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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Missing Wisconsin Student Found

Aired March 31, 2004 - 16:32   ET

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


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, another story that we are following for you, a story that continues to develop, it was a breaking news story we started bringing to you, oh, close to almost two hours ago.
And that is the missing college student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 20-year-old -- 20-year-old Audrey Seiler, who vanished from her apartment in Madison just four days ago, she has been found alive. She's been found alive in a marshy area about two miles east of the university, and right now police, emergency response teams with the K-9s are searching this specific area not far from that marsh in Madison, looking for an armed suspect that they believe is hiding out in this area.

Also we are told from law enforcement officials, they have launched a helicopter with police officers on board, using the FLIR, the infrared system that they have, to try and pick up hot spots of where the suspect could be hiding out.

Mike Brooks, our law enforcement analyst, side by side with me through this story as it continues to break and develop.

What more do we know, Mike, as you've been able to talk with your sources and sort of work this story on where this stands?

MIKE BROOKS, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, right now, Kyra, we did have -- we were getting live pictures from one of our affiliates from a helicopter. It went down to refuel.

And there's a possibility that they might not let that helicopter back up in that area. They may put up a temporary restricted airspace like they have done over many crime scenes, so the police helicopter can come in and do the work with that infrared-looking device. Now again that infrared device is a great tool of law enforcement. It will pick up any heat signatures, any source of heat. And, in this particular circumstance, they are looking in an area right along an area of a marsh where Audrey Seiler was found.

If there's anyone hiding in those bushes, in that kind of dense area there, where they had sent a dog in earlier, hopefully, they'll be able to find someone and hopefully, they do believe right now that they have this person in this particular area. We saw law enforcement officers earlier from our affiliate WITI with weapons drawn. We saw a K-9 officer that had been in that area, sent the dog out on a seek. The dog had been running around. We didn't see the dog engage with anyone in that area. So now it looks as if they're going to send two officers up in a helicopter with an infrared device in hopes of finding the person who is responsible for either kidnapping, or we know now apparently taken against her will, Audrey Seiler, the missing University of Wisconsin student.

PHILLIPS: Mike, meanwhile, a number of affiliates have been working interviews. Our affiliate KMSP out of Minnesota caught up with Audrey's roommate -- actually the mother of Audrey's roommate and she had this to say right after they got word that Audrey Seiler was found alive today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JANE THUE, MOTHER OF AUDREY'S ROOMMATE: They came in and said they found her first, and then they said she's alive, and everyone's cheering and jumping up and down, and everybody rushed outside to see. And evidently they found her just outside here like a couple blocks away.

QUESTION: Was she hurt? Was she OK?

THUE: She's OK. They've taken her to the hospital, the immediate family, and they took Heather (ph) with them. And they're checking her out. There's...

QUESTION: Was she walking? Was she unconscious?

THUE: We have no clue her condition or anything. But they said she was OK. And that's...

QUESTION: What did she say?

THUE: It's a miracle. I don't think -- no one knows. They haven't told us anything like that.

QUESTION: What's still going on out here? Is there a suspect?

THUE: There's suspects out there. They have a lot of police that were at the retirement party downtown at the downtown office for the chief of police or whatever, and they all came rushing to the scene, and I guess there's tons of people out there.

QUESTION: You were saying, tell me it's a miracle. Tell me.

THUE: It is a miracle. It's an absolute miracle. But we never gave up faith, and everyone has been absolutely wonderful. Everyone has pulled together. The police are wonderful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Friends and family relieved and quite emotional after they got the word today that 20-year-old missing college student Audrey Seiler is alive.

Right now, police searching for her suspect. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PHILLIPS: Well, the good news is, 20-year-old Audrey Seiler has been found alive. She's the missing college student from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She's been missing since Saturday.

And right now, police searching for a man they believe is armed and dangerous and is holed up in an area just a couple miles outside of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, close to a marsh, a marsh area where Audrey was found. She's now at St. Mary's with her parents, quoted to be in good condition. And right now, as you can see here, these are members of the emergency response team with the K-9s, searching the area. Also a helicopter is airborne with special -- the special FLIR device, the infrared device, looking for hot spots where they believe suspect could be hiding out.

Now, moments ago, Nick Bohr with our affiliate WISN out of Milwaukee via WKOW's truck, filed this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK BOHR, WISN REPORTER: I just wanted to give you a look here because I was talking about it earlier. Now I can show you the SWAT officers here who are at this point still standing by waiting further orders. They haven't gone into the woods yet.

And as we talked about earlier, that helicopter that was here has left at least for the time being. So they still seem to be standing by. As we pan over to the left, there's another group of SWAT officers there as well, again, still just in sort of a standby mode here, standing around and waiting for some orders as to, you know, when they should go in, if at all.

Now, I wanted to show you where kind of a little perspective we are here. This is the command post, like I showed you. If we look over here, this is the Sheraton Hotel that we can see. You might be able to see a squad car right in the frame there. That's one corner of this search area. That hotel is a Sheraton you see there. And next door to that is the Holiday Inn. It's kind of hidden behind that berm and behind the trees. And that seems to be another area of interest for the officers. As you said earlier, there was a woman inside that you were speaking to on the air by phone who confirmed that there were some tactical officers going through there, through the hallways trying to clear that facility and clear that hotel and see if anybody was in there of danger.

But, again, they haven't told us of any arrests at this point. They're just kind of on standby mode it would seem at this point, just trying to see if, in fact, as we said, that there is a suspect, and if so, whether he is still in there.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: Nick Bohr with our affiliate WISN using the WKOW signal there reporting from the scene in Madison, Wisconsin.

If you're just tuning in again, once again, Audrey Seiler, the 20-year-old missing college student from the University of Wisconsin- Madison found alive. Police right now still searching for the suspect they believe in this area where she was found in Madison just a couple miles away from the university, believed to be armed and dangerous. 9 Mike Brooks with us, a former law enforcement agent.

Quite a turn of events from yesterday, wouldn't you say?

BROOKS: Unbelievable.

Yesterday, talking to my sources in Madison, they were close to the investigation, saying that they were looking at all different facts of the case. They were trying to run down leads. They were trying to develop leads, and that they really didn't have much to go on as of yesterday. And then all of a sudden, we have this person who saw, recognized Audrey Seiler with the man, called police. We heard from the roommate's mother that there was a retirement party, apparently, a police retirement party.

All the police rushed down there. And it's where we are right now in the search for someone who was most likely was the perpetrator for why she went missing.

PHILLIPS: Let's talk about possibly knowing the perpetrator vs. not knowing the perpetrator and look at just recent cases. Elizabeth Smart, she knew the perpetrator, a handyman that worked on her house. She came home alive. You've got Dru Sjodin, the missing college student. The situation with that abductor, what happened? What's the difference between those two cases?

BROOKS: Well, in the Dru Sjodin case, a lot of people were drawing parallels early on in this particular case because she was a University of North Dakota student who had been missing who was apparently kidnapped from a mall parking lot in Grand Forks, North Dakota, not that far away from here.

People were drawing parallels because of the same kind of thing. But now it looks as if Dru Sjodin did not know her attacker. Now, we know that there is someone in jail right now locked up for her disappearance. They still have not found of body of Dru Sjodin. Her friends and family have been searching the area around the university for quite some time during the whole winter. Hopefully, after thaw and after the winter is over in that party of the country, they'll be able to find more evidence.

But, you know, we don't know what the relationship was between Dru Sjodin and the person they have arrested. In this particular one, we don't know. But the perpetrator apparently was armed with a knife and a gun. Why he did not harm her, many, many times, it's because if someone does know her, they don't want to harm them. Was it someone who was obsessed with Audrey? We don't know at this point.

And hopefully law enforcement may be able to shed some more light on this when they hold their news conference that we've been awaiting for quite some time now.

PHILLIPS: Also police trying to determine whether Seiler's disappearance had anything to do with someone who attacked her near her apartment back in February, knocked her unconscious. What kind of -- let's say this is the same individual. This could have been someone that was stalking her.

BROOKS: It could very well be. And I'll be very surprised if the two are not linked. Talking to law enforcement sources there, I asked yesterday whether or not they had any indications, any indicators, any evidence at all to say that these two events had been linked.

At the time, they did not. But I'm sure now that Audrey Seiler is talking to police, finding out more information to see whether or not these two are linked. But, right now, they're not saying much, but we are happy. And so are the people of Rockford, Minnesota, very, very happy that she has been found alive.

(CROSSTALK)

PHILLIPS: Mike, I'm being told right now we're going to go live, fire department spokesperson speaking to a reporter.

CARL SAXE, MADISON FIRE DEPARTMENT: ... seen the helicopter take off a couple of times. And at this point, I haven't heard any report that they've found anything.

They've also loaded up an armored vehicle that's come in from Columbia County to assist them. That's Madison Police Department SWAT members are getting on board. Our ambulance is in the process of giving them liquids to take with them since there's a very real possibility they could be here throughout the night.

PHILLIPS: OK, so he's saying that they're bringing in other SWAT teams, possibly could be here throughout the night. We also -- we've got the interview back. Let's take it again.

SAXE: The police department is trying to use them to find a warm body out in the cold marshy grasslands out here. The particular thermal imaging device or TIC that they use is a long-range law enforcement thermal imaging device. Again, I haven't had a chance to speak with the officers since they landed the helicopter. So I don't know what they saw out there or what they might have found.

QUESTION: Have you had a chance to talk to family members at all and how they're feeling or get at what they're feeling right now?

SAXE: I've been here at the Alliance Center since 1:00. I have not been able to get to the hospital. And my understanding, it was the town of Madison who actually conveyed Audrey to the hospital. So we have nothing in the Madison Fire Department to share with you regarding her condition.

QUESTION: OK, and the town of Madison police obviously found her. Do we know how she was found, where she was found?

SAXE: again, at 1:00, I was with Larry Kamholz at Police Chief Williams' retirement party when he got the call. I've been here since then. And I'm getting a lot of my information from you folks on the network TVs and the local TVs.

QUESTION: OK, Assistant Chief Carl Saxe, thanks so much.

PHILLIPS: All right, that was a live interview there via one of our affiliates, WKOW, out of Madison, one of the fire department captains talking -- or chief, actually -- Carl Saxe.

Offered a little bit six information, Mike, a number of other armored vehicles coming in, meaning other SWAT teams coming in from other areas, that possibly this search might be taking place throughout the night. We saw some of the other emergency response team members in the fatigues, kind of camp gear ready to go. Is it possible that you look at that area -- it's a couple miles. Is it possible that this suspect might have committed suicide, and so they're searching for a body? Or he might be taking off deeper into this marshy area, so they're on a trail? Or...

BROOKS: There's a lot of possibilities. He said that they were bringing in an armored personnel carrier, an APC, from Columbia County. Maybe Madison does not have one. They share resources, bringing them in.

We've seen the officers there at the staging area in their cammy fatigues and with their assault gear. They might have been waiting for that APC. We don't know the results of that helicopter going up using the infrared device to see if there was any heat signature in that particular area. And if there was, then they could use that armored personnel carrier with the officers to go in there, officers inside, to go and find out to see if in fact there is someone there.

There -- right now we don't know. There's a lot of possibilities that could be unfolding there. Right now, it's about 10 minutes until 4:00. You know, we're -- it's going to be getting dark there in a few hours, and you know, they're probably planning for those contingencies right now. That's what these emergency response teams and SWAT teams would be doing right now, is planning if, in fact that person was not there, trying to figure out exactly what area they're going to search next and coming up with some kind of plan.

PHILLIPS: Twenty-year-old Audrey Seiler found alive. She was a missing college student, about four days ago, when she had disappeared from the University of Wisconsin Madison. She is alive. She's at St. Mary's Hospital. I'm being told about 5:30 Eastern time, the hospital will be holding a news conference on her condition.

She's with her parents. Meanwhile, right now, a number of various SWAT teams coming in, as Mike was saying, with special equipment, special vehicles. Possibly they will be working throughout the night looking for this suspect they believe is armed and dangerous, on the loose somewhere in this area. Live pictures now via our affiliate WKOW. A number of affiliates on the scene.

We're following the story more after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PHILLIPS: Twenty-year-old college student from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Audrey Seiler, found alive, the best news for her parents, as you can imagine right now, as hundreds of volunteers have been out looking through this area near the university close to her apartment when she disappeared just four days ago Saturday, when this news made national headlines.

Right now, these pictures via our affiliate WISN, police detectives and also sheriff's deputies, Madison Police Department in the area right now securing the area. They believe that the man that abducted her, she says, at gunpoint, also with a knife, against her will, could be holed up in this area somewhere in the marshy area close to where she was found, armed and dangerous, they believe. A number of SWAT teams come nothing the area to help this full-out effort to track this man down. Police officers out there with the K- 9s trying to look for any type of evidence that will lead them to the suspect.

Live pictures now via our affiliate WKOW out of Madison. A number of helicopters as you can imagine airborne. Not only following this story from news channels, but also a police helicopter airborne, we are told, with a couple officers utilizing the FLIR device, the infrared device, looking for hot spots in the area, hoping that will help them track down the suspect if, indeed, he is hiding in this area.

Jonathan Freed from our Chicago bureau keeping us up to date on what Audrey has been telling police since she was found alive, also, other additional details to this story as it continues to unfold -- Jonathan?

JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, I think the one thing to note, Carl Saxe, the assistant fire chief for Madison, who we just had on a few moments ago, he used the phrase cold, marshy ground.

And I think that, from what I know, from what we've been discussing about how the thermal imaging technology works, that's probably the best kind of conditions you could hope for, because you get a contrast of course between the ground and any heat source. If you're dealing with the desert, for example, especially in broad daylight, where that kind of ground can really be hot itself, it might help to obscure the actual target that you're looking for.

But if, indeed, as Carl Saxe said, that it's cold and marshy out there, it probably didn't hurt their efforts in trying to find the suspect. Now, we do know that Audrey Seiler, according to WTMJ, which is our affiliate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, they were reporting that Audrey has told police that she was held against her will by an armed man who was armed with a gun and with a knife. That is all that we know at this point. The AP has picked up on that as well, the source of that WTMJ in Milwaukee, that this is apparently what Audrey Seiler has told police.

We're still, of course, standing by as we watch these pictures both on tape and live of the ongoing search for the suspect in Madison, Wisconsin. We are standing by and have been for the better part of two hours now waiting for a news conference with authorities to bring us up to speed. The last time that they spoke to the media was yesterday afternoon, approximately this time yesterday afternoon.

And as of then, Kyra, they were still classifying this as a missing persons case. At that time, they had made no connection between her attack back in February, when she was struck from behind and woke up about a block away from where she was, but she hadn't been robbed and she hadn't been otherwise hurt. Police basically said that they were puzzled by that attack. They have been trying over the last four days to try to connect the dots and draw a line between that and her disappearance.

So we're waiting to see at the news conference today if they've been able to do that -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Jonathan Freed from our Chicago bureau, thanks so much.

Once again, 20-year-old Audrey Seiler found alive, since she has been missing just four days ago.

We continue to follow the story. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Once again, if you're just tuning in to CNN, 20-year- old Audrey Seiler, the missing college student from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has been found alive.

Right now, police are searching the area where she was found, a marsh area just about two miles east of the University of Wisconsin- Madison after a passerby found her. She's been taken out of the area via ambulance. She's at St. Mary's hospital. We are expecting a news conference about 5:30 Eastern time from the hospital on her condition. She is with her parents. We are told her condition is good.

Meanwhile, the search for a man that police believe is armed and dangerous and could still be within this area, a number of police sheriff's deputies, police officers, and SWAT teams coming in from other areas around Madison to help in this effort to find this suspect now on the loose. We don't know exactly what this passerby saw. We don't know if this passerby actually saw a suspect. But police are securing the area and listening to Audrey Seiler's story that she was held against her will by a gun and a knife.

We'll continue to following this story throughout the next hour.

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" is up next.

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