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Pro Golfer Found Dead; What Changes will Help U.S. Energy Policy?;

Aired May 12, 2010 - 19:00:00   ET



VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, mystery in Sin City. A young, beautiful, professional golfer found dead inside her Las Vegas home. Her bags were packed, her flight was booked, but she never made it to the airport. Tonight, was this suicide or was she murdered?

And a bizarre new twist in the McStay mystery. This beautiful family of four vanished without a trace three months ago. Now, new reports say a family resembling the McStays was spotted inside a restaurant. And they left a map. Could this lead to the missing family?

Plus shocking new developments in the desperate search for Kristi Cornwell. She was abducted while walking on a country road. She`s been missing for nine long months. Tonight a break in the case. Cops say a man killed during a police standoff could be connected to Kristi`s kidnapping. I`ll talk to Kristi`s desperate mother.

ISSUES starts now.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight the mystery deepens in the death of a beautiful pro golfer. What happened to 25-year-old Erica Blasberg? She was found dead in bed Sunday at her Nevada home. Police will not comment on the cause of death or say whether there was foul play. Cops won`t even say who found her.

Here is Erica in happier times.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any time, huh (ph)?

E. BLASBERG: Britney Spears.


E. BLASBERG: She`ll make a big comeback.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Old Britney or new Britney?

E. BLASBERG: I like both Britneys.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight that beautiful young woman is dead. According to her dad, a local male golfer discovered her and called 911. Who is this mystery man? How did he get access to her home? And what did he see?

Erica`s father initially speculated his daughter may have committed suicide, but he quickly backed away from that statement. He says there is something, quote, "very, very strange" about her death.


MEL BLASBERG, ERICA`S FATHER: Something -- something happened. She was supposed to leave for a tournament that morning. She didn`t. This is devastating. And you don`t want to have to bury a 25-year-old daughter. So that`s sad.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Erica was packed and ready to leave for a golf tournament. Her bags were already in the car. She even had dinner plans with a friend. Does that sound like a woman who was suicidal to you?

I`m taking your calls on this story: 1-877-JVM-SAYS. That is 1-877- 586-7297.

Straight out to my fantastic expert panel: HLN law enforcement analyst Mike Brooks; Christian Red, sports reporter for the "New York Daily News"; and joining me on the phone, we`re very happy to have Greg Allen, Erica`s friend and former coach. And we`re also very honored to have Erica`s aunt, Ilene Osinski.

Ilene, our hearts go out to you and your family. Our deep condolences over your loss. It is a mystery, however. When was the last time you spoke to your niece, Erica, and what was her mood like?

Erica, can you hear me?

All right. Guess what? We`ll start with Mike Brooks, CNN law enforcement analyst, who has been on the phone with law enforcement. Tell us what you know, Mike.

MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, today, Jane, I spoke with Tom Rasmussen. He`s an officer with Henderson, Nevada, P.D. And he really wouldn`t tell me much. But he did confirm that the 911 call was placed from the house. Now, I asked him who placed that call, and he said that they are not releasing that information.

And so I went on to talk to him about a few other things. And he did tell me, though, that there is no danger to the community. And you know, if something had to happen, if it was a random act of violence that had happened inside this house, Jane, I think they would be out there saying, "Hey, you know, you have to be on guard. You have to be cautious because this happened." They`re not saying that at all.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, but no danger -- no danger to the community is not exactly the same as saying there was no foul play, is it, Michelle Sigona, investigative journalist?

MICHELLE SIGONA, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: You`re exactly right. When I spoke to an investigator just a little while ago, I had asked about signs of forced entry, if the house was ransacked, things of that nature. He said that investigators are working on those bits now. He doesn`t want to release too much, and while they finish their investigation.

But he did mention -- I said, well, if anyone has any information and they want to call in this case, where should they call? They said, "Oh, well, we`ll accept all tips into Crimestoppers."

So I think at this point, they are -- the police department is also waiting for the toxicology reports to come back about four to six weeks. The coroner`s office told me that. And right now her death is listed as undetermined.

I also did speak with her Aunt Ilene just a little while ago. I think you were just trying to go to her on the phone. She says that they`re just devastated. This is such a tremendous loss. Erica is not only a hard worker; she`s -- she was determined. She did anything that she possibly could to move forward with her career. They were so proud of her. And it`s just extremely shocking to their entire family.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Greg Allen, you were Erica`s former coach. What I find very strange about this case is that she was found dead in her home, tragically, and there is this report by the father that the 911 call was made by a male golfer in the Las Vegas area.

What do you know? Did she know a male golfer? Was she dating a male golfer? Who is this mystery male golfer?

GREG ALLEN, ERICA`S FORMER COACH (via phone): Really don`t have any idea. The golf world is kind of a small world. There`s, you know -- you know a lot of people out there. Erica and I hadn`t talked in probably over a year. She had been doing her thing. I was doing my thing in Nashville. And we weren`t as close as we were when she was with us at Arizona for those two years.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let me go to Ilene, Erica`s aunt.

Again, thank you for joining us. We`re so sorry for your loss. Do you know anything, ma`am, about this male golfer who apparently made the 911 call, according to Erica`s dad?

ILENE OSINSKI, ERICA`S AUNT (via phone): I really don`t. And I`m more concerned and want the message out that this is a loss. She was a beautiful, talented girl with so much ahead of her, and we`re just really sad about it. We`re not really so concerned about this whole murder concept. We`re just sorry she`s gone. And I really -- that`s all I want to communicate to the world.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Ilene, I totally understand what you`re saying. And it is a huge loss. She was very talented. She was very beautiful, she was very popular. She was a very hard worker.

Was she in any way, shape or form, struggling emotionally? I mean, can we put that aside? What was her mood the last time you talked to her?

OSINSKI: My sense about golfers in the golf world and any sports professionals, it`s a hard world. This is a girl that got a full scholarship to Arizona -- or I`m sorry -- I forgot the name of the school. Had so much to go. I think that the golf world is a hard place. And that`s all I`m going to say. And I know that she was working very hard to be successful.

BROOKS: And Jane, her father did say when he was interviewed that she was dealing -- you know, you can read into this what you may. She was dealing with the pressures of golf and the pressures of life. What does that mean? Only he knows that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, but he also said that he found that the circumstances surrounding her death were very, very strange, and he has really backed off that initial statement that it could have been something that she did to herself. And now he`s saying that he thinks that this is a strange situation.

Is there any insight, Ilene, as Erica`s aunt, you can give to us? I mean, are police interviewing you, talking to you about her mental state, or are they -- are they taking another tack and heading in another direction?

OSINSKI: I have nothing -- no input on that at all.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: No input. When you say it`s a rough game, are you saying that -- listen, she was very successful. She had this huge sponsor, Puma. In 2008 she made more than $100,000. She was really an amazingly successful person, but you`re right. It is a very, very tough game. Did that get to her emotionally at all?

OSINSKI: I think that every professional person playing any game in any field of athletics, it is a very hard place. It`s not easy being No. 1. No. 1 becomes No. 2 really easily in this world. But I think that she was really driven to do the best she could. And it`s just really sad.


OSINSKI: Very sad.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And we are so sorry for your loss. We`re looking at video...

OSINSKI: My brother is devastated. And his wife -- ex-wife are devastated.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And your brother was her swing coach, was he not? In other words...

OSINSKI: He was her coach for a long time. He was a wonderful mentor. My brother was a wonderful golfer. My father was a wonderful golfer. And I think that it was amazing to see his child become a professional golfer. What an amazing thing for him. And now, now it`s just -- you know, snuffed out. So whatever. I wish you luck, and I`m -- I`m sorry for my niece. And...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We are so sorry for you and our hearts go out to you.

OSINSKI: I bid you good night, dear. Good luck for you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you. Thank you, Ilene.

We`ve been speaking with Erica`s aunt who is, obviously, very emotional, understandably.

Christian Red, you`re a sports reporter for the "New York Daily News." You just heard the aunt of this dead woman talk about how rough a sport it is. It is true that the very tiny percentile at the top make big bucks, but the rest of the professional golfers struggle, don`t they?

CHRISTIAN RED, SPORTS REPORT, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": I`m sorry. I couldn`t hear the last part of your question.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: The rest of the professional golfers struggle.

RED: That`s a very good point. And I actually spoke with Ilene yesterday. And she underscored that very part of it, is that the pressure in golf, in any sport must be enormous.

And as you were saying earlier, Erica seemed to be fairly successful. I think her career earnings were over $320,000. So obviously had success. But I think with any sport there`s a tremendous amount of pressure to be on top or stay near the top and be at the top of your profession.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And in last year, her earnings does plummet. And we`re going to talk a little bit about that, what impact that might have on this mysterious case. If -- why aren`t police saying what it is if they know? Are they waiting for the autopsy results and the toxicology tests to come back?

Everybody, stay right where you are. We`re just getting started. A young, beautiful, a very talented golfer. What happened to Erica Blasberg? We`re taking your calls on this: 1-877-JVM-SAYS. That`s 1-877-586-7297.

Plus Kristi Cornwell vanished nine long months ago. No clues, no suspects, no trace. Tonight a huge break in the case. We will bring it to you and talk to her mom, live.

But first, a young pro golfer found dead inside her home. Was it suicide? Was it murder? Why don`t we have any answers?


M. BLASBERG: This is devastating. And we really don`t -- we`re going to have to bury a 25-year-old daughter.




E. BLASBERG: I have an A+ (UNINTELLIGIBLE) right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any time, huh (ph)?

E. BLASBERG: Britney Spears.


E. BLASBERG: She`ll make a big comeback.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Old Britney or new Britney?

E. BLASBERG: I like both Britneys.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That was pro golfer Erica Blasberg last year, young, beautiful, happy. The 25-year-old was found dead Sunday at her Nevada home. Her dad said, quote, "At first glance, it looks like she might have taken her own life. But at second glance, something is very, very strange about it."

Police will not reveal cause of death or say whether they suspect foul play. We don`t know anything about this mystery man who reportedly called 911. Some male golfer. Who is he?

Phone lines lighting up. Emily in Michigan. Your question or thought, ma`am?

CALLER: Yes, yes. I think that that girl, Erica, got killed. I think that it was a murder. I don`t believe it was suicide. My grandpa, he committed suicide when I was 12. And there was just obvious evidence of suicide. This is different.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I think you raise a very interesting point. Erica was supposed to drive to the airport Saturday morning. She had a ticket to fly to Alabama to play in a tournament there. Her brand-new golf bag was packed and in her car. Obviously, she never made the flight.

Then some time in the wee hours of Sunday morning, Erica sent her caddie a text message saying she wasn`t coming, or at least somebody using her cell phone sent that message. The caddie replied that she hoped everything was OK, but she never heard from Erica again. That`s suspicious right there.

It`s also suspicious that Erica`s bags were packed and ready to fly out Saturday and that she texted the caddie that she`s not going the day after missing the flight.

Any thoughts? Psychotherapist Stacy Kaiser, does this sound like suicide to you or something else?

STACY KAISER, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: You know, it all looks like it could be foul play, but I want to share something about people who are suicidal. The fact is that being a professional athlete is very stressful. We see people lose it all the time. Look what Tiger did. Look what happened with Andre Agassi. There is a very good possibility that this girl was depressed. Her salary has decreased.

And the fact that she packed her bag gave her an opportunity to leave if she wanted to go and if she wasn`t going to go through with any kind of suicide.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I don`t understand, Michelle Sigona, why authorities don`t say, then, that "We think that there`s no foul play involved and we believe that this is a case of suicide, but we`re going to wait for the autopsy report."

SIGONA: Yes. Normally, a lot of times in these cases, Jane, you and I see this both, is that they will come out and say, "We don`t suspect foul play, or we do suspect foul play, or her body was found here or there were signs of trauma."

But in this particular case, I think because it`s become so mainstream, it`s such a national attention getter, that they don`t want to mess up. They don`t want to say the wrong things too quickly.

But Keith Paul did tell me a little while ago, he said that -- that as soon as he does have a little bit of information, even if it`s before the toxicology reports.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, they have to know who called 911.

SIGONA: They do.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: This mystery guy.

SIGONA: They do.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: If he`s not a suspect, why don`t they just say he has nothing to do with it? He was a friend. But I still don`t understand how he got into the house, if she`s found there dead, unless he has keys, but there`s no report of her dating anybody.

OK. Here`s my big issue. Was Erica`s career in the rough? Her dad told "The New York Times," quote, "Erica went through a bad time last year, and there was concern she wasn`t interested in playing any more. But last week I saw the Erica that we all knew. She was refreshed, excited," end quote.

It`s ironic, again, that pro athletes, their lives seem so glamorous, but in fact most in pro sports are really struggling. You know, it kind of -- Christian Red, it kind of reminds me of actors in Hollywood. Everyone thinks how glamorous to be an actor. It`s only the tiny, tiny few at the top who make all the money. A lot of the other actors are literally starving and wait -- working as waiters to make do.

RED: Well, you know, the other thing that -- I don`t know if it came up in the early part of this show, but her parents, who are divorced, you never know if that was a factor in her relationship with not only them but her approach to her profession. Unclear as to whether that was a factor, but you know, the pressure thing is definitely a real element of this whole matter.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And the fact is that female pro golfers do not make the kind of money that male pro golfers make. And last year, her earnings had dwindled to $26,000, which is not a lot. She had a home, and she obviously had to support herself. So we don`t know.

We`re going to stay on top of this and try to solve the mystery. Thank you, fantastic panel.

A family of four vanishes without a trace. Were they abducted? Did they run away? Tonight, unbelievable new clues in the McStay family mystery. Could a new map lead to the family?

Plus fast-breaking developments in the war on women. Kristi Cornwell vanished without a trace nine months ago. Now a new break in the case, and it`s a big one. I`ll talk to her mom.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Deadly, slick, plaque oil pours into the Gulf of Mexico. It`s day 23 of the devastating BP oil spill that`s ravishing the beautiful pristine water of the Gulf Coast.

Here`s our first look at the leak from the ocean floor. It took BP three weeks to release this video. Look at that horrifying video.

A turtle struggling to breathe, drowning in oil, caught on tape. Yesterday we talked about how more than 100 dead turtles have washed up in the wake of this hideous spill.

Tonight, what can we as a nation to make sure that something this catastrophic does not happen again?

I`m delighted to welcome U.S. Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland to ISSUES.

Senator, you`ve said that our nation`s current energy policy is a disaster and we need to break our dangerous addiction to oil. Boy, do I agree with you. If this won`t do it, what on earth will?

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: Well, Jane, you`re exactly right. We do need an energy policy in America that doesn`t rely on oil, renewable energy sources. We consume less. That`s going to be good for our national security. It`s going to be good for our economy, and it`s going to be good for our environment. We can`t afford to have these types of incidents.

If we were to allow the drilling off the Virginia coast that was proposed and have an episode like this, it would devastate the Chesapeake Bay and the mid-Atlantic beaches.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Here`s my take, Senator. There`s a fox-guarding-the- henhouse scenario playing out in the oil industry. "The New York Rimes" reports two years ago there was a giant scandal with the Minerals Management Service. Several senators complained this agency rubber-stamped drilling plans without enough environmental review. And some officials at that agency were accused of accepting -- get this -- gifts, trips, drugs and sex from oil company representatives. The agency was described as an ethical wasteland.

So senator, my question to you, who`s ultimately responsible? How about Interior Secretary Salazar? Senator, do you think Interior Secretary Salazar should step down because of this fiasco?

CARDIN: No, first of all, these regulatory systems were in place long before the current administration. These leases were entered into years ago.

But the point is clear that the regulatory agency does not have the adequate independence, the supervision necessary. I raised the issue against BP oil`s executive that the plan that they submitted to the Department of Interior said that this would not happen, that the risks were minimal, and that they had a plan to be able to react to it if there was a spill. Well, that was wrong.

Based upon that, there were waivers given that will have the impact of not having the right environmental inspections. So we need a much stronger regulatory environment.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I agree with you 100 percent. They always say that -- "Oh, nothing to see here. No problem here" -- until the problem happens. But it`s the government`s responsibility to not just take them at their word and rubber stamp. It`s to do a serious environmental review.

So I can only hope that now the administration`s going to look at this disaster and say, "We have to rethink our plan to open up our coastlines to oil drilling." We hope. Right, Senator?

CARDIN: Two things. First, we need an independent regulatory agency. And I think Secretary Salazar is recommending that WMSS. So we need that.

Secondly, no new exploration of oil, particularly where there is sensitive areas such as the mid-Atlantic.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m giving you a standing ovation for that one. Senator, keep fighting there on the Hill. We need your voice.

CARDIN: Thanks.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: The McStay mystery has baffled police. An entire family vanishing into thin air. Tonight, a new clue. Was the family spotted at a restaurant in Mexico?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: The bizarre new twist in the McStay mystery. This beautiful family of four vanished without a trace three months ago. Now, new reports say a family resembling the McStays was spotted inside a restaurant. And they left a map. Could this lead to the missing family?

Plus, shocking new developments in desperate search for Kristi Cornwell: she was abducted while walking on a country road. She`s been missing for nine long months. Tonight, a break in the case: cops say a man killed during a police standoff could be connected to Kristi`s kidnapping. I`ll talk to Kristi`s desperate mother.

A family of four goes missing without a trace. Nobody has seen Summer and Joseph McStay and their two adorable young children since they vanished from their California home three long months ago.

Tonight, does a mystery map hold the clue to their disappearance? Joseph`s brother says a waiter in Guerrero Negro, Mexico in Baja has come forward and says, "I waited on the family after they disappeared."

He recognized the distinctive birthmark on the forehead -- right there, you see it -- on the youngest McStay. He said the family left a map behind on the table. And he took the map and kept it. The waiter also says the dad, Joey McStay, you`re looking at him right there, he looked, quote, "ill and sick".

The McStays left their home in a big rush three months ago, fresh food left on the table to rot. Their beloved dogs left outside in the yard with no food or water.

Their family feared the worst. They all feared they`d been kidnapped. But then the McStays were allegedly spotted on surveillance video calmly walking across the border into Mexico.

Was this seemingly normal family of four planning on vanishing? If so, why on earth would they do that? And will this mysterious map yield any clues? Wow, this is such a mystery.

Straight out to my fantastic, expert panel: HLN law enforcement analyst Mike Brooks; psychotherapist Stacy Kaiser back with us; reporter with the "San Diego Union Tribune" Leslie Berestein who has broken a lot of stories on this case.

But first out to investigative reporter Michelle Sigona. Michelle, you`re on top of this. What is the very latest?

MICHELLE SIGONA, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: About 45 minutes ago I spoke with San Diego County sheriff lieutenant Burgos and he does confirm that he does have the map. It was sent to the lap. And either tomorrow or the next day it will be run for fingerprints.

Now what`s interesting is that Michael McStay, who is Joseph`s brother, told me earlier today that because Joseph and his wife Summer are both realtors, that their fingerprints are actually in a California database. So it would be very easy if their fingerprints are on that map to be able to match them up.

The lieutenant also told me that in the last three weeks they`ve not had one new lead in this case. So thank you so much for being able to cover it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. This is a big lead.

SIGONA: It is a big lead. It`s the biggest so far.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Come on, if their fingerprints are on that map, that`s game, set, match at lest in determining that they`re there.

SIGONA: And here`s the thing. The problem is that they were seen probably at the end of February, early March. It does help to close in the timeline, but it`s not as recent as yesterday or last week. But it does help to fill in some of the pieces, for sure.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What is this waiter talking about when he said that Joseph McStay, that`s the dad, was acting ill and sick? Joey`s brother who has been here on our show ISSUES said he could be referring to the vertigo symptoms Joey was having.

What? Well, we had the brother on ISSUES, but this is the first time today that we`re hearing about this. His brother never mentioned anything about vertigo before.

Listen to this.


MICHAEL MCSTAY, JOSEPH MCSTAY`S BROTHER: 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: Joey`s brother Michael now says, quote, "In the last year he`d been having these vertigo type symptoms. He was in the hospital for a couple of weeks on February 4th. He was talking to my mother and he had to pull over when he was driving home because he felt vertigo-type symptoms," end quote.

Guess what, people, February 4th was the very last day this family was seen. Wow, Stacy, what do you make of that?

STACY KAISER, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: I definitely think it`s fishy. You know I always say that people are either running to something or running from something. And the fact that their dog and their food was left behind isn`t strange to me. They could have left that there to make it look like there was foul play when they were trying to get away quickly.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But the vertigo, you`re the psychotherapist -- I think those are good points. But what do you make of this whole vertigo symptom that we`re just hearing about now?

KAISER: Well, first of all, that could be a sign of somebody using drugs or alcohol. That also could be a sign of some sort of mental disorder that he`s describing as dizziness.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Interesting.

And, of course, we don`t want to put this family down. For all we know, they were kidnapped. But it`s starting to look more and more like they left voluntarily.

My big issue tonight, running from what? By all accounts this was the perfect family. They even posted family videos on YouTube.

Got to check this out.




VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. How happy they look. But the McStays` computer showed they researched passport rules for traveling with children. They were possibly spotted on surveillance video crossing the border.

Leslie Berestein, you`re with the "San Diego Tribune". You`ve broken a lot of the developments on this case. What do you make of this latest development of them showing up in Baja, California, according to this waiter?

LESLIE BERESTEIN, "SAN DIEGO TRIBUNE": Well, it`s being taken seriously enough to where -- we just ran a story today on Baja, California state police have dispatched seven investigators to a town called El Rosario. It`s not actually Guerrero Negro. It is to the north of Guerrero Negro.

It`s a small town on the main road; popular pit stop for travelers. There`s a restaurant there. There`s a gas station. That`s the town that investigators have gone to. They arrived last night. They`re going to be there for a couple of days combing the area, knocking on doors.

But the restaurant that they were supposed to have been seen at is a restaurant that I know well. It`s right off the main road; very popular, again, with travelers going up and down that highway. So it`s being taken seriously enough for that, to warrant that kind of investigation.

Now, also, the spokesman for the state police mentioned that they are collaborating with the FBI on an investigation. They`re sharing any information, any evidence --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Can I ask you a question? I want to jump in, Leslie. How far from the U.S. border is this restaurant?

BERESTEIN: It`s quite a haul. I would say it`s a good 12-hour drive.


BERESTEIN: It`s 200 miles roughly -- yes -- the line between north and south, Baja, California Norte and Sur is in Guerrero Negro. So there`s about 200 miles to the north of that. It`s quite a haul; it`s a very small town.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Fascinating. Now, the family the McStays left behind are completely sick with worry. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need to find them. I worry about those babies and are they fed? Are they warm? Are they, you know, happy? Are they fed? My nights are hell. You pray and then you, I`m sorry, cry yourself to sleep.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: There are so many unanswered questions, Mike Brooks. And the possibilities are really endless. I mean, we were today at the office thinking about, well, it could be this. It could be this.

I mean could Joseph McStay have been involved in some sort of shady business dealing? We know that he sometimes imported parts from Mexico for his fountain business. I was thinking well, what if some drugs were put in one of those fountains? But then it occurred to me, if you were fleeing from some Mexican drug dealer, you wouldn`t go to Mexico. You`d go north to Canada to get away from them.

MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: No, you wouldn`t flee to Mexico to get away from anybody, that`s for sure, Jane.

The way is economy is, his business he had, he made waterfalls for houses and this kind of thing, you know, maybe it wasn`t doing well. And they didn`t leave many clothes at all in the house. And that was another thing that I found -- you know, if they were just going to go out for a while and come back, they wouldn`t have taken their clothes and most of their shoes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It just doesn`t add up, Michelle Sigona. They had no reports of financial problems and no reports of legal problems except for the fact that the wife had a couple of names, which the family says is an innocent thing.

SIGONA: That`s correct. She did have a couple of names. But they`re not saying that -- no one really thinks that that is suspicious at all. In addition -- you know, Joseph`s family, not just Michael, but all of his family and friends, I mean, they are scouring the area, they`re passing out flyers, they`re tracking down leads, they`re pulling up phone records. This family is sick to death and if the McStays are out there, if they are watching this, please just come back home.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Come back home, if you`re out there. We know this cable show goes to Mexico. So don`t keep hiding.

Fantastic guests thank you so much.

Fast breaking news in the war on women: it`s been 9 months since Kristi Cornwell vanished. Cops have no clue and no suspects but tonight there is finally a huge break in the case. We will talk to Kristi`s devastated mother next.


JO ANN CORNWELL, MOTHER OF KRISTI CORNWELL: Come forward and give law enforcement the information they need.



VELEZ-MITCHELL: Fast breaking developments in the disappearance of Georgia mom Kristi Cornwell. Could a dead rape suspect hold the key to this case? Investigators are looking at a man who committed suicide during a standoff with cops. He was wanted for raping a 19-year-old relative and for the attempted kidnapping of a 10-year-old girl from an Easter egg hunt.

Here is 42-year-old James Carringer. That`s his picture. And get this, this is unbelievable. He was a married father of two. He shot himself after a three-hour standoff with cops in Atlanta.

More on what possibly connects him to Kristi Cornwell`s disappearance in just a minute.

Kristi Cornwell was merely taking a walk in North Georgia, talking to her boyfriend on the phone near her parents` home when she was snatched. That was nine long months ago.


CORNWELL: Kristi`s still missing. It`s been nine months today since she was abducted and that we`re just in a terrible nightmare.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Cornwell`s family says this is the single, most important lead they`ve had in months. But if this potential suspect -- and I say potential -- did abduct Kristi, how are we going to find out what happened now that he is dead?

I`m taking your calls on this; 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297.

Straight out to my awesome panel: we`re honored to be joined by Jo Ann Cornwell, Kristi`s mother. And as always, we are so, so sorry for what you are going through. And we thank you so much for being here and just being so courageous in how you have handled this nightmare.

Also with us, HLN law enforcement analyst Mike Brooks. And we begin with John Bankhead with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation who joins us by telephone.

Mr. Bankhead, tell us what you can about this amazing possible new lead?

JOHN BANKHEAD, GEORGIA BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (via telephone): Well, it has just been a lead. We don`t want to put any more strength to this than any other lead we`ve gotten. We are pursuing it.

We -- the GBI became involved when they were assisting the Yuma County sheriff`s office in the rape that you just mentioned. And in that investigation, we discovered that Mr. Carringer had owned and did own and did drive a silver Nissan Xterra with the brush guard on it which was involved in the Ranger incident not too far from where Kristi disappeared, it was in North Carolina.

He was from the Young Harris area, lived there. He was from Brasstown (ph), North Carolina. Young Harris is not too far from where Kristi disappeared and Brasstown, North Carolina is just across the line in Clayton County, North Carolina, just north of Union County.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So let me recap sir, what makes you think that John Carringer might have -- might have abducted Kristi Cornwell. Listen to this.


BANKHEAD: There`s some information in the background of Mr. Carringer that we haven`t released publicly that indicates there might be a possibility of his being involved in Kristi`s disappearance.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok, so let`s compare his photo to the composite sketch. Kind of looks quite similar, doesn`t it? It shows a man suspected in an attempted abduction that Mr. Bankhead just referred to in Ranger, North Carolina; an attempted abduction of a woman which happened nine days before Kristi Cornwell`s abduction.

That woman told police she was simply walking down the road when a silver SUV knock her to the ground. And she says the driver approached her but then ran off when another car drove up. And here is the sketch of the vehicle that the woman described. A silver Nissan Xterra with a brush guard.

Now, isn`t it true, Mr. Bankhead of the GBI, that Carringer once sold a silver Nissan Xterra with the brush guard on the front and he sold it soon after Kristi Cornwell vanished?

BANKHEAD: That was early information put out. We found out after pursuing this that he actually still had it. And we were able to get the vehicle and we are processing that vehicle for any evidence that might be helpful in the investigation.

He also had a brush guard on his vehicle that was removed shortly after these incidents occurred up in Ranger and in Gilma County (ph). The only description we have of the vehicle in the Kristi disappearance was a light colored -- it could be a white or silver SUV that was seen in the area.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want to bring Jo Ann Cornwell, Kristi`s mother, thank you for your patience. We wanted to establish what was going on before we go to you and get your reaction to this potential lead. What is your reaction?

CORNWELL: Well, I`m not going to get too excited until I know for sure that there is a connection. I know that the GBI has said that they have not found any concrete connections between the Carringer man and Kristi`s abduction at this point.

So I have gotten my hopes up before and when they would have a lead and then it wouldn`t pan out. So -- and then be very disappointed. So I`m just -- I`m just waiting to see. I`m not going to get too excited until I know for sure.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s examine some of the reasons why authorities are looking at John Carringer in connection with Kristi Cornwell`s abduction and one of the big reasons is proximity. Kristi Cornwell was abducted in Blairsville. The attempted abduction nine days earlier of another woman was just 25 miles away in Ranger, North Carolina. This Carringer guy lived in Young Harris, Georgia, but grew up in Brasstown, North Carolina.

Now all of these locations are very close together, Jo Ann, you`re in that area so you certainly know. What do you make of that?

CORNWELL: Well, you know, if it`s -- if it`s a coincidence, it`s a strange one, but that does make you wonder, that does he -- did he know the area? He should know the area very well because you know he`s lived in the area I guess all of his life. I`m not sure about that. But I know for a long time and we`re not that far away.

And I don`t know if he had business down in this area of the county, but you know, he could have known the area very well, even the North Carolina area where the abduction was tried. So --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: On the other side of the break --

CORNWELL: I don`t know.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`re going to get more from you and talk about his death.



BANKHEAD: His victims so far have been young women. And not in the age range of Kristi.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s the biggest lead in the Kristi Cornwell abduction in quite some time; news that a suspected rapist who shot himself dead might be linked to her abduction nine months ago.

Phone lines lighting up. Elsie, Florida, your question or thought, ma`am?

ELSIE, FLORIDA (via telephone): Hi Jane. Thank you for taking my call. I feel like they should look at previous address where the man that committed suicide lived and check the surrounding areas to see if there are any clues of dead bodies found around the residence of the man that committed suicide?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Interesting point. Mike Brooks, is the fact that this suspect -- potential suspect is dead going to make it harder to solve this case?

BROOKS: Well, sure. You always like to have someone to interview, Jane. But what John was saying, they do have that car, that vehicle, with the brush guard. They can process that car. Even if he has washed the inside of that car, even if he`s vacuumed on his own the inside of that car, there`s still a possibility -- or I should say SUV -- there`s still a possibility of trace evidence, hairs, fibers, DNA, these kind of things.

And also his cell phone records can go back a number of months. Find out where he was and try to put together a timeline of where he was when all these different incidents took place.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s true. If he has no alibi then that also points to him.

Now, what about the anonymous grandmother who wrote a letter to the Cherokee County Sheriff`s Department wondering if her grandson might have been involved in Kristi`s abduction.


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: Jo Ann, have you heard anything else about that mystery grandmother and the letter that she wrote saying she thought her grandson might have been involved because he also drove a light colored Nissan Xterra?

CORNWELL: No, not really. I mean, I know the GBI are still working on that lead. But I`ve not heard anything in recent weeks about it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: John Bankhead, does this new development kind of cancel that out? Is it either or could it be both?

BANKHEAD: That`s a good question. You would think any grandmother that would have seen -- and she should have seen Miss Cornwell`s plea, would have called. And we have not heard from her so that raises an interesting aspect of this particular situation.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Have you been able to determine whether this man who shot himself has an alibi for the day that Kristi Cornwell went missing?

BANKHEAD: Agents have done and are doing everything they can do to follow this lead. And as far as forensic evidence and other issues that were mentioned earlier. So that`s about all I can say about that point -- that issue at this point.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And is it frustrating to you that he is dead, that it makes your investigation more difficult?

BANKHEAD: It does make it more difficult. You know, it presents a situation that if he were involved, which we don`t know, that we may never find Kristi.


BANKHEAD: So that`s a horrible thought but --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, thank you, sir and Jo Ann Cornwell. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. We`re not going to let this story go. We want justice for you and your family. And we want you to be able to bring Kristi home.

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