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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Search Continues For Fugitive Father; Pentagon Investigates Pat Tillman's Death; Danger on the High Seas?
Aired March 6, 2006 - 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 again, everyone.
Tonight, you and I, all of us, have an opportunity -- an opportunity to maybe, just maybe, save a young boy's life.
His name is Destin Perkins. Take a look at him. He's 16 years old. He lives in Kentucky. And he loves to hunt and play football. He can't right now. Well, that's his father. We will tell you about him in a moment.
Destin is on dialysis, waiting for a kidney transplant that will give him new life. Now, that is the boy's father, Byron Perkins. Take a look at his picture again, because it just might save Destin's life. See, Byron Perkins stopped being a real father long ago. He is a career criminal. But biology is biology. And he's a perfect kidney match for his son.
Byron Perkins persuaded a judge to let him out of jail, so he could save that boy life. That boy is Destin right there. Instead of being a dad for once in his life, Byron ran away with his girlfriend.
Now, some CNN viewers already spotted the couple in Mexico. That's them there. Tonight, they are still out there somewhere. And police need your help to find them.
We sent our cameras down to Mexico to follow the trail of the callous couple and the kid who so desperately needs them brought back.
Here's CNN's Susan Candiotti.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A fugitive couple on the run in a Mexican paradise.
DAWN IZGARJAN, U.S. MARSHALS SERVICE: People are -- are willing to help other people. And they're very kind. And they're very generous.
CANDIOTTI: In Boca de Tomatlan, fugitive kidney donor dad Byron Perkins and his girlfriend, Lee Ann Howard, found a perfect hiding place -- for about a week. Villagers say the couple worked the cobblestone streets, conning their way into the hearts of locals, spinning a sob story that their money and I.D.s were stolen.
RAMON PALAMERA, RESTAURANT OWNER (through translator): He said that he had been robbed of his papers and money, that he was desperate to get credit cards to replace the ones that had been stolen, and then he could pay me back.
CANDIOTTI: Ramon Palamera said he gave Perkins $20 a day for incidentals, and set up a tab at his beachside cafe for the seemingly down-and-out Americans. His brother, Angel, let them buy groceries at his corner store.
ANGEL PALAMERA, STORE OWNER (through translator): He came every day for cigarettes, beer, and food. He said he would pay me Wednesday, and never came back.
CANDIOTTI: They put the couple up at an apartment, and Perkins said he expected money wired to him any day.
An American couple, also duped by Perkins in Mexico, called investigators when they got home, saw him on CNN, and found out he was a fugitive. At their request, CNN agreed to protect their identity.
"JOHN," TOURIST WHO MET BYRON PERKINS AND LEE ANN HOWARD: I -- I just think he's the most despicable person I have met in a very long time.
CANDIOTTI: "John" and "Lynn" say they met Perkins and his phony bride on the beach, had drinks and dinner, saw Perkins give his girlfriend insulin. They said he bragged about his son, Destin, but never once mentioned Destin needed a kidney, that he was the intended donor, and that he had to run out on his son, and a life sentence for a string of robbery, drug, and gun charges.
"LYNN," TOURIST WHO MET BYRON PERKINS AND LEE ANN HOWARD: He made quite a point that he had read that -- the Bible, supposedly, cover to cover, 18 times. The things that we have found out about him since we have returned, it's hard to believe that he's a God-fearing person.
CANDIOTTI: Palamera says Perkins vanished after running up a $500 bill for food, drinks and lodging.
R. PALAMERA (through translator): I trusted him. I never thought he could be so shameless to leave me, a poor person, who works for a living, with his debts.
CANDIOTTI: A villager says he saw the couple late at night on a highway out of town a week ago, with a trunk and other small bags.
IZGARJAN: So, it's not going to be easy for them to -- to go anywhere. I mean, they're going to have to be picked up by a -- by a truck -- by a trucker, or by bus, or by a large taxi.
CANDIOTTI: Authorities are asking Mexican police to alert bus and truck drivers to the runaway dad, in case Perkins and his girlfriend continue to stay in small towns off the beaten path.
Back in Kentucky, Destin remains on dialysis, hoping his dad will one day be found and he will get a possible lifesaving kidney. His mother says he cannot understand why his dad skipped out on him.
(on camera): How does a young man recover from something like that?
ANGELA HAMMOND, MOTHER OF DESTIN PERKINS: I don't know that he will. I don't know that he will ever recover.
CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Susan Candiotti, CNN, Louisville, Kentucky.
COOPER: Destin's mom, every day, she sees what Byron Perkins is doing to her son, Destin.
We spoke with her from Jamestown, Kentucky, earlier tonight.
COOPER: Angela, how is Destin doing right now?
HAMMOND: Depressed and scared.
COOPER: Does -- does he talk about what his dad has done, I mean, the fact that he has run off?
HAMMOND: Not a whole lot. Usually, he keeps that to himself.
COOPER: And -- and, physically, how is he doing?
HAMMOND: Some days, he is good, and, some days, he's really tired, sleeps a lot, you know, just doesn't feel well at all.
COOPER: When you heard that Destin's father had, you know, agreed to -- to do this for his son, you must have been overjoyed.
HAMMOND: Oh, yes. I thought that was one thing that, you know, he could do. He had been absent for several years. This was one time that he could step up and be a father.
COOPER: And what did Destin think when he heard that his dad, you know, was -- was going to get out of jail and had agreed to -- to donate a kidney?
HAMMOND: Oh, he thought it was great.
COOPER: What -- what kind of kid is Destin? What does he normally -- he likes -- I think he -- I heard he likes to play football?
HAMMOND: He does. He likes to hunt. He likes to ride dirt bikes. He's just a good kid.
COOPER: Is -- is he able to do that stuff now? I mean, can he -- can he hunt right now? Can he -- can he play football?
HAMMOND: No, no. He cannot. Usually, he just hangs out with me and some of the family members.
COOPER: So, getting that kidney...
COOPER: ... is really getting his normal life back; it's the hope of -- of one day hunting again and -- and -- and playing sports?
HAMMOND: That's correct.
COOPER: Why do you think he ran?
HAMMOND: I think he thought more of himself and his girlfriend than he did his own son.
COOPER: What -- what's this health struggle, not just this latest problem with the dad, but, I mean, what -- what has this been like for Destin, this -- this struggle with his kidneys? I mean, how long has this been going on?
HAMMOND: We found out in September of 2004. And, then, since then, it's just -- we have been in and out of hospitals. And he has had surgery after surgery. And, basically, that's where we spend most of our time.
COOPER: I -- I understand you have a letter from Barbara Barr (ph), who is Byron's mother. Can...
COOPER: And can -- can you read part of that?
HAMMOND: "You have took the joy of my life away. Now here's my grandson, who I love more than life itself, waiting and hoping for a stranger to give him a kidney. That should have been you giving that to him. But you chose to run -- to run instead. Byron, you thought more of yourself and Lee Ann than you did us. I have so many questions and no answers. How can you do this to us?"
COOPER: And -- and is that the question you have, too? How can you do this to -- to everyone, to Destin?
HAMMOND: How -- how can he do it to his son?
COOPER: Well, Angela -- Angela, again, I hope someone out there, you know, takes a look at these pictures, and -- and has seen these two, and gives the marshal a call.
And we will keep following it. And we wish you luck, and we wish Destin luck as well. Thank you.
HAMMOND: Thank you.
COOPER: If you have seen Byron Perkins or his girlfriend in this country, take a look. Those are their pictures. You can call -- you're asked to call the U.S. Marshals Service. The toll-free number is 1-877-WANTED2 -- 1-877-WANTED2.
Now, if you spot them in Mexico, where they were last seen, you should first go to the nearest local police station. You can also call the U.S. Marshals Service here. It is not a toll-free number, 202-307-9100.
The Pentagon has launched a criminal investigation into the death of former NFL star Pat Tillman. We will have the latest on that in a moment, and why it has taken so long, and why they need to now have what is essentially a criminal investigation.
First, Erica Hill from Headline News joins us with some of the other stories we are following -- Erica.
ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson, the governor of South Dakota signing into law today a bill that outlaws abortion, except in a case when the mother's life is at risk. It also defines the beginning of life as conception.
Governor Mike Rounds expects a long legal -- legal battle over this ban, and says it won't take effect unless the U.S. Supreme Court upholds it. Other states are considering similar legislation.
Hall of Fame baseball player Kirby Puckett died today in Arizona, after suffering a stroke on Sunday. He was just 45 years old. Puckett, you may recall, led the Minnesota Twins to two World Series titles in 1987 and 1991, before his baseball career was cut short because of glaucoma -- also a fan favorite there.
The Iranian man accused of running down students at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill says he was trying to kill people in the name of Allah. Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar appeared in court today to face charges of attempted murder and assault. Nine students were injured on Friday -- none of them seriously -- when the SUV cut through a popular gathering spot on campus.
And the runaway bride -- talk about moving fast. Bobbleheads depicting a runaway bride -- it may make you think of another runaway bride -- were given to the first 1,000 people entering a sporting event in Duluth, Georgia. They were gone in about 10 minutes. The runaway bride, Jennifer Wilbanks, is, by the way from Duluth. The hockey team, though, says any resemblance between the doll and Wilbanks is -- quote -- "purely coincidental," Anderson.
And I -- I think I read in the paper this morning here in Atlanta that people lined up like four hours before the doors even opened...
HILL: ... because they wanted to make sure they could get one to sell it on eBay.
COOPER: There you go.
Well, we will check eBay, and we will see if it's -- if it's on there.
More questions tonight about the death of an NFL star-turned- soldier -- the truth about Pat Tillman's death, well, it's come out only slowly. Is there still more to learn about what happened that day in Afghanistan? His parents say they are very skeptical about what they have heard thus far.
And have African-Americans at a major aviation company been tormented by their fellow workers? 360 looks into an ugly charge of corporate racism in Dallas.
Also ahead tonight, cruise ship lawlessness -- have the high seas become highly dangerous? What you don't know when you step on a cruise ship -- all that and more coming up on 360.
COOPER: The story of Pat Tillman, pro football player, Army volunteer, casualty, has already had not one, but two unhappy endings.
First, the young man who traded an Arizona Cardinals jersey for a Ranger's uniform was killed in action in Afghanistan. Later, the country learned, as his parents learned, the whole truth. He had been killed not by enemy fire, but by friendly fire, and now new investigations have been launched, looking into possible criminal negligence by fellow soldiers.
So, is there still more of the whole truth about the death of Pat Tillman to be learned?
CNN's Ted Rowlands investigates.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After three different Army investigations into the death of Pat Tillman, the Pentagon has decided there must be another -- this time, a criminal investigation. It will ask whether it was soldiers' negligence that led Tillman to be killed by friendly fire. Some of those soldiers involved could face jail time if there's enough proof against them.
EUGENE FIDELL, MILITARY LAW ATTORNEY: All it requires is simple negligence, in other words, the same level of negligence that you might have in an auto accident.
ROWLANDS: The Pentagon has also ordered an investigation into whether there was a cover-up into the circumstances of Tillman's death. At Pat Tillman's old high school in San Jose, California, his football jersey hangs in a glass case and the football stayed stadium is named in his honor. People here are very proud of their hometown hero.
PAT DANDO, TILLMAN FAMILY FRIEND: We're proud of what he accomplished in those few years. But I have a feeling that, had he been given the gift of life for a longer period of time, he would have given us so much more.
ROWLANDS: When Pat Tillman left the National Football League, where he was earning millions, to join the Army after September 11, people around the country were moved by his patriotism and bravery.
Here's what Pat Tillman said at the time about himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAT TILLMAN, U.S. ARMY RANGER: My great-grandfather was at Pearl Harbor. And a lot of my family has given up -- you know, has -- has gone and fought in wars. And -- and I really haven't done a damn thing, as far as laying myself on the line like that. And, so, I have a great deal of respect for those that have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROWLANDS: When Tillman was killed in April of 2004 in the mountains of Afghanistan, the nation mourned.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: While many of us may be blessed to live a longer life than he did, few us -- few of us -- few of us will ever live a better one.
ROWLANDS: Since Tillman's death, the Army has told significantly different stories as to exactly what happened. Initially, it was reported that Tillman died a hero, possibly saving others, during a fierce firefight against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Then, a month after his death, they said this:
LIEUTENANT GENERAL PHILIP KENSINGER, U.S. ARMY: The investigation results indicate that Corporal Tillman probably died as a result of friendly fire, while his unit was engaged in combat with enemy forces.
ROWLANDS: It turned out that top Army commanders knew within days of his death that Tillman was killed by friendly fire, but they didn't tell anyone, including the family, the truth for weeks.
Tillman's family was livid. His father told "The Washington Post" the Army -- quote -- "realized their recruiting efforts were going to hell in a handbasket if the truth about his death got out. They blew up their poster boy."
Over the course of previous investigations, the Army has revealed that, not only was Tillman killed by his fellow soldiers, but, the next day, his uniform and body armor were burned, possibly destroying evidence about his death. Seven soldiers have been reprimanded to date for their roles in the incident. Tillman's father, who declined an on-camera interview, did tell CNN, he doesn't have much faith in the Army's new or former investigations. He says, he doesn't think he will ever discover what really happened to his son.
Ted Rowlands, CNN, San Jose, California.
COOPER: Well, to talk more about the investigation of Pat Tillman's death, we're joined now in Washington by Dr. Daniel Goure of the Lexington Institute, a public policy research organization headquartered in Arlington, Virginia.
Thanks very much for being with us, Dan.
DANIEL GOURE, VICE PRESIDENT, LEXINGTON INSTITUTE: My pleasure.
COOPER: Is -- is the truth ever going to be known? I mean, they have had three investigations. We now know the uniform of -- of this American soldier were -- was burned -- his armor-plated vest was burned -- and that -- that commanders knew, days after the killing, that it was the result -- the result of friendly fire, not, as his parents and the country had been led to believe, from enemy fire.
GOURE: Well, look, I think we can certainly find out what actually happened.
And we do have most of the details. The question now is, was there a -- a failure of command and a failure of action on the part of some of the Rangers, his comrades, that led to his death? The question we may not know is whether there was a deliberate cover-up, and whether higher-ups in the Army were involved. I tend to doubt that, but that may be the more difficult question to answer.
COOPER: If there was a cover-up, it would be because of what? Because this man was such a symbol of patriotism that they didn't want -- you know, that -- that -- that it was a friendly-fire incident to come out?
GOURE: In -- in essence. You know, they would have preferred, obviously, that he had died heroically in action, that it hadn't been friendly fire.
And, of course, once a cover-up starts, there is all the difficulty in owning up to the truth that -- that comes with that.
COOPER: It's sad, because, I mean, he's as much of a hero for -- for -- for dying under friendly fire as...
COOPER: ... as for anything else.
Negligent homicide, that's what they're talking about investigating, negligent homicide on the battlefield. What does that mean?
GOURE: Well, essentially, it means that somebody violated basic procedures, the rules of engagement, and thereby put somebody else's life in jeopardy or killed somebody.
It's -- it's no different than a police officer firing in a crowd at a suspect that's fleeing, but no danger to him or herself.
COOPER: Does it make any sense -- I mean, when I read that his uniform had been burned, and that his -- his -- you know, his Kevlar vest had been burned, that doesn't make any sense to me. Usually, they try to save as -- as many items from -- from the soldier as possible.
GOURE: That -- that doesn't make any sense. There was no particular reason.
I mean, one usually -- if the individual is already dead -- simply transport them back with the uniform, with the equipment. Why not? So, there clearly was some ulterior motive, if you will, for -- for destroying those pieces of equipment. Probably, the -- the answer is that it was about a cover-up at the time.
COOPER: And -- and what about the delay in finding out that it was friendly fire? How do -- how -- does that -- I mean, is that common?
GOURE: It's not -- it's relatively common, actually, I have to say, not -- not for reasons of a cover-up, but because there's procedures.
And the Army, in particular, is very deliberate about the procedures, particularly when it's something as distressing as a friendly-fire incident. So, you have reports that have to -- have to be written. They go up through a chain of command to his superiors, Tillman's, from there to the area commander, and on up the chain. And nobody wants to say anything until those reports get all the way back to Washington. That can be a matter of weeks.
COOPER: I mean, it makes you wonder, I'm sure, for a lot of parents out there. If someone -- someone as high-profile as Pat Tillman, there's -- there's all this question about what happened to him, you know, I think it -- it puts a lot of emphasis on the Army and -- and their procedures. Certainly, let's hope that comes out of the investigation, some improvement on -- on that.
Dan, appreciate you joining us. Thanks very much, Dan Goure.
GOURE: You're welcome.
COOPER: Under the rubble in New Orleans next -- half-a-year after Katrina struck, a job too big for humans, but not for these rescue workers. How many dogs -- how many dogs right now are searching for bodies beneath the rubble? You -- you will meet at least two of them. And a body was just found over the course of this weekend. Also tonight, African-American employees who say they faced ugly racial slurs and much, much more on the job -- charges of racism they say their managers simply ignored -- a 360 exclusive coming up next.
COOPER: Well, we return again to New Orleans, as we do just about every night, to yet another fact that is hard to swallow. Half- a-year after they disappeared, more than 1,900 people -- 1,900 -- in Louisiana are still unaccounted for. Now, officials -- some officials say that as many as 400 bodies may still be buried in the debris -- in the debris that clutters much of New Orleans.
And, yet, the search to find all the bodies has been tied up in red tape. In December, funding for the searches ran out. It was not until last week that the money came through and the searches resumed, with help from outside the state, and not just from humans.
CNN's Sean Callebs explains.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go to work.
SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These dogs are the best hope of ending months of anguish for families looking for their loved ones in the aftermath of Katrina, the hundreds of people listed as missing.
Sunday, Wayde Carter, a game warden for Maine, took his 6-year- old German shepherd into this Lakeview home.
WAYDE CARTER, MAINE DEPARTMENT OF INLAND FISHERIES & WILDLIFE: From the time I gave him his command, his -- his nose went high. So, I immediately knew he had the scent as soon as he entered.
CALLEBS: That scent from human remains. Police had checked this home two days earlier. They found nothing. But Buddy was on to something.
CARTER: He stopped working or -- or pinpointed in an area of the hallway where the attic door is -- can be pulled down. And he -- he stuck his nose up high. Finally, he sat and he looked up in the air.
CALLEBS: It took a while, but authorities found the mummified remains of a man who died six months ago behind an air conditioning duct in the attic, a victim trapped.
DR. LOUIS CATALDIE, LOUISIANA STATE MEDICAL EXAMINER: He couldn't get out because the water was right at the attic floor. And I'm sure it got tremendously hot in there, and he dehydrated, and had a pretty horrible death.
CALLEBS: For months Louisiana's medical examiner, Louis Cataldie, has been saying the demolition of devastated neighborhoods must wait until cadaver dogs make a thorough check. Otherwise, there's a risk of sweeping away human remains, along with debris.
CATALDIE: Family members who think that there are loved ones locked in these houses are -- need to know if they are or aren't. And that's -- so, we may get good closure and bad closure today.
CALLEBS: Today, the Army Corps of Engineers, working with the New Orleans firefighters, began demolishing homes that are blocking streets in the Lower Ninth Ward, but only after a thorough inspection by cadaver dogs. The pace is agonizingly slow right now, only one house on this day, many, many more homes to be checked.
SERGEANT ROGER GUAY, MAINE DEPARTMENT OF INLAND FISHERIES & WILDLIFE: It's overwhelming. It's overwhelming, but -- but we know it's going to be a one -- one-find-at-a-time event. And we can only do the best we can do.
CALLEBS: The medical examiner says, it may take seven months to fully check all areas. The search for victims could be going on, even after the first anniversary of Katrina.
Sean Callebs, CNN, New Orleans.
COOPER: Well, joining us now in New Orleans is Wayde Carter and Roger Guay, and their dogs, Buddy and Raider (ph).
Guys, thanks for being with us.
Wayde, your dog, Buddy, went into the house, immediately knew there was a body there, even though it had been searched for and -- and declared empty. How is trained to do that?
CARTER: Well, it -- it takes a lot of time. But through samples that we -- we put out in our training, we get used to the way our dog reacts to that scent. And he does it all for a tennis ball. He knows -- it's a game to him.
He knows, when he goes in and finds the source, that he's going to get rewarded with that. And, as soon as he went in, he -- you know, he lifted his head high. And I knew it was going to be a high find. He finally pinpointed in the center of the house, near where the attic door pulls down.
And, from that point, I -- I took the dog back out, rewarded him, and had it -- we always back up our find with another dog. And I had Sergeant Roger Guay bring his dog, Raider (ph), in to confirm, or back up, what I already knew was -- was apparent.
COOPER: And, Roger, when you brought in Raider (ph) -- that's Raider (ph) right there -- how -- I mean, does -- Raider (ph) doesn't know that -- that he's looking for a body. To him, it's -- it's -- it's a game.
GUAY: That's right. It -- it's all about -- it's all about playing with a ball. And he knows that -- that when he's successful at -- at finding whatever the command word that we give him, he gets a reward for doing it. So, it's all about having fun, and it's a game to him.
COOPER: Does the fact -- I mean, you know, I think it's shocking to a lot of people that there are still bodies out there six months on. Does -- does it make it more difficult for the dogs, because the bodies, I guess, are mummified or -- or so badly decomposed? Does it make it more difficult to pick up a scent?
CARTER: Well, that's hard -- it's really a hard question to answer.
The more scent -- so, the earlier the body is detected -- the more scent is a bigger scent pool, so it's harder for the dog to pinpoint on the area that -- that the scent's coming from. Even though there was a lot of scent, you know, after the body had mummified, there was still enough scent for the dog to indicate on.
COOPER: And how long can -- can your guys' dogs keep working? I mean, I -- I know there -- there have got to be limits for how long they can go without getting exhausted.
GUAY: Well, if we work them, you know, we try to rest them. We alternate dogs. We give them -- we give them times of rest and -- and water them.
The biggest transition for them has been the heat. We -- we came from zero to 10-degree temperatures to coming down here to the high 70s. So, that was our biggest transition, coming here from Maine. But the dogs adapted really quickly and are doing really well. But we have to watch them all the time to make sure they're hydrated.
COOPER: Well, you guys come all the way from Maine. You're doing incredible work. And I know the people down there appreciate it.
And I hope you hear that every day, because everyone I talk to is just so thankful for anyone who comes down there. And recovering people, restoring them dignity and bringing them back to their families, there's nothing more important than that right now.
I really appreciate what you guys are doing and appreciate what your dogs are doing. And thanks for coming on.
CARTER: Yes, we're glad to be here. It's a team effort, and we'll do the best we can while we're down here.
COOPER: I know you're working with the New Orleans Fire Department, their search and rescue folks. And again, thank you very much.
Also ahead tonight, shocking allegations of racism in the workplace. Black employees at one company say they were subjected to racial slurs and even named on a hit list, while supervisors, well, they say they did nothing to stop the discrimination.
The exclusive report coming up.
Plus, the shame of cruise ships. Reports of violent crime on the high seas, and now comes a story of another passenger missing. Did she fall overboard or did someone kill her? And what are the rules when you step aboard a cruise ship?
Around the world, you're watching 360.
COOPER: Tonight, a 360 exclusive on a corporation facing ugly charges of racism. The company claims to promote a culture of diversity and tolerance, but several current and former employees are telling a much different story. They say they were harassed and discriminated against with crude names, cruel jokes and a hit list based on the color of their skin.
Is it racism hiding in plain sight? CNN's Jason Carroll has the exclusive. But first, we must warn you that some of the language you're about to hear is offensive.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Another night shift at Allied Aviation in Dallas, Texas. And for Eric Mitchell, it's one more night of worrying about what someone might say to him on the job.
ERIC MITCHELL, FMR. ALLIED AVIATION WORKER: Do they call us niggers? Yes, they have. Have I heard it? Yes, I did. Did I report it? Of course.
CARROLL: At one time, before injuries sidelined him, Mitchell was a star running back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Touchdown.
MITCHELL: Then once we get them cleaned up...
CARROLL: But he says even the toughest hits on the field were nothing compared to the abuse he faced working as a maintenance supervisor at Allied Aviation.
MITCHELL: Anger. Do I have a lot of anger? Hell, yes, I do. A lot of anger.
CARROLL: Mitchell worked for Allied Aviation for five years. The company refuels planes at several of the country's largest airports, including New York's John F. Kennedy, Newark International and Dallas-Fort Worth. Mitchell says he was only on the job for a few days when he first heard a supervisor use racial slurs.
MITCHELL: Someone from FedEx had made him mad, so, quote, unquote, he said, "These goddamn niggers make me sick." CARROLL: Mitchell complained to his immediate supervisors, but he says they didn't reprimand the manager. So he alerted the company's corporate headquarters and says only then did Allied fire the offending manager. But Mitchell says racist comments made to him and other minorities got worse.
MITCHELL: Psychologically, it's been hell. Emotionally, it has almost torn my marriage apart, torn the family apart.
EVA MITCHELL, WIFE: I would lay awake at night, even to this day, and rub his back to calm him in his sleep.
CARROLL: Mitchell says one of the toughest days was when he discovered the nigger hit list, a list of names of Allied employees, all black, written on a bathroom wall. This picture shows how someone tried to erase the racial slur with scratches. And that, Mitchell says, happened only after he and others on the list filed a police report.
MITCHELL: Nigger hit list, and I was number five. And when Carl Gaines came in, I told him the same thing. I said, "You need to go in the bathroom and look at it."
CARL GAINES, ALLIED AVIATION WORKER: It just was a surprise to me that my name would be put on a hit list, let alone a nigger hit list.
CARROLL: Carl Gaines says he worked at Allied as a fueler for several years without incident. The hit list was the first time he faced racism there.
Allied did schedule a sensitivity session, but he says few white employees attended. Gaines says he was again stunned and angered when he spotted something disturbing while refueling an American Airlines jet.
GAINES: I opened up the fuel panel and right on the fuel panel blatantly was my name scrawled in to the aircraft panel with the word "nigger."
CARROLL: This time he immediately called airport police and filed a report. Within days, Allied released a memo threatening termination, saying, "Actions of this type will not be tolerated."
That's why Francisco Ochoa, a supervisor, can't understand what happened to him next.
FRANCISCO OCHOA, FMR. ALLIED AVIATION WORKER: There was a picture of me identified by my name across the chest, Ochoa. I was tied down in a chair with a rope and I had a bandanna over my face.
CARROLL: Ochoa says the cartoon was under the glass on his manager's desk and it depicted him surrounded by supervisors who were passing gas.
OCHOA: It was entitled "The Mexican Gas Chamber." CARROLL: Ochoa says despite his complaints to immediate supervisors, the cartoon remained on that desk for months. For Ochoa, who was battling stage four lung cancer, talking publicly about Allied was a struggle.
OCHOA: I'm hurt because nobody deserves to go through all this. I wouldn't be going through all this if everybody would have treated me right.
CARROLL: We spoke to Ochoa's former manager, Bill Murphy, who says the cartoon was not titled "Mexican Gas Chamber" and Ochoa never complained to him about it. Murphy agreed to talk to us as long as we didn't show his face.
BILL MURPHY, OCHOA'S FMR. MANAGER: Yes, it was on my desk.
CARROLL (on camera): Do you think it should have been on your desk?
MURPHY: Probably not, but it was a good cartoon.
CARROLL: Can you perhaps understand where Francisco was coming from in terms of why that bothered him?
MURPHY: Why didn't he bring it to my attention?
CARROLL: What would you say to those who would say, well, perhaps maybe the cartoon just should not have been there to begin with?
MURPHY: Then the individual should have said something to me.
CARROLL: But again, you say it was just a good cartoon.
MURPHY: Whoever drew it is a good artist. They're in the wrong business.
CARROLL (voice over): Murphy says he was fired and became the fall guy for a discrimination lawsuit pending against Allied Aviation.
Ronetta Francis, an attorney with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, says the commission filed its federal suit against Allied Aviation after their investigation showed Allied has problems extending beyond its Dallas facility.
RONETTA FRANCIS, EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMM.: We have evidence of complaints that went to the same HR people that went on and on and on.
CARROLL (on camera): Here at Allied Aviation's corporate headquarters in New York, a company representative would not speak to us on camera about the allegations because the EEOC's lawsuit has not been resolved.
In a statement, the company says it has a history of providing a workplace that promotes diversity and prohibits discrimination. (voice over): As for the plaintiffs, Allied says, "We deny that these individuals are the victims of any type of discrimination or retaliation... we have acted in good faith towards these individuals."
FRANCIS: It's a corporate culture. It was allowed to -- to take place. Employees saw that they would not be disciplined for engaging in that kind of behavior, and so it just continued to perpetuate itself.
CARROLL: In fact, a plaintiff's attorney says Allied employees at other airports, including New York's JFK, Newark International, and San Antonio International, have voiced similar complaints to him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they allow this to continue to happen, it has to be that from the very high levels, CEO, down, they have a message of tolerance that they just do not care.
CARROLL: Bill Murphy, Ochoa's manager who says he worked at Allied for 18 years, put it this way...
MURPHY: Everything that was done was done with the approval of my boss and my boss' boss.
CARROLL: Francisco Ochoa wanted justice. He would not get his wish. Ochoa succumbed to cancer and died last month.
As for Eric Mitchell, he believes Allied punished him for bringing the allegations to the EEOC's attention and talking to the press. Allied fired him for "insubordination and unacceptable conduct during a meeting."
But when asked if he would do it all over...
MITCHELL: Hell, yes. From what I've gone through, Jason, and from what I've seen, the many nights of no sleep, the tears, the anger, the frustration, the emotional state, yes, it's worth it.
CARROLL: Jason Carroll, CNN, Dallas.
COOPER: And we'll let you know what happens with the suit.
Coming up next, how could a vacation cruise be anything but fun? Well, sadly, there are a lot of ways, some of them very disturbing. Over the last few years, dozens of people disappeared from cruise ships.
And sex crimes, well, critics say they often go unprosecuted. Congress is now investigating and so are we tonight.
Also, the private eye who has rattled some of Hollywood's biggest names, and not just because he may know their secrets. Will he tell all to save his own skin?
That story and more when 360 continues. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COOPER: It's only Monday, but Congressman Chris Shays may already have the question of the week. He wants to know, "Is going on the cruise the perfect way to commit the perfect crime?"
Tomorrow, Congress is going to hold hearings on that issue. The dirty secret of cruise vacations is that while they can make your ocean -- the ocean your playground, they can also be very dangerous.
According to a published report, over the past three years 28 people have disappeared from cruise ships. Only five of them have been found.
So the question is, who's watching out for you? Maybe absolutely no one.
COOPER (voice over): She was, her father says, vivacious and at 41 financially independent. Merrian Carver loved to take cruises.
KENDALL CARVER, MERRIAN CARVER'S FATHER: I would say cruises were probably Merrian's most favorite activity. I mean, she was very sophisticated, loved to get dressed up, and she really liked to take cruises. And that's something she did probably maybe once a year.
COOPER: In august 2004, Merrian Carver, divorced and the mother of a teenager, boarded the cruise ship Mercury in Seattle bound for a seven-day cruise to Alaska and back. It was the last time her parents, her ex-husband and her daughter ever saw her again.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.
CARVER: She did not tell me she was booked on a cruise. And I -- she didn't necessarily -- Merrian was a private person, wouldn't necessarily share everything she did.
I have four daughters. They don't share what they're doing this coming weekend. And Merrian did not share that with me.
COOPER: This grainy black and white photograph from a security camera is the last known image of Merrian taken as she boarded the ship. Only one day out of Seattle, the cruise line says the steward assigned to her cabin reported her missing to his supervisor.
Each day the steward later said in a deposition he reported her missing, and each day he said the supervisor's response was the same, "You do your job. You continue to do your job."
For its part, the cruise line says they do not monitor guests, and it's not uncommon for people to stay in rooms not belonging to them.
CAROL CARVER, MERRIAN CARVER'S MOTHER: We had no idea where she was, whether she was -- where she was. I mean, it's just, you know, unbelievable that, you know, you could lose somebody.
COOPER: Her father says Merrian Carver had been emotionally distraught because of her divorce, and at first they didn't even know she was missing because she hadn't told them of her plans. The first they say they knew of her disappearance was when their granddaughter phoned.
K. CARVER: Her daughter called me and said that she tried to call her mother -- they talked, I don't know, every day or every other day -- and didn't get an answer. She said, "Do you know where mother is?"
COOPER: They did not, but they ultimately filed a missing person's report with police here in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Merrian lived in this apartment building. The police, checking her credit card purchases, learned about the trip on board the Mercury, purchased, said the cruise line, only two days before departure. The first time anyone knew for sure she was missing.
K. CARVER: So I called the cruise line and said, "Gee, you know, our daughter has bought a ticket on your ship. Was she on your ship?" And about three -- roughly three days later -- we're now 27 days into the time that this had started -- they called back and said, "Yes, we've got her bag in storage. We found it in storage. It's got her name, her social security number, it's got some computer disks in it, and we'll mail it to you."
COOPER: Not until September 30, more than a month after the disappearance, did the cruise line file this report with the FBI, a disappearance the company says it was not aware of until the family intervened.
C. CARVER: The whole story is the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line just absolutely -- every time we turned a corner trying to find a piece of our puzzle, trying to find our daughter, we -- we were the only ones interested.
COOPER: Well, when a crime takes place on a cruise ship, you can be a victim without a country, where law enforcement is concerned, at least. So the Carvers went ahead and hired their own private investigators.
Where does their daughter's case now? We'll have that when 360 continues.
COOPER: Well, before the break we told you about a woman's mysterious disappearance on a cruise and her parents who are haunted by it to this day. For all they know, she might have been thrown overboard on the start of the ocean voyage, on the first day, left to die in the frigid Pacific Ocean.
Well, you might expect that from day one help would have come from all directions, from law enforcement, from Coast Guard, and of course from the corporation that owns the cruise line. Merrian Carver's father says not so.
K. CARVER: There are other people involved in that corporation. There's a board of directors who has some responsibility to the passengers. And I would hope they would say, gee, we've got to make sure this doesn't happen to some other family in the future.
COOPER (voice over): For Ken and Carol Carver, the disappearance of their 41-year-old daughter Merrian on board the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Mercury has been both emotionally and financially devastating. They say they've spent well over $75,000 in fees for attorneys and private investigators in the year and a half since she disappeared. The Royal Caribbean ship she sailed on was crowded, 2,000 passengers, a floating small town.
KRISTOFFER GARIN, DEVILS ON THE DEEP BLUE SEA: There's one thing you have in every small town in the country which you will never see on a cruise ship, and that's the police, an impartial third party whose job is to investigate and solve crimes with no financial conflict of interest.
COOPER: Kristoffer Garin is the author of a newly released book on the big cruise lines.
GARIN: This is not something they like to see. It can cost their cruise lines hundreds of thousand, if not millions of dollars, an hour a day when they have to stop these cruises for an investigation.
COOPER: The Carvers have filed a lawsuit alleging negligence against Royal Caribbean. And because of it, the company said in a statement to CNN that it was "somewhat limited" in what it could say in response and said the Carvers have suffered "an inconsolable loss," but added, "cruise line authorities believe that Merrian Carver "appears to have committed suicide on our ship."
Her parents say that even if Merrian did jump overboard -- and Carol Carver, for one, does not believe it -- it is immaterial. Authorities on the ship, they say, should have quickly informed them of her disappearance.
C. CARVER: We're hoping that maybe some people that were on this ship, maybe someone is out there seeing this program, that maybe they saw something that might tell us, you know, what happened to Merrian.
Did they see her get off at one of the ports? You know, was she maybe -- you know, you think in the middle of the night, you know, was she drugged? You know, someone could drug her and literally walk her off the ship.
COOPER: Royal Caribbean fired the supervisor who failed to report Merrian Carver's disappearance, but added, sadly, "Even if he had been shown better judgment, which we wish he had, there is no reason to believe that we could have averted the tragic outcome."
She is in the first American to disappear at sea on a cruise ship. According to a magazine, the "Business Journal of Jacksonville," eight other passengers have disappeared in the past five and a half years. A small number among the millions who have taken vacations at sea, say cruise ship operators who insist they can't monitor the comings and goings of their passengers.
GARIN: The cruise line do not take responsibility for their individual guests. They check in as adults, they behave themselves as they behave themselves.
COOPER: Well, tomorrow, Ken Carver will testify before Congress. He'll argue for the presence of independent agents like air marshals on planes to patrol cruise ships. Still, according to an industry trade group, statistically, a cruise ship vacation is exceptionally safe.
Erica Hill from HEADLINE NEWS joins us now with some business stories we're following.
COOPER: I want to thank our international viewers for watching as well.
Ahead on 360, not just a bombshell in the battle over abortion, an H bomb. What one state is doing to ban -- ban abortion, well, outright, for all intents and purposes. And will a revamped Supreme Court let that law stand?
Also, Hollywood's detective to the stars in trouble with the law. He's got the dirt, so will he dish to it save his own skin?
And caught on camera. Backseat stories, life and crime in taxis out on some very mean streets.
You're watching 360.
COOPER: Good evening.
A boy is dying for a new kidney while the father who could help him is apparently living it up. Dad's a fugitive but not a recluse.
Tonight, the people who spotted him, the stories they're telling and how you could help.
ANNOUNCER: Released from prison to save his son's life. Instead, he vanished and ran to Mexico, where he kept lying and cheating locals. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): He said he would pay me Wednesday and never came back.
ANNOUNCER: As the manhunt continues, a dying boy waits. Tonight, a 360 exclusive with the boy's mother.
A private eye to Hollywood's A list found with illegal hand grenades and now accused of illegal wiretaps. But what did he catch the superstars and super agents saying? The bombshell secrets in the latest episode of L.A. confidential.
And all those little cameras in all those taxicabs. Can you guess what they caught on tape?
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