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Guilty Verdict in Elizabeth Smart Case; Anchorwoman`s Murderer Serving Life in Prison

Aired December 10, 2010 - 19:00:00   ET



JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, a dramatic verdict in the Elizabeth Smart case. After being abducted and repeatedly raped as a teen and years of waiting for justice, a jury finally reaches a decision. Was Brian David Mitchell found guilty or insane? I will talk to the Smart family tonight in a prime-time exclusive interview.

And a beautiful TV anchorwoman viciously raped and beaten to death while sleeping in her own bed. The horrific murder of Anne Pressly sent shock waves across the country and put the spotlight on the war on women. Nearly every bones in her face completely shattered by the savage killer. Does his sentence fit the unimaginable crime?

Then swimsuit model Jasmine Fiore`s body found stuffed inside a suitcase. Her reality TV star ex-husband commits suicide after police name him the prime suspect. Was his violent past with women a warning sign ignored?

Plus, the agonizing year-long search for Mitrice Richardson ends in terrible tragedy. She was arrested for not paying a small tab at a chic Malibu restaurant. Witnesses said she was acting strange, so why did cops release her in the middle of the night without a cell phone, money or a car? Could her death have been prevented? And was she murdered?

ISSUES starts now.



ELIZABETH SMART, FORMER KIDNAPPING VICTIM: Thank you to everyone who has put so much work into my case and into helping me. Today is a wonderful day, and I`m so thrilled to be here. I`m so thrilled with the verdict.

But not only that, but I`m so thrilled to stand before the people of America today and give hope to other victims who have not spoken out about their crime -- about what`s happened to them. I hope that not only is this an example that justice can be served in America but that it is possible to move on after something terrible has happened.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ed Smart, congratulations after your eight-year ordeal victory. Tell us what is in your heart right now.

ED SMART, FATHER OF ELIZABETH ED SMART: Jane, it is real, and justice has been served. It`s been a long eight years from the time Elizabeth was abducted to this day, but Brian Mitchell is behind bars. He is sane. He is not incompetent.

And when I think back from what Elizabeth has told -- told myself and Lois as we have been with her through this trial, to hear the repeated lies that were -- that were told, whether it was by the mental health expert that he spoke with or by Wanda herself -- certainly, Wanda has some major issues.

And Elizabeth felt like Wanda was really playing this victim card, but Wanda was a huge part of that whole episode.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Wanda, of course, was the wife who is doing 15 years now, which is really a paltry sentence.

But I`ve got to take you back to this moment of the verdict, Ed. I know verdicts are nerve-racking. The jury walks in. He starts singing. What is going through your heart and your mind, your thoughts as this verdict comes down?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, we really wanted to clap. We just wanted to jump up and down and clap and thank as we heard that verdict come down.

The judge that we had, Dale Kimball, I have incredible respect for. He was not going to allow this whole episode to be derailed by Brian Mitchell. We just wanted to yell out and scream. You know, we were all ready to jump. He asked us to all remain, you know, respectful to the court, and so we did, because he has done a wonderful job. And that`s what he wanted us to do.

But we were -- we came into court, really, with this -- this grin, feeling like, what other option was there to say but than guilty, not -- not by reason of insanity but absolutely guilty.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me just jump in and ask you -- let me ask you about Elizabeth. What can you tell us of a special nature about her, her plans now that she has achieved this incredible victory?

ED SMART: You know, I think it has been a closure for her. She -- I think a lot of things came out that she did not want to necessarily come public with. She`s been able to move forward with her life.

But this morning -- last night as she got home, she started looking at what her itinerary -- I should say what her efforts are going to be in school. And what`s she looking up? How quickly she`s going to finish up her music degree at BYU once her mission is completed, and her interest in going into being a prosecutor.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Whoa, this is big news. You`re telling me Elizabeth Smart is deciding to become a prosecutor?

ED SMART: That`s her thought it. It`s subject to change, but, I mean, usually when she gets a thought in her mind, she -- she sticks with it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me ask you this question. She`s going to go back to France, where she has a mission that she`s doing, and then after that, Elizabeth is doing to go into law school and really try to become a prosecutor?

ED SMART: That`s what she was talking about. She`s going to come back and finish her music, which she had -- she plans on having that finished up by April. And I think -- I mean, she was talking about applying to law school, so getting ready for the LSAT.

And I think that goes really to what happened. You know, when we started with the D.A. back when Elizabeth was rescued, there were a number of issues and problems that surfaced and a lot of disappointments that happened.

When I look at the team that we had, Phil Veety (ph), Diana Hagen, David Backman and Alicia Cook, they were on the same page. They were working -- I felt like they were truly working for Elizabeth`s good. You know, they did their job in a manner that I found so respectful.

You know, I remember when Elizabeth was in -- was called in to the grand jury, and that was a point of tremendous frustration for us. And the then-prosecutor came in, and he had lied to Lois and myself about what had to happen and served us with a subpoena to bring Elizabeth in.

And during the course of her having to appear and coming back, you know, he said to her, "Can`t you give me a smile?" And she stuck her tongue out at him.

And he -- you know, there is -- there`s a reasonable way to treat children that have gone through such a traumatic event, and I think that the justice system across the board has to get on board with how children need to be treated and how they can be empowered, how they can face these horrible people that hurt them.

And you know, I mean, I look at Elizabeth and I just -- I really rejoice that she was able to say what she was able to say and she wanted Brian Mitchell to be right there in that chair and hear. And fortunately, the judge, Judge Kimball, had him sit there as the verdict was read. I thought that was very appropriate. Even though he was singing.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Even though he was singing.

ED SMART: Even though he was singing, he heard what came down. And you know, last night the defense, the head of the defense, Bob -- Bob Steele, said, well, Mitchell thinks that he is, you know -- that he is going to receive a guilty verdict.

And certainly, he deserves to, because he knew right from wrong, and definitely has a problem, but he does know right from wrong. And you can`t go around doing what he did.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Your daughter, I think, has changed the criminal justice system. One, I think it`s going to be a lot harder to claim insanity from now on. And, B, I think Elizabeth...

ED SMART: I hope so.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. I think Elizabeth has inspired a lot of rape victims to come forward and send their attacker away instead of being afraid to testify. Your thoughts?

ED SMART: Absolutely. I -- I am so proud of her and her willingness to get up there and say what was a horrible thing that nobody wants to talk about, these horrible issues. And I think any reasonable person out there, you know, hates hearing this stuff. And if you`d been there in court and heard those words that had to come out of her mouth and how she did it -- I mean, as a father, I couldn`t be more proud of her. I just -- I`m so grateful.

I want all the other victims out there to know that what happened to her and has happened to you, you can move forward, you can move past it. That`s what her message was. Life does not have to be defined by this one nightmare. There`s too much to enjoy. There are too many good people out there.

You know, when you had all of the surviving parents -- you had a group of surviving parents on, Jane, you were able to show the pain that so many go through. I didn`t go into it, because I knew this was coming up, but getting that point out there that life is hard, life is painful. I mean, I think to myself of how fortunate I was to have Elizabeth back.

And I think of Mark Lunsford, Diena Thompson, Erin Runnion, all of my other friends out there. That pain is so real, and they are trying to make a difference, because they don`t want to see any other child go through what their child went through.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ed, I JUST want to say that you are my hero. Elizabeth Smart is my hero. The class and the dignity with which you -- you and your family has conducted yourself through this entire nightmare is an inspiration to me and to millions of Americans. And I am so happy for you. Congratulations.

ED SMART: Thank you, Jane. Appreciate this opportunity.


ELIZABETH SMART: Say thank you to everyone who has put so much work into my case and in helping me. Today is a wonderful day, and I am so thrilled to be here. I am so thrilled with the verdict.

But not only that, I am so thrilled to stand before the people of America today and give hope to other victims who have not spoken out about their crime -- about what`s happened to them. I hope that not only is this an example that justice can be served in America but that it is possible to move on after something terrible has happened.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was a beautiful person and I didn`t even know the lady other than I had actually -- I met her one time at a restaurant. She was so personable that, you know, she was everybody`s friend.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight ISSUES shines a spotlight on the escalating war on women. Is no place safe? We ought to feel secure in our own homes. But the murder of Anne Pressly in 2008 proves the war on women has no boundaries.

The 26-year-old TV anchorwoman was inside her home in Little Rock asleep in her bed when she was raped and beaten beyond recognition. Her killer, Curtis Vance, broke every of bone in her face. There was blood on the ceiling. Vance beat Anne so viciously she suffered a massive stroke. He fled the scene and tragically, Anne`s own mother was the one to find her lying in a pool of blood. Anne never recovered.


PAMELA SMITH, KATV REPORTER: Our hearts are heavy here at KATV tonight after learning that our own Anne Pressly died earlier this evening from injuries she suffered during a brutal attack in her home this week.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: It took a jury less than two hours to convict Vance. He will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole. He had never met Anne. He may have seen her on TV, but police think he simply saw her in the neighborhood, stalked her and waited for his chance to attack. It shows the pure brutality and pervasiveness.

Again, this is the case that sparked what we here at ISSUES call the war on women. It was one of the very first stories that we covered after our show debuted. And certainly, it sent shock waves through my body, because I was a local anchorwoman for many years. So I really related to this Anne Pressly.

Straight out to my expert panel, psychologist Cooper Lawrence. It takes a monster to do what this guy did, and I think that it shows a real hatred for women.

COOPER LAWRENCE, PSYCHOLOGIST: It absolutely shows a hatred for women. It also shows that this person probably had prior violent behavior and people in his life and in his family did nothing about his violent acts. Because this doesn`t happen out of nowhere. This guy must have had a history of something, but yet nobody in his life, nobody in his family, tried to get him help, warn people. We see these things and we think they happen in a vacuum, but they rarely, rarely do.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, well, his mother actually told jurors that she was an abusive mother, who had a number of crack-fueled run-ins with the law, and that she worked as a prostitute to earn money for drugs and snapped at Vance and once threw him against a wall when he messed up a baby-sitting...

LAWRENCE: And you wonder why he hates women. That explains why he hates women right there in a nutshell.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Jeff Brown is saying exactly. Go ahead.

BROWN: Well, yes. I mean, this was an abusive woman. She was drug addicted. She was a prostitute. She was not fit to be raising this boy. It`s no wonder that he turned out this way. I`m not saying she`s all to blame. But if we`re going to be playing the blame game here, this mother, this woman takes some responsibility for creating this monster.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Pressly`s mom always gave her daughter a 3 a.m. wake- up call because Anne was the morning news anchor at KATV in Little Rock. But on the morning of October 20, 2008, her mom didn`t get an answer, so she quickly drove to Pressly`s house. And that`s when she found this beautiful girl in bed in a pool of blood, her face smashed. This -- the mom couldn`t even identify her own daughter, OK?

Patty Kennedy described what she saw on "The Today Show."


PATTY KENNEDY, MOTHER OF ANNE PRESSLY: I found my daughter beyond recognition with every bone in her face broken, her nose broken, her jaw pulverized so badly that the bone had come out of it. I actually thought that her throat had possibly been cut. But that was possibly the first knockout punch. Her entire skull had numerous fractures from which she suffered a massive stroke.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: John Lucich, why life in prison?

JOHN LUCICH, INVESTIGATOR: My question also, Jane. I agree with you. This guy should be executed without a doubt. This guy has also been implicated in another rape in his hometown, according to the DNA evidence. When does it stop?

When does it -- if we take a look at every time we see kids get killed, women get killed and crime grow, it`s a failure of the government at every level. This -- this definitely should not have happened to this young lady. And it`s going to continue to happen until the government steps up and starts executing these guys.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, well...

BROWN: That`s not doing to cure it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... as you say, Anne was not Vance`s first victim. But cops didn`t know that. The DNA Vance left behind at Anne Pressly`s house turned out to be a match to another rape. The victim, a teacher, had been attacked seven months earlier in Marianna, Arkansas. But they could have had that DNA evidence a lot earlier, and that brings me to my big issue here: reactive justice.

The first woman was raped in April, Pressly months later in October. It was only after Anne Pressly was attacked that the first victim`s DNA evidence finally came back.

Now, Stacey Honowitz, if they take rape more seriously and process that DNA more quickly, couldn`t it -- couldn`t they have arrested this guy before he would have had a chance to attack Anne Pressly? I blame the system for not doing these DNA tests more rapidly.

STACEY HONOWITZ, FLORIDA PROSECUTOR: Well, listen, it`s not only just a matter of getting it done quickly. Now we have CODIS, which is the combined index, the national index for cold cases, where if you find DNA you not only -- just because you get DNA off a victim at some point doesn`t mean that you have something to match it to.

So that`s what happened probably. In this case, they had DNA from the first case. Then when this case happened, it was a cold hit, and it matched.

But yes, you`re right. I mean, certainly, the system has to be sped up. And now we do have this combined index, which certainly is helpful in cases such as this.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I have a lot more to talk about when it comes to this DNA and why cops did not process the first rape, the DNA from that, more quickly. This happens all the time.

OK. We`re just getting started on this sickening Anne Pressly case.

And we`re also going to talk about the tragic story of Mitrice Richardson, which is sparking sheer outrage. Cops released her in the middle of the night without money, a phone or transportation. Almost a year later, her remains were found. Did the people who actually are supposed to take care of us betray her?

Plus, a reality star flees and you won`t believe the result in this case.



DAVID BAZZEL, PRESSLY`S FRIEND: Today was justice for Anne. It`s taken a year to get to it, and nobody`s more grateful than the parents and all of us as friends.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Beautiful news anchor Anne Pressly came face-to-face with a monster on the night of October 20, 2008. His name is Curtis Vance. He stalked her, broke into her home and attacked her, raped her and beat her to death in her own bed. Now he is serving a life sentence with no possibility of parole.

John, Minnesota, your question or thought, sir.

CALLER: I personally thank you, Jane, for bringing the issue up on the violence that`s been going on. As somebody that travels quite a bit for my job, and get not only get to see news where I`m at but in other parts of the country and that, so I mean, it`s not the issue of violence -- the violence that, you`re right, on women is just like somebody opened up the floodgate. And it appalls me that we have such a violent society that`s allowing this.

I don`t understand it. I was brought up, I guess, as a peace-loving person. And it just amazes me that it`s been able to get this far or somehow it`s all of a sudden happening. And I don`t understand it.

BROWN: That`s not true.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I agree with you, John. What, Jeff Brown?

BROWN: It`s not true. The crime rates, violent crime rates, murder rates, all crime rates are the lowest they have been in over 20 years. This is the lowest year we`ve had at least, going back to at least 1990 and into the `80s. The crime rates are not going up. They`re going down. Violent crime is going down. All of these cases are going down. It`s not escalating. It`s not worse out there. We just have media, so everybody can see it.

LUCICH: And yet we see all these -- and yet we see all these kids being abducted and killed. We see women being killed on a regular basis.

BROWN: That`s just because it`s flooded all over the newspapers.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Look, let`s go to -- hold on. Stacey Honowitz. Yes, overall crime rates are down, since they were outrageous in the `90s. But there`s -- still, I think one murder of a woman in America is one too many. But every day -- every day you pick up the paper you see at least one or two murders of women. So I don`t think we can say, especially if you`re a relative of that person who`s been murdered, that we don`t have a problem. Of course we have a problem.

And we`ve got a problem of intimate partner violence and stranger violence against women. There is a war on women in this country, and I think it has a lot to do with, A, how the media glamorizes a sexually- charged violence against women, Stacey Honowitz.

HONOWITZ: I don`t know if it glamorizes it, but certainly, it`s brought more to the forefront now. But I think what needs to be done is people need to see that other people are getting punished. Lots of times in the courtroom, Jeff will tell you, even in domestic violence cases, I hate to say, and I`m not trying to blame the victim, but so many times they`ll walk into a courtroom and say, "I don`t want to prosecute. I don`t want to go forward. I love him." I mean, there needs to be some real education to women.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want you -- I want you to hear the suspect, the man who did it. Listen to him. We`ve got a four-second sound bite. I want to play it for you.


CURTIS VANCE, CONVICTED OF MURDERING PRESSLY: It`s a corrupted system. That`s what it is.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. So final, Cooper Lawrence, ten seconds. He`s blaming the system.

LAWRENCE: Well, the system did fail by giving a crack-addicted prostitute mother a child to raise.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, we`ve got to do something about that. We really do.

Up next, a story of obsession and violence. A wanted man on the run.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Swimsuit model Jasmine Fiore`s body found stuffed inside a suitcase. Her reality TV star ex-husband...

ISSUES starts now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was partially open, I lifted it up one time, and saw skin but I wasn`t sure so I lifted it up again. Then when I saw the birthmark or the marks on the body and everything, I verified that it was a body. I immediately called 911.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, the war on women claims another victim when a beautiful, ambitious bikini model is brutally murdered. The badly mutilated body of 28-year-old Jasmine Fiore found by a building manager stuffed into a suitcase and discarded in a trash bin. Jasmine`s fingers and teeth had been pulled out.

Cops pinned Jasmine`s murder on Ryan Jenkins, her husband of just a couple of months -- this guy in this mug shot from a previous arrest. ABC News reports a witness with the couple at a San Diego hotel says they had, quote, "a blowout fight before the grisly killing".

Cops say after dumping Jasmine`s body, Jenkins took off and headed north for his native Canada. Meantime, as a frantic manhunt got under way, a fury erupted over Jenkins role on reality TV. How did this sicko get cast onto shows?

Here he is on VH1`S "Megan Wants a Millionaire".


RYAN JENKINS, REALITY TV STAR: I`m with Megan alone was enough to let her get in touch with my deeper side and redeem myself for, you know, some of the silly things I said at dinner.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: We will never hear from Jenkins again because he killed himself. That`s right -- committed suicide just a week after allegedly murdering Jasmine. Jenkins` body found hanging in a motel room closet in Vancouver. Cops also discovered a suicide note on his computer. And get this, nearly a year after this vicious murder/suicide there are still some who feel Jenkins is innocent.

Straight out to former prosecutor Robin Sax; Robin, of all the hideous, graphic details in this murder, her teeth and her fingers being cut off and pulled out, what does that tell you about the person who committed this?

ROBIN SAX, FORMER PROSECUTOR: The person who committed this crime had more than just a disgusting disregard for life. But this was a vile human being who wanted to inflict every sort of pain and even disgrace this body even after she was killed. It shows that it was very meticulously planned and someone who has a history of deep psychological problems.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, two days after Ryan Jenkins committed suicide, his grief-stricken mother spoke out to ABC`s "Good Morning America". Listen to this.


NADA JENKINS, RYAN JENKINS` MOTHER: My son is innocent. And I think he panicked. I`m just, I`m dead -- I`m dead inside. I`m devastated. I love him. He`s my only child.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok. Meantime, almost a year after the hideous murder and subsequent suicide, Ryan Jenkins` father, Dan, also told a Canadian newspaper that he believed his son was innocent. Dan said his son was a victim because he hanged himself as a frightened fugitive who felt he had no other options.

Cooper Lawrence, psychologist, are these parents in denial; unable to comprehend that their son is capable of hideous violence?

COOPER LAWRENCE, PSYCHOLOGIST: Of course they`re in denial. And you know what? How dare they? Because that`s the problem right there, because you get people like that who don`t know who their child really is. And they pretend that everything is fine, there`s nothing wrong with my kid. My kid would never do this.

Well, a recent Canadian study looked at the profile of somebody that murder/suicides, this person fits it so perfectly the study could have been about him specifically.


LAWRENCE: The parents knew what they had and they`re in complete denial. And they should be ashamed of themselves.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: How does this study fit him so perfectly? Why? Because he`s a narcissist who goes on reality TV?

LAWRENCE: Exactly. It describes a narcissist who gets himself in trouble, who`s very jealous, who kills the person who`s the target of their jealousy and then turns the gun on himself or kills himself later on when he realizes what he had done. All you had to do was have a little bit of intervention.

Believe me, this is not something -- again another story that didn`t happen in a vacuum. These parents knew what they had for a son. And to sit there and say that he is innocent, they`re still in unbelievable denial.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. It`s called the "my dog doesn`t have fleas" syndrome, I think, the last time I checked.

LAWRENCE: As they`re scratching, yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, exactly. Jeff Brown, I do want to say this. There are some lessons to be learned here. The victim, Jasmine Fiore, met Ryan Jenkins in Las Vegas and they apparently hit it off because they got married at a quickie funeral parlor two days later. Bad idea.

JEFF BROWN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes. Bad idea. We need to have I think like a longer waiting period if you`re going to do that, just like we do for handguns.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Especially in Vegas.

BROWN: But you know, this is -- especially in Vegas. Nothing good actually happens out of Vegas and I hope Vegas doesn`t get mad at me for that. But the problem that we have here though is that I think a lot of parents are in denial. I see that time and time again when I have parents that I`ll meet beforehand who are all against crime and they want criminals to be locked up. And then it`s their kid and they can`t believe that their little Johnny was capable of doing this and how dare they put their kid in jail. I hear this all the time.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And so much for the theory that --

SAX: It happens in the classroom, too.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: -- if you`re a member of the underclass and the previous story, his mother was a crack addict who had been a prostitute, this is a millionaire. This guy is on a show because he is in a million- dollar category -- minimum. And he comes from a very upper-crust, you might say, family, which proves to me that we cannot ever go to stereotypes or fall back on stereotypes when it comes to criminal behavior.

All human beings are capable of very sinister acts. And Ryan Jenkins I believe revealed his dark, sinister side to his neighbors. Listen to what this neighbor had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`ve definitely seen him around.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You ever talk to him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I talked to him in the elevator. He was really nice. He seemed really nice. Like all done-up. But I just like don`t suspect him to be like part of that.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I guess he did have two sides to him. I`ve got to ask you this, John Lucich. There he is, charming, debonair, coming off as this sort of dapper millionaire, but very shortly after he got married, he was accused of hitting Jasmine Fiore, accused of domestic battery. What do you make of that? That was a warning bell.

JOHN LUCICH, VETERAN CRIMINAL INVESTIGATOR: Absolutely. And you`re going to see a lot of warning bells. This guy is the typical Ted Bundy, who looks good, sounds great, and he`s a killer. There`s no doubt about it.

And when you take a look at what he did, he cut her fingers off, gouged out her teeth because he didn`t want the body to be identified. If it wasn`t for the fact that she had serial numbers on her breast implants, we might never have known that this was the girl that they were looking for and that would have been a sad state of affairs. Too bad this guy didn`t commit suicide before he killed this young lady.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. That was one of the other very shocking aspects of this case that was revealed. Because the killer, presumably this guy, didn`t want anybody to identify the person he had killed, who he stuffed into a suitcase, cut off her fingers and pulled out her teeth. Thought, well, then they can`t identify her.

But they did find her breast implants had ID numbers on them. Most people don`t know that, that there are ID numbers on breast implants that are unique ID numbers. And that is how they identified Jasmine Fiore.

Her heartbroken mother appeared on NBC`s "Today" just days after her daughter was brutally slain. In this clip from, she pretty much nails what the war on women is all about.


LISA LEPORT, MOTHER OF JASMINE FIORE: It brings some closure to what`s been going on. I mean, we don`t have to worry about looking for him anymore or being worried that he`s a threat to any other women. This man was a professional con man, you know. He targeted women, I believe. He wanted to be something that he wasn`t.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Jeff Brown, I know you don`t think we have a problem, but I do believe we have a problem, particularly with intimate partner violence in this country. And this is a perfect example of it. This girl was sleeping with the enemy.

BROWN: Yes, she was. And I mean, this is a problem that we do have in the fact that sometimes I don`t think the spouses or the significant others know each other well enough. But you know this guy here, to say that he`s Ted Bundy, you know, Ted Bundy came from Florida, I`m familiar with the case. Ted Bundy was absolutely insane.

You talk to that guy for more than 30 minutes you knew he was insane. This type of killer here though is a little bit more harder to put your finger on because on the reality show and everything else he seemed rather normal. These are the ones that really scare you because you really don`t know who you`re dealing with.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And not everybody --


BROWN: He mutilated her body.


BROWN: Yes, but Ted Bundy was a serial killer. This guy mutilated somebody`s body.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Both of them are very scary individuals. Leave it right there. Sorry panel but thank you so much.

A desperate family`s outrage and heartbreak; Mitrice Richardson vanished after cops released her in the dead of night without her purse, no money, no phone, no car. They had taken her car.

Months later her body is discovered in Malibu Canyon. Did they fail to help a woman who was in the middle of a mental breakdown?

I will talk to Mitrice`s devastated mother, next.


LATICE SUTTON, MITRICE RICHARDSON`S MOTHER: It is most unfortunate that today I`ve had to learn through the media that there are preliminary findings that those bones in Malibu are of a female.




SUTTON: I`m so sorry. I`m just -- I`m looking at the life of my baby flash before my eyes. My future is gone. That`s -- oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: A desperate, frustrating year-long search for a beautiful young woman ends in heartbreak in a remote canyon in southern California. But the family of Mitrice Richardson is still outraged over so many unanswered questions.

The 23-year-old beauty`s remains were discovered in August, not far from where she vanished in September of last year. Let me tell you, her death could have and should have been prevented. ISSUES has tracked this case from the very beginning.


SUTTON: I believe she is still alive, and I will not give up hope that she is alive until we have her safe in our arms.

We want our daughter found. We feel that there`s not been enough efforts to locate her. All we want is our daughter home.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mitrice was released from a sheriff`s station in the dead of night with no purse, no phone, no ride, in a very remote area -- Lost Hills sheriff`s station. It`s ironic that was the name of the sheriff`s station, Lost Hills.

We don`t know yet how Mitrice died, but whatever the cause, Mitrice`s parents say the sheriff`s department is to blame.

The night Mitrice vanished she was unable to pay an $89 bill at a very chic Malibu restaurant. Cops say they found a small amount of marijuana in her car. They arrested her, they impounded her car.

Witnesses at the restaurant say Mitrice was acting flat-out crazy, speaking in tongues, claiming she was from Mars, that she was there to avenge Michael Jackson`s death.

So why do officers say she was perfectly calm and coherent? The restaurant patrons have no reason to lie.

Mitrice`s mom joins me now. Latice, once again, as always, our deepest condolences, we want to keep this story alive because we want you to find justice for your daughter Mitrice.

SUTTON: Thank you so much, Jane. I -- I -- I appreciate you dearly, and yes, I am going to keep fighting until I find justice for my daughter. It is an outrage that I cannot even grieve my daughter`s death because I am constantly investigating, trying to find out who the murderers are of my daughter because the homicide detectives are not doing anything on her case.

So I am prepared to move forward in a press briefing sometime next week to produce the evidence that I have been giving to the sheriffs, giving to the coroners to -- that that just screams how Mitrice was -- was murdered and no one is acting upon it. And I am going to keep pushing until they act on it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, we don`t know the cause of death. They found her in a ravine. We don`t know the cause of death. Probably because her body was there for so long and most of the evidence would have disintegrated and it`s simply bones.


SUTTON: There --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now I`m reading the report. Go ahead.

SUTTON: There was -- there -- there was evidence at the scene that has not been analyzed or tested for anything. So how they can definitively state that they don`t know the cause of death when there was evidence all over her body that was not even analyzed -- unacceptable.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now I have read a report and we don`t have any independent confirmation of this at all that Mitrice`s clothing was found 100 yards away from her remains? Is there any --


SUTTON: That is correct. Mitrice was nude. Mitrice was naked. She was placed there. She was nude. Her clothes were -- they were scattered, going away from her body. My -- my daughter was nude. They still have not found her tennis shoes or her shirt. They did recover her pants, a belt, and a bra. That is --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: But you`re saying they were not with the remains.

SUTTON: They were not. Mitrice was naked.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, that is very disturbing to me, and here`s another disturbing aspect of this case. During a scheduled search, actually you, Latice and other searchers came across this pornographic mural depicting African-American women in very, very triple X-rated poses. And I know that you Latice believe this was connected to Mitrice`s death.

Robin Sax, there was also an abandoned pot farm near where her remains were found. To me, this is it all very creepy and sinister. Why are cops saying basically they don`t know the cause of death? Why wouldn`t they say hey, this looks like a homicide?

ROBIN SAX, FORMER PROSECUTOR: It`s absolutely outrageous how this case has been handled from the beginning and all the way until right now. There are so many unanswered questions and it is ludicrous not to think that it`s cops investigation 101 to look at where the clothes were in relation to where the body was, to look at the mural. There are all sorts of valuable pieces of information and very telling pieces of information and yet the police just want to throw up their hands and say, we don`t know what happened.

That coupled with the very bizarre circumstances of letting Mitrice just leave the sheriff`s department has every one thinking something smells at the Lost Hills Sheriff`s Department.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. As one official said, if things were done by the book, maybe it`s time to change the book. I hear somebody rumbling back there. Who is it? Probably -- who was rumbling? John?

JOHN LUCICH: No, that wasn`t me, Jane.


LUCICH: But you know that`s what I said before, months ago, they need to take -- an investigation has to be done by the attorney general`s office to see what went wrong. Certainly as a police officer I would have never let that woman out on her own without a cell phone, turn her out without a car, without any cash. That made no sense.

And if a policy has to be changed, that`s where it has to be -- has to go. But a full investigation right through the fact that --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now -- they did an investigation and they found that there was no wrongdoing. But of course a lot of times those internal-style investigations or those government investigations you can`t always count on them to be completely objective, among the controversies swirling around this whole mystery. Did police selectively release edited recordings of calls placed by Mitrice`s mom?

ISSUES has taken portions of two of the short clips that cops had made available. Listen to this.


SUTTON: I think the only way I will come to get her tonight is if you guys are going to release her tonight. She definitely has no place -- you know, I mean she`s not from that area and I would hate to wake up to a morning report, lost somewhere with her head chopped off. I guess I would have to come and get her. Oh, my God.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok. Latice I know they have claimed that maybe you didn`t want to pick her up. What do you make of all that?

SUTTON: That is absolutely untrue. I don`t know where that rumor started -- well, you know what, I do know. It started from the sheriff`s department.

But I called the sheriff`s department to find out about my daughter before she even arrived to the station, and the deputy told me that they were going to release her in the morning. And when I called back to find out her bail amount, she had already been released.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hang on. More on the other side. More on the other side.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What one technological advancement do you wish had never been invented?

MITRICE RICHARDSON, BODY RECOVERED IN MALIBU CANYON: Cell phones. Although when you`re stranded, they help contact your family, and the need of a spare tire or any need of emergency, but they also cause a lot of accidents and they cause a lot of friendships from forming because as soon as people get out of the class, the first thing they want to do is talk on their cell phone.

I just wish that cell phones would be limited to just emergencies only.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow. What an eerie clip, considering that Mitrice, a beauty queen, might be alive had she only had a cell phone that night. Mitrice`s arrest, release, disappearance and death sparked a furious war of finger pointing. Why was she released without money and a cell phone?

Here`s what the sheriff had to say about why Mitrice was not jailed overnight and then released either to her mom or at least with cash and a cell phone.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The question is, is an $86 defrauding of an inn keeper enough of a crime to take someone to jail. That is the issue.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Do you see that as the issue, John Lucich?

LUCICH: They took her. They took custody of this woman and brought her to the police department. In order to do that, they have to arrest her. There is no un-arrest form. So I don`t know what this guy is talking about. They took her to jail based on the reports so it doesn`t match what actually happened to this young lady.

Then to take and seize the money and cell phone from this woman and turn her out into the street, might as well have taken her shoes. I don`t understand what they were doing.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Cooper Lawrence, I think he does raise unintentionally an interesting question. How many of us have gone to a restaurant, all of a sudden oh, we realize I forgot my purse. Have any of us ever been arrested?

LAWRENCE: No. I don`t think so. I`m a little bit offended by the fact that they are saying that there was some sort of psychotic break and she was speaking in tongues as if that has anything to do with it. If this was a suicide -- an apparent suicide -- that would be an explanation but to release that information as a red herring is another way to blame the victim.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: No, no, no. I think -- with all due respect, I think it`s the other way around. I think they were -- the police were saying she`s perfectly fine, that`s why we did release her as opposed to putting an involuntary hold on her because she could be a danger to herself or others. What the family is saying --

SUTTON: She was not fine, Jane. I saw the photo.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok. Hold on. Latice, your contention is that should have been --

SUTTON: I saw the video photos.


SUTTON: She should have been taken to the hospital or they should have held her until she can be evaluated. Clearly when she was going through the booking process, I witnessed her hanging from the walls at the sheriff`s station while she was in their custody. There was nothing that was lucid about her while she was in their custody.

The bottom line is they let her out into a remote industrial area and she became a prey to any predator because she had no way to take care of herself while she was in the middle of a mental crisis. They knew this and also, the restaurant owner told --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Got to leave it right there. I do invite the sheriff`s department on any time if they want to tell their side of the story. We want to be fair.

But Latice, we`re not giving up on your daughter and this story.

SUTTON: Thank you. I will be having a press briefing next week.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You are watching ISSUES where we fight for women.