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Remains of Amber Dubois Found

Aired March 8, 2010 - 19:00:00   ET



JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight the war on women escalates in San Diego. Cops have now found the skeletal remains of Amber Dubois. This beautiful 14-year-old girl had been missing for more than a year, her body found just 30 miles from Chelsea King`s murder scene, less than one week later. So are these gruesome murders connected? Did Chelsea`s alleged killer lead cops to Amber`s body?

And tonight we`re learning our Freedom from Fear campaign here on ISSUES has inspired tough new legislation to combat predators. We`ll hear from the California lawmaker who was moved to take action.

Plus, outrage in Orlando. Casey Anthony`s trial date has finally been set, but don`t hold your breath. It won`t be happening for more than a year. Meantime, Casey`s lawyers want taxpayers to pay her legal fees. What? Casey has a dream team of lawyers. And she`s accused of killing her own daughter. Will the citizens of Florida now have to foot her bill?

And fast-breaking developments in the desperate search for the McStays. This family of four vanished without a trace one month ago. Tonight new surveillance video may show this family crossing the border into Mexico. Will this solve the mystery?

ISSUES starts now.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, mind-blowing developments as a mystery tip leads searchers to the remains of missing 14-year-old Amber Dubois. Cops say convicted sex offender John Gardner is the focus of the investigation into her death. Did he provide the tip?

The discovery of Amber`s remains comes on the heels of Chelsea King`s murder. Her body was found last Tuesday in a shallow grave at the park where she had gone jogging. Her alleged killer, John Gardner III, is sitting in jail right now, charged with rape and murder and possibly connected to attacks on seven -- seven -- women and girls.

Exactly one year and one week ago to the day, Amber went missing from her Escondido High School. Searchers found her remains deep in rugged terrain. And the location is not far from where Chelsea`s body was found.


CHIEF JIM MAHER, ESCONDIDO POLICE: Human skeletal remains have been positively identified as those of our missing 14-year-old Amber.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: How many times do we have to hear something like this? Who called in this tip? Did it come from John Gardner in jail as some bargaining chip?

All of that means little to Amber`s family right now. They are totally devastated and inconsolable.


MAURICE DUBOIS, AMBER`S FATHER: We`d like to thank everybody involved in the search for Amber, the entire community, everybody who helped out in our search efforts.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: We are so sorry, if you are watching, so very sorry. The outrage over these murders is intensifying.

Here on ISSUES, we have started a campaign to find Freedom from Fear. We want to plug those loopholes that let predators roam the streets and prey on women and girls. And we are taking your calls on this. What`s your idea for a solution? Call me: 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297.

Joining me now, my fantastic panel: clinical psychologist Brenda Wade. Also Judy Cornett, who is on predator patrol. She founded the Safety Zone Advocacy to stop sexual violence against kids. Criminal defense attorney Bradford Cohen. And we`re delighted to have California assemblyman Pedro Nava. He joins us tonight, inspired by our call to action here on ISSUES. He is working on legislation, brand-new legislation to plug those predator loopholes that were brought to the surface by this John Gardner case.

But we begin with ex-E! TV reporter Lynn Stewart, who`s on top of this case. Lynn, what is the very latest. We`re hearing new reports that a hiker found the remains, but we`re also hearing that it came from a mystery tip. Clarify.

LYNN STEWART, E! TV REPORTER: Well, at this point the district attorney`s office clearly isn`t saying anything, and neither is the Escondido Police Department. And I should caution you: that is a bit of a rumor about the hikers, though. We don`t necessarily want to go there, because we can`t confirm that.

But what we are being told by the family, as well as Lawrence Armstead (ph), he`s a private investigator that the grandmother of Amber Dubois hired back months ago, that six months ago he told the Escondido police, after they did an investigative report with K-9s, that Amber Dubois`s body would be found in the area around the Pala Indian reservation, or at least close to the casino. And that`s, in fact, the area where they did find her body on yesterday.

As far as the D.A.`s office, they say they will not be making any other comments, but we`re waiting for the Escondido police, hoping they`ll give us some more details. But what they are saying for the very first time today is that John Gardner is the focus of their investigation. And he`d been refusing over the last few hours to make any comment about that link.

But after that link came out in court today John Gardner was back in court today. The media has been trying to be able to get some information about his probation report that allowed him to be released back from the 2000 -- from the 2000 case, the initial case where he was convicted of a sex crime. And they say that they`re going to release that today, despite his defense attorney saying this is only going to pour more fire -- oil, rather, on the fire of this case and possibly put public sentiment even further against him.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, the truth has a tendency to do that. It has a tendency to pour fuel on the fire.

STEWART: That`s exactly what they`re saying.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s what the truth -- that`s what the truth has a tendency to do.

Look, it doesn`t make sense to me, Judy Cornett. You`re a predator hunter. Amber`s been missing since February of 2009. No tangible leads. Not a clue. Then suddenly five days after Chelsea`s body turns up, Amber`s body suddenly turns up. Too much of a coincidence?

JUDY CORNETT, FOUNDER, SAFETY ZONE ADVOCACY: Oh, yes, I believe it is. And the thing is, he -- his mother lived right around the corner from where this little girl came up missing from.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Chelsea King`s -- yes, the defendant in that case lived a short walk from where Chelsea King vanished and turned up dead. But it`s really fascinating to see how he has moved around. Chelsea and Amber vanished 7 1/2 miles from one another.

Amber`s grandmother does not understand why, in this very high-tech world, police are so very low-tech. Listen to this.


SHEILA WELCH, GRANDMOTHER OF AMBER DUBOIS: The techniques used to find missing children are Neanderthal. They don`t use any of the really wonderful technological things that are available today for searching.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Bradford Cohen, part of the problem is Gardner kept traveling under the radar, moving from town to town in Southern California. Amber vanished in February of 2009 from Escondido.

But it was several months later that Gardner turned up registered as a sex offender using an Escondido address only two miles from where Amber disappeared. When he was arrested in Chelsea King`s murder, he was living right near the scene with his mother in Rancho Bernardo, but he was listed on the sex offender registry as living in Lake Elsinore.

So nobody in Chelsea`s neighborhood knew they had a sex offender in their midst. So it seems like he was playing a shell game listing one address and then staying somewhere else where women started disappearing.

BRADFORD COHEN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Certainly. And the issue is that they can move around. Is it a violation of the law in terms of not registering wherever you`re moving? Very much so.

The problem is -- are the resources to track these people down and check where they`re actually living. The state spends so much time going after 18-year-olds having sex with 15-year-olds and sexting and cases that aren`t as egregious as this one.

And if they just put their resources where they belong, such as a case like this, they`d have more people to check on individuals to see if they`re actually living where they`re supposed to be living.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: In 60 seconds we`re going to be offering solutions to plug the hole, the predator loophole. Stay right there.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Here is my big issue tonight. We have to be in the solution. We have been ranting about our junk-justice system and how it doesn`t protect females from predators like John Gardner. Now we have to do something about it, so these girls will not have died in vain. Listen to what Amber`s family had to say.


CARRIE MCGONIGLE, AMBER`S MOTHER: It makes me sick. I don`t -- I don`t understand why he was -- why he was out, why he was able to do this. And I don`t understand why he wasn`t brought in for questioning when my daughter went missing.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: California Assemblyman Pedro Nava, who is running for attorney general, says he was inspired to take action after hearing about our Freedom from Fear campaign here on ISSUES in the wake of Chelsea King`s murder.

Assemblyman Nava, what exactly are you proposing in this new legislation, and how did this all come about?

ASSEMBLYMAN PEDRO NAVA, CALIFORNIA: Well, we`re going to simplify the process that we have right now. In California, we have Jessica`s Law. And there are many, many good provisions of it that do provide protection.

But quite frankly, there`s a formula that`s very complicated that takes a lot of difficulty to work through, if you`re going to take someone who commits a rape and imprison them for the maximum amount of time. I think California needs a one-strike law. And that is under the definition of rape -- and it`s pretty horrific. If you commit a rape, that`s your first strike, and you get 25 years to life, and you have to wear a GPS device for the rest of your life.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I think that is absolutely fantastic and, Brenda Wade, clinical psychologist, what is your reaction to this new legislation being proposed? Because we know that psychiatrists warned in 2000 that John Gardner would attack girls again. They begged the courts to give him a harsher sentence than the five years he got for molesting and pummeling a 13-year-old girl.

BRENDA WADE, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: You know, I am so happy to hear this proposed law, Jane. Because what we know is that people with this kind of compulsive behavior don`t stop. And when you have professionals saying this person is a danger, how on earth can we justify this person being released on the street when we have professionals warning that he`s not safe?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Jami, Louisiana.

WADE: I think the law can (ph) control that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Jami, Louisiana, your question or thought?

CALLER: Well, my comment is I think -- you know, not to take anything away from the individuals that are committing these crimes and doing these to our children and our family and our loved ones, and my deepest sympathies to these families.

But I worked in the legal field for a while. Not that high up on the chain as most of your guests. But I think it`s all about the way these cases are prosecuted. It`s about who can get the best deal, and the district attorney is working with these -- with the defendants` lawyers. And I mean, I happen to know a gentleman in my -- in my state that committed millions of dollars of bank fraud and he got a lesser sentence than this gentleman got for a horrific crime.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Jami, thank you for that great comment.

COHEN: Jane...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Assemblyman Nava, how would your legislation stop these ridiculous plea bargains where -- where a guy gets out in five years after he pummeled -- pummeled and molested a 13-year-old?

NAVA: Well, we do know that people who commit these kinds of crimes, they don`t get better. There`s just something broken about them. And they do not improve, and they will continue to hurt other people as viciously as they did the first time.

And I think there`s something really wrong when you have a professional who offers a professional opinion about the nature of this person`s crime, the fact that they felt no remorse, that they were practically guaranteed to commit that same kind of crime again.

Prosecutors and judges should not be allowed to ignore those kinds of conclusions. And the system, as it works now, there`s a great deal of discretion. And in some cases, it makes sense. But in victims of sexual crime cases, when you have a professional who`s rendering an opinion, I think the court and prosecutor need to be able to justify why they deviate from the recommended sentence.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, they always say they want to spare the child from having to testify.

Hang on, everybody. Bradford Cohen, on the other side, we`re going to dive into that. Stay right where you are.

More on these horrifying murders. Are they connected? Did John Gardner lead police to Amber`s body? We`re taking your calls on this. I want to hear from you. What`s the solution to stopping these predators?


WELCH: We had a list, as anyone can get from the Internet, of persons that we were concerned with, and my daughter in particularly. She was absolutely horrified that the police had not done a thorough examination of every one of the people, especially those who live within three miles of the home.




DUBOIS: The similarities, the -- the accessibility, the location, his living in Escondido, his -- 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: Imagine the hell that dad is going through. All the reasons he`s listing why he thinks John Gardner has something to do with his daughter`s death. The tip, the timing, he believes everything points to John Gardner as having something to do with Amber`s disappearance.

And we`re learning from cops that John Gardner III is the focus of Amber`s death, just as he is charged in Chelsea King`s death. And all of these abductions, rapes and murders that we`re talking about here rob all of us of our serenity, our peace of mind. It`s emotional terrorism for everyone in America, because it`s random. You can`t really protect yourself against it.

Susan, Ohio, your question or thought, ma`am.

CALLER: Jane, I have a -- I have a statement. I see the passion you have to stop this. And I live in a small town in Ohio. I want to do whatever I can. I mean, whatever I can to get this going. I mean, to get this nationwide spread. We have to have a movement. I have a 14-year-old daughter, and we have 18 predators, sexual predators around us in a small town.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And Pedro Nava -- thank you, Susan. Pedro Nava, part of your bill, as I understand it, because we`ve been talking all weekend about this. We`ve been working with a nonprofit group. They called me. They said they`re inspired. We got on the phone. I was talking to you all weekend.

And we talked this idea of also including in your legislation texting of the citizens when there is a predator on the loose. If Chelsea King had gotten a text saying, "Hey, there`s a predator that we haven`t caught stalking women in this park. He attacked Candace Moncayo," she probably wouldn`t have gone jogging by herself that day. Tell us about that aspect of your new legislation.

NAVA: How easy -- how easy can it be? I know people who get e-mails and text announcements when there`s a coupon on for something to buy at the store. So I think that it`s pretty easy to make sure that you get a text that lets you know that there has been a crime of a certain nature reported. You can tailor the response so that it`s an area code or it`s a ZIP code, that it`s in a place that makes sense so that you`re not alarming people who don`t live anywhere nearby.

But you`re absolutely right. Don`t you think that the families of these girls would have loved to have been able to receive a text, opt in on a program that lets you know that there`s been some sort of a crime committed in your neighborhood and you just need to be a little bit more careful?


NAVA: And let`s address the issue of technology. You know, I would suggest that -- there was no sketch made, because the first assault victim had moved back to Colorado. And so law enforcement didn`t get in touch with her.

I`d suggest somebody go home and ask your 12-year-old to borrow the laptop, because it probably has a camera built in. And all you have to do is make that connection and use the electricity and the electronics to get in touch with that victim and do a sketch.


NAVA: That could have made all the difference in the world. So I don`t know why we`re not doing that.

COHEN: Jane, I think that the texting idea is a great idea. The problem with minimum mandatory sentences is they aren`t a deterrent for this type of crime. These people have a propensity to commit this type of crime. And the 25 years to life isn`t going to deter them, A. And, B, it`s going to clog the system. What they have in Florida...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: No, no. You know what I say.

COHEN: One time. Listen, Jane, in Florida...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Get rid of the nonviolent drug offenders.

COHEN: In Florida they have the Jimmy Rice Act. The Jimmy Rice Act is a civil commitment.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. They could have used it. They could have used civil commitment. Listen...

COHEN: That`s a completely different entity and that is a deterrent and a...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And we`re also talking Casey Anthony next.



VELEZ-MITCHELL: When your daughter disappeared, I understand that they didn`t even declare it to be a missing person right away? Didn`t issue all the alerts that they could because they said there was no evidence of foul play?

MCGONIGLE: Yes, there was no evidence of foul play. We didn`t have search and rescue come out for three weeks.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Amber`s mother understandably furious her daughter went missing in February of `09. Nobody helped search for her for three weeks.

Judy Cornett, this is unacceptable. And I know you can certainly relate to her anguish, because your son was abducted, brutally raped and left for dead, but I`m so happy to say that he survived. What do you make of the fact that -- that everybody is saying the system is completely broken?

CORNETT: You know what? I think the system is completely backwards. Instead of being proactive, everybody wants to be reactive. If we would have started with this case from the very beginning and saw that he was called a sociopath and there was a psychologist or psychiatrist that recommended that he get a minimum of 30 years.

I mean, there were guidelines out there that all of these people met for this guy to be committed to a civil commitment program. Why wasn`t he taken off the street back then? Why did he get six years and serve five, you know, when there was a psychiatrist out there who said 30 years? They said he had sociopathic behavior. There was all of these horrible things. Why did this guy get out after five years? I don`t understand it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Bradford Cohen, what the prosecution said is that they wanted to spare the 13-year-old victim the horror of testifying. I don`t buy it. First of all, I think at the end she would probably rather testify than see another girl or others die.

COHEN: Could be.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And then they did have the option of using a civil commitment, and they didn`t take advantage of it.

COHEN: And they didn`t take advantage of it.

CORNETT: My son was...

COHEN: Listen, there are existing laws...

CORNETT: And my son stood up all the way to the end. We got this guy convicted, and he got 17 years. He served only 6.


COHEN: There are existing laws that are in place -- there are existing laws that are in place, such as civil commitment and things of that nature, that aren`t being utilized. It`s not adding more laws, new laws. It`s enforcing the laws that you already have and enforcing them properly.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hold it. I disagree. Hold on. One at a time. Assemblyman Nava...

COHEN: Of course he wants new legislation.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wait a second.

NAVA: I know about civil -- I know about civil commitment. I know that there are laws that prohibit the court from reaching back into juvenile records of sexual predators so that you can find out that this person has done it when they were 15, 16 and 17 years of age.

And I got tremendous opposition when I introduced legislation that would allow the court to be able to reach back to find that, because these are criminals of patterns. They exhibit patterns. They repeat over and over and over again. And if you don`t think being locked up for 25 years is a deterrence...

COHEN: It`s not a deterrent. It`s a proven fact that it`s not a deterrent.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: One at a time, please.

NAVA: You`re absolutely incorrect.

COHEN: What about the victim?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`re getting me in trouble. Seriously, I get in trouble when people yell.

NAVA: Let me finish.


NAVA: If this creep had been sentenced to 25 years for the first offense that he committed, both of those girls would be alive today.

COHEN: They had the option to commit him to 30. They had the option to give him that amount of time. They didn`t take it, though. They had the option to do that. You`re talking about minimum mandatory sentencing that have proven that they do not work.


COHEN: Absolutely incorrect.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. I`m going to give Judy Cornett the last two seconds that we have.

CORNETT: Thank you. I think that what we need to do is we need to start preparing victims and let the victims start going into court and testifying against these guys. That`s part of therapy. It`s...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you. Got to leave it right there.

Casey Anthony up next. Big trouble.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Outrage in Orlando. Casey Anthony`s trial date has finally been set, but don`t hold your breath. It won`t be happening for more than a year. Meantime, Casey`s lawyers want taxpayers to pay her legal fees. What? Casey has a dream team of lawyers. And she`s accused of killing her own daughter. Will the citizens of Florida now have to foot her bill?

And fast-breaking developments in the desperate search for the McStays: this family of four vanished without a trace one month ago. Tonight, new surveillance video may show this family crossing the border into Mexico. Will this solve the mystery?

Tonight, swift justice denied in the murder of little Caylee Anthony. A trial date has finally, finally, finally been set for mom Casey Anthony - - you sitting down -- it`s May 9th of 2011.

Yes, that`s more than a year from now. What on earth is taking so long? It`s been more than two years since little Caylee`s remains were found just a few hundred fee from her grandparents` Orlando home.


JEFF ASHTON, PROSECUTOR: e substance in advance that would render her physically unable to resist, administered the substance, awaited its effect and then methodically applied three pieces of duct tape to completely cut off the flow of air through her mouth or her nose.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Meantime, Casey`s legal fees piling up. Her attorneys say they can`t pay because -- want to take a guess? She`s indigent. Of course she is. She wasn`t working even before her child disappeared.

The defense has petitioned for the state`s help. Translation, they want taxpayers to pick up the tab for her defense. Is that fair?

Meantime, her parents, Cindy and George, are also having money troubles. The bank is foreclosing on their home. My heart goes out to them. It really does. But in light of that, some wonder how Cindy and George managed to afford a Caribbean cruise last fall.

Straight out to my truly fantastic expert panel: criminal defense attorney Bradford Cohen. I hope you`ve settled down after your big debate from a few minutes ago.

BRADFORD COHEN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I`m completely calm. You haven`t seen me angry yet.


Criminal defense attorney Jayne Weintraub; Beth Karas, correspondent for "In Session" on our sister network TruTV; and Kathi Belich, reporter for our affiliate WFTV in Orlando.

Kathi, you`re tracking this case. What is the very latest?

KATHI BELICH, REPORTER, WFTV, ORLANDO: Well, there was a lot of paperwork filed in court today. We found out for the first time how much defense attorney Jose Baez has been paid for his fee for this case, almost $90,000. Andrea Lyon says she was paid $22,500 but says she spent most of that on expenses for the case.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, I want to clarify. They say they`ve been paid or they want to be paid?

BELICH: No. This is the fee that they were paid. This is -- this does not include expenses and that`s actually what they`re asking for. They`re asking the Florida taxpayers to pay for their expenses for the defense from here on out.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So I`m a little confused. I thought, for example, Andrea Lyon was working pro bono, i.e. for free.

BELICH: Well, that`s a little -- that is a little confusing. The paperwork said she was paid $22,500 but says she`s working pro bono, that she actually used that money for her travel and investigation cost. So, they`re saying in effect she is working pro bono.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Here`s my big issue. Should taxpayers be billed for Casey`s defense? Her legal fees have already hit $112,000, the bulk of that is from her lawyer Jose Baez.

We just talked about attorney Andrea Lyon representing her pro bono, i.e. for free but still racked up more than $20,000 in expenses. Now, we`re just getting started. Remember, it`s not going to trial for a year.

Casey`s case is a death penalty case. They are more expensive.

Still, Jayne Weintraub, a lot of people in California might be thinking, hey, why should I pay for her defense? I believe she`s guilty of killing her child. Is that reasoning fair?

JAYNE WEINTRAUB, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: No, it isn`t. And that`s because everyone in the United States is presumed innocent. Casey Anthony walks into that courtroom presumed innocent. It`s up to the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she is guilty if, in fact, she is or she`ll be acquitted.

But there`s a due process argument here and we have Florida state statutes that provide if someone cannot afford a lawyer they will be provided a lawyer, same with expenses. There`s the specific criteria under Florida statutes. Basically, if she were -- if she didn`t have these two lawyers already she would have been entitled to a public defender and the expenses would have been borne all by the state anyway.

COHEN: Exactly.

WEINTRAUB: It`s leveling the playing field. You`re talking in Florida which is unique -- unlike California -- we have depositions of every witness. They`ve listed over 120 witnesses. If you take a deposition of 400 pages, $3 a page, do the math.

I mean you are talking death penalty. That means a higher standard of care. This judge doesn`t want this case to be reversed because he didn`t declare her indigent for costs. She is indigent.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Anybody on the panel disagree?

COHEN: No. She`s absolutely correct.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, thank God. That`s shocking.

COHEN: Jayne is 100 percent correct.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: There are no Florida taxpayers on this panel. Or, well, Jayne --


COHEN: There are two Florida taxpayers. Jayne and I are Florida taxpayers.

Listen, the fact is that she`s entitled to a good defense. She`s entitled to, not only a good defense, she`s entitled to get the evidence evaluated by expert witnesses. And if she can`t afford those expert witnesses or she can`t afford transcripts of depositions, she`s entitled to that money to get those expert witnesses.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, let`s move on to the next issue --

COHEN: And if she`s indigent, which she is --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Since everybody thinks that she should be funded by the taxpayers of Florida. I`m not sure I agree. But the next issue is just as controversial.

Who was behind all these trial delays? The defense or the prosecution? Depends on who you ask --

WEINTRAUB: It`s the prosecution undoubtedly.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hold on a second. Here is prosecutor Linda Burdick. Listen to her.


LINDA BURDICK, FLORIDA STATE ATTORNEY: As we get closer to whatever trial date is scheduled, they`re going to dump 30, 40, 50 witnesses, some of whom may be extra witnesses on us and then put us in a position where we are going to have to ask for a delay. And then we get to three, four and five years post incident before this case is even being considered before a jury.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, as this case drags on, Beth Karas, are Casey Anthony`s attorneys hoping that the witnesses` memories will fade? Doesn`t it usually help the defense to postpone a case because the prosecution has the burden of proof, which is harder if nobody can remember what happened because it happened such a long time ago?

BETH KARAS, CORRESPONDENT, "IN SESSION": Well, that is an argument that some people make. I don`t know that her attorneys are doing that in this case. This really is kind of complicated. It`s entirely circumstantial case and I really don`t believe that they would intend to have Casey Anthony spend another day in jail if they truly believe she has a chance in front of the jury of being acquitted of these charges.

But they continue to get hundreds of thousands of pages of discovery, and it`s quite overwhelming, frankly.

COHEN: Right.


COHEN: And they have to have over 100 witnesses. I mean they listed everyone but the kitchen sink in this case.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, they always do that and then it really is a much smaller group of people that actually testify.

COHEN: Yes. But you still have to -- are you not going to include witness number 112 and then that guy walks in and says something that you don`t know about. You have to depose every single one.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s unbelievable. Now here`s let`s take a look at the possible prosecution strategy, and that is Casey rots in jail. Could this be a prosecution strategy seriously to make her go stir crazy and crack? Casey seemed to come unglued after just a couple of months behind bars. We all remember this. Listen.


CASEY ANTHONY, MOTHER OF CAYLEE ANTHONY: Could someone let me -- come on.

CINDY ANTHONY, GRANDMOTHER OF CAYLEE ANTHONY: Casey, hold on, sweetheart. Settle down.

CASEY ANTHONY: Nobody`s letting me speak. You want me to talk and give me three seconds to say something.

CINDY ANTHONY: I`ll listen. Go sweetheart.

CASEY ANTHONY: I`m not in control over any of this.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok. Bradford Cohen, do the chances of a plea deal go up the longer Casey rots in a jail cell?

COHEN: Not in this case.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hold on a second. You`ve got enormous expense for this trial. Ok. She`s broke. It could move to another city. It`s going to be a major media circus. We all know that -- the trial of the century, yada, yada. Wouldn`t the prosecution just love to avoid a trial and make a plea deal and avoid all that?

WEINTRAUB: Yes, they don`t know how she --

COHEN: I think they might but it`s not going to happen.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let Bradford answer.

COHEN: I don`t think that`s going to happen not in this case. I think that humans become acclimated to where they are after a period of a couple of months.

Yes, she went crazy for the first couple of months. I`m sure she`s used to it by now -- not that that`s a big winning situation. But the fact is that she`s not going to crack. She`s got a good legal team. That legal team is speaking to her everyday. I`m sure they`re telling her to keep her mouth shut now from this point forward in terms of talking on the phone and things of that nature.

That`s not going to happen. I don`t think this is going to be a plea deal. It`s going forward. It`s too big of a case. She`s so set on saying that she`s not guilty. There`s no way she`s going to --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you say she doesn`t look like she`s cracking but every time I see her in court she appears to cry more and more.

COHEN: That must be part of the scene.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Matt, Tennessee, your question or thought.

MATT, TENNESSEE (via telephone): One thing. It really disturbs me when I see Casey go into court and she`s smiling ear to ear but then she can turn and shed tears. This case right now, her lawyers` fees, over $100,000; this trial is not going to start for over a year. That`s going to run into millions.

And if she gets the death penalty, it`s going to be more millions before they can put her to death. I mean, how much money is this going to end up costing the state of Florida?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Kathi Belich, you`re on the ground, how much resentment is there about this request to have the state of Florida, the people bank roll her defense?

BELICH: Well, someone made the point earlier that initially if she didn`t get money from whichever networks gave her money for photos and videos of Caylee, she probably would have had a public defender early on and all of this would have been paid for by taxpayers. But then you wonder would it have taken a different course if she had a different defense team.

So it`s really hard to say. Some people realize she`s entitled to a defense. Other people think it`s not right that taxpayers have to pay for it. But obviously she`s indigent and she needs a defense team. So --

COHEN: And I don`t -- I don`t understand that comment, "it might have taken a different course".

WEINTRAUB: Jane can I address an earlier question?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hold it, hold it.

COHEN: We`re not saying that public defenders are less -- are less attorneys than outside attorneys.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Respect the gavel. We`ve got to go, people. Thank you.

Right after the break, we`re going to have a shocking new twist to the Amanda Knox case. Who is saying she`s innocent now?

Plus, an entire family vanishes, hasn`t been seen for weeks. But did a surveillance camera capture the foursome fleeing? We want to hear your thoughts on this perplexing mystery. 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297.


MIKE MCSTAY, JOSEPH MCSTAY`S BROTHER: There was no -- no damage to any furniture, no blood, no violence, no -- nothing broken. No indication of a struggle.



VELEZ-MITCHELL: A family vanishes without a trace. Now new video could show the family crossing the Mexican border. Is it the McStays? We`ll take a look.

But first, "Top of the Block" tonight.

A bizarre new twist in the Foxy Knoxy murder investigation -- you know, that American student studying in Italy found guilty of murdering her roommate during an alleged drug-fueled sex game? Two other men were also found guilty in that case. Now one of the men convicted in the crime has allegedly said Amanda Knox didn`t do it. She didn`t kill her roommate. In fact, she wasn`t even home.

Rudy Guede allegedly told his prison cell-mate he and a friend had gone to Amanda Kercher`s house -- that`s the victim -- for a threesome. She resisted and that`s when Guede`s friend stabbed her to death.

Now, this is a very powerful story but it`s coming from a prison inmate so it doesn`t exactly clear Amanda Knox`s name. However, this new information certainly can`t hurt her appeal. We`re going to stay on top of that. A lot of people say she was railroaded.

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

A jaw-dropping lead in the case of the missing family of four who vanished more than a month ago from their California home. Investigators say surveillance video shows the family crossing the border into Mexico and it could be Summer, Joey, Gianni and Joseph McStay. They can only see these individuals from behind, from the back.

But individuals say their heights and their ages and their weight seem to match the description of the McStay family. They appear to be moving fast and carrying just one small bag.

HLN affiliate KFMB has surveillance video of the area from a different camera. You can make out a man and a woman holding the hands of two young children, but Joey McStay`s brother, Michael, doesn`t believe it. He says, no.

The video cops showed him is too blurry to make a positive I.D. and the man captured on camera walks differently than his brother does. Police are working furiously to enhance these images. They also say it does not appear that anyone was forcing this family across the border.

Could the McStays have vanished willingly? Listen to this.


MCSTAY: I originally 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: The question is what. The foursome was captured by surveillance camera positioned on top of the nearby building at 7:00 p.m., just a few hours before the McStays` car was towed from a mall parking lot within walking distance of the border.

Straight out to my fantastic expert panel: "Inside Edition" chief correspondent Jim Moret joins us tonight; along with clinical psychologist Brenda Wade; McStay family friend Diane who does not want to use her last name -- we`re delighted to have you, Diane.

We begin with Sergeant Dave Martinez who is with the San Diego County sheriff`s office. Sergeant Martinez what is the very latest on this lead, this video.



MARTINEZ: We`re looking at enhancing the video. The enhancement may not be as promising as people might think, but it`s prudent to do so and to see if we can get a clearer picture of the family.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, Tim Miller, from Texas EquiSearch was investigating the case. He said he went into the McStay`s home and found it very strange, that something was off. That there were -- there`s a huge mess. There were clothes on the floor. There were no hangers. There was only a couple of pairs of shoes.

This is a family of four. And the only thing that was hanging up were fur coats. This is pretty much what he was describing. What do you make of it? Was it very strange in there?

MARTINEZ: Well, keep in mind that the McStays recently purchased that home. They were remodeling. They were --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I`ve done about 15 remodels in my life and I`m still not going to leave all my clothes in the middle of the floor.

MARTINEZ: Well, define where in the floor. It was in the room and I believe it was in the closet -- near the closet. So to have the clothing strewn all over the house, that was not -- that`s incorrect.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Let`s take another look at this video. Again, this is from HLN affiliate KFMB taken from a different surveillance camera shooting the area.

Look at what police are working with. It`s so incredibly hard to see if this in fact is the McStay family. Plus, in this video you can clearly see two different families. We spotted one family of four pushing a stroller and another family of four walking hand in hand.

Jim Moret, you know, so many -- thousands, tens of thousands of people cross the border every day. Is this like impossible really to say for sure?

JIM MORET, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, "INSIDE EDITION": That video doesn`t tell me a lot. I mean, you clearly want to look for clues, Jane. But the questions that are raised with this family leaving, they left their dogs without food and water. They left a dozen eggs or so out on the counter in the kitchen. It didn`t look as if they had packed for a vacation for an extended trip.

Their car was found about five minutes from this border crossing, which is why authorities are clearly looking at this video right now because the car seats were still in their Isuzu Trooper parked five minutes away. So they would have presumably walked across the border if they crossed the border.

But the question is why. And that`s really what no one can seem to answer at this point. Why would they take off?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Diane, you`re a friend of the McStays what do you make of all this? The -- Tim Miller from EquiSearch saying the house look strange and messy and nobody can figure this out.

DIANE, MCSTAY FAMILY FRIEND: Well, a couple of things that I`d like to clear up first, hopefully once and for all. Is the fact that summer McStay is not a Colombian national. I know it`s been reported several times that she is a Colombian woman. Her great grandmother was from Colombia but she`s a third generation --



BLANCHE ARANDA, MOTHER OF SUMMER MCSTAY: Just a beautiful, wonderful mother, wife, daughter. I love her and I want my family home safe. I want them to come home.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That poor woman missing her daughter and her grandkids.

Now a ground breaking new lead in the disappearance of the McStays; did they cross the boarder?

Diane, you`re a friend of the McStays. What were you saying she`s not a Colombian national; she`s a third-generation Californian?

DIANE: Correct. Her great grandmother was from Colombia. But she`s also half Italian and some Asian as well. So that was a misrepresentation from the beginning.

In addition she doesn`t have aliases. Her given name was Lisa Aranda. She took her stepfather`s name some years later, Martelli and changed her first name to Summer, which has been her nickname since she was a child. So I would just clear that up.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What about the -- have you been in their home? What about this report that it was messy and that something was off about it?

DIANE: You know, I wouldn`t say it was off. I have not been in the home but knowing summer and the conversations that we had, she had talked to my husband actually on the 4th right before they went missing, and they were still living out of boxes. And from what I understand the garage is completely full of boxes.

They had unpacked just a few necessities here and there which is why there would be only a few shoes out and a few clothes out. They were in the process of moving. They didn`t even have the furniture unpacked from the pods yet in the rooms because they wanted to wait until the painting was finished.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Shirley, Oklahoma, your question or thought, ma`am?

SHIRLEY, OKLAHOMA (via telephone): My question is --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, hi. Sir. Go ahead.

SHIRLEY: No, it`s Shirley. I just have a deep voice.

My question is, I`ve been following this story and I haven`t heard anyone mention the fact is it witness protection gone wrong? I mean with all the aliases --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Jim Moret, what do you make of that?

MORET: We actually talked to law enforcement about that. They said to their knowledge this was not a witness protection move which was interesting because I hadn`t even thought about that until we heard from law enforcement. That`s not what they`re thinking it is, though.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Sergeant Martinez, what about this connection to Mexico? There were reports that the father, McStay, had business in Mexico. Some of his fountains were manufactured there and shipped to him. What do you know?

MARTINEZ: That`s a possibility. We`re looking into that. Of course, I cannot -- I`m not at liberty to discuss --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Did they have in kind of funny finances?

MARTINEZ: Again, I`m not at liberty to discuss this because we`re still looking into it and I don`t want to compromise --


MARTINEZ: -- the investigation.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Brenda Wade, you`ve been hearing all of this -- you`re the psychologist. What do you make of it? Nobody can figure this out. Why would they just disappear?

BRENDA WADE, CLINICAL PYSCHOLOGIST: Jane, if I had to hazard a guest at this point, it sounds like something untoward, something unexpected befell this family. The dogs, it doesn`t seem as if there were any provisions made there. We don`t see that there were any particular provisions or preparations related to the car.

It just sadly seems as if something may have happened that was quite unexpected and I`m very sorry to say that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok. Diane, ten seconds. What do you think happened?

DIANE: I don`t believe that`s them walking across the border. My feeling and the rest of the family and friends is that it`s impossible to tell from that. We also can`t imagine in our talks with Summer and Joe in the past that they would go to Mexico and I don`t remember Summer ever mentioning that Joe ever traveled down there for business.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So it`s still a mystery.

DIANE: So, I don`t believe it`s them.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: For you, a mystery.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Let`s solve it.

You`re watching ISSUES on HLN.

Thanks, panel.