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Justice For Chelsea

Aired March 3, 2010 - 19:00:00   ET


JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HLN HOST (voice-over): Tonight, fast-breaking news in the war on women. Escalating outrage in San Diego. Cops say 17- year-old Chelsea King was brutally raped and murdered. Now prosecutors say this convicted sex offender will be charged with her murder. Tonight, Chelsea`s devastated family demands answers. Why was this a sicko out of prison? He beat and fondled a 13-year-old girl, and only got five years, in jail? How many more women have to die before we fix this junk justice? And if we don`t, whose child will be next? Tonight we`ll talk to one of Chelsea`s heart-broken teachers.

An explosive new allegations in the desperate search for Susan Powell. The Utah mom vanished three months ago, and now her family is pulling back the curtain on the couple`s toxic marriage, claiming Josh Powell physically abused Susan. This guy seemed suspicious from the get-go. He won`t help in the search and he moved out of town. But now is he trying to use the internet to save his image?

Plus, the mystery mounts in California. Where, oh, where are the McStays? It`s been one month since this beautiful family of four vanished into thin air. Tonight, we`ll go inside this desperate hunt, and talk to the head of the search team on the ground. How do two parents and two children vanish without a trace?

"Issues" starts now.

VELEZ-MITCHELL (on camera): Tonight, rage, and grief boil over in the community now trying to understand the vicious attack and murder of 17- year-old Chelsea King as her alleged killer enters a not guilty plea, just minutes ago.


MICHEAL J. HOPKINS, DEPUTY PUBLIC OFFENDER, SAN DIEGO COUNTY: We would waive arraignment. As we waive the reading of the complaint. Also waive reading of his rights at this time. Mr. Gardener wishes to enter a plea of not guilty to both counts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is March 9th, 8:30 this department. Preliminary hearing March 18th, Department 11. That is the tenth day, counsel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I order you back into court on this date. Do you understand, sir?



VELEZ-MITCHELL: Look at him. His eyes down. Why did he waive the reading of those charges? Rape and murder? Is it possible he didn`t want to hear the words "rape" and "murder"?

You can`t understand half of what happens in a courtroom today and that`s part the of the problem. It`s gobbledygook, all designed to protect the defendant.

Now let`s take a look at the home where Chelsea`s alleged killer, John Gardener the third had been staying with his mother and stepfather. In an act of vandalism, somebody spray painted, you are looking at it right there, "Chelsea`s blood is on you, move out."

Now, I caution everyone let`s remember the cops say this man and this man alone is responsible. Attacking his mother really doesn`t help Chelsea, it doesn`t help anyone. Cops say they are virtually sure they have found beautiful Chelsea`s body yesterday. But the medical examiner`s results are being sealed, perhaps for tactical reasons. The body was buried in a shallow grave next to a lake at the park where Chelsea went running last Thursday. And about a half a mile away from where Chelsea had parked her car that afternoon. And just look at how close these locations are to Gardener`s mother`s house, where the suspect was staying. Okay? It`s all in the same neighborhood. Now, last night, thousands turned out for a planned vigil that suddenly and tragically turned into a heart- wrenching memorial. Chelsea`s father spoke through his tears. This from NBC.


BRENT KING, CHELSEA`S FATHER: One of the nicknames that I always called my daughter is "my angel." and she is my angel forever.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Imagine what those parents are going through. It`s impossible. Beautiful Chelsea leaves behind a 13-year-old brother, as well. You know, this suspect could have been behind bars, but he was released after just five years, despite beating up and molesting a 13-year- old girl, just in the year 2000.

This is what I am calling junk justice tonight. Let me know what you think. Give me a call. 1 -877-jvm-says. 1-877-586-7297. Straight out to my amazing expert panel. Wendy Murphy, former prosecutor and author of "And Justice For Some." Judge Greg Mathis, host of the successful syndicated court show, "Judge Mathis." Mike Brooks, HLN law enforcement analyst. And we begin with Jim Moret attorney and senior correspondent for "Inside Edition." Jim, what is the latest?

JIM MORET, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, "INSIDE EDITION": Well, you saw this defendant standing in court. And, you know, it`s sickening. You talk about junk justice. And really, there are two issues. One is this guy was convicted of sexually molesting a young girl, 13 year-old girl, back in 2000. He pled guilty after the preliminary hearing, because one witness, a 13-year-old girl was brave enough to testify there. And he served five years. So you`ve got two issues, one, how did this guy get out in five years, and two, most importantly, how did he go back into the same neighborhood and not a single person in that neighborhood was ever notified that a predator was in their midst and only a thousand feet or so from an elementary school.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And you are absolutely right, Jim. And this is what gets me. Our entire system of junk justice is back-ackwards, as they say.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Okay, let me say this, and I`ll get your response, Mike Brooks. You could track a FEDEX package across country, okay? Overnight, and know where that FEDEX package is every moment of that journey. But you`re telling me, in this age of Skype and Google and the internet and every other high-tech device, that we can`t track a 200-plus- pound hulking guy? Across California? While he`s jumping from his grandma`s house to his mother`s house? Mike Brooks?

BROOKS: Jane, the bottom line here is, the guy should have been in jail! He should not have been out. He doesn`t need a GPS if you`re in jail. The psychiatrist, who interviewed him after his 2000 arrest, said, that he was a danger to underage girls in his community, and recommended the full 30-year maximum sentence. That`s what bothers me. Shame on the prosecutors for even making any kind of plea deal, and shame on the judge for accepting it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, and I am honored -- wait a second. I`m very honored to have a very special guest tonight, Chelsea`s teacher and peer counselor, Traci Barkerball.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tracy thank you so much for joining us on this really horrific, horrific tragic day. Chelsea, beautiful, beautiful girl, straight-a student, a wonderful daughter. An avid runner. She was a musician. Tell me about her, and then tell me how you feel looking at the sickening video of her alleged murder who was arraigned just a short time ago in court, and entered a not guilty plea. You know, they even managed to arrange it so we didn`t have to hear the words "murder" and "rape." what a horrific contrast, Tracy.

TRACI BARKERBALL, CHELSEA`S TEACHER & PEER COUNSELOR: Yes. As far as Chelsea, the first word that comes to mind is she is quirky. You know, she smiles a lot. She -- she takes awkward moments and does them into Chelsea moments. You already know, she is a straight-a student. She had four A.P. classes. You know, in all of the things that she has done. She just had a huge heart, everybody loved her. She did a lot of community service. She always wanted to volunteer to help others. She gave up her social life a lot of times, so she could study. That`s the beautiful Chelsea. You have met her parents, and you see where it all comes from. She is, you know -- warm, friendly, everything we would want.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Beautiful and what a loss. What a loss. Stay right there. More questions for Chelsea`s teacher, right in 60 seconds.



VELEZ-MITCHELL: Chelsea King didn`t have to die! Here`s my big issue. From memorial to March. This is a call to action, people! We have all these visuals and memorials to help devastated parents cope when their daughters are snatched off the streets and in the worst case scenario, to grieve as they did last night. Why can`t we harness all that power that goes into organizing these memorials, and unleash it into a new movement? You know about all those tea party rallies going on around the country. But I`m not talking politics. I`m not talking politics at all.

This goes way beyond left, right, center. This is about saving lives, preventing, and protecting. Not just punishing. Traci Barkerball, your beautiful student, Chelsea King, did not have to die, as Jim Moret said. As Mike Brooks said. As we all know. He could have been locked up for 30 years because he assaulted and fondled a 13-year-old girl in 2000, and they let him off after five years. What is your and the students` of Chelsea`s classmates -- what is the reaction to this abomination that he was let out so soon?

BARKERBALL: Obviously, we`re angry. There`s -- there`s been a lot of things where people have said, give me 30 minutes with this guy. In Chelsea`s honor, she was not a violent person. I know they had a discussion, and in her A.P. government class, and you know, she was all about justice. She was all about doing the right thing. But she is all about you pay for your crimes. You know, she would want him to be in jail. If it was one of her classmates, she would be angry that this guy is not here -- I mean, out of jail. She would want to make sure that there was justice.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I just can`t get over the fact that this girl is dead because she wanted to go jogging. And that another woman was attacked in this very same park on December 27th, fought him off, and Traci, Chelsea wouldn`t have gone jogging if she had seen signs up there warning there was a predator on the loose, but there were no signs. Traci, if there is falling rocks, there`s going to be signs in that park saying watch out for falling rocks. But you could have a predator roaming around, and there is no sign saying a guy attacked a female jogger right here? She wouldn`t have gone jogging if she had seen that. Traci?

BARKERBALL: Yes, you are so right. And a lot of people have said that. Chelsea is a very intelligent person, was a very intelligent person, and she definitely would not have. She -- you know, Pawi has so many different places to go, and she definitely would have watched out if there were signs, if she had known any of that. I believe it and the family believes it, as well. She would not have taken that risk.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Traci, we have a panel, we`re working on this case. But I have to ask you. Do you think there should be this movement where people gather together and march on Washington and say, we`ve got to completely remake our criminal justice system top to bottom, Googlize it, use high technology, to track these predators? He was a registered sex offender. You know there is so many things wrong. He was released early, but even after he was released, he is still a registered sex offender. He wasn`t even staying at his listed address. He was staying with his mom right near this park where he attacked, allegedly, Chelsea.

BARKERBALL: Right. And that was one of the things a lot of people in the community have been talking about. You know, when we first thought she had disappeared, everybody was Googling and saying, oh, there are so many sex offenders in the area. But he wasn`t listed there, because he had a different address that he was listed. So I love what you think -- you know, said about the GPS, and it does make sense. If you can track a FEDEX, why can`t you track a sex offender? Why can`t we keep them away from our beautiful girls? Our daughters? You know, we need to protect these people.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We have to. We have to keep them away. I`m so sorry for your loss, Traci. You sound like a fantastic teacher, and I pray that this never happens to you or Chelsea`s family or anybody else again. But until we change things, it is going to happen, unfortunately, to somebody else. You know? There are predators right now. Who is going to be the next child if we don`t change the why our criminal justice system works.

Please stay right where you are. So much more on Chelsea King`s murder and the suspect`s first court appearance just a little while ago. And we`re taking your calls. 1-877-jvm-says.

New details about Susan Powell`s toxic marriage. Is Josh Powell trying to find his missing wife or just improve his own image? You be the judge.

But first, heart wrenching story, Chelsea King, young jogger, found dead. Chelsea`s dad talked about his daughter the day before her body was found.


KING: Every morning she would say "goodbye, mom and dad, have a great day." and when she got home, she would always ask us, "how was your day." you know and we would sit down and talk about it. She is just -- she couldn`t wait for the next day.




SHERIFF WILLIAM GORE, SAN DIEGO COUNTRY, CA: She was found in an area shortly -- or not far from where we had previously discovered a piece of evidence, a shoe. It was about 15 -- 10 to 15 feet away from a tributary that leads down to the lake. And it was covered in a shallow grave. One of the searchers looking from the water up on the shoreline spotted something that looked suspicious, and investigated and found by moving some small debris, found Chelsea`s body.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Devastating news yesterday afternoon. Beautiful Chelsea King`s body discovered only a half mile from where her car was parked, barely buried in a shallow grave. The teen`s death has struck a crushing blow to the community. Even our HLN affiliate reporter had trouble. He choked up during last night`s memorial reporting.


JOHN SODERMAN, KUSI REPORTER: I would say the crowd is probably 2,000. The Facebook entries said it would be 1,300. It started off with Chelsea`s friends. I`m talking about her --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: And that`s good. We can`t be just objective about this horrific violence. We have to have our hearts open. Part of the problem is we treat this like business as usual. Of oh, another news story. Uh-uh. It`s not. Roberta, California. Your question or thought, ma`am.

ROBERTA, CALIFORNIA (on the phone): Yes, Jane. I want to thank you for advocating women and children like you do. As far as I`m concerned, these predators, these people that they catch and convict, they -- we either need to find an island to put them all on, and let them fend for themselves, and/or since the government wants to close Guantanamo Bay, stick them there, and throw away the key. Let them defend themselves. I`m so sorry to the family this has happened.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Roberta, I think you`re making a good point. I want to bring Wendy Murphy, former prosecutor in. Wendy, yes, we want to punish. But our society is so obsessed with punishing, we don`t spend the fraction it would cost to prevent these things. I mean, once the death kicks in, there is all the investigations and the gathering of evidence and the incarceration and the prosecution. But where`s the prevention when it would have -- it`s just a -- an easy thing to track a registered sex offender. Put a GPS device on them!

WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: It`s also very easy to just keep them locked up. Look, I don`t agree with you that we focus too much on punishment when it comes to this sort of crime. You read any research on this topic, less than 2 percent of rapists spend even one day behind bars. The numbers are even worse when you`re talking about child victims, because they don`t vote and have money. It`s grotesque. I`ve called for a revolution. I don`t like to talk about my book too much, but I actually write in my book all of the things that went wrong in this case, chapter after chapter, explains why the system is in such disrepair. And it`s grotesque. There is nothing about due process going on. It`s just disrespect for innocent women and children that leads to injustices like this. And I suggest the revolution be called Mafioso. Mothers and fathers incensed about sex offenders, I`m telling you we need it. You are right Jane, I`ll join you but can I -- I want to clarify one quick thing for you audience - no one --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We are going to clarify it after the break.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: I don`t like your title. But I like idea of this movement. I don`t think the Mafioso works.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`ll work on the name. Fantastic panel stay right there.

Coming up the McStays disappear.



MAURICE DUBOIS, DAUGHTER AMBER VANISHED FEB 2009: The similarities, the accessibility, the location. His living in Escondido, is like I said, just his past, you know. There`s enough similarities to warrant it to cause us to be a little skeptical.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: And that is missing teenager, Amber Dubois`s father, talking about the similarities between Chelsea`s case and the disappearance of his daughter. Another family living in crisis in this same area. 14-year-old Amber Dubois vanished in 2009, walking to school. Close by in Escondido. Judge Greg Mathis, they`re trying to squeeze information out of this John Gardener character, and we have heard reports he wasn`t cooperating. But they have a special allegation of rape or attempted rape, and a count of assault with intent to commit rape. How might they use the prospect of the death penalty to get him to talk?

JUDGE GREG MATHIS, HOST, "JUDGE MATHIS": That`s certainly that something can be used in an interrogation. But also, I think with this movement, we need to advocate strengthening laws, both strengthening laws on the state and federal level, whereby there are sentencing guidelines or mandatory sentencings like they do with drug dealers. And so I think we can strengthen these laws. Also, I`m an advocate of castration -- chemical castration in some instances. I think those two things might go a long way in trying to stop some of this sexual molestation of young girls in particular.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mike Brooks, let me ask you this, though. Here`s my point about the not enough emphasis on prevention. It seems to me, covering all these stories year after year, that when the millions of taxpayer dollars really kick in, is the search for the missing woman. Examining the bodies when they`re found. Hunting for the killer rapist. Arresting the suspect. Gathering the evidence and prosecuting. But for a fraction of the cost, we could have put up a sign that said there is a predator loose. For a fraction of the cost we could have had a GPS device on every single registered sex offender in California. I mean, there are high-tech tracking devices that exist. Of I don`t care if you have to shoot a little dart in them, and put a honing device inside their bodies! You know, once you`ve attacked a 13-year-old girl, and pummeled her while you fondle her, you`ve lost, I think, your rights to say "I want to roam free."

BROOK: Absolutely. You know, I agree with you. Somebody was asking me about that just today. Why can`t we chip these people like we do for dogs to try to find them, you know, if they`re lost!


BROOK: You know but the problem is, Jane, I`ve spoken to a number of people who are involved in programs. GPS, tracking these people. People who are under house arrest. It`s only as good as system that`s set up. Now, you know, are you -- do they have 24/7 monitoring? Some do. Some don`t. But look at Phillip Garrido! Is this a problem just in California? No. It`s a problem across the country. With the probation, and parole system within the different states.

MURPHY: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let me just jump in here. Because in this particular case, let me tell you who I blame. Lots of blame to go around. But the first to blame is the prosecutor from 2000.

BROOK: That`s exactly right.

MURPHY: And let me tell I couldn`t. First of all, the prosecutor originally charged him with a variety of serious crimes, as he should have. And then --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Plea bargain. Hey, hang on! We`re extending this segment into the next block because there is so much interest. We`ll get to that in just a moment. Hang in there.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Explosive new allegations in the desperate search for Susan Powell. The Utah mom vanished three months ago. Now Susan`s family is pulling back the curtain on the couple`s toxic marriage. Was Susan physically abused by her husband?

Plus, mystery mounts in California. It`s now been one month since a beautiful family of four vanished into thin air. Where, oh where are the McStays?

But first, breaking news tonight: the monster suspected of murdering beautiful 17-year-old Chelsea King in the San Diego area enters a plea just a little while ago of not guilty to murder. Listen.


MICHAEL J. HOPKINS, DEPUTY PUBLIC DEFENDER, SAN DIEGO COUNTY: We would waive arraignment, as we waive reading of the complaint. Also waive reading of his rights at this time. Mr. Gardner wishes to enter a plea of not guilty to both counts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Status, March 9, 8:30, this department. Preliminary hearing, March 18, 8:15, Department 11. That is the tenth day, counsel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. I order you back to court on this date. Do you understand, sir?



VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Jim Moret, one of the problems with our criminal justice system, you and I have sat in court together. Half the time you don`t even know what is going on, because it`s a language of its own, filled with gobbledygook.

In court today, while this guy is staring down at the floor, we never even heard the words "murder" and "rape" during the court appearance, so we checked the wire copy, and the wire copy says he has been charged with murder and faces a special allegation of rape or attempted rape, and a count of assault with intent to commit rape. I can`t really figure out whether they think he raped this poor girl or attempted to because they aren`t speaking English here.

JIM MORET, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, "INSIDE EDITION": No, I know. Look, I`m an attorney, and often I have a hard time figuring out what`s going on. You have to really look at the words. You shouldn`t have to do that.

I`ll tell you what bothers me though about this case. I talked to the one young woman who testified ten years ago against this guy and got that conviction. She testified at the preliminary hearing. This guy was 16 houses away from her.

Now, look, if I lose my iPhone, I have an app, I can find it. I go to another computer; I can tell you exactly where it is with the GPS unit in here. But nobody in that community and certainly not the young woman who testified had any idea that this guy was still in that neighborhood. That concerns me.

So I mean, I really see two problems. One is that the prosecution level on this case and the other is just simple notification. And you know, I think about this poor young woman who is out there jogging, a beautiful young girl, and her life is taken for nothing. It`s just horrible.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: For no reason at all, completely preventable. And I think the underlying problem with all of this is that we live in a high- tech, 21st-century world where the private sector is staying up to date on the latest changes, and our government is stuck in the 19th century.

I was shocked -- shocked to hear that one of the reasons why we didn`t have a sketch of the woman who was attacked in the same area -- another female jogger was attacked in the same area on December 27th, is that police said, well, she is from Colorado, and she went back to Colorado.

MORET: Yes and you know what police showed her this guy`s picture, and you know what she said, "That`s the guy."


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. But guess what? They didn`t get a sketch out of her with the excuse that she had left the area. So what? I have meetings on Skype all the time, ok? Between here in New York and Atlanta we have Skype meetings all of the time. Why couldn`t they have put a sketch artist on Skype? Why aren`t we using the technology available? Why -- because the complacent bureaucracies of the criminal justice system and government in general are not built to keep track of the latest innovations.

WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: But Jane, that`s only because they don`t value -- we don`t value women and children enough. When we value stuff, oh, boy, you know, look at the stock market and the SEC. Somebody buys one extra stock too many and some little button goes off and oh, boy, the law enforcement goes crazy.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, they didn`t let Bernie Madoff get away, by the way, so I`m not so sure about that.

MURPHY: Can I just say -- well, that`s a different issue. Can I just clarify something? Because everyone has been talking about the 2000 case as this guy`s first offense; if you read the sentencing report, it`s very clear.

He molested -- in 1999 molested a 14-year-old. Didn`t get charged, didn`t get prosecuted. But it was in the report when he then, one year later, beats the hell out of and molests a 13-year-old who has to run away from him out of his house. By the way, the house where that happened was his mother`s house. She runs half-naked around the street.

Now, the prosecutor says this is a serious case. I`m going to charge him with all these big crimes. And he faced 30 years behind bars, because the prosecutor was going to get tough on him.

Before you blink your eyes, the prosecutor let him dismiss a bunch of the most tough charges of all so he that only faced 11 years. And then let him plead to six. The prosecutor is the one who dropped the ball here.



BROOKS: And the judge.

MATHIS: Prevention, prevention, prevention. Jane, you mentioned it. You know, and there`s a more basic way to prevent and make the community aware. And that is through mailings. Just like you mail the water bill, just like they mail you a property tax. They should mail to citizens the information letting them know that a sexual predator is in their community.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: But we have the Internet, oh my gosh. The Internet. I get -- I get like -- I have two cell phones. I get a text and e-mails and all sorts of things every 30 seconds. God forbid that our government would use the Internet to warn people to their cell phones.

MURPHY: We don`t need the Internet. 200 years ago we had stockades; you just lock them up behind a brick wall.

BROOKS: They let them out of jail in California for everything now.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hold on. I have to bring out my gavel.

Judge Mathis, you know about this gavel.

MATHIS: Absolutely.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Dawn, South Carolina. Your question or thought.

DAWN, SOUTH CAROLINA: Hi, Jane. I just wanted to say, you know, it`s sad that a person that would steal a TV or not that it makes it any better, but, you know, a person that goes out, kidnaps our children, rapes them, ties them up, and throws them away like trash, gets less time than someone --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You are so right, ma`am. Mike Brooks, right now in Mississippi, there is a controversy because two women have been sentenced to life sentences for armed robbery, and they didn`t hurt anyone. And what they stole was something like $11. And they`re doing two life terms, two women. And it`s a big controversy.

But with this guy, pummels a girl and molests her and he gets five years.

BROOKS: I guarantee you, if this guy had done this in Mississippi or in Texas or in Georgia, he wouldn`t have gotten five years. You know -- look at California --

MURPHY: Hey, you know what it`s the prosecutor`s fault.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hold on -- hold on. Wait a second.

MURPHY: It`s the prosecutor`s fault. The prosecutor should answer for this. He knew the guy was --

BROOKS: And the judge, Wendy.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s not just about the crime.


MURPHY: The prosecutor let them drop the charges.

BROOKS: The judge is the bottom line.

MATHIS: Correct. It`s the judge.

BROOKS: It`s the judge.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. You know what? We have to stay on top of this. Junk justice needs to be fixed, and we need a movement. It shouldn`t be called Mafioso or whatever you want to call it.

MURPHY: When the law doesn`t work, you know --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But I think we need a movement, and we`ve got to give it a name. I`m going to put my thinking cap on, you as well at home.

Thank you, fabulous panel.

Now, another grizzly story involving the war on women: grizzly details emerging about the state of Susan Powell`s marriage before she disappeared last December.

Plus, who is the mystery writer on a Web site that is supposed to help find her?

An update, next.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, bizarre new developments in the suspicious disappearance of a Utah mom. Susan Powell has been missing for three months. And the sole focus has been on her husband, Josh.

He is now facing a fresh wave of criticism, thanks to a new Web site he is believed to have launched, We haven`t confirmed this is Josh`s site. We haven`t heard back from his attorney, but a lot of people, including Susan`s family, think Josh is behind it.

The site reads, quote, "The children are all happy and well- adjusted in their new home." The author is either lying or in very close contact with the two Powell boys. The site also singing Josh, the husband, the person of interest, praises. Quote, "Josh is a loving father and husband. He likes to take his wife out to dinner or watch movies with her. Josh is totally committed to his wife and children."

Well, he can`t take her out to the movies, because she is missing and he`s a person of interest in that disappearance.

Ok, anyway, that`s not what Susan`s family says. They say Susan was planning to leave Josh after years of abuse and control. Listen.


SHELBY GIFFORD, COX FAMILY SPOKESWOMAN: I`ve spent the most time with Susan on a day-to-day basis, witnessing egregious acts of control on Josh`s part, including controlling her use of the car, denying her access to the family finances, even though she brought in most of the money, repeatedly, sabotaging her parenting efforts. And even governing which groceries she could buy or not buy.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Susan disappeared December 6th. Josh moved out of state less than a month later. He told police the night Susan vanished he took their two young sons camping around midnight in freezy, icy conditions. He says they then returned the next day and Susan was gone. Her parents simply do not believe him.


CHUCK COX, SUSAN POWELL`S FATHER: And he`s not saying anything and I am not buying this story that he gave the police.

GIFFORD: I find it very disturbing that he won`t speak up or say anything. And that he doesn`t seem to show concern or love or care. It`s just not a way a husband should react with his wife missing.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, back with our fantastic panel. Also joining us, Michelle Sigona of and we are very delighted to have Susan Powell`s friend, Jovanna Owings.

But first Michelle, what is the very latest?

MICHELLE SIGONA, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Well, I`ve spoke with Captain McLaughlin (ph) earlier today Jane and he says at this point they`re still moving forward with some leads and some information that they have. They`re not ready to go forward with that information as of yet. Josh Powell is still living in Washington State. He says he cannot stop him.

And if Josh is the author of this Web site, which Keersey (ph), one of Susan`s friends -- I spoke with her earlier today -- she told me that Josh is the creator of this Web site. That in fact, that after Susan went missing about three weeks after that, he started creating this Web site inside of her house.

So she witnessed a lot of this happen. It sort of went dead. But then the Web site was then brought up after a recent "Dr. Phil Show" and a neighbor in Josh Powell`s current community went out in Washington State and started plastering the neighborhood with posters and purple ribbons of Susan Powell. And then that`s when this particular --


SIGONA: -- Web site popped up.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Jovanna Owings, you are Susan Powell`s friend. What do you make of this Web site and the fact that some of Susan`s other friends and family say it`s inappropriate if Josh is in fact doing this to kind of make himself look good?

JOVANNA OWINGS, SUSAN POWELL`S FRIEND: Actually, I`ve seen the Web site. And it`s confusing to me, because first of all, if it`s an official Web site, it`s really not very informative at all. And it`s frustrating, because it`s not giving much information at all for us to help or do anything.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So are you upset about it, or are you ok with it?

OWINGS: I got to see a couple more pictures of Susan that I haven`t seen. And I like the lavender-filled background. But --


OWINGS: You know, it`s more -- it`s more of a frustration for me than anything.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok. Jovanna, hang on. We`re going to get to you in just 60 seconds and hear more from you and your analysis. Hold on.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: or actually it`s, which implies an organization, claims to be the official site for information about this tragic case. It also touts, quote, "Exclusive access and copyright to more photos, videos and even continuing information about this beautiful woman" end quote.

And Mike Brooks, those words sound eerily impersonal to me if Josh is behind this site. First of all, why would he copyright those pictures? Wouldn`t he want Susan`s image spread far and wide since we`re looking for her, since she`s missing?

BROOKS: You know, Jane, you sure would think so. But the odd thing, as a resident former investigator, he`s trying to bolster his alibi, "Oh, look at these pictures, we go out in the snow all the time, camping." But no one, no one goes out at midnight, camping with your kids in blizzard conditions. And then the whole story about, Jane, "Well, I just lost track of time." That is all BS to me.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And he lost track of time. He`s supposed to be at work the next morning.

BROOKS: New job, a new job.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And never showed up.

All right. Susan`s family and friends say Josh controlled every aspect of her life, especially when it came to money. Oddly enough, makes a reference to Susan`s spending. Quote, "Susan never held back when it came to purchases at the beauty supply," end quote. Of course, "Josh has always been happy to support Susan`s efforts in any way he could," end quote.

Now, Jovanna Owings, again, is it weird to include that and what do you make of the criticisms that this is designed to bolster his image?

OWINGS: I think it is exactly that. It is a way of showing that he was trying to support her, in that effort to become a beautician and have that home business. But at the same time, I don`t think that that`s really the case. I don`t think that that`s where it was -- it was headed.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Did you see controlling behavior on Josh`s part? You`re a friend of Susan`s, you were there, you`re observing. Did you observe any kind of -- would you say a toxic relationship, which is what the parents and the family are saying?

OWINGS: I did not see that between the two of them, because I wasn`t around them very much. I had just started to form that relationship between Susan and I --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Did she ever complain about him?

OWINGS: She did a little bit. She was a little bit frustrated the day after Thanksgiving, because she needed to go to work and he was out buying gifts for Christmas and wasn`t back home in time for her to go to work.


OWINGS: And so she asked me to go and help her get to work.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s kind of ironic, because he was controlling the money supply, but she was bringing in most of the money. And that`s what happens sometimes. That -- you know, one of the reasons we`re covering this story, we want to find Susan Powell. That`s reason number one.

But also, to point out the hall marks of what could be an abusive relationship, because if people are in them, Michelle Sigona, there are certain hallmarks.

SIGONA: There are.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Susan`s parents say, you know, in the three months she has been missing, they`ve only been allowed to see their grandsons a couple of times, three times. What do you make of that, Michelle?

SIGONA: You know it`s just very interesting. It just feels like to me that hem you know, wanted to escape a lot of the attention that he was getting in Utah, wanted to go up to his gated community in Washington. Wanted to bring the kids up there to almost start over and kind of ignore what`s going on.

I kind of feel personally on a personal level that if it were my wife and if she were missing I would stay in that neighborhood and do everything that I could possibly do to try to help find her.

And a lot of times in domestic violence situations -- and again, we have not heard from Josh Powell on this end. So we`re just speaking as to what family and friends have come forward and said. There are tall tale red flags that women out there, you have to pay attention to -- you`ve got to pay attention to.

If you have friends out there that are in these kinds of situations, pick up the phone, call the national domestic violence hotline. There is help out there for you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely. Jovanna Owings, thank you for having the courage to talk to us. Thanks panel.

What happened to the McStays? How does a family just disappear? Relatives, they don`t know what to make of it.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s been almost a month and still no signs of the missing family who mysteriously vanished from their California home.

Joey and Summer McStay and their two beautiful young children were last heard from on February 4th. Two days later their car found abandoned in a busy shopping center two blocks away from the Mexican border. By all accounts this was a happy, normal family. How and why did they just vanish into thin air?

At first, Joey, the dad`s brother, Michael feared they were kidnapped. Now he`s not so sure. Listen to this.


MICHAEL MCSTAY, JOEY MCSTAY`S BROTHER: I really thought that someone was holding them against their will. But there`s been no ransom so -- and you know, for him to just up and run and not tell anybody, it would have to be something pretty heavy.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: What is that pretty heavy thing? Investigators search the McStay home for clues. Found no sign of struggle. But fresh eggs and other perishables were left out on the counter. And the McStay`s two dogs -- dogs, friends say Summer called her children -- were left in the backyard with no food or water.

Now police are searching phone records and bank statements and watching hours of border surveillance video. They believe the family may have crossed the border at Tijuana. Police have brought in search group -- the search group, the premiere search group, Texas Equusearch.

And we`re delighted to have Tim Miller, director of Texas Equusearch with us tonight. Tim, what have you found out on the ground?

TIM MILLER, DIRECTOR, TEXAS EQUUSEARCH, (via telephone): Well, Jane, hey, thanks for all the kind words. We did a lot of work up around the family`s house the day before yesterday. Actually went in the McStay`s family home.

Mike had to go in there and get some things and law enforcement said it was fine to go in.

We drove down to the border. We were standing in the exact spot where the vehicle was. We feel as though we got a pretty good idea; not exact by no means, when the vehicle was there.

We`re actually working with one of our members that has access to some satellite imaging and we know that more satellite activity happens down there by the border because of, you know, Homeland Security and drug activity and stuff. So we`re hoping that we can get lucky and the satellite can say the vehicle wasn`t here at this time, it was here at this other time.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. So basically no breakthroughs at this point? You`re still just doing the groundwork?

MILLER: Absolutely. No breaks.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Jim Moret, I just want to jump to you. You`ve been studying this case. It doesn`t add up. It does not make sense. What are your theories?

MORET: I agree with you. And you know what? When things don`t make sense, clearly something`s wrong. You`re not talking about one guy. You`re talking about a man, his wife and their two kids.

And what the brother said is interesting. First he thought it was a kidnapping. Now he said it would have to be something pretty heavy for his brother to take off with his family. So it makes sense to check the business records. It makes sense to see if there were some financial issues.

We know that there was initially some attention being focused on the business partner who had a criminal record. Police say he wasn`t a person of interest or even a suspect. And he was one of the first people to notice they were missing.

I don`t know. When we talked to investigators they said to their knowledge this family was not part of the witness protection program. I hadn`t even thought about that. But obviously people do get up and move if there`s something like that.

But investigators are stymied by this because it just seems so out of character for this family. And I suspect it`s going to take a bit more research before we can have any meaningful theories about what`s going on.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s a total mystery, and the idea that the mom had several aliases is also very fascinating.

We are out of time. We`re going to stay on top of all these cases, especially the terrible murder of Chelsea King.

You are watching ISSUES on HLN.