Police Free Producer Held Hostage by Murderer

N E W   Y O R K, Oct. 11, 2000 -- Three hours after being taken hostage at the point of a pen Tuesday by a con man found guilty of murdering a missing New York millionaire, a Court TV producer said she started to get angry.

Freelance producer Maria Zone had traveled to the Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York to interview Kenneth Kimes, who was convicted along with his mother of killing Irene Silverman in a plot to steal her $7 million Manhattan townhouse.

Kimes held Zone for four hours before prison officials were able to end the standoff.

“He stuck this pen under my chin and said, ‘This is a hostage situation,’ and wrapped his right arm around my neck and had the pen at that point in his left hand,” Zone told ABC’s Good Morning America today.

“There were times where I broke down, you know, and I’d say,‘Please don’t hurt me. Please don’t hurt me.’ There were other times I was trying to reason with him. But I’ll tell you, when it got to that, past that third hour, that’s when I was getting angry at him,” Zone said.

Kimes and his mother, Sante, were each sentenced to more than 120 years in prison for murdering Silverman.

Kimes took Zone hostage as she was about to begin a jailhouse interview for the New York-based legal news channel.

‘Thank God She’s Safe’New York State Department of Correctional Services spokesman James Flateau said Zone was taken hostage at 2:20 p.m., when Kimes grabbed her in the visiting room of the facility and told her cameraand sound operators as well as security personnel to “back off.”

Zone said that Kimes told her privately that he was not going to hurt her, but she did not take comfort in his words.

“He was trying to reassure me privately that he wasn’t going to hurt me, but the only thing that kept going through my mind was this is a man who has been convicted of murder and he’s facing extradition to California where he faces another murder charge,” Zone said.

He demanded that his mother not be extradited to California on murder charges in a separate case.

It is not known how Kimes managed to get a pen into the maximum security prison’s visiting room. Officers wrestled him to the floor to end the standoff. Officials say Kimes willl now be moved to disciplinary housing wherehe will be confined 23 hours a day.

“Thank God she’ released,” said Court TV spokeswoman Monica Neal. “Thank God she’s safe.”

Kimes, 25, is serving a 125 1/3-year sentence for the murder of Irene Silverman. He and his mother were each sentenced on June 27 for the killing.

Silverman has been missing since July 5, 1998. She was last seen in her Manhattan mansion, where Kenneth, using the alias “Manny Guerin,” had been staying. Kenneth and Sante are both appealing their convictions.

Snapping Under Pressure?Zone, a Syracuse married mother of two, was interviewing Kimes for an upcoming segment on Crime Stories, a documentary series by the network. According to Court TV producers, she had interviewed Kenneth before and thought he was charming.

Mel Sachs, Kimes’ attorney, was stunned by his client’s actions.

“I was shocked and amazed that he was engaged in this conduct,” Sachs told WABC during the hostage standoff.

Les Levine, an investigator for Kimes’ defense team, said he talked to Kimes a few days ago and sensed that he was getting frustrated over his prison term. Levine suspected that the 125-year sentence, along with the possibility of being extradited to California for another murder case, made Kimes “snap.”

In the California case, Kenneth and Sante Kimes are suspected for the 1998 death of Los Angeles businessman David Kazdin. They are also suspected in the 1996 disappearance of a Bahrain banker in the Bahamas, and the disappearance of a drifter investigators say worked with them and vanished around the time Kazdin was killed.

WABC News in New York and The Associated Press contributed to this report.