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St. Louis Police Officer Discusses Search for 6-year-old

Aired July 26, 2002 - 13:13   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: We want to continue to update you on the missing girl story out of St. Louis, Missouri. We're talking about this young girl, 6-year-old K.C. Williamson -- Cassandra Williamson -- she's known as K.C. She was last seen in Valley Park, a suburb of St. Louis, around 8:00 Eastern. Her father says he had just left the room for a minute, and when he returned, she was gone. Police now are questioning a man identified as Jimmy Johnson, a homeless man, we are told, 25 years old. Police are talking to him now.

Rick Eckhardt from the St. Louis Police Department is on the phone with us right now.

Sir, thank you for being with us.

Hi, how are you doing?

Why don't you first tell us about this Jimmy Johnson. Is he in custody? Are you questioning him...

RICK ECKHARDT, ST. LOUIS POLICE: Unfortunately, this is like the fifth interview I've done so far where they are using this individual and his name. We do not have anyone in custody, nor have we charged anyone at this time. So I'm not at liberty to give out any names.

We are talking to all adults that were in the house at the time, that we believe were the last ones to see this child. And we have not called anyone a suspected, nor have we eliminated anyone. But I can't confirm or deny any specific individual at this time.

PHILLIPS: Can you say you're questioning someone described as a homeless man that was living in the area?

ECKHARDT: This individual they're calling homeless is an individual that they invited in to spend the evening. I don't really know his condition as to whether or not he's always homeless or not. But we do have a situation where we are questioning him as well as the parents as well as other adults that are in the neighborhood.

PHILLIPS: Did they know this man?

ECKHARDT: Apparently so. At least an acquaintance, as far as I know. But I haven't seen him directly, nor I have I talked to him, but the detectives have. I think people are just too readily calling him a suspect and indicating that he's the individual at this time. And like I said before, we have not called him a suspect, we have not eliminated him as a suspect -- nor the other individuals that were in the home.

PHILLIPS: OK, we will definitely make that point, sir, that he's not a suspect.

ECKHARDT: Our concern right now is that we're going into the fifth hour that this child has not been seen. She was supposed to just be crossing the street.

PHILLIPS: Let's talk why those hours are so critical. Those first couple of hours, why are they so critical?

ECKHARDT: Whenever we have a call of a missing child, especially one that's only six years old, we have a commander that responds to the scene immediately. We call something that we call the Sarah Plan (ph) here in St. Louis County, where if we think someone has been confirmed abducted or kidnapped, we have an abduction alert through the media. This is first time we've used this in the 1 1/2 years that we've had it in place. We're very concerned. Anyone will tell you that as hours go on, this child is going to be more and more in danger.

Obviously, we're still optimistic, especially for the parents. Our prayers were with them that we're going to find this girl. But the reality is, as we talk to people, it's less likely that she just walked away. She's never done this before, and no one has seen her in five hours.

PHILLIPS: Now, we had been reporting that her father said she had just left the room for a minute. When he returned, she was gone. Is that the story? Are those the facts that you have?

ECKHARDT: Those are the facts and the circumstances presented to us over five hours ago. This girl was very much done never done anything like this before. She was very familiar with the house across the street where she sometimes stayed. They initially assumed that she just went across the street, but she never made it.

PHILLIPS: All right, Rick Eckhardt, St. Louis Police, sir, we appreciate your time.

ECKHARDT: Thank you.

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