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Honeymoon Killer to Face Trial in U.S.; New Clue in Publicist Murder?

Aired November 24, 2010 - 19:00:00   ET



CARLOS DIAZ, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, the man some call the Honeymoon Killer is headed back to the U.S. after serving 18 months in prison in Australia. Gabe Watson pleaded guilty to manslaughter after his wife drowned while scuba diving on their honeymoon seven years ago. Now he`ll be retried in Alabama. But why is the death penalty off the table?

Plus, cops are calling a disturbing preschool murder cold and calculated. A father of two shot four times at point-blank range in broad daylight outside of his son`s preschool. Now his heartbroken family wants to know who could have wanted him dead.

Then, "Teen Mom" star Amber Portwood gets a dose of reality. She loses custody of her daughter Leah after a violent attack on the girl`s father is caught on MTV`s cameras. The parents followed a relationship on the TV show shined a spotlight on some serious problems. But is the show to blame?

ISSUES starts right now.


DIAZ: Tonight, we`ve got breaking news. The accused so-called Honeymoon Killer could soon be facing justice, American style. I`m Carlos Diaz in for Jane Velez-Mitchell.

You`ll remember this tragic and twisted 7-year-old murder mystery. Beautiful 26-year-old newlywed Tina Thomas drowned on a scuba-diving excursion during a honeymoon trip to Australia. That`s a trip that was planned by her husband, 26-year-old Gabe Watson.

Fast forward six years. Australian prosecutors cry foul and charge Watson in his bride`s death. They say his stories about what happened that day don`t add up. Further, they allege, as a certified rescue diver, the guy should have known how to save her.

Watson pleads guilty to manslaughter charge. He serves 18 months in an Australian prison. Watson`s attorney appeared on NBC`s "Today Show" earlier this month. Here`s a clip from that Web site.


BRETT BLOOMSTON, GABE WATSON`S ATTORNEY: He pled guilty to a very obscure Australian manslaughter law, which includes negligence. It`s a negligent manslaughter standard. He pled guilty to being a bad dive buddy. He did not plead guilty to anything intentional.


DIAZ: Well, tonight attorneys for Gabe Watson tell ISSUES that their client is very likely on his way back to the U.S. as we speak.

Watson now faces capital murder in the charges in Alabama. But will prosecutors seek the death penalty in Alabama? And what does the grieving family of his beautiful wife, Tina, think about all this?

Let`s go right out to my investigative reporter, Michelle Sigona.

Michelle, what`s the very latest in this case?

MICHELLE SIGONA, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: I literally just got off the phone with the assistant attorney general in charge of this case out of Alabama. And what he told me is that he cannot confirm right now if Watson is, in fact, on a plane or if he`s coming back tomorrow. Because of Australian immigration officials are not really cooperating with the U.S. right now.

He said that two weeks ago they had an exact plan as to when he was getting on the plane, where he was getting off, where they would possibly pick him up, and what they would do from there. But at this particular point, he said they are completely out of the loop. They know absolutely nothing. It`s a possibility he could come into California through Paris or New York and somehow make his way back to Alabama.

But it`s really going to be sort of possibly, possibly, a cat-and- mouse game once he does get onto American soil. This is because they have to be able to find him. He can also -- the assistant attorney general cannot release what the grand jury has come down with until he is back in the United States.

From that particular point, they can take whatever he -- you know, they came down with and move forward, if there are formal charges. But he has to come back to the U.S. first. They have to be able to find him, and then they have to be able to bring him in.

DIAZ: Let`s put that picture back up of that -- of the scuba diving incident. This is an eerie, eerie picture. You see Tina Thomas in the background there, on the floor of the -- the ocean floor. You can see her with her arms out right there. She is drowning in that picture. She`s circled right there. It is an eerie picture.

Gabe Watson`s attorneys say he faces capital murder charges in Alabama. But does that necessarily mean the death penalty? The Alabama attorney general says he was forced to take the ultimate punishment off the table to get Gabe back to the U.S.

Listen to this clip from NBC`s "Today Show" a few months ago.


TROY KING, ALABAMA ATTORNEY GENERAL: They`ve watered down their law. Now they have watered down Alabama`s law. It was a difficult decision, but it was one that we made at the request of Tina Thomas`s family. They want a day in court. The Australian government took that away from them.


DIAZ: That`s from a few weeks ago. Attorney General King also accepted Australia -- also accused Australia of extortion.

Meantime, Tina Thomas` family is reportedly dismayed that their daughter`s alleged murderer will not face the death penalty.

Anita, was this deal unavoidable?

ANITA KAY, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It was. If the U.S., if Alabama wanted Australia to agree to extradite Watson to the U.S., that was something that Alabama was going to have to agree to. Because Australia does not have the death penalty.

And we`ve seen this in other countries. If those countries do not have the death penalty, they will say, "You know what? We`re not extraditing to the U.S.," which is why you see criminals flee to other countries, because they won`t extradite to a death penalty country, which the U.S. is. So in order to get the extradition, Alabama had to agree to take that off the table.

DIAZ: Mike Brooks, I`m dying to get your opinion on this one. Do you think that the prosecutors in Alabama folded in this one? Do you think they should have stuck to their guns and said, "Hey, we`re not going to take the death penalty off the table"?

MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: You know, if her family wanted him back here to face the music in the United States instead of a, you know, a watered-down charge of manslaughter in Australia, bring him back. It`s like dealing with the Mexicans.

You know, I don`t -- I don`t buy you. You know, look, I`m pro-death penalty, but if you`re going to bring him back, he can spend the rest of his life in jail. So be it.

But this was not manslaughter. This was -- I think it`s B.S. And I call B.S. on the Australian government for saying, "Oh, he was just a bad dive buddy." That`s -- that`s unbelievable.

DIAZ: Well, and the big issue here, and my big issue, did Gabe Watson have a money motive in this situation? Tina`s father reportedly claimed that Gabe wanted her to increase her life insurance policy before their wedding.

According to their insurance company, Gabe had e-mailed them twice -- not once, but twice -- before the honeymoon, asking about their dive policies. He also reportedly asked Tina -- asked about Tina`s insurance shortly after her death.

Gabe also tried to collect on a travel insurance policy, but the company refused to pay up.

Let`s bring in Brian Russell in here.

Brian, explain what prosecutors can and can`t do with perceived motive evidence that they might have.

BRIAN RUSSELL, ATTORNEY AND FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, Carlos, there`s certainly evidence to suggest that there was a money motive in this case. And if there was, this guy is a psychopath, a calculated, cold psychopath. And absolutely, that evidence comes in at the trial.

I think some people have asked me, well, you know, if he comes back here, and that evidence is presented, and this is a cold-blooded killer, why did the Alabama authorities have to honor the agreement once the guy`s back on the soil with Australian authorities?

And the reason for that is just that this is not probably going to be the last case, unfortunately, like this. And if you violate an agreement like that, then the next one you don`t get the extradition. So, unfortunately, I agree with Brooks: it`s got to be honored.

DIAZ: Yes. And I -- from what I understand, Gabe Watson`s attorney wanted to see the paperwork. His attorney in Australia wanted to see the paperwork, wanted to make sure the death penalty was off the table before they released him back to the United States.

Anita Kay, is this protocol -- is this something that`s normally done, where you have two countries fighting over whether they`re going to give the guy the death penalty if he comes back to the U.S.?

KAY: It`s normal when you`ve got one country that doesn`t have the death penalty and another country, like the U.S., that does. That`s where it becomes an issue.

You know, he`s going to come back to the U.S. We just don`t know when. They`ll try him. It will be a life case, not a death penalty case. And that is pretty typical.

But the Alabama authorities, the prosecutors are going to have a tough time with this case, given the fact that the majority of the evidence is in Australia, and they may need people from Australia to come to the U.S. and testify.

So in some ways, they have to play nice-nice if they want people from Australia to come into the U.S., because they can`t subpoena them. They have no power to get them into our courts here.

DIAZ: Brian Russell, we`ve got 40 seconds. I want to ask you this. How can he be tried in Alabama when this crime took place in Australia?

RUSSELL: Well, the law allows for a trial on American soil, if a crime occurred somewhere else but there`s a connection to the U.S. In this case, of course, the victim and the defendant are U.S. citizens. So the law does provide for this.

DIAZ: All right. Stay right where you`re at. We`re going to have much more on this, including the fact that does double jeopardy come in here? I mean, he`s tried for a crime in Australia. Can he be tried for the exact same crime here in America? We`ve got to talk more about that.

Also, we`re going to talk about the accused Honeymoon Killer. That`s coming up next.

Plus, an unimaginable murder of a father right outside of his preschool in broad daylight. He was shot four times at point-blank range. What`s the motive?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our whole family has lost its brightest light. And we don`t know why. Can you imagine that?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, she went down, you know, almost like that, whatever. That statue over in Europe, you know, the both hands up, heads looking up, that`s why you know, you know. That`s why you know.

It worried me that she was wondering why I was leaving, because we -- I made eye contact with her, you know. I don`t know, if, you know, if she was still even with us at this point. But I, you know -- I saw her eyeballs. You know, I saw her eyes as she was going down and that.


DIAZ: That was an eerie excerpt read by an ISSUES staffer from the Australian police interview with Gabe Watson, just days after his wife, Tina, drowned. The couple was honeymooning in Australia, a trip that Gabe had planned.

Now, the question is, did he lure her halfway around the world in order to carry out an evil plot, and cash in on her insurance policy? That`s her dead body right there in the circle.

Gabe`s American lawyers say he`s looking forward to proving he did not kill his wife. But Michelle Sigona, I said earlier the guy`s stories don`t match because this guy`s got like, what, 16 different stories?

SIGONA: There`s been multiple stories that have come out on this case. Stories that have changed multiple times over -- since this crime happened many years ago.

So you`ve got the multiple stories. You`ve got the evidence that`s over in Australia. You`ve got a lot of different factors that play into this case and especially how it will play out in Alabama, if it does, in fact, play out in the state.

BROOKS: He`s got 16 stories and one certification, Carlos, as a rescue diver.

DIAZ: That`s the key. And you know what? I`m backing you on that one, Mike. The guy is a rescue diver. His wife is sinking to the bottom of the ocean. And he`s going up. That`s the thing that you can`t understand.

Listen to Dave`s explanation of what happened underwater that day. This is a clip in the voice of another ISSUES staffer reading the Australian police interrogation transcript.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I didn`t know if, you know, there was something, some procedure that can be done, like you were saying, you know, that Wade (ph) did. I didn`t know if there was any of that type of stuff that I could do. And I just basically made a decision that there are probably people up there that know, you know? That are better trained and know what to do than I do. And so that`s when I turned and I went to go get somebody.


DIAZ: Mike Brooks, he`s saying he went up to get help, even though his wife was going down. Do you buy it?

BROOKS: Not a bit. Look, I was a police diver, and I can tell you, you know the procedures if you run out of air. You go through a number of different scenarios. He was supposed to be a certified rescue diver. He wasn`t even trying to buddy breathe with his wife/dive partner. Again, I`m calling B.S., Carlos.

DIAZ: Well, the prosecutor claimed Gabe had 16 different versions of what happened to his new wife. By the way, 11 days, they were married for 11 days. And none of those stories matched what witnesses had seen.

Further, an inspection of Tina`s equipment reportedly showed no signs of defectiveness. Michelle Sigona, shouldn`t this guy have known what to do?

SIGONA: Absolutely. Absolutely. And Mike Brooks can attest to this. When you go through certain training and courses and know how to buddy breathe, and you`re underwater, you`re in trying circumstances, whether it be an emergency situation, whether it be a diving situation, whether it be any kind of situation like this, you are trained and you have that ability to be able to have that second set of instincts kick in to be able to utilize that, to hook up and to do what you have to do to save the person that`s with you. Especially if it`s your wife, a loved one, family member.

DIAZ: Well, Gabe Watson`s attorney appeared on NBC`s "Today Show" earlier this month. In this clip from their Web site, he clarifies his client`s guilty plea in Australia.


BLOOMSTON: He pled guilty to a very obscure Australian manslaughter law, which includes negligence. It`s a negligent manslaughter standard. He pled guilty to being a bad dive buddy. He did not plead guilty to anything intentional.


DIAZ: ISSUES reached out to Watson`s attorneys, who say in part, quote, "Gabe welcomes his day in court and the opportunity to prove that he has been wrongfully accused of the murder of Tina Watson."

Let`s assume this case goes to trial. Will jurors be instructed to disregard his Australian conviction? Brian Russell, what do you think?

RUSSELL: I don`t think they`ll be instructed to disregard the conviction. They may be instructed that the plea did not admit to intentionality. But I don`t think that`s a big problem, because I think there is evidence, as we discussed already, that this premeditation began in the United States before they even got married, before they ever went to Australia.

DIAZ: And Anita Kay, I mean, if someone`s innocent, why in the world would they plead guilty to any charge?

KAY: Well, Carlos, that`s kind of an age-old question. Unfortunately, people do plead guilty to things that they didn`t do, because they`re afraid of the risk of going to trial.

But I don`t know if Watson thought, "If I go to Australia, and I face these charges, I`m not going to face these charges in the U.S. and I can get less time in Australia." I don`t know if he was that calculating in thinking that was a way out of ever being charged in the U.S. It`s a possibility. We can`t get inside his head. But there may have been some maneuvering that he thought he could get away with something.

DIAZ: Michelle Sigona, what is -- what is the feeling -- you`ve been following this story. What is the feeling in Australia about this person? I mean, you hear the venom in people`s voices as they talk about this guy. Is he as disliked in Australia as he is in America?

SIGONA: It appears to be that way. And I have not spoken to anyone in Australia, only to folks in America. But this does appear to be that way. I mean, this is a tragic case. This is someone who, a United States citizen went over on her honeymoon, looking forward to the rest of her life, and somehow ended up dead on the bottom of -- you know, of the ocean floor. This is just a very tragic case.

DIAZ: And he did try to collect some kind of travel insurance, Michelle, is that correct?

SIGONA: That`s to my understanding, as well. There was an insurance policy that was in place, a very modest policy. And he tried to move forward on that, allegedly. And a couple of other things. So there are some red flags that were sort of raised.

DIAZ: Mike Brooks, I`ve got to go to you one more time before we get out of this story. I mean, when you look at this story, is it bigger than a couple? Is it bigger than the state of Alabama? Is it something that we as Americans need to bring this guy to justice to show the world that we`re not soft on crime?

BROOKS: You know what? Bring the guy back. They should get the U.S. marshals and the authorities from Alabama, fly down there, meet with the Australian federal police. I`ve worked with them in the past when I was in Washington, D.C. Get them, put him on a plane, bring him back to Alabama. It`s as simple as that.

DIAZ: All right. Thank you to my wonderful panel.

More controversy for "Teen Mom" star Amber Portwood as her 2-year-old girl is taken away. Cameras rolled while she physically attacked little Leah`s dad. And now she`s paying the price.



ALAN DUKE, CNN PRODUCER: If somebody were stalking Chasen as she left this after party at the W Hotel, it possibly would have been obvious. There`s security cameras around here and plenty of people. And they would have had to have been lying in wait to see as she left, one would think.


DIAZ: I`m Carlos Diaz in for Jane Velez-Mitchell.

Tonight, possible new clues in the murder of a famed Hollywood publicist, Ronni Chasen. Cops are trying to retrace her steps before she was brutally gunned down while driving through Beverly Hills.

Now TMZ has obtained this surveillance video from a private investigator who was staking out Chasen`s condo building as part of a legal dispute, which did not involve Chasen, by the way. The video was shot just 19 days before Chasen was killed.

A woman TMZ says could be Ronni Chasen is seen right there, driving a mystery four-door Mercedes with temporary plates. Now, when Chasen was -- when Chasen died, she was driving a two-door Mercedes. So who is behind the wheel of this four-door? Could it be Ronni Chasen?

Turn it out to HLN law enforcement analyst Mike Brooks.

Mike, what do you think about this new surveillance video?

BROOKS: You know, you can usually get a registration off of a temporary tag, Carlos. Whether or not they were able to get that tag or not, go back to all of the Mercedes dealers in the area and find out this kind of model that was sold. Try to find out who this person was. I mean, this is where she lived.

Again, the video that was shot, it was not anybody looking at her. It was looking at someone else. Another client of this private investigator. But it could -- could it be just maybe the dealer loaned her the car? We don`t know. These are all questions that need to be asked and need to be answered.

DIAZ: Let`s take another look at that surveillance video obtained by TMZ.

BROOKS: It looks like her.

DIAZ: Yes. It does look like her. It was shot October 28, just before 8 a.m. by a private eye who was staking out the building for a client in a legal dispute, which as we said, had nothing to do with Ronni Chasen.

Now, when Chasen was murdered, the P.I. went through his video and found these shots. TMZ turned the video over to Beverly Hills police, who are not commenting right now. We really don`t know if it`s Ronni Chasen or not.

Ronni`s friends tell TMZ they don`t think it`s her.

Michelle Golland, regardless, to me, his video proves just how intent people in Beverly Hills are to find the killer in this mystery.

MICHELLE GOLLAND, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Absolutely. I mean, this is really frightening for the Hollywood community and for Beverly Hills. We know that crime doesn`t happen there very often. And I think there`s also been evidence that Ronni Chasen was concerned about her own safety.

DIAZ: Mike, you know, I live in this neighborhood. I live five blocks from this. It`s a very, very safe neighborhood.


DIAZ: When you have a safe neighborhood like this, and you have cops, you know, who aren`t used to dealing with this, is it a good thing or a bad thing? Because they have time on their hands to really investigate this, because there are not a lot of other murders going on right now in that neighborhood.

BROOKS: Well, the Beverly Hills police, I have to tell you, they are a very competent agency. And if they feel they can`t handle it, they will turn to LAPD for a little bit of help, since they`re right there on the border. And also L.A. sheriffs, because they run law enforcement in West Hollywood.

But you know, also, this building, I was just thinking, Carlos, this car, you probably have to have a magnetic card to get in and get out. And I would be very surprised if that condo development where she lives, also didn`t have surveillance a system.

DIAZ: Very valuable information, Mike. Thank you so much. We`ll leave it right there.

A terrifying murder: a father gunned down in broad daylight right outside of his son`s preschool. Cops called it cold and calculated, and now they`re hunting down the killer. That`s next.


DIAZ: Cops are calling a (INAUDIBLE) preschool murder cold and calculated. A father of two shot four times at point-blank range in broad daylight outside of his son`s preschool. Now his heart-broken family wants to know who could have wanted him dead.

Then, "Teen Mom" star Amber Portwood gets a dose of reality. She loses custody of her daughter Leah after a violent attack on the girl`s father is caught on MTV`s cameras. The parents` volatile relationship on the TV show shines a spotlight on some serious problems. But is the show to blame?


STEVE SNEIDERMAN, VICTIM`S BROTHER: My brother was murdered. No one should have to face that.

CHIEF BILLY GROGAN, DUNWOODY, GEORGIA POLICE DEPT: This case appears to be a cold and calculated murder; does not appear to be random in nature. The victim was shot multiple times at what appears to be point-blank range.


DIAZ: Gunned down outside of a preschool.

I`m Carlos Diaz in for Jane Velez-Mitchell. An Atlanta dad`s murder seems like a well-planned execution. Rusty Sneiderman dropped off his 2- year-old son at a preschool Thursday, walked back to his car.

Police say he never saw his killer coming. The gunman approached and fired several shots. He was only a few feet from Rusty when he pulled the trigger.


GROGAN: There doesn`t appear to be any exchange of words between the suspect and the victim. From our witness`s accounts, the suspect just walked up to the victim and started shooting.


DIAZ: We`re talking about one of the most unlikely of victims here. A 36-year-old Harvard educated father of two, who would want Rusty Sneiderman dead?

I have to start with a witness here, Mark, who joins us on the phone. Mark, you arrived just moments after the murder and you saw the victim. Tell us what you witnessed that morning.

MARK, WITNESS TO MURDER: There`s a parking lot in between the nursery school and the post office. And I pulled into the parking lot. And as I was driving with the post office on my left side and the school on my right side, I saw some people running and flailing their arms coming from the post office.

And I rolled down my window, because I thought they were motioning to me. But what it turned out was, there was a man on my right, and he was yelling out, are you on with 911? They said, we`re on, we`re on. And that man to my right was standing over a body that appeared to be dead.

I had my young child in the back of the car, who I was taking to the day care. And I didn`t want him to see what was going on, so I kind of sped up around to the other side of the day care. And kind of grabbed him out of the car and ran in and threw him in his classroom. And ran and got the director of the school.

I said, you know, you have a serious problem. There`s what looks like a dead body out there. I don`t know if it was a heart attack, I don`t know if he was shot, but we need to call the police.

And then we actually heard the sirens. Ran back out, got a little closer. I could see at that point that the guy had been shot at least in the chest. There was blood pooling from all around. Since he was lying on an incline, the blood was starting to flow down, kind of downhill a little bit.

DIAZ: Rusty --

MARK: And it looked like he was bleeding under the head and neck.

DIAZ: Mark, do me a favor here. Describe his body. Was he lying on his stomach, was he lying on his back?

MARK: He was lying on his back. You know, like I said -- or you may have said -- I got there a few minutes after it had happened. So I don`t know how he was initially. But by the time I got there, he was on his back.

When I had come back around, there was someone there trying to provide medical attention. It turns out there`s a pediatrician`s office a couple of doors down. And I`ve since found out that people came from that pediatrician`s office to try and help out.

I ended up talking to the two people I had seen running from the post office. And they had apparently seen the getaway. And I believe other people provided information that the police used to make the police sketch, and the photo of the getaway vehicle that`s been shown in the media.

DIAZ: And witnesses say the gunman is a white man about 5`10. He had what appeared to be a fake beard. When you see that drawing, that beard could be gone. He was wearing a hoodie. No one heard him say anything before he shot Rusty.

He escaped in a late-model gray dodge caravan, like this one. There were no tags on it. But police say the van may have tags on it now.

This preschool is tucked inside a bustling suburban shopping center. The shooting happened during a busy morning rush hour.

Mike Brooks, what do you make of how brazen this killer was?

MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I was really surprised because I know that area very well. It`s just right up the road here from our studios. And I was extremely surprised that this happened especially in that neighborhood.

But you know, you start thinking, Carlos, who would have wanted to do this. Was this someone who had a former business dealing with Rusty Sneiderman? Was it someone who may have known him? I want our viewers, again, if you see a Dodge Caravan, such as that, with someone inside of it, call the police. Don`t take any action yourself.

And again, the first time I saw that composite, I said fake beard. That`s exactly what I thought. And that very well could be what it is.

But does that guy live around here? I would bet you to say there`s a good possibility. But if you took the tags off, it could be from out of state, because that would have also stood out, you know, rather than having a Georgia tag. But either way, he did not want his tags to be seen by anyone.

DIAZ: Well, Mike, police aren`t ruling anything out.


DIAZ: They`re interviewing Rusty`s family, searching his home. They`re poring over his computer files and business dealings. His family and friends insist this guy had no enemies. If Rusty Sneiderman did have any skeletons in his closet, chances are they`re going to come out during the course of this investigation.

I`ve got to go to Brian Russell. Could it have been maybe a vendetta, do you think, in this situation?

BRIAN RUSSELL, FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, it certainly looks targeted. It doesn`t look professional. It looks similar to the Ronni Chasen case, but not professional given the venue, the setting where it happened.

And I think that may be significant, Carlos. Out in front of the preschool, that to me may be a statement of some kind. And apparently this victim at one point headed up an agency or organization that provided services to kids with developmental needs. And so I wonder if perhaps somebody connected to that was disgruntled and wanted to make a statement in front of this guy`s child, in front of this kid`s preschool. It`s speculation, but I wonder about the significance of that venue.

DIAZ: Anita Kay, when you hear things like the fact that there were no tags on the van, you hear things like there might have been a fake beard involved, you know, these are things that really point to the fact that this is premeditated.

ANITA KAY, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Absolutely. This is something that was well thought out. Well planned. I mean, for all we know, the victim could have been followed for days, weeks or months for the perfect opportunity. The car could have been stolen. It could have been out of state. There`s a lot of speculation.

The thing is, it was a very public place. It was an execution style murder. Whether it was a murder for hire, don`t know. But somebody knows something. And eventually somebody`s going to talk to someone.

RUSSELL: I don`t think --

DIAZ: Go ahead Mike.

RUSSELL: I don`t think it was for hire. A professional would probably not have done it in that venue.

DIAZ: Why do you say that, Brian?

RUSSELL: Well, I think a professional would have done it more like in the Ronni Chasen case, where it`s very hard to -- there would not have been witnesses. There wouldn`t be anybody seeing somebody take off in a getaway car, things like that.

BROOKS: There`s a lot of cameras around this area, too, Carlos --

DIAZ: Yes.

BROOKS: -- because it is a fairly large business area. A lot of these businesses have cameras.

DIAZ: But Mike I want to ask you. I mean why would -- why would -- if there`s cameras around, and also you`ve got a school right there, so you would assume with businesses, and a school, there`s got to be cameras. Why would they not release any kind of footage to maybe help the public help out cops?

BROOKS: Well, that`s a great question. Maybe they`re working on trying to get some enhanced. Because sometimes you get the video and it is very grainy. I know we just had a case on "In Session" where you`ve got the -- they`ve got the photographs enhanced and it was a great help.

But we don`t know exactly what they have. They`re holding everything pretty close to the vest. But I`m guaranteeing you, if Dunwoody Police do get some leads that the public can help with, they will make sure that they are released.

DIAZ: All right. We`ll have much more on this case as more developments come forward. It`s an amazing story. And it`s a tragic story.

You feel for his family at this time, right around the holidays.

Thank you, guys so much, from my fantastic panel.

Coming up next, "Teen Mom" star Amber Portwood loses custody of her 2- year-old daughter after cameras catch her hitting her on-again off-again boyfriend in front of little Leah. Did this reality show cause most of the controversy?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an unusual case, in that it played out in front of television cameras. We had to be careful and, you know, kind of be cautious along the way because we wanted to make sure. And that`s why we subpoenaed the unedited version.



DIAZ: I`m Carlos Diaz in for Jane Velez-Mitchell.

Tonight, MTV "Teen Mom" Star Amber Portwood in hot water. The reality starlet was shown beating down her baby daddy, Gary Shirley, on camera. And the smack down sparked a major police investigation.

Now, Amber`s been charged with two felonies in her Indiana hometown and she`s lost custody of her 2-year-old baby daughter Leah. The little girl is now a ward of the state.

Check out the footage of the brawl that aired this season on MTV`s "Teen Mom". It`s pretty gruesome.


GARY SHIRLEY, REALITY STAR: I`ll see you later. Get off me.


SHIRLEY: Amber --

PORTWOOD: I`ll bring your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) for it. Don`t (EXPLETIVE DELETED) with me.

SHIRLEY: Amber, quit.


SHIRLEY: Amber, you need to get off me. Amber?


SHIRLEY: One more hit.

PORTWOOD: One more hit? Or you`re going to hit me?


PORTWOOD: I am at the edge. Do you want to because (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

SHIRLEY: Do you want to hit me then? Are you done? Amber, are you done? Are you seriously done? Thank you.

PORTWOOD: Don`t you ever (EXPLETIVE DELETED) come here again, you fat piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED). You stay the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of my (EXPLETIVE DELETED) house.


PORTWOOD: You are trash.


PORTWOOD: You are so (EXPLETIVE DELETED), you better watch your damn back.


DIAZ: Wow. Wow. MTV aired a PSA during that episode about domestic violence. But is that enough? Should Amber be kicked off this show? Is her newfound celebrity and the presence of cameras responsible for fueling some of that drama that you just saw? The Department of Child Services will now be checking in on Leah, as she lives with her dad, Gary.

They`ll also be monitoring Amber for six months.

We showed (ph) it to my fantastic panel. First off we go to Bonnie Fuller. Bonnie you`re there with We`re used to seeing this kind of drama in Hollywood when it`s fake. But this is real. What is the latest? What have you guys heard about this?

BONNIE FULLER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, HOLLYWOODLIFE.COM: Well, what we`ve heard is that Amber, that Amber is in -- she`s been a bad way. I mean, she`s lost custody of her child. She`s had troubles finding a place to live. It`s one of the reasons that baby Leah has actually been staying with Gary Shirley.

Now, the baby is a ward of the state. But that doesn`t mean that they`ve taken her away. What it means is that she`s living with Gary Shirley, who is the father, and that she is being monitored by the state while they decide if her living conditions are indeed safe with him.

Now, we`ve also heard that MTV has been working closely with a domestic violence organization. And so -- and we`ve -- we`ve heard that Amber is getting counseling. The question is, of course, is she getting enough help right now.

DIAZ: Yes. I mean, I would assume -- and I want to get to Michelle Golland on this in a second. I want to talk to you about how much counseling she needs in this situation. But first, Amber spoke out about abusing her boyfriend on the after-show from MTV. Listen to this from


PORTWOOD: The one thing about us is, me personally, too, is that this go a lot farther than most people would. I have a lot of problems. So -- and plus, I don`t care about myself. So it`s like, it`s whatever happens, happens. And whatever happens to me, happens to me. And I hate it.


DIAZ: Michelle Golland, this girl needs help.


DIAZ: She`s also allegedly been caught --

GOLLAND: Seriously.

DIAZ: -- recently boozing it up. She`s underage. Everyone`s talking about this -- the people on the show -- what kind of help -- where do you start with this girl?

GOLLAND: Well, she clearly needs individual therapy. She needs group therapy. There`s issues of anger management. I wouldn`t be surprised if she had -- again, I don`t know her, I`m not treating her, but if there was some history of abuse, physical, emotional or even sexual in her past.

This is seriously a very dangerous situation. And the person who is in danger is her child.

DIAZ: Yes. And that`s the sad thing, too. I mean --

GOLLAND: Absolutely.

DIAZ: We told you, in the breaking news, her child`s been taken away from her. I want to bring in Dylan Howard --

GOLLAND: As she should be.

DIAZ: Yes, as she should be. And we`re going to show you footage in a second that you`re not going to believe.

Let`s bring in Dylan Howard right now from Dylan, you know all about these reality shows; we talk about them all of the time. I mean, it`s a fact, back me up on this, it`s a fact that producers salivate over this kind of drama.

DYLAN HOWARD, SENIOR EXECUTIVE EDITOR RADARONLINE.COM: Well, that`s the big question in this particular instance, Carlos, is that when Amber Portwood assaulted her ex-fiance, Gary Shirley, there was a host of television executives, production executives in the house with her and him at the time. Did they stop the incident? Absolutely not. They`re as culpable as what Amber Portwood is in this scenario, because this show thrives off this drama.

DIAZ: Michelle, you`re shaking your head, why are you shaking your head?

GOLLAND: I`m shaking my head because, well, one thing I do believe, Carlos, is Amber would be abusive whether or not she was on television.


DIAZ: But -- but --

GOLLAND: Amber is an abusive individual. So that doesn`t matter to me.

DIAZ: And I -- I agree with that. I agree with that, but if this was a man hitting a woman, I mean, they would have jumped -- they would have jumped in a heartbeat.

GOLLAND: They would have jumped in, I totally agree. And I -- I spoke out when this first happened, that absolutely, that MTV needed to stop this production on the spot.

I mean when they witness a mother, or any -- any adult hitting another adult in the presence of a child, and they stand by, they are culpable. And it`s shameful.

DIAZ: But Bonnie --

HOWARD: But they haven`t --

DIAZ: Go ahead Dylan.

HOWARD: They haven`t Carlos and here`s the situation, when they were in court yesterday, guess what was there, MTV cameras.

DIAZ: Yes.

HOWARD: Following this scenario.

DIAZ: And that`s --

HOWARD: This creates more drama for the show.

DIAZ: That`s my point, Bonnie.

GOLLAND: Absolutely.

DIAZ: Bonnie -- Bonnie, jump in here, because that`s my point.


DIAZ: You have producers, and I`m not going to start naming specific reality shows, but I know for a fact that producers like hey, why don`t you say this, why don`t you do this? Because they love this stuff because it equals ratings gold -- this is one of the highest rated shows on MTV.

FULLER: Well, listen, I wasn`t there. I can`t say whether or not they were in any way encouraging this. I doubt that they would be encouraging this.

Now, when we looked into this at, we learned that they had no legal responsibility to actually report domestic violence. That`s usually just the responsibility of medical professionals and health care workers. However, I mean, the positive, if there`s any positive out of this, is that I agree that this young woman would have been abusive whether she`s on camera or not.

The abuse has now been uncovered. This abuse probably would not have been uncovered. Gary Shirley is not the person who pressed any charges. You know, from all we hear, he`s still in love with her. And which is very classical of domestic abuse victims --


DIAZ: But you know what -- Bonnie -- Bonnie is making a great point. Bonnie is making a great point because the cameras in this situation may have saved the little girl in the situation because you know --

FULLER: That`s right.

DIAZ: -- the husband, the guy is taking it. Hold on. We`re going to come right back and I`m going to show you footage that you were not -- you think the footage you just saw was bad? Wait until we come back.

We`re going to show you footage of this girl beating down her fiance in a way that you cannot believe. We`ve got more to talk about with "Teen Mom" drama, coming up next.




911 OPERATOR: What`s your name?

AMBER PORTWOOD, "TEEN MOM": I`m Amber Portwood. There`s actually an investigation on me for battery from about six months ago because I`m Amber Portwood on "Teen Mom" but I need somebody out here because he`s pushing me outside in my underwear.


DIAZ: Ok. Hold on. Did she just actually say "I`m Amber Portwood from `teen mom`"? See. That`s scary. Because it means that she`s almost like proud of the fact that she`s on this MTV show when there are fights going like crazy.

There were two big fights between Amber and her boyfriend, caught by MTV`s cameras. This was from an earlier season of MTV`s "Teen Mom". Check this out.


PORTWOOD: Let me -- tell you something. You don`t (EXPLETIVE DELETED) like that. (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you hear me? (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you apologize to him.


PORTWOOD: No. You apologize right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amber, let it go.

PORTWOOD: You don`t (EXPLETIVE DELETED) talk to him like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let him get out. You need to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out.


DIAZ: Amber was supposedly upset about something her boyfriend, Gary, said about her dad. Dylan, that was the fight in front of her child that is causing her to be slapped with two felony charges, right?

HOWARD: Indeed it is. And in fact, after that blow-up, there was some 300 plus phone calls in Indiana alone from television viewers who saw that incident and rang the Child Protective Services Department to complain about it, Carlos.

DIAZ: And what could she face if she is convicted?

HOWARD: She faces up to three years jail.

DIAZ: All right. Let`s go back to the footage of these fights.


DIAZ: I want to show some more of this footage from MTV`s "Teen Mom". These fights and these meltdowns occur all too often on this show. Let`s show some more footage of Amber just basically going off.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ll see you later. Get off me.

PORTWOOD: You need to shut your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) mouth.


PORTWOOD: I`ll bring your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) to court.


DIAZ: I think this gentleman sounds unstable. Michelle Golland, if you saw this footage and you were trying to treat her, where would you begin?

GOLLAND: Well, they clearly need to be separated. And she needs to be in a domestic violence program. I mean we have many domestic violence programs that are set up and we know that domestic violence just doesn`t occur only between where the abuser is a man. It does happen.

I treat men that have been in abusive marriages and relationships where the wife was the aggressor, was physically, emotionally and verbally abusive. And she needs to be in a serious program.

And I have to say, someone had pointed out, that MTV doesn`t have any legal obligation. That we know. But they do have a moral and an ethical obligation as we as viewers and parents of teens watching this show do have power.

Just as we saw with Jon and Kate where when there was enough force and enough power behind the media saying that this needs to stop. That this is damaging to these children, something was done. TLC pulled it.

I think that`s what we need to do about MTV.

FULLER: Carlos?

DIAZ: Yes, go ahead. Go ahead Bonnie.

FULLER: What`s really interesting is that we have conversations, I think, with at least three teen domestic violence organizations and we asked them what they thought about this.

DIAZ: Very quickly.

FULLER: Whether they thought that these episodes should be aired. And surprisingly, they felt that it was a good thing that this was being brought to light. That first of all that domestic violence occurred where men are victims as well --

DIAZ: We have to wrap it up there. I`m sorry I have to cut you off. We have to wrap it up there.