SCRIPT: Mothers Want Answers: The Fallujah Tragedy 4/05

Now, the story of a young American murdered by bloodthirsty insurgents, his body desecrated and hung from a bridge. But when his mother tried to find answers about why her son was killed, she says no one wanted to talk. ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent, Brian Ross, with a mother who's lost everything but her fighting spirit.

SCOTT HELVENSTON, FORMER NAVY SEAL

Welcome to the Navy SEAL Training Camp Exercise Video series.

BRIAN ROSS, ABC NEWS

His name was Scott Helvenston.

SCOTT HELVENSTON

This is a strength and resistance workout ...

BRIAN ROSS

For 12 years, Helvenston was a member of the elite US Navy Special Forces unit called the SEALs. Blonde, handsome, a poster boy for the invincible all-American warrior.

KATIE HELVENSTON-WETTENGEL, MOTHER OF SCOTT HELVENSTON

He was a tough guy.

BRIAN ROSS

But not tough enough, his mother Katie says, to go to war as a civilian, where she says the enemies included corporate greed and an office grudge she blames for her son's brutal death. Scott died one year ago in Iraq in one of the ugliest scenes of an ugly war. Four American civilians shot dead in Fallujah. Their bodies set on fire and then hung from a bridge. One of them was Scott Helvenston.

KATIE HELVENSTON-WETTENGEL

How much more horrible can it get? And then something more horrible comes up and you go, oh.

BRIAN ROSS

The last year has been a hard one for Scott's mother. Not only dealing with her grief, but discovering what she says is troubling new information about what really happened that day and why. Pushing her to want to know more now.

KATIE HELVENSTON-WETTENGEL

I can't stop. I'm not gonna stop. They cannot do this and get away with it.

BRIAN ROSS

It turns out Scott Helvenston was working for a little known and secretive private security company called Blackwater. At least 11 of its employees have been killed in Iraq. Scott's mother says the company cut corners in protecting its men and is now trying to cover it up.

KATIE HELVENSTON-WETTENGEL

And it turned out everything they told me was not even remotely true. Not even close.

SCOTT HELVENSTON

I got a gold medal for obstacle course ...

BRIAN ROSS

Helvenston's road to Blackwater came at the end of a rough transition from honored warrior to out of work civilian.

SCOTT HELVENSTON

Got a silver ...

BRIAN ROSS

Scott's Navy SEAL exercise tapes didn't sell well.

SCOTT HELVENSTON

One, two, three ...

BRIAN ROSS

He even tried Hollywood, as an adviser on the Demi Moore film "GI Jane."

SCOTT HELVENSTON

Come on, here we go ...

BRIAN ROSS

Last year, with two children and an ex-wife to support, Scott Helvenston turned to Blackwater.

BRIAN ROSS

Was he in financial trouble?

KATIE HELVENSTON-WETTENGEL

He was broke.

BRIAN ROSS

For $600 a day, Helvenston signed on with Blackwater to go to Iraq, where Blackwater and similar companies have hired thousands of men to work in what are essentially for-profit militias with little government oversight.

P. W. SINGER, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION

It's $100 billion worth of business of companies carrying out roles that soldiers used to do.

BRIAN ROSS

They're called corporate warriors in a book by P. W. Singer of the Brookings Institution.

P. W. SINGER

There's more than 20,000 private military contractors on the ground. So, when we talk about a coalition of the willing, in reality we have a coalition of the billing there.

BRIAN ROSS

Among its many contracts, Blackwater provides the heavily armed guards for top US officials in Iraq. And Helvenston told his mother that's what he would be doing.

KATIE HELVENSTON-WETTENGEL

He was told he was gonna be the ambassador's bodyguard.

BRIAN ROSS

That never happened. Instead, in what seemed to Scott like a bad joke, he was sent out at the last minute, undermanned and ill equipped, according to his mother, on convoy duty for a load of kitchen supplies.

SCOTT HELVENSTON

Hey, Mom, this is your son.

BRIAN ROSS

This was his final message left on his mother's answering machine.

SCOTT HELVENSTON

I thought I would give you a ring and let you know everything's good. So, love you, and have a great day.

BRIAN ROSS

A short while later, the horrifying pictures from Fallujah were on television.

KATIE HELVENSTON-WETTENGEL

They said, "It's the contractors, civilian contractors." And, and I thought they were talking about maybe the, the oil fields and stuff, those kind of contractors.

BRIAN ROSS

There was no word from Blackwater until early the next day.

KATIE HELVENSTON-WETTENGEL

And by then, I knew he would have called me if he was okay. I knew, I knew he was gone.

BRIAN ROSS

Also watching the horrible pictures that day was the mother of 32-year-old Jerry Zovko, a former US Army Ranger, who had been hired by Blackwater and sent on the Fallujah convoy.

DONNA ZOVKO, MOTHER OF JERRY ZOVKO

I was devastated. It, it was night. There was lights. But it was like you couldn't read.

BRIAN ROSS

As Donna Zovko buried her son in Cleveland, she too began to wonder about Blackwater and the answers they gave to her questions. Shortly after the funeral, there was a phone call from Florida.

DONNA ZOVKO

Oh, what a blessing. What a blessing that was.

BRIAN ROSS

It was Scott Helvenston's mother, Katie, from her home outside Orlando. She had gone on-line and found the Zovkos.

KATIE HELVENSTON-WETTENGEL

I didn't feel so alone. We understood each other.

BRIAN ROSS

Now, the two mothers are together, like two detectives, going after Blackwater in a lawsuit they brought, along with the families of the two other Blackwater employees killed in the convoy.

DONNA ZOVKO

At one point, we were actually told that if we wanted to see the paperwork of how my son and his co-workers were killed that we'd have to sue them.

BRIAN ROSS

They wouldn't show that to you?

DONNA ZOVKO

They would not show it to us.

KATIE HELVENSTON-WETTENGEL

They told me the same thing.

DONNA ZOVKO

Sue us.

KATIE HELVENSTON-WETTENGEL

So, okay, we're gonna sue you.

BRIAN ROSS

The first thing they discovered was that their sons were sent out on the dangerous mission without heavily armored vehicles.

KATIE HELVENSTON-WETTENGEL

In a cheap Mitsubishi. You know, their armament, you know, what they had for armament on that vehicle? A reinforced back bumper. That was their armored vehicle.

BRIAN ROSS

The importance of an armored vehicle in Iraq can be seen in this remarkable video, taken of an actual attack from inside an armored vehicle.

PASSENGER IN ARMORED VEHICLE

Go, go, go. Go, go, go. Go.

BRIAN ROSS

The armored SUVs drive right through the attack. No one was hurt.

PASSENGER

We're all right, everybody's good.

PASSENGER

We good.

PASSENGER

Everybody's good.

BRIAN ROSS

This was not the kind of vehicle Blackwater sent Scott Helvenston out in.

KATIE HELVENSTON-WETTENGEL

I'm a very forgiving person. But I don't think I will ever forgive them for that. And I think it was all about greed and the dollar.

BRIAN ROSS

Under its contract for the mission, there also were supposed to be six men in the detail, three for each car. But as can be seen in this video taken by the attackers, Blackwater only sent two men for each car, leaving the rear gunner lookout post empty.

DAN CALLAHAN, LAWYER

These insurgents were able to walk right up to them and shoot them point-blank with small arms weapons.

BRIAN ROSS

Dan Callahan is the lawyer for the families and their lawsuit, which alleges that Blackwater's interest in the bottom line led to the wrongful death of the men.

DAN CALLAHAN

They didn't give them the proper training. They did not allow them to go on the runs to determine what the proper routes are.

BRIAN ROSS

The lawyer says Blackwater also failed to provide maps or radio contact with the US military, which may explain why the convoy missed a critical turn that morning. Instead of taking the road around Fallujah, the men headed straight into one of the most dangerous places in the world for an American.

KATIE HELVENSTON-WETTENGEL

Can you imagine being sent into Fallujah without a map?

BRIAN ROSS

When you learned that, what did you think?

KATIE HELVENSTON-WETTENGEL

I threw up. I literally threw up.

BRIAN ROSS

But most upsetting to Helvenston's mother was the e-mail she discovered her son sent to the owner and the president of Blackwater just before he left on the convoy. Complaining about a lack of professionalism, Helvenston described a class with other Blackwater personnel who, Helvenston wrote, had the attitude, "Let's see if we can screw with Scott."

DAN CALLAHAN

Scott Helvenston was told at 3:00 in the morning that he was gonna be leaving at 5:00 in the morning with a different group. He had never met these people. Never had any opportunity to test his weapons. But he was jerked out of his team and put into another.

BRIAN ROSS

A petty office grudge played out in a very dangerous place, according to his mother's lawsuit.

KATIE HELVENSTON-WETTENGEL

You know, the mission he was sent on, he was supposed to pick up kitchen equipment for the 82nd Airborne. I mean, that was a real important mission, wasn't it?

BRIAN ROSS

With their lawsuit, the mothers say they hope to finally get answers from this man, Blackwater's owner, Erik Prince, a big Republican contributor whose company has won more than $80 million worth of contracts from the US government.

BRIAN ROSS

Mr. Prince, Brian Ross from ABC News.

BRIAN ROSS

Prince refused repeated requests to talk with us. And when we caught up with him one morning as he came to work, he got back in his truck and drove away.

ERIK PRINCE, BLACKWATER

I really don't want to talk to you, okay. Thank you.

BRIAN ROSS

I want to ask you some questions about your men in Fallujah. What happened there, sir?

BRIAN ROSS

Officially, the company has expressed its regrets to the family. But says the men knew what they were getting into in Iraq and has asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed.

KATIE HELVENSTON-WETTENGEL

I know Blackwater didn't pull the trigger. But they put Scotty and these other three guys in that spot, at that time with no way to protect themselves. And as far as I'm concerned, they might as well have done it themselves.

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