Dean: Bones Might Be My Brother's

Democratic presidential hopeful former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean waits to speak at a candidates forum Sunday Nov. 16, 2003, at the Tifereth Israel Synagogue in Des Moines, Iowa.
CBS News Reporter Eric Salzman is traveling with the Dean campaign.

In October of 1974, Howard Dean was at home in New York when he received a call from U.S. officials informing him that his brother Charlie, 16 months his junior, was missing in Laos.

Days ago, nearly 30 years later, Dean received another call about Charlie – this time from their younger brother Jim, to tell him Charlie's remains may have been found.

Larry Greer, a Pentagon spokesman for the office in charge of POW and MIA issues, says a U.S.-Laotian team earlier this month found the remains - bones, a sock, a pair of shoes and a bracelet - buried in a rice field in Bolikhamxai Province in central Laos.

The remains have not been positively identified, but Dean says his family is confident they belong to his brother because of personal items found at the site.

The governor says he last saw his brother alive in 1973. After graduating from college at the University of North Carolina, Charlie Dean took off to travel the world.

In September 1974, the younger Dean was in Laos with an Australian friend. It is believed the two were taken prisoner by the pro-communist Laotian group Pathetlao.

"We were very worried. We hadn't heard from him in a long time," Dean told reporters Tuesday.

According to a statement from the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), Charlie Dean was killed in Laos in mid-December 1974.

Dean believes his brother was held prisoner in Laos for a number of months, then killed in North Vietnam while en route to northern Laos.

Dean received news of the possible discovery of his brother's remains a couple of days ago, and addressed the issue publicly only after an Australian news service reported the story.

Tuesday, the Democratic candidate appeared with five of his rivals at an AARP forum in Bedford, NH.

After the forum, Dean addressed the press to explain that remains, most likely belonging to his brother, had been recovered by JPAC.

"He was classified as POW-MIA, but I don't know why," Dean said. "There is speculation that he was in the CIA but I don't believe that."

But the U.S. military has continued the search for Charlie Dean's remains all these years, conducting interviews with witnesses and searches of potential burial sights.

The two brothers, according to Dean, grew up close — sharing bunk beds in their New York apartment. "He became a good friend as well as a brother," the governor said.

After Charlie's death, Dean sought counseling. "I was in therapy in the early to mid 80s because I had panic attacks in the early 80s," Dean said.
He later clarified the symptoms to be more like "anxiety attacks," and said he has not suffered them since 1984.

"I think the therapy was very helpful," he said. "It allowed me to get into my consciousness."

Dean arrived to address the press looking somber. "This has been a very emotional day for the Dean family," he said. "While positive identification will take some time, the personal effects found at the sight make us confident that we have finally located Charlie's remains."

Dean said that among the items found with the remains was a pair of shoes known to belong to his brother, and the POW-MIA bracelet of a Texas man that Charlie was known to wear.

During the press conference, Dean — who visited Laos in 2002 — made special mention of those who aided in the search effort over the years.

"I particularly want to thank the United States military," he said. "The men and women who I visited with and stayed with at base camp last year in Laos are extraordinary human beings. This whole operation is an extraordinary credit to the United States government, the United States military and I'm deeply appreciative and our family is deeply appreciative," Dean said.

Dean keeps a reminder of his brother with him at all times on the campaign trail. The governor wears his brother's belt every day in tribute.

The Dean family is making plans to travel to Hawaii on Nov. 26 for a repatriation ceremony for Charlie Dean's remains.

Though pressed by reporters to comment on the Massachusetts court ruling declaring a ban on gay marriage unconstitutional, Dean took no questions during his brief press conference.

Following the conference, Dean caught a flight to Houston, Texas, and shared details of his visit to Laos with the reporters traveling on his campaign.

While in Laos, Dean said he spoke to a man claiming to have seen Charlie Dean's body in a bomb crater.

"He said the North Vietnamese killed him," Dean recalled.

Dean seemed surprised when asked if he would seek an answer to the question of why his brother was classified as POW-MIA, should he become president.

After a moment of reflection he said, "I probably will."

By Eric Salzman