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Family Struggles to Make Sense of Murder; Missing Beauty Queen Still Sought

Aired May 26, 2010 - 19:00:00   ET



JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, an unimaginable murder. Beautiful 16-year-old twins accused of killing their own mother, allegedly stabbing and beating this stunning hair stylist to death. Some friends say the two twin girls have a violent past, saying the murdered mom told them, "If anything happens to me, the kids did it." I`ll talk to the devastated family.

And where is Mitrice Richardson? She vanished without a trace eight months ago after being set free from a remote Southern California jail in the middle of the night without a phone, a car or money. Now a high- powered congresswoman is demanding the Justice Department investigate her bizarre disappearance. Did the cops violate Mitrice`s civil rights?

Then an exclusive interview with Jesse James` former step-mom. In his first sit-down, Sandra Bullock`s soon-to-be ex-husband detailed a childhood of terrifying physical abuse at the hands of his father. Now Janina James Coan is insisting his claims are completely untrue. Her side of the story only on ISSUES.

Plus a miraculous transformation. He`s the new winner of "The Biggest Loser," and he`s sitting down with me tonight. The heaviest contestant ever, Michael Ventrella, will tell us how he shed a whopping 264 pounds, breaking the record for most weight dropped on the show. I`ll talk to this winner about his struggles and his victory.

ISSUES starts now.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight`s stunning new developments in a case of beautiful twin teenaged girls accused of murdering their own mother.

A 34-year-old Georgia mom savagely murdered, brutally beaten and stabbed over and over again. Hair stylist Nikki Whitehead`s battered body was found in a pool of blood. Five excruciating months pass without one single lead. Then suddenly, a horrifying discovery. Evidence at the crime scene links the vicious murder to two killers, 16-year-old twins Jasmia and Tasmia Whitehead. That`s right, Nikki`s very own teenage daughters, known as Tas and Jas, are behind bars tonight, charged with their mom`s brutal murder.

And tonight, broken-hearted family members are speaking out about this unimaginable horror.


LINDA WHITEHEAD, MOTHER OF VICTIM: We saw them at Harvard or Yale, and never would I have ever imagined they would -- that they would be sitting in a jail cell for killing their mother.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Were Jas and Tas` family members afraid they would kill? The girls look so innocent. They`re so pretty. But friends of their mom say she worried her unruly daughters would hurt her one day.


YUCCA HARRIS, FRIEND OF NIKKI WHITEHEAD: She said that, if anything happens to her, she said, the kids did it.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow. The twins` great-grandmother, who took them in after they allegedly attacked their mom once before, reportedly had to deadbolt her bedroom door, she was so afraid of them. So did these twin teen terrors almost get away with cold-blooded murder? They say they did not kill their mother, and they did continue attending high school like nothing was wrong.

I want to hear from you on this. Give me a call: 1-877-JVM-SAYS. That`s 1-877-586-7297.

Straight out to my fantastic expert panel. But first, we are going to talk to the girls` grandmother, Linda Whitehead. And we also have the victim`s best friend, Yucca Harris.

Linda, I want to start with you. I certainly cannot imagine the hell you are going through. I`m so sorry about the loss of your daughter. This has got to be a triple tragedy for you. I have to begin with a difficult question, however. Do you think your twin granddaughters murdered their mom, your adult daughter, and if so, why?

WHITEHEAD: I`d have to say that I do believe they were -- they were the only people in the house with her. They were the last people -- they were there with her, and they were the last person that saw her alive. From everything that I know, I believe that they murdered their mom.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, my God. That`s got to be such a horrible thing for you to have to process.

WHITEHEAD: It`s heartbreaking. It`s just heartbreaking. I just can`t explain to you how I feel.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, can you try? Can you try to tell us what you were going through emotionally?

WHITEHEAD: I`m going -- I love my daughter very much, and I love my grandkids. And to, you know, find out that they are the ones that are accused of doing this, it`s just very disturbing to me. Because I know how much my daughter loved her kids, how much she did for them. They were in ballet. They were, you know, "A" students from kindergarten all the way up into high school, up until two years ago.

And once they were away from home, their grades diminished. Their behavior changed. They were just different girls.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What happened? I mean, OK, you hit 13. We all changed a bit and begin sassing up a little bit, but this certainly is an extreme example. We understand about a year and a half earlier, before all this, they allegedly attacked their mom and that`s one of the reasons they were sent to live with their great-grandmother, who is in her 80s.

And then, just recently, they were sent back to reunite with their mom, and eight days later the mom was dead. What happened to change these girls? Bad influence, drugs, alcohol, gangs, what?

WHITEHEAD: It could be a number of things. It could be drugs. It could be wanting to talk to little boys and, you know, have their way and their mom was not having that. I mean, she wanted them to complete school, not become a product of their, you know, environment, you know. She didn`t want them to get pregnant. She was just a good mom.

And they wanted to be with their grandmother. They could be more -- you know, she would be more lenient with them. And, you know, they could pretty much do and get away with something that they couldn`t do at home.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So in other words, they didn`t want to come back to live with their mom, and eight days later she`s dead?

WHITEHEAD: That`s correct.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, friends and family members began to suspect the twins at their mother`s funeral, because the twins apparently never approached the casket. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here, to be your (ph) mom, and she had been brutally murdered. And that`s your last glimpse of her before she`s, you know, gone forever. That kind of gave me a sign right there, that they may have had something to do with it.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, I want to go to Yucca Harris, the best friend of the victim, Nikki Whitehead. I want to ask you when did you become suspicious about the twins and their alleged involvement in the brutal murder of their mother?

And we have to point out this was a brutal beating and multiple stabbing with blood all over the house.

HARRIS: Right. It was shocking to me when I first got the phone call from DFACS (ph) that my girlfriend was found, at the time, was found unconscious in the bathtub.

You know, it didn`t sit well with me until I got there to actually see the yellow tape at the home and just to see the GBI crime lab unit there and, you know, officers, you know, taking names and asking questions and when, you know, the detective indicated to me that she was found murdered at the house...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, Yucca, I want to ask you this question. You -- apparently there was something that happened three days before the murder. A conversation? Tell us about that.

HARRIS: Yes, it was a conversation -- my girlfriend, she was a hair stylist. And so on a Saturday morning she called me. She indicated to me that the girls were still being disrespected -- you know, being disrespectful to her, even though she had had them maybe like up until like two days or three days before calling me to let me know that, you know, they were just still calling her -- out her name.

And she just made a comment to me, indicating that if anything happened to her, she said to me that the kids did it. And she knows in the past that she can call on me, and I will talk to Jas and Tas. I`d talked to them in the past when she had issues with them. So I said...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What is wrong -- what`s wrong with these girls?

HARRIS: I don`t -- I can`t -- I can`t say what`s wrong with them. It`s just that I know...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Is there some story that we don`t know about? I mean, kids don`t just snap and go from Girl Scouts to psychotic killers, allegedly.

HARRIS: Well, what I do know is just talking to them and getting, you know, why they were so angry with their mother, they felt like they was being punished from, you know -- I mean, they was being punished by going back home to their mother, because at that time they were not ready to go home, back home to Nikki. They wanted to be with their great-grandmother.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, because their great-grandmother`s in her 80s and probably is clueless, and they could do whatever the heck they wanted to do.

HARRIS: Of course. That`s what Nikki -- she wanted to be the one to discipline them. And, you know, they didn`t want that at the time.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, my gosh. Well, we`re just getting started. Linda Whitehead, hang in there. We`re going to ask you some other questions. And we have our panel, as well. More on this really, really heart-wrenching story.

Also later in our broadcast, Jesse James in tears. The bad boy begs for Sandra back.

Plus the winner of "The Biggest Loser" joins us tonight on ISSUES. Inside his unbelievable 264-pound loss. He`s a handsome guy now.

An update on a missing California beauty queen. Where is Mitrice Richardson?

We`re also taking your calls on these stories. That`s 1-877-586-7297, 1-877-JVM-SAYS.


LEO TERRELL, ATTORNEY FOR MITRICE RICHARDSON`S FAMILY: If Mitrice Richardson`s name was Spears or Lohan, they would never let her walk out by herself. They would have escorted her home.




WHITEHEAD: I hear people say that, "Oh, once you find out who done it, there`s closure." But for me, it seems like it`s just opening.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would have been more at ease if it would have been a stranger.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: My big issue tonight, addicted to violence. These twins were taken away from their mother after they allegedly attacked her well over a year ago, fighting over cell-phone privileges, of all things.

They moved in with their great-grandmother, who`s in her 80s and who reportedly dead-bolted her bedroom door because she was scared of these twins. When they were finally sent back to live with their mom, she was dead within a week. And now these two girls are charged with murder of their own mother. It`s incomprehensible.

Debbie in Minnesota, your question or thought, ma`am?

CALLER: Hi, Jane, how are you today?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Good, how are you.

CALLER: Good. Welcome. Hello from the great state of Minnesota.


CALLER: My question is I would like to know if she owned that home and if there are any possible life insurance policies which these girls would obviously be entitled to upon her death?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Linda, I think that`s an excellent question. We`re trying to figure out if there`s another motive here beyond just sort of teenaged rage.

WHITEHEAD: Ok. She didn`t own the home, and I`m not aware of any insurance policies at this time out there.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But there still seems to be kind of a lack of motive. Again, the anger. You could understand teenage anger sometimes when they`re disciplined. But -- but the viciousness of this crime. Was there some kind of trauma in their lives earlier? Any kind of incident of a physical nature or psychological or emotional nature that changed these girls? And is one more aggressive than the other?

WHITEHEAD: Jas -- I mean, Tas has been a little bit more aggressive than Jas in the past and her mom had to kind of scold her before and say, you know, "Tas, you know, don`t pick on Jas."

But there was nothing out of the normal of their lives growing up. They wasn`t abused. You know, their mother was a sweet, loving, caring person. They had everything and probably much more than a lot of kids had. So they wasn`t deprived of anything. And they have had psychological, you know...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: One looks really sad here, and the other looks really angry and defiant. One of them, the one on the right looks like she really may be feeling really horrible.

WHITEHEAD: That`s how they looked at the funeral. And the wake. It was the same kind of expressions they both had. So...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I get the feeling it`s like the Menendez brothers: one controls the other. And I`m wondering, Drew Findling, if that will mean that one, the one who`s less angry, this one, could perhaps spill the beans about what really happened and get a less severe sentence than the other one if the other one is the ringleader. And this is sheer speculation.

DREW FINDLING: Jane, that`s a great point. Let`s look at a fact, and that is that law enforcement has put them in two separate facilities. One is in a local juvenile facility. The other is in what is the equivalent of a juvenile jail, a youth detention center. One has a public defender; one has no counsel.

Let there be no doubt law enforcement is trying to get statements from them as we speak. I think you can bet on the fact that one will eventually make a statement to help herself out.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And so one could get a lot less time than the other, ultimately?

FINDLING: Absolutely, absolutely.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Amazing. Michelle Sigona, you`re the investigative journalist on top of this story. What are cops telling you tonight?

MICHELLE SIGONA, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Well, the next time they will appear in court will be on June the 7th. All -- everything will be presented to a grand jury, and they`ll move forward from there.

And just as was mentioned a few moments ago, they are being held in separate facilities.

I also want to mention that back in November, Nikki did hold a birthday party for both of the girls, but only one of them showed up. And if I`m not mistaken -- and Linda and I spoke about this earlier. I also spoke with Katrina Sims (ph), who is a very good friend and also boss of Nikki`s. And I also spoke with Yucca as well, excuse me.

And I also -- they told me that Nikki did hold a birthday party but only one of them showed up last November. And if I`m not mistaken it is Tas. And that`s the one that kept sort of coming around even as the relationships were strained, but the other one definitely stayed away for a long period of time.

And from what I could gather is that they did have free rein. They were able to go and do what they wanted to. They were in and out of school for long periods of time, that they wouldn`t even go to school. One was staying at her boyfriend`s house.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, boyfriend. Boyfriend. Well, you said something very crucial. Linda Whitehead, boyfriend. Do these girls have boyfriends? They`re 16. And are those boyfriends a bad influence?

WHITEHEAD: Yes. I know one of them had a boyfriend that was not in school, was a school dropout. And Jas would frequent -- frequently be over to his house. And it was nothing their grandmother -- their great- grandmother could do about it. They just -- you know, it was out of control. And then...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I wonder if police have talked to those, the boys, who were involved with your granddaughters?

WHITEHEAD: They did. They talked to them early on.

SIGONA: And also, Jane, another really key important point, another one that Linda and I spoke about earlier today, was that in the courtroom, where the girls were placed back in the home with the mother, one of them did speak out and say that she was going to kill her mother at that point. And both of them were very open and said that this was not a permanent move for them.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, my gosh. Well, listen, we have to have you back. We want to solve this tragedy. Linda and Yucca, will you please come back and join us again?



WHITEHEAD: Thank you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. We`ll have you on, as soon as tomorrow.

Up next...


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight we are looking for answers in the disappearance of a beautiful California beauty queen. Where is Mitrice Richardson? Her 25th birthday has come and gone during the eight months since she vanished straight into thin air. Are cops any closer to finding this beautiful young woman?

Tonight, I will talk to Mitrice`s devastated mom, as well as powerful California Congresswoman Maxine Waters. Now, she says Mitrice`s civil rights were violated, and she wants the Justice Department to take over this case.

Mitrice was arrested in September for not paying an $89 tab at a swanky Malibu restaurant. Police released her from a remote substation in the middle of the night with no car, no purse, no money and no phone. She just disappeared.

What`s worse: witnesses say Mitrice was clearly showing signs of a mental breakdown. So did cops drop the ball?

Here is Mitrice`s mom back in September.


LATICE SUTTON, MOTHER OF MITRICE: I specifically told the deputy, this is uncharacteristic of my daughter. My daughter does not go places and not pay a tab. I continuously reiterated something is wrong with my daughter. She appears to be in a crisis state.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Our panel is back with us. And we are honored to have famed Congresswoman Maxine Waters joining us tonight, but I want to start with Latice Sutton, Mitrice`s mom.

Latice, thank you for joining us tonight.

SUTTON: Thank you so much for having me.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`re obviously going through hell. Tell us what goes through your mind and your heart as you wonder every night about your missing daughter.

SUTTON: Oh, Jane, first, thank you for having me on your show. I truly appreciate it. Every day I wake up with the thoughts of Mitrice and where is she? I go throughout my day, wondering where is she? I go to bed at night, wondering where is she? My thoughts awaken me up out of my sleep, wondering where is my baby? And I find myself constantly looking for different methods to find my baby, Mitrice.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mitrice was acting in a bizarre fashion at this trendy Malibu restaurant. That`s according to other employees and other diners. They say Mitrice told them she was from Mars. She was speaking in a gibberish language. She also told them she was there to avenge Michael Jackson`s death.

So why didn`t police get her some help? Possibly an involuntary 5150 hold, which, you know, happens when people are a danger to themselves. You can do that.

Here is Mitrice`s dad on ISSUES.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s not up to the deputies to make the 5150. When several witnesses say the same thing expressing behavioral pattern, they`re to take her to the nearest facility for evaluation where a clinician can make that evaluation to see if they`re a danger to themselves.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`re just getting started. Latice, does your daughter have a history of mental problems?

SUTTON: Mitrice has not been diagnosed. However, we do know that, looking back through her family lines, now that we really have to look into it, there is a history of mental depression in both sides of the family.

However, even without giving that any consideration, I knew once they told me that Mitrice was...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... speaking in a bizarre language, that something...



TERRELL: If Mitrice Richardson`s name was Spears or Lohan, they would never have let her walk out by herself. They would have escorted her home.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That was the attorney for Mitrice Richardson`s family. Why did cops let the young beauty leave a remote police station by herself in the middle of the night after they`d impounded her car, she had no phone, no wallet, she`s been missing since that night eight months ago.

We`re here with representative Maxine Waters of California. Congresswoman Waters, what are you asking for?

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, it`s simply this. Something is wrong here. It appears that the Sheriff`s Department did not answer all of the questions that have been raised of them. It seems to me that her civil rights may have been violated.

I`ve asked the Justice Department, the civil rights division of the Justice Department, to take this case up and to do the kind of investigation that will determine whether or not her civil rights have been violated. Her civil rights are protected under the ADA for disabilities act.

And so I think that the civil rights division is going to get involved. We`ve not gotten an answer yet. And we`re going to find out more about what really took place that night.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So when you`re saying her civil rights were violated, you`re not saying as a person of color based on race or gender, you`re saying --

WATERS: Based on disability.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Based on mental --

WATERS: Based on disability.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Having a mental issue that night?

WATERS: Yes. The Americans with Disability Act gives her the same protections that they would give someone of color or race.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Can I jump in for one second and say what police are saying?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: They`re claiming that Mitrice showed no signs of mental illness or intoxication that night. They say had they not released her, her civil rights would have been violated. An L.A. sheriff`s spokesman told us, quote, "When they`re free to go, they`re free to go."

Your response, Congresswoman?

WATERS: No, as a matter of fact, they have a responsibility to make sure that she is released under safe circumstances. And so certainly it was not safe to release her at 1:00 a.m. or so in the morning, as you said, with no purse, no cell phone, no anything. That just does not make good sense.

And I don`t think they can hide behind that. And we want to find out why they did it. Were they negligent? And we want to find out whether or not anybody from that sheriff`s division, that sheriff`s department walked a distance with her, saw her get into a car, saw her do anything. We need a deeper investigation.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Cindy, Nebraska, your question or thought, ma`am?

CINDY, NEBRASKA (via telephone): My question is this. I`m with the Congresswoman on the show because for the simple fact, why did they allow this young lady to leave without having her personal possessions, her cell phone, her purse, something? And I firmly believe the police know more about what happened to this child, and they`re just not saying.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let me add to that. A local newspaper, "Malibu Surfside News" which is not "The New York Times" or "The Washington Post", but "Malibu Surfside News" is that claiming there`s a video of Mitrice from inside the police station. The report says the footage clearly shows Mitrice in distress.

We have not been able to confirm this report. We`ve called the Sheriff`s Department repeatedly and gotten no response.

Latice, do you know anything about these claims? Because I know there have been claims of a cover-up and things of that nature, which the Sheriff`s Department denies.

LATICE SUTTON, MITRICE RICHARDSON`S MOM: I have seen the videotape personally. Clearly, Mitrice is in distress. Clearly Mitrice is not being assisted. Clearly, Mitrice is trying to make a phone call. Clearly, she is not --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But wait. You`re saying you have seen this video?

SUTTON: I`ve seen this video. I asked for a copy of this video.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But how did you get to see it? Who showed it to you?

SUTTON: Once I learned that it existed, Sheriff Baca instructed Lieutenant Rosin (ph) to allow us to view the video. They will not allow us to have a copy. I have asked for a copy. Several agencies have asked for a copy. They will not release a copy.

It was when I witnessed that video that we learned that a deputy exited the building within two minutes after Mitrice being released into the cold, dark night.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Rod wheeler, former D.C. homicide detective, what do you make of this?

ROD WHEELER, FORMER D.C. HOMICIDE DETECTIVE: You know, Jane, it sounds like it`s a case of sloppy, very sloppy police work. And you know, typically, Jane, I`m going to support the police 99 percent of the time. This is that 1 percent that makes cops all across the country look very bad.

Let`s face it. Number 1, this woman should have never been released into the dark, cold night without her personal possessions. But I know what they told her. They probably told her you can`t get your possessions until in the morning. That`s the excuse that they give you. That`s not a good excuse.

Number two, what happened to that woman? And here`s the other thing, Jane. What happened to her that caused her to walk out of that restaurant, allegedly, without paying that bill? It sounds to me like she was going through some kind of distress at that time.

So I applaud Congresswoman Waters for what she`s doing, because this is a case that definitely needs to be further investigated.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me add this to the puzzle. We know Mitrice was released in a part of town. She walked out of the Lost Hills substation which is miles away from where she was arrested at that Malibu restaurant.

Now get this -- at about 6:30 the next morning, a homeowner in Malibu Canyon called police to report a woman that was similar in description to Mitrice resting in her backyard. Police are almost certain it was Mitrice, but when they got to that house, she was gone.

So Drew Findling, is there a liability, do you think? What should police have done at that moment when she was gone from the yard where she was resting?

DREW FINDLING, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, at that point, they had to open up an investigation and try to determine her whereabouts. And they had the obligation to be looking for her.

You know, she had to appreciate being released on her own recognizance, what her bond conditions were. It sounds like she wasn`t able to do that. There`s a thing called a courtesy phone call to family from law enforcement.

That`s what`s happened with every client I`ve had in similar circumstances. You call the family and you have them pick her up.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Latice, didn`t you have a conversation with them? Because I think they`ve said at one point, well, why didn`t the family pick her up earlier?

SUTTON: You know. That has been so misquoted. First of all, I did offer to pay the tab, but at that time, she had been detained and put in the car and was en route to the sheriff`s station, at which point I immediately called the Sheriff`s Department before she even arrived there. And I told them that I would come to pick her up.

I asked, was she going to be booked and released on her own recognizance or was she going to be held until the morning? And the officer led me to believe that she would be held until the morning. And so when I called in during the 4:00 hour of the morning, that`s when I learned that she had been released.

I had already informed them that she was not from the area and that she did not seem to be in her right state of mind. So why they would release her, it just baffles me to this day.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Latice, we`re going to stay on top of this story here on ISSUES We`re going to stay on top of this request for a Justice Department investigation. We want to have you and the Congresswoman back soon. We`re not going to let your daughter be forgotten.

SUTTON: Thank you, Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you so much.

SUTTON: May I please say that there`s going to be a search for her on June 5th and 6th in the Malibu Canyon area.


SUTTON: Please we need everyone`s help because I know that someone out there knows something and if someone would please let us know, someone knows what has happened to my baby.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely. And we`ll have you back on before that search. Thank you so much.

Coming up --

SUTTON: Thank you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: -- a mind-blowing transformation; the winner of NBC`s "Biggest Loser here to talk about losing half his body weight. You won`t believe the tonnage he`s lost.

I want to hear from you: 1-877-JVM-SAYS. What do you want to ask him about him winning "The Biggest Loser"?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: "Top of the block" tonight.

Sandra Bullock`s soon-to-be ex-husband Jesse James dropped a bombshell on ABC`s "Nightline" last night saying that his dad is the reason he cheated on his wife. That`s right James talked about how he self- destructed, that he lied to everyone around him when he lied to Sandra Bullock, but he wasn`t about to admit to affairs with five women.

Check this out.


VICKI MABREY, ABC NEWS "NIGHTLINE": Did you have affairs with all of them?

JESSE JAMES, SANDRA BULLOCK`S EX-HUSBAND: I wouldn`t believe everything you read in tabloids, you know? I was unfaithful to my wife, and I`m not going to put any kind of count to it.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: And then you could have heard a pin drop when he said he cheated on Sandra Bullock because his father abused him.

Listen to this.


JAMES: It`s really tough for me to think about now because -- because Sunny`s the age --

MABREY: You see all those things that happened to you?

JAMES: Well, Sunny`s the age that I was. Sunny`s the age I was when my dad broke my arm.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: ABC stands by its interview and in an e-mail to ABC his father denied the abuse. Now, his former step-mother agrees and Janina James Coan joins us now by telephone.

Janina, thank you for joining us, you want to set the record straight. What were you thinking when you heard Jesse say that about his dad having abused him?

JANINA JAMES COAN, JESSE JAMES` FORMER STEPMOTHER (via telephone): Well, Jane, thank you very much for having me on. A blatant, blatant lie; his father devoted himself to his son, and not only is it a slap in the face to his father, but it`s a slap in the face to all those people who truly were abused as a child. And don`t use it as an excuse. I would --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Why do you think he did this to his dad?

COAN: You know, I look at him as the way that Casey Anthony is saying she was abused or the Scott Petersons of the world. It`s -- I can`t imagine why other than maybe a publicist said, you need the sympathy vote. I have no idea.

Jane, I was appalled. His father devoted his life to his son. Went to every football game, gave him everything he wanted. And I think the father knows the truth about the upbringing. Jesse wants to be seen as an outlaw and he lived in a trailer and was poor. And none of that is true.

So -- I don`t know --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So how did he manage to bring -- bring those tears to his eyes, do you think?

COAN: You know, they were crocodile tears. They didn`t last long. I don`t know. He was a very good actor. But a blatant lie.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, have you spoken to his dad? Is he devastated that his son is saying he abused him?

COAN: Larry is -- is hurt, devastated is not the right word. He is just hurt. He doesn`t understand why Jesse is saying these things. And I think that people that know Larry and know Jesse`s upbringing, they know the truth.

And, you know, people are going to make up their own minds about this.


COAN: But you can`t use -- you can`t -- if you`ve done wrong -- and Jesse`s done wrong -- you can`t use this as an excuse because it`s a lie.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well Janina, I want to thank you for coming on to set the record straight. And this is an ugly situation.

COAN: It is very ugly, yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right thank you.

COAN: Thank you Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you so much.

COAN: Bye-bye.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, tomorrow I`m going to talk to Michelle "Bombshell" McGee, yes, the alleged mistress, about her alleged affair. There she is -- tattoos and all.

And we are going to have her on tomorrow and see what she has to say. Live on ISSUES. I can`t wait, for one.

All right, switching gears now to "The Biggest Loser" who is now the biggest winner. Talk about an inspiring story. Last night Michael Ventrella was crowned champion on the NBC weight loss reality show. Take a look at this amazing transformation.

Michael came to the show as the heaviest contestant on record, well over 500 pounds. I can`t even imagine how hard it was just to walk around in his shoes.

But then, voila, take a look at this from NBC`s "Biggest Loser".


ALISON SWEENEY, HOST, "THE BIGGEST LOSER": Michael, get on that scale. When you started this competition, you weighed 526 pounds. If you have lost 257, you will smash Danny Cahill`s record and you`ll have lost more than half your body weight. We`ve got to see if you did it.

Your current weight is -- 264 pounds. Michael, you did it. Congratulations, Michael. You are "The Biggest Loser".


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That is fantastic. He is now half the man he used to be. Michael lost 264 pounds in just 18 weeks. And he now weighs in at 262. Way to go. He`s living proof we can win the battle over obesity.

You know, we talk about health and fitness so often here on ISSUES. And I have always said if you want to change your body, you have to change your lifestyle.

Joining me now: the man who changed his lifestyle forever, "Biggest Loser" winner, Michael Ventrella. We are so proud of you. First of all, you are one good looking dude. I think all the ladies are watching this show would agree. You are -- you are the bomb now.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, you look fantastic. How does it feel to have shed all that weight and to come out looking as good as you do?

VENTRELLA: It`s -- it`s to put it up in a real quick sum, it feels like I`ve been reborn. I mean, I`ve never, never been this thin in my adult life. And the last time I weighed this much and had a waist size like this, I was probably 12 or 13 years old.

So this is -- this is new for me. I never had a childhood. So I can`t wait to just live life. I can`t wait to experience things that I`ve never experienced before.

And so many people just probably listen to that and they don`t understand. I mean, for the longest time, I couldn`t do things that everybody takes for granted, day in and day out.

Like riding in a roller coaster or go on a swing or you know, like fly on a plane and only have one seat.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow. You know, I relate. I`ve struggled with my weight. I think most Americans struggle with their weight. I`ve been a yo-yo battling in my case like the same 10, 12 pounds over and over again, but it`s still demoralizing and incomprehensible and embarrassing.

Everybody knows it can be hard. I want to give you an example. Erik Chopin, a former champion from "Biggest Loser." he lost 214 during the show, but once out of the spotlight his weight came right back.

Check this out.


ERIK CHOPIN, "BIGGEST LOSER" WINNER SEASON 3: I didn`t have a purpose. And I -- I just felt depressed. I got sad and I started feeling sorry for myself, unfortunately. And I started going back to the eating the bad food, skipping the workouts.

And I kept saying, I`m not going to do this again tomorrow, but then I would do it again tomorrow and the day after that. And string those days into weeks and months and you gain a lot of weight back. And I was in denial for a while, too.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, I give him kudos for having the courage to talk about that. How do you plan to keep the weight off? Have you experienced what they say actually works, a lifestyle change as opposed to a fad diet?

VENTRELLA: Oh, definitely. I cannot stand the word "diet". I cannot understand the idea of breakfast, lunch and dinner. I`ve eradicated those things from my life. I`m not that person of 526. I don`t think the way I used to in that life.

Like I`m new now and I mean, I`ve been doing this for so long, for so many months being on this show and it`s become second nature to me.

And I do have a purpose. I mean, everybody`s got a different story. And I can tell you now that of me -- me being able to have the ability to make the "Biggest Loser" was not just a chance of luck, it was a blessing by God. And I feel that the only way to really show God my appreciation is to pay it forward.

And that`s what I plan on doing and reaching out and helping as many people as I possibly can, and especially focusing on the childhood obesity epidemic that we have going on in this nation.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I would like to have you back on a regular basis, because I know people have so many questions for you and we would like to make you just a regular part of our broadcast, so that we can help others make the change.

And you have inspired me and I`m sure everybody watching at home. So will you come back?

VENTRELLA: Thank you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. We`re going to have you back real soon.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Coming up next, it`s a story that`s so shocking we can`t even tell you about it.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Heart-wrenching, hideous abuse tonight caught on tape at an Ohio dairy farm. We warn you, this video is sickening. Mercy for Animals took their hidden cameras inside the Conklin Dairy Farm in Plain City, Ohio. Workers can be seen kicking, punching and torturing cows and young cows.

This isn`t the worst of it. Much of this video is really so bad, we cannot show it to you on television: workers body-slamming calves to the ground, kicking downed cows, punching cows in the udders, bragging about torturing, and killing animals.

Straight out to my guests: Nathan Runkle from Mercy for Animals which conducted the investigation; as well as Gene Baur, the head of Farm Sanctuary.

Nathan, what`s your reaction to news that one worker at the Conklin Dairy Farm, 25-year-old Billy Joe Gregg, has now been arrested on 12 counts of animal cruelty, as a result of your investigation, and is going to be arraigned tomorrow.

NATHAN RUNKLE, MERCY FOR ANIMALS: We commend local law enforcement for taking swift and decisive action to arrest this perpetrator of just some of the most egregious and sadistic and malicious animal cruelty that I`ve ever witnessed.

This is an individual that seemed to be getting joy out of stabbing animals with pitchforks, with throwing them against walls, bashing steel pipes over their heads. This is absolutely unacceptable abuse and we hope that this arrest sends a strong message to the dairy industry that animal abuse won`t be tolerated.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now again, another warning, more disturbing video of the animal abuse caught on tape at the Conklin Dairy in Ohio. Obviously, these animals cannot defend themselves.

The Conklin Dairy Farm issued a statement saying they do not condone such behavior. They fired one worker seen on the video committing the abuse. They`re conducting their own internal investigation, cooperating with authorities.

Mercy for Animals, you`ve done a number of these hidden camera investigations. In your opinion, is animal abuse common or an aberration on the modern family farm, Nathan?

RUNKLE: Unfortunately, out of every investigation that we`ve done, every time we send investigators into factory farms or slaughterhouses, they emerge with shocking evidence of animal cruelty, neglect and abuse, which leads us to believe that this is not a case of simply bad apples, but an industry that has gone totally awry.

These are animals that are thinking, feeling individuals, but they`re treated as mere commodities and production units on these farms and abuse runs rampant.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Even if you don`t live in Ohio, you can still help Ohio`s farm animals. There is a crucial ballot measure campaign to stop some of the worst cruelties on Ohio`s farms. Supporters are in the process of gathering 600,000 signatures to get that initiative on the November ballot in Ohio. For more information, go to You can get involved.

Gene Baur, president of Farm Sanctuary, you`re working on that Ohio ballot initiative. Why do you think it`s so crucial?

GENE BAUR, PRESIDENT, FARM SANCTUARY: That`s right, Jane. What`s happened on farms today is where bad has become normal. Animals are treated like commodities, not like living, feeling animals. They`re put in cages and crates and are packed so tightly they can`t walk, they can`t turn around, they can`t even stretch their limbs.

The initiative campaign is under way now in Ohio and citizens are out in the streets collecting signatures to put this measure on this ballot this November to at least give some animals some basic humane treatment.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And this is a consumer issue. 20 seconds, Gene.

BAUR: Absolutely. When animals are confined that way, they`re stressed, they`re sick, they`re given antibiotics, they`re given drugs and pathogens emerge. Humans who consume these products are at risk for salmonella, e Coli, and other diseases so it`s emerging diseases now in these factory farms.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Humans and animals, our interests dovetail. Thank you, fantastic panel.

And don`t forget, tomorrow I will speak to Michelle "Bombshell" McGee about her alleged affair with Jesse James.