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TV Producer Suspected in Wife`s Murder; Audio Release of Casey`s Pen Pal

Aired April 9, 2010 - 19:00:00   ET



JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, a famous producer from a smash hit reality TV show caught in the middle of a murder mystery in paradise. Bruce Beresford-Redman is suspected of killing his wife at a luxury resort. Now he`s been released from jail. Tonight, we`ll go inside the investigation. Why did he allegedly bring his kids home from Cancun to Los Angeles before reporting his wife missing?

Plus, a desperate mother cries for help. Where is Kristi Cornwell? This beautiful woman was abducted. That was eight months ago, and there is still no sign of her, despite a tantalizing letter. Tonight we`ll talk to Kristi`s devastated mother.

ISSUES starts now.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, a slew of shocking new developments in a gruesome murder in paradise. A hot-shot Hollywood producer`s wife found dead. Now her high-powered husband, best known for his work on the hit reality show "Survivor" is the focus of this investigation.

Monica Beresford-Redman went missing on Monday. Her husband claims she went shopping and never returned. The Brazilian beauty`s body was found dumped in the sewer at the swanky Mexican resort where the couple was staying. Officials say her neck had scratches and signs that she was strangled. A newly-released coroner`s report says she may have died from a heavy blow to her right temple. Mexican cops claim Monica`s husband also had scratches on his face and arms.

A friend of the couple tells CNN that Monica heard her husband was cheating, cleaned out the couple`s bank account, and then headed to Hawaii with their two young kids. The friend says Bruce convinced Monica to meet him in Mexico, in Cancun, and talk it out.


MARIZA ALYRIO, FRIEND OF MONICA: She was loved. I don`t want to say that she passed away. I really don`t want to believe that.

Knowing her, her marriage, it seems very happy. She -- you know, she can never wait for him to come home when he goes to do his things. And I - - I -- you know, if there is any trouble in their marriage, I have no idea.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Plus, Bruce`s alleged bizarre behavior. Mexican authorities claim he flew back to L.A., dropped off his two kids, and then returned to Cancun before reporting his wife missing. Now, his family says, "Unh-uh, that never happened." Who is telling the truth?

Now, armed guards are surrounding Monica`s body at the morgue, and her husband is forbidden to leave Mexico. We have called his agent and attorney for comment, but we could not reach them. They`re invited on the show to tell their side of the story anytime.

Straight out to my fantastic expert panel: CNN legal analyst Lisa Bloom; HLN law enforcement analyst Mike Brooks. We`re also delighted to have Monica Beresford-Redman`s friend, Marcelo Gomez. Thanks for joining us, Marcelo. And joining us by phone, the couple`s neighbor, Laurie Wheeler. But we begin with CNN producer Alan Duke, who has been digging deep on this story.

Alan, what is the very latest?

ALAN DUKE, CNN PRODUCER: Well, the very latest is he doesn`t have his passport so he can`t leave Cancun. But for him, he is out of detention as they continue to investigate his wife`s death. So he remains there.

There are -- the family of Bruce actually has hired a public relations firm now to handle the storm of media inquiries into what happened. And I can tell you they`re still not saying much, but they say they`re sticking by their son.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Where are you?

DUKE: I am in Los Angeles.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, OK. Are you near the restaurant that she owned? Because I actually had visited that restaurant. What I find so fascinating is that Zabumba is a very popular hang-out, and I`d actually been there for a couple of parties. It`s not just a Brazilian restaurant. It`s really kind of like an unofficial Brazilian embassy of sorts, where people who are in Los Angeles but Brazilian by background come, and they go there for parties. Anytime it`s carnival or a big, you know, a big soccer game, everybody gathers there. And I`ve had a great time at that restaurant.

I was actually shocked this morning to find out that she, this dead woman, was the owner of this particular restaurant.

DUKE: I do understand it`s a very popular restaurant, especially for those of us who enjoy Brazilian food and cuisine.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Marcelo Gomez, you`re a friend of the deceased woman, Monica Beresford-Redman. And apparently you live near Zabumba in Venice. Tell us how popular she was and why she was sort of a center of the Brazilian community in Los Angeles.

MARCELO GOMEZ, FRIEND OF MONICA: Good morning. I`ve known Monica for -- since I moved to L.A. 17 years ago. And I met her when she was single, before she bought Zabumba. And she was a very popular person.

When I met her, actually, I was applying for a job in the restaurant she was managing.

She helped a lot of the community. I mean, not only her family, not only herself, but her family is great. Her father. She has got two great sisters, as well. The family is outstanding.

She`s an icon for our community. When the Brazilian soccer team, you know, comes to town, they -- they all eat in her restaurant. Since the World Cup in L.A., 1994, they closed Venice Boulevard to celebrate. And it was all around Zabumba.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know what? I was there. I was there at that party for the World Cup. It was huge, and Zabumba was the center of it. So it`s not just a famous producer who is being investigated. The victim is famous in Los Angeles, in her own right.

Now Mexican authorities claim Bruce has been contradicting himself left and right. He told investigators he last saw his wife at 10 a.m. on Monday morning when she left to go shopping and never returned.

But a security guard at the hotel says he saw the couple viciously arguing at dinner on Monday night and claimed Bruce even tried to hit his wife. Then several hotel guests heard loud arguing and shouting coming from the couple`s room Monday night. When the hotel sent an employee to check, Bruce told them everything was fine, and they were fighting over their two children.

The coroner says Monica was killed around Monday night.

Mike Brooks, if he did harm his wife, why on earth would he tell authorities, "Hey, she disappeared on Monday morning," when he would have to know that hotel employees had seen the two of them arguing at dinner Monday night?

MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Right. Hotel employees, Jane. And hotel guests. That`s why the timeline in this case is going to be extremely important. And this whole deal with the kids, that he may have taken the kids back to California, then came back to Mexico. There`s going to be video surveillance cameras in the airport, so that`s going to help put that timeline together a little bit.

Because, Jane, I can tell you at the Moon Palace Resort where all this happened, they have activities for kids. There would be no reason to take the kids home, you know, if he was, in fact, trying to reconcile with his wife. So, again, the timeline is going to be very important, as well as evidence, possibly from inside that room and other parts of the resort.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Lisa Bloom, why did they release him from detention in Mexico?

LISA BLOOM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Because I guess they don`t have enough to charge him yet, Jane. You know, under the Mexican system, they can bring him in for 48 hours and hold him and then they either have to charge him or release him. They can bring him in again. They`re keeping him in the country, as you say. They`ve rescinded his passport.

You know, I think this whole story, though, of him leaving the U.S. -- leaving Mexico, taking the kids back to the U.S. and then returning is a little odd, though. If he`s good for this crime, why on earth would he return voluntarily to Mexico? That doesn`t make a lot of sense to me.

BROOKS: And then apparently he returned -- apparently, he reported his wife missing after he came back from taking the kids back to L.A. So, again, Jane, this timeline is all screwed up.

BLOOM: But if he`s a murderer, why would he go back to the country where it happened? Why wouldn`t he stay in the U.S. where he has more legal protection?

BROOKS: Yes, exactly. Good point.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Alan -- Alan Duke, isn`t there a conflict over whether or not he, in fact, flew back to L.A., because his family is saying that never happened. He simply put the kids on a plane.

DUKE: Exactly. Exactly. The family told me this afternoon that he did not do that. That he stayed there. And they said it would actually -- if he had gone back to L.A., why would he return to Cancun if, in fact, he had anything to do with her death? So it doesn`t seem to fit.

BROOKS: And Jane, there will be a good record of that because the airlines, they put special notice for what they call unaccompanied minors, which his two kids would be. So that`s going to be very easy to find out.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. And we know, you know, there are problems with the Mexican criminal justice system. So we have to be very, very straight-forward in saying here he has not been charged with anything at this point.

Everybody, stay right where you are. More on murder in paradise. It`s a wild story.

Plus, fast-breaking news in the Casey Anthony case. Her jailhouse letters set off a firestorm. Now we have voice recordings from her alleged pen-pal.

But first, reality TV meets murder mystery. Who killed this beautiful woman?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Monday morning, she went for shopping on Cancun. And she never came back. They noticed that she did not make it to the shopping, because they went through her credit cards and they didn`t see anything, so he did not purchase anything.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: This is a wild story. Fast-breaking developments on many fronts. Murder in paradise. Who did it?

Bruce Beresford-Redman, the husband, who is detained as a potential suspect, is a very well-known TV producer. He worked for years on CBS`s "Survivor." He was nominated for four Emmys while working on that show. He is also the co-creator and the founder of MTV`s "Pimp My Ride." That`s a reality show where they revamp old cars.

I want to go to Laurie Wheeler, a friend and neighbor of the Redmans. We`re hearing all this talk, Laurie, about arguments and wrestling matches at dinner. What did you know about their relationship?

LAURIE WHEELER, FRIEND/NEIGHBOR OF BERESFORD-REDMANS (via phone): I have never seen anything of that nature in their relationship. They were a -- very wonderful, loving parents. They were -- when I saw them, they were the perfect neighbors, perfect couple. I`ve never seen them argue. I never saw them out of control. This whole thing is just absolutely shocking and my -- our whole neighbor and my family were completely devastated.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It is shocking. But here`s my big issue tonight. Volatile drama? As they say in the movie biz, what was the inciting incident? From all accounts this man is calm and even-tempered. Listen to this from CBS`s "The Early Show."


DANIEL LUE, FRIEND OF BRUCE BERESFORD-REDMAN: He was just a cool, even-tempered type of guy, you know? And you have to be to be a producer on "Survivor," you know? You`re dealing with a lot of hungry and cranky "Survivor" contestants. And, you know, when I got voted off, he was very encouraging to me. He was very -- he hung out with us. And, yes, he just is not that type of person.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: But Monica`s sister tells Radar Online she had just found out her husband was having an affair. We`re talking about the producer, Bruce. A family friend says she reacted by cleaning out the couple`s bank account and taking the kids to Hawaii.

Now, explain, Alan Duke, what happened after that. The victim goes to Hawaii with the two kids. How did she end up in Cancun in a sewer?

DUKE: Well, we are told by this family friend, who`s a close friend, that, in fact, she cleaned out the bank account, went to Hawaii with the kids for a getaway, a vacation, but he was in Cancun. He called her and convinced her to join him with the kids in Cancun. And so she went there. And that was probably this past weekend, is what I`m led to understand.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, there is a lot of physical evidence, Mike Brooks. We could talk all we want about motivation, et cetera, alleged affairs, but the scratches, that is hard evidence.

BROOKS: Very hard evidence. Scratches allegedly on his face, scratches on her body, Jane, and also it`s going to be very important that the Quintana Roo investigators there in the state that Cancun is in does a good job of making sure that they process that motel room extremely well, also.

I mean, the hotel room is going to be crucial in this. Was there an argument there? Some neighbors, some people there heard possible arguing coming from there. That is going to be very, very important.

BLOOM: Jane...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Laurie Wheeler, you`re a friend and neighbor of the Redmans. Did you know anything about an alleged affair that -- that the producer husband was having?

WHEELER: No, I never knew anything about an affair, and I never saw any signs of an affair. I never -- they looked like a happy, normal couple. Bruce spent a lot of time with the kids. He`d take them out, both of them in the stroller, walking the dog. I`d see them -- you know, you`d pass them on the street, "Hi, how are you," get your mail. I mean, everything was fine. I`ve never seen...


BLOOM: Jane.


BLOOM: Jane, how many times have we seen -- yes, how many times have we seen cases like Scott Peterson where, to the outside world, people he worked with, his family, his friends, he was the greatest guy? I mean, no one knows what goes on behind closed doors in a marriage.

It doesn`t hold a lot of water to me that people that he worked with or that he knew outside of his marriage thought he was a calm, cool, and collected guy. In a marriage, things can be very, very different.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But, Alan Duke, I lived for a year in Mexico. I know that the Mexican criminal justice system is notorious and is rife sometimes, according to studies, even, with corruption. This is all coming from the Mexican authorities primarily, all this so-called evidence.

DUKE: Well, one thing that we must keep in mind is that the Mexican police are probably under pressure to solve this case because Cancun is -- of course, tourism is extremely important to Cancun. And they need to solve it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, Lisa Bloom, if he is charged down there, he is an American citizen. Is he going to be tried in Mexico? And if, for some reason he were to be convicted, would he have to serve time in Mexico?

BLOOM: Yes, if he`s charged, he will be tried in Mexico. All American citizens need to realize when we leave this country and we go somewhere else, we are subject to their laws and we are tried in their countries like Amanda Knox in Italy. But if he is convicted, we swap prisoners with Mexico for sentencing. So he would serve his time in a U.S. prison.

By the way, Mexico does not have the death penalty. Their sentences overall are much shorter. They generally serve 3/5 of the sentence. So he could be serving what we consider to be a relatively short sentence even if he`s convicted of murder, but he would serve it here.

I`m still unclear, Alan Duke, why would somebody decide to have a family crisis meeting in Cancun? It would make sense to me if you`re in Cancun and your wife that you`re fighting with is in Hawaii: "Come on, we`re going to both come back to L.A. to our home and we`re going to resolve this," as opposed to, "Hey, you go from Hawaii all the way to Cancun."

DUKE: Well, I couldn`t read anybody`s mind, but one point I will make is while the family friend says that Monica told her she thought her husband was having an affair. That doesn`t mean he was having an affair. What we do know is she thought he was having an affair.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. I mean, this is a wild story because, as Laurie Wheeler, the neighbor, said, these are very unlikely candidates for this kind of behavior. They`re both very successful. They`re both apparently loving parents with these two great kids. She had the restaurant. She`s now dead. He, a famous producer, and he`s now under suspicion in his wife`s death. What a fascinating story.

We here on ISSUES will stay on top of it. Thank you, fantastic panel.

Next, horrifying animal abuse caught on tape. We`re going to go inside the hell of factory farming.

And sexual assault, incest, chloroform. Next.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: More shockers out of the Casey Anthony murder case. New recordings from Casey`s pen pal, Robyn Adams, made public just hours ago. This comes just days after hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pages of jailhouse letters between Anthony and Adams were released.

One of the conversations just released gives us an inside look at Casey`s emotional state on the crucial day she found out remains were found near her family`s home but before they were identified as little Caylee`s. Listen to this.


ROBYN ADAMS, PRISON FRIEND OF CASEY: She doesn`t seem to be looking good. I`m praying for her safety.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is she a basket case?

ADAMS: Pretty much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know her story right now, right?

ADAMS: Well, not completely, no.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They found the body.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: A basket case? Keep in mind, again, this was before the remains were actually identified as little Caylee`s, so why was she a basket case? Unless she knew something. That`s the reasoning, anyway.

Joining me now, CNN legal analyst Lisa Bloom.

Lisa, investigators said Casey`s reaction showed consciousness of guilt on that day that the remains were found. Does Adams` phone call reaffirm that, or do you believe this isn`t going to hold any weight in court at all?

BLOOM: You know, Jane, I`m not bowled over by this particular piece of evidence. I think the prosecution`s case against Casey is strong.

But look, a body of a little girl is found in her neighborhood after her daughter has been missing for several months. Even if she`s innocent, of course she`s going to be a basket case. She`s going to be concerned. She`s going to be upset. Maybe that is her little daughter, Caylee. So to me this is not really strong evidence of guilt.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, except that there are reports that there had been other false sightings previously, and during those false sightings, she wasn`t upset at all. So the prosecution might try to argue, hey, this reaction this time shows that she knew this was the real thing; this is where the body was.

BLOOM: Well, that`s true. And that`s an argument that they can make. And that might sway some members of the jury, but I think the defense can say, look, after a number of false sightings, all of the stress is starting to get to her. The media attention was building at this point. Maybe she had heard that it was a 3-year-old child or a 3-year-old girl, that there was a description close to her body. Because I can recall, when the body was found, there was a period where we had to wait to make sure that, indeed, it was little Caylee.


BLOOM: So again, this doesn`t just overwhelm me.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, we`ve heard claims from police that this woman was a close jailhouse friend of Casey`s. But it seems like Adams might have doubted Casey`s innocence. Listen to this.


ADAMS: They don`t know if it`s her or not, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, they have directly connected some thing they found on the body to some things they found in her home, so it`s pretty cut and dry at this point.

ADAMS: Yes, well, I had a feeling that it might be.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, Adams made very explosive claims. One, she said Casey told her Zanny the nanny never existed. Two, she said Casey admitted to using chloroform on little Caylee. And that, three, she claimed Cindy, Casey`s mom, is the one who provided this chloroform.

Now, a lot of people, especially the defense, Lisa, saying they just want to get -- this woman wants to get out of jail.

BLOOM: Yes. Jane, you know, I`ve been involved as a practicing attorney or as a legal analyst in looking at probably thousands of cases over the last 20 years. I have yet to find one where a jury comes back with a verdict, and they say, "We based this on the testimony of the jailhouse snitch." I mean, it just doesn`t happen. Inmates come in and testify all of the time.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Got to leave it right there, Lisa.

Next, hidden video. You won`t believe it.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: A desperate mother cries for help. Where is Kristi Cornwell? This beautiful woman was abducted while walking on a country road. That was eight months ago. And there is still no sign of her despite a tantalizing letter. Tonight we`ll talk to Kristi`s devastated mother.

In the spotlight tonight, stories of horrific animal cruelty as human beings make a push for major change. The controversy -- conditions in America`s factory farms: pigs, which have a higher IQ than dogs, kept in gestation crates just slightly larger than the size of their bodies unable to turn around. Baby boy veal calves kept in darkened crates and chained by the necks. Chickens stuffed into battery cages where they can`t spread their wings and can barely move.

The movement to ban these industry practices has garnered support from a list of celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, Hilary Duff, Alicia Silverstone and Paul McCartney. Their support of California`s Prop 2, which phases out these practices in California, passed with a whopping 62 percent of the vote.

The battleground now moves to the state of Ohio. That`s where the Humane Society of the United States is fighting to put an end to what it calls, quote, "severe and cruel confinement", end quote. The big push: a ballot initiative to ban those tiny cages.

Ohio`s animal supporters have taken to the streets. They`re collecting signatures. HBO`s expose "Death on a Factory Farm", gave the public a look at rarely-seen practices at an Ohio hog farm.

Critics claim the abuse included the so-called euthanasia of baby piglets by slamming them against walls and the hanging of hogs. We cannot show you the worst of it. But we can tell you the undercover video sparked a court case where the farm`s owner was ultimately acquitted of animal cruelty charges. Why? Because there are no clear laws on the books to protect these farm animals.

I am joined by the man who was the undercover investigator for that HBO film. We are calling him Pete to protect his identity. Plus, we are delighted to welcome Charlotte Ross, TV and movie star and activist.

Hey, how are you doing, Charlotte?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`re going to show you a little clip of her work in "Montana Sky". And she is also in "Glee". She`s been on a slew of TV shows. You recognize her.

We begin with CNN legal analyst Lisa Bloom. Lisa, what is it that they hope to accomplish in Ohio?

LISA BLOOM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Put simply, just more humane practices, Jane. I mean, many of us know that every time somebody gets a video or a camera inside these factories farms, they come out with pictures of horrendous abuse.

We`ve made a wrong turn in this culture where animals are confined so tightly that their lives are miserable. Many of them never see sunlight. They stand in their own urine and feces. They can`t turn around. They can`t spread their legs.

I mean think of your family dog living in that kind of condition for just one hour or one day and millions of animals live this way.

So people are starting to wake up to the fact that even if you`re a meat eater, we have to be more humane in the way that we treat our animals. We have to be kind to them during their lives.

And I think that Ohio was trying to follow California by saying at least give them better conditions during their lives. Larger cages if they`re going to be kept in cages -- ideally, no cages at all. Take care of them when they`re sick or when they`re hurt. That`s the minimum that we can do for animals.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: This week, splashed on the cover of the "Los Angeles Times" business section -- take a look, I`ve got it right here -- egg farm video turns up the heat. The "L.A. Times" says it`s the latest salvo in the war between the food sector and animal welfare organizations.

And that`s my big issue: food sector battle, that`s what we`re seeing now. Shocking undercover video shot in an egg factory farm shows chickens crammed into cages unable to spread their wings, barely able to move.

The Humane Society claims these are industry-standard practices. But many corporations are starting to change. Wendy`s, Sonic Corporation and the parent company of iHop and Applebee`s have all reportedly started shifting to cage-free eggs. Walmart has also reportedly gone cage-free.

I want to ask Pete, the undercover animal abuse investigator, who has done a lot of this video work, the sea change in attitude, is it the result of a slew of undercover investigations like the one you`ve done, Pete, that show what is going on behind the closed doors?

PETE, UNDERCOVER ANIMAL ABUSE INVESTIGATOR: I think it helps. I think it helps show exactly what is happening. Because things look one way when someone knows a camera is there, but it looks another way when they don`t know a camera is there.

I`ve worked at three different egg farms and I`ve worked at a hog farm in Ohio. I`ve seen gestation crates where pigs cannot move an inch from side to side or forward or back for four months at a time. It`s common sense to do away with practices like these.

What I also saw at this hog farm in Ohio was crippled sows that had broken legs and backs be dragged out, dumped on the ground and then were hanged by chains from front-loaders. The judge ultimately decided it was not illegal to strangle animals to death in that manner, to euthanize them.

So there is a precedent set now that in Ohio, you can legally strangle animals to death. This legislation, if it passes, if the voters allow it to pass, will make it illegal to strangle animals to death.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Charlotte Ross, why did you decide to get involved in this issue and lend your face to this campaign?

ROSS: Well, I think most people love animals innately. And I think it`s really more of an ignorance thing. I think that if everybody saw what this man is uncovering I think it would be a no-brainer and I think that this would have been passed a long time ago.

It`s inhumane. It`s extraordinary to think that somebody could hang up some baby pigs and watch them writhe and die in a slow death and say that that`s ok and there`s no justification for it. I think we just want them to be killed humanely and be able to turn around in their brief lives before you eat them or not.

It`s not about being a vegetarian. It`s about living your life in a humane way and being killed humanely.

And I have a son and I want to know that my son is eating animals that aren`t downed because of some disease that wasn`t treated or some kind of horrendous kind of disease that we don`t know about.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Lisa Bloom, the -- let me read from -- let`s hear the other side. Kansas farm bureau president Steve Baccus wrote in the "L.A. Times" -- well, it was quoted in the "L.A. Times" -- this is up on the bureau`s Web site, "HSUS -- Humane Society -- seeks to remove meat from our dinner tables, leather goods from our closets, animals from zoos and circuses and eventually pets from our families. The Humane Society is a powerful, well-funded activist organization pursuing what most reasonable observers would consider an extreme anti-animal agenda."

ROSS: You know, it`s extreme what they`re doing to the animals.

BLOOM: You know, that`s crazy, Jane. The Humane Society is a very mainstream organization. I personally am vegan. I don`t support circuses or leather or fur, but this is a very mainstream initiative. We`re talking about humane conditions for animals.

Why they go down this slippery slope (INAUDIBLE) about all these other parades of horribles just shows that they don`t have a good answer as to why a sow should be confined in a cage so small her entire short life that she can never turn around. There is no good answer for that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. I want to thank my fantastic panel. We`re going to stay on top of this. And Pete, I know you show a lot of courage in going undercover. Way to go.

ROSS: Yes, absolutely.

BLOOM: Pete, good job.

PETE: Thank you very much. If I may Jane, I`d like to --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: A toxic secret finally exposed. A man comes clean after 22 years admitting his father killed a woman. So what now?

Plus, eight months ago, Kristi Cornwell vanished on a country road. There is still no sign of her. Tonight, are cops any closer to finding this beautiful woman? We`ll talk to Kristi`s mom.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, Georgia mother Kristi Cornwell is still missing, eight long months since her disappearance. Kristi has not been seen since August 11th. She vanished, while out on an evening walk in the town of Blairsville, Georgia, abducted while talking on her cell phone.

We were all waiting for a breakthrough after a mystery grandmother wrote a tantalizing letter to authorities saying she suspected her grandson kidnapped Kristi.

Kristi`s own mother was so hopeful she issued a plea to that mystery grandmother to please come forward.


JOANN CORNWELL, MOTHER OF KRISTI CORNWELL: I want to talk to the grandmother that wrote the anonymous letter to the Union County Georgia and Cherokee County North Carolina sheriff`s office saying that she had suspicions that her grandson may have been involved in Kristi`s disappearance. Come forward and give law enforcement the information they need.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That letter seemed like a huge break, but now it`s just disappointment. Kristi is still missing.

Back with me: Lisa Bloom and Mike Brooks. We are also very honored to be joined by Kristi`s mom, Joann Cornwell. We`re going to get to you in a moment, ma`am. I`m so glad you`re here.

But first, Mike Brooks, what do you make of the fact that they had this great possible break and it fizzled?

MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: You know, I -- Jane, I wish this woman -- you know, early on -- we`ve been appealing you know, on HLN for this woman who wrote this letter to come forward. I tried to get in touch with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation today with their spokesperson John Bankhead (ph) by phone and by e-mail -- he did not return my call -- to find out what is the very latest in this case.

But right now, apparently it has gone nowhere. And, you know, but it falls right in that timeline, Jane. The grandmother says that her grandson, who was doing some handyman work for her, was visiting her between August 1st and 15th. The incident in North Carolina happened on August 2nd. And Kristi disappeared August 11th. And it`s not that far away, Jane. So it`s -- it`s key that we get in touch with this woman.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Joann Cornwell, you are the mother of the missing woman, Kristi Cornwell. I cannot imagine what it`s like to go through what you have gone through for these past eight months. Tell our viewers what is it like to go through day after day living, doing your day-in, day-out life not knowing what happened to your precious daughter.

CORNWELL: Well, I get up every morning and just -- she`s the first thing that`s on my mind. And many days, I just want to stay at home and not get out, but I do what I have to do. But it`s -- it`s just a nightmare.

And then on Easter, I thought, well, we`ve missed Easter now with Kristi, we missed Christmas, her birthday, Thanksgiving. It`s not getting any easier. It`s just a nightmare that continues on.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Every holiday is a sad reminder. I remember covering your case the day it broke, Joann. And it broke my heart. And we made a vow here on ISSUES that we`re going to keep this case alive so that you can find your precious daughter because we cover the war on women here on ISSUES.

And we cover this horrific war on women. A disappearance like this tortures every woman in America because all of us wonder, could we be next? So it deprives everybody of our sense of serenity and security and peace of mind.

Here`s my big issue. Why no breaks?

Kristi Cornwell has been missing for eight long months. She disappeared just nine days after a very similar attempted abduction. A North Carolina woman told cops the driver of an SUV hit her while she was walking. She narrowly escaped and she was able to help police make this sketch of the suspect. Then another Georgia woman told police she believes this very same man tried to attack her back in June when her car broke down.

So where is this man? You know, the grandma says that her grandson lives in Florida. Ok. The mystery grandmother wrote a letter to authorities telling them she suspects her grandson who was visiting from Florida did this.

So, Lisa Bloom, how can we beg this grandmother, if she`s watching, to -- and I`ll direct this to Joann. How can we -- what is it that you would like to say to this mystery grandmother out there, Joann, to try to get her to come forward and say who she is or even anonymously let us know who her grandson is so that we can go and talk to that guy and find out if he`s responsible.

CORNWELL: Well, you know, just by having me on tonight and -- we issued a YouTube plea to her a couple of months ago, hoping that if she did not read newspapers, maybe she was on the Internet a lot and maybe would see it that way. So just keeping it in the media and that`s the only way I know of to keep it out there. She just -- if she would just understand how bad it is to live like this every day; you`re just in a nightmare.

And I know she`s a mother and a grandmother, so she surely should feel somewhat how I feel and our whole family feels with Kristi missing. We just don`t know where she`s at and what -- what`s happened to her. And it`s awful.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I can see the pain etched on your face. What about her son, your grandson?

CORNWELL: Well, he doesn`t talk about it a lot. And so he seems ok. But I -- you know, I`m very worried about what`s going on in his mind that he`s not expressing to -- to me or other people. So I -- I really don`t know how it`s affected him.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: How old is he?

CORNWELL: He seems ok. He`s 16 now.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh what a terrible age --

CORNWELL: He`s 16.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What a terrible age to have to lose your mom, just when you`re going into puberty, when you`re trying to establish relationships with other people in school. This has got to be a horrific blow to him. How does he stay strong?

CORNWELL: Well, I know he`s a boy of faith. Kristi is, I am, our whole family is. So I`m sure he`s relying on the help of God to help him through this just like I am.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, I`ll give you the number --

CORNWELL: And there`s no other way to get through it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, prayer and -- and just faith, I guess. Do you lose your faith, Joann, though, when something like this happens? It`s easy to have faith when everything is going right, but when something this awful that seems to just be out of the blue coming and ruining your life happens, do -- does it test your faith?

CORNWELL: Well, I do ask God why, but I don`t lose my faith. I know he`s in control of everything. You know, I will never lose faith in God.


Well, thousands -- we can say your community has really come up to support you -- thousands have joined in the search for your daughter. And we know how urgent it is to find her.

You know, Kristi had a boyfriend at the time of her disappearance. His name is Douglas Davis. And he was on the phone with Kristi when she was taken. He actually heard Kristi pleading with her captor, screaming, "Don`t take me. Don`t take me." Douglas told the "Today" show he knew Kristi was in big trouble at that moment.


DOUGLAS DAVIS, KRISTI`S BOYFRIEND: I know her voice. I know it well. And the tone that she gave me the -- the fullest confidence that she was being abducted. She was afraid. And I know for a fact that this is -- this is an abduction.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: This kind of crime destroys everyone who is even in the periphery. We`re talking to Joann Cornwell, the mother of the missing woman, Kristi Cornwell. You just saw her boyfriend. His life has been shattered.

The community, however, Joann, has come together, creating Facebook pages, doing all sorts of things to try to give you and your loved ones support. Tell us about that.

CORNWELL: Well, I have so many friends and neighbors that knew Kristi and even didn`t know that they call all the time to check on me. And if I`m having a really bad day I feel free to call them and talk through it. And my church is wonderful and it`s just -- it`s wonderful to live in a small community where you feel the love of everybody around you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Stay right there. When we come back, we`re going to talk to you about what law enforcement has been doing, what they have told you, if anything, about their work to find your precious daughter as the desperate search continues.



CORNWELL: I want to talk to the grandmother that wrote the anonymous letter to the Union County, Georgia and Cherokee County North Carolina Sheriff`s office saying that she had suspicions that her grandson may have been involved in Kristi`s disappearance. Come forward and give law enforcement the information they need.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Where is Kristi Cornwell? Her mother desperately wants to know.

Now, as you just heard, an anonymous woman, some mystery grandmother, wrote a letter to authorities in Georgia. She believes the suspect in the sketch, who is believed to have abducted Kristi, is her own grandson.

Now, take a look at this car. It`s an SUV, a silver Nissan Extera with Florida license plates. It`s very similar to the SUV that might have run over the woman in August. That grandmother said this type of SUV matches her grandson, who was visiting at the time from Florida, at the very time that Kristi Cornwell disappeared.

So let`s go to CNN legal analyst Lisa Bloom. We`ve got the letter. We`ve got this sketch of a suspect. We`ve got the description of the car. We`ve got this tip that he lived in Florida. So you`d think that authorities would have checked out every silver Nissan Extera with Florida license plates by this point.

BLOOM: Yes, Jane, you would think so and I`m sure that they have. But apparently, they haven`t found him. Apparently, it hasn`t been enough. That`s why it`s so important that grandma comes forward.

You know, the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. It is so critical if anyone has any information about this crime or any crime that they come forward and give it to the police. Otherwise, murderers are going to continue to walk amongst us.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Joann Cornwell, as the mother of the missing woman, are you satisfied with how authorities have handled this investigation? What are they telling you?

CORNWELL: Yes, I`m satisfied because I know it`s -- and they have to be slow and methodical in their investigation. They get a lot of tips. Some of them lead nowhere. Some of them may lead somewhere. But they can`t tell me everything that they know. But I do know that they`re working hard and --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Why can`t they? Why can`t they tell you everything they know? There`s no reason why they can`t tell you everything they know. All they have to tell you is don`t repeat it.

But have they given you any information -- the GBI, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, when this mystery letter surfaced from this grandmother, said we think this is the key to solving this case. What have they said to you since then?

CORNWELL: Well, they have checked out a lot of different areas. And I know they`ve not dropped it. They`re looking hard. And it`s just a hard task. And you know, I think they`re doing all that they can. And I can`t --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: There were nine days -- there were nine days, Joann, between the abduction of your precious daughter and the attempted abduction of another woman, who says that this suspect -- she`s the one who helped create this suspect sketch. Now, how long did it take law enforcement to tell you about that other previous attempt at abduction?

CORNWELL: Well, I don`t believe they told us until maybe when they had -- a few days before they had a press conference in December. But I know the lady that was hit, she did report it, but -- to a North Carolina state patrolman, I understand, but they weren`t sure that she was telling the truth at the time.


CORNWELL: But when Kristi`s story started -- when Kristi`s story started coming out, she came forward again and told again what happened and I think --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Got to leave it right there. We`re going to stay on your case.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`re not going to let it go.

You`re watching ISSUES on HLN.