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ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL
Hollywood Publicist Murder Solved?; Police Say Someone is Helping Missing Girl, Abductor
Aired December 8, 2010 - 19:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, a possible big break in the desperate hunt for a missing 12-year-old girl. Her mother found dead in their home. And now this daughter is missing. Police say the seventh grader is with a 32-year-old man her mom met online, and that someone is hiding them. Now we`re learning the mom posted an ominous Facebook message, warning that she might die. And there`s more.
And first comes the baby in the baby carriage. And then comes fame. A nauseating new report claims teens are trying to get pregnant just to get on TV. Is this proof that shows like "Teen Mom" are sending a dangerous message to our kids?
ISSUES starts now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POLICE CHIEF DAVID SNOWDEN, BEVERLY HILLS: The gun used to shoot Ms. Chasen is the same gun used by Harold Martin Smith to commit suicide.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, breaking news out of that news conference. A Hollywood homicide bombshell. Murder solved?
Cops say it`s a match, that the gun used in the shooting death of publicist Ronni Chasen is the very same gun used by the man who blew his brains out when cops moved in to question him about the murder.
And get this: Beverly Hills cops say that man, transient Harold Smith, is the only suspect. Cops believe he rode his bicycle into Beverly Hills to kill Ronni Chasen after midnight. Did you hear me? Bicycle? He rode his bicycle, really?
Smith shot himself in the head rather than talk to cops about the Chasen murder. But reports are he had bragged that he was hired to kill her and would get 10 grand for the hit. Cops now say that was all fiction. He made all that up. How can they be so sure?
The ballistics match, that`s the headline. And that is a stunning reversal by the Beverly Hills police, who seemed ready to cross this character off the list of suspects in her murder just a couple of days ago. Now moments ago, cops talked to reporters.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SGT. MICHAEL PUBLICKER, BEVERLY HILLS POLICE DEPARTMENT: This was a random act of violence with Mr. Smith`s background, we believe it was most likely a robbery gone bad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: But he didn`t take anything. So how do they know it was a robbery?
Chasen was shot five times in the chest, as she drove through Beverly Hills three weeks ago after midnight. And many have speculated that the shots came from a car that pulled up alongside her. But a bicycle?
And they`re saying Smith has absolutely no connection to Ronni Chasen. Cops say Smith was just a desperate guy at a desperate point in his life, and this was a random act. Do you buy it? Call me: 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877- 586-7297.
Straight out to CNN producer Alan Duke, who was at that news conference.
Alan, murder solved? I detected a lot of skepticism by the reporters at the news conference. Bring us up to date.
ALAN DUKE, CNN PRODUCER: Well, these are the same reporters also that had all kinds of speculation the past three weeks. Speculation that apparently was unfounded, at least, according to the detectives who had been working on this case since the middle of November.
It seems that it wasn`t exactly a professional hit, according to the police, that it didn`t take an expert marksman to shoot Ronni Chasen, that all of this information that some media outlets have reported about a tight shot group in her chest just weren`t true.
Of course, we haven`t seen the coroner`s report yet.
But him being on a bicycle would explain some things. Would explain how she could have been shot on Whittier instead of Sunset. And perhaps it was a revolver, instead of a gun that ejects the casings after it was shot. So there -- it does fit, if you want it to fit.
But they say they`re only about 70 percent through with their investigation. Still more interviews to do. But they`re convinced right now, at least, that Harold Martin Smith was the killer. But they`re going to go that 30 percent more to make it 100 percent certain.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Listen, I was buying it. I was accepting everything they said, right up until they mentioned the word "bicycle." The fact that cops think Ronni Chasen`s killer went to Beverly Hills and shot her after midnight and got there on a bicycle, that -- that`s hard to believe. But let`s listen to what they had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His neighbors say that his method of transportation was a bicycle. So do you think this hit that you said was not professional, could it have been done by a bicycle rider through Beverly Hills?
PUBLICKER: Yes, it could have.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So a bicycle -- a bicycle could have been the vehicle used to make the hit?
PUBLICKER: We believe that his mode of transportation was by bicycle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mike Brooks, Harold Smith is described as a transient with a long rap sheet that includes robbery and drug crimes. He was -- he was living at this run-down hotel.
OK, why would he get on a bike and go all the way to Beverly Hills to rob someone and then fail to take anything? Why wouldn`t he just hold up somebody in his neighborhood?
MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it`s probably some more targets, if you will, in Beverly Hills. Most likely someone in a Mercedes is going to have some money. But as the detective said, robbery gone wrong. Random act of violence.
You know, Jane, I believe -- I believe that they would not come out and say that it was in fact a bicycle, if in fact, they didn`t have proof. Either as you -- as you said earlier today, it was -- you know, a bicycle would stand out. Absolutely. They probably have witnesses that saw him on a bicycle and probably some surveillance video. Because, as you know, from where he stays all the way in Beverly Hills, a lot of cameras, Jane.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Kathy in Nevada, your question or thought, ma`am? What`s your theory?
CALLER: I -- I just find it hard to believe that this guy rode almost 12 miles round trip to rob someone in a Mercedes. I`m very familiar with that area. As a tourist, I`ve been there so many times.
And first of all, if he was going to ride all the way from L.A. into Beverly Hills on a bike, I would assume that some law enforcement officer along the way would have stopped him. I can`t believe that he was able to get off that. And on the passenger side window, I believe, without her driving off. I find...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know what, I think -- Kim Serafin, there was a lot of skepticism, sort of an incredulous tone to the reporters asking the questions at the news conference. Stranger things have happened. I`m not saying that they`re wrong, but I just find it hard to believe, as the caller said -- go ahead. Who wants to talk? Mark Eiglarsh.
MARK EIGLARSH, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, I had a completely different reaction than you and the caller. I actually said, knowing from being in the criminal justice system over 20 years or so here, I see a lot of thugs, career criminals using bicycles. They can`t get driver`s licenses. They don`t know how to pass a test. They don`t have money for insurance. And I was arm robbed by somebody who came up on a bicycle.
It`s very subtle. Cops are not going to stop people when they`re simply driving a bicycle. There`s got to be something more. A car, there`s defective equipment. There`s the argument that they were driving improperly. Here, it fits for me, Jane.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. Yes. We`re learning from TMZ that he served a lot of time in prison. And handed to me. This is for violent robberies against women, OK. This is TMZ: "Ronni Chasen wasn`t Harold Smith`s first target of random violent, TMZ has learned. Smith served serious time in state prison for violent robberies of women in 1998."
We`re just getting this in. According to court records, Smite pulled off two separate robberies on the night of January 20, 1998, one in Beverly Hills, one in West Hollywood. In both cases, Smith did not know the victims and attacked them from behind.
BROOKS: And he stole a Sony Walkman and some other items from the woman. What do you steal a Sony Walkman for? To pawn it and get money. This was a desperate guy. And it was -- it was a robbery gone bad, Jane.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Except, Kim Serafin, I think that the fact that this guy, before he blew his brains out, said, "I did it. It was a hit. And I`m waiting $10,000." How is it that cops know for sure that there isn`t somebody who hired him to do this? That`s what I`d like to know.
KIM SERAFIN: Exactly. They`re saying it wasn`t a hit man, that this was -- he acted alone. But because of what we`ve been hearing, because of what everyone has been talking about, because it`s Hollywood, and we want to think that there`s maybe a bigger story to this, everyone is expecting that maybe there is more to this case.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, but listen, I`ve got to say this. Mike Brooks, when I heard that there was a town car, a Lincoln town car that passed the murder scene within a minute or two afterwards and kept going, you know what I thought of? And maybe I`ve seen too many movies, but I thought when they order the hit, right, what do they do after they order the hit? They drive by to see if it`s been carried out.
BROOKS: You have been watching too many movies, Jane, I can guarantee you that.
No, I think that they would not have come out today with this information, if they did not have proof that, in fact, these are the right facts about the case. They said they`re 70 percent. I`d say that they`re very, very close to just closing it out. They said -- but they even said they weren`t going to say exactly how many shots.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, in my own defense, I would say it`s harder to figure out who he was talking to, because he was a transient. So he didn`t have a computer. He might not even have had a cell phone. So it`s possible somebody approached him and there was no evidence that they approached him, because they did it all verbally. I`m not saying I`m right. I`m just saying how can they say for sure, 100 percent, when they`re only 70 percent done with the investigation?
BROOKS: And it as that tip from "America`s Most Wanted" that led them to him at that place. So they must have checked the tip out before they went to talk to him.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Everybody, stay right there. We are getting started, and we`re taking your calls. What`s your theory? Do you believe what cops had to say today? Are you buying it? The bicycle? 1- 877-586-7297 .
And more escalating anxiety as the desperate search for missing 12- year-old Brittany Smith intensifies. Now cops say somebody is hiding this child and her alleged abductor, and they are pleading with this man to let this child go.
Plus more on the surprising breaking news out of Beverly Hills in the murder of Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PUBLICKER: The detectives were able to do numerous interviews, and through the information obtained in the interviews, it appears that he did act alone. There was a question posed earlier whether Mr. Smith knew Mrs. Chasen. It does not appear at this time that there`s any connection between the two.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Breaking news from the Beverly Hills P.D. They found the gun used to kill famed publicist Ronni Chasen. And the person of interest who blew his brains out when cops moved into talk to them, it`s their only suspect at this time.
Listen, more from the news conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SNOWDEN: They have a preliminary ballistics result. The weapon used by our person of interest, Harold Martin Smith, to commit suicide, does preliminarily match the evidence from the Chasen homicide.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Bob, Virginia, your question or thought, sir?
CALLER: Yes, hi.
CALLER: I was calling -- can you hear me?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, I can. Your question or thought?
CALLER: Thank you so much for taking my call. I have tried for like three years now to try to get on your show.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I haven`t been on the air for three years. But I get your point. What`s your question, sir?
CALLER: OK. OK, I guess it`s really more of a comment, a couple of comments. One, I think that the -- unfortunately, the "robbery gone bad" theory is totally 100 percent possible. And I get this from a different point of view. One, I`m a physician. I`m a board certified anesthesiologist.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: But very quickly, why? I give you ten more seconds.
CALLER: It seems that a bicycle will offer to a person, more for committing a crime like this. You have stealth. OK. You don`t have a vehicle rolling up next to you. It allows you to get closer to a person in a motorized vehicle without them perhaps even realizing that you`re there.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. Sir, you made really great points. And I like that.
Mike Eiglarsh, what this would mean is, if in fact, this man drove a bicycle into this neighborhood with all the big mansions and all their surveillance cameras, there has got to be a lot of video of him along the way riding his bike.
EIGLARSH: Not necessarily. Who`s paying to have video pointing at the sidewalks? He`s not riding in their front lawn or right in front of the gates. I don`t believe that there would be any video.
And also, what -- I don`t understand the big jumping on law enforcement. First of all, what they`re saying is we don`t believe...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Who`s jumping on law enforcement?
EIGLARSH: Well, listen, you`re suggesting that they don`t have, necessarily, the grounds to say what they`re saying. What they`re saying is not 100 percent. They`re saying that "We don`t believe that there was anyone else who was involved other than him. And based on his record, based on his modus operandi, based on everything they know, there`s no evidence to suggest that he did this with anyone. It was just a random act of violence.
Why can`t we accept that?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Does that dovetail, Mike Brooks, with the reports that were coming out, that, oh, some women in Beverly Hills had been approached by a man who was threatening them and approaching their cars in the dead of night in a very similar manner, in the same neighborhood as Ronni Chasen was gunned down?
BROOKS: Well, maybe these are some of the interviews that they conducted. We don`t know, Jane. But that`s a good possibility. There could be some connection here. But we don`t know for sure.
But, you know, he could have taken that bicycle, put it in the bushes, been hiding it in the bushes when she pulled up to that light, just approached the car on foot. I mean, there`s a lot of different theories here. And you also hear them say that there were no shell casings there at the scene.
But I tell you, the main thing, the ballistics.
BROOKS: The ballistics and that tip from "America`s Most Wanted."
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Explain the no shell casings. Would that indicate -- apparently, it wouldn`t indicate that he picked them up. It`s just the kind of gun he used doesn`t leave shell casings?
BROOKS: That`s -- as a former investigator, that`s what I`m figuring, it was probably a revolver and not a semiautomatic. There were erroneous reports that there was a 9 millimeter involved. Nine millimeter is not a revolver. Most likely it was some kind of revolver that he used.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Kim Serafin, you`ve been working in Hollywood for years. And you know Beverly Hills, of course, very, very careful to protect its image. The mayor of Beverly Hills was there talking today.
Is it possible that it was some kind of hit, and they are either trying to give the person who ordered it a false sense of security to flush them out? Or that there`s -- I`m just trying to explore all the options. I`m not attacking anybody. I`m exploring all the options.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: What are we supposed to do, say, "OK, that`s what the cops said. Good night, everyone. We`re not going to do the rest of the show, because that`s what the cops said and we believe" -- we`re discussing this. It`s not an attack.
SERAFIN: Yes. And I think the reason that people are finding it hard to accept this is because, like you, Jane, I`ve driven that area many times, and I kind of want to think, oh, it was a targeted hit. I don`t want to think that could happen to me driving through one of the safest areas in the country, a place that had no homicides last year.
Plus, we`ve all been fed all of these stories, maybe coming out of the Hollywood machine, because we`re all so in tuned to stories and movies and TV shows, about a niece left only $10 in a will, about a potential person close to her with a gambling debt, about her wanting to change her will just two months ago. So when you have all of these stories rolled into this, you think it`s a bigger Hollywood mystery. So I think that`s why it`s harder for us to accept that maybe it`s just cut and dried random act of violence.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ronni Chasen`s close friend appeared on "The Today Show" to talk about all the different theories in her friend`s murder. Let`s listen to what she had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTHA SMILGIS, FRIEND OF CHASEN`S: Believe it or not, there are nut cases out there. Many of them. And they`re out driving around at night. They have guns. And it very well could be that.
That said, the rumors are flying, because it`s the movie business.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
SMILGIS: And you know, I hear Russian mob. I hear gambling debts. I hear -- first, she did not gamble. Forget that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.
SMILGIS: Everything was above board in the business. You know, but there are rumors. Ronni could be tough about money. But again, I mean, this was...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
SMILGIS: She really virtually had no enemies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Alan Duke, now we can discard all those speculative theories about the Russian mob and the will. What do you want to say?
DUKE: Incredible. As I watched the last -- as I watched the last three weeks, as a journalist for CNN, I just shook my head every day at the speculation, the reports. As I would talk to the police, and they wouldn`t give us a lot of information, as you know. And so it just sort of created a vacuum for these -- these rumors and pieces of misinformation or partial information. And that`s what all these wild theories, if they were wild, were based on.
But what we now have is what the Beverly Hills police are saying is fact. And frankly, I can believe it, Jane. I have been accosted on Rodeo Drive at 11 p.m. at night by people who seemed desperate. The police were there to intervene. I`ve seen a man arrested as he accosted me and my wife.
Last night down Santa Monica in Hollywood, a man who appeared to be homeless pulled his finger like that and shook it at us as if he had a gun. He was across the street and pretended like he was shooting at us. It kind of scared me.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, stay safe. You know, I lived in L.A. for 18 years. I never had a problem. So maybe I`m just lucky. Or I don`t know what to say.
All I can say is that I really hope that the person responsible has been caught, even if he`s dead, and that the people of Beverly Hills are safe.
Thank you, panel.
Just when you think teens can`t come up with stupider ideas, getting pregnant to be on TV? Are you for real?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF RAY LAVINDER, ROANOKE COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT: For someone just to drop off the face of the earth, it is our understanding they had very little money at the time. You know, they dropped off the face of the earth. And I think someone would have to be providing them money, or some other support.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, fast-breaking news in the search for a missing 12-year-old. Cops say Brittany Smith is on the run against her will, with her mother`s boyfriend, Jeff Easley.
The girl`s mom? She`s dead. She was found dead in the house the three of them shared. And cops say she was murdered.
And now there is stunning new information that Brittany, the 12-year- old, that girl there -- the mom`s dead now -- told friends she was scared of her mom`s boyfriend. This was months ago. That she was worried he would take her away and hurt her mom.
Brittany`s mom met Jeff Easley, this character right here, on the Internet. Did he target this divorced mom in order to get access to the 12-year-old girl? And even more important, did Easley kill the mother before running off with Brittany?
Brittany and Easley have not been seen for days now. Cops say they`re certain somebody out there is helping to hide them.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAVINDER: I`m -- I`m almost positive that someone out there knows where Brittany and Mr. Easley are. The weather`s been very bad. They need food. Someone, if they`re still in this region, is hiding them. I`m certain of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Surveillance cameras caught Brittany and the suspect at a Salem, Virginia, Wal-Mart on Friday night. There they are. And guess what? We now know what they were buying: camping equipment, water and Gatorade. You do the math.
There`s a multi-state Amber Alert out for Brittany Smith. And now Jeff Easley is wanted for abduction. And he`s a person of interest in the mother`s killing. It`s been six days. We must find this adorable girl.
Call me, 1-877-JVM-SAYS.
Straight out to Amanda Codispoti with "The Roanoke Times."
Amanda, what is the very latest?
AMANDA CODISPOTI, "THE ROANOKE TIMES": Hi, Jane.
As you mentioned, we learned today that the last time Brittany and Easley were seen, they were at Wal-Mart buying a tent and camping supplies. We also learned that they went to a bank in Salem and tried to withdraw money from an ATM machine, using Brittany`s mother`s credit card.
Police have been searching campsites. They`ve got the Virginia State Police helicopter up in the air, looking for this blue tent that was purchased. But they said today they really could be anywhere. They don`t have any clues. They`re following up on leads of possible sightings in several states. There have been no confirmed sightings.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. This is really, really scary, because they got camping equipment; they got water; they got Gatorade. But you know how cold it`s been in that area? Twenty-eight degrees by day and 17 degrees by night.
So I personally believe, Mike Brooks, that they`re not going to be able to survive out there camping without any food in 17-degree nights without help.
BROOKS: No, exactly. And that`s what -- that`s what the chief was saying, that that`s because they don`t have any means.
But he also said that one of the key factors in this case is looking for that silver 2005 Dodge Neon. He said that could be a key case. And that they also could possibly be heading to North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, West Virginia, Ohio, or Kentucky.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: On the other side, ominous Facebook messages.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAVINDER: I guess my major concern is that we`re six days into the investigation. We haven`t seen Brittany or had any contact with her in the last six -- six days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Six days, and no sign of 12-year-old Brittany Smith. Cops believe she`s being held against her will by her mother`s former boyfriend, Jeff Easley. Brittany`s mom found dead in her house. Where is Brittany?
Gayle, Tennessee, your question or thought, ma`am? Gayle?
GAYLE, TENNESSEE (via telephone): Yes.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, Gayle, question or thought, ma`am?
GAYLE: Well, I just have a comment. You know, we`re looking at these pictures of them in Wal-Mart, and it doesn`t look like she`s trying to get away from him. I think you said on her MySpace or her Facebook she changed her last name to his. And she also changed her age. Who`s to say she`s not in on this with him and going along with it? And help --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Good question.
That`s the question. Did Brittany go willingly with the suspect?
But here`s what cops had to say about that. And it`s a very important legal point. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAVINDER: We`ve heard a lot of rumors about a relationship between Mr. Easley and Brittany. And I`d like to say this morning, what we`re dealing with is a 12-year-old girl. And she can`t make decisions -- she can`t make legal decisions. Consent is irrelevant whether she wanted to go with him or not go with him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Here`s my big issue tonight. Were red flags ignored? "The Roanoke Times" says Brittany told a friend that she was scared of this boyfriend. And that she was worried he would take her and hurt her mom. And the neighbor said that this guy acted creepy around the 12-year-old.
One neighbor saw Easley and Brittany together and said, "This guy gives me the creeps. The way he touches her, the way he looks at her, made me very uneasy."
Michelle Golland --
MICHELLE GOLLAND, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Absolutely.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I don`t think, A, that it matters whether she, a 12- year-old consented as the cops say, but I have a feeling she didn`t. I think she`s terrified.
GOLLAND: Well, the officer is exactly right, Jane. It does not matter whether she went willingly or not. She cannot legally consent to this.
And in my estimation, this could be a young girl who was frightened obviously for her own life. Her mother has now been killed. We have no idea how under duress she is. We just got done in looking at the Elizabeth Smart case and all that she went through.
To me, it`s no different what could be happening to this young girl. She could be seriously under duress and in a great amount of fear.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now listen to this. Last Thursday, the day before Brittany and Jeff were seen on the Wal-Mart surveillance video, the day before this mom was last seen, Brittany`s mom, Tina Smith, made this very ominous entry on her Facebook page. Quote, "If I should die before I wake, God bless my friends. May I be remembered for my good heart and hopeless romantic ways."
Now, Mark Eiglarsh, some say that sounds suicidal. To me it sounds like a woman who`s scared that she might not wake up.
MARK EIGLARSH, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes. That`s how I took it. But what I found most fascinating in this case is when law enforcement was asked whether he, Easley, was potentially responsible for her death, their exact quote, Jane, was, "Authorities have no information to indicate that. But the investigation is ongoing."
That was kind of shocking to me. We have no information to indicate that. Now, either they really don`t, which is shocking, or they`re trying to suggest to him, "Hey, it`s ok. We`re not necessarily pinning this murder on you. So come on in. Bring the 12-year-old in."
MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And I`ve got to say this, Mike Brooks, the scariest piece of information that I read about today was that this guy dropped out of high school in `96, because he was accused of assault with a deadly weapon on a government official. And a friend -- somebody who says they were a friend -- called us and said this guy has got a very violent temper.
BROOKS: That`s not good. But I do agree with Mark, it could be a ploy by law enforcement.
And we also heard, during this the (INAUDIBLE) with the chief, they said, "Hey look, just let her come home so she can help to plan her mother`s funeral and attend her funeral."
And one other big piece of information I thought was good, identifying marks on this guy, Jane. They said that he has a red star tattoo and a tribal tattoo on his arms apparently. So that`s another identifying mark. That if someone sees anyone matching the description, because he could have shaved off the goatee, he could have changed his hair color, these are identifying marks that he cannot change, Jane.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And cops, as you mentioned, have this message for Jeff Easley, let Brittany attend her mom`s funeral. The suspect`s own mother has begged Easley to let this girl go. Listen to what she had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SALLY MARTIN, JEFFREY EASLEY`S MOTHER: From what I know about you and Brittany, I wondered if you were hungry or just 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Amanda Codispoti, you`re a reporter for "Roanoke Times" you know the area well. If they were to go camping, where would they go?
AMANDA CODISPOTI, REPORTER, "THE ROANOKE TIMES": It`s hard to say. There`s so many places around here. We`ve got the Jefferson National Forest. There`s just a lot of mountains, a lot of land out there they could be in.
As she mentioned it`s very cold, it`s possible they`ve traveled out of state. He`s got ties to Alabama, North Carolina, apparently Florida. So they`ve got a lot of area to search.
Here`s what I`m wondering about, Mike Brooks. Cops say, ok, he bought camping equipment. In other words, in that basket that they`re pushing right there, there`s that blue pup tent, Gatorade and water. But they`re also saying in the same breath that they believe somebody is hiding them and that somebody is basically protecting them and maybe even giving them food.
So why would they need camping equipment if they could stay at somebody`s house?
BROOKS: Well, they said that if they believe he is still in that region, if he`s still in that area, he could be receiving help. But in the interim while he`s traveling north, south, east or west, they could be at an interim place to stay in that shelter of that particular blue tent that they were talking about.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, and you mentioned the tattoo. We have -- there`s the blue tent that they bought. If you`re in the Virginia area, and there`s the tattoos, look at those tattoos. There`s the tent. You see it. If you see a man and a young girl in a tent and the guy has these tattoos, don`t approach them. Call authorities.
Now, Michelle Golland, you know --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: -- I don`t know what you can read into tattoos. I mean so many millions of people have tattoos and many of them are beautiful and striking and I love them. But is there any psychological analysis you can apply to those tattoos? We`ll put it up one more time.
GOLLAND: You know, that`s so hard to say, Jane, in looking at it. One of the things I would want to mention that I think is so important is that to me, what I`m seeing in this gentleman, is that he is someone who would be grooming someone like this young girl to come away with him.
That he may have sought out on the Internet a family, a divorced woman that had a 12-year-old, or had a young girl in her -- in the family. And I think it`s very important to think about that and to think about who it is that we let into our lives.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And especially he met her on the Internet. Again, millions of people meet their loved ones on the Internet -- I`m not knocking Internet dating. But perhaps he was asking her, do you have any children. Show me a picture of your child.
GOLLAND: Yes. Of course.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And that`s how it happens.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`ve got to be alert, because you never know when you`re inviting the enemy into your home and then sleeping with the enemy.
EIGLARSH: Jane, another --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Go ahead, Mark.
EIGLARSH: Another point is, anyone out there who knows this information, now it`s all out there, and anyone who assists in any way becomes a principal to the crime of kidnapping and God knows what else. Even if they play a minor role in this, so you know, better turn them over to law enforcement.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Or drop a dime, go to a pay phone and call 911.
Mary, California, your question or thought, ma`am?
MARY, CALIFORNIA: Well, my question is, and my thought, would be that he pre-planned all of this out, which means that he could have dug a hole and kept her in the hole and she might not even know that her mother is dead. And he could have used the camping to -- equipment to shield his car.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, it`s a small tent. It`s a pup tent for two. But you`re right. I mean in the sense that we saw it, with the Elizabeth Smart case, as somebody mentioned here where there was already a campsite set up where he goes and abducts Elizabeth Smart and takes her up the mountain to a campsite.
And I just pray and hope that this child is ok. And if for some reason you`re sitting in somebody`s house watching, Jeff Easley, let her go. Just let her go and keep moving.
Thank you so much, fantastic panel.
Are teens going to extreme to become reality TV stars? Apparently some young ladies, I don`t know if that`s an exaggeration to call them young ladies, are getting pregnant just so they can audition for one of these shows that glorifies teen moms. What do you think about this?
I`m personally quite outraged.
Call me 1-877-JVM-SAYS.
Also a sad discovery in the search for the missing Deblase siblings; it`s a very, very sad turn of events.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Natalie was getting to the point where she was beginning to read. And she was our princess. And Jonathan was our lady`s man. Jonathan would actually go in the store and start throwing kisses at women.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Desperate for fame, do some teenagers think getting pregnant is the way to get famous? You won`t believe that in a moment.
But first, "Top of the Block" tonight.
A very, very sad discovery: Cops confirm they found the remains of 3- year-old Jonathan Deblase in Mississippi. Police say the boy`s dad led them to where the body was buried. That couple now behind bars. This father charged with murder.
Meanwhile, the search continues for Jonathan`s 4-year-old sister, Natalie. It`s obscene. Look at these innocent children, suffering in secret. And we won`t do anything until it`s too late.
You know, if the people that are supposed to care for them are sick and irresponsible, when will we as a society step up and protect them before it`s a tragedy? Before we`re digging them out of the ground?
That is tonight`s "Top of the Block".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because they have other --
AMBER PORTWOOD: Let me tell you something. You don`t (EXPLETIVE DELETED) talk to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) dad like that. Do you hear me? You apologize to him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amber, Amber, no.
PORTWOOD: No. You apologize right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amber let him (EXPLETIVE DELETED) --
PORTWOOD: You don`t (EXPLETIVE DELETED) talk to him like that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let him go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You get the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, shocking claims that teenage girls are getting knocked up on purpose so they can audition for a reality TV gig like Amber Portwood, the star, if you can call her that of "Teen Mom". We just saw her in that outrageous clip from MTV.com.
Popeater.com now says many of the former teen moms, the stars of the show, are in their 20s. The show "Teen Mom" and "16 and Pregnant" oh, they need a new cast of pregnant teens. And it`s not such an easy task considering all the requirements.
But is that changing? Industry insiders tell PopEater many young women are now so desperate to score an audition, they`re going out and getting pregnant. Making matters worse some claim the casting notices are posted on Web sites.
Parenting experts are understandably upset, lashing out at MTV for trivializing being a mother and exploiting these very young women.
Meantime, what does MTV have to say for itself, quote, "Both of these shows have been called the best public service announcements for preventing teen pregnancy, because of the gritty unvarnished look they provide at the reality of teen pregnancy" end quote.
Really? I`m taking your calls, 1-877-JVM-SAYS.
Straight out to Rob Shuter, naughty but nice columnist for PopEater.com; Rob, I`m really glad we are bringing light to this because it`s got to stop. What are you hearing tonight?
ROB SHUTER, COLUMNIST, AOL`S POPEATER.COM: It`s a shocking story. I was actually working on a different story for PopEater about reality shows. And I came across a couple of casting directors who were not casting the MTV show, but a different show involving teenage girls. And they told me that they had come across two or three girls that were actively trying to get pregnant to get on this MTV show.
And suddenly this story exploded. And now I think we`re on your show talking about what a terrible, terrible idea this really is.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, I cannot imagine a little boy or girl growing up and finding out the only reason they were conceived is because their mom wanted to audition for a show involving pregnant teenagers. Imagine.
You`re going to have to spend a lot of time and money on a psychiatrist`s couch if you find that out
I want to welcome a very special guest, Inez Whitlow, she`s the founder of --
INEZ WHITLOW, FOUNDER, CHICKSINCRISIS.ORG (via telephone): Hi.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hi -- chicksincrisis.org. You yourself were a teen mom. You know the real reality of being a teen mom. Your thoughts on this apparent frightening trend of girls out there getting pregnant just so they can audition for this show? Chances of even getting the part, certainly not guaranteed.
WHITLOW: No, it`s not guaranteed, but they`re going to give it their best to do it. They glorify it and they think they`re going to get it. You know, they`re going to become Hollywood stars. They`re going to Hollywood.
No, you`re having a baby and going to be on welfare. It don`t work like that.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Rabbi Shmuley, I want to get your input on this because this is a moral crisis. This is something that really turns my stomach, because having a child should be an act of love, not an act of manipulation to get on television.
RABBI SHMULEY BOTEACH, RELATIONSHIP & VALUES EXPERT: Well, Happy Hanukkah, everyone. And Jane, thank you for having me.
No story that I`ve heard this year better captures the moral rot in America than teen girls seeing children as props by which to become famous. I mean let`s face it, reality television use to cover human dysfunction, now it`s actually inspiring and creating human dysfunction.
There are two things in life, there`s love, and you get love for something you are, you`re a child, you`re a spouse, and it`s unconditional. Then there`s attention. Attention is the cheap cousin of love. It`s something you get when you feel empty on the inside and you get it not for something you are but something you do. You do something outrageous.
Reality TV is supplanting love in America by showing people that attention is so much more satisfying than love. What it`s doing especially to these young teen girls is making them feel that the 15 minutes of fame is worth a lifetime of responsibility. But Jane, they have no clue about the degree of those responsibilities. They are not ready to look after children.
And this is an outrageous story. And it`s time that we finally focused on the disintegration of families and how people are feeling such an absence in their lives that only fame can fill the void.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, look at this, rabbi, this is a violent scene where this girl is hitting, I guess you would call him the baby daddy. Look at this.
Paul Peterson, I know you`re joining us on the phone. You are a former child actor and president of A Minor Consideration. I`ve got to ask you, there was a little child watching, allegedly watching some of this go down. Aren`t their laws to prevent that?
PAUL PETERSON, PRESIDENT, "A MINOR CONSIDERATION" (via telephone): Well, there`s supposed to be. In California, certainly, there are laws. In fact, I personally had to sue Nadya Suleman, octo-mom, to keep her from doing this very thing to her octuplets.
The rabbi is exactly right. The moral decline in this country has permitted network executives to just put on anything they care to and what they end up having is a famous youngster who is famous not for qualities inherent in their character but for bad behavior and you see the audience only sees the fame. They do not see the responsibilities.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, MTV is saying and there was an organization that is supposed to protect children that said this is the best advertisement for not having children, and I don`t know if they understand the subliminal of television.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: But it`s not only message, it`s the covert ones. Stay right there. Where coming back in a moment. More debate.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
911 OPERATOR: What`s your name?
AMBER PORTWOOD, REALITY TV STAR: 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.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: That was a 911 call placed by "Teen Mom" star Amber Portwood claiming that her baby`s dad was getting rough with her.
It`s a sad twisted version of what you often hear from real stars with bloated egos. Don`t you know who I am?
Sylvia in Tennessee, your question or thought?
SYLVIA, TENNESSEE (via telephone): Hello, Jane.
SYLVIA: I was calling to make a comment. I`m 26 years old. I have a daughter that`s 2. Of course, I wasn`t a teenager when I had her. I was 24. I watch "Teen Mom". I watch "16 and Pregnant". And I don`t think it`s really a negative show I think that`s really kind of it`s both ways.
It`s really a positive to let these teenagers know it`s not easy to raise a child. It`s not easy at all. You have a financial responsibility as well as emotional responsibility.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Sylvia, I respect your opinion. But Rob Shuter, can a show that lasts -- what is it -- an hour long show -- reveal what it`s like to take care of a child 24/7, 365 and don`t they often focus on the drama of the relationship as opposed to here I am at 3:00 in the morning burping the child?
SHUTER: Right. Absolutely. You cannot capture what it`s like to be a full-time parent in an hour. This show is really very much about the relationships between these parents, these teen parents rather than looking after the child.
So I`m not sure I totally agree with that caller here. I think shows like this you end up getting on the cover of magazines like the one you are showing now, the "US Weekly", the "In Touch" and these sort of ladies think that they are celebrities.
The warning I have for them is that once the network is done with you, they toss you aside and find another teen mom.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And you`re left with a baby for the rest of your life.
Rabbi Shmuley, I want to say this. I`m sure you and I don`t necessarily see eye to eye on everything. I believe that population control is extremely important because our world`s population is exploding and a lot of our social problems can be traced back to too many people, not enough resources, not enough food and not enough parents to care.
Last 20 seconds. Your thoughts on that?
BOTEACH: I have nine kids so I`m sorry for overpopulating the world. But I couldn`t disagree more Jane. Our problem is not too many children. Our problem is too many pairs of shoes, too many sales, Black Friday, buying junk we don`t need.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I agree with that.
BOTEACH: We have a giant cavernous hole at our center and we`re filling it with things like fame. What every person watching the show has to ask himself is what would you not do for fame. And the answer these days is "nothing". You will do everything.
We are so starved for affection that we will sell our souls to be on that camera. And that means let`s build our families from the ground up and get love back so people aren`t so starved for attention.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And you know, some might say, well, it`s really hypocritical us on television talking about how other people will go to extreme lengths for attention. But I have to tell you, rabbi, I agree with you. I think that our mindless consumer culture is part of the problem.
You know, they say one child born in the United States is equal to 40 children in some third world countries because of the resources that are expended on one child in the United States. So in my opinion, it is sort of irresponsibility squared to have a child for the wrong reasons in this developed world where it is going to use up so many resources.
I`ll give you the last word, Rabbi.
BOTEACH: In addition to that, look, I believe in having kids but I also believe that women are individuals in and of themselves. Who wants to see 16-year-old girls who will never have careers, never use their minds because --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Have to leave it right there.