tv The Hunt With John Walsh CNN February 7, 2016 9:00pm-10:01pm PST
-- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com back in 1981, i had the american dream the beautiful wife, the house in the suburbs and a beautiful 6-year-old son. and one day i went to work, kissed my son good-bye and never saw him again. in two weeks i became the parent of a murdered child. and i'll always be the parent of a murdered child. i still have the heartache. still have the rage. i waited years for justice. i know what it's like to be there waiting for some answers. and over those years i learned how to do one thing really well, and that's how to catch these bastards and bring them back to justice. i've become a man hunter. i'm out there looking for bad guys.
♪ it's strange when your parents are dead but they're still alive. we had a great relationship for the most part. but it kind of breaks my heart because they are dead, really. >> this has nothing to do with hindus. nothing to do with the hindu religion. this has to do with a guy who used people's desire to find god or religion that they could believe in to molest children.
texas. ♪ basically an ashram is a spiritual community where people come together to live and to worship. i found this organization, the international society for divine love. i decided this was my spiritual path pretty quickly. >> international society of divine love is really just a name for a religious sect that mostly congregates within the united states. they follow basic hindu philosophies. in the early '90s they were looking for a place to really settle their society. they had found a large plot of land, about 200 acres, in
central texas outside of austin to build a temple, a really magnificent temple. >> i was pretty young when we moved to barsana dham. i was about 6 years old. being a kid at barsana dham was pretty amazing. to live on 200 acres of what is about as wildland as you can get in texas. >> so the big desire was to basically be enlightened. and we used to call that god
realized. and that meant that you had renounced all worldly possessions and worldly attachments. >> at the ashram the center of our world was the guru. that was it. there was no other center. everything was about the guru. what he wanted is what we did. >> the leader of the international society of divine love is prakashanand saraswati, who we all referred to as swamiji, which is like a generic term for guru in hinduism. we always felt, as kids, that he seemed like an indian version of santa claus.
>> it was sort of understood that swamiji was god, just on earth. >> love. deep mad love. if you were a little kid, you felt like he was this fun grandpa, like the best grandpa. however, there was the flip side. he could be incredibly angry. >> that was the side you did not want to experience. but most of us did at one point or another. and it was always referred to as i got blasted by swamiji. >> it was terrifying when he was upset about something. very terrifying.
we were told if we said or thought anything negative against the society or against him we could literally go to hell and there would be like repercussions that we wouldn't even be able to handle. there was no move that anybody in that group made without asking him for permission first. >> it's when you wake up, it's during the day, it's when you go to sleep at night. this ashram and this religion determined everything. he held absolute power over anything. >> people that are seekers. people that are looking for meaning in this world, they are looking for their reason for living, but one of the successes
of some of the these guys is to keep people in a very peaceful control and expose them only to what's going on in there. and that compromises people. if people aren't fairly street smart, i always call it street smart, it sets up the victimhood. ♪ >> there's a strange and vague line with intimacy there that was definitely not described or thought of as sexual at all. but there was a lot of intimacy as far as like rubbing feet and getting him dressed. if you thought it was sexual in nature, then there was some dirtiness in your mind. >> he was very affectionate with everybody.
and then the kids he was really like cuddly. he'd give you hugs and kisses that just felt like -- like your grandpa. but then some time his kisses got weird. >> i was about 12 years old. i was between 12 and 14 years old. >> i was 11 years old when the abuse started happening. >> the first time that he put his hand up my shirt, i remember
i felt like it was exactly what i thought it was. i thought it was inappropriate touch. and it was pretty devastating to me. >> as i was like 11, 12, 13, it happened randomly in hallways. i remember i'd be walking and he'd come by on his golf cart and ask me to hop on. we'd go for a ride. and then somewhere in the middle of our ride he'd stop the car a and. >> he would sometimes show up at my house at 3:00 in the morning and just come in. then he told me to go lock the door. then he pulled me on to the bed and kissed me and asked me to unhook my bra. could be a couple of minutes, could be 15. and then tell me to go.
>> you lived for the moments in between and you just sort of hoped and prayed that they wouldn't happen too soon. >> when she kind of knew and not only didn't stop it but promoted it, like where do you -- what do you do as a kid? you've got nothing. came out today thousands of people to run the race for retirement. so we asked them... are you completely prepared for retirement? okay, mostly prepared? could you save 1% more of your income?
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what i was doing, but my mom asked why i was acting weird and i kind of didn't really say anything because i didn't know if what i had felt is what i had felt and she said, well, i know what happened to you. and so i said, okay. and we kind of talked about it. and i was like kind of flabbergasted when she told me to just enjoy it. >> and her mother told her it was a test, swamiji was doing a test to test her dedication. ♪ >> part of me as a child wanting your parent to take care of you, they should be like the one thing in your life that protects you from everything. when they don't, it's a massive failure and devastating. so when she kind of knew and not only didn't stop it but promoted
it, like, where do you -- what do you do as a kid? you've got nothing, you know? >> to be a dad or a mom is a privilege. it is an honor. it is the biggest responsibility of your life, and until that child is 18 you are supposed to be the number one protector and the number one believer. and if your child has a problem, you're supposed to be the number one solver. so when a little girl comes and says, dad, i am scared, something's very wrong, somebody's doing something really creepy me, the first thing you tell them is "i believe you." >> so after talking to shyama and getting that confirmation that what had occurred to me had been happening to her, i don't know.
i just panicked and i spent days in darkness, writing in my journal. on the third day my mother finally kind of burst into my room and was livid. she was like, i read your journal. and i kind of felt like throwing up because my assumption was that, you know -- that i was going to destroy her life when i told her about this horrible thing that happened to me and that she was going to be so angered that someone had done this to her daughter.
and then the reality was i was in trouble for seeing it as something other than religious. one day one of his preachers returned my journal with all the pages torn out, very angry, like here's your journal. so i knew that everybody knew what had happened and that i was just wrong, i got it all wrong. >> wrap your head around that. not only did they not believe you, not do anything about it, they chastise you and go hang around and eat with and talk to and worship the pedophile. that's betrayal. ♪ >> i had considered telling somebody, telling an adult
outside of the ashram, but the idea of what would happen if i did was just too painful to accept. it was clear that i would not be leaving with my family. that if i told someone i would be pulled out, away from my family. and i just didn't think i could do any of this. i didn't want to do any of it. >> when i saw that word "rape," it pretty much changed my whole world. >> if you get failed another time, it can just -- it's over.
i was told by my mother i shouldn't go and i was being worldly and that i wasn't smart enough to go to college. but i just decided to take off and go. when i turned 18 and moved out, i felt entirely free for the first time. ♪ >> one of the biggest changes in our life at the ashram happened when swamiji first revealed to us that he had a guru. up until that point, i had no idea that there was another guru
involved in this organization. i thought swamiji was the tiptop of the whole thing. >> swamiji's guru was in india. he used to travel as a preacher of kripalu. >> kripalu is a man who many believe is god incarnate. now we knew we had this other higher guru. then we were told kripalu's going to come to the u.s. and he's going to stay in barsana dham. >> when kripalu came, like things got really weird. it was always lush and -- you
know, everything was gold and there were sheep skins and stuff around. but when kripalu came there were like rolexes and mercedes. >> with our swami you didn't have to pay to spend personal time with him but with kripalu it was a whole different story. to spend that time with him, to sit with him for ten minutes you would have to pay $250. you could pay to go and sit with him while he had dinner. that was about $2,500. >> i was creeped out but i had never heard any specific tales of abuse until the story in trinidad.
>> god, i remember, i started like -- i couldn't stop shaking and i clicked on it and all these pages opened up, these news articles about how kripalu had been accused by a young trinidadian girl of rape. >> more than one of the comments was talking about how this was not the first time. he had been arrested for rape in india in 1991. it involved three under-aged girls and he had allegedly raped them all. when i saw that word "rape," it pretty much changed my whole world. i realized that my swami was exactly like kripalu. what kripalu's involved in, my swami is worshiping him, serving him, building him temples, inviting him to our temple. they're the same. they have no idea who they are
but they are clearly not the people i thought they were and if they are raping and molesting people someone needs to know about it and do something. >> i think it just became clear we weren't the beginning and the ending of any abuse. and that there was probably a lot more abuse out there. and i think that was the point when we realized, like, we should say something. so then after your parents, where do you go? you go to the police. >> i think it was their fear that other little girls were going to suffer the same thing they did and it would go on and on and on, the betrayal by their parents, the ability of this fake swami to molest little
girls. i think they got together and said you know what? we'd like justice. we need to see him pay but we've got to stop him because we have sisters, friends that are still there that are right in the crosshairs of his sights. >> there's still part of me that wanted to back out and just keep what i had. because i knew what the scenario meant for me was a lot of personal loss. i knew i was losing my parents in this situation. >> when someone fails you, like a spiritual leader, and then when your parents fail you, if you get failed another time it can just -- it's over. >> he was able to successfully
abuse children over years and repeatedly. >> when she finally got to the place where she thought she was going to get justice, see somebody pay for destroying her life, she missed it by two months. at ally bank, no branches equals great rates. it's a fact. kind of like vacations equal getting carried away. more proactive selling. what do you think michal? i agree. let's get out there. let's meet these people. i thione second it's there.day. then, woosh, it's gone. i swear i saw it swallow seven people. seven. i just wish one of those people could have been mrs. johnson.
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x1 from xfinity will change the way you experience tv. ♪ even though i wasn't part of the temple anymore, i was still afraid that, you know, if i came out against swamiji that i would transgress to the point where i would be going to hell. those feeling of guilt that were engrained from day one in my life were just impossible to squish but there's just some fundamental piece of logic in my mind that said i have to do this.
if you don't do this, then you are perpetuating the abuse just like the people who did it to you. so we kind of thought a little bit more about what we should be doing and we decided to go directly to the police department and tell them about our story. >> it was pretty intense, just the feeling of like someone's going to listen to us. it was also terrifying because someone's going to listen to us and someone's going to question everything about what we're saying.
>> i think one of the things that makes it such a horrific case is the fact that this man was really seen as an -- a figurehead. he was seen as a spiritual leader. he had so much power and control. he was revered. he was idolized. okay? he had the ability to look at so many people and guide their lives. and he did. as a result of that, he was able to successfully abuse children, over years and repeatedly. >> when you say, well, it's just touching a breast and it wasn't him actually having sexual intercourse or doing something worse, i mean, think of that
from the perspective of vesla or kate or shyama, any kind of activity that any normal woman should be able to engage in. like the first time you make love with your husband, the first time you nurse your child, those things are all tainted because of what this guy did to them. so there's no hierarchy of, oh, it wasn't that bad. it's all horrible. the first concern that i had was what's the statute of limitations? and i pretty quickly realized that, unfortunately, in kate's case that we were past the statute of limitations for her. and that was a real kind of heartbreaking situation for her. >> the statute of limitations in this case was ten years after your 18th birthday. kate tonnessen missed the statute of limitations by two months. when she finally got to the place where she thought she was going to get justice, see
somebody pay for destroying her life, she missed it by two months. >> her sister, vesla, was younger and she was still in that realm of being able to do that, as well as the second victim, which was shyama. >> in this case of shyama and vesla, when you have somebody repeatedly molesting children you could not possibly charge every single time something happened. so essentially what we did was we just decided we're going to charge ten counts for each girl. >> i was very happy and i backed them 100%. whatever they needed to do i wanted to support them. >> we took the information that we had and we made a presentation to a grand jury that had been convened in hays county.
they heard the evidence of the girls' statements and at that point they returned an indictment against swamiji. >> when swami was arrested i knew that, like, the process had begun, and i think i was excited but also terrified of what was coming next. >> at that point we are flagging him and his photograph and we're asking the court to swear out a warrant. this man is fleeing. he's running. (man) hmm. what do you think?
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that the temple and people out at the temple were not going to help. there was absolutely no belief whatsoever in these three young ladies. everyone that lived out at the temple rallied around swamiji. >> the devotees somehow came up with a million-dollar cash bond overnight. so he spent less than 24 hours in jail. >> the guy's charged. cops think it's important enough. a grand jury says this is awful. they go out and arrest him. and then the adults in that community, in that ashram, raise a million dollars for a bond, hire a team of lawyers and a pr agent. is that an equal playing field? not in my book. that's like a 12-year-old kid playing the dallas cowboys in the super bowl.
>> it took three years to get to trial. swamiji's lawyers played a lot of cards to extend and extend. >> the report came through his lawyers that he had some type of medical issues that he was dealing with, including a back injury of some sort. doctors said, yeah, he may need a special chair if he wants one, but he can certainly sit in the trial. >> the hardest part about the trial was just seeing all these people i grew up with, all of my like family just staring at me with the, like, most evil looks and eyes ever, you know, including my sister and my mom and my dad.
♪ >> when i walked into the courtroom and i looked over at swamiji, he looked at me in the eyes and smiled like i was his kid or i was his, in that he possessed me. i just was like you mother [ bleep ]. you do not own me. like, i am not wrong. it just changed my entire approach and thoughts about how i was going to testify. i was so terrified, but he made it so easy for me to just spill my guts, and i did. ♪
>> i was just hoping the jury saw in the girls what we had seen and that they did recognize that they were telling the truth. the verdict came back guilty on all counts, in both cases. >> swamiji was convicted with 20 counts of indecency with a minor. >> we heard guilty and i think all of us, just -- it's over, finally, and people listened. >> when we all left for the weekend, we were getting ready to start up again for the punishment phase of the trial on
monday. >> still none of us understand why, but swamiji was allowed to return to the ashram. ♪ >> we arrived to court bright and early monday morning. the jury was filing in to the courthouse. >> i was noticing how many fewer devotees were in the courtroom that morning. i was noticing how casual they appeared. i was noticing that a couple of the preachers were just randomly reading magazines. i know those devotees. i know how they think.
those were not people worried that their guru was going to jail. there was something up. i was watching the clock. it's 9:00, it's 9:01, it's 9:02. nothing. there's no guru. >> so swamiji never showed up. >> at that point we are flagging him and his photograph and we're asking the court to swear out a warrant. this man is fleeing. he's running. >> saraswati went to mexico across the border. we're trying to find a very small needle in a very large haystack.
well, okay, let's just get started. if he doesn't want to be here, we'll go on without him. he was sentenced by the jury to serve 14 years on each of the counts. >> we started doing some work and found out that he had actually been admitted to a local hospital emergency room over the weekend. they had recommended him to another hospital. however, he never showed up at that hospital. and then shortly thereafter the trail goes cold. >> what happened in this case happens all over america. i'll never know why.
think about it. he's from another country. he's got the resources to run. he did. the final slap in the face for these girls. >> u.s. marshals conducted an interview with a couple of close confidants in the inner circle of saraswati. as best as the marshal service can reconcile, saraswati left hays county sunday night, went to mexico across the border at the laredo, texas port of entry. mexico is a very large country. we're trying to find essentially a very small needle in a very large haystack. the problem is, we just could not pinpoint a specific location.
♪ investigators here in austin began hearing chatter, began receiving bits of information that saraswati had, in fact, made it to india. >> as far as i know, from sources i have in india, saraswati is still living in india. he lives in various places. one of them is a suburb south of delhi. one of them is mussoorie up there in the himalayan mountains. >> kripalu, we learned, passed away back in the fall of last year. the case in trinidad was ultimately dropped but it was amid rumors of corruption and bribery.
so we'll never really know what happened there. >> just because the trial is over, it doesn't go away. like, we're still going to have this for our entire lives. like the moment he decided to go through with the abuse with each of us for first time he put us in the position where this is a never-ending thing for us. and you know, the trial and him escaping and everything after that is just part of this. >> he's still out there and he's still abusing people whether sexually or emotionally. i don't think that will stop until he's imprisoned. >> we need the assistance of the indian law enforcement community
to confirm saraswati's location and presence so that we, the u.s. marshal service, can proceed with seeking his provisional arrest. it's an ongoing case. this is not just a case we worked up to a certain point and put it away. we are going to continue in the hunt until saraswati is held to account. >> prakashanand saraswati is thought to have various health issues including back problems and possibly diabetes. u.s. marshals believe he is living in india between new delhi and the town of mussoorie. if you have seen prakashanand saraswati call 1-866-the-hunt, or go online to cnn.com/thehunt. you can remain anonymous. we will pass your tip on to the proper authorities and, if requested, will not reveal your name.
>> i've tried to relate it. dies. but it wasn't death that took them away. it was their own attachment to their guru that they loved and to override their love for me and my sister. >> vesla and shyama and i are inextricably bound now. you go through something like this together, you can't break the bond that was built when you were holding each other up in
were holding each other up in the way we did. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com back in 1981, i had the american dream, the beautiful wife, the house in the suburbs, and a beautiful 6-year-old son. and one day i went to work, kissed my son good-bye and never saw him again. in two weeks i became the parent of a murdered child, and i'll always be the parent of a murdered child. i still have the heartache. i still have the rage. i waited years for justice. i know what it's like to be there waiting for some answers. and over those years i learned how to do one thing really well, and that's how to catch these bastards and b