi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Katherine West. Louie Anderson. Nicole Eggert.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That's right, Nicole Eggert from "Baywatch" and "Charles in Charge." It's "Splash," America. Get on board.

Anyway, I know what you're probably thinking. How do these celebrities prepare for such tough competition? Well, it turns out there's some pretty intense practicing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOUIE ANDERSON, COMEDIAN: Be careful. That's 35 feet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: All right. All right, Louie Anderson. Pipe down, she's trying to practice.

Speaking of Louie Anderson, he's arguably the breakout star from the first episode, ratcheting up the tension just moments before his dive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Where's Greg? Greg, I've got to go up one more level.

GREG LOUGANIS, OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: Really?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has not done this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That's right, Greg Louganis, Olympic hero and the trainer on the show, is basically like God help us. And I love the look of horror on Kendra Wilkinson's face. Kendra's facial expressions are going to do for "Splash" what Nancy Grace's disputed nip slip did for "Dancing with the Stars." But I digress.

By the way, if you don't know who Kendra is, I'm officially not speaking to you.

But back to Louie Anderson, which is a line that every anchorman dreams of saying one day, all eyes were on him as he splashed down in the heart of prime time. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: A standing ovation from Greg Louganis, really? Your move, Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE: As Kareem trained through tonight, he discovered, when it comes to diving, size, well, it really does matter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well done, Joey Lawrence. Well done. Never saw that one coming. All right, back to Kareem's dive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Yikes. Poor Kareem Abdul Jabbar. I think the look on his face as he gets out of the pool says it all. That is a man who is wondering why he's on that show and Wolf Blitzer is not.

Kareem was not the only one with a rough start. Chuy Bravo got injured before the first episode and won't be able to dive, sadly.

And the first contestant voted off the show, Keshia Knight- Pulliam, who played Rudy Huxtable on "The Cosby Show." What can I say? It is a ridiculous show, and it's kind of genius all at the same time. And all you skeptics, well, you can splash down on "The RidicuList."

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