Father Speaks out about Missing Palmyra Woman
Aired August 21, 2012 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m so glad Augusta is opening its doors and changing perspectives.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Domino effect.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL starts right now.
JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST: Police track down two men, who may have been the last people to see a missing 21-year-old woman. Kortne Stouffer vanished three weeks ago after two male friends brought her home from a bar. Do these two young men hold the key to solving this terrible mystery and finding Kortne. I`m going to talk to Kortne`s father live next.
VELEZ-MITCHELL (voice-over): Tonight, the mystery deepens in the search for a beautiful missing woman. Investigators interrogate two men. One of them claims he went home with Kortne Stouffer, but when he woke up in the morning, she was gone. But cops had gone to the house that very night on a noise complaint and knocked on the door, and nobody answered. Tonight we`ll talk to the missing woman`s dad, who says it doesn`t add up.
SCOTT STOUFFER, KORTNE`S FATHER: I hope that nobody has to go through this. This was -- it`s unexplainable.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Family and friends gathered at the Palmyra fire station to search for Kortne, who has been missing for 10 days. But no sign of Kortne.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I haven`t been able to sleep a lot lately. Just not knowing where she is.
S. STOUFFER: I`d like to keep hope. I`d like to hope that we find nothing today is really what I hope to find.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Volunteers search a field close to Kortne`s apartment where she was last seen.
S. STOUFFER: If you`re a father, I hope this hits you. I want her back. Help us get her. Help us get to her. Help bring her home.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kortne`s gone. Kortne`s gone.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Good evening. Jane Velez-Mitchell coming to you live.
The mystery of a beautiful young woman`s disappearance leads police to two young men who may have been the last to see her out and about. Can they shed light on what happened to 21-year-old Kortne Stouffer? Her father is my very special guest tonight.
Kortne vanished around somewhere around 4 in the morning on July 29. It was a Sunday, very early. Kortne had spent a Saturday night at a bar in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. She rode home with two male friends who have been questioned by police repeatedly, although they`re not being called suspects or even persons of interest whatsoever. Investigators searched the car that belongs to one of the friends. Police also searched the home of that young man`s father, and he is saying that his son has absolutely nothing to hide.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My son has spoken to the officers four or five days in a row. I know that kid Cody, and I know my son. And I have been around them enough -- let me say something different. You would see something different, I`m saying a smoking pattern, an eating pattern. If they had anything in this, you would see something different.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Police say neither of the men they`ve questioned is a suspect in this case. I want to emphasize that. But one of them says he slept at Kortne`s apartment the very night she vanished. He claims he woke up and she was gone, vanished. And so he just left and went home, even though there was a dog -- Kortne`s dog -- inside the apartment.
Kortne`s dad questioned this guy himself in person for about 45 minutes. Does he buy his story? Well, we have Kortne`s father with us tonight, Scott Stouffer, out of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Scott, thank you for joining us. I know that these weeks have been absolute hell. We want to stay on top of this story to help you find your precious beautiful daughter.
Now, you talked to the young man who spent the night, he says, at your daughter`s apartment the very night that she disappeared. You talked to him for 45 minutes.
S. STOUFFER: I did.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tell us what struck you about that conversation.
S. STOUFFER: Well, I really just wanted to hear it from, you know, his words. I never had a chance to meet Cody to that point. And I really wanted to hear from his side exactly what -- what went on.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, did you buy it?
S. STOUFFER: That`s a tough question. You know, I want to believe him. I want to see that my daughter`s brought home. I want to try and not have someone else brought into this that isn`t a guilty party. I want to say I`d like to believe him, but it`s difficult.
And I asked him the same question, you know, because he, as well, has family members and said, "What if I was the last person that was with one of your family members, and that was the last time you ever saw them, what would you think of me?"
VELEZ-MITCHELL: There`s a lot of questions I`d like to ask this young man. Police have questioned these two young men that Kortne rode home from the bar with. And they searched the car.
Now, here`s the thing that absolutely gets me. The police, OK, have questioned both of these men extensively. Well, one of the guys, the guy whose father has spoken out, he says that he was dropped off at his home at 2 in the morning before Kortne and the second guy went to Kortne`s house. OK. So that`s about two hours before Kortne vanished.
The other guy then says he spent the night at Kortne`s apartment, woke up, and she was gone so he left.
Here`s what I don`t get. And I`m going to take this out to Jon Lieberman, HLN contributor. The cops show up twice at Kortne`s apartment that night. The first is a noise complaint. And it`s apparently over her barking dog.
Then they come back. They talked to Kortne. Then they come back a little while later because they hear banging. They hear banging coming from Kortne`s apartment. But they get to her apartment, and nobody is there.
Now, if this young man slept over that night, how is it possible that when police go to the apartment the second time, nobody answers the door? If he slept over, he should have been there and should have been able to answer the door.
JON LIEBERMAN, HLN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, absolutely. I mean, he should have been able to answer the door. And look, hindsight`s always 20/20, but police should have made contact with somebody on that second visit to the house.
Make no mistake about it, Jane, this is a major development in this case as police try and put together a firm timeline of exactly who was with her that night, who was last with her. And they`re trying to either corroborate or contradict their statements with other information that they know.
And let`s be very frank, Jane: they are not persons of interests, they are not suspects, but we understand they are cooperating, which means there`s no reason for police to call them suspects or persons of interest because they are cooperating. And by coming out and calling them that, that will make them clam up and lawyer up.
But police do believe each of these men has valuable information. That`s why they`ve now executed two search warrants with these men and the cars.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And, again, we`ve tried to reach them. We haven`t been able to. They`re invited on our show any time.
Police responded to two 911 calls at Kortne`s apartment around the time she vanished. Let`s analyze this. The first 911 call, 3:12 in the morning. Somebody reporting Kortne and the dog barking and the neighbors arguing. Officers arrive. Three minutes later, they leave at 3:49.
Then at 4:12 in the morning, less than half an hour later, a second 911 call, a neighbor`s complaining about stomping and banging coming from Kortne`s apartment. A police officer shows up, knocks on the door, gets no response, and leaves.
Now, I want to go back to Scott, the father of this beautiful missing 21-year-old woman. You talked to the young man who`s there. Did he offer an explanation for the banging that was heard from the apartment where he was supposedly at? And did he explain why he didn`t answer the door when police knocked on it?
S. STOUFFER: Well, the explanation I got for the banging is that Kortne was so angered about the altercation with the neighbors. And as far as the police officer coming back the second time, the young man told me he`s a very hard sleeper.
And my question to the Palmyra Police Department and the officer in question that showed up is that, if he came back to his daughter`s apartment for an altercation that night and he broke it up, and he watched his daughter go into her apartment with someone else and then he got a call back roughly 20 minutes later to the same apartment and he`s not getting an answer and he knows his daughter`s in the apartment, is he content with just walking away? I mean, I sure wouldn`t be. Especially knowing that there was banging and loud noise.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: T.J. Ward, private investigator. Just analyzing this, do you buy the explanation this young man gave to the father that, well, the cops were called a second time, because this young lady was still angry about the argument that she had with the neighbor? Does that presume that she was somehow banging and kicking on furniture? I mean, does a young woman of her size and shape create that kind of noise by being upset over an argument that there`s that kind of banging?
T.J. WARD, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: Well, you know, there was probably something going on in the apartment. And the police should have gone the extra step the same way the father said. If they had gone back to a second call at that location when there was a same, similar type call the first time, they should have gone further to investigate or try to make way or get a search warrant or try to get somehow to get entry in that apartment and see if, in fact, there was something going on or a crime scene for that.
But I agree with the father that something should have been done further with law enforcement. They shouldn`t have done that, because obviously something was going on in that apartment with all the noise.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I have more questions. And we`ve got your calls on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WENDY STOUFFER, KORTNE`S MOTHER: Something happened to my daughter after 4 a.m. then that morning. And I called her and I texted her all day Sunday. Her brother tried to get a hold of her. We didn`t hear from her. And that is not like Kortne.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Missing woman`s mother devastated. This is a beautiful young woman, 21 years old, a hairdresser. Went out for a night of fun, went dancing in Pennsylvania. Two guys drove her home. One says he spent the night. And she has not been seen since.
Her apartment, her dog, her beautiful black Lab, the pet she loved inside the apartment. Her car is still there. Her cell phone is still there. But where is Kortne Stouffer?
Let`s go out to the phone lines. Lisa, Ontario, your question or thought, Lisa?
CALLER: Hi, Jane. Again, thank you for supporting and helping out the missing and ill people.
CALLER: But my question tonight is, unfortunately, she disappeared without anyone knowing. Could it be that maybe an ex-boyfriend or ex-lover took her?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, my understanding, Levi Page, from speaking to the missing woman`s father who is here tonight is that, Scott, remind us of this. She has a boyfriend, but he has a firm alibi. He was out of town, correct?
S. STOUFFER: Correct.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. Levi Page, you`re a crime blogger and you`re very insightful. What do you make of the situation thus far?
LEVI PAGE, CRIME BLOGGER: Well, Jane, I think that the story from the boy that was with her that night may not be consistent with what people say about Kortne. People have described Kortne as very peaceful, that she was -- she`s been described as a hippie. And she would not be the type of person that would be banging and getting into loud altercations with her neighbor like this boy, Cody, says that she was.
So I want to ask her father, does he buy the story from that man, that she was getting into altercations with the neighbors? That doesn`t sound like her.
S. STOUFFER: Well, I believe there is a history between my daughter and her neighbors, that there was no love lost there. And Kortne was a vocal person, if she felt she was being taken advantage of. She was generally a very mild girl: loving, very artistic. But at the same time, you know, she would view her opinions very, very loudly. So, do I believe that there might have been an altercation? I do. But in my head, I can say this...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me ask you this question. I want to jump in because this is important. And it just occurred to me.
S. STOUFFER: Go ahead.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I mean, have they talked to this neighbor? What about this downstairs neighbor? I mean, you`re saying there`s no love lost. And we`re not mentioning this neighbor`s name. They`re not considered a suspect, a person of interest. But if -- was this the neighbor who called cops twice? Was it the same neighbor or was it a different neighbors who called cops?
S. STOUFFER: I believe it`s the same one.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. So there`s banging. There is an altercation. Is it possible, I mean, could that altercation have continued?
S. STOUFFER: It could have. It could possibly have -- it could possibly happen. I mean, I believe in my heart, knowing that everything that was left in my daughter`s apartment that night, I completely believe that Kortne went out of that apartment with someone that she believed she could trust. And then I think it went a different direction. And that`s what I kind of feel in my heart. Because there`s no way she would leave her purse, her car keys, her cigarettes, her cell phone, her dog. I mean, it just -- that`s not Kortne. And everyone that knows her agrees.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Joey Jackson.
JOEY JACKSON, ATTORNEY: Jane, I know the mother has to know and the father has to know that everyone is hopeful for them and grieves with them and is concerned about this. I just hope that as part of this investigation the police will do a number of things.
No. 1, of course, the cell phone records will be looked at very closely and carefully in terms of phone calls, any text messaging that has been done back and forth prior to the incident to set up what has occurred, any Facebooking, anything like that. And her friends of course spoken to so that we can get answers in this case.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Scott, I want to ask you this. Apparently, the surveillance video that cops are looking for may have been lost because you`re saying they took too much time to start looking for surveillance video in the area?
STOUFFER: Yes. That was something that came to me. I mean, we were on it the first two days. We were going around looking at surveillance video. I viewed video from one of the local convenience stores myself. And we didn`t find anything. They did find some surveillance video from another local convenience store that had the gentleman that stayed overnight. And it kind of matched up with when he said he left and showed up at that convenience store.
But there are many other stores in that area that have -- that have, you know, video equipment that are viewing some of the main roads. I`m just -- I`m completely bewildered why it took 18 to 20 days to attempt to really dig in and find this video. And then come to find that the loops are looping over and some of it might not be recoverable. It`s incredibly disheartening. I believe at the same time they are working very hard at this. There`s a number of people in this case of people that grew up in our area with my family. So...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Scott, hold on one second, Scott. We`re going to continue more on the other side. Stay right there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My son has spoken to officers four or five days in a row. I know that kid Cody. And I know my son. And I have been around them enough -- I would see something different. You would see something different. I`m saying a smoking pattern, a eating pattern. You know what I`m saying? If they had anything in this, you would see something different.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s the father of one of the two young men who was with Kortne the night she vanished and one -- the other young man, not the son of that person, but the other young man spent the night, he says, at Kortne`s home and says when he woke up she was gone. The question is do we believe that?
The search warrant lists kidnapping and unlawful restraint. Investigators are looking for hairs, fibers, blood, weapons, clothing, DNA, anything. But right now it`s a torturous mystery for her family.
Straight out to the phone lines. Kelly, Pennsylvania, your question or thought, Kelly?
CALLER: Yes, thank you for taking my call, Jane.
CALLER: I was wondering. I understand that there was a search warrant issued for her apartment. And I was wondering if they found anything with her computer, anything in the house that could tell something as to maybe where she was going or who might have been with her other than the gentleman that was sleeping at the apartment?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Excellent question. Jon Lieberman, investigative journalist, you`ve been digging into this. What have you learned?
LIEBERMAN: Yes. They have recovered a number of items from the house including a computer. They were looking for drug paraphernalia to see if anybody might have come over and brought drugs over and that may have contributed to whatever has happened. But, yes.
And understand this: police can`t release every bit of information they have, because conceivably this is only information known to a small group of people. So we know that police have items and have confiscated things that they haven`t released to the public for that very reason.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Joey Jackson, what do you make of the fact that it took so long for police, according to the father of the missing woman, to go through these surveillance videos?
JACKSON: You know what, Jane? The father has an absolute point. You would think that that would be some place that the police would first look, that there would be an initial look and see what surveillance is out there that could shed light upon where she would have been, who she would have been with, the potential path she may have taken. So it`s problematic and troubling, particularly if, Jane, they cannot recover some of the surveillance based upon the time lapse in getting them.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, there was one surveillance video recovered that shows the one man who says he spent the night in a store texting Kortne. So I think that that at least aligns with his story and shows that either he`s doing it for the benefit of the surveillance cameras or he actually was texting Kortne and doesn`t know what happened to her.
Scott Stouffer, our hearts are with you. We want to find your daughter. We`re going to stay on top of this. Know that we are on your side.