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ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL
Will Michael Jackson`s Kids Have a Say in Custody Clash?
Aired July 16, 2009 - 19:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST: Tonight, have Michael Jackson`s kids dropped a custody battle shocker? "OK" magazine`s stunning new report is the Jackson children want to be with their superstar aunt, Janet Jackson. So will they get a say in the high-stakes custody clash between the Jackson family and Debbie Rowe?
Meantime, wild twists and turns in the Michael Jackson death probe. TMZ standing by its report that the LAPD is investigating this as a homicide. A claim cops still denies. With the toxicology report set to be released soon, the question lingers -- was Jackson exhibiting any warning signs?
I`ll speak to the last person to interview the king of pop and get his take.
Then, seismic developments in the home invasion and murder of a Florida couple who devoted their lives to helping special-needs kids.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ve recovered the safe, we`ve recovered several guns, one of which we believe is the murder weapon.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And now eight arrested in the brutal attack with cops still on the hunt for others. So, how big was the web of criminality that targeted this couple?
Plus, Michigan police ratchet up the search for the killer of 5-year- old Nevaeh Buchanan. After gut-wrenching autopsy reports indicate she may have been buried alive. Investigators take carpet samples from the home where Nevaeh was reportedly playing just hours before she disappeared.
Do the fibers match those found under Nevaeh`s fingernails? Cops hope to answer that grim question.
ISSUES starts now.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, as the coroner closes in on Michael Jackson`s cause of death, a shocking twist in the custody saga. It`s one that could spell chaos for Monday`s big custody hearing. "OK" magazine cites a source close to the family that claims that the Jackson children, Paris, Prince Michael, and Blanket, appear to want Michael`s famous sister, Janet Jackson, to raise them.
The source telling "OK" that the kids, quote, "Just melt into her arms when she walks into the house," end quote, and that the feeling is mutual. No surprise to anyone who watched the memorial closely on July 7th.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PARIS JACKSON, MICHAEL JACKSON`S DAUGHTER: Ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine. And I just wanted to say I love him. So much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We could see Paris takes to Janet like a magnet, leaning her head into her aunt and snuggling close after making that heart- wrenching speech to the crowd about her dad.
Could this be a defining moment when it comes to who will take care of Michael`s three kids?
In the meantime, we caution you about very disturbing images contained in this video of the tragic special effects mishap during the 1984 Pepsi commercial shoot. We are learning more about exactly what happened in the moments following the fire that burned Michael Jackson`s hair and cinched his scalp. His good friend, Miko Brando, spoke to CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKO BRANDO, MICHAEL JACKSON`S FRIEND: I just went up to him and put my hands, shook his head, threw him down to the ground, and tried to do the best I could.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Did that terrible fire ignite the fuse that would explode 25 years later? Was it a slow burn fueled by an abusive painkillers and the use of powerful knockout drugs?
Now we wait for the official toxicology report which is expected soon. Meanwhile, TMZ reporting police are investigating this as a homicide, something the LAPD denies. But what does the district attorney have to say about it? TMZ also says investigators have narrowed their focus. So just who is in the crosshairs?
So much to talk about in this fast-breaking story, and I want to hear what you think, especially when it comes to custody of the kids.
Straight out to my amazing expert panel, Ashleigh Banfield, host of "Open Court," Michael Cardoza, criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor who attended the Michael Jackson criminal trial, Firpo Carr, Jackson family friend and former Jackson spokesperson, Bryan Monroe, CNN contributor and one of the last, if not the last, to conduct an interview with Michael Jackson, and my dear friend, Harvey Levin, executive producer of TMZ.
Harvey, you`ve broken so many stories on this case. We begin with you. What is the very latest?
HARVEY LEVIN, TMZ: Well, the latest is on a couple of front, Jane, on the homicide front, the L.A. County D.A.`s office is characterizing what the LAPD is doing as a criminal investigation. And, you know, here`s the thing. This has been going on for days now. This is viewed as a homicide by the LAPD, make no mistake about it.
They may not want to call it a homicide investigation officially yet until the coroner`s report comes in, but I can tell you they are treating it not only as a homicide but they are looking very squarely at Dr. Conrad Murray.
They are looking at Propofol, the anesthesia, as the primary cause of death. And they have a lot of evidence including the doctor`s own words which apparently did not serve him well when he talked to the LAPD the Saturday after Michael Jackson`s death.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I would think the key is who procured this powerful surgical knockout drug Propofol? Because you cannot legally have it in the home. It is simply for surgical use in the hospital. So, if it was in the home, it was there illegally. So how do you backtrack to find out who got this stuff and got it into Michael Jackson`s home?
LEVIN: Well -- by the way, you are absolutely right that there is no justification for having this in the home, and the way this is being viewed is that this is criminal if a doctor did, indeed, administer -- administer it to him in a setting like this. At least that`s the way it`s being viewed.
As for who got him this drug Propofol, we know that one pharmaceutical company, Teva Pharmaceutical, supplied that -- one of the vials that was in Michael Jackson`s house. We found out that the DEA has contacted Teva. Teva then told the DEA, here`s who we sold it to, there are kind of middlemen distributors, and the DEA has contacted those distributors and they`ve asked for all sales records within a several-month period of time of Propofol.
So what they`re trying to do is look at the list of people who received this lot of Propofol and then, by process of elimination, look at it and say who could have possibly had a direct or indirect tie to Michael Jackson.
They are absolutely trying to find out how that drug went from either a hospital or a doctor`s office, perhaps, to a home it should never have been in.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And we only have a couple of seconds. Do you think the LAPD has a real handle on what killed Michael Jackson, in other words, a preliminary toxicology report?
LEVIN: Well, I can tell you what we know is that there are preliminary reports in. Not all of the full reports are in, but they are operating on the -- and I am told others are, too.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, Harvey.
LEVIN: . that Propofol is the primary cause of Michael Jackson`s death.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We have to leave it right there. Always great talking to you. Great information.
What could have triggered Michael Jackson`s downward spiral. I will show you the shocking just-released video of Michael Jackson`s Pepsi commercial accident when we come back in 30 seconds.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`re looking at a very graphic and disturbing video of a special effect gone terribly wrong. Documentation of an accident we`d only heard about until now.
Did this unimaginably, unimaginably painful moment 25 years ago send Michael Jackson into a downward spiral, turn him into an addict and set him on a course for self-destruction?
Years later, he would tell fans about how in the aftermath of this very painful scalp fire he became addicted to painkillers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL JACKSON, KING OF POP: I`m doing well and I am strong. As you may already know, after my tour ended, I remained out of the country undergoing treatment for a dependency on pain medication. This medication was initially prescribed to ease the excruciating pain I was suffering after recent reconstructive surgery on my scalp.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: So, he was hooked in `93 at the very least.
Michael, you`re a former prosecutor. Assuming there will be a criminal case that comes out of the death row, could any doctor who worked with Jackson, and there were reportedly so many over the years, be subject to prosecution?
MICHAEL CARDOZA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Oh, absolutely. I mean, this is not a doctor administering pills where the defense might be, I didn`t know what other doctors were prescribing to him. This drug Diprivan or Propofol is an anesthetic.
If, in fact, that was his cause of death, they`ve got a very strong case against the doctor who administered that drug, because it is inherently dangerous. Before any of us go in for surgery, they advise us of this informed consent, saying in anesthesia, when we put you under, here are all the risks. Sign off on it. So, inherently, it is dangerous.
That could move it in to a second-degree murder prosecution in this case and I wouldn`t be surprised if a jury brought back a guilty verdict if they can prove that a doctor did that and this was the cause of Michael Jackson`s death.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, you know, reports are suggesting any number, possibly five or more doctors, being investigated as part of the probe into Jackson`s death. TMZ reporting, as you just heard, Dr. Conrad Murray is the focus. Dr. Murray`s lawyers have denied that he ever gave Demerol or Oxycontin to Jackson, would not say, one way or the other about Diprivan or Propofol, that`s a powerful surgical knock-out drug.
And there`s also Dr. Arnie Klein, Michael Jackson`s longtime dermatologist. The L.A. coroner paid a visit to Dr. Klein`s office Tuesday and got more medical records. Dr. Klein and his attorney say Dr. Klein is cooperating with the death probe.
But then if you go back even further, Neil Ratner, another doctor who reportedly treated Michael Jackson, CNN`s Sanjay Gupta spoke to a source and told him the anesthesiologist was one of two doctors who toured with Jackson in the `90s as part of a traveling mini clinic that included an IV pole drips and monitors.
So, Bryan Monroe, when it comes to claims that Dr. Murray is the focus of this investigation, could this simply be a case of musical chairs and he was, to his misfortune, the one left standing when the music stopped?
BRYAN MONROE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, look, he joined the entourage. He was around Michael really in the last couple of months. He joined a couple of months ago, came from Houston, was employed partly through the AEG, although AEG says they were really fronting him for Michael`s use.
But, you know, if, in fact, he helped administer or was part of a process to help Michael get this dangerous drug Propofol, that is, indeed, serious business. They call this drug mother`s milk. It`s very white and milky and it really puts the brain almost in a comatose state for two to four minutes.
It`s very fast acting but has a very short half-life. And if, indeed, he was part of this -- you know that`s what I want to say. If -- we heard that Michael had been aware of Diprivan or Propofol for some time. You don`t just discover that. You don`t go down to your local drugstore and they have it on the shelves. Someone has to clue you in about it or you have to do a lot of research to find out about it. And we got to look at who.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And you got to get somebody to get it for you, possibly out of a hospital.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s why they`re tracking those lot numbers.
MONROE: It`s also available online.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, that`s a whole other subject for discussion. We`ll get to that in a second. Much more to get to in this case. Will the upcoming toxicology reports tell us anything we don`t already know?
Give me a holler. 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297. Sound off.
Fast-breaking news also in the murder of a Florida couple. An eighth person connected to the killing arrested. Cops aren`t done yet. But first law enforcement officials in the Michael Jackson case sending off reports about the death probe. Here`s the assistant chief coroner setting that record straight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ED WINTER, ASST. CHIEF CORONER: We`re not investigating the doctors. We`re investigating Mr. Michael Jackson`s death. And we`re contacting all of his doctors.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARCIA CLARK, FMR. LOS ANGELES PROSECUTOR: Most recent footage of Michael Jackson, he was doing better than ever. It`s very, very unlikely that it was a normally or naturally caused death. And that means that it`s likely drug induced. And that means that it`s some kind of a drug combination or cocktail that probably he shouldn`t have had, and that means somebody gave him drugs they shouldn`t have given him.
LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: And is that a crime?
CLARK: That`s a crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Marcia Clark, famous from the O.J. Simpson criminal case.
Tonight, speculation swirling about whether Michael Jackson`s death will officially be classified as a homicide and who, if anyone, will face prosecution.
Phone lines lighting up. Tammy in Ohio, your question or thought, ma`am.
TAMMY, CALLER FROM OHIO: Thank you for taking my call. A lot of friends and family are speaking out about how worried they are about Michael the months leading up to his death, and also about the failed intervention attempts.
My question is this -- couldn`t they have called the nearest hospital and had him evaluated for 72 hours psychologically to even maybe try to help save him that way?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Ashleigh Banfield, we`ve been talking about this for days now. Who did what and who didn`t do what. And at this point, when you`re dealing with an institution like Neverland and security guards, we`ve heard reports that they stormed the gates. We`ve also heard reports that they tried to get in and couldn`t.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, HOST OF "OPEN COURT": Well, I think in answer to this question, it is extraordinarily difficult under our constitution to commit an adult against his or her will. It`s not impossible, but it`s extraordinarily difficult. So, unless they`re a danger to themselves and it`s imminent, like in the Britney Spears case, it`s very difficult for a family member to actually get that to happen. They may not have been at that stage yet.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. I want to move on to another subject that is fascinating to me. "OK" magazine now reporting that the kids want their famous Aunt Janet Jackson to raise and care for them and that she feels exactly the same way.
We all remember at the July 7th memorial there appeared to be this incredible bond between all of them, Paris, Janet, and they were hugging each other like magnets in this emotional moment. Janet`s name didn`t come up at all, however, in Michael`s will.
Firpo Carr, Diana Ross was the backup to Michael`s 79-year-old mom, Katherine. Given this new report, what do you think is going to happen at the custody hearing on Monday?
FIRPO CARR, JACKSON FAMILY FRIEND, FORMER JACKSON FAMILY SPOKESPERSON: I think that the children, like any children, would want to be with the famous aunt, that`s not unusual, but that`s not what Michael told me and that`s not what he stated in the will, namely that he wanted his mother to have the children, and even after his mother, perhaps Rebbie after that.
So, Diana Ross as well as Janet Jackson, they weren`t in the picture. It`s that simple.
CARDOZA: You know, in family law court, the little I know about that, judges oftentimes listen to what the children want. If they`re going to feel more comfortable with Janet, that`s going to weigh heavy on a judge. I understand.
CARR: Well, that doesn`t mean -- that doesn`t mean that they don`t feel comfortable with Katherine or Rebbie.
CARDOZA: That`s true, too.
CARR: It just means that, you know -- yes, it just means that hey, I`ve got a famous aunt, and my dad was famous.
BANFIELD: Let me toss in what the law actually said about this.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, Ashleigh, jump in.
BANFIELD: Let me toss in what the law. You cannot will your children to people. And that`s just plain and simple. You can certainly make your desires known and your wishes, but family courts look at one very important fact, and that`s the best interests for the children.
A wholesome and stable environment is number one, an ongoing and continuing relationship with the children, number two. There are a lot of things that would factor into this. Definitely what -- Michael`s right. What the children want is extraordinarily important but it is not one simple formula.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Bryan Monroe, Katherine is 79 years old. That`s another factor. Do you think that they could fashion something like a joint guardianship where Katherine has the official guardianship but Janet is right there, actually interacting with the kids?
MONROE: Look, I think you`re absolutely right, looking at Katherine`s age. She has by all accounts been there for Michael since the beginning but she`s 79 years old.
Here`s the reality of how this is going to shake down. You`ve got Katherine there as the head of the household. You have Rebbie, and you`re right in that Rebbie was also very much part of those kids` lives, and Janet and La Toya and the six brothers.
But between Rebbie and Janet, Katherine and, don`t forget Grace, who`s been the nanny and his really -- and closest than anyone to those girls.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, is Grace involved, though?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I mean, is Grace going to be involved?
MONROE: Well, you know, if Grace came into the picture, she would be there on a visitation right type of program, not -- because she`s an employee. She really doesn`t have any rights to the children, although I think she should have a big part in their lives.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I heard she was fired or quit in December.
MONROE: It doesn`t matter either way. They`re still a part of her life. They still love grace, there`s no doubt about that.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`re going to have to see what happens on Monday. Thank you, fabulous panel.
We`ve been talking about the nightmare of addiction for a while on this show. In my new book, "I Want," I lay out my own personal battle with addiction and how I got sober more than 14 years ago. And hopefully one day at a time will stay sober.
It`s a recovery memoir due out this fall. You can preorder your copy right now. Just click on CNN.com/jane and look for the preorder section. This is my personal story and it`s got lots of surprises.
Up next on ISSUES, cops casting a bigger and bigger net in the Florida double murder investigation. Now eight people under arrest and they`re still looking for others.
And more evidence in the Nevaeh Buchanan murder.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, we still await the official cause of Michael Jackson`s death. The autopsy and toxicology reports are expected perhaps tomorrow, maybe early next week, but even without them, the investigation into drugs as a possible factor is heating up.
So, the question lingers -- was the king of pop exhibiting any warning signs? Some ask, did he have an obsession with death? Listen to what Jackson told "Ebony" magazine in what would be his last U.S. interview in 2007.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACKSON: Who wants mortality? I mean, everybody wants immortality. Like Michelangelo, he said, you know, "I know the creator will go but his work survives. That is why to escape death, I attempt to bind my soul to my work. That`s how I feel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow. The man who conducted that interview is here with me once more, CNN contributor Bryan Monroe, and former vice president and editorial director of "Ebony" and "Jet" magazines.
Bryan, so glad to have you on the program. Jackson`s ex-wife, Lisa Marie Presley, has said that Michael was afraid he would end up like her father, the late Elvis Presley. Did Michael Jackson have an obsession with death, and if so, why?
MONROE: Well, you know, I don`t know that he had an obsession with death. In the time I spent with him and talking with him, we spent close to two hours, he actually talked about life a lot. He talked about creativity, he talked about his music. He did also talk about mortality you played in that clip earlier.
And I went back and looked at my notes from that conversation, and, you know, he was very, very thoughtful, probably one of the most thoughtful interviews I`ve ever done, but he thought a lot about his legacy, about what he would leave, and I don`t know if that was because the kids were now in his life and, in fact, his son was there at the interview with us.
And there was a much more sober, thoughtful Michael than I expected sitting down talking with him. But he also talked about how -- in fact, I asked him did he see himself touring again? And he actually said no, he didn`t want to tour. And this was two years before he agreed to these London concerts, which technically wasn`t a tour because he went one place and the crowd came to him, but he talked about how.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Do you think he was forced into this tour, this 50 engagement tour?
MONROE: Well, you know, he certainly had to do this tour partly to raise money because he was getting very short in his personal funds. He also said that he wanted to do this for the fans, but I think money had something to do with it.
But I`ve been told through folks close to the family that he didn`t know that he agreed to 50 tours or 50 concerts. He thought he was really agreeing to about a dozen or so, and then they went back and looked and added some more dates on. And he was concerned initially about was this too many tours -- or too many shows to do.
And it was spread across six months so it wasn`t like it was every day for 50 days in a row. But, still, that was a lot of work to commit yourself to. He was, you know, an energetic dancer, but he was 50 years old.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And he was a genius and a prodigy and he did so many things right, I mean, he made smart decisions like buying the Beatles Catalog, and yet when it came to addiction.
MONROE: Oh, wow.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Why was he so clueless about that one subject?
MONROE: Well, there were -- and I think what you`re seeing now, there were many Michael Jacksons.
There was Michael Jackson the entertainer. There was Mike the friend. There was Mr. Jackson, the businessman. There was dad. There was father. You saw the clips with Paris and Janet where Paris talked about Daddy and father.
There were many Michael Jacksons wrapped up into that one amazing body.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Brian.
MONROE: But, you know, we`ll see.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`ll have to leave it right there. Thank you so much.
Cops make another arrest in the shocking murder of a Florida couple. And you won`t believe the evidence they`ve uncovered. Details next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Seismic developments in the home invasion and murder of a Florida couple who cared for special needs kid. An eighth person arrested for the brutal attack as cops recover mounds of key evidence. So how big was this web of criminality that targeted this couple?
Plus, gut-wrenching autopsy reports indicate Nevaeh Buchanan may have been buried alive. Now, cops ratchet up the search for the 5-year-old killer, taking evidence from a home where little Nevaeh was reportedly playing just hours before she disappear.
Dramatic new developments tonight in the double murder of Byrd and Melanie Billings, parents to 17 children, most of them adopted with special needs. Cops have arrested an eighth person in this case and this time it`s a woman. Pamela Long Wiggins was arrested last night and charged with accessory to the murders after the fact.
Reports are that the stolen safe was found buried on her property allegedly. She is now out on the street, released on a $10,000 bond.
Earlier today, authorities announced the discovery of key evidence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL EDDINS, FLORIDA STATE ATTORNEY: We have located evidence, valuable evidence. We have located the safe. The safe is being processed at this time. We have located several guns in various locations, one of which we believe is the murder weapon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Plus, the sheriff takes on questions about the Drug Enforcement Administration`s involvement in this case. He says the public should not read into it.
So much to get to tonight, but first, straight out to my fantastic expert panel: Stacey Honowitz, Florida prosecutor; David Schwartz, criminal defense attorney; plus, Mike Gaynor, retired NYPD detective and president of East Coast Detectives; and Rob Williams, anchor and morning host of News Radio 1620 AM in Pensacola, Florida.
Rob, you`ve been tracking this case very closely. What is the very latest?
ROB WILLIAMS, NEWS RADIO 1620 AM, PENSACOLA, FLORIDA: Well, Jane, the verdict is that Bill Eddins -- you just saw the sound bite with him there is of course the state attorney -- he`s the guy that`s going to have to prosecute this case against seven alleged killers and one woman who found out about stuff after the fact.
It was her red van, a minivan, by the way, used as part of the escape, not the van we see in the pictures. It was parked a few blocks, maybe a mile or so away. Then, the safe was on her property. Guns were on her property. And then things were scattered all around.
But Bill Eddins, who`s got to prosecute this case, has been very conservative on releasing any information about any of the evidence. We don`t know how many guns, what caliber, what make, what model. They`re not even showing us a picture of the safe.
We only got it because they brought it in late last night and one of the videographers here just happened to catch it. But they`re again being very conservative -- Jane.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, this woman Pamela Long Wiggins is a walking contradiction. Why would a rich lady -- and reportedly she`s very wealthy -- be involved in something like this which police say the motive was robbery?
She was discovered last night on a yacht called "The Classy Lady," and reportedly that`s her yacht about 40 miles off from Pensacola. She was arrested last night -- you can see she`s kind of smiling here, which is a little odd -- released today, after posting bond.
Wiggins reportedly was a friend and landlord to Leonard Gonzalez Jr., the alleged mastermind. Now, this woman allegedly had numerous aliases including Pamela Laverne, Long Coco.
Her current husband says he`s been trying to divorce her for years. He talked to ABC`s "Good Morning America." Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES MALDEN JR., ESTRANGED HUSBAND OF PAMELA WIGGINS: She liked to boast a lot about her power or her position in society. She knew some people that I guess you could say "goodfellas," henchmen that she told me about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Stacey Honowitz, she reportedly owned dozens of properties and a Rolls Royce. So, why would she have any motive to get involved in this bizarre robbery?
STACEY HONOWITZ, FLORIDA PROSECUTOR: Well, Jane, I can`t profess to tell you the reason why she`d want to get involved, but we see a lot of people that sometimes get involved with the wrong people.
Maybe she had an attraction to one of the people that was involved in this case. I mean, certainly maybe she wasn`t going to benefit from the money, but maybe she had a relationship with somebody who was involved.
But we`re never going to know that unless...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: She had a relationship with Leonard Gonzalez Jr., allegedly. She was his landlord and she was his friend, and he`s said to be the ringleader of this whole ninja-style, military-style operation with seven men allegedly with seven guns going into this home.
DAVID SCHWARTZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Jane, can I just clarify?
SCHWARTZ: Can I clarify something?
SCHWARTZ: She is being charged with accessory after the fact. She is not being charged...
SCHWARTZ: ...with having any culpability with this murder.
HONOWITZ: But she had knowledge.
SCHWARTZ: ...or with the robbery whatsoever.
HONOWITZ: But David, in Florida, under the law, she had to have knowledge that a crime was taking place. Even though she`s not charged of it, she knew what was going on so she knew ahead of time.
SCHWARTZ: Well, well not though...
HONOWITZ: So, we have to figure that there was some kind of relationship with her.
SCHWARTZ: Well, who said she -- just because a charge is evidence of nothing. Everybody should understand, we`re concluding that she knew. We have no idea what was going on.
HONOWITZ: Well, I don`t think anybody would just let someone plant a safe on their front lawn unless they knew what`s happening. We don`t come, home one day and see seven people...
SCHWARTZ: Well, you`ll got to let the fact are -- you`ve got to let the fact to play out here.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. All right, Mike Gaynor -- Mike Gaynor, what I don`t understand about this entire case is, the overkill, and I say that, it`s tragic, but the excessive nature of this. Seven men going from the back and the rear with seven guns all to invade a private home filled with children and this older couple that`s so loving?
Something doesn`t make sense to me about this.
MIKE GAYNOR, PRESIDENT, EAST COAST DETECTIVES: Yes. This is a highly unusual case because, first of all, you have so many perpetrators involved in this case, if they`re all going to be concluded to be perpetrators. Their parts in the case will be decided as the investigation goes forward.
There`s probably more to this than just a robbery and the association that these people had with each other. However, any of these charges that are being lodged now can certainly be changed in the near future. Some of this people will probably turn into witnesses.
SCHWARTZ: Yes, it depends on who is the first one in the door, Jane, who is going to be the first one...
HONOWITZ: She`ll turn it all the way around...
SCHWARTZ: ...to cooperate with the prosecutors and what the culpability is of each defendant. That has to be analyzed.
GAYNOR: Yes, they are all saying the first one to talk is the first one to walk.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know what...
HONOWITZ: She`ll be the one that flipped...
HONOWITZ: She`s the accessory after the fact. I guarantee you she`s the one that ends up flipping. Because she`ll have knowledge as to what was going on, what the plan was.
GAYNOR: That`s a good bet.
HONOWITZ: And what the motive was.
SCHWARTZ: In case she has knowledge...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, let me ask you a question Rob Williams...
WILLIAMS: How about this?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Go ahead Rob.
WILLIAMS: The question is, how about this? If she`s such good friends with Pat Gonzalez, the younger Gonzalez, if she`s good friends, he might say, hey, I need to borrow your van and she says, ok, here are the keys, fine.
A couple of other things that I want to bring on; the state attorney, the guy who is going to prosecute this said absolutely it`s a home invasion/robbery. That`s it. That`s the case.
He said there are still several loose ends; there are still several other people of interest and the business about the DEA kind of a smokescreen. Take that off the table.
They have nothing to do on the Billings side of the case. They are, however, looking at all this information that`s been turned up, turned loose, if you will, by the arrest of these seven guys. And believe me, there is lots of federal interest in this case.
The city, the county, the State of Florida, they`re settled right now, but the Feds, they`re going to be working this one for a while -- Jane.
SCHWARTZ: By the way, in the press conference, they mentioned murder weapon. They used the word "weapon" so, it seems to me that there`s only one shooter in this case and that should be a very interesting fact...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok wait, wait, wait.
WILLIAMS: Are you kidding me?
GAYNOR: It doesn`t matter.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Rob, try to answer that.
WILLIAMS: Are you kidding me?
GAYNOR: I`m serious.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: CNN -- CNN reported that there were seven guns, one for each person reportedly.
SCHWARTZ: One weapon. One weapon.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wait, wait Rob. Rob. Rob. Come on, guys. Rob.
WILLIAMS: He said there were several weapons, not seven.
WILLIAMS: Several weapons.
WILLIAMS: Picked up, brought in. They`re processing them.
I talked to the guys from the ATF just a couple hours ago. They`re running the serial numbers. They`re going to know who put them together on the assembly line before this was done with.
SCHWARTZ: Replay the press conference he said one murder weapon, though. Out of all the weapons confiscated there`s one murder weapon, one shooter.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Right ok yes, because seven people don`t go up and shoot...
WILLIAMS: They are sure they the murder weapon in that group.
GAYNOR: What difference does it make?
HONOWITZ: It doesn`t matter. They`re all charged as principals.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, Stacey Honowitz -- Stacey Honowitz. Gentlemen, let the lady talk.
HONOWITZ: It doesn`t matter if there was one shooter. They`re all charged as principals in the murder. That`s how it works down in Florida.
SCHWARTZ: That`s the legal theory, Stacey. The real world is...
HONOWITZ: Well, that`s what we`re talking about.
SCHWARTZ: Yes, the person that was waiting in the car, the getaway driver, should do a lot less jail time than the murderer.
GAYNOR: Nonsense, nonsense it`s getaway to Ivory.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Hold on, hold on.
I want to give Mike Gaynor the last word. Mike.
GAYNOR: Ok, the getaway driver is just as guilty as the shooter. Everybody that`s involved in this case...
GAYNOR: ...is equally guilty. If they conspired in advance to go in there and conduct a felony crime, a robbery and then as a result of the felony somebody gets murdered, they`re all equally guilty.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, this is what amazes me is that none of these people leaked it and somehow the police didn`t find out before hand with so many people involved and so many lives destroyed, the children of this beautiful family, the children of the suspects.
This is a perfect example of the insanity of crime.
Thank you, everyone, for your insights.
Five year-old Haleigh Cummings missing now for five months. Our cops at a dead end, I`ll have an update on the search. And gruesome murder of Nevaeh Buchanan has cops racing to find the killer. Wait until you hear where they collected the latest evidence.
Give me a call 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297. Sound off on this truly nauseating, heartbreaking case.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Just-released reports suggest 5-year-old Nevaeh Buchanan may have been -- and it pains me so to say this -- buried alive. I will find out if the cops are closing in on the killer.
But first, "Top of the Block" tonight:
Another horror story, involving a 5-year-old: it`s been five months since beautiful, adorable, precious, little Haleigh Cummings vanished, plucked from her Florida home in the middle of the night after her dad`s girlfriend claimed she put her to bed.
Here`s the 911 call placed by dad Ron after he got home from the late shift only to find out his daughter was missing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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. I don`t care.
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: The case sparked massive searches and thousands of leads but still no answers. The longer the investigation is dragged on, the more bizarre turns this story has taken involving a soap opera of characters in Haleigh`s family.
But tonight, cops still have no suspect and no motive. It is officially a total mystery.
That is tonight`s "Top of the Block."
Turning now to another little girl tragically ripped from her family far too soon, now investigators say that murdered Michigan girl, Nevaeh Buchanan, may have been buried alive.
The 5-year-old`s body was found in a shallow grave crudely covered over with cement. A newly-released coroner`s report says she died by inhaling dirt. That means she was either buried alive or her twisted killer held the 5-year-old`s head down in the dirt, causing her to suffocate.
This is sick and it`s disgusting. Family members reacted last night to this gruesome news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DIANE LAWSON, NEVAEH BUCHANAN`S AUNT: There`s thousands and thousands of things going through my mind, wondering what she went through.
SHAWN LAWSON, NEVAEH BUCHANAN`S COUSIN: That`s just absolutely the most heinous crime that I`ve ever heard of. Buried alive?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Just unbelievable news for this family to have to process. Investigators tracking down a new lead, they are trying to match fibers found under Nevaeh`s fingernails and have reportedly taken carpet samples from her apartment as well as that of a neighbor where Nevaeh was playing the very day she went missing.
Will this bring cops one step closer to finding her killer?
Meanwhile, Nevaeh`s mom, Jennifer Buchanan, reportedly holed up in her apartment after hearing the devastated news. She had come under criticism, you may recall, for befriending a convicted sex offender, a person of interest in this case.
After initially defending him, here`s what she said last month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNIFER BUCHANAN, MOTHER OF NEVAEH BUCHANAN: I`m pretty sure that it`s probably someone associated with George or his girlfriend or a few others. I don`t know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why would they want to hurt Nevaeh or take Nevaeh?
BUCHANAN: I don`t know. That`s a question that only that person who did it can answer.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: In the wake of little Nevaeh`s death, the sex offender friend George Kennedy was sent back to prison on a probation violation along with his friend, Roy Smith, who was also a convicted sex offender. But what, if anything, does all of this have to do with little Nevaeh`s murder?
So many ISSUES. Straight out to my fantastic expert panel: Mike Gaynor, President of East Coast Detectives; Jennifer Hartstein, clinical psychologist; and joining my by phone, Dave Murray, special assignment editor for the "Toledo Blade."
Dave, you`ve been tracking this case. What is the very latest?
DAVE MURRAY, SPECIAL ASSIGNMENT EDITOR, "TOLEDO BLADE" (via telephone): We`ve been tracking this case mainly through family members. Police are not talking. They`ve had the results of the autopsy for we don`t know how long. They kept telling us it wasn`t ready, but then we found out they were telling family members the gruesome details.
One detail you did not mention that we`re hearing from family members is that little Nevaeh was buried naked...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, no.
MURRAY: Buried alive naked. Her naked body was found with her clothes underneath her.
So, it`s hard to even imagine what this little girl went through. They`re also taking carpet samples from the apartment complex where she lived.
Now, remember that she was last seen skateboarding or, you know, on the scooter in that area. But she was also last seen alive by a neighbor who lived upstairs. They`ve taken some carpet samples from his carpet and authorities have told him and he`s told the press they found carpet fibers under little Nevaeh`s fingernails. So, that`s where they`re at. They`re being very mum on what they`re finding.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s a disturbing question to even ask, but do we know whether or not this child was sexually assaulted or molested?
MURRAY: We`ve asked the same question, the family has asked the same question. The family says they`re waiting to hear that. The police are not saying. I`m sure that if she is, they`re just not giving out that information.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Jennifer Hartstein, I don`t even know where to begin. As a psychologist, how do you offer comfort to a family who is getting these really gut-wrenching details? It`s already tough enough to process that your child died but then to hear that she may have been buried alive. It`s incomprehensible to me.
JENNIFER HARTSTEIN, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: It is. And I think it`s such a difficult question. You have to kind of go with it one day at a time. I think right now everybody`s just in disbelief. We`re in disbelief and we`re not related to her.
Your gut reaction is absolute shock and disgust as is mine. And I think when you`re working with families like this it`s just offering support, offering consolation. There is no way to give an answer right now.
As a psychologist working with families who are grieving, right now, the shock is so palpable that there`s not even a way to offer how you get through it because there`s no answer yet. There`s still more answers and more answers and more answers coming.
It`s just kind of being with the people in the moment and really being there to help offer support so that you keep them safe because it could send this mother into a state of absolute despair. And we don`t want her to also become even more impaired, more depressed, possibly suicidal. So, it`s keeping everybody safe as they keep getting this horribly disturbing information.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: It would almost seem that any words would come off as trite...
HARTSTEIN: Yes, absolutely.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: ...because it almost defies verbalization, this horror.
Reports say investigators found carpet fibers -- as we`ve been discussing -- under little Nevaeh`s fingers. They`ve taken carpet samples from Nevaeh`s home and an apartment directly upstairs -- or at least upstairs -- where Nevaeh had been playing earlier with her friend.
That friend`s dad, as you just heard, told the "Detroit Free Press" that the carpet in the apartment where his son and Nevaeh were playing is the same carpet from Nevaeh`s apartment.
So, Mike Gaynor, if there is a match for the fibers under her nails, could it turn out to be irrelevant if all the apartments in that complex have the same carpet?
GAYNOR: It could be, but they`re going to check off the fiber from that from that van, too, that belonged to Kennedy`s buddy. And they`re going to check fiber from the hotel room that he was living in and other places.
And relative to the young child being found naked, as a matter of fact, chances are very good that the worst thing did happen. But that may also bring in some evidence that will help clear this case up.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Why wouldn`t they announce the -- the final thing of whether or not she was assaulted?
GAYNOR: It`s just such a sad, terrible thing. A little girl, the family involved...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: But why -- why wouldn`t -- in other words, would they have told the family privately one way or another?
GAYNOR: I would imagine that they would have. At least some parts of the family depending on who they`re dealing with. The mother may not be in a position to deal well with the police at this time.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Absolutely.
Dave Murray, what about the other evidence found at the crime scene? She was covered in concrete. There was a cigarette butt, a beer can and a surgical glove.
MURRAY: Yes and we know all that. We`ve reported all that. And the police and maybe your detective actually could tell you more, but I think it`s pretty standard procedure for cops not to tell the public what they have. They`re trying to catch these bad guys. And even though the public...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`ve got more in just a moment. Hang in there.
What a terrible case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This little girl was my son`s very best friend in the world. He hung out with her every single day. My son is a total tragic mess because of this. He has missed her every day that since she`s been gone. Now he`s going to miss her forever.
(END VIDEO CLIP) VELEZ-MITCHELL: The father of Nevaeh Buchanan`s best friend, expressing his anguish and his rage; the whole community reeling from this horrific murder. In fact, the nation is reeling from it.
The phone lines lighting up. Melissa, Illinois, your question or thought, ma`am.
MELISSA, ILLINOIS (via telephone): You touched on this briefly in the last segment but I remember when she was found, there was a coke can or a cigarette or something there by the body that we thought would have forensic evidence that might match the two guys that the mom was hanging out with. How long does that take?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I agree with you. Mike Gaynor, these two were -- George Kennedy, a person of interest, ok? And we see that there was a beer can and a cigarette butt. Why haven`t they matched it? And if it didn`t come up with a match, why haven`t they said he`s no longer a person of interest?
GAYNOR: Well, like Dave Murray said just a minute ago, the cops sometimes hold a little information behind because they don`t want everybody to know about it. We don`t know what matches were made yet. Sometimes this takes a little bit of time to go on. However, they got these people where they know where they are. They`re not too worried about it.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And Jennifer Hartstein, because this case is unsolved and this is an apartment complex filled with children, children in this whole community, everybody has got to be living in fear because they don`t know if they`ve got a killer next door.
HARTSTEIN: Absolutely. I think it`s really up to parents to be open to answering any questions that their kids have on how they`re going to keep them safe. That`s so hard to answer because it`s such a question and there`s so many things we`re worried about. So parents have to be there and be open to discussing it with their children.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Betty, Ohio, your question or thought, ma`am.
BETTY, OHIO (via telephone): Yes, thank you, Jane, very much for taking my call.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thanks for calling.
BETTY: I appreciate your...
BETTY: I appreciate you so much for what you do. And all these police officers that have hunted for that little baby and all the missing babies. My question is, are they for sure that this little girl died after she was buried or before she was buried?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok. Dave Murray, I`ll give you that one.
MURRAY: They`re not sure. They know that she was --- they know that she died of suffocation, asphyxiation. She had dirt in her...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Louder, please. Louder, please. We`re not hearing you.
MURRAY: They know that she died of asphyxiation and they know that she had dirt in her throat. We`re all thinking that she was buried alive. The cops say it may be possible.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right.
MURRAY: No one knows.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`re going to have to leave it there. Disgusting, revolting story.
You`re watching ISSUES on HLN. Thank you.