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We are back in Washington, D.C. Monday night after our two-day journey to Miami to board and video the Brilliance of the Sea (the ship that honeymooner George Smith was on when he vanished on July 5.)
I have posted today some pictures from the two-day trip — including pics from inside the cabin where the Smiths were staying. Make sure you click on the icon to the right of the text on the gretawire page so that you can see the pictures. (Those of you who get this blog sent directly to your mailboxes will have to go to www.gretawire.com to see the pics.)
I have some thoughts having been to the ship and talking to many — including the lawyer for George's wife. You learn so much more by seeing the potential crime scene in person. My thoughts are subject to change since I assume we will continue to learn more as time marches on. More facts could completely change things, of course... but I have formed some preliminary opinions and I will share them with you. I hope you, however, keep an open mind — this investigation is not over and could go in many directions.
Prior to going to the ship, I was more certain than not that Smith's disappearance was an accident. Having now looked at the scene closely and talked to people, I have now formed a different opinion — now I think it more likely it was a crime. I am not certain it was a crime, but I sure am suspicious.
I think the FBI needs to move more aggressively to get answers for Smith's family and his wife. I don't know why this is taking so long. They have had this case since July.
I think the cruise line did what it should — it learned of the disappearance and reported it. The first call did go to "risk management" at their headquarters in Miami, which rubs me a bit the wrong way but "risk management" immediately called the Turkish police and the FBI. The cruise line also sealed the Smith cabin. This was the right thing to do.
The Turkish police boarded the ship and conducted an exam — including taking pictures. They also interviewed the wife that day and some passengers. Our FBI was not aggressive in its investigation that first day, but certainly was on notice and had the chance to be. I think of the cruise ship like a floating hotel — it had the duty to report but it was not their job to investigate or to make sure the Turkish police/FBI investigated to a "CSI level." The cruise line is not a trained police force — they are a cruise line.
Of course if it turns out there was a ship cover-up — which I have not yet seen — that would change my view. I have not seen evidence of a cover-up, but as in any investigation, I am keeping my eyes wide open.
I also believe that once the Turkish police released the ship, the cruise line was free to do what it wanted. You may have heard that the cruise line washed the blood off the canopy, but that was also reasonable in my view. The investigation of the ship, per the police, was over. The cruise line was not obligated or required to second-guess the quality of the Turkish investigation. The ship was released by the Turkish police and passengers had begun taking pictures of the blood on the canopy. It had gotten ghoulish and so the cruise line washed the blood off.
I bet the parents of George Smith would not have been pleased if their son's blood had now become a sideshow. Of course, the parents wanted and want answers. The decent thing to do is to get them answers as best we can. And yes, it is the duty of the cruise line to cooperate. I assume they are... but I have not yet heard the FBI say whether they are or not.
As for wife Jennifer being found in the hall a long distance from her cabin, I now feel differently about it than before I went there. Yes, she had been drinking heavily but the ship is confusing. We were cold sober and made many wrong turns since the ship is large and much looks alike (for instance the halls are identical on all decks.) I suspect she got out of the elevator, took a wrong turn (she went right when she should have gone left)... walked down a hall that looked like her own... kept walking... got lost... made another turn... and hit a dead end. She sat down for a few minutes — no doubt influenced by alcohol — and fell asleep. The fact that she was seated against the wall when found, rather than lying prone on the deck/floor suggests to me she did not fall or pass out. We were also told that she had much to drink.
I know what I would do if I were the FBI — and what I would do is elementary. There are some obvious people who need questioning. I hope the FBI agents in charge are not dragging their feet and are doing what is rather basic in investigations but highly effective. It is cruel when families are left in mystery — sometimes we just can't learn all the facts but we should do whatever we can to get them as fast as we can.
As an aside, I still have many questions and look forward to learning the answers.
We were on the ship for many hours and shot lots of video. We will likely show you more of the video tonight.
Here are your e-mails:
E-mail No. 1
We really enjoyed your show Friday touring the areas relevant to the George Smith disappearance, on the Brilliance of The Seas. As a visual learner, I think it does help to see the locations discussed. Also, those who have not cruised do not realize how compact most cabins are — your tour made that quite apparent. So thanks for the extra time and effort involved in bringing another dimension to this most puzzling (and disturbing) story. Please continue to bring us any information you acquire relative to the investigation. There are so many questions... and tonight your interview with the woman who was with Mrs. Smith raised another somewhat troubling one — the Russian fellow asking about if there was blood in/around the cabin. What are your thoughts on this one?
Huntington Beach, CA
E-mail No. 2
You are losing your credibility. You already said this case cannot be solved. Go on to something else.
Ruth Cohen, M.D.
E-mail No. 3
I am a professor of criminology. I have followed your reports on the Smith case. How come no one has had the courage to talk openly about 2 drunks — the Smiths apparently on a honeymoon, according to all reports, acting like total idiots. The wife, doesn't know her husband is missing and goes to a spa the morning after? I can't help thinking that she has something to do with his being missing.
ANSWER: At the moment — subject to change if more info becomes available — I am not suspicious of the wife. I certainly think she had too much to drink, but not that she is involved in her husband's disappearance.
E-mail No. 4
I watched your show with Dr. Lee last week and am puzzled by his statements. First off he said he would examine the carpet in the cabin. Then he said that the carpet may have been replaced? What kind of preparation has this man done if he does not know if the carpet has been replaced? If it was replaced, we must assume it had blood on it? Has the cruise line kept the old carpet somewhere as to be examined? Sounds to me like Dr. Lee is good getting his salary but pretty poor at planning. And what ever happened to the story that George Smith was waiving around over 20 grand in the casino that nigh he was murdered? The irony of this is that the family business that made them wealthy is what caused his death — the liquor business.
ANSWER: My guess is that the FBI has the carpet... just a guess.
Finally, here is a newspaper article (AP) that caught my attention on Friday:
Mass. Judge Bans 'Stop Snitching' Shirts
BOSTON (AP) — A top Massachusetts judge has banned clothing bearing the phrase "Stop Snitching" and outlawed camera phones in the state's courthouses in an effort to counter a rising climate of witness intimidation.
The move by Robert A. Mulligan, chief justice for administration and management of the state's court system, follows a year in which the city recorded a 10-year high for homicides.
"There are some people coming to courthouses, a very small fraction of people, who come there to chill individuals from participating in the process," Mulligan told The Boston Globe in an interview published Wednesday. "This problem is not an overwhelming concern, but it's something we have to be cognizant of and sensitive to."
Mulligan's policy, which takes effect immediately, says that anyone wearing "Stop Snitching" clothes will be barred from courthouses, and anyone seen wearing such clothing inside will be ejected. Also, no one will be allowed to operate cell phones equipped with still or video cameras inside a courtroom.
Mulligan said the policy was motivated in part by an incident in Salem Superior Court last spring. During a gang-related trial, several friends of the defendant were seen using camera phones to photograph a prosecutor, a police investigator and a witness who was testifying, according to Steve O'Connell, a spokesman for the Essex District Attorney's office.
Court officers at Suffolk Superior Court also reported several incidents recently in which spectators pointed camera phones at witnesses or jurors.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino applauded the new policy and said Mulligan is also considering setting up rooms in courthouses where witnesses can go to avoid running into defendants or their supporters.
Last month, Menino launched a campaign to discourage merchants in Boston from selling "Stop Snitching" clothing, although ACLU lawyers said the move violated the First Amendment right to free speech.
(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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