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Arrest Made in Student Murder Mystery; Katrina Search Derailed; Missing Girl's Messages; Alabama Church Fires Arrests; Light Up, Pay Up

Aired March 8, 2006 - 22:00   ET


We begin with a crime that makes even the most hardened New York cops sick to their stomachs. Tonight, there is a man in custody, a person of interest.

But take a look at this picture. This is how Imette St. Guillen is being remembered. She was a caring, smart and beautiful 24-year- old criminology student. A plaque in her Manhattan apartment read, "Live each life as if life has just begun."

Well, her life came to a brutal end last month. After spending a night at a bar, her body was found miles around, wrapped in a quilt, bound in tape. Her hair was cut, a sock stuffed down her throat. And it only gets worse.

Tonight, police are using the forensic skills she was learning to find her killer. And their search begins with a bouncer with a very dark past.

CNN's Rick Sanchez investigates.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Friday night in New York City, the bars are packed and booze abounds.

And so it was on a recent Friday night, when Imette St. Guillen, a 24-year-old Venezuelan beauty with a promising future, chose to party into the wee hours, even after her friends had called it quits and gone home.

(on camera): It was now 4:00 in the morning here at The Falls, a trendy bar in SoHo, closing time. Imette was asked, reportedly, to leave the bar. In fact, in what may have been somewhat humiliating for her, she was escorted out by the bouncer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was the woman sitting in the middle of the bar, having her drinks. She was -- she didn't finish the second one, and then she left.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): But did the bouncer 41-year-old Darryl Littlejohn, know a lot more than he was letting out to "New York Daily News" reporter Veronica Bellencaye (ph), the only member of the press who has heard his side of the story firsthand? Soon, Littlejohn would become a person of interest in the police investigation into Imette's murder.

(on camera): He never said that he was asked to escort her out?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no. That never came up.

SANCHEZ: He never said that he may even have had a bit of a tiff with her?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. No. That certainly wasn't...

SANCHEZ: He didn't say that?


SANCHEZ (voice-over): In the days since Imette's murder, police have scoured the building that houses the bar, searching high and low for any piece of evidence that can tell them if something horrible happened here.

But they have also spent days searching Darryl Littlejohn's home in Queens and confiscating evidence, including this van.

Lawrence Kobilinsky is a renowned forensics expert who is connected to the investigation.

DR. LAWRENCE KOBILINSKY, FORENSIC SCIENTIST, JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: She had to have been moved while still alive from The Falls, that location, to the place where she was raped and sodomized and tortured.

SANCHEZ (on camera): The best evidence may be found on Imette herself. Her body was found dumped here the following night, in this hideaway in Brooklyn. She had been raped and tortured. Her face was wrapped in tape, a sock stuffed down her throat. How did police find her? They were led here by a phone call.

(voice-over): It's not known who made that phone call police have now traced to this pay phone in Brooklyn. And Kobilinsky says another phone call could put Littlejohn near the spot where Imette's body was found.

KOBILINSKY: We also know that the cell phone was again active in Brooklyn fairly near the site where the body was dumped. And we have the timing of that as well. Now, what he was doing in Brooklyn is -- is a good question.

SANCHEZ: Police are now questioning Littlejohn while he's being held for violating his parole by working in a bar and missing his curfew. Littlejohn has spent more than 12 years in prison for drug possession and robbery. But is he capable of murder?

KOBILINSKY: Well, there is a disconnect between the crimes that he has been convicted of, armed robberies, drug possession, holding up a bank. And -- and crimes like that are not in the same -- they're not at the same level as, you know, rape, sodomy and homicide.

SANCHEZ (on camera): In the end, the irony of this story is, Imette was an honor student, going to grad school here at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Could she have known enough to leave police some kind of clue, possibly DNA in her fingernails, as to who her killer was?

Kobilinsky and others here at the college say they're convinced of it.

Rick Sanchez, CNN, New York.


COOPER: Well, that DNA on Imette's fingernails is just one part of the forensic evidence police will be looking at. The crime scene and the location where her body was dumped may reveal a wealth of other microscopic clues to find her killer, but time may be running out.

Linda Fairstein was the chief prosecutor for the Manhattan DA Sex Crimes Unit. She is also an author. Her latest book is "Death Dance."

I spoke with her about the case a short time ago.


COOPER: Linda, what are investigators looking at right now?

LINDA FAIRSTEIN, FORMER CHIEF PROSECUTOR, NEW YORK CITY SEX CRIMES UNIT: Investigators are looking at, I would say, a tremendous amount of forensic and what we call trace evidence in this case.

The -- the only good thing in a case like this is that the body of Ms. St. Guillen was found very quickly. And this is a contact crime. This crime can't occur unless the two individuals are in very close contact, exchanging body fluids of just about every kind and all of trace and fiber.

COOPER: You call that about a con -- a contact crime?

FAIRSTEIN: Yes, it is. I mean, you can shoot someone, as I have said, from a very long distance away. You can stab somebody without ever making contact with the body. But these cases are -- are possible, forensically, to solve, because of everything from seminal fluid, saliva, sweat, skin cells, now with DNA.

We will presume that the sock that was stuffed in her mouth, if it is the offender's sock, has hundreds, thousands of his -- his skin cells, identifiable on it, that DNA can establish. She might have cried. There -- there would be tears while she was alive that might have stained her clothing and might have stained his as well.

COOPER: You know, when you read the details on this, I mean, it is -- it is -- and -- and I don't want to go into too many of them, because it -- it -- I mean, it's just, frankly, incredibly disturbing. But, I mean, the sock in the mouth, the cutting of the hair, does -- does it make sense to you?

FAIRSTEIN: It makes no sense.

There were first talk it was trademark serial killer stuff, because it's -- it's sort of signature, unusual, sadistic things to do. And I have other friends in law enforcement who have come to think that perhaps it may have been, for example, in the wrapping of this -- wrapping of her face and head and tape that perhaps the tape just got caught on some of the hair and he began to cut the hair, frantically, to continue taping the face.

He was trying to get the body out of Manhattan and out of his life and -- and rid of, parted from pretty quickly. So, I think, while early talk was that there was something methodical about it, I think he was working very quickly against the clock to get rid of this body before break of day, and be away from the crime scene.

COOPER: And, in your experience in the -- in the New York City Sex Crime Unit, how often are these cases solved just by forensic evidence? Or how much -- how often do -- does the suspect actually confess?

FAIRSTEIN: Well, forensic evidence is our most reliable tool.

And I did work in the DA's office for 30 years, for the first 15, had never heard the letters DNA, which are now my favorite three letters of the alphabet, of course.


FAIRSTEIN: So, people solved these cases before there was DNA in a variety of ways. We may have old-fashioned techniques, like fingerprint evidence, all over this case.

It would -- tape would be a logical place, for example, to find that. There is no question that DNA will -- will help resolve this one, I think, very favorably for law enforcement. And a confession is sometimes good. This guy wasn't talking. He's an experienced criminal, with -- with a long history. So, I would be very surprised if he does turn around and -- and start making admission in this case. I would rely on forensics.

COOPER: Well, that was Linda Fairstein.

The -- there is forensic evident. And there is also the profile of the killer. This was a sadistic crime. And whoever murdered Imette St. Guillen made sure -- made sure that she did suffer.

Joining me from the studio is former Massachusetts prosecutor Wendy Murphy, and, from Boston, James Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern university.

Wendy, let's start with you.

Littlejohn, a person of interest, not officially a suspect. How good a case do you think they have against him at this point?

WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Well, you know, at this point, because we don't have the DNA evidence back -- but we know they found some -- the tests aren't back yet -- it looks like a very strong circumstantial case. We know that...

COOPER: He was the last one to see her.

MURPHY: Last one seen with her. He...

COOPER: Criminal record.

MURPHY: We know he didn't tell the truth to the police -- or tell the truth to the folks he was talking to about what he did with her. He said he just, you know, escorted her out, and she left. We know that that's not true.

He didn't offer up his DNA. That can be used against him. It's not testimonial evidence. So, he doesn't have a Fifth Amendment right not to reveal -- not to cooperate.

COOPER: But now there's a report that the -- that other people who worked in the bar didn't report correctly either to police.


I mean, it -- well, that's a different issue. I mean, they're not probably criminally responsible for her death. But there could be obstruction-of-justice charges. There's no doubt about it, that the bar's refusal to provide all that important information about what they did know right away raises grave questions about their -- you know, their lack of moral responsibility, and will absolutely tie into their civil liability.

They're going to pay a boatload of money, when the family sues the bar, because they negligently hired this guy. He never should have been allowed to work there -- never, with his long record, something like seven felony convictions. He was a menace to society, according to the parole board. He never should have been allowed to work there, late at night, 4:00 in the morning, around vulnerable people.

They will be sued, and they will lose a lot of money.

COOPER: James, what does -- what does the crime, what we know about the crime thus far, I mean, what does it tell you about the person or persons who -- who perpetrated the crime?

JAMES FOX, CRIMINOLOGIST, NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY: Well, as gruesome and grisly as it was, it's kind of clear that it's not the person's first time at rape and murder.

COOPER: How -- how do you say -- why do you say that?

FOX: Well, first-timers tend to be very clumsy. They're uncomfortable. They're not sure of themselves. And they're -- and they're certainly not comfortable at the crime scene.

When you find incredible amount of -- of barbarism and sadism, you have someone who has done it before, who is comfortable, who is pushing the envelope continually to find out what more can he do to achieve some level of -- of satisfaction, of control, of dominance.

First-time killers generally don't get to this level of barbarism. So, my sense....

COOPER: Because -- but -- because Linda Fairstein was saying she thought, I mean, that it's possible that the cutting of the hair was because tape got caught in the hair, and that some of these things were done to her simply to get her out of New York, get her out of Manhattan, as quickly as possible.

FOX: Well, I'm not talking about the haircutting. I mean, this person -- this woman was raped in every way imaginable, brutalized.

This is not -- this is a particularly gruesome killing. Forget about the hair. Yes, the hair may have another explanation. So, it's either -- you know, it could be someone who has done this before. It could also be more than one perpetrator. Let's not rule out that possibility.

Oftentimes, when you find the most grisly killings, it's because two guys are playing off each other. It's -- it's a -- it's a criminal oneupmanship. They're trying to show each other how fierce and -- that they are.

And, indeed, if we have a call into 911, it may be that an accomplice, who perhaps wasn't too comfortable with what was going on that evening, may have been the one to call.

COOPER: Wendy...

FOX: So, let's not rule out the possibility of two people.

COOPER: But, Wendy, this person of interest, Littlejohn, is basically -- I mean, he has been convicted in the past of -- of armed robberies...

MURPHY: Right.

COOPER: of -- of drug crimes, never of rape.


And -- and, you know, we will see whether more of his bad behavior that hasn't led to criminal charges might start to come out. Who knows. It would be interesting to see a pattern of activity. And if there is past rape, for example, if he has raped other women in the past, and he has never been charged, it can still be used against him to prove a pattern of conduct in this case.

It would be interesting if he showed a bizarre M.O. You know, was he -- reportedly, he wearing some kind of marshal jacket or federal enforcement jacket to show off. And he certainly didn't work for the feds. But if he had used that as a ruse in the past to gain women's trust, that would be very compelling evidence, even in the absent of DNA evidence, because it would show this unusual pattern of activity.


FOX: We are also talking about a case where a woman is moved from the bar to a crime scene, and then rolled up in -- in the comforter, and moved again to a dump site. It also makes sense that there may be two people who were helping each other out: You take the hands. I will take the feet. And we will move her.

So, frequently, killers like this do work in teams. And, indeed, that's part of the reason why they kill. It's this dynamic between the two guys, who are urging each other on. So, let's not rule out that possibility, that there's more than one.

COOPER: It -- it is just...

MURPHY: A horrible idea.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, the whole thing is just horrific. And, certainly, for -- for a city which has -- the crime rate has gone down so much, it's certainly a shocking case and -- and one we are -- we're following.

James Fox, appreciate it.

Wendy Murphy, thanks very much, as well.

MURPHY: You bet.

COOPER: Another parent's nightmare tonight just ahead -- text messages from a daughter to her mom, do they tell a story of a kidnapping and will they help police find a 13-year-old girl?

Also, a string of church fires, a mystery, and now a string of arrests. Wait until you hear what the police think the motive could be.

And the dogs were just getting started again, searching for bodies still missing in New Orleans. We profiled them on Monday night, heroes from Maine who had gone down to find bodies in the Ninth Ward. So, why are the dogs now going home? We just found out about this. We're working the story, but, already, it may have you seeing red. We're "Keeping Them Honest."


COOPER: Well, we all know that there are bodies still trapped beneath debris in New Orleans.

Now, some officials will tell you that there are dozens of people there. Others -- others will tell you there are hundreds. We don't know how many there are, but we know that they need to be found and that they need to brought home.

We also know that the state stopped house-to-house searches for bodies in New Orleans back in October. Since then, dozens of bodies have been found.

Now, this week, on Monday, we told you the story of teams of cadaver dogs, the best in the nation, and their trainers, have been going down into New Orleans, and -- and combing through the ruins, looking for victims. They found somebody in their -- in their attic over -- over this weekend.

But now we have just found out -- this news is just coming in to us -- that some of those trainers, with their cadaver dogs, are leaving. And it's not because their work is done. And it's not because they want to go.

Tonight, we're "Keeping Them Honest."

CNN's Sean Callebs joins us now from New Orleans with more.

Sean, what is going on?

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're exactly right, Anderson.

Just Sunday, we were talking about what a great start this had gotten off to. Trained -- dogs from Maine had went into that one house in Lakeview and found the victim in an attic.

Well, I just talked to those two game wardens, and they are being pulled out of this state first thing in the morning by their major up in the state of Maine. The reason, simply promises that were made to those officers that have been broken, specifically, promises of having a hotel room here at end of the day, once they have worked for hours on end in the debris.

And that -- that hotel room is now going to be, apparently, removed, as of Friday. Now, who's responsible for paying for this hotel room? Ultimately, FEMA pays for the hotel room. But FEMA says it was up to the state to actually secure long-term accommodations for these officers.

It all seems very petty, Anderson, but it could mean that some of the best dog teams in the nation are leaving, leaving people here in Louisiana wondering about their loved ones in the lurch.

COOPER: It -- it -- it's unbelievable, that something as minor as who's going pay a hotel room bill for -- for a couple of guys and -- and their dogs. I mean, I -- I don't quite get this. How many officers are we talking about and how many dogs are we talking about?

CALLEBS: Well, there are three dog teams here. We know for sure that one of the teams is pulling out. The other one from Georgia has talked about pulling out.

Now, the reason the guys from Maine are leaving, they came in last night, after working hours, went to check into their hotel, the Doubletree, down here. At that time, a FEMA representative met them and said they had to fill out this FEMA request. Now, this is for long-term assistance for evacuees who have been displaced.

The -- the officers said, we're not going to do that. That's fraud. They talked it out for a bit. They decided, OK, we will let you stay in the room tonight. They said that they would be allowed to stay in the room until Friday. And, then, apparently, there's no solution where these officers would stay.

So, the major heard about this, ongoing concerns, the fact a vet was promised as well. If you think about it, those dogs walk in all kinds of debris, and, last time one of them was here, got a piece of glass in their eye. And these are dogs that have been trained over years, very costly, the best trained dogs in the world. So, they need the vet in case something goes wrong.

Well, those promises are apparently being removed from them. So, the Maine authorities believe they have no choice but to pull those game wardens back up to their state, where they will continue to do their work up there -- very frustrating for those officers. They say it really makes them sick that they have to leave, knowing the work that needs to be done out here.

COOPER: You know, one of the officers I talked to on Monday, he had driven down there. He had -- I think his car was broken into in Alabama. He still came to New Orleans.

They found a body over the course of the weekend. And it's incredible that they would -- they would have to -- to pull out.

Sean, appreciate you telling us about this story.

Want to try to get more to the bottom of this.

For answers, we have Oliver Thomas on the phone. He's the New Orleans City Council president. And he's in Cleveland, Ohio, at, of all things, a rebuilding New Orleans conference.

Oliver, we appreciate you for being with us tonight.

What do you make of this? What is going on?

OLIVER THOMAS, NEW ORLEANS CITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT: It -- this is just another storm in the life and lives of the families who are missing loved ones.

You know, I gave a speech called "No Closure" not too long ago. And -- and it's one of the saddest things that's happening to a lot of the people who are still missing loved ones, who are looking for loved ones, is that there will never be any closure from this.

Something as simple as paying hotel rooms, or finding a temporary shelter for people with some of the best cadaver dogs in the world, it -- it -- it's unbelievable. And it's not that many dogs. It's not that many people. And we know they are still -- they have been finding bodies every week, Anderson. You know that, the tragic story with the Green family -- they have never recovered from what they found with Ms. Joyce when they went there, David and Robert went there to see their mom lying on the side of the house.

This is unexplainable. It's not that much money. You know, this is a -- a multibillion-dollar effort. I don't know why it stopped. and it shouldn't stop.

COOPER: Does it seem to you -- I mean, a -- a lot of the criticism of -- you know, and it's the easiest thing in the world to bash FEMA. But -- but, I mean, a lot of the criticism, whether it's of FEMA or -- or state officials, is just that there's this bureaucracy, and people, or officials, don't seem willing and/or able to think outside the box.

I mean, if -- if there's some procedure you have got to go through to -- to book three hotel rooms for some dogs and some handlers, you know, it can't be that hard to figure out a way to kind of go around those procedures.

THOMAS: Well, I will tell you what.

You know, when I get back, I'm going to have the council draft a resolution to send to the state, the federal government, FEMA, the mayor, the governor, whoever. You know, here we are in Cleveland, working with some of the best minds in the world on -- on planning and public policy, Beverly Cigler, Lenneal Henderson, Jane Brooks from New Orleans.

And we have something as simple as people who want to help us find our missing, and we can't get it done. I'm going to have a letter drafted, as president of the council, to every agency. Just whatever we can do to get this done, we will get it done.

COOPER: I mean, you know, and -- and I know it's a small thing. This is a small team. We're talking about two or three dogs here and some handlers.

But you know what?

THOMAS: That's it.

COOPER: I mean, for the families out there, you know, this is huge, finding -- they found one person this weekend behind an air condition vent, a mummified remains of a person. And -- and God only knows how many more people are still out there.

THOMAS: Well, and let me -- and let me tell you why it's important, Anderson.

It's very important to deal with this now. Guess -- guess what -- guess what we're getting ready to do? We're getting ready to start dealing with demolitions and removal of some of this major debris.

So, I mean, how tragic or sad would it be that, if we find body parts or -- or the bodies of -- of missing loved ones and friends? You know, Kevin Rose (ph) of the Rose (ph) family is a friend of mine. Well, we are still missing Kevin. He grew up with us, with the Greens, and all of us in the Lower Ninth Ward.

How sad would it be if, when they start these -- the demolition and -- and excavation of some of these properties that they find body parts and bodies that these cadaver dogs could very easily find? That would devastate -- continue to devastate some of these families.

COOPER: And, some day a bulldozer is going to come. It's going to pick up debris. And it's going to dump it somewhere. And -- and people are just going to disappear.

And -- and, you know, a police officer said to me a couple of months ago, you know, some day, people are going to sit around, and they're going to say, you know, whatever happened to old Joe?

THOMAS: That's right.

COOPER: No one ever knows what happened to him.

THOMAS: They're saying...

COOPER: And -- and people just disappear.

THOMAS: They're saying it now.

COOPER: They're saying it now.

THOMAS: They're saying it now.

COOPER: Council President Thomas, I appreciate you joining us. Thank you.

THOMAS: Thank you. Anderson, you have been great. Thank you very much.

COOPER: Well, let's hope someone, maybe from FEMA or the state, is watching this program tonight, and can just pick up some hotel room bills for -- for these people and their dogs. It just seems like a -- a mind-bogglingly minor thing. And -- and it would make a world of difference for a couple of families out there.

Moving on tonight, it is a chilling mystery. A 13-year-old girl, she has vanished, then, apparently, sends text messages, pleading for help, to her parents. Is it a hoax? Is it for real? We are going to find out ahead.

First, Erica Hill from Headline News joins us with some of the other stories we are following right now -- Erica.


We're actually going to stay in New Orleans for our first story. That's where the president spent the day touring the city, and where he urged Congress to approve a $4.2 billion plan to help Louisiana recover. Now, Mr. Bush toured some of the areas still in shambles more than six months after Katrina, including the Lower Ninth Ward, where he met with debris-removal workers. Mr. Bush also said levee repairs in New Orleans are on schedule for completion by June 1.

Now, meantime, back in Washington, a reversal for the president -- a House panel dominated by Republicans voted overwhelmingly to block a Dubai-owned firm from taking control of some U.S. port operations, that vote, 62-2. And there is widespread public opposition backing that plan -- or to the plan to allow the -- that company to take over the ports, which Mr. Bush is backing. He has also promised to veto any measure which blocks that port deal.

And a rare find in the deep sea, the South Pacific, to be exact -- it kind of looks like a lobster, but, as you can see there, furry. It was discovered by a team of American-led researchers and is so distinct, they have actually created a new family and genus for it. The crustacean is white, just shy of six inches long. It's about the size of a salad plate. And it's also blind.


HILL: How about that?

COOPER: It looked kind of like a monkey to me.

HILL: It did look a little bit like a monkey.

And speaking of monkeys...


COOPER: Speaking of monkeys, did you see the monkey riding on the dog?

HILL: I did.

And, you know, you may recall that...


HILL: ... when you brought this up on Monday night, I said I was going to get to the bottom of this, because we only knew that his name was Whiplash, right?

COOPER: Uh-huh.

HILL: Well, Whiplash actually rides on his trusty steed, whose name is Ben, apparently.

COOPER: Uh-huh.

HILL: And you can actually catch him this weekend at the Texas Fair and Rodeo in Austin.


HILL: He will be performing at 3:30 as part of Tommy Lucia -- or Lucia. I'm not sure how you pronounce his name.


HILL: But he's a huge rodeo star. I mean, the Web sites on this guy..


HILL: ... amazing.

COOPER: I like that I can surprise you with monkey-riding-on-the -- on-the-dog clip, and you know all about it. I like that.

HILL: Isn't that amazing, how that works?

COOPER: Yes. It's amazing how you have done your research.

Thanks, Erica.

COOPER: Just ahead, in the heart of tobacco country, the price of smoking is going up. If you work for the state, and you can't kick the habit, you will pay more for health insurance. A couple of smokers are wondering, hey, wait a minute. Is that fair?

Also, what happened to 13-year-old Natasha Browne? She vanished two days ago. The biggest clues police have are some text messages she sent her mother, pleading for help. Is she really in danger? Or could it be some terrible hoax? -- coming up next on 360.


COOPER: For a parent, it is the unthinkable. Your child disappears on her way to school, and, later that day, sends you a text message, several text messages, on her cell phone, pleading for help. But you can't help her, because she says she doesn't know where she is. And then the messages simply stop.

Well, the unthinkable happened in New Jersey two days ago. And now police are trying desperately to figure out what really happened to 13-year-old Natasha Browne.

Here's CNN's Alina Cho.


ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Natasha Browne left for school 8:00 a.m. Monday morning, no one, especially her parents, believed there was any reason to worry.

Then, 11:08 a.m., a mere three hours later, Natasha's mom, Stella, said she received the first of several chilling text messages -- the source, her 13-year-old daughter's cell phone.

STELLA BROWNE, MOTHER OF NATASHA BROWNE: "Help. I'm scared. I don't know where I am. I know I'm in a house. Someone was following me. And I just don't remember what happened." CHO: "Are you serious?" mom replied -- no response for more than five hours.

The next, even more chilling text message came at 4:33.

BROWNE: "He is making me do disgusting stuff I don't want to do."

CHO: By then, Stella Brownie had called her husband, Natasha's father, who checked up on his daughter at school, found out she never made it there. Worried, they called police.

CHIEF ROBERT TROY, JERSEY CITY POLICE: All possible leads are being followed up on. Her disappearance is totally out of character. She's a good student, no problems with the family. Her friends are very concerned, and so are we.

CHO (on camera): Is it possible that she ran away?

BROWNE: She had no reason to. No reason at all. You know, she has everything. Not -- I'm not talking about material stuff. I'm talking about love and support.

CHO (voice over): Police who have seized Natasha's computer believe her disappearance may have something to do with someone she met on the Internet. Authorities are questioning several people but offered no other details.

Still, there are many unanswered questions. On the day she vanished, Natasha apparently sent a text message to a friend telling her she wasn't at school because of a doctor's appointment. Natasha's mother told us no such appointment was ever made.

Some have asked could this be a teenage hoax.

(on camera): Do you believe her?

BROWNE: Yes and no. As for me, yes, I'm always going to think that it's, yes, something must have happened. You never know what came up. Maybe her plans backfired.

CHO (voice over): Natasha's mother told us even if her daughter did lie to her, all is forgiven.

(on camera): What is it that you want to tell her?

BROWNE: We love her. We love her and we'll be there for her. It doesn't matter what it is. We love her.

CHO (voice over): And hopes Natasha comes home soon.


COOPER: There are so many things about this story which just don't make sense. And police are taking it very seriously.

CHO: They are. But you're right, Anderson, a lot of things just simply don't add up. I mean, why would she send essentially a cry out for help to her mother and at the same time send a text message to her friend saying that she skipped school because she had a doctor's appointment?

I mean -- and we know now that that doctor's appointment never existed.

COOPER: And those were roughly at the same time?

CHO: Roughly at the same time. And it just doesn't make sense. It doesn't add up, unless you consider the possibility that she left on her own, that she ran away.

Her mother says that's entirely possible. Maybe that happened. But nonetheless, you have to remember she's a 13-year-old girl. She has been missing for nearly three days, and her parents are worried. They just want her home.

COOPER: All right. We'll continue to follow it. Thanks very much, Alina.

Alina Cho.

Just ahead, a big break in the case that brought back old fears in Alabama. It began with a string of church fires, ended today with the arrest of three college students. Wait until you hear what police think the motive could be.

Also, he was a pioneer who broke so many racial barriers it hardly seems possible. With his camera, he made the world see itself anew. The amazing life of Gordon Parks coming up on 360.


COOPER: A string of church fires in rural Alabama. Ten congregations, no racial angle, and at the time no clear motive. Tonight, police have three college student in custody in connection with nine of the fires and they now have a motive. Evidence suggesting that this was all somebody's sick idea of a joke.

CNN's Rusty Dornin is tracking the case.


RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It wasn't hate crimes. Not even a slam against religion. Just three college students who, in the words of one, got involved in a stupid joke that got out of hand.

Two of the suspects, Russell Debusk and Ben Moseley, were students at a faith-based college, Birmingham Southern. They were theater majors, described by those who knew them as good students and upbeat guys.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just typical guys. Just funny and liked to joke around and have a good time. That's the way I would describe them.

DORNIN: Investigators say they were able to crack the case with old- fashioned police work. The break came from tire tracks left behind at four of the fires in Bibb County.

That led investigators to this store in Pelham, Alabama. They asked owner Jim Collins about this tire, a high-priced all-terrain model that had to be specially ordered.

JIM COLLINS, TIRE SHOP OWNER: And they had already identified the tire size and the brand and the tread design. And so they gave us, like, a sheet of paper with, like, three sizes, wanted to know if we could research sales records.

DORNIN: And that led to the mother of Matthew Cloyd, 20 years old, a student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. From there, the story began to unfold.

Investigators told reporters weeks ago they suspected the church fires had been set by thrill-seekers. Now, according to the federal court papers, Matthew Cloyd told an unnamed witness it started out as a prank.

Cloyd is in custody. The two other men, Russell Debusk and Ben Moseley, were arrested in the middle of the night on their college campus.

Authorities say one of the three men told them that in February they went to Bibb County to do some deer hunting. They somehow came up with the idea of setting fire to two churches and then watched as all the fire trucks came and the chaos.

JIM CAVENAUGH, ATF LEAD INVESTIGATOR: After they saw the fire trucks and the lights it became very spontaneous. That's in the complaint. That's indicative of excitement thrill motive.

DORNIN: One of the suspects told authorities that to throw investigators off the track they went to western Alabama a week after the first fires and set fire to four more churches there.

All three suspects have a detention hearing scheduled for Friday. If convicted of all nine fires, the three could spend more than 40 years in jail for what one called a stupid joke.


COOPER: Rusty, I guess this case is all about really what solid police work is all about. I mean, amazing that just yesterday basically they were able to break this all through that tire.

DORNIN: That's right. They had been hitting a lot of the tire dealers all over Alabama trying to find -- they had the tire, they knew what it looked like. And they were just trying to find out who bought it.

And when they searched this computer records at this one store, it turns out it was attached to an SUV, very similar to the ones they were looking for. And bingo, they ended up finding that person that had been the driver of the vehicle.

COOPER: Amazing.

Rusty, thanks.

Rusty Dornin reporting tonight.

One day after the death of Dana Reeve to lung cancer smokers in one state are upset. They're being asked to pay more for health insurance. Is that discrimination or is that just common sense?

We'll talk about that ahead.

Also, the life and death on the highways as captured by cops' dashboard cameras. Tonight, how those cameras are changing law enforcement forever.


COOPER: Smokers being told to pay more for health insurance. The question is, is that fair? We're going to investigate in a moment.

But first, Erica Hill from HEADLINE NEWS joins us with some business stories we're following.


COOPER: The passing of Dana Reeve has made lung cancer part of a national conversation. Although Dana Reeve wasn't a smoker, most lung cancer patients are. Now a growing number of businesses are trying to get smokers to kick the habit through some tough measures. They're telling their workers, basically, if you light up, you've got to pay up.

Not only are smokers unhappy, but the controversy has hit tobacco country pretty hard.

Here's CNN's Gary Tuchman.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): They love their tobacco in Kentucky.


TUCHMAN: At this drive-through tobacco shop in Paris, Kentucky, the manager tells us business is smoking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, as far as I'm concerned, tobacco made this state. I don't think there'd be a state of Kentucky without tobacco.

TUCHMAN: The tobacco crops still provides the state hundreds of millions of dollars each year, but it's also provided something else, the number one ranking for percentage of regular smokers. Nearly 28 percent of Kentuckians puff away, considerably more than the U.S. average.

Enter Kentucky's governor, who used to have another career.

GOV. ERNIE FLETCHER (R), KENTUCKY: Family practitioner, and I practiced for nearly 15 years.

TUCHMAN: Governor and Dr. Ernie Fletcher has decided his preference to keep the government out of personal lives is trumped by his concern for health.

FLETCHER: If you want the freedom to smoke, then you need to pay for that freedom.

TUCHMAN: Which means that all state employees who smoke now have to pay up to $30 more a month for their insurance policies. To some born and bred Kentuckians like Luann Kelly, it's almost heresy.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Would paying more for your insurance maybe be an incentive to help you quit?


TUCHMAN (voice over): The governor thinks paying more and state- sponsored stop smoking programs are an incentive, and thinks it's also fair because...

FLETCHER: Twenty percent, for example, of our Medicaid costs are related to smoking.

TUCHMAN: ... Kentucky is one of five states that charges its smoking employees more. The others are West Virginia, Georgia, Alabama and South Dakota.

Luann Kelly, who works for Kentucky's Division of Family Support, says it's discriminatory.

TUCHMAN (on camera): The state wants you to quit smoking. Said it will be better for you.

Wouldn't it be better for you?

KELLY: It may be better. I'm not going to argue or debate that. The problem is, I enjoy smoking. So, you know, don't tax me just because I enjoy something.

TUCHMAN (voice over): Private companies are also charging smokers more and adding wellness programs. About 4,000 smoking employees at Gannett, the owner of "USA Today" and other media properties, pay an extra $50 a month.

ROXANNE HORNING, VP, HUMAN RESOURCES, GANNETT: Many people want to stop smoking and they are just looking for the right time and the right resources to do so. And we're hoping that that's what's happening here at Gannett.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good afternoon -- Weyco.

TUCHMAN: Other companies are more extreme. The Weyco Health Benefits Company in Michigan fires employees who smoke.

HOWARD WEYERS, PRESIDENT, WEYCO INC.: Smokers are discriminating against the other employees because whatever health problems it creates we all have to pay for it.

TUCHMAN (on camera): The state of Kentucky is still a relatively comfortable place to be a public smoker. There are no statewide bans in places like bars, restaurant or playgrounds. But by virtue of the insurance surcharge, the Bluegrass State has become an anti-tobacco pioneer of sorts, which people on both sides of the issue consider quite the irony.

(voice over): Especially considering the fact that Kentucky still legally requires indoor smoking rooms for all state employees. Something the governor also wants to change.


COOPER: So Gary, what are some of the other complaints that you heard from state workers?

TUCHMAN: Well, Anderson, many of them say if they have to pay more, why shouldn't overweight, diabetic or alcoholic co-workers have to pay more? We posed that question to the Kentucky governor, who says he won't close the door to the possibility of adding more high-risk health categories to the surcharge list in the future.

But for now, Ernie Fletcher says he's concentrating on the smoking because not only does Kentucky have the highest percentage of smokers, it has the highest percentage of lung cancer deaths, too -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Gary Tuchman, thanks.

Coming up, do you know what "unique" means really? It doesn't mean rare or special or uncommon. It means alone of its kind. Tonight on 360, we'll say good-bye to Gordon Parks, a man who was truly unique.

But first, a woman unique to the art scene in Philadelphia, gallery owner Bridgette Mayer is the focus of tonight's "On the Rise."


BRIDGETTE MAYER, OWNER, BRIDGETT MAYER GALLERY: Hi. Welcome to the Bridgette Mayer Gallery.

I'm heavily focused on contemporary painting and on young emerging painters. I like academic painters, people who are formally trained and have gone through a graduate program.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (on camera): Traditionally, galleries wait until newer artists develop and have an established history. But Mayer identifies more with budding talent.

After falling in love with her job at a student-run gallery in college and canvasing the real world for several years, she became the youngest gallery owner in Philadelphia at age 27. MAYER: I had a moment of clarity when I was selling a painting to someone and I felt like I wanted to buy it for myself. So I started doing art consulting on my own, and that eventually led me to open the gallery.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Almost five years later and now representing 16 painters, Mayer has developed an eye for unique artwork.

MAYER: My business doubled last year. I'm planning on opening a gallery in New York in the next two years. There's a moment when I feel that someone connects with a piece of artwork, connects with me as a person, and also gets the idea of adding art into their home and into their world.



COOPER: Those are some of the pictures taken by Gordon Parks and some of the music composed and played by Gordon Parks.

The world lost a man unlike any other yesterday. His name was Gordon Parks, and he was so many different things to so many different people: a photographer, a film director, a poet, a writer composer. And he did all those things better than just about anyone else. And with each accomplishment he broke down barriers that were seen and barriers that were unseen.


COOPER (voice over): There were no black staff photographers at "LIFE" magazine until Gordon Parks.

GORDON PARKS, FILM DIRECTOR: I didn't have any feeling about I was black when I walked into "LIFE" magazine.

COOPER: In Hollywood at the major studios there were no black directors until Gordon Parks. And there were no black action heroes in film either until Gordon Parks made "Shaft."

Harlem gang members were mostly not to be seen in the mainstream media, nor were the desperately poor of South America until Gordon Parks trained his camera on them.

Have we mentioned that Gordon Parks never finished high school, nor had any training of any kind in any of the things he was so naturally good at? He gave so much to the world, this world which at first hadn't given him much of anything.

He was born a dirt poor farm kid from Kansas, one of 15 children. Orphaned at 16, he was on his own in the world, making his way as, among other things, a brothel piano player.

He never studied piano, mind you, but he didn't need to. He just knew how, just knew how to make unforgettable pictures, too, of the high and mighty and the down and out. PARKS: You must have respect for your subject matter. You might be a famous "LIFE" photographer, but you are really low on the totem pole, because they are the important ones, your subject matter. They may be paupers, you know, but if they don't want to give to you, you're not going to get good photographs of them.

COOPER: He just knew how to turn the story of his life into a novel -- "The Learning Tree" it was called -- and the novel into a screenplay, and the screenplay into a film for which he also wrote the music. He just knew how to do it all.

In his work as a photographer and director, writer and poet and composer, Gordon Parks showed us an America many had never seen and some simply didn't want to see. In his life as a father and husband and friend to so many, he showed us what dignity and wisdom and determination are really all about.


COOPER: Well, I was lucky as a kid in many ways, not the least of which was knowing Gordon Parks from the time I was born. My mom and he had a friendship that went back some 50 years. And long before I even knew what the world "cool" meant, I knew that Gordon Parks was cool.

It wasn't just the green Jaguar that he drove or his unpretentiousness. It was his warmth and his drive. And the world is certainly a better place for him having lived in it these past 93 years. And I'm certainly a better person for knowing him.

I want to thank our international viewers for watching.

Coming up on 360, the shooting was caught on tape, the suspect had no weapon and says he was doing just what he was told. Did the deputy do the right thing? Did he commit a crime? You'll get a chance to decide, and so will a jury.

Also, with a new case of anthrax out there, what bout the mysterious anthrax attacks four years ago? They terrorized the country. And the culprits, well, they are still out there.

Also, it is a dangerous game on and off the field hiding in plain sight. Cheerleaders taking a bad hit for the team when 360 continues.


COOPER: Good evening.

What a camera saw got a cop in trouble. What's on the sound track, now that could land him in prison.


ANNOUNCER: An Air Force veteran shot by California police after a high-speed chase. Today, the sheriff's deputy was in court, but the question remains, what did he say? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not once did anybody say, don't get up. We all heard, "Get up."

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, 360 investigates.

State-of-the-art crime detection equipment. Their experts are used by Secret Service and the FBI. What's surprising? It's the last place you would expect, and chances are you've already been caught on their cameras.

And a college cheerleader plummets 15 feet on to her head, fracturing her spine. What's scarier? Would you believe cheerleading is more dangerous than football?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everything's going black. And you think, is this it?

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, the hidden dangers of the sport.


ANNOUNCER: From across the U.S. and around the world, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.


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