Menu

Missing Cruise Passenger Mystery: Was There a Crime or Suicide?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," December 29, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS GUEST HOST: Now, however, to a mystery at sea that has much of the country riveted tonight, a 36-year-old woman -- 36 years old -- vanishing from a cruise ship off the coast of Cancun, Mexico. Was it an accident or a crime? Jennifer Seitz set sail from Miami, bound for the western Caribbean, on Saturday, December 20. By 5:00 AM Friday morning, her husband reported her missing, nearly nine hours after a security camera reportedly captured her falling overboard. That was on Christmas night.

Tonight, FOX News has learned that Seitz's husband, Raymond, was arrested just this past April and charged with domestic violence -- battery, to be specific. The FBI is investigating this case now. FBI agent Mike Leverock joins us by phone. Agent, good evening to you.

MIKE LEVEROCK, FBI SPOKESMAN: Good evening, Megyn.

KELLY: So now, moments ago, we learn about this arrest of the -- of this woman's husband a few months ago. What do you know, if anything, about this battery charge against him from April?

LEVEROCK: I know nothing about that, actually. What I can tell you is we did go on the ship yesterday when it docked in Miami. Agents from our evidence response team did go through a cabin of a missing passenger on the ship. We did numerous interviews with crew members, family members and passengers. We have looked at the tapes and video from the ship, and we are doing extensive combing over of what we've obtained via the interviews and the video and try and determine if a crime was -- actually has occurred on the high seas.

KELLY: And what's the -- I understand it's an investigation still under way, but what's the working theory right now, that it was a crime or that this was a suicide?

LEVEROCK: Well, we're still combing through that. I mean, I think it's really too early to tell anything. I mean, there could be follow-up interviews. There could be -- you know, there's a lot of video that we're reviewing at this point. So it's really too early to tell at this point. We're just -- at this point, we're still trying to determine if a crime has been committed on the high seas of an American citizen.

KELLY: And I understand that -- I imagine that the first video you took a look at was the video that shows the passenger actually going overboard, Jennifer actually going overboard. Have you taken a look at that? And is it determinative one way or another?

LEVEROCK: You know, at this point, we really aren't commenting on what is on the video for investigative reasons, and we'd like to actually keep it that way. I know there's been some reports out there of what may or may not have been on there, but as far as the FBI is concerned, we are still reviewing all the video at this time.

KELLY: And you know, obviously, in any case like this, folks look to the spouse. No one's looking to indict this spouse here, Raymond. But we have to ask, has he been cooperating with your investigation? Do you consider him a person of interest in connection with any potential crime?

LEVEROCK: Well, first of all, he's been cooperative, very cooperative. NCL, the cruise line, has been very cooperative at this point. Until we determine there has been a crime committed or what appears to be foul play towards a crime, you know, that is when someone becomes a suspect in terms of starting to view them. But at this point, we're still looking into what crime may have been committed on the high seas.

KELLY: Understood. Agent, thanks so much. Best of luck to you.

LEVEROCK: Thank you.

KELLY: Well, Evelyn Tollinche sat next to Jennifer and her husband at a comedy show on this boat, and she's here with me live in New York. Hi, Evelyn.

EVELYN TOLLINCHE, SHIP PASSENGER: Hi. How are you?

KELLY: So we were just talking in the break before we got started about, you know, you go in this cruise, and you're thinking this Christmas cruise, you're going to have a great time, and then this happens. You actually did sit right by this couple, including this woman. On what day of the cruise was that?

TOLLINCHE: I think it was the day before Christmas, so it would have been the 24th.

KELLY: And how do you know? I mean, you're on a cruise. It's, like, thousands of people. How do you know? Did she stand out to you? What was it?

TOLLINCHE: She didn't stand out to me at the time, except for the fact that she and her husband were quite rowdy and disruptive. They kept yelling and screaming at the crowd. It was an interactive crowd session. And they were pretty loud. But other than that, they really didn't stand out to me until I saw pictures later on on the news. And I recognized her and said, Oh...

KELLY: Did you have any impression of the couple? You know how you can -- you know how you can see a man and woman, how they relate. And I obviously know you weren't looking for that at the time, but in retrospect...

TOLLINCHE: I think back on that now, and like I said, they were very rowdy. They had obviously been drinking, and they were sort of egging each other on to sort of draw attention to themselves, so -- other than that, I don't know that there was any other indication that there was any problems there. But they were definitely rowdy.

KELLY: You know, the agent was reluctant to say too much about whether they think this is a suicide or a crime. And the family has released a statement. We're going to get to that a bit later in the show. But I want to ask you -- you know, these balconies, they don't -- they're not low balconies, right? We can see some of them here in this picture. But give us a feel for how tall they are.

TOLLINCHE: OK. So I'm probably about 5-5, and I had a balcony, and it probably reached chuck (ph) level. And I leaned over at one point, thinking, Wow, this could be scary, but it wasn't because it was nearly impossible for me to have fallen off that balcony unless I stood on something and jumped off. And even then, I think it would be pretty difficult.

KELLY: Do you have any doubt, then, that she either voluntarily went over that rail or that somebody pushed her over that rail, that it wasn't an accidental fall over?

TOLLINCHE: To be frank, I think it would be hard to fall over and to be pushed over. It would take, I think, a lot of force to throw somebody over, and I think to even get yourself up there would be difficult.

KELLY: And the side of the ship, it doesn't go straight down, either. I mean, it's bowed out.

TOLLINCHE: Right. You'd have to jump out far. I think you'd have to go with some force.

KELLY: All right. So part of the investigation is focusing on what happened after she went over because she went over the ship around 8:00 PM Christmas night...

TOLLINCHE: Right.

KELLY: ... But it wasn't reported by the husband until around 4:00 AM. And then a very subtle and quiet investigation began on board that the passengers didn't even know about. I mean, you as a passenger on board this ship -- did you get pulled over by somebody out of your room, questioned? Did they search your room? How thorough, if any, was the investigation as far as you saw?

TOLLINCHE: Well, I think that's sort of what was disturbing about the experience. We didn't know anything at all. And in fact, I didn't learn about it until I was running on the treadmill and saw it on the news while I was...

KELLY: While you were on the ship.

TOLLINCHE: ... While I was on the ship, yes. And I -- and I was -- and they mentioned the Norwegian Cruise Line name, the ship's name, so that's how I knew that something had happened on our ship. And then, of course, once word got out, then a lot of information sort of started being spread around through the passengers. And in fact, I had an opportunity to speak to someone who had shared or had been across from their room, and they led me to believe that they'd been fighting and arguing that evening, and yelling or screaming, and that at some point, it quieted down and they never heard from them again.

KELLY: That was a person who was across from this couple on the relevant night...

TOLLINCHE: That's right.

KELLY: ... Who heard fighting and screaming shortly before she went over.

TOLLINCHE: Yes.

KELLY: This is a disturbing mystery, and one I'm sure you didn't bargain for when you bought (INAUDIBLE)

TOLLINCHE: Not at all.

KELLY: But happy to see you back safely, Evelyn.

TOLLINCHE: Thank you.

KELLY: Thanks so much.

TOLLINCHE: Thanks.

KELLY: All the best to you.

Well, Rob Wegman was also on the boat, and he has pictures of the spot where this woman, Jennifer Seitz, went overboard. He joins me now by phone. Rob, thanks for being here.

ROB WEGMAN, SHIP PASSENGER: Oh, sure, Megyn.

KELLY: So what -- what did you take pictures of, and what made you take the pictures?

WEGMAN: Well, I took pictures of the door of the cabin where it all happened. I took some pictures of the tape that was across the passageway, just showing where the FBI was there and some of the crew personnel. Some of the personnel from the crew were there. Just I guess because our room was about nine rooms down from theirs on deck 11, and I'd heard about where it was from some of the cabin stewards -- you know, just curiosity. We had to -- you know, it was a big thing on ship and I felt like I had to go down there and just see what it was all about.

KELLY: Right. And I know that you actually watched -- they participated in this game called the Old Newlywed Game or the Not-So-New Newlywed Game, and you heard -- you heard the husband, Raymond, answer a question about, What would you like to change about your wife? What did he say?

WEGMAN: Well, you know, after some -- he was reluctant to answer the question, but eventually said he wanted to change her breasts. But what was interesting is before he said that, he probably said, I mean, about 10 times, My wife is perfect. I don't want to change a thing. You know, I don't need to change anything, so forth and so on. And the cruise director kept saying, Listen, we understand your wives are perfect, we know you don't need to change a thing, but we're just asking, if for 24 hours, you could change something, what would you change? He said her breasts. She came out and actually got the question right.

KELLY: How did they see -- how did they seem to you? Did they seem like a young couple in love? They were relative newlyweds.

WEGMAN: Well, I didn't really see them on the ship. You know, there were a lot of people on board. I didn't notice -- I mean, I saw the Not So Newlywed game playing on the -- in my stateroom. I just watched it. My kids were actually in there as it was happening, and they came back and were talking about him. It was funny because when it came out that something had happened, both my kids -- my nephews were on board -- they both said -- and I'm not trying to indict the man, but they both said, Oh, I bet it was Ray.

KELLY: Yes...

WEGMAN: They just had a sense about it. He was sort of -- something strange about him.

KELLY: We had a few reports like that. Rob, thanks so much.

WEGMAN: Sure thing.

KELLY: Coming up, more about this husband's arrest for domestic violence. What exactly did he do, and did abuse lead to something more sinister? Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KELLY: Well, Jennifer Seitz is still missing at sea. The 36-year-old fell off of a cruise ship off the coast of Cancun, Mexico, on Christmas night. Hours ago, the Coast Guard called off its search for Jennifer. Lt. Matt Moorlag joins us now. Lieutenant, good evening to you. Why did the Coast Guard call off the search?

LT. MATT MOORLAG, U.S. COAST GUARD: Hi. Good evening to you, Megyn. We called off the search because we searched for more than 84 hours or so. We searched more than 4,200 square nautical miles. Despite our best efforts and the best efforts of the Mexican navy, we've been unable to locate Jennifer Seitz, and we don't have any reasonable expectation at this point that we'll be able to locate her alive. So that's why we suspended. And our thoughts go out to Jennifer's friends and family.

KELLY: Indeed. And how -- how, for us laypeople -- if you can help us understand -- how do you come to the determination that it would be fruitless? Because, you know, on the outside, you look in and you think she's a young woman. She's 36. You've got 70, 80-degree temperatures. I mean, how long could one survive in those conditions?

MOORLAG: There are a lot of different factors that go into how we make a determination as to how long a person would be able to survive out in the elements. The first thing is how long it takes the Coast Guard to get there. And based on this particular search, it was about 11 hours before we were notified. The wind and sea conditions were difficult, six to seven-foot seas, 20-knot winds and white caps. So a person can fatigue very quickly in those types of conditions. Additionally, after the first search we were unable to find her, we continued to search for three more days and we just haven't been able to find her, so it's time, at this point, to stop searching.

KELLY: And Lieutenant, were you told -- I mean, I assume that the cruise ship discussed with you whether she was seen in that video wearing any sort of a lifejacket or any sort of a flotation device, whether they were able to discern that?

MOORLAG: I don't -- I don't -- I haven't seen the video, but -- and what we got from the ship was that it was an image that went across the screen. And it was infrared video, so it was white. And based on that, though, we were be able to come up with what we believe is a good starting point to begin the search, and that's very helpful to us because if we can get that starting point, then at that point, we can go in and we can start to drift (ph) it and come up with a great search area.

KELLY: Well, I know that you and the Mexican navy have been out there. It's been 2,500 square miles' worth of water you've been searching and beyond, a really -- I mean, trying to find a needle in a haystack. But all the best to you for doing it, and thanks for being here, Lieutenant.

MOORLAG: Thanks so much for your time this evening.

KELLY: Take care.

Well, coming up, you will learn more about the husband of this missing cruise ship passenger. What exactly did he do in April that got him arrested? It involves alleged domestic abuse. We're going to have a full report for you.

Also, we will have the very latest as we get it on the situation in the Middle East. Israel's ambassador to the United Nations goes "On the Record." Plus, a live report from the Middle East. We are back in two minutes. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KELLY: Well, Jennifer Seitz is gone missing after falling off of a cruise ship. Her husband reported her missing about nine hours after she fell overboard, and now we know that that husband was arrested in April for domestic violence. What exactly are the details?

Nikki Pierce, reporter for WDBO joins me live. Nikki, good evening to you. This came as a bit of a surprise, I guess, since all the attention had been focused on the family, and then we learned that, indeed, the husband, the newlywed husband had an arrest just last April. Exactly what was it for?

NIKKI PIERCE, WDBO: That's right, Megyn. We were shocked to find this out. What happened, apparently, they were having some sort of a verbal altercation in April, and he grabbed her by her wrist and head- butted her, hit her forehead with his forehead. And he even admitted to doing so once the police officer were there, so there was really no two ways about that.

About two weeks later, Jennifer herself submitted an affidavit asking that the charges be removed, but they weren't. He had to complete a pre- trial diversion program in order to get the charges dismissed in June.

KELLY: And so as far as we know, was that the only problem in their history? And I -- we should point out it's a limited history. They'd only been married for less than a year.

PIERCE: It's a very limited history. As it has been mentioned earlier, we were hearing that there was some loud arguing going on inside their cabin there on the ship. We were hearing they were a little rowdy, a little wild. But it's been sort of a short history. The family says that she was in a very upbeat mood before and during the cruise.

KELLY: Well, that's the thing, Nikki. The family comes out with what I can only describe as a somewhat bizarre statement on this tonight. First they start off by saying that she was in a very happy and uplifted mood before and during the cruise, and then they conclude by saying they think, essentially, she killed herself.

PIERCE: Megyn, it is a little bit odd. It sort of conflicts itself, as you mention. She said that -- they said that she was looking forward to her new job. She was looking forward to possibly having children with her husband. She was very upbeat. And then near the end, they say that they suspect she took her own life. It just -- it's difficult to make sense out of it, at this point.

KELLY: Yes, it seems incongruous. Let me ask you -- then we learn that it wasn't just the husband on the cruise ship with her, her mother was there?

PIERCE: Her mother was there, as well, as far as we know. And we don't really know where she was during these hours or what was going on. As I understand it, the tape shows that the woman went overboard at about 8:00 PM that night, so perhaps the mother was sleeping during the bulk of this.

KELLY: Right. And the husband said that she liked to walk the decks at night when she couldn't sleep, and he assumed -- he says he assumed that's where she was. Nikki, thank you so much.

PIERCE: Thank you, Megyn.

KELLY: Well, former NYPD detective Pat Brosnan is with me now in New York with more. Pat, hi.

PAT BROSNAN, FORMER NYPD DETECTIVE: Hi.

KELLY: This is so bizarre. You know, she goes overboard at 8:00 PM. They've got the tape. They seem to be treating it like it's a suicide because, you know, no one's under arrest. But they're talking to the husband. And then you got the family coming out and saying, She was a happy person, but we think it was a suicide.

BROSNAN: Well, you hit it on the head, Megyn. There are a lot of bizarre elements to it, not the least of which is the incongruous statement by the family. Was she suicidal? Was she happy? Was she uplifted? Very difficult.

Unfortunately, late at night on the high seas, nobody around, no eyewitnesses, accident, suicide, homicide all become very close cousins, if you think about it, a lifting hand, a pushing hand. What do the cameras really show? The key here is the camera that showed the individual, Jennifer Seitz, we believe, going overboard. And the 999 other images from those 999 cameras...

KELLY: Right.

BROSNAN: ... What do they in totality paint?

KELLY: How important will the other circumstantial evidence be? We've had reports come out today that -- this is according to one passenger on the boat, that he ran into the husband shortly after the wife disappeared and that the husband seemed calm. He was nonchalant. And he had a bag full of quarters, said he was going to the casino, hoping to, quote, "change his luck."

BROSNAN: Right. Equally, if not more bizarre. But again, shades of Drew Peterson. Shades of Scott Peterson, this nonchalance, this cavalier, this dismissal -- what does it mean in terms of the case? Investigators are human. Of course, it's going to input (ph). Even more importantly, grand jurors and jurors are far more human. So in the court of public opinion, it means a lot.

KELLY: Right.

BROSNAN: From the investigative perspective, whether they breach the probable cause bar is not going to really be an element of his gambling and nonchalant attitude. It's really not.

KELLY: I mean, do you see this case getting solved, Pat? Be right now, it looks like this is what they have, this circumstantial evidence on the boat of perhaps an argument between them, the husband nonchalant afterward, a domestic violence charge, which, you know, sadly, occurs in a lot of couples.

BROSNAN: Sure.

KELLY: But that seems to be about it. You know, you don't want to indict this guy without proof.

BROSNAN: You can't. Look at the history of maritime cases on the high seas, ranging from sexual assault -- particularly the homicides or the missings. There's no history of them coming forward. First of all, there's a whole confluence of investigative bodies. Whose flag was on the boat? Whose water? Then the FBI comes in, and there's just no evidence. There's no -- they vanish. It's actually -- I'm terrified to say -- and I personally don't take cruises, and I'm beginning to dislike them more.

KELLY: Right.

BROSNAN: It's really a perfect -- it's a perfect series and circumstances to commit a serious crime.

KELLY: Yes. You know, for me, if he hadn't been -- if he wasn't so nonchalant, if he had gone to the authorities immediately, if he hadn't been going to the casino, then the family statement that it looks like a suicide seems more reasonable. But his behavior seems bizarre. I don't -- you know, who knows how you'd behave if it happened to you. Pat, thank you for your expertise on it.

BROSNAN: Agreed. My pleasure.

KELLY: Bizarre.

Content and Programming Copyright 2008 FOX News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2008 ASC LLC (www.ascllc.net), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon FOX News Network, LLC'S and ASC LLC's copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.