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Two Illinois Children Murdered; Precious Doe Remembered

Aired May 9, 2005 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everyone. I'm Paula Zahn. Thanks so much for being with us.
More chilling news today about missing children. It happens thousands of times a day across America, police getting calls that kids have disappeared. And all too often, it turns into tragedy.


ZAHN (voice-over): They could have been the kids next door, near Chicago, two more missing children, two more bodies found.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do have two murdered children. And we don't have anybody in custody.

ZAHN: And, in Oklahoma, a murder is solved. But a question remains: How could this child fall through the cracks?

TREYLINDA COPE, NEIGHBOR: She always would just be pregnant, but I never seen no kids.

MIKE SANDERS, JACKSON COUNTY PROSECUTOR: Absolutely incomprehensible to us, what allegedly occurred. It just is incomprehensible.

ZAHN: The missing child that no one missed.


ZAHN: It is the kind of tragedy that always hits us very hard. This time, the terrible news comes from Illinois, just north of Chicago in the small town of Zion. Earlier this morning, the bodies of two young girls were found in a nature preserve just hours after police received a report that they were missing.

The very latest on this developing story from Jonathan Freed.


JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The bodies of two young girls were found around 6:00 this morning by someone police say was passing through a wooded park area in this small community. The county coroner says 8-year-old Laura Hobbs and 9-year-old Krystal Tobias were both stabbed to death at the park, not far from where they lived.

RICHARD KELLER, LAKE COUNTY CORONER: I know one of the questions that was out there was about sexual assault. We have found no evidence of sexual assault.

FREED: The two were reported missing yesterday evening, last seen riding their bikes around the neighborhood during the afternoon. Today, one of the girls' friends carried a picture of Krystal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They were really nice. They, like, never fought.

FREED: The friend's mother, Dora Florek, says neighbors saw Krystal and Laura playing on the hammock in front of her house, probably hoping her daughter would come out to play. But the family wasn't home.

DORA FLOREK, MOTHER: We can't imagine who would want to do this to these two little girls, innocent little girls.

FREED: Details are few right now. And it is frustrating for investigators.

DOUG MALCOLM, ZION POLICE DEPARTMENT: We do have two murdered children and we don't have anybody in custody. I'll say that.

FREED: Authorities describe the girls as close friends who played together often and who will be missed at school.

CONSTANCE COLLINS, SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT: They were children who were very much appreciated and enjoyed by their classmates, as well as their classroom teacher and the community of Beulah Park.

FREED: Today, parents were not taking any chances. The majority of them picked up their children after class at the school Laura Hobbs and Krystal Tobias used to attend.


ZAHN: And that was Jonathan Freed reporting for us tonight.

In Kansas City, Missouri, Erica Green's parents are expected to appear in court as early as this week to face charges in one of the most horrifying murders that city has ever seen. Michelle and Harrell Johnson have waived extradition from Oklahoma, where they're now being held. While they don't have an attorney yet, police say details from a confession are helping them piece together what happened to little Erica, the victim who had been known only as Precious Doe until last week.

Drew Griffin visited the neighborhood where she lived most of her very short life to try to understand how a little girl could just disappear without anyone noticing.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The crime was horrible, the body of a 3-year-old girl found with no head in these woods, days later, the head found in a trash bag not far away. For four years, Kansas City knew nothing else, no name, no age, no family coming forward to claim her.

The girl murdered and abandoned became known as Precious Doe. This past week, Kansas City learned her name, Erica Green, and the gruesome nature of Erica's final days in their town.

SANDERS: Absolutely incomprehensible to us, what allegedly occurred. It just is incomprehensible.

GRIFFIN: For prosecutor Mike Sanders, it is the most disturbing case he has ever seen. He has filed murder charges against Erica's mother, Michelle Johnson, and the man she was living with, Harrell Johnson. Both police say have confessed.

And, according to those confessions, this is what police say happened in this house in Kansas City. As far as investigators can tell, the three had only lived there for a few weeks. Three-year-old Erica didn't want to go to bed one evening in April of 2001. Harrell Johnson threw her to the ground and kicked her repeatedly in the head. She lay motionless for 10 hours, died and then Harrell and Michelle Johnson dragged her body to the woods just a block from the house.

Harrell chopped off her head with a hedge clipper, then tossed her body in two different spots. Police say the pair silently went on with their lives, telling no one for the past four years what had happened.

How could that happen? How could a little girl simply vanish and no one notice she's gone? It may be hard to understand in the Kansas City community that would not let her die anonymously. But come to the rough side of Muskogee, Oklahoma, where Erica lived most of her short life. Here, it is a little more clear how a girl could simply get lost by a mother who neighbors say cared more about her next high than her next child.

Police say she had eight children, but they don't know much more than that.

COPE: I seen Michelle a lot. She always would just be pregnant, but I never seen no kids. She was pregnant all the time. She had...

GRIFFIN (on camera): But you never saw the kids?

COPE: I ain't never seen none of the kids.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Treylinda Cope grew up with the man now accused of cutting off Erica's head. Harrell Johnson is known in this neighborhood as Pete. He lived here with Michelle. And drug problems were no secret.

COPE: Him and her, both of them. Him, Pete, Harrell, whatever, Johnson, and Michelle, they both was crack heads.

GRIFFIN: Cheo Davidson is the only person we found who had ever laid eyes on Erica. He was Harrell Johnson's friend. One day, four years ago, he came to this porch and found a smart little girl that he had never seen before. CHEO DAVIDSON, FRIEND: Well, I was amazed by how she knew her ABCs, not all of the alphabet, but she knew a little ABCs, knew how to count and stuff like that.

GRIFFIN: That was the first and last time he saw her or any child at this house.

(on camera): You didn't know how many kids they had?

DAVIDSON: No. I just...

GRIFFIN: You didn't know whose kids were whose?

DAVIDSON: I did know they were herself, but I never knew about the other children that she had.

GRIFFIN: The fact is, even though Michelle Johnson had eight children, the house she lived in was more known for its noisy dogs than its kids. Officially, police tell us they don't know where the other seven children are. Some, they believe, are in the Chicago area with relatives. Others may be in foster care. They don't think any of them were harmed. But, officially, they're still checking.

(voice-over): Meanwhile, the attention is being drawn to a neighborhood that never noticed Erica was missing. That may be hard to understand in the neighborhood you live in, but not in this one. People in this section of Muskogee, Oklahoma, are scared. It is a rough place. You don't talk to your neighbors for a reason.

BOBARE LEE, NEIGHBOR: I'm a workaholic. I work and I stay at home.

GRIFFIN (on camera): And you don't mind nobody else's business.

LEE: It is best you don't, because they have plans for you.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): On South 21st Street, where Erica lived, every third house is abandoned. Junked cars litter lawns. Neighbors say piles of trash in this empty home are all that is left of a drug house.

Ed Jones lives next door. His back porch looks out on the yard where Erica Green used to play.

(on camera): You know these people at all?


GRIFFIN: You know how long they been living there?

JONES: Very, very little.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Jones calls his neighborhood drug- infested. Inside his home, he told us he's been robbed three times. At night, he says, drug dealer own the streets. He knew little about the people that shared his back fence. He didn't want to. JONES: He minds his business. I mind mine.

GRIFFIN (on camera): So, even though you live 30 feet from each other, the wave is all you get.

JONES: He recognizes me.


GRIFFIN: Do you know his name?

JONES: It won't come to me right now.

GRIFFIN: But, today, everybody knows their names because of what they are accused of doing to the little girl whose name we just learned. Erica Green lived here in Muskogee for most of her life. She died here in Kansas City. Both communities have now learned who she was. But they are struggling to understand why she died.

COPE: Three years old, no matter if she was crying or whatever, I mean, that's part of having kids. You have to deal with it. And to do something like that, I don't understand why.


ZAHN: That was Drew Griffin reporting.

In Kansas City yesterday, about 300 people turned out for a memorial service for Erica. As one clergyman put it, the crime has brought Kansas City face to face with evil.

Coming up, the incredible story of an undercover agent tracking drugs and murder, deep inside one of the most notorious gangs in the country.

Plus, startling new details about the strange and twisted secret life of Adolf Hitler.


ZAHN: And still ahead tonight, an undercover agent infiltrates a biker's gang world of drugs, violence and murder.

Plus, the Paris who may be almost as famous as the city of lights.

First, though, at just about a quarter past the hour, time to update the top stories with Christi Paul at Headline News.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After last week's bloody attacks in Iraq, a new week has begun with another suicide car bombing south of Baghdad.

This blast at a police checkpoint sprayed the area with chunks of metal that killed at least four. Meanwhile, the U.S. military is cracking down on insurgents along the Syrian border. A Marine was killed today during that offensive called Operation Matador. That death pushed the numbers of U.S. forces killed in Iraq to 1,604.

A new report suggests the Pentagon may be moving too fast to reduce the number of troops stationed abroad. The Overseas Basing Commission's report to Congress warns that the military risks placing even more stress on the armed forces while trying to fight a war in Iraq.

For the first time in more than a month, the average price of gasoline is under $2.20, a far cry from just a few weeks ago, as you know. Some oil watchers think prices may have peaked for the summer. The Energy Department says you're paying about 25 cents more per gallon for gasoline than you did a year ago.

The L.A. County Sheriff's Department is defending the shooting of this unarmed driver in Compton, California, early this morning. At least 40 shots were fired. The sheriff says the man refused to stop when police were called to investigate gang activity. The driver, who is said to have a history of assault and drug arrests, is recovering from his wounds.

And this is bound to raise a McFuss. You know it. The mayor of Detroit is proposing an extra 2 percent tax on fast food on top of the usual 6 percent restaurant tax. The mayor seemed to indicate the idea has more to do with a city hungry to fill a budget deficit, rather than getting people to eat healthier.

And those are the headlines -- Paula, back to you.

ZAHN: Christi, thanks so much. We'll check back in with you in about a half-hour from now.

Time to vote for the person of the day. Your choices, Paula Abdul for poking fun at herself on "Saturday Night Live," instead of hiding in the face of scandal, the Reverend Thomas Reese, editor of the weekly Catholic magazine "America," for speaking his mind and apparently losing his job in the process, or jockey Mike Smith for winning the Kentucky Derby riding the 50-1 shot Giacomo, after losing 11 years ago aboard the same horse's father.

Vote at I'll let you know who wins a little bit later on in the hour.

Coming up next, though, the undercover cop who went so deep inside a biker gang, he sometimes had trouble knowing right from wrong.


BILLY QUEEN, AUTHOR, "UNDER AND ALONE": I sat there for a little bit thinking to myself, I wonder if I do know what I'm getting into here?


ZAHN: Coming up next, the mole and the infamous Mongols.


ZAHN: The Mongols are one of America's most lawless and most feared motorcycle gangs, 350 strong, more violent than even the Hells Angels. They deal in illegal drugs and in just about any criminal activity you can imagine, including murder.

We know all this because of an undercover agent's incredible, almost foolhardy courage. He joined the gang, won their trust and came very close to losing his own life.


QUEEN: I was out there by myself. If the crap went bad, I would have been in serious trouble.

ZAHN: Forget the way he looks. This man was a top undercover agent who, for two years, was assigned to penetrate one of the country's most brutal outlaw gangs, the Mongols.

QUEEN: Certainly not as big as the Hells angels, but although not as big, probably the most feared outlaw motorcycle gang out there.

ZAHN: Billy Queen worked for ATF, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. And he discovered that, while the Mongols use ruthless violence to enforce their criminal rule, they also enjoy the violence for its own sake.

QUEEN: The guy with all of the tattoos on him is Rick Slayton (ph). He's a Mongol. This guy in the hat right here is the guy that threw stuff.

What's happening is, they're surrounding him now. He's got no place to go. They're going beat the crap out of him and they're going to beat the crap out of all of his buddies. The knives are going to come out. People are going to be stabbed. And over here, they're stabbing a guy. After the Mongols get through doing that they're doing, the guy with the hat, he is still hanging on to his hat, hitting him with the chair. Now it is over and now what happens is, the Mongols just disappear.

ZAHN: When the night was over, five people were hospitalized and none arrested. This is the violent gang world that Billy Queen infiltrated. Starting out as a prospect...

QUEEN: When you first come in the club.

ZAHN: Like a fraternity pledge, Billy progressed through the ranks of the gang, earning special patches or rockers along the way.

QUEEN: After a certain period of time, a month, maybe two months, they'll vote on whether you should go to the next step and they will give you your center rocker.

ZAHN: After more than a year with the Mongols, Billy was actually voted treasurer of California's San Fernando Valley chapter.

QUEEN: This patch here is an officer patch.

ZAHN: But unknown to the president and other Mongol officers, Billy Queen and his ATF colleagues were secretly recording the illegal drug deals, thefts, gunfights, stabbings and murders. And, along the way, he often had to prove his loyalty to this vicious brotherhood.

QUEEN: Rocky (ph) pulls out his knife, slits that plastic bag and he lined out two lines of meth out on the table. He turned around at me and he put the knife at my face and he said, is that line too much for you? I looked down at it and said no, Rock. That's fine with me. I'll get my dollar bill and we'll take care of business. And I'm thinking to myself, gee, what are you going do? What are you going do?

My face was getting red. My ears were getting ready. And I step between Rocky and the dope and I bent over with it like I was snorting it and went and wiped it off in my hand. And I reached up and Rocky looked around and he saw the dope gone. And he looked at me, yes, he did it. Cops don't do dope.

ZAHN: But he was a cop. And he was touched by the chilling advice Rocky later gave him.

QUEEN: And he said, this is not a club. We're outlaws. And you need to know that. You need to know what you're getting into.

I sat there for a little bit thinking to myself, I wonder if I do know what I'm getting into here.

ZAHN: Some gang members remained suspicious of the new Mongol they knew as Billy St. John and Billy Queen learned to live with fear.

When fear becomes a part of you, you start feeling it, then you slow down. Fear is a good thing in a situation like that. Where you use it for survival.

ZAHN: And one of the most fearsome Mongols was a prison-hardened leader known as Red Dog.

QUEEN: He suspected me practically the entire time that I was in. But they took me out in the middle of nowhere in an abandoned orange grove. And when I got out there, there's six or eight of these guys standing around. They all got guns.

So, Red looks at me, says, so, if I put a bullet in the back of your head, nobody is going to know where to start looking for you. I said, that's right, Red. And then he looked at me and said, turn around and go out there in the field and set some targets up.

ZAHN: Billy Queen faces a life-and-death moment of truth, far from any police backup, when we return.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ZAHN: Federal agent Billy Queen knows he's lucky to be alive. He's infiltrated and actually become a member of a vicious outlaw motorcycle gang, the Mongols. And that's when his worst fears come true. The gang's leader, Red Dog, accuses him of being a cop. Billy Queen still shakes when he remembers that day.


QUEEN: Red Dog looks at me and starts saying, how long was your academy, Billy? And he get kept getting louder, kept getting louder, got closer to my face and putting in his finger in my face and, how long was your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) academy, police academy?

And I am trying to shake him off, shake him off. And he says, who did you tell you were coming up here? Who knows you are with the Mongols today? Who knows that you're up here? Nobody, Red. Nobody. So, if I put a bullet in your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) head, nobody is going to know where to start looking for you. Is that right, Billy? And I said, that's right, Red Dog. And he said, turn around and go set up the targets out there.

And I turned around and started walking out in the field. And I thought, if they've made me, this is it. They're going to all shoot me in the back right here. There was nothing I could do. I didn't have a gun. I had bluffed them as far as I could bluff them.

ZAHN: But it turned out it was Red Dog who was bluffing.

QUEEN: You know, I turned around and looked while I was setting the cans up and they're all joking with each other and stuff like that. And so I get my heart going again. And I pull myself back together, so I can play the game for the rest of the night.

ZAHN: For most federal agents, the line between enforcing the law and breaking it is clear. But for undercover agents in as deep as Billy Queen, that line sometimes disappears. It happened when the Mongols accidentally ran into a rival gang in a bar. It didn't take long for the fight to start. And a brother Mongol, the chapter president, was in the middle of it.

QUEEN: Right when we went in, there was a guy that was leaning up against an ice machine. He had a beer in one hand. And, finally, the president looked at him and said, what the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) are you looking at? And this guy looked back at the president and said, you. And when he did, the president just decked him, just bam. Beer went up in the air. He took one swipe and hit me in the side of the head.

I hung on to him and I swung back. And when I did, he reached in behind him and he came out with this knife. And I let go of him, obviously. And he swiped the knife across my jacket, slit the front of my jacket. I'm afraid he's going to kill me. I'm righteously afraid this guy is going to kill me. So, I hollered for Rocky, the chapter sergeant at arms, to shoot him.

And I'm hollering, shoot him, Rocky. Shoot him. I'm going around in a circumstance with this guy. As far as I was concerned, the case was over with at that time.

So, is it always clear? No, it is not clear. When a fight breaks out in a bar, and the clubs come out and the knives come out, stuff like that, and you're slugging it out in the bar, you hit somebody, that's an assault, or is it an assault? Are you protecting yourself? What are you doing?

ZAHN: That question first began for Billy Queen when his mother died suddenly during the investigation.

QUEEN: I didn't ask anybody anything. I told the Mongols, hey, look, my mom died. And I told the ATF. And I'm taking a break. I got to go home. My mom died.

ZAHN: When he got back to his undercover life as outlaw biker, to the people who knew him as Billy St. John, he began to see things in a new light.

QUEEN: And I rode over to Evil's (ph) house. And when I walked up to the door, Evil and I put my hand out for that handshake, and he grabbed me around the neck and said, Billy, I'm sorry about your mom, buddy. I love you, brother. And I almost -- I almost cried. I almost dropped to my knees and cried.

ATF hadn't said a word to me, not when I left, not when I went and came back, not the case agent, not anybody in the office. Nobody said, sorry about your mom. But that first Mongol that I saw grabbed me around the neck and said he loved me and he was sorry about my mom. And the next one that I saw did the same thing. And the next one did the same thing. And I told myself, this is where I belong. I wanted to be a Mongol at that time. I didn't want to be Billy Queen.

I wanted to be Billy St. John. And I wanted to get on that bike and ride off with them.

ZAHN: In the end, after two long years riding with the gang, Billy finally did leave.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His undercover activities, which were at great personal risk and sacrifice from the agent...

ZAHN: As a direct result of his undercover work, 54 Mongols were arrested. And 53 went to jail for crimes that included murder, illegal drug dealing, and weapons violations.

QUEEN: It was hard for me to sit there on the witness stand and look those guys in the face, them looking at me. They had called me brother and told me that they loved me. They did love me. They loved Billy St. John. And it was hard.

ZAHN: He knows the Mongols will never forget that. And he's haunted by a deadly threat that one day the Mongols will take revenge.

QUEEN: I know that I'm always going to be looking over my shoulder. I would be foolish not to. I don't go anywhere today without a gun. And when I go to bed at nighttime, I sleep with a double-barreled shotgun right by my bed.


ZAHN: Billy Queen has since retired from the ATF. But he's written a book about his adventures with the Mongols. It's called "Under and Alone." Mel Gibson is going to be turning it into a movie in which he'll play Billy Queen.

Still ahead, before it played a big role in defeating him, Adolf Hitler thought American industry was overrated. That's from newly discovered firsthand accounts of the Fuhrer's personality and his most intimate moments.


ZAHN: An impressive show of military might today in Moscow, all to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the defeat of the Nazis. President Bush joined Russian President Vladimir Putin in Red Square, along with the leaders of the former World War II allies. Twenty- seven million Soviets died in the four-year fight against Adolf Hitler.

And now 60 years after his suicide, a very revealing portrait of Hitler has surfaced. "Das Hitler Buch," or "The Hitler Book," was written by the Russians just after the war, and until now, only a few people have seen it.

Much more than just a biography, it is a chilling look inside the mind of a dictator.


ZAHN (voice-over): After a fierce defense, Berlin falls to the Red Army. Seventy-two hours later, the Soviets capture two of Hitler's closest household aides, Heinz Linge and Otto Guensche. And then something unexpected, according to two German historians. The two prisoners are whisked away to Moscow and interrogated for nearly four years. The result is the most personal portrait of Hitler ever written -- an intimate biography of history's most brutal dictator, written for an audience of one, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, a man obsessed with knowing everything he could about Hitler.

It's a rare glimpse of Hitler's personality, including his opinions of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: U.S. cars never win international races, he pointed out. And American planes may look classy, but their motors aren't worth anything. America's vaunted industry was actually vastly overestimated. It had never produced anything special, just mediocre stuff and a lot of advertising.

ZAHN: According to his aides, Hitler also seemed unequipped to form emotional relationships with just about anyone, including with his longtime mistress Eva Braun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hitler's relationship with Eva Braun was clearly abnormal. When at the Berghoff, she often had tear-swollen eyes and a painful expression on her face. Whenever Hitler was not around, she would come alive, behaving in a care-free, happy way and even dancing. The word in Hitler's inner circle was that Eva Braun was in a golden cage, condemned as Hitler bed-mate to a life of self- denial.

ZAHN: As the end neared, Hitler felt helpless against Stalin and the approaching Soviet army.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hitler sat apathetically at his table, staring at a map of the front. Taking a blue pen, he would draw arrows on the map, penetrating deep into the flanks of the oncoming Russian forces. Then suddenly, he would look around wildly, leap out of his armchair, hurl the pen on the table and shout "treason, betrayal!"

ZAHN: His aides were with him and Braun April 30th, 1945, the morning of Hitler's death. The Red Army was closing in on his bunker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hitler had neither the strength nor the courage to die the soldier's death, to which right up until the end he had condemned German soldiers and officers, even women and children.

ZAHN: Hitler called in his top aides and household staff to give his final order.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The words came almost silently from his mouth, "I have ordered that my body be burned after my death. Make sure that you carry out the order exactly. I do not wish my corpse to be taken to Moscow and put on display like a waxwork."

ZAHN: Hitler and Eva Braun committed suicide together. Their bodies, burned by Hitler's aides, were consumed by the flames.

And in the end, these firsthand accounts of Hitler's personality and intimate moments were published as a very limited edition -- one copy, the one that reached Stalin's desk, the Soviet leader's attempt to understand his German rival.


ZAHN: The English language edition of "The Hitler Book" will be published this November.

Coming up next, a woman with no secrets. It seems like just about everything she does is done right in front of a camera. And we mean everything.


ZAHN: In just a minute, why everyone is wild about Paris. Plus, President Bush goes to the Republic of Georgia and really loosens up.

First, though, just about a quarter until the hour, time again to check the top stories with Christi Paul of HEADLINE NEWS. CHRISTI PAUL, CNN HEADLINE NEWS: Paula, the Pentagon says another U.S. Marine died in Operation Matador today. It is the latest offensive against Iraqi insurgents and foreign fighters along the Syrian border.

Two other Marines died this weekend in Iraq, and two others were reported killed in Afghanistan. Today, the Marine Corps also said it is recalling a type of body armor given to thousands of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan because of doubts about its effectiveness.

In Beirut, hundreds of demonstrators called for support for Palestinians, against what they call threats by Jewish extremists. Meanwhile, Israel delayed the evacuation of 21 Jewish settlements on land claimed by Palestinians until mid-August.

On the CNN Security Watch, all that high-tech airport scanning equipment may already be outdated. The Department of Homeland Security says it may spend millions and possibly even billions to update technology at airports installed after September 11.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating why a school bus swerved into two cars and tumbled down a slope. This in Liberty, Missouri, this morning. The drivers of both cars died; 23 elementary school students were hurt. The driver of the bus is said to have an impeccable driving record.

Finally, Paula, the tale of a hero, literally. This stray dog in Kenya may look like a mutt, but she's credited with saving the life of an abandoned newborn. The dog may have carried the baby to her litter of pups where that infant girl was found. Doctors say the baby, named Angel, is doing fine. The dog's name -- well, we're not sure yet. And those are the headlines.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Christi.

In just a minute, Jeanne Moos watches as a U.S. president dances in a former Soviet republic. And, please don't forget to vote for our "Person of the Day." Will it be Paula Abdul for joking about her troubles on "Saturday Night Live," outspoken Catholic editor Thomas Reese, whose candor seems to have cost him his job, or winning Kentucky Derby jockey Mike Smith. You can vote online at


ZAHN: President Bush's five-day trip to Europe is serious business, mostly. You could see part of the trip that was a little less serious today when he stopped in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Our Jeanne Moos explains.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Elvis, he's not, but President Bush was bobbing, and clapping, and, yes, even swiveling his hips. It was a performance by traditional Georgian dancers in Tbilisi that inspired the president, including a 6-year-old dancer. Who wouldn't bop to that? The boy got to meet the president, who was grooving and moving all the way to his limo.

All this shaking going on got us thinking about the president's moves. Usually he doesn't like to dance all night. After all, this is the guy who twirled his daughter and almost provoked a wardrobe malfunction. Anyone who ever had a to dance with all eyes upon him or her can sympathize. We have seen President Bush do the inaugural shuffle while watching the parade. We have seen Ricky Martin drag him on stage. We have seen him get down to country music.

But you can check out some of the president's very best moves at Dancing Bush gets a suggestive as, well, as a Texas cheerleader, and if, occasionally, the president isn't clapping quite in sync, hey, at least he's a lot more presidential than Boris Yeltsin who danced like rocky jazz. Is this supposed to be the twist or the hokey pokey?


ZAHN: That was our Jeanne Moos reporting.

Coming up, a rising star gets burned by a former boyfriend with a camera.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think everyone thought this was going to kill her career.


ZAHN: In a few minutes, why nothing seems to stop Paris Hilton.

But first, it's time to reveal the "Person of the Day." Your choices were Paula Abdul, who joked about her troubles on "Saturday Night Live," outspoken Catholic editor Thomas Reese, whose candid analysis of church affairs seems to have cost him his job, and jockey Mike Smith, who won the Kentucky Derby. And it was no horse race: Mike Smith won by a mile.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they're off!

ZAHN: To appreciate the way Mike Smith feels, you have to go back 11 years to the 1994 Kentucky Derby. Back then, he broke from the gate riding the odds-on favorite, a horse named Holy Bull.

But a poor start meant that Holy Bull would finish 12th. That year's winner was Go for Gin, trained by a man named Nick Zito.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you, America!

ZAHN: Fast-forward to Saturday's run for the roses. Mike Smith is riding Holy Bull's son, Giacomo. But this time his horse isn't the favorite, he's a 50-1 long shot. Rounding the final turn, Giacomo is in 11th place, watch. You're about to see one of the biggest upsets in derby history. Riding Giacomo, Mike Smith wins his very first Kentucky Derby, but it gets even sweeter than that. Five of the horses he beat this year were trained by Nick Zito, the trainer of the horse that beat Smith and Holy Bull in 1994. A $2 bet paid off $102.60.

MIKE SMITH, JOCKEY: It's amazing how strong I felt. And as soon as I passed it, and I knew I won, my legs just buckled. I was just -- I can't describe the feeling. I just really can't.

ZAHN: You can't beat a story about redemption, revenge and beating the odds. Jockey Mike Smith is the "Person of the Day." We'll be right back.


ZAHN: Time now to talk about Paris Hilton. And as you can imagine, it could get a little racy. So if you're concerned about that, time to maybe get the kids out of the room. Hilton's new movie "House of Wax" opened at number two at the box office over the weekend. Not bad for someone who so far has been the definition of celebutante, rich, outrageous and famous for, well, being famous.

So why is Paris Hilton such a pop culture phenomenon? Well, her story including her reality show is the focus of tonight's "People in the News."


ZAHN (voice-over): Green Acres, two wealthy socialites head out in search of the simple life. Sound familiar?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Darling, I love you, but give me Park Avenue.


ZAHN: Forty years later, Paris Hilton and pal Nicole Richelle are two fish out of water in a reality series takeoff of the famous '60s sitcom. Coincidence, perhaps. But the parallels don't stop there. "Green Acres" star Ava Gabor is the sister of Saturday Zsa Zsa Gabor, the second wife of Conrad Hilton, Paris' great grandfather.

The interesting thing is that Zsa Zsa is really the precursor of Paris and her sister. They were pushing the envelope for their day. So, in a sense, maybe there's some psychic genetic thing that was passed on. Zsa Zsa and Paris, generational twins of a sort. Poor little rich girls, famous, mostly for simply being famous.

LEO BRAUDY, AUTHOR, "THE FRENZY OF RENOWN": I think the whole celebutante phenomenon is just the most recent version of something that's been going on for almost 100 years.

ZAHN: Our fascination with the rich and famous is obviously ingrained in our culture. From the flappers that roared with the abandon in the 1920s, to the party hopping celebutantes of today. But the phenomenon of celebrity is ever evolving, ever shifting. Where we once hailed accomplishment, we now seem more focus on the trials and tribulations of our celebrities.

ANTHONY DORA, AUTHOR, "SPIN TO WIN": I think that there's been a real shift in media now. I take back actually to the O.J. trial. Where O.J. was a celebrity, but then he became really known for the notorious aspect of his life. Then you had people who became known strictly for notoriety. And that's when you had the Heidi Fleiss' and the Monica Lewinsky's and the Bobbit's.

ZAHN: Fame hasn't only become more scandalous, it also has become more salacious.

BRAUDY: If anything has changed in the idea of the poor little rich girl, right now, and if Paris Hilton exemplifies anything, it's really the injection of more sexuality.

HILTON: Eww. No, sicko.

ZAHN: Paris Hilton perhaps forever became linked with sex and scandal when an X-rated video she made with former boyfriend Rick Solomon surfaced on the Internet. Later Solomon released and personally hosted a full DVD of the couple's steamy romp entitled "One night in Paris." The video was certainly revealing, certainly embarrassing, but it was in no way career ending.

JESSICA SHAW, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I actually think she sort of put that behind her and has come out on top. I mean, Rick Solomon is the one that look really sleazy now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Paris, how did I get to be so lucky?

RICHARD JOHNSON, PAGE SIX ED., NEW YORK POST: I really think the sex tape helped her in a way because it made her even more famous.

ZAHN: With the Internet and the explosion of other outlets, with so many avenues to peak into celebrities lives, the media of the 21st century has made nearly all of us voyeurs to some extent.

MAUREEN ORTH, "THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING FAMOUS": With the advent of 24 hour cable TV, and the 24/7 news cycle combined with the wired world of the Internet, it is really speeded things up. And celebrities are increasingly sought after. They a shorter shelf life.

ZAHN: But why are we so willing to forgive our celebrities when they get into trouble?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The public loves its celebrities. They love to build them up. And they love to knock them down. And then they love to bring them back up again. Because it's basically like a soap opera being run in real life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We made the ticker.

ZAHN: For her part, Paris seems to have moved on from the scandal surrounding her much viewed sex tape. She's starring in her first major motion picture, "House of Wax."

NICOLE RICHIE: He has big nipples.

ZAHN: And she's gearing up for the fourth season of "The Simple Life," but she's doing so without Nicole Richie. Paris won't say why the former pals are feuding, only that Richie is going to be replaced on the show, and that the two are no longer friends.

HILTON: I don't really want to talk about it. But I just hope that she's happy and healthy. And I've done the past three seasons, it's been great. And for season four, I just want to freshen things up and make it new and it's going to be really exciting.

ZAHN: Television, movies, fashion, for Paris the heiress, the quest for fame is now more than ever a full time job.

HILTON: When I was 16, I moved to New York City and I was invited to all these clubs and openings and parties and, you know, any young girl is going to be like, wow, and go. And I did that years ago. So now I'm over it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Paris has accomplished that goal to be famous at age 21. Let's see where Paris is when she's 31.


ZAHN: Paris says she hopes that her new co-star in the "Simple Life Will" be her friend and fellow celebutante, Kimberly Stewart, the daughter of singer Rod Stewart. And that wraps it up for all of us here. Thanks so much for being with us tonight. We'll be back same time, same place tomorrow night.

"LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.



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