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ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL

Ron Cummings Agrees to Plea Deal; Couple Arrested for Keeping Toddlers in Filth; Millions of Eggs Recalled

Aired August 20, 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 explosive developments in the case of missing Haleigh Cummings. Ron Cummings has just copped a plea deal on drug charges, agreeing to testify in any trial about his daughter`s disappearance. What does this mean for Misty, Tommy and the rest of the key players in this case? A panel of Haleigh experts will weigh in.

And one of the biggest egg recalls ever. The inside story you need to know. You`ll hear it only here on ISSUES.

Plus, the shocking, sickening story of two little girls cops say were living in a filthy, bug-infested home in Georgia. Morbidly obese children, one with rotting teeth, matted hair and head lice, the other found sitting in her own waste. How could their parents let them live in such stomach- churning conditions?

ISSUES starts now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight breaking news in the Haleigh Cummings case. Haleigh`s own father, Ron Cummings, pleaded guilty today to three drug- trafficking charges. Prosecutors cut him a deal, agreeing to drop two other charges. But now Ron will have to testify for the state when there`s an arrest in little Haleigh`s disappearance. Does this mean the state is expecting to arrest someone and soon?

A smiling Ron Cummings changed his plea from "not guilty" to "guilty" today. He could still get 90 years behind bars when he is sentenced next month.

Haleigh`s biological mother, Crystal Sheffield, was in the courtroom. She is still hoping that Haleigh is somehow alive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRYSTAL SHEFFIELD, HALEIGH`S MOTHER: All I think about is Haleigh and that`s all I`m going to say. And, Haleigh, I love you. And I won`t give up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That poor woman.

Last week, Ron`s ex-wife, Misty Croslin, pleaded no contest to her drug trafficking charges. Misty was baby-sitting little Haleigh the night the girl disappeared. Now Misty claims her cousin, Joe Overstreet, attacked Haleigh that night and stuffed her in a black bag and took off. But can we believe Misty? Cops are not calling Joe a suspect.

And that`s just Misty`s latest story. Is she trying to save her own hide perhaps?

The missing girl`s grandmother has absolutely no sympathy for Misty Croslin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TERESA NEVES, GRANDMOTHER OF HALEIGH CUMMINGS: If it turns out to be the truth I think they should hang her, you know, like an old-fashioned hanging in the square kind of thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Is Ron`s guilty plea in exchange for testimony a sign that prosecutors are honing in on his ex, Misty Croslin, and believe Ron has information to incriminate her?

Straight out to my fantastic panel.

First to investigative journalist Art Harris.

Art, if they are saying Ron Cummings must testify for the state, is that basically saying they don`t believe Ron is involved in his daughter`s disappearance? Because how can he testify against himself?

ART HARRIS, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: That`s right, Jane. He is one of -- he is their strongest suit right now and has made a deal to testify in the future at anybody`s trial and to keep providing information as needed. So he is not a suspect right now.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ron Cummings reportedly called Misty Croslin dozens of times the night little Haleigh disappeared, but he never got a hold of her. Listen to an exchange that occurred right here on ISSUES just last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEVI PAGE, BLOGGER: Ron dialed the home, Misty`s number 90 times that night. What was he worried about? He knew what went down.

MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Exactly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow, he dialed it 90 times that night. Yes, I seem to remember that that is bizarre. Why would he do that before the child went missing?

PAGE: Because he knew what was going on.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, Art Harris, why would Ron call Misty 90 times in one night, in particular on the night Haleigh disappeared, in particular before the child was reported missing while he was still at work?

HARRIS: Remember, Jane, she had just gotten back from this wild revenge weekend of drug, sex, rock `n` roll, and he wanted to check up on her. And didn`t know...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ninety times?

HARRIS: That`s what I reported in ArtHarris.com, more than -- 98 times to be precise.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m sorry. I`ve got to say something. I don`t buy it. First of all, let me go back to Art. Do you know he called 90 times? I mean, do you have information from cops or your sources?

HARRIS: Jane, I reported that from -- from sources very close to the investigation about a month or so ago, and it was 98 times I was told. Now...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ninety-eight times over how many hours?

HARRIS: Over a very few -- well, he was -- it was about an hour or two.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Before the child was reported missing...

HARRIS: Correct. She did...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... before that infamous 911 call?

HARRIS: She did not pick up. Later she said to a relative that her phone wasn`t working but...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, but you know what, Art? I just want to get to this point. Flo Hollars, you are Misty Croslin`s grandmother.

FLORA HOLLARS, MISTY`S GRANDMOTHER: Yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`ve never called anybody 98 times for any reason. Maybe over the course of a month and a half but not over the course of an hour and a half. And that happening right before something as momentous as a child being abducted.

What do you, Flo, make of these 98 calls that Art Harris claims cops told him Ron made from his workplace to Misty the night the child went missing, before the child was reported missing?

HOLLARS: I think he had something to do with it. I think he knew what was going down.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you`ve never said that before.

HOLLARS: I`ve never been asked that before.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, what do you think, then? Because the story you have told, Grandma Flo, is that you feel cousin Joe Overstreet, who is not considered a suspect and says he`s innocent, but cousin Joe Overstreet, you believe, came in there and attacked the girl and took her and dumped her in the river. This is what you claim Tommy and Misty told you. So now...

HOLLARS: Yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... all of a sudden you`re saying Ron is involved in this too. How so?

HOLLARS: Ninety phone calls? What`s the sense in it? Why not just go home?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, but, I mean, do you have anything but your gut? Is this just your gut telling you this?

HOLLARS: This is just -- this is just my gut feeling.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. I`ve got to bring in Kim Picazio.

You are the former attorney for Haleigh Cummings` mother.

KIM PICAZIO, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR CRYSTAL SHEFFIELD: Yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What do you make of these phone calls?

PICAZIO: Well, I know that Art Harris has wonderful sources, but I have not heard of that from law enforcement, and I don`t believe that there`s been any official count of phone calls or otherwise. And I wouldn`t expect there to be any release of information by law enforcement confirming or denying any phone calls were made.

But I find it hard to believe there were 98 phone calls in any period of time.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Art, do you want to respond to that?

HARRIS: I can just tell you that`s what my sources are telling me, and I feel comfortable that -- with their accuracy.

However, if you think about their relationship, Jane, and what led up to this -- remember four days before Ron had kicked her out. She took off with her friend NeNe Prevatt and then went off partying with Greg Page and came back that Sunday.

Now, my sources say they were up all night, talking and working through whatever issues they had. And then the next morning, that`s why Haleigh was late for school. They overslept, why he was speeding out of the neighborhood and parents -- one parent said he almost ran over some kids at a stop sign there.

So this is something that led up to that next night, Monday night, when Misty is home alone, does not want to be there. Remember she tried to get Theresa Nevis to baby-sit. And then...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me say this. Dr. Dale Archer, why would any father leave their child with a woman who has allegedly, purportedly been on a drug and cheating binge the last three days, and who doesn`t want to baby-sit the child?

DR. DALE ARCHER, PSYCHIATRIST: No. And first of all, any good father wouldn`t do that.

Second of all, 90 phone calls, if that is true, that`s an obsession. Then the question would be what would trigger that? That`s not because she was on a three-day party binge. That reeks to me of a guilty conscience.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Pat, Michigan, your question or thought, ma`am.

CALLER: Hey, Jane. How are you doing?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, hi, Pat. How you doing?

CALLER: I want to comment first. You`re doing a great job on this case, and I want you to keep up the great work.

I`ve got a two-parter. One, if he called 98 times in -- within that two hours, why didn`t he just take off work and go home?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s a good question. What`s your second one?

CALLER: The second one is that if he was told while they were married that -- that his at that time wife knew about what happened, couldn`t he be held responsible for withholding evidence?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Excellent question, Jeff Brown. I mean, let`s say he`s not involved, but he`s going to testify now. They`re going to give him a break for testifying in whoever they arrest for little Haleigh`s abduction and/or murder. But shouldn`t he also face a charge of withholding evidence if he`s known something important all this time?

JEFF BROWN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes. There`s charges such as aiding and abetting. There`s a federal charge called misprison (ph) of a felony in which you don`t report a crime that you know to have occurred.

But to say that he`s not a suspect, I have to disagree with Art. State attorneys and prosecutors are always cutting deals with people that are involved maybe to a lesser degree, but that`s the nature of the game. They cut deals with people, because they need certain gaps of evidence filled.

So just because he signed -- he did a plea agreement, and he`s willing to testify against others doesn`t mean that there isn`t some responsibility on his part criminally. They may have already cut a deal with him for that.

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS: There`s one other possibility, Jane, that they want him to feel -- and this is what some theorize -- overconfident so that he thinks he`s in the clear and something trips him up. But I`m telling you, he is not considered a suspect according to my sources.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`ve got to ask one quick question of Levi Page. Why would Ron`s testimony be key? If in fact he was at work and he didn`t know anything about the disappearance because he wasn`t there, what could he possibly be testifying about that would be so valuable that they`d cut him a plea deal?

PAGE: Because he has information about what happened before he went to work. Something could have went down before he went to work. He`s controlling of Misty. He likes to get them young. He likes to get them when they`re 17 years old, and he`s controlling her. He`s calling her. He`s telling her to dump the body here, do this, clean up evidence.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You don`t know that.

PAGE: Get the house clean until the police -- when the police get there. It`s a theory. I`m not saying he...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: According to the blogs.

PAGE: Well, we -- on the other side of the break, we`re going to analyze that theory a little bit. Again, he is not considered a suspect in his child`s disappearance. Hold on, fabulous panel.

Ahead a shocking discovery. Two morbidly obese teenagers found in a filthy home covered in bug bites. What were their parents thinking? Were they thinking?

Plus, more on the Haleigh Cummings case and a look at all the bizarre characters involved. More theories next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RON CUMMINGS, FATHER OF HALEIGH: They told me that their main focus is not one of putting me in jail but finding Haleigh. They already know I know nothing else about Haleigh`s disappearance. Nothing else, otherwise I`d already been in DOC.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNETTE LEE, MUST MINISTRIES: No one wants to admit they need help. It`s very difficult to ask for help, and a lot of people wait too long.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, the horrifying discovery officers made when they entered a Marietta, Georgia, home: a family living in absolutely disgusting conditions with their two children.

Here`s the outside of the house. Bugs everywhere, roaches, giant spiders, stuff all over the floor, dirty dishes and the smell of urine and mold. The worst part, however: the condition of the children.

A 5-year-old girl weighing 158 pounds, so overweight she could barely walk, with rotting teeth and bugs in her hair. And an 89-pound 4-year-old. She was lying on a filthy mattress wearing a urine-soaked diaper.

The parents, if you can call them that, James and Ann Cordona, were arrested for felony child cruelty but they`ve already bonded out. Watch this exchange between a reporter and the mother.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don`t think they were mistreated? Can you say that?

ANN CORDONA, ARRESTED FOR FELONY CHILD CRUELTY: Here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

CORDONA: No. There are issues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Neighbors saw these kids, noticed they were morbidly obese and that they couldn`t communicate well. Why didn`t anyone intervene? We have got to stop being a society that turns our heads and looks the other way. Someone should have helped these poor children.

Straight out to my fantastic panel and WSB Radio reporter John Lewis, who is on the phone.

John, you`ve seen photos of the inside of this home. Was it as bad as they say it was?

JOHN LEWIS, WSB RADIO REPORTER (via phone): Jane, actually, the photos don`t even do it justice, because neighbors we spoke to say that, as bad as it looked, it was the stench coming from this apartment that was what they noticed.

One man who lived nearby said that the odor was so foul that you could just drive by and smell it. He said dirt and filth in the air.

Now, inside the home, the apartment, as you mentioned, mattress stained with urine. There was dishes piled up, bugs everywhere. When the girls were taken out by protective service officials, one girl, the 5-year- old, had lice in her hair that were so bad you could stand over it and see the lice crawling around in her hair.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, my God.

LEWIS: This was just one of those things where you always afterwards ask the question how could something like this have happened? But as you say, neighbors were aware of what was going on. There was social workers, social services. There was a safety net in the area for the parents, but like stories we`ve heard before, in this case...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. I`m trying to figure out. You`re saying there was a safety net. Apparently, these kids were being home-schooled. Wouldn`t there be somebody from the Department of Education or the Department of Children and Families or whatever they call it particularly in Georgia -- it`s always the same thing. They look -- social workers who go in there and they look to see if the kids are OK. Where were those individuals, John?

LEWIS: Well, in this case, the Department of Family and Children Services in Georgia and it may have something to do -- we have not heard from them, but remember these girls were 5 and 4 years old, so they may not have been of school age yet. The point being that they would not have been enrolled in school. They were not registered in any school anywhere.

The questions being asked of -- by people outside the situation is, if the neighbors saw these girls walking around outside, barefooted all the time. One man said he never in any weather condition saw these girls with shoes on their feet. If these girls are so morbidly obese -- in one case the 5-year-old, who weighed 158 pounds, could not step on the scale without help.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, God.

LEWIS: She could not sit down by herself without help to stand back up again.

BROOKS: But Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Go ahead, Mike.

BROOKS: Jane, James Cordona`s sister, who lives out of state, said these girls should have been taken away years ago and lived in filth. Well, why didn`t she step up and do something to help her nieces?

You`re right. Somebody should have said something about these kids, because they were living in squalor. And the neighbors said the kids could hardly communicate, and the 4-year-old was still wearing a diaper.

I talked to one of my law enforcement officers in Cobb County, and they said it was enough to make you puke.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, my God. It`s disgusting. And imagine what these kids are going to go through as they grow up and try to achieve normalcy.

BROOKS: They don`t stand a chance.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Arrest warrants indicate these girls were shown very little, if any care, by their parents. Let`s listen to this mother one more time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don`t think they were mistreated? Can you at least say that?

CORDONA: Here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

CORDONA: No. There are issues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Issues? That`s the understatement of the century.

You know, I got to ask you, Dr. Dale Archer, these girls so extremely overweight, it`s actually life-threatening. Again, the 5-year-old weighs 158 pounds. She should weigh about 40 pounds.

Now, we know that they`re charged with felony child cruelty and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, but should allowing your kids to become morbidly obese be a separate crime in itself?

ARCHER: Well, certainly, all of those things would constitute neglect, but the important point here is that, for Child Protection to get involved, all it takes is a phone call, a neighbor, a relative. All you have to do is say, "Hey, I suspect this is going on," and they are mandated to go to the house and do an investigation.

Clearly, no one made that call.

And my next point is that, look, we put more effort in this country into deciding who can drive a car than in who can be a parent.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. So true.

ARCHER: I think there needs to be mandatory parenting classes before anyone can have a child, and maybe we`d prevent some of this.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I agree. But once again I`m going to ask Jeff Brown, do you think allowing your child to become morbidly obese, putting them at high risk for high cholesterol, diabetes and all sort of other illnesses should be a separate crime in itself?

BROWN: No, I don`t see how you could ever enforce that. I agree with the principle that we shouldn`t allow children [SIC] to do that, but who`s going to define what`s morbidly obese? How are you going to define...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, there are definitions of morbid obesity. Doctors define it.

BROWN: And they don`t apply. People would say -- I`m 210, but I`m in good shape. People might say I`m five pounds overweight, because...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: There are ways of measuring it.

BROWN: ... at 6`2", my height, shouldn`t be that weight.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can`t have one uniform standard. You can`t.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Got to leave it right there. What a shame. We pray for these kids. Hope they can get their lives back on track.

Thank you, fantastic panel.

What are the mysterious forces motivating Misty Croslin, Ron Cummings, and other key players in a baffling case? We`re going to continue our analysis.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: A salmonella scare sparks what`s being called one of the largest egg recalls in recent history. Three hundred and eighty million eggs have been recalled after hundreds and hundreds of Americans became sick.

"The New York Times" is reporting that the Iowa egg manufacturer behind the massive recall has, quote, "had run-ins with regulators over poor or unsafe working conditions and environmental violations."

These images from the Humane Society of the United States are not from the company involved in this recall, but tonight the HSUS, the Humane Society, is calling on the Iowa egg industry to phase out the use of battery cages, where egg-laying hens are crammed into tiny cages, contending they`re not only inhumane but that they threaten food safety.

Straight out to Dr. Michael Greger, the director of public health and animal agriculture for the Humane Society of the United States.

Dr. Greger, why do you believe these small cages are a concern to human health?

DR. MICHAEL GREGER, HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES: Every one of the quarter billion eggs came from eggs in hens confined in these tiny cages where they can barely move for their entire lives.

See, Jane, this is how factory farms are able to confine hundreds of thousands of hens into a single shed, because they can stack these birds in cages vertically. And that leads to this huge load of contaminated airborne fecal dust, which is what spreads salmonella around, swarms of flies and rodents that breeds in these massive manure pits beneath the cages.

Two of the reasons why, overwhelming scientific evidence has proven that this extreme confinement of hens in cages leads to increased salmonella contamination. Caging hens is not just cruel, but it`s a public health menace for consumers.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let me say this. According to "The New York Times," 97 percent of all eggs produced in the United States, 97 are from hens that live in tightly-packed cages. We`ve got it right here for you. OK. See this? This is "The New York Times" says the United Egg Producers, a national trade group, requires a minimum cage floor space of this size per bird. OK? That size. This is from "The New York Times." So imagine sitting in this tiny box with no way to roam outside.

We reached out to the United Egg Producers for comment, and we got this response from an appointed spokesperson. Quote, "If you take all the studies into consideration, you must conclude it is unclear how different systems impact salmonella infection rates. That`s the bottom line."

So, Michael, they`re saying there`s no link that has been proven. Your response? And what do you want to see happen?

GREGER: Every single one of the eight scientific studies published in the last five years found that --comparing cage to cage-free operations, found that the cage operations have elevated salmonella risk.

What we want to see the egg industry do is to follow the lead of states like California and Michigan and all 27 nations of the European Union to get rid of these both cruel and hazardous cages.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. So there`s disagreement on what the science says, but I can tell you this out of "The New York Times." Only 2 percent of eggs are cage-free. And only 1 percent are free range. So there`s a lot of talk about cage free and free range, but the vast majority, 97 percent are from, you`re saying from those kind of battery cages, sir?

GREGER: It`s important to know that every year there`s an egg-borne epidemic of salmonella. The FDA estimates 142,000 Americans every year sickened by salmonella-tainted eggs. And that`s in a good year. That`s before the recall. So the industry really needs to clean up their own act at the source.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Got -- got to leave it right there. Thank you, Dr. Greger.

More Haleigh, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: The Haleigh Cummings case straight from the mouths of those trapped in the vortex. What really went down the night little Haleigh vanished and what are the invisible mysterious forces motivating Misty Croslin, Ron Cummings and the other characters in this baffling case?

Tonight, more than a year and a half after little Haleigh Cummings disappears cops say they are still searching for the truth. Frustration over the conflicting stories has sparked national outrage and caused despair to Haleigh`s family. While cops say this is now a homicide case, the missing child`s mother refuses to believe it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CRYSTAL SHEFFIELD, HALEIGH CUMMINGS` MOTHER: Do I believe my daughter is dead? No. And until they show me something, I won`t. Deep in my heart, I know she`s out there. And nobody knows the pain that I go through, nobody. And they never will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Given the latest in a slew of shifting stories that Haleigh was attacked, snatched and tossed in the river as 17-year-old Misty Croslin cowered under the sheets, the missing girl`s grandmother says Misty should pay.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TERESA NEVES, HALEIGH CUMMINGS` GRANDMOTHER: If it turns out to be the truth, I think they should hang her, you know, like an old-fashioned hanging in the square kind of thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, boy. What really went down the night 5-year-old Haleigh vanished? Will we ever solve this baffling tragic mystery?

Straight out to my fantastic expert panel: we begin with Kim Picazio; Kim, of course, the former attorney for the mother of the missing child. Who do you predict, if anyone, will be charged ultimately in Haleigh`s disappearance?

KIM PICAZIO, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR CRYSTAL SHEFFIELD: If I were betting woman, I would have to say that Tommy would be charged for an accessory after the fact as well as Misty. And I believe that Joe Overstreet will probably be charged for the murder. I just look at what has happened with the different plea deals.

I also see that Ron Cummings, they`ve dropped two charges against him at this point. So that only tells me he`s already probably given a proffer to the state attorney. They already know what he`s going to say. So I think that this case is about to heat up and we`re on the final stretch here.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, first of all, I have to say that cops have interviewed cousin Joe Overstreet a number of times and he is not considered a suspect or a person of interest in this case. Cousin Joe says -- there he is -- "I didn`t do it. They`re pointing the finger at me trying to pin it on me but I`m not to blame."

Now, Tommy Croslin`s attorney James Werter is with us tonight. You just heard Kim Picazio say that your client -- Tommy, Misty`s brother -- will ultimately be in some way implicated in this. What`s your response to that?

JAMES WERTER, ATTORNEY FOR TOMMY CROSLIN: Well, there`s no telling with the state attorney`s office, Jane, because they`ve done so many different things that don`t make sense to me. Tommy has been cooperative.

The version that I`ve gotten from Tommy and what I hear through Robert Fields about Misty`s role is that they`re not accessories after the fact. They had no participation with this, not even in words. You have to have some sort of participation after the crime.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Can I ask you this? There`s a picture of Misty down by the river. We know your client, her brother Tommy, was also pointing cops down by the river.

Now, how would they know to tell cops to look down by the river if they weren`t in some way, shape or form involved at least to observe what was happening down by the river?

WERTER: Well, in speaking with Mr. Fields, Misty wasn`t -- didn`t take them to the river as you know from prior interviews. It was Tommy who brought them down to the river on April 13th.

Misty was brought down there by law enforcement unsolicitedly and actually it was against Mr. Fields` wishes from what I understand. She just happened to be there. Of course from the helicopter it looks like something totally different.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Let`s just say this. Your client Tommy took cops down to the river. So how would he know to take them down to the river if he had no knowledge or was not involved in what happened?

WERTER: Oh, no, we`ve talked about this plenty of times. He was there that evening. Misty was there that evening. They both give the stories. Contrary to the news stories that came out that Misty is saying now, it`s not a new story. She has told what happened since January and Tommy, while they`re both in custody and away from each other, started telling them in April when I came into the picture.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Why would Tommy help Joe dispose of Haleigh`s body? What is his motive to help him do that?

WERTER: No. Tommy did not help him dispose. Tommy was there, rode with Joe. Joe was a very threatening individual to this family, has been his whole life.

LEVI PAGE, CRIME BLOGGER AND INTERNET RADIO HOST: Why didn`t he tell that to police?

(CROSS TALKING)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Somebody wants to say something. Come on, let`s -- who is talking? Let me see the panel -- Levi.

PAGE: I`m talking. Why did not Tommy Croslin not tell that to the police in February when Joe Overstreet went back to Tennessee? I`m sorry, Werter, nobody is buying that story.

WERTER: It`s actually Mr. Werter or Jim but there`s a fear factor. If you`re in their shoes you can`t predict. You didn`t grow up in that atmosphere. You didn`t grow up with this person.

PICAZIO: But I can tell you that the Croslins --

(CROSS TALKING)

PAGE: He went home to a different state in Tennessee.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: One at a time. Let me see the panel. Go ahead, Kim.

PICAZIO: The Croslins did tell law enforcement that they believed that Joe was responsible and told them details. That was -- they told me that in March of `09.

PAGE: Misty has blamed it on a drug dealer. She`s blamed it on the mother`s side of the family. She`s blamed it on all these people in addition to Joe.

PICAZIO: Not Tommy.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let me say this.

WERTER: First of all, you got to realize that all of these people are drug users, drug addicts and drug dealers. And when you`re dealing with that type of individual, I think that speculating on who was afraid of who is very, very wild because the bottom line is they`re all criminals. They all have been charged with various crimes.

And I think it would be shocking to think that one, two or three of them are not actively involved in what took place with Haleigh Cummings.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let me -- to your point cops in perhaps a brilliant move managed to ensnare just about everybody remotely involved in the Haleigh Cummings mystery. Police set up a covert drug trafficking sting and caught all of them on videotape. Check this out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MISTY CROSLIN, FORMER STEPMOTHER OF HALEIGH CUMMINGS: 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100 in there.

RONALD CUMMINGS, HALEIGH CUMMINGS` FATHER: 100 in here. They`re all in ten packs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Hey, do me a favor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get on the ground. Get on down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So Misty Croslin now staring down the barrel of 240 years in the slammer; Ron, who just made a plea deal, facing six 90 years. And Tommy has already gotten his sentence of 15 years.

So Art Harris, this has got to be the ultimate squeeze play to try to get Misty and Ron to finally spill the whole story.

ART HARRIS, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: That`s right, Jane. And Jim Werter told me something interesting the other day. And that is, he believes that the state attorney in coming down hard on Tommy threatening with him lethal injection, which some of the cops discussed with him while he was in jail before Werter drew the line in the sand, he thinks he may have shut off the oil well of information, that these people are bubbling up with tidbits here and there and more could be revealed if they weren`t facing the barrel of a gun as it were.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I understand -- speaking of guns, Art Harris -- you have some new information about Misty and a gun?

HARRIS: That`s right. Misty had slept with a gun under her pillow that Ron gave her to protect herself from just such intruders but it was not under the pillow that night. She told that to Flo Hollars. She told that to her attorney who I interviewed. And what happened to those guns? Ron took them out of the house. The guns are at the heart of their alibi. And that is that --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok. First of all -- ok, go ahead finish.

HARRIS: The machine gun that he kept in the closet that he showed to Tommy and Joe a week earlier they were drinking beer and he really loved his guns, had a gun fetish. A lot of his ex-wives said he would put a gun in his mouth and play Ronald Roulette. But here he wanted that gun. Joe wanted to steal that gun and it wasn`t there.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. I got it. Flo Hollars.

FLO HOLLARS, MISTY CROSLIN`S GRANDMOTHER: Yes, ma`am.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Did you know that Misty, your granddaughter, slept with a gun under her pillow?

HOLLARS: Yes, ma`am.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tell me about that. Why?

HOLLARS: I really can`t say why. All I know is she said she had to sleep with a gun under her head every night in case anybody came in to shoot them.

PAGE: Why would somebody come in --

HARRIS: As you said, Flo, I believe you told me she would have shot Joe that night if she had had the gun but she didn`t have it.

HOLLARS: Yes, she did.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So Misty told you she would have shot Joe that night?

HOLLARS: Yes, ma`am.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow. Ok. Once again, cousin Joe Overstreet not named a suspect. Police have questioned him. They haven`t arrested him. And he says he is totally innocent of any wrongdoing.

So many explosive details to talk about in the disappearance of Haleigh Cummings; we are just getting started and we`re breaking this case wide open for you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEVES: I don`t believe anything that Misty says. She`s told so many stories. And to just pick and choose which one you want to believe, I don`t think that`s right. I believe that whatever it is, it needs to be proven.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CUMMINGS: Hello?

911 OPERATOR: Ok, sir. Let me talk to your wife, let me get some information from her.

Ok. Can I talk to her? Ok?

CUMMINGS: How the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) do you let my daughter get stolen (EXPLETIVE DELETED)?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ron Cummings livid, furious at his then girlfriend Misty screaming at her for losing his daughter. And that is one of the most perplexing aspects of this mystery. Why would anyone go on to marry a woman who lost his child? That`s exactly what happened.

This guy was distraught in the wake of little Haleigh`s disappearance on Misty`s watch. And he then went and married her. Married the teenage girl who was watching the child at the moment she vanished.

So why? It`s a big question. Who knows? Jackie, Indiana, your question or thought, ma`am.

JACKIE, INDIANA (via telephone): Hi, Jane. Thanks for taking my call.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thanks for calling.

JACKIE: I don`t know if it`s relevant or not but what is with the bandage that was on Ron`s neck in the beginning of all this?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Interesting point. Art Harris? We have some video of him with that --

ART HARRIS, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: I can tell you that -- that other -- I don`t know about the neck but I know his knuckles were -- were bloody and bruised and that was from punching the wall at his trailer; he was so angry. That has been confirmed by law enforcement.

The neck I don`t know but he`s -- he`s got a lot of scrapes and some bruises.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I don`t -- I still don`t get what exactly he could tell prosecutors that`s going to convict anybody if he theoretically didn`t know what was going on and was so shocked that his daughter was kidnapped that he was pounding the wall and screaming. I don`t get that.

Kim Picazio, you want to shed some light on that?

PICAZIO: The only thing I could figure would be if he heard information from Misty or from Tommy, someone in the family after the fact.

Also, law enforcement has forensic evidence from the trailer or from the crime scene; witnesses in the community that people who are working on the case and who were inside in the case working for one of the parents.

We did come to know some of those things. Ron has to have known about those things and Ron was not telling the entire truth when he said that he was at work the whole time and things of that nature.

So there`s a lot of things that Ron will say --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wait, wait you`re saying he did leave work that night before he came home, that there`s some mystery story we don`t know about?

PICAZIO: Well, there are some reports that have been substantiated or not by law enforcement about the time that he did get to work and prior nights where he had left work. And we also had confirmation from a security guard at his employer`s that on two occasions Ron had the children, Haleigh and her little brother, Junior sleeping in the car, while he was at work and came to check out on them.

So that might go to the phone calls that he was trying to get in touch with Misty because that would happen when Misty leave the trailer. Misty had left the trailer before on many evenings. We had eyewitness accounts by the neighbors that we had personally spoken to.

So all of these things -- and you take what -- that Ron -- now, the fact is that the prosecutor has dropped two of those drug charges. They would not have done that unless he already had told them probably a sworn proffer with use immunity given to him prior to them dropping.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, Jeff Brown --

(CROSS TALKING)

PICAZIO: They`re not going to believe Ron that he`s going to keep his word.

JEFF BROWN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, let me -- let me just say a couple of things. One Jane any time a defendant in a trial has said something, that statement if it`s against their interest can be used against them.

So they may use Ron because somebody that`s going to be eventually charged has told them things. But the fact that somebody has gotten up to a couple of charges dropped in a plea deal does not necessarily mean that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

BROWN: They do it all the time. He`s still looking I think at 2/20, 3/25 year mandatory so it`s a big -- a big burden over on top of him. But let me just ask this question to Jim, the lawyer, regarding his client Tommy. I`m a little confused as to what Tommy`s position is.

Is he saying that he actually went there with Joe? And if so, why is Tommy saying Joe would have snatched Haleigh? What`s the reason for doing that and what did Tommy do to prevent that?

JAMES WERTER, TOMMY CROSLIN`S ATTORNEY: No, Tommy was of a different state of mind, let`s say that night.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Does that mean high?

BROWN: What does that mean?

WERTER: Wait -- wait a minute. You asked me a question.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Does that mean high?

WERTER: I`ll leave it at that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok.

WERTER: But let me go through with this. Ok. Tommy`s representation is that Joe came and picked up Tommy from his house to go over to -- my understanding was to borrow this gun to go shoot deer at night which they do out there. That`s not an odd thing.

The gun wasn`t there. Tommy was sitting on the couch. Tommy, yes, was high, which could account to some of the variances in viewpoints between Misty and Tommy`s story because of the perception of things between witnesses of different state of minds.

Joe went off the deep end, went into that back room. Tommy didn`t see exactly what happened. Joe comes out with Haleigh, goes into the car, tells Tommy to get in the car. Joe has a very violent temper from what Tommy tells me and this is what he grew up with.

To the -- and rid -- he didn`t in any shape, way or form help Joe in any aspect of this -- this incident. That`s Tommy`s position that he gave to me.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What about the bag? What about the black bag?

(CROSS TALKING)

WERTER: That`s what he gave to FDLE in Putnam County.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, but what about the black bag? There were reports that -- that according to this story Joe put Haleigh in a black bag.

WERTER: That came from Misty and we`re not sure -- we`re not sure where that came from if there was a black bag. Maybe there was a black blanket or something. I don`t know.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, what happened to the child? Was the child dead or alive? One of the child -- what happened to the child?

HARRIS: Jane, I can -- Jane I can tell you what Tommy told his private investigator that works with Jim. He says that she was strangled inside the trailer by Joe and there -- he has reason to believe that that happened and there`s time that you can -- if you listened, compared Misty`s story from when she said she heard screams and then suddenly the screams stopped.

She heard the car -- the house door slam and then the car door slam. She recognized that van because she had ridden in it.

BROWN: But she -- ok so Joe doesn`t get the gun --

(CROSSTALK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hold on.

BROWN: -- that he wants and then turns around --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I can drag something there.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Please, I`ve got to see the panel. I`ve got to see somebody. I don`t know who is talking. Who wants to talk?

BROWN: I am, I am, Jane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ok.

BROWN: I am Jeff.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok, Jeff go ahead.

BROWN: So my -- my understanding, then, is Tommy says Joe is upset that he doesn`t get this gun to hunt deer so he goes in and in snatches Haleigh and kills her?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

WERTER: My understanding is that there was bad blood between the two of them to start. Not of course not against Haleigh but between Joe and Ronald Senior.

Ok, Joe has a history with this family of being a very violent person. If you looked at his MySpace page, it has him there with guns holding up aiming at the camera. I don`t know if that MySpace page is still there but I`ve seen it myself.

The guy prized himself on being a tough guy. This was covered before.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: He looked like a ninety-pound weakling.

(CROSS TALKING)

WERTER: The thing is about --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But what about the strangulation --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: He looks like a 90-pound weak ling. I don`t see him as being the intimidating person that you`re saying he is. But you`re saying --

WERTER: We look at him from the outside.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`re claiming that he strangled the little girl because he couldn`t get a machine gun to go deer hunting?

WERTER: He went into a rage, ok. Whatever the reason was, the gun, the hatred, whatever -- you go into a rage you`re not really focused on what you`re doing. You just do it. You can go to your psychiatrist with that. But the thing is the strangling part is a speculation because Tommy didn`t actually see what transpired in that bedroom.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOLLARS: 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: We are breaking through here on ISSUES with a panel of Haleigh experts. We are coming up with perhaps the most detailed scenario to date of what might have happened to little Haleigh from the attorney from Misty`s brother, Tommy, James Werter who is here with us tonight. The way I left it is when the little girl was taken out of the house according to this scenario, was she already dead.

WERTER: Well, Jane, what I can say is that Tommy said she wasn`t moving, she seemed to be lifeless. He didn`t have any firsthand knowledge as to whether she was actually dead or not. She was in the back seat. She was quiet, again unmoving. To give you a clinical answer, I can`t do that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, what happened then?

HARRIS: Jane, I can tell you what happened.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok, Art, go ahead.

HARRIS: According to -- speaking to Jim, his investigators and others who have spoken to Tommy, they rode down to the St. John`s River. Tommy says he`s high. He`s high on Xanax. He doesn`t actually get out of the van. He claims he sits there with his head in his hands while Joe takes the body down to the dock. Claims he doesn`t see the body go in but Joe took the body and threw Haleigh in the river.

And we believe from what Grandma Flo says tied her down with a cinderblock and yellow rope. Yellow rope that I`ve reported on artharris.com, similar rope was found at his house.

Investigators went over there, his soon-to-be ex-wife Misty Croslin (ph) let them in. And they found yellow rope that was similar to the rope that Flo described them using.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, I have to stress again that have cousin Joe Overstreet says he is not involved, that he is a scapegoat, that Misty and Tommy are pointing the finger at him to cover their own butts and he has not been named a suspect.

Levi Page, we have just heard a pretty compelling scenario from beginning to end of what Tommy and apparently Misty believe happened that night. Do you buy it?

PAGE: Well, I don`t think it`s compelling at all. If anything, I think it`s just more BS from the Croslin clan. And what`s interesting here is that Joe Overstreet had gotten into a fight with Ronald Cummings, Haleigh`s father, over a gun and yet he doesn`t get into a fight with Joe over his own daughter, Haleigh. That`s what`s telling to me.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you know, and I`ve got to go back to the Ron and Misty relationship mystery. There`s been talk of a drug-fueled sex binge that Misty had with a mystery man named Greg. Greg has claimed that the Ron/Misty romance was no Romeo and Juliet story.

Here`s what I`m wondering, Grandma Flo, if you want to talk about people having something to be angry about, wouldn`t Ron be angry if in fact Misty had gone on a three-day drug binge and was having sex with somebody else? Flo.

HOLLARS: Yes. From what Misty told me, they had argued all night long that night because of it.

HARRIS: That`s right. And I had dinner actually with Ron, Jane, at a little restaurant called Mimo`s (ph) down there and asked him the same thing. Why would you -- how could you be with a woman in that circumstance?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Quick answer, five seconds.

WERTER: He said, you keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow. Well, that does it. You`re watching ISSUES on HLN.

END