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Teen Allegedly Prostitutes Stepsister, 7; Did Missing Family Stage Disappearance?

Aired April 2, 2010 - 19:00:00   ET



JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, a 7-year-old girl held down, threatened and brutally gang raped, allegedly sold for sex by her own sister. Tonight, a horrifying new trend: young children sold for sex by their own family members. Mothers, sisters, even grandmothers accused of selling their loved ones. Why does this keep happening?

And gut-wrenching horrors inside the life of a suspected serial killer. Horrifying new details in the Cleveland Strangler case. At least 11 women brutally murdered with household items. Could many of these killings have been prevented?

Plus, shocking insight into the last days of Phoebe Prince`s tragic life. Cops say a group of mean teens bullied this beautiful girl to the point of suicide. Was the bullying ignored by teachers? Tonight, the school fights back.

ISSUES starts now.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, outrage over the gang rape of an innocent little girl. A 7-year-old child is brutally attacked over and over again by multiple men while her 15-year-old step-sister allegedly acts as her pimp.

Tonight, gruesome new details about what went down in this housing project of horrors. The little girl was being babysat by her older step- sister. And that teen took the child to a party where, first, she sold her own body for money. Then she reportedly instructed the 7-year-old sister to do the same, telling her, "Let the boys do whatever they want."


CAPT. JOSEPH S. JUNIAK, TRENTON POLICE DEPARTMENT: The individuals that were in there take advantage of that to the point of a sexual assault, rape against a child, threatening to kill her if she screamed.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: The little girl was assaulted by as many as seven men and boys ages 15 on up. All the while, her step-sister allegedly stood there, counting her money. And tonight, there are brand-new published reports claiming this 15-year-old girl might have prostituted herself before.

It`s been almost a week since this gang rape. Why have police made only one arrest?


MAYOR DOUGLAS PALMER, TRENTON, NEW JERSEY: I think everyone -- not just in Trenton, New Jersey, but across this nation and the world is shocked, outraged and horrified by the barbaric act of monsters -- monster pervert rapists.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: This public housing project has a reputation for being a hotbed of criminal activity. It`s so dangerous police officers double as security guards. Where were those off-duty cops while all of this was going on?


MARCI RUBIN, NEWS 12, NEW JERSEY: Residents of Rowan Towers call this building troubled, saying they`re often plagued with things like drugs, gangs, gun violence.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Residents say the vacant apartment is infamous and often used as a stash house for drugs. What a shock. Cops say this building is a breeding ground for criminal activity. And tonight, I am asking, do we need a massive public housing overhaul?

And I want to hear from you. Give me a holler: 1-877-JVM-SAYS.

Straight out to my fantastic panel: psychiatrist and addiction specialist Dr. Reef Karim; and former criminal investigator Steve Kardian. And we`re delighted to have Syracuse University professor and creator of, Dr. Boyce Watkins. And host of the hit TV show, "Judge Hatchett," Judge Glenda Hatchett with us tonight, weighing in on this.

And we`re going to start with you, Judge Hatchett. The mayor of Trenton called this the worst crime he has seen in decades. You know, of all the hellish stories, and we cover quite a few here on ISSUES, isn`t there something particularly incomprehensible about a 15-year-old girl prostituting herself and her 7-year-old sister, leading to the gang rape of the child?

JUDGE GLENDA HATCHETT, HOST, "JUDGE HATCHETT": It is absolutely outrageous, Jane. And the problem is that this is not an isolated situation. On my years -- my years on the bench, I`ve seen so many 15- year-olds prostitute themselves. And it`s a horrible tragedy that happens in America.

Well, let me tell you, when she then turns around and allegedly orders her step-sister to have sex with these men and these boys, it`s just outrageous. And you can imagine the trauma that this child must have gone through, through this ordeal.

Now, technically, the 20-year-old, who`s been charged with this, probably is going to be facing charges of statutory rape against the 15- year-old, as well as if he were involved with the 7-year-old, as well. And, even if she said it was consensual and she was prostituting herself, the statute says that she is not old enough to give consent, and by definition, he would be charged with statutory rape.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And you are right, Judge Hatchett. The 20-year-old who has been arrested, has been arrested in connection with having sex with the 15-year-old. And we do not know if he is in any way involved with the 7-year-old.

In the wake of this attack, police raided the entire housing project, arresting -- are you sitting down -- 27 residents who had outstanding warrants, most of them women. Now, the police say the raid was already planned, and no one arrested is believed to be involved in the gang rape. But police do hope that perhaps somebody saw something. Neighbors say police were screaming, "Who knows what happened to that little girl?"


JUNIAK: Somehow, some way during those -- during the incident, the individuals that were in there feel that it`s OK at that point to start touching the 7-year-old.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: In all, there were 50 outstanding warrants for people in this one building alone. So I`m wondering why weren`t they in jail already? Why mostly women arrested?

Dr. Boyce Watkins, you`re hearing all of this. Is it quite possible that some of these women have a background in prostitution, and could this little girl have simply been copying what she`d seen around her?

DR. BOYCE WATKINS, PROFESSOR, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY: One of the things that we know is that abuse tends to roll downhill. This girl was abused by her older sister, who was probably abused herself in terms of what happened in that building.

What really concerns me the most is not just what happened to this poor child, but also the fact that there are probably hundreds or even thousands of other kids that this is happening to right now that we don`t even know about. So what I would like to see is additional funding for child protective services, support for the police so that we can protect our kids.

Because this is not the first major case to have occurred in the state of New Jersey in the last month. There was another case where a man killed his own daughter and the -- the child`s mother was actually trying to get a restraining order at that time. So the police probably need more resources to fight this kind of crime, because this isn`t an isolated incident. And we know that.

HATCHETT: It isn`t.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And we know that drugs is a factor in most of these crimes.

Dr. Reef Karim, this 13th-floor apartment where this all occurred, it was known as a stash house for drugs and other contraband, and it was used by drug dealers and gang members to move drugs and contraband when the police came looking for it. In other words, they were playing musical chairs in that building, moving their drugs and contraband from one place to another.

And get this. This particular apartment where this little girl was assaulted was known as a trap house, and that apparently is slang for an apartment where you have sex with women.

DR. REEF KARIM, ADDICTION SPECIALIST: Right. It`s a sex-for-money exchange. And very often the drugs are there to alter the women and to alter the guys or to enhance the sexual experience.

I agree with everybody -- what everybody said already, which is this is much more common than we realize, even though it`s a completely sick story.

The interesting thing, as well, is this 15-year-old probably was sexually abused, but what happens in many families is the last thing a 15- year-old wants is to have the 7-year-old step-sister endure or have to go through the trauma that she did. But in this case, it`s not like that at all. She actually sent her into the fire of what she experienced in her trauma in her life.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What`s really sick, what turned my stomach, reading about this horrific case, is that the little 7-year-old girl wanted to go along with her big step-sister, because she was worried about her big step- sister and wanted to tag along to protect her.

Judge Hatchett, this story breaks my heart. It breaks my heart. This little girl, this 7-year-old, was found outside this unit crying by two nice ladies who brought her home.

HATCHETT: Absolutely. And, Jane, the tragedy is that we don`t know - - and I agree with the panel. We don`t know what drove the 15-year-old into that apartment. But allegedly, she was sitting there counting money and telling the 7-year-old, "Let them do whatever they want to do to you."

And so the question really for me is whether this is the first time. And I raise the question and argue that this may not have been the first time, that this child may have witnessed this before. She might not have been a victim necessarily, but I`m wondering why she was so protective of her sister. Maybe she knew what was going on and thought that she could help her.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, my gosh. Well, then she`s a hero, as well as being a victim.

Everyone, stay right where you are. Mothers, sisters, grandmothers allegedly selling their loved ones for sex. We are taking your calls. Lisa, Indiana, hang on.

Plus, 11 women brutally murdered. New horrifying details take us inside the home of the alleged Cleveland Strangler.

But first, a disturbing new trend plaguing our nation. How could anyone sell their own flesh and blood as sex slaves?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A 7-year-old girl? You just don`t take her -- her innocence like that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, that`s a little girl, like she don`t even have a body.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never has happened. Not here, or anywhere.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: A community shocked and outraged over the brutal gang rape of a 7-year-old girl. The crime occurred at a party in an infamously dangerous New Jersey public housing project. Police have arrested one man for allegedly having sex with the little girl`s 15-year-old step-sister, but they have made no arrests in the case of the 7-year-old girl`s rape.

Phone lines lighting up. Lisa, Indiana, your question or thought, ma`am?

CALLER: Yes, thanks for taking my call, Jane. What I don`t understand is how can grown men find any kind of sexual attraction to a child 7 or under? And do you think that the 15-year-old sister could be held accountable for any of this that happened to the 7-year-old?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, she is facing a slew of charges.

HATCHETT: Absolutely.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Dr. Reef Karim, that`s an excellent question. I mean, we know pedophiles exist, but this seemed to be a crime of opportunity where boys and men, 15 through 20s, 20-something, just take advantage of a situation. Why on earth would they want to sexually assault a 7-year-old?

KARIM: As sick as this sounds, it`s about power and it`s about novelty. The fact that they are probably altered, as well, with whatever drugs and alcohol were on board is a part of this. But as sick as it is, the fact that it`s new, and it`s exciting, and it`s something they`ve probably never done before, and it`s opportunistic, and it`s accessible, and it`s there, makes it completely sick, but that`s usually why you would see a pedophile engage in this kind of behavior.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And isn`t it also that drugs corrupt one`s morals to the point where they`re capable of almost anything when they`re that high and that, literally, their ability to distinguish right from wrong disappears with the addiction?

KARIM: Yes. In the case of this 15-year-old, my guess is her moral filter, her moral code and her conscience were impaired anyway, you know, whether she`s sociopath, antisocial behavior, whatever it is.

But then, if you throw drugs on board, and these guys sound like they were shady guys to start with and it wasn`t exactly the right place for them to be. You add all of that together; you add the altered factor with the drugs, yes, of course. These are people that probably would do it maybe anyway, and then you throw the drugs on board and all -- it all breaks loose.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Steve Kardian, 12 males at this party, seven of them allegedly raped the child. None of them arrested at this point except for the one who had the sex with the 15-year-old. Why not? I mean, they just served 27 warrants. Everybody has got to know who these guys are, or at least some people have to.

STEVE KARDIAN, FORMER CRIMINAL INVESTIGATOR: I`m sure that they`ve got every police officer active on the streets looking and trying to divulge information. They`ve got the videotapes that they`re going to look at. They`re taking statements from the victims. They`re going to put all this together. And it`s very probable that these predators, these child predators have people that are hiding them out at this time right now.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Here is my big issue. Is public housing an incubator for violence? You combine unemployment and poverty. Does that create an incubator for violence?

I don`t want to over-generalize, but statistics show public housing is a hotbed for criminal activity. In fact, at this one housing project, there were 50 -- five, zero -- outstanding warrants. Do we need a massive overhaul?

Dr. Boyce Watkins, you are known as the people`s scholar. You`re the one who coined the phrase "public housing is an incubator for violence." How do we revamp it?

WATKINS: Well, what we do is we first of all understand that not everybody in public housing engages in this kind of behavior. Remember, for every bad person, there are 100 good people. That`s the first thing to remember.

But the second thing to remember is that, when you create conditions of despair where hope is lost, you can run into situations where there are individuals who are so disenfranchised that it can bring out the worst in them.

And so when you look at high unemployment rates and all the other issues that people in these sorts of conditions have to deal with, you can sort of see that, when you throw in the variation in the style of policing that takes police in housing projects, that you`re going to have incidents that disturbing.

But we have to remember also that people in public housing don`t have a monopoly on brutish behavior or on pedophilia or on violent crimes. It happens all over America. That`s important to keep in mind.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. But we are focusing on this public housing project because of the gang rape of a 7-year-old child by seven men while 12 males participated at this party.

And here`s my opinion, Judge Hatchett. I think we need to completely revamp and overhaul public housing. I think a lot of people know that they are magnets for crime and that the crime increases around public housing projects.

Now, here`s my theory. I could be completely wrong. But I think if you created an incentive for people to own their units, they would be invested in protecting that unit. And I don`t understand why, since it is federal housing and there is government money involved, that we can`t create some kind of a situation where people can rent to own and, instead of just renting month after month, year after year, they could become a partner in improving this particular unit and the units like it all over the country.

HATCHETT: I agree, Jane. And that is, in theory, wonderful. But we also have to put the economic floor under families so that they will have the wherewithal to be able to rent to own. I absolutely agree that ownership is an important piece of this.

And in a lot of cities, particularly here in Atlanta, the housing authority has really gone toward different models so there`s not such a large concentration of public housing, and we see mixed incomes, people living in communities that I think are much healthier.

But we need to look at this. And what we also have got to figure out is what the economic model is so that people have jobs and they have resources and they will be incentivized to work and to own their own housing.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And, Dr. Watkins, you had mentioned when we talked to you earlier that there are some very disparate statistics when it comes to unemployment of teens. Tell us about that.

WATKINS: Well, I mean, you can`t ignore the fact that in public housing, you do have a substantial black and brown population, and black male unemployment right now, or black teen unemployment, excuse me, is about 41 percent, which is almost double that of white teen unemployment.

And so when you -- when you throw in this high unemployment rate with a terrible, terrible inner-city educational system, you create situations in which you can ultimately, again, bring out the worst in people.

But, again, it doesn`t mean that the people in public housing are bad people, but it does mean that, when you put people in brutish circumstances, sometimes you`re going to get this kind of brutish behavior.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And we`ve got to leave it right there. Dr. Watkins, love your insight. Fantastic panel. Judge Hatchett, as well.

Eleven women strangled to death in Cleveland. We`re going to go inside the hellish world of the alleged serial killer, Anthony Sowell.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, word that the FBI is now joining the frantic search for a family of four who mysteriously vanished from their California home. Police now believe Summer and Joseph McStay and their two small, precious children are alive and somewhere in Mexico.


LT. DENNIS BRUGOS, SAN DIEGO SHERIFF: We felt that, you know, there was a possibility that -- that it was a strong possibility that they left voluntarily and there was no coercion involved.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Computer forensics show just one week before the family vanished, they searched for information about passport requirements for travel to Mexico with children. Their car was found abandoned just two blocks away from the San Diego border. Police believe they spotted the family right here, casually walking, holding hands and crossing the border on foot. Even though the cameras only caught them from behind, police say family members recognized Summer`s white coat and boots and the children`s hats.

So did this family stage their own disappearance? If so, why? Could they be in grave danger or worse?

Police say the search is officially moving into Mexico, and the FBI has now gotten involved with its connections there. Straight out to my fantastic guest, Leslie Berestein, reporter with the "San Diego Union- Tribune."

Leslie, you`ve been all over this story. What is the very latest?

LESLIE BERESTEIN, REPORTER, "SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE": The latest is that the FBI is joining the investigation. There was a meeting this morning. Some agents were briefed on the case.

And according to the sheriff`s department, this is because the FBI has the resources in Mexico that they feel that they can use. There are already several Mexican agencies, as you know. It`s an international investigation at this point. But at this point, the investigators decided it was necessary to dedicate more U.S. resources.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Even though police believe the McStays may be alive, their family members still fear they`re in danger. Now Summer`s sister says Summer would never torture her mom this way, and Joseph McStay`s mom says she cries herself to sleep. Listen to this.


SUSAN BLAKE, JOSEPH MCSTAY`S MOTHER: We need to find them. I worry about those babies. And are they fed? Are they warm? Are they, you know, happy? Are they sad? My nights are -- are hell. You know, you pray and then you cry yourself to sleep.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Leslie, there`s still no indication whatsoever why this family would feel like they had to run away and go into hiding?

BERESTEIN: None that anyone has found thus far. I mean, on February 4, the day they were last heard from, as you may be aware, there were several calls made to friends, relatives, business associates. Nothing indicating in any way that they were leaving the country.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, Joseph McStay, the dad who is missing, did at one point have a bankruptcy, but he apparently got his financial act together, that the last phone call was made to a business associate. What`s the significance of that?

BERESTEIN: I`ve talked to the sheriff`s department about that call. There were other calls made that day to that same business associate. And I understand that it was purely a business-related call. You know, one call made earlier to the same person involved some orders that were involved. As you know, Mr. McStay ran a water fountain business, an indoor water fountain business.

So they did not indicate there was anything about that call that would seem suspicious or that they were going to Mexico or meet me in Tijuana or anything to that extent.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s such a total mystery. They checked the hotels, the hospitals, the prisons in Mexico. And there is no sign of them, and they haven`t used their credit cards or their cell phones.

So Leslie, I want to thank you very much. We`re going to stay on top of this. There is definitely something we do not know, a missing piece or pieces of the puzzle.

Eleven women strangled to death, their bodies left to rot. Could these murders have been prevented? We`ll go inside the horrific Anthony Sowell investigation next. You will not believe the new developments.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Gut-wrenching horrors inside the life of a suspected serial killer. Horrifying new details in the Cleveland strangler case: at least 11 women brutally murdered with household items. Could many of these killings have been prevented?

Plus, shocking new insight into the last days of phoebe prince`s tragic life: was the bullying ignored by teachers? Tonight, the school fights back.

Tonight, sickening revelations -- and I mean sickening -- from inside Cleveland`s house of horrors. An autopsy report shows the extent of the terror that at least 11 women endured in the moments before their death.

Anthony Sowell was arrested after several rotting corpses were found in and around his house. The stench, it was enough to make neighbors gag, their eyes water. So far, Sowell is charged with 11 murders. There are ten new counts against him for a grand total of 95 counts.

Here is what the coroner found. Nine of the victims had traces of cocaine or depressants in their body. Eight of the victims were strangled with various household items: A green belt with a metal bucket, the strap from a shoulder bag, the cord from a cell phone charger. Most of them had their wrists and ankles tied together with shoelaces, cables and rope.


RICK BOMBICK, ASST. CUYAHOGA COUNTY PROSECUTOR: I`ve dealt with a lot of atrocities, but this -- there`s nothing quite like this, nothing at all.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Sowell is a convicted rapist who lived in a house stuffed with decomposing bodies. It should never have taken this long to catch this monster. It sounds like yet another case of junk justice, people.

And now cops are investigating this alleged serial killer in connection with, you won`t believe it, 75 other unsolved homicides -- that`s right -- 75.

Let me welcome back my amazing panel: also joining me, Ken Robinson, reporter for WTAM radio in Cleveland. Ken, what is the very latest?

KEN ROBINSON, REPORTER WTAM RADIO, CLEVELAND: Well, the very latest, you ran over most of the highlights of the autopsy report. Eight of the 11 women were strangled to death using common household items. Also, the women were bound by the wrists and ankles; most of them with the ligature still on them at the time their remains were discovered. Also, most of the victims were at least partially nude. Many were disposed of in garbage bags and plastic sheets in various parts of the house.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Was the decomposition such that we can`t really tell whether they were sexually assaulted or are authorities assuming that they were sexually assaulted because of his history?

ROBINSON: Authorities are assuming they were sexually assaulted, but because the bodies were in such a state of decomposition, they may not be able to absolutely prove that they were sexually assaulted.

Did police disregard Sowell`s alleged victims when they were first reported missing?

The body of Tonia Carmichael was found inside Sowell`s home. Her family says they reported her missing one year earlier, but police blew them off. The cops told them, go home. As soon as the drugs are gone, she will show up.

Sowell allegedly targeted women with criminal histories and drug problems. Critics say law enforcement didn`t give these cases as much focus as they deserved, allowing Sowell to act with impunity.

Judge Glenda Hatchett, do you see that in your years on the bench? Do you see sometimes the victims, if they have problems they`re not given a priority by police when they go missing?

JUDGE GLENDA HATCHETT: Well, also it`s a matter of resources, too. If you have someone who`s a chronic runaway, somebody who`s had a history of drug abuse and they go on these drug binges and they come back. I mean if you have to prioritize the cases, sometimes the police will just say, Listen, they`ll come back.

And that`s unfortunate, but that is the reality, Jane, of what happens in a day-to-day situation. These people disappear and they come back. Unfortunately in this situation, they did not come back.

But if the police know them, if they`ve had a history of having been drug abusers or prostitution or whatever, unfortunately they may not have been given the priority that they needed to have been given.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Dr. Reef Karim, this is just another example of the insidious nature of drug addiction is that it makes you vulnerable to becoming a victim of rape and murder.

DR. REEF KARIM, PSYCHIATRIST: Yes. This monster is a sick sociopath who preys on vulnerable women and vulnerable women that are either drug addicts or interested in drugs and alcohol to get from this guy. They need the drugs and alcohol so bad that they would go to some random guy`s house that has this kind of a history and this kind of a shady vibe about him.

The interesting thing is 60 percent to 70 percent of registered sex offenders are on parole or probation walking the streets. Now, maybe they`re not all like this guy, but there are many, many people out there that are not receiving treatment that we just magically hope are going to be cured of their problems. And many of them are not, and they are preying on vulnerable women out there. And it`s very, very scary.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you bring me to my big issue.

Is this country crying out for a parole system overhaul? Ok, here we`ve got Anthony Sowell and then, of course, we all remember Phillip Garrido, accused of kidnapping and raping Jaycee Dugard, and John Gardner, accused of raping and murdering Chelsea King.

All of these men served time for sex crimes. And they were released before they allegedly committed even more horrific crimes against females. A better parole system might have caught all of them a lot sooner.

In Sowell`s case, police say they were not allowed to enter Sowell`s home during routine checks because he wasn`t on parole even though he was a registered sex offender.

But, Steve Kardian, criminal investigator, you didn`t have to go inside his home to get a whiff of what was inside. Listen to this first.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We used to think that it was coming from out of Ray`s Sausage, but you smell these smells and I live right there. I used to be in the house like, oh -- we used to come out here and be like, oh, the smell is just horrible.

But I didn`t know there was no dead bodies. You just think it was the sewer system.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: A horrible stench. Now, Steve Kardian, do police have any explanation for not seeking search warrants earlier to go into this house and see if the many women who were missing in the neighborhood might have been there given that he had served 15 years for attempted rape, given that neighbors say a naked woman fall from the second floor of his house and given that the whole thing smelled to high heaven?

STEVE KARDIAN, FORMER CRIMINAL INVESTIGATOR: Yes, Jane. The smell of death is a very distinctive smell. And it`s kind of hard to believe that it wasn`t explored further. I know the health department did look into it and they came up with a variety of reasons.

With regard to the search warrant, law enforcement has to meet a certain requirement in order to have a judge sign off on a search warrant to enter his home. And with regard to him being a sexual --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I would think a naked woman falling out of the second story of a home -- ok, even though she said she was partying -- a naked woman falling out of a home of a guy who if you did a check would come up as a person who served years for attempted rape, I think that`s a good reason to get a search warrant, especially if the whole place stinks to high heaven.

KARDIAN: But without her cooperation, they wouldn`t have just cause to seek a search warrant to enter that house, especially in the manner in which she behaved with law enforcement.

HATCHETT: Right. And there probably was a reason that she didn`t cooperate because she may have been implicated in something and she was there and she may have been doing drugs or she partying. So she probably wanted to get out of there and she wasn`t cooperating, which was very unfortunate because if she had, we may not have seen this string of horrors follow.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, he also allegedly threatened these women. He threatened that he`d come after them if they talked. So there were several women who escaped but they were afraid to say anything. But I don`t think the cops should rely on just the testimony of a woman who might be terrified for her life. I think --

KARDIAN: Yes. But they still have to react within the scope of the law, Jane. They can`t just take it upon themselves. They need probable cause, just cause. They need a judge unless it`s an imminent endangering process to get in there --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Steve, Steve --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: You said the smell of death is unmistakable and that is common.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Everybody knows that. There is a certain smell of a dead body that can be confused with nothing else, ok? That`s why what the mom said in the Casey Anthony case is so incriminating. She said it smelled like a dead body in the damn car.

ROBINSON: Well, if I could --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: If it smelled like a dead body in this house --

ROBINSON: If I could add --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: -- and the parole officers are knocking on the door, does it take a brain surgeon to figure out there`s a dead body in there somewhere? Who wants to talk? Go ahead.

ROBINSON: Well, I`d like to add something about the smell. I was at that house when two bodies had been discovered. I was able to walk up to the front steps and nosey around a little bit right in front of the house. It was a warm day about 80 degrees. There were still nine bodies buried inside that house and I didn`t smell anything.

And I had talked to neighbors who said that the smell came and went. Police actually came out several times to investigate the smell, but when they were there, they didn`t smell anything. So I think you can`t base the investigation on the smell.

However, police should have been more aggressive in investigating. They should have been more skeptical as to what was going on in Sowell`s house.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you, Ken. I think you said it all.

And thank you, fantastic panel. We`ll stay on top of this one.

A beautiful playboy model find burning in a dumpster; Paula Sladewski`s killer still on the loose. Why are her family members now fighting over her Barbie dolls?

Plus, a teenage girl, bullied to the point of suicide. Tonight, we`ll talk to a friend of this poor, heartbroken family. Did the school do anything to stop the abuse?


GUS SAYER, SUPERINTENDENT, SOUTH HADLEY SCHOOLS: I have e-mails, anonymous e-mails, that I`m getting from all over the country. Ok?

Mostly they`re disgusting. Mostly they`re things like people say, "You administrators should burn in hell," and stuff like that. And even worse; that`s a mild one.



VELEZ-MITCHELL: A beautiful teenage girl bullied to suicide. That`s next.

But first, "Top of the Block" tonight.

A family`s desperate search for justice turns into an all-out family feud. Paula Sladewski was brutally murdered; her body found burning in a Miami dumpster. That was three months ago. Tonight, her killer is still on the loose. That is so frustrating for the family.

And now it seems Paula`s heart-broken family is starting to take their frustrations out on each other. Paula`s mom and sister are fighting over her Barbie doll collection and her car. In fact, this disagreement has reportedly gotten so bad the two are said to be not talking to each other.

This, to me, is very sad. I certainly hope these two women can work out their differences and put their attention on bringing the mysterious sicko killer who did such terrible things to their loved one to justice. Let`s stay focused, people.

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

And tonight, outrage boils over after a 15-year-old is literally pushed to the edge and takes her own life. Prosecutors say Phoebe Prince was tormented so brutally by a pack of bullies at her high school in South Hadley, Massachusetts that she hanged herself.

Tonight, a shocking report reveals that the alleged campaign of terror persisted even after she died. The mother of a classmate claims that one of the accused bullies wrote, quote, "Accomplished" as her status on her Facebook page on the day of Phoebe`s suicide.

Oh, my God. Three teens have been charged as an adult including two young men who face statutory rape charges; in all, of nine kids accused of bullying and harassment. Are the bullies the only ones to blame? What about their parents? School officials are now defending themselves.


GUS SAYER, SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS SOUTH HADLEY, MASSACHUSETTS: Phoebe, she didn`t reveal to people what she was being subjected to. And unfortunately, until January 7th, we were not aware of what she was being subjected to. So it was very little way we could have intervened in the bullying that took place.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: So it`s Phoebe`s fault? Really? Seriously? The horror has shaken everybody in the town, especially one heartbroken friend who spoke to NBC.


TARA BERARD, PHOEBE PRINCE`S FRIEND: She was -- a really good friend. I hope people will get a lesson out of it. And treat each other with respect.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: ISSUES reached out to the superintendent, but we did not hear back before deadline. The attorney for the 17-year-old girl who is charged as an adult had no comment.

I am joined by Darby O`Brien, a friend of Phoebe`s family. Darby`s step-daughter is a senior at South Hadley High who spoke out against bullying at a town meeting. We will find out what happened to her after.

Sixteen-year-old Bridget Berman, a victim and witness to bullying to who wrote a manual for kids called "Dorie Witt`s Guide to Surviving Bullies" and Jodee Blanco. Jody endured such horrific torment she attempted suicide on more than one occasion. She is the author of "Please Stop Laughing at Me".

Darby, I want to start with you. First of all, thank you for having the courage to speak out because I know quite a few people in the community are afraid to talk because they`re afraid of "Oh my gosh, what`s going to happen if I say anything."


VELEZ-MITCHELL: So what happened to your daughter after the community meeting where she spoke out against bullying?

O`BRIEN: I think things have been fine. I think a lot of people recognized the courage it took to stand up. And I think, you know, it`s very disturbing; it`s been a disruptive year for all the kids in the school, but she`s hanging in.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But was she harassed at all? Did anybody say anything to her because she spoke up against these bullies?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, ok. Well, let me ask you this question. The superintendent is now defending how school officials handled all of this, the reports of bullying, specifically. Listen to this.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: If six kids feel fine about tormenting a girl out in the open in the school library and in the hallway and throwing cans at her head on the way home from school, that seems to indicate you know, that this wasn`t the first time this had happened. I mean, how can this be going on in the hallways and nobody seemed to have reported it?

SAYER: Well, first of all, if it had happened earlier, which we believe probably it did, and it had been observed by our staff and reported to us, I`m telling you that the principal would have taken stern action with the kids.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Really? Here`s my big issue: see no evil. The bully had reportedly been going on according to the D.A., for almost three months. New reports claim some incidents were witnessed by faculty such as when her photo was vandalized.

The day she died, Phoebe was attacked by bullies who ganged up on her in the library and blocked the door while calling her names, allegedly with a staffer inside. Kids in the hallways also reportedly dumped her books and nobody saw anything? No surveillance cameras?

And get this. Phoebe`s mother reportedly complained to school officials twice. So I have to go back to you, Darby.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Do you buy the explanation of school officials that they knew nothing about the bullying until just one week before?

O`BRIEN: No. No. What happened was Phoebe`s aunt actually spoke to the school before she entered the school and warned them that Phoebe had been susceptible to bullying while in Ireland. So to look out for her -- she was told that a counselor would speak to her when she entered the school. And in fact, nobody spoke to her for three months.

Her mother talked to the school in November, early November, and again spoke to the school the week of January 7th, which was a week before Gus Sayer indicates that they became aware of the bullying. So no, I don`t buy it. I mean, I --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So what -- you`re saying they are just flat -- they are flat-out saying they didn`t know. Why would they say that if the relatives had complained to them?

O`BRIEN: Well, I think that they were -- they just looked the other way. They were attempting to cover it up. I mean, I think what`s happening now is you`ve got the Superintendent Sayer, who is duking it out with the district attorney.

And I think it`s as simple as where do you put your trust? I mean, do you trust an investigation that Principal Dan Smith did where he was investigating himself and his staff, or do you trust the investigation that D.A. Scheibel did with the Massachusetts State Police and the South Hadley detectives?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Everybody stay right where you are. When we come back, we`re going to talk with these two women who have been bullied. So much more on this tragic suicide.



SAYER: I have e-mails, anonymous e-mails that I`m getting from all over the country. Ok? Mostly, they`re disgusting. Mostly they`re things like people say, "You administrators should burn in hell." Stuff like that and even worse. That`s a mild one.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Poor thing. No, he`s not the victim here. School officials in South Hadley, Massachusetts are feeling the heat after a 15- year-old girl takes her own life. Did a gang of school bullies push her over the edge? Here`s what one parent told NBC.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a son in the middle school here in South Hadley, and he has cerebral palsy. And he gets picked on regularly here. And I`ve called the school to address it, and they don`t do a thing about it.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Jodee Blanco, you are a bullying survivor. What I think is just so stunning about this case is the sheer number of people accused of bullying this girl.

JODEE BLANCO, AUTHOR, "PLEASE STOP LAUGHING AT US": Well, and Jane, I want you to know that I work in schools all across America, sharing my story. I work with tens of thousands of kids. And this is not isolated. This happens all over.

And what has to happen is this school knew about it. They knew what was going on. And they have to be held accountable because Jane, if they`re not, it`s a slap in the face to all the schools who are responding, who are trying to get it right. And it`s like giving our blessing to the schools that continue to do what Phoebe`s school did, which is nothing.

And with that number of kids tormenting that poor girl, teachers knew, hall monitors knew. They knew.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But what do you make of the fact that school administrators are saying they didn`t know? Quote, "She didn`t reveal to people that -- what she was being subjected to. And unfortunately, until January 7th we were not aware of what she was being subjected to. So there was very little way we could have intervened in the bullying." They say they didn`t find out until one girl called her an Irish slut in class.

BLANCO: Jane, they`re covering their butts, which is what you would expect. I have been in schools where there was a kid who was building a bomb because he was getting so harassed. And when I told the principal and I said I`m going to meet with the kid`s parents tonight after my parent- family seminar, the principal actually looked me in the eye and said, "Honey, I`d love to be there, but I`ve got a manicure appointment."

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, my God. Brigitte Berman, you`ve written a book about how to survive, and this is one thing. What would you tell these kids when they`re being bullied? How do they fight back?

BRIGITTE BERMAN, "DORIE WITT`S GUIDE TO SURVIVING BULLIES": Well, the one thing I always encourage is talk to a trusted adult. And the problem right now is there are no trusted adults in the schools. It`s ok if you can`t find a trusted adult in school to move on and talk to the police force because there are resource officers there who are meant to protect children.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you know what really strikes me as so horrifying is that some of the nine teens who are facing charges in connection with this alleged bullying are honor students. So these are not juvies, juvenile delinquents who are your classic troublemakers. These are -- some of them are honors students. Some of them have excelled at sports.

BLANCO: Jane, I want to jump in here. I call these kids elite tormentors; the mean, popular kids who exclude on purpose, who are cruel on purpose. And they`re a school`s most insidious beast because teachers love them. The community thinks they`re adorable. And so they can get by with these crimes because everyone`s in self-inflicted denial.

And this is the biggest threat in our school systems, are those elite tormentors. There`s no doubt. And everyone has to be held accountable here, Jane, adults and the students.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`ve got to leave it right there. It`s a crisis. We`re staying on top of it. You`re watching ISSUES on HLN.