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Race Against Time; Twists & Turns; Where is Haleigh?; Drew Peterson Arrested for Third Wife`s Murder

Aired May 8, 2009 - 19:00:00   ET



JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, jaw dropping news as Drew Peterson whose fourth wife, Stacy, has been missing since 2007, was arrested and charged with the murder on his third wife, Kathleen Savio. Savio mysteriously died in a bathtub in 2004. The case was reopened as a homicide after Stacy`s disappearance. And now, cops think they have their man. But why now?

In typical slime ball fashion, Drew reportedly told a joke when he was hauled into custody. Just wait until you here.

Also, I`ll find out if this murder rap could lead to charges in the disappearance of Stacy and what happens to his kids.

Then, stunning news in a race against the time to find adorable 3- year-old Briant Rodriguez. Cops hope newly-released surveillance photos will help them track down the gunman who snatched little Briant. Meantime, authorities now offering $50,000 to anyone who helps find the missing boy. I`ll have expert analysis as we try to uncover the motive in this abduction. Could it be tied to organized crime in Mexico?

And a frantic search for Haleigh Cummings forges on as the feud surrounding her disappearance intensifies. We`ll go back through the time line and try to connect all the dots from the moment Misty first noticed little Haleigh was gone to the latest twists and turns in this dramatic soap opera.

ISSUES starts now.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, breaking news. Major jaw-dropping developments in the case against Drew Peterson. He is no longer just a suspect in the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy. The ex-cop has now been charged with the murder of his third wife, Kathleen.

Just hours ago, Peterson was hauled into court to face charges that he murdered Kathleen Savio in the mysterious bathtub drowning death back in 2004. It was first ruled accidental.

Concerned for the safety of his minor children, cops spent the day yesterday staking out Peterson, waiting for him to leave his house. When they finally arrested dodgy Drew at a traffic stop, he reportedly offered up his snarky statements: quote, "I guess I should have returned those library books," end quote. Ha, ha, ha. Not funny, Drew. But that`s typical behavior from this attention-loving ex-cop, infamous for clowning around with the media.

The joke may now be on Drew Peterson. It seems his ex-wife words have come back to haunt him. Listen to her sister from back in 2007.


SUSAN DOMAN, KATHLEEN SAVIO`S SISTER: We never felt that it was an accident. She always told us that, whether it was a premonition or not, she always thought that it would be an accident. And to take care of her children. He was going to kill her.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Indeed, Kathleen had called the cops on Drew repeatedly. Cops reportedly went to the house 18 times. In a desperate letter reportedly written to the state attorney on November 2002, Kathleen wrote, quote, "He knows how to manipulate the system, and his next step is to take my children away or kill me, instead," end quote.

You will not believe what else she had to say in that letter about her ex.

But first, time to bring in my fantastic expert panel: Jayne Weintraub, criminal defense attorney; Steve Cardian, former criminal investigator; Doctor Dale Archer, clinical psychiatrist; and joining us by phone, Don Badwin from the Associated Press, who`s been covering the story. And Lisa Bloom, anchor of the legal network In Session and CNN legal analyst.

Lisa, lots of information swirling around the timing of these charges. What can you tell us about why it`s happening now?

LISA BLOOM, ANCHOR, IN SESSION: Well, the state attorney says simply that this is the result of an 18-month-long investigation. Tens of thousands of documents have been reviewed. The grand jury has been convened for over a year in a meeting every Thursday.

P.S., the grand jury continues to convene into the investigation into Stacy Peterson`s disappearance. And it wasn`t any one thing. It was an aggregation of all the factors.

But Jane, I think the most significant factor is a change in Illinois law last November of 2008, which may allow in out-of-state statements like the one you just talked about, which Kathleen Savio told her sister, "Anything happens to me, Drew did it," where she wrote the letter to the prosecutor, "He could kill me." Those statements may now come in under Illinois law, changed in part because of this case. And that may have been the breaking point that allowed this indictment to happen.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, speaking of that, Lisa, according to published reports, Stacy, allegedly -- Stacy, wife No. 4 who is missing, allegedly went to her pastor and at one point allegedly said to him, "My husband admitted he killed wife No. 3." Could that end up being used?

BLOOM: It very well could. This is a brand-new lodging to allow in statements of murder victims. I talked to Joel Brodski today, the attorney for Drew Peterson. He is going to fight this tooth and nail. He maintains, as any defense attorney would, that this is a violation of Drew Peterson`s rights under the Constitution to cross examine and confront witnesses against him. So this is a brand-new law. It`s going to be tested in this case. It`s anyone`s guess to see how it turns out.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Jayne Weintraub, police say that the rest of the indictment is the result of 18 months of intensive police work that garnered hundreds of leads. But if you talk to Kathleen Savio`s family, they say guess what? The evidence was right there, right there in their face from day one.

You`re talking about the 18 police calls to the home, according to Kathleen Savio in this letter we`re going to read to you in a moment. He made threats to her. She got a protective order against him. She wrote a letter, as we were describing, to prosecutors, begging for help. Why?

And then, of course, there`s the bathtub incident and the fact that she was found in this empty bathtub with blood on her head and a gash on her head. Why did it take this long?

JAYNE WEINTRAUB, CRIMINAL DEFENSE: Well, I think first problem, Jane, is we don`t know what they have now that they didn`t have then. If you listen to the statement that you just played, it was very, very general. It was, "well, he always said if he`s going to kill me, you know, it would be an accident." I mean, that is not something that...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That doesn`t seem that general to me. Essentially, she was found in a bathtub.

WEINTRAUB: It was in the middle of a contentious divorce. They were fighting cats and dogs.


WEINTRAUB: Everybody in divorce cases that are not friendly have these thoughts, "I`m going to kill you. I hate you." How many times do we hear people say that?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know what? I got divorced once, and I went to a peaceful mediator, and then we went to lunch afterwards. It doesn`t always happen that way.

BLOOM: You don`t say, "I`m going to kill you and make it look like an accident." That is very specific.

STEVE CARDIAN, FORMER CRIMINAL INVESTIGATOR: Eighteen calls for service by the police to that house. She turned up dead. And they don`t consider it a homicide from day one? That`s questionable.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, and we have to look at why. Let`s take a look at this letter. Let`s take a look at this letter Kathleen Savio wrote to prosecutors two years before her murder.

Quote, "When I found out Mr. Peterson was having an affair with a minor at the police department, he got violent, he began to get very violent. By striking me with his hand and chasing me through the house with a police stick. At that time on record, I had to get an order of protection from him. There has been several times throughout my marriage, where I ended up at the emergency room, for injuries, and I have reported this only to have the police leave my home without filing any reports. He knows how to manipulate the system, and his next step is to take my children away or kill me instead. I really would like to know why this man wasn`t charged with this unlawful entry, and attempt on my life."

WEINTRAUB: Where was the emergency room? There are no fractures. There are no broken bones.

BLOOM: Jane, there`s an obvious reason why the police didn`t investigate. And that`s because Drew Peterson is a cop. He`s a 29-year veteran of the police department. We all know about the blue wall of silence and police officers protecting one another.


BLOOM: ... the disappearance of Stacy for anybody to take this thing seriously.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, and let`s listen to how Drew, himself, recently described his job as a cop to ABC News. This is fascinating.


DREW PETERSON, CHARGED WITH THIRD WIFE`S MURDER: I was under cover, actually, a total of about five years. You basically spent your day working a pen (ph) and you were getting people to believe you were something other than what you were. And it was fun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You enjoy that?

PETERSON: Yes, I thought it was funny, you know, that I was able to get people to believe that you were something other than what you really were.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Dale Archer, he thought it was funny to get people to believe he was something other than what he really was.

DALE ARCHER, CLINICAL PSYCHIATRIST: Yes, Jane. It`s very hard to find what this guy says funny. I mean, obviously, close contact with Drew Peterson has a higher fatality rate than the swine flu. So anything that he says is not going to be found as a joke by me. But I mean, this is a clear-cut case.

If you look at his history, go back to his first wife Carol Brown. She divorced him for infidelity. Then you get to his second wife, Vicky Connelly. She divorced him for physical abuse allegations. And finally, we get to Savio, with 18 calls to the police. I mean, this was a clear-cut picture. So often in these cases, you can`t really connect the dots. This was not a guy leading a double life. This is very clear. This is a domestic violence case. This is not a psychiatric diagnosis. It`s not a psychiatric condition. This is about control and power. It starts off with verbal control. Then it -- then it goes to emotional control. Finally physical abuse. And then, if they can`t control them physically, the end result in their twisted mind is murder.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Don Badwin, you`ve been covering this for the Associated Press. It was like, from what I read, she had a date with her own death. It was almost like she had a date with them and couldn`t stop it despite all these steps that she took trying to get someone to help her.

DAN BADWIN, ASSOCIATED PRESS (via phone): Yes, she took -- she told her family that, if her death looked like an accident, don`t believe it. And she also -- you know, like somebody was saying earlier, the police came to her house a number of times; 18 times, in fact. And he was never charged. And in fact, we had a story that Peterson, twice, persuaded prosecutors to charge Savio with domestic battery. She was acquitted both times.

WEINTRAUB: That happens. But that happens. What about the...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What do you mean that happens? She had to go to the emergency room because she had, allegedly, injuries. Maybe she...

WEINTRAUB: Where are the hospital records?

The autopsy report, the first time -- the autopsy report first time didn`t show anything indicating domestic violence the way you guys are talking about.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What about that, Lisa Bloom? Why was there this discrepancy. There was this first autopsy said it was an accident, and then after Stacy went missing there was an exhumation, and the body was examined a second time. And then voila.

BLOOM: And then -- and then the lacerations and bruises were found, and not just once, but twice. And Dr. Michael Baden came in and took a look again after the body was exhumed. I can tell you that Drew`s offense attorney, Joel Brodsky, told me today they plan to retain a Doctor Cyril Wecht. So this is going to be a battle of the experts on the autopsy.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Excellent panel. More of this shocking arrest in just moments.

Be sure to watch "NANCY GRACE" tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern. She will have special coverage of the Drew Peterson case.

And we will have more analysis right here on ISSUES in a moment and investigators in a race against time to find adorable 3-year-old Briant Rodriguez. Could new surveillance photos have them closing in?

But first, so many questions in the Drew Peterson arrest. Here`s the state`s attorney explaining why, after all this time, they chose to move on Peterson for the alleged murder of his third wife, now.


JAMES GLASGOW, WILL COUNTY STATE`S ATTORNEY: We moved when we thought the time was appropriate, culminating in the top-bill indictment that we attained today. We`re very confident in our case.




GLASGOW: Every human`s life is of equal value. Clearly, we`ve had a serious situation with violence against women. It`s not just here in Will County; it`s nationwide. And we want to send a strong message that that`s a great and serious matter. It`s not a laughing matter as has been made with this case.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Safe to say, the prosecutor talking about Drew Peterson`s tasteless and infamous mocking of the news media and this case.

Lisa Bloom, we know that there`s a moratorium on the death penalty at this point in Illinois. So what could the 55-year-old Drew Peterson face if convicted of these charges?

BLOOM: If he`s convicted of the top charge, which is murder one, premeditated murder, life in prison without the possibility of parole. He`s 53 years old. So even a sentence of 20 or 30 years is probably a life sentence.

There`s also a second charge: great bodily injury, conscious disregard. Translation, it`s a murder charge but without that element of premeditation. I expect if he`s convicted on either charge he`s spending the rest of his life in prison.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, here`s what Drew Peterson`s friend told CNN about how Drew reacted when they found Kathleen`s body in the bathtub.


STEVE CARCERANO, FRIEND OF DREW PETERSON: Her best friend came into the bathroom. I yelled out her name a couple times. She started screaming. And that`s when Drew came running up the stairs right into the bathroom. Upon looking at her, he did check her pulse and then started screaming out, "What am I going to tell my kids?"


VELEZ-MITCHELL: So Steve Cardian, as a criminal investigator, what do you make of the fact that Drew acted suspiciously on that very day, calling his friend, saying, "Go over to Kathleen`s house. I haven`t heard from her in a couple of days," in essence, allegedly leading him to discover the body, and then waiting downstairs while the friend goes upstairs.

CARDIAN: Yes. He was way too careful, Jayne. It`s certainly suspect that he notified someone. There`s two things that happen. The thought and then the carrying out that thought. And somewhere in between or thereafter, there`s indicators that may lend your guilt toward oneself.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, absolutely. Jayne Weintraub, how do you defend that? How do you defend the suspicious behavior on the day of?

WEINTRAUB: You don`t have to get there, because before you get there, you file a motion to dismiss for two reasons. One: the charge is unconstitutional, because there`s a state law in Illinois that says you cannot pass legislation for a particular person or business. In this case, we have a law being passed in the legislature, in Illinois, specifically designed against Drew Peterson.

BLOOM: It applies to everyone.

WEINTRAUB: It`s even called the Drew Peterson bill.

BLOOM: It applies to everyone. Amber alert referred to a specific person. Meghan`s Law refers to a specific person, but it applies to everyone.

WEINTRAUB: Lisa, Lisa.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We have a situation here, Jayne, where wives keep disappearing and turning up dead. That`s why it`s called the Drew Peterson law.

WEINTRAUB: ... Lisa Bloom wanted to gloss over, about the constitutional dispute. It`s very significant. We, in the United States, have a right to confront and cross-examine the evidence against us. And there`s good reason for that. For hundreds of years, the courts have excluded hearsay from coming into the court. Why...


BLOOM: There`s already dozens of exceptions. This would be one more. It`s not an absolute right.

WEINTRAUB: ... issue of liability. If you`re dying, it`s a dying declaration. Your last breath is presumed to be, you know, the truth. You have a nasty divorce going on, no.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: In case this is unclear what we`re talking about is, the hearsay rule and how there`s an exception because the people who allegedly said things that were incriminating to Drew Peterson are either disappeared or they`re dead. Is that correct, Lisa?

BLOOM: And there are already dozens of exceptions in every state to the hearsay rule. Something we have to memorize them in law school. I can`t even keep them all straight. There`s maybe 30 or 40 exceptions, depending on the jurisdiction. This would be one more that a murder victim calls out before her death and says, "If I end up missing, he`s the one who did it." Nicole Brown tried to do it. It didn`t come into the O.J. Simpson case.

We have woken up. We`ve evolved since that time. In some circumstances, the Illinois legislature says a jury should hear about that. And I praise (ph) them for saying that.

WEINTRAUB: ... issue of reliability here. They`re in the middle of an acrimonious divorce. People say all sorts of things to get custody of their kids.

CARDIAN: The bottom line...

BLOOM: Let the jury decide.


ARCHER: I just think that the...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You had your chance. We`re going to keep going.

ARCHER: I want to say that the similarities here between -- yes, I wanted to let the attorneys talk about the legal stuff. But psychiatrically, the similarities between this and the O.J. Simpson case are startling and shocking.

And this is a classic case in both -- both instances, where you have a controlling individual that did everything they could to control the people that they were partnered with and eventually it led to an alleged murder. So...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Where does this lead us? On the Stacy case. I want to know that.

BLOOM: Very important question. The grand jury will continue to meet every Thursday as they have for over a year. They are continuing to investigate Stacy`s disappearance.

Look, obviously, they want to find her body. That would be an enormous help. But it`s not required in Illinois for there to be a body in a murder case, but it`s certainly what happened.

WEINTRAUB: It`s not required anywhere. According to neither is a witness.

BLOOM: I`m just telling you what the law is, Jayne. I don`t make it up. I`m just reporting it. I want to predict, right here on the show, there are going to be charges coming down for Stacy, as well.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, I hope you`re right.

More expert analysis of the Drew Peterson arrest on the way. And with authorities racing against the clock to find 3-year-old Briant Rodriguez. Right now offering a huge reward to try to spark new leads. I`ll have an update.

Then, could Haleigh Cummings still be alive? Investigators are still optimistic. I will go back through the key events in the timeline in that very complex case.



GLASGOW: This is a very powerful tool. No longer can someone terrorize a woman, threaten to kill her, physically abuse her. And if she relates those information to a third party, literally, she can testify from the grave.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Prosecutors talking about the case against Drew Peterson, the ex-cop today charged with the murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio.

Joining me now by phone, one of Drew Peterson`s defense attorneys, Andrew Abood.

Thank you for joining us, Andrew. What do you make of what you just heard there, the prosecutions promise that Kathleen will be able to testify against Peterson from the grave. She apparently told her sister words to the effect that, "If anything happens to me, Drew Peterson killed me."

ANDREW ABOOD, CO-COUNSEL FOR DREW PETERSON: Well, good afternoon. Obviously, that statute is a new statute in Illinois. It hasn`t been challenged. The burden is on the prosecution to prove by preponderance of the evidence, the admissibility of those statements. And -- and I think that the statements in question that they would attempt to admit aren`t as damaging as one might think.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, your defense team is expressing a lot of confidence they the state will not be able to prove its case. What are you banking that confidence on?

ABOOD: Knowledge of the facts, discussions with my client, investigation of the case. We have reviewed the search warrants. We understand what the witnesses are going to testify to. There are problems with the case. They can appreciate the fact that the state of Illinois has spent a lot of money to investigate and reach this indictment.

But at the same time, they -- they have problems both with the cause and manner of death, as well as who actually committed the crime.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So I understand you`re basically arguing it`s a purely circumstantial case and that you feel that, with the time that`s passed and with some of the other problems like the double exhumation or the exhumation of the body, you`re going to have a lot to play with?

ABOOD: Right. And everybody knows the facts of the case. And this very thing...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. Peterson`s three children are now in the custody of the state`s children and family services department. On April 24, two of the boys and Peterson appeared on the "CBS Early Show." Listen to what 16-year-old Thomas had to say.


THOMAS PETERSON, SON OF DREW PETERSON: I would say he`s the greatest dad in the world. Like, not a lot of people know that. People see the news all the time and see what everyone has portrayed him to be. But it`s our family. He`s -- no one could ask for a better -- a better dad.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Andrew, what are these three minor children going through today? They had been living, reportedly, with their dad. Where are they now and where does Drew Peterson want them to go?

ABOOD: Well, my understanding is that arrangements were made for Steve and his son, who`s a police officer and an adult and married, that those kids -- and I believe there`s four minor children, and two boys that were born, the mother of whom was Kathleen and then a son and a daughter, mother Stacy.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`re essentially saying that Drew Peterson has an adult son and that these kids are going to be staying with that adult son?

ABOOD: That was my understanding of the arrangements that were made in the event that Drew Peterson was picked up.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What do you make of the talk that some people say, you know, he brought this on himself with his arrogance and with thumbing his nose and with all the jokes?

ABOOD: Well, I mean, I think that -- I don`t think it would have mattered what Drew Peterson did. I think that certainly shouldn`t be and likely wasn`t the basis of the indictment. I mean, I suspect that the grand jury proceeded and now everybody knows that the evidence was presented. So although there`s been a lot of criticism in the manner in which he tested himself.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Got it. We`ve got to go. Andrew, thanks. Come back soon.

Cops hot on the trail of Briant Rodriguez`s abductors. We`re going to show you the new surveillance tapes.


JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HLN ANCHOR: Stunning new leads to the race against time to find adorable 3-year-old Briant Rodriguez. Cops hope newly released surveillance photos will help them track down the gunman who snatched the boy. Could the abduction be tied to organized crime in Mexico?

And the frantic search for Haleigh Cummings forges on as the bitter feuds surrounding the little girl`s disappearance intensify. We`ll go back through the time line and try to connect all the dots in this dramatic soap opera.

Truly shocking news tonight in the case against Drew Peterson; the long time suspect in the disappearance of his fourth wife Stacy Peterson. Now, charge with a murder of his third wife Kathleen.

Just hours ago, Peterson hauled into court to face down charges that he allegedly murdered Kathleen Savio who`s mysterious death in a dry bathtub back in 2004 was first ruled accidental. Peterson is being held in jail on a $20 million bond.

Back with me: Jayne Weintraub, criminal defense attorney and Lisa Bloom, anchor of the Legal Network "In Session" and CNN legal analyst.

The first thing that struck me and the word struck being pun intended. Why did they not focus more on the fact that she had a gash allegedly in the back of her head, Kathleen Savio. I mean, yes we`ve all tripped a couple of times in the bathroom, but it doesn`t leave you with a gash in your head.

LISA BLOOM, ANCHOR "IN SESSION": And Jane, if I could add to that how does a 40-year-old healthy woman drown in her own bathtub? Maybe a baby, maybe a disabled or elderly person but it`s a little bit hard to understand the initial cause of death was an accidental drowning; PS, in a dry, dry bathtub.

When you add that gash in, and it was very suspicious from the beginning and that`s not the second or third autopsy report. That`s the first autopsy report that shows the gash and the drowning and try dry circular bathtub.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Where does this leave us in terms of fourth wife Stacy? Remember, Drew is the primary suspect in her October 2007 disappearance. In an interview with ABC`s "Good Morning America" in March, Drew`s own stepbrother made some shocking claims about Drew.


THOMAS MORPHEY, DREW PETERSON`S STEPBROTHER: He said how much do you love me? I said I do. And he said enough to kill for me? And at that point I -- I was in shock. I said that`s not something I can live with. And he said well, can you live with knowing about it.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Then there`s the matter of the blue container supposedly purchased by Drew. That same relative claims he helped remove a blue container with Drew from Drew`s home when Stacy disappeared. A container that he claims was it was warm to the touch. Here`s what Drew stepbrother had to say about that. This is a shocker.


MORPHEY: He said to him, well isn`t it going to smell? What about the smell? And he said it would be in a sealed container. I knew it wasn`t good. He was planning on killing somebody.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Jayne Weintraub, you heard Lisa Bloom predict that the charges will be filed against Drew Peterson in the disappearance of his fourth wife Stacy. And that`s just a prediction. But wouldn`t that guy be the key witness, I would think?

JAYNE WEINTRAUB, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, it depends. Did he report it to the police? How about his complicity, if this was a murder and he`s helping get rid of the body, what about him being charged and having some criminal liability? Frankly, these are people, all coming in after the fact. And that`s why it has to be looked at -- to me it`s suspect that they didn`t report...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Usually people come in after the fact...

WEINTRAUB: And that`s what`s wrong with it.

BLOOM: Jane, I can add to that. Tom Morphey, my sources tell me had recently gotten an immunity deal and make him much more likely that he`s going go to testify against his stepbrother.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But doesn`t he have some kind of personal problems as well?

BLOOM: Yes, he does have a history of alcohol and substance abuse and some mental health issues. But he`s been clearing...

WEINTRAUB: And some mental health issues, maybe he`s a liar or maybe he`s schizophrenic.

BLOOM: If I may finish. But -- ok if I can finish my thoughts without being screamed at. But he`s had -- but he`s had a clean and sober and stable life for the last eight years. I think he came off pretty well in GMA (ph).

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And let`s cover the whole issue of the on again, off again fiancee. We`ve got to talk about this. Lisa Bloom, what do you know about this engagement that was on again and off again with this 24-year-old woman who had moved into the home that Drew used to share with fourth wife Stacy?


BLOOM: She`s actually a very -- yes, she`s actually a very nice young woman. And she`s a kind of a shy, quiet type. Right now, she`s in an undisclosed location because the media are hounding her. She does not want to give any interviews.

She is very concerned and she feels Drew Peterson has betrayed her. The state police have wanted to interview her. They apprehended her initially at one point.


BLOOM: They have now let her go. She cannot go back into the home to get her belongings. They`ve sealed off the home, some of her kid`s stuff there; some of her stuff there, she wants to get the stuff back. Eventually of course, she will be allowed to retrieve her belongings, but right now they are doing that search.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But you have to wonder about her judgment in dating Drew Peterson in the first place. Lisa and Jayne thanks. I got to leave it right there.

Now, turning to the horrifying disappearance of an adorable 3-year-old California boy; stunning brand new evidence tonight in the desperate search for missing Briant Rodriguez. Authorities racing against the clock in the hopes he`ll be brought home alive.

And let`s hope. Police have now released this photo image of the two men suspected of abducting the toddler from his home this past Sunday. Take a look at these guys. These two men are said to have burst into the house, ransacked it, tied up five family members and kidnapped the little boy after threatening to take him to Mexico to kill him.

Eyeball these creeps, the surveillance video of the men apparently shows of buying ties to bind the family at a store near the home two days before the horrific attack suggesting it was carefully premeditated.

Cops also release this photo of a green Ford Bronco the suspects could be driving. So how do cops track down this rather distinctive vehicle? Meantime, Briant`s older brother, just a child himself tearfully pleading for the boy`s safe return.


BROTHER OF BRIANT RODRIGUEZ: He`s the one that does all the fun stuff like, we play around with him, but now that he`s gone, we can`t do nothing. They took my little brother for no reason and I want him back.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: And tonight, we learn authorities have raised the reward to $50,000 for any information leading to Briant`s captors. Will these brand new images and cash incentives lead to the much needed break in the case?

Straight to my expert panel, Nicole Deborde, criminal defense attorney and former district attorney; Steve Kardian, a former criminal investigator; and joining me by phone, Stacia Glenn, a crime reporter, with the "San Bernardino Sun." Stacia what is the very latest?

STACIA GLENN, "SAN BERNARDINO SUN," CRIME REPORTER (via telephone): Well, there`s been a surge in tips and sightings since the $50,000 reward was issued yesterday and the surveillance photographs they released.

This morning, detectives are saying that they have 300 tips...


GLENN: ...280 of which are requiring follow up. And that`s a huge leap from yesterday, when they said that they had about 100.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Steve Kardian, what I find fascinating is -- first of all this is a rather distinctive car. It`s sort of like a late model Ford Bronco, green. And these guys, this is a great surveillance photo. And apparently they were in the area two days before this alleged attack.

STEVE KARDIAN, FMR. CRIMINAL INVESTIGATOR: Yes Jane, it`s typical of the law enforcement to check with local hardware stores and utility stores if they have recovered evidence at the scene that was used in that crime.

And that vehicle is distinctive enough that law enforcement given that the media continues to get this out to them, should be able to locate that vehicle and identify those individual that we see here on video.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, let`s take a closer look at the surveillance image of these suspects. The first thing I notice, Nicole Deborde, is the excellent quality of the images, I mean, we`ve all seen some much granny footage in the past. These shots are really sharp which I think it could be enormously helpful in the search for this child.

But how do authorities know that these guys are actually the suspects? I mean, you have a picture of two people who were shopping and you know, we`ve all made it sound very sinister and indeed it may be. But maybe it`s not. I mean, what is the link that they have, do you think, that says well, these are the two people who committed this crime?

NICOLE DEBORDE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, there could be a variety of things. They`ve probably gotten details like license plate numbers, you know, like you said the description of the vehicle from the family.

And if they can go back and find out what sort of vehicle these two individuals are known to drive. If they purchased using a credit card, at the store they might have names actually. Although we might know that if they did.

But connecting little bits of information that they retrieve from interviewing anybody that saw them at the scene along with anybody that had contact with them at the store can be used perhaps to see if the information matches up, like what did they drive away from the store in.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Steve Kardian, do investigators just take all these video and bring it to the family and just tell them, look at it. See if anybody jogs your memory and then suddenly they`re looking at this video from a hardware store and they`re like that`s them.

KARDIAN: It would be great if they found a commonality that would relate them or trace them back to the family. But what law enforcement is going to do is they`re going to see if they can enhance that picture or maybe identify the state of that license plate and do a DMV background data check on that possible -- and any vehicle like that, either here or in Mexico.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s right, of course the FBI release the photo of the car and the suspects were thought to be driving. And once again, it is a green Ford Bronco from the early `90s. It also has a spare tire mounted on the back.

I can`t imagine, Stacia Glenn, that there are that many cars that are that similar to this particular vehicle. What do you know about efforts to track down this vehicle?

GLENN: Well, I know that they are definitely keeping an eye out and plenty of tips have come in. Something else that`s unique about the Bronco is that it has an oxidized roof. So they`re hoping that that`s going to narrow down any tips that are coming in.

And they`ve gotten, you know, they`ve gotten calls from everywhere down to the border all the way up to Northern California. And they are diligently following up on each and everyone of them.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And one of the things that we have to point out Nicole Deborde is that the mother said, memorize the child`s face. Because he has very long hair and she fears that they might cut his hair to try to make him look different.

DEBORDE: I think that`s a distinct possibility, when you have a missing child -- investigators will frequently tell people that the child`s hair could have been dyed or it could have been cut. They do often times a lot of things to possibly change the appearance of the child.

So concentrating on the face is most certainly a very responsible thing to do to help authorities try to find this little boy.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And what a beautiful little child, indeed. Let`s pray that they find him ok.

Thanks to my fantastic panel.

Chris Brown`s high powered attorney makes a shocking claim. Could the LAPD`s handling of the Rihanna evidence photo get the case against her pop- star boyfriend or ex -- whatever they are at this point, tossed. You don`t want to miss the details.

And bitter feuds front and center in the disappearance of little Haleigh Cummings; I will sort through the scandals and analyze how they`re affecting the investigation.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: In just a moment, my expert panel will try to connect the dots in the tragic soap opera surrounding Haleigh Cummings disappearance.

But first, "Top of the Block" tonight.

Explosive news in the Chris Brown assault case: Brown`s high-powered attorney Mark Garagos want to get the case thrown out based on alleged misconduct. Radar Online says Garagos filed a motion yesterday asking for internal LAPD records so the attorney can find out how celeb-cite TMZ got this photo show Rihanna after the beating.

Garagos reportedly wants all written statements and reports from the LAPD regarding that image because he thinks somebody from the department sold the picture to TMZ. Those are some pretty bold claims there.

If true, Garagos believes all testimonies from the LAPD regarding this case has zero credibility and therefore it should be thrown out. If the case is dismissed, it could happen as soon as May 28, which is the date of Brown`s preliminary hearing.

We will stay on top of the story for the very latest legal drama.

That is tonight`s "Top of the Block."

This Sunday marks the third full month Haleigh Cummings has been missing from her Satsuma, Florida home. Tips in the abduction of the precious 5- year-old have dwindled from hundreds a day to a mere handful. Her family continues to pray for her safe return.


CRYSTAL SHEFFIELD, MOTHER OF HALEIGH CUMMINGS: Haleigh, if you`re out there, mommy loves you and your daddy loves you and we miss you. We will be right here. (INAUDIBLE)


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Since her daughter`s disappearance, Haleigh`s mom, Crystal Sheffield, has suffered seizures and fears she`s being stalked by an axe- wielding man. Emotions have run high for Haleigh`s father, Ron Cummings as well, beginning with his very emotional call to 911 on the tragic night.


RON CUMMINGS, HALEIGH CUMMINGS` FATHER: If I find whoever has my daughter before you all do, I`m killing him. I don`t care. I`ll spend the rest of my life in prison. I`m telling you, you can put it on record.

OPERATOR: Ok, it`s ok, sir. We got them on the way. Ok, can you give me any, what kind of description of her pajamas that she was wearing?

CUMMINGS: I don`t know, I was at work.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Things have only gotten more emotional and complicated. An impromptu wedding between the Ronald Cummings -- you just heard from him there -- and Misty Croslin, the last person to see little Haleigh.

Accusations of child abuse and public claims alleging Misty`s infidelity and drug use by friends just days before little Haleigh went missing.

We will go back and try to connect all the dots. Not an easy task.

But first, straight to my expert panel: Jonna Spilbor, criminal defense attorney; joining us by phone, Kim Picazio, attorney for Haleigh`s mom, Crystal Sheffield; and T.J. Hart, program and news director, WSKY 97.3. T.J., so glad you are joining us today.

Are there developments with the Department of Children and Family Services` investigation into the child abuse accusations leveled at Ron, which he denies?

T.J. HART, NEWS DIRECTOR, WSKY 97.3: Well, right now, all we know is that there has been some continuance there. They have received some sort of evidence that tells them that they are going to continue and they made that statement as far as what that evidence may be. Of course, they`re keeping that very close to the vest because these are very confidential matters. And that`s the way they deal with these issues.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, of course, if they did find signs of abuse, they would immediately remove the child from the home. My understanding, T.J. Hart is that the missing child`s little brother, Jr., as he`s called is still with Ron Cummings and Misty.

Where the heck are they living because they vowed not to live in the trailer where little Haleigh disappeared from. Then they were thrown out of the tent grounds that they had created.

HART: They are staying with Ronald`s grandmother, I believe, in Wallace (ph) which is just a little ways away from Satsuma.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, I want to go through this time line because it`s oh, so complicated. Ever since little Haleigh went missing, there`s been an amazing cast of characters and it`s gotten more and more confusing.

Let`s see if we can go to the major points here. February 10, Haleigh was reported missing. Then we have February 20, rumors began to swirl Misty Croslin may not have been home when Haleigh was taken; Misty denied those rumors. February 24, Haleigh`s little brother said a man dressed in black took his sister. February 26, cadaver dogs hit on a dumpster near Haleigh`s home but apparently that was just -- that fizzled. A search showed no sign of the child. March 11, Misty interrogated by the cops by this point nearly half a dozen times and walked out on one interview and they still can`t get her story straight, allegedly. The very next day, Misty and Ron are married.

What do you make of this, Jonna Spilbor? As you see this and as we ask you that question, we always say Misty and Ron, we want to hear your side of the story. We keep calling you. Come in and tell your side, we want to do fair coverage here.

JONNA SPILBOR, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: This is really tough, Jane. The police are trying to connect dots here and they really don`t have much to go on.

I hate to say this. I don`t want to sound like doom and gloom but without a body, it`s going to be hard to pinpoint who is responsible for this little girl`s, I`m going to say death even though she hasn`t -- she`s missing.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I don`t know but Kim Picazio, we had heard reports that the police believe she may very well be alive. And that they don`t think it`s a stranger abduction, Kim Picazio. They think it`s somebody in the immediate circle or in the extended circle.

KIM PICAZIO, ATTORNEY FOR CRYSTAL SHEFFIELD (via telephone): I have heard those reports as well which is giving me signs of encouragement. I do know -- I`ve met with the law enforcement. We have heard a few things maybe that would give them some hope that she would be alive.


PICAZIO: I can`t say. All of these things are confidential information. A lot of times the law enforcement will only speak with the two parents.

And I can say that with regard to my client who is a parent, the cops haven`t even gone out to investigate her house. They haven`t even done a thorough investigation. So, I don`t think that they are looking at her side of the family as the bad guy.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So you are saying that -- your client, Crystal, who has been hospitalized for seizures and we saw her crying a little while ago, they haven`t searched her home?

PICAZIO: As far as I know, they have not even gone out there. In our last meeting, they were going to be going out there to do some cursory review. But as of yet, they have not done a formal investigation.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, Kim, hang in there. More drama in just a minute in this case.

Some say a custody battle has distracted from the search for Haleigh. Here`s Ron refusing those claims.


CUMMINGS: A lot of people are talking like this is a custody battle. It`s not a custody battle. It`s about finding my 5-year-old daughter.



CUMMINGS: Bring her back anonymous. Give her to someone else to bring back. How ever she gets back, bring her safe. I want my daughter back. That`s it, that`s all I want. I want my daughter back. I`m not out for revenge.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: A distraught Ron Cummings pleads for his baby girl. Leads drying up as the search for Haleigh enters its fourth month.

Back with my expert panel. I want to establish this again in case we weren`t totally clear, T.J. Hart, where are Ron and Misty living.

HART: Right now, they are living, reportedly with Ron`s grandmother in Wallace, which is just about a couple miles south of Satsuma, where they were living in that trailer.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So the trailer is abandoned, nobody is there. The tent is broken down. It`s probably a rather sad scene now. In other words there was strength, Tim, with the tents and vigils and now that`s sort given away.

Your client, Crystal does have the Haleigh Bug Center that she`s still operating, correct?

PICAZIO: That`s correct. We have a Haleigh Bug Center there. We painted it purple. We continue to distribute fliers at every local festival, community event. We`re planning things this weekend in Jacksonville. Next weekend in (INAUDIBLE). We continue to search for this child.

I don`t know what Ron Cummings is doing this weekend, but he`s welcome to join us.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s take another look at the time line of events and the cast of characters who have become involved.

March 19, Ron Cummings denied abuse allegations. The next day, Cobra Stoubs the bounty hunter named Cobra inserted himself into the case. March 24, rumors of a relationship between Misty and a guy named Greg. In April, Misty`s party pal, Kristina also called "Nay Nay" claims she and Misty partied and dig drugs just days before little Haleigh went missing.

You need a diagram practically to keep all this straight. But T.J. Hart, it`s obviously very disturbing to hear that friends are saying misty was doing drugs in the couple of days leading up to Haleigh`s disappearance. Again, we want Misty`s side of the story. We keep trying to reach out to her.

Misty, if you`re listening, come on and tell us. If you weren`t doing drugs, we want to know that. But a couple of friends have said yes. What are cops doing about that, T.J.?

HART: Right now, the police aren`t saying too much of anything about their investigation. They want to be able to tell you that Haleigh is coming home, she`s safe and sound. But right now, they are going through and they`re questioning virtually everyone again and again and again in this case that they`ve run across. Right now, they are not giving forth any information...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We don`t know. Thank you to my fabulous panel.

Got a question or comment, give me a holler, You`re watching ISSUES.