This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," July 26, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CATHERINE HERRIDGE, GUEST HOST: I'm Catherine Herridge, in for Greta Van Susteren, who is on assignment tonight. Breaking news from Wisconsin in the Mahalia Xiong disappearance. A short time ago, her car was found. Mahalia vanished 13 days ago after bowling with friends. She was last seen at about 2:00 a.m. getting into her white Mercury Sable. Earlier today, that car was recovered in a Green Bay, Wis. river.
Ed Miller, a correspondent for "America's Most Wanted," is tracking the case. Ed, what's the latest tonight on the story?
ED MILLER, "AMERICA'S MOST WANTED": Well, We don't want to cause any more pain to the Xiong family than they've already had to endure, but we should tell you that — we told you several nights ago that this was a distinct possibility simply because people don't vanish into thin air.
And there didn't seem to be any trace of her from where she left the bowling alley to entering into the city of Green Bay. And we documented the fact that there were cameras on the bridges as you came into Green Bay, and no cameras ever photographed her car or herself.
So the latest is, is that they will conduct an autopsy tomorrow, but they have tentatively identified the woman behind the wheel of the car as Mahalia.
HERRIDGE: Now, what led them to the car in the search?
MILLER: Well, they had put up helicopters in the very beginning. I'm not sure why it took them this long to find the tire tracks on this particular piece of road. It was in an industrial area. But they did find tire tracks that went to the edge of the water, and then they obviously sent divers into the Fox River. It's very murky. And they found a car, and then they pulled the car up and the rest is pretty self-explanatory.
We should point out again, because we made so much of this poor child, this was not a kidnapping. It was not a carjacking. No one was chasing her, and we don't believe it was a suicide. It was, rather, a horrible accident. She had been drinking. She left her friends from the bar, and she probably just made a wrong turn and ended up in the water.
HERRIDGE: Now, Green Bay police chief Jim Arts spoke to the family today. What can you tell us about that meeting behind closed doors?
MILLER: Well, he told the family that, obviously, it was her car and that there was a body found in the car. And from what I have been told, is that there were some initial indications that it was Mahalia, simply by jewelry, clothing, that sort of thing, because obviously, the body is in the water, so they wouldn't be able to make a definite identification. But they did prepare the family for the worst. And as we said, most likely the autopsy will positively identify her tomorrow, but that is what happened.
We should also point out because we have been trying to do this for the past several days here on "On the Record" that she had abandoned the buddy system, how it's so very, very important with young people to always be with somebody else. Once she left the bar, they all went their separate ways. They went in separate cars. She was alone in the car. She did not have anybody else in that car with her.
HERRIDGE: So the working theory here of police is that she was drunk, and she basically drove the car off the road. There is no suggestion at this point that drugs may have been involved, or foul play?
MILLER: No. Absolutely no indication of foul play. And we should also not say that she was drunk, but rather had a couple of drinks in her, and perhaps her judgment wasn't the best. It was dark, and she simply made a wrong turn.
HERRIDGE: What has sort of surprised you by the turn of events today, Ed?
MILLER: What surprised me is the fact that it actually took them so long because we had talked about this for several days, that there was a waterway along this route.
There was a very distinct possibility, if the car had not been found anywhere else, because again, cars simply don't disappear — a white car, especially, would be able to be seen from the air — that it took them so long to find the car in the water. That's what surprised me. But again, people simply don't disappear, and it had to be one or the other.
HERRIDGE: Over the last few weeks, you have been able to get to know the family. How do you think they're going to respond in the next day or two?
MILLER: Well, the family, as of now, has said that they simply do not want to comment on this because I really think this is taking the family by surprise. They were — the family was very active in the police investigation. They had actually gone through the surveillance tapes of several gas stations and businesses along the way, from Ashwaubenon, from the bowling alley where she was last seen, all the way into Green Bay.
So the family took a very active interest in finding her and was very active in making public appearances on television and radio, again, reaching out for Mahalia. And for a while there, it did seem that there was a serial killer on the loose in Wisconsin because of the murder — and the death of that other young lady, Kelly Nolan, that we have talked about.
But again, we can now say that there is not a serial killer on the loose in Wisconsin, that Kelly Nolan's murder has nothing to do with Mahalia's, that this is simply a terrible accident. It is a horrible incident that happened to this young woman.
HERRIDGE: Ed, thanks.
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