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New Orleans Nursing Home Owners Under Investigation; FEMA Director Resigns
Aired September 12, 2005 - 20:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NANCY GRACE, HOST: Tonight, breaking news. Homicide charges could be handed down against the owners of a New Orleans nursing home who left wheelchair and bed-bound seniors to slowly drown to death.
And the head of FEMA gets the boot. That`s right, Michael Brown got what was coming, a pink slip. The Southland is crippled but is determined to recover -- down, not out. Flood waters slowly receding, and families torn apart by Katrina slowly reunite. Tonight, law and order tries to make its own comeback as a bus station turns into a jailhouse. The goal, for criminal offenders to be one less concern for American hurricane victims.
Good evening, everybody. I`m Nancy Grace. I want to thank you for being with us tonight.
Tonight, FEMA`s director is officially packing up and leaving town. And a makeshift jail resembling cages springs up to house criminals in New Orleans. They may need a few more cops tonight. Possible criminal charges after more than 30 seniors found dead in their beds and in their wheelchairs at New Orleans`s St. Rita`s nursing home. Contemptuous! Lady Justice brings down the hammer!
Tonight let`s go straight out to Susan Candiotti, CNN correspondent. Susan, you first told me about St. Rita`s. Who is considering charges tonight?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the state of Louisiana is, for one thing, and it`s possible that federal authorities might also launch a criminal investigation. At this point, the Louisiana state attorney general has launched an investigation looking into possible criminal charges against the owners of this nursing home. Naturally, he wants to find out whether the home had the required plan to evacuate its residents as any storm would approach, and if they, did why they didn`t implement that plan.
GRACE: You know, it`s interesting, Susan. I was reading an AP wire, and it talked about two fishermen. They were making a trip to rescue some of their brothers. They lived off the Gulf of Mexico. They go by St. Rita`s. Susan, they see the oldsters on mattresses, floating up near the ceiling inside the nursing home. So they go back to try to rescue people.
Was that the evacuation plan St. Rita`s had in mind, that maybe a fisherman from the Gulf of Mexico might row by and save the oldsters?
CANDIOTTI: Well, one would certainly hope that wasn`t the case, isn`t it, Nancy. I -- you know, you -- that`s why the authorities need to get to the bottom of this, to find out precisely -- and you see that picture of these two gentlemen right now that you`re showing? These are two people that night that we spoke last week. There is an organization, a government agency that is hired to go in and retrieve bodies. These people were brought in as part of that company. Now, the question is whether they have experience in doing this or whether they were hired at the last minute.
But Nancy, when our people saw them arrive on site, they didn`t have wader boots. They didn`t have a boat to get out there. And when one of these two men came out, one -- these are big, strapping men, you see this gentleman here in the foreground, on the right -- actually became violently ill from what he had seen inside, had to be taken away in an ambulance. So again...
GRACE: You know, Susan, I`m trying...
CANDIOTTI: ... when we spoke last week, and then it took until the end of the week, last weekend, over the weekend, when they finally retrieved 13 more bodies, for a total of 32 bodies that were recovered. I don`t know what was happening in between, but it took them a long time to go back with the proper equipment, evidently, and decontamination suits, that kind of thing, in order to remove these poor victims.
GRACE: You know, Susan, I was telling you last week about my grandmother, who worked in a nursing home, and she was up in her 70s, Susan, all right? And I`m imagining her up in her 70s at the time she was still working, trying to float on top of a mattress as it`s getting higher and higher to the ceiling. And people are going by and looking in and seeing these seniors. Susan, can you tell me, did they have an evacuation plan that we know of? And where are the owners tonight, Susan?
CANDIOTTI: Well, we`re trying to find out whether they had an evacuation plan. If they did, they certainly didn`t appear to implement it or waited too long to attempt to implement it. CNN correspondent Drew Griffin is on the tail of the nursing home owners. We received some information, and we are currently trying to track them down in Mississippi.
While there, our correspondent, Drew, did talk with someone who saw them in this particular city, shopping, and actually exchanged brief conversation -- had a brief conversation with them. He knew and recognized them because one of his own relatives used to be in the nursing home. And the owners asked how he was doing, and he told them, Well, I`m doing OK, better than some of the residents of your nursing home. That`s what he told us.
GRACE: Susan Candiotti is joining us, bringing us the latest on St. Rita`s nursing home, one of the absolute worst tragedies coming out of Katrina. And now I`m hearing that these two owners, that made money off all of these elderly nursing home citizens, were out shopping -- shopping! -- after all of these elderlies died. Some of them had managed to wheel their wheelchairs up to a window to try to get out -- floating on mattresses.
Susan, don`t go. I`ve got Susan Candiotti with me, but I`m hearing in my ear I`ve suddenly gotten a connection to Anderson Cooper. We don`t know when his satellite will go down. Let`s go straight out to Anderson Cooper. He`s joining us from Algiers, Louisiana. Hello, friend. What can you tell me tonight?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You know, Nancy, I`m just listening to what Susan Candiotti is saying, and it is sickening. I mean, no adjective can describe the horror of that scene. And that`s just one of those things you hear. And you know, if we had heard this a month ago, we wouldn`t have believed it. You know, two weeks into this thing, it`s entirely within the realm of possibility, you know, given all we have heard and all we have seen over these last two weeks.
I mean, you think about it, at the convention center -- even if they had an evacuation plan, the city was sending people, seniors, people who were in adult diapers -- sending them to the convention center and dumping them there, leaving them there for days and days and days, and no medical attention, one doctor with a stethoscope trying to go around, no medicine, trying to help people.
You know, there are so many questions that need to be answered about what happened here, what was the planning, and who is responsible. And you know, two weeks into this thing, a lot of politicians are still saying, Look, this is not the time to be asking questions, this is not the time to be pointing blame. You know, my question is, When is that time? Because, you know, I think we all want to be there when that time comes.
GRACE: Anderson, I can`t help it. As a trial lawyer, as a prosecutor, I try to figure out who did what when. And I know you`ve been trying to figure out the same thing. Before I get back to Susan Candiotti -- I don`t want to lose Anderson. Anderson, what can you tell me, what you have pieced together about the timeline? I`ve been blaming the whole thing on the federal government. Then I started thinking about it this weekend. Now I`m taking a hard look at the city government and the state government.
COOPER: ... look at them all because, you know, state, local, federal, I think there`s plenty of blame to go around, and I think there are a lot of questions that need to be asked of each of those people. And we`ve been doing that, you know, for the last two weeks. You have, as well, Nancy. We`re going to continue doing it.
But look, I mean, at the local level, you know, the mayor knew 100,000 people in the city didn`t have cars, didn`t declare a mandatory evacuation until about 20 hours before the storm hit, even though the state was under federal, you know, emergency orders. So you know, where were the buses? They say, Well, look, we just couldn`t find bus drivers.
But in the state`s own plan, in the local government`s own plan for evacuation -- and they actually did have one, it`s on line, you can look at it -- really, none of that seemed to have been paid attention to very much because they say for senior citizens, for people in nursing homes, you know, it`s the local government`s responsibility to get them to safety. And that certainly did not happen.
GRACE: So Anderson, they had the plan in place, but then when Katrina hit, all the government officials went, Whoa, I`m out of here! Is that what happened? And they left all the others behind?
COOPER: Well, I mean, they were here. They were in, you know, emergency centers. And you know, these New Orleans police officers were working. I mean, their equipment was under water. Their ammo was under water. Their radios didn`t work. And you kind of want to ask...
GRACE: I`m not blaming them, Anderson. I`m not blaming the men and women on the front line. I`m blaming the people that knew ahead of time -- we all knew it was coming on Sunday, Anderson. We all knew!
COOPER: Even something basic like ammo, maybe get the ammo to higher ground, maybe get the radios to higher ground, you know? There didn`t need to be -- you know, there were failures at every level of this, Nancy, and that is becoming abundantly clear. We knew it two weeks ago. We know it even more now.
And you kind of want politicians at all levels to just stand up -- I mean, there are a lot of people around here who would say to you, you know, they would like politicians at all levels to just stand up and say, You know what? I made a mistake. Here`s my mistake. Other people made mistakes. I`m going to take responsibility for my mistake. It would save all of us, reporters, the community, Congress, whoever`s going to look into this...
GRACE: Time and money.
COOPER: ... you know, a lot of time and effort.
GRACE: And also for all the victims, a lot of heartache. Hey, Anderson, I want to talk one quick moment, before you have to go, about the governor. I mean, everybody knew Katrina was coming. We knew up here in New York City that Katrina was coming. And I`m just wondering how long it took her to agree to let the feds come in because once the feds come in, the governor does not have as much control.
COOPER: That is correct. And it was -- there was a lot of negotiation, from what I understand, going on, from all published reports. And we`re not talking about Monday and Tuesday. We`re talking, you know, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday...
GRACE: Negotiation? Maybe I`m going crazy! Maybe I`m deaf in both ears instead of just one, Anderson. But you said negotiation? They were trying to negotiate who was going to run the show while Katrina was bearing down? Is that what you said?
COOPER: Yes, that`s what I said. I mean, the governor was given a plan by Washington about the organizational flow chart, basically, and she`s quoted -- she was on "AMERICAN MORNING" saying, You know what? It was a complicated chart, and I needed time to read it. I needed, you know, 24 hours to study it.
GRACE: To study it. OK. Anderson, you know what? You and I can talk until we`re blue in the face, and we`ll never figure out politicians. Tell me what you see there in Algiers.
COOPER: You know, we actually came to Algiers because -- I don`t know if you can see it, the bridge behind me. This is another one of those stories that you hear and you kind of want to get to the bottom to, and we`ve been trying to. There were people, hundreds and hundreds of people, most of them poor, most of them African-American, walking out of New Orleans. The police in New Orleans told them, You know what? You can`t go to the Superdome anymore. You can`t go to the convention center. Walk across that bridge. There`s going to be safety on the other side. There`s going to be buses on the other side. They`re going to take care of you on the other side. You`ll be evacuated out of here.
They did it. They followed what the police said. They walked across that bridge. There were police cruisers on this side from the local sheriff over on this side in Gretna. And according to the people on the bridge, they fired shots over their heads. They said, You can`t come in here. You know, Our people have evacuated. No one told us you were coming. There are no buses for you. There`s nothing.
And they forced them to go back into New Orleans, go back -- and even when they were camping out on the bridge, according to people who were on the bridge, they claim some sheriffs came and took their food and took their water and said, Get off this bridge.
GRACE: You know, Anderson, if I weren`t hearing this from you right here, I wouldn`t believe it.
COOPER: Well, you know, I didn`t believe it. And we came here, we talked to the sheriff. He says, Look, that happened. He says he hasn`t heard -- he doesn`t know if shots were fired because he hasn`t talked to his officers yet, even though it`s been about two weeks. He says, you know, they were protecting their small town, and they didn`t want all these people, you know, coming across. And you know, in the words of the sheriff, you know -- people on the bridge said the sheriff had told him they didn`t want another Superdome problem here in their small town.
And I said to him, you know, Couldn`t you have just let them across and just, you know, kind of kept an eye on them and maybe just give them some sort of shelter? And you know, he said he doesn`t regret the choice he made.
GRACE: Anderson, I hate to let you go, but I know we`re losing your satellite. Thank you for being with us tonight.
COOPER: Thank you, Nancy.
GRACE: You know, every night, we hear one story after the next from Anderson. It`s just unbelievable that this is happening in our beloved country.
Believe it or not, there is other news going on in the country. It`s hard to imagine. Confirmation hearings for John Roberts, President Bush`s nominee for Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, kicked off today with statements from the 18 members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Roberts himself broke down and spoke.
Democrats on the committee say they`ll grill him on his record on Civil Rights and abortion. Republicans openly advise Roberts to say as little as possible. OK. Judiciary chairman Arlen Specter hopes to finish the hearings this week, so the senate can vote on Roberts before the Supreme Court`s fall session kicks off.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As old as I get, the emotions become stronger when you see what you see.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the motherland. You know, this is home. These are our people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next threat is, you know, when this water level gets down, you know, to, you know, almost nothing, what will we find there, you know? How many people (INAUDIBLE) tried to get out and didn`t make it out?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Welcome back. I`m Nancy Grace. Thank you for being with us. You know, a lot of people chose not to evacuate. A lot of people ended up going on top of their homes to save their own necks and sitting on their roofs for days on end. But these poor people at St. Rita`s nursing home had no choice but to die in their own beds!
I was speaking to Susan Candiotti, CNN correspondent, to try to find out if there had been an evacuation plan. And Susan, did I hear you say the owners of St. Rita`s were spotted shopping after this horrific event?
CANDIOTTI: According to our correspondent, Drew Griffin, interviewed a man who recognized these people and saw them in Mississippi, neighboring state. Now, Nancy, he said that he recognized them because his relative used to be in the home. Now, even the Louisiana state attorney general says he can`t find these people. He`s still trying to locate the owners so that he, too, can get to the bottom of what`s happening. He`s put a shout- out to them to please make contact with the attorney general`s office so that he can speak with them.
GRACE: Joining me tonight, another special guest, Sedonia Augustus. Sedonia was a nurse`s aide at St. Rita`s nursing home. Welcome, Miss Augustus. Thank you for being with us.
SEDONIA AUGUSTUS, NURSING ASST. AT ST. RITA`S: You`re welcome.
GRACE: What happened at St. Rita`s?
AUGUSTUS: Well, when the storm was coming, everything was fine. We thought we had weathered it. And all of a sudden, they made an announcement for me to come to the 3400 (ph) side. And I went to go see what was wrong, and it was -- they told us the water was coming and we had five minutes to act. We got the patients out of the wheelchairs. We put them into their beds. And before you know it, the water had came up to the waist, and the mattresses with the patients started floating up to the top.
And none of us knew how to swim. So we held onto the mattress with the patients. And we didn`t know what was going on. It was dark in there. It was scary. And everybody was praying. And maybe 45 minutes later, we heard voices outside. And one of the grandsons (ph) told us get away from the door, and he shot the patio door out. When he shot the patio door out, they came in and they asked us, you know, if we knew how to swim, to float the mattresses toward the door.
But I didn`t know how to swim. So he told me to kick my legs, and I kicked my legs, and I floated on out the door, along with the rest of the CNAs that had patients. And they got some other patients out. And all I remember is being dumped into a boat and pulled on a rooftop, and there we spent three hours waiting to be rescued, along with the patients. From there...
GRACE: Sedonia, where were the owners?
AUGUSTUS: They was in the boats. When I made it outside, they were in two boats.
GRACE: Scenes we`ll never forget, scenes of the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. And now the Southland tries to put together a justice system and take a cold, hard look at what went wrong, from who declared the disaster too late, to where were the owners of St. Rita`s nursing home. They managed to get away in a boat while the other seniors drowned in their beds and wheelchairs.
Also tonight, a jail has sprung up. Guess where? In the Greyhound bus station. Let`s go straight to Ed Lavandera, standing by in New Orleans. Ed, tell me about the new jail.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It`s kind of an amazing story. In the midst of all of the chaos and everything going wrong in New Orleans, the city jail flooded, there were some 6,000 inmates in there that needed to be moved out of that and moved on to other prisons around the state of Louisiana -- but with so many people in need of being arrested, quite honestly, in those days after the hurricane struck, there were a couple of officials that were brought in here to New Orleans to try to figure out where to put a new jail.
They went to various sites. When they came across the Greyhound bus station and Amtrak train station, they walked in, and it was being looted at the time, but even despite that, they said this would make a great place to do this. What they did was, the 16 spots where the buses actually park at the train station there, they threw up chainlink fence and razor wire, roped it all in, and made that the holding cells -- they`ve got 16 different holding cells there -- and then turned the bus terminal into kind of a -- I`m calling it a primitive justice system.
You`ve got a booking station, a mug shot station, a place for fingerprints. The DA`s office is set up in the gift shop of the train station there.
LAVANDERA: It`s absolutely amazing. But the warden of this jail was brought in. He`s the warden at Angola State Prison, which he says is the largest prison and the toughest prison in the U.S., and I think he`s pretty fond of what they`ve done there at the station.
GRACE: So we`ve got the district attorney set up in the gift shop. We`ve got the mug shots going down at the ticket counter. How many people are being held there?
LAVANDERA: They`ve got -- what happens is they bring -- if they`re arrested, they try to only keep them there about 24 to 48 hours because, basically, these inmates are brought in, and they`re sleeping on the cement floor. They`re underneath a little awning, but it`s on the cement floor there. There are no cots, no beds. They`ve got a portable toilet in each one of the cells. And then they try to move them on to other prisons, where they can begin the proceedings for whatever they`re charged with...
GRACE: Are you telling me that these offenders have private bathrooms? Whoa!
LAVANDERA: Well, it`s a port-a-potty with no door on it, so...
GRACE: I know what it is, Ed! It`s a port-a-potty. Hey, Ed, I understand that the first customer was an unfortunate young man who drove up to the bus station in a stolen car. Ruh-ro! (ph)
LAVANDERA: Oh, yes. This one`s getting a lot of giggles at the station right now. First guy walks in, they said, and he thought the station was still open, that he could go up there and buy a bus ticket out of town. But the guards there said that he showed up wearing really nice clothes and an Enterprise rental car, and they thought something just didn`t click. And so they said the further they looked into it, it turned out that the car was stolen. So they said -- they like to say they gave him a ticket, but just not where he thought he was going.
GRACE: I`ve got 15 seconds before we have to go to break. Where are they getting power?
LAVANDERA: The Amtrak -- a big, old Amtrak locomotive is parked out...
LAVANDERA: ... right behind the jail cells, and they`ve been throwing gasoline in there and loading everything up.
GRACE: Bye, buddy.
RENAY SAN MIGUEL, CNN HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: Hi, everybody. I`m Renay San Miguel. Let`s get to your "Headline Prime Newsbreak."
The controversial head of FEMA, Michael Brown, has resigned as director of the agency. The leader of FEMA`s emergency preparedness force, David Paulison, is taking over.
Meanwhile, President Bush is back at the White House after visiting New Orleans today. It was his third trip to the region.
In Los Angeles, the lights are coming back on after a massive power outage hit the city this afternoon. About 700,000 electric customers lost power. And traffic was snarled, as signal lights went out in a large area. Officials say the blackout was accidentally caused by workers.
The man who may be the next chief justice of the United States says he has no agenda and no platform, that from Judge John Roberts, as his Senate confirmation hearing got under way today. The 50-year-old judge is looking to replace the late William Rehnquist and become the 17th chief justice of the United States.
That`s the news for right now. I`m Renay San Miguel. Now back to NANCY GRACE.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These people have lost their homes, lost their possessions, lost their toys, lost -- everything that they know and love has been taken away.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was great. We raised $955.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m praying to God to help them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To help them?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: The Gulf Coast is down, but, by God, they`re not out yet. They are swinging, still swinging, trying to make a comeback, along with law and order.
I`m going to quickly go back to Susan Candiotti, regarding the St. Rita`s nursing home. Susan, if charges do come down, what will they be?
CANDIOTTI: Well, I`m not clear about that. We`ve been trying to learn that from the Louisiana state attorney general`s office. I was thinking, with the news that reportedly the feds might be looking at it, I would think it would be a civil rights violation, as one possibility.
But certainly, it`s possible, Nancy, you as a former prosecutor, possibility of manslaughter.
GRACE: Yes, I`m thinking about...
CANDIOTTI: You would be the expert on that.
GRACE: Yes, Susan, I`m thinking negligent homicide, especially if some jury in a parish down in Louisiana gets wind that these two owners row, row, rowed away, leaving all the elderlies to die in their wheelchair. Oh, yes.
Susan Candiotti has been joining us, CNN correspondent who was there and first told me about St. Rita`s. Susan, thank you, friend.
CANDIOTTI: You`re welcome.
GRACE: I`m going to go straight back out to another guest joining us. His father was in St. Rita`s nursing home, Joe Galladoro.
Sir, thank you for being with us.
JOE GALLADORO, FATHER DIED AT ST. RITA`S NURSING HOME: Thank you for having me on, Nancy.
GRACE: Mr. Galladoro, your father was only slightly paralyzed, but he was a little bedridden. He could eat on his own, talk. He could basically function on his own. He liked St. Rita`s at the time the hurricane hit.
GALLADORO: Well, Nancy, we actually -- my brother and sister went down two days before the storm and checked with the owner. And the owner assured us that he had buses and ambulances, he had an evacuation plan. He assured us that we could leave with our families and that my dad would be taken care of.
My nephew wanted to stay and stay with his grandpa. And the owner said that he couldn`t, that they could only take care of the residents. And they didn`t want to have anyone else to be responsible for. My nephew was a little upset, but, you know, supposedly that was the rules.
So my brother is a firefighter in St. Bernard Parish. So he had to stay for the hurricane. And I took the rest of the family, which was about 15 of us. And we left St. Bernard Parish -- actually, the nursing home, I heard you say New Orleans. The nursing home is actually in St. Bernard Parish.
GRACE: Ah, thank you.
GALLADORO: Outside of -- actually, below New Orleans.
GALLADORO: So we were comfortable in the owner`s reassurances to us that he had an evacuation plan, and, in fact, he told us that...
GRACE: Well, Mr. Galladoro, didn`t the parish, St. Bernard`s Parish, even offer to help St. Rita`s, but the director, the owner refused help?
GALLADORO: That is correct.
GALLADORO: I have official word that the parish of St. Bernard contacted him and wanted to assist him, and he refused the help. And right now, Nancy, I -- you know, only Sal and his wife can answer why they didn`t evacuate after they told us they were...
GRACE: Did you hear Susan Candiotti just say they were spotted shopping?
GALLADORO: The last I heard, they were spotted in Natchez, Mississippi. And then recently today I was in Baton Rouge for a meeting with about 4,000 or 5,000 St. Bernardians. And I was told that, you know, they have got wind that the owners are actually trying to leave the country.
GRACE: Well, you know, while the feds in Washington are trying to figure out what to do, this is one thing they could do: They could find these two. It`s contemptuous.
What are their names, Joe?
GALLADORO: It`s Sal and Mabel Mangano, M-a-n-g-a-n-o.
GRACE: Are you saying "Farrel"?
GRACE: Sal and Mabel...
GRACE: Mangano. Do you think they should face criminal charges?
GALLADORO: Oh, yes, ma`am. In fact, when I`m able to get back to St. Bernard and meet my parish district attorney, who is Jack Rowley, I will -- my family and I will speak to him and, you know, see what type of charges we can have...
GRACE: How old was your father?
GALLADORO: My father was 82.
GRACE: Oh, gosh. I cannot even imagine, even imagine what your father went through in the end, Joe. I can`t even imagine. You know...
GALLADORO: I`ve talked -- I`ve talked to my parish priest. And he`s asked me not to think of those last moments, to think of where he is now.
My father was -- my father was just a great man. And I know he`s in heaven. And I know he`s being taken care of much better than he was taken care of a week ago. And that`s what I try to take solace in.
GRACE: Well, Mr. Galladoro, I know your father had one thing that many people will never have, and that is a son that loved him.
GALLADORO: Well, I would like to say one other thing. Just my sister, Cheryl (ph), my brother, Steve, and my mom, Pearl, just I love you all and, you know, eventually we`ll be all back together again.
GRACE: With us, Joe Galladoro, whose father drowned in St. Rita`s nursing home. The owners, last seen shopping.
Now, I have a lady with me that actually saved some people out of St. Rita`s. Not the owners, not the government, this is a nurse`s aide that worked there that risked her life to save people.
So, Ms. Augustus, tell me, how did you manage to get these people out that you saved?
AUGUSTUS: Well, we helped floated them out on a mattress, where the owners was out there in their boats waiting to get them. And, like I said, we all went up on the rooftop, because there wasn`t enough room in the boats to put everybody.
So we spent three hours on the rooftop. Some spent less time. But I spent three hours, because I was one of the last ones to get from up there with the -- with some of the patients.
GRACE: We are talking with Sedonia Augustus...
GRACE: ... who managed to save many of the St. Rita`s residents.
Well, everybody didn`t get up on the roof. There are at least 30, if not more, elderly patients who died in their beds and their wheelchairs. Why didn`t the owners save them?
AUGUSTUS: I have no answer to that. All I know is, I was on top of the roof. And I assume they were trying to get as many as they could get, but when we all landed at this abandoned courthouse on Bayou Road, we saw how many people managed to get out. And three days later, one other patient was found floating on a piece of furniture.
GRACE: Oh, good lord in heaven.
Everybody, you are looking at Sedonia Augustus, a nurse`s aide at St. Rita`s, who, in my mind, is an American hero. Ms. Augustus, thank you for being with us tonight.
AUGUSTUS: You`re welcome.
GRACE: I want to quickly go to Jennifer Miele, WTAE reporter. She`s been on this story from the get-go.
What can you tell me about these two owners who managed to row their way to safety, leaving the elderly there to drown to death in their beds?
JENNIFER MIELE, WTAE-TV REPORTER: I can tell you, Nancy, that the real heroes in this story are people like the woman you just spoke to, Sedonia Augustus.
I mean, these are ordinary people turned extraordinary. They somehow managed to float these people out on mattresses. They`re on a rooftop for three hours. Then they`re boated to an abandoned courthouse for three days. Three days.
They broke into stores and restaurants to feed these people, to give them medicine. And finally, finally someone comes to take these elderly patients.
These are the workers who were accused in the media of leaving them, of abandoning them. And, clearly, this is not the case, Nancy.
GRACE: To Dr. Robi Ludwig, how do the families deal with this now? Like the man we just spoke with, Mr. Gallodoro, who, for the rest of his life, is going to, I`m sure, regret the whole St. Rita`s decision.
DR. ROBI LUDWIG, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: But they have to know that it is not their fault, that when you place somebody in a nursing home, you are really relying on the owners and the professionals to take appropriate care of the elderly.
And not only that, the families were told that everything was under control. So, perhaps the owners at that point felt that they would weather the storm, but they did not have an emergency plan in place. And what we see is, with these tragedies, it can bring out the best and the worst of human beings.
GRACE: To Lisa Wayne, defense attorney joining us.
Lisa, it`s not going to help the owners one bit that not only did they row away to safety but now they`re out shopping. You know, Lisa, in our country, you don`t have to volunteer to help people. That`s not a crime, not to be a volunteer. But once you take that money for taking care of these people and take on that duty, the law looks at you in a very different way.
LISA WAYNE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I agree with you, Nancy. And the question`s going to be the extent of this duty.
Because, you know, it cuts against our moral fiber when we hear about people who are leaving the elderly or leaving people who just couldn`t help themselves. But the question`s going to be, are they legally responsible?
Well, morally, we say they`re despicable. But are they legally responsible? And that`s going to be a hard question, because a lot...
GRACE: I don`t think it`s going to be that hard of a question, Lisa.
WAYNE: Well, I anticipate they`re going to say there`s no way that this extent of damage, this disaster was foreseeable, that we had reasonable...
GRACE: I`m sorry. We up here in New York heard about it on Sunday. When did you hear about it, Lisa?
WAYNE: No, Nancy, I`m not saying that. I`m just saying that they may be saying they took reasonable steps, but there`s no way they could have anticipated all of it.
GRACE: To save themselves, steps to save themselves.
WAYNE: That may be true. That may be true.
GRACE: We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEROME PITTS, REUNITED WITH PARENTS: I want to let all of them know I love them. I want my mom to know I miss her. I want my brother to know that all of the stuff we went through, I wish we could be together.
J. PITTS: After the show, about five minutes after the show, a lady called my sister`s phone. And she said that she`d been with my mom and them the whole time. They was in Austin, Texas.
And then she called back about five minutes later after that and she gave me the number where my people was at. And I called my mom, and my brother, and my stepdad. And I was real happy to talk to each of them.
It was like the most exciting thing in my life. It`s like God just gave me more energy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: What a story. Joining us in just a moment, Jerome Pitts is here.
Right now, to Kisha Key. Do you remember Kisha? She was looking desperately for her mother on Palmira Street.
KISHA KEY, NATIONAL GUARD FOUND HER MOM: Yes.
KEY: We rescued my mom. Thank you, Nancy. Thank you so much.
GRACE: Don`t thank me. Thank those workers that paddled over to her house.
KEY: Thank you to the National Guard. Thank you. It`s been 14 long days. I love my family. I love my friends.
GRACE: What happened? What happened?
KEY: I love my new friends.
You know, she was trapped. I knew she was in a house. I know my mom. You know, she`s -- I just knew she was in that house. So all I wanted was someone to knock on that door.
And the National Guards knocked on that door and rescued my mom. They broke through her window and rescued my mom and two other people.
GRACE: I tell you what. You know, I remember us holding hands...
GRACE: ... and asking that we find your mother.
GRACE: And it is such a miracle. And I`m just so happy for you.
GRACE: When will you see her?
KEY: I will see her tomorrow. Meegan (ph), a woman that I formed a great relationship with in Florida, Meegan Lang (ph), she donated a ticket for my mom with Delta Airlines. She said, "Forget" -- I mean, you know, of course, you know...
GRACE: Thank goodness.
KEY: Don`t wait on angel flight. Just bring her here immediately, so...
GRACE: Kisha, I want you to come back on with your mom sitting together.
KEY: Yes. Yes.
GRACE: Here in the studio with me, Dr. Robi Ludwig.
You know, we hear stories like that. And it gives hope to so many people that have not been reunited. But what about the other people?
LUDWIG: Yes. And that`s why we have rituals in this country and all over to view people who have died, so that it can help us move on and move forward. For the people that don`t have that opportunity, there`s always the fantasy, "Where is my loved person?" And it`s very hard for people to move on. It just makes the grieving process so much more difficult.
GRACE: When you don`t have a burial, and you don`t have any kind of finality, you spend your whole life wondering.
I`m hearing now that I`m connected up with Anne Bremner, who took it upon herself to go and help people with their problems there at the Astrodome.
Anne, what did you see?
ANNE BREMNER, TRIAL ATTORNEY: Nancy, I saw our nation`s most vulnerable, the elderly, the children, you know, pregnant mothers. But I saw a lot of hope.
And there was a little handwritten sign amongst all the signs where people were looking for loved ones. And it said, "If you`ve lost hope, you`ve lost everything."
Once I went through -- and we had a broadcast Friday night, Nancy, on your show -- with a call to arms to lawyers to go to the ABA web site, www.abanet.org, I had so many e-mails. We`ve got tons of volunteers, thousands now. So thank you to CNN Headline News and you, Nancy.
GRACE: Anne, we`re going to be right back with you. I`ve got somebody I know you`re going to want to hear from, Jerome Pitts, the young man we met the other night.
I believe when I saw you, you had a towel on your head. And there with him, you`ll be happy to know, is his mother, Ruby, his stepfather, and his brother.
Jerome Pitts, tell me what happened.
J. PITTS: After I left the show, about five or 10 minutes later, somebody called me and told me that they`ve been spending my mom every day at the shelter in Lumpkin, Texas (ph). And then she called back like five minutes after that with the number.
GRACE: And to Ms. Ruby Everett. What was the first thing you said to your son when you heard him on the phone?
RUBY EVERETT, SEPARATED FROM HER SON AFTER KATRINA: I said to Jerome, when I heard that that was Jerome, I was jumping, shouting for joy. I was so pleased when I knew that was Jerome, Elizabeth, the lady at the shelter, saw (INAUDIBLE) got in to get me to come to the telephone.
I was so pleased. That kind of eased my mind, when I knew Jerome was all right.
GRACE: And to Jerome, you`re still missing two family members, right?
J. PITTS: Yes, Randy Jackson and Ralph Jackson.
GRACE: Randy Jackson and -- did you say Ralph Jackson?
J. PITTS: Yes, ma`am.
GRACE: Twenty-four and 43.
Jerome, what was the first thing you said to your mother?
J. PITTS: I told her how much I missed her and how much I love her.
GRACE: Now, Jerome...
J. PITTS: And I was happy to know that she was alive.
GRACE: Jerome Pitts, if you give your mother one day problem, I`m going to play back that video of you there. Oh, we`re showing everybody when you first got together. Oh, look. Oh, I`m so happy.
If you give her one day`s problem, I`m going to play back that video of you when you broke down and started crying because you could not find your mother. You made the whole studio cry, man.
I`m just so happy to see you all together.
And before we go to break, Jerome -- oh, there they are. I wish you guys could see what I`m seeing right now. I`m seeing video of you back together again after Katrina tore you apart. Oh, man.
So, Jerome, give me the name of your missing family again. Ralph?
J. PITTS: Randy Jackson and Ralph Jackson.
GRACE: Anyone, any information on Ralph and Randy Jackson -- Elizabeth, can you give me that number one more time, dear? It is 281-802- 7633.
And to Jerome Pitts, Ruby Everett, Ray Everett, Tyrone Pitts, miracles do happen. Congratulations, everybody.
GRACE: We at NANCY GRACE want very much to help Katrina victims. Tonight, take a look at this woman, known only as Jane Doe, found on a New Orleans causeway, rescued by Autumn Leaves Nursing Home in Winfield, Louisiana. Don`t know who she is.
She`s got Alzheimer`s. She can`t tell the nursing home anything about herself. She has a scar on her hip. If you know anything about this beautiful senior, call the Autumn Leaves Nursing Home, 318-628-4152.
I want to quickly go back to my friend and colleague, Anne Bremner. When I was told I couldn`t go to the hurricane scene, she was there. She said, "I`ll go," and she went.
So, Anne, what are the biggest problems, the legal problems, I can`t even imagine that these people are facing now?
BREMNER: You know, and they`ve probably never hired a lawyer. Most of us haven`t.
But the biggest problems, child support, child welfare, adoption, probate, you know, of the dead, government entitlements, employment entitlements. And, Nancy, after your broadcast on Friday, we had 1,200 people sign up through the ABA.
And the Houston Bar Association got into the Astrodome the very next day. And they`re helping people one-on-one, so that people can come to the lawyers and say, "Here`s my life," and the lawyers can help sort out what are the legal issues, so they can basically be empowered as victims. It`s just wonderful to see...
GRACE: You know, Anne, it`s amazing to me that the ABA got you into the Astrodome to help, and FEMA couldn`t get their papers straight. You know, I just got an e-mail suggesting that the people running the Greyhound jail -- the Greyhound bus jail should be running FEMA. It`s not really a bad idea.
BREMNER: Well, yes. You know, they`re doing a great job there, and you don`t have a ticket to ride. The guy came in looking for a ticket and he ended up with a ticket to jail. I mean, they`re doing a great job.
And the Astrodome, of course, so organized. But I want to say, this could be lawyers` finest moment, to come in and volunteer right now.
GRACE: And, Lisa Wayne, this is a way we can save ourselves from all those tacky lawyer jokes, if the lawyers step up to the plate and hit a home run.
WAYNE: I agree with you, Nancy. I mean, I think we are the best when we are needed, and that`s what we`re showing the country.
GRACE: Thank you to all of my guests tonight, but my biggest thank you is to you for inviting us into your homes.
Coming up, headlines from all around the world, Larry on CNN. I`m Nancy Grace signing off for tonight. Our hearts and prayers still with the southland.
See you here tomorrow night, 8:00 sharp. Good night, friend.