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Missing Woman`s Phone Found; Is Michael Vick`s Change of Heart Genuine?

Aired August 17, 2009 - 19:00:00   ET



JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, massive search for a missing woman, a mom walking down a desolate road when she`s snatched up. Her boyfriend, on the phone with her, actually hears her scream at the abductors, "Don`t take me." This woman is a former probation officer. Will her training help her navigate this horror?

Dog killer Michael Vick says he`s disgusted at what he`s done. But do you believe him? The NFL quarterback was on "60 Minutes," encouraging people to love their animals. What? This guy participated in electrocuting, drowning and shooting dogs. Now he`s an animal advocate? Is this a miracle turnaround or just really good PR?

A sad day in the search for Haleigh Cummings. This beautiful little girl turned 6 years old today. She was snatched from her bed six months ago, and there`s still no sign of her. We`ll have the latest twist in this complex mystery, including her dad`s recent arrest.

A 5-year-old boy, who was the only person to survive that wrong-way New York drunk-driving crash has now been told that his mom, his sister, and three cousins are dead. Mom was drunk and high on marijuana, but the driver`s husband insists his wife wasn`t loaded. Did this little boy see his mom drinking and smoking pot?

Blaming the victim in a rape case. That`s about as low as it gets. A woman raped at gunpoint in front of her children in a hotel parking lot. The hotel originally said this woman was careless and negligent. Now, the hotel`s backpedaling. But their original stance has ignited a firestorm.

ISSUES starts now.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Breaking developments in the terrifying abduction of a 38-year-old Georgia woman, named Kristi Cornwell. The single mother was out, walking on a rural road, just getting some exercise, when a car approached and snatched her away. Her boyfriend was on the phone with Kristi at the moment of the abduction and heard everything. He says she screamed, "Please don`t take me," and then the phone just went dead. That is the last anybody has heard from Kristi.

Her mom made an emotional plea to her daughter`s captors this morning on NBC`s "Today Show."


JO ANN CORNWELL, MOTHER: I just want to ask them to have mercy on her, to let her go, let her come back to us and her -- she has a 15-year- old son that desperately needs his mother. And to let her go.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Cops have found numerous belongings of Kristi`s. Perhaps most important, they found a cell phone she was using to talk to her boyfriend.


JOHN BANKHEAD, GBI SPOKESMAN: What we believe happened was, while he was driving down the road, given the location of the cell phone, right on the side of the road, where the man trimming the grass found it, it was an indication it was just tossed out of the window.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: The phone was found about three miles away from the abduction site and not far from the North Carolina border. That has prompted investigators to take the search for Kristi across state lines.

Meantime, authorities are looking for the drivers of two cars, a white SUV and a gold sedan. Both vehicles reportedly in the area at the time of Kristi`s abduction. This is the second abduction of a woman in this area in just over a year. The last one ended tragically. When are we, as Americans, going to say enough and take some drastic action as a society to stop this war on women?

So much to get to tonight. Straight to my fantastic expert panel: Steve Kardian, former criminal investigator and director of Defend University; David Schwartz, criminal defense attorney; Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels; Dr. Dale Archer, clinical psychiatrist; Pat Brown, criminal profiler and CEO of Pat Brown Criminal Profiling Agency; and Mike Paluska, a reporter with WGCL in Blairsville, Georgia.

Mike, you have been tracking this horrifying case from the start. What is the very latest?

MIKE PALUSKA, REPORTER, WGCL: Yes, the very latest is that right now, the GBI has actually gone back to the initial area where they believe this abduction occurred. We`re about three and a half miles away, where you mentioned that that cell phone was that was found. Just up the road here, Notelly (ph) Dam Road behind me by the man that was out, just doing yard work, mowing his lawn.

So what they`ve done, is they sealed off this area late Friday night and then they came back in here Saturday morning. They had the canine unit out here and other law enforcement agencies. About 100 officers scouring the woods here. But after those two days of searching, they`re now back to square one. They`re back to where they started about three and a half miles way on Jones Creek Road, trying to find any -- more information or evidence or anything that they can possibly muster up.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Has the boyfriend been eliminated as a suspect? I understand he lives in Atlanta, nowhere near the location where she was abducted. Where was he at the time?

PALUSKA: At the time, phone records indicate, according to the GBI, that he was talking on his cell phone in Atlanta, so that, you know, when you have the phone records and you have that technology to be able to rule him out, that does play a big factor in their investigation. And at this point, they`re not really pointing to him as a suspect or any of her three former ex-husbands.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So he was reportedly in Atlanta, which is nowhere near this location? Correct?

PALUSKA: No. That`s correct. It`s a long drive. It`s -- it`s a little over 100 miles here to Blairsville. And, you know, for that time frame for when she went missing, for him to have even made it back to Atlanta, Georgia, at a time, if he was, in fact, you know, involved in this case, it`s just -- it`s just not possible with 100 miles to travel.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We just ask because they always look first at the significant other, and...

PALUSKA: Of course.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... if they can eliminate the significant other, then they can focus on others.

Curtis Sliwa, this is a horror story. This is the very same area where a young woman named Meredith Emerson went missing while hiking with her dog in early 2008. We covered the story. It was nauseating. Here`s a photo of hers, from WBS-TV. We`re going to show you in just a second.

This was an extremely sick case. Look at that beautiful young girl and her dog. She was held for four days, by her captor, who raped and then decapitated her. Her killer came forward and led authorities to her body.

You know, Curtis, you`re with the Guardian Angels. It seems like it`s becoming a common thing for captors to look for women exercising alone in a rural area and attack them. What do we as a society need to do to stop this?

CURTIS SLIWA, FOUNDER, GUARDIAN ANGELS: What we can`t allow, Jane, this sort of open hunting season on women. It`s sort of like Bambi in the middle of hunting season. Women have this orange fluorescent jacket around them, and these predators, these violators don`t seem to care.

And it`s really up to the community to make sure that when these people are caught, a message goes out, a lesson is paid to those who violate women. Because they think they can just snatch them up off the road side, snatch them while they`re jogging, while they`re going to the Laundromat, while they`re going to the 24-hour Piggy Wiggly supermarket in the middle of the night.

And really, these are the high-profile cases that, when the guys are bagged and tagged, they have to be made an example of, so these sexual predators and these violators of women see that there is really a severe price to pay.

DAVID SCHWARTZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know what, Jane? Jane, we can`t overlook the fact that she was a former probation officer. All right, we have to look at -- we have to look at all the facts in this case. You know, a probation officer deal with some tough issues, issues of violating defendants of their probation. So you can`t overlook that aspect, too, before concluding that this is a -- something against women in general. It could be her as a probation officer.

DR. DALE ARCHER, CLINICAL PSYCHIATRIST: Wait a minute. It`s absolutely against women. I think that the way that we stop it, Jane, is what you`re doing right here. We have to educate the public, and you have to pound them over the head, over and over and over again, that this is going on.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Dr. Dale Archer, I`ve been a journalist for 30 years. And for 30 years, I`ve covered these cases. And pounding them over the head doesn`t change a thing.

How about a video camera on every road in America? If we can put a stoplight on every road in America, why can`t we put a video camera, Pat Brown, on every road in America?

PAT BROWN, CRIMINAL PROFILER: Well, Jane, I think you`ve got a point there. I think when we take safety seriously, then we can make some progress. The only thing that stops serial killers, psychopaths, predators from doing anything is their own self-interest. They won`t do something if they think they`re going to get caught.

They won`t do something if they think they`re going to get shot. So we have a mass murderer walk into a place, and he thinks nobody`s got a gun, he`ll go in there. If he in and says, "Wait a minute. Somebody behind that counter is going to jump out and blow me away, he`s not going to do it." So he finds people in a fish bowl: a nice little church, a nice little school, no guns.

Serial killers, they look for people out by themselves. I have to say, I don`t know what this woman was doing walking in the dark. She worked in criminal justice. She worked...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I have to stop you right there. OK. You`re a woman, I`m a woman. I cannot stand -- I love you, Pat, but...

BROWN: I would never walk around after dark by myself. I would never, never do that. And I would never hike alone. I`m sorry, ladies. I just have to say this for the safety of women.

It`s not that she deserved to get attacked. It`s not that it was right that it was done. But we did have to realize that you cannot put yourself in a horribly dangerous situation.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Women are attacked in their own home.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: The beautiful anchor woman was sleeping in her bed in her home when they charged in and...

BROWN: That is true.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... and raped and killed her.

BROWN: Women have to be sensible.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We cannot curtail the freedoms of women.

BROWN: No. Jane...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Why don`t we modify the behavior of these...

BROWN: We can do that. I`m just trying to save people while we`re waiting to modify that behavior. Just as a human being, I don`t put my children out there in places where they can get attacked. I don`t walk myself where I can be attacked unless I can protect myself. It`s just common sense, and I want to urge women to think before they do this. Even if you think you have the right, you`ve got to protect yourself.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Dr. Archer, we`ve got to enter a society where women can walk everywhere, because we`ve got this situation under control. And to tell women to stay home, I think is kind of a cousin of blaming the victim.

ARCHER: Well, I think that it`s going to be a multifactorial answer. I agree that cameras are one thing. I agree that trying to set up ways in order to modify the behavior of these perpetrators.

But women also have to take responsibility.

BROWN: Thank you.

ARCHER: And right now, these things are taking place against single women when they`re alone. So you have to be aware that this is a possibility. And the behavior does have to be modified for now. Hopefully, not forever. Hopefully, we can do this now so that 10, 20 years down the road, that will no longer be an issue. But for right now, it still is.

SCHWARTZ: I still don`t understand why -- why the conclusion of this panel that this is a random abduction of a woman on a road. There could be a story here. We do not know all the facts. We have to wait for the facts to come.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Even if it`s not a stranger abduction -- a woman apparently was abducted.

STEVE KARDIAN, FORMER CRIMINAL INVESTIGATOR: Despite that, we need to educate and empower women and give them knowledge that`s going to keep them safe. The predator is afraid of two things: getting caught or getting hurt. So Jane, that`s a great idea with putting camera on everywhere, and teach women how to fight back and fight back correctly.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: She taught self-defense.

OK. We`re going to talk more about her in a second. We`re going to have much more on the search to find this woman, who was just minding her own business, taking a hike. I want to hear from you: 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1- 877-586-7297. What should we do as a society so women can take a walk on a rural road without being attacked and abducted?

Then, Michael Vick says he`s a changed man. He encourages people to love animals. Are you buying it, or is it just good PR?

But first, what happened to this single mom? Cops found her cell phone three miles from where she went missing. Still, no sign of Kristi Cornwell.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was abducted, placed in a vehicle and removed from the area. That speaks for itself. She is in danger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just keep hope -- hope alive.



VELEZ-MITCHELL: The devastated brother of Kristi Cornwell pleads for his sister`s return. The 38-year-old single mom disappeared while merely taking a walk on a rural road. She was on the phone with her boyfriend at the time. He heard her scream, "Don`t take me" before the phone disconnected. Now, authorities have found her cell phone a couple miles away from the abduction site, near the North Carolina border.

I`m back with my expert panel. Let`s talk, Steve Kardian, about what happens when a crime crosses state lines. They`re looking for these two vehicles, a white SUV and a tan sedan. How do Georgia authorities get the North Carolina cops to devote themselves to this?

KARDIAN: Well, if it`s a kidnapping, and they`re being taken across state lines, Jane, they`re going to get the FBI involved. And the agencies will coordinate with whatever`s going to lead them to North Carolina. The North Carolina authorities, the Georgia authorities, and the FBI as well as U.S. Marshals will work on this case.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Kristi`s law enforcement background gives her family hope that she might be able to survive this horror story. As we`ve been saying, she had a degree in criminal justice. She was trained in firearms, and she taught self-defense courses. Listen to Kristi`s brother talk to NBC`s "Today Show" about that.


RICHARD CORNWELL, BROTHER: She is very well-educated and well- trained, like I say, to deal with this situation. I don`t think anyone would have a better set of tools than she does to get through this.


BROWN: Jane, Jane, I want to say something. I did -- I have been involved with self-defense training. And one of the biggest mistakes we teach women is that a lot of their techniques will work under this circumstances.

The simple fact is, we`re light weights against Mike Tyson. And I`m sorry, unless you`ve got a perfect punch and can hit them perfectly and then run like heck, you`re not going to win. So self-defense has extreme limitations. The only thing that really does make a difference is if you`ve got the equalizer with you, if you have a chance to pull out your firearm and shoot.

Well, let`s face it, across most of the United States, women do not have the right to carry. And that`s a big problem.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I agree with you that it can give you a sense of false confidence to take a self-defense course. I remember I took a self- defense course once, and when I was demonstrating, I was doing great, and then suddenly, it stopped being a demonstration and I was being thrown all over the place by a guy, because I just didn`t have the upper body strength. And it really did teach me that it`s not a fair fight. But it shouldn`t be a fight.

BROWN: You have to have a lot -- a lot of training. Because a lot of women in these one-day courses, they learn to throw a punch like this, like a girly punch, where they break their wrist. And then they try to throw a kick in high heels. I`m sorry, it just isn`t good enough. You can go in and train and train and train, and then you might have a shot.

KARDIAN: I`ve been teaching women`s self-defense for 25 years. The big misconception here is you teach a woman how to fight like a man, she goes up against a man, she`s going to lose. You teach her to fight like a girl, using her bigger more powerful weapons...

SLIWA: Get out of here. Man...


SLIWA: Get out of here. I can`t believe this. This is an equal country, where women are equal to men, where we saw the movie "Deliverance" we were horrified that a guy could be abducted and raped by these hillbillies in a place similar to where she was snatched up and taken. You know, if this were happening to guys, I guarantee you, this would be stopped dead in its tracks.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`re right; you are so right. Curtis Sliwa, you`re absolutely right. And that`s why women have to take the organize, as a gender, as a group, through organizations. I don`t care if it`s going to take a march on Washington or something to say, enough with the war on women, enough with women being treated as prey, as Curtis Sliwa so eloquently said. And being incapable of even walking on a rural road in this world of ours, it`s sickening. It`s got to stop.

Judy in Florida, your question or thought?

CALLER: Did she give a description of the car to her boyfriend as the car was pulling up close to her?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let`s go back to Mike Paluska, who`s a reporter on this case.

PALUSKA: Right. And, you know, she didn`t give a description of the car. She was on her cell phone talking to him, and she actually told him, "I`m going to move out of the way right now. This car is sort of coming close to me." So she stepped down into a grassy area on the side of the road, and then he said he heard a struggle.

But she -- it was, you know, dark at that point, around 9 p.m., just after 9 p.m. So, you know, she didn`t get a description of the car.

But as you were mentioning, surveillance video, and should there be a camera on every street corner? There`s a little market. It`s about a quarter of a mile up the road off of a major highway 515. And we spoke to the owners of that place. And he said that he does have surveillance video. The GBI was looking into it. They haven`t confirmed to us whether or not the white SUV that you mentioned or that tan or gold compact sort of imported car, that Camry type vehicle, was actually caught on the surveillance video going out that way.

But if you pull out from that gas station and make a right, you head down to the area that we`re at right now.

And I think the one thing we`re all forgetting is that this is a place where people don`t lock their doors. This is a place that she`s comfortable with, that she grew up. You know, she would have no indication walking on the road, just a couple thousand feet away from her parents` home, when she`s at the top of the hill, that a car pulling up, maybe it was someone she knew. She would have no way to sort of defend herself.

BROWN: No, no, no.

PALUSKA: She was so surprised.

BROWN: Absolutely not.

PALUSKA: She could defend herself, but if she`s caught off guard, then...

BROWN: When I was 19 years old, I was in Denmark, and I left a little place that I was at, in the middle of the night. I was going to school there. I decided I`d walk back to the train station. It was only one mile. I knew in that dark road in a place that had a very low homicide rate, every time I saw a car light appear, I ducked behind a bush so that they would not see a girl out on the street by herself. This is in a pretty safe country.

I was smart at 19 to know to do that. Unless I`m carrying a weapon, I cannot fight against a bunch of guys jumping out of a car.

SCHWARTZ: I -- you know what? A woman should not be walking on a road like that at 9:30 at night.


SCHWARTZ: I know Jane, you don`t want to hear this.

ARCHER: Absolutely not.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We can`t live in -- we can`t live in a society like that. We`ve got to change it.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`d rather have a video camera on every tree in America than somebody tell me I can`t walk on the street at night because I`m a female.

ARCHER: You know, Jane, I totally -- I totally agree with you, Jane. I think that`s absolutely the way it should be. But in the meantime, we have to preach for caution.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We have to leave it there.

ARCHER: And you have to take precautions as a woman in this day and age. A march on Washington is great, yes.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. We`re out of time. We`re out of time.

Fantastic panel, thank you.

The wrong-way drunk-driving crash in New York killed eight people. The 5-year-old boy, the lone survivor. He has now been told his mother and sister, dead.



MICHAEL VICK, REINSTATED NFL PLAYER: I understand what -- I understand again. It sickens me to my stomach. And I was, you know, the same feeling I`m feeling right now is what people said.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the feeling you`re feeling right now is?

VICK: Disgust.



VELEZ-MITCHELL: Was Vick speaking from the heart, or was he simply regurgitating a few lines said to him by his public relations posse?

Straight out to Dr. Dale Archer, clinical psychiatrist, and John Goodwin, manager of animal fighting issues for the Humane Society of the United States.

Let`s start with you, Dr. Archer. Very hard to read Michael Vick. He has very little emotional expression, a monotone voice. Does that lack of affect concern you?

ARCHER: Well, I think that what he does, though, is he makes excellent eye contact throughout the whole talk. And I believe him, actually. I think that he is speaking from the heart. I picked up very, very good, sincere vibes from that talk.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, I hope you`re right. I have no idea what he is thinking. Vick has promised to become a major part of the campaign against dog fighting and animal cruelty. Here he is, in a moment, at a Humane Society event last week in Atlanta. Listen to this.


VICK: I encourage you to love your animals, your animals or whatever -- whatever animal you have, whether it`s a dog, or cat, it`s a reptile, you know, if it`s a horse. I encourage you to love that animal dearly with all your heart.

WAYNE PACELLE, CEO, HUMANE SOCIETY: If Mike disappoints us, the public is going to see that. So it`s not going to reflect badly on me or the Humane Society. It`s going to reflect badly on him.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: John, your group is using Vegas as an ambassador against dog fighting. How would you grade his performance when talking to kids the other day? Did it seem like his "don`t do what I did" message getting to them?

JOHN GOODWIN, HUMANE SOCIETY: Those kids were on the edges of their seats. I would give him an "A" plus. When we first decided to give him this platform to speak out against dog fighting, I had some skepticism, some good healthy skepticism. We decided to do it, because we believe that, if he could save some of these dogs, get some of these kids not the set these animals against each other, where they tear each other to pieces, that that would be a good thing. I was skeptical of his sincerity, but what I`ve seen so far, I`ve been pretty impressed.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, here`s what I say. I wasn`t in favor of him coming back to the NFL. Now that it`s a done deal, we have no choice but to see what`s he going to do? And if he can prove with his actions, then I would say, yes, he is truly a changed man. Do you get a sense, John, that he is changed as he speaks to the kids?

GOODWIN: Well, he`s certainly come across as sincere. But he`s got a lot of time ahead to prove it, not just through words but through deeds. We`ve asked Michael Vick, we said, "Look, we don`t want just a one-time-off deal. We don`t want just a PSA and then you walk away. We want boots on the ground a couple times a month, teaching kids, talking to kids who are at risk of going down this cruel, dead-end path that is the world of dog fighting."

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And we`re going to leave it here. But we thank you. We`re going to stay on top of this story.

A sad birthday for Haleigh Cummings. This adorable little child turns 6 told today. She hasn`t been seen for six months. We will update you on the search, and we`ll tell you about her dad`s recent arrest, all coming up next.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: A 5-year-old boy who was the only person to survive that wrong-way New York drunk-driving crash has now been told that his mom, his sister and 3 cousins are dead. But the driver`s husband insists his wife wasn`t loaded. Did this little boy see his mom drinking or smoking pot?

Blaming the victim of a rapist; a woman raped at gunpoint in front of her children in a hotel parking lot. The hotel originally said this woman was careless. Now the hotel back-pedaling but their original stance has ignited a firestorm.

The family of little Haleigh Cummings marking her 6th birthday the way no family should; without knowing where she is or what happened to her. Little Haleigh vanished from her family`s home in Satsuma, Florida the night of February 9th.

Police have gotten more than 4,000 leads and done hundreds of interviews. Look at that beautiful face. They have no suspects. Police say they do not believe this adorable child`s mom, Crystal Sheffield, or her dad, Ron Cummings, had anything to do with the child`s disappearance. Ron is the one who called 911 the night his daughter went missing.

Listen to this.


RON COMINGS, HALEIGH`S FATHER: I just got home from work, my 5-year- old daughter is gone.


CUMMINGS: I need somebody to be here now. I`m telling you.

911 DISPATCHER: Ok. Listen to me. Listen to me, we`ve got two officers.

CUMMINGS: 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?


MITCHELL: In honor of Haleigh`s birthday, Haleigh`s family released balloons filled with her missing persons fliers. It`s just so hard to believe that more than six months have gone by, and still nobody has a clue as to what happened to this adorable little child.

Straight out to my expert panel: Steve Kardian, former criminal investigator; Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels; Dr. Dale Archer, clinical psychiatrist; criminal defense attorney Bradford Cohen; and investigative journalist, Art Harris.

Art you have been tracking this case from the very beginning. Have police made any progress in finding out what happened to Haleigh? And what`s the big news today?

ART HARRIS, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: The thing is, Jane, is that they actually had a press conference to talk about the case, something they have not done in almost six months.

Hear you have them actually clearing the two parents and saying that they believe Ronald`s wife, then babysitter, Misty Cummings, knows more than she is telling. They are not ready to totally give her a clean bill of health.

They say that there`re a lot of inconsistencies in her story, Jane, the timeline that night. And they`re asking the public, anyone who may have seen her away from the trailer during the time that she said she was asleep with Haleigh. They`re asking them to come forward.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Bradford Cohen, you`re a criminal defense attorney. I was really struck by the quote from law enforcement, "the biological parents are not considered to be suspects."

Investigators believe that Misty Croslin-Cummings continues to hold important answers in this case. She has failed to provide any sort of detailed accounting of the hours during the late evening and early morning of Haleigh`s disappearance. Furthermore physical evidence at the scene contradicts Misty`s sketchy account of her evening activities.

That is very unusual for law enforcement to say when they haven`t charged anybody with anything.

BRADFORD COHEN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Not just unusual for law enforcement. Generally it`s unusual in this case because they have not said a lot about the case. They`ve been keeping mum for most of the time about the case which is usually the smartest thing to do and investigate everybody. And then slowly figure out who is going to be responsible for it.

And in this case, obviously, even though she`s not named quote- unquote, "a suspect," they`re focusing in on her which is the right thing to do. She was the last one to see her alive.

Her story from the beginning didn`t make a lot of sense and there were a lot of inconsistencies. So that`s all they have right now to go on. They`re hoping to put a little more pressure on her and maybe she`ll crack. Maybe she`ll say something that she knows that she hasn`t said before.

DALE ARCHER, CLINICAL PSYCHIATRIST: What I don`t understand is I heard the press conference. I`m shocked that she is not a primary suspect. Her story doesn`t make sense. She was the one who was with them -- with Haleigh when she went missing. And how can she not be considered a suspect here. I mean, it all comes back to her. They`re asking for the public to come forward if they can give any information on where she was at the time.

This is really, really shocking to me.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Right. Misty Cummings has had more than one version of what happened that night. She was asked about it on NBC`s "Today Show." You have to see this; this is back in March. Look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why were there -- help me out, Misty -- why were there inconsistencies. Why did you say one thing one time and one thing the other?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But you know you did do that?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you`re not sure why?



VELEZ-MITCHELL: Curtis Sliwa, just one inconsistency. She told them that Haleigh fell asleep next to her bed. Another time she told them Haleigh was sleeping in own bed. The story doesn`t add up, Curtis. Why can`t they put the heat on her?

CURTIS SLIWA, FOUNDER, GUARDIAN ANGELS: This is what I don`t understand, Jane. This happened so long ago you would have figured they`d have been sweating her down. Good cop, bad Cop -- coming at her in a way. She`s not sophisticated. You could probably break her within a few hours of just constantly staying on top of it.

And then it just seems that the cops in this case were a dollar short and a day late. They just backed off. Now all of a sudden, they`re bum rushing to the front again to try to revive this. What have they been doing in six months?

She`s prime time. She always looked that way to me and I know to the rest of the country. So why didn`t she look that way to the lead investigators in this case?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Steve Kardian...


VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, wait. I got to use my gavel here.

I want to say Dr. Dale Archer, what is your thought on this? Because remember, there were reports that she was actually allegedly doing drugs in the days leading up to the disappearance. Why couldn`t they have brought her in on that?

ARCHER: I agree. And that`s what they should have done. If she had nothing to hide, she should have come clean and said, "I was high on drugs when it happened, but I had nothing to do with what was going on." Instead of making up a story and then another story.

I think that that to me just indicates that A, she`s not being truthful. And when you`re the last person see this child, you have to be considered, in my mind, as a psychiatrist at least, a suspect.

STEVE KARDIAN, FORMER CRIMINAL INVESTIGATOR: Law enforcement -- I think law enforcement has always had her as a suspect in their mind. But they`ve kept her as a friend to maintain an open dialogue with her to continue this investigation which is going nowhere that`s why they`re shifting up their efforts.

COHEN: They have to shift up their efforts.

KARDIAN: Absolutely.

COHEN: If you name her as a suspect early on, if you say this is my suspect, this is who we`re going after, now you start to eliminate the other people that the possibility could be there. You just leave the door open for the defense to say you focused in on this one person.


COHEN: This is who you came after, this is what you did from the beginning.


HARRIS: Jane, I can tell you what they`re doing. This is speculation, I think...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Art, why haven`t they done more in terms of interrogating her.

HARRIS: They have talked to her ten times. She stopped cooperating Jane. They then couldn`t force her to. She did not have a lawyer. Ronald had promised to talk to them again through his lawyer. He did not come in.

They`re waiting for her to do something more than this minor drug possession where they could put her in for 12 hours, like what happened Ronald on an assault charge, she would get out. But they were waiting for something substantial


VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`re going to stay on top of this case. We really do have the move on because we`ve got another horrifying case to talk about.

Turning now to the developments in the terrible wrong-way drunk- driving accident that left 8 people dead. The outspoken husband of Diane Schuler, the 36-year-old soccer mom who crashed her minivan loaded with kids head-on into an SUV killing everybody but her 5-year-old son finally talked to the cops.

Daniel Schuler, quick to come to his dead wife`s defense, when toxicology reports said she was drunk and stoned at the time of the deadly accident.


DANIEL SCHULER, HUSBAND OF DIANE SCHULER: I go to bed every night knowing, my heart is clear, she did not drink. She`s not an alcoholic.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, that outraged a lot of people. What did he tell cops? That she used Anbesol? Last week, Daniel Schuler`s attorney said, Anbesol which is an over-the-counter oral anesthetic caused Diane Schuler`s tox screen to come back positive.


How did toothache medication leave 6 grams of booze in her stomach along with pot?

Meanwhile, little Brian Schuler, the sole survivor of the deadly crash that killed his mom, sister and three cousins plus three men in another vehicle was finally told about their deaths. Imagine what this kid is going through.

This child continues to recover from serious head injuries at a Queen`s hospital. And now we`re all wondering, will he be the one to shed light into exactly what happened that morning?

Straight out to my fantastic panel: Stacy Kaiser, psychotherapist; back with me Bradford Cohen, criminal defense attorney; and Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels; and Steve Kardian criminal investigator and director of Defend University.

Steve, I understand that you`re telling us you have some new information on Diane Schuler`s blood-alcohol level. What do you know?

KARDIAN: I`ve heard that they -- the medical examiner`s offices has conducted a vitreous fluid test. And that`s going to give a truer indication rather than the blood alcohol as to what her blood alcohol content was. And typically as a result of the alcohol remaining in her stomach, those six grams, when you consume that alcohol rather quickly, your pyloric valve shuts down and it holds some of that alcohol in your stomach.

This test that the medical examiner has done is going to yield (AUDIO GAP) blood level in her system.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Diane Schuler`s husband denies that she drank despite the toxicology reports. His attorney made this excuse for her accident. Listen to this.


DOMINIC A. BARBARA, DANIEL SCHULER`S ATTORNEY: And I think that from the stroke came all the other issues of what happened.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: He goes on and on, talking about Stacy Kaiser, how she had a moving lump on her leg, she had an abscessed tooth, she had diabetes. Now we`re hearing she used Anbesol which is what you put on your gums when you`re getting your teeth cleaned.

None of that makes any sense because even if that was all true. There was alcohol in her system and evidence of pot. Is this, Stacy Kaiser, psychotherapist, classic enabling behavior of a co-dependent?


STACY KAISER, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: Part of what we`re seeing is, people who are enablers, are other direct. They don`t focus on themselves. And so when this guy should be grieving the loss of his family, thinking about how to deal with a 5-year old son, reconnecting with family members who are upset with his wife that did this. He`s focused on public opinion and trying to make her look good.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So an enabler is person who is essentially a co- dependent, addicted to the addict. Why is it that they feel compelled to cover up?

KAISER: You know...



VELEZ-MITCHELL: Is a Connecticut hotel saying a mom, raped in their parking lot, in front of her own kids, was partially negligent in the attack? We`re going to analyze that mind-boggler.

First, "Top of the Block" tonight.

Breaking news: Joe Jackson reveals that burial plans for Michael have finally been set. It`s been nearly two months since the 50-year-old pop star died of yet to be determined causes. But Joe Jackson told "The New York Daily News" Michael will be laid to rest on August 29th, which just happens his 51st birthday at Los Angeles` Forest Lawn Cemetery at 10:00 a.m.

So I guess that this whole unmarked grave plan just blew out the door. If you can think again, if the so-called father figure zipped up after that seismic revelation while sitting pool side at swanky Las Vegas hotel of one kind or another, Joe managed to pull his record label and announced that he is accepting a star in his son`s honor shortly after the burial date.

Give me a break. Does this guy ever stop thinking about himself? With all that said, let me finish by saying, I truly hope Michael is laid to rest with the dignity and respect he deserves.

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

Turning now to an outrageous case of blame the victim: a woman is raped at gunpoint in front of her two young children in the parking garage of a Stanford, Connecticut hotel. Her attacker? A 56-year-old transient carpenter named Gary Fricker (ph) who has 20 prior arrests.

Fricker`s seen here in a photo by the "Stanford Advocate" posted to the Web site for 1010 WINS radio. He copped a plea, went to the slammer for 20 years.

But now the victim says she`s dealing with an assault of another kind. She`s outraged that the hotel where it happened is allegedly saying that hotel management is blaming her for being raped.

Exhibit A, their own words: court documents say the woman, quote, "failed to exercise due care for her own safety and the safety of her children, and proper use of her senses and facilities," end quote.

What? Those words ignited a firestorm of controversy. Just hours ago, the hotel withdrew that response, blaming their insurance company and its lawyer which issued that controversial response to the rape victim`s lawsuit.

In that suit, the rape victim says that her attacker had been in the garage and acting suspiciously days before the attack as well as that very afternoon. She claims the hotel failed to notice him and failed kick him out.

This is a scandal. I want to hear what you think about all this.

Straight out to my fantastic expert panel: Jayne Weintraub, criminal defense attorney; Stacy Kaiser, psychotherapist and Monica Potts, staff writer for "The Stanford Advocate."

Monica, you`ve been tracking this case. What is the very latest? Monica do you hear?

MONICA POTTS, STAFF WRITER, "STANFORD ADVOCATE" (via telephone): Can you hear me?


POTTS: Hi. Sorry.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: No, that`s all right.

POTTS: The latest is that the attorney`s did withdraw the special defenses today. Basically they filed a revision of their answer to the complaint and new special defenses that leaves the two out that claimed the woman was negligent and failed to take proper care and use her senses properly. Also, the special defense that claimed she and the children failed to mitigate the damages.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: The attorney for the Marriott Hotel tells ISSUES that they should not be blamed for blaming the victim; they swiftly withdrew this outrageous defense. I guess the question is was it too little, too late?

Here`s what the victim`s attorney told our producer. Quote, "Under the facts of this case, there is no justification for this defense whatsoever. This had no place in this litigation and it re-traumatized the victim."

Stacy Kaiser, here`s the thing, you can`t unring this bell. What would you say to these insurance company lawyers who allegedly tried to say she was at fault for being raped in front of her own kids at gunpoint?

KAISER: There`s no way you can really unring this bell. I would want to see them doing some things right. I want to see them making a hefty contribution to some rape treatment organizations, and rape prevention organizations. Not to mention the fact this hotel has employees.

And if the statistics now are that 1 in 10 people are raped, then there`s probably a portion of those people walking around that hotel who now are feeling unsafe in their own place of employment. So I think they`re going to need to do some stuff around the workplace in terms of letting their employees know that they`re still safe.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s talk about this rapist and his checkered past. He`s 56 years old transient carpenter Gary Fricker -- Jayne Weintraub -- photographed by the "Stanford Advocate" and seen here on the Web site for 1010 WINS radio. Cops say Fricker has -- get this -- 20 prior arrests and was once wanted in Florida on an arson case. He was sentenced to 20 years after pleading guilt to sexual assault in this recent case.

In her lawsuit against the hotel, the victim says Fricker had been hanging around the garage and that security should have kicked him out. Is there a problem with hotels, which are by their very nature, they accommodate people who are visiting. How do they distinguish between a guest and a friend of a guest and a transient?

JAYNE WEINTRAUB, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Jane, before you get all over me -- I`m not here to trash the victim or say anything negative except the following. Strictly, as a legal issue, the hotel did not rape this woman. I`m not saying that she`s responsible.

But wait a minute, this is a civil lawsuit. The person who raped is being punished. He`s got a 20-year sentence. She can charge him in a lawsuit civilly.

When you`re talking about the hotel, you have to deal with what is reasonable. What`s reasonable for them to provide security? And what`s reasonable for her to look out for herself?

We don`t know what the specifics are here. If she knows that guy`s hanging around for days, why didn`t she report it to the security?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Stay right there. We`re going to have more on the story, right after the break. We`re also taking your calls; 1-877-JVM- SAYS, 1-877-586-7297. Weigh in.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I was on the jury, it would be a losing case for the hotel, I would think.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just really think the Marriott is responsible as well as the guy who got arrested for it.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Reaction to the outrageous story of a woman who sued after she was raped in a parking garage of a hotel at gunpoint in front of her kids and then found herself on the defense again after the hotel`s insurance company said it was her fault.

Phone lines lighting up on this one. Annette, New York, your question or thought ma`am?

ANNETTE, NEW YORK (via telephone): Let me say hi, Jane. I want to say, they raped her again. After her bringing that to their attention and they`re not doing anything, for every sentence that they said, she needs to sue them. That`s an insult.

If they saw him themselves, they should have done something about it. She needs to sue them. I hope she`s okay. Thank you for taking my call.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you for calling Annette. I agree, it`s an insult and they`ve apologized. The Stanford Marriott said, "We wish to convey our respect and sympathy for Ms. Doe and her family who were the victims of a horrendous crime in 2006. Marriott is profoundly sorry that such a terrible thing happened to the victim of this violent. And unfortunately this situation has created a mistaken impression that Marriott lacks respect and concern for Ms. Doe or other victims of violent crime. However out of respect for the privacy of the victim and the pending litigation, we`re not at liberty to comment."

Let me ask you this question, Jayne, should the lawyers for the insurance company who suggested this face disciplinary action from the bar?

WEINTRAUB: For what? They didn`t do anything wrong.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: They didn`t do anything wrong?

WEINTRAUB: No, they really didn`t Jane. We don`t know what the specifics were. We don`t know if they had...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: She was raped at gun point in front of her children.

WEINTRAUB: But, Jane, the hotel didn`t rape her. It was the rapist that raped her. Where was the criminal justice system?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: There was a guy with a criminal record...


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Stacy Kaiser, there was a guy with a long criminal record, who was a transient, according to her attorneys, in the parking lot for quite some time and he was not evicted.

KAISER: Look, I`m not saying the Marriott was the reason that she got raped, but you certainly don`t turn around blame the victim. Whoever said that basically rode in to work on a dinosaur, if you ask me; that is inappropriate and damaging to the woman who`s only been damaged.

WEINTRAUB: Hold on Stacy. Stacy let me explain something. Many states have what`s called -- this isn`t a negligence action. We have contributory negligence and we have comparative negligence. To what degree is someone responsible? This is a balance of reasonable.

What is the hotel`s expectation? What is your expectation when you go to a hotel of what security is around? You don`t expect 24/7 security surveillance on you as a guest, do you?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Once again, this is a war on women. And now here is another place that women can`t go, parking garages; so we can`t go on rural roads, we can`t go on parking garages. It`s a bigger problem.


KAISER: When a person is going to a hotel, they believe that they`re safe there. I think it`s the hotel`s responsibility to provide adequate safety.

WEINTRAUB: That is the question.

KAISER: Here`s a woman walking with her kids.

I`m not a lawyer but I`m telling you from a psychological point of view, this poor woman has to deal with...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: There`s been a theme. And we have to leave it right there. It`s a war on women. We have to stop it.

Thank you to our fantastic panel

People across America are grappling with addiction and I`m one of them. In my new book, "I Want" I reveal details of my own personal battle with alcoholism and how I finally got sober 14 years ago. It`s a recover memoir. You can pre-order your copy, Look for the preorder section.

It`s got some shockers in there and I think it can help people who are struggling.

You`re watching ISSUES on HLN.