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Details Emerge of Double Murder

Aired July 21, 2009 - 19:00:00   ET



JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight jaw-dropping news in the brutal murder of a Florida couple. Was it a contract hit? If so, who wanted Melanie and Byrd Billings dead and why? The couple reportedly had financial ties to the alleged ringleader of the crime, but the Billings family says those reports are false. We`ll sort through this complex crime story that`s transfixed the nation.

Then, is the Jackson family splintering in the wake of Michael Jackson`s death? Dad Joe allegedly pulling the strings in a family feud over the star`s will, with mom Katherine caught in the middle. Could this delay their decision on burial plans for the King of Pop?

And a heart-stopping moment for the parents of missing woman Tracy Ocasio. A woman`s body was found, but it was not her. Tracy was last seen more than 50 days ago leaving a bar with James Hataway. He`s behind bars on unrelated charges. I`ll speak to Tracy`s distraught parents about this frustrating search for answers.

Plus, an ISSUES exclusive. Could accused killer Drew Peterson soon be a free man? I`ll speak to CNN legal analyst Lisa Bloom, who got her hands on some crucial court documents that could shake up the case, including the second autopsy report that ruled wife No. 3, Kathleen Savio`s, death was a homicide.

ISSUES starts now.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Fast-breaking developments tonight in the brutal double murder of Melanie and Byrd Billings, the Florida couple shot dead in their homes while their many adopted special-needs children slept nearby. The mystery ramps up over this question: why would seven men don ninja outfits to invade the Billings` home and shoot them? The sheriff was asked about his speculation that the double murder might have been a contract hit.


SHERIFF DAVID MORGAN, ESCAMBIA COUNTY, FLORIDA: For me to speculate or go in that direction would be truly that, speculation. But as we get deeper into this investigation, it gets more strange, sadly, and we seem to be coming up with as many questions as we have answers.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Also tonight, a new revelation that this motley crew of seven suspects allegedly -- get this -- cased the Billings home about a month before the grisly murders. If it was just a robbery, why didn`t they Rob the place then?

Plus, we now know that the alleged organizer, Leonard Gonzalez Jr. says he knew the victims, but to what extent? One suspect says Gonzalez Jr. was the sole shooter. Is that true? Surveillance tapes inside the house could prove it one way or another.

Meantime, the daughter of the slain couple making the television rounds to defend her slain parents. She also believes the brutal killings were more than just a spur-of-the-moment crime.


ASHLEY MARKHAM, VICTIMS` DAUGHTER: I feel like it was something that was planned for a period of time. Just hearing backgrounds of the people, the areas that they knew of the house, just different things. I don`t think it was just walking by one day and saw the house and decided to go inside. I think it was very planned and very skillfully crafted by somebody.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Sure looks that way. This 26-year-old daughter also responding to new reports that Byrd Billings tried to get rich through bizarre legal schemes, including copyrighting his own children`s names. Tonight you will hear her explanation.

So much to get through. Straight out to my expert panel: Pam Bondi, Florida state prosecutor; Jayne Weintraub, criminal defense attorney; Terry Lyles, crisis expert and psychologist; plus Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels; and joining me by phone, Rob Williams, anchor and morning host of news radio 1620, Pensacola, Florida.

Rob, so much to talk about tonight. What is the very latest?

ROB WILLIAMS, ANCHOR, NEWS RADIO 1620: The very latest is you did cover most of that. I`ll tell you what, though, Jane: I gave you the scoop. The shooting is on tape. The whole thing`s on video, from the time the car pulled in the driveway, the guys jump out, come through the door, come down the hall, grab the Billings, take them to the bedroom. It`s all on tape. You can watch the whole thing.

And the other big scoop is weapons found at Pat Gonzalez`s house in suburban Gulf Breeze, and firearms weapons found at the Pamela Wiggins house, that`s where they stashed the safe.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow. Now if they did this dry run that we`ve heard about, to me what doesn`t make sense, the cops are saying it was primarily a robbery. If, in fact, it was primarily a robbery, why didn`t they just rob the place when they were doing the dry run, Curtis Sliwa?

CURTIS SLIWA, FOUNDER, GUARDIAN ANGELS: Well, it`s obvious that this was premeditated to not only take what was ever in that safe, whatever it is they knew was in that safe, that we`re wondering about, and then to eliminate the two adults who obviously could end up dropping down on them later and sending them all up the river in perpetuity.

So I think you`re looking at a death penalty case, premeditated murder, premeditated robbery, planned a month ago, when they were first casing out the joint.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Again, Pam Bondi, I like Curtis` analysis, but I`m perplexed that, if they cased the place out a month earlier and it was a mere robbery, why not rob it at that time?

PAM BONDI, FLORIDA STATE PROSECUTOR: Well, from what we know, Jane, about this nut, Leonard Gonzalez Jr., he even took small children out in the woods. He loved these paramilitary operations.

Remember after watching "Red Dawn," in case of an attack, he took all these kids out in the woods. So I think he thrives, really, on this kind of behavior. And what Curtis said is very accurate about that gives prosecutors cold, calculated and premeditated, which is one of the best aggravators if the death penalty should be sought down the road.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, if anybody can defend anybody it`s Jayne Weintraub. But I think you`re going to have a hard time with this motley crew, Jayne.

JAYNE WEINTRAUB, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I`m not quite there yet, but I also am kind of perplexed about the victim and who he is. I still think it`s a retaliation hit of some sort, because it is so precisely planned.

And I`m going to throw something out I`ve been thinking about. You know, we had the captain come out and say it was primarily robbery but something else. You had the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the DEA. You know, it`s possible one or both were in the witness protection program, and that was breeched.


WEINTRAUB: It is very possible -- I`m just saying in my opinion -- I`m only doing this 25 years, but in my opinion, it looks like such a retaliation hit.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Who was in the witness protection program in your mind?

WEINTRAUB: I`m sorry?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Who was in the witness protection program, in your mind?

WEINTRAUB: I think it`s possible that one or both of the victims, which were clearly, clearly meant to be killed -- this wasn`t a robbery, because they could have tied them up. They could have shut them in the door. They had planned this so...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: They could have robbed them originally when they were casing out the joint a month earlier.

WEINTRAUB: Absolutely.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Rob Williams, what is your reaction to this theory, hypothesis by Jayne Weintraub?

WILLIAMS: Well, that is she is a very educated woman, but as we say down here in the south, that dog don`t hunt. And I`m going to tell you why. Bud Billings was in Pensacola for years and years and years, and his circles was well known. A variety of businesses over the years. You don`t hide in plain sight when you`re in witness protection.

Of course, by the way, those -- that`s a claim, not proven. That came out yesterday. Nobody has been able to score on that. Jane, as it goes, this is humdinger day 12. We continue to watch, and every day another rock gets turned over and something else crawls out from under it.

WEINTRAUB: Speaking of a rock getting turned over, you know, the state was buried in the -- I guess the only person that`s snitching so far, the Wiggins. The safe is found, but do we know if it`s been opened? Because I find it really hard to believe that, with all this planning, that they thought they were going after a safe with just some prescription meds and some I.D.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, come on. Let`s face it, criminals do stupid things all the time. And people see a safe, and they assume, "Oh, big safe. Got to have something in it." It turns out, according to the family, it was just prescription medications for the kids. Or that`s all that`s left.

TERRY LYLES, PSYCHOLOGIST: Jane, you don`t know what else was in the safe, though. There could have been papers that they knew exactly that was there. That could totally change this motive. We don`t know what kind of psychosis these guys are dealing with. They seem to be very methodical and very well planned. But it`s very odd that they left some things there. There`s something they went after, and they must have gotten it to kill two people.

WEINTRAUB: Or what they saw was in there.

SLIWA: Jane, the most famous safe caper of all time, you remember, the Geraldo had...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: My buddy Geraldo.

SLIWA: For all those weeks, and there was nothing in there except an empty wine bottle.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Well, you`re right. Al Capone`s safe had an empty wine bottle in it. It`s a good example.

A shocking new report yesterday said that the alleged organizer of the murders, Leonard Gonzalez Jr., knew the victims. This suspect reportedly says Byrd Billings had lent him money to open up a martial arts studio. Listen to John King ask the sheriff about that connection last night on Anderson Cooper.


MORGAN: To the best of my recollection that was within a year ago that he helped finance the opening of the martial arts school for Mr. Gonzalez Jr.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Is it a possibility that the focus of the investigation, the possibility that Mr. Gonzalez had a debt that he was unwilling or unable to pay, and perhaps the murder was related to that?

MORGAN: We have yet to determine that. Again, as I`ve stated to many people many times, we`re not investigating the Billings family. We`re investigating those subjects that we currently have incarcerated. So the investigation may, in fact, lead to that, because we will be asking those questions: was the debt that he made ever satisfied? But again, our focus is on Mr. Gonzalez, not on the Byrd family.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, Pam Bondi, you`re the prosecutor. We`re also hearing from the sheriff it wasn`t just the martial arts studio but that the alleged mastermind, Leonard Gonzalez, was once on the Billings` payroll. Authorities believe he worked for the car dealership Billings owned.

BONDI: Two separate used-car dealerships. Now his daughter is disputing that, but I think some of those companies had a holding name so, yes, he very well could have worked for him.

And I`ll tell you what. We have seen, and I bet Jayne has seen attempted murders, conspiracy to commit murder, murders for a lot less. It takes one ticked-off employee.

And, you know, he could have embellished this to all these other guys to go after this family. And I think we`re all hoping that it`s not true, that their hands aren`t dirty in any way, because they raised these beautiful foster kids. And why in the world would they do anything to endanger their lives?

BONDI: This is a guy who wants to charge them $10 million because they used his name?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`ll get to that. But you know what? There`s something personal about this case. I think we all sense it in our bones. Fabulous panel. Don`t go anywhere.

Were the Billings the target of a hit: 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297? Sound off.

Then, is the Jackson clan clashing over Michael`s will? And what does whip-cracking stage dad Joe Jackson have to say about the investigation into his son`s death? You won`t believe what he`s saying now.

But first a disturbing portrait emerges of the alleged mastermind of the brutal Florida murders. His own aunt says he and his dad, who`s also charged, are plain old dangerous.


REGINA MCCARTNEY, SUSPECT`S AUNT: They`re not crazy. They are mean. They are hateful. They are dangerous. They need to be removed.




MARKHAM: Anybody in the world who has that kind of hate could do something to anybody. I don`t believe that anybody would deserve what`s happened. They`re wonderful people. I can`t imagine somebody having that magnitude of hate in their lives.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Who could? Ashley Markham, the daughter of Melanie and Byrd Billings, talks about the brutal killing of her beloved parents.

Brand-new information just in tonight. One murder suspect says the alleged organizer, Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Jr., was the sole shooter. Is that true? Apparently, it`s all caught on tape.

We`re back discussing the very latest in this horrific case, taking your calls.

Christi in California, your question or thoughts?

CALLER: Love your show, Jane.


CALLER: You have to say, you know, when I first heard of the story I was mortified, and to even -- even know that this man taught children in karate was even more mortifying.

And, you know, I know the law is the law, but there comes a point in time where you have to say, "We got the guys. Death penalty." And I know that there are, you know, procedures and investigations, but if you`ve got the guy -- one thing I`m afraid of is that one of these monsters will get away with a technicality or not enough evidence. You know what? We know who they are. Time to gas them.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Christi, I understand your outrage, and so many people share it.

Terry Lyles, you`re the psychologist and crisis expert. I think the reason why people are so outraged is because there you see this prime suspect, the alleged organizer, working with children, supposedly gathering money from the victim for this effort to help children learn to defend themselves, then turns around and allegedly executes the couple who gave them the money.

LYLES: That`s what I was referring to earlier. What a dichotomy. You have a guy here that appears to be a psycho working with children, trained in martial arts, and you`ve got two loving parents, it appears, on every count that I can see, parenting special-needs children that aren`t even theirs.

I`m a parent of a special-needs child. And let me tell you, to hurt children like that or to say you`re doing one thing and do another is just beside me. And to think that he can -- as the caller just said, if this guy gets away with this, which I don`t think he will if there`s tape, that all these people are going to be paid somehow. There has to be bigger motive here.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It doesn`t make any sense. You have to divide it.

LYLES: Exactly.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, Rob Williams, they`re looking for -- they want to talk to nine other people. I mean, how many thousands of people were involved in this conspiracy?

WILLIAMS: And that`s a really good question. I interviewed Sheriff David Morgan this very morning on news radio 1620. He said, "No, no, we`re still good with three, the three prime, you know, that we`ve been looking at since last Friday." That was a complete shock to me.

But, yes, the evidence is what the evidence is, and they`re going to go wherever it takes them. And with all that federal help. And don`t forget we have the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the investigative arm of our state troopers. They`re on this, as well. So it`s a combined effort. It`s going to go in a lot of different directions.

And you know what, Jane? This story has some legs. It`s going to run.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, yes. And here`s one of the controversies that have emanated. We`ve heard the eye-popping report that Byrd Billings had tried to make money through a bizarre legal scheme. One reportedly included copyrighting his own children`s names, and then demanding millions of dollars when the Florida Department of Florida Family Services, when the department contacted the Billings and actually referred in writing to the names of those children.

Now listen to the victims` daughter, Ashley, respond to a question about that.


MARKHAM: I don`t know a lot about that. I`ve heard the reports. I know that the copyright -- what I believe was -- he was doing to protect the rights of the children. They`re a large family, and they -- even local media coverage, they were -- as far as I know, it was to protect the rights of the children.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: What a strong young woman, 26 years old. Now has to take care of all those kids.

Jayne Weintraub, the suggestion of one psychologist is, "Hey, maybe the Billings felt overwhelmed and harassed with all the paperwork, given that they`d adopted 13 kids with special needs." Could this have been their way of saying, "Stop making us fill out all this darned paperwork?"

WEINTRAUB: It was a heck of a way to do that. They could have just written that letter.

But no, I don`t think so. I think that it was a deliberate act that he made, and I think it was a deliberate effort of Mr. Billings to collect money from them.

I mean, what`s so ridiculous is in the letter that he purports to ask for damages, it`s for violating maritime law, trade law, patent law, bankruptcy law. I mean, it`s ridiculous. He just goes through a laundry list. What`s clear is he did try and copyright their names.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Curtis Sliwa, I think the problem is that the cops cannot just ignore certain information to get to the source of why this happened. And some of that information may not be favorable to the victims. So how do they walk that line?

SLIWA: Well, I think they`re doing a good job so far.

WEINTRAUB: I mean, it doesn`t mean anything justifies this murder, Jane. It just is another interesting web to the motive.

SLIWA: Right, right. But -- but the sheriff...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And of course...

WEINTRAUB: They can tell you that they don`t need to prove motive.

SLIWA: But I think the sheriff has done an expeditious job in not only bagging and tagging the people responsible but connecting the dots: Wiggins, burying the safe, using a second van to transport it. Even the father of Gonzalez with a fender-bender shop trying to bang out the dents and paint over the van.

Notice this guy, Gonzalez, was a psycho. But he was a psycho who obviously was able to bring in a lot of people into his web of deceit.

WEINTRAUB: But it`s a family of thieves (ph). Got the father there. The mother was involved and knew about that truck.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, more will be revealed. These people have not been convicted. They`re just accused. Remember, Wiggins, the woman, is accused of accessory after the fact. She may not have buried that safe, even though it was found on her property. It`s so complex. So many people involved.

BONDI: She`s a witness now.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: She`s definitely a witness.

BONDI: Absolutely. And she knows a lot more.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Thank you, everyone, for your excellent insights.

Up next an exclusive interview on the Drew Peterson murder case. Could he get out of jail?

Also, we`ve never before seen these court documents. And we`re going to have them for you exclusively coming up next, including the final autopsy report that concluded wife No. 3 was murdered.

And is Jackson family bickering getting in the way of burial plans for the King of Pop? What about any criminal investigation into his death? You won`t believe what Joe Jackson is saying now.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: In the spotlight tonight, jaw-dropping details in the case against Drew Peterson, the ex-cop charged with the murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, and he`s also a person of interest in the disappearance of wife No. 4, Stacey.

We have obtained the gruesome details of the autopsy performed on Kathleen Savio by the famous pathologist Dr. Michael Baden. You will not believe the results.

Plus as Drew sits in jail, the question remains: will Kathleen`s desperate plea for help be heard from beyond the grave? We have exclusive information about a motion by Drew`s defense team to suppress Kathleen`s own words from a 2002 letter, where she claims he threatened to kill her. She said, quote, "He knows how to manipulate the system, and his next step is to take my children away or kill me instead," end quote.

If they suppress that compelling evidence, could Peterson walk? And will they be able to get a change of venue?

Straight to the woman who brought us all of these exclusives tonight: Lisa Bloom, CNN legal analyst.

So glad you decided to come with our show, Lisa. Let`s start with this autopsy report that you obtained on Drew Peterson`s wife No. 3, Kathleen Savio. What does it say about how she died? What stood out to you?

LISA BLOOM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, first of all this is Dr. Michael Baden. He`s a very well-respected forensic pathologist. He`s the former chief medical examiner of New York City. He`s testified in a number of high-profile cases. And he was brought in 3 1/2 years after Kathleen Savio died, right after Stacey Peterson went missing. Everyone started to get suspicious about Kathleen Savio, and so the body was exhumed.

He did that autopsy. This was the third autopsy at that point and he concluded -- unlike the coroner the first time around, who said it was an accident -- that it was a homicide. And he gives the reasons in his autopsy, of course. And we have it now for the first time. And you can tell your viewers about it.

Now, let`s be clear. He says the body was in very poor condition. And I saw the pictures, Jane. They`re horrifying. They`re basically decomposed remains. Her head was simply a skull. They`re awful to look at. And of course we`re not going to broadcast them.


BLOOM: But he talks primarily about the bruises. And he says that there were a number of bruises on her body. A one-inch brunt-force laceration on the back of her head, five scraping abrasions and six blunt- force black and blue contusions on her extremities, abdomen and buttocks.

Now, some of them you couldn`t see anymore. He`s relying on the first autopsy. But some of them he could still see 3 1/2 years later. And he`s saying that`s indicative of a struggle and, therefore, this was not an accident. According to Dr. Michael Baden.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So why didn`t the coroner come to this conclusion the first time around if it was so obvious?

BLOOM: That`s the question for the coroner. That will be the question at trial.

But look, let`s be fair. The defense is going to say the coroner did the initial autopsy one day after Kathleen Savio died and the coroner ruled it was an accident. Wasn`t the coroner in a better because position the coroner had a chance to look at all the injuries fresh, just one day later? That`s what the defense will argue.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s talk about this beyond the grave battle. There was an exception to the hearsay law that was passed in this state, and some say it was because of this guy in order to convict this guy. What are they going to do, the defense, about that?

BLOOM: This is going to be a very big motion that I have learned the defense is going to be filing very, very soon.

One of the biggest issues in the case, because part of the strongest evidence the prosecution has, Jane, are these beyond-the-grave statements from Kathleen Savio. She told a number of people, allegedly, "If anything happens to me, Drew Peterson killed me. So should those statements come in or not?

Typically, there would be hearsay, but in 2008, the prosecutor in this case got the legislature to pass law specifically allowing...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`ve got to leave it right there. Come back -- come back again.

Joe Jackson next.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Is the Jackson family splintering in the wake of Michael Jackson`s death? Dad Joe, is allegedly pulling the strings in a family feud over the star`s will with mom, Katherine, caught in the middle.

And a heart-stopping moment for the parents of missing 27-year-old Tracy Ocasio, a woman`s body was found but it was not her. I`ll speak to Tracy`s distraught parents about this frustrating search for answers.

Tonight, stunning accusations about the death of Michael Jackson unleashed by Michael`s father, Joe, on live television, claims so shocking and stunning legal experts are wondering what`s going to happen next.

In an interview with Larry King last night, Joe Jackson was stingingly candid about what and who he believes is responsible for the sudden death of his son, the superstar. Listen.


JOE JACKSON, MICHAEL JACKSON`S FATHER: You don`t take a doctor and stick him in a room there and the doctor gives him something to make him rest and then he don`t wake up no more. Something is wrong there. The doctor -- the doctor just somehow I understand that he left and went to sleep -- so I don`t know what happened there. But he tried to bring Michael...

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Are you implying then the doctor committed foul play? Joe?

JACKSON: Something went wrong. Something went wrong, Larry. Because when they tried to bring Michael back, he was dead.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: The doctor in question, Dr. Conrad Murray, who was reportedly with Michael Jackson and tried to revive him when he died. Dr. Murray has said he is cooperating fully with the investigation.

But according to Leonard Rowe, Michael Jackson`s friend and frequent music promoter, there was suspicious activity that ran deeper than the doctor and he pointed a finger at concert promoter AEG saying he sent the Dr. Murray to Michael.


KING: So you`re implying foul play by sending a doctor there?


KING: I`m listening.

ROWE: Michael Jackson was addicted -- do you understand that, we all know that.

KING: Correct.

ROWE: It`s not a secret.


ROWE: Would you put a cocaine cellar in the house with a cocaine addict? No, you wouldn`t do that.

KING: Are you saying they put a cocaine cellar in the house -- doctor was selling cocaine?

ROWE: I didn`t say that, Larry.

KING: That`s what you said...

ROWE: But he was able to administer drugs.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: But hold it right there. That`s not the way AEG Live, the promoter of Michael`s comeback tour, sees it at all. In fact, they say it was Michael Jackson himself who insisted Dr. Murray be there.

More from the President of AEG in a moment.

Straight out to my fantastic panel: Drew Findling, Atlanta criminal defense attorney; Firpo Carr, Jackson family friend and former spokesperson; Jayne Weintraub, a criminal defense attorney; and Ken Baker, executive news editor of E!

Let`s start with you, Ken. Give us your analysis of Joe Jackson and Leonard Rowe`s accusations on "Larry King Live."

KEN BAKER, EXECUTIVE NEWS EDITOR E!: Well, let`s take minor gross first. Now these accusations that somehow AEG Live was pulling one over on Michael saying, wait, we just want to you do ten shows but actually you`re signing something that says 50, is preposterous.

Michael Jackson was a professional. He`d been in this business a very long time. He signed a lot of contracts. He also was 50 years old. This was a grown man. I do not buy the idea, the notion that he could have not known that he had signed on for 50 shows.

That is ridiculous particularly when they told him the money that he stood to make. So that and AEG has really stood up and they have been very, very open about the fact that Dr. Conrad Murray was Michael Jackson`s idea.

No one has brought forth any evidence that AEG said, "Hey, use this doctor. He might be kind of shady but we want you to use him." There`s no evidence to that.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok, let me get to that. The President of AEG Live, the company promoting Michael Jackson`s comeback tour spoke to Anderson Cooper about how he says Dr. Murray came into the picture. Listen to this.


RANDY PHILLIPS, PRESIDENT & CEO, AEG LIVE: As producers of the show it made no sense with the doctors and the medical and what you have in London.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR "AC360": But Michael Jackson demanded that doctor?

PHILLIPS: He demanded.

COOPER: That wasn`t a doctor you selected, that was the doctor he insisted...

PHILLIPS: Michael said to me, you don`t understand -- because I took one last shot at talking him out of it -- and it has nothing to do with Dr. Murray. No judgments whatsoever, I just said to Michael, I said, "Michael, you`re spending too much money it doesn`t make sense." He said, "You don`t understand, my body is the machine that fuels this whole business. Ok, I need that kind of attention."

And you know what, when Michael Jackson says that to you and there`s this much at stake, you don`t argue.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Firpo Carr, you`re the former Jackson spokesperson. You know that long before AEG ever came into the picture Michael was reportedly traveling the world with a mini clinic and doctors.

FIRPO CARR, JACKSON FAMILY FRIEND: I don`t know that for a fact. I`ve heard that just like you`ve heard that. But I will say that Michael Jackson`s family, the whole Jackson family, obviously feels that something is wrong. And as far as the other panelist is saying that he can`t see Michael Jackson doing what he did or not being responsible or being responsible for his own behavior, I find that rather outrageous because he wasn`t there, just like I wasn`t there and you weren`t there so we don`t know what happened.

All he can do is conclude or make deductions from what he`s seeing third hand.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Jayne Weintraub though, there`s got to be contracts and those contracts have to have writing on them that will tell the story one way or the other. Who was paying Dr. Murray? Who decided to bring him on? I mean, how many concerts did Michael Jackson agree? It`s got to be all on paper.

WEINTRAUB: Well, it is all on paper and I think that one of the problems is I`m sure that he felt that he had to do it because he wanted to bail himself out of all of his debt and be done with it. I think this was his one last hurrah to bail out money wise.

But I also think that he didn`t have $100,000 a month to pay this doctor and it doesn`t matter who hired him. It matters why was he there at AEG`s money.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well let me tell you one thing, the idea that he didn`t have money to pay never stopped Michael Jackson because, Ken Baker, you know that he was sued repeatedly for not paying. He was sued for example not paying a pharmacy for $100,000 of prescription meds over a very short period of time.

WEINTRAUB: Jane, this was a doctor. This was a doctor -- the guy said he doesn`t have any complaints against him. This is a doctor who didn`t know to do CPR on a bed is ineffective, that it`s better...

CARR: Right.

WEINTRAUB: keep him as flat as possible and put him on the floor.

CARR: That`s right.

WEINTRAUB: So I don`t know what kind of due diligence they did before they hired this guy.

BAKER: Right, Jane but to your point that the bottom line here is that in show business it`s pretty common practice that if a star -- and Michael Jackson was the star -- if he really wants someone whether it`s a choreographer, a makeup artist or a personal physician, generally speaking the producer, the promoter they`re going to do everything they can to make that person happy.

Now, AEG has said that they had put him on the payroll. That they were going to pay him, that is on the record. But that doesn`t take away anything that`s coming out in this investigation about perhaps Conrad Murray or any other doctors that were treating Michael Jackson.

I`m not saying that they weren`t doing something illegally. Maybe they were. Maybe they weren`t. The bottom line is this, is that Michael Jackson was a grown man. He had signed on to do these shows. And for people to now say -- oh somehow the promoter or the producer was responsible and put too much pressure on him, that was just not taking everything into account and saying that Michael Jackson was making these decisions and he really was taking responsibility for them.

CARR: Well, I`ll tell you...


BAKER: He looked fine -- he looked fine, guys. We saw the rehearsal footage, he looked pretty good. It looked like he was getting back. He didn`t look like he was too overly stressed out. He was actually doing a good job.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Drew Findling let me ask you -- go ahead.

CARR: Jane I -- well, that still doesn`t say -- that still doesn`t say that -- that just still doesn`t say that he knew everything that he was signing.

Yes, he`s 50 years old and yes, he has a team of attorneys. Now, he wouldn`t have a team of attorneys if he knew exactly all of the legalese and the legal language that one signs on. So he has to rely to some of them...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let`s let an attorney, Drew Findling, weigh in on this.

FINDLING: Well, let me tell you, I watched the interview last night. And what I found that so ironic about that interview is a few years ago Tom Mesereau and his defense team did a masterful job of showing and proving to a jury that there was manufactured evidence against Michael Jackson to try to make somebody profit.

I found it ironic last night that against AEG there was this accusation, there were almost manufactured without any backbone. And I thought Larry King did a great job with his probing questions of pointing out there was no support of this allegations. And in an ironic stance I found a parallel between what Michael Jackson went through several years ago and what his father and his supporter were trying to make in these false and aimless and...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well let me ask you this...

CARR: Well, you know Jane...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Firpo, Joe seemed out of the loop. I mean, Joe said he didn`t know where his son`s body was kept since the memorial service. He said he hadn`t been shown the results of the private autopsy.

So basically he`s just talking about a gut feeling. He`s not talking about really being inside and getting all the evidence.

CARR: Well, his feelings are predicated on some pretty solid reality. And what I mean by that is the division of LAPD that`s investigating this is robbery/homicide division -- robbery/homicide division of LAPD.

WEINTRAUB: That`s because there`s a death that happened.

CARR: Well, let me just finish, let me just finish.

Now so once that happens and I`m familiar with the principles and familiar with the commander of that, Commander Collin Jackson (ph), as well as the captain or rather the chief of police in LAPD. That tells me something that, no, it`s not just a gut feeling. It`s a gut feeling based upon some realities that this town may not be aware of.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, but the sources are saying, police sources are telling the "L.A. Times" that murder charges are not going to be forthcoming. We`re going to have to wait and see.

Thank you, fantastic panel, for your insights.

You know, addiction is a chronic illness in America and in my new book, "I Want," I lay out my own personal battle with this disease and my struggle to get sober. It`s a recovery memoir due out this fall. You can preorder your copy now. Just click on and look for the preorder section.

It`s my very personal story and I guarantee you there are things in there that will surprise you, to put it mildly.

Up next here on ISSUES another NFL superstar in hot water. This time its two-time Super Bowl champ, Ben Roethlisberger. He is being sued for alleged sexual assault.

Then beautiful 27-year-old Tracy Ocasio, missing now for more than 50 days -- I will speak to her parents about the latest developments in the search. Does person of interest James Hataway have the answers? Give me a call 1-877-JVM-SAYS, that`s 1-877-586-7297 please weigh in.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: A woman`s body found in the very same area where beautiful 27-year-old Tracy Ocasio went missing. I will speak to Tracy`s distraught parents about this heart stopping news.

But first, "Top of the Block" tonight: another NFL superstar in the news for the wrong reasons. Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback and two-time Super Bowl champion Ben Roethlisberger is being sued for alleged sexual assault, details sketchy.

But in the lawsuit a worker at a Nevada resort reportedly claims the star athlete asked her to come into his hotel room in July 2008 to fix his TV. She claims Roethlisberger then sexually assaulted her in that hotel room. Roethlisberger`s lawyers took swift action today saying the lack of a criminal complaint and criminal investigation shows the story is a fabrication.

His lawyer added, quote, "Ben has never sexually assaulted anyone especially the plaintiff," end quote. Roethlisberger is expected to cooperate fully with the investigation.

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

Turning now to the gut-wrenching moment the parents of missing Florida woman Tracy Ocasio were faced with just this morning: the body of a young woman found near where their daughter, their precious daughter, went missing.

Now while cops have since ruled-out the possibility that the body is Tracy`s, her parents must face another day not knowing what happened to their precious daughter. 27-year-old Tracy went missing in the wee hours of May 27th after reportedly leaving a bar with James Hataway, a person of interest in this case. Hataway maintains his innocence.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What happened the last night with her?

HATAWAY: She left. I hung out with my father.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what did you guys do that night?

HATAWAY: We just hung out. She gave me a ride home.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: He says Tracy gave him a ride home but her car turned up abandoned close to where James Hataway lives. He is behind bars charged with assaulting a woman who had given him a ride home from another bar nine months earlier. Coincidence? Her description of that night is really difficult to hear.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He came up behind me. He started slamming my head down on the sidewalk. I started screaming and then he took his hand and took both fingers and put them in my mouth and tried to snap my neck again and I`m screaming, "Somebody please help me. He`s going to kill me." People walked outside, thank God and saved my life.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Truly horrifying, so what happened to Tracy Ocasio? The only person who may offer some clue isn`t talking.

Straight to my expert panel: Drew Findling, Atlanta criminal defense attorney; and we`re also very happy, really privileged to have with us tonight two very special guests, Joe and Liz Ocasio, Tracy`s parents.

But first, joining me by phone: Rozzie Franco, a reporter with WFLA 540 AM. Rozzie, what`s the very latest in the search for Tracy Ocasio?

ROZZIE FRANCO, REPORTER, WFLA 540 AM (via telephone): Jane, I`ll tell you it truly is heart-wrenching. It`s like living the disappearance of Jennifer Kesse all over again here in central Florida. Anytime a body turns up anywhere for identification, is it a woman? Who is it?

In this case we did learn it was not 27-year-old Tracy Ocasio but we did learn that this death was suspicious and possibly a homicide.

Now talking to investigators, they say that there`re no solid leads right now in finding Ocasio but that`s what they`re telling reporters right now. The parents may know more.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Joe and Liz Ocasio, again, thank you for joining us. I know how difficult this has to be when you heard this news that a body, a woman`s body was found near the very area where your beautiful, precious daughter went missing. What ran through you, Joe?

JOE OCASIO, FATHER OF TRACY OCASIO: Well, it`s nerve-racking I mean, but it`s a double-edged sword. On one hand you need to find out what`s happened to our daughter but on the other hand you don`t want to know. So it`s really very emotional when you hear that somebody was found and you`re trying to figure out whether it might be your daughter or not.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And then, Liz, when you found out that it wasn`t your daughter, what -- how do you react to something like that? It`s probably a combination of relief and yet frustration, I would assume.

LIZ OCASIO, MOTHER OF TRACY OCASIO: And that`s exactly what it is because we want to find her but we want to find her alive. That`s not looking very realistic.

Just having the constant up and downs, they found a body, is it Tracy? No, it`s not. It just after a while you just -- you can`t even hope anymore because it`s not going to be her.

We`re just waiting to see if we can find her in some way. We need him to talk to tell us where she is.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: This has good to be, Joe, a surreal nightmare. One day you have a wonderful life and a beautiful daughter and then she doesn`t come home. And next the morning your entire world has changed.

What is that like on a day-to-day basis living with this new horrible world?

J. OCASIO: It is a living nightmare. It is hard to describe until you go through it. I mean, you use -- at this point we`re just taking it one day at a time. We`re trying to come up with some daily resemblance or our lives because we have to start living, because it`s been consuming our lives day in day out. I mean, we`re burning the candle at both ends and we realize that; so it is a difficult time for us.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tracy Ocasio, your beautiful daughter, last seen at the Tap Room, a local bar, close to where another missing Florida woman, Jennifer Kesse lived. Jennifer`s father spoke about the similarities of the cases on this show. Listen.


DREW KESSE, JENNIFER KESSE`S FATHER: When you start looking at some of the similarities, obviously it is a path that should be looked at.

It`s just incredible; in fact, Jennifer lived just a property over from the Tap Room. I`ve been in the Tap Room myself handing flyers out. And I don`t think Jennifer was a regular at the Tap Room, it`s just a neighborhood place where she was, so.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Drew Findling, Kesse has been missing since 2006. There are striking similarities in these two cases. What can authorities do to try to break this wide open, given that the -- the person of interest is not talking and that`s the person of interest in the Ocasio case?

FINDLING: Well, Joe and Liz, if I can give you any comfort in this and that is I have defended many cases like this. And I will tell you sometimes politician and the public and journalists want quick arrests and things to move quickly. And really for the accused and those defending the accused, that`s the greatest thing that can happen.

Patience and letting law enforcement take their time and fastidiously work through each of the facts. And in fact, possibly if there`s two cases that run parallel to one another. Patience is a virtue in not only investigating the case and getting leads, but breaking somebody that is not cooperating with law enforcement. Whether it be through wiretaps or interviews. Patience is going to be your best ally.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Stay right there. More on this harrowing case in just a moment.

We`ll be right back.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What happened the last night with her?

HATAWAY: She left. I hang-out with my father.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what did you guys do that night?

HATAWAY: We just hangout she gave a ride home.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That was person of interest James Hataway saying he`s innocent, but what happened that night?

Joe, we know cops have told you the fact that they`ve hit a wall in this investigation. What do think they need to do now to break it wide open?

J. OCASIO: Well, I mean, there`s been a lot of tips coming in that they`ve been looking at, but it`s been like a roller coaster. For every hot tip that we get, we hit a wall.

So the local detectives are definitely following through on leads. It`s just this roller coaster that`s kind of difficult. Like I said earlier, it`s a double-edged sword.

On one hand, I know I`m driving them crazy because I want to know. I`m talking to them every day. But on the other hand, you really don`t want to hear the bad news. So we`re hoping that one of these leads and shows like this that somebody -- someone has seen something and comes forward and we can find out what`s happened to our daughter.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well let`s hope we can be helpful. That`s what we really pray that we can be.

Let`s retrace the night of May 27th, the night Tracy disappeared. She was last seen leaving the Florida Tap Room with person of interest, James Hataway.

Hataway, told cops Tracy gave him a ride home that night. But her car was found just blocks from Hataway`s home.

Liz, you were in court recently when James Hataway pleaded not guilty to unrelated criminal mischief charges. That was just last week.

What was it like being in the same room with this man that you obviously have a lot of suspicions about?

L. OCASIO: Yes, he looks bigger on TV than he does in person. He`s not nearly as scary in person. And I can see why Tracy was taken in by him and not afraid of him.

But he`ll see me -- every time he`s in court, I`m going to be there, just watching what happens and trying to, you know, make sure that he doesn`t get out, you know. I just -- I want to be there and I want to see what`s going on.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Drew, what advice would you give Joe and Liz Ocasio now in terms of -- of just helping to move this case forward? Are they helpless?

FINDLING: Well, no. It really sounds that law enforcement has a great grasp on this. And it sounds like local folks have reached out to the larger of Florida bureau of investigation to assist. And let them do their thing.

And from a comfort standpoint, if they are zeroing in on Mr. Hataway, then you have to think about the fact that he displayed a temper issue regarding the bus that drove by. Plus there`s another act that happened ten months ago so, the similarities will help you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We have to leave it right there. To the Ocasios and my panel, thank you.

You`re watching ISSUES on HLN.