this is "nightline." >> tonight, paradise lost. >> oh my god! mom! >> the devastating mudslides in california dropping boulders, engulfing homes, killing at least 17. the search for survivors and rescues still under way. >> fighting with all my heart to find her, but she's most likely dead. >> how this idyllic town was flattened, seemingly in an instant. plus confessions of a cartel killer. a former hitman for a rival of the notorious el chapo coming clean about decades of brutal murder. >> he's
"don't kill me." i wanted him to know why he was dying. >> his life of crime beginning in california as a teenager, now using his inside information to give an edge to law enforcement. >> you can never make amends for taking a life. and the jump before the fall. before that infamous attack on nancy kerrigan, it was the triple axel that defined tonya harding's place in history. her now-overshadowed moment. but first the "nightline 5." >> feel the power of theraflu express max. new power to fight back. theraflu's powerful new formula to defeat seven cold and flu symptoms fast. so you can play on. theraflu express max. new power. we do whatever it takes to fight cancer. these are the specialists we're proud to call our own. experts from all over the world working closely together to deliver truly personalized cancer care. expert medicine works
good evening. thanks for joining us. we begin with the urgent search and rescue efforts in california. over a dozen people still missing after the deadly, catastrophic mudslides. tonight we are with frantic family members braving the muddy ruins in search of their loved ones, hoping against hope that they're thought been swept away. here's abc's matt gutman. >> josie! >> reporter: calls of the desperate ringing out. slogging through two feet of mud, gower and friends frantically search for his mother josie. >> i don't know why she didn't stay upstairs. >> reporter: she was here in her home with her
horror stroke. >> the mud just came straight through. it was just -- it just happened too quick. and she couldn't hold on. >> reporter: josie's friend, doug, has been searching too. >> you look at disaster, you watch it. well, you're just watching it. and you're seeing it and feeling it, there's no comparison. >> no. >> oh my god. i can't even imagine josie, what a horrible experience, oh my god. >> reporter: in montecito, california, where mudslides have molded that tortured landscape, already there are 17 reported dead, including roy router, founder of the st. augustine's academy. >> here comes a flash flood! >> reporter: video of one of the mudslides here. >> oh my god, mom! >> reporter: tonight in the santa barbara county
100 homes completely destroyed. 300 damaged. >> the only words i can really think of to describe what it looked like, it looked like a world war i battlefield. >> reporter: none of the boulders you see in this field of boulders was here 12 hours ago. they have literally submerged entire homes. you can see the chimney poking through. >> it doesn't feel real. >> reporter: last night we found robert risken searching for his mother, rebecca. >> there's clearly no one searching here now. i know they searched the houses, they've been checked, but i don't get the sense that anyone looked downstream. >> reporter: light was fading and his hope was too. >> you know, it's my mom. i'm fighting with all my heart to find her. but like -- i can't focus too much on -- she's most likely dead out here, you know. just push my way through. >> reporter: he felt there's no option but to keep searching. just last month, the thomas fire, the biggest in california history, charred nearby
hillsides. >> scorching that hillside, burning the trees, shrubs, all the vegetation. now you have basically a naked hill that has nothing to hold all that dirt and mud in place. when you get rain on top of that, it's going to slide with gravity. >> reporter: today the skies have cleared. but montecito's plight only intensifying. the storm took out montecito's water main. taps are dry. power is out. >> follow my treads, okay? >> reporter: for many here the only option is to evacuate. at the 101 freeway, which was hacked up by debris flows, closed through monday over a 30-mile section. montecito is one of the nation's most exclusive neighborhoods filled with multi-million dollar homes. but no one was shielded from the damage here, not even oprah winfrey. >> there used to an fence right here. that's my neighbor's house. devastated. >> reporter: winfrey also sharing a video of a
fire and helicopters searching for the missing. >> destroyed it looks like several vehicles and that rv there -- >> reporter: with the hope of finding those swept away alive dimming, those search and rescue efforts are intense fying. overnight the coast guard rushing to rescue a family of five. they carefully place the mother and her baby in a basket, then lift a child up to the roof away from that churning sludge. they even managed to save the family dog. in just the past 24 hours, the coast guard has assisted in 29 rescues. 14-year-old lauren canton miraculously pulled from a pile of rubble. she was coated in mud but alive. she's now recovering in the hospital. her father and brother are believed to be missing. and also among the missing, sisters sawyer and morgan corey. a cousin of the family posting this photo. their mother and sawyer's twin sister, summer, currently in the icu. summer's heart
you can only see the scale of this from the air. this debris field goes down hundreds and hundreds of yards. almost every house in its path obliterated. and what has made this recovery and rescue so difficult is the thickness of this mud. and right in there is an actual pool. rescuers have fallen into it. there are so many pitfalls and traps here for them. a pitfall i experienced firsthand. these catastrophic mudslides and flash floods are not without precedent here. in 2005, a mudslide just south of here in la cancita, california, killed ten people. >> what you see immediately after a mudslide is basically mud that you're able to get through, able to dig out. over the next few days as it drys out, it's going to become more or less cement. must have much more difficult to
if you think things are ba bad now for people affected by this mudslide, it's only going to get worse the next few days. >> reporter: this search and rescue team going house to house, relying on zero's nose to sniff out survivors. some of the spaces they navigated were so tricky that zero needed a ride. >> they're taking zero in through the window. >> reporter: for hours, some family members like teresa tried to flag down professional rescuers. finally she found a sheriff's deputy. >> he saw her go in, we know she's down there. >> reporter: as she continues her search, she comes across doug scott, who is still looking for josie gower. >> that's all you can do. is close your mind off to pain and anguish. >> reporter: josie's son hayden in anguish over what he says could have been prevented. >> voluntary evacuation. if only she was in the mandatory, she would have left.
they screwed up. they screwed up big-time. they should have -- they should have said anyone in the floodplain should get the hell out. they should have said something like that. you know? >> reporter: later, hayden gower would tell us his mother's body was found. but for those two families, a fleeting respite from their grief with that shared embrace. for "nightline," i'm matt gutman in montecito, california. up next, a cartel hitman confessing his crimes after using his story to put high-level traffickers behind bars. easy booger man. take mucinex dm. it'll take care of your cough. fine! i'll text you in 4 hours when your cough returns. one pill lasts 12 hours, so... looks like i'm good all night.
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who spent most of his life committing horrendous crimes. a former hitman for a mexican drug cartel, brutally killing strangers on command. now he's asking his victims' families for forgiveness. is redemption even possible? his answer may surprise you. here's abc's nick watt. >> the suspects drove up on first avenue, parked just out of eyesight. the victims were out in the middle of the street talking to a subject in a car. >> reporter: the mexican drug cartel hit on an l.a. street. this man, the assassin. >> broad daylight,
in the morning. they had no anticipation of what was going to happen. >> reporter: martin corona, a hitman for a mexican cartel in this rare television interview tries to explain what it's like to kill for a living. >> i've seen the worst that you can see. >> reporter: he insisted we speak to him in shadow and martin corona is not his real name. >> this was revenge. that's why they carried it out with so much drama and aggression. >> you didn't get away with anything. know what i mean? >> reporter: steve duncan was a probation officer who started working with dea on cross-border drug cases. >> one of them tried to get back home into the house, and he was shot as he was walking up the steps towards the front door. >> reporter: revenge for an attempted hit on his cartel bosses, the arellano brothers. you've got a guy on the ground who's injured, begging not to be killed. >> right. yeah, he's begging for his life. "don't kill
i did say, "this is from ramon arellano." >> i later talked to the wife who was at the front door -- >> i wanted him to know why he was dying. >> he's an assassin, a multiple murderer. >> reporter: steve duncan had no idea corona would later become part of his life. would you say the two of you are now friends? >> we share a fondness. >> i have known martin since i wanted to kill him in 1997. >> reporter: corona admits to eight murders. there may be more. did you end up actually killing people in prison? >> while i was in prison -- i'd rather not speak about that. >> reporter: he was born and raised on the beautiful socal coastline just outside san diego. >> i don't believe anybody is just born a natural gangster. nobody's born a charles manson. >> reporter: corona says he ran away from home at 12 and joined a street gang. >> and that became my
>> are you involved in violence at this point? >> uh-huh, absolutely. >> reporter: in and out of prison, he almost inevitably fell in with the mexican mafia and absolutely the cartels. >> you either accept that life, or you end up on the side of a curb somewhere. >> the third subject ran down the alley this way -- >> their number came up. and unfortunately, it was time for them to go. >> reporter: this was his first hit for the so-called arellano felix cartel. inspiration for the movie "traffic." they controlled the cocaine smuggled through tijuana, locked in a turf war with the notorious joaquin el chapo guzman. >> chapo guzman was killing their family members, they were killing chapo's family members, it was a bloody battle. >> the fbi has added a new name to its ten most wanted list, ramon oarellano felix. >> reporter: ramon
got whacked, as one u.s. official put it. he tested a gun by killing a pedestrian he happened to pass in his car. he led a death squad for ramon. how does it change you once you've taken a life? >> something ramon used to sknl say, we're already damned, we're going to hell anyways, so there's no sense having a conscience about it. >> reporter: in san diego he shot a pregnant woman suspected of talking to the cops. along with her sister, a fashion model. >> when i shot the two people, i heard her scream in the back. and i looked back there and i seen a little girl back there in the back seat. >> reporter: the girl was okay. but a month later, across the border in tijuana, corona and his partner killed her father. >> we hogtied him with his hands and feet behind his back, covered him with a sheet. all of a sudden we hear this gruesome sound. it was just like a watermelon being smashed, you know. they laugh about it. you hear them on the radios talking about the murders that they do. they get off on it.
>> reporter: a life portrayed in the 2015 movie "sicario." that's "hitman" in spanish. did the movies get it wrong? >> absolutely, there's no loyalty. you're sacrificed at any given moment. >> reporter: his friend and mentor was killed on the job. corona was tired of the violence. >> the day i walked away from mexico was the day my daughter was born. i held her in my arms. and i told my wife right then and there, we're done. >> reporter: not so easy. >> i wasn't in california very long before i got arrested. >> reporter: after a weapons conviction, corona found himself in an interview room opposite the affable but calculating steve duncan. >> he had just gotten back from carping near where i go camping. we talked about fishing. you know, we hit it off. >> reporter: corona was potentially facing murder charges. life in prison. >> one of the things that they instill on you is, don't talk, don't talk, don't rat. and i decided, i'm going to do the best for me and for my
>> we used him among with many other witnesses to indict the upper echelon of the tijuana cartel. >> reporter: martin corona served 13 years for a weapons charge and dealing cocaine. got out in 2014. >> he should have got the death penalty. martin's the poster child for the death penalty. >> reporter: instead, he tours the country with steve duncan from time to time, schooling law enforcement on latino gangs. >> i want to be able to get my message out there. >> reporter: and corona just wrote a book, "confessions of a cartel hitman." he lives in a secret location but declines witness protection. >> when my time comes, my time's going to come, you know? i know how to defend myself. >> reporter: martin corona claims to be reformed. claims remorse. for those he hurt. >> i tried reaching out to them and apologizing. >> reporter: that former model he shot point blank in the head survived. corona reads from a letter he wrote to her. >> i can never find the words to apologize for my
emotion other than hate from you. but i truly am sorry. >> reporter: she says she does not forgive him. apparently others do. >> you hear somebody tell you that they didn't blame you for doing the things that you did, it's -- it's a little overwhelming. still hurts, still bothers me. >> reporter: as far as i can tell, martin is one of the worst of the worst. >> yeah. yeah. he was. not anymore. and let's hope that, you know, he stays that way, you know? >> reporter: after our interview, corona violated his probation, tested positive for cocaine and meth. after a short stint in jail, he's about to be released again. >> there's mornings i wake up and i wash my face and look in the mirror. and i can still see the monster that i once was. you can never make amends for taking a life. you can never pay that back. >> reporter: i'm nick watt for "nightline" in las vegas.
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finally tonight, before her name was attached to scandal, tonya harding was known in the figure skating world for something quite different. here's abc's amy robach. >> reporter: for tonya harding there's one jump that's synonymous with her name and it gave her the edge over her competition. what is a triple axel? >> it is a jump that takes off in a forward position, on a left forward leg that comes down with 420 pounds of pressure on one foot. >> what ever made you think that you could do that? >> what makes people think i can't? >> reporter: after perfecting the triple axel in practice, tonya took it to competition for the 1991 u.s. championships. >> and it was like, ba
>> reporter: with the triple axel, tonya secured her place in the history books and was now ready for the olympics. tell me what you were thinking. >> holy [ bleep ], i just did it. nobody else did it. nobody helped me. nobody helped me land that triple axel right there in that moment. >> you made history. >> i did. i did. >> "truth and lies: the tonya harding story," a two-hour documentary, airs tomorrow at 9:00/8:00 central here on abc. thanks for watching "nightline." as always we're online 24/7 at our >> there are a few ways you can get your hands on $1 million these days: rob a bank, win the lottery, or you can come on this show and crush it. are you ready? it's time to play "who wants to be a millionaire." [dramatic music] ♪
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