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Girl, 15, Vanishes with Sex Offender Uncle; Father of Missing Boys Held on $3M Bond

Aired December 1, 2010 - 19:00:00   ET



Tonight, one family`s mind-blowing discovery after their 15-year-old daughter disappears with her uncle. Their precious daughter has been missing for nearly a month now. And tonight we know the uncle was keeping a deep, dark, toxic secret. He is a convicted sex offender, and nobody in the family knew.

Jean Berlinghoff and her uncle Charles vanished November 10, exactly three weeks ago from Jean`s in Redding, California, where the uncle had shown up for a visit. They left in a big hurry, because Jean didn`t take anything with her: no clothes, no makeup, nothing. And, you know, she`s a 15-year-old. OK? She would have taken something.

Tonight, there`s an all-out manhunt to find this uncle, who is being sought for kidnapping. Jean`s family is on a desperate mission to find their precious teenage daughter.

Check out this video from


JACOB BERLINGHOFF, JEAN`S` FATHER: They could be anywhere at this point. They could be hitchhiking. They could still be up on that mountain. They could be posing as a father and daughter, trying to get a ride somewhere for Thanksgiving or a ride across the country somewhere. Maybe a trucker will see them and call the police.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Search crews tonight out looking for Jean and her uncle. As you can see from this video from, Jean`s dad thinks his daughter was pressured to leave because Charles threatened to harm the family. And now this girl is out there somewhere with an admitted sex offender. We have got to find her. We`re trying to help here on ISSUES tonight.

Give me a call, 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297.

We`re very honored to have with us tonight Jean`s father, Jake Berlinghoff.

Jake, first of all, thank you so much for joining us. I know this has to be unimaginable for you and your family. I want to know what these last three weeks have been like for you. Is it true that you had no idea your brother has a history of child molestation? Tell us all about that.

JAKE BERLINGHOFF, FATHER OF JEAN: It`s absolutely true. What`s happened over the last three weeks, we found out that he was a sex offender. He had a felony reduced to a misdemeanor. And it was somehow expunged from his record.

He had been in and out of our lives quite a bit. At one point he disappeared for about ten years. And he popped back in with his two girls that were 10 and 7 years old, and he would visit with them quite a bit. And we really had no idea, suspected anything about him.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: This is your flesh and blood. This is your brother. This has got to feel like the ultimate betrayal for you. What are you going through, Jake?

BERLINGHOFF: Well, right now, I`m just trying to do everything I possibly can to bring Jean home and get her face out there and my brother`s face out there. This has been extremely tough. I just want to -- I want to do everything I can to bring Jean home alive.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Jean`s family, as you just heard, from her dad, they had no idea they were inviting a sex offender into their home. Jean`s dad says he recently, only recently found out that Uncle Charles pleaded guilty to felony child molestation in 1998. And Jake said his brother had his record expunged. Charles never told anyone in the family that he had been convicted or even accused of child molestation. He was not a registered sex offender.

Lisa Bloom, this is crazy. Once again, the system dropping the ball. This guy pleaded "no contest" to indecent exposure in `93 and then, in `98, he was charged with four counts of child molestation and convicted of one. How on earth could his record be expunged? It`s absurd and infuriating.

LISA BLOOM, ATTORNEY: Something is missing from this story, Jane, because that should not happen. If he has a felony conviction as an adult, that would ordinarily not be eligible for expungement if it is a sex crime.

And the family should be notified, because ordinarily, when there`s a sex crime felony conviction, there are orders that attach; namely, he can`t be around children. He can`t be around schools, et cetera. This is a 15- year-old girl. The family should be notified so that they can protect their children. Something is missing from this story. And I can`t tell you what it is. Some law enforcement person didn`t do what they were supposed to do. It wasn`t really expunged, even though he said it was. Something is wrong here.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`ll tell you what`s wrong, and it`s wrong with every single case we cover. The system failed. This is what happens over and over again. The really dangerous people are out there roaming around, while we`ve got our prisons full with people who are dangerous, but also people who are not so dangerous.

MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Lisa, I think law enforcement, they did the job. They locked him up. It`s then in the court system with the prosecutors and the defense attorneys. So don`t blame law enforcement this time, OK?


BLOOM: I don`t know what happened. I don`t know. The family was not informed. That`s the problem. They didn`t know.

BROOKS: Well, that`s the court system. Not law enforcement.

BLOOM: Well, you know, those are probation officers. Those are law enforcement officers that are usually charged with that responsibility, to go with the family and say he`s a convicted sex offender. It`s not safe to have...

BROOKS: But we don`t know. So -- so that`s the bottom line.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Listen, the car Jean`s uncle was driving was found this past weekend about 50 miles north of the home, the family home in Redding.

OK. Here`s video from, showing the 1987 Oldsmobile being towed away. It was parked in a driveway covered with snow. No sign of Charles or Jean.

Jake, do you have any idea where they may have gone from there?

BERLINGHOFF: They could be anywhere at this point. They could be hitchhiking. They could have hitchhiked out of the area. I`m asking people to check rest stops, rest areas, truck stops. They really -- they could be anywhere right now. They could still even be up on that mountain somewhere.

The police have done very thorough searches. It`s a big wilderness area up there, and there`s a lot of caves and a lot of mines to hide out at. And we`re asking everyone please to keep your eyes open for them.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: My big issue tonight, toxic family secrets. I mean, Jean`s family, again, no idea that the brother of the man you just heard from there had pleaded guilty to sex crimes. And that made it impossible for them to make informed choices about whether to allow this man around their children.

Crimes often revolve around toxic secrets. And these secrets can fester into violence. Erin Runnion, one of my heroes, is with us tonight. She is the mother of Samantha Runnion. Her daughter was viciously murdered by a man who had a history of child molestation. And he apparently had also gotten away with it and still was walking around with this toxic secret.

Erin, your thoughts on that.

ERIN RUNNION, DAUGHTER MURDERED: Well, I think it`s really important, again, just to get her picture out as much as possible. The thing that`s so frustrating about this case is we had the picture of the car and the perpetrator. So we just need people to be looking. Somebody knows where they are.

And the fact of the matter is that most crimes against children, most intimate crimes are perpetrated by somebody that the family knows and trusts. This is not at all uncommon. And so that`s why it`s so important that we teach folks how to recognize predatory behaviors and teach children what to do.

I mean, if Jean Marie is watching, to know that she can reach out, that she can throw a scene in a public place, and somebody will help her. And that`s the safest thing that she can do. But she can also do secret things: text, let her dad know she`s OK. Somehow get a message to him.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Jake Berlinghoff, I know you want to send a message to your brother. We`re looking at your brother`s photo right now. What would you tell your brother, if -- he could be watching right now? Make your appeal to your brother to do the right thing.

BERLINGHOFF: Charles, I`m begging you, if you`re watching this from somewhere, or seeing it somehow, please drop Jean off at a police station or somewhere safe.

It`s been 21 days since you took Jean out of my life. If you have any ounce of feeling or soul left in your body, or care about Jean or any one of yours or her other family members, let my little girl come home.

Her whole family loves her. And everyone here misses her so much. We spent Thanksgiving without her, and we do not want to spend Christmas or any other day without her.

To my daughter, Jean, sweetie, stay strong. We all love you so much. I know you`re doing what you need to do to stay safe. I want you to know everyone here understands, and your sisters, your brothers, me and mom, all your friends, we all love you no matter what.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: This has got to be hell for you, Jake.

BERLINGHOFF: This has been extremely difficult.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: How do you get through it?

BERLINGHOFF: Just -- I`ve got to hold out hope that she`s alive right now. And hopefully, she`s watching this, and she`s going to come home.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We want to find your daughter, Jean, alive and well. And I`ve got to tell you something, sir, it does happen. Look at the Elizabeth Smart case. She was abducted. She was repeatedly raped over nine months, but ultimately, the good news is she was found alive.

And now the sicko responsible is on trial. Elizabeth`s dad, Ed, and Erin Runnion, have devoted their lives to making this country safer with the Not One More Child initiative.

Erin, you`ve been in contact with Ed and Elizabeth. You see her today. She stormed out of the courtroom during the trial of the sicko kidnapper, Brian David Mitchell. Your thoughts on this girl who got through so much and now has to face this sicko right here in court.

RUNNION: I once heard Elizabeth say, "He got nine months of my life. He doesn`t get one more day." And I think that her strength is unbelievable.

And I know from my experience, sitting through Samantha`s murder trial, to listen to supposed experts really defend the behaviors and try and get this guy off, and not have to take responsibility for what he did to her, it`s got to be incredibly infuriating. So I feel for her today.


RUNNION: Disturbing testimony.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... to try to understand what your daughter`s going through, did she leave on her own volition, do you think? She can`t make a decision at 15. But did he -- do you think he kidnapped her by force, or was he luring her away?

BERLINGHOFF: The only way he got her out of this house, she made the comment to my other brother that was here, that she was waiting around to talk to me. The type of relationship that me and Jeanie had, the only way that he got her out of this house is by saying, "Hey, let`s go get something to eat. Or even if you don`t leave this house, I`m going to do something to your dad, or one of your sisters. So we better go now." Otherwise, there`s no way she would have left on her own.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I hear that somebody picked up him calling her baby, which is highly inappropriate.

BERLINGHOFF: That`s correct. That morning I had gotten her cell phone. There was one text message in there from him to her, where he referred to her as baby. I asked him about it. And he told me that that`s what he called his girls. So I went and talked to my mom and asked my mom if she had ever heard him talk that way. And she said she wasn`t sure. And I didn`t have enough information right then to make an allegation towards him.

But I went back and talked to him about it, and he got very defensive and it about turned to blows where me and him were about ready to break out in a fist fight. Other family members intervened. And then, before I knew what happened, they were gone.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Jake, you are a good father. You are trying to do everything to find your daughter. Our hearts are with you. We want to stay on top of this story. And please, let`s find this girl. Thank you, sir.

All right. We`re going to stay on top of this case.

And we`ve also got disturbing information, just released, breaking news in the Zahra Baker investigation. Police records show this 10-year- old disabled girl might have been raped by two men before she was killed. This story gets more incomprehensible by the minute.

Plus, evidence stacking up. We`re learning stunning new information about the father of three missing boys. It`s a song he wrote that is so bizarre. Well, you`ll hear it in a minute. We`re taking your calls, 1- 877-JVM-SAYS.


LARRY WEEKS, SHERIFF, MORENCI, MICHIGAN, POLICE DEPARTMENT: I refuse to believe that at this point. It is my desire to maintain hope. But as I said yesterday, the information we have does not indicate that this is going to have a positive outcome.




WEEKS: We have not spoken with John in some time. And we have not developed any new additional information about where they`re at. And as far as any details that he`s provided us, we will not be offering that information at this time.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, stunning new personal information about the father of three adorable boys who have been missing since Thanksgiving. Their dad, 39-year-old John Skelton, is sitting in jail right now as we speak, charged with parental kidnapping. He`s not talking to cops. What kind of dad doesn`t want to help find his missing children?

And here`s this father in court. He looks like a pathetic mess, if you ask me. Look at that. Head low. He`s got a blanket over him. He`s in a wheelchair. He`s mumbling. He allegedly tried to kill himself, but he conveniently failed to do that.

Tonight we`re learning he is a walking financial and personal disaster. When these boys went missing, John Skelton was about to lose his house to the bank and his kids to his soon-to-be ex-wife.

Now, one neighbor claims he started drinking. A lot. Did this guy`s life spiral out of control? Do you think? Did his boys pay the ultimate price? That`s the big question.

It`s been almost a week since anybody saw little Andrew, Alexander and Tanner Skelton. Cops are still following every single lead to find these adorable, precious boys. Listen to this.


WEEKS: We continue to get leads in. So to say that we don`t would be a misinformation. We continue to get information in from the public and other sources that we continue to follow up on each and every one of those. We`ll certainly be diligent and continuing our searches as most efficiently as we can in an effort to locate the boys and bring them home.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Skelton was a long-haul truck driver before he lost his job. One theory is he dumped the boys on the side of the Ohio turnpike. And now, tonight, we are hearing this breaking news. The dad is believed to have written a very morbid song called "The Dumpster" a few years ago, that seems to describe a child being left in a Dumpster. Could this song be a clue to this father`s twisted mindset?

Straight out to Bill Foster. He lived next door to the Skelton family. We`re now learning, again, this dad was unemployed, facing foreclosure, in the middle of a vicious divorce and custody battle.

Bill, did he have other problems? We`ve been hearing reports that he drank a lot. What do you know?

Bill? Do you hear me?

All right. I`ve got to tell you, this story upsets me because of this poem. And I`m going to -- I`m going to read this poem to you. And you can decide for yourself.

Cops are taking a look at a song allegedly written by the boys` dad called "The Dumpster." It was found to be on what we believe to be John Skelton`s MySpace page. And here`s what it says.

"I`m cold and alone in this metal room with plastic bags and a worn- out broom. Nobody hears my calls to you. Come back, Mommy, because I need you. It`s my dying breath, and I see a glow. It`s an angel from heaven, and he`s taking me home."

Lisa Bloom, ten seconds.

BLOOM: Well, this is obviously a man with serious mental issues. And one would feel sorry for him for losing his job and having marital problems, if he didn`t harm his children. Once he crosses that line, I think all pity goes away. And it certainly does not look good for the boys.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: The neighbor on the other side of the break.



WEEKS: We continue to get leads in. So to say that we don`t would be misinformation. We continue to get information in from the public and other sources that we gather and we follow up on each and every one of those. And we`ll certainly be diligent and continuing our searches as most efficiently as we can in an effort to locate the boys and bring them home.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Three little boys out there. It`s a race against time. Last seen with their dad, who is extremely troubled. We`re going to go to Bill Foster, a friend and neighbor of the Skelton family.

Bill, what do you know about this guy`s problems? Was he just on hard times, or did he have character defects? We`ve heard about this drinking issue. Tell us about that.

BILL FOSTER, FRIEND/NEIGHBOR (via phone): Well, you know, it`s like that poem. I didn`t hear you back when you was reading it there. He`s got to be twisted to write something like that.

You know, look, I`m watching it on TV now. He does look pathetic, and he should look that way to harm them boys.

Like I said, John was kind of to himself. I considered him like a loner, you know. I know he liked to drink a lot. And, you know, but never would I think that he would harm them kids, you know. If you had mental problems two years ago, or whatever, that poem, you`d think he`d have enough time to get some help, after a stunt like this.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It is mind-boggling. But we don`t know for sure...

FOSTER: Absolutely.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... what happened to these kids yet. Amy Leichtenberg, you have been through something horrific. You`re joining us on Skype. Tell us about your experience.

AMY LEICHTENBERG: My two boys, Duncan and Jack, went missing March 8. My ex-husband never returned them from his visit. He had many of the same similar traits that this monster has on TV that you are -- with the father of these boys.

They went missing for three weeks. We found -- they were found March 29. They had been drugged. And he had stabbed my youngest, Jack. And then he took the ultimate coward`s way out and hung himself. And it was -- this pain is nothing anybody should ever feel. It`s -- it`s horrific.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So when you look at this case, you really are reliving something -- a nightmare, a horror that you personally experienced?

LEICHTENBERG: I heard about this story, and it really hit home. I felt so bad for this mom. Because I know what it`s like to have your children missing and not know where they are.

And you can`t sleep; you can`t eat. You go searching every day. And you do anything you can in your power to find them. And this -- it`s a -- there`s no words for this experience. And the system failed Duncan and Jack on all levels.

I had an order of protection against my ex-husband. He violated it 57 times. He only got one conviction. He continually -- he represented himself in court. He continually acted -- his behavior in court was very erratic. He had lost his job. He was an avid gambler. He was about to be evicted from his apartment.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, can I just say, Amy, first of all, our hearts go out to you. But there`s so many commonalities between your story and this story we`re hearing, because this guy was about to be evicted. This guy was unemployed.

We pray that, in this case, these three missing children are found alive. This is just unbelievable.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Heart-stopping developments in the Zahra Baker investigation. Newly unsealed police reports reveal this 10-year-old may have been brutally raped before she vanished. What unimaginable horror did this little girl have to endure before her tragic death?

Then an amazing story of a teen who survived a year of torture; new bone-chilling surveillance video captures this remarkable boy escaping his captors, and running with a chain still wrapped around his ankle in search of help. You will not believe his astonishing ordeal.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She`s determined. She wants to go to college. She can hear now. It`s been a blessing.

ZAHRA BAKER, MURDERED 10-YEAR-OLD: Without them -- sorry, I cannot (INAUDIBLE).


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That angel. Tonight -- I don`t want to have to tell you, but we have more horrifying details in the vicious murder of that beautiful child you just heard from, 10-year-old Zahra Baker. It`s so awful. It`s excruciating to even verbalize.

Police are investigating claims that innocent freckle-faced Zahra was raped by multiple men, hit over the head and dismembered. According to new police documents obtained by HLN, a tipster has alerted police that he heard a sickening story. A man was going around telling friends he had done something really bad and needed to skip town.

The tipster told cops he heard through the grapevine that Elisa Baker, Zahra`s stepmom, allegedly brought little Zahra to a North Carolina home where the little girl was brutally raped by two men. Blood was found on her legs. The tipster says the mystery suspect didn`t outright confess to killing Zahra, but confided in friends that he might have hit the girl over the head. What kind of world are we living in?

Police followed this hot tip. They went to the home, tried to confirm the story. Well, guess what, the police search warrants state they found a mattress with a large dark stain dumped outside. Was that Zahra`s blood?

A second warrant states Zahra`s stepmom admitted that after the child died, she was dismembered. She allegedly directed cops to where Zahra`s body parts, bone, body fluids could be found in a bathtub drain.

Based on what Elisa Baker, this stepmom, allegedly told cops, they`re also looking for a pair of latex gloves they think were worn while dismembering this child`s body. White trash bags where somebody stored her body parts. Cops found her prosthetic leg wrapped in a white trash bag in a dumpster and bones at two other locations.

This story, it just -- I think it makes all of us stay awake at night, because it is beyond the pale.

Straight out to Tara Servatius, host of the "Tara Servatius Show" on WBT Radio in Charlotte; Tara, I understand you`ve got some urgent fast- breaking news. What have you got?

TARA SERVATIUS, HOST, WBT RADIO IN CHARLOTTE: The question is, why hasn`t anyone been charged yet. What we`re hearing tonight, and I`ve always been right on these tips, Jane -- nobody else has this yet -- is that the DA cut a deal with Elisa Baker because they were desperate to find the body. Remember, they couldn`t find it and took capital punishment off the table.

Now he wants to renege because all these details are coming out. And they`re behind the scenes fighting it out over that. That`s why we haven`t seen charges. And locals are outraged over the fact that no one has been formally charged yet with murder in this case.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mike Brooks, this has got to infuriate so many people as we hear how she may have been brutally violated.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: And then beaten over the head and died. Now we`re hearing a deal was cut? Why?

If this stepmom wasn`t involved in the child`s death, if the dad wasn`t involved in the child`s death, then why would they allegedly cover up, why would she admit to writing a ransom note? You don`t do that if somebody does something bad to your stepdaughter. You call the cops. You say, hey, these two guys raped my daughter. Go find them.

She didn`t do that. She wrote a ransom note and they allegedly covered it up.

BROOKS: Well, there`s a good possibility, we hear it all the time, the first time to come forward, it was she and her husband, we don`t know - - we don`t hear him mention much at all in these documents, Jane; but they probably didn`t realize how gruesome, how atrocious, how cruel everything was until they finished all their search warrants.

One of the reasons probably no one`s been charged yet, they`re probably waiting for some forensics to come back. And these gloves, the gloves you possibly can get some fingerprint inside of latex gloves. That`s why it`s important to try to find out who this belonged to. Also, DNA.

So what role did these two guys play? Allegedly one of these men was an associate, or knew her, knew Elisa Baker. So what role did she play? We really don`t know. But as this unfolds, Jane, it just gets worse and worse. Beyond our wildest dreams; it`s just unbelievable.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Zahra Baker`s father, Adam Baker, denies he had anything to do with his daughter`s gruesome death. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Adam, did you have any involvement in her disappearance?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok. But police records show Elisa, the stepmom, directed cops to a dumpster where she says her husband, that guy, Zahra`s dad, helped dump Zahra`s mattress, a tarp and comforter that at one point held the child`s body parts. I can hardly talk with these gruesome, gruesome details.

Elisa also wrote a letter, a jail house letter obtained by ABC News, insinuating that Zahra`s father dismembered her. Quote, "We didn`t kill her, but what he did afterwards is kind of horrifying."

I`ve got to go to Lisa Bloom. Again, what I don`t understand is if these mystery men raped her and hit her over the head and these parents -- the stepmother and the father didn`t kill the child, then why did they go through the trouble of, for example, the stepmom of writing a ransom note and covering it up? Why would he allegedly dismember?

Wouldn`t you go to cops if you had nothing to do with it?

LISA BLOOM, ATTORNEY, THE BLOOMFIRM.COM: Well, of course, Jane. It certainly sounds like a conspiracy to me. And it sounds like both of these parents have a lot to answer for.

I just want to say quickly, thank you for covering this story, as awful as it is, because I do a lot of child sexual abuse and domestic violence cases and people don`t want to believe it. And as disgusting as these facts are, we have to open our eyes and see what`s going on in our world if we`re ever going to address it.

Unfortunately this does happen. These kinds of sick crimes do happen. They happen every day.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. It`s absolutely true. I want to go to Erin Runnion, the mother of Samantha Runnion, whose daughter was murdered by a sicko molester. Yes, do you think any of us want to talk about this? This is making me, and everybody else, you know, sick, sick, heart sick. But --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s true. We have --

RUNNION: It`s the worst possible scenario.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. We have to know what`s really going on out there in the world so we can do something about it. So we can be in the solution. If we`re in denial about how sick people can be, then we can`t do anything, Erin. We`ve got to break through and get real about how twisted some adults are when it comes to helpless children.

RUNNION: That`s absolutely right. And, you know, the part about this story that just breaks my heart is that there were neighbors and people who knew Zahra who said she had bruises on her often and they wondered if she was being abused. If nothing else comes from this, if you suspect a child is being abused, report it.

You don`t have to prove it. Let the investigators prove it. But if you suspect a child is being abused, report it. You may be the only voice that they have.

BLOOM: Hear. Hear.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely. Now, here`s my big issue tonight. Is this a sick family plot? Because when two men allegedly raped Zahra, where was the stepmother? She was the one who supposedly brought this child to this home where these men were. Did she have a plan perhaps to allow these men to rape her?

Zahra`s dad made this very bizarre 911 call. Listen to this.


911 OPERATOR: So, no one has seen your daughter since 2:30 this morning?

BAKER: No. Like I said, we had a little drama last night and me and my wife went back to bed. And my daughter, I think, is coming into puberty, she`s in that brooding stage. So we only see her when she comes out when she wants something.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: So Lisa Bloom, when I heard that first 911 call, I was like, why the heck is he talking about his daughter going into puberty? What does that have to do with anything?

Now that I hear the story that the girl may have been raped, I`m wondering, you know, what are your thoughts on that?

BLOOM: It`s very bizarre, outside the realm of what you would expect on a 911 call. The 911 call should be, "Oh, my god, my daughter`s missing. Please help me find her." What you hear innocent people saying is can you please start looking? Like they don`t even want to wait for the call to get done for the police to get out there and start looking. People are very impatient for law enforcement to get moving and to stop talking to them on the phone.

This is a very calm and a very strange topic for this man to bring up on a 911 call.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tara Servatius, what are they doing to find these two alleged rapists based on this tip?

SERVATIUS: Well, this is the strangest part of all, Jane. One of the two took a lie detector test, ten hours, claims he passed. The police haven`t said that he actually did. He said he did. He`s walking around.

The other guy refused the lie detector test. That`s a little strange. He has been charged with unrelated crimes. And he`s still walking around. It is bizarre down there in Hickory. I don`t know what they`re doing.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Mike Brooks, what should they be doing?

BROOKS: Well, I did -- it`s hard for me to say, Jane, because I don`t know what kind of evidence they have. I don`t know what kind of statements they`ve taken from people. You know, the tipster information was third- hand, possibly fourth-hand information. But apparently they`ve talked to the tipsters. I don`t know what they have. But it`s not only the local police; you`ve also got the FBI involved.


BROOKS: You know that`s been -- it`s being handled the way they`re going to do it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you fantastic panel.

Stay tuned "NANCY GRACE" right after ISSUES has the latest -- the very latest in this horrific case.

And up next, this is another unbelievable story involving a young person. But this is a story of survival. Newly released stunning surveillance video: a teen with a chain around his ankle running from his adult captors who tortured him for a year. We`re taking your calls on this, 1-877-JVM-SAYS.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you can see here our person was talking to him and they gave him a towel to cover him up. This is where I came in to go down and see what was -- what was happening with the young man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was going through your mind at that very moment?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know at that time we just saw that he was dirty and thought that he was lost and didn`t really know the full extent of -- of what it had -- was transpiring at that moment in time.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A young man came into the front door, came in very dirty. You could tell something was wrong. He was holding a chain around his ankle and with a padlock on it. He quickly came up and just said, please help me. They`re -- they`re coming for me. Help me. Can I hide behind here?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, a young teenager miraculously escapes from a torture chamber. No exaggeration. This kid was beaten, burned, cut, starved, every single day for more than a year, held prisoner by four adults that he initially trusted.

Tonight we have the chilling video of his escape, shot two years ago to the day but just released. The 16-year-old boy who police dubbed Kyle Ramirez runs half naked, battered, bruised and chained into a California gym. You see him right there. He`s begging that lady for help. Help, help, they`re coming after me. Police say this boy survived pure hell.

The details of what he went through in that house of horrors, really, unfathomable. Kyle suffered third-degree burns on his arms for being chained to a fireplace while the fire was lit. His festering wounds were left untreated for weeks. He had deep slashes on his arms where his abusers cut him over and over with a steak knife.

Kyle told cops his abusers poured salt, butter and bleach -- bleach onto his wounds in order to make him feel excruciating pain. Doctors discovered he had gashes on his head so deep that he should have had stitches but the wounds had just grown into thick jagged lumps.

This poor boy, 16 at the time, had to stay in a burn unit for almost a month to recover. When doctors testified about his injuries, they had to pull out a long reference list, there were so many injuries they couldn`t even remember them all.

Now, why would these four monsters systematically torture this innocent child who simply needed a home?

Straight out to Henry Lee, reporter for the "San Francisco Chronicle"; Henry, we don`t understand the motive here. Why was this boy tortured?

HENRY LEE, REPORTER, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE: Well, some have argued on behalf of this defendants that this was s a problematic child with behavioral issues. But as you know Jane, that does not excuse anything that was done to this poor little boy.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, please. You know what? I -- I`ve got a better - - a better idea, in terms of motive. And it`s my big issue. As per usual, follow the money.

Today in our newsroom we were all trying to figure out why, why, why, why would anybody commit such incomprehensible evil against an innocent young boy. Why did this woman, Karen Ramirez, yes that`s her with the eyebrow ring, along with the others, you know -- but she took this boy out of a group home. Did -- did she just do that to torture him? No.

Follow the money. It looks like she busted him out to get her grubby hands on his Social Security check. So a social worker assigned to find the child learned that this woman, Karen Ramirez, had been collecting his Social Security check in his name. She called Social Security`s offices. Guess what?

Lisa Bloom, they refused to give her the address, so the boy remained shackled and chained, even as this woman tried to get the address so she could find him. This -- this is a thief. Our system is broken.

BLOOM: Oh my God. I mean, it`s just a horrendous, horrendous story. I mean hats off to this boy for escaping. God bless him. And what a courageous young man he will be, and what a long road he`s got to go down to try to recover from something like that.

I mean it is hard to understand the motive being money, to do something that sick and that twisted.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And Henry Lee, I understand that there was a 2- year-old boy, apparently there`s a married couple here. We`ve got the -- the -- the aunt, with the ring in her eye. We`ve got this other guy who is, I believe, just a friend or something, and then we`ve got this married couple. And all four are responsible for this. And they`ve all pleaded except for the one guy who was convicted.

And apparently the married couple has a 2-year-old son possibly. Because the reason he escaped is that he convinced the 2-year-old to give him the key so he could unshackle himself and then propel himself over the wall. Tell us about that, Henry.

LEE: Well indeed, it was a very dramatic escape from a very motley crew of characters, Jane. We had Kyle use a trampoline to jump over a fence in dramatic fashion into that lobby that you saw on television there, the In Shape Sports Fitness Club in Tracey, where he was so scared, Jane, that he ducked and was just cowering for -- for help, even though he was in a place of refuge. So extremely, extremely serious case of torture and finally he is now free.

And this coming Monday, Jane, I will be in court to see the three of the four people who took plea deals sentenced.

BROOKS: And Jane, apparently he overheard them talking about possibly planning to kill him, that`s why every -- he became so desperate. And you`re right though, Jane this system in this case is broken because if this woman thought that there were some fraud going on with the Social Security Administration they have investigators assigned to check cases like that out. They dropped the ball.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Not only that but the home where he -- he fled with this aunt -- they -- they wasted a year before they called 911.

LEE: Yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It was 11 months before anybody called 911.

Rich, Pennsylvania, quickly, sir, your thought?



RICH: First off, I want to say that Nancy is in my thoughts and prayers.


RICH: God bless her.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely, I`m so happy that she`s -- she`s on the mend.


RICH: I think -- I think she`ll be fine. I just want to -- I just want to agree with you 100 percent. This epidemic in this country is out of control. We need to stop this to our children and the women of this country.

I tell you one thing, I`m a man, but without our woman, there would be no civilization, because I don`t know a man on this world that can --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Well, what`s sick here is that women were involved in torturing this young man, you know? This is a war on children.

Stay right there. We`ll have more.



CHUCK ELLIS, HEALTH CLUB MANAGER: I talked to him once. I talked to him about I guess it was six, eight months after the fact. He was telling me he`s in a good home and, you know, it`s working out really well for him. He`s doing a lot better. So, I was very happy to see that.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, a tortured teenager`s incredibly brave escape caught on tape. Two years ago to the day, a 16-year-old boy who police are calling Kyle escaped a torture chamber where he had been beaten, cut, burned, starved, drugged, strangled on a daily basis.

And this is the stunning video of his escape. It`s causing an uproar.

Wendy, Connecticut, your question or thought, ma`am?

WENDY, CONNECTICUT (via telephone): Yes, hi, Jane, how are you?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m doing good.

WENDY: Yes, this is an absolutely just tragic story, shocking story. First, I want to say my thoughts and prayers absolutely go out to this young, brave man. And God bless that he escaped these monsters.

And I would like to know what is going to happen to these monsters -- there`s worst things I can say, but not on the air -- what are they going to be sentenced to?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Henry Lee, tell us. Thank you, ma`am. Henry Lee, what are they getting?

HENRY LEE, REPORTER, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE: Well, the married couple and their house guests or the care taker have each pleaded guilty, have accepted plea deals of 30 years in prison, at least. On Monday we will learn what the official sentence will be. And then the other gentleman, the next door neighbor who just was found guilty by a jury could find himself behind bars for the rest of his life.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I don`t understand this, Mike Brooks. Why do they need to do a plea deal with these people? I`m sure they have an open and shut case.

BROOKS: Absolutely.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: For God`s sakes.

BROOKS: Again, it`s the judicial system. You know, Lisa could probably answer it a lot better than I can but there shouldn`t be in cases like this that are so heinous and cruel and so many aggravating factors, there shouldn`t offer them a plea deal.

BLOOMS: Well, they`re getting long sentences and there will be no chance for appeal once there`s a plea bargain. That`s what the state gets in return.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Well, I don`t think it`s a good bargain. I would like to see these guys go away for a long, long time. They`re too dangerous to ever be let out. And you know 30 years doesn`t mean 30 years. I mean, 30 years probably means 30 months in this system.

Now, this young teenager was staying at the children`s receiving home in Sacramento, reportedly, before he either ran away or checked out. And maybe he was encouraged to do so by his aunt, is what we`re being told.

Now, we`re also reading reports that 11 months allegedly passed before anybody called 911. In the meantime social workers apparently called this Karen Ramirez, the one with the little ring in her eyebrow, to check on the boy and find out where he was. And he never answered. So, apparently they didn`t call 911.

Now, Henry Lee, I find this absolutely astounding.

LEE: Right. Well, unfortunately, Jane, I have seen too many cases in which the system, who was designed to protect our children, who are in most need of care, fall through the cracks because of the governmental red tape and a lack of accountability. And that`s apparently what happened in this case, Jane.

BROOKS: And their case load is so big, Jane, they don`t have enough people to really monitor the cases as well as they should, just like we hear all the time in the probation and parole system. Same kind of thing.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And let me say this.


BLOOM: Ok. But they were monitoring. They were making phone calls. And they didn`t follow up when nobody answered the phones. I mean come on.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, look, it`s going to cost millions to prosecute this case by the time it`s all said and done. It would be far cheaper to hire a few more social workers or just fix the system so it`s not reactive, it`s proactive. This is obscene. We have to change it.

And I want to thank you fabulous panel for discussing this because something has got to change fast.

BROOKS: That`s for sure.