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ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL
Arson Mystery; War on Women
Aired November 14, 2008 - 19:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JANE VELEZ MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, an ISSUES special investigation. The war on women. Thousands of women are brutalized and murdered every year. Some just disappear and are never seen again. We`ll look at several controversial cases where a trail has gone cold.
Natalee Holloway, the pretty 18-year-old who vanished in Aruba. Now, the prime suspect is back in the picture. Joran Van Der Sloot caught on tape in a sex sting that could finally put him behind bars. We`ll break down the case.
Also, the search continues for the killer of this popular Arkansas anchorwoman. Police have found DNA at the murder scene but have no idea who or where the killer is. We`ll talk to Ann Pressly`s close friend to see where this case is heading.
And police respond to a roaring house fire in Pennsylvania, only to discover the body of an infant and the mother gone. We`ll join forces with America`s Most Wanted in the search for answers.
An ISSUES special investigation starts now.
VELEZ MITCHELL: Welcome to this ISSUES special investigation. For the next hour, I will bring you the very latest in some of America`s most shocking, unsolved crimes against women. On this program, we promise to shine a light on these cases.
We call it the war on women, because that`s precisely what it is. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women. Up to 95 percent of domestic abuse victims are female. More than 1,000 women are killed by an intimate partner each year. And perhaps most disturbing, 73 percent of all domestic violence goes unreported.
So tonight, we will open up some cold case files in the war on women. We`ll try to find out what happened, why it happened, and what you can do to help. I won`t let stories like this go away until violence against women goes away. That`s our goal.
So first, let`s remember Natalee Holloway. She disappeared on May 30, 2005, during a high school graduation trip to the Caribbean island of Aruba. She was last seen by her classmates in a car outside a nightclub with three men: Joran Van Der Sloot and two other local men, the Kalpoe brothers.
They initially said they dropped Holloway off at her hotel and never saw her again. Then, the story changed, multiple times. They were arrested more than once on suspicion of involvement in Holloway`s disappearance, but each time they were released without charge due to lack of evidence.
Holloway`s body has never been found. Aruban authorities believe she is dead.
Meantime, in February of this year, after the case had been closed, stunning undercover video footage caught former suspect Joran Van Der Sloot saying that Holloway died on the morning of May 30 and that he disposed of her body with a friend`s help. Van Der Sloot has since recanted the so- called confession, and Aruban officials refused to charge him.
Joining me with details on where that case stands today, my dear friend, Ed Miller, correspondent for "America`s Most Wanted."
Ed, great to see you. Van Der Sloot back in the headlines this week in another undercover camera sting. If we had any doubt that this guy was a sleaze, this story confirms it. Fill us in on some of the details of this really bizarre hidden camera sting out of Bangkok.
ED MILLER, "AMERICA`S MOST WANTED": Well, first of all, we should point out that this has absolutely nothing to do with Natalee Holloway, these latest claims against Van Der Sloot. What it really does, it goes toward his character.
And in essence, he is caught on tape arranging for Thai women to be smuggled into the Netherlands as prostitutes. He says we`ll promise them that they can come over to the Netherlands as models, but once they get there, they`ll become prostitutes.
So what this is, is his involvement -- and cash does change hands on the tape -- his involvement in a sex slave smuggling ring, which is rather shocking when you think about what he is accused of or has been accused of in terms of Natalee.
VELEZ MITCHELL: Now Ed, authorities are apparently translating this documentary to try to determine whether he broke any laws that they can file charges against, but some who have seen the entire two hours say, "Hey, he always uses models, dancers. `You`re going to come over and be a model. You`re going to dance for ten hours.`"
Apparently, he may not use the word "prostitution." Is that a loophole?
MILLER: Absolutely. But you know, there is another thing on that tape that maybe they haven`t gotten to yet, is that he certainly indicates that there will be some forging of documents, that he will get them there under false pretenses in terms of this -- these documents.
Again, this has so much to do with your theme against -- of war against women because again, we`re talking about how he feels about women.
Let me just take you back to Natalee for just one second. Not on undercover tapes but after the original Natalee Holloway investigation was finished, he did interviews, public television interviews that were seen all over the world in which he said she was there, Natalee was there for him to have sex with. That he says she was there. She begged him -- his words -- to have sex with her and then he was to discard her. And he openly said that, that that was his feeling about it, that she...
VELEZ MITCHELL: That was his M.O. I mean, he has complete and utter contempt for women. He would prowl the nightclubs in Aruba and lure these women. And now, he`s sort of luring women in another format, but essentially the same spirit.
MILLER: Yes. It goes back to the character. The other thing is you have to ask yourself where does a young man like this get money for an airline ticket...
VELEZ MITCHELL: Oh, yes.
MILLER: ... to fly all the way from the Netherlands to Thailand? If his dad -- if Dad is funding this, wouldn`t you say, "Hey, son, the American Express bill came in. What`s this rather expensive ticket to Thailand? What`s going on?
VELEZ MITCHELL: I hear you, Ed. Stay right there because I want to bring in my fantastic panel for tonight: Wendy Murphy, a former prosecutor, author of "And Justice for Some" and law professor at the New England School of Law; and Jami Floyd, host of In Session.
Jami, let`s start with you. Would it be fair to say this really isn`t the Holloway case, your classic cold case, in that there was this bizarre hidden-camera confession. And even though Joran recanted it, a lot of people believe it`s true, that she did die in his arms and that he disposed of the body with the help of somebody else.
JAMI FLOYD, HOST, "BEST DEFENSE": Well, I think it`s very important when it says that this is not about -- the latest revelations are not about Natalee Holloway.
And yes, I`m over at In Session, but my show is called "Best Defense." And so I`m defense minded. And that`s why this war on women, this is tough stuff for me, Jane, because obviously, I`m a feminist. I`ve worked with battered women in domestic violence shelters. I understand and agree that there is a war on women, but there`s also a war on our Constitution. And Joran has not been charged in the Natalee Holloway case.
At the same time, there is a sex trade of multi-million-dollar proportions in this world. And we don`t address it as much as we talk about drugs and guns, the other two international crimes of multi-million and -billion-dollar proportions. It is very common for young women to be lured from their home lands with promises of modeling, with promises of dancing, and then to be turned, against their will, most often, to prostitution.
So I`m not saying that Joran is guilty of this, and nor do I think it`s related to Natalee Holloway, necessarily, if at all. But it is so wonderful that you`re talking about it, because we don`t talk about it enough in this country.
VELEZ MITCHELL: I agree. We do not talk about it enough. And you know, as you were talking about Joran, I have to say, we have an open invitation for Joran Van Der Sloot or his father or their attorneys to come on this program and tell their side of the story. We have reached out to Joe Tacopina, the attorney for Joran Van Der Sloot, and have not gotten a comment. But we want to hear both sides of the story, so you are invited if you want to say whatever you want to say. We`re here to hear it.
Now, you know, what I find fascinating, Wendy Murphy, is that Jami Floyd pointed out, you know, he deserves the presumption of innocence and said that he hasn`t been charged? My question is why hasn`t he been charged? He confessed on tape. They caught it on tape.
And before you answer that, here`s exactly what Dutch reporter Peter De Vries got from Van Der Sloot earlier this year on hidden camera about the Holloway case. This appeared on "Good Morning America." Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JORAN VAN DER SLOOT, ARRESTED FOR SEX TRAFFICKING: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
GRAPHIC: Joran: Patrick, I had absolutely no bad feelings about it. I have not lost one night of sleep over it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ MITCHELL: We`re dealing with various languages here, from what they speak in Aruba to the Netherlands to Thailand, but in that case, he did tell De Vries on hidden camera, De Vries` people, that Natalee died in his arms. And he even said something like, "I was shaking the" -- "B" word -- "trying to see what happened, and I couldn`t believe this was happening."
So given that, if this case were happening in the United States, would he Joran Van Der Sloot be charged right now?
WENDY MURPHY, LAW PROFESSOR, NEW ENGLAND SCHOOL OF LAW: Yes. You know, what a nice guy. "I was shaking the `B` word." Oh, my God.
You know, this is a guy who has been so arrogant about it that you think somebody might say, even if we`re going to lose, let`s just go forward, because you don`t want to send a message that women`s lives are so devalued that an arrogant guy like this should be able to flaunt it and walk around free, as if he`s been spitting on the sidewalk.
Look, you know, there`s a confession. I don`t care if somebody wants to say, "Well, it`s not a real confession, and then he recanted." It`s a confession. And if that were the only thing we had, I`d still be pushing.
But we have what I call a confession plus in this case. And you`ve ticked off some of the evidence, Jane. Plus multiple inconsistent statements. And he was the last one seen with her. If that isn`t a strong case, I don`t know what is.
But here`s the point. We don`t value women enough in this country or in any other country. And when you talk about an American women`s life here, that`s bad enough. An American women`s life in a foreign country?
Ed Miller, everybody`s saying there`s no connection between these two cases. I happen to disagree. The commonality is his contempt for women and how he treats women.
Now, I don`t know why the Aruban authorities can`t see his latest behavior and either say, you know, this is part of a pattern of behavior toward women or perhaps the Thai authorities charge him and put pressure on him to spill the beans about the first case and say, if you want to spend the rest of your life in a Thai prison, don`t say anything, but if you want to go back to Holland, talk.
FLOYD: I`m troubled by a few things. First of all -- and again, I do agree that the lives of women are not valued, certainly, in many other countries. I don`t want to single out countries, but in many other countries, we need to export our values about women as equals and our democratic values about women as full participants to those countries.
However, in this country, we have 1 in 100 Americans in prison. There is no lack of prosecution in this country. And Wendy Murphy knows it. We don`t...
FLOYD: Wait. Let me finish. Wendy Murphy said...
MURPHY: Don`t put those words in my mouth. That was a false statement.
FLOYD: Wendy Murphy, you just said that we don`t value the lives of women in other countries.
MURPHY: We don`t. In this country and in others.
FLOYD: And in this country. And that`s what I`m saying. We have 1 in 100 people in prison. There is no lack of prosecuting people in this country.
VELEZ MITCHELL: I agree with you there. I agree with you there. We`re prosecuting people on all sorts of things.
VELEZ MITCHELL: When one person really calls out to be prosecuted, we go...
FLOYD: Please let me finish my point. I waited kindly and respectfully for you, Wendy Murphy. You said that, even if you knew you would lose, you would bring this case. That is not our system of justice.
MURPHY: Yes, it is.
FLOYD: Prosecutors are not supposed to use their prosecution power as a bully pulpit on issues that we all care about, including issues related to women.
VELEZ MITCHELL: Ladies, I have to leave it there because guess what? We have to go to commercial break. I will let you respond in a second. But the point is that we do have to look at this. And I love the fact that all of us women are so passionate about waging this war on women and doing it in the right way.
Coming up, the latest on the search for the killer of Arkansas TV anchor Ann Pressly.
And in Pennsylvania, a single mom goes missing. Her house is burned down, her infant son inside. You won`t believe the gruesome scene and what they found out. Oh, it`s awful. Coming up.
VELEZ MITCHELL: Popular Arkansas TV anchor Ann Pressly found October at 4:30 a.m. on Monday, October 20, 2008. It was a half hour before she was due to appear on local CNN affiliate KATV`s morning program. Pressly was bludgeoned beyond recognition. The bones in her face were broken. Her left hand was broken. Her upper body was pulverized. Pressly was hospitalized, never regaining consciousness, and died five days later.
Little Rock police say robbery is the suspected motive. Her purse was discovered missing, and her credit cards may have been used several miles away. As of today, her killer remains a mystery and at large.
Joining me is Wally Hall. He`s a reporter with the "Arkansas Democrat-Gazette." He`s an acquaintance of Ann`s.
Wally, I understand your daughter and Ann went to high school together. Ann was a year older. You often ran into Ann, reporting in the field. First of all, thanks for being with us. I know this has to be very difficult. But paint a picture for those who have never had the opportunity to meet her. We certainly know she wasn`t running with the wrong crowd. That`s for sure.
WALLY HALL, REPORTER, "ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE": No offense to anybody in the industry, but she did not come across as a TV personality. She came across as the girl next door. She could be in a room with 500 people, and she would make you feel like you were the only one she was interested in talking to.
VELEZ MITCHELL: Now, she was apparently just a very, very careful, well-behaved, well-groomed, hard-working, no-trouble kind of gal. She lived in a very good neighborhood near a country club where, as you said, stealing a lawn ornament is considered a big deal. So it`s very unlikely that this would be a random case in this neighborhood, and yet that`s what police are indicating, a random robbery. Do you buy it?
HALL: I think they`re giving out all the information. I`ll be honest with you, Jane. I can explain the nuances of the spread offense, but an investigation into this kind, I don`t know. This is just -- you know, this was devastating to her parents, but it was a real tragedy to the entire city and community and all those who knew her. She was just a truly, truly special young lady.
VELEZ MITCHELL: Now, of course, she was horrifically beaten, and people do describe her as a fighter. Her left hand was broken. Do you think she put up a struggle?
HALL: I hope she beat that guy as hard as she could.
VELEZ MITCHELL: And one last question. In terms of the Arkansas state fair, you have a theory, or a possible theory, anyway, that hey, you know, the fair was in town, and that brings a whole new crowd of people. What are your thoughts on that?
HALL: Well, it had been a big weekend for her. She had debuted in the movie "W." And also, she`d been working out at the state fair that whole last week, all the television stations out there. And it just happened to be leaving town the same day that she was -- that she was attacked.
VELEZ MITCHELL: Well, let`s hope that the authorities follow up that lead. That sounds like very good detective work on your part. Our hearts go out to this entire community. Thank you so much, Wally, for taking the time to speak with us today.
HALL: Jane, I have to say something real quick.
VELEZ MITCHELL: Sure.
HALL: I really appreciate, as the father of an only child, a daughter, I appreciate the attention you`re bringing to this violence on women.
VELEZ MITCHELL: Thank you, sir. Thank you for saying that, because the first thing we have to do when we want to change something is state our goal. OK? And our goal has to be stopping the violence. Until we articulate that and say this is what we`re aiming for, we`re not going to improve. So that`s what we`re doing here at the very least, is saying we as a society have a goal to stop the violence against women. Thank you so much, Wally.
Now, the one thing the police have revealed in the tragic murder of Ann Pressly is that the killer is a man and some are saying the intensity of this attack suggests that this was personal, that perhaps Ann knew her murderer.
Back with me, our fantastic panel: we have Wendy Murphy, former prosecutor and author of "And Justice for Some"; and we also have Michelle Sigona from "America`s Most Wanted." Also, Jamie Floyd, host of "Best Defense."
Michelle, we`re going to start with you. Police have implied this is a random robbery. Can that really be the whole story, given the horrific brutalization?
MICHELLE SIGONA, "AMERICAN`S MOST WANTED": You know, at this point, it`s really difficult until we know who the suspect or the suspects are. You know, we don`t know if there was one person or two people, but police have definitely confirmed to us that when they got there on the scene, that her back door was open. Now, whether Ann left that unlocked, or whether the suspect left out of the back door, we don`t know or not.
You know, we don`t know if that person`s familiar with the area or if they have been following her. It`s really hard to tell.
But I can tell you that, in a small town like that and in this neighborhood, where no other robberies have been apparent, there have been no other attacks like this that we know of and that police have come forward with, you know, because I`ve asked these questions specifically. I can only at this point seem to be ramp up (ph).
VELEZ MITCHELL: Jami Floyd, your analysis of this case?
FLOYD: Well, we do know that most women, when they meet a violent end like this, meet it at the hands of someone they know. Random attacks do happen, but if you look at the FBI statistics, they`re extraordinarily rare against women, against children, really against any victims.
So I think it`s very important to allow the authorities to do a proper investigation without too much speculation, because we do know that too much media speculation can get in the way of effective turnout.
VELEZ MITCHELL: Wendy, we have just two seconds. What do you think? Random or somebody newer?
MURPHY: It`s certainly rageful, so maybe it`s random, but this person hated women. So can I say something about this?
VELEZ MITCHELL: When we come right back. I want to get you -- there`s so much to talk about and we have more in just a moment.
VELEZ MITCHELL: More analysis from my wonderful panel tonight in just a moment, but first, immediately after hearing about Ann Pressly, I thought about the possibility that a stalker may be involved. That occurred to me. Stalkers do crazy, violent things sometimes.
Remember the recent story of a stalker who killed herself outside Paula Abdul`s house? There is a long history of women in the spotlight and dangerous stalkers.
Here with more insight into the mind of stalkers, Rhonda Saunders, a former criminal prosecutor and an expert in the area of stalking and domestic violence. Thanks so much for joining us. You know, police haven`t said anything about stalking in this case, but since they don`t know who did it, and they seem to be sort of at a loss, how can they possibly say that it is or isn`t the stalker at this point?
RHONDA B. SAUNDERS, FORMER PROSECUTOR: I think at first, that there was speculation that it could be a stalker. And you have to consider that when you have anyone, someone who is in the public eye. And you don`t have to be a celebrity like Madonna or Steven Spielberg or Gwyneth Paltrow in order to get a stalker.
You have someone who is seen on television every single night. You have fans. And then you have fanatics who focus on that person. They begin to feel that they know the person. They have a relationship with the person. And that love or adoration can often turn to hatred. And once, the people may want to harm that celebrity.
VELEZ MITCHELL: Well, a couple of thoughts here. Police apparently said that they checked out one guy, who had been sort of a mild stalker, sending e-mails, that he has been cleared.
However, as an anchor/reporter, and I was an anchor/reporter in local markets for many years, you go out and you meet so many people. You interact with so many people over the course of a week. I mean, they have to cast a really wide net, because who knows what she said to any one person or what they may have said to her that could have triggered something like a stalking.
SAUNDERS: And there`s another dynamic working here, also. We`re talking about violence against women. Yes, she was a celebrity in her state as a newscaster, but stalkers also go after ex-partners, people who they want to have a relationship with.
In fact, the celebrity stalking is only maybe 1, 2 percent of the cases we see. The majority of the cases we see involve domestic violence. Whether it`s in a marriage, whether it`s in just a relationship, boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. And when the woman decides that she wants out of the relationship, what we`ve seen is that it can turn to violence.
VELEZ MITCHELL: She apparently was not in any kind of serious relationship.
I want to pint out that there have been some famous stalking cases involving females. For example, Teresa Saldana, she was an actress who was in "Raging Bull," and she was stalked and repeatedly stabbed. Thank God this woman survived.
But unfortunately, Rebecca Schaeffer, an actress on a popular sit-com, was stalked and murdered by an obsessed fan in 1989.
You know, obviously Ann Pressly was good-looking. She was charismatic. All the qualities that lead to stalking.
SAUNDERS: Absolutely. That Rebecca Schafer case, that was so sad, because she had this fan who focused on her. His name was Robert Bardo. And he believed that she was communicating with him. So when he received an autographed picture, he thought that she had sent it personally.
VELEZ MITCHELL: Well, you know what? We`re out of time, but I just want to say that you give us some really good information. There`s a lot of sickos out there, and we have to be on alert. Thank you, Rhonda.
If you have any information that could help Little Rock police find and arrest Ann Pressly`s killer, whoever this person or persons are, call Crimestoppers tip line, 501-371-INFO. Forty-eight-thousand-dollar reward.
JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: A fire broke out at a Pennsylvania home of 33-year-old single mom Joey Offutt in the early morning hours of July 12, 2007. When the smoke cleared, the remains of Offutt`s six-week-old-son were discovered in the burned ruins of the home and Offutt was missing.
Her car found abandoned. Four days later, several miles away police now know that not only was Offutt missing from her home, but that nobody had seen or heard from her for several days before the fire. Authorities believe the fire was the work of an arsonist.
Aft still missing at this hour and police suspect foul play. Of course, at this point there are few leads.
Michelle Sigona from America`s Most Wanted has the details on this case. Michelle, this is just one of the thousands of cases of women who go missing under mysterious circumstances.
MICHELLE SIGONA, AMERICA`S MOST WANTED: You`ve got that right Jane.
SIGONA: That`s great that you are addressing this especially for women tonight, so we are all grateful for that. But this case in particular is out of Sykes, Pennsylvania and the arson fire what I learned from the investigators actually happened on July 12th, 2007.
But the last sighting of Joey Offutt was actually July 5th, 2007 from a local youth pastor. And at that point, she was with her, her youngest son, only six-weeks-old, his name is Alexis. Excuse me his name was Alexis and she also has two other children, a toddler and another 8-year-old girl who were actually visiting grandparents at the time in Virginia.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tell us about this horrific connection to some meat with maggots in it and what it says about the case.
SIGONA: Absolutely, this is very interesting in going out there in working in this case. And a lot of times, as you know, you`ve worked hundreds or maybe thousands of these cases. When you get out there in the field, you start to find out more little nuggets about the case that you can throw out there to the viewers.
And what I learned was that there was a package of meat that was left on the counter. And that forensics technicians came in and there was maggots all over the meat and thankfully the meat did not actually burned up on the fire. And they tested the maggots and they were able to tell from the maggots that the meat was placed on the counter sometime around July the 5th.
The way that the meat was placed, it looked like something startled the person, or they had a major change of plans because it was half open like they were getting ready to prepare and put it down pretty quickly.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, well this really turns my stomach because the implication or correct me if I`m wrong that it would seem to me that the implication could be that something untoward happened to the mother on that date and then this child could have been in that home for days before the fire was set.
I mean, I don`t even want to think about the possibility that this child was left there to die.
SIGONA: I know. It`s absolutely horrific. Six weeks old and you know what? Thank goodness, I mean, I tell you. Everything happens for a reason. These firefighters were out there after they knocked down this fire; one of the places that the fire was set was in the bathroom.
And that`s where the baby was found. But the baby was at the bottom of a bathtub. And the firefighter said that when they were in the room, with the fire investigator all of a sudden, something fell down from the ceiling and the water separated and they looked down and that`s when they saw this -- well, they didn`t know if it was a baby. They didn`t know really what it was, they thought it was a pet at first. But thank goodness that happened.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Is there any way they can tell how this child died? In other words was it killed before and then was just left there, for the arson fire or whether it died during the fire? Which is far more frightening in the sense.
SIGONA: Well, we do know for sure that this baby was in fact killed before the arson fire.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We do?
SIGONA: We do know that, how? We don`t know. Investigators certainly did not push him but they did say that the child was in fact either -- died on its own or murdered or whatever the case maybe before the arson fire was set.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, well, this is a fascinating and gruesome and just horrific case. I want to fold in once more, the rest of our really fabulous panel, Wendy Murphy, a former prosecutor and author of "And Justice for Some" and Jami Floyd, host of "Best Defense".
Wendy, we have arson, we have the murder of a child and we have a missing mom. What does this all add up to you in your mind?
WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Well, first question, where`s the baby`s daddy? I`m sure that they`ve done some DNA tests. I`m sure they have people there concerned about. There`s no question this was not random. Obviously, the effort was made to destroy this poor little baby. Was it because of child support concerns?
Where was this woman`s car found? At some other place where she lived, somebody drove the car there. Somehow, her car got to another location and now she`s missing. There`s so many important questions to ask.
But look, I want to say something in general about violence against women. One of the reasons women are dying in huge numbers in this country is that we treat it like a cheap crime.
Men know they can get away with beating the hell out of a woman because this is going to be handled in traffic court. Men know they can rape women because less than two percent of rapists spend even one day behind bars. This is an epidemic.
MURPHY: They disrespect woman, and these kinds of cases, the fact that they`re unsolved is a reflection of the nature of the epidemic and the lack of respect. You know what we need to be calling this starting tonight and on your show I`m going to say this every time I`m on, this is a hate crime.
MURPHY: It is a civil rights violation.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Right on.
MURPHY: And let`s start calling it that.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I agree. You discriminate on the bases of race and gender. So killing a woman because she`s a woman I think should be considered a hate crime.
And we`re going to get to that in a second at the end of our broadcast. We`re going to this, let it fly and everybody give their opinions about what the solutions are.
But I want to get back to this case, Jami Floyd. The car that was found in another town was neatly backed into the parking spot. The family of the missing mom says she would never do that. She`s also known to have gone on the Internet and made friends with people on Internet whom she sometimes met afterwards.
JAMI FLOYD, HOST, "BEST DEFENSE": Yes, well listen, there are very important lessons in all of these stories you`ve covered tonight, Jane. This one, of course as well for us as women and for our daughters; that they start to make their way in the world. Making friends on the Internet, if you`re a mom with little kids, and going out and meeting those folks, I`m sorry ill advised and that is not to blame the victim but we have to try and learn from our mistakes.
Now, we don`t know that she is dead, the mom. We don`t know if she is somehow involved. We have to be very careful about speculating, about fathers of babies. Or ex-boyfriends or even someone she may have met on the Internet.
FLOYD: But this is one of the most bizarre mysteries that we`ve seen recently with all the twist and turns just as they get started. So I think there`s a whole lot more that has to come out and it sounds from what I`ve read and heard as though despite what Wendy says, the authorities are taking it very, very seriously down there even though the mom may have been victimized, as well as children who are victimized too often in our country.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, we`ve been talking about the dead, Michelle Sigona, of America`s Most Wanted, you interviewed the on again, off again, boyfriend, the father of the dead baby. He has his own theory as to what happened. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you think happened?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know there was talk of post partum depression on herself, but if an accident happened, where`s Joey now? For her to be --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, Michelle, he`s not considered a suspect. He has been reportedly cooperating with the authorities. What do we know about him and his relationship with the missing mom?
SIGONA: Well, here`s what I can tell you, they do have two children together. They also have a toddler who he has custody of right now. The oldest child is actually from a previous relationship and the grandmother has custody of that little girl.
But basically, they were still together, but they were living in separate homes. He lived not too far away from where Joey Offutt`s home was. So he had a pretty good relationship, especially with the children.
I can tell you that the weekend before 4th of July, so as we know July 5th is the last date that Joey Offutt was seen. The weekend before, which took place about June 30th, that Alexis -- baby Alexis and also Joey Offutt all got in the car and they took the girls down to visit the grandmother and came back.
So there was a fight for sure we do know on July 3rd, an argument, I can`t really say a fight, there was an argument. And he called her from what he tells me the next day to apologize, but after that, he didn`t have any contact with her and so he filed a missing person`s report on July 12th which was the same day that the fire was started.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, we want to stress, this man is not considered a suspect.
SIGONA: That`s right, no suspects.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: There are no suspects at this time. And theoretically Jami, this is a missing person`s case so theoretically, the mother could be alive.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And something unfortunately could have happened to the child. And she could have left and decided to drop the car and come back and maybe set the fire.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m not saying that happened but hypothetically, it`s something that the police have to consider.
FLOYD: All things are possible. It`s certainly a missing person`s case as to the missing mother. And I`m deeply troubled by the fact that we have three children, with three different custody situations. That tells me something right there, women need to start to take charge of their lives, get organized and don`t get so consumed in a relationships with men that you don`t think safely and that you don`t think clearly.
But it is only missing persons as to her. We do have the dead child and then there`s a real question about what happened to that child and who is responsible.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: This is just one of so many cases.
Wendy Murphy, according to the National Crime Information Center`s missing person files, the number of missing women up until September 1st, 2008 is mind-boggling, 54,505 active cases. That just blows my mind.
MURPHY: Well, it should and it should not just blow your mind it should make you crazy, angry, outraged. And it should make everybody watching this program, do something about it.
Look, I know we can speculate about the fact that she might have disappeared or run away. And my eyes glazed over listening to all the defense theories in Scott Peterson`s case and all the nonsense about how it was the woman`s fault.
I got a different message. I don`t care if she has 12 babies with five husbands and was doing naked cartwheels down the middle of Main Street.
Nobody has a right to beat, much less kill, another human being. So let`s be clear about the message tonight, shall we? I don`t care what she did. I don`t care if she was not moral and upstanding and a nice girl.
FLOYD: We don`t know she`s dead, Wendy Murphy. I want to remind you very clearly of the run away bride. That poor groom who had simply been left at the altar, had been convicted and hung before the woman had been found and lo and behold, --
MURPHY: That`s not true.
FLOYD: She was alive.
MURPHY: That`s not true.
FLOYD: It is certainly true.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: This is not a war on men. This is not a war on men.
MURPHY: I condemn her.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: There are many men who protect women and take care of women.
FLOYD: Maybe not for you Jane.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: But what we are doing is looking at this issue. And I think you`re both right. I think that, we have to say that there`s no excuse for violence against women, but we also have to give women some tips to protect themselves. And acknowledge of course, that there are many good and wonderful men who protect women, who investigate cases when women are tragically murdered.
So all of you ladies stay right there, we have so much more to talk about. We`re going to bust this whole issue wide open.
Just a reminder, anybody with information on Joey Offutt, pleas call 1(877)440-Joey or just contact the Pennsylvania State Police. They need your help.
We`re going to talk about violence against women in just a second. Solutions, should we march on Washington?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`re talking about the epidemic of violence against women in this country. I call it a war on women because that`s precisely what it is.
I`m joined once again by my fantastic panel for this hour. Wendy Murphya former prosecutor, author of "And Justice for Some" and law professor at New England Law of Boston; Jami Floyd, host of "Best Defense and Michelle Sigona of "America`s Most Wanted."
We`ve kind of been debating here what the solution is to this epidemic of violence against women.
Wendy Murphy, I am inspired by the women of Northern Ireland who decided many years ago and they wanted to end the violence there after a baby was shot during the course of some sectarian violence. And people scoffed at them and said, oh, please, you women are not going to achieve anything.
And they banded together and they stated their intention and they did reduce sectarian violence. And what they said was the most important part of that process was stating the intention. In other words, saying, enough we are not going to take this anymore.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And I think that`s what we have to say with this violence against women. This horrific violence, rape and murder, enough, we are not going to take it anymore whether we have to march on Washington, whether we have to contact our Representatives and demand hearings, something has to be done.
MURPHY: And I vote for you.
I`m so inspired and I`m so glad that you just said it in that way. We have to rise up, which is the quintessential American thing to do. When horrible acts of violence are being perpetrated against a targeted group of citizens, rising up is what we are supposed to do as Americans and we haven`t done that.
As women, including men but on behalf of women, we haven`t done that ever. 30 years ago, we had a law reform movement it was worth a whole lot of nothing; consciousness raising yes, law reform, no. We still have the same low rates of reporting when it comes to rape and domestic violence. And it is embarrassing.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Jami Floyd, I want to bring in other solutions, too. When I look at this problem, I think start early. Start with peaceful conflict resolution in the schools. How many times have you and I both covered a case where somebody is sent to anger management; too late they`ve already exhibited the fatal anger.
FLOYD: In prison.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, exactly.
FLYOD: It does a whole of good. I guess it helps. It helped inside the prison population.
Look, first of all, I agree with Wendy. Greater and not always still we, a greater accountability from prosecutors, I`m all for that especially as a defense attorney.
I also think that we spend inordinate sums of money in this war on drugs. That is what consumes most of our criminal justice system while violence against women does go too often, ignored.
So we`ve got sort of an inverse problem. We care about drugs in the schools, but we don`t care as much about violence or violence against women in schools and then beyond.
And I agree with you, I think it starts very early and I think we need to teach our daughters to think not like victims, to not allow themselves to be victimized, to speak up when other young girls are being victimized. And it does start in their schools then it`s just about teaching girls, it`s about teaching boys to respect women.
FLOYD: About teaching boys to be feminist as well.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Michelle Sigona, every time I have suggested something like group therapy in the schools, in the public school, so kids can learn how to deal with their emotions, --
SIGONA: Oh, yes.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And learn, why am I so angry, and what can I do with this anger in an intelligent way, I`m called a flake.
SIGONA: Here`s the thing, Jane. I think what a great idea would be is to get out there obviously, into the schools, not just educating the young women youth, but also the young male youth. And the different problems that exist out there and a lot of times, they`re learning from their parents.
So they`re -- a lot of times, women are involved, they`re moms are involved in these domestic violence situations. Their dads are a part of it. This is all that they know when they`re growing up. And this is all that they trickle and that they with them throughout they`re adulthood.
So if we can get out there and we can get them young; and we can get them involved in programs and get them education and make a rally. And to go out there inch and have an assembly for them and to not make it fun, but to make it appealing to them. Then we can educate them on a different level and starting at a younger age.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: But I mean, how do we implement this, Wendy? We`re talking about doing things on the local level in schools; we`re talking about national efforts. And perhaps going to Washington and demanding Congressional hearings on violence against women.
It`s a lot of talk, but how do we actually turn this into action, especially in this post-feminist age when so many women who maybe decades ago would mobilize and actually go on a protest march, they`re too busy making money or trying to survive or trying to take care of their kids to really do anything like this in an activist sense.
MURPHY: No, it`s true, it`s true. I have five kids. I`m often too busy to be an activist. But I think the time has come when we have to make that choice. Let`s not cook and clean for a while, let`s march on Washington and that would be a fair choice and a good way to get started.
I think one of the things we have to do is call it what it is and as you said, measure it well.
Joe Biden did this in the early `90s to support the Violence against Women Act. He produced some pretty shocking data and some things came from that. I think it`s time to do new measurements.
And it`s also really important and I emphasize this again, and this is going to sound irreverent, we have to call it what it is; a hate crime, a civil rights violation.
MURPHY: If a Muslim woman gets raped, we call it a hate crime. If a white woman gets raped, we call it bad sex. We need to knock that off.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Jami, jump in there.
JAMI: Well, I want to weigh in on the Violence against Women Act. I want to recognize that that was a tremendous step forward when Joe Biden and others enacted, and it was a real push to get it enacted, the Violence against Women Act.
But to draw the analogy to civil rights -- and I think that is part of what Wendy is trying to do -- I think we have to recognize, and it gets back to Jane, your proposal, that the law can only do so much. If you put in legislation, yes, that is important, and we have seen that with civil rights. But think about how much school segregation we still have. Think about all of the problems we still have.
And so we really have to start at the ground level.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: That music says please stay right there. We`re going to have some final thoughts when we come right back; fabulous insights. Thank you.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Some final thoughts now from my fantastic panel. Michelle Sigona with "America`s Most Wanted." We imprison more people in this country than any other country in the world and as Jami Floyd pointed out, a lot of this is for drug crimes and indeed nonviolent drug offenses. But yet the crimes against women don`t seem to be addressed. There is something out of balance with this system.
SIGONA, "AMERICA`S MOST WANTED": There is something out of balance, and especially -- especially with all of the cases that we see against women.
I mean, just one this week. The missing woman out of Wisconsin. And, you know, just last night, her -- excuse me -- ex-husband was actually just named a person of interest. I mean, we have that case. We have the Stacy Peterson case, we have the Lisa Stebbock case out of Chicago. The list just goes on and on and on.
And it seems like -- thank goodness, you are putting a spotlight on this issue and we are able to keep bringing these issues out there and bringing these cases out there. And hopefully the more attention we draw and put towards it, Jane, especially you yourself; hopefully the more attention and the more workshops and the more programs we can get out there for women and educate them.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Jami, we can`t prosecute this problem away. Again, we`re locking up so many, so many people and yet the violence isn`t going down, necessarily.
FLOYD: Yes, I think a lot of it is cultural; you can`t legislate cultural change. We have got to change the way we think about women. We have to think -- change the way women are portrayed in the media, in our music, in movies and film, on television. All of that has to change over time.
We have to remember, also, and teach our daughters, that it wasn`t very long ago that women were property in this country; and as -- in this country, as were children. And women didn`t even have the right to vote until this century. So --
FLOYD: We have to really realize how far we have come. But we have to recognize how far we still have to go.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I agree with you. We need to have a feminization of the post-feminist generation. Wendy, you have about 20 seconds; I`ll give you the final word on this.
MURPHY: Walk and serve is a good moral kick in the fanny so we do have to start with law and hold law accountable when it fails women disproportionately by treating robbery as a more serious offense than rape and battering. That`s the first line of defense. And let`s talk about the value of personal autonomy, bodily integrity, fundamental human rights; this is what we`re talking about at the most basic level.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We are out of time. But we`re going to do another show and talk about all these issues that you fabulous women have brought up.
Thank you and thank you for joining me on this very important discussion on this crucial issue.
You know, there`s lots of people talking on TV. Too few of them are saying anything that helps you and me make sense of the world. I`m trying to change that by keeping it real.
I`m Jane Valez Michelle. Have a great night and join us every week night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Goodbye.