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Missing Woman`s E-mails Hinted at Trouble; Heenes Get Jail Time for Balloon Hoax

Aired December 23, 2009 - 19:00:00   ET



JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, dark, disturbing insight into the missing Utah mother. Friends say new e-mails just given to police allegedly describe a troubled marriage and a woman who feared her husband. A friend says Susan told her if she ended up dead, it wouldn`t be suicide. She`s been missing for more than two weeks. Did Susan see this coming?

Tonight, we have stunning new information about a prepaid cell phone. Could this be the break police need?

And 15 minutes of fame turns into 90 days in jail. The so-called master mind hind the Balloon Boy hoax is headed to jail. We`ll have his tearful apology. And what about his wife? Will she be spending any time behind bars?

Also, a holiday homecoming, a 15-year-old boy doused in alcohol and set on fire finally leaves the hospital. He has burns on 80 percent of his body. His mom calls it a Christmas miracle.

Plus head-spinning new details in the death of Brittany Murphy, the Hollywood star dead at the age of 32. TMZ now says a slew of prescription drugs was found on her night stand. Did this lead to her death?

ISSUES starts now.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, mounting evidence that missing Utah mom Susan Powell, who vanished two weeks ago, might never return home again. Stunning new claims. Susan`s friends say she seemed to be in fear of her husband Josh. "The Deseret News" reports that police are now in possession of chilling e-mails sent by Susan to her friends in June and July of 2008.

In one purported e-mail, she says she is afraid Josh might kidnap the children. In another, she mentions making sure no one ever thinks she committed suicide, especially her boys. Did she sense something horrible was going to happen to her? We`re going to talk about that big issue coming up.

The shocking developments echo what one friend of the couple told NBC News on Monday.


RACHEL MARINI, FRIEND OF SUSAN POWELL: Over the eight years it got progressively worse, and Josh became more and more controlling. And it was harder for her to remain herself and remain the happy person that she was. He controlled everything in their marriage, from the money that Susan spent to what groceries she could buy, what she could eat.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Meanwhile, could a prepaid cell phone that Josh Powell allegedly bought give cops details about where he was driving in that rental car in the days immediately after Susan disappeared?

HLN affiliate ABC 4 News in Salt Lake City spoke to one of Powell`s neighbors by the name of Tim Peterson. Now, Peterson says Josh told him about his new phone and new clothes but wouldn`t discuss Susan. And that`s not all. The neighbor says Josh had the worst case of wind burn he`d ever seen, along with bright red hands that he kept rubbing with lotion.

Josh has been interviewed by cops three times. Now they`ve also taken his DNA. He says he and his lawyer are cooperating. Cops say, "Unh-uh, he`s not cooperating."

You know what, Josh? How about a polygraph to clear it all up?

Let`s go straight out to my fantastic expert panel, which includes Doug Williams, a polygraph expert and decorated veteran of the Oklahoma City Police Department; Mark Eiglarsh, criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor; Steve Kardian, former criminal investigator and director of Defend University. And we begin with Michelle Sigona, investigative reporter par excellence and founder of

Michelle, compared to all the missing women cases you`ve covered, and you`ve covered a lot, how does the evidence in this one stack up so far?

MICHELLE SIGONA, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Well, Jane, let`s talk about that evidence. I can confirm to you that five search warrants have been executed: three inside the Powell home, one for Josh Powell`s DNA. Also one for the family minivan.

I can also tell you that investigators at this time are working on a sixth warrant which will go towards that rental car. Police do tell me that he did drive for hundreds of miles, the Tuesday after Sunday went missing, that Sunday. That Tuesday evening Josh Powell was gone. They cannot account for his whereabouts. They have no clue where he went.

In addition, Susan Powell, they can -- police will say they do have circumstantial evidence to prove that, No. 1, she did not walk away from that house on her own. They do believe that foul play is suspected.

In addition, her friends are coming forward with e-mails, notebooks, information on history of their marriage, especially from the dates of June to July 2008, when their marriage was reportedly the worst it had ever been, up until this point in 2009. And there was evidently a prepaid cell phone that was purchased from Wal-Mart that could help investigators pinpoint that period of time that they cannot find where Josh Powell was located.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, Doug Williams, here`s what I don`t understand. The husband comes home. He has an unlikely story about going camping in the middle of the night with his two young sons in sub-freezing weather. They confiscate his minivan. He goes to rent a car, but from what we`re hearing, they don`t know where he drove.

Wouldn`t they have had a tail on him at that point? Wouldn`t they have been following him to see where he was going and then follow that rent-a-car?

DOUG WILLIAMS, POLYGRAPH EXPERT/VETERAN OF OKLAHOMA CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT: One would think that they would certainly have done something like that and at least keep him under some sort of a surveillance, but I don`t understand a lot of what Salt Lake City police do or why they do it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, Susan Powell`s friend, likely one of the last people to see her alive, joined me last night, and she said something that surprised all of us. Listen.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Was anything off at all in their interaction?

JOVANNA OWINGS, FRIEND OF SUSAN POWELL: No, there wasn`t. It seemed like a very, very nice, normal, beautiful Sunday evening.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Did they do anything affectionate to each other, like give each other a peck on the cheek or kiss on the lips or a hug?

OWINGS: It was affectionate in that Josh sensed that Susan was chilled, and he gave her a blanket and covered her up with that. And she thanked him for that and called attention to how kind he was to do that.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Fascinating. Because it stands in stark contrast to today`s breaking news about the disturbing e-mails from Susan that her friends turned over to police.

Tonight`s big issue: was she predicting trouble ahead? "The Deseret News" reports one friend insisted Susan said she was afraid that Josh would kidnap the kids. The same friend said Susan mentioned writing something and leaving it in her desk at work so no one ever think she committed suicide.

Now you remember police say they found a notebook in her office in which she allegedly detailed threats against her. Susan apparently talked about divorce but was reportedly conflicted about it. Mark Eiglarsh, how do you reconcile all these conflicting accounts?

MARK EIGLARSH, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You might not be able to. He might be guilty. That`s one option. In the court of public opinion, many believe that he is, particularly with this -- these outrageous interviews he`s been giving and the stories that just don`t make sense.

However, I`ll tell you right now. Based on what we are hearing -- we haven`t heard everything. They`ve taken DNA samples from him and that`s going to be key. But what we`re hearing right now, while it`s OK in the public court to convict him, it`s woefully insufficient to convict him in a court of law. So they better have something that ties him to some crime scene, because right now, while very strong circumstantial evidence, it`s not sufficient.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And right, Mark, because once they arrest him, doesn`t the clock start ticking?

EIGLARSH: Absolutely.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So they have only a certain amount of time to file charges against him, or they have to let him go.

EIGLARSH: Speedy trial, baby. You`ve got to make sure you have all your ducks in a row before you put on the silver bracelets. So they`re waiting. He`s not going anywhere. So don`t make the arrest; don`t rush to judgment. Don`t let us defense lawyers say, "You immediately targeted him. You didn`t look at anybody else, and you made a quick decision."

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s why I think they would have had to have followed his rental car and had -- had more information about that trip than they`re revealing right now.

So let`s recap and review Josh Powell`s comings and goings, starting with the questionable camping trip. Listen to this.


JOSH POWELL, HUSBAND OF SUSAN POWELL: A lot of times I just go camping with my boys, you know, not anything big. I just go overnight. And we do s`mores and stuff like that. And so I just went with the boys. I was planning to do some s`mores in the morning.

And then when we got home -- well, on the way home, I found out that people were worried about us. And we were missing.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: A lot of hesitation in those answers. Powell told cops Susan was home when he left with his 2- and 4-year-old sons for a midnight camping trip in sub-freezing temperatures and snow. He comes back late Monday afternoon, doesn`t call in sick to work Monday. He says he lost track of the days.

Cops then confiscate his van as part of the investigation. He then allegedly rents a car and puts hundreds of miles on it in just two days. He also allegedly buys a prepaid cell phone at Wal-Mart.

Steve Kardian, what do investigators need to do to find out where he went in the rental car and who he called on the prepaid phone?

STEVE KARDIAN, FORMER CRIMINAL INVESTIGATOR: Well, I really like the fact that they have identified that he did purchase that prepaid cell phone, because that`s going to have a story. It`s almost like using your credit card, Jane. It`s going to show where a phone call was made from. It`s going to show the date, time and the numbers which he called or received a call from. So that`s a big.

With regard to the car, I mean, if I was running this investigation, I would have tailed him from day one. I don`t understand why that wasn`t done.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. I just can`t imagine. Maybe they did. Maybe they`re not saying because they`re thinking, "Eh, I`m going to pretend like I don`t know where he went and see what he says about where he went."

Everybody stay right where you are. We`re playing detective on this one. We`re all over the desperate search for this missing Utah mom.

Plus a teenage boy set on fire returns home just in time for the holidays. His mom calls it a Christmas miracle. So how`s he doing? We`re going to talk to his doctor.

But first, the search for Susan. We now have e-mails, records of a prepaid cell phone and a rental car, allegedly with lots miles on it. Is the evidence stacking up? Are cops any closer to making an arrest?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What time did you go camping, would you say?

POWELL: You know, I got off to a pretty late start.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nine-ish, something like that?

POWELL: No, it was -- it was later.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where do you guys camp?

POWELL: We went down south to the -- to some trails down there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you mean like Nowak (ph) area?





MARINI: His story just doesn`t add up, and so I think it was only a matter of time before it came to this.

If Susan -- if he had told Susan, "Hey, I`m going to take the boys out camping, and you know, it`s 10 degrees out, it`s a blizzard, and we have school the next day," she would have said no way, and she wouldn`t have let him.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That was from NBC`s "Today" Show. Last night here on ISSUES, we talked about cops feeling pressure to arrest Josh.

Michelle Sigona, if Josh is innocent and he wants to clear all this mess up, wouldn`t it be in his best interest to cooperate? I`ll give the example of Ed Smart. His precious daughter was abducted. Thank God she was found safe. He knew he was under the microscope. At the beginning, they were looking at him. He decided, "I`m going to cooperate to the full extent. I want to clear up any focus on me so that we can go after the real killer [SIC]," so he answered every question. Is Josh doing that?

SIGONA: Well, at this time, what police are telling me is that Josh has come forward with his lawyer, but he`s only answering generic questions. He will not go into detail: anything about Susan`s history, anything about their relationship, anything about any enemies she may have had or anything like that, and it`s really hindering their investigation.

So I`m not too sure why he wouldn`t come forward. But if really does, this case really parallels the other two missing moms in Illinois, where both of their husbands are still persons of interest. They have not graduated to be suspects. And it`s more than two years later in the Lisa Stebic and the Stacy Peterson cases. So I just hope in this case...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And in the Stacy case she also had a foreshadowing and told people that she was concerned about her safety, correct, Michelle?

SIGONA: Correct. And also, Lisa`s case, I mean, Lisa and her husband Craig, they were living in the same home. But they had -- she feared -- she had a fear for her safety, as well. So again, I`m not saying that any of these people are suspects. They`re only persons of interest at this point.

EIGLARSH: Well, come on now.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, come on. I mean, let`s talk about Drew Peterson. I mean, he`s accused of murder of wife No. 3, correct, Mark Eiglarsh?

EIGLARSH: Absolutely. And I don`t buy this "Well, we`ll call them a person of interest." You`re either off the hook, and they say, "Get out of here. We`re not going to follow you." Or you need to get a lawyer like he did, take all the advice from the lawyer.

And if I`m his lawyer, I tell him, like most good defense lawyers, "Don`t say a word. That`s it. Do not cooperate."


EIGLARSH: "You are their sole suspect, and they will absolutely bury you."

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mark -- Steve, back me up. I disagree with you. If he nothing to hide, he wants to find his wife and he wants to find out if there`s something else responsible, he should tell them everything, right?

KARDIAN: Absolutely, Jane. Law enforcement can`t move on in any way, shape or form, until they discount or include him in this process, which they`ve done. He is the only suspect. And...


SIGONA: No, no, no, absolutely not. Investigators told me yesterday that they are -- they do have other persons of interest in this case, that he is not sole person of interest, as is being reported throughout the media. But they`re not coming forward with those names yet.

EIGLARSH: I`m not lying, there`s dozens others out there.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... confuse people about who he would be calling on a prepaid cell phone? In other words, if -- if there`s any real truth behind why investigators are pursuing him, who would he be calling on that prepaid cell phone? I don`t get it.

Let me move forward as we really kind of set out the table here as to what police are dealing with. We`ve got shocking new claims about Josh`s bizarre behavior just days after his wife went missing coming from the Powell`s own neighbor. That man, Tim Peterson, spoke to NBC News on Monday. Listen.


TIM PETERSON, NEIGHBOR: If it was me and my wife was missing, I`d be going out of my mind. And he just sat there with this blank stare on his face and said, "Well, the police are dealing with that."


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tim Peterson told HLN affiliate ABC-4 News in Salt Lake City that Josh came over to his house Wednesday -- and remember, Susan vanished just a couple of days earlier, Sunday -- and told him about a new phone he bought and asked for a ride to pick up the van the cops had confiscated.

Peterson says Powell had the worst case of wind burn he`d ever seen along with bright red hands. Peterson speculated to ABC-4 that Powell might have gone out back to the campground in that rental car, because he had put several hundred miles on that rental car. He also chapped skin and was using lotion to continuously rub his hands, according to this neighbor.

Doug Williams, what do you make of it?

WILLIAMS: Well, obviously, he`s, you know -- he`s got an attorney, and his attorney is telling him, you know, just exactly what was said earlier.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Should he take a polygraph?

WILLIAMS: Well, of course he should from the investigator`s standpoint, because a polygraph basically is just a thinly disguised excuse to get a person in the hands of a very well-trained interrogator to interrogate them as long as they would like.

I remember when I first got back from polygraph school. I was called out in the middle of the night to run a polygraph test on a suspect on a murder. I go in there, and I run my polygraph test. And I come out, and I`m telling the captain and the detectives my best scientific pose about me that, yes, it`s my considered opinion that this person is lying.

He said, "Well, hell yes, he`s lying. That`s not what you`re here for. You`re here to get a confession. Now go in there and interrogate the man."

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, that`s fascinating. So they use the polygraph as sort of an instrument, an investigative tool, to ask them questions?

WILLIAMS: Absolutely. It`s a psychological billy club that will coerce a confession out of the dull and the ignorant.


WILLIAMS: Any lawyer that has any brains at all is going to say stay away from that thing.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right -- Mark.

EIGLARSH: Yes, Jane, that`s what they do. So glad that someone else other than me has brought that to your attention. The bottom line is, if he passed it with, quote, "flying colors" as people refer to it, they`re not going to set him free with this amount of evidence.

WILLIAMS: Absolutely not. Absolutely not, and they`re going to -- they`re going to continue on investigating.

EIGLARSH: One other possibility is maybe he was up to no good, but it falls short of doing what they`re alleging he did. And so that`s why he looks guilty.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: One at a time, please.

WILLIAMS: You would think, though, that the Salt Lake City would kind of get used to the problems with the polygraph. It`s very sadly ironic that, while they were polygraphing Smart and Elizabeth Smart`s dad and their uncle and all the people involved in it...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you, fantastic panel. We are going to stay on top of that story.

Also, who can forget Balloon Boy? How much time will the Heenes be spending in jail for this stupid little publicity stunt?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Breaking news out of Denver. Richard and Mayumi Heene, parents of Balloon Boy, will pay for their stupid hoax with jail time. A judge slapped them with a total of 110 days in jail and eight years probation and prohibited them from making any money off the balloon fiasco during the sentence.

The Heenes thought they had us fools back in October. Remember, Mayumi called 911, frantic her 6-year-old son Falcon was up, up and away in a homemade balloon? We all feared the worst. Yes, well, not so much.

The same night, the Heenes appeared on CNN. That`s when little Falcon gave the answer that launched a thousand questions.


FALCON HEENE, BALLOON BOY: Um, you guys said that we did this for a show.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, wow, that`s going to go down in history.

Today in court, dad Richard broke down in tears. More on that in a sec.

First a man who knows Richard well. Robert Thomas worked with Richard on his reality show ideas but did not collaborate with him on this moronic stunt. And of course, Mark Eiglarsh here for the legal stuff.

Robert, you thought this was an idea for a show, nothing more, right? Nothing illegal?

ROBERT THOMAS, HAS WORKED WITH RICHARD HEENE: Yes, that`s correct. This was -- initially, it was just supposed to be a proposal for a reality series, and actually, I typed out 52 ideas for episodes. And No. 16 just so happened to be exactly what happened.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow. Do you think he just got carried away? What -- put yourself in his mind and try to explain to us, what the heck was he thinking?

THOMAS: I think that he kind of got desperate. You know, I know they`ve been trying for a long time to get a show. And you know, desperate times call for desperate measures. And I think in this case, he really wanted to get that attention. And I think that he was under the impression that, by facilitating this hoax, that the media would not only be all over it, but in turn he would get his reality series.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Richard Heene turned on the tears today in court, apparently to no avail. Listen to this.


RICHARD HEENE, FATHER OF BALLOON BOY: I`m very, very sorry. And I want to apologize to -- all the rescue workers out there, and the people that got involved in the community.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Robert, how humiliated -- humiliated do you think he was?

THOMAS: Honestly, I don`t buy it. You know, I think he`s a terrible actor. I think he`s acting right there. I mean crocodile tears, you know?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me ask you, Mark Eiglarsh, they say that he couldn`t make any money off of this. How -- isn`t that a First Amendment issue? How could they really stop him from ever -- during the time of his probation, eight years, doing anything that might capitalize on this?

EIGLARSH: Because he agreed to it. Ultimately, he had the right to go to trial, and in lieu of going to trial, which was a smart thing to do, to give up those rights, he agreed to a plea bargain, and in doing so, he agreed to these special conditions. So he`s not going to be challenging this, because he agreed to it and got the benefit of it. Only 90 days. It could have been 120, could have 180. The prosecutors could made have made it 270. They could have handed whatever they wanted to him.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I guess he`s going to have to go for a reality show in his mind. Thank you so much, fantastic guests.

Sad story here. Dowsed in alcohol, set on fire, a teenage boy lucky to be alive. Now his mom giving -- getting her Christmas wish. This brave young man headed home for the holidays.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: A holiday homecoming. A 15-year-old boy dowsed in alcohol and set on fire finally leaves the hospital. He has burns on 80 percent of his body. His mom calls it a Christmas miracle.

Plus head-spinning new details in the death of Brittany Murphy. The Hollywood star dead at the age of 32. TMZ now says a slew of prescription drugs was found on her night stand. Did this lead to other death?

His mother calls it a Christmas miracle. Fifteen-year-old Michael Brewer was dowsed with alcohol and set on fire by his own so-called friends. He had to jump into a swimming pool in a desperate effort to put out the flames.

Michael`s injuries were so severe, doctors thought he might not survive, but tonight, Michael is out of the hospital and with his family for the holidays. Listen to his mom on CBS`s "The Early Show".


VALERIE BREWER, MOTHER OF BURN VICTIM: We thought that we would be here -- we would be at the hospital for a year. This is definitely a Christmas miracle.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: But there is still a long painful journey ahead. Here are some brand new photos of Michael in physical therapy. His mom described these therapy sessions as torture.

Listen to this.


BREWER: It`s incredibly painful, he almost cries because it`s so painful. He`s walking steps. He`s burnt badly on the backs of his knees and every time he moves his knee, it pulls and if it`s healing, it`s got a scab on it, it cracks and starts to bleed. So it`s incredibly painful.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: The doctors say if Michael can push through the pain he will regain full use of his arms and legs. He will even be able to play sports one day. Michael has already undergone three skin grafts, imagine that. And he can now walk on his own.

A family friend tells the "L.A. Times" Michael got his Christmas wish. Here at ISSUES we certainly hope Michael`s recovery continues at this miraculous rate and then he will eventually be able to go back to being a regular young teenager and that handsome boy that we see here in this photo.

Straight back to my fantastic panel: also joining us Dr. Carl Schulman, one of Michael`s doctors; and on the phone, Rafael Olmeda, a reporter with the "Sun Sentinel".

I want to begin with the doctor. Dr. Schulman, first of all, amazing work. Congratulations to you and your entire team.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: I think a lot of people are wondering while he`s going, first of all, not home but to an undisclosed location where he can rest comfortably without being in fear. But how do you and the hospital coordinate with him and his family to make sure he`s getting the physical therapy and bandage changes he needs?

SCHULMAN: That`s part of the advantage of him being treated at a burn center. There`s a team of individuals and we do this routinely. Michael will come back to our burn center therapy department three to five times a week until we can slowly scale that back down.

His mother and his family and he`ll have people helping him at home that have gone through quite a medical training of sorts while he was in the hospital. We slowly transitioned him from that hospital setting to where he can take cake of himself at home.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Isn`t there a stress though of getting in the car, going to the hospital, leaving the hospital everyday or is that part of the exercise that he needs to do to stretch and remain mobile.

SCHULMAN: Yes. It`s all very good therapy for him. We would anticipate and we would expect that he try and do as many normal activities of daily living as possible. And all that should simply help to keep him getting stronger and better quicker.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: My big issue tonight: endless nightmare. Michael is leaving the hospital but he isn`t going home because of his fears. His family is celebrating the holidays -- get this -- at a secret location.

Listen to his mom on NBC`s "The Today Show".


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He didn`t want to go back home because of some of the neighbors are family members of those boys who allegedly attacked him.

Is he afraid about his own safety, Val?

BREWER: Yes, he is. He`s terrified to go back to Deerfield.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you worried about his own safety as well at this point?

BREWER: I`m not worried about his safety. But he is terrified. That`s going to be a fear of his for a very long time. He`s got a long way to go to get over all this.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Rafael Olmeda, you`ve been covering this story. Is the fear stemming from the fact that some of the kids charged are actually neighbors of his?

RAFAEL OLMEDA, REPORTER, SUN-SENTINEL: They all live within walking distance of Michael. These kids all went to the same middle school and they met up in a housing development not far from where Michael lives. So certainly the possibility of running into people who are in that group is very high.

Three people have been charged with a crime here but there were nine people originally in that group.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Unbelievable. And I have to wonder what`s going to happen with Michael`s family in terms of living there long term. I wonder if they`re going to have to move to give him peace of mind.

Dr. Schulman, we understand that he`s been having nightmares. The mom says she only sleeps a couple of hours a night because he wakes up with these night terrors. How do you coordinate the emotional and psychological therapy with the physical therapy?

SCHULMAN: Again, it`s a big part of the burn care, at the burn center we very careful to deal with this issue. We have full-time psychologists and psychiatrists who have been working with Michael.

This is a long slow process. He`ll go through various stages dealing with his body self-image, dealing with the emotional trauma from the actual accident. It`s a long, long progressive healing process and we help him with a combination of therapy and medications to get through it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What is this young man like? Apparently his spirit is amazing. His courage is amazing. It just inspires me to see that he has just marched through this so valiantly.

SCHULMAN: Burned children in my experience, tend to be a very resilient group. And it`s always impresses us and we get a lot of satisfaction seeing them deal with the challenges that they`re faced with but it`s truly remarkable.

Michael has done a remarkable job at cooperating with all of his care and it`s partly due to his credit that he got out of the hospital so quickly.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely. Now what about this group of boys who allegedly did this to Michael? Three teens have been charged as adults with attempted second-degree murder. We`re talking 16-year-old Jesus Mendez, 15-year-old Matthew Bent and 15-year-old Denver Jarvis. You`re looking at those three teenagers right now on camera.

Another younger boy was allegedly at the scene but he has not been charged. He apologized to his friend Mikey. Listen to this.


JEREMY JARVIS, ALLEGEDLY BURNED BOY: I will pray for Mikey to grow stronger every day and for Mikey`s speedy recovery.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mark Eiglarsh, if convicted the three teenagers we just saw there in court could end up doing 30 years in prison. They would be in their mid-40s when they get out of prison. Is it not true that Florida is one of the toughest states on teen crime?

MARK EIGLARSH, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I would say so. And in that particular jurisdiction where I practice in Broward County, they`re tough. And the world is watching this case. It was particularly heinous. And while this victim is doing better, for the rest of his life he will be adversely affected from this horrific attack.

My heart goes out to the family and the victim. We`ve all been watching this case very closely. We`re thrilled that he`s doing well but he`s not out of the woods at all.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Rafael Olmeda, what is the sentiment in the community given that these accused attackers are just so darn young?

OLMEDA: A lot of what I`m hearing and what you see from Michael`s supporters are that these kids may be young but they`re old enough to know what they were doing. So I think that the sense is in for a really, really tough fight.

What they need to do is convince a jury, convince the prosecution that these really were children doing something that got out of everybody`s control. That seems to be the approach that is being worked out.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s a metaphor for everything that is wrong with our society. These kids are a reflection of our culture of violence.

Thank you, fantastic panel.

And if you`re watching out there, Michael, way to go.

This month, I`ve been hearing from people who have made inspiring recoveries from a life of addiction and it is time to announce our second "I Want" grand prize winner. Let`s meet iReporter Amy from Big Rapids, Michigan.

Amy says she was addicted to alcohol, pills, crack, anything to numb the pain. At one point, doctors gave her 72 hours to either die or get clean. After placing her addiction before everything else for 22 years, she finally got into recovery.

Amy has stayed sober for more than a year now and is living a simpler honest life. As one of our grand prize winners, Amy has won a trip to New York City to visit me right here on the set of ISSUES. We`re going to have a real good time Amy. Congratulations on overcoming your addiction. I cannot wait to meet you. You`re an inspiration to me and you helped me stay sober.

If you`re struggling with addiction or know somebody who is, please check out my book "I Want" at It`s my story of recovery and it just might help.

Just ahead, he was the last person to see Michael Jackson alive. Now he`s being investigated for his death and now Dr. Conrad Murray is going it be a reality TV star.

Plus the tragic death of Brittany Murphy; we`re going to go inside the final minutes of her life. Could prescription drugs have played a role in her death?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Coming up, confidential report leaked. Did prescription drug use play a role in the untimely death of actress Brittany Murphy? We`ll have the latest report next.

But first, "Top of the Block" tonight.

Just when you thought reality TV couldn`t get any more twisted, the man who is being investigated in connection with Michael Jackson`s death is going to be a star. Yes, a reality star.

TMZ has learned that Dr. Conrad Murray struck a deal to be in a British documentary, the one-hour episode TV special will air footage from November of the Houston cardiologist on his first day back at work.

It will focus on the patient`s reactions to his return after the whole Jackson saga. It also tags along as Dr. M goes to church. How heartwarming. Am I the only who`s amazed that he still has patients?

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

Shocking leaks from the Los Angeles county coroner`s office, did Hollywood starlet Brittany Murphy die from a prescription drug cocktail? TMZ says it got a hold of secret notes from the coroner`s death report. They report paramedics found a slew of prescription meds in Brittany`s bedroom and tons of empty pill bottles. Was Brittany battling a pill popping addiction?

The actress was known for her bubbly personality. But she seemed dazed in her last interview.

Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How was it filming such a dark thriller?

BRITTANY MURPHY, ACTRESS: It was -- I was very drawn to this because of its noir quality and the short film that was made before we were able to make the full length feature, I was excited to be part of the full length. I really enjoyed the short film very much.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: According to the TMZ report, Brittany had seizure medication, depression and pain pills plus two types of anxiety meds. And that`s just naming a few. Brittany`s husband tells "People" magazine she was on herbal remedies and prescription meds for her female time problems.

Plus conflicting reports. Was Brittany starving herself? Here`s a photo from her last movie. We`re going to show you. Insiders say she was scary skinny but the coroner`s report says she was 5`5", and weighed 115 pounds when he died. That would not be scary skinny, that`d be in the normal range.

Straight out to my fantastic and I mean, fantastic expert panel: addiction specialist and therapist on VH1`s "Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew", Jill Vermeire -- thanks for joining us Jill; and we always love to have senior editor of "In Touch Weekly" Kim Serafin; as well as my buddy, chief correspondent of "Inside Edition", the author of "The Last Day of my Life". A great book, I read it cover to cover in one sitting, you`ve got to check it out, "The Last Day of my Life". Jim Moret.

Jim, even after Brittany`s half brother, apparently he is even now referring to pharmaceuticals. He told "Inside Edition" Brittany had a disease that caused chest pains and difficulty breathing. Tell us all about that.

JIM MORET, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, "INSIDE EDITION": Well, he`s not sure if Brittany has it but he has it, her half brother. His aunt and his grandmother all have something called disautonomia (ph) which is kind of an umbrella term for neurological problem and it can cause you to appear disoriented, it can cause breathing problems.

We talked to a neurosurgeon in New York today who confirmed that even some of the medications that were reportedly found in Brittany`s home may have been used to treat symptoms. So her brother has lost touch with her about eight years ago, he`s not sure if she had it but it does run in her family and it could possibly, at least in her brother`s view, be a contributor to her death.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, here`s my big issue tonight, we`re talking deadly prescriptions potentially. Look at all the drugs that TMZ says were found in Brittany`s house. We`re talking ten different prescriptions. Certainly it`s rare, a 32-year-old woman would need all these pills for medical reasons and many of these pills are the very same drugs that were found in Anna Nicole Smith`s system after she died.

Anna Nicole had topomax, a clonopin and Ativan in her system when she died. Brittany allegedly had all three drugs in her home. A toxicology report showed Michael Jackson had hydrocodone in his system. Brittany also reportedly had that medication prescribed to her.

Again, we do not have independent confirmation of this; this is being reported by TMZ. But Jill, you`re the addiction specialist on VH1`s sex rehab with Dr. Drew. Having all these drugs in the home, what does that tell you?

JILL VERMEIRE, ADDITION SPECIALIST: It tells me that there was probably a good chance she had a problem with the prescription meds, all of those meds that you mentioned are highly, highly addictive. So the anti- anxiety, we don`t know if it was Xanax or clonopin. Either one can be highly addictive. Topomax, not so addictive but women use it frequently for weight loss. And hydrocodone is Vicodin so we know that that`s a highly addictive drug as well as a lot of the other ones you`ve mentioned. It sort of paints a picture of a probability of an addiction to the prescription meds.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`ve got to say, we have no idea. We`ll find out for sure one way or the other when the toxicology reports are release. But if it`s true and this is a factor, we`ve got a serious crisis on our hands in America. I mean Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger, Anna Nicole Smith. Then we`re looking at the potential here in this case.

Somebody has got to wake up and say just because a doctor has written a script doesn`t make it safe, doesn`t make it necessary and we`ve got a crisis. And this is the tip of the iceberg because we`re just talking about the celebrities. Imagine the real people all across America that this is happening to.

And when are we going to wake up? Because we got a war on drugs in this country. We`re locking up people for years for using so-called illegal drugs when these things are getting you high. You know, Vicodin and valium, they get you high.

Ok. reports that just two weeks ago, Brittany was mysteriously fired from the film "The Caller". Her rep denies that. And the rep also reports Brittany barely kept her job filming "Something Wicked". But sources say she was barely there, she`d go in and out of consciousness in the middle of takes and most of the cast and crew presumed she was using prescription drugs.

She`s not here to defend herself. That`s just what some people are saying. Kim Serafin, what do you know?

KIM SERAFIN, SENIOR EDITOR, "IN TOUCH WEEKLY": Yes, well, this movie that she was apparently fired from in Puerto Rico and there are reports that she was being difficult on set. There are reports that her husband Simon Monjack was with her and was arguing with the crew.

Now, apparently her rep is saying no, it was just creative difference which does happen obviously on movie sets. But these reports have been coming out.

And of course her husband was hospitalized. They were coming back on a flight from Puerto Rico. He was apparently incoherent on the plane and was taken to the hospital. So this came kind of after all of that drama of her being let go from this film.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Jill, is it just me? I just had it covering these stories. And with nobody in America, our government, whoever, declaring a crisis. We sit around debating health care. Well, isn`t this health?

VERMEIRE: Well, the problem I think is, it is our health care, the managed health care plans are part of the problem. Doctors need to see as many patients as possible as quickly as possible so it`s easier to shuffle them in.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Everybody stay right there. We`ll have more right on Brittany Murphy`s tragic death right after the break.





VELEZ-MITCHELL: That was Brittany Murphy singing for here role in "Happy Feet"; a drastic difference from that clip and the recent interview. Did the actress have a prescription pill problem? We`re talking about brand new leaks from the actress`s death report, a slew of pills and pill bottles allegedly found in her home.

Jim Moret, what do we know? What are we learning about the last moments of her life?

MORET: Well, apparently, it was a frantic effort to revive her. Her mom called 911 after seeing her daughter had passed out in the bathroom of her home. And there were reports that she had been vomiting. You know, it sounds just horrific.

Her mother is quoted as saying that she and Brittany`s husband are completely devastated as you would imagine they would be. She is a beautiful 32-year-old girl, who died -- we`re told initially of natural causes which doesn`t really make sense unless -- something seems wrong.

And the leaks are disturbing because we are talking about specifics and we don`t really answers. And we have to wait for the toxicology reports but there are certain things that are red flags as you indicated. We have seen these things before and it is troubling.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Kim Serafin, Amy Heckerling, director of Brittany in "Clueless" and she tells the blog and the, quite a name, that quote, "Brittany seemed to go through a change on `Clueless`. Maybe she felt like she was not the skinny pretty girl. Then the next few movies, she was thinner, blond, going out with Ashton Kutcher. I think she felt the pressure to become a different sort of commodity to survive in show business and I think it was awful," end quote. Your thoughts?

SERAFIN: Yes. You go back to "Clueless". She was kind of a normal- looking girl. Little bit heavy and then as you saw her progress and hello, she did become that kind of beautiful blond bombshell starring opposite Eminem and Ashton Kutcher, Angelina Jolie even in "Girl Interrupted" to gain these huge parts.

But then even today, you know, there are some other reports people working with her saying she was a hard worker even though she did look thin. Even though she was very fragile she was always a hard worker even when the star wasn`t quite bright as it was back when she was working opposite Eminem.

But sure, that`s Hollywood. There are obvious pressures to be thin, to be beautiful. Especially if you`re feeling like your career isn`t where it used to be. That`s Hollywood.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But the irony is that the coroner is saying she was 115 pounds and 5`5". And come on girls, we all know, that`s not anorexic. That`s within the normal range. And let`s throw it out to the man. Jim Moret, you know about the weight of women.

MORET: Well, look. We have seen her weight fluctuate. I talked to her brother and he would say some photos of her on the red carpet, they bothered him because she looked too thin. But her weight probably fluctuated like everyone else`s weight.

The issue really is, is there an underlying medical problem that we don`t know about? Is there a drug problem that we don`t know about? We really don`t know what killed her. We know that there was no trauma according to the coroner and they haven`t located any specific cause. But the list of medications is quite disturbing and we also know that she was developing a reputation among Hollywood as being difficult. That`s why she was fired and she almost got fired from her the next movie to start in two weeks, "Shrinking Charlotte" (ph).

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`ve got to leave it right there. Does America have a prescription drug problem? We are going to stay on top of that one.

And you are watching ISSUES on HLN.