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ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL

Did Girl, 16, Join Vampire Cult?; Demi Lovato in Treatment

Aired November 2, 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: Tonight, desperation mounts as police search for a Georgia teen obsessed with vampires. Did 16-year-old Shelby Ellis join an underground cult? Why won`t her friends tell cops what they know? I`ll talk live with Shelby`s frantic parents.

And the dark side of a Disney superstar. Demi Lovato makes a shocking admission, pulling the plug on her concert tour to head to treatment. Is this beautiful teen struggling with eating disorders and self-mutilation?

Plus, addict nation out of control. A heartbreaking, disturbing story of a terminally ill boy. Cops say his own mom, a recovering addict, stole his lifesaving sedatives, injecting herself to get high. She could have killed her son. So why is her husband defending her?

Then is a serial killer on the loose in Texas? Cops furiously investigate a link between at least three strikingly similar murders, all women, all strangled to death, some found partially naked. I`ll tell you about one victim`s haunting text moments before her death.

ISSUES starts now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIP HAMBRICK, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: ... had contact with her family. Or she`s not able to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, is a beautiful high-school sophomore from Georgia in the clutches of a vampire cult?

Sixteen-year-old Shelby Ellis was fascinated by vampires and the Goth lifestyle. She vanished three long weeks ago. She was last seen October 11, getting off the bus at her school. But she was marked absent from school that day. She never came home. And now, her desperate parents will join me in moments. They are fearing the worst.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICH ELLIS, TEEN DAUGHTER MISSING: You have the obvious thoughts of pentagrams and candles, the crazy things that you see on TV that are associated with the darker cult lifestyle. What flashes through my brain every day is a girl laying [SIC] in a ditch on the side of the road.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Shelby was the first of three girls to disappear from the same high school. But the other two girls, who were minors, actually turned up over the weekend. So what links these girls together?

Shelby`s family warns it could be an underground vampire cult. These girls are apparently obsessed with vampires and, quote, "the dark side." In fact, Shelby`s last known activity on the Internet was logging onto VampireFreaks.com, which calls itself Goth industrial culture, whatever that means.

Meantime, as Shelby`s frantic parents desperately try to find her, others have clammed up. Cops aren`t talking and neither are the two other girls. Did they make some kind of perverse pact?

What`s your theory? Call me: 1-877-JVM-SAYS.

Now, please welcome Shelby`s father, Rich, and her stepmother, Wendy.

Thank you both so much for joining us. I know this has got to be a very, very, very tough time for you.

Wendy, I`ll start with you. What are the emotions running through you as you try to find your stepdaughter?

WENDY ELLIS, STEPMOTHER OF SHELBY: My emotions go from being terrified one moment to being angry that she would leave and trust somebody, possibly. I go through the whole gamut of emotions every single day. One minute I`m fine; the next minute I`m not fine.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: If you had one thing to say to Shelby, if she`s sitting at a friend`s house watching TV -- and let`s pray that she is, let`s pray she`s anywhere watching TV, at the Port Authority in New York or somewhere -- what would you tell Shelby, Wendy, right now?

W. ELLIS: I would tell Shelby, I love you very, very much. I don`t ever want you to doubt that. Please contact us and come home. Please.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Shelby`s mysterious disappearance is all the more frustrating because very few people -- nobody, it seems is, talking, as HLN affiliate WGLC found out. Check this out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The three girls, who were fascinated with vampires and the dark side of life, were all students at the McEachern High School.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know nothing about it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where the principal refused to answer our questions about the mysterious connection between these three students.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think it`s suspicious that all of these girls...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ma`am, can I ask you to leave campus, please?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, your daughter is one of three teenage girls from the very same high school who disappeared. This is -- I don`t understand this. This is getting me very frustrated. Correct me if I`m wrong, but the reports I`m reading, the other two girls, they both turned up. That`s good news. All three of them were into the Goth lifestyle. But these two girls apparently aren`t saying what they know entirely, possibly?

I`d like to ask you, Rich, where were these two girls when they were missing? What were they doing? Who were they hanging out with? Because obviously, it would be quite a coincidence indeed if their disappearance was completely unrelated to your daughter`s disappearance.

R. ELLIS: To tell you the truth, I have absolutely no idea where they were, where they were hanging out. It was my understanding that they were found in Villa Rica, and even that information I`m not real certain about.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What`s Villa Rica?

R. ELLIS: Villa Rica is a town about halfway between Atlanta and the Alabama state line.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Do we know what they were doing, who they were hanging out with?

R. ELLIS: Absolutely no idea.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK, Wendy, I`m going to go back to you. These girls, who may know something crucial that could save your stepdaughter`s life, what would you tell these girls right now, if they`re watching?

W. ELLIS: One of them I`ve never met before, but the other one I have had some contact with, and that would be, if you know anything, now is the time to tell. It`s not time to protect anybody because you`re not protecting her. If you do know, I beg of you to tell your dad so he can call us. Do something. Do the right thing.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Here`s a video of a Goth convention that`s called Machinima (ph), Machinima (ph), OK? That was held in California, and it`s off YouTube. It has nothing to do with this case at all. We`re just giving you sort of an idea of the Goth lifestyle, some things that come up, sense of the lifestyle.

But Shelby`s actual last activity on the Internet was logging onto the Web site VampireFreaks.com. Now, HLN reached out to VampireFreaks, did not hear back, but the site posted a message distancing itself from the story. Quote, "It`s not the first time we`ve been falsely affiliated with crimes, because people have misconceptions of the Goth alternate lifestyle. The article states that the two teens were recovered had to be involuntarily taken in by the cops. They obviously ran away because they were not happy. I would like to send out my condolences to the missing girl`s family. However, your ignorance is sad. VampireFreaks and the Goth subculture in general is one of the most accepting, caring, and loving communities. We give the outcasts a place to call -- to feel at home. We do not condone criminal or hostile activity in any way."

I would like to get your reaction as a father, Rich, who is missing a child, to that statement on the Internet.

R. ELLIS: I don`t know if I should say what I really think about that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, say it clean without curse words.

R. ELLIS: Certainly, I think anybody, an adult, that`s -- that`s affiliated with any Gothic Web site has some sort of questionable behavior in their background, whether it be today, yesterday, or tomorrow. It`s not something that I think anybody would accept as normal, and for them to try to distance themselves while they at the same time say they open their arms to children who have nowhere else to go, is very disturbing to me.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wendy, Shelby disappeared after taking $160 and a cell phone from the house but nothing else. Now, we`re going to put up a little description of what Shelby looks like. She`s petite, thin, has some distinguishing features.

But what -- how did she get into this whole Goth lifestyle? What -- were you afraid that she was maybe hanging out with the wrong people? I know she tried to run away once before. Was she exhibiting any behavior that led you to believe she was sort of going into a dark, dangerous place?

W. ELLIS: The only thing that we can tell you is that we weren`t aware that she was back on the VampireFreaks.com. She went under a pseudoname [SIC]. And we don`t give her Internet access at home because of this kind of behavior. She did it at school. And she didn`t exhibit, at home, any behavior, because we won`t allow her to wear the Gothic type stuff.

Now, we would catch her with black nail polish and things of that nature in her book bag and, you know, this and that. Or she`d come home and she`d wash her makeup off, you know, typical things that teens do. But as far as knowing that she was delving into something like this, if she has, in fact, no, we didn`t have any clue until we found her back on the VampireFreaks.com Web site.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What was your last communication with her? Give us a sense of what happened the last time you saw her.

W. ELLIS: The last time that we saw Shelby was on Sunday, October the 10th, and we had gone shopping that day. Her dad and I took her to a mall in Kennesaw. We had lunch. She was very affectionate. We hung out. We looked at clothes. We did everything. Ate lunch, posted pictures on Facebook.

And that night we got home, and I gave her a T-shirt that somebody had bought for me that was too small. And she really wanted it, and I gave it to her. And the last thing that she said to us that night was, "Good night. I love you tonight, and I`ll see you tomorrow." And we didn`t see her the next day.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wendy, you`re her step mom, right?

W. ELLIS: I am.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You love her, right?

W. ELLIS: I do.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tell us about that.

W. ELLIS: You know, being a step-mom is -- excuse me -- being a step- mom a hard job at times. You know, you want to take the good and the bad, but sometimes the bad overweighs the good, simply because there`s not that -- that bond that you have with, say, her and her mom.

And I`ve never tried to take her mother`s place. I`ve tried to love Shelby as best as that I can. And in the last few weeks we had really, really reconnected and started doing things more. And I believe that her mom even spoke of the fact that the last time she spoke with Shelby, things seemed good.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So if you had one thing to say about your love for Shelby, if she`s watching, what would you say?

W. ELLIS: My love for Shelby is truly unconditional, and through the bad times, I still loved her. And she`s our baby girl. She`s all three of our baby girl.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, we`re not done. We want to do everything we can to find your baby girl safe and sound and OK. Everybody, stay right where you are. We are taking your calls on this: 1-877-JVM- SAYS. That`s 1-877-586-7297.

Also, Disney sensation, star Demi -- Demi Lovato seeks treatment. She cancels her worldwide tour. Her rep says it`s not drugs. So what`s the real reason? We`re going to show you a photo, and you can decide for yourself. Does that show -- does that look like cutting?

OK. And more on missing Shelby Ellis. We`ve got more information. We`ve got to find this girl. Where is she? We pray that she is alive. Let`s all get together and see what we can do to find her safe and sound.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAMBRICK: She`s either being coerced to not have contact with her family or she`s not able to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

W. ELLIS: A lot of them are in this dark, "let`s be different, let`s be Gothic, let`s suck blood," I mean, just all kinds of dark stuff.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: The fascination with Goth isn`t just in the world of teenagers. It transcends all generations. Consider the huge success of HBO`s "True Blood." Look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. What can I get for you tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any of that synthetic bottled blood?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I`m so sorry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So you`ve got to wonder, do these shows lure vulnerable teenagers into possibly dangerous circumstances? A young girl who`s obsessed with Goth and vampires is missing tonight. We`re talking to her desperate family. They want her back. They fear the worst.

Sade, Indiana, your question or thought.

CALLER: OK. Have they thought -- yes?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hi. What`s your question or thought?

CALLER: Have they thought to set up a sting on VampireFreaks?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s -- yes, that`s interesting. John -- I want to bring in John Lucich, criminal investigator. John, a caller is saying, hey, how about setting up a sting? That strikes me as smart, like we might be able to lure her from wherever she is through the Internet.

JOHN LUCICH, CRIMINAL INVESTIGATOR: Right. But you first have to be sure she`s going to be part of that sting to be able to see that.

One of the crucial things that they should be doing is looking at these computers. The fact that those two kids are not talking tells me they know something. If the cops have probable cause, they need to get to their homes, grab the computers -- because I`ll tell you, if this was a pact, and this was planned, it`s going to be right on the computers.

And the parents should be looking at their daughter`s computer also, if she had anything, any technology device, a cell phone. If that hasn`t been done, that`s the first thing that should be done. There`s going to be evidence on there.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Shelby`s family has actually hired a private investigator, and that man seems to be fearing that something terrible might have happened. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAMBRICK: She`s either being coerced to not have contact with her family, or she`s not able to. I don`t think it`s a coincidence at all. I think, in some way, it was planned with all of them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Here`s my big issue. Are these three girls somehow involved in some kind of perilous or perverse pact?

Shelby was the first to go missing. These other two girls, then, from her high school also go missing. They turn you up, but they don`t turn up voluntarily. And they are reportedly refusing to tell cops or anybody what they were doing.

I find that outrageous, Wendy. I mean, I think -- have the cops told you that they`ve gone to them and asked them, "Where were you? Who were you hanging out with? Where did you sleep? Did you see Shelby?"

What have the cops told you, Wendy?

W. ELLIS: To be honest, law enforcement hasn`t told us anything as far as the contents of those girls` interviews, just that they claim to have no knowledge of Shelby, claim that they have not seen her since prior to her disappearance. And they`re not giving up any information about our daughter.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I just think that there`s no way -- well, this is my humble opinion. It`s not coincidence that all three girls -- were those girls also fascinated by Goth? Do you know?

W. ELLIS: I know that one of them dabbled in -- in VampireFreaks.com. I don`t know anything except that the other girl went missing. I`ve never met the other girl. Like I said, one we`ve had dealings with. Her and Shelby hang out, or used to hang out together. They haven`t in quite some time. And they weren`t on friendly terms when Shelby disappeared.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let me just say this. Before Shelby vanished, she texted friends and said she was moving to New York to live with her mother, her biological mother. I just want to say -- and we`ve got a map here -- there are half a dozen big cities between Atlanta and her biological mother`s home in New York.

And I`ve got to ask you, Rich, are police checking like the Port Authority in New York City? That`s where these kids turn up when they run away, and that`s, unfortunately, where they`re approached by pimps who try to turn them into prostitutes.

R. ELLIS: To my knowledge, the cops have stayed pretty well local. I`m not certain, to tell you quite honestly. I mean, it`s possible they`ve checked these resources, but certainly, I think they`ve been slow to check some of the resources that I would have checked already myself.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Check all the bus depots and the train stations in every major city. We`re staying on top of your story.

And I want to tell you, Nancy Grace is also going to talk to Shelby`s mom tonight right after ISSUES. Don`t go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEMI LOVATO, ACTRESS: I think as a teenager you have temptation. You know? No matter if you`re in the limelight or not. For me, I`m just trying to make my parents proud. You know, when I disappoint them I feel bad. It`s not a matter of trying to keep up an image for everyone else. It`s really to keep my family happy and proud.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, startling revelations about Disney superstar Demi Lovato, as she abruptly quits her concert tour with the world-famous Jonas Brothers to enter treatment. A source close to Lovato tells "People" magazine Lovato is struggling with eating disorders and self-mutilation, which is also known as cutting. Lovato was denying these cutting rumors two years ago.

TMZ reported Demi Lovato made the decision to enter treatment after getting into a physical fight with another female dancer. The Disney (AUDIO GAP) -- school -- there I am -- and even took part in an anti- bullying campaign last month.

Straight out to forensic psychologist Cheryl Arutt.

Cheryl, you`ve got a great perspective because you`re a former child actor. Let`s talk about the pressures this 18-year-old is going through, as she`s got her own TV show. She`s on tour. Her new movie just came out. She went through a break up with one of the Jonas Brothers but still tours with them. That`s a heck of a lot for an 18-year-old.

CHERYL ARUTT, FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST: Absolutely. Jane, these young performers are under such an extraordinary amount of pressure. And there are so many adults who are standing to benefit from the work that they do, the intricate network of business relationships. And these young people, really 18 is still adolescence. And she`s at a stage she wants to make her parents proud of her. She wants to do a good job. She`s fielding all these things.

I think we need to not lose sight of how very positive and important it is that she is actually taking the time, despite all of the pressures to keep going, to do what she needs to get well.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, one of the things that really kind of astounds me is a beautiful girl like this, with all these concerns about her weight and how she looks and fear that they`re always taking an unflattering photo of her, and she`s gorgeous.

And let`s take a look at a photo that shows Demi Lovato on the red carpet. Now photos like this came out around the time that Demi`s cutting rumors first surfaced. We`ve zoomed in on her wrists to show you there are some unusual marks here. Cheryl, what do you think of this? This is a mark on her wrist. Do you think that is evidence of cutting?

ARUTT: I do think that`s evidence of cutting. I`ve seen some other photographs of her wrists during that time, and the marks are horizontal. They`re not vertical, which is significant, because serious suicide attempts would look different than that.

But cutting is often misunderstood behavior. It`s really -- it`s an attempt to soothe oneself. There are people who do this because the emotional pain that they feel is felt to be unbearable. And they`re trying to soothe it by converting it into a physical pain, which they think is easier to tolerate.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, Demi Lovato took to her Twitter recently, and she was expressing her upset with Web sites that take unflattering pictures of her. Quote, "I love how some gossip sites deliberately post pictures with disgusting angles of me. Ha ha, thanks, guys. Thanks. P.S., I hate you."

And yet, I`ve never seen a bad photo of this young lady. She`s beautiful. What do you make of it? Ten seconds.

ARUTT: You`re not looking through her eyes. She is probably the hardest on herself. You see beauty. But she is in an industry that`s going to heighten and exaggerate insecurities and flaws.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Got to leave it right there.

Up next, a mom steals her son`s drugs.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Addict nation out of control. A heartbreaking, disturbing story of a terminally ill boy; cops say his own mom, a recovering addict, stole his life-saving sedatives, injecting herself to get high. She could have killed her son. So why is her husband defending her?

Then -- is a serial killer on the loose in Texas? Cops furiously investigate a link between at least three strikingly similar murders, all women, all strangled to death, some found partially naked. I`ll tell you about one victim`s haunting text moments before her death.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From a mother`s standpoint, that`s insane, and I can`t imagine a mother could ever do that, stealing like that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s not a mother. That`s not a mother at all. And she shouldn`t have her kids.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, an accusation so terrible it`s earning one woman the title "Worst Mother of the Year". A wife and mother of six is accused of entering her dying son`s hospital room, unplugging his IV, stealing his sedatives, filling up two syringes with the drugs meant for him, and then shooting herself up with those drugs instead.

Doctors say they found 42-year-old Karen Remsing passed out on the couch in her son`s hospital room. Cops say after she siphoned the drugs, she tried to reattach her son`s IV but did it wrong creating an air bubble that could have killed him.

The 15-year-old boy is terminally ill and cops say his mother stole the sedatives meant to help him through surgery. So she could get high?

Karen Remsing told cops she is a recovering drug addict and that she had been up for 42 hours and just wanted to sleep. Well, let`s see, how else might we have handled that situation? How about asking the nurse for a sleeping pill perhaps if she was that desperate to sleep?

Call me, 1-877-JVM-SAYS.

Straight out to my fantastic expert panel; we begin with Howard Samuels, addiction specialist and founder of The Hills Treatment Center. Howard, the sedatives intended for the patient were Midazolan (ph), which I think is also known as Versed. You correct me, you`re the drug expert. What would the appeal of these drugs be for an addict?

HOWARD SAMUELS, FOUNDER, THE HILLS TREATMENT CENTER: Well, I`ve got to tell you, what a horrific example of addiction, Jane. I mean this drug just puts you to sleep. But for her to do this to her own son, I mean, defines addiction in its purest form. An addict doesn`t care about anything or anyone; will steal, will hurt, will do anything to get their fix and what a horrific example of addiction.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, Karen Remsing told cops she is a recovering addict who is two years sober. So what is she saying, she fell off the wagon while visiting her son who had an IV full of sedatives?

I`d like to go out to Nikki -- that`s not her real name -- she`s a recovering addict as well as a mother. I`d like to get your thoughts on what might have been happening in your opinion, Nikki. You`re a recovering drug addict, you used prescription pills, you`re also a mom. What are your thoughts?

NIKKI, RECOVERING ADDICT: Yes. You know, it is desperation of an addict at its finest is right. You know, I would suspect, though, that she was possibly using before she got there because, you know, if you`re in recovery, one of the things you get is your clarity of mind. And the clarity of mind is about your judgment calls and your processing and how you make decisions.

And, you know, to come up with the idea that, you know, it seems like a good idea at the time, you know, to take my son`s medication, that`s just not a clear -- you know, a clear head.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So you`re saying she probably got high first somewhere else and then showed up high at the hospital and that`s when it seemed like a good idea to steal the IV drugs from her son. Is that what you`re saying, Nikki?

NIKKI: Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, I thought I was a wonderful mother and I did everything for my children. You know, it just didn`t occur to me that getting behind the wheel of a car to drive them to where they needed to go or to cook while I you was falling asleep was a bad idea.

You know, you do what you have to do. But there`s just no clearness. You have no way to make up your mind on what`s to be done because there`s no reality.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: When you`re sober you`re supposed to protect your sobriety by not putting yourself in stressful situations. I don`t believe Karen Remsing followed that advice.

And here`s my big issue tonight. Was she stressed into a slip? There`s a lot of condemnation of this woman. Let`s take a look at her life and put ourselves in her shoes. I`m not applauding what she has done, far from it. It`s a horrible thing.

She has six kids, ok? She made a decision to have six kids. But she`s got a lot of stressors in her life. One of those children, terminally ill. They also, this family, had tons of medical debt. That`s tough to deal with. She`s a recovering addict.

I`ve you got to wonder, you know, Howard, maybe the stress of it all was just too much with this terminally-ill child who needs yet another surgery after already having at least 13.

LAURENCE GREENBERG, FAMILY LAT ATTORNEY: There`s no excuse for this behavior, Jane. I mean, this is a clear case of child abuse and/or neglect committed by someone with a severe addiction problem. And I think what`s most shocking about this case is that the husband has come out and defended his wife.

I think the question legally that needs to be asked, did he know or should he have known that by giving this mother care and custody of her son, was he placing that child in a dangerous situation?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, come on. Listen, listen, I`m not -- there`s plenty of legal questions. One, what`s going to happen to the other five kids now and the terminally ill son. She`s banned from that hospital. She can`t go back.

(CROSSTALK)

GREENBERG: Well, if she`s charged with neglect, Jane, in many states there`s something called derivative neglect, in which case she can actually have her other children removed by virtue of her neglect or abuse towards this particular child.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, that`s what`s so astounding about this, Howard Samuels. She threatened -- if cops are right and she admitted to doing this, which is what they say -- she threatened all of her children, she`s got six kids.

SAMUELS: You know what, Jane? An addict is not logical. An addict is really insane. Right. This is a perfect example of an addict gone wild, of an addict who is absolutely insane. She was obviously relapsing before this hospital visit because there`s no way a sober, rational person would ever do this to their own loved one. I mean, it is just hideous what happened here.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Nikki, you`re in recovery. To me -- and I`m an alcoholic with 15 1/2 years of sobriety -- this is one of those things that scares the wits out of you because you can be in recovery, yet if you slip you can go way down really fast.

Now, you heard this lawyer, Laurence Greenberg, who`s making a point, oh, she should have never been allowed around her kids. But you know what? When she was in recovery, didn`t she deserve a chance of recovery? This is why addiction is so baffling and cunning and powerful, is that you can be in recovery and then you can slip and throw it all away, Nikki.

NIKKI: Well, she`s following the whole cycle, which is she didn`t think correctly, she tripped up and now of course she`s remorseful. The police say that she`s been nothing but cooperative. You know, it seems like she`s back on that trying to get clean again path. You know, you can only keep a mother away so long from her children.

I do believe people need a second chance. I believe that the -- you know, that she really needs just to be in a safe environment for herself and then she can be in a safe environment for her children.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, she`s in jail. She`s in a safe environment tonight. She`s in jail. She messed up.

GREENBERG: She definitely messed up. But the balancing that has to go on, Jane, is we have to balance the fact that this person who`s in recovery poses a potential risk to a child.

(CROSSTALK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: She makes everybody in recovery look bad --

GREENBERG: Absolutely.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: -- because this is not what happens to most people, thank God. And you can`t judge everybody in recovery and say, well, you`re in recovery, you should have no access to your children.

You know, a lot of people, millions of people, would not have access to their children. It`s a dilemma, I`ll give Howard Samuels the last answer on this.

SAMUELS: Well, is it a dilemma, and when somebody has kids, though, there has to be really strict monitoring because the kids are the most important. So especially with mothers with children there has to be UAs, urinalysis, there has to be testing, there has to be observed visits. It has to be really designed to protect the children. That is the most important thing.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: This is such a sad case. And I pray that that terminally ill boy -- I hope he doesn`t hear about this because that would really break his heart.

SAMUELS: Horrible.

GREENBERG: We have to protect the children first, Jane. That`s the most important thing. That should be balanced in the interest of justice.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you, expert panel. Thank you.

GREENBERG: Thanks for having me.

NIKKI: Thank you, Jane.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK LUNSFORD, DAUGHTER ABDUCTED AND MURDERED: She`s very important to me. It`s easier for me to tell you what`s wrong with the system than to hurt you with the truth about what a wonderful daughter I had. She was my life. I had plans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mark Lunsford`s daughter Jessica was kidnapped, raped and brutally murdered. Mark and other parents tell their gut-wrenching stories of pain and survival so no other parent will ever have to go through this.

"Every Parent`s Nightmare" this Thursday and Friday right here on ISSUES beginning at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Whether you`re a parent or not, you must see this.

Jennifer Mee, also known as the girl who suffered from uncontrollable hiccups, loses it in court. I`m going to give you the latest shocker on her first-degree murder charge.

Also, is a serial killer at large in Texas? At least three murders with striking similarities are making cops ask the question, is a serial killer on the loose?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do we have a serial killer on the loose?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t know. I don`t think so. Are you asking me if we have any concrete evidenced? The answer is no.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Is a serial killer hunting down the women of Houston, Texas? That, in a minute.

But first, "Top of the Block" tonight.

Much like Jennifer Mee`s five-week battle with hiccups, she could not control herself today during a hearing for her first-degree murder charge. The 19-year-old sobbed and also hiccupped while witnesses spoke.

One of those witnesses, a homicide detective, testified that Mee was laughing and joking after her arrest. Now the camera is on, she`s crying. So when asked if her breakdown, her sobbing was intentional, Mee`s lawyer replied that it was something that could not be faked.

Of course, she`s famous for hiccupping and now everybody is wondering whether she faked that, which is not that difficult to do. I just did it. That`s tonight`s "Top of the Block."

Turning now to the latest battleground in the war on women: is there a serial killer running loose in Houston, Texas? Police say there may be links between three murdered women, all African-American, all strangled over the last few months.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. HUMBERTO LOPEZ, HOUSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT: She was nude from the waist down. She was also strangled. And she all -- she had besides being strangled she had trauma to her face. It appears that she had no trauma to her body or face and the cause of her death was strangulation.

She was partially decomposed and she was nude from the waist down. Again on this case the complainant was strangled.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I can`t keep talking about these cases without first saying that we have a war on women in this country and we cannot treat this as business as usual. This is an outrage, it`s an obscenity. Look at this beautiful, beautiful young lady, the mother of two small children. She is the first victim, 24-year-old Raquel Mundy, killed back in June.

The young mother of two got stranded at a bus stop after she dropped her own mom and her two little children off at a bus station and her own car was towed. Her mom says, while she was on the bus going to California, Raquel texts her that she thinks she`s in danger.

The next day, by the time the victim`s mom arrives in California, only to find out that this body was found, this woman`s body was found, half naked about a mile from the bus station where she had dropped her mom and her kids off. So now we`ve got two kids orphaned.

The next victim, 52-year-old Reita Long, she was with homeless, her body dump on the steps of a Houston church in September. The latest victim Carol Flood, also homeless, 62 years old, her body dumped behind a downtown YMCA. She was naked from the waist down. Police say she had been sexually assaulted.

A 62-year-old sexually assaulted and strangled. Is there a sicko serial killer out there targeting innocent women? Out to my fantastic panel, we begin with Joe Gomez, reporter for KTRH News Radio in Houston. Joe, what is the very latest?

JOE GOMEZ, REPORTER, KTRH NEWS RADIO: Well, Jane, right now police say there is a monster on the loose in downtown Houston, apparently prowling the streets and targeting women where he`s strangling them with a cord-like object and then dumping their lifeless bodies on the streets as though -- as though they were rag dolls.

Right now police don`t have any suspects but they do have DNA evidence. They say it`s possible this could be the work of a serial killer or joy killers. Right now we just don`t know. They`re testing a lot of -- a lot of evidence right now. But police frankly they are -- they`re searching for any possibility -- Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, here`s my big issue. Does this killer have a deadly obsession? Serial killers generally fixate on a particular type of victim. Now, these three victims were with all women, all African- American, all appeared to be transients even though the youngest, Raquel Mundy, was not homeless whatsoever. She was doing a good deed dropping her own mom and her own young children off at the bus station so they could with grandma into California and they towed her car.

So she was walking around without transportation and could have been mistaken for a transient. But what`s most striking is that each one was strangled with a -- a certain type of instrument that was probably a string or a rope.

So I don`t get it, Jayne Weintraub, criminal defense attorney, why are police being so circumspect and saying, well, we don`t know if there`s a serial killer in Houston?

JAYNE WEINTRAUB, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I think that the reason is because they need to be absolutely sure. They need conclusive proof on each separate murder. Because, Jane, the -- the risk would be that there would still be another murder out there and that maybe the serial killer only killed one or two or more people.

So they can`t take that chance and they need to be absolutely 100 percent sure. So that`s why I think.

Pamela, Michigan, your question or thought.

PAMELA MICHIGAN: Jane Velez --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hi.

PAMELA: -- you are an inspiration to addicts and alcoholics everywhere.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you.

PAMELA: My question is this. Did they get the DNA from the victims? Did he leave anything on or in the bodies?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: John Lucich, what do you think?

JOHN LUCICH: Well, apparently they did because they`re waiting for a DNA match. And I think it`s important to get that match done as soon as possible. The more information we can get out to the public, the more information they can use to protect themselves. This is something that`s going on right now and it can`t wait. They need to get that done right away.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Forensic psychologists obviously -- well, we have similarities here. We`ve got all three women, African-American, two transient, one lost her car because it was towed so she was sort of vulnerable in that same kind of way.

Joe Gomez, are police going around in downtown Houston and saying hey, be careful?

GOMEZ: Absolutely, they are, Jane. You know, a lot of these murders happened during the weekdays late at night and downtown Houston really kind of is a ghost town. It empties out late at night. And even walking around the streets, I have to admit, even I`m terrified sometimes because it`s just so dark and --

(CROSSTALK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: More after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOPEZ: These cases are very similar. However, we do have evidence, DNA, that hasn`t been worked out yet. We have no concrete evidence whatsoever that these cases were committed by the same person.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, but they might have been. Is there a serial killer on the loose in Houston? Police won`t say for sure but three murders have chilling similarities, all African-American women, all strangled to death, all in the downtown area; two of the three, naked from the waist down.

Melinda, West Virginia, your question or thought, ma`am?

MELINDA, WEST VIRGINIA: Hi, Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hi.

MELINDA: I was wondering if the killer were like a white or other race and they`re killing these African-American women, could this be considered a hate crime?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Excellent question. Jayne Weintraub?

WEINTRAUB: Yes, I think it could, if there`s evidence that it was based on hate or race, yes, it would add to it. But I mean he`s looking at three first degree murders with death penalty cases.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Police say the fact that two of the victims were homeless is making it tough to generate leads. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOPEZ: The problem we are having with a lot of these homeless people is they don`t really, especially uniforms, they don`t trust the police. Not just the police, they don`t trust anybody. These homeless people don`t give us a lot of information.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WEINTRAUB: They`re vulnerable victims.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Nevertheless, homeless people have played a role in a number of high profile cases. If you remember this one, take the 2006 horrific murder of Ymette St. Guillen in New York City. A homeless man came forward and he was the one who said I saw Darrell LittleJohn driving away with Ymette in his van. And LittleJohn is now serving life in prison for her murder.

So, John Lucich, how do you solve these murders when the potential witnesses are transients? It can be done. We just proved it with that case.

LUCICH: Absolutely. The tough part about a serial killer is that they have different motivations. They commit their crimes in different ways; such as John Wayne Gacy was killing locally and buried the kids in the backyard. As opposed to Ted Bundy who moved around the country.

This case is good in the fact that it`s happening in the same jurisdiction. If these strangulations had happened over multiple states, it would have been hard to put this together early on. The fact that these things -- these strangulations were so close together and the cops were able to put them close together, there is going to be a higher -- an increased chance of solving it a lot quicker than later.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Joe Gomez, the first victim, Raquel Mundy, the one who is not homeless whose car was towed and she was left downtown Houston by herself, apparently spoke to some man and there`s concern that maybe she got a ride from this man and she actually texted her own mother, who she had put on the bus, and said I`m afraid. Tell us about that.

GOMEZ: That`s right. Raquel Mundy was last seen speaking to some Hispanic man. She was seen getting into some sort of gray car. And apparently her mother while she was on the bus to California did get a text message from her cell saying look, I`m scared, I think this guy might try to hurt me.

Imagine her mother, she`s on a bus to California, she can`t do a thing about it. The next day she winds up dead, strangled with ligature marks on her neck in some vacant lot in downtown Houston, Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s awful. And again, I don`t want to cover these stories as oh, this is another news story we`re covering and it`s three murders. This is an obscenity. This is the war on women. This is an example of a societal problem that we have.

We look at other countries and we ask oh, how do they treat women? We have to ask about the social dysfunction in our culture that results in these crimes happening way too often. What`s going on? We`ve got to get beyond the crime and punishment.

(CROSSTALK)

WEINTRAUB: Homeless victims, they`re easy prey.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: They`re easy prey, absolutely right.

You`re watching ISSUES on HLN.

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