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Missing Girl Was Abused, Friends Say; Teacher Steals Computers to Buy Drugs

Aired October 14, 2010 - 19:00:00   ET



JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, stunning new twists and turns in the hunt for Zahra Baker. Cops now focusing on the father as Zahra`s step-mom sits behind bars. Was this woman a Goth drug dealer? Tonight, horrifying new details emerge. Was this young girl, a cancer survivor, brutally beaten repeatedly inside her home?

An addict nation out of control. A grade-school teacher accused of stealing more than 40 laptop computers from her school and using the money to buy heroin. Was she shooting up before class?

Also, the plot thickens in the Malibu mystery. Mitrice Richardson arrested when she couldn`t pay her tab at a swanky Malibu restaurant. She vanished from a police station in the dead of night. Now she`s dead. Was the crime scene tainted by police? Is this a massive cover-up? Tonight I`ll talk to Mitrice`s devastated mother.

Plus, horrifying family violence. A mom accused of stabbing her toddler twin daughters to death and stabbing herself and setting the house on fire. Was this a child killer`s half-hearted suicide attempt?

ISSUES starts now.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, rising suspicion and outrage in the case of a disabled girl who is now presumed dead. The spotlight has been on little Zahra Baker`s step-mom, Elisa, who is sitting in jail in North Carolina as we speak. Relatives and neighbors claim it was widely known that Elisa beat the child. But now we`re learning that little Zahra`s dad has allegedly stopped cooperating with investigators.


SHERIFF JOHN MCDEVITT, BURKE COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA: He seems concerned, but I don`t know how sincere he is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don`t believe him?

MCDEVITT: I don`t.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Is the dad, Adam Baker, covering up for his wife or, worse, could he have been involved in his daughter`s death? This poor child survived cancer, losing a leg, losing her hearing in the process, but it appears her step-mom may have been more dangerous to her than a deadly disease.

Still, Elisa`s attorney is proclaiming her innocence.


SCOTT REILLY, ELISA BAKER`S ATTORNEY: She is not a killer. She had nothing to do with this whatsoever. That she has tried to cooperate with the police, that she loves her daughter.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: A day after reporting little Zahra missing, cops arrested Elisa for allegedly writing bad checks and making threats. Then Tuesday, the step-mom admitted she wrote a phony $1 million ransom note, apparently to make the child`s disappearance look like an abduction.

This is the very same woman who acted like a proud parent at a charity event just last spring. Is it an act? Check out this astounding video.


ELISA BAKER, ZAHRA`S STEP-MOTHER: She`s determined. She wants to go to college. She can hear now. It`s been a blessing.

ZAHRA BAKER, MISSING CHILD: Without them -- I can actually hear more than without my hearing aids.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That poor little child is missing and presumed dead tonight. Her life might have been saved, had relatives and neighbors acted more decisively when they saw her being beaten up and showing up with bruises, black eyes.

Call me, 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297.

I have a little bit of a cold. My voice kind of losing it. But they say it sounds sexy, so I`m going to go with it.

Straight out to my fantastic expert panel. We begin with Tara Servatius of WBT Radio in North Carolina.

Tara, what is the very latest?

TARA SERVATIUS, WBT RADIO: The very latest is that the searchers are so desperate to find anything on the property now they have linked arms and are walking step by step over the entire five acres.

Also latest, one of my staff members had dinner with the Baker family last night, with Brittany Bentley and her mother. They tell us that the stepmother was into witchcraft and had demonic statues in her home.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, that doesn`t surprise me, because she was apparently a Goth. It appears that she had some sort of Goth page on MySpace, that her tag was GothicFairy6668. And she describes the girl who is now missing as "The Dark Child" and describes her own mood as "crazy."

What do you know about that, Tara?

SERVATIUS: Not much more than we -- than we`ve been able to read in the newspapers. What is emerging, though, is that more members of the family knew she was dealing drugs. They also knew that, when somebody didn`t pay her for the drugs she would, quote, "put a posse together" and go after these people with a gun, with violence. And yet, family members say they still returned her to the home, knowing all of this.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow. That is shocking. But she is not facing any drug charges tonight. That`s interesting. I understand also that police found drug paraphernalia when they searched the home. We`ll get to that in a second.

Relatives and neighbors say, you know, they saw this coming. Little Zahra often had bruises and black eyes. This from "The Early Show." Check this out.


BRITTANY BENTLEY, RELATIVE OF MISSING NORTH CAROLINA GIRL: Allowed five minutes out of the day to eat. That was it. She was beat almost every time I was over there for just -- just the smallest things. If Elisa would get mad, she would take it out on Zahra. Things the kid didn`t deserve. She`s had a horrible home life. She had -- one time I remember she had a black eye, and she said it was from the door. But we all knew it was -- suspected it was from Elisa.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`re delighted to have Jay Gaither, the district attorney handling this case here on ISSUES tonight. Sir, we have been inundated with witnesses saying they saw Elisa hit this child, scream at this child, force this child to walk long distances on her prosthetic leg. Are you considering filing child abuse charges in this case?

JAY GAITHER, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Good evening, Jane. And thank you for having me on.

The law enforcement is going to be investigating those cases, and as you probably know in North Carolina, the district attorney doesn`t file charges until he has a prosecution summary from law enforcement. At this time, we don`t have any -- any filing in our office on the child abuse cases that you`re talking about.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, tell us about the search for little Zahra`s body that has been going on so desperately. What do you know?

GAITHER: Well, Jane, I can tell you this, that I have the greatest, utmost confidence in our law enforcement. We`ve got great law enforcement, the best of best. I believe that they`ll find Zahra. We hope that they`ll find Zahra, and this will come to a conclusion and the case will be handled in my office. It will be a top priority for us to prosecute.

I have four children. And when you see her darling face, and such a brave little girl, dealing with so many difficulties, it`s affecting all of us emotionally in the community. It`s a good, safe community. Our heart goes out to -- to Zahra and to her family.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, it`s -- it`s gut-wrenching for all of us.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: To see this beautiful child and know she was brave. She fought cancer and won. And in the process lost her leg and lost her hearing.

But that`s not what her biggest danger was. Her biggest danger apparently was her own stepmother, and people are coming out of the woodwork now, saying, neighbors and relatives, "Oh, yes, she had black eyes," and, oh, just terrible stories that this woman would force her to walk long distances on her prosthetic leg. Jesus, it`s just so upsetting.

The step-mom reportedly admits faking the ransom note. Just got to ask you about this, Mr. Gaither. I mean, what other possible -- what possible reason would you have to fake a ransom note, other than being connected to this little girl`s disappearance?

GAITHER: And Jane, I`m sorry. There`s a lot of things that I can`t address as district attorney. We have ethical obligations not to discuss pending cases or potentially pending cases.

I would simply say that, if anybody has any information about this case, please contact law enforcement and keep praying and hoping. We believe that Zahra -- law enforcement believes, this is a homicide. If it`s not a homicide, if she`s not dead -- I`m praying that she`s not.

And I`m like you. I`m not in the investigation. I`m reading what you have out there in the press, and a lot of what I`m getting is from the press. So understand that the district attorney is not at the forefront of the investigation, and what I know I can`t talk about.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I understand, sir. And I certainly know you`re doing a very good job. Thank you very much, Mr. Gaither, the D.A. handling this case.

Cadaver dogs reportedly detected human remains on both the Bakers` cars. They also hit on a wood chipper at Adam Baker`s job. The wood chipper is located at a tree-trimming business about an hour from the family home.

Police also drained a nearby pond. You`re looking at a map of all of that. So far these searches have come up empty.

The Burke County sheriff was asked whether it was possible that they might never find little Zahra`s body. Listen to this.


MCDEVITT: I know there was a rumor up there a couple of days ago and I know what you`re talking about, but no, we don`t have any indication of that. In fact, I think that`s about been ruled out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is the father out here?

MCDEVITT: He rode up here with the investigators.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did he lead them here?

MCDEVITT: I don`t know the answer to that.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. We`re going to go checking in now with Alvin Webb. This is a gentleman who lives very close to the area that is being searched.

Alvin, thank you so much for joining us tonight, sir. Please describe what you have been seeing in terms of this investigation. What are you seeing with your own eyes?

ALVIN WEBB, NEIGHBOR (via phone): Well, I`ve seen that they have really tried to find the little girl. They really worked hard looking. I`d have to hand it over to law enforcement. They`ve put all they can into it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, you live right near this pond that we`re looking at as well as a wood chipper. Describe this area. I mean, how easy would it be to hide a body in this very rural, countrified area?

WEBB: Well, it would be easy to hide a body if they dumped -- dumped the mulch on the body or had thrown the body into that little pond. It would have been -- probably nobody would have never found it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What about this wood chipper that they`ve checked out? What does -- what does a wood chipper look like? And apparently, the dad had access to the wood chipper because of his job in the tree-trimming business.

WEBB: What it does, it grinds up limbs and -- small limbs and shoots the limbs and leaves and whatever into a pickup truck or a ton truck, and they take it off and dump it somewhere.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And, again, we have heard that cadaver dogs hit on this wood chipper. So the horrifying possibility, it would seem, could this child have been put in the wood chipper? It`s almost incomprehensible to utter, but that`s something that we`re looking at tonight.

Everyone, stay right where you are. We`re just getting started, and we`re taking your calls on this. Leslie, North Carolina, hang on. We`ll get you on the other side.

Plus, a teacher accused of stealing more than 40 laptops from her school. You won`t believe what cops say she was doing with the money. It involves drugs.

But first, police are reportedly focusing on Zahra`s father tonight. Could new evidence link the dad to his daughter`s disappearance?


CHIEF TOM ADKINS, HICKORY, NORTH CAROLINA, POLICE DEPARTMENT: Elisa Baker admitted to writing the ransom note left on the vehicle at the fire scene at Zahra`s home on Saturday morning. After admitting to writing the note, Elisa Baker requested an attorney.



ADKINS: The Amber Alert on Zahra Baker we`ve canceled today and the decision to focus this investigation from a missing child or abducted child would turn into a homicide investigation.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That was three days after Zahra Baker`s step-mom reported her missing. Elisa Baker charged with obstruction -- there she is in pink -- for writing a phony ransom note. Will she ever reveal what happened to this poor child?

Leslie, North Carolina, your question or thought, ma`am.

CALLER: Thank you for connecting my call, Jane.


CALLER: I want to know if the police have gone back to the home where this family was living before they moved here to this house. It`s my understanding that the reporter said no one in the neighborhood had seen Zahra at this particular home.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Mike Brooks, they had -- nobody aside from the mother, the stepmother, and the father had seen this child in a month.

MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: A month. But what bothers me, Jane, is you`ve got her father, Adam Baker who said, "Well, I hadn`t seen her." She was reported missing on Saturday afternoon. "Well, I haven`t seen her since Thursday because of my work." But now they think it`s been over a month.

So I`m not buying anything he says, especially now since law enforcement says he`s not cooperating with them at all. Where before they said he was cooperating fully. And we saw him at police headquarters with Chief Adkins from the Hickory Police Department when he was out there, you know, with the chief. But now apparently not.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You bring me to my big issue. Zahra`s dad has gone from sympathetic to sinister in a matter of days. On Monday we were all feeling his pain. Here he is on ABC.


ADAM BAKER, FATHER: I think about every officer in Hickory came to the house, and I haven`t really seen my wife since then. I just hope I can get my daughter back. I miss her so much.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Stacey Honowitz, shouldn`t they make him take a polygraph?

STACEY HONOWITZ, FLORIDA PROSECUTOR: Listen, Jane, I mean, the bottom line is, when you have a father whose child is missing and then he decides not to cooperate, the average person says, "What`s going on? He`s obviously trying to hide. Why wouldn`t he want to do everything in his power to try to find this child or help in the investigation?"

So if that`s what they need to try to get him to speak, to try to get him to talk, to try to get him to come forward with some information, then they might just ask him to do that.

What I find fascinating in this case is that every witness, every neighbor has no problem going on national television and telling a reporter that they saw that she was injured and hurt and being beaten, yet nobody bothered to call DCF. Now they`re coming forward and saying, "We saw this happening." Well, why didn`t you come forward before and say something? And that`s the real troubling aspect, amongst the other things with this case.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s a cautionary tale.

Now, according to a search warrant, police seized drug paraphernalia from the Bakers` family home, and Tara, our reporter, dropped this bombshell right here on ISSUES last night. Check this out.


SERVATIUS: Family members said that Elisa Baker, the stepmother, was a well-known drug dealer.


SERVATIUS: She was selling drugs to members of the family.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Howard Samuels, you`re the founder and CEO of the Hills Treatment Center, hypothetically, if someone is using and/or selling drugs, does that make them more likely to become violent?

HOWARD SAMUELS, FOUNDER/CEO, HILLS TREATMENT CENTER: Oh, without question, Jane. I mean, whenever you have somebody who`s so psychologically unstable you`re always going to find drugs and alcohol to an extreme degree. And I have to also say, with your other panelists, that I have to totally agree.

What`s so troubling is that the family and the neighbors did nothing! Nothing! And that`s the whole issue here, is that, when are families going to wake up and start to get involved and protect the little children that drug addicts or alcoholics are harming?

BROOKS: Well, Jane, if what we heard...

SAMUELS: It`s tragic, Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I agree 100 percent.

BROOKS: If what we heard last night is true about her dealing drugs to family and friends, they`re not going to call the police because that would bring heat on them.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`re so right. All right. Thank you, fantastic panel.

And "Nancy Grace" will talk to step-mom Elisa Baker`s son. A wild story, up next.


FERNANDO GALLARD, PHILADELPHIA SCHOOL DISTRICT: These are essential tools for our kids, and here we have a teacher who is being accused of stealing laptops, the tools that these kids need to be able to, you know, get a better learning in our schools.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, a schoolteacher`s secret life. Cops say a fifth-grade public school teacher in Philadelphia stole 42 laptop computers from her school and sold them to support her heroin habit.

A pawnshop owner blew the whistle on 35-year-old Kathleen Kremis when he realized the laptops were school property. Kremis was arrested at the home of her disabled ex-husband, who was also taken into custody.

Cops say Kremis was hiding a serious heroin habit, and it appears she was spending her money on drugs instead of utilities. She apparently doesn`t even have running water at home.

How did this teacher allegedly pull off stealing so many laptops? Why did her school principal call her a beloved teacher with no hint of a problem? What?

Straight out to addiction specialist Howard Samuels.

Howard, how does this fifth-grade teacher hide the fact that she`s a heroin addict?

SAMUELS: Well, Jane, I must say, first of all, I`m a recovering heroin addict of 26 years clean and sober. And you know, when you`re a heroin addict, you can just do enough heroin every day to be well. And so it doesn`t appear that you`re high, because all you are is using enough heroin to get well. And then maybe when you go home at night you`ll do enough to get high.

But what is important here is that this is not uncommon for me, which is unfortunate. I mean, I deal with a lot of school teachers, policemen, lawyers who have cocaine and heroin problems. I mean, this is really what`s happening out there.

And I think that the schools and families, everybody really needs to be able to be more vigilant and educated as to what addiction looks like so they can help these people catch it before they hurt the children.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What are the signs? What are the signs?

SAMUELS: What are the signs?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I always thought heroin addicts nodded out, like they`re talking and they go -- right?

SAMUELS: Well, they do, but when you have a serious heroin habit, you can actually show up to work and just do enough heroin so you appear normal.

But the important thing about a heroin addict, their pupils are pinned. They`re pinned, and you`ll notice the heroin addict is always scratching. Scratching their face, scratching their shoulders, and, you know, there is something always a little off. They`re sluggish. So those are the things you have to really see about a heroin addict.

I mean, when I see a heroin addict I know it right off the top. My stomach flips, because I`ve been there, done that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, yes, it`s true. I mean, as a recovering alcoholic myself, I can pick up on somebody who has an alcoholic problem like that. Because I know all the signs, because I used to do the very same things. So I understand what you`re talking about there.

Well, that`s pretty subtle, though. Scratching and dilated pupils that are pins. Is there anything else? I mean, how would these -- this principal said she was a beloved teacher who had no problems. What the heck?

SAMUELS: Well, you know, I mean, you know, heroin is -- heroin is -- can be very sort of - you can hide it. I mean, you have to see how many times they go to the bathroom, you know. She may probably have syringes on her, because she`s shooting it up.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Needle marks.

SAMUELS: You know, needle marks on her arms.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I notice she`s wearing a long-sleeved sweater, OK?

SAMUELS: Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely. And, you know -- and heroin addicts, there`s always a bit of an edge to them. I mean, they`re - - they`re -- they`ve got the anger, a little edgy.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Got to leave it right there.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: The plot thickens in the Malibu mystery. Mitrice Richardson arrested when she couldn`t pay her tab at a swanky Malibu restaurant. She vanished from a police station in the dead of night.

Now she`s dead. Was the crime scene tainted by police? Is this a massive cover-up? Tonight -- I`ll talk to Mitrice`s devastated mother.

Plus, horrifying family violence: a mom accused of stabbing her toddler twin daughters to death and then stabbing herself and setting the house on fire. Was this a child killer`s half-hearted suicide attempt?

A war of words in the highly controversial case of Mitrice Richardson; this beautiful beauty queen was arrested when she could not pay her $89 tab at a swanky Malibu restaurant. Witnesses say she was speaking gibberish and saying she was from Mars, there to avenge Michael Jackson`s death. According to these witnesses, she showed very clear signs of mental illness.

Nevertheless, cops released her in the dead of night alone in a remote area with no car, no phone, no money. Mitrice was never seen again. Then, almost a year later, her decomposed remains were found just about two miles from that police station in Malibu canyon.

And now a disturbing new twist: explosive claims that the LA County Sheriff`s Department allegedly moved Mitrice`s remains from their original location before the coroner got to the scene. This claim coming from the Malibu Surfside News which quotes sources close to the investigation. Now, if cops did that without the coroner`s permission, it`s illegal and could have compromised the investigation into the cause of this girl`s death. So did they do it? And if so, why?

We`ve reached out to the LA County Sheriff`s Department. They said this article is not true. We checked with the coroner before we moved anything.

Joining me now is the dead woman`s mother Latice Sutton, who has launched a never-ending campaign for justice for her daughter.

Latice thank you for joining us tonight. What do you make of these new reports?

LATTICE SUTTON, MITRICE RICHARDSON`S MOTHER: Well, thank you for having me. I can`t say that I`m surprised about these findings. But, you know, I have to say if it`s true, I need to know what officers were involved with moving Mitrice`s body. Was it the deputy who left out after Mitrice when she was released in the middle of the night? Was it one of the arresting officers? Why did they move her body? What is the motivation behind that?

I have a lot of questions and I think that they -- the sheriff`s department need to answer these very pointed questions because my daughter`s investigation as to how she died, who murdered her, has been compromised if the sheriff`s department has moved her body.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, a former --

SUTTON: And it`s a crime and they need to be prosecuted.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Robin Sax, former sex crimes prosecutor, I hear that you`re shaking your head.

ROBIN SAX, FORMER SEX CRIMES PROSECUTOR: Yes. I mean, I can`t -- Latice is absolutely correct. There are way more questions than there are answered and frankly if any individual were to have moved a body, they would be charged with obstruction of justice, and besides just the other misdemeanor crime of not being allowed to move the body anyway.

And my big issue with this -- I`m borrowing your words here -- is that why is it that you would even think about moving in a case where there`s been so much scrutiny from the public, so many questions, at that point. For a year we`ve been asking questions, don`t you think at that time they would start doing their job correctly? Knowing that we would have these questions and we would be demanding answers?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And I have my own big issue tonight. That is tainted truth. The "Malibu Surfside News" reports when Mitrice`s remains were moved, some bones were with overlooked and maybe dropped and officials had to return to the site several times to find more bones.

We reached out to Ed Winter, the LA County assistant chief coroner. He didn`t say if they got permission but he said the L.A. Sheriff`s Department did make removal of her remains and that it`s all under investigation.

The "Surfside News" says cops admit to repeat visits to the site, particularly to find finger bones. And they also said they removed they bones themselves because of the, quote, "inaccessibility of the terrain to anyone without special back-country training. I don`t know.

Do you buy it, John Lucich, former criminal investigator, that only the sheriff`s department could have removed the bones, the LA County coroner could not. We`re talking about Malibu here.

JOHN LUCICH, FORMER CRIMINAL INVESTIGATOR: Right. I agree that they have to take a look at this and if there is a determination made that these bones have been moved --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: They admitted they moved the bones. Hold on. Stacey Honowitz, they admitted they moved the bones.


LUCICH: They need to step out of the investigation.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But they said that they had the approval -- Stacey Honowitz, they admitted they moved the bones but they said they had the approval of the coroner. And they said the only reason that they removed the bones is that it`s very rugged terrain and only the people with back- country experience or something like that, yes special back-country training, could remove it. Do you buy it, Stacey?

STACEY HONOWITZ, FLORIDA PROSECUTOR: No. I mean listen, I agree with Robin. I was on the air with Mitrice`s mother the last time when she was with her attorney and they were talking about the investigation and getting answers. And I think that`s the bottom line in all this.

Where are the answers? Who was so close to the investigation that they were able to spill these kind of facts? And I think that`s what they need to get to the bottom of. Was this person involved in helping to move the bones? Did they know somebody who did help move the bones? And why would they compromise an investigation?

As Robin said, it`s been under scrutiny for so long, why would you do anything to taint the investigation or the crime scene? That`s the answers that they need to get.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, there`s been a battle between Mitrice`s family and cops ever since she was arrested. This heartbroken family has been asking why their daughter was cast into the night with no way of getting home, when they say she was clearly unstable.

Now a report issued in July concluded that deputies acted properly and legally. But the L.A. County sheriff -- even the L.A. County sheriff agreed maybe they could have done things differently. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, the deputies acted properly, but the point is that properly doesn`t necessarily mean that we didn`t do something or could have done something more.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Now, you may remember folks tracking this case, just before her remains were discovered, the sheriff announced possible sightings of Mitrice in Las Vegas. And they were very insistent upon it.

Latice, you`re the dead woman`s mother. Do you think the cops were always intent on proving your daughter was alive to validate that they did nothing wrong?

SUTTON: Oh, absolutely. As a matter of fact, I stated that on your show that I felt that this was some type of diversionary tactic to take the pressure off of the police. But I always stated that they needed to bring their investigation back to where we knew Mitrice was last seen alive, which was at the sheriff`s department.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: How many -- two miles. She was found, what, about two miles away, right?

SUTTON: Well, actually, that area is about 7 1/2 to 8 miles away from the sheriff`s department. However, it is almost 2 miles from the backyard of Bill Smith who was the resident who called in to report someone who looked like Mitrice in his backyard. Her remains was found within two miles of that residence, not the sheriff`s department.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, let`s talk about another --

SUTTON: Then the question becomes, how did she get to that area?


SAX: And by the way, they sent 12 detectives to Las Vegas during the worst economy to go look for Mitrice who wasn`t even there without having even bothered to go through all the evidence that happened here.

SUTTON: Exactly.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Why does Mitrice`s mom, who you`re hearing from, Latice, believe she was murdered? Maybe it has something to do with this pornographic misogynistic mural. It depicts African-American women resembling Mitrice in terrible, explicit, graphic, pornographic positions. And it was stumbled upon during a search for Mitrice by Mitrice`s family. It was painted not far from where her remains were eventually found.

Now, John Lucich, I would think this would be something they would have to investigate because obviously the sickos who did this mural could be connected to what happened to Mitrice.

LUCICH: Absolutely. Absolutely. They have to go into it with an open mind, though. Because someone may have placed that mural there on purpose to lead people away, thinking that somebody else did it for very bad reasons when somebody else murdered this person.

I think right from the start the sheriff`s office did things wrong. They should never let a woman go in that condition without a cell phone. I think they need to step away from this investigation and have the attorney general`s office in order to maintain the integrity of this investigation.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Latice, how far was this pornographic mural from where your daughter`s remains were ultimately found? And has the sheriff`s department told you anything about whether they did fingerprints on the paint and the brushes that were found near that mural, which clearly depicts somebody who looks like your daughter right down to the hairdo?

SUTTON: Exactly. That mural is absolutely a symbolic story. That mural is about a mile and a half away from where Mitrice`s remains were found. And as far as how the detectives are investigating, they will not - - the lead detective will not disclose how they are investigating that mural, if they`re investigating that mural.

The last information that was revealed to me is that they were passing it on to their gang unit to look for similar monikers, tagger monikers. And I have made it clear, that is not a tagger. This is symbolic.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`ve all seen graffiti art, that`s not what graffiti artists do.

SUTTON: Exactly.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Latice we`re staying on your daughter`s case.

SUTTON: And plus, it was in a remote area. Oh -- on and most, most definitely.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`re staying on your daughter`s case here on ISSUES. We`re not going to let it go. Thank you.

SUTTON: Thank you, Jane. I appreciate it. Thank you for having me.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: A mother found injured in burning apartment, her twin toddlers inside stabbed to death. This woman, is she a double murderer? And why didn`t she actually kill herself when she supposedly was trying to?


LT. DARRIN MOODY, FAIRFIELD, CALIFORNIA POLICE DEPARTMENT: These are lacerations. They can be as simple as a butter knife to any other. So we`re just trying to discover the evidence, to find out what is there, and what could have been consistent with this.




ANDRE DOUGLAS, NEIGBOR: She`s only been here maybe about a month, month and a half. So, you know, we never really got to meet her, but we`ve seen the kids playing outside because I have kids of my own. So they would point downstairs to the kids.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight -- horror and despair after a young mother allegedly kills her twin 3-year-old daughters, stabs herself and then sets the family`s home fire on fire. The details on this one truly sickening. This is the mother.

Cops and sources say 28-year-old Monica McKerik (ph) stabbed her daughters Lilly and Tori to death with a sword, then cops say she stabbed herself and set the house on fire. Police are still piecing together the horrific evidence.


MOODY: I won`t release exactly where the bodies were located in there until we finish up with the evidence. When the citizens arrived and the fire department and police department arrived, the doors were locked, the windows were locked. There was no way that could have been done from the outside.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Police say all the windows and doors, as you just heard, locked from the inside. One neighbor says he tried to break into this burning apartment but he couldn`t get in because it felt like something heavy was blocking the door. That very same neighbor says he eventually did force his way in and found a bloody sword in the hallway and a bottle of pills.

Meantime, this allegedly monstrous mom was arrested on suspicion of murder yesterday and cops also say the evidence points to attempted suicide.

I want to hear what you think about this horrific story. Give me a call, 1-877-JVM-SAYS.

But first, more tragic details from my expert panel; Straight out to Henry Lee, reporter from the "San Francisco Chronicle", the author of "Presumed Dead", a true life murder mystery. Henry, what can you tell us about this horrific crime?

HENRY LEE, REPORTER, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE: Well, it is completely horrific indeed, Jane. We have this mother Monica accused of just the most terrible crime one can imagine, killing her own 3-year-old twin daughters. We don`t know how -- we don`t know a motive. We absolutely know that in the past some people who are in the throes of despair don`t think they -- that they want to leave their kids orphaned. Was that the case here? We don`t know yet, Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes and we just want to say this is the mother accused of killing her children. There was some other video that popped up there for a second. That is not the mother. It has nothing to do with this case. This is the mother you`re looking at her there.

You know, she`s -- she`s an attractive young woman. Why would she feel the need to allegedly do this -- totally sick? I want to go to Adrian Babas, a neighbor. Are you there? Adrian --

ADRIAN BABAS, NEIGHBOR (via telephone): Yes. Yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tell us what you saw in terms of the scene, the fire and what you know about this.

BABAS: Well, we heard the alarm going off around about 10:00 -- about 10:20 or so, and we actually were going outside to check what`s up -- what all the noise and commotion was. And we went outside and seen a neighbor running -- running coming out of his apartment and asked him what was going on. And we looked up and we could see the fire inside -- inside through the door. There is a window on the door.

And we ran upstairs and trying to kick in the front door, and you know, it didn`t open but -- but about six or seven inches. We -- there was another gentleman with us. All three of us were with upstairs trying to get into the front door. And one of us got a fire extinguisher and tried to crack open the sliding door. And when we did, we entered through the sliding door, but the heat was so intense and the smoke was so thick that we weren`t able to actually get no further than from inside the room. And you know, we came back outside and we just waited for the fire department to come.

And --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Adrian, great report there.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, have you ever seen this mom with her kids or without her kids? Is this person --


BABAS: You know, we`ve seen -- we`ve -- we`ve seen the kids playing around. I have kids of my own and my kids would look out through the window and could see the kids playing out on the sidewalk or them going -- leaving to and from. I`ve seen her a couple of times getting in and out of the car and going up to her apartment.

But --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Did she seem like insane or --

BABAS: No. She`s -- I mean, there was no signs or anything of any mental distress or any problems that she was having. I know one of the -- her neighbors helped her carry up her groceries upstairs to her apartment, but she said -- and you know that she wasn`t -- didn`t seem like she was having any problems or anything like that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, that`s so bizarre. I mean, a neighbor reportedly found a bloody sword in the hallway of the apartment. Here is how cops characterize this weapon.

BABAS: Yes that`s --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Check this out.


MOODY: These are lacerations. It could be as simple as a butter knife to any other. So we`re just get -- trying to discover the evidence, to find out what is there and what could have been consistent with this.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: And here`s my big issue. Insincere attempt? The 28- year-old mom of two sliced allegedly her little twin daughters to death with a sword, but she made it out alive, even though she reportedly stabbed herself.

And this is not an isolated incident. A similar scenario played itself out in New York City. Cops say a millionaire mom killed her autistic 8-year-old son and then supposedly tried to kill herself. But guess what? This mother also survived.

Wendy Walsh, psychologist, isn`t it interesting how the attempts at suicide never seem to get pulled off?

WENDY WALSH, PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, clearly women are less aggressive and have a lower rate of success, if you will, with suicide than men are. Men tend to use guns. Women tend to use pills or slice their wrists in some way and -- and often there`s time before they die. So they are saved more often.

But by the looks of this, with the fire, she intended to do it and -- you know, I don`t know about her mental health background. We can probably rule out postpartum depression because the kids were three-years-old. But imagine that you`re a single mom, you move to a new town for a new job, the burden of 3-year-olds -- and people call kids the terrible twos, I say, no, no, no. It`s the terrible threes. Really there is -- it`s a really challenging time.

And who knows what her mental health was and who knows if she was using drugs or why she had this kind of psychotic break. I`m sure there`s something --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: I don`t care. There`s no excuse to stab your twin girls. More in a moment.

Uf1: Of course, there`s no --


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All right. Switching gears, back to this horrifying story. A horrific crime leaves neighbors asking why? A 28-year-old mom accused of murdering her 3-year-old twin daughters. Stabbing them with a sword -- this is the mom. Cops say also tried to kill herself, but surprise, surprise, she didn`t manage to do that, she survived after setting the family`s apartment on fire. What on earth was going on inside this woman`s head?

Sheba, Illinois, your question or thought.

SHEBA, ILLINOIS (via telephone): Hi Jane, my question is, and my thought is, these people always want to kill themselves. That`s what they`re saying. I wanted to kill myself. Why in the good lord`s name are they taking out their husbands, their children and their grandchildren?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, it`s true. We do see that habit or that trend that people who kill their children and then supposedly try to commit suicide never manage to pull off the second half of that equation.

Henry Lee, reporter for the "San Francisco Chronicle", why on earth did this woman leave Maryland where she may have had a support system, move cross-country to California. Apparently she was it going to school, so did she have a job? Did she have any means of support?

HENRY LEE, REPORTER, "SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE": Well, that`s a good question, Jane. That`s going to be part of the police investigation to see what changes in circumstances may have led to these kinds of stresses, perhaps a relationship with the father of the children, a change in job. Whether it be a termination or -- again, any abrupt change in circumstance, psychologists tell us, very often leads to stress.

We don`t know if this was -- what happened in this case, but certainly very possible.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Stacey Honowitz, Florida prosecutor, you heard the neighbor, Adrian Babas say oh, I saw the kids playing, I saw the mom, she looked very rational, she didn`t look crazy, she didn`t act crazy. How can somebody suddenly go from appearing like a normal average mom to stabbing your twin daughters with swords?

HONOWITZ: Jane, you know, you always hear people say, you never know what goes on behind closed doors. Just because somebody saw them outside playing and looking like the average mom, we have no idea what was going on with her mentally like your other panelists said.

What I think is really interesting, though, is you talk about them being disingenuous about wanting to kill themselves. The other side to that is, if they don`t die, they end up getting to jail. They`re going to be charged with the murder of their own children. So I don`t know where that fits into their mental stability.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Look at this girl, she`s very attractive. She`s pretty. I mean, what the heck does she have -- having a giant pity party about how terrible her life is. There`s a lot of people that would love to be that attractive, love to have twin daughters. Love to be living in California. Those are all good things. Those are high class problems.

I don`t understand what`s wrong with people who choose to become parents and then decide they can`t handle it. Decide that before you have children.

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