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ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL

Chimp Mauling Victim Speaks Out; Organization Helps Troops Bring Home Pets

Aired November 11, 2009 - 19:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, a woman mauled by a pet chimpanzee lives to tell her story. Charla Nash had her face basically ripped off by her friend`s chimp. Now she has no eyes, no mouth and no nose. Today, for the very first time, she shows her face on "Oprah." What does she remember from this hellish attack? And who does she hold responsible? And is this the ultimate example of why wild animals should not be kept as pets?

And the stench of death stronger than ever. Earth-shaking developments in the alleged Cleveland Strangler case. Neighbors say the smell has returned with a vengeance. This as cops search the house next to Anthony Sowell`s. Police are digging up the yard and carrying out garbage bags full of evidence. Could this be yet another massive grave site?

Plus, a mind-blowing custody battle pitting a stripper against a priest. The exotic dancer claims the priest threatened to kill her if she exposed his love child. But the priest says she demanded he have sex with her. Now they`re fighting for custody of the baby. We`ll have all the head-spinning details, including threats of murdering monks, hush money and strip clubs? What?

ISSUES starts now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, a woman who will never wake up from her horrific nightmare speaks out. Charla Nash was mauled to within inches of her life last February. That`s when the Connecticut woman was called to help her friend and employer corral the friend`s pet chimp, Travis, who was roaming outside the house.

The animal then attacked Charla, seen her in a photo from "The Hartford Courant`s" Web site. Travis went berserk and ripped off her hands, her nose, her lips and her eyelids. Here`s just some of the chilling 911 call.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s the problem?

SANDRA HEROLD, CHIMP OWNER: Send the police! Send the police!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s the problem there?

HEROLD: The -- that the chimp killed my -- my friend. Please! Please! Hurry!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. I need you to calm down a little bit. They`re on the way.

HEROLD: They got to shoot him, please. Please! Hurry! Hurry!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What a horror. When the cops came, they shot and killed Travis the chimp.

Today, for the first time since the horrific mauling, Charla, who has no eyes anymore, appeared on "Oprah," with her face covered by a veil.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLA NASH, CHIMP MAULING VICTIM: I`d like to put across to people that these exotic animals are very dangerous, and they shouldn`t be around. There`s a place for them, and it`s -- it isn`t (UNINTELLIGIBLE), that`s for sure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: She said it all right there. Tonight`s big issue is serious stuff. Chimps are not pets. In fact, there is a proposed law before the U.S. Senate right now that would ban commerce in primates. More on that in just a moment.

I`m taking your calls at 1-877-JVM-SAYS. That`s 1-877-586-7297.

But first, straight out to my truly fantastic expert panel: Mark Eiglarsh, criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor; Dr. Judy Kuriansky, clinical psychologist; and Jack Hannah, famed animal expert.

Jack, great to have you here tonight. As we keep the victim of this horrific tragedy in our hearts and in our thoughts, I have to ask you this question, sir. Jack, could this have been prevented?

JACK HANNAH, ANIMAL EXPERT: Well, it could have been prevented. I must go back real quickly to 1973 in Tennessee, when I had an African lion. I raised lions for zoos, and it happened to take an arm off a little boy. I had to go in and get that arm, which could not be reattached. So I know what wild animals are. I`ve done this for 40 years, from a zoo keeper to a zoo director.

And when you have a chimpanzee, they`re a very complicated animal. They`re a mammal, obviously. They`re one of the great apes. They`re intelligent. They live in a family structure. And when someone has a chimpanzee and it ages like this, as you know, the lady came in that worked there with her hair cut, even though she had been there many times before. And this chimp probably felt threatened somewhat with its person there that`s taking care of, the female. It went after her.

When chimps in the wild, which we filmed in the wild, go after someone, some of the first things they do are rip off, to the other dominant male, to go after the eyes, the hands, even the testicles, because what they do is they try to incapacitate that male to breed further. So what the chimp was doing was a natural thing it was doing, but a chimpanzee at that age, having it in a home is like having a loaded gun. It`s like having a loaded weapon.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I agree with you. And here are some details, and perhaps you can comment on this. Herold, the woman who kept the chimp as a pet, had speculated that the chimp was trying to protect her and attacked Nash, the victim, because she had changed her hair style, was driving a different car and was holding a stuffed toy in front of her face in order to get Travis` attention. Your thoughts on that, Jack?

HANNAH: Well, remember what I just said. When she -- the woman, the chimp probably knew -- chimps are bright, intelligent animals like a lot of animals. But when that woman came in in a different appearance, maybe in a different car, this chimp said, "What is this coming into a place where I live? You know, something`s wrong here." So the chimp did probably the natural thing and went after that person.

As far as the lawsuits involved...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, we`ll get to that in a second. But I think that the point is, the tragedy of all this, is that this chimp was actually trying to protect its so-called owner when it`s attacked, and the owner is really the one who we are asking the question, should she have ever had this chimp as a pet?

Now, her attorney, the -- Sandra Herold`s attorney, has declined to comment. But we have an open invitation, if you want to come on and tell your side of the story, go ahead.

Today`s big issue, and what we`re covering tonight, chimps, they are not pets. This woman, who insisted on trying to keep this chimp as a pet spoke to NBC`s "Today Show" about this horrific attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HEROLD: And I saw what was going on and I hollered at him, and he was just grabbing her. And then I went and got the shovel. And I was trying to, you know, hit him with the shovel to stop it, and it wasn`t working. So I went, and I had to get a knife.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you stabbed him?

HEROLD: I had to. He looked at me like, "Mom, what did you do?"

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mom, you`re not mom. Check out this photo from the Web site of "The Hartford Courant," showing Travis in a totally inappropriate situation, getting on and sitting on a lawn mower.

You know, some people think this is cute, Dr. Judy, when it`s really tragic and exploitive. Travis the chimp lived with Sandra Herold for 14 years. Five years before the attack, Sandra`s husband died. Also, her only daughter died in a traffic accident. So some say that Sandra turned to Travis the chimp for companionship.

Is the bottom line here, Dr. Judy, that people have to realize that primates cannot be used as replacements for people in normal human social interaction?

JUDY KURIANSKY, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Seeing the -- Travis the chimp on that machine is what we call anthropomorphizing. It`s making the animal into like a person. And it is true, Jane. You know this, being an animal lover and having three charming dogs yourself, that people form what`s called the human/animal companion bond. It`s very strong, and people often, research shows, use the pet even more than a friend, because the pets don`t talk back, because they love you constantly.

So this is positive for many people, for many types of pets, but other types of pets, it`s not appropriate, as we heard from Jack Hannah.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: These are not pets. You might call them pets, but they ain`t pets at the end of the day.

KURIANSKY: Right. Right.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: This attack happened on February 16 when Sandra Herold, the woman who kept the chimp as a pet, trying to, anyway, reportedly asked her friend and employee to help lure the animal back into her house. Here`s the victim on "Oprah."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: Was it your job to help take care of him, because this was your boss?

NASH: No, it was her pet that she wanted, or companion, and she had to rush out a few times or couldn`t come home that night. It was only a few times I fed him.

WINFREY: So you were familiar with him. Were you afraid of him?

NASH: Yes. Always.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, Mark Eiglarsh, the victim`s family has filed a $50 million lawsuit against Sandra Herold, charging she was negligent for lacking the ability to control a wild animal with violent propensities, but Herold`s attorneys argue the victim was an employee of hers and, therefore, hey, this is a workers` comp case. Of course, that would vastly limit the amount of money that the victim could get. Workers` comp? Are you kidding me?

MARK EIGLARSH, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Jane, I`ve got one word for those being sued in this case: settle. This is not a victim that you want to put in front of a jury. They would hold Tarzan responsible if they could. She`s a compelling victim. The injury is there.

Was it reasonably foreseeable is the question. Would a chimp -- you don`t need the great animal expert Jack Hannah to tell you that that is not a pet. And I think that jurors would tag the defendants for a lot of money in this case.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, just because you have a pet doesn`t mean you have the animal`s best interests at heart. As babies, these primates are ripped away from their mothers in the wild, or they`re also bred in captivity. For every chimp that`s kept as a pet, there are untold numbers who are killed or injured, abandoned, neglected.

This is a call to action. The Humane Society of the United States is promoting legislation that would prohibit interstate commerce of primates. It`s already passed the House. You can help by passing the Captive Primate Safety Act. Call your U.S. senators and tell them to pass this act.

You know, when it comes to primate exploitation, Jack, I always say follow the money.

HANNAH: Right. The primate exploitation has gone down a great, great deal in the last ten years but you`re correct in saying that this woman who owned the chimp, there`s no doubt, obviously, she thought the chimp was probably hers.

As the attorney just said, you don`t want this to go to court. My action with the lion was settled, and I live with that every day of my life, and I was in the business.

But going back to the chimpanzee, again, it`s a complicated creature and one that as you said, should not be -- however, in this -- in this bill, zoological parks, which as you know, I`ve been doing for 40 years, we do a tremendous job in the research and breeding of these magnificent creatures. And I don`t want that bill to affect what we do in accredited zoos throughout the country.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, we`ll agree to disagree. I think we -- you know, I agree with the Humane Society in the sense that I think we should pass the Captive Primate Safety Act, and I`m suggesting that people call their U.S. senators. But we`re not going to agree on everything, Jack. But we`re delighted to have you as a guest.

All right. More on this horrific attack in just a bit. We`re also taking your calls on this: 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297.

The familiar stench of death once again polluting the streets of Cleveland. Could cops be closing in on another mass grave?

But first, mauled, maimed and disfigured. The woman who survived a horrific chimp attack now showing her face, in a manner of speaking, with a veil. Why would anyone try to keep a wild animal as a household pet?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HEROLD: He`s trying to attack me. Please, please hurry!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. I need you to calm down a little bit. They`re on the way.

HEROLD: They got to shoot him, please. Please, hurry! Hurry!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the monkey moves away from your friend, let me know, OK. So we can try and help your friend.

HEROLD: No, I can`t. She`s dead. She`s dead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HEROLD: It`s a horrible thing; but I`m not a horrible person, and he wasn`t a horrible chimp. It was a freak thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: A freak thing, indeed, but not necessarily in the way she intended that phrase. That clip from NBC`s "Today Show," they interviewed the woman who kept Travis the chimp, trying to keep him as a pet anyway, the day after he went berserk and bludgeoned Charla Nash to within inches of her life.

This is a horrific story. A woman will never be the same again. She`s been left without eyes, without a nose. Unbelievable.

Phone lines lighting up.

Angela, Texas, your question or thought, ma`am?

CALLER: Yes. I had heard early in the days of the reporting of this incident that she had been giving -- the owner had given Travis alcohol and possible Prozac or some kind of anti-anxiety medication, and most of those drugs say do not mix with alcohol.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you know, I had heard reports that again, I have obviously no independent confirmation of that. That is something that will be part of the investigation, or has been.

The attorney for the woman who kept the pet has declined to comment. We invite them on to tell their side.

But Jack Hannah, that does happen quite often, doesn`t it, where somebody has a wild animal that`s not supposed to be a pet, keeps them as a pet, and then they try to sedate them to keep them sort of under control?

HANNAH: Yes, I`ve heard that, correct. For pets, right. But you know, like you said, who knows how Xanax -- I think that was the drug they said was used -- is going to react on a wild animal like a chimpanzee.

And some people, as you said, try and make the chimp part of anthropomorphism, try to make it part of them, whether it`s dressing up, riding lawn mowers, drinking, eating, whatever it might be in their home. And that`s not what a chimpanzee does, obviously, where they live in the wild.

EIGLARSH: Jane, I wanted to take exception to calling this a ...

(CROSSTALK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hold on, hold on. Mark, go ahead, please.

EIGLARSH: Yes, I need to take exception to her calling this a freak accident.

First of all, we know that earlier, in 1996, this particular chimpanzee bit a neighbor`s hand. He reported it to police. Apparently, he claims they didn`t do anything. The police says, "Well, we don`t have any record of it." But at least the owner of the chimp was clearly on notice that this could be a potentially dangerous animal, so anything that happens after that is on her.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now...

KURIANSKY: This is also why recapitulation of the Siegfried and Roy problem, where their lions who were supposed to be their pets and their -- part of the family, turned on the very owner, and we know the disaster that happened to one of them.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Again, these are wild animals. These are not pets. And they`re not performers, either.

Now, check out this clip from a show called "My Monkey Baby." It`s on TLC. And that would be the very same network of "Jon & Kate Plus 8," by the way. Check this out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She`s my baby girl. If I hear somebody call her a monkey, I throw a fit. She is my daughter, 100 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why does she wear clothes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just because -- to make her look more like my daughter. Come here. Momma put you up here. There! Now you look so pretty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, my gosh.

Unfortunately, society encourages this type of pop culture. You know, that`s just one tiny example of how these primates are exploited.

You know, recently, a 2-year-old chimp was used in a commercial shoot for an airport. PETA, the organization which keeps [SIC] chimps, says this chimp had a, quote, "disturbing record" of animal care, that this group that took care of that animal had a disturbing record of animal care. The USDA says that that same group keeps the primates in dirty, cramped cages.

So here`s a vicious cycle, isn`t it, Dr. Judy, where you have this demand for commercial entertainment involving these animals, and then you obviously see that there`s exploitation at the heart of it? What happens when the cameras are turned off?

KURIANSKY: Well, indeed, and as we just saw in that particular case, the woman is considering the little chimp as her child. So while many of these human-animal companion bonds are very healthy, and I bless them, some are dysfunctional, where people are replacing people and real relationships and children for animals. That is inappropriate. Their need to dominate, their need to have something that loves them, makes this wrong kind of relationship.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Jack, we have ten seconds. Final thoughts?

HANNAH: Well, final thoughts are, as I said before, the zoological world gives millions of dollars each year to control the bush (ph), the chimp in the wild, as well as -- just got back from Malaysia 48 hours ago where there`s 65 baby orangutans in an orphanage because of what`s happening in the wild with these things. And so we`re trying our best to work with the wild, bring these animals back in these -- in these orphanages and keep them, again, in the wild is where most of these animals, as far as the chimps should be, but in zoological parks, we do a great deal of helping them.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, I also think that people should call their senators and say, "Pass this act that will stop this horror."

Thank you, Jack, for coming on.

HANNAH: Thank you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you, fantastic panel.

We salute the troops every day on HLN. Today, Robin Meade has a special Veterans Day salute from a proud daughter to her dad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBIN MEADE, HLN ANCHOR: Thanks, Jane.

Today, we salute World War II veteran Wendell Alan Fetters. Wendell was an Army staff sergeant during the war, and his daughter Wendy wants to let us know just how proud she is of her dad.

WENDY LUNDEEN, DAUGHTER OF VETERAN: Hi, Robin. We want to leave a message for our dad, thanking him for being so brave in World War II, when he was captured at age 20. And we want to thank him for his contribution to all the freedoms we enjoy in this great country. And we just want to tell him we are so proud of him and that we love him.

MEADE: Absolutely. Wendell also served in the Korean War and turned 85 just last month.

Back to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thanks, Robin.

Switching gears, the stench of death returns in Cleveland. We`ll investigate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Today, we are honoring our wonderful veterans and military. I personally want to say thank you for all that you`ve done and continue to do.

In our "Spotlight" tonight, we are saluting them for yet another cause they are fighting. We`re talking about soldiers coming in contact with hundreds of stray dogs while they`re abroad and developing intense bonds with these animals. Bonds so strong they`ve managed to beat the odds and rescue their furry friends.

A new military channel show called "No Dog Left Behind" gives us a unique look at their moving experiences.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see a hundred dogs a day you want to save. Nubs was just a beacon of joy at the camp. He became our team buddy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was truly a blessing. He came at the right time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lava was at times my best friend and my only friend. I said, "OK, that`s it. I`ve definitely got to get this dog home."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Got to get that pup home. Some of the troops have gotten their dogs home through Operation Baghdad Pups. It`s a program designed to help our troops arrange for safe travel for the dogs they befriend in the war zone and then take back to the United States.

Joining me now, Terry Crisp, Operation Baghdad Pups program manager.

Terry, thank you so much. This is so heartwarming. War is so tough, and these animals and these humans can come together and help each other. How did this organization happen?

TERRY CRISP, PROGRAM MANAGER, OPERATION BAGHDAD PUPS: It all came about from one soldier asking for the help of SPCA International to get his best friend, Charlie, home. And since then, Operation Baghdad Pups has been successful in getting 180 animals back to the U.S.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: This has got to be a lifesaver for these troops. They see so much death and destruction, and dogs, all animals, offer unconditional love.

CRISP: Definitely so. And we see that not only during the time that they`re in Iraq with these dogs and cats, but after they come home. These animals have provided a tremendous amount of comfort and have really helped these men and women get back on track with life once they`re back here in the states.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, a lot of these troops in "No Dog Left Behind" express deep gratitude for the dogs that they take in. Listen to this. This is fascinating.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We weren`t helping the dog. The dog came back to help us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They`re heroes. Over and over again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s basically like leaving one of your buddies behind. No soldier will ever do that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`ve known from the beginning that we were breaking the rules, and I thought, "Boy, if they`re willing to take the chance, I`m willing to do it, too."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, Terry, service members are apparently not allowed to adopt animals, so these brave soldiers actually took a risk and they kind of broke the rules to get these dogs back. What`s that all about?

CRISP: According to General Order 1A, you cannot befriend an animal while on active duty. But thankfully, these men and women have found it in their hearts to do the right thing and give these animals the kind of life that they deserve here in the U.S.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I hope that law changes, because these animals are really part of the solution. You know, there are those who say the day that we can`t kill an animal is the day that war will no longer exist, because we, as a species, will have evolved beyond it. And I pray that that is the case.

Terry, I want to thank you for the amazing work that you do. This is heartwarming. It gives me hope. Thank you, Terry Crisp.

CRISP: Thanks, Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right.

Switching gears, all too familiar stench of death pouring back into Cleveland. This time, neighbors say it`s stronger than ever.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: The stench of death stronger than ever; earth-shaking developments in the alleged Cleveland strangler case. Neighbors say the smell has returned with a vengeance. This as cops search the house next to Anthony Sowell`s. Could this be yet another massive grave site?

Plus, murdering monks, hush money and strip club? A mind-blowing custody battle pits a stripper against a priest over a child. We`ll have all the head-spinning details including claims that this woman demanded the priest have sex with her.

The stench of death around the alleged Cleveland strangler`s home has returned and guess what, it`s worse than ever. Neighbors of suspect, Anthony Sowell, think the smell came back because there`s a new search for victims right next door to Sowell`s house of death. One of the neighbors said quote, "It`s like it got worse. It smells bad in the air like death," end quote.

Police removed bags of evidence from the home but we don`t know what was in them. Investigators are even going to use thermal imaging to look for bodies buried in the yard. Police have identified nine of 11 victims found hidden on sole`s property. Neighbors complained for years about the hideous stench.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COUNCILMAN ZACK REED, WARD 3 CLEVELAND, OHIO: We received a phone call from a resident that said, "Councilman, there`s a foul odor that`s coming from across the street and it smells like a dead person; not dead meat, not dead animal, dead person."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: This trail of death may not be limited to Sowell`s house, his neighborhood or even the city of Cleveland. Get this. Investigators are now checking unsolved crimes all over the world for any link to this convicted sex offender since he traveled the world as a Marine.

Sowell allegedly used drugs and alcohol to lure victims inside his house. Somehow a few of them managed to get out alive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLADY`S WADE, VICTIM OF ANTHONY SOWELL: Why me? Wasn`t my time, I suppose. Maybe this is why. So I could speak up for them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So what`s your theory on this case at home? I want to hear from you. Give me a call. 1-877-JVM-SAYS, that`s 1-877-586-7297.

Straight out to my fantastic panel: clinical psychologist Judy Kuriansky; criminal defense attorney Jayne Weintraub -- there she is; Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels; and WTAM radio reporter Ken Robinson. I am also very pleased to have with me on the phone Inez --- mother of Telacia --- one of the victims found inside the house.

Inez, we are going to get to you in just a moment but first, I want to start with Ken Robinson, radio reporter, WTAM in Cleveland. What, dare we ask, is the very latest on this investigation into the house next door?

KEN ROBINSON, RADIO REPORTER, WTAM, CLEVELAND: Well, the very latest is that yes, there was a stench coming from that house. Neighbors complained again that the smell had returned.

So Cleveland police arrived to investigate. They brought in a crew. The house next door was actually being renovated, according to the owner. The owner says he`s been working on rebuilding and reconfiguring this house and there was a lot of junk in the backyard, a lot of debris. So police had to bring a crew in to remove a lot of debris from the backyard.

And now they`re going to bring in thermal imaging equipment. They`re going to scour that backyard, try to detect if any bodies are buried there.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, they`re saying the smell is back big-time, right, Ken? The neighbors?

ROBINSON: That`s absolutely true. A neighbor said the smell was worse than he had ever smelled it before. Of course, we all know that the smell was one of the things that people had complained about earlier long before the bodies were discovered at Sowell`s house.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So Curtis Sliwa, could that mean still more bodies? I mean, they removed bodies, the smell goes away, then they check in the house next door, the smell comes back, worse than ever. What does it tell you, Curtis?

CURTIS SLIWA, FOUNDER, GUARDIAN ANGELS: Jane Velez-Mitchell, no doubt about that. Can you imagine for all these months, all these years, the smell, people walking around like this; nobody coming around, nobody investigating. Nobody saying hey, this is a registered sex offender, this guy`s done major time, why don`t we just go inside and look around particularly since he is the responsibility of the sheriff`s department of Cuyahoga County.

My God, again, law enforcement a dollar short and a day late. We`ve seen this before.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I got to wonder, Judy Kuriansky, clinical psychiatrist -- ok, the mayor of Cleveland has a niece. The niece admits she dated this guy for a couple of years and they did drugs together. Where was the mayor of Cleveland? If I have a niece that`s doing drugs, which I don`t, thank God, but if I did, I would notice it. If it was happening over a period of time and I`d say, "Who are you doing drugs with, I want to go see where you`re living."

JUDY KURIANSKY, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, what happens in these cases, and we`ve seen it over and over again, is that a lot of these horrific, horrible perpetrators come across like they`re ok. People look the other way, that`s one problem.

Nobody takes responsibility not just as Curtis said, the law, but other people. Some people complain but they don`t do much more. And then the perpetrators themselves, there are different types of these people. Some of them get away with it because they seem somewhat normal, oh, they may be drug addicts but you can`t imagine that they`re cutting up bodies or eating body parts or mutilating or having sex with dead bodies and all these things that are so far beyond people`s thoughts and fears that they try to turn the other way and that`s what leads to this ignorance.

JAYNE WEINTRAUB, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Racism led to this ignorance and a cultural socio-economic structure in our country that still exists led to this mess. And...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Explain, Jayne Weintraub. What do you mean by that?

WEINTRAUB: Because if these were white middle class women that were working professionals, do you think we would be waiting ten years to hear from entomologists about time of death? I think not, Jane.

I`ll tell you something else I have been saying for awhile. I really think states need to step up. Women need to step up and every state needs immediate legislation to prioritize and get stricter scrutiny, supervision for sex offenders who are violent or are being released imminently that are deemed to be dangerous. We need a tier process in every single state.

You know that drunk driver woman you talk about? This legislation from October 11th today, it was in Albany on the legislative floor. Where is the legislation for these crimes? There`s none.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I agree with you 100 percent. Ken Robinson, this community has come together to express its outrage, but really, what is being done on a practical level to make changes in the laws? I know that there`s been a call for a federal investigation into the police response to complaints about this man, but is anything being done to try to prevent another house of horrors from happening again?

ROBINSON: Well, actually, the neighborhood is still in shock. The whole city of Cleveland is still in shock. Yes, there will probably be an investigation of the police department, why they didn`t act earlier, but also, many people in the community tell me there`s a lot of blame to go around. Community members, people living in the community, weren`t as vigilant in reporting seeing women going in and out of Sowell`s house and the smell that was coming from his house.

WEINTRAUB: Because they were vulnerable women, nobody cared about them because boy, they might have been a drug addict or maybe somebody was desperate and being a prostitute. So who cares about them? That`s what was going on, Jane. He picked on vulnerable women as his victims.

(CROSSTALK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Get this. Get this. I have some interesting facts to tell you about here because this is a mind blower. While Sowell was in prison for attempted rape, he applied to a treatment program for sex offenders. Get this. He wasn`t accepted because he wouldn`t accept any guilt.

It gets worse. Three months after his release, Sowell went through an evaluation process required for convicted sex offenders. Guess what the report concluded? It concluded that there was low risk of Sowell re- offending, even though he admitted to being a violent alcoholic and claimed he had had sex with more than 50 women and that he had an appetite for porn.

So I don`t understand what these evaluations accomplish. Are they a crock, Dr. Judy, these evaluations by psychiatrists of these dangerous people?

KURIANSKY: I have to say that it really shows that the profession that I`m in is not really up to snuff about paying enough attention. The point is the statistics show that people who offend, offend again. He`s admitted it. Sex offenders do many times offend over and over again. The treatments that we have for them are totally inadequate. It`s like they don`t change unless they really want to change. This is part of the serious problem.

(CROSSTALK)

WEINTRAUB: Don`t forget the public health department was out there, people. The health department -- not just the parole department, the police -- the health department was out there and left it undone, stench remained another few murders occurred. What does that tell you about the moral breakdown here?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: The stench remains tonight and does the mystery of exactly how many women are killed in the house of horrors, and the homes surrounding it.

Thank you, fantastic panel. We`re going to stay on top of this story.

Moving on, a beautiful TV anchor woman beaten to death inside her bedroom; will the man who committed this brutal murder be sentenced to death?

Plus, a stripper, a priest and their baby head to court. If that doesn`t get your attention, how about this? Murderous monks? Massive amounts of hush money? There`s some wild claims. We`ve got both lawyers in this incredible case. It`s a dramatic custody battle and we`re taking your calls on it. A priest, and a stripper.

1-877-JVM-SAYS. A priest and a stripper have a baby. It sounds like a joke but it ain`t a joke. 1-877-586-7297; give me your thoughts.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And let`s meet today`s winner, George in California. George is an artist, a sculptor and this is a photo he submitted to CNN iReport of a very personal statue he`s creating that depicts the day he decided to get sober. It`s "The Mourning."

In 2006 when his wife sandy died of an overdose, she had tried to convince him to go with her for treatment for three years, but he wasn`t willing. George is a combat veteran who struggles to this day with post- traumatic stress disorder and he admits that since his wife`s death, it has been a struggle to stay sober.

He has fallen off the wagon a few times but today, with support of his friends in recovery, he says he has just over four months without a drink. Way to go, George. We are pulling for you and we are sharing your story and so proud of you. Just keep it up.

You`ll be getting an autographed copy of my New York Times best- selling book "I Want" plus a chance to win a trip to New York City to visit me here on the set of ISSUES.

And by the way, if you are struggling with addiction or know somebody who is, you may want to check out my new book "I Want". It`s at cnn.com/Jane. It`s my story of recovery and it just might help you.

A priest, a stripper, and their child walk into a courtroom. Sounds like a joke, right? But it is actually a real-life custody battle filled with allegations of payoffs, strip clubs and alleged threats of murdering monks.

It`s hard to keep track of this. We`re going try to sort it all out for you. We have attorneys from both sides here to talk about it.

But first, "Top of the Block" tonight. What a gruesome story. Finally tonight, justice for Anne Pressly. This beautiful Arkansas TV anchor woman was brutally beaten to death sleeping in her own bed.

Just hours ago, Curtis Vance was convicted of capital murder, rape and theft of property. He could now face the death penalty. According to testimony, Vance told cops he was just hoping to steal a laptop. Now this beautiful 26-year-old TV journalist is dead. Her face was beaten so badly, most of her bones were completely shattered.

The war on women is out of control in this country and this was the tragic case that sparked our focus here on ISSUES on this terrible trend. This conviction is a victory for the victim`s family but we, as a culture need to change. We need to change this blood-drenched culture so this kind of thing doesn`t happen again. We will have much more on this story on tomorrow`s ISSUES. That is tonight`s "Top of the Block".

Well, it`s baby mama drama for a priest and an ex-stripper. Reverend David Dueppen had a secret affair with an exotic dancer by the name of Beatrice Hernandez. Now she says the disgraced priest was violent. She begged for a restraining order.

We couldn`t get a clear shot of her face but listen to what she said in court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEATRICE HERNANDEZ, FORMER STRIPPER: I don`t know for how long he was choking me and that`s when I thought he was going to take my tongue out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, the two have a one-year-old love child. They met seven years ago at a Miami strip club, where she worked and the priest was a regular. I can`t believe I`m saying that. The priest was a regular at a strip club?

Guess what? The church knew all about this. They even gave her what some might call hush money; $30,000 to end the affair but money couldn`t keep them apart.

Now their love has turned to the opposite, to hate, and they are firing off bizarre accusations. She says he threatened to "keep our baby a secret or I will have you killed by monks in brown robes." That sounds like something straight out of the "Da Vinci Code" and he says, "She forced me to have sex." Oh, really?

Well, it all ended in a draw. The restraining order request was dismissed but this is far from over. The two will be back in court to battle over custody of their baby girl.

Straight out to my fabulous expert panel and we`re also delighted to have lawyers for both sides here. Attorney Raymond Rafool is representing Father David and Daniel Caplan is the attorney for Beatrice Hernandez.

Raymond, first off, the thing that popped out at me was that they met in a strip club where he was a regular. What on earth is a priest doing in a strip club?

RAYMOND RAFOOL, LAWYER FOR FATHER DAVID DUEPPEN: Well, I don`t know if you could say he was a regular but they did meet at a strip club. That`s one of the things that David regrets as part of his life.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. I mean, priests aren`t supposed to go to strip clubs. Didn`t anybody tell him that?

RAFOOL: Yes. He knows that. He knows that. I mean, one thing you have to understand is that David will admit that he`s made a lot of mistakes; mistakes going to strip clubs; mistakes breaking his vows. Mistakes having a relationship with a person like Hernandez.

The only thing he will tell you is that he`s very happy that he now has a child. And he`s happy that the fact is that he is out in the open.

There were a lot of things going on back in the time that he met her in 2003. He was at that time an alcoholic. He has now gone to rehabilitation. He is a much better person and he has made mistakes but he`s trying to do everything he can to move forward.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. I`m hearing you. We`re going to ask you one more question. The priest says he only broke his vows of celibacy because she demanded sex. He says he was unable to resist her demands because he was abused as a child. He regrets it all.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FATHER DAVID DUEPPEN, PRIEST: Except for the gift of Marilyn, I regret those actions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Let me ask you this, Raymond. I don`t get it. How do you say that a woman forced you to have sex? I mean, we all know how it works with the birds and the bees.

RAFOOL: Well, first of all, you`re asking me to answer his question. And I can`t give you that answer. But, I can tell you that the time that David was with her, David felt very vulnerable to her. And in fact, if you`ll look at the history of the case, David felt very vulnerable to her on a number of occasions.

In fact, every time that she kept demanding money from him, he kept feeling vulnerable. So as far as David being under her control, David honestly believed that he was under her control.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, well, guess what, we`re going to have the other side of the story in just moments. Hang on. On the opposite side of the break, we`re going to have the attorney on the opposite side of the case; a bizarre case, indeed.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DUEPPEN: Could Freddie (ph) I just wanted to find out the right foods that she wants to eat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. That was the priest, Father David Dueppen. He`s battling an ex-stripper for custody of their baby daughter. Now, she`s accusing him of choking and threatening her. We`ve been talking to attorneys from both sides.

Now, we`re going to from the other side. Daniel Kaplan, attorney for former stripper Beatrice Hernandez. You have been hearing that side. Let`s hear your side of the story.

DANIEL KAPLAN, ATTORNEY FOR FORMER STRIPPER: Hi, Jane. First, I want to say that Beatrice Hernandez was both psychologically and emotionally dependent upon Father Dueppen. And Father Dueppen had our client or had Miss Hernandez believe that she was possessed by demons.

He would tell her in order to remove the demons. She would have to have sex with him, she would have to get naked. He would actually have oils from the church that he would bring by, a box like this. This is the actual box that he used of the oils and put them on her to excise her from these demons.

He would take her to swingers clubs, he would take her to nudist beaches.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What?

KAPLAN: Yes, I interviewed someone from Miami Velvet, a manager there who told me that Father Dueppen was a member of Miami Velvet Swingers Club. In fact he was so depraved he actually got thrown out of the swingers club because he was groping all the other women that were in there. He was actually thrown out of a swingers club, believe it or not.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, what about this allegation that your client stalked someone she thought was another woman that was involved with this priest.

KAPLAN: My client disputes that completely. This is something of a red herring that Father Dueppen is bringing up into this custody case to distract from the real issues which are -- their child and what contact the father should have with the child. My client believes that Mr. or Father Dueppen has some psychological issues...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You think?

KAPLAN: Yes. She claims he`s made some sexually inappropriate comments and wants supervised visitation.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, I think we`ve got both sides.

Now, let`s go to the big issue. My big issue tonight, here`s my opinion, men will be men. Are the vows of priesthood realistic? Do men need to have sex on a biological basis? Are their natural biological urges?

I mean, this certainly isn`t the first time a priest who`s allegedly broken his vows. Look at TV host and priest Alberto Cute. Cute there he is, he`s a cutie that what we call him Alberto Cute, he`s kind of cute. He was caught frolicking on a beach with a girlfriend, he left the Catholic Church and now they are married.

So, I want to go to Judy Kuriansky. Dr. Judy is it realistic to tell a man, even if they are priests, no you can never have sex?

JUDY KURIANSKY, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, I think not, Jane because I think there are indeed natural sexual urges that every man and woman has. They can be turned into a different direction. They could be suppressed, you could say, as some priest might say, now, I give my life, my love, my blood, my sexuality, even to God, to Jesus, whatever but...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right.

KURIANSKY: ... it will emerge.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Got it.

KURIANSKY: Those sexual urges are human.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Let`s go to Dan in Pennsylvania. Quickly your thoughts, sir; we`re running out of time.

DAN, PENNSYLVANIA (via telephone): Sure, the point she made is very true in my opinion. But, you know, anybody who wants to take on the seminary and become a priest and join that type of -- that type of religion, they can try and try all they want to live the standards of the God they believe in.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And we`re going to leave it with a fabulous caller who makes a lot of sense.

You are watching ISSUES on HLN.

END