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ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL

Was Murdered Girl Sold to Settle Drug Debt?; Puerto Ricans Try to Stop Monkey Breeding Facility

Aired November 19, 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 (voice-over): Tonight, fast-breaking and blood- boiling developments in the search for Shaniya`s killer. New reports now say this beautiful little angel may have been nothing more than payment for a drug debt. Was this 5-year-old girl allegedly sold into prostitution to Mario McNeill, all because Shaniya`s mom owed him money? This guy has a long history of drugs, and he was the last person seen with Shaniya. He was captured on surveillance, carrying this little girl into a hotel room. God only knows what happened next. ISSUES is all over this story as we uncover the unfolding allegations of drug use, prostitution and murder.

And a horrifying hate crime, too graphic for television. A gay teenager killed, mutilated, set on fire, his arms, legs, and head ripped off his body. Now the gay community is outraged at police. The head investigator basically blamed the victim, saying people who lead this type of lifestyle need to be aware that this will happen. How is this possible in the 21st Century?

Plus, if at first you don`t succeed, try, try again. A woman is accused of trying to kill her new husband three times. She was caught on tape giving an undercover cop instructions to kill her hubby. Cops set up this entire thing, even telling this woman her husband was already killed. It`s video you have to see to believe. The woman`s performance is worthy of an Oscar, but she`s not fooling cops or her husband.

ISSUES starts now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Major mind-boggling developments in the horrific story of precious 5-year-old Shaniya Davis. Her body was found Monday afternoon discarded in the woods off a North Carolina highway.

Tonight, disturbing new details about a possible motive are coming to light. Cops say Shaniya`s mother, Antoinette Davis, sold her baby daughter into prostitution. We`re talking a 5-year-old. Did she need to make a quick buck in order to satisfy a drug debt? That`s the question we`re asking tonight.

Antoinette is reportedly no stranger to the drug world. In a raid at one of her previous homes, cops netted drug paraphernalia, like razor blades and baggies. Shaniya`s 7-year-old half sister has come out and said Antoinette smoked pot and might have done coke.

Last night, the shocking new theory came to a head on "NANCY GRACE."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GURNAL SCOTT, REPORTER, WPTF RADIO: Antoinette Davis and Mario McNeil have been together. They`ve hung out together. There may have been a debt that need to be paid. We are understanding that she may have owed him money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mario McNeil, he`s the thugs cops say kidnapped little Shaniya and took her to a hotel not far from her mother`s home in Fayetteville.

Tonight, we`re learning that McNeil`s past is littered, and I mean littered, with crime. His rap sheet includes gun violence, multiple drug charges, and assault convictions. But that`s not the outrageous part. He was on probation once, violated, went to prison. Last year he got probation again for another drug charge, and he was let out six months earlier.

The corrections department said he did, quote, "everything he was supposed to do while under supervision," end quote. What? Is that correction system completely out to lunch?

Meanwhile, reports of hellish living conditions where Shaniya spent her last days. CNN affiliate WRAL says cops, quote, "found feces smeared on the outside door handle of the front door to the home and on the handrail of the steps to the front porch." Feces.

A lot of ground to cover tonight, but the big issue: is our criminal justice on overload? Why on earth did Mario McNeil slip through the cracks over and over again? I want to know what you think. Give me a holler; call me: 1-877-586-7297.

Straight out to my awesome expert panel: Stacey Honowitz, supervisor of the sex crimes unit in the Florida prosecutor`s office; Doctor Reef Karim, psychiatrist, addiction specialist, and medical director of the Control Center in Beverly Hills; Brian Monroe, visiting professor at Northwestern University`s Madill School of Journalism. And we begin with Angie Crouch, investigative reporter.

Angie, what is the very latest?

ANGIE CROUCH, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Well, Jane, we`re waiting now. IN about an hour investigators in this case have scheduled a press conference where they are expected to announce additional charges being filed in this case.

Keep in mind, all day we`ve been waiting for autopsy results to come in to tell us exactly how Shaniya Davis died. It looks like those may be in and that could be what`s leading to these charges as this comes on the heels of a search of Mario McNeil`s vehicle today.

In that search warrant, authorities say that McNeil told them he picked up the little girl from out in front of her house the morning she disappeared and drove her to the hotel. And in his car they found several bags of potential evidence, including reportedly, there may have been a little girl`s jacket and a little girl`s jeans in his vehicle. So that`s where we are at right now tonight, Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow. Stacey Honowitz, the clock is ticking in less than an hour. A news conference expected. Additional charges expected. What were the dots that they needed to connect? What was the evidence they needed to collect, and what do you think is going to happen in less than an hour?

STACEY HONOWITZ, SUPERVISOR OF SEX CRIMES UNIT, FLORIDA PROSECUTOR`S OFFICE: Well, we`re certainly going to hear new charges. And I think, certainly, there`s probably a sexual assault charge in there. And they were looking to see if there was DNA evidence, if any of her clothing were in the car. And obviously, they are connecting all of these pieces of evidence together to try to make a case against him.

Certainly, we don`t know. We`re all speculating as to what transpired between him and the mother. But at the press conference we`re going to be informed that there probably is a theory that the police officers are working on. And based on what they found in the car, there probably was evidence of some kind of a sexual assault or, in fact, the murder of this child.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, originally, I was thinking, well, he took her to a hotel. Perhaps we`re hearing these allegations against the mother of human trafficking, allegedly selling her own daughter for prostitution. I wondered, was this guy who`s accused of kidnapping, a middle man, taking the child to the hotel to deliver her to someone else.

But now we are getting different information coming in. I have no idea what they`re going to announce in an hour. Maybe there is a third person. But there`s something that points to the other direction. And here`s the question that was raised just last night. Was Shaniya sold by her own mother in order to pay off a drug debt? Nancy Grace explores this harrowing possibility last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NANCY GRACE, HLN ANCHOR: Reports emerging tonight that the life 5- year-old Shaniya was worth nothing more to the mother than payment on a drug debt?

SCOTT: Well, I hope that we can tell you that you`re wrong, but we do know, looking back, that there is a connection. That they have -- Antoinette Davis and Mario McNeil have been together. They`ve hung out together. There may have been a debt that needed to be paid. We are understanding that she may have owed him money. You, I, everyone are finding it hard to believe that a little girl`s life could be used as payment. We don`t want to believe that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Dr. Reef Karim, it seems like something that is just unbelievable, unthinkable. But you`re the addiction specialist. Where does the world of drugs take someone, even a mother? We know that there is one thing that can destroy maternal instincts, and there`s one thing only that can really pulverize maternal instincts, and that is drugs.

DR. REEF KARIM, ADDICTION SPECIALIST: Yes. You know, Jane, before I became an addiction specialist, when I was training, I would have thought this could never, ever happen. This is completely just out of the realm of possibility. And then I entered the world of addiction and saw what addiction does to people.

You know, when you`re under the influence of addiction, you`re basically hijacked. You`re not you anymore. You think in a very black and white way. All you care about are drugs, drugs, and more drugs.

You have a full-time job. Your job is to score drugs, use drugs, get high on drugs, and avoid withdrawal on drugs. And that will take to you some very, very scary places, including prostituting yourself, including selling your organs, including selling your children. It will take you to the scariest, scariest places we could, any of us, ever imagine.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Dr. Reef, it can also introduce you to the scariest people. This guy has a history of drugs and also a history of violence. He actually is accused of shooting somebody in the face at one point. So if you owe a guy like that money, and this is a hypothetical, but if you owe a guy like that money, the pressure is on. This is not something where you can say, "Come back to me next week. I`ll take care of you next week."

KARIM: Yes, from a financial standpoint, it`s scary. From the drugs itself standpoint, it`s scary. Where the dealers get the drugs makes it scary. Across the board, drugs equals drama, and the drama is never good for you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And violence. And violence.

KARIM: Drama...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s what my point is, is that you`re -- if you owe somebody who has got a long rap sheet and is an ex con and who has committed violence in the past money, you are going to be very, very terrified of that person. And if you combine that with a craving, well, forget it. You`re -- you`re done.

KARIM: Yes. Agree.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight`s big issue: is there a system overload? Well, yes. Shaniya`s devastated dad spoke out on Tuesday. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRADLEY LOCKHART, SHANIYA`S FATHER: It would be very fair to find themselves, and we all look within ourselves to see what we could have done different. I don`t know the whole case with Shaniya`s mother and social services at this time. But I feel if they would have known, they should have contacted me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, Brian Monroe, it`s not just the Department of Social Services. Law enforcement systems are collapsing from a clear case of overload. Case in point, this guy, alleged kidnapper Mario McNeil. 2003, he was convicted on three counts of assault in connection with a triple shooting and drug charges. He got probation. He violated probation. He went to prison for 2 1/2 years.

The following year, another drug charge, more probation. In April 2008, he was convicted again on drug possession and assault. He got two years probation. And they let him out six months early, because he did everything he was supposed to do. That may be the official reason.

But let`s face it: in this particular county, there`s 3,500 people on probation, and how many probation officers to watch them all? Fifty-six. You do the math.

BRIAN MONROE, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY`S MADILL SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM: You know, it is a system that is overtaxed. My family is actually from that area, just south of there in Scotland County. And we know that, while there are thousands of good, hardworking Christian families, black and white.

There`s also an overtaxed system that allows individuals like this to go in and out almost at will. That`s -- it`s almost hard to believe. What is worse? The monster, the monster that could have done what these allegations are with this beautiful little child, or the mother so strung out on drugs that she felt it was necessary to sell her daughter into the system? Or a system itself?

I wonder, even though we`re waiting for this press conference, I wonder if this is not the first time a process like this has happened where little children were bought and sold into a process just for drugs.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It happens all the time, Brian. All you have to do is Google "child sex prostitution," and hundreds of stories come up, Stacey.

HONOWITZ: Yes. And this is not unusual. I mean, unfortunately, you know, being in the system every single day and dealing with these cases where women do try to sell their children because of drugs or some other issues, sometimes they don`t have the motherly instinct and, quite frankly, they don`t want their kid. I mean, there was a case a couple weeks ago where someone just tried to sell their child. There was no rhyme or reason. I don`t know if there was a drug addiction.

But you know, we talk about the system overload. We really don`t know what to do in this case. People that are on drugs, do we keep them in? Do we let them out? Do we, you know, have more serious convicted felons go to prison? So you know...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`ll find (ph) that in a second, right back after the break. More on the search for Shaniya`s killer in just a moment. And we`re taking your calls. What do you think? What`s your theory? How do we end this: 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297.

Plus, a gay teenager mutilated and burned to death. A horrifying story, but it gets worse. The lead investigator allegedly blames the victim because he was gay.

But, first, who killed little Shaniya? Tonight, could new evidence help bring her killer to justice?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOCKHART: Don`t give up hope on me, and don`t give up on Shaniya. She`s right there with you. Just know my little baby`s up there with you is making me comfort right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAREY LOCKHART-DAVIS, SHANIYA DAVIS`S AUNT: The last time I saw Shaniya, it was four weeks ago on a Friday. I was in to visit her mother. I packed her two days` worth of clothes. I got her out of the car, and I kissed her good-bye and told her to be a good girl. She turned back to me and she said, "I love you, Aunt Carey" and "See you later."

I have to go. I`m sorry. No more questions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh! Shaniya`s devastated aunt, so overcome with grief she couldn`t even finish her thoughts there. Meantime, another emotionally-gripping moment on CBS this morning, when the mother of recently murdered 7-year-old, Somer Thompson, reached out to Shaniya`s devastated dad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DIENA THOMPSON, MOTHER OF SOMER THOMPSON: I actually would love to speak to Mr. Davis and let him know that I know exactly what he`s going through and that I`ve -- I`ve got a shoulder for him to lean on. And I can`t believe that a parent would ever be involved in hurting their own child.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Summer`s murder remains a mystery, but there could be a big break in that case, as well, tonight. We`re going to have more on that in a little bit.

Phone lines lighting up on the Shaniya death.

Pat in Florida, your question or thought, ma`am?

CALLER: Yes, ma`am. I heard last night where Shaniya`s half sister was being taken care of by a man by the name of Mr. Allen. And I`m just wondering what was going on with Shaniya`s father. Where, you know, he sent little Shaniya back to her. This other man is taking care of his other girl. You know, what is the situation with him? Do you know?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I understand, Angie Crouch, that this man that you`re looking at right here is the father of little dead, murdered Shaniya; does have several children by several different women.

CROUCH: Yes. Apparently, Shaniya had stayed with him part time, had stayed with a girlfriend of his, and just recently she had gone back to stay with the mother during the past month or so. The mother had pleaded with him to allow her to be given a chance to be a mother to Shaniya. He wanted to give her that chance. The little girl had been in her mother`s care for less than a month.

There are reports today that several, three people, who know this family went on local television and said that they saw cigarette burns on Shaniya`s body sometime during the past year or so. And so you talk about the probation system being overwhelmed. We know that the Department of Child and Family Services had been to the house, had been looking in on the well-being of Shaniya Davis, so a lot of questions are being asked tonight about who was looking over this child and who should have been making sure that she never ended up in a situation like this.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`re absolutely right. The man who cares for Shaniya`s 17 year old half sister made that shocking allegation when he spoke to CNN affiliate WRAL. Allen said Shaniya was abused when she was living in her mother`s home. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM ALLEN, CARES FOR SHANIYA`S HALF SISTER: His friends or boyfriends or whatever would put the cigarettes out on the baby`s arm.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, Brian Monroe, this is -- is really, really horrifying. And if we don`t use it as a turning point to come up with solutions, then we`re part of the problem.

And when I see all of this, all of this chaos, and a troubled mom having a dead child and a 7-year-old, and now she`s behind bars and pregnant again, what I think of is we are not having discussions in this society about family planning. We are not having discussions about birth control. We are not having discussions about condoms.

Oh, that may make some people uncomfortable, but it`s a lot more uncomfortable to talk about a dead child. We have to have these difficult conversations, and we have to break through the reluctance among some teenage men to even use condoms.

MONROE: It is. You`re right, Jane. There -- you know, in our society we have become comfortable with fathers having multiple children and mothers who become pregnant for a number of situations.

At the center is a little child, in this case, little Shaniya. But, you know, another part of this, too. I talked to the folks from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children today. Their Web site, MissingKids.org, is founded by -- founded by Adam [SIC] Walsh.

And, you know, 800,000 kids go missing every year. And basically, not all of them end up like this, but this is sad, and this is a big problem in America.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you so much, fantastic, panel.

Plus, a new wife breaks down after hearing about her husband`s murder. It`s a heart-wrenching story, but cops say the whole thing is made up, a wild reaction. We`re going to show it to you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: In tonight`s "Spotlight," an international movement to block a monkey-breeding farm, proposed for Puerto Rico, picks up speed. PETA is now suing to stop this project. A foreign company wants to rip these intelligent, social animals from their natural habitat, lock them up, breed them by the thousands, and make money selling their babies for painful laboratory testing.

Very few people in Puerto Rico even knew this was planned until we broke the story right here on ISSUES. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CINDY BADANO, PUERTO RICO BAR ASSOCIATION: Many on the island, including ourselves, found out that this is being built in the struggling (ph) part of the area, in Bristletown (ph), because we saw it on your show. We lived here, and we didn`t even know this was going on.

We already started our investigation, and we are just appalled at what we have found.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Famed primate expert Jane Goodall and Puerto Rican movie star Benicio Del Toro have publicly urged the governor of Puerto Rico to stop this project. After a local protest, Puerto Rico said it is now demanding a full-scale investigation, claiming there`s evidence of fraudulent payments to get permits.

Joining me now, Kathy Guillermo, vice president of laboratory investigations for PETA.

Kathy, Puerto Rico said it looked into this. What are the senators` concerns?

KATHY GUILLERMO, VICE PRESIDENT OF LABORATORY INVESTIGATIONS, PETA: Well, Jane, I think the senators are concerned because Bioculture apparently has a dollar sign where its heart should be. They`ve played fast and loose with the facts. They`re trying to cram this permit through so that they can begin breeding monkeys and making a profit.

They don`t seem to have any concern for the people of Puerto Rico. They don`t seem to have concern for the impact on the environment. And they don`t seem to care at all about the thousands of monkeys they`ll be breeding and selling to laboratories.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We have called the governor of Puerto Rico, trying to get a response to all of these criticisms, and we have not heard back as of air time.

The people of Puerto Rico are protesting this planned facility. Townspeople complain they weren`t told about it. Now that word`s out, many are outraged. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CHANTING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Puerto Rico Senator Melinda Romero is on the line.

Senator, do you want the governor to stop this project?

SEN. MELINDA ROMERO, MEMBER, PUERTO RICO SENATE: I think that most of the people in Puerto Rico are most definitely wanting him to stop this project. We are aware that the way that the permits were obtained last year, were made fraudulently. Bioculture has lied, not only to the permit officials but also to the Senate during the investigation.

And I think that eventually what will happen is Bioculture will not be able to open their doors. Fortunately, Puerto Rico has established legislation and have made into law the prohibition that these animals be introduced to the island. So this is one step that they would have to hurdle over, and they will not be able to do that in the Puerto Rico Senate. So we are definitely determined not to allow this to happen in Puerto Rico.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: There is a global movement, Kathy Guillermo, to stop this. Why?

GUILLERMO: Jane, I think because we`re concerned, first of all, for the people of Puerto Rico. But we`re concerned about also what happens to these animals.

This is a time when we know, more than ever before in history that experiments on animals are not effective. And when these monkeys are sold to laboratories, they will be addicted to cocaine. They will be addicted to alcohol. The tops of their heads will be cut off, the electrodes inserted in their brains. And worst of all, they`ll spend their entire lives in tiny cages without anything of value to them: no social interaction, no families.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`ve got to leave it right there. You`ve made an excellent point. Cathy Guillermo, Senator, thank you so much.

And Bioculture and governor, you want to come on, we`ll talk to you.

A teenage boy burned, tortured, mutilated. Cops say it`s because of his sexuality. His arms, legs, head ripped off his body. We`ll cover the case.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: A horrifying hate crime, too graphic for TV. A gay teenager killed, mutilated, set on fire; his arms, legs, and head ripped off his body. Now the gay community is outraged at police.

A woman is accused of trying to kill her new husband three times. She was caught on tape giving an undercover cop instructions to kill her hubby. Cops set up the entire thing, even telling this woman her husband was already killed. It is video that you have to see to belief; an Oscar- worthy performance.

Is homophobia behind the grisly murder of a young man who was decapitated, dismembered and set on fire? The mutilated body of 19-year- old Jorge Lopez Mercado was discovered Friday dumped on the side of a road in Puerto Rico.

Gay activists are demanding that this killing be investigated as a hate crime. The prosecutor says the suspect, 27-year-old Juan Martinez Matos, has confessed. He told the reporter, quote, "What happened happened because I defended myself. I cut him and beheaded him and I accept it as a man." A man?

Martinez reportedly picked up the victim in an area where prostitution is common. A prosecutor says the victim was dressed as woman and Martinez killed him after discovering he was actually a man.

Meantime, a lead investigator has ignited a firestorm of controversy by appearing to blame the victim.

Straight to my fantastic expert panel: Jason Marsden, executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation -- so glad to have you here; psychiatrist Dr. Reef Karim; joining me on the phone, Senator Melinda Romero of Puerto Rico; and Pedro Julio Serrano, a friend of the victim`s who attended the murdered teenager`s funeral today.

Pedro, I understand that a vigil in Puerto Rico is about to start at any moment. Paint a picture; what`s the reaction in Puerto Rico to this horrific murder and how it`s being handled?

PEDRO JULIO SERRANO, FRIEND OF THE VICTIM (via telephone): I just have to say that this is one of the most brutal and heinous crimes we`ve ever witnessed in Puerto Rico. And the indignation, the sorrow, the calls to action from not only the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community but also from the people of Puerto Rico that are outrage at this horrible, horrible crime. It`s just starting.

And we are about to start a vigil in honor of him at one of the events that the community already had showcased but we`re going to have an even bigger demonstration in the following weeks. And it`s going to be a huge massive manifestation of the anger and the indignation and just a call to action to end this type of hate crime in Puerto Rico.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hear, hear. And I`m right there with you. This is beyond the pale of horror.

The Puerto Rico Police Department removed the lead investigator for the case after he made some shocking comments about the victim. He was reported as saying, quote, "People who lead this type of lifestyle need to be aware that this will happen."

Pedro, personally, I think this cop should be fired immediately. What are you demanding down there?

SERRANO: Well, right now we are demanding a full investigation on to his expressions and just to be removed from the police force. And not only that but also that the whole police department and the justice system in Puerto Rico are, again, trained on dealing with this type of hate crimes because we have a law in place, local law since 2002. And we`ve had more than 20 murders that have been a similar and probably have been hate crimes and none of them have been processed and none of them have been solved. And we have been calling for this to be an issue in Puerto Rico.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: If this horrific murder is prosecuted as a hate crime, it will be in large part thanks to the ground breaking work done by the family of Matthew Shepard. We remember this case; Matthew was pistol- whipped, tortured, and left to die in a remote area in Wyoming. His body was found tied to a fence in rural Wyoming in 1998. Matthew`s killers targeted him because he was gay. They tried to use the gay panic defense arguing temporary insanity due to Matthew`s alleged sexual advances. Both men got life sentences.

Jason Marsden, you`re the executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, do you think we`re going to see the gay panic defense in this case as well?

JASON MARSDEN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MATTHEW SHEPARD FOUNDATION: Jane, it seems like that`s already being reported in some of the breaking reports that are coming out of from Puerto Rico. The defense attorney for the accused is claiming a panic reaction to the fact that Mr. Lopez was a man and the assailant apparently mistook him for a biological woman and is now claiming in some media reports that came out today that this was enough to trigger a panic attack on his part and cause this incredibly just breathtakingly brutal attack.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Here`s my big issue. Are thugs who assault gays actually ashamed of their own repressed feelings vis-a-vis the same sex?

It`s not clear whether the suspect and victim had sexual contact before the attack but the suspect did pick up the teenage boy in an area known for prostitution. The suspect claims he had no idea, this boy who was dressed as a woman was a male.

Guess what, Dr. Reef Karim, I don`t buy it. There`s the Adam`s apple and there`s various other obvious indicators when a man dresses as a woman. Do you believe he could have had a subconscious desire to have sex with a man and then become overwhelmed with shame and attacked him because he was suddenly being confronted with his own repressed homosexual feelings?

DR. REEF KARIM, PSYCHIATRIST: Yes, that absolutely happens in some cases and it maybe obvious in this case.

The mention of panic attacks blows me away in regards to this. A panic attack, when you`re overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety where you get -- you get short of breath and your heart beats really fast and all the rest of that stuff does not lead to violence. You don`t suddenly attack somebody because you`re having a panic attack. I`ve never understood that defense and I really hope that defense doesn`t carry any weight here.

The other thing I want to mention is the concept of hate crimes and the psychology behind hate crimes. Hate crimes are not a crime against a person. It`s not just a personal attack. It`s a crime against -- psychologically against an entire group of people to intimidate them, to violate their beliefs, to show them that they are not accepted and to make them feel less than or less than even human because of their belief system.

And in our country, obviously all of us are protected by the same laws and I think that this is a horrific incident and I hope something good comes out of this.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, we are delighted to have Melinda Romero, a member of the Puerto Rican Senate with us tonight on the phone. Senator Romero, you`ve been listening to this conversation, what are your thoughts? What is the reaction among the lawmakers in Puerto Rico?

SENATOR MELINDA ROMERO, PUERTO RICO: Well, most definitely this is, as was said before, one of the most heinous crimes ever committed in Puerto Rico. I don`t recall ever hearing of such a gruesome, gruesome attack on anybody. I think that more than just a hate crime towards a group of gays -- a group of gay people, it`s a crime against the Puerto Rican people and just simply the rest of humanity.

The Senators and the House of Representatives are obviously in an up roar about this and have definitely started to look into the case of the investigator that made all of these horrific comments about this crime and there will be an investigation into what are...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Do you think that police officer, that investigator should be fired, Senator.

ROMERO: Well, I`m not really -- I`ve never heard the officer make the comments but if he indeed made these comments, he most definitely has to be fired from the force. And I think there`s a big movement towards that, that he not be permitted in the force. And I think that the superintendent right now is a very serious person and he`s working to deal with this issue in the most appropriate manner possible.

But I think it`s going to be a very difficult situation and it`s not going to be a happy ending for anybody, unfortunately.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Jason Marsden -- thank you, senator -- Jason Marsden, this has to be prosecuted as hate crime, right?

MARSDEN: Obviously, investigators are already stating that they are investigation on the premise of this was a hate crime. One thing that really has been a telling mark of a hate crime is this overkill factor of violence. It was evident in Matt Shepard`s case, it`s evident in this case that the incredibly over the top amount of brutality is often a sign that someone is trying to truly destroy not only a victim but their identity and people like them.

The initial charges would...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s pray that he not die in vain. We are out of time. But Jason Marsden and all my guests, thank you so much.

It has been one month since Somer Thompson was kidnapped, murdered and dumped in the trash. Her killer still on the loose; are cops any closer to solving this murder?

And an unhappy wife gives the performance of a lifetime. She burst into tears when she heard about her husband`s death but cops say that she was the one who hired the hit man. And there`s a real surprise, her husband is still alive. It`s an unbelievable story.

Are you confused? We`re going to sort it out for you and take your calls. 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And let`s meet today`s winner, Amy in Big Rapids, Michigan. Amy says that she was hooked on alcohol, pills, crack; anything to numb the pain. At one point, doctors gave her 72 hours to either get clean or die.

After placing her addiction before everything else for 22 years, she got into recovery. Amy has stayed sober for more than a year now. And she`s got a sobriety dog there. Good job Amy. Fantastic. We wish you the very best. Way to go.

For sharing your wonderful story you`re going to be getting an autographed copy of my book "I Want." Plus a chance to win a trip to New York City and visit me here on the set of ISSUES; maybe you can bring your dog with you.

If you`re struggling with addiction or know somebody who is, check out my new book "I Want". It`s my story of recovery available at cnn.com/jane. It might help you.

A wife allegedly hires a hit man to kill her husband and then gives the cop a tearful, like Oscar-worthy performance; it`s all caught on tape. That in just a minute.

But first, "Top of the Block" tonight: such a sad story. It was one month ago today when 7-year-old Somer Thompson disappeared as she was walking home from school. Two days later her little body found in a landfill. Since then, Somer`s mom has been on a rollercoaster ride of emotion. She expressed her frustration to the CBS "Early Show" just this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DIENA THOMPSON, SOMER`S MOTHER: I fear for not only my safety, my children`s safety, but everyone else`s in my community`s children`s safety. There`s a monster among us and he needs to be brought to justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: There have been no arrests in this case but there is hope. Listen to what Thompson`s lawyer told CBS.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL FREED, ATTORNEY FOR THOMPSON FAMILY: Based on the information they`ve provided that they have the person that did this under observation, maybe amongst other people. They are waiting for certain scientific evidence to come back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That is fantastic news. Let`s hope it`s just a matter of time until justice is served in this case.

We will stay on top of this story right here on ISSUES. That is tonight`s "Top of the Block".

Third time is the charm? Not for one wife with murder on her mind. Dalia Dippolito allegedly tried to kill her husband three times but don`t worry. He`s alive. Thanks to an elaborate, really bright sting by police.

Cops say the wannabe black widow hired a hit man to off her hubby. What she didn`t know was that her hit man was an undercover cop. Police hid her husband at the station and then staged, get this, a fake murder scene at her house. She comes home and thinks that the job is done. He`s done with. And her husband is dead.

Check out these crocodile tears.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DALIA DIPPOLITO: No. No. No. Oh, my gosh. Please. No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell us everything you know about who he knows...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Cops say this was just an acting job. Dalia was shocked when police arrested. She was even more shocked to see her husband Michael was still alive.

Check this out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DIPPOLITO: Oh, my God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s alive.

DIPPOLITO: Come here, please. Come here. Mike, come here. Come here, please. Come here. Oh my God, what`s wrong? Mike, come here, please.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What is wrong? What is wrong is you made a big mistake, lady, allegedly. This is unbelievable. Cops say she tried to get her husband killed before. She once allegedly tried to get him arrested by planting drugs in his car. She also allegedly tried to poison him by pouring antifreeze into his Starbucks.

Lovely. How creative. Ever heard of divorce?

Right now, she`s under house arrest charged with solicitation to commit first-degree murder. You know we can laugh because this man, thank God, is alive. That`s the only reason we can smile about this story. And we`re happy to be able to do so.

Straight out to my fabulous expert panel: joining us tonight Missy Diaz, reporter for the "Sun Sentinel"; and also joining us, attorneys for Dalia`s soon-to-be ex-husband Michael Dippolito; and we`re talking to Joshua Friedman and Jason Brody. Thank you, gentlemen.

First out, to Missy Diaz, I`m almost -- I don`t know whether to ask what is the very latest on this one.

MISSY DIAZ, REPORTER, "SUN SENTINEL": Well, just this week, Jane, the state attorneys office released hundreds and hundreds of pages of evidence in discovery in the case, including about ten hours of audio and videotape that was all done under surveillance.

And we learned, you know, a lot more detail about the case, including that this was allegedly the third time that Dalia Dippolito tried to kill her husband in just six months of marriage.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Third time not a charm. In a recorded conversation between Dalia and the undercover officer posing as a hit man, he even offers her a way out. He says, "Are you sure?" But she still insists on going ahead with this horrific plan.

Listen to this conversation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DIPPOLITO: There is no changing, no. There is no, like...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You definitely want to do this?

DIPPOLITO: I`m positive like 5000 percent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Dalia says she is 5,000 percent sure. Police say she paid this fake hitman $1,200 as a down payment.

On the tape, the 26-year-old can also be seen showing the hitman photos of her husband and explaining how the (INAUDIBLE) system in the newly-wed couple`s home works.

Jason Brody, I laugh because your client, thank God, is alive and can actually watch all of this and that none of it worked. This is one of the craziest things I`ve ever seen. What does your client, the soon-to-be ex-husband`s reaction to this insanity?

JASON BRODY, ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL DIPPOLITO: Well, he is -- he is thankful to be alive. He`s very thankful to the informant. He`s very thankful to the Boynton Beach police for catching Dalia and arresting here.

From the moment it`s happened, it`s been pure and utter shock for him and it`s still shocking to him and he`s in a matter of disbelief. It`s very surreal for him right now.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Surreal for all of us. There he is. There`s the lucky fellow who didn`t die despite the antifreeze.

Michael Dippolito doesn`t understand why his wife would want him dead. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL DIPPOLITO, WIFE TRIED TO KILL HIM THREE TIMES: Just divorce me and take everything. I mean that`s the best way right? I mean, I don`t understand.

There was a lot of funny stuff going on. I overlooked a lot of things and you know, you try and look -- see the best in people, not the worst.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, what is Joshua, the motive here? Money, I suspect?

JOSHUA FRIEDMAN, MICHAEL DIPPOLITO`S ATTORNEY: We believe it might be money. Jane in fact if you read our petition for divorce, our amended petition we do state in there that we believe it`s financial gain and money-driven.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Of course it`s money. Why would anybody else -- why would you do this when you could divorce a person and walk away?

And I understand that this woman is a professional escort? That`s her -- that`s her job description, Joshua, yes or no?

FRIEDMAN: That was how they initially met. However, Michael thought they had moved past that in their relationship but that was how they initially met.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, there you go. That does give you some insight into this case. Everybody, stay right where you are. We`re going to have more, play more video of this woman`s apparent Oscar-worthy performance after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

D. DIPPOLITO: I didn`t do anything. And I didn`t plot anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Of course you didn`t. That was Dalia Dippolito. She denies she hired a hit man and plotted his murder.

Police arrested Dalia after staging an elaborate -- and I must say brilliant -- fake murder scene. They have everything from Dalia`s fake tears of grief to her plotting the crime on camera, caught on tape.

Back out to my expert panel. Phone lines lighting up. Mike, Wisconsin, your question or thought, sir? Mike?

MIKE, WISCONSIN (via telephone): Hi.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hi. How are you doing?

MIKE: Pretty good, how are you?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Good, what`s your question or thought, sir?

MIKE: I just, not that you`d have any idea of why is this but I`ve been trying to figure out to myself why any couple has to plan or plot to kill their spouses just to get something stupid as money, kids or house or something that`s as simple as that? I don`t understand what the point in killing somebody is.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Mike, I think you have a point. In the sense that I don`t think people always kill just over one thing. And often they don`t even know why they`re doing it. They may harbor a deep-seeded resentment against somebody. And then they find a conscious reason to justify doing something against them when their resentment may be based on something completely different.

Usually people like this are angry. They`re angry at the world. They feel cheated. They feel like victims themselves and they feel somehow entitled to lash out at some target that they select.

My big issue tonight, too many b-movies for this young lady? People see this stuff on TV and the movies and they think, hey, I can do that. And you know it looks like that`s where they`re also picking up their acting tips.

Look again at Dalia Dippolito`s reaction to finding out her husband was dead, even though she allegedly plotted his murder and he wasn`t dead anyway but she thinks he is. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(DALIA DIPPOLITO CRYING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m laughing because this is so over the top. Who wants to take it, Jason or Joshua? Come on, Jason, when you see this, first of all, why the heck is she under house arrest? Did I hear that?

BRODY: She is under house arrest. And that was done at the beginning of the case.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Why isn`t she behind bars practicing her acting skills on other convicts?

BRODY: Well, when we first went and got involved in the case, we were able to work with the state attorney and Michael and they`d reduced the amount of space she could go. Originally she could go to work; she could go to the backyard of her moth house where she is staying.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: No, no.

JASON: Now, she can only stay there. We got in after the fact after this is all done so you`ve got to understand this.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: This is wrong. This woman belongs behind bars as she awaits her fate.

Where does this case stand, Joshua Friedman, briefly?

FRIEDMAN: Briefly, the divorce case is in the discovery process. We`re also monitoring the progress of the criminal case. But the state`s doing their own case. But on the divorce case we`re really in the discovery case.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: When is this trial starting?

FRIEDMAN: The trial in the divorce case is not yet set for the divorce case.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And this woman is not behind bars after all of this. There`s something really totally kooky with our criminal justice system. It`s like what, because, she has a good hairdo, she gets to stay home? Or other people -- oh, I`m covering a case right now where a woman could be going to jail for 15 years because she cut a line at Wal-Mart and lost her temper. And yet this woman when they have everything caught on tape and she has tried allegedly three times to kill her spouse, once allegedly with antifreeze, she`s under house arrest?

It`s -- I want to pull my hair out in tufts.

You`re watching ISSUES on HLN.

END