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ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL

Meter Reader: Police in Caylee Anthony Case Rude, Dismissive

Aired January 13, 2009 - 19:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, stunning new twists in the Casey Anthony case. Did cops drop the ball and rudely dismiss meter reader Roy Kronk when he repeatedly tried to point out a suspicious bag 15 homes down from the Anthonys` back in August. In a bombshell interview on "Good Morning America," Kronk complains about the Caylee case cops.

ROY KRONK, METER READER: The cop was like -- I would say he was kind of rude to me.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It would take four long months for little Caylee`s body to be discovered at that very same spot, when Kronk went back in December and found the bag with Caylee`s skull.

Kronk was not the first to say he was treated dismissively by authorities. So are they the Keystone Kops? We`ll debate it.

KRONK: If you were going get rid of something like that, that would have been a great place to hide it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And has Kronk been cruelly vilified in the media? We`ll tackle that, too, and take your calls.

Also, "My daughter, where is she?" pleads a distraught mother. The family of missing beauty Laura Garza erupts in anger and frustration after a surprise no-show in court by the registered sex offender who was the last person she was seen with. Now the Garzas won`t get to confront Michael Miele until April. Is he trying to cop a plea? And why isn`t the victim`s family kept in the loop when they believe he`s the only person who knows what happened?

ISSUES starts now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, meter reader Roy Kronk reads the riot act to cops in the Caylee Anthony murder case. He tells all on ABC`s "Good Morning America," complaining the cops were lazy and dismissive when he called in his August tips, pointing them to the very location where the body would later be found, four months later.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KRONK: The cop was, like -- I would say he was kind of rude to me, and I just didn`t really -- I`m trying to do -- help out. I`m trying to be a nice guy and instead I`m catching all this so I just didn`t care anymore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And guess what? We`ve got breaking news just in. We`re hearing from CNN affiliate WESH, sources telling them we can expect disciplinary action against the deputy who blew Kronk off, the one who showed up on August 13 and apparently didn`t take him seriously.

Kronk went on to explain to GMA`s Robin Roberts that his attempt to do a good deed has turned his life into a living hell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KRONK: They`ve been really hard on me. And you try to do the right thing and you try to be a nice guy, and you just get vilified. And to where people -- I mean, and the sad thing is people actually believe some of the things that are being said. And I have nothing to do with this at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Kronk, who denied any involvement in Caylee`s murder, says he had to call 911 last August three times, but cops still did not take him seriously. Here`s one of his August calls.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KRONK: There`s a small...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, we`re going to get to that in a little bit. There we are. I think we heard a little bit.

Well, we have more of Roy Kronk`s shocking comments coming up.

Meantime, word that little Caylee, who still hasn`t been put to rest, might be cremated. Why? Get this. This is a real shocker. The Anthony family`s attorney, Brad Conway, said it is to discourage, quote, "the sick individuals that might think it would be nice to dig up this child`s grave and profit somehow from it." Grave robbers, that`s what we`re talking about? Sick is right.

We`ve got so much to talk about. Tonight I want to hear from you. Give me a holler: 1-877-JVM-SAYS. That`s 1-877-586-7297, and weigh in.

Let`s go right to our expert panel. Stacey Honowitz, assistant state attorney in Florida`s sex crimes unit; Don Clark, former FBI special agent in charge; Dr. Bill Manion, pathologist and assistant medical examiner for Burlington County, New Jersey; and Monica Stein, reporter with News Talk AM 580 WDBO in Orlando.

Monica, you have been covering this case from the very start. What is the very latest tonight?

MONICA STEIN, REPORTER, WDBO: Well, the latest, as you heard from your affiliate, WESH in Orlando, that they are saying now that the officer who met Roy Kronk in August to check out the scene may be facing disciplinary charges.

Also, they`re saying now that a psychic was on the phone with the Anthonys` private eye, who was checking out that area on the phone in November.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Stacey Honowitz, the story keeps changing. At one point Dominic Casey said that it was a -- his sick daughter. And now, reportedly, according to some sources, he`s saying he was on the phone with a psychic.

But I want to get back to Roy Kronk. Is this embarrassing for the sheriff`s department down there? And is that now why sources are now saying that they`re going to take disciplinary action against the deputy who showed up August 13 and, apparently, according to Roy Kronk, was rude to him and didn`t take him seriously and didn`t look where Roy Kronk was pointing?

STACEY HONOWITZ, ASSISTANT STATE ATTORNEY, FLORIDA`S SEX CRIMES UNIT: Well, Jane, this is really not breaking news, only because, when the issue first came out a couple of weeks ago, the first thing the Orange County Sheriff`s Office said they were going to do is they were going to conduct an internal allegation, because there were allegations that these officers did not take him seriously and did not do any follow up. So it`s not really breaking news, and I don`t think it`s something that...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I think it`s breaking news that sources are saying that he will be disciplined. Yes, we knew that there was going to be and there was an investigation, but now we`re hearing this deputy will be disciplined; i.e., "we made a mistake. We did something wrong." It`s the authorities acknowledging that things didn`t go the way they were supposed to.

HONOWITZ: Well, I mean, they should take responsibility, if there`s an issue where these two officers or however many officers went out there did not do any follow up or did not take this witness seriously, then the sheriff`s office had nothing more to do than to discipline them in some way.

Is this going to have an effect on the case? As a prosecutor in the case, would I be concerned that I won`t be able to prove my case beyond a reasonable doubt? This is -- this is not the type of setback that, as the prosecutor on the case, I`m going to -- you know, it`s going to present a problem.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I totally disagree with you, respectfully. And I know you have a lot of experience, and I`m a big fan, but I think that the defense could say, look, there were authorities there in August. They didn`t see a body. They looked. There were three calls. They never found a body.

Now we have a private investigator for the Anthony family there on November 15. They didn`t see a body. The body wasn`t there. The body was put there by a mystery person, possibly some Zanny the nanny-type person, after Casey was put in jail.

HONOWITZ: There`s so much overwhelming evidence that we know of so far, Jane. I can`t tell you the exact case, but there`s overwhelming evidence that we have heard of. And we know prosecutors are holding back, probably, some of the stuff that they even have.

So the defense can do what they want. Certainly, this is an issue for them to contest in court, but I don`t think it`s going to be a setback for the prosecutors.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Don Clark, do cops get burned out when they get inundated with thousands of tips? In their defense, I`m a reporter. I`ve gotten tips. As a reporter, I get one or two. They can drive me crazy. Imagine getting 5,000 tips. Is it -- is it so overwhelming that you`re not likely to see the gems with all the junk?

DON CLARK, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Jane, I don`t think that`s the norm at all. You know, police officers, they know what they`re in for. You`re in for a penny, you`re in for a pound. You take the good ones with the bad ones.

And you can`t just say, "Well, I got so many that I`m going to blow this off, and I`m not going to do this today." You`ve got to follow the procedures each and every time. And if you get to that point where you can`t follow that procedure or you really are burned out, then it`s time to move on here.

And I think the police department down there is doing the right thing, is to look into this. I don`t know if it would have had a significant impact on the case, but it certainly would have had some impact as to whether or not the body was brought in there later or was it there already. And it could have some impact on the autopsy and results that may come from it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, the autopsy`s been done. The remains have completely skeletonized. And they determined that the cause of death was homicide by undetermined means.

In light of what Roy Kronk seems to be implying today, that cops were dismissive and perhaps could have easily gotten to Caylee`s body, it`s worth another look at this video from November.

Here private eye Dominic Casey in the woods where Caylee`s remains were discovered a month later. The brush looks thick, which raises a question about Kronk`s contention that a more thorough search by cops would have turned up the body.

Doctor Bill Manion, so many questions, and as Stacey Honowitz said, there is a lot of overwhelming evidence. Some of it`s forensics. Here`s what I don`t understand. According to the botanist and the etymologist who analyzed the skeletal remains, they said that grass and insects in those remains showed that the body had been there since June.

But if it was under water, which is what people are saying -- that`s what Roy Kronk is saying, that the deputy didn`t want to go into the water -- how can grass and insects exist under water?

DR. BILL MANION, PATHOLOGIST: You`d have different species. You`d have water species, and that would delay the normal process that we talked about earlier. We talked about before, that there`s an evolution where maggots and blow flies come in first, then insects, arachnids, caterpillars and things of that nature. So being underwater would delay things.

And I -- frankly, I keep wondering, was that body really there or was it placed there in November or December? I mean, it`s hard for me to believe that that body could have been there from June, through July, through August, September, October, November, without being disturbed by animals or having someone see plastic or shreds of plastic. So I -- I still don`t understand.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Stacey, you`re hearing from somebody who`s a forensic pathologist. Imagine the questions the jurors are going to have about that.

HONOWITZ: Well, Jane, listen, nobody knows all of the evidence. Everything that we discuss on these shows are tidbits. Sometimes they`re leaks. Sometimes they`re rumors. We don`t know exactly what these experts are going to say.

All we know is that, prior to even finding this body, the Orlando state attorney`s office returned a first-degree murder charge against Casey Anthony. That`s all we could say.

So we know, even before this body was ever found, analyzed, autopsied, before any of these forensic pathologists were brought in, that they had enough evidence to go forward and say.

Now the body is found. So certainly, this is now fodder for the defense to come in and cross-examine these witnesses, take their depositions, and try to determine how long that body has been there.

But as far as whether or not we can sit here tonight and say that this is going to blow this case apart, that we don`t know now if the body was placed there by Casey or by somebody else. We don`t know enough about it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Stacey, let me -- let me say this. I agree that the evidence is overwhelming against Casey Anthony. I do think that they have a very strong case.

I`ve also seen many huge high-profile cases where it seemed like an open and shut case at the outset and, because it really descended into such a vortex where so many people were coming out of the woodwork. And I`m not just talking about O.J. Simpson. You can talk about Robert Blake, Phil Specter, Michael Jackson, all these famous cases.

And I understand those involved celebrities, but there are other cases, as well, where it seemed open and shut. And then, because of something that was like this, some crazy sideshow, all of a sudden, it was an opportunity that really did bust the case wide open. That`s what I`m saying. I agree with you that the evidence is overwhelming.

HONOWITZ: No, I agree with you. Listen, I`ve been a prosecutor for 21 years. There have been cases where I`ve walked into court and thought to myself, "Now, there`s no way that a jury`s not going to find this person guilty." And then some issue pops up. Certain things come into play that you don`t expect.

I will not sit here tonight and tell you it`s a locked case. I will tell you that now, because these issues are coming forward, it might be difficult for a jury to listen to these explanations. I can`t tell you whether or not they`re going to find her guilty. All these different issues that are popping up, does it make it more difficult? I just think that the prosecutors can walk in there and, if they lay their case out, they`ll be OK.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`ll see. OK. Stay right there. Just a reminder: "NANCY GRACE" up at 8 p.m. immediately following this program. She will have the very latest on the fallout from Roy Kronk`s interview. Don`t miss it.

And of course, we have lots more ground to cover. Whose side are you taking? Kronk`s or the cops? Call 1-877-JVM-SAYS. That`s 1-877-586-7297, and sound off to my expert panel.

Here is just one of the infamous August 911 calls from meter reader Roy Kronk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KRONK: There`s a swamp. And if you`re heading back out toward the main road on the left hand side, in an area, I noticed something that looked white, and there was -- I don`t know what it is. I`m not telling you it`s Caylee or anything of that nature.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NANCY GRACE, HOST, "NANCY GRACE": Somebody in the car actually got nauseous when you got to the location?

GAIL ST. JOHN, PSYCHIC: Yes. Yes. That`s a feeling that goes with it when you -- when you come on a body. That`s frequent.

GRACE: Did you alert police?

ST. JOHN: Did I alert police at that moment? No, I did not alert police.

GRACE: At some juncture did you tell police that you had come to this location and felt very strongly about it?

ST. JOHN: No. We had not been taken seriously when we were there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That was psychic Gail St. John telling Nancy Grace about her experience with investigators. That`s before little Caylee`s remain had been discovered. She, like Roy Kronk, clearly felt investigators were not taking her seriously either.

I`m back with my fabulous panel and taking your calls. The number 1- 877-JVM-SAYS. That`s 1-877-586-7297.

We`ve got some more breaking news to tell you about. CNN, and again, this is just in moments ago. CNN affiliate WESH is reporting that it has obtained an e-mail from Cindy Anthony, that Cindy Anthony, who`s Casey`s mom and the deceased child`s Caylee`s grandmother. Cindy Anthony wrote three days ago this e-mail where she defends her daughter Casey and says Casey never harmed Caylee and that fact will be proven in court. Again, this is an e-mail reportedly obtained by WESH.

Monica Stein, you had talked, interviewed Cindy and George. When did you interview them? What did they say, and how do you put this now information in context?

STEIN: Jane, it`s very interesting. I had the opportunity to speak to them both on the phone the day after Casey was first arrested and the story first came to light. George on the phone told me that he had been convinced all along that Casey was working for the theme park, and that was proven to be not true when she led investigators to her supposed office and then turned around and said, "I don`t work here."

So she had been duping her parents for months on end. And he told me that in the interview the day after she was arrested -- and he didn`t sound at all convinced what had happened one way or the other. He was trying to remain, at that point, optimistic and believing his daughter, but he did give me a hint that Casey isn`t all that she seems to be, even to her own family.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. And a little clarification. That report about the e-mail actually came from WKMG.

Don Clark, they`re parents of the suspect. Parents of the suspect obviously, are going to defend their daughter. That is the human instinct. They were -- to all accounts very good grandparents and very good grandparents, certainly. They doted on the grandchild. I mean, their family has been shattered. Of course, they`re going to say that their daughter is going to be exonerated.

CLARK: Well, you know, Jane, what are they going to say, she`s going to be exonerated or not? You know, these parents of Caylee`s [SIC], they know what this young lady is like. She didn`t just get this way just when Caylee -- the little girl disappeared. She has been that way for a long time.

So the bottom line is, is that they know exactly what this lady is going to say and how she`s going to act.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Now, what I thought was so interesting about what Monica Stein said, Stacey Honowitz, is that they believe their daughter`s lies. Their daughter, Casey Anthony, told them every day that she was going to work at a job at Universal Studios. There was no job at Universal Studios.

Their daughter told them that she had taken the child, Caylee, to a nanny, and police believe there was no nanny. Zanny the nanny is a complete fiction.

So are they still in denial, do you think, when they -- when they send an e-mail like this if, in fact, they sent it, which is being publicly reported?

HONOWITZ: Honestly, Jane, I mean, it`s a terrible situation for them to be in. And I don`t think they`re in denial. I think that`s for public, you know, purposes. They kind of have to support their daughter. They`re not going to come out and say, "We think our daughter killed our granddaughter."

What I think you have to remember is you have to go way, way back to figure out who was the one that called the police when this child was missing? It wasn`t Casey Anthony; it was the grandmother. And what did the grandmother say that everyone seems to be forgetting? "I think somebody -- she`s in the car." I mean, she talked about smelling death.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I think there`s a dead body in the damn car.

HONOWITZ: I mean, and now all of a sudden, we`re months out, and this mother is saying, "I believe her."

Now, all of that can come into evidence. It`s called an excited utterance. It could be hearsay. That`s an excited utterance to the police: "Where`s my daughter? I think -- my granddaughter. I think she did something wrong. I think she could be dead."

So now we have to remember, we have to put it all in perspective. They are the mother of this defendant, the parents. And I think for some strange reason -- I don`t think it`s denial. I think it`s a matter of looking out to the public as I have to support her.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I think you make some excellent points, and I agree that the mother saying, "I smell a dead -- it smells like a damn dead body in the car." It smells like there`s a dead body in the damn car, that`s damning.

Don`t go anywhere. More bombshells in the Caylee Anthony murder investigation. Call us: 1-800-JVM-SAYS.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to be able to reach out and hug you and give you the big hug. But you know, we`ve to get that little girl back any way we can, and we`re doing everything we can.

CASEY ANTHONY, ACCUSED OF MURDERING DAUGHTER: That`s my only concern. I gave Lee a statement. I want him to speak to whoever the media, give them the statement specifically from me. He`s going to give them my exact quote. She is my only concern. It`s my only concern.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUDGE STAN STRICKLAND, ORANGE COUNTY CIRCUIT: Raise your right hand for me if you would so we can swear you in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you solemnly swear or affirm that everything in this matter will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

ANTHONY: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We learned last week that, while Casey Anthony doesn`t watch TV in jail, she does have an AM radio. And that`s how she keeps tabs on the outside world. I wonder what she saw out of all the talk about Roy Kronk`s interview on national television this morning.

Meantime, the phone lines are lighting up.

Bob in Maine, your question or thought, sir.

CALLER: Jane, has the FBI or anybody investigated to find out if Casey had a big, fat life insurance policy on Caylee?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Don Clark, you`re a former special agent in charge of the Houston FBI.

CLARK: You know, I think that`s a good question, but I suspect that they`ve done a lot of investigating into her, because she has been the focal part of this. So I think that`s probably been covered, Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Roy Kronk`s discovery of Caylee`s remains are still being scrutinized and criticized. Some accuse him of having inside information. Now, in this clip from "Good Morning America," he defends himself. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KRONK: Nobody tipped me off. I figured this out by myself, and I just chose not to say anything back until today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And surely, his appearance on national TV will be scrutinized for months to come.

Stacey Honowitz, he says no good deed goes unpunished, that his life has become a living hell since he did this Good Samaritan thing and pointed this out and then later went back and found the skull.

The worst part, he says, is what`s happening on the Internet, where people are involving him in all sorts of conspiracy theories, wild speculation and even analyzing his body language when he was doing the "GMA" interview, saying look how he reacted when she asked him, this, that and the other.

You can`t fight -- you can`t defend yourself against something like that.

HONOWITZ: Yes. And everybody becomes a sleuth when something like this, you know, is aired in the media every single night.

You see all the phone calls you get, Jane, on the show. People want to tell you their theory. They want to know answer to questions. So certainly, everybody who watched him this morning was concentrating on his body language, listening to everything he had to say.

Interestingly enough, I`m sure that the prosecutors are never happy when their witnesses do go on television and talk, because certainly, if you change your story the slightest bit, if your words are a little bit different than they were before, it can be used against you.

His situation was that he was -- felt that he was being vilified. He felt people were implicating him in this terrible tragedy. He felt as though he had to speak out. And that`s why he went...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely.

HONOWITZ: Defense attorneys, left and right, we`ll be watching him, and we`ll analyze this to the nth degree.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Of course. Elizabeth in Rhode Island. Your question or thought, ma`am.

CALLER: Yes. I`m wondering if there has ever been a psychiatric evaluation on Casey Anthony?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Monica Stein, I think that she`s had a lot of evaluations, correct?

STEIN: She certainly has. She`s -- since probably day one, when she lied to investigators about her job and where to find the nanny, they have done a lot of psychiatric evaluations. And from what I hear, they found some sociopathic tendencies. And, certainly, pathological liar is one of the traits that...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, yes. I mean, that one, I think everybody can agree on and the -- how she keeps all of this even slightly together without making more slips. And some of these things, obviously, have been documented, that she is simply lying about the job and where she says she dropped the nanny off.

All right. Hold all of the thoughts. More shockers in the Caylee Anthony case in a minute, plus stunning developments in the disappearance of Laura Garza. I`ll tell you why the suspect skipped out on court today. I`ll take your calls. 1-877-JVM-SAY. That`s 1-877-586-7297.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Bombshells continue to fall in the Caylee Anthony case. Here is the latest.

The meter reader who found little Caylee`s remains sets the record straight while throwing jabs at the police. Was Roy Kronk treated unfairly? Is he another victim in this fiasco and where would this case be now if the police had taken him seriously? What do you think? We`ll take your calls.

Back with my expert panel talking about the bombshells meter reader Roy Kronk, dropped on "Good Morning America" today. Stacey Honowitz, assistant state attorney in Florida`s Sex Crimes Unit. Don Clark, former FBI special agent in charge, Dr. Bill Manion, pathologist and assistant medical examiner for Burlington County, New Jersey and Monica Stein, reporter with News Talk AM 580 WDBO in Orlando.

Phone lines again totally lit up. Angel, Ohio. Your question or thought.

ANGEL IN OHIO: I just had a comment on Casey`s mother. As a mother, you know what your children are capable of. So if she`s writing emails she`s lying to herself. She knows. She knows that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Monica Stein, when you were talking to Cindy and George you`re saying that they expressed shock when they started learning truths about what their daughter was actually up to, that she didn`t have a job.

That they thought she was dropping this child off with the nanny that now police say, authorities say was completely non-existent although she claims that this child still did go to the nanny and that the nanny abducted her.

What was their -- in other words, when you`re lied to, often there`s anger and there`s a feeling of betrayal. There`s a feeling of suspicion, a lack of trust. Did they exhibit any of those ancillary symptoms?

MONICA STEIN, NEWS TALK AM 580 WDBO REPORTER: Well, really, their tune changed a few days or maybe a week or so after those initial interviews that I`ve conducted with them. You saw them flip from maybe Casey did something to oh, there`s no way my daughter did had and we`re standing by her. It was really kind of interesting to see that shift.

Early on, Cindy and George were using the media to please bring Caylee home. They were kind of believing that story at that point, but they also gave the impression that Casey hadn`t been telling the truth about everything and they wanted to know what was really going on.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Dr. Bill Manion, as a forensic pathologist what do you make of the lawyer of the Anthony family saying they may want to have Caylee cremated to prevent -- it`s so unbelievable it`s hard to even believe that this is what we`re talking about -- but grave robbing.

Do you buy that explanation or could there be another explanation beyond that?

DR. BILL MANION, ASSISTANT MEDICAL EXAMINER: Well, for right now, one thing I wanted to mention is I know people have talked about having a burial and having respect and things like that, but right now those defense pathologists have to have access to the bones and they need to physically examine those bones.

They need to x-ray them. They need to look for any fractures, any pieces of metal and any other evidence that can help them out. In fact, I`m sure that the botanist would be looking to see if there`s any algae growth on these bones.

If this child was submerged for several months I would expect to find algae or something like --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So you`re saying it`s a bad move for the defense side to cremate the body.

MANION: That`s right. That`s right.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Even though they will have done a second autopsy. I believe that they have done the second autopsy, right, Monica Stein?

STEIN: Yes. The defense is in custody of the remains right now and they were going to turn those remains over to the Anthony family some time this week. Then at that point the Anthony`s have the right to do as they please.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Don Clark, do you buy the whole grave robbing explanation? For some reason I`m wondering could there be another reason, another motive for wanting the cremation?

DON CLARK, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Yes, I don`t buy the grave robbing thing. Yes, people will do a lot of things, Jane, but I don`t buy that. That`s got to be just something that`s a smoke screen that`s being put up some place.

The bottom line is though, is that I would be concerned about the defense now has the body and they`re going to do their examination and then after that it`s going to be buried.

Well, I don`t know as an investigator and on the prosecution`s side that nothing has been tampered with or if what they are saying, if their inspection of the body actually came out to is exactly the truth unless they can really demonstrate that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Stacey yes --

STACEY HONOWITZ, ASSISTANT STATE ATTORNEY FL SEX CRIMES UNIT: I`m sure that, you know, any time the court orders that the defense had access to any kind of evidence including a corpse or anything like that.

There has to be safeguards put in place and are usually and so you that know there never has been any tampering with that evidence. So these prosecutors are extremely qualified and top of the line prosecutors. Believe me.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But Stacey, they have to be -- the family has to be allowed to bury this child.

HONOWITZ: Yes, I mean to say absolutely but I`m really responding to your last guest`s comment about being nervous about tampering.

We`re not going know the true reason as to why they want this child cremated. Honestly, we`re not going to know the reason. Maybe later on down the road they don`t want the body to have to be exhumed for some other purpose. We don`t know what it is.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: In criminal cases there have been exhumations --

HONOWITZ: Absolutely.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: -- for second or even third autopsies.

HONOWITZ: Absolutely. So I don`t know if that`s the case. I mean, you can go into court in certain circumstances and ask the court to send an order exhuming the body so maybe that`s what they`re thinking of down the road.

We`re never going to know the true explanation.

MANION: There have been cases to, where forensic pathologists have tampered with evidence. I know of one case where a forensic pathologist fractured a hyoid bone in a prisoner that had died to make it look like he has been strangled rather than hanging himself.

And that pathologist was later -- lost his license and was sent to prison so you can`t anything and everyone has to look at all of this evidence as carefully as possible and just be alert as to anything happening.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, Michelle, Rhode Island your question or thought ma`am.

MICHELLE OF RHODE ISLAND: Hey, how are you doing?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m doing great.

MICHELLE: I just want to know how much weight will it carry during her trial with all of the pre-interviews that were done that were so public with the police with the grandparents and Caylee showing her distinctly lying, how much will that carry during a trial?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Stacey?

HONOWITZ: That`s going to go a long way. I`ve heard people talk about the fact that why would you even call the grandparents to the stand. It is a very difficult decision for prosecutors, but in this case there were so many pre-interviews. And the stories have changed so drastically and because they were the ones that got the police involved because the mother didn`t call for 31 days. That their role in all of this is going to be a very big part of the trial.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mary in New York, question or thought, ma`am.

MARY IN NEW YORK: Yes. I want to know how on earth they are ever going to find 12 people in the United States that are ever going to believe this girl is innocent.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, where could she get a fair trial, Stacey? On what planet?

HONOWITZ: Yes --

MANION: They only have to find one that thinks she`s innocent, right?

HONOWITZ: Right and the bottom line is there have been so many high- profile cases. We`ve seen them because we`ve been talking about them for years.

The defense will move for a change of venue and you know they`re going to have to try to go somewhere. There are not -- not everybody, believe it or not is as in tune as people that watch your show and that follow this case. There are people that --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But we live in a global village, Stacey, and I don`t understand the whole change of venue concept in high-profile cases anymore, everybody is basically getting their information from television which you see nationally, so I really don`t understand. It`s almost like change of venue is something from another century.

HONOWITZ: Well, listen, I mean you know, with everything -- with the advent of talking about these cases on television, that`s what happens. People get addicted to these cases and people think that because they`re watching it though Jane, every single night and following every story and calling into these shows and thinking of their own theories that everyone else in the world has done that.

Believe it or not, that`s not the case.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Don Clark, if there is a change of venue, doesn`t that make it so much more difficult to prosecute the case? I mean, the physicality of having to move the prosecution team to this new location. They have to set up shop there, ditto for the defense?

CLARK: Well, you know Jane, it`s something that we in law enforcement working with the prosecutors probably don`t want to do, but I don`t see it being a big problem. But the reality is as I just heard, I think you just said a couple of moments ago, with all of the Internet and the television and everything that we`ve got to do, everybody is watching this case.

The key thing is going to be those jury consultants working with the prosecution and the prosecutors and the investigators and trying to select a good jury; one that`s going to be fair and listen to the evidence.

I think it can be done. I`ve seen it done, and I think it`ll be done in this case.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, Stacy Honowitz, we`re going to give you the last word. Is this trial going to be the trial of this century? This short century so far?

HONOWITZ: Well, so far, but we never know what`s coming around the pike. I mean, so far, this is garnering the most interest, and I think it`s because people were so disgusted at the fact that this mother took 31 days to call on this missing child --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes.

HONOWITZ: -- and then made up a bunch of excuses. People are really disgusted by it, and so yes, is it the trial of the century as of now? Yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, well, we`ll leave it right there. Stacey, Don, Bill, Monica, thank you so much.

Don`t forget, "Nancy Grace" will have all the latest twists in the Caylee murder investigation. And she`s up immediately following this program at 8 p.m. Eastern. Don`t miss it.

And coming up right here, breaking developments in the disappearance of 25-year-old Laura Garza; her family desperate for answers. I`m going to tell you how they`re being stone walled by the legal system. 1-877-JVM- SAYS, I want to hear from you 1-877-586-7297 talk to my expert panel about this case next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: 25-year-old Laura Garza has been missing for more than a month. I`ll have the latest details on what her distraught family is doing to get answers.

First, "Top of the Block" tonight: breaking developments in another tragic story; this one from Oklahoma. Police in El Reno found 25-year-old Summer Rust and her four children ages three through seven dead inside their home late yesterday. The state medical examiner has declared all five deaths to be homicide.

Cops have teamed up with the Oklahoma state bureau of investigation to hunt down a suspect, Rust`s 25-year-old boyfriend Joshua Durcho; Durcho last seen wearing a gray sweatshirt and jeans. He has several tattoos. He`s believed to be driving a white 1989 Ford Thunderbird with front-end damage.

If anyone spots this man or the vehicle please call the hot line appearing on your screen right now. Here on "ISSUES" I will be sure to update you with the very latest on the search for the killer in that shocking case.

Another search to talk about tonight: this one equally gut-wrenching; beautiful Texas native Laura Garza last seen a month ago with a convicted sex offender. She remains missing without a trace.

Earlier today emotions boiled over at an Orange County courthouse where the suspect Michael Mele was a last-minute no-show. He was set to appear in court for other criminal charges not related to Garza`s disappearance, but Laura Garza`s family had hoped to confront the man because they are certain he knows what happened to Laura.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NICOLAS GARZA, LAURA GARZA`S BROTHER: We`re getting tired already for this person to be -- be in silence. He doesn`t want to speak and one way or another he needs to speak out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Laura Garza, an aspiring dancer was last seen leaving a Manhattan nightclub in the company of Mele. He has a history of sexual offenses that include masturbating in front of them. So far he remains silent, consistently rebuffing the Garza`s pleas for him to talk.

I want your thoughts on this. Call me 1-877-JVM-SAYS; that`s 1-877- 586-7297. Weigh in please.

Joining me now, my panel: Ashleigh Banfield, anchor of "In Session;" on the phone, Larry McShane, reporter for the New York Daily News; and Awilda Cordero, founder of Emergency Rights, a south Bronx victim`s rights group that has been helping the Garza family.

Awilda, you were in court today with the Garzas. The family says they were surprised and very disappointed to the point of tears that they didn`t get to see the suspect. Tell us what happened? What went down today?

AWILDA CORDERO, EMERGENCY RIGHTS: We went into the courtroom. They told us to be there at 9:00. We went upstairs and as soon as we walked in the court officers told us I`m sorry, but if you`re here on the Laura Garza case, they already suspended the case. And we were just told just like that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So you didn`t get any advanced warning and the family was pretty devastated? I understand the mother of Laura Garza was crying?

CORDERO: She was very upset. All of us were very upset. We felt like they were playing games with us. The police department and the state police actually told us to get there at 9:00 in the morning and we were told to be there at 8:00 in the morning and his parents were there and he did appear, but he didn`t come into the courtroom. He decided not to go in. He stood outside.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We have called into New York state police and prosecutors to get their response to this particular complaint and we`ve not gotten a comment on that.

Ashleigh Banfield, you and I have been in court many times. I`ve never had an experience where the proceeding began when exactly it was going to begin with a few exceptions. Is this the typical kind of runaround that families of victims get when they go to court and try to get justice?

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, ANCHOR, "IN SESSION": This is not easy being a victim of crime and sadly the crime that Mr. Mele is facing in court right now doesn`t have anything to do with their situation. So reality is that his appearance today was just a pro forma thing and it`s often waived. That`s a sort of a standard thing for those accused to waive their appearances to these kinds of status conferences. So it is not unusual that he might have done that.

If he showed up in the courthouse and decided not to go to the courtroom, it may have been because the family was there, but it doesn`t mean anything to the case.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, and just to clarify, Mele has been described as a person of interest. But New York state police today when we called them told us that he is now considered a suspect in Laura Garza`s disappearance, however it`s important to point out that he is not facing any criminal charges in connection with the Laura Garza disappearance at this time.

He is, however, facing some other charges. Larry McShane, you`re a reporter for the "Daily News." You`ve been covering this. What else is he facing involving probation violations, credit cards, all sorts of things.

LARRY MCSHANE, REPORTER, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: The charges that you mentioned initially which involved sex offenses in a mall up in suburban New York, and also when his apartment was gone over by the police investigating in this case, stolen credit cards were found there.

So basically they were able to bring him in on those charges for violating his parole on the sex offense charges and that`s allowed them to keep him in custody as they investigate the disappearance of Laura Garza.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I have to say that authorities are working very, very hard on this case. They`ve had divers searching bodies of water. Police, firefighters, many others have been searching. You`ve seen that, Awilda Cordero. I think your major concern is do you have to be a rich person in this society to have the time and money to wait out the slow wheels of justice?

Your family has come here from Texas. The family that you`re helping and they`re running out of money and they want to find out what happened to their daughter. Is that a correct assessment?

CORDERO: Yes, that is correct. And exactly, that`s what we`re doing. We`re trying to just find Laura. Not only the state police doing the search, but the family is actually out there looking for her, too and myself and a whole bunch of us volunteered. We`re actually going and hitting in the mountains and looking for her. And the volunteers of state firemen department, the state police, everybody is out there searching for her, but that`s not the point.

The point here is also that his father did not tell the truth to the parole.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me jump in here. You went to the home of Mele`s parents today -- and I think we have some video of this -- actually went up and knocked on the door and wanted to get some answers and we`ll show that in a second if we can dig it up. And the thing is that you are trying to pressure the parents into getting the son who is a suspect in this case to talk, is that correct?

CORDERO: Yes, that is correct. We actually went to the house today. The mother wanted to speak to the parents. And tell them that as a mother, she just wants them to help, to convince their son to please talk and let us know where Laura`s at. She didn`t go there to make any problems. She just wanted to speak to them as parents.

We went in, we knocked. We saw somebody move into the house and they didn`t want to open the door to us so we actually left a flyer on the door to let them know this is what we`re here for.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And by the way Mele`s dad is a retired deputy chief of the MTA police and we`ll talk about that in a second. Hang tight. Get on the phone and give me a call: 1-877-JVM-SAYS to talk about this case.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELIZABETH ESQUIVEL, LAURA GARZA`S MOTHER (through translator): Please help your son. Ask him -- and she`s a mother like I am -- to please ask him where`s my Laura.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That is the distraught mother of Laura Garza today outside the home of the parents` of suspect Michael Mele pleading for help.

I am back with my panel. Phone lines light up.

Melissa in New York, your question or thought?

MELISSA, CALLER FROM NEW YORK: My question is how are they going to have a sex offender buying into a Quiznos franchise without having a complete background check and hiring young girls?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, Larry McShane, what about the franchise?

MCSHANE: That`s not a police matter.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But he owned a franchise, right?

MCSHANE: Yes, he owned a Quiznos operation, absolutely yes; apparently financed by his parents. But I don`t think that`s a law enforcement issue; that`s probably more a corporate issue for Quiznos.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ashley Banfield, can this guy walk, given that he has not been charged in connection with the Laura Garza disappearance?

BANFIELD: Yes and no. And I hate to be sort of effusive. But the reality is two years ago this guy got probation for six years. So they can hold him because he was in violation of that probation.

And I know that the family of Laura Garza is having tough -- is having a tough time with the slow wheels of justice but the truth is it works to their advantage. The longer they can hold him and gather any evidence, the better they can build a case. So in this -- in this circumstance it might seem painful but it`s probably a really good thing that the police can be meticulous and do as much work as they possibly can before the indict because once you indict, the wheels of justice have to move faster.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely and they have some pretty significant evidence thus far. His car was cleaned with bleach, according to authorities. He had bite and scratch marks on his shoulders and back and carpeting was found near, somewhere in the area, and they`re trying to see if it matches carpeting missing from his apartment. So, Ashleigh, do you think they`re doing the tests right now in terms of building their case?

BANFIELD: Oh, I wouldn`t doubt it for a moment. And here`s something else, the fact that he`s not talk also might be painful to the Garza family. But it kind of gives the police carte blanche to zero in on this person of interest rather than wasting a bunch of time, energy, and resources on all of the other people she was last seen with. The person who was last seen with a missing woman not speaking, that is suspicious. So it really helps police zero in on one person to investigate.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, they might be able to use that in court some time.

Awilda, Ashley, Larry, thanks so much for your insight for joining me tonight.

I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell and you`re watching "ISSUES" on HLN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: A probation hearing for suspect Michael Mele has been set for January 26th. It might be the first opportunity the Garza family has to get some answers as they continue to search for their beloved Laura; for more details on this case, check out my column on cnn.com tomorrow.

Right now it`s time to check in with Nancy Grace. Nancy, hi. What do you have for us tonight?

NANCY GRACE, ANCHOR, "NANCY GRACE SHOW": Jane, is little Caylee set to be cremated? Why?

And caught on tape, the Anthony`s private investigator searching just feet from little Caylee`s body weeks before police are called. Tonight, more of that grainy video of him searching for little Caylee right where she was. Plus, the woman who claims she led him there is with us live.

And Jane, the search widens across southwest Florida for a 6-year-old little boy who vanishes without a trace.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: A heart wrenching story, Nancy. Thank you.

"Nancy Grace" starts right now.

END

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