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ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL
Toddlers Found Dead in Car; Misty Croslin Gets Plea Deal on Drug Charges
Aired August 16, 2010 - 19:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, terror in South Carolina. Two children have been found dead. They were strapped inside a car that was completely submerged in a river. Now the mother`s under arrest. Was this an accident or cold-blooded murder?
And jaw-dropping developments in the desperate search for Haleigh Cummings. Misty Croslin heads to court, looking like a totally different person. What happened to her? Tonight she pleads no contest to drug charges. So will she get 240 years behind bars or just six? And does it all depend on whether she spills her guts about little Haleigh?
And a high-speed truck race turns into hell on earth.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, everybody off the track!
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Twenty people mowed down -- eight killed, 12 injured -- as a truck loses control and flies into the crowd. Witnesses say bodies were flying everywhere. Tonight, why were spectators this close to the deadly course? And who`s to blame?
Plus the Craigslist Killer commits suicide. Tonight the man accused of brutally murdering a New York masseuse has been found dead inside a jail cell, his main artery sliced open, a plastic bag over his head. This preppie med student was living a secret double life. Tonight I`ll talk one-on-one with Philip Markoff`s former friend and go inside his dark history.
ISSUES starts now.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, heart wrenching news out of South Carolina. Dive team members could not save two little brothers, ages 2 and 18 months, who were found in a submerged vehicle. And tonight, their own mother is in custody.
This is happening right now in Orangeburg County, South Carolina, at the Edisto River. Crews pulled it out of the river this afternoon. The highway patrol got a call that a woman had an accident at 6:45 a.m. and needed help getting her kids out. The mother`s name has not been released. At this time she`s charged with leaving the scene of an accident.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERIFF LARRY WILLIAMS, ORANGEBURG COUNTY, SOUTH CAROLINA: She left the location. She walked away from the vehicle maybe three quarters of a mile away, of course, where she had contacted someone to call law enforcement to report that she had been involved in an accident.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: When divers reached the children, they were still strapped in their car seats. What a horrific image.
The mother reportedly did not have a cell phone to call for help on her own, but the sheriff wants to know was this intentional or just a tragic accident?
And I`m taking your calls: 1-877-JVM-SAYS. We`re going to be joined by a reporter from the scene in just a minute but first straight out to Mike Brooks, law enforcement analyst. The cops have questions about whether this was really an accident. What do we know?
MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, we know, Jane, apparently the ignition was on in the car when they found the car. The two children were -- the two toddlers were still strapped into child restraint seats inside the car.
Someone noticed the car because they could just see the top of it. It was fully submerged. And apparently, Jane, there was no damage, no physical damage to the car, which says to me it did not go off of this bridge or leave the roadway. And I think that`s why law enforcement is taking a look at this to say, you know what? This might not be an accident.
Did she intentionally drive off the road, make a 90-degree turn and then come down and drive into the river from that boat ramp? That`s what it appears now, but it`s still under investigation.
The Orangeburg Sheriff`s Office, they`re taking a look at it, and it was turned over to them by the South Carolina Highway Patrol. Now, they also could possibly bring in SLED, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, to assist if they`re needed.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I see what you have mean because if you`re going to have an accident you don`t pick the place to have an accident conveniently like a ramp that is a boat ramp going right down into the water. Right? Usually an accident goes off a bridge somewhere terrible not in this convenient location where it just goes down a ramp.
BROOKS: Exactly. And they`re also going to take a look to see if everything is consistent that adds up on her story to law enforcement. They`re supposed to interview her today -- I`m sure they already have interviewed her -- and find out, first of all, why was there so much time from when the accident happened?
And Jane, the other thing, too. Six a.m. in the morning. Where was she going and why would you be by -- near a boat ramp at 6 a.m. in the morning?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Very good question. The boys have been identified as 18-month-old Jivan Dooley (ph) and 2-year-old Divan (ph). As we`ve mentioned, we don`t know yet if these boys died as a result of foul play or if it was just a terrible accident. But it would be hard to hear this story and not think of Susan Smith.
Susan Smith, another South Carolina mother who drove her car into a river back in 1994, taking the lives of her two sons, ages 3 and 14 months old. Now, Susan Smith had claimed it was a carjacking before ultimately confessing that it was murder, explaining her new love interest didn`t want kids. There was so much outrage over this story, Smith was ultimately convicted in their murders and is currently serving life in prison.
Forensic psychologist Cheryl Arutt, hypothetically speaking, what in God`s name is going on in a woman`s head if she decides to end her children`s lives by driving them into a body of water?
CHERYL ARUTT, FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, Jane, there`s so much we don`t know about this case. It`s so tragic. And you know, we do have to think about Susan Smith and what happened in the very same state with her children, as well. It`s -- I`m hoping this isn`t some sort of a copycat kind of event.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s a little too late for copycat. I`m sure this mother -- I think she`s in her 20s. She probably doesn`t even know about the Susan Smith. Or maybe she does, but...
ARUTT: That`s true. That`s 15 years ago.
ARUTT: That is -- that is true, except what I`m wondering about, if - - if this were an accident, is she wet? Did she go in the water? Did she try to do something to save her kids? What were her actions before she took this walk...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you raise a very, very good question.
Jody Barr, you`re a reporter down there in Orangeburg, South Carolina. You know, if she drove the car into the water, was she sopping wet when she got out? Did she have any indication that she tried to get in there and save her kids?
JODY BARR, REPORTER, WIS: The only thing the Orangeburg County sheriff would tell us today that he said she had some, quote, "debris on her," that -- some evidence that there was -- that she had been in the water this morning. He would not elaborate. He wouldn`t even define what he meant by debris but apparently her clothes were wet at some point this morning before the sheriff said she left the boat ramp here on the Edisto River and hit it about three quarters of a mile away from the crash scene to call for help.
ARUTT: That`s really vague, debris.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Say that. Say that. Tell me, Cheryl, what are you saying?
ARUTT: That`s very vague, debris. I would expect if this were a desperate accident that I would expect to see her doing everything she could do to get in there and get those kids out of the car.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me go back to Jody for one second and ask him, based on what you`re saying, supposedly she walked three quarters of a mile to get help or almost a mile. Now, was there a place she could have gotten help earlier? Because sometimes when people don`t want to get help what they do is say, "I`m going for help," and then they pass like five or six houses and they go for the further location to get help.
BARR: Well, I don`t know what -- what was going through her mind at 6:40 in the morning. But there is a house just across the river here. And the car actually came to a stop on the other side of the bridge from this boat landing where we are. And that`s where there is an older couple who live at that house. And they watched the rescue effort this morning or the recovery effort, rather.
But what she could see out here at 6:40 in the morning I don`t know. She did live nearby here, so she was probably familiar with the houses around here in the vicinity of this boat ramp. But why she walked three quarters of a mile, the sheriff did not say who she stopped to call law enforcement out here. The sheriff didn`t even get into that earlier with us today.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. But what you`re saying is there`s a house right there, that if she wanted to get help, she could have gone right to that house. You talked to an elderly couple that lives right there. They probably were not out doing something at 6:45 in the morning. They were probably there. She did not go to that house, which was the closest house, to seek help. And I think, Mike Brooks, that`s significant.
BROOKS: Oh, very significant. And if there`s a house that close, that was her immediate place she could go to. And -- because, again, if she wanted to just try to get those kids out, she would have and then run up and look for the first house, go there. But three quarters of a mile to a mile away? It`s not adding up to me, Jane.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Shanquilla, Georgia, your question or thought.
CALLER: Yes. My comment was that I think she intentionally drove her kids into that lake. The reason I think that is, because I don`t care how far you walk, you should have been in that water trying to get your kids out.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, that`s what everybody is saying.
Now Michelle Suskauer, here`s the thing. The autopsy on the two little boys are going to determine cause of death, but if it turns out that they drowned, even if cops have suspicion, how can they prove that it`s not an accident?
MICHELLE SUSKAUER, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Jane, what I`d be looking for...
ARUTT: Well, I think that...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hold on. I`m asking Michelle Suskauer. Go ahead.
SUSKAUER: There are going to be some problems. All of this doesn`t make sense. Because what may have happened here, and again, we`re going to find out if she does statements, is she may have desperately tried to get those children out of the car and that -- or she may have hit her head. She may have been in shock, because she`s walking at 6 in the morning or 6:30 in the morning. She`s walking aimlessly. We don`t know.
But it sounds like, if she did have an accident, if that actually did happen, she could possibly have been in shock here. And this is something really telling, depending on what her statements are.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Michelle, one quick question. Now, she has another child. What should happen to that other child while they`re trying to figure this out?
SUSKAUER: Well, I don`t know if that child actually -- did she have custody of that child or that child was living with relatives?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I think so. I think so. Let`s go back to the reporter. Jody, what about the other child?
BARR: Only said that she had one other child today. He gave us no indication what will happen to this other child, whether she was married. We`re not getting a lot of information from the sheriff`s office to share with you guys.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, I would think that child services would be in there...
BROOKS: Oh, yes.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... fast to find out that that child is OK and, you know -- terrible story. Horrible image.
Fantastic panel. Thank you so much.
Another lawyer drops out of the Casey Anthony case. Did Jose Baez force his resignation?
But first Misty Croslin is back in court, and she has a brand-new look. You will not believe this brand-new look. In fact, there she is. We hardly recognized her. It`s not just the new haircut. Tonight, how long is she going to stay behind bars? She pled today. We`re taking your calls on this: 1-877-JVM-SAYS.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MISTY CROSLIN, EX-WIFE OF RON CUMMING: So I got up and went to the kitchen. And that`s when I noticed the back door was wide open with -- the back door is open. The screen door is holding by a big cement block.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROSLIN: I will prove to the world that I didn`t have nothing to do with it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly.
CROSLIN: And when I do everybody can kick my (EXPLETIVE DELETED). And I`m going to get on TV, and I`m going to tell them all to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) off.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s right. I don`t blame you at all. I mean, they need to give you a nationwide apology.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight stunning developments in the disappearance of little Haleigh Cummings. Misty Croslin, the teenager who was watching the child when she vanished, has just pleaded no contest to seven drug trafficking charges. The big question tonight: will this plea deal lead to Misty spilling her guts and telling cops what she really knows about what happened to the missing child?
Misty Croslin was baby-sitting Haleigh the night the 5-year-old vanished from her family`s trailer home 18 long months ago. Last winter Misty was arrested in a drug sting along with Haleigh`s father, Ron, and Misty`s brother, Tommy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROSLIN: They`re not going to put me away for something I didn`t do. And I didn`t have anything to do with Haleigh. And if I knew who did, I would tell them. I told them everything that I can tell them, so they need to leave me alone about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: With the drug sting caught on tape by the way, cops had Misty right where they wanted her: in jail. They hoped she would finally tell them what really happened to Haleigh.
Misty`s Grandma Flo told ISSUES Misty knows a whole lot more than she`s telling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FLORA HOLLARS, GRANDMOTHER OF MISTY: I believe the one that Misty told me, that they tied her up in a rope and dropped her in the river. I just don`t know whether they raped her or not. But I sort of believe that they did. I just hope and pray that the child was already dead before she hit that water.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: What a sick scenario.
Misty did go with investigators down to the St. John`s River where the little girl was allegedly dumped. You see her there talking to investigators. But cops didn`t find Haleigh`s remains. And so this case remains a total mystery. Is this plea deal the leverage prosecutors need to get Misty to break finally?
Taking your calls on this: 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297.
Straight out to my fantastic panel. But first to investigative reporter Art Harris, who has been on this from the very start.
All right. Misty`s sentencing is set for October. Can prosecutors offer Misty a reduced sentence if she finally tells them everything she knows about Haleigh?
ART HARRIS, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Well, she`s got to move fast, because tomorrow is her drop-dead plea date in a neighboring county, Jane, where she`s expected to plead "no contest" again to the eighth count. That means eight times 30 years, could get a maximum of 240 years. But that could change if her lawyer is able to plead her to a youthful offender status.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I guess, Michelle Suskauer, whet I`m asking is, how do they do this? How do prosecutors -- she`s behind bars. She`s facing -- we`re going to get to it -- something like 240 years. How do they say, "Look, honey..."
VELEZ-MITCHELL: "... tell us what you know if you want to see the light of day again"?
SUSKAUER: Well, they`re going to do that through her lawyer, and they`re going to say, "Look, we`re going to go in there because you`re going to -- plea-ing up to the judge. If you don`t have -- we`re going to be vehemently opposing youthful offender which is something she can get -- special deal she can get because of her age until the age of 22.
But they`re going to be putting the pressure on her saying, "Look, she`s young. She`s going to go to prison for a very, very long time. And we`re going to play ball here if she cooperates, because we want to know where that baby is." And that`s how they`re going to do it.
Or they could possibly set up a meeting with her and her lawyer. But they absolutely -- this is their chance. This is how they could really put the screws to her and say, "We are going to give you a break here if you cooperate." Because you know what? It`s not like -- these are drug cases.
SUSKAUER: However, she could end up going for a very long time.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Look, Misty`s story has changed, let`s face it, more often than Lindsay Lohan`s hair color. I mean, let`s be real. It would be difficult to believe anything that comes out of Misty`s mouth, but let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROSLIN: I got up and went to the kitchen. And that`s when I noticed the back door was wide open. The back door is open. The screen door is hold -- holding by a big cement block.
HOLLARS: I believe the one that Misty told me, that they tied her up in a rope and dropped her in the river.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: So which is it? Did she wake up and find Haleigh missing or did she help throw the little girl in the river? Which Misty do we believe? Levi Page, who`s a blogger, all over this case.
LEVI PAGE, BLOGGER: Well, when Misty`s mouth is moving, she`s lying. And I think if she gets the hammer dropped down on her, then maybe we can get the truth out of this psychopathic, evil, heartless, sociopathic liar who`s lied from the very beginning in this case.
BROOKS: How do you really feel, Levi? Come on. Don`t hold back.
PAGE: I hope they give her 240 years, and I think that would be great. She`s going to go to the big dollhouse, and maybe that will get the truth out of her because these prisoners know what sort of liar she is, that she`s withholding information.
No intruder came in there and took this child from her. They were all in the same room and in the same bed, according to Croslin, whose story changes by the minute. And I hope they give her 240 years.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, OK. You bring me to my big issue: 240 versus 6. Now explain this. Misty Croslin should get as many as 240 years or as few as 6. That`s our criminal justice system.
Well, here`s how it breaks down. If the judge decides Misty should be sentenced as a juvenile, she could get off with 6 years. But if she gets sentenced as an adult and gets the max on each count consecutively, it could be 240 years.
Michelle Suskauer, what were you saying?
SUSKAUER: No, I was going to say, Jane, is let`s say they went and the judge said, "You know what? I`m not going to give her youthful offender. I`m going to give her, let`s say, ten years or something."
After that she decides, and she`s freaking out. She decides she wants to play ball. They can always move to reduce her sentence if she suddenly starts to cooperate.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right.
SUSKAUER: I don`t think the judge is going to give her youthful offender.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Misty could face more than 200 years in prison. Is she finally going to cooperate and tell the truth?
Plus, the Craigslist Killer kills himself. From a bright-eyed med student...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROSLIN: I got up because I had to use the bathroom, but I didn`t make it to the bathroom. I seen the kitchen light on, and I walked in the kitchen, and the back door is wide open. I mean, I didn`t notice about Haleigh then until I seen the back door open. And then I go in her room, and she`s gone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I was stunned when I saw Misty in court today. She hardly looks like the same person.
OK. Back in the old days rail-thin Misty looked about 12 years old in these interviews right after Haleigh disappeared. Well, take a look at her now. There she is walking into court, shorter hair and, you know, the prison food is taking its toll. I mean, she`s got to be 20 pounds heavier. Just a stunner! I almost didn`t recognize her.
Jimmy, Rhode Island, your question or thought.
CALLER: Hi, Jane.
CALLER: It`s a privilege and an honor to speak to you.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you.
CALLER: And I congratulate you on your sobriety.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you so much.
CALLER: Me and my mom watch you have every night.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Cool. I`m so glad.
CALLER: Her name is Anna.
There`s something wrong with this girl. The answer is between her ears, no doubt about it. And I think when she gets sentenced finally, we`re going to find out the truth. And I bet you we`ll all be surprised if we ever find out the truth. And I just hope we do because that poor little baby. We see this. This has been going on for a few years now...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I agree.
And Art Harris, I think, to the caller`s point, I mean, this is her moment to tell the truth. If she doesn`t tell the truth, could they throw the book at her, and she could end up behind bars for the rest of her life?
HARRIS: Sure. Even if she got the six years here, Jane, you only get one shot, one bite at the apple at youthful offender. Then she`s got the 30 years max, possibly, in St. John`s County tomorrow, where she`s going to also plead no contest her lawyer tells me. That`s 6 plus 30. That`s a long time, as well.
And that`s why law enforcement is a bit frustrated. They think that that`s what it`s going to take, Jane, to get her behind bars, get her, you know, in with the inmates, and then let somebody target her who wants to cut a deal.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Mike Brooks, the other school of thought is, if you`re facing THE potential of let`s say murder charge, hypothetically speaking -- and in Florida where there`s a death penalty, you`d rather go do any amount of time for drugs than face that alternative.
BROOKS: Oh, absolutely. But the problem is -- what was her role in this, Jane? And I still submit -- and we talked about this before. I think that maybe they really don`t know, because they were so screwed up that night. They don`t know what they did with the child. That`s still a possibility that I think could be a true story.
PAGE: She`s covering for Ron.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, Art Harris. It`s like the "Dude, Where`s My Car?" except it`s a tragedy.
HARRIS: One investigator, just like Mike Brooks said, Jane, they said interviewing Misty and her friends are like interviewing a rock. They do not know. The synapses are busted. They`re gone. There`s been so many drugs done in between, you know. And the weekend before she was on the drug and sex binge. You know, she doesn`t know.
And she was up the night before all night with Ronald, my sources are telling me. So how -- what kind of shape was she in the night that Misty did go missing?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you know, if you`re in a blackout, you do remember fragments eventually. Generally, you don`t just forget everything. It`s -- little bits and pieces come back to you. And those fragments are significant. So I do believe there is more that she could tell.
And, Misty, if you`re watching from behind bars, do yourself a favor. Tell the truth. Otherwise, you`re not going to see the light of day ever again.
Fabulous panel, thank you so much.
A sporting event turns hellish. Eight dead, 12 injured. All captured on tape.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: A high-speed truck race turns into hell on earth.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, everybody out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Twenty people mowed down, 8 killed, 12 injured as a truck loses control and flies into the crowd. Witnesses say bodies were flying everywhere.
Tonight, why were spectators this close to the deadly course? And who`s to blame?
Plus, the Craigslist killer commits suicide. Tonight, the man accused of brutally murdering a New York masseuse has been found dead inside his jail cell. His main artery sliced open, a plastic bag over his head.
This preppie med student was living a secret double life. Tonight I`ll talk one-on-one with Philip Markoff`s former friend and go inside his dark history.
Tonight, chaos and carnage in the dry and dusty Mojave Desert as an off-road truck race turns hellish. It all started just two miles into the California 200 race. The driver told officials he lost control of his truck because it went airborne, then landing and ramming into spectators.
Twenty people mowed down; 8 people killed, a dozen more injured. It was sheer pandemonium as onlookers frantically tried to help those covered in dust and blood.
Danika Frantzich`s sister was killed. And she spoke to the CBS "Early Show" about her terrible loss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you describe what kind of big sister Danika was?
CHEYENNE FRANTZICH, SISTER OF CRASH VICTIM: She was everything, she - - she helped me with everything. She was my best friend. And it`s hard to lose her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Was this entirely preventable? Who is to blame? Who should pay for all these deaths and injuries? We`re taking your calls, 1- 877-JVM-SAYS.
I want to start with Keith Carty. First of all, thank you for being here. You witnessed this race and I`m very sad to say that one of your friends died in the crash -- our condolences.
Please, for those who weren`t there, describe, paint a picture of this nightmare as it unfolded. What did you see?
KEITH CARTY, FRIEND DIED IN MOJAVE DESERT CRASH: Sure, sure. Well Jane, first of all, I want to thank you for giving me the time here today. And I want to let you know the only reason I`m here right now is to let people know that I`ve started a fund for my best friend Brian Wolfin (ph). You can donate at bryanwolfin.com.
To answer your question, the scene was definitely hellish. And I know everybody is trying to point fingers on who`s to blame and what went wrong. And there`s really -- it`s impossible to blame anybody.
We don`t go to these races because we`re looking for guardrails, because we`re looking to stay in bed. And we don`t need anybody to baby- sit us. The reason that we go to these races is for the fun of it. We all know the risk.
These races don`t get promoted to the general public. Only the hard- core off-road enthusiasts know about these races. So that`s the only people that are going to these things. They go to them all the time. They know the risk.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok. But with due respect, are there kids there? Are there -- I mean I can`t see it that clearly.
First of all, I wanted you to paint a picture, if you would, of what happened so people at home can get a sense. Then we`ll get to some of the issues.
CARTY: Sure. Absolutely. There was a driver, pretty much -- I think Sloppy was about the fourth or fifth truck, vehicle down the race course. And all the other trucks and vehicles that went down the race course saw the crowd. And I`m sure Sloppy did as well. They all saw the jump. Everybody knew it was there. Everybody knew what they were coming up to. They had all raced that course before. And they all went through it.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Then what happened?
CARTY: They went through it just fine. And then there`s one truck going way to fast lost control. That`s why the accident happened because - -
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And you saw it go into the air?
CARTY: Yes, I saw it go into the air. I saw it hitting the people. I saw my best friend Big B, laying on top of other people and he was obviously lifeless. There was obviously nothing that could be done, to say the least.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Geez. Just terrible. Now, here`s my big issue. Were there a mountain of mistakes? Listen to what this crash victim told the CBS "Early Show".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANTZICH: I just thought it would be fun to be close.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you have concerns about your daughters going to an event like this?
TODD FRANTZICH, FATHER OF CRASH VICTIM: I have seen them on the Internet. They showed me on the Internet before. They seemed awful close. I told my daughters to stay back, don`t get close. Most of the race it had like a border where you stood behind to keep the people back.
If I understand, this one did not. I even talked to a deputy sheriff who said this is one of the worst conditions he`s ever seen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, there were several regulations that the race organizer, Mojave Desert Racing allegedly didn`t follow. Of course we invite them on any time to tell their side.
The California Highway Patrol estimates the drive responsible for the crash was going 45 to 50 miles an hour. Permits say the racers should travel only 15 miles an hour when within 50 feet of fans. There`s also conflict because fans are supposed to stay 100 feet away from off road vehicles. Many people were just right there.
Larry Webster, automotive editor for "Popular Mechanics". People were up there almost like brushing against the cars.
LARRY WEBSTER, AUTOMOTIVE EDITOR, POPULAR MECHANICS: I know. This is such an awful occurrence. My heart really goes out to all the families. I really feel for them.
But, you know, these kind of crowds in races, especially these open land races, is nothing new. You look in Spain, for example. It`s sort of a rite of passage to touch the car as it goes by. It`s almost like a vehicular version of running with the bulls. Obviously, we can tell it`s really dangerous.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Keith, you`re agreeing?
CARTY: Absolutely. We`re not there because we want to just sit on our couch and hopefully nothing happens to us. We`re there for the fun of this. And it`s not fun to just sit in a stand 100,000 feet away or whatever. We`re there to have fun and obviously you need to use common sense. Ok. No common sense was used.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: If you`re brushing up against this vehicles -- you can see it right there on the videotape. This truck is barreling down there. You see the people`s heads right there. It`s bouncy. All you have to do is have it go off for one second and -- I mean there`s got to be a happy medium where you can have fun without --
CARTY: There does. You need to stay above the jump, not below the jump. If you`re above the jump the gravity is going to pull the truck down obviously.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hold, hold, hold. Larry, go ahead.
WEBSTER: You know, my hat is off to this guy for his honesty because I think he`s really speaking the truth. People go to these races because they are exciting. It`s one of the last venues where you can get up that close.
But I`ve been to them and it`s really pretty hairy. I don`t want to say it`s obvious but I would never be that close to the trucks going by because it`s really bumpy. It`s easy to lose control. It`s at night. There`s a lot of sort of unpredictable elements to it. So there`s a certain sense of responsibility for everybody that`s involved.
And I can tell you what. All the organizers, the drivers, anybody involved in racing is trying to do the best they can to keep these events safe. I think this maybe one that just sort of slipped through the cracks.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now I have to ask you, Keith Carty, you were there. Apparently the driver of this vehicle, Brett Sloppy, had to be escorted out. There were people racing -- they were about to attack him, correct?
CARTY: No, absolutely not correct. That`s just a rumor that`s floating around. It`s just good policy to get the driver out just in case that type of thing happens. But the main priority of everybody that was spectating this race was to get that truck off of the people that were pinned underneath of it.
Heck, I saw 10, 15 people within 30 seconds have latex gloves on their hands. There was EMTs in the audience, in the spectators that were watching this race. I had an EMT standing right next to me when the whole thing happened. He was a very close friend of mine. He went running down. He was basically in uniform without being in uniform. He was right there in charge helping everybody.
These things just happen. I`ve been going to these for over ten years. This is the first time I`ve seen something like this happen. This is a very typical race. There`s nothing out of the ordinary from this race. These things happen.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Except 20 people were mowed down. Very typical except 20 people were mowed down --
CARTY: Right. Exactly.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Eight dead.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m going to have to bring out the big gavel on this one.
Mike Brooks, you want to speak.
WEBSTER: I think your other guest there pointed out that there`s certainly some things you can do to keep yourself safe at these events. And it`s very simple. It`s like, number one, don`t get that close. Don`t be on the outside of the turns and like he said don`t be downhill of these jumps. There`s sort of a few key areas where something is likely to go wrong or where the trucks are going to go.
I think that`s some of the things that maybe there could be better education for the people that don`t go to these races all the time and don`t necessarily know those sorts of tricks. And --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right.
CARTY: All the people that go to these know. The only people that go to these, they know.
WEBSTER: Well, there was that one daughter who said she had only been to one.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Looks like there`s kids there. Let me say this. The Bureau of Land Management which is part of the Interior Department owns this Mojave Desert land. They set up the regulations for the race organizers. The Interior Department the same brilliant people in charge of that Gulf oil spill. Remember, that that happened on their watch. They are also responsible for the wild horse roundups that have been causing outrage in the great American west. I wonder, where is our government, to let this go on --
MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Jane, Jane --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Mike Brooks. Mike Brooks, go ahead.
BROOKS: Jane. Jane, look. You`re not going to get the Bureau of Land Management to get involved in these races. The horses and everything else, that`s a totally separate issue.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Same department.
BROOKS: But to try to place blame on them for this accident, how are you going to do that?
WEBSTER: No, you can`t do that. Everybody was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me say this. If I wanted to have an aeronautics show on government land, do you think somebody should ask me, well, do you know how to fly? Right?
WEBSTER: Well, hey, Jane --
WEBSTER: You know, the thing is a lot of these events and motorsports come with some risk, right? You`ve seen air shows somebody`s died at that, drag races, NASCAR, somebody in the stands. And it`s awful. It`s terrible. I wish it can be preventable.
But some of the things that draw people to these things is the excitement and I think that excitement comes from a little bit of risk. I think it`s a very small risk --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: A little bit of risk isn`t 20 people --
WEBSTER: It doesn`t happen very often. Like the last time something like this happened I can`t even remember.
CARTY: That`s right.
WEBSTER: And it`s terrible. It`s awful but I think that`s sort of the draw for people to go to it because there is that little element of uncertainty.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok, we`ve got to leave it right there.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Keith Carty, thank you for joining us. And again, our condolences --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: -- over the loss of your friend. We appreciate your honesty.
CARTY: Thank you.
WEBSTER: Yes, I`m so sorry, man.
BROOKS: Thanks Keith.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Fast breaking news in the Casey Anthony case. The lawyer for George and Cindy stepped down. Why? And what does it mean?
Plus, the double life of the Craigslist killer; Philip Markoff has committed suicide. Tonight we`re going to go inside his dark and twisted past with a good friend. And we`re taking your calls. Give me a holler.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: The so-called Craigslist killer found dead inside his jail cell. That`s next.
But first "Top of the Block" tonight.
Lies, lawyers and resignations -- no, it`s not a movie -- it`s the bizarre new twist in the Casey Anthony case. The lawyer who represents Casey`s parents, Cindy and George, has quit. That`s just the start, Brad Conway claims he was forced to resign because Casey`s defense team made untrue allegations involving him.
Let`s break this down. A new filing by Jose Baez, that Casey`s attorney, claims Conway had unlimited and special access to EquiiSearch records while the defense team did not.
Well, Conway says that`s simply not true and the defense team`s failure to verify facts has forced him to step down. The big question, what are Cindy and George are going to do now? They need a lawyer. And how is this going to affect the case against Casey? We`re going to stay all over this as the circus continues to unfold.
That is tonight`s "Top of the Block".
Switching gears in a big way. Tonight, a jaw-dropping twist in the infamous Craigslist killer case: Philip Markoff, who was charged with murdering a masseuse he met on Craigslist is dead. Cops say he apparently committed suicide in his jail cell over the weekend.
Markoff -- are you sitting down -- reportedly took the blade from a disposable razor and sliced his wrist and then slashed a main artery in his leg. Then he wrapped one garbage bag around his leg to hide the blood and stuck another bag over his head and tied it around his neck.
Markoff shocked the world last year when he was charged with the murder of a beautiful masseuse who was allegedly advertising erotic massages on Craigslist. Markoff had reportedly booked her for a quote, "sexual-release massage" the day before she was murdered.
Why such shock? Because this alleged creepo killer was apparently living a secret double life. Not really so apparently, he was.
Markoff was the boy next door, engaged to be married, an honor student at medical school at Boston University. But prosecutors say his preppie image masked a predatory existence in the dark world of Internet prostitutes who he would attack and rob in order to support a gambling habit.
I`m taking your calls 1-877-586-7297. Straight out to my very special guest: Morgan Houston, a former friend of Philip Markoff`s. Morgan and Philip went to college together in upstate New York. Morgan thank you for joining us.
What was your reaction when you first found out the shocking news that he apparently committed suicide in jail?
MORGAN HOUSTON, PHILIP MARKOFF`S FORMER FRIEND: I was really surprised, Jane. I mean, this isn`t something that you necessarily expected. There was a lot of mixed emotions. It was just -- he had tried before, but you didn`t -- you thought it was behind you.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. He had tried numerous times. Beth Karas, here`s the question I have to ask you.
BETH KARAS, CORRESPONDENT, "IN SESSION" TRUTV: Ok.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Why would he do this? Ok. Now, some would say guilt and remorse. But apparently he said something to his brother that could indicate another reason entirely, that he wanted to keep even more shocking details of his private life secret. Tell us about it.
KARAS: Right. Close in the time of his arrest which was April 20, 2009, when his brother was visiting him in jail, it has been reported that he said, "Forget about me, go on with your life, there`s more to come."
Now, beyond the charges -- two in Boston, one in Rhode Island -- we never heard any more, so one has to wonder if the police came up with information in their investigation that he had another life. Maybe it didn`t rise to the level of prosecutable or provable crimes but that more was going to come out at a trial.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, so in other words, he didn`t want his parents, who had already been horrifically traumatized by this along with his brother, not to mention his fiance who is no longer his fiance obviously -- he didn`t want them to have to know all the other sordid details of what he was up to. This was enough.
Prosecutors say Markoff led a very strange double life. In the days after his arrest, cops searched his apartment and they found underpants, panties, belonging to another alleged victim as well as a gun stashed inside a hollowed-out copy of the medical text book "Grey`s Anatomy" as well as plastic ties he used to bind the hands of his victims.
Morgan, when you and Markoff were in college, you were buddies -- but you had a couple of disturbing encounters of your own with him. Tell us about the most disturbing encounter you had with him.
HOUSTON: I did, Jane. There was one night in college when we had all been out drinking and we had come back for the night and he walked me to the dorm because you know, you never know who is out there and of course he had to push me up against the wall and start trying to kiss me.
And I was just pushing him off of me and he wouldn`t get off. I was saying, "No Phil, what are you doing?" I had never given him any advances or anything. I was dating someone else. And safely one of my friends had to come up and pull him off of me.
And I had just kind of blamed it on the alcohol and said it`s just dorky Phil, you know.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Dorky, is that what you said?
HOUSTON: It didn`t -- I tried to forget about it.
HOUSTON: Yes, dorky and awkward. But he was so -- he was a nice guy.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, it`s interesting because I think we`ve all known -- I remember back in high school and college I knew a couple of guys who acted really clean cut and those were always the biggest perverts, if you know what I mean.
In other words sometimes they`re putting a -- I`ll go to the psychologist on this one -- Cheryl Arutt, sometimes you put on a mask of -- of dorkiness, as Morgan just said to hide something that`s the exact opposite.
CHERYL ARUTT, FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST: Yes. Well, Philip Markoff did such a great job of living a double life that I think people who knew him were floored when they heard about the allegations and the things that he had done. And Jane, I think you`re really attributing some really positive attributes to him that he may not possess in trying to spare his family.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: What positive attributes am I attributing to him? Please let me know because I don`t think I`ve said anything positive.
ARUTT: I`ll tell you.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tell me right away.
ARUTT: You said that he wanted to spare his fiancee and his family further pain and embarrassment. And what -- if he is a psychopath, he`s not concerned at all about anybody`s feelings but his own.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok. I stand corrected. He probably wanted to spare himself the embarrassment of everybody finding out.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: More on the Craigslist killer`s suicide in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The jurors for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts contend that Philip Markoff on April 14, 2009, did assault and beat one Julissa Brisman with intent to kill her. (INAUDIBLE) assault and beatings did kill and murder Julissa Brisman. How do you have plead to this indictment, sir?
PHILIP MARKOFF, CRAIGSLIST KILLER: Not guilty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Philip Markoff declaring his innocence in the murder of beautiful masseuse Julissa Brisman. Here are his parents on a rare visit to their son in jail swarmed by the media.
Beth Karas, could drugs have played a role in Philip Markoff`s suicide?
KARAS: Well, it is a good question, Jane, and it`s a question we don`t know the answer to yet. But because a preliminary autopsy was done and the D.A. spokesperson has issued a press release saying we`re not going to learn the findings until further testing is done, that makes one believe that it`s probably toxicological tests.
So they want to see what`s in his bloods before determining the ultimate cause of death. We know he had wounds to both ankles and to his neck. EMTs have told CNN they reported that he was on the floor of his cell, bleeding from wounds to the neck and ankles.
But there`s more to the story. The day he was supposed to get married, August 14, 2009, he was found -- according to reports -- with prescription pills that were issued to other inmates that were found in his possession, not in his system. He was sent to a medical ward as a result of that. So he had access to drugs that weren`t his at that time. Did he have access again a year later? Did he also take pills to kill himself is the question?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Robin, Oregon, your question or thought.
ROBIN, OREGON (via telephone): Caller: I`m just wondering if he has attempted suicide before, why is it he was he not on a suicide watch? And why would they give him disposable razors in bag where he could as a medical student be able to kill himself quite easily?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: That is such an excellent question. Cheryl Arutt, you`re the forensic psychologist, what the heck?
ARUTT: I think that they probably are asking themselves the same question. Clearly now it seems that that was a big mistake. I think he didn`t want to face this trial and didn`t want to go through such a spectacular failure of the double life he was maintaining.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: My big issue -- justice denied. Did Philip Markoff rob the family of his alleged victim twice? The family of 25-year-old Julissa Brisman had said, quote, "He took away the one chance they had to confront him and look him in the eye and say they knew he was her murderer."
Morgan Houston, you were a friend of this guy.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I mean -- now this family has not even a chance to really work through the trauma of their daughter`s death because he deprived them of that with the suicide -- your thoughts.
HOUSTON: I think that he left so many questions unanswered. I mean, he could have left a note. It`s just -- he didn`t answer anyone`s questions.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: What do you think was wrong with him?
HOUSTON: I think it`s terrible.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I mean, you were a friend. You saw him. You get a read on friends. What do you think was his problem? Did you think he was obsessed with sex? Didn`t you say he went to a party once dressed as a mammogram machine?
HOUSTON: He did. One year in college for Halloween. But, I mean, it`s college. People do sorts of things like that. They dress like that. You don`t -- looking back on it -- it seems weird now with everything come to light. But back then it was just kind of another funny Halloween costume.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Interesting, though, he was offering to give free breast exams to other partygoers and in the wake of this horrific tragedy, it has a sinister connotation.
Thank you fabulous panel.
You`re watching ISSUES.