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Press Conference on Girls Abducted in California

Aired August 1, 2002 - 11:43   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.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: And we go live now to southern California for the latest on the search for the two kidnapped teenage girls.

Let's listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

TOM PIGOTT, L.A. COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: ... an area known as Quarts Hill Mountain. The suspect approached two carloads of young people, two couples in those cars, armed with a dark semiautomatic handgun, tied up the young men, and took the young women at gunpoint with him.

The vehicle described at this time is 1980 white Ford Bronco with a gray shell. The license is 1AIZ 962. The victims who were abducted at gunpoint are Jaqueline Marie Marris, female, white, 17. She is described as 5 feet 4 inches, 120 pounds, black hair, brown eyes. She was wearing a black shirt, beige pants, and sandals. The second victim is Tamera Brooks, female, black, 16, with approximately 5 feet, 3 inches, 120 pounds, black hair, brown eyes. She was wearing a red shirt, dark shorts -- possibly blue or black -- and tan sandals.

We do not have a direction at this time on the vehicle. The vehicle left the location. We have received a number of reports from citizens on vehicles similar in description. We are following up those leads. At this time, we have resistance from detective bureau. Our headquarter's detective division has brought in resources.

I have detective personnel -- or, excuse me, station personnel from Lancaster station, Palmdale station, Santa Clarita station, all out actively searching the area for this particular vehicle. We received direct assistance from the California Highway Patrol; that are actively searching their patrol areas and resources. Members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation have also arrived on the scene and are assisting us with our investigative efforts.

One vehicle the suspect did arrive in was a Saturn that was purportedly stolen in a carjacking incident on the Las Vegas area on July 18. Federal Bureau Investigation personnel are talking to victims from that incident in Las Vegas, attempting to get more information on our suspect. He is described as male Hispanic, 30 to 40 years of age. Unfortunately, we have no other information at this time other than that. The description is very sketchy at best. The report we are trying to get out right now, the message we are trying to get out to the public, is if you see this vehicle or you seek to contact these young ladies, if you run into any of these people, do not take any independent action on your own. We are considering this person to be armed and dangerous. We ask that you simply call 911, notify your local law enforcement, and we will respond to that information. If you have just routine follow-up information or you think have you something that might be of assistance to us, we ask that you call the Lancaster Sheriff's Station utilizing the numbers that you see here on the board: 940-3820, that 3821, 3822, and 3823. Those are all area code 661 numbers.

We will be relocating our command center, our operation, to the Lancaster Sheriff's Station shortly, as we have outgrown this facility and we have a need to apply other resources.

So I will be happy to answer any questions that you may have at this time.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

PIGOTT: Excuse me -- over here.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

PIGOTT: I wouldn't want to speculate at this time whether he's from the Antelope Valley or from another area. Yes, the area is somewhat remote. However, there are residences within about a quarter mile radius. But this is a hilltop that is utilized by young people to park at night. It is not one that you would normally just drive across. You would you have to actually go off road to reach it.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

PIGOTT: There were victims in that incident. The FBI is reinterviewing those victims in attempt to gain more information. The only thing that we have at this time was that it was a similar description: male Hispanic.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

PIGOTT: I cannot comment at this time on what physical evidence that the technicians have been able to obtain from the scene on Quartz Hill Mountain. Would not want to speculate on that at all at this time.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) see this man well enough to be able to give you a description that you can make a sketch off of?

PIGOTT: The information that we have at this time from the two young men who were left at the scene was that they were unable to identify him or provide any information for a description.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) ... could see him well enough to make a sketch out of?

PIGOTT: I don't have the information at this time on how well they were able to describe him. FBI is following up that lead right now.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

PIGOTT: I don't have that information on how the vehicles were located or parked on the mountain. They were in general proximity to each other, as you would find with any parking area that would be frequented by young couples.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

PIGOTT: The information that I have at this time is that they were not bound, but that's -- again, we are getting into areas of the investigation that I really don't have definite information on. I would be really reluctant to speculate.

QUESTION: What did the suspect say?

PIGOTT: We're hoping that we will get some type of composite sketch. As soon as we get that, it will certainly be put out to the media.

QUESTION: Is that a Nevada license plate on the hijacking in Nevada?

PIGOTT: I don't have a license plate on the Saturn.

QUESTION: What did the suspect say to the boys?

PIGOTT: I don't have any information on the conversation at all as to what took place at this time. I have not talked personally to the detectives. They are still interviewing the boys. But again, it was -- the abduction was done at gunpoint. And so that was the primary motivation or the reason that the girls were forced to go with him.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was the Saturn doused in gasoline is the question.

PIGOTT: That is information -- we did receive a report that the suspect doused the Saturn with gasoline, possibly in anticipation of setting it afire. However, he did not do that. He simply left the scene.

QUESTION: I see that you have FBI agents helping you out. Have they given you any kind of a profile of this kidnapper?

PIGOTT: Not yet, at this time. The FBI, we will certainly be exploring that avenue. FBI does have resources that they are going to apply with respect to profiling this particular suspect.

QUESTION: What was the last thing the boys saw?

PIGOTT: I have not interviewed the young men. I don't know -- I have not obtained those statements. My detectives interviewed them at length. But they just simply have not given that information to me.

I wouldn't want to speculate as to his level of intoxication. There was some indication that he may have been drinking. But again, we are getting into areas I don't have accurate information on, so I would be reluctant to get into that with any great detail.

I don't know what the fuel level was on the Bronco on this time. The detectives I'm sure probably have that information, but I don't. Has that information developed, and we feel that we can put that out, we certainly will.

As we get that information and we can put it out we certainly will.

QUESTION: Who is calling in? What's happening with that?

PIGOTT: We are getting some calls from the public, with sightings of vehicles, similar vehicles. We are following up each one of those leads, but at this point, we have not located the vehicle, suffice it to say.

I don't believe there were any other vehicles in the area. At some point, information may develop that there were other cars there. I do not have that information at this time.

I don't know at what point during the course of the events on the mountain that the gasoline was poured on the vehicle. I just don't have that information.

The Amber Alert was utilized this morning, and the information has gone out on the Amber Alert. It is certainly a good tool for us. I think that it's going to prove beneficial to law enforcement agencies throughout this state when we have to deal with these types of incidents.

Again, it's a brand new system. So I'm sure as it goes along, we will find ways to improve upon it. But right now, it is being utilized.

The Amber Alert system provides us with the ability to get out immediate information with respect to the kidnapping itself nationwide to the -- on the news media, through the radio stations, to those individuals who would be able to see the vehicle and then report it to law enforcement. It's primarily an early alert system to let the public know that something like this has occurred.

If you have a question specific to the FBI, I would be more than happy it turn it over to agent Aden.

RANDY ADEN, FBI: I'm Randy Aden, supervisory special agent with the FBI in Los Angeles, and I supervise our crimes against children task force. The FBI, as in more recent kidnappings, has committed both technical and human resources to this investigation.

Our offices in Phoenix, San Diego, the border, Fresno, Bakersfield, have all been notified. Agents are work the case in Las Vegas. And as soon as we get more information as to the carjacking there, and if we have a composite, we will certainly make it available to the public. Similarly, anything that the media or the public can do to assist us, either here in Southern California or nationally, we will make available and hopefully we will resolve this quickly and positively.

They are very important. The window of opportunity is very significant, very short from our perspective, but I've also had the experience more so than not, that because of the cooperation of the media and the public, that somebody out there, somebody on the freeway, somebody, you know, a trucker, or a car, somebody will see that vehicle, or somebody at a gas station or motel, and they are going to give us a call.

Well, I think the children probably are in very good stead that they are together. Obviously, it is our hope that this individual primary focus is on the vehicle that he took, and that he is concerned about his escape, and that he will release those children unharmed and at some point where we can, they can reach out to us or their families and we can recover them. Hopefully that's his intent.

It is unique from the standpoint that we have two girls taken at the same time. That's certainly unusual. But we are certainly going to help as best we can with as many resources and whatever it takes here, as well as around the Southwest.

That's very significant, yes.

Well, we are going to contact our behavioral science people, but from my estimation, my experience, if past behavior is any indication of future behavior, we have a dangerous and armed individual out there. So if the public does come across the vehicle, we hope that they will notify law enforcement by 911, and allow us to interdict him.

The Antelope Valley, the greater southwest parts of the United States can certainly help. He has been mobile for several hours. We don't want it concentrate on just this valley. We will throw a net over the whole southwest.

Thank you.

CPT. BRIAN SMITH: I'll tell that you immediately as soon as we were notified, we sent officers to our outlying areas first, the mountain passes. We have our airships up, helicopter, airplane. We notified the message boards statewide rather than just this area. So all your testimony message boards were activated with a description, we have outlying areas, CHP areas, throughout the state, Barstill (ph) all the way to Vegas, that are on alert. We called in our units in every possible unit out there. We have units from other Los Angeles areas coming up to saturate these areas and the canyon roads as well.

No, the only thing we know a is that some calls are coming in, and every single lead will be looked into.

No, but once information like this goes out, we will probably be getting a lot of different calls from all over the area. What we want to make sure that we let you know is that we'll look into all of them. So with the sheriff's department, FBI, with the joint effort here, no lead will not be looked into and exhausted to the end.

QUESTION: Your name, sir?

SMITH: Captain Brian Smith.

PIGOTT: Let me recap just briefly here, just reiterate that what we are really looking for here is the help of the public in attempting to locate this vehicle and these young ladies. Again, we asked that no one take any independent action, overt action, to try and apprehend this individual. He do believe he is armed and dangerous.

We are in extending and expanding our air search. The Los Angeles City Emergency Preparedness Department is putting some both fixed wing and helicopters in the Air Force, so that will provide with us expanded air search capabilities, in addition to what we already have up with highway patrol and with the sheriff's department. So we're optimistic at some point in time that we're going to locate this vehicle. But the sooner, the better, as far as we are concerned.

I will take one more question.

Well, when you say all of the family, the immediate family has been notified. The extended family, I cannot comment on that. Yes, there is turnout here of family and friends. Both of these young ladies are popular girls here in school. They are active in their schools, and so there is a great concern in the community for their safe return.

No, I can't do that for you at this time. I'm sorry. We will be relocating to the Lancaster sheriff's station, which will help us to coordinate our efforts in this operation. And, again, we hope to have another press conference probably within a couple of hours, if we have any major breaking news, we will certainly get that to you at the earliest opportunity.

Thank you.

KAGAN: You've been getting an update there. That's the first news conference that we've hears on this incredible search going on across the state of California and across the Southwest for these two missing teenage girls. The search goes on, not a lot of news and information coming out of that news conference, but we will recap so that we can ask for your help as the sheriff department and the FBI asking as they continue the search for the two girls.

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