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Police Hope for Leads on Aja Johnson; Making Sense of Depression in Wake of Actor`s Suicide

Aired February 26, 2010 - 19:00:00   ET



JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, desperation mounts in the frantic search for little Aja Johnson, this little beautiful girl now missing for more than a month. Her mom found murdered. She was kidnapped. Now cops are hunting down her step-dad. Tonight, shocking new insight into this man`s life. A drifter living in the shadows.

And a tragic end to a panicked search. Andrew Koenig, star of the `80s super hit TV show "Growing Pains," found dead in a public park. His own father part of the search team that found his body. His dad says this was a clear-cut case of suicide. Tonight, we`ll go inside the dark world of depression. What are the red flags you need to know?

Also, a terrifying mystery in Maui. A beautiful woman vanishes in paradise, her van found deserted near a homeless campsite, the keys still in the ignition, but she was nowhere to be found. Loved ones suspect foul play. Tonight we`ll talk to a relative and friends and go inside the investigation. What happened to beautiful Laura Vogel?

Plus, the Sanford divorce drama live and in color. The South Carolina governor`s bitter divorce aired on television. Governor Sanford cheated on his wife, claiming he was hiking the Appalachian trail when he was really getting hot and sweaty with his lover in Argentina. So how did the scandal play out in court?

ISSUES starts now.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, horrifying new details about a missing 7- year-old girl. Police say Lester Hobbs bludgeoned his wife to death with a hammer and then took off with his little stepdaughter. Oklahoma police now say Aja Johnson may have witnessed her own mother`s vicious and violent murder.


RICHARD GOSS, OKLAHOMA BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: Lester Hobbs carried out that threat and actually used a hammer to kill his own wife, very possibly while Aja lay on the sofa next to him. It has been 33 days since 7-year-old Aja Johnson`s mother was brutally and savagely beaten to death in the very small living area of that cheap motor home. Thirty-three days since Lester Hobbs has taken Aja and been on the run from law enforcement.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Police have just released these pictures of the pair. Their faces are plastered all over the U.S. of A., but yet nobody, not one person, has reported seeing them.

And that`s probably because Hobbs is very, very, very skilled at living on the run. He can survive on very little, making his moves at night, hiding out during the day. So where does that leave this precious child, Aja? Listen to her devastated father.


J.J. JOHNSON, AJA`S FATHER: Everybody that`s listening and every parent that`s out there, I need my little girl back. Anyone out there who knows where she is, please return her. Take her to a safe spot. I`ll come and get her or see that she`s picked up with no questions asked.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Cops are saying leave her at a Wal-Mart with a little sign that says Aja Johnson, Amber Alert. Just leave her somewhere.

Is Aja still alive? Can she hang on until Hobbs is caught?

Straight out to my expert panel: psychiatrist and addiction specialist Dr. Reef Karim; former police detective Steve Kardian; criminologist Casey Jordan; and investigative reporter Michelle Sigona.

Michelle, what is the very latest?

MICHELLE SIGONA, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: The very latest, Jane, is that we`ve learned from investigators now that the U.S. Marshall Service is involved, along with the sex crimes unit out of Oklahoma.

They`ve interviewed hundreds of people in this case. They`ve tracked down hundreds of leads. Unfortunately, at this point, none of them have lead to the 1992 Toyota Paseo that Lester Hobbs was last seen driving to the child, to him, but yesterday in that press conference, we did learn a lot more about Lester Hobbs. Not only can he survive on very little, but he may be going to pool halls, hustling people for money. He could be doing some minor auto repairs on cars to be able to gain some of that money.

And also, Jane, when this alleged crime happened, there was an ice storm that paralyzed the entire region for eight to 14 days. So a lot of folks throughout the state of Oklahoma were without electricity, and some don`t even know about this case. They don`t even know that this case exists. So he may be hiding out possibly in an abandoned home or even in a vacation home in the area. So if you have a vacation home in the area, get someone to go out and check it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And that`s Oklahoma. So the electricity is back on. Look at this man. Oh, my God. Imagine him in charge of a 7-year-old girl, who may have watched him allegedly bludgeon her own mother to death with a hammer. Incomprehensible.

The longer Hobbs is on the run, the greater the chance somebody, somebody is helping him. Listen to this.


GOSS: There is a very strong and real possibility that someone is giving aid and assistance to Hobbs in evading law enforcement. Someone who is hiding Hobbs in his own car or allowing him to stay with them. To that person or persons, I implore you to do what is right and do it now before it`s too late.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Casey Jordan, criminologist, if you have a child, would he be able to use that child to create some sort of phony story line to elicit help from a stranger who might not realize he is a criminal?

CASEY JORDAN, CRIMINOLOGIST: Absolutely. And we do see this. Don`t forget that he is her stepfather, and so, of course, Aja is going to be familiar with him. Probably traumatized, if she did, indeed, see her mother`s death. Very introverted.

So a man passing himself off as the child`s father. The child might be very introverted, very shy, very quiet, not rebellious, not a talker, not a screamer. This is the sort of thing we should look for.

Never forget, Jane, the story of Shasta Groene, who was recovered a few weeks after her abductor took her because a waitress in a Denny`s restaurant recognized her from television pictures.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you make a very good point. They`ve got to eat.

So now your electricity is back on, people of Oklahoma. Look at these pictures. If you see anyone who looks like this man -- he may have dyed his hair, he may have cut off his facial hair -- immediately call police. A child`s life is at stake.

Here is my big issue. Is Lester Hobbs the invisible man? More than 30 days on the run, and not a single confirmed sighting.


A.D. TEMPLETON, DEPUTY U.S. MARSHALL: He took off out of here in a hurry in the middle of the night. He`s gotten to a point that he felt comfortable in someplace he`d been in the past, and he`s laid down. He may have laid there for a couple of days and then he`s moved to the next point, traveling at night, just like a coyote, a scavenger, moving from point to point.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Again, cops say he`s adept on surviving on very little, maybe $20 here and there, which he can often get hustling games of pool to win some cash, hanging out at seedy bars, and he`s also known to cruise the Internet for women.

So, Steve Kardian, former police detective, where should cops be looking?

STEVE KARDIAN, FORMER POLICE DEPARTMENT: Well, Jane, doing exactly what they`re doing now, getting his face out into the public view on programs like yourself, they also have a $20,000 reward out there. But what`s concerning for law enforcement for sure is that he is the type of person that can secret himself in the type of society that won`t cooperate with police. That`s a big issue.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Michelle Sigona, what about Corpus Christi? I heard something about there was a sighting, possible sighting in Corpus Christi, Texas?

SIGONA: Yes. That`s correct. Early on, Jane, there was a report, and also, I did speak to investigators about this. They said unfortunately that lead never panned out for them. Just as you`ve mentioned, there have been no confirmed sightings of Lester Hobbs or Aja Johnson.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I mean, what are they doing then, about this whole situation in Corpus Christi? Casey Jordan, a false sighting can be a terrible complication for an investigation, because if they put their resources into Corpus Christi and that turns out to be a bad sighting, then they`re really losing track and focus on the investigation.

JORDAN: Well, but you can`t let any potential lead go uninvestigated. So they have to check it out. Just because it doesn`t pan out doesn`t mean it wasn`t a good use of police time.

Something I read is really important. His hands are tattooed, one with the word "rose," one with the word "love." Now, it`s winter. He could be wearing winter gloves or work gloves if he`s working as a mechanic. But if he changes his appearance, he can`t change those tattoos. Anyone, a convenience store clerk or waitress, anyone, somebody pumping gas, could see a man with those tattoos on his hands and...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Look at that guy. What an ugly man. Oh, my God. This guy looks dangerous. Look at that guy. He has a sinister expression on his face.

How in the world could a 7-year-old cope with all this, seeing her mom beaten to death, is what cops believe she saw? How can she deal then with being on the run with a monster like this? Listen.


GOSS: He has been described to us as a cowardly abuser who only confronts people of a lesser stature than himself. This is exemplified by his criminal record where he has a history of only assaulting women and children.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: If Aja is still alive, and let`s pray she is, is she in survival mode, Dr. Reef Karim? Could she be waiting for the right moment to break away? Or do kids often freeze and lose their ability to make independent decisions when they`re under control of somebody like this?

DR. REEF KARIM, PSYCHIATRIST: It`s the latter. Kids idealize their parents. And even if your parents do crazy things, it confuses you as a child. And to actually take action, to run away from Dad or Step-dad is a very difficult thing to do. She`s probably very confused and almost frozen from an emotional standpoint.

And he comes across very much like a sociopath at this point in time, with being -- having those survival instincts, being able to escape from law enforcement. I`m very scared for her.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And if you are watching, Hobbs, leave the child anywhere: a Wal-Mart, a parking lot. Leave her with a sign that says her name and "Amber Alert." And then if you want to crawl under a rock, well, good luck. The cops will find you eventually, but it will be less serious for you. Let her go.

Everybody stay right where you are. We`re all over this desperate search for little Aja Johnson.

Plus the star of a hit TV show found dead. Andrew Koenig committed suicide in a public park. Tonight, how can this kind of dark, deadly depression be avoided? What are the warning signs?

But first, cops call him a drifter who lives in the shadows. Where, oh, where, is Lester Hobbs? And what are the chances little Aja Johnson is alive and with him?


JOHNSON: I need my little girl back. She`s missing. I love her dearly and she needs her medication. Please, Lester, if you`re listening, or anyone out there who knows where she is, please return her.




GOSS: Release Aja now. Simply drop her off at a Target, a Wal-Mart, a K-Mart or any other busy store where she will be safe. Attach a note to her clothing that simply states, "Call police, Amber Alert, Aja Johnson."


VELEZ-MITCHELL: If you`re listening, Lester Hobbs, release Aja now.

That detective speaking directly to this man, the accused killer on the run with 7-year-old Aja Johnson. Police say the pair vanished after Hobbs bludgeoned Aja`s mom to death, a person who also this guy`s estranged wife. That was more than a month ago. Nobody has spotted them.

Back to my fantastic panel. Dr. Reef Karim, if the 7-year-old child is watching right now, what advice would you give her in terms of how to deal with this monster?

KARIM: Even though things are confusing, and you`re not sure what`s happening right now, and you don`t know who to trust, there are people that love you and support you that will help you. All you need to do is to get away from Hobbs. That`s all you need to do. And there will be people that can help you and bring you to a safe place.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Good advice. You know, not long before her murder -- and this is an astounding aspect of this case -- Tonya Hobbs was granted a protective order against Hobbs. The day before she was bludgeoned to death, Tonya and her suspected killer went shopping together at Wal-Mart, and there`s a photo of them. And here they are holding hands, entering the store. And we also have a photo of them driving away in his white Toyota. Police say they were going to dinner at Tonya`s sister`s house.

Isn`t this typical of an abused woman, Casey Jordan? She sought a protection order from this guy, then failed to show up in court, so the order was thrown out. And the next minute they`re playing house?

JORDAN: Unfortunately, it`s extremely typical. You`ve got to understand that battered women, abused women, it doesn`t happen overnight. It doesn`t happen like in a snap. It takes weeks and months and years for them to acclimate to the abuse and normalize it, and that relationship is usually a lot of enabling, give and take and coping. And very often, you know, she doesn`t feel like she can survive without him, especially if he was the primary breadwinner in the house.

An order of protection sounded good at the time when she filed for it, but after she perhaps couldn`t pay her rent or feed her child, you know -- and she misses him. I`m sure she thought she loved him.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Somehow I doubt that this dead beat was giving her any kind of support.

Michelle Sigona, didn`t he threaten, not just her, didn`t he threaten to kill her with a hammer at one point, and isn`t that what police believe he ultimately did? And didn`t he also threaten her children?

SIGONA: He did, in fact, threaten the children. And that`s what the original protection order states back from August, that that`s why Tonya went to the police station. She filed that order, because he threatened to kill the girls with a hammer. So she was afraid for their lives. And now she should have also been afraid for her own. That`s the first thing.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. But let me say this. Didn`t she show up with the kids when they met for that little family gathering? Weren`t the kids in tow?

SIGONA: That part I do not know for sure.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, they had to be. Because Aja -- the mom was killed shortly thereafter, and Aja, police say, watched it. So this is all happening around the same time.

SIGONA: The protection order happened back in August of 2009. Just in December Tonya was summoned to go back to court because the custody was then revoked from her, given to the father.

During that custody order, during that time, the judge did say that Lester Hobbs was not allowed around Aja at all.

The weekend that Tonya took Aja over to Oklahoma to see Lester, she lied to the child`s father and said that they were going to a birthday party, she may want to keep the child overnight, and he let that happen. But instead, she did take the child over to see Lester Hobbs over that weekend.

And also Aja`s grandmother told me that he never liked the child. That she has seen him force her to eat a mouthful of jalapeno peppers.


SIGONA: And that she has seen bruises on the child from Lester Hobbs specifically, and that she did know that Lester was, in fact, beating her daughter, but she never thought that it would lead to a murder, lead to something like that. And that is typical domestic violence abuse.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, I hate to speak ill of the dead or blame the dead, but Steve Kardian, this mom not only took her own life at risk -- into her own hands and lost, but she took her children. She put her children at risk. Reuniting with a guy who, according to court documents, stuffed her child`s mouth with jalapeno peppers, which is really a form of torture. So God only knows what`s happening to this child now.

KARDIAN: Well, Jane, let`s take a look at the fact that he`s a former registered sex offender. The time period that`s gone between her disappearance and now is a very lengthy one. That he, by all accounts, including in accounts by the grandmother, that he hated her and that he threatened to hit her with a hammer. I`m not, as a police officer, looking at this and seeing a positive outcome with regard to her being recovered or found.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, Dr. Reef Karim, I -- sometimes I`m like how many more of these can I take?

KARIM: Right.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, this is so revolting, because it was so preventable. If somebody threatens you, leave them alone. Don`t ever have any contact with them again. If somebody threatens your kids -- ten seconds, Dr. Reef.

KARIM: It`s amazing to me how emotional pathology, being in a relationship with somebody who abuses you, beats you, hurts you, threatens your kids, tortures your kids and yet you still stay in this relationship. It says something about you, and it`s so hard. And you need so much strength to get away from these people, because they have something on you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. We`re going to stay on top of this story.

Up next, missing in Maui, a woman vanishes in Hawaii. You won`t believe where her car was found. Family members next.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: In tonight`s "Spotlight," the heart-wrenching end to the life of my friend, "Growing Pains" actor Andrew Koenig. Andrew`s body found yesterday in the very place that he loved so much, Vancouver`s Stanley Park. His dad, Walter, went out with a search party in the morning. Two hours in, they found Andrew. They haven`t said how Andrew died, but his father made this painful announcement.


WALTER KOENIG, ANDREW`S FATHER: My son took his own life. The only other thing I want to say is I`ve -- we`ve already said, you know, what a great guy he was and a good human being and -- he was obviously in a lot of pain.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That man played Chekov on the original "Star Trek," this man`s father.

We will never know if Andrew realized how many people loved him. Psychiatrist Dr. Reef Karim joins me now, specialist with the Control Center of Beverly Hills, in fact, the medical director.

This is so incredibly sad. And I have to believe, avoidable. I mean, Andrew gave away possessions. He stopped working, stopped taking on jobs, saying he was moving to Vancouver. Classic warning signs, Doctor?

KARIM: Yes, absolutely. The signs were there, but you know, depression is such a debilitating illness. We -- we can see broken bones heal, but when somebody`s got a problem with their mind, neurochemically at that moment in time, it`s so hard, because the disease itself affects your motivation. You`re not motivated to get help.

So it requires other people. It requires family, friends, to rally around you and get you the help you need.

And, you know, sometimes I`ve worked with families where we literally have to put that patient in an ambulance, put them in the hospital, put them on a hold for 72 hours, just so we can get them the treatment that they need.

And it affects your sense of pleasure. It affects your worthlessness, your feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, problems with memory, concentration, attention. It affects everything you do. So I implore people, if you have family members who are depressed, to get them help.


KARIM: Because it does require a support network. It can`t just be the person themselves going in to get help.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Andrew`s parents say they hope Andrew`s death will help another family out there that`s dealing with depression. Listen.


KOENIG: If you can learn anything from this, it`s that there are people out there who really care. You may not think so, and it may not -- ultimately, it may not be enough. But there are people who really, really care.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Doctor Reef, it sounds like this family really did try, but Andrew, according to them, went off his medication about a year ago. How do you deal with that?

KOENIG: Yes. That`s tough. Well, like I said, sometimes you have to put somebody on a hold against their will to get them to take their medication.

You know, one of the things that people talk about, this is -- the scariest part about somebody who`s depressed is, A, when they go off their meds, like this case, or, B, when they first get on their meds. You know, we hear about people that get on antidepressants, and you just assume they`re going to get better. What happens is they go from a period of...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Got to leave it.

KOENIG: ... where they`re not motivated at all to -- OK.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Up next, missing in paradise.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think they feel that she slipped and fell over the cliff, which is a 50- to 60-foot chute.



VELEZ-MITCHELL: A terrifying mystery in Maui. A beautiful woman vanishes in paradise, her van found deserted next to a homeless camp site, the keys still in the ignition. But she`s nowhere to be found. Tonight we`ll talk to a relative and friends and go inside the investigation.

And Sanford divorce drama, live and in color. The South Carolina governor`s bitter divorce aired on TV. Sanford cheated on his wife claiming he was hiking the Appalachian Trail when he was really getting hot and sweaty with his lover in Argentina. So how did this scandal play out in court?

Tonight: conflicting theories as friends, family and police frantically search for a missing woman who vanished during a camping trip in Hawaii. Did Laura Vogel have a horrible hiking accident as cops reportedly believe, or was she the victim of foul play as her family fears?

The striking 43-year-old was last heard from on Sunday when she told a friend she planned to camp by herself by an area called the Birthing Pools, that area close to the pristine shoreline where the cliffs steeply drop off into the ocean.

Here`s where it gets weird, though. Laura Vogel is an experienced camper. Her family is not buying the accident theory. They think something more sinister could have happened and it could be related to a text message she sent about, quote, "meeting the locals".

Laura`s sister-in-law spoke to TV station WPDF.


JESSICA VOGEL, LAURA`S SISTER-IN-LAW: People saw Laura. People know -- saw her that night. People saw her that night and they know something. People know someone. Someone -- you know, someone knows something. They need to find those people. People know what happened or at least know what she was doing that night.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Do the clues support foul play?

Laura`s friends formed a search party. Guess what? They found her van near a homeless encampment with the keys in the ignition and the driver`s side door open. Detectives reportedly found her cell phone there and discovered two calls made to a number that was not in her phone book. When cops called that number they got the voicemail of a rough, tough- sounding guy.

More on that in a second.

Straight out to my expert panel: Steve Kardian, veteran police detective; Dr. Reef Karim, addiction specialist and medical director of the Control Center of Beverly Hills; and on the phone from Maui, we are very honored to have Tim Vogel, Laura`s brother.

First of all, Tim, our hearts go out to you. This has got to be hellish for you to be going through at this moment in time.

TIM VOGEL, BROTHER OF MISSING WOMAN (via telephone): Thank you. Thank you so much. I appreciate that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I understand you were there with the police as they searched for your sister. I know their theory is different from your theory, but first of all, give us the latest. What is happening on the ground there?

T. VOGEL: Right now the police have search dogs. They have both live people search dogs and cadaver dogs searching the lighthouse area where her van was found right now.

And in addition, the police today are going to be interviewing or talking with the individual that phone call was made to after her text message.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, you say you don`t know who those people are, who that person is in other words. There was a number on her cell phone that was dialed twice. Those were the last two calls she made, and it`s not somebody who`s a friend who`s on her cell phone phonebook, it`s just this random number, and when it was called this rough-sounding, tough-sounding guy, his voicemail answered?

T. VOGEL: Yes, a couple things happened. First she called my parents from the camp site at roughly 6:00, had a very normal conversation, kind of caught up on everything that was happening.

After that about 8:18 she texted a friend and she said, "I saw an owl." She`s very much into nature; she`s got a masters in zoology. Loved being outdoors. She said, "I saw an owl. I`m down to wait in the Birthing Pools, which is a location she gave. And she said, "I`m meeting all the locals."

Her friend responded to that text message immediately and did not get a response back. Shortly there after, two calls were made to a number that was not in her voicemail and to someone that doesn`t seem like the kind of person she would know.

On Wednesday the back portion of her cell phone, we believe was her cell phone, was found down below the cliffs.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Isn`t there a transient area down there?

T. VOGEL: Yes. I mean, she`d been to this place, I believe, during the day. But I don`t think she understood kind of what it was at night. And there is a homeless camp that is nearby.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Say that again? There`s a homeless camp nearby?

T. VOGEL: Nearby, yes. And this is anecdotal, but things that we`re hearing, is that there`s a lot of drug activity in that area as well that happens at nighttime.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: The clues are starting to add up. The question is do they point to a criminal element.

Laura`s sister-in-law described what one of Laura`s friends told her about a conversation he had with a possible witness. Listen to this from WPDF.


J. VOGEL: The guy was like, "I`ve never seen her before," and the way he was talking, you know, you can just basically tell when some people were lying and he said he was very suspicious of this guy in the first place.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok. So again, cops found Laura`s cell phone near this homeless encampment. Two calls to a mystery number but they`re apparently talking to that guy.

Here`s what I find the most frightening, Tim, is that your sister`s car was found with the keys in the ignition and the door open. Now, how can that be an accident? Why would she ever leave her keys in the ignition?

T. VOGLE: And everything -- everything seemed to be there, and just her cell phone and her wallet was missing. But it`s so unusual. The thing that gives me a tremendous amount of confidence that it is something suspicious, is that she texted saying she`s meeting people there, and the police haven`t identified one person yet that has seen her. It just doesn`t add up to me.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I`ve got to tell you, Steve Kardian, and hang on a second, Tim. Don`t go anywhere. But Steve Kardian -- let`s be real. Maui is a tourist Mecca. And it`s not uncommon for the powers that be at tourist Meccas to downplay any kind of foul play because it`s bad for business.

STEVE KARDIAN, VETERAN POLICE DETECTIVE: You`re absolutely right, Jane. And, you know, in law enforcement we see it`s much easier to go from a foul play incident to a missing person rather than it is from a missing person to a foul play. We miss a lot of stuff in between, including evidence and possible witnesses that may be present. So you`re right.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Now let`s talk a little bit about the hiking situation.

Tim, I want to go back to you. The authorities are saying basically they think she may have fallen off a steep cliff, but you doubt that. First of all, because why would she even go hiking, leaving her car with the keys in the ignition and the door open? That makes no sense.

Secondly, you say she`s an experienced hiker and she wouldn`t do something that would put her in that kind of danger. And I`ve actually seen some of those cliffs. They are steep, and they go right into the ocean.

T. VOGEL: Laura`s an experienced hiker. I`ve done a bunch of back country -- backpacking trips all over this country with her before and in Central America. She knows what she`s doing. She`s as smart and tough as they get. She is experienced.

And I mean, there could be -- there could be that 5 percent or that point percent chance that something like that happened, but 99.5 percent, that`s (AUDIO GAP). She wasn`t near -- but she knows what she`s doing. She`s in control of what she`s doing. She doesn`t make stupid decisions like that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, despite all of this suspicious stuff, police investigators are still reportedly insisting they don`t suspect foul play. Here`s what Laura`s mom told KITV.


JOAN VOGEL, LAURA`S MOTHER: I think they feel that she slipped and fell over the cliff, which is a 50 to 60-foot sheer rock cliff that goes right into the ocean.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, when Laura`s friends went to cops to report her missing, cops reportedly said they couldn`t get involved for 24 hours. So the friends formed their own search party.

I got to go back to Steve Kardian. That sounds bizarre to me. I mean a beautiful woman is missing in a strange place, and her car is left there with the door open and the keys in the ignition and they can`t go search for her for 24 hours? Are you kidding me?

KARDIAN: Typically they wait a 24-hour period, barring suspicious circumstance. If they were aware her car was left abandoned with the keys in it, that her wallet and cell phone were missing, they should have absolutely contained that as a crime scene and begun an investigation into her whereabouts.

T. VOGEL: And let me just say that this van has not been fingerprinted. And records like credit card history and stuff and usage hasn`t been pulled yet. So we are very frustrated that we haven`t made more progress yet.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What do you think, Tim, is wrong with the cops down there? What are they doing?

T. VOGEL: I don`t know. I mean, I think -- the information I`m getting is that they have limited resources, and that they`re doing their best.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, please. How many crimes occur in Hawaii? They don`t have anything else to do, except play golf or look for this woman or surf.

T. VOGEL: One thing that I would say -- one thing that I would say is that the fire department has been heroic and has risen to the occasion every possible chance.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: This scares me, Tim.

I actually got a call from a good friend of mine in Los Angeles who knows your sister somewhat, and he`s the one who tipped me off about this story. And as soon as I heard the details, I thought, "Whoa, this doesn`t look good."

I just pray your sister is found ok and we`re going to call the Maui police. Here`s the number. This show is seen in Hawaii. 808-244- 6245 if you know anything.

And final thoughts, Tim, about what the cops should be doing in terms of interviewing these homeless people who live in this encampment.

T. VOGEL: Yes, I mean -- somebody knows something. Someone knows what happened to my sister. And whatever help anyone can give, whatever support someone can give, if someone can come forward with information, we need that desperately. Because she could still be alive and time is running out and it`s critical that we get it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tim, we`re going to stay on top of this story. I vow it. And we`re going to have you back. We pray for a happy result.

Thank you so much, fantastic panel.

A made-for-TV divorce: Governor Sanford cheated on his wife and lied about it on national TV. Well now, the couple`s divorce was broadcast on TV. How did sex scandal play out in court? We`re going to go inside the court room and hear from the ex-first lady herself.


JENNY SANFORD, FORMER FIRST LADY OF SOUTH CAROLINA: You know, I married him because I believed in him --


SANFORD: -- I mean, I believed he was a good person and I do believe -- I do believe he`s lost. But I believe still today that he did hold a core set of values and that he seems to have strayed from those. And you know, I hope he gets them back.

BEHAR: Well --

SANFORD: -- it`s too late for the marriage but I hope for the sake of our four sons. They need to see him be a man again.



VELEZ-MITCHELL: Until infidelity do us part. Jenny Sanford will soon officially be an ex-first lady, a judge granted Jenny divorce from her cheating husband, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford.

Jenny laid all the dirty details on the table when she testified in family court today, telling a judge she found out her husband was cheating after reading a salacious love letter he wrote to his mistress. He called her his soul mate, eternal love and lover. Listen to this.


SANFORD: I found the letter a year ago January.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To who was that letter --

SANFORD: The letter was from Mark to this woman he believed to be his eternal love and his lover.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And at that time did you learn the identity of the woman?

SANFORD: Insofar as it was addressed to her -- her name.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what was her name?

SANFORD: Her name was Belen Chapur.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you confront your husband with this information?

SANFORD: I did confront him shortly thereafter and he told me he would end it.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: By the way, the hubby, no-show in court. The scandal went public when the governor vanished and he lied about where he was. He said -- we all know this by now, it`s become a joke -- "I`m hiking the Appalachians Trail" when he was really getting hot and sweaty with his Argentinean lover.

Jenny said she tried everything to make her marriage work. She had just one condition, Mark was forbidden to see the other woman, his mistress ever again. In return Jenny said, she would stay quiet about all the sordid details of their affair. But Mark refused. Listen to this.


SANFORD: He was not allowed to see this woman again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At some point did you learn that he in fact had seen her again?

SANFORD: Yes. There was one visit he went to see her for dinner and I sent him a chaperone. But after that he was not allowed see her or have contact with her and I did learn that he had intentions of seeing her. I repeated my efforts to make it clear that that was not allowed.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mark Sanford`s bad behavior wasn`t totally a surprise. Jenny says before they got married, he told her, "Hey, I`m not sure that I can take that one part of the vow," you know that part about promising to be faithful. What? Well, the couple is going to be officially divorced next month.

Straight out to my fantastic expert panel: family law attorney Jennifer Brandt; psychiatrist, Dr. Reef Karim; and reporter, Andrew Barr.

Andy, what is the very latest on this mess?

ANDREW BARR, REPORTER, POLITICO.COM: Well, the very latest was the judge granting Jenny Sanford`s divorce today. You know, of course this has been a long time coming. She initially kind of said that she was going to stand by Mark Sanford, she even made calls to quiet some of the resignation calls that we`re hearing from the state legislator.

But you know, she announced that she was going to go for that divorce. She got her book out now which she`s been promoting. And that divorce when she said that she was going go do it, they moved pretty quickly, about a month and a half two months there.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And I have to say she looks darn good today in court. I mean, this woman held her head high and she is totally together, looking not like the scorned -- hell hath no fury like a woman scorned -- woman. She`s looking darn good. What do you think Jennifer Brandt?

JENNIFER BRANDT, FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY: Well, she`s been out promoting her book, so she should look good at this point. I mean, this was just another media tour for her the way I look at it.

So you know, she`s really brought herself up, she wrote her book, she`s out there saying all the bad things that he did. So she is not a woman scorned as far as I see it. And I don`t really think that this divorce is still newsworthy after she`s been on the sort of her own campaign trail for book sales all this time.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, it is newsworthy. You know why, because when politicians lie and they are total hypocrites, we have to call them on the carpet for it.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, it`s not just about the fact that he cheated, it`s about the fact that he lied and he put his own staff in a position of having to lie to the taxpayers.

And I want to go back to Andy Barr on that.

BRANDT: Well, Jane, one thing I want to say, is that the one reason this is different than the others, is that she actually did stand up to him and go and get the divorce. We see so many political wives that stand by their man and -- but she didn`t. So that is the one thing that differentiates her from the others.

BEHAR: But Andy isn`t this really a story of hypocrisy, a guy who has conservative, social values, who promoted himself as the family values candidate? And then who -- not only cheats on his wife with four sons but puts his staff in the position of having to lie about it by then telling reporters that he`s hiking the Appalachian Trail? What a joke?

BARR: Well, I mean, there`s certainly a lot of hypocrisy involve in here though. The one thing I would say about Mark Sanford, though, is he always promoted himself as a fiscal conservative, not so much a social conservative. He certainly adopted those values; that wasn`t the thing for him.

Now, another thing to consider here with this -- with the staff is he was lying to the staff too. He wasn`t having them cover for him. None of that was going on. He was lying to everybody and expecting that he`d be able to go on and continuing to cover this thing up.

Of course it all came crashing down on him when she found -- some e-mails between him and his Argentine mistress.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: After claiming he was hiking the Appalachian Trail which really is going to go down as the all time goof ball excuse of all time when he was really cheating on his wife Sanford issued what`s become the standard unfaithful politician apology. Listen to this.


MARK SANFORD, GOVERNOR OF SOUTH CAROLINA: I`ve let down a lot of people. That`s the bottom line. And I let them down and in every instance I would ask their forgiveness. Forgiveness is not an immediate process. It is in fact a process that takes time. And I`ll be in that process for quite some weeks and months and I suspect years ahead.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Dr. Reef, please analyze this guy.

DR. REEF KARIM, ADDICTION SPECIALIST: Yes. You know, I feel -- my job is to feel for people and try to help them. I don`t see pathology here in regards to, like, disease, mental health problems. I see a guy who cheated on his wife. I see a guy who at the vows said, "I don`t know if I can be faithful." I see a guy who is a politician. I don`t see --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: More cheating in a moment.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When he told you he was in the affair did you make any efforts to save your marriage, put it back together?

J. SANFORD: Yes. Starting at that time we worked very diligently to put the marriage back together. Including some counseling, all sorts of different endeavors but ultimately we were not successful.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Jenny Sanford, the soon to be ex-wife of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. She appeared in family court today and testified about her husband`s infidelity. The judge granted her divorce and it should be finalized in March.

Andy Barr, reporter for politico. Now her book is number eight on "The New York Times" bestseller list. So maybe Jennifer Brandt has a point that this is just a great way of having what amounts to a book tour except it`s in court. I mean, can politics get any stranger than this?

BARR: I guess it could. You know, in terms of her book she didn`t need any more publicity for her book. She was all over the place doing all sort of talk shows.

BRANDT: But Andy, this couldn`t have hurt her book sales at all today with this new-founded publicity and divorce being granted. I think this only helps her.

BARR: Right, I mean maybe. She`s doing pretty well on her own. Really what this is, I think, her setting herself at her own and cutting away from her husband and really she`s building her own independent brand politically away from him. I mean, people are actually talking --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Maybe she should run for office.

BARR: They`re talking about it.

BRANDT: But you know unfortunately, what we have to look at here are the real victims are these four children. I mean, their lives have completely changed and now they have both parents out in the spotlight sort of airing out all their dirty laundry.

I mean you have to think about them. I think they`re the real victims here and no one seems to be considering what`s going on in their lives.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. After the short hearing Jenny spoke to the reporters outside the courthouse about the end of her 20-year marriage. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today is the end of a 20-year marriage.

J. SANFORD: As I said before, it`s not cause for celebration but beginning of a new chapter for me and our children and hopefully for some healing in a new form. Our family will be in a different shape but no reason in the world why we can`t raise our boys to be the best they can be.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Andy Barr, this governor has about a year left in office. Is it just me or is it chutzpah that he hasn`t resigned?

BARR: He was never really going to resign. I mean the guy really doesn`t care for anyone else in the state. Some folks called for him to resign. The truth is the numbers weren`t there for him to resign. The polls, too, were never really there; it was always kind of 50-50.

In fact, Sanford now is back to being as popular as he was before. I mean a lot of people are outraged but the truth is folks don`t care that much.

South Carolina is a part-time legislature. It only goes from now until June. And so after June he`s effectively out of office.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Here`s a yes/no question. Is he political toast? Yes or no.

BARR: Yes. But I mean he`s terminal anyway, of course he`s toast.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It was a yes or no question. My big issue tonight -- enough is enough. So many times we see politicians` wives standing by their men as they publicly apologize for their infidelity. Takes a lot of strength to stand there and smile like a robot after you`ve been betrayed.

Should Jenny Sanford get a lot of credit for not doing that? Not being that robotic Stepford wife who stands there and says nothing while their husband admits that he cheated? Dr. Reef, 20 seconds.

KARIM: Yes. I admire jenny Sanford. She`s showing a great deal of empowerment. In regards to Mark Sanford, Governor Sanford`s prognosis, I estimate he`s going to be hiking the Appalachian Trail for quite a long time.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Maybe now he`ll put on his hiking boots and actually hike the Appalachian Trail. And maybe even stay there and live there in a cave near the Appalachian Trail.

Thank you, fabulous panel, for joining me tonight. You are watching issues on HLN.