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Elizabeth Edwards Dies; Attorney for Honeymoon Killer Discusses Case

Aired December 7, 2010 - 19:00:00   ET



JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, jaw-dropping new developments in the violent death of a reality show contestant`s wife. She was found dead while he was auditioning for "America`s Got Talent." That husband now claims she was brutally raped, robbed and murdered and that it was staged to look like a deadly fall. I`ll tell you what cops are saying in response.

And the alleged Honeymoon Killer is back in the States. He`s accused of cutting off his bride`s oxygen while they were scuba diving in Australia just days after they were married. We`ll talk to his defense attorney in a prime-time live exclusive.

Plus, a mother discovered dead and her precious daughter is missing. Cops believe 12-year-old Brittany Mae Smith is in grave danger and possibly with a man her mom met online. Should this alleged child abductor also be her mother`s killer?

ISSUES starts now.



LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: What do you say to other cancer patients?

ELIZABETH EDWARDS, ESTRANGED WIFE OF JOHN E. EDWARDS: That as long as you`re walking around, as long as you`re not dead now, then you`re alive and...

KING: Look in the mirror.

E. EDWARDS: That`s right. You`re alive. And, you know, don`t spend your time worrying about when it is you`re going to die. Spend your time worrying about how you`re going to live today.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Amazing words from an amazing woman. Tonight, breaking news: just one day after the announcement that Elizabeth Edwards` cancer was incurable and the treatment would no longer work, her fight ends. She loses her valiant struggle against breast cancer.

Elizabeth Edwards died this morning at 10:15 a.m. at her North Carolina home. At her bedside, her siblings, her children, and reportedly, her estranged and disgraced husband, former presidential candidate John Edwards.

One can only wonder what it was like to spend these last few days of her life with the man who broke her heart. Did Elizabeth ultimately forgive John Edwards? Did he deserve to be forgiven? After all, he forced Elizabeth to suffer the worst indignity when he had an affair with a campaign worker while Elizabeth was struggling with cancer.

Not only was Elizabeth fighting for her life, she would with learn that her husband had a child with this woman. We will talk about her extraordinary compassion to that child.


E. EDWARDS: I suppose there are a lot of women in her position who like to justify their behavior by thinking...

KING: Rationalize.

E. EDWARDS: Right. Rationalize it by thinking this relationship in which they`re thrusting themselves wasn`t valuable to begin with. It was clearly valuable to both of us and something that we tried very hard to save.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tragically, the cancer proved too strong. So now how will her family face the future without her? And what is Elizabeth Edwards` legacy?

We`re taking your calls about how Elizabeth Edwards and her struggles touched you. Call me at 1-877-JVM-SAYS.

We begin with clinical psychologist Dr. Judy Kuriansky.

Dr. Judy, why is it that this woman was so loved? Why is it that Elizabeth Edwards touched such a chord with Americans?

DR. JUDY KURIANSKY, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: I think she did, Jane, because she had such dignity in the face of such a horrific slap in the face by her husband, having this affair and this lovechild when she was sick with cancer. Every woman`s heart went out to her then and recognizing that she still went on and fought her -- not only her cancer but fought for health care for other women. She was a role model, and Young girls everywhere should follow her as a Young model -- role model instead of the Lindsay Lohans of this world.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: "People" magazine broke the news about Elizabeth Edwards` prognosis. And they say that John Edwards was right there at her side in her final moments. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s there. He`s not -- he`s in and out. He lives nearby. He is the father of their three children who are there. He will be taking care of these children. And he`s very much a presence.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: And the family released this statement: "Today we have lost the comfort of Elizabeth`s presence, but she remains the heart of our family. We love her and will never know anyone more inspiring or full of life."

Ken Vogel with, Elizabeth Edwards was a loving mom, and she was also a lawyer in her own right. She was a powerful Washington insider, whose husband was a U.S. senator and then a would-be vice president and then a presidential hopeful. Give us a sense of Elizabeth`s character that mesmerized so many people.

KEN VOGEL, POLITICO.COM: Well, she was regarded as -- as real, as a real person who felt deeply, who was fiery and compassionate, both about supporting her husband during his two presidential campaigns and about the issues that she believed in.

But she was also independent, and she wasn`t afraid to differ with her husband or her husband`s advisers when she felt they were taking a political course or a policy position that was not in the best interest of the campaign or of the American people. And she took issue with reporters and political opponents who she felt misrepresented the campaign.

And for that reason she was a very trusted political adviser for her husband and also kind of an icon on the left in the left-wing blogosphere where her stances on health care and her willingness to mix it up, not only with Republicans but with fellow Democrats, were seen as really noble and something that all candidates and all people in the public eye should aspire to.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And -- and most of all, this woman was a fighter. Elizabeth Edwards was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. She and John revealed it to the whole world immediately after he lost his bid for the White House as a vice-presidential running mate to presidential candidate John Kerry.

And then, when her husband was making another bid for the White House as a presidential contender in 2007, Elizabeth`s cancer returned. But with true grit, she went on the campaign trail again. To me, that`s extraordinary. Two bouts with cancer, two grueling campaigns.

I want to go to Taron in Illinois. Taron, can you hear me?

CALLER: Yes, ma`am. How you doing?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I understand that you really relate to Elizabeth`s struggle, because you`re going through something similar. Tell us about that.

CALLER: Yes. I`m actually in the -- speaking to you all from my hospital bed right now, battling cancer of the liver. And it`s getting to a terrible state itself. So I truly can relate to her on that issue.

But she has been an inspiration to me and to others, because she ran her race with so much grace and dignity, and she never, never gave up. And she truly is an inspiration to me to keep fighting.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I have to tell you that she`s also been an inspiration to me. I`m a breast-cancer survivor, and I never really talk about it, because I hope it`s in the past -- knock on wood. There`s a little wood over here. I`m going to knock on it.

But as I saw her struggles, first of all it reminded me of what an important issue this is, that we all need to focus on as Americans. She kept it in the public eye, Dr. Dale Archer. But why is it that she struggled so much, because, for example, my doctor said, "Hey, I love doing breast cancer work, because the survivability is so great. And you have such a great chance of survival." Why did she lose her battle against breast cancer?

DR. DALE ARCHER, PSYCHIATRIST: Well, you know, breast cancer is staged. It goes from stage zero to stage four. Stage zero may not need surgery at all. May just need to be watched or may just need a lumpectomy. The further along you go, the more intensive treatment you need.

But the one thing about Elizabeth I find interesting is that she minimized the cancer at first, implying that it was going to be treatable when, in fact, she need chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, all three. That implies to me that it was worse than she let on, perhaps to the public, maybe even to her husband.

And, of course, then it came back, and when the relapse occurred, it was in the bones. At that point, it was stage four. Survival rate at five years of stage four is one in four people. So she just had a more advanced type of cancer, a more advanced stage, perhaps a more aggressive type.

But the key with this cancer is early intervention, early recognition, early treatment to maximize your survival.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And I know that Elizabeth Edwards would want her experiences, tragic as it is today, to be a wake-up call for all women to get mammograms. It was because I got a mammogram that I discovered my breast cancer very early, before it had spread to my lymph nodes.

And as you say, Dr. Dale, if you catch it early, before it spreads to the lymph nodes, there`s a very good chance of survivability. I`ve been healthy for over five years now, and it was all thanks to that mammogram.

So I`m sure that Elizabeth Edwards would want with everyone to -- to se this tragic, tragic moment as an opportunity to raise that important issue.

And I have another big issue tonight. And that is never a victim. The one thing we can say about Elizabeth Edwards is that she never had a pity party. She lost her oldest son, Wade, in a car crash when the boy was just 16. Her husband cheated on her in a very public way, ultimately. She had breast cancer, but she was never a victim. She was always resilient. Listen to this.


KING: Is resilience something you learn you have when misfortune occurs?

E. EDWARDS: I think that`s probably true of a lot of people, you know, who...

KING: How do we know how we`ll handle something until we have to handle it?

E. EDWARDS: You don`t. And you know, I don`t think that I`m special in any way. I think most people do pull themselves together, do what it is that needs to be done. Sometimes you`re thrown for a loop for a little while, and then you start to reclaim. I think it`s that getting back on the right path. That`s the hard part.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, Tanya Young-Williams is with us tonight, and she`s an inspirational speaker who knows a lot about resilience. Your estranged husband, this former NBA player, Jason Williams, who is in prison right now for shooting his limo driver. And you say he also verbally abused you.

I want to get your take on how Elizabeth Edwards dealt with all the hurdles in her life and particularly with the scandal that was in the news so much toward the end of her life.


Well, first, my condolences go out to people who loved and supported Ms. Edwards. But I, too, was part of a cancerous marriage that kills your spirit every day.

But like Ms. Edwards, it`s not a position of weakness when you stay. In fact, as a strong woman it`s a position of strength, because you feel that you can carry the load. You feel that you can fix the marriage. And that`s what it was for Ms. Edwards.

But at some point conventional wisdom trumps everything, and your love for life trumps everything. She decided that she was going to use her gifts and talent and pursue the purpose she has in her life for no matter how short a period of time.

What I find amazing about what she has done is that, through her fight, she has changed and inspired more people than her husband could have done as a senator or even a president.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You are absolutely right. And we`re going to talk about her amazing compassion toward the daughter that John Edwards had with Rielle Hunter on the other side of the break, because it`s extraordinary. Everyone stay there. More on Elizabeth Edwards` brave battle with cancer.

And we`re taking your calls. How did she touch you? 1-877-JVM-SAYS.


JOHN EDWARDS, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Her cancer is back. We are very optimistic about this because, having been through some struggles together in the past, we know that the key is to keep your head up and keep moving and be strong. We intend to do exactly that.




E. EDWARDS: The hardest part I think was feeling like somebody who had been the person I had leaned on when I needed somebody when Wade had died, when the cancer came. I think it`s probably been hard for him, too, to see himself in this new light, as not the person on whom I feel I can lean.

KING: It disappointed a lot of people.

E. EDWARDS: It disappointed a lot of people. I think that probably includes himself.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: "Rest in peace, Elizabeth Edwards. You showed us how to live with dignity, grace and forgiveness." Just one of the many Facebook messages we`re seeing tonight as news spreads about Elizabeth Edwards` death. She died this morning at her North Carolina home with her family by her side, including John Edwards, her estranged husband. It was always about family for her.

Barbara, Michigan, your question or thought, ma`am.

CALLER: Hi, Jane. Thanks for taking my call.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thanks for calling.

CALLER: We lost a really good woman today, and I hope that this shows women that we need to do our mammograms and take care of us, put ourselves first a little bit. I am a 12-year breast cancer survivor, and...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Congratulations.

CALLER: She will be missed. She will be missed.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Do you think she really helped the battle, the battle to wake women with up to the fact that they need to get mammograms after a certain age?

CALLER: Exactly. And these people that are saying, "No, wait until you`re 50 years old to get the mammograms." They don`t know what they`re talking about. I was 46. And...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I`m so glad -- I am so glad that you`re a survivor. And thank you for calling in, and I hope your good health continues.

John Edwards denied having an affair with Rielle Hunter for months. And then finally he came clean. Listen to this from ABC.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you see this on the reports, though, you see this now breaks out.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did you continue to deny it and not tell the truth?

J. EDWARDS: Because I did not want the public to know what I had done. Very simple.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Sharon Waxman from I just finished reading this book "Game Change." It talks about what was going on behind the scenes. And it is unbelievable what this woman put up with. How did she show so much class in the face of this hideous scandal?

SHARON WAXMAN, THEWRAP.COM: Yes. That book is not entirely complimentary to Elizabeth Edwards, but in this instance, I think, she showed generosity and compassion to her husband. And the funny thing was about it is that, you know, it sort of just flipped the whole situation of how you looked at John Edwards and how his public image was so at odds with his private behavior.

And the fact that she was always the person who was behind the scenes and looked on as sort of, you know, the quiet -- the quiet power, you know, behind him and the support behind him, and that she remained upright, for one thing, because it would knock any strong woman down to have that happen so publicly, but that she showed generosity to him. But in other words, she didn`t...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I understand what you`re saying. The book wasn`t entirely complimentary, but it did show how much lying was going on around her and how much duplicity that she was at the center of, and she was this sort of innocent walking around and not knowing that all of this was going on.

And this is what I found astounding, is that she is such a class act, listen to this. We know that Elizabeth spent time with the daughter her husband John had with that campaign worker, Rielle Hunter.

And listen to Elizabeth talk Larry King about that. Check this out.


E. EDWARDS: We went down to Charlotte, and a third party picked up Quinn and brought her to where we were. And that John spent some time alone with her. It was before Christmas. We bought Christmas presents and dresses and little things.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: So go to Ken Vogel, senior reporter, Politico. Is the general consensus that she showed astounding grace, given the duplicity with which she was faced and the fact that she welcomed this child into her heart and embraced her, to me shows that she really could distinguish between adults behaving badly and the innocence of a child.

VOGEL: I think what it shows you is that she was willing to put what she believed to be the greater good above her own personal self-interest. So we see that with her husband`s lovechild, where she`s willing to reach out to it, to make it feel loved. We see that with her own family, where when she`s dying, she brings her husband back into the fold, because she knows that her family and her children are going to be in the care of her husband, for better or for worse.

And she showed that with the campaign, her husband`s presidential campaign, where even though she was diagnosed with this cancer, she was willing to keep it in the background, hide it to some extent, maybe hide the severity of it even from her husband, because she believed in the cause, and she believed that he was the best candidate to further the causes that she believed in, including health-care reform, sweeping domestic policies that would alleviate poverty, and a really sort of quintessential liberal agenda that she believed was in the best interests of all Americans, and was willing to sort of put her own health concerns aside while she helped her husband her husband pursue that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: They say courage is grace under pressure. And she is a true example of that, how she conducted herself, despite everything that she went through. Truly astounding and inspiring.

Thank you so much, fantastic panel.

A Virginia Amber Alert for a missing 12-year-old, her mom found dead. Cops believe this child is in grave danger and was taken against her will.

And Gabe Watson accused of killing his bride on their honeymoon. Now, he`s back in the U.S., and I`m talking to his lawyer exclusively, next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, the man known as the Honeymoon Killer in Australia returns to his home state of Alabama to face justice, American style. Prosecutors have slapped the 33-year-old Gabe Watson with two -- count them -- two counts of capital murder. They say he drowned his new bride, 26-year-old Tina, during a scuba-diving excursion just 11 days after they were married.

A fellow diver captured this chilling underwater image. It shows Tina lying on the ocean floor with her arms raised toward the surface.

Cops say Gabe, a certified rescue diver, cut off Tina`s air supply as he gave her a big bear hug. Investigators in Australia say he told them 16 -- that`s right, 16 -- different stories under questioning. That clip you heard was part of the transcript read by an ISSUES staffer.

Gabe copped a plea and spent 18 months behind bars -- down under, but now he`s back.

Joining me right now for a prime-time live exclusive, Gabe Watson`s attorney, Brett Bloomston.

Brett, thanks for joining us. I understand that he is charged with capital murder. So we`re talking about the death penalty if he`s convicted, right, sir?

BRETT BLOOMSTON, GABE WATSON`S ATTORNEY: That is not correct. The death penalty was removed from the indictment, based on negotiations that the Australian government had with the United States. The Australians would not deport Gabe or have him removed from Australia, because there is a domestic policy that they do not remove folks who are facing a death- penalty sentence. So there is no death penalty on the table right now.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, that`s good news for your client.

Let`s talk possible motive. Tina`s dad had said that shortly before the wedding, Gabe asked to have her life insurance increased and make him the sole beneficiary. The company, the insurance company, reportedly confirmed Gabe had e-mailed them twice regarding dive insurance policies and asked about the insurance shortly after her death. He also allegedly tried to claim hundreds of thousands of dollars from a travel policy. So...

BLOOMSTON: Well, you`re confusing -- you`re confusing many, many different facts.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you just tell us your side of the story.

BLOOMSTON: Every financial motive that has been put out by the -- by Tina Thomas` family has been dispelled. The Australians determined in a five-year, lengthy investigation and very thorough investigation that there was absolutely no financial motive for Gabe Watson to commit the murder of his wife after only 11 days of being married to her.

Simply, he was not a beneficiary of any policy. He did not claim any money that was not due to him. He did not make inquiries to insurance companies about whether he was the beneficiary. This is simply...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK, so let me ask you a question. Obviously, you don`t even think he should be behind bars. Certainly, her family doesn`t agree with you there.

BLOOMSTON: Listen, Gabe Watson pled guilty to a negligent standard of manslaughter in Australia that he simply did not render aid to his wife. It was not that he did anything...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Why didn`t he?

BLOOMSTON: ... to cause her death.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Why didn`t he aid?

BLOOMSTON: Well, it`s been blown out of proportion that this -- that Gabe Watson is a certified rescue diver. He took a two-day crash course some four years before he went diving with her. He`s never rescued anyone in his life.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK, sir, I want you to come back. Fascinating story. Got to leave it there.

You won`t believe the next story.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: A mother discovered dead and her precious daughter is missing. Cops believe 12-year-old Brittany Mae Smith is in grave danger and possibly with a man her mom met online. Could this alleged child abductor also be her mother`s killer?

Jaw-dropping new developments in the violent death of a reality show contestant`s wife. She was found dead while he was auditioning for "America`s Got Talent". That husband now claims she was brutally raped, robbed and murdered and that it was staged to look like a deadly fall. I`ll tell you what cops are saying in response.


RAY LAVINDER, ROANOKE COUNTY, POLICE CHIEF: When our officers entered the residence, they found the body of 41-year-old Tina Smith. Co-workers had contacted us after Mrs. Smith did not show up for work. While at the scene, we also determined that the 12-year-old child was missing.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, breaking news you in the desperate, I mean desperate, search for a missing 12-year-old girl -- there she is right there -- after her mom is found dead and they think it`s a homicide, a murder. Translation: murder.

Tonight, as we speak, seventh grader Brittany Smith is believed to be on the run with a 32-year-old man that Brittany`s now-dead mom met on the Internet. Cops have issued an Amber Alert saying this child right there is in grave danger.

But is it possible this young girl left willingly? When the mom Tina Smith didn`t show up for work, a co-worker went in and found the mom dead yesterday inside her house and realized Tina`s 12-year-old daughter Brittany, nowhere to be found, missing.

Now, this stunning image surfaces. It`s from a surveillance camera at a Wal-Mart near Brittany`s home, and there she is with the suspect, Jeff Easley, the 32-year-old guy. Cops say they used Brittany`s mom`s credit card at the store.

But guess what? They were there Friday. This mom was found dead yesterday. Could the mom have been dead all weekend? And who killed her? Neighbors say they saw the suspect Jeff Easley make sexually overt gestures toward the 12-year-old Brittany. And they called it very creepy.

I want you to give me a call, 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297. What are your thoughts on this?

Straight out to Amanda Codispoti (ph) with the "Roanoke Times"; Amanda, what is the very latest on this search for this child?



CODISPOTI: Well, police revealed to us today that they have that surveillance video of the pair, Brittany and Jeff, together at Wal-Mart. They`re walking out of the store about 8:35 p.m. Friday night, and Jeff appears to be pushing a cart full of merchandise. The video is too grainy to really see what he`s got and police won`t tell us what it is he has purchased.

As you mentioned, he used Tina Smith`s credit card so they have charged him with attempted credit card fraud and credit card larceny.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: In absentia. They haven`t found him yet. He`s on the run.

CODISPOTI: That`s right. They have a warrant out for his arrest on those charges.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Neighbors say, the mom, 42-year-old Tina Smith and Jeff Easley met on the Internet this summer. He works for a local landscaper. In October he moved into Tina`s house. Hours ago, the suspect`s mom -- this guy`s mother -- made a heartfelt plea at a news conference. Listen to this.


SALLY MARTIN, JEFFREY EASLEY`S MOTHER: From what I know about you and Brittany, I wondered if you were hungry or cold. You know you can call me and I just want you to come home and I want you to be safe.

And I know you`re taking care of Brittany, if you would just take her somewhere and drop her off, call 911 or give me a call, come to the house, do whatever you need to do. We`ll help you work this out. I love you.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: This guy is 32. Brittany is 12, a seventh grader.

Mike Brooks, neighbors saw him behaving inappropriately with Brittany and they said it creeped them out. How they looked at each other, how he looked at her, that`s what makes this an especially dangerous situation. She`s 12. Even if she went, quote-unquote, "willingly", she doesn`t have the capacity to decide whether she wants to go or not.


And you know, I`m surprised they wouldn`t tell, and it`s kind of -- it`s interesting that law enforcement would not tell what kind of things that they bought at the Wal-Mart. And also we don`t see any pictures and I know most Wal-Marts have surveillance video cameras outside, so they could say exactly what kind of car he was in, unless the cameras were broken. But it`s interesting they`re not releasing that because it`s part of their investigation.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It would say a lot. For example --

BROOKS: It would with say a whole lot.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Because that could have been after the mother was killed or before the mother was killed.

BROOKS: Right.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: If he`s buying rope, if he`s buying knives -- that would say one thing. But if he`s buying camping equipment it would say something completely different, right, Mike?

BROOKS: that`s exactly right. And that`s why the police are not giving away this information, for whatever reason.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And I find it fascinating the way this little girl is walking beside him. Here`s what`s really scary. This 12-year-old, again, seventh grader, Brittany Smith reportedly used the suspect`s last name on her Facebook and MySpace pages. That`s right. She listed her last name as Easley, and the 12-year-old also listed her age as 18.

So here`s my big issue. Was this mom that is now dead sleeping with the enemy? Was this guy plotting to take her 12-year-old daughter the whole time while he`s living with her and making romance with her?

Here`s what cops say.


LAVINDER: We are confident at this time that Brittany is with Mr. Easley. Mr. Easley is a friend of the family, and Tina and Jeff apparently met online this summer and developed a relationship. Jeff moved in with Tina and Brittany in October. We are extremely concerned for Brittany`s safety.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Dr. Judy Kuriansky, what kind of man wants to have -- by the way, this is the car they`re believed to be in, the mom`s care, the dead mother`s car. What kind of man wants to have a relationship with a 12-year-old girl?

DR. JUDY KURIANSKY, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: A sexual predator. Here`s my theory, Jane. Based on what you just said, the fact that the 12-year- old girl had her name Easley, his last name, on her Facebook and her MySpace and said she was 18, now she either did that herself or he forced her too.

But here`s my theory, he went on the Internet to find a woman who had a young girl. And then -- this is what sexual predators do -- they tell the young girl, I`m going to marry you one day. Then guess what, she`s got his last name. So they`re married in her mind also.

So I`m not so sure she wouldn`t be going along with this a little bit, doesn`t know may how her mother died and that this is really scary for the young girl because of the sexual predator that I believe that he is and whether or not she horrifically and God forbid something might happen to her, if he`s about to get caught. I think --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. That`s why they say she`s in extreme danger.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, this is not the first tragedy --

KURIANSKY: And I think that he --


KURIANSKY: Yes, I think that he probably -- I`m suspecting that he killed the mother because she found out that there was a sexual experience going on between the so-called boyfriend and the young girl.

BROOKS: Could very well be.

KURIANSKY: And that she confronted him about it and then he killed her. And that that`s why he had to abscond with the young girl and the young girl may have seen that and known that and that`s put her in more danger.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, he hasn`t been charged in any way in connection with the mother`s death, but they are investigating it. They are treating it as a homicide and they did the autopsy today. So we`ll find out. We don`t know how she died yet. But they are treating it as a homicide.

Now, this is not the first tragedy to strike Brittany`s family. Get this, her brother reportedly died last year, this girl`s brother, while playing the so-called choking game where people strangle themselves cutting off oxygen and producing a feeling of euphoria.

The mother, Tina Smith, apparently went on her son`s memorial Facebook page documenting her grief and advocating awareness about self- asphyxiation. I`ve got to wonder, you know -- go ahead, Dr. Judy.

KURIANSKY: This is -- right -- this is called sexual asphyxiation. David Carradine was suspected to have died that way. So has Inxs --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let`s not -- whoa, whoa, whoa.

KURIANSKY: I know that teenagers --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I have no independent confirmation of what you just said. Let`s keep it on this subject.

KURIANSKY: Ok. All right. But this is it my psychological theory. I know teenagers do this to get a sexual high so I think that the brother and the sister may have been talking about sexuality things. That`s why she was a little too precocious in this way.

And that`s very, very scary about all of the sex that was going on in that house because that`s why kids do it, to get sexually high and then they so-called make a mistake and then he died.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Mike Brooks, what are they going to do, very briefly, to find -- what is it dragnet? How do they find him?

BROOKS: I`m sure he has a cell phone. I`m sure he has friends and associates. I don`t know of his arrest record, but these are all things that can play in. You`ve got the Virginia State Police, Roanoke, Salem and the FBI and this little girl`s biological father is a cop. He`s a cop in southern Virginia.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, God, I just pray that they find this girl ok. Thank you so much expert panel.

BROOKS: Absolutely.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: The "America`s Got Talent" contestant whose wife body was discovered gruesomely dead while he was auditioning -- well, this guy is finally talking. He is reportedly saying now he has evidence that his wife was raped, robbed and murdered and there was a whole staging going on at the crime scene.

But what do the cops have to say about that? You won`t believe it. It`s pretty fascinating stuff. Give me a call 1-877-JVM-SAYS.

Plus, the homeless man accused of murder in Celebration, Florida, that`s at town near -- it`s kind of Disney-designed type town. The first murder they`ve ever had. This guy you won`t believe what he`s telling reporters. It`s unbelievable.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did he do that made you so angry? What did he try to do?

DAVID ISRAEL MURRILLO, MURDER SUSPECT: He`s a sick man and he got what he deserved.



VELEZ-MITCHELL: A reality show contestant`s wife`s mystery death, that in a moment.

But first, "Top of the Block" tonight.

The homeless man charged with murder in Celebration, Florida, denied bail. This guy, David Murillo, was having a drink with the victim. They got into an argument. Murillo pretty much admits that he strangled him and hit him with an axe. After the hearing the suspect talked to these reporters and he called the victim a sick man.


MURRILLO: Something came over me. I don`t know what happened, you know. I just felt so mad that he did that, you know?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you regret it?

MURRILLO: Of course I do, you know, because you can`t -- no matter what he did, you know, you can`t justify that, you know. You can`t justify that.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: What was he so mad that this victim allegedly did? Murillo claimed the 58-year-old victim tried to sexually assault him after he allegedly slipped something into this homeless man`s drink.

But, you know, good luck with that defense because, guess what, when cops went to the homeless encampment, guess what they found? They found the victim`s items. So there`s robbery involved, ok? Maybe that`s really at the heart of this case.

And that is tonight`s "Top of the Block".


JOE FINLEY, AN "AMERICA`S GOT TALENT" CONTESTANT: I`ve been an independent artist for a long time, self-managed and self-produced, and now she`s on her way up.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, that rock musician talking about himself in a YouTube clip is breaking his silence. Joe Finley, he`s an "America`s Got Talent" contestant, hasn`t said a word publicly since the sudden and mysterious and really gruesome death of his wife Laura. That`s a month and a half ago.

But now, tonight, he`s claiming to Radar Online that his wife Laura was brutally raped, strangled and robbed before her body was moved to the bottom of a staircase at the Los Angeles hotel where the couple was staying.

Joe says he believes there`s DNA that will prove it. Joe also says he and Laura were partying the night before his audition and that he heard her leave their room at 3:00 in the morning and figured she was getting ice. I don`t know who goes and gets ice at 3:00 in the morning -- whatever.

The next morning Joe says she was gone. Oddly enough, Joe still went off to his audition, audition as if nothing had happened, even though his wife was missing. After discovering Laura`s underwear-clad body, cops -- well, they went up to Joe and they found him standing outside the ballroom of the hotel waiting to perform for the judges.

And get this, cops showed him a photo of Laura with bruises all over her face. And he allegedly said, "Oh, she`s dead," even though nobody told him that she had even been attacked. Ok?

What is the deal here? Joe, according to cops, is a person of interest in the case. A case that is not, I repeat, not been classified as a homicide.

That`s confusing right there. How can he be a person of interest in a case that -- that`s not classified as a homicide? Her death is still being called an accident.

ISSUES reached out to police about Joe`s jaw-dropping claims and cops told us, the more he keeps talking, the more interesting he becomes. That`s pretty much a direct quote there from the cops.

What does that mean? I`m taking your calls, 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877- 586-7297.

Straight out to Dylan Howard, senior executive editor for Radar Online; what is the very latest on this one Dylan?

DYLAN HOWARD, SENIOR EXECUTIVE EDITOR, RADARONLINE.COM: Well Jane, yesterday I spoke at length to Joe Finley, it was revealing and very candid 40-minute conversation. And in that he made those jaw-dropping claims. He said that his wife Laura was wearing three solitaire diamond rings on her finger. When she was found, those rings were gone.

He says that there will with be DNA proof that will come back that proves that she scratched someone moments before her death, in somewhat of a violent struggle. And he says she was also brutally raped.

Now, he broke his silence for the first time in six weeks. And, as you say, it shed new -- a new spotlight on this case because my police sources are also telling us that they`re very confused about this case. Their belief is that this is just a tragic accident. Yet at the same time as you rightly point out, he remains in their view a person of interest. It`s a baffling case that has stunned Hollywood.

How, Mike Brooks, can somebody be a person of interest in an accident? I don`t get that.

BROOKS: Well, you always look, as we talk about all the time, Jane, we always look at the person who was last with her or who law enforcement believes was last with her. Does he really remember what time she left that room? They both apparently were -- we`re using drugs and partying before all of this happened. Does he really remember exactly what happened?

That also remains to be seen. You know, I don`t -- I`ve never taken Ecstasy, but I`ve heard that it can also sometimes be a mind-eraser. But I again, I`ve never taken it. So does he really know?

And I don`t know how he thinks that the body was moved. The law enforcement will be able to tell that if the body have been moved from one location on the stairs all the way to the bottom of the stairs.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes and -- and obviously, Mike Brooks, if she had been raped, God forbid, but if she had been there would be DNA that would with reveal a male person not her husband on that DNA.

BROOKS: Right. And -- and -- how to -- I`m not sure how he thinks there might be DNA under -- of someone underneath her fingernails and why he thinks that she was brutally strangled also.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Joe and his wife Laura were reportedly, as Mike Brooks just said, partying up big-time the night before his audition. I always say that`s a bad thing to do right before an audition, ok. You party after the audition if you get the part.

Joe says they took Ecstasy. A witness tells Radar Online Laura downed three glasses of wine. Now, listen to what addiction specialist Howard Samuels says about that combo.


HOWARD SAMUELS, ADDICTION SPECIALIST: It`s a very dangerous combination. I had one of my patients OD last year on ecstasy and alcohol. So you know, for someone to be taking Ecstasy and drinking, who knows how much in this case, can be very dangerous. So it doesn`t surprise me at all that this woman is dead.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Debra Opri, family law attorney, the drugs complicate this case even more because they may not remember what the heck happened.

DEBRA OPRI, FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY: Well, you know, I would be interested in the acts and patterns of the relationship this couple, as well, if I were the police, I`m sure they`re interviewing people who were in other rooms. As far as what the husband is saying, his acts and patterns are that he`s talking too much and he`s making a lot of assumptions. I would lean on what you said earlier about him having that first reaction to looking at a bruised wife of his and saying oh, she`s dead. That is a very telling statement, Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I think he also erred obviously by continuing on with his audition after the cops informed him that his wife was dead, and that maybe that makes him seem a little suspicious.

More on the other side. We`re just getting started.



CARLOS DIAZ, SYNDICATED RADIO HOST: Why in the world would he kill his wife, you know, at an "American Idol" audition, basically, a hotel, why would he do that? What is the motive there to say you know what, I`m going to go audition for "American Idol" but just before I audition, I`m going to go kill my wife.

BROOKS: She leaves at 3:00. He wakes up to go do his audition, she`s still not there. Aren`t you going to worry a little bit? You`re going to take a shower, get ready, she`s still not there, wouldn`t you want your loved one to be there with you to watch your performance?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: "America`s Got Talent" wannabe Joe Finley tonight breaking his silence about the mysterious death of his wife. Finley telling RadarOnline he thinks she was robbed, strangled and raped and claims there`s evidence to prove it but cops say hey, this guy, the husband, remains a person of interest.

Stacy Kaiser, psychologist, could it be that he set off alarm bells when cops approached him as he was about to audition and showed him this photo of his wife and he looks at it, allegedly says "Oh, she`s dead," and then kisses his wife on the photo, and then goes off and auditions? That`s bizarre behavior.

STACY KAISER, PSYCHOLOGIST: That`s absolutely bizarre behavior. I`ll tell you something. I really view him as somebody who is attention- seeking, because how many grieving widows do you also know that want to sell an exclusive story several weeks later, highlighting their theories?

Most people would be grieving, trying to put their life back together and recover from everything that they had heard had happened.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let`s give Dylan Howard a chance to respond to that.

DYLAN HOWARD, RADARONLINE: I was going to say that`s wrong. He didn`t sell his story. If you want to know the truth, he actually rang our office very disturbed at what he said were the crime scene photos that were published on our Web site; photos that were taken just a few days after the death of his wife.

Now, he didn`t sell his story. Let`s just clarify that.

KAISER: Ok. Forgive me. It`s not even about the selling. It`s about the fact that he went and put himself in an online interview instead of doing what a typical grieving spouse would do which would be private talking to people --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. One at a time. One at a time. Hold on. Dylan, you can respond to that.

HOWARD: He said that he`s been silent for six weeks. He said he`s been asking questions of law enforcement and getting nowhere. He has hired private investigators. He said it was time for him and it was the Finley way to speak up about this. Now, he came forward --

BROOKS: The Finley way.

Howard: -- made these claims based on the evidence that he says the investigators have been able to accumulate in their own inquiry.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me just add to this question.

OPRI: I agree with Dylan, he`s frustrated.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, Debra. I hear a lot of grumbling back there amongst our panel. Here`s what I don`t understand. I don`t know what kind of staircase this is. Is it a staircase that`s like goes around and there`s a hole like -- do they feel like she fell down the hole?

Because people don`t fall down, you know, I don`t know how many flights of stairs, especially when there`s an angle. Even back in my worst drinking days, I can`t fall down eight flights of stairs.

HOWARD: And that`s what he says, Jane. He says that only 1,000 people a year die after falling over a railing. His belief is that she was raped and the crime scene was staged, her body moved to appear as though she fell down. And on the face of it, it seems to be a reasonable element of belief about that claim.

BROOKS: Jane, look at this picture here. I tell you, as an investigator, it would be very easy to tell exactly where she started from and where she ended, because I mean, I can go to that hotel right after that happened and tell you exactly what happened, probably.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Debra Opri, the last word. Ten seconds.

OPRI: Forensic specialists in this case will solve the crime. They are going to basically re-enact the crime. That`s what`s going to happen.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We are out of time on this crime.