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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Decynda Barnes

Aired July 16, 2003 - 19:48   ET

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

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Call it a combination of good police work and maybe some incredible luck as well. New Orleans police have arrested a woman on a 25-year-old New York homicide charge.
As Rob Low of CNN affiliate WGNO reports, a determined detective happened to be in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROB LOW, REPORTER, WGNO, NEW ORLEANS (voice-over): After 25 years on the run, it was a random visit to the grocery store that cost Linda Jean Cook (ph) her freedom. The detective behind her, Decynda Barnes, is the only person in New Orleans who even knew Cook was wanted for the 1978 death of her 20-month-old son in Brooklyn, New York.

As luck would have it, Detective Barnes works a security detail at Robert's (ph) supermarket, and only on Mondays.

DET. DECYNDA BARNES, NEW ORLEANS POLICE: When I got there, I pulled up in the parking area, and there she was, coming out with her groceries. And I looked, I went, Oh! I can't believe it. And I got out, I approached her. And she gave me the name of Lynn, and I asked her, did she go by any other names? Then I saw the paper. She had a paper in her hand that said Linda Jean Cook. So I knew that was her.

LOW: Detective Barnes had been carrying this photo of Linda Cook for the past month. That's when New York police called to say Cook had obtained a Louisiana state ID with a Tulane Avenue address. The location turned out to be this check-cashing store.

(on camera): No surprise, Detective Barnes never found Linda Cook at this quick-cash store, but employees here tell us that until about two years ago, they used to rent mailboxes on this back wall, and say it's possible Linda Cook may have come here to collect her mail.

(voice-over): In New Orleans, Rob Low, ABC 26 News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, joining us to discuss the unusual arrest is the detective who made it, Decynda Barnes. She joins us now. Detective Barnes, thanks very much. Great job on this. Take us back to that Monday when you spotted this woman. I know you'd been working this case for a month or so, hadn't really gotten anywhere with it. But when you actually saw her going into this store, or coming out of the store, you were going to your off-duty job, what went through your mind?

BARNES: I was in disbelief. I just couldn't believe what my eyes were seeing.

COOPER: And how did you identify her? I mean, did you have the picture with you in your lap, or?

BARNES: Yes, I did. I had -- it was on the passenger front seat of the car. I normally keep it under the sun visor. And I looked at it, and I looked at her, and I said, That's her. I put the vehicle in park. I exited and I approached Ms. Cook.

COOPER: Now, I think you have the picture that you had with you at the time. You could show it up, if you have it.

BARNES: I have it.

COOPER: So that you kept this in your car this whole time, while you were working this case, what, just on the off-chance that you saw her?

BARNES: Yes, sir.

COOPER: Wow. Is that common? I mean, that's, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), that's really impressive to me.

BARNES: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Well, I think it was the baby that caught my attention, and that's why I focused so much on the case, because of the child.

COOPER: Because this woman, Linda Jean Cook, is alleged to have basically killed her child.

BARNES: Yes.

COOPER: When you initially went up to Ms. Cook, what was her reaction?

BARNES: She gave a brief struggle, and at first she refused to give her name, and she blurted out the name Lynn. And after I advised her of her rights, she asked me what it was in reference to, and I advised her that it was about her child that was killed approximately 25 years ago.

COOPER: Did you ask her about the child? What did she have to say?

BARNES: She said she did have a child. It was baby boy. She said he would have been between the ages of 2 or 4, she couldn't remember the age, and she said that he died as a result of her negligence.

COOPER: How does it feel? I mean, I'm not sure how long you've been a detective, but, I mean, just to bring closure to a case, at least to bring it to this stage of the investigation, that's been open for 25 years.

BARNES: Yes. I'm glad it's closed, and I hope she can find closure now also.

COOPER: Well, Detective Decynda Barnes, a great job, and appreciate you joining us tonight. It's a remarkable story.

BARNES: Thank you.

COOPER: All right, good luck to you.

BARNES: Thank you. Bye-bye.

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