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Was Balloon Boy Drama Staged?

Aired October 16, 2009 - 19:00:00   ET



JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Seismic developments in the emerging saga of the so-called balloon boy: the little boy who was found alive after an intense search. It all started when a giant homemade balloon took flight thousands of feet in the air, with Falcon Heene supposedly attached.

Since coming out of hiding, his family has been on an all-out media blitz, but is this 6-year-old ready for the national spotlight? Is he too sick to be on camera? You are not going to believe what happened during a live interview.

And what about Falcon`s parents? Why do cops want to talk to Falcon`s parents again?

And then murder charges against accused child killer Casey Anthony dropped? That`s what her team of lawyers asked a Florida judge today. But do they have a case? For months, ISSUES has sorted through thousands of court documents, evidence seemingly pointing the finger at Casey. Tonight for the first time, an inside look at her defense strategy. Can it work? Could she actually walk away a free woman?

Plus, uproar over teen violence. A 15-year-old boy doused in alcohol and set on fire, allegedly by his own classmates. They say they did it because he was a snitch, because they wanted revenge. Tonight, his mom shares her heartache and her outrage with us. A horrifically tragic story that exposes the brutal reality of children at risk.

ISSUES starts now.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: A roller coaster of emotions as the nation breathes a collective sigh of relief in the wake of yesterday`s balloon boy drama. Tonight, new details about the family of 6-year-old Falcon and the controversial circumstances surrounding the backyard launch of the Heene family`s experimental helium balloon.

The drama began the moment the so-called low altitude vehicle accidentally became untethered.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was the flying saucer in the backyard?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. It obviously has electronics. Does he know how to work it and get it up off the air -- off the ground?

R. HEENE: No. He doesn`t know how to operate it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He does not know how to operate. So and that`s gone, though, too, right? So we are sure he`s in that?

R. HEENE: Yes. We -- we looked everywhere.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That was frantic father Richard Heene calling for help. Apparently, fearing the worst, that his youngest son had been carried away in that balloon, traveling miles in the sky over Colorado.

When the craft landed, there would be no boy inside. Instead, we would learn that little Falcon had been hiding in a ceiling crawlspace in the family`s garage.

What`s more: we find out that the Heene family, including the kids, are all storm chasers. The parents have appeared on ABC`s reality show "Wife Swap" not once, but twice. And this just in. The family pitched a reality show to TLC, you know, the home of "Jon and Kate Plus 8." That network tells CNN they passed.

Meantime, as soon as the drama came to an end, the scandal began brewing.


Falcon, did you hear us calling your name at any time?


R. HEENE: You did?


R. HEENE: Why didn`t you come out?

F. HEENE: You guys said that we did this for the show.




VELEZ-MITCHELL: A show? What show? Was the child confused, or was this whole thing some kind of hoax, somehow staged by the parents to promote their experiment?

At this point, the sheriff of Larimer County, Colorado, does not think so, but many people remain skeptical. Tonight`s big issue: is this a family of publicity seekers addicted to media exposure?

Straight out to my fantastic expert panel: Mark Eiglarsh, criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor; Brenda Wade, clinical psychologist; Michelle Golland, clinical psychologist and contributor to; Steve Kardian, former criminal investigator and director of Defend University; and joining me on the phone, Sheree Silver, who was cast on "Wife Swap" with the Heene family.

Sheree, stand by.

But first, I`m going to go right out to my colleague here at HLN, the one and only Richelle Carey.

Richelle, you have been on top of this story since it launched, so to speak, and it went from gut-wrenching, terrifying to now a lot of people wondering what was really going on behind this. There was just a news conference this afternoon. Give us the latest.

RICHELLE CAREY, HLN: This news conference was a little unusual, Jane. The sheriff of Larimer County was almost like a defendant. He made his case for why he continues to believe the Heene family. He was peppered with questions, and these are some of the highlights.

He says first of all, they didn`t just take -- he and his department didn`t just take the Heene -- the Heene family`s word for it. They brought in other experts who said that to them, the family`s affect seemed appropriate for a family that was truly worried about where their child was.

He also says that they talked to experts who said that this particular type of experimental aircraft could carry the weight of a child. They had reason to believe it was plausible that this child could have been in this aircraft.

He also said that the child -- it was plausible that a child, who had let his father`s experimental aircraft, a passionate scientist as he described himself, that if he had in fact been responsible for letting his father`s aircraft fly away, and he thought he was in trouble, he would in fact go hide. He said that all the elements of this story seemed plausible to him.

So for now, he says that his department believes this family is telling the story. But even so, they do plan to at some point in the future question the family again. But for now...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Richelle, I have never heard a news conference where the same question was asked in a variety of different ways with reporter after reporter saying, but what if this is a hoax? And what was the response of the sheriff?

CAREY: He said -- he won`t even entertain it, quite frankly. He just would not entertain the fact that this was a host.

Let me mention something else I forgot to mention. Because there`s a tape that`s been airing on HLN all day, the videotape of the family in the backyard watching this contraption -- maybe I shouldn`t say that, I`m sorry -- experimental aircraft, take off.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s a contraption.

CAREY: Whatever. Go off into the air. It seems to contradict the initial story we got, Jane, because the first story was that there were only the children in the backyard when this thing took off and one brother ran inside and said, "I think Falcon took off in this aircraft." That contradicts this video we`re seeing when the entire family was outside, and the sheriff says, "I`m aware of this video, but I haven`t seen this video." So there`s a lot -- a lot of questions.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Why hasn`t he seen it? We`ve all seen it. It`s been on the air all day. Maybe he should stop giving news conferences and go turn on the television and watch HLN, because we`re looking at the video right now.

And what strikes me, Mark Eiglarsh, is that there`s a moment right here where the balloon is level with the dad. It`s level with the dad, and he doesn`t seem to be making any attempt to grab it and pull it back down. Mark Eiglarsh?

MARK EIGLARSH, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I`m with you, Jane Velez- Mitchell, but I don`t think it`s a big conspiracy. For what it`s worth, it`s just my opinion. I`ve watched all the interviews; I`ve watched the tape. I don`t think that this was a big conspiracy. I don`t think it`s a hoax. I think that the only real problem that I have with this father as it relates to his children is the fact that he...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Look at him kicking -- he`s kicking, kicking the dirt there.

EIGLARSH: Falcon. That`s my problem. Falcon.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I don`t get that. There`s something that doesn`t add up here.

And tonight`s big issue: are the Heenes a family of attention-addicted publicity seekers? They made the rounds of the morning shows today, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS. Listen to what they had to say as they really hit the media big.


R. HEENE: They said he was -- he`s here and I shouldn`t be talking like this, but they said he wasn`t in there. And you know, I just kind of lost it at that point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you think?

R. HEENE: I thought maybe he had fallen out.

We were holding on to every second, you know, every second, just hoping that he was going to come out OK.

I just pictured little Falcon inside, you know, being frightened and cold, you know. What if he fell out? And at worst, the high voltage supply that we have on board, if he had touched that, he could have been electrocuted.

What have I got to gain out of this? And I`m not selling anything. I`m not -- I`m not advertising anything. My family and I, we do this all the time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I first saw him, I couldn`t even believe. And I couldn`t comprehend right away. And next moment, I just jumped and called his name, and screamed and cried.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Steve Kardian, you`re the criminal investigator. He says, "I`m not selling anything," but then we find out that he did pitch a reality show to TLC, which passed. So he has pitched things to the media.

And on top of that, there is this discrepancy with the story we originally got that the family wasn`t there, it was the two kids. And then you see the video. Clearly, he`s actually having a fit when that balloon takes off, but there`s a moment where it seems like he could have grabbed it and he didn`t.

STEVE KARDIAN, FORMER CRIMINAL INVESTIGATOR: Yes. Jane, when we look at this, we see that -- we see that he does have this background with publicity seeking.

When I listened to that 911 call, and I`ve heard thousands of 911 calls, it`s convincing. However, there are elements that the sheriff has to look into, has to put them aside and eliminate them, in effect, that this is some sort of a concocted story.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What he needs to do is interview them all separately, and that`s the key.

Mark Eiglarsh, should this family lawyer up at this point?

EIGLARSH: Not lawyer up. Just like enough, already. They didn`t have to go on the national tour. They opened up to everybody, answered all the questions. They convinced me, OK, yes, he`s got a history of trying to get publicity. But in this instance, it didn`t look like he was selling anything. He`s absolutely right. So I don`t know, I`d probably say enough is enough. Let`s move on.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mark, I`ve got to disagree with you, sweetheart. He`s got a book deal. He`s got a potential made-for-TV movie that he can sell out of all this.

EIGLARSH: Yes, but that`s all possible, but it looks like that`s something that you guys are coming up with. It doesn`t look like it was something that he came up with.

If he was smart, he wouldn`t have gone and given all the interviews like he did. He would have been selective. He would have given out one that he could probably capitalize on. He didn`t do that. He just gave it away for free. And that was too half-cocked. It wasn`t too smart.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, everybody doesn`t plan these things out perfectly. I`m not saying that he did anything.

When we come back, we`re going to talk to a woman who was his TV wife on "Wife Swap," and I`m going to ask her why she believes that he is totally innocent of concocting anything. She`s on his side. Her amazing story when we come right back.



SHERIFF JIM ALBERDEN, LARIMER COUNTY, COLORADO: Certainly from the e- mails and phone calls we`ve been getting, there`s a lot of pressure to do something, to charge these people with committing a crime of false reporting and to recover restitution.

But that said, let me say again, as a law enforcement officer, a public safety official, we have to operate on what we can prove as a fact and not what people want to be done or what people speculate should be done.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That was the sheriff of Larimer County, Colorado, talking about the misadventure of balloon boy, Falcon Heene. Should the family be asked to reimburse the taxpayers for money spent on the search? According to that sheriff, Colorado does not charge for searches.

However, if they find out that this is a hoax, which would have to be proved, in a court of law, then they could seek reimbursement. Brenda Wade, you`re the psychologist. What do you make of this family`s behavior?

BRENDA WADE, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: You know, Jane, they would have to be not just mad scientists but professional actors to pull off those 911 calls, to pull off the way that they handled this entire thing. I don`t believe this is a hoax. I believe it was real. I believe something happened, and they thought their son was inside that balloon.

Are they perhaps media seekers, quite possibly. Is he a parent...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You think? You think they might be media seekers? Pitching a reality show to TLC, appearing on "Wife Swap," videotaping themselves at play, putting it all up on YouTube?

WADE: You know, all of that may be true.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Think they might be publicity seekers, Brenda?

WADE: They could very well be publicity seekers, Jane. I think we`ve got some evidence, but there`s no evidence from what I can see -- look, this guy has emotional problems. He`s got an anger problem. He`s got a boundary problem as a parent. He`s not protecting his children enough, in my opinion, but is this a hoax? I don`t see it as a hoax. I really don`t. The way that those calls sounded was convincing to me.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Now, let`s add another layer to all of this. We`re going to get your analysis on this. Six-year-old balloon boy Falcon got sick. He actually vomited on national television this morning. Live on NBC`s "Today" at 7:08 Eastern and again on ABC`s "Good Morning America." Check this out.


F. HEENE: Mom...

R. HEENE: One of the guys told me it was for some TV show, so that`s what he was referring to. Should we take you to the bathroom or something?

F. HEENE: Yes.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is he OK? Is somebody going to go with him? You may want to run with him. That`s OK. We understand. Sure.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, Michelle Golland...


VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... clinical psychologist, Richard told one TV anchor Falcon gets sick when he has asthma. But why do they continue to display this child on TV after he vomited the first time?

GOLLAND: That was what was clearly disturbing to me, was the fact that the mother didn`t get up, wasn`t concerned, you know, didn`t react in the way that you would think a mother would, and truthfully, then they keep going. They keep going and doing the interviews. It`s very disturbing.

And to me, it`s clear that these parents seem to be neglectful in the sense that they`re not concerned about how much danger they put their children in. For them to be doing storm chasing and all of that, I mean, if one of their children were to be killed during a storm, they could be charged with negligent homicide. I mean, that -- that`s the truth.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: There`s a fine line. It`s really a fine line. I don`t want to demonize these parents. And by the way, if they ever want to come on our show and give their side of the story, we`ll certainly devote an entire hour to hearing why they do the things that they do.

But there is a fine line between encouraging your kids to be curious about life, to be adventurous, and putting them in harm`s way.

Now, CNN`s John Roberts took Richard Heene, the dad, to task this morning over allowing his kids to curse. Listen to this exchange.


R. HEENE: Our rule is that the kids can cuss in the house. They`re not allowed to cuss outside. I don`t want to be a hypocrite. I`m not going to tell my kid, "You can`t cuss," and yet they hear me do it. I`m not going to do that.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Right. But when it`s on YouTube, as it is now, and it`s received thousands of hits, it`s out there in public.

R. HEENE: Yes. You know, we were looking at it like a Beastie Boys thing.

ROBERTS: right.

R. HEENE: And we figured that you know, some funny comments would come in. The kids would go, "Hey, that`s cool."


VELEZ-MITCHELL: But Mark Eiglarsh, you`re the attorney. All of this stuff may be questionable parenting. There`s nothing illegal about that. The question we have to stay focused on is was this a staged event that put law enforcement and others at risk when they tried to save what they thought was a child in a balloon?

EIGLARSH: There`s no evidence of that. But I do cringe when I hear some of his parenting skills or techniques. Someone needs to step in. And you know, it`s this whole climate of putting everything out there before the public. Someone like this should probably lawyer up in the sense, not that he`s protecting his criminal rights, but he should be protecting his image from the public, because now we`re going to pick it apart.

His kids shouldn`t be cussing. His kids shouldn`t be seeing his -- his anger and his hatred and things that we`ve seen on the video. Not a -- not a strong choice.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. We all have our issues, though. We all have our demons. As you know, I`m certainly no exception. My new book "iWant" is an open book. In fact, it`s a tell-all about my own battles with addictions, especially my struggle to become sober, which I did 14 1/2 years ago. My story could help you or a loved one struggling with addiction.

It`s available in bookstores now or you can order it online at Check it out. It can help you with any addiction.

Up next, teen violence spiraling out of control across the country. We`re going to talk to the mother of a boy set on fire, allegedly by his classmates. You do not want to miss her heart-wrenching story.

But first, what`s in store for little balloon boy and his family?



MARC FRIENDLAND, NEIGHBOR: They`re a great family. We`re -- we`ve been their neighbors for about a year. And we`ve, you know, they`re unusual, yes, of course. I mean, you know, he`s sort of a scientist/inventor, and they`re storm chasers. They go after, you know, tornadoes and hurricanes and things like that.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That was one of the Heenes` neighbors.

I`m delighted now to introduce a woman who played Richard Heene`s wife, essentially, on "Wife Swap," Sheree Silver.

You were on that reality TV show with the Heene family, and you got to know Richard. Obviously, the controversy, could he have possibly been involved in concocting something for media attention that we saw play out on national TV yesterday? What are your thoughts?

SHEREE SILVER, APPEARED ON "WIFE SWAP" (via phone): My feeling is as bad as Richard is as far as his character and, you know, being angry and mean and cruel sometimes, I really don`t believe that he could pull this hoax for all of America to be worried about his child.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, you were paired with him for a while. Give us a sense of what he`s like, because we`re seeing a guy right now watching this balloon go up. And he seems to be cursing and kicking. And then we see a guy who`s very emotional with his son, crying. He does seem to wear his emotions on his sleeve.

SILVER: Yes. He`s a very emotional person. And he`s also got diabetes. So he`s like really, really up, really high, and then he drops really low and his medication makes him very subdued. So he goes through different character traits through his medication. And I witnessed that myself. I saw him being really, really cruel, and then coming in and like apologizing and relating to me, and then really having a meeting of minds.

We talked a lot about metaphysics and spiritual and extraterrestrials. And he was, like, really there, very wise, very brilliant, and then he`d go into a rampage again.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: One of the things -- one of the things that I noticed when I was reading his resume, if you -- for lack of a better word, is that he does seem obsessed with UFOs, extraterrestrials, looking for life on Mars. There was a YouTube video that was posted that we all saw yesterday of him talking about Mars civilization. What`s all that about, Sheree?

SILVER: Well, they`re about to come out with a History Channel on the 19th about all these high officials saying that extraterrestrials are real. So basically, I think as a society, we want to close our eyes to facts in front of us, but I think the wake-up call`s coming. So as far as extraterrestrials are concerned, good, bad or whatever, I agree with Richard. It`s real. Because I personally witnessed it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, listen, I certainly don`t want to exclude the possibility that there`s other life forms out there. I mean, let`s face it: the cosmos is a very big place. And it wouldn`t make sense that we`re the only living creatures. So I certainly won`t judge somebody because they think that there may be life somewhere else.

Unfortunately, it does always seem to set off alarm bells when people start talking about extraterrestrials. Do you think he`s getting a bum rap here? I mean, is he just a guy who`s a little eccentric, and that`s why we`re talking all these theories about him concocting a hoax, possibly?

SILVER: Well, I`m not going to tell you he doesn`t want money to be able to do his science experiments and do his work, and he doesn`t want attention to be on TV. Obviously, he does. You know, he wants to be famous. But not for fame`s sake. To do his scientific work. There`s a difference.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. But I think you said the key thing there. He wants to be famous.

Sheree, thank you so much for taking the time.

We`re going to talk about Casey Anthony coming up next.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Murder charges against accused child killer Casey Anthony dropped? That`s what her team of lawyers asked a Florida judge today. But do they have good reason?

For months, ISSUES has sorted through thousands upon thousands of court documents, evidence seemingly pointing the finger at Casey. Tonight, for the very first time, an inside look at her defense strategy. Can it work? Could she actually walk out a free woman?

And then, uproar and I mean uproar, over hideous teen violence. A 15- year-old boy, look at that handsome young man, allegedly doused in alcohol and set on fire by his own classmates. They say they did it because he was a snitch, because they wanted revenge.

Tonight, his mom shares her heartache and outrage with us. That`s right, she is talking to us. A tragic story that exposes the brutal reality of children in today`s America.

Brand new developments in the Caylee murder trial. Casey Anthony appeared in court today fighting the murder charges against her.

The judge wasn`t hearing any of it. He said no way, Jose. The murder charges stay put.

Casey faces the death penalty. She is accused of brutally killing her adorable 2-year-old daughter, Caylee Marie. Her attorneys pushed the judge to drop the murder charges and the aggravated child abuse charges.

This is our very first glimpse into what will likely be the defense strategy. They say there is absolutely no physical evidence at all connecting Casey to the crime scene. We`ll analyze that. They presented their defense on ABC`s "The Today Show."


JOSE BAEZ, ATTORNEY FOR CASEY ANTHONY: What they`re lacking in this situation with all that`s coming out is any forensic evidence. And that`s the problem with the case is there`s not enough to substantiate these charges which are first degree murder and aggravated child abuse.

LINDA KENNEDY-BADEN, ATTORNEY FOR CASEY ANTHONY: You need something that connects her to the crime scene. Of all the evidence that they have, nothing, the fibers that were found on the duct tape did not connect her to the crime scene. Nothing. There was no fingerprint evidence.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: They are doing the rounds. They also argue they have proof -- proof -- Casey was in jail when little Caylee`s body was dumped.

The judge challenged Casey`s lawyers if they have evidence that their client is innocent, they have to turn it in. He set a February deadline. Prosecutors maintain evidence exists that will convict Casey.

How about the fact that this woman didn`t report her own daughter missing for a month? Instead, you see it right there, she was out partying. Look at these wild photos. Is this the picture of a terrified mother who`s lost a child? Or is it the picture of an alleged murder?

Straight out to my fantastic expert panel: also joining us, "In Session" correspondent Beth Karas. Beth, you`re on top of this story. What is the very latest?

BETH KARAS, CORRESPONDENT, "IN SESSION": Well, the murder charges stay, as you just reported. The judge issued a ruling this afternoon not long after the hearing ended, basically granting the state`s motion to strike the defense`s motion to dismiss. They wanted to dismiss the murder charges and aggravated child abuse. The judge said you just haven`t laid out enough undisputed facts to meet that burden.

The charges remain; seven counts at this point will be going to trial. The judge also gave the February 1st deadline to the defense to turn over any witnesses they intend to call at another pretrial hearing sometime next year before the trial which is supposed to be next summer.

At that hearing, they`re going to, if they have it, they`re going to put witnesses on that will say they should have been at the crime scene. It shouldn`t have been turned over to them when it was just a barren, raked plot. They wanted to at least observe the police officers as they were culling and sifting and cutting down the bushes.

She had a lawyer by then. She brought experts in and they didn`t get a look at it for a week. The prosecution says we took hundreds of photos. The photos are good enough. We`ll see if the witnesses agree.

The judge today granted a defense motion that the defense experts can have an expanded access to these photos. They`re very graphic photos. There was a fear they could get leaked out to the public domain, to the media. That`s not going to happen assured the defense team and the judge is going to let the defense download these photos on to discs and send them around the country to their various experts. That`s basically what happened today.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: One of the headlines is that Casey`s attorneys are arguing there`s no physical evidence at all tying Casey to Caylee`s murder.

We have to ask, what about the cadaver dogs who hit on Casey`s car? What about the hair that belonged to some member of the Anthony family found in Casey`s car that investigators said showed signs of decomposition, i.e., a death band (ph) came from a dead body. And what about the testing on the trunk that showed decomposition in the air. And let`s not forget the chilling 911 call made by Casey`s own mother, Cindy.

Let`s listen to that one.


CINDY ANTHONY, CASEY ANTHONY`S MOTHER: I found out my granddaughter has been taken. She has been missing for a month. Her mother finally admitted that she`s been missing. Get someone here now.

911 OPERATOR: Your daughter admitted that the baby is where?

ANTHONY: The babysitter took her a month ago, that my daughter has been looking for her. There`s something wrong. I found my daughter`s car today and it smells like there`s been a dead body in the damn car.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mark Eiglarsh, then there`s the endless circumstantial evidence. She didn`t report her daughter missing for a month. She allegedly lied to investigators. She got a tattoo, some kind of tattoo that said something about the beautiful life...


VELEZ-MITCHELL: After her daughter -- the good life -- after her daughter went missing. So what is the defense talking about when they say there`s no evidence connecting her to this crime?

EIGLARSH: Listen, just saying it`s so don`t make it so. As a defense lawyer, winning is defined by doing everything that you possibly can to help get the outcome that you want. It doesn`t mean that you`re going to get the outcome that you want.

The state here in Florida is looking to kill their client. They shouldn`t sit back. They should file every possible motion that they can. I assure you they had no intentions upon really believing that this judge would grant it. He`s not going to take this away from a jury. He`s going to let them decide.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Beth Karas, I talked to sources who tell me that every single piece of evidence that the prosecution has, the defense has an explanation for. That they challenge the scientific validity, for example, of the so-called death band on a hair that had to belong to the Anthonys. That they challenged the scientific validity of the so-called air samples that showed decomposition. Essentially, it seems that they could very well argue that this is mumbo-jumbo pseudoscience.

KARAS: Yes, they certainly could with respect to the air samples. I have never seen that before and I do think that that is going to be a battle. This is a circumstantial case. What hurts the defense, and they know this, are the numerous, the mountains of lies that Casey Anthony has told and it`s a very, very tall task for them to explain away that she didn`t report this for 31 days.

So her conduct, even absent forensic evidence, her conduct and her statements hurt her. Michael Skakel is in prison for 20 some years. There wasn`t any forensic evidence tying him to Martha Moxley`s death but his conduct in his statement.

EIGLARSH: And Jane, if the prosecutors will remind jurors for sure in opening statement Casey didn`t report her child missing after 31 days. It was her mother who, after she realized something was up, she called the police.

So apparently, Casey did never plan on actually calling the police. She was going to conduct her own search to find out where Zanny the nanny had allegedly taken her child. It just doesn`t make sense. It`s going to be tough for the defense.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Steve Kardian, I`m reminded of another trial, the O.J. Simpson trial, however. And of course, he was acquitted of murder in a criminal trial. And the prosecution got so bogged down in the explanation of the DNA evidence and it became so confusing. And I remember sitting there day after day, watching on a monitor, where it really was a simple case that got so complicated because of the forensics that were I believe not handled in a simple, clear manner by the prosecution.

Could the same thing happen here, where the common sense case that she didn`t report her daughter missing, that`s suspicious, gets lost in an argument over whether science is real or mumbo-jumbo?

STEVE KARDIAN, FORMER CRIMINAL INVESTIGATOR: We`re seeing that here, Jane. Look at the simple fact, the connection that they`re trying to make with not being allowed to be at the crime scene. Law enforcement would never on their worst day allow a defense attorney to be present while they were investigating a crime scene. So it borders on the ridiculous, some of their requests.

EIGLARSH: They`re also doing their job. In their defense, if any one of us was ever accused of a crime, you wouldn`t want them to go at it half- past (ph). As much as it offends us because many of us think she`s guilty beyond all doubt, that`s their job. Don`t hate the defense attorneys. Let them do their job. If the prosecution does have the evidence, and it appears they do, then justice will prevail. But let them do their job thoroughly.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I don`t hate the defense attorneys. I defended Jose Baez. I think he`s doing an excellent job. Don`t confuse him with his client.

Well, now, you`re the one attacking the defense attorney, Mark, not me.

EIGLARSH: I like the supporting cast. Jose has done a lot of things that I take exception to: these impromptu press conferences, the disingenuous nature of some of his arguments. I think he looks best when he just works, keeps his mouth shut and focuses on his client. That`s just my opinion.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Beth Karas, we got 20 seconds. What about the new dates for Casey`s check fraud?

KARAS: There`s a trial date now, it`s a date certain of January 25th. December 18th, everyone will be in court, in a couple of months, for a status conference just to make sure there are no outstanding matters. It will be tried the first month of next year.

EIGLARSH: That`s big. That`s big.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It is big, because if she gets convicted in that...

EIGLARSH: If they get a conviction -- yes, they`re going to be able to use it against her if she does take the stand which I don`t think she ever will. She can`t explain away all those lies.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We have to leave it right there. Thank you, excellent panel.

We`re going to tell you how -- this is such a sad story -- the 5-year- old sole survivor in the wrong way crash is doing.

And another hideous act of teen violence: the latest on the little boy, look at this handsome young man, who was set on fire all over a bicycle?

Stay right there.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s meet today`s winner, Scott F. Between the ages of 3 and 13, Scott was sexually abused by his adoptive father and brother. As an adult, Scott began a series of sexually addictive relationships. The overdose death of a sibling in 2005 made him realize sex and love are not the same. Scott describes himself as clean now of the demons of sexual addiction.

Scott, for bravely sharing your story, you will be getting an autographed copy of my new book, "I Want," plus a chance to win a trip to New York city and visit me on the set of ISSUES. I am so proud of your recovery.

Coming up: the latest on the teen boy who was tragically burned and is now fighting for his life, but first, "Top of the Block" tonight.

The sole survivor of the horrific wrong-way crash is reportedly doing well. That`s such good news. Three months ago, 5-year-old Brian Schuler was in the back of a van as his mom drove the wrong way down the parkway. Moments later, the car crashed killing eight people, including his mom, his sister and three cousins.

Toxicology tests showed Brian`s mom, Diane, was drunk and high on pot at the time. Daniel Schuler, the woman`s husband, the dad, has maintained his wife never drank.

Brian suffered two broken arms, a broken leg and he is trying to rebuild his eyesight but the good news, he is healing very nicely. A family investigator said this to NBC`s "Today Show."


TOM RUSKIN, SCHULER FAMILY ATTORNEY: Brian doesn`t remember anything about that accident. He remembers noises around him. He remembers fire engines, apparently, and he remembers emergency workers. First responders have told us that Brian appeared to be conscious through the whole thing.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Little Brian says he misses his mom and sister and asks for them often. That`s so sad. Thankfully, though, this child`s life was spared. Unfortunately, he`s going to have to grow up without his loved ones, without his mom, without his sister, all because of drugs and alcohol.

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

Turning now to another unthinkable case: gruesome attack on a teenager allegedly by a gang of his own classmates. Police say five boys cornered Michael Brewer, drenched him in alcohol, flicked a lighter on him and then set him on fire.

In just a moment, we`re going to be joined by Michael`s mom, Valerie Brewer. She has spent the last few torturous days by her son`s hospital bed. With severe burns over two-thirds of his body, the 15-year-old is not able to talk. He is not able to tell his mom about his pain or the memory of this hideous attack. It just took moments but the consequences of that action are going to last the rest of this young man`s life.


DR. NICOLAS NAMIAS, JACKSON MEMORIAL RIDER TRAUMA CENTER: I think we`re looking at many, many months of stay in the burn center, in the acute care hospital. We`re looking at several months in the ICU. We`re looking at -- at least a year before we can say that we`re well on the road to rehabilitation and in terms of ever really getting completely over this, it`s a lifelong thing. This is a life-changing event.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: One of the boys who used a lighter to set Michael on fire is now charged with attempted murder. All five young suspects are charged with aggravated battery. We`re blurring their faces because these are juveniles. Prosecutors are still deciding whether to charge them as adults or not.

Here`s my big issue. We live in a society awash in horrific violence. It`s no wonder the brutality and frequency of teen violence has reached a crisis level.

The big question, how are we going to reverse it? How are we going to take this hideous, hideous, hideous thing and turn it into something that might make this world a better place? That might do something positive?

We`re going to talk about that tonight with my fantastic panel and also, joining me on the phone, the victim`s mom, Michael`s mom, Valerie Brewer.

Valerie, there are no words, of course, to describe what you are going through, what your son is going through. It`s got to be hellish. It`s got to be surreal in its nightmarish qualities.

What are you doing with your son? I understand you are there by his bedside day in and day out.

VALERIE BREWER, MOTHER OF MICHAEL BREWER (via telephone): I am. I won`t leave his side unless a doctor has to talk to me or if they have to change Michael`s bandages, which takes anywhere from two and a half to three and a half hours, because he has so many burns. They have to heavily sedate him so he does not feel any of the pain while they`re doing that.

It`s an incredible journey that we`re on. I really don`t know what to say. I`m just at a loss for words anymore because ...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I understand you rub his feet.

BREWER: I`m just so, so raw right now, so numb from lack of sleep and having to sit there and look at my son every day with all his burns all over him.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I can`t even imagine. I can`t even imagine.

I understand you rub his feet because you can`t really communicate with him so you rub his feet and that you communicate in a nonverbal way so that he knows that you`re there. Tell us about that.

BREWER: Michael is able to shake his head yes or yes or no. He is intubated so he cannot speak. However, he`s not awake very often, maybe five minutes in the morning, five minutes in the afternoon and five minutes in the night. It`s when the medication starts to wear down and he wakes up a little bit. He has tried to actually sit up and get out of bed because he wants to get up.

He doesn`t -- I don`t think he`s really understanding what`s going on with him. All he knows is that he`s in a lot of pain. He does respond to questions. I ask if he wants me to rub his feet. He shakes his head yes or no. I ask if he remembers people. Yes or no answer he`ll give me. He actually reaches up -- when he hears his father`s voice -- he reaches up for his father`s hand.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, my God. Valerie, hang in there. We`ll be right back with you in a moment. Your son is so courageous. This is such an obscenity.


DR. NAMIAS: There`s no talking to him. He`s on a mechanical ventilator with a breathing tube, heavily sedated. There`s no talking to him. His young age goes in his favor, but the size of the burn, depth of the burn and the fact that he probably inhaled smoke during this burn is against him.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s Michael Brewer`s doctor.

The youngest suspect in all of this is just 13 years old; the others are 15. Two of the accused are brothers who were once friends with Michael, according to their mom. She says they would spend the night at each other`s home. The 13-year-old will undergo a psychiatric evaluation to see whether he is competent.

I have to go back -- and thank you for your patience panel -- to Valerie Brewer, Michael Brewer, the victim`s mom. Is it true, that the kids -- some of them -- that are accused of doing this to your son used to be friends with him? And how did it deteriorate into this monstrosity?

BREWER: I`m not at liberty to discuss that because of the criminal cases against these children. I have been advised by the police not to answer any of those kinds of questions.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me ask Brenda Wade, clinical psychologist. Sometimes there`s a fine line, especially with young people, between love and hate.

BRENDA WADE, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: That`s true, Jane, but there`re two things about this case that really stand out for me with the young people. One is, clearly when children act in an abusive way, very often we find these children have been treated in an abusive way because all behavior in young children is learned behavior.

But the other thing, you said yourself Jane, in our culture, we value things above people. The bicycle was more important than Michael`s life and his well-being. That`s something we need to address in our culture so that we are not blinded by and hypnotized by materialism and begin to really value what`s important, which is one another.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, absolutely. Valerie brewer, reading about your horrific situation, I noticed that you said you are hoping that somehow this tragic turn of events could be used to address teen violence so that your son did not suffer and has not suffered in vain.

Tell me about your hopes and prayers that something good might come of this horror.

BREWER: Oh, my hopes are that the world wakes up and sees that, you know, video games are raising our kids because people can`t afford to not go to work. There`s no one to stay home with our kids anymore. They are raised by TV and by violent video games, movies, there`s even violence in cartoons.

I hope and pray that everyone wakes up and sees that they are desensitizing our children to reality.

EIGLARSH: And Jane, when parents...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I couldn`t agree with you more -- go ahead.

EIGLARSH: When parents are abusing their children, we can`t turn our backs. The likelihood of them then becoming the abusers and doing something harmful like this go up statistically and certainly common sense would dictate that.

So let`s get involved, if we think that we are hearing screams from the neighbor next door instead of turning up our own radios.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: This has to be a wake up call, this story. It has to be a wake up call -- we cover too many of these on ISSUES and all the other shows. And we do them time after time. We have to learn something from them. We have to start changing our culture as a result of them so we do not have more mothers like Valerie Brewer suffering.

Valerie, thank you so much. My thoughts and prayers are with you.