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Van Der Sloot Denies Murdering Young Woman

Aired June 4, 2010 - 19:00:00   ET



JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight mind-boggling new twists and turns in the capture of Joran Van Der Sloot, accused of murder in Peru, the man also at the center of the Natalee Holloway case. He denies any involvement in this brutal killing that left 21-year-old Stephany Flores Ramirez battered and bloody. Did Joran snap her neck with his bare hands? We`ll have the chilling behind-the-scenes scramble by Stephany`s desperate family that led them to Joran.

Then, mysterious circumstances surrounding the sudden death of actor Gary Coleman. Did the child star`s ex-wife pull the plug too soon? She says he wouldn`t have made it anyway. You`ll hear her shocking 911 call, moments after his accident.

Plus, day 46, the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf. The leak is still not completely capped. New reports that the oil could make its way all the way up the East Coast, and now outrage over what happening to the animals in the Gulf and what you can do to change things.

ISSUES starts now.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Fast-breaking developments tonight. Joran Van Der Sloot claims I`m innocent. Chilean police say Joran is vehemently denying that he savagely murdered a 21-year-old Peruvian woman.

Van Der Sloot was captured in Chile yesterday after a massive two-day manhunt. He was put on a plane this morning and extradited to Peru. Tonight, brand-new stunning details about the hell that occurred inside that hotel room. Authorities say the victim, Stephany Flores Ramirez, was fully clothed and not -- I say not -- sexually assaulted or raped.

Joran allegedly took this young woman into room 309 and left four hours later alone, carrying two large suitcases. Stephany`s body was discovered battered and bludgeoned and stabbed. She was face down and wrapped in a blood-soaked blanket. Authorities say her killer snapped her neck with his bare hands. She was so badly beaten, her family says she was missing an eyeball. The hotel room was registered in Joran Van Der Sloot`s name.

So what was the motive here? Could it have been robbery? Joran met his alleged victim at a Lima casino. Police say he stole $5,000 out of Stephany`s gambling winnings before fleeing.

Joran has been arrested for murder and is also being charged in the U.S. for extortion. He allegedly offered to tell some mystery person where missing Alabama teen Natalee Holloway`s body is in exchange for a quarter of a million dollars. Joran`s arrest comes exactly five years after the blonde beauty went missing from a high-school trip to Aruba.

Tonight, Natalee`s family speaks out right here on ISSUES. Will Joran`s stunning arrest rip Natalee`s case wide open again? We can only hope.

Straight out to my fantastic expert panel, all of these people experts in this case. But I want to begin with a very special guest, Natalee Holloway`s uncle, Paul Reynolds, who joins me by phone.

Paul, thank you so much for coming on ISSUES. Our hearts always go out to you and your family. "The New York Post" says it all, and I want to show our viewers the headline. "Got Him," that`s what it says today. So many people have expressed delight over Joran`s capture, but I think everybody wants to know what is the reaction in your family in particular?

PAUL REYNOLDS, UNCLE OF NATALEE HOLLOWAY (via phone): My first reaction is that we -- we are quite distraught over what has happened to Stephany and her family. This is a terrible thing that they`re having to endure. And we certainly know it`s like, and we`d like to extend our deepest sympathy to her family. The fact...


REYNOLDS: I`m sorry? The fact that Joran has continued his behavior and taken the life of another young girl is just very disturbing to us.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Paul, this is so upsetting, because we`re getting some horrific new details about the savage murder of this young woman, Stephany. The victim`s brother was on HLN`s "NANCY GRACE" last night. And it`s hard to hear him clearly, but if you listen closely, he says his sister was missing an eyeball and was unrecognizable. Listen. Listen to this.


ENRIQUE FLORES, VICTIM`S BROTHER: My mother didn`t want to see her because we decided that one of us first is going to see her and see how -- to see how was she. But he told us that he -- she didn`t even have an eye. She was unrecognizable.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Paul, this is a difficult question, because it just invites us to ponder the unimaginable. But when you hear something like that, does that provoke your worst fear that Natalee might have gone through something similar?

REYNOLDS: You know, we`ve been aware of Joran`s temper for quite some time. The first night that Natalee was missing Beth arrived in Aruba and confronted Joran, and he was -- he was very cocky, had no remorse. A very unusual person -- very unusual for a 17-year-old boy to be so defiant. The things that we had heard about his temper in the recent days following that led us to believe that he was a very violent person. If he didn`t get what he wanted, he became very violent.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I mean, I guess we all thought maybe she had died accidentally or as a result of some kind of drug he slipped her, but the idea of a knifing and a neck snapping and a brutal beating, it`s just something I don`t think a lot of people have pondered before. Does it turn your stomach?

REYNOLDS: It does. Everything he does is -- is despicable, from trying to take advantage or extort money based on things that he`s done, on terrible things that he`s done. The repeated lies that he`s told everyone regarding the circumstances, the repeated confessions. He`s an unbelievable individual.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I have to ask you about this whole extortion issue, and of course, Joran is accused of trying to sell information about Natalee Holloway`s death and the location of her body, and I just want to ask you about that. A lot of people have wondered who might be willing to pay a quarter of a million dollars to learn that? And there`s been some speculation that perhaps a desperate member of your family was willing to plunk down that kind of money. What are your thoughts?

REYNOLDS: I don`t have any details on that. The fact that he would try to scam someone in my family in order to take advantage of them and try to gain money in that respect is just -- it`s despicable is the best word I can think of.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I am sure that there has got to be some -- some feeling of happiness that he`s behind bars. I mean, that`s got to be some measure of comfort to your family.

REYNOLDS: That`s -- we are glad. We are glad he`s behind bars. We don`t want him to hurt anyone else. We don`t want him to take any other young girl`s life. He needs to be behind bars. He should have been behind bars, and you know, I hope that he`s behind bars for a very, very long time. I think he needs time to think about what he`s done.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want to thank you, Paul Reynolds, uncle of Natalee Holloway. Again, our thoughts are always with you and your family. And our best wishes to Beth.

REYNOLDS: Thank you for having me.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you, sir.

We`re going to turn now to Rafael Romo, senior Latin-American affairs editor for CNN. He is on the scene in Peru.

Rafael, bring us up to date. What is the very latest, as you are there in Peru?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN LATIN-AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: The latest is that we`re getting closer and closer to the actual transfer of the suspect from Chilean authorities to Peruvian authorities, and as soon as that happens here in Lima, Aruban officials say that he will be charged with the murder of 21-year-old Stephany Flores.

They say they have a very strong case, including evidence, video evidence and also the testimony of employees, both at the casino where they were last seen and also at the hotel room where she was found dead. So it`s just a matter of time, say Peruvian officials, before formal charges are brought against the suspect, Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What kind of attention is this case generating in Peru? I understand thousands of people attended Stephany`s funeral. Tell us about it.

ROMO: That`s right. Thousands and thousands of people. This is a very prominent family. Her father was a vice-presidential candidate in 2001. Very prominent businessman.

Also, she was in college. She was getting a business administration degree, had many, many friends. In fact, Saturday, the last night that she was seen alive, she was going out with some female friends, just a girls` night out to have some fun like any girl her age would do. And so, as you can imagine, many of these people are just beyond belief that something like this could have happened to Stephany, Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Rafael, what are Peruvian prisons like? Everybody wants to know how bad it`s going to be for Joran if he`s convicted.

ROMO: Well, they`re not very accommodating, to say the least. The facilities are not the greatest. The density of the prison population is very heavy, and the -- for example, if you have to go to the bathroom, you only have -- you`re not going to find a toilet. It`s just going to be a hole.

And the other aspect is that it`s going to be interesting. If he is, indeed, guilty and actually ends up going to prison, what other Peruvians who are serving time for other crimes are going to think about this crime and what kind of treatment he`s going to receive if he, indeed, is convicted of this crime, Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: In other words, he might either have to be in solitary, or he could be in big trouble in the general population. Some might say could not happen to a nicer guy.

All right. Stay right where you are. We are on top of this fast- breaking story. Our expert panel about to weigh in.

Plus, the ex-wife of Gary Coleman breaks her silence tonight. We`re going to hear from the woman who decided to pull the plug on the child star.



REYNOLDS: It`s a very disgusting thing, something that we -- unfortunately -- we would expect from Joran Van Der Sloot. He has been a disgusting individual from the very beginning.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Fast-breaking news tonight. Chilean police say Joran Van Der Sloot is denying he is the one who violently, brutally beat and stabbed a young Peruvian woman.

There are bone-chilling new details about the hell this murdered woman`s family went through trying to find her. They knew Stephany went to go play at a poker tournament at a casino, a casino owned by a family friend.

So when Stephany never came back, the casino owner showed Stephany`s father the surveillance tapes. They spotted Stephany with a young man, and the owner showed her dad a copy of the guy`s passport. It was Joran Van Der Sloot.

Stephany`s family had no idea who he was, so they Googled him. All of the information on Natalee Holloway immediately popped up. Her family says they absolutely freaked out when they realized who their missing daughter was with the night she vanished.

Maria Velazquez, you are the victim`s aunt. First of all, thank you so much for joining us, and our condolences, our hearts go out to you and your family.

MARIA VELAZQUEZ, STEPHANY`S AUNT (via phone): Thank you very much.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Knowing your family as you do, what do you think they were going through as they frantically conducted that search for their missing daughter?

VELAZQUEZ: To be honest with you, I lived in the United States for the past 20 years, so I haven`t seen Stephany in the past probably five, because I don`t live in Florida.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you know your family, right? You know them. What are they like? They`re described as extraordinarily prominent. They`re described as powerful. Tell us about your family.

VELAZQUEZ: Ricardo Flores, who is the father, he has actually been involved in politics in Peru, and he`s a prominent businessman. And we actually learned of the disappearance of Stephany by Sunday, and we thought she was actually kidnapped due to the fact that her father had money. We were thinking that that`s what they were looking for.

Unfortunately, that was not the case. We learned that at the beginning of the week, that she was found dead in this hotel room.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So do you think it`s possible that Joran Van Der Sloot, if he is guilty of this crime, intentionally chose her because she was obviously from an elite group? She was speaking English. She was playing at a poker tournament. She was winning money. He may have found out that she came from a very prominent family and figured, "Well, I can make this look like a kidnapping"?

VELAZQUEZ: To be honest with you, the family didn`t know who this man -- who this man was, so from what we know they just met that day at the casino, not that they had met before. And actually, he was in our country only for about 15 days before that. What we know is that she had won $5,000 that night.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And that money is missing, and authorities believe Joran Van Der Sloot took $5,000 from her, correct?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, he doesn`t have to know her a long time to size her up. One thing this -- and I`ll call him a sociopath -- that`s my opinion -- is good at is sizing people up quickly at a casino, figuring out whether they`re wealthy or not, whether they come from a prominent family or not. With two or three questions he might have figured that out. So he may have actually been trying to make it look like a kidnapping, which is common in South America. And -- and it didn`t work, because he`s under arrest tonight.

Maria Velazquez, I want to thank you, and again our hearts go out to your family.

OK. We`re going to go to our panel now. Got to start with Steve Kardian. What do you make of the fact that there`s no sign, according to cops, of sexual assault? Does this signify that he either did this strictly for robbery or that, if he did it, he kills for the sake of killing?

STEVE KARDIAN, FORMER CRIMINAL INVESTIGATOR: Well, Jane, it certainly appears that robbery is the motive. I`ve seen people kill for much less. When he got her up there alone in the room, there must have been a violent, violent encounter of some sort that led him to beat her so severely.

And he -- this looks like a crime of passion where he fled rather quickly, rather than trying, like he did as we know in the Natalee Holloway case of disposing the body. I would have to say, yes, this is a crime of passion with robbery as the motive.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. My big issue tonight, murky motive. What exactly is the motive here? Stephany`s dad says cops told him there`s evidence of a date rape drug in her daughter`s SUV.

Listen to this.


RICARDO FLORES, FATHER OF STEPHANY (through translator): They left in her car, and they found some wrappings the pills they use to drug people. We will have sample of this man`s skin underneath the nails of my daughter, so once he is captured, we will be able to show that he is the killer. And he won`t be able to walk away like he did in Aruba.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: But tonight authorities say the victim was fully clothed and was not sexually assaulted. You know, if the motive was really robbery, Dr. Dale Archer, why such a violent murder? When I look at motive I always look at conscious motive, what the person thinks they`re doing it for, and then subconscious motive. Tell us.

DR. DALE ARCHER, PSYCHIATRIST: Well, Jane, I think this guy is a sociopath and fame addict. He`s a product of the reality TV generation. To him life is a video game.

And make no mistake, he loved the attention and the fame from the Natalee Holloway case. When that started to wane over the years, he turned to the one thing he new would spotlight on him again, and that occurred five years to the date later. It`s all about fame addiction.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I agree with you. This guy loves the attention, and the question is, would he kill for it? More on this tragic murder right after a short break.

Also, child star Gary Coleman dead. What happened during his final moments? We will hear from his ex-wife. You won`t believe this twist.

But first, Joran behind bars. Will there be justice for Natalee?



JOYCE VANCE WHITE, U.S. ATTORNEY: Our charges resulted from an FBI investigation into efforts by Van Der Sloot to extort $250,000 from an individual in exchange for information about the location of Natalee Holloway`s remains and the circumstances that led to her death.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: He`s accused of extortion in the U.S. and murder in Peru. Chilean police say Joran is flat out denying any involvement in the murder of 21-year-old Stephany Flores Rodriguez. That`s exactly what he did in 2007 when he appeared on an ABC "Nightline" exclusive, calmly, coolly, almost matter-of-factly answering questions about the Natalee Holloway case. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you kill Natalee Holloway?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you harm Natalee Holloway?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you help someone else who harmed Natalee Holloway?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you see Natalee Holloway in distress?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you sure about all these answers?



VELEZ-MITCHELL: But, of course, we now know after that he threw out a rash of confessions saying he sold Natalee into sexual slavery, she fell off the balcony, she died accidentally, he threw her in the ocean, on and on and on.

Barbara in California, your question or thought.

CALLER: My comment is I`m -- when I heard that he was arrested, the young man, I know he`s guilty of killing Natalee, but they never got -- they never got a trial set or anything. But I was just so happy he finally got caught.

And I want to say -- I want to give my condolences to both families, and I hope this is closure for Natalee Holloway. But he was going to get - - I think there was so much money for giving the people the whereabouts where Natalee was buried, so maybe they should look into that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Wendy Murphy, former prosecutor, is this in any way, shape or form closure for Natalee Holloway`s family?

WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: No, of course not. I hope they feel a little bit of justice in the sense that he`s off the street. You know, it`s a funny feeling, isn`t it, to feel so sad for this poor woman and her family and yet, so happy that he`s captured? It`s a hard feeling.

But I`ll tell you this. The good news is the Peruvian criminal justice system doesn`t give nearly as much of a damn about the defendant`s rights. So he`s going to have the swift justice, kind of like Amanda Knox went through. It`s an inquisitorial system.

I`ll tell you why he will never walk free again. Not only because they have a different system, which is one part of it, but there`s a videotape that shows them entering his room at 5, him coming out alone at 8:45. When you have only two people in the place where the crime occurred and one is dead, you don`t even need DNA evidence. That`s a slam dunk, even in our criminal justice system.

So I think, if there`s any solace out there for Natalee`s family, it`s that he`s not going to slip through the cracks on this one. Plus, he`s not in his own country. There`s no daddy around to pull strings for him. He`s gone. And that`s the good news for Natalee`s family.

I hope -- I know he doesn`t have a conscience, but I hope somebody somehow squeezes him to tell the real truth so that, if anything good comes from this for Natalee`s family, it`s that they actually learn a little bit of the truth about what happened.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I absolutely think you`re right. I hope they can use this some way somehow as leverage to get the real store about what happened to Natalee. We can only hope.

Stay right where you are. ISSUES all over this developing case.

Plus the heart-breaking death of Gary Coleman. We will hear from his ex-wife on why she decided to take him off life support. You will not believe what she has to say. It is truly a shocker.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to tell the family of the girl who died in Aruba who was murdered that this time he won`t be able to walk away... * (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


RICARDO FLORES, FATHER OF STEPHANY FLORES (through translator): I would like to tell the family of the girl who died in Aruba, who was murdered, that this time he won`t be able to walk away because we`ll make every effort to detain him and make him pay.

It has been the same M.O. Such a coincidence, he saw her in the casino. He took her from the casino. He took her and killed her. Too much coincidence.


JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HLN HOST: Tonight`s stunning breaking developments: Joran Van Der Sloot extradited to Peru. Joran wanted for the brutal murder of Stephany Flores Ramirez, a 21-year-old Peruvian woman from a very powerful family that he met late at night at a casino in Lima. Stephany found viciously beaten and stabbed to death -- her neck snapped -- in a hotel room registered in Joran`s name.

T.J. Ward, private investigator who covered the search for Natalee Holloway in Aruba. What do you make of the fact that authorities say they found no sign of sexual assault in this gruesome killing and also that Joran Van Der Sloot allegedly stole $5,000 that she had won at the casino earlier that night?

T.J. WARD JR., PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR IN NATALEE HOLLOWAY CASE: Well, maybe the sexual encounter, he may have tried, and that`s what caused the conflict between him and her and the struggle. But the Alabama charges that the federal government has brought up into play right now may be a good thing for Aruba.

Let`s not play out that the federal government didn`t set up a sting operation against Joran Van Der Sloot for the extortion of the monies and also the wire fraud. They now have another confession from him. He apparently knows where the body is in Aruba. And Aruba needs to do the right thing and get a new set of eyes and start this investigation as it should have been in Aruba in the beginning.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Wendy Murphy, I`ve been debating ever since this story broke with a slew of experts who seem to feel that this is not going to impact the case in Aruba. I keep arguing with them that just -- you know Drew Peterson, right -- Drew Peterson, his wife goes missing, Stacy. Then they re-open the case of an ex-wife who supposedly drowned in the bathtub and turned it into a homicide.

WENDY MURPHY, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes. Let me say this. You know, it may not have an impact, but it could.

For example, what if there were a variety of circumstances. They do find out more about how Natalee died and it turns out that his M.O. is the same in both cases. Having a matching M.O. showing a pattern of activity allows absolutely the Aruba case to be re-opened because this new evidence, this new behavior can be used to prove that that was his way of doing business, so to speak, with women. So it`s possible.

It`s also possible that political diplomacy could play a role here and phone calls get made. You know, I hate the idea of treating this like a swap meet where you give this guy anything in exchange for the truth because he`s a liar, he`s psychopath.

Personally, I hope we all start to call him urine instead of Joran because a disgusting body fluid seems to fit for this guy.


MURPHY: I don`t like the idea of a swap meet, but he`s never going to walk free again. If there`s anything you can do to get this guy to give some comfort to Natalee`s family, I would do some trading. Reluctantly, I have to admit, I`d do some trading.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And of course, he has not been convicted, he has never been charged in Natalee`s case and he certainly has not been convicted in this case.

But Steve Kardian, when you just heard the reporters say that they don`t have bathrooms in Peruvian prison; that they have to go to the bathroom in a hole in the ground, that might be some incentive for this man to finally tell the truth and to at least do some kind of a deal where maybe he gets to serve time in the United States.

STEVE KARDIAN, FORMER INVESTIGATOR: Jane, this is a good thing for the investigation that he`s been arrested. Hopefully it can compel the international community to put a lot of pressure on Aruba, because there was no good investigation done in the Natalee case at all.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you incredible panel. Obviously we are going to stay on top of this case. Tune in to ISSUES Monday for the latest.

So much happening.

And meanwhile, another wild case tonight: bizarre new twists and turns in the tragic death of Gary Coleman. The legendary actor died one week ago. He suffered a brain hemorrhage after falling inside his home. He was only 42 years old.

Coleman and his wife divorced back in 2008, but they were in bed together the night he collapsed. Take a listen to his ex-wife`s bizarre 911 call.


SHANNON PRICE, GARY COLEMAN`S EX-WIFE: I heard this big bang. I went downstairs, blood everywhere. I don`t know if he`s ok. I`m not down there right now because I have seizures. If I get stressed out I`m going to seize.

911 OPERATOR: Is there any way you can go down there at all?

PRICE: I`ll try. I don`t know. I mean I can`t deal with that.

911 OPERATOR: How old is your husband?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ex-husband is on the floor possibly dying, and she can`t even go downstairs?

Now some fans are pointing the finger at Shannon Price claiming she might have even had a hand in Gary`s fall. The two did have a very stormy relationship, to say the least. Both accused of domestic disputes within the last year. Adding fuel to this explosive fire it was the ex- wife`s decision to pull the plug on Gary`s life support.

Cops say there`s no sign of foul play and now this 24-year-old is speaking out to defend herself. Here is exactly what she told TMZ.


PRICE: I`ve heard a lot of speculations out there, a lot of people sit there and say, "Yes, she pushed him," this and that. You know people are so cruel. They don`t even know.

I was upstairs and he was downstairs. How can I push him?

The doctors told us that, you know, even if they did surgery on him, he would have died. He would have bled to death during the surgery. And they said even if they did take a chunk out of his brain, he would not be the same. He would be basically like Muhammad Ali.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: In the immortal words of Gary Coleman on "Diff`rent Strokes", what you talking about Willis? What is she talking about? She doesn`t exactly sound like the grieving widow. Why the bizarre comparison to Muhammad Ali? I mean he`s alive and walking around.

Joining me now with lots more on this: clinical psychiatrist, Dr. Dale Archer; and senior editor for "In Touch Weekly", Kim Serafin.

Kim, Shannon Price may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer as they say, but is she getting a bad wrap here?

KIM SERAFIN, SENIOR EDITOR, "IN TOUCH WEEKLY": You now, exactly. You listen to that call, and obviously a lot of people think this is not the way I would react if someone I knew and loved was bleeding and lying in a pool of blood on the floor. But again obviously people react different to stress. People react differently to trauma. She does talk about her seizures. She`s afraid she`s going to seize. But it is bizarre -- I think you used the best -- when you hear the operator saying can you put pressure on the wound and she`s yelling at him to put pressure on his head. But yes, she could potentially be getting a bad rap because again, people really deal with stress and trauma in different ways.

She obviously was there for him. They were apparently divorced secretly back in 2008, but they were apparently together.

It didn`t look like Gary really had that many other people in his life. We know he was estranged from his parents. Todd Bridges, of course, was still friendly with him, but it does seem like Shannon was there for him at least.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, this woman actually witnessed her husband bleeding profusely right in front of her. But instead of remaining calm when talking to 911, she seemed to just completely flip out.

Listen to this.


PRICE: I`m just panicked. I don`t know what to do. When are they going to be here? Do you know?

911 OPERATOR: They`re on their way. It just depends on where in the city they were when we called them out.

PRICE: Gary? I just don`t want him to die. I`m freaking out like really bad.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: She also told the 911 operator she couldn`t deal with blood.

Dr. Dale Archer, when your husband might be dying shouldn`t that be priority number one, or could squeamishness and fear of blood, being repelled by it, actually be something that`s beyond your control?

DR. DALE ARCHER, CLINICAL PSYCHIATREST: Well, it`s certainly not a reaction that we would expect and that we would label as normal. But then again, I don`t think that we can read into this that, oh, she acted that way so therefore she had a role in what was going on. I think it`s very sad and unfortunate.

His whole life really is just a cautionary tale of being a child star, having everything given to you at a young age, having it not work out when you get older and then alcohol and drugs and depression and poor relationships are the hallmark of child stars. I think the whole thing is sad.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: When is it time to pull the plug? You know, we could argue that point until we`re blue in the face. Doctors say Coleman had slipped into a coma and that`s when his ex-wife made the very difficult decision to shut off his life support.

Check this out.


PRICE: I don`t want people to be so hard on me thinking that, you know, I had to pull the plug too early. He wouldn`t have made it anyway. His heart would have just given out.

I don`t want people to sit there and think I`m a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and that I didn`t care about him, but, you know, be in my situation. Look what happened with Terri Schiavo.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s a decision we all hope we never have to face. This young woman, by the way, is only 24 years old. She`s Gary Coleman`s ex-wife and they had, as we`d been saying, a very rocky relationship. But legally the hospital is now saying she had the legal right to pull life support because Coleman apparently, Kim Serafin, signed an advanced health care directive that gave her permission to make medical decisions, even though they had gotten divorced.

It`s kind of like they were living together. They were in bed together. She was still the most important person in his life.

ARCHER: I think an important point there, Jane, is that the doctors are not going to allow that to be done unless they`ve exhausted every possibility. So she would have the final decision, but the doctors would say, "Ok, it`s your choice. We`ve done everything that we can."

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Now, Gary Coleman`s parents are now fighting for custody of his body.

Here`s what I don`t get. Where were his parents when Gary was alive? He apparently wanted nothing to do with them. In fact Kim, didn`t he sue then in 1989 for allegedly -- I say allegedly -- stealing his childhood fortune?

SERAFIN: Exactly. I mean very famously he sued them. He had a very tumultuous relationship with them, was not even in contact with his parents, so it is odd to see that his parents are stepping in now.

They, of course, want to gain custody of his remains and now the funeral has been put on hold because of course, his wife or ex-wife, Shannon, would like to have his remains, his parents want his remains. And now, it doesn`t appear that there is any will right now.

Of course, you did mention Shannon did have this advanced -- have the power -- legal power, of course, to make the decision about his -- his life and his health and the decision to pull the plug for him.

But we don`t really know about a will, other than what Todd Bridges is now saying. We know that he was not talking to his parents. We do know that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`ve got to ask you quickly Kim, where did all his money go? I mean, apparently they don`t have money for a funeral? He was on a hit show. The residuals have to be coming in as we speak.

SERAFIN: Yes. You would think that, but, of course, we hear this from so many child actors. And yes, Shannon is now saying in this interview she doesn`t have money for the funeral. She said when she first met Gary they had money. She talks about going to Vegas, she talks about him buying her a car and then --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Got to leave it right there; more after this. Hang in there. We`re just getting started.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we`ve examined them, there is oil going down into their throat, so presumably they have swallowed some of that. We don`t really know what the long-term effects of that might be. We -- we suspect that it may cause some problem with their digestive system or other internal organs.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, horrifying and heart-breaking scenes emerging out of the Gulf Coast. Now we`re watching birds and sea life die slow, gruesome deaths drowning literally in oil. Hundreds are being pulled from the Gulf covered in thick, black goo and those are the ones that are still alive.

America`s heart is breaking looking at these images, watching these poor birds. You could see they`re covered in oil. You could see their labored breathing. It`s as if you can feel the weight of the oil on their feathers.

The birds will die if this oil is not removed. Some may die anyway if they had ingested the oil. Volunteers are desperately trying to rescue as many of them as they can, but it`s a slow process. And the birds just keep coming in and coming in to rescue centers as CNN`s Gary Tuchman found out.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just before we leave another brown pelican is brought in drenched in oil, as bad as any bird these experts have seen.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: This is a life and death struggle for these poor, completely innocent creatures and I`m sad to say it`s only going to get worse.

Straight out to Lisa Lange with PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals; Lisa, thanks for joining us. I`ve got to tell you --

LISA LANGE, VICE PRESIDENT, PETA: Thanks for having me.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: -- I can`t keep the images of these birds out of my mind. I want to cry. I look at them and I just want to cry. It makes me -- it makes me sad, sad to be a human being.

Does this catastrophe point to the importance of having respect for animals and nature and does it prove to us that when we lose respect for animals and nature, we humans are also hurting ourselves?

LANGE: Yes, I think it does. And you know, now, as you say, we`re just starting to see these images and it`s appalling that the oil companies and the government inspectors have allowed this to happen. And for the most part people feel like you and I do. This is devastating to people who are seeing these photographs, but most of us has no idea that inspections were so lax.

As -- as the story comes out and as we hear whether or not BP and government inspectors may be charged with willful -- willful fraud, excuse me, dereliction of duty, maybe even bribery. PETA wants to see an additional set of criminal charges and that`s criminal cruelty to animals.

Millions of animals are dying because of this. And let`s be very clear about this. These animals are not coated in oil, they`re drenched in oil. They cannot eat. They cannot drink. They`re sitting there burning in the June sun.

And those are the ones we see. Millions and millions will die, millions will die in the following years. How this affects marine mammals like whales and dolphins is yet -- is yet to be known. This is a catastrophe on a level we`ve not seen.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Four hundred species of animals are in the Gulf. Many of them endangered and threatened.

BP`s Chief Executive Officer, Tony Hayward made a lot of enemies last weekend when he said this. Remember this?


TONY HAYWARD, CEO, BP: I`m sorry. We`re sorry for the massive disruption it`s caused to their lives, and we`re -- there`s no one who wants this thing over more than I do. I`d like my life back.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: What a jerk. My big issue tonight: just crude? People are calling these statements by this guy, gaffes. I think it`s how he really feels.

May 17th, one month after the oil spill began, Hayward said, "I think the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to have been very modest". He couldn`t have been more wrong.

Then on May 30th he said, "There`s no evidence that oil was suspended in large masses beneath the surface". Wrong or lying.

You know, Lisa, this elitist corporate attitude reeks of arrogance and disrespect for nature and animals, anything that stands in the weight of short-sighted profits. Is this a wake-up call for corporations to start weighing in the cost of environmental wreckage to their profit and loss statements?

LANGE: I hope so. But they probably won`t go there on their own. And it`s important that the government step up and start inspecting these things and making sure that there are -- there are ways that we prevent it in the future, but more than that we have to be less reliant on oil as consumers --


LANGE: -- and that`s not just by driving hybrid cars. That`s by adjusting our diets, by being a vegan for example. You rely so much less on the oil companies, that we`re all furious with this -- we`re furious with this attitude that lives and I mean, human live and animal lives are expendable. That profit comes first.

We have to say no more. We have to say we shop locally. We eat organic, vegetarian food. We take the power back away from these corporations, because so far the government is not helping us do that.

This is as we see it at PETA the largest cruelty to animals case we have ever seen; we`re talking millions and millions of animals dying slowly. Their death is painful, it is prolonged and it was completely avoidable.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And I agree with you 100 percent.

Those who are saying this is terrible and crying their eyes out, but they`re -- they are using these plastic bottles that are petroleum- based and they`re gas guzzlers and they are not thinking about how they conduct their lives, they`re really part of the problem.

This is a consumer issue at the end of the day Lisa, all of us making more compassionate, more thoughtful decisions about everything we do throughout the course of our day can make these BPs irrelevant. But it takes willpower and it takes waking up.

And we`ve got to leave it right there, but I want to thank you, Lisa.

You won`t believe this story we`ve got next. It`s a brigade to save sea lions.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: In tonight`s "Spotlight", the courageous fight to save the sea lions. Sea lions are being systematically executed by government wildlife officials in Oregon and Washington. The sea lions` crime: doing what they`re meant to do, eat salmon.

Now, a bunch of caring people have formed a sea lion defense brigade, which patrols the Columbia River, trying to keep the sea lions alive. They`re battling a very misguided government effort to supposedly protect the Chinook salmon as they swim up river to spawn.

Straight out to my special guest Matt Rossell, the northwest director of In Defense of Animals.

Matt, I`m horrified by this. How many sea lions have died so far and what are you doing to try to save them?

MATT ROSSELL, IN DEFENSE OF ANIMALS: Well, it`s absolutely outrageous, Jane. They are -- these wildlife agencies are actually killing these sea lions, which are native wildlife for simply eating, as you said. They`ve killed dozens of them already. They`re in the third year of this program.

And the sea lions are actually being scapegoated. They are not the problem with salmon recovery. In fact, it`s a human-based problem, as we all know. It`s the dams, it`s the over-fishing, it`s the habitat destruction and the fish, the non-native fish that fishermen have introduced which are killing the salmon.

So, what we`re doing about it? There`s two active lawsuits. We`re actually challenging the federal government on their authority, because they are a protected species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

We`re also filing a lawsuit, an active lawsuit on the state level to --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But tell me about the brigade.

ROSSELL: The brigade --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: There are caring people who have come together. I`ve seen their truck. They stand guard.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tell me about that.

ROSSELL: In Defense of Animals and Sea Lion Defense Brigade are out there all the time, 24/7, while these sea lions are being trapped. Watching, monitoring and actually documenting the killing of sea lions so that we can report back to the public about what`s really happening.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, it`s so easy to get attached to these beautiful sea lions that just want to live out their lives on the Columbia River. What crime have they committed? None. They`ve got to eat.

One defense brigade member blogged about two sea lions in particular. Here they are, saying hey there, old friend. Look at these two. They`ve lived on the river for years and I guess they must have eaten some salmon in the process because they came out of the water to bask in the sunlight last year and that was it for them. They were trapped and killed.

Matt, this is Uncle Sam -- I mean, this is tax dollars that are going to killing these sea lions. And everywhere I turn around, we are rounding up wild horses, using tax dollars. Look at the disaster in the gulf. Now this.

What is wrong with our government? It seems like our government is killing more animals than almost anyone else.

ROSSELL: Well, this isn`t based on science. This is politics. And the fishermen are angry. The fish are gone and they want to blame the sea lions. The gill netters this year killed more salmon in 18 hours than these sea lions were observed eating the whole season.

The sea lions are eating a very small percentage of the fish, and in fact, they`re just living, as you said. Every year since this program has started, the fishing quotas have gone up, and that`s --

It`s a mess.

We`re out of time, but I want to tell you, get involved, people. You know, contact the organizations. You see it right there. Join the Sea Lion Brigade from your home to save those creatures and let our government know we don`t want to be using tax dollars to kill animals.

You`re watching ISSUES.