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Profilers Believe Runnion Killer Could Strike Again within Days

Aired July 17, 2002 - 13:52   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: If you have been watching CNN for the past hour, very bold and direct words coming from the sheriff of Orange County, California, announcing that he believes a serial rapist and killer is on the loose in his area, and will strike again. This comes after finding the body of 5-year-old Samantha Runnion.

You may remember this little girl was kidnapped in front of her grandmother's apartment complex two days ago. Police did find a body on the side of the road yesterday. After working all night, they did identify, indeed, that this little girl is 5-year-old Samantha Runnion. She was found sexually assaulted, no obvious cause of death right now, on the side of the road.

Police right now are working on significant forensic evidence from the scene and the body. Meanwhile, the little girl's body is going under -- or is -- an autopsy is taking place right now. Her body was found about 75 miles from her home.

Now, our Charles Feldman in Los Angeles has been working more information, working his sources on this suspect, the suspect that we have talked about, we have given a description of, even a picture of -- Charles, what can you tell us about this man?

CHARLES FELDMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, I'm told by a key law enforcement source that the key, if you will, to this investigation is the way the body of the young girl was found. And by that, I mean that apparently the body was not just dumped by the wayside or by the road, but was carefully positioned, and that says a lot to the profilers who are trying to determine something about who this person might be, and what is the driving force behind this awful crime.

I'm also told that although the sheriff, and we had that sound bite on our air, and we had it live a little bit earlier, said that he had reason to believe that this person may strike again within 24 hours, I think is what he said. I'm told that in fact, profilers say that it is more likely that he may strike again within several days, that the 24 hour thing may have been a bit of hyperbole, but they do feel, as confident as profilers can be I'm told, that this is a person who is likely to strike again within several hours.

Why? Because, as I said, the body was positioned in a very careful and very specific way that apparently gives very significant clues to investigators. It was, in effect, a calling card I'm told, sort of, I'm here, you have to deal with me, and I may be back.

But I'm told that it is unlikely, at least this is what the profilers believe, that he would strike again in the same community, that it is more likely, they believe, that this individual would move on and perhaps strike again somewhere else in Southern California, which is one of the reasons why they have been careful, in that press conference that we heard before, to, in effect, warn everybody with children that this is a person who is clearly dangerous, somebody who reached a threshold and beyond, and somebody that is a very difficult kind of person to deal with, and that is the reason why they believe that this is a serial killer.

He may or may not have killed before. It is more likely, I'm told, that this is probably a first time, and if so, that also is very dangerous because it means that once he has now crossed that line, there is really no going back -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: And also, the police were talking about -- well, they were telling people within the area to pay such close attention to everyone around them, behavioral changes in people with whom they work or live.

Let's talk a little bit about that, Charles, just how the public needs to be sensitive to characteristics, and paying attention to people around them. For example, sudden changes in an individual they may work with, maybe changing their appearance, their work habits, or their sleep habits, the car they drive. What can -- let's talk a little bit more about that.

FELDMAN: Well, sure. I mean, you know, the one thing, of course, I was listening to that when they were describing all those potential characteristics, and of course, that could apply to literally tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people across the country, but what I think they are really getting at is that in cases such as this, often the break, the big break, comes through accident, through the careful observance of an individual about, maybe, a friend or a family member. They notice that somebody was behaving strangely.

That somebody, as I think the sheriff mentioned in Riverside -- in Orange County, that somebody, maybe, left work a little bit early, maybe somebody was having a drinking problem. Those are the kinds of things that they like people to be on the look out for because -- in most cases, of course, it doesn't lead to a serial killer, but it could be a very important clue that there is something amiss, some behavior pattern that has changed, and that's one of the reasons why they are hoping the public will play a very important role.

And in an investigation like this, Kyra, the public is almost as important in solving the crime as the police and detective work. Because without that input from the public, sometimes it is impossible to find somebody like this.

So, that's the reason they give all of these characteristics and they say to the public, be on the look out for that, and if you think that somebody's behavior is really off key, somebody has really changed the way they are, they seem kind of strange, you have noticed somebody maybe in the neighborhood that wasn't there before, somebody that looked suspicious, they want you to contact the FBI, to contact the police, because that could be, could be the person that they are looking for. But of course, as I said, it could also apply to thousands of other people. So you have to be kind of careful and use good judgment -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Charles Feldman, Los Angeles. Thank you so much.

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