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ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL

Missing Mom Murdered?; Oil Response Criticized

Aired May 28, 2010 - 19:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, the war on women rages on. Another wife and mother goes missing, this time in Michigan. Venus Stewart repeatedly expressed fears her husband would kill her. Now cops say bloodstains were found in his car. Did a fierce custody battle have anything to do with this mom`s disappearance?

Plus, a frustrated family desperately searches for answers in the case of missing Julianne Gonzalez. The 21-year-old woman vanished over two months ago. Did cops initially drop the ball, leaving few leads in this investigation? Now, her frantic family is taking matters into their own hands, plastering her face on a giant billboard in Austin, Texas. I`ll talk to Julie`s emotional mother tonight.

And police officially name a suspect in the case of missing Tracy Ocasio. They believe James Hataway killed the 27-year-old woman, who was last seen leaving a Florida bar with him. He`s already accused of choking and trying to snap another woman`s neck. Cops say he`s always been a suspect in Tracy`s disappearance. So why did it take this long?

ISSUES starts now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: A young mother of two mysteriously vanishes. Tonight, stunning, brand-new cryptic clues. Could Venus Stewart still be alive? Or are cops now simply and tragically looking for her body?

Venus was last seen on the morning of April 26 outside her parents` Michigan home. She merely stepped outside still wearing her pajamas to mail a letter. She walked to the end of the driveway and was never seen again. Police say there were signs of a struggle outside her parents` home. They are sure Venus was kidnapped.

Tonight, police say they have found multiple bloodstains on the doors of a pickup truck that belongs to Venus Stewart`s estranged husband. And they say they found more blood on the carpet of another car that he owns. But, police caution Douglas Stewart is not a suspect yet. They are waiting on DNA testing and Doug reportedly has an alibi. He claims he was all the way in another state. He was in Virginia at his parents` house on the day Venus vanished.

But police also found a receipt in Doug`s truck from a Wal-Mart in Ohio. He allegedly bought a tarp, a shovel, gloves, and a hat on April 25. That`s the day before his wife vanished.

And guess what? Take a look at this map. There is Ohio, smack dab in the middle right between Virginia, where Doug says he was staying, and Michigan where Venus was kidnapped. We`re talking about three states here. Why would he go all the way to Ohio just to shop at a Wal-Mart? And why a shovel and gloves?

Plus, stunning details about this couple`s tumultuous relationship and bitter divorce battle. Could it be motivation for murder?

Straight out to my fantastic expert panel: criminal defense attorney Jayne Weintraub; psychologist Michelle Golland; HLN law enforcement analyst Mike Brooks. And we begin with investigative reporter Michelle Sigona.

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

MICHELLE SIGONA, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: At this particular point, Jane, investigators executed a search warrant on Douglas` parents` house. They went inside. They did obtain a lot of evidence. They won`t go into detail about exactly what they found. They have sent that off to the crime lab, and they`re continuously building their case.

And as you mentioned, Jane, he is not considered -- he has not been charged in this case. He is still able to go and do what he wants to do. But they are keeping a close eye on him.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: A neighbor says that he spotted a man in a pickup truck that matches the description of the pickup truck Doug Stewart drives hanging around the neighborhood a couple of streets over from Venus` parents` house on the morning Venus went missing. That, coupled with blood found in Doug`s pickup truck, well, it sounds like compelling evidence. But police say Doug, once again, not a suspect. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. MATT RISKO, MICHIGAN STATE POLICE: When you`re looking at DNA, that can take up to six months. Our labs are doing a fine job, but there`s a lot of it. DNA, it`s not like on television where you get it back in an hour on a CSI show.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, Doug bought a tarp at an Ohio Wal-Mart. Police say a plastic wrap for a tarp was found at the end of the driveway where Venus disappeared.

Mike Brooks, are there a lot of dots that are potentially -- potentially -- connectable here?

MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Jane, I was talking to my law enforcement sources in Michigan. And they are working a lot of different leads in this particular case. And that tarp is one of them, along with video surveillance from the Wal-Mart, cell-phone records.

They`re saying that they did get some usable evidence out of that search warrant. They won`t say what it is. But they say that they do have him in pocket, as they say. And, you know, they`re just waiting for everything to go. And they`re not going to say he`s a person of interest. They`re not going to name a suspect until they have a warrant for his arrest.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, I want to talk about tire treads, Mike Brooks. As a follow-up, police are examining the tire treads on Douglas Stewart`s pickup truck to see if they match tire tracks found at the spot where she disappeared. Remember, cops say there was clear signs of a struggle in that driveway where she disappeared in her pajamas, going to mail a letter. And a pickup truck matching his was seen down the road. So how significant could these tire treads be?

BROOKS: Oh, very, very significant. They have taken casts of those tire tracks. And they`re waiting to get that truck back from Virginia. They`ve already got a warrant. They`re going to be bringing that back to Michigan or at least try to bring that back to Michigan. But they`re working with the Virginia authorities. But that could be a crucial, crucial piece of evidence, Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Venus and Doug were -- want to take a guess? In the middle of an extremely messy divorce. Right up there with "War of the Roses." Venus accused him of molesting one of their two young daughters. Now, the prosecutors couldn`t prove that. But Venus was awarded temporary full custody, Doug got phone visitation only.

And Michelle Golland, that decision came down just about a week before she vanished. Your thoughts?

MICHELLE GOLLAND, PSYCHOLOGIST: Right. Right. Well, again, we see this often. And you`re so right, Jane. I mean, there is a war against women. Three women a day in our country are murdered by their partners.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Why? Why is intimate partner violence so prevalent? I mean, we`re talking about somebody who presumably was once in love with somebody. So it goes from being in love to being in hate?

GOLLAND: Well, what it is is domestic violence is about power and control. And so these individuals are in abusive relationships, most likely prior to the murder. Sometimes it happens out of sheer, you know, out of the blue -- and it`s just simply because they`re being, you know, taken away from their lives and their -- their children and their partners. But in this case, it sounds like there was a really tumultuous relationship.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Jayne Weintraub...

SIGONA: And she did file...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Go ahead.

SIGONA: I`m sorry, Jane, she did file...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`re going to talk about that in just a second. Michelle, I want to talk to Jayne Weintraub for a second. Criminal defense attorney Jayne Weintraub, he claims he has an alibi. Despite all of this circumstantial evidence that looks pretty darn incriminating for us who watch "CSI."

If he has an alibi, if he can prove that he was a nine-hour drive away, a state and a half away with his parents at the time of her disappearance, none of this would matter, right?

JAYNE WEINTRAUB, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, it`s not that none of it would matter. I mean, it depends how ironclad the alibi is. And it depends if he can prove the alibi of exactly when she was last seen missing or when that struggle was.

What I can tell you, Jane, is that, although it`s very suspicious, it`s just a matter of semantics whether you call it a person of interest or a suspect. He`s the target of their investigation. They`re not looking at anybody else. He`s -- all eyes on this guy, period.

Next sentence is, as far as the murder is concerned, we don`t know that there is a murder. We know that there was a TRO, a temporary restraining order, both ways, reciprocal. That means that he claimed that she attacked him and that she was on probation. We haven`t verified that yet, but if that`s true, then we don`t know if she ran away scared. We don`t know if she`s framing him. We don`t know.

Does that mean that he didn`t do anything? No. And it doesn`t mean that there wasn`t a fight. But having a fight with your ex-wife and having a terrible custody battle doesn`t mean that you`re guilty of murder.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Mike Brooks, he says that he has an alibi, but there`s a difference between somebody saying, "Hey, I was nine hours away in another state" and a witness seeing him nine hours away in another state.

BROOKS: There absolutely is, Jane. And I can just tell you my law enforcement sources are telling me that they do not believe that she is alive.

So, you know, is this guy -- is this guy involved? It sure looks that way. But there again, you know, there`s a lot of technology that they`re looking at right now to try to find out whether or not he is, in fact, the one responsible for her disappearance.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But you know that old saying: no body, no case.

Everybody stay right where you are. The latest on a family`s desperate search to find another missing woman, Julie Ann Gonzalez. What is going on here? She was also estranged from her husband. I`ll talk to Julie`s mom about what she`s doing to raise awareness. Some dramatic moves she`s making to try and find her daughter.

Plus, more on Venus Stewart and that investigation. We`re just getting into it in a moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RISKO: There`s never a day that we are not working on this case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RISKO: A search warrant was executed Friday, May 21, on Doug Stewart`s parents` home which is located in Leonates (ph) Township. We did find items that we believe related to the disappearance of Venus in the home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: A young mother of two goes to mail a letter at the end of her parents` driveway and is never seen again. Now police say bloodstains were found in a pickup truck that belongs to Venus Stewart`s estranged husband. Those bloodstains are being tested. We don`t have the results back.

They also found a receipt from an Ohio Wal-Mart where he allegedly bought a tarp, a shovel, gloves, and hats shortly before her disappearance.

And we just heard from Mike Brooks, CNN law enforcement analyst, that his sources are telling us that they do not believe she`s alive. But you know, we always can hope. We certainly don`t want to rule out the possibility that somehow she might be found alive. Let`s hope.

All right. I want to get back to this whole issue of his alibi. In published reports, Michelle Sigona, they`re saying police say he has an alibi and is not yet a suspect. But I think that the word "alibi" is often misused. It doesn`t mean somebody says, "Hey, I was nine hours away in another state." It means that somebody, a third party, saw him and eyeballed him nine hours away in another state and that that person is an objective person not somebody who necessarily is going to lie for him.

SIGONA: You`re exactly right. And that`s what investigators have compiled. They did see there were signs that his truck may have been in the area when Venus disappeared. So if that person can come forward and say, "Yes, it was definitely Doug`s truck. It was him behind the wheel. He was in the neighborhood at the time." But the investigators may not have that at this point.

So the guy probably came up and said, "I think it may have been him. It was a truck that looked like his." And so now, they`re having to dig back to go nine hours away to figure out if he was, in fact, where he says that he was. If they can find, you know, neighbors or people who sort of knew him but don`t have that close tie relationship, maybe like a parent or something of that sort.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wasn`t he staying with his parents? I`d heard that report.

SIGONA: Yes, and then there`s another report that came out that said that he had -- in the days prior to her disappearance, was, in fact, staying with his parents there.

So for whatever reason, if he did -- possibly was there, and he got back in the truck, drove back home and then drove back to Michigan, there`s a lot of cross-country traveling going on here. And investigators are just, you know, obviously trying to get all of their evidence together to be able to move forward with these charges. They`ve got a close eye on him. And they`re not going to let him out of their sight.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let`s get to this big issue of the "Kalamazoo Gazette" reporting Michigan court records show the couple filed for petitions for protective orders against each other. Venus Stewart expressed worry that her husband would kill her in three petitions she filed between July 2008 and February. I mean, Mike Brooks, she feared her husband would kill her in three court documents.

BROOKS: You know, Jane, that`s absolutely right. And if one was filed against her for some reason, he felt that he was in some kind of danger also. So these are all the little things that they`re trying to put together on trying to determine what the real relationship was between these two.

WEINTRAUB: Jane, it`s not just a claim. It`s -- the judge made a ruling. The judge issued a restraining order. The judge could`ve turned him down and said, "Excuse me. I don`t believe this, and there`s no evidence that she ever attacked you." But instead, the judge issued that order. There must have been...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I`m not saying that...

(CROSSTALK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: One at a time. Now, along dovetailing with this hostility, this "War of the Roses" divorce, she accused him of molesting one of their daughters. Prosecutors say they couldn`t prove it.

But hypothetically, Michelle Golland, if a man is accused falsely -- and I`m not saying it`s false. I`m not saying it`s true. Who knows? But if a man is accused falsely of molesting one of his daughters, could that provoke a rage that might lead to violence?

GOLLAND: Oh, I mean, definitely. And I`m not surprised that there was the restraining order issued on his side. Often in these situations, there -- if there is mutual combat, that is what they will want to do. And the judge may just agree to give a restraining order so that it does keep them both separated from each other. That it`s safer that way.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, my big issue tonight: sleeping with the enemy. What is going on with intimate-partner violence in this country? It`s skyrocketing. It seems like, you know, every other story we cover here on ISSUES...

GOLLAND: I know. Jane...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... is about intimate partner violence. And I just want to repeat this one stat that has already been mentioned. But the Family Violence and Prevention Fund estimates more than three women each and every day in the United States are murdered by their husbands or boyfriend. I mean, we remember Scott Peterson, right? Convicted of murdering his pregnant wife, Laci.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I mean, there`s so many of these cases. And obviously, Mike Brooks, that`s why cops always look at the husband or boyfriend first.

BROOKS: Oh, you`d always look at the people who are closest to the victim, Jane. No matter if it`s a male or female. But no, you know, because that`s -- that`s one of the reasons, because of these statistics. It`s -- I mean, it`s just the process of elimination, but you always look closest first.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I don`t know why they can`t -- when a woman gets a restraining order against a man, it`s almost a worthless piece of paper, because so many of the problems that we cover, the woman, the victim had a restraining order against the person who is ultimately charged...

BROOKS: It`s just a piece of paper. It does absolutely no good. There`s not a cop in her pocket. So you know what? It is basically -- it`s as worthless as the piece of paper it`s written on.

SIGONA: Let`s be sure...

(CROSSTALK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Go ahead, Jayne.

WEINTRAUB: Suspicion isn`t enough. And -- and we can`t rush to judgment on suspicion.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Of course not.

WEINTRAUB: It very well may be that that pans out to evidence. But right now, we have a cop saying, "We don`t have DNA, it might take six months." We don`t know, Mike Brooks, it doesn`t take six months.

No. 2 is, she was already hours -- nine hours in a different state away from him. That and with the alibi, that kind of takes it away. They must also have other leads that they are following other than him.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And...

WEINTRAUB: Well, they have other leads. I`m sure it can be broken down.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. We reached out to this gentleman`s lawyer. No comment. No comment from him. But we do want to point out again he is not a suspect. He deserves the presumption of innocence. He hasn`t been charged with anything.

Thank you, fantastic panel. We`re going to stay on top of this disappearance.

Now, just one person has been at the center of a case for almost a year. Cops have now officially named a suspect in the disappearance of Tracy Ocasio. What took them so long to name this guy a suspect?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: In tonight`s "Spotlight," escalating outrage over the worst oil spill in U.S. history which has triggered an environmental apocalypse. Check out the cover of today`s "New York Post": "`Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?` Even Obama`s Daughters Want an Answer."

The president is in Louisiana. Check out the massive scope of this disaster as oil continues to spew. New details of outrageous corruption are beginning to surface, like tar balls.

Federal inspectors reportedly let oil workers fill out their inspection reports, and they took gifts from big oil.

Now the BP official on the rig the day it exploded is pleading the fifth, refusing to testify on the grounds that it may incriminate him. Outrageous.

Straight to Ben Jaffe, co-producer of the Gulf Aid benefit concert in New Orleans.

Ben, how do you feel about the administration`s response to this tragedy?

BEN JAFFE, CO-PRODUCER, GULF AID BENEFIT CONCERT: There is a lot of outrage down here, a lot of frustration and anger. We feel like the response has been way too slow and hasn`t been aggressive enough. You can literally, from time to time, smell the -- the oil from New Orleans that`s just miles off of our coast. And it`s an extremely frustrating situation down here.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you know, the bureaucrat who was fired or resigned, I say why didn`t they put an environmentalist in that position in the first place, given that they knew there was wanton corruption and that this entire agency of government was described as an ethical wasteland? I think when Obama came in, he should`ve put people who care about the environment in charge of it so that they could stand up to these oil companies.

JAFFE: I think one of the issues that -- that we face is out of sight, out of mind. With these oil platforms so far off the coast, we don`t really know what`s going on. The average person isn`t aware that there`s this type of drilling going on along our coastline along the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida and Texas. It`s -- it`s been a huge issue down here for years.

And we`re concerned that we haven`t been able to get an answer about when this thing is going to stop spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico. And that`s -- that is a frightening, frightening...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And you bring me to my big issue. My big issue, now will you go green?

We have scoffed at global warming. We drive our SUVs. We live the exact lifestyle despite what we`ve been told, that our environment cannot sustain it. You know, we can turn a blind eye when we don`t see it happening. But now we, you and me, all of America is seeing with our own eyes what we are doing to the planet.

Ben, you put on a Gulf Aid concert. You released a song called "It Ain`t My Fault." Should this be a wake-up call to Americans about our addiction to oil?

JAFFE: I absolutely think that it`s a chance for us to reflect as a nation on our dependency on oil. We are an oil-based society, and until we speak up as consumers that we want a different choice, Things are going to be business as usual. And I think it is an opportunity for that.

I have to look at the silver lining to this - TO THIS very dark cloud. And if you look at what`s happened to New Orleans post-Katrina, you`ll see that we`ve become a much more...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`re going to make...

JAFFE: ... a much more attendant community.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... changes. Thank you.

JAFFE: We have to.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`ve got to do something.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: A frustrated family desperately searches for answers in the case of missing Julie Ann Gonzalez. The 21-year-old woman vanished over two months ago. Did cops initially drop the ball leaving few leads in this investigation?

Now her frantic family is taking matters into their own hands plastering her face on a giant billboard in Austin, Texas. I`ll talk to Julie`s emotional mother tonight.

And police officially name a suspect in the case of missing Tracy Ocasio. They believe James Hataway killed the 27-year-old woman who was last seen leaving a Florida bar with him. He`s already accused of choking and trying to snap another woman`s neck. Cops say he`s always been a suspect in Tracy`s disappearance. So why did it take this long?

Tonight, a tragic mystery brings a family right to its knees. We`re going to hear from both sides: a missing woman`s mom and the attorney for her estranged husband.

It`s been two months since Julie Ann Gonzalez vanished. Her desperate family put up a giant billboard in Austin, Texas -- there it is - - in the hopes that someone will see it and call in a tip.

The missing woman`s husband, George de la Cruz was the last person to see Julie. George says she came to his place to pick up their 2- year-old daughter and then decided to leave without the child. Then this bombshell: George took and failed a lie detector test.

Listen to him on the Dr. Phil show followed by reaction from our ISSUES panel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE DELA CRUZ, ESTRANGED HUSBAND OF MISSING WOMAN: -- But I feel like, I think that I did kill her. I think I did. Because, what if there was somebody else or someone else who killed her? No, I`m going to feel bad because I should have stopped her.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What is the conclusion that you came to?

JACK TRIMARCO, POLYGRAPHER: That he was deceptive to the relevant issue of having been responsible for Julie`s disappearance.

PAT BROWN, CRIMINAL PROFILER: I`m not happy with those two questions. I`m sorry. Those are the kinds of questions I don`t think should be there.

They`re vague questions. He could feel responsible in some way. He could`ve felt he caused it in some way. Why didn`t they just ask the question, "Did you kill your wife?"

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Straight out to my fantastic expert panel: HLN law enforcement analyst Mike Brooks; former prosecutor, Wendy Murphy joining us tonight; and Patrick Fagerberg, attorney for Julie`s husband, George de la Cruz.

But we begin with Julie`s mom, Sandra Soto. Sandra thank you for joining us.

SANDRA SOTO, MOTHER OF JULIE ANN GONZALEZ: Thank you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We know you have been through hell these past two months. First of all, why did you decide on this rather dramatic move to put up a giant billboard of your daughter in Austin, Texas?

SOTO: Because we feel she`s still out there. We feel that somebody knows, that somebody has seen her; we just need for them to come forward and let us know where is she? We know she`s still there. I can still feel her. And we are not going to give up until we find her.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Do you feel she`s alive?

SOTO: I still feel she`s alive. I can still feel her.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I pray that you`re right.

The tension between George and Julie`s family came to surface right here on Issues. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, Julie didn`t trust you, and you know that.

DE LA CRUZ: I understand they suspect me because I was the last person. But like I said, if anyone sees someone -- of course they`re going to be a suspect. Like I said, I`d be willing to do anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Sandra, you have accused George of harassing your daughter in the weeks before her disappearance. You said because of George`s behavior, Julie felt she actually needed a chaperone when she went to pick the daughter up from his home. And then on the final time, she didn`t have a chaperone. Explain this alleged harassment.

SOTO: Well, these are not alleged harassments, and these are not accusations. They are facts. They are facts Julie had --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What did he do?

SOTO: Well, he would just constantly text her messages. He would just figure out different ways to get her to always go back to his house, you know, whenever she -- at one time she dropped off Laila along with her medicine and he calls back and says, hey, the medicine`s not here. The medicine`s not here.

Julie has -- Julie puts Laila number one. And Laila has asthma problems. So Julie always made it a point to make sure that Laila had her medicine. Julie was a pharmacy tech at Walgreen`s. So she understood the importance of someone who needs --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok Sandra. Let me say this. Hold on, that one text saying I don`t have the medicine, that doesn`t constitute harassment.

SOTO: No.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: He might not have been able to find it.

Give me another example. A better example.

A better example is George -- when Julie moved out, George would not give Julie her belongings. You know, he would make up so many different stories. One time he said he went to Louisiana to do some work and while he was in Louisiana, he got amnesia. He was in an accident, he had amnesia, when he came back to Austin, he didn`t know he had a wife. He called me and asked me. Who was Julie? And who was Laila? He called me.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow. That`s pretty weird.

Patrick Fagerberg, you`re the attorney for George de la Cruz, how do you respond?

PATRICK FAGERBERG, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE DE LA CRUZ: First of all, I think there`s a lot of misinformation out there. And I think Sandra is desperate and is making, you know, naked accusations against my client. For instance, when two people are getting a divorce --

SOTO: You came into the situation two weeks ago. How do you know your client so well?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right Sandra. Let Patrick finish. Ok. One at a time. So, finish, Patrick.

FAGERBERG: So, anyway, there`s a lot of misinformation. For instance, there was many times when Julie Ann would drop Laila off with George alone. We don`t know, George does not know if Julie Ann came alone, this is the last time he saw her or not. Because she came into the house and he did not see her arrive. We don`t know for a fact whether she was alone or with somebody. That`s the first misconception.

Second of all, my client has never harassed Julie Ann. And the other allegation that`s going out there is Sandra was saying that her family has never harassed my client. Ironically, the reason they came to hire me after he was on the Dr. Phil Show because they were worried about George`s life.

Mike, Julie`s cousin, the Saturday that she went missing came by the house and threatened his life, later threatened his life via Facebook. So they came to hire me because they were worried about George`s well being.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I don`t have any independent confirmation of any of that. And if any of these want to come on our show and tell their side of the story, they`re actually welcome.

Wendy Murphy, try to -- this is complicated. This is a can of worms. Give us your perspective.

WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Yes. Let`s just talk about a little dose of common sense. He`s the last person seen with her, they had a contentious divorce, he did not want the divorce, he refused to sign the papers, he tried to commit suicide in response to her desire to become divorced.

In some ways his behavior with the texting was a form of stalking. When you put that stuff together -- and remember, he`s the last person to se her alive, how do you -- how do you not -- let me just --

(CROSSTALK)

FAGERBERG: I`m going to have to interrupt there.

MURPHY: Let me just finish, please. Let me finish.

(CROSSTALK)

FAGERBERG: You are also sending out misinformation. Because --

MURPHY: Let me finish, sir.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Just finish your sentence then we`re going to get back to Patrick.

MURPHY: My point is that it`s appropriate to focus on him. I didn`t say he did it. It`s important to focus on him. He offered to take a polygraph, he failed. And his lawyer, not you, Patrick, his other lawyer said publicly it has been reported that he had stopped cooperating with law enforcement. Ok. Hello, ding, ding.

Let`s focus on George. That`s reasonable.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok. Now it`s Patrick`s turn again.

FAGERBERG: Again, I think one of the big problems in this case is all of the misinformation. George`s neighbor, Jesse and Jesse Jr. -- and I don`t know if people know this, they saw Julie and two unidentified males at 2:30 at George`s house.

Police have interviewed Jesse and his father many times. So where we need to be concentrating our effort on who were those two people that saw Julie and were with Julie at 2:30 outside of George`s house.

SOTO: Ok, Patrick, let me ask you this --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hold it. One at a time.

SOTO: Let me ask you this, Patrick --

FAGERBERG: When people are saying that George was the last person to see Julie that is a misstatement.

MURPHY: That`s what he says publicly.

(CROSSTALK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Whoa, whoa, whoa -- mike brooks, this is new information that she was with two men and presumably you`re talking about the last day she was seen.

MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Right.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: This two mystery men now, well, what should cops do to try to find them?

BROOKS: Well, we just heard from George`s attorney that they have apparently interviewed Jesse and Jesse Jr. But I also -- if I recall correctly, Jane, back when we first started talking about this, there was another man who was mentioned.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, James, a computer expert.

BROOKS: Exactly. Whatever became of that?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok. Sandra, we`re going to give you the last word here.

SOTO: George has that little dog that constantly barks. And you can ask Jesse Sr. about that. He mentioned this to us. He has a dog that constantly barks. He barks at everything. He barks at anybody that gets close to the house. Why is it that when these two guys went into George`s backyard the little dog did not bark? Could it be that the dog knew who these guys were? Could it be that the dog knows that these guys have been there before? Maybe George knows who these two guys are. Why don`t you try asking George?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me ask you this, you have hope and you feel that your daughter`s alive. So that doesn`t dovetail with feeling that George did something to her.

Is it possible that she was with these two other men and she might be alive with them? And that we should also put out the call there that Julie, if you are alive and you`re with these -- wherever you are, call your mother, she`s desperate and she`s heartbroken. Is that ok with you, Sandra?

SANDRA SOTO: Yes, and we are offering a $10,000 reward towards the information of Julie`s safe return. George, you need to help and bring Laila`s mother back. Think of your daughter. Think of what your daughter is going through.

MURPHY: We should be interviewing the 2-year-old -- she`s probably got more information.

FAGERBERG: And Jane let me correct one more misstatement.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right.

FAGERBERG: Let me correct one more misstatement.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Very quickly.

FAGERBERG: But I have reached out to APD and I have said any question you have of George, contact me and I will answer that question.

MURPHY: What a wimpy, wimpy, wimpy --

(CROSSTALK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`re going to bring you all back. We are out of time. We are going to stay on this story and have all of you back next week. I promise.

FAGERBERG: Great thank you Jane.

BROOKS: Thanks Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Heart breaking news tonight, actor Gary Coleman dies suddenly today. More on this tragedy and the life of a child star.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Very sad news tonight as we lose a beloved Hollywood star. Actor Gary Coleman has died at the age of 42 after suffering an intracranial hemorrhage. Coleman is best known for playing Arnold Jackson on the sitcom classic "Different Strokes". His character catch phrase "What you talking about, Willis?" Has become engrain in American pop culture.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You get the picture, I am unemployed.

GARY COLEMAN, ACTOR: Then why don`t you collect unemployment insurance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Arnold, to collect unemployment, you`ve got to not be working at what you`re working at before you stopped working.

COLEMAN: What you talking about, Willis?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So sad he`s now gone. Yesterday, Gary was conscious and lucid, but by early afternoon, his condition had worsened. His rep announced he was in a coma and on life support earlier today. Coleman suffered from kidney disease and underwent two transplant operations over the course of his life.

He died at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center surrounded by close friends and family. Our hearts go out to his devastated loved ones.

Tonight: breaking news as police in Florida announce a prime suspect in the disappearance of 28-year-old Tracy Ocasio. Tracy was last seen leaving an Orlando area bar just over a year ago with James Hataway. Hataway had said Tracy drove him home, came in the house for a bit, and then left.

Cops say Hataway`s story does not add up and on Wednesday they upgraded him from person of interest to suspect.

I will get reaction from Tracy`s parents who are here with us on ISSUES marking the one-year anniversary since she vanished in just a moment.

Why do cops say all fingers point to Hataway? Evidence? Including a search of Hataway`s computer that showed he researched how to commit suicide for nine hours just after Tracy went missing. They also say he had a deep interest in the so-called dark arts; murder, cannibalism, vampires, and serial killings.

Hataway is behind bars tonight, charged with the attempted murder of another woman in 2008. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I was screaming, someone please help me. He`s going to kill me. He ended up picking me up and he had his hands around my throat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, my God. This is frightening. I am honored tonight to be joined by the parents of Tracy Ocasio.

Joe and Liz, thank you so much for being here. I know you`ve been -- what you`ve gone through in this past year is unimaginable and indescribable. Also with us tonight: Joe St. Cyr, coordinator of an upcoming search for Tracy and still with us, law enforcement analyst, Mike Brooks.

I have to start with Joe and Liz Ocasio. What has this year been like, Liz? What have you gone through day in and day out that the people at home have absolutely no comprehension because they are not missing a daughter, thank God?

LIZ OCASIO, SEARCHING FOR MISSING DAUGHTER TRACY: Well, there`s been a lot of ups and downs. The police are to the point now where they`re not even telling us all the leads because they don`t want us to get our hopes up all the time and then have the crash come.

But they are still looking for him. We are still -- they`re still following up every lead. And during the big searches, we`re very much involved with them.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And we`re going to talk about that big search and somebody, an expert who is coordinating it, in just a moment.

Only days after Tracy`s story made headlines, reported evidence against James Hataway started stacking up. Tracy`s key, cell phone, purse is missing, her car was found close by his home, cell phone records showed pings coming from very close to his home.

Less than a month after that, police searched Hataway`s home to seize material related to so-called dark arts, which we mention murder, suicide, cannibalism, vampires -- and of course, there`s the other alleged victim. The young woman you just heard from who says Hataway tried to choke her to death.

Here is my big issue. Why so long? Why did it take cops a year to decide that they wanted to call James Hataway the suspect? I got to go to you on this one, Mike Brooks.

BROOKS: No, you know -- I know -- I know Jane that it does seem like it`s a long time. But I think it sounds -- and, you know, we`ve covered these cases before -- it sounds as if they were doing everything they could. They were looking for evidence. Say, he even submitted to giving his own DNA.

But if you don`t have anything to compare it to, Jane, you really -- you know, you`re kind of left with -- with nothing.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, Joe St. Cyr, you are coordinating the search for Tracy Ocasio that`s going to occur next Saturday, June 5th and Sunday, June 6th -- a week away. This is going to be a very big search. Canine units, ground radar, side scan sonar.

Describe all the intricacies behind the search and why is it likely to be, let`s say more successful than all of the other searches that have happened in the past year?

JOE ST. CYR, F-3 AIRBOAT SEARCH & RESCUE TEAM: Absolutely. This is actually the -- one of the largest searches that we`ve been conducting recently; certainly the largest with regard to this particular case. We have the high-tech equipment present; we have a ground-penetrating radar, which is an enhanced system that`s used in specialized cases such as this.

In addition, we have approximately 25 nationally-certified canine teams in place, and between 40 to 60 certified ground personnel that will be conducting both ends (ph) of the command as well as operations in the field.

In addition we have Marine resources with side scan sonar; that is a very effective means to detect evidence that may be at the bottom of a body of water. The area that we`re searching, Jane, is a very large area.

We`re still in pre-planning stages at this time but we are dealing with dense woods and urban interface as well as many various bodies of water.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: When we come back, we`ll talk to the missing woman`s dad, Joe, about a tip that came in three weeks ago, and it involves her identification and keys. It is a crucial part to this story, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DET. SGT. MIKE BRYANT, OCOEE, FLORIDA POLICE DEPARTMENT: He was the last person with her. We know he drove home with her. We know we interviewed. We know he lied about what he was doing with her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Tonight James Hataway now the prime suspect in Tracy Ocasio`s disappearance. He is already behind bars set to go on trial for the attempted murder of another young woman.

He has not entered a plea and for the record, his public defender tells ISSUES they have no comment on any of these developments.

Joe Ocasio, you are father of this precious missing daughter. What do you know about this new tip that came in a few weeks ago regarding identification and keys? What can you tell us?

JOE OCASIO, FATHER OF TRACY OCASIO: Well, over this past year, we learned a lot about a lot of the relationships that Hataway has had with different women and it appears there was one instance in particular that had similarities with a car that was missing. It was recovered later on and the keys and ID were found within the proximity of the car.

When the tip came, in they were asking us what kind equipment we used at the time to find and to look for her ID. And we didn`t because at the time we were really looking for Tracy. So this time around, we`re having a search team with metal detectors go through the entire area and go back and retrace her steps in the particular area where the car was found.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, James Hataway behind bars right now, he is charged with the attempted murder of the woman you`re about to hear from. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I`m screaming, somebody please help me. He`s going to kill me. He ended up picking me up and he had his hands around my throat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, what is so fascinating about this in a horrific sense is that she says she gave James Hataway a ride home from a party and when she resisted his advances, he attacked her and tried to choke her and snap her neck.

And Liz, your daughter a watching a basketball game or some kind of sports game, gave him a ride home from a bar. So there is that commonality.

L. OCASIO: She never would have felt there was anything wrong with him if she gave him a ride home. She would have felt that he was a safe person. Apparently he`s very good at deceiving women.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And that commonality, though, is -- it is sinister, isn`t it, Mike Brooks?

BROOKS: Absolutely. No question at all that this guy Hataway is a predator. There is no doubt at all.

But I would like to ask Joe one quick question if I could, Jane. The area that you`re going to be searching, I`ve used ground penetrating radar when I was with the FBI`s evidence response team. I know, Joe, it is very painstaking. It can take a long time.

What brought you to this broad area? Is this where they believe that maybe the keys were thrown out and these kinds of things?

ST. CYR: Actually there`s two separate areas: one area is near where the car was originally found or abandoned, I should say. And the other area is an area that was pretty well known for Hataway to use as a dumping ground at night and illegally take things out there. It`s also an area that he was well known to hang out.

So it is just going back and retracing our step back to those areas. Very large area as Joe mentioned.

BROOKS: And I know it is tough searching with that ground-penetrating radar, too.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, we want to wish you the best luck on your search. Our fingers are crossed that you find the evidence that you need and we`re going to keep your story alive. We`re going to make sure that nobody forgets about your precious missing daughter and our hearts are with you.

Thank you so much fabulous panel for joining me tonight.

You are watching ISSUES on HLN.

END