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Kensington Strangler Confesses; Suspects Still Not Talking in Haleigh Cummings Case

Aired February 11, 2011 - 19:00:00   ET



JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, the Kensington Strangler`s sick confession as the war on women takes a stomach-churning turn. Cops say Antonio Rodriguez admitted to killing three women and having sex with at least two of their corpses. Will his own words help send him to Death Row?

Plus, a new twist in the Haleigh Cummings investigation. Cops say new information indicates Haleigh knew her abductor. Could they be close to solving this baffling two-year mystery?

And a gut-wrenching attack. A woman kidnapped and tortured, allegedly by her own husband, beaten beyond recognition and hospitalized. Now she`s speaking out about the unimaginable abuse and her escape. I`ll talk to her neighbor tonight. You don`t want to miss this.

Then, a woman dies after weight-loss surgery. She`s the fourth patient to die after having the lap-band procedure at a Southern California clinic. You will not believe what her shocking autopsy showed.

ISSUES starts now.



CAPTAIN JAMES CLARK, PHILADELPHIA POLICE DEPARTMENT: This confirmation links Antonio Rodriguez, a 21-year-old male, through DNA, to the sexual assault and murders of Elaine Goldberg, Nicole Piacentini, and Casey Mahoney.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Breaking news tonight in the war on women. Police say the alleged Kensington Strangler has made a stunning, startling confession. And I have to warn you, the details are absolutely revolting.

Twenty-two years old, this guy. Antonio Rodriguez, accused of raping and murdering three women in Philadelphia. He told police he was hunting for, quote, "rough fantasy sex," end quote, and that he "enjoyed the act of killing them." Rodriguez even admitted to having sex with two of his victims after they were dead. That`s right, necrophilia.

The women were murdered in November and December of last year. Each was beaten, raped, and strangled to death.

The suspect made some outrageous claims about 21-year-old Elaine Goldberg. He says he didn`t intend to kill her. He said, quote, "I asked her if she liked to be choked, and she said yes. I began to choke her with my left hand, and she told me to use both hands. She didn`t tap me. She didn`t let me know she couldn`t breathe," end quote.

Oh, so now we`re blaming the victim? How outrageous is that? And who can believe a word somebody like this would say, anyway?

Will this gruesome confession help send this monster straight to Death Row? I certainly hope so. And are investigators sure he didn`t kill more women?

Straight out to criminologist Casey Jordan.

Casey, your reaction when you heard the hideous details of this so- called confession revealed to police.

CASEY JORDAN, CRIMINOLOGIST: Yes, the whole disturbing aspect of the idea that she consented to being choked, Jane, we`ve heard that all before. I`ve interviewed serial killers. They always make excuses and say she wanted it. It was just rough sex gone wrong.

And it is just a crock of nonsense. It`s a made-up lie, and it certainly is belied by the fact that he went on and continued to kill more women by choking them to death. Certainly, they didn`t all want to be choked and didn`t all want to forget to tap him to let him know they were done. So it really is a disturbing...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, yes, and you know what, Casey, rough sex, wasn`t that what the preppy killer used? That was the excuse he used all those years.

JORDAN: That`s right. Robert Chambers -- yes, Robert Chambers in the 1980s right here in New York City said the exact same thing about killing Jennifer Levin right in Central Park. And it`s just a red herring. It`s meant to get some sort of sympathy or understanding. And the truth is that he killed them, having sex before and after they were dead. Makes him a power control killer and a hedonistic lust killer.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: These women were killed within a six-week period, the suspect`s DNA found at each murder scene. So no question here.


CLARK: Upon arrival, we found decedent Casey Mahoney, a 27-year-old female. She was in a facedown position. She had been beaten, sexually assaulted, and strangled to death.

Upon arrival, they found decedent, Elaine Goldberg, a 21-year-old female, unclothed from the waist down. She had been beaten, sexually assaulted, and strangled.

Upon arrival, police found decedent, Nicole Piacentini, a 35-year-old female. She also was partially unclothed from the waist down. She had also been beaten, sexually assaulted, and strangled to death.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: What`s so, just mind boggling to me, this serial killer, just 22 years old. These murders happened within such a short period of time. I mean, this wasn`t over years. This was in a very compressed period of a couple of months.

So Dr. Reef Karma, what could make someone so young go on this sudden killing spree and then commit the ultimate obscenity of necrophilia, having sex with two of the corpses?

DR. REEF KARIM, ADDICTION SPECIALIST: Well, sociopathy is not defined by a certain age. You can be a sociopath at 50 or at 22.

The component to this is you don`t -- you`re not typical of your respect for the human condition. We all go through life where we generally want to help people or at least be a good person. In this case, you are disconnected; you are shut off from the human condition. You have no remorse when you do anything wrong. You don`t believe in laws. You don`t believe in human life.

So the concept of necrophilia, where you`re having sex with a person if they`re alive, or you`re having sex with a person when they`re dead, doesn`t matter, because there`s no human connection...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But is there any kind of sick -- is there any kind of sick and twisted thrill that somebody gets from necrophilia? I mean, isn`t that something that`s so beyond twisted that you have to have a separate explanation for that psychosis?

KARIM: Well, you know, it depends now. It might be necrophilia in regards to you get off on dead people, and you have no impulse control to stop yourself from doing it. That`s one part of it.

The other part is, well, she`s in the room. I had sex -- or I could have sex. I`m a sociopath. I don`t care about anybody besides myself. I have no respect for the human condition, so I might as well just have sex with her anyway. It could be either of the two, or it could be both.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Here`s my big issue. Appearances deceive. And we have this caricature in our heads of what serial killers are supposed to look like.

Now, this guy doesn`t fit the bill. Police say he`s 5`9", just 150 pounds, and very soft spoken. And again, just 22 years old. And he`s also homeless.

Now, we tend to picture predators as sort of large, intimidating men. Is that a dangerous misconception? And I`m going to throw it out to Sunny Hostin, who is a legal contributor with "In Session," that`s covered so many cases, very disturbing cases, but this one is right up there, Sunny.

SUNNY HOSTIN, LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR, "IN SESSION": It really is. And your point is so important for women to recognize that these sociopaths come in all shapes and sizes. That is really very important.

As you know, I was a sex crimes prosecutor for many years, and I saw that these, you know, assailants, these horrible criminals ran the gamut, and so a lot of them are soft spoken. A lot of them are small in stature. But what they all share is a hatred for women. No question about that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And you know, this is what I`d like to know, Mark Eiglarsh. I certainly hope that this guy, that they throw the book at him and that he gets the death penalty. He`s confessed, but, A, could he retract his confession and then end up basically saying that he`s innocent and this was a false, coerced confession, A.

And if he sticks with his confession, could his attorneys use that to try to get him off the death penalty and simply get life in prison?

MARK EIGLARSH, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Absolutely. The first thing they`re going to do is try to negotiate, I think, to take the death penalty off the table. This guy with a confession and with DNA should be very pleased at the outcome if he gets to live the rest of his life in prison.

Assuming they`re not willing to do that, and they might not be with three separate heinous, atrocious, and cruel deaths, is then the defense lawyers have to go to work and attack the alleged confession, saying, look, he didn`t freely and voluntarily give up his rights before making that statement. Try to get that off the table.

What you`re left with, however, is DNA evidence, and that`s very significant evidence.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And here`s what really disturbs me. In the wire copy, reports are that, in the confessions, Rodriguez allegedly claims to have approached the women as if they were prostitutes. And then he claims they agreed to have sex with him and each encounter took a violent turn.

Well, how the heck do we know? Now, not only are these women dead, but he is maligning them in death, Casey Jordan, and his attorneys will probably try to use that to do character assassination on the victims. These poor girls, they cannot speak up for themselves now. And I just think that that adds, you know, insult to the ultimate injury of being violated and murdered in this way.

JORDAN: Yes, I absolutely agree. But I do think that no defense attorney would really, I hope and pray, go in that direction. It really never pays off to try to denigrate the victims. These were young women. They may...


VELEZ-MITCHELL: They do it all the time, Casey, and you know it.

JORDAN: I know. It`s true. But I really think that this man is -- they`re going for the death penalty in this case, and it`s going to take a very clever lawyer to get him out of that.

EIGLARSH: And Jane, the challenge is, if our client says, "That`s the route I want to go," no matter how much you try to talk him out of it, you may be placed in that position. That`s the difficult part of being a criminal defense attorney at times.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Well, good luck. You don`t see me doing it.

All right, everybody, hang tight!

It has now been two years since little Haleigh Cummings vanished, but cops say the case is not cold. Now police say new information indicates Haleigh knew her abductor.

Plus, much more on what the cops are calling the Kensington Strangler confession.


CLARK: And as a result of this being the third murder in a short period of time in the same area with the same type of victims, we do at this time consider it to be a serial murder.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They caught the Kensington Strangler, the alleged strangler. What are your thoughts?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m so happy they got him. I don`t have to watch my back when I go to the Quick Stop or anywhere around here.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tell people the alleged Kensington Strangler behind bars and making sickening confessions. Detectives took turns in court reading the shocking statements from this self-confessed serial killer, Antonio Rodriguez, including claims that he had sex with his victims after they were dead.

Sunny Hostin, please explain to me how we see all the time in the news and in these terrible cases, a suspect will confess in detail, write a detailed confession, hand it to police, and then plead not guilty at their arraignment.

HOSTIN: You know, oftentimes, it does happen that they sort of get -- it`s cathartic to them, and sometimes, Jane, they think that they are the smartest people in the room. They think that they can confess but that the police will never prove it.

Oftentimes, they also lawyer up after the confession, and their lawyers tell them, "Listen, you confessed, but the DNA evidence isn`t as strong, or I can do this for you."


HOSTIN: So a lot of things do happen, but I think a lot of times for this type of sicko, this type of sociopath, they think that they are the smartest people in the room, and they enjoy talking about their crimes. They enjoy reliving it. And I`m sure that many people that are in the law enforcement community will agree with me on that. We see that all the time.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mike Eiglarsh, you wanted to jump in?

EIGLARSH: Yes, because the plea at arraignment isn`t necessarily whether they actually did it or not. The system of justice, as you know, hinges upon the government`s ability to prove the case. You always -- I say 99 percent of the time, regardless of whether they`re guilty or not, you enter a "not guilty" plea on the client`s behalf, and then the government has to prove things.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Maybe we need to change things. Because I am sick and tired of hearing these confessions, and then, oh, you`ll either hear they coerced the confession, they didn`t read him his Miranda rights. That happened with John Couey.

EIGLARSH: No. Jane, that happens sometimes. Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: He confessed to everything and then he turned around and said, "Oh, they didn`t -- I didn`t have a lawyer present, so therefore the entire confession has to be thrown out." So...

EIGLARSH: Are you suggesting it never happens? It doesn`t happen?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`d like to know what we can do as a culture when somebody confesses and gives a detailed confession that they hope -- that they`re held to it. That`s all I`m saying.

EIGLARSH: All right. And I think we need to make sure -- I agree with you on one end. But the other end, we need to make sure that we hold the state or the government to prove that it really was a confession, that it wasn`t manufactured by a detective or by someone who wishes the crime was solved.

Generally, they do confess, and they did do it. But let`s just make sure we keep the burden of proof where it is.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, it`s true. Because in certain cultures, there are torture -- there`s torture, and you can get a forced confession by torturing someone. Not that it would happen here in the United States.

EIGLARSH: In our country! In our country it happens, Jane. It does!

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But we have to protect. And that`s why those safeguards are in place, to protect against a rogue prosecutor or a rogue cop.

Now, in this case they say they do have the DNA. Police say 21-year- old Casey Mahoney -- Casey Mahoney was the suspect`s final victim. Now this -- this monster told cops that when Casey tried to fight him off, quote, "I kind of lost it. I threw her down and forced myself on her."

You can`t take the words of a serial killer at face value. It`s like, these people are on another planet. Remember the BTK serial killer, Dennis Rader? He spoke in court and actually thanked the police who caught him. Check this out.


DENNIS RADER, BTK KILLER: Thanks. I can`t believe the people that have helped me on this. Starting with -- I think the youth society. Even though I`m a criminal, I think you have to appreciate the police department. They`ve done a lot of work. Even though it took a long time, they gathered evidence. They had that evidence. When they got the key suspect, they zeroed on him very rapidly.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, this wingnut, who was a member of his church, a leader of his church, and nobody suspected, not even his wife or his family, that he was the BTK serial killer, was thanking cops and praising them for doing a good job and catching him.

Dr. Reef Karma, can we believe anything these serial killers say? And doesn`t that, in itself, put the confession into question, because they`re on another planet? And who knows what the heck happened and why they would make up anything and say anything?

KARIM: Yes. It absolutely puts the confession in question. And I think they could go, you know, with that.

When you`re a serial killer, there`s a lot of good research on sociopathy, and specifically with people that commit crimes or repetitive crimes. Their brains are different; their frontal lobes are different. Their ability to control their impulses, their ability to reason right from wrong, morally and any other way, is altered.

So in that regard, they lie all the time. They manipulate all the time. They don`t know what they`re doing half the time; they just do it. They`re on autopilot. They`re on this, like, manipulative, aggressive, negative autopilot.

So if somebody`s trying to get a confession out of them, it wouldn`t shock me if they were lying in regards to that, as well. Or if they made stuff up. Who knows? You just don`t know.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And what`s pretty fascinating about this guy is that he is a homeless person, which is fascinating because homeless people are often treated as if they`re invisible and somehow harmless. You walk by them. You don`t even think about them. Could his being homeless have made him even more able to prey on women, Casey Jordan?

JORDAN: Well, I think that the women were the ones who were more vulnerable. The fact that he was homeless, I think, is probably more indicative of a deteriorating mental state and inability to take care of himself.

I wouldn`t be surprised, and Dr. Karma might comment on this, if he was actually becoming or entering the age of schizophrenic onset.

But in any event, the case of the last victim, Casey Mahoney, I think is perhaps the closest thing to the truth as you`re going to get. It fits the forensic evidence. Everything indicates that all three women fought back against this animal. And I think all of them pretty much fought back.

And every one of his stories is different, but what he said about Casey Mahoney is probably indicative of...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And why do these people who are schizophrenic and psychotic attack women? What is it about the hatred of women? We`re going to have to investigate that.

Up next, a woman beaten beyond recognition.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tough for me. It`s tough for other people. I mean, it is a lot of distractions, you know. And it takes away from Haleigh. So I wish it would go away, but it doesn`t.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, a jaw-dropping development as the family of precious 5-year-old Haleigh Cummings remains in shambles, two whole years after the child vanished from her home in the middle of the night without a trace. But now, do cops know exactly who took the child and what they did with her?

Check out this latest statement issued by the Putnam County Florida sheriff, quote, "The individuals with direct knowledge of Haleigh`s whereabouts have still failed to provide the necessary information. Contradictory statements provided by these witnesses indicate they are concealing information," end quote. OK. We`ll analyze that in a second.

Let`s not forget, cops consider this a homicide. They`ve said they think Misty Croslin, Haleigh`s former babysitter/step-mom, and Haleigh`s dad, Ron, know more than they are telling.

Straight out to the intrepid Levi Page, host of "The Levi Page Show" on Blog Talk Radio.

Levi, what is the very latest?

LEVI PAGE, HOST, "THE LEVI PAGE SHOW": Well, Jane, the family held a vigil last night, a heartbreaking vigil, where Crystal Sheffield, Haleigh`s mother, broke down in tears, saying that she could not believe that it`s been two years since her daughter, Haleigh, who was 5 at the time she vanished, has disappeared. She says it feels like it was yesterday.

She feels that it was a dream and that she wants to wake up from it. It was heartbreaking to watch her break down, and you know, my prayers go out to her. She`s really struggled through this. It was heartbreaking.

As you mentioned, the Putnam County Sheriff`s Office has issued that press release, saying that there are individuals withholding and concealing information from them. We know that they also said that Misty Croslin, along with Haleigh`s father, Ronald, are persons of interest. They`re hiding information.

We also know, Jane, via Tommy Croslin`s sentencing, he was called a suspect in this case. And the judge hammered him, saying, "How could you deal drugs while you`re being looked at as a suspect in the disappearance, probable murder of a child?"

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me go back to that. Because what we had heard all along was that Ron was at work. And he made all these phone calls to Misty, trying to reach her, the night that little Haleigh disappeared. So what I had heard originally was that Ron, the dad, was exonerated because people saw him at work. Is there new information on that front?

PAGE: Well, we do know that he was at work. We know that there was a ping from 8 to 8:30, approximately, around that time, but we also know that there have been coworkers that worked at PDM, where he worked, that said that he had been known to sneak out of work in the past.

Kim Picazio, the former attorney for Crystal Sheffield, had stated on your show, Jane, a while back, that Ronald would leave work, get the children, because Misty would leave the children unattended, and he would bring the children and make them sleep in his truck while he worked the night shift.

And there have been witnesses that have came to law enforcement, gave sworn statements that had said that Ronald Cummings was elsewhere instead of at work.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So he`s behind bars, doing time for drug conspiracy. Misty is behind bars, doing time for drug conspiracy. And despite all that pressure, they still have not gotten the truth out of these two individuals as to what happened that night? They`re going to be behind bars for years. You`d think they would have told them.

Thank you so much, Levi -- Levi Page.

An incomprehensible attack, a brutally beaten woman. We`ll talk to her next.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: A gut-wrenching attack. A woman kidnapped and tortured, allegedly by her own husband, beaten beyond recognition and hospitalized. Now she`s speaking out about the unimaginable abuse and her escape. I`ll talk to her neighbor tonight. You don`t want to miss this.

Then, a woman dies after weight loss surgery. She`s the fourth patient to die after having the lap-band procedure at a southern California clinic. You will not believe what her shocking autopsy showed.


LOLA HORNOFF, HUSBAND ATTACKED HER: I wanted to live. I`m not ready to die. I`m a strong enough person to know that I don`t want my kids to have to bury me.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Look at this woman -- beaten to a pulp. And cops say her husband did it. Tonight, the absolutely sickening, revolting details about the day Lola Hornoff almost died. And cops say her husband tortured and beat her for hours because he thought she was having an affair.

Well, thank God she`s alive, but she`s battered and bruised. Could this beating in a way have saved her life? She got out of this horrific relationship.

Lola Hornoff said her husband had mentally and physically abused her before, but nothing like this ever before. Now, this time cops say Robert Hornoff tied her up with wires before beating her over and over again.


HORNOFF: And then he stabbed me in the hand with a knife and he told me he was cutting my hair off and my -- he was going to cut my fingers off so they couldn`t identify me.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Unbelievable. Look at that poor woman. Lola managed to get away when her husband threw her into the car to drive her in order to confront the man she was supposedly having an affair with. Well, she opened the car door with her foot and stumbled out of it and raced to a gas station, but witnesses say her husband chased right after her, caught up to her, and then tried to run her over with his vehicle.

Luckily, workers pulled her out of the way. Now, finally somebody steps up and helps this woman who needs it. Bravo. There`s a hero for you.

Now, look closely. Because I want to show you this woman`s face one more time. This is the face of the war on women. The women we fight for every day here on ISSUES. This -- what you are looking at -- has to stop.

Intimate partner violence is a huge problem in this country. We have to address it.

Straight out to domestic violence survivor: Brenda Clubine. Brenda, you served 26 years in prison for killing your abusive husband. What was your reaction when you saw this woman`s face and heard her story?

BRENDA CLUBINE, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SURVIVOR: I was sick. It lets me know that this problem is still so pervasive. But I am so glad people stepped up and didn`t just ignore it and helped save this woman`s life.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, cops say Robert Hornoff beat his wife with his fists, a broom handle, stabbed her hands with a knife, she was tied up with telephone cords, wire, ropes, and shoelaces, but Lola Hornoff says she was not ready to die.


HORNOFF: I knew if I didn`t get out of that car, my kids were not going to have a mom.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: So where is Lola`s husband now? Robert Hornoff is in the hospital because he crashed his car into a tree when he reportedly, allegedly tried to run over his wife. Now, he is charged with assault with intent to murder, torture, and unlawful imprisonment.

Susan Filan, legal expert, so delighted to have you here on ISSUES. I remember you from the Jackson trial, we worked together, and it`s great to see you.

Something has to be done about intimate partner violence in our culture. We don`t want to just cover the who, what, when where, why and just vicariously experience this without coming up with a solution. Can`t they do something and make when you -- when you attack your own spouse, make it a hate crime, make it something with a special circumstance?

SUSAN FILAN, LEGAL EXPERT: That`s exactly right. You talk about addiction. This culture is addicted to rage. And that needs to change. We also need to do a serious campaign of education, like we`ve done with drunk driving, that there`s zero tolerance. We need to do that with intimate spousal abuse.

Just the way there`s going to be zero tolerance, because there`s a special relationship of trust. When you`re married to somebody, you have a dependent relationship on that person. If that person violates that trust, there has to be no right to bond. Bond has to be -- zero bond -- you`re not going to get out. Because when somebody`s been accused and then they`re out on bond, the chances of them coming back to kill you are much, much greater.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: This is a national crisis and we have to do something about it. Intimate partner violence is a leading cause of death for women. When a pregnant woman is killed, the most likely suspect is the man who impregnated her.

Jane, I understand that you`re on the line and you`re a neighbor of this couple. What can you tell us about their relationship? Were cops coming to the house all the time, that kind of thing?

JANE, NEIGHBOR (via telephone): Well, we neighbors have seen police cars there at different times, you know. And we always had heard that he had had a record of abuse. When they first moved in, they did have children with them, which were taken away, and I believe now they have been adopted by another family.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Those poor children. They`ve got five children between them.

And I got to tell you, Dr. Reef -- hold on a second, Jane, I want to get back to you -- Dr. Reef Karma, ok, he`s 26 now, she`s 34. They`ve been together ten years.

Now, there`s a problem there. That means she was 24 when she initially hooked up with him when he was 16 and they proceeded to have five children. I`m not blaming the victim in any way, shape, or form, but that`s a problem, right there. That`s a toxic start to any kind of relationship.

DR. REEF KARIM, DIRECTOR, THE CONTROL CENTER: Well, who are you at the age of 16? Who are you when you`re, you know, a teenager? You haven`t formed an identity. You don`t know who you are.

Now, granted, there`s so much more than that. This is domestic abuse, this is torture, this is so much more. It`s not just that a guy got married when he was in his teens.

But here`s the thing. Emotional abuse is such a big part of domestic violence. We`re able to see the bruises -- and she looks, you know, it`s terrible. This is a terrible crime. But we`re seeing the bruises on the outside. We`re seeing the broken bones and the bruises.

But let me tell you, there are so many bruises on the inside. There`s so much emotional vulnerability. There`s so much emotional intimacy dependence in a relationship that gets betrayed, because somebody is beating you who you thought was going to be someone who loves you and is supposed to protect you. That`s the biggest betrayal in regards to this.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, but I`ve got to ask, this is -- I want to get back to Brenda Clubine in a second, but I want to go to the neighbor, Jane. This husband and wife proceed to have five children over the course of ten years and these are all minor children. Now, you know, I`ve got to wonder why continue to have children with somebody who`s abusive.

Jane, you`re the neighbor. I understand that he kept his wife inside and was very protective, in a bad way, of her. And also that he was kind of, allegedly, a cruel guy; that the neighbors would go over and complain about how he was treating his dogs. Tell us what you know, Jane.

JANE: Well, yes. He had a pit bull that he kept chained outside on a short leash. And I know one of the neighbors had gone over there because they -- he felt there wasn`t water or food out for him. So, yes, we were - -

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, we know that people who abuse animals -- and leaving a dog on a chain like that is abuse -- we know that they are very likely to abuse people as well.

And in fact, Brenda Clubine, when there`s animal abuse, there`s often domestic abuse and vice versa. But Brenda, you were convicted for killing your abusive husband. I`ve got to ask, why do you think this woman proceeded to have one, two, three, four, five children and keep procreating with this man who is abusive? I mean, isn`t that sort of de facto putting your children in harm`s way?

CLUBINE: Well, it is. But you also have to understand, she loves him. She thinks she loves him. She`s in love with the idea of love. So, unfortunately, what happens is you become addicted to this person. He`s a possessive, jealous individual, and that is his accountability.

But her, unfortunately, wanting to be in love and wanting to be the one that makes it better and that it`s going to be ok, if she keeps making him happy by having children, that`s probably --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But, Brenda, come on.

CLUBINE: -- what happened.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: She starts with him when he`s 16? There`s something -- I mean, again, she`s a victim. But we`ve got to get to the point where we empower these victims to avoid these situations in the first place, Brenda.

CLUBINE: Absolutely.

KARIM: But, Jane -- Jane, it`s like you`re in a trance.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: They -- what?

KARIM: These victims are in a trance. They`re on autopilot in regards to the abuse. They just accept the abuse and they have -- somebody has to shake them. They have to wake up from the spell that they`re in. I agree with Brenda. Probably, she was getting validation by having kids.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Brenda, last word.

CLUBINE: But she`s also terrified. She`s also terrified, Jane. She`s terrified and she has to please this guy and she has to do anything - - she knows at some level her survival`s at stake.

FILAN: Absolutely. It`s about her survival.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`ve got to say, my call to action is, if you`re in an abusive relationship and you feel you can`t get out, whatever you do, get on birth control so you do not have children and put them in harm`s way as well. That`s important.

CLUBINE: Absolutely.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Do not have five children with somebody who is abusing you.

You can help Nancy Grace find America`s missing. They`re goal: find 50 people in 50 days. Watch "NANCY GRACE: AMERICA`S MISSING" tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern only on HLN.

All right.

Just days after weight loss surgery, a woman feels extreme pain and goes for her follow-up treatment and dies. Now, she`s the fourth patient to die after having lap-band procedure at a southern California clinic.

I`m going to talk to the family`s attorney.



SPENCE ARONFELD, ATTORNEY FOR OSVALDO VARGAS: People are not supposed to die undergoing plastic surgery. And they`re certainly not supposed to die undergoing an elective cosmetic procedure as simple as this.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight: dying to be thin? Four women die after getting lap-band surgery at two California weight loss clinics connected to the 1-800-GET-THIN ad campaign. The jingle goes like this.

"Let your new life begin, call 1-800-GET-THIN". Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello. I`m Elizabeth and I lost 103 pounds with the lap-band. I went from a size 22 to a size 7. Everything about me has changed. I have tons of energy, lots of confidence, and a whole new style.

I`ve been on enough yo-yo diets to make your head spin. The lap-band was the key my success.

If you want to look like me, what are you waiting for? Pick up the phone and call 1-800-GET-THIN for a free brochure and (INAUDIBLE)

Let your new life begin, call 1-800-GET-THIN.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: But four women`s families say calling that number led to slow and painful death. However, 1-800-GET-THIN is just an advertising agency that puts you in contact with a clinic in your area.

Laura Faitro went to get a lap-band at Valley Surgical Center. Her husband says she just wanted to be able to enjoy life. Laura died of heart failure five days after surgery.

Her husband claims Laura`s liver had been lacerated several times. And he also claims the doctor let her go home without telling her. She also had sepsis, a bacterial infection, and fluid in her abdomen.

Well, now her husband is suing the clinic, 1-800-GET-THIN, and the doctors who treated his wife. Now, we reached out to the lawyer representing those doctors and the clinic, and they did not comment.

But tonight the attorney representing 1-800-GET-THIN, famed attorney Brian Oxman, who you may remember as the Michael Jackson family attorney, joins us to tell their side of the story. We want to be fair here.

But the bottom line is that we have to learn that surgery really isn`t the answer to a weight problem. There`s no quick fix. We have to attack our nation`s obesity crisis at the core, by asking ourselves why are we eating so much. Are we food addicts?

You know, we need to realize that we`re powerless over food if we`re food addicts. And that the only thing that`s going to work is a transition to a healthy lifestyle. Ok. Let`s stop, as a culture, thinking that going under the knife is going to solve emotional eating.

But I want to go straight out to Attorney Alexander Robinson, who is representing Laura`s family and the family of one of the other women as well. Mr. Robinson, in your opinion, and I`m holding up a whole bunch of lawsuits here, pages and pages, who is to blame here?

ALEXANDER ROBINSON, ATTORNEY FOR LAURA`S FAMILY: Well, who`s really to blame is -- are the defendants that we`ve sued. They`ve engaged in this mass marketing campaign for what`s very -- it`s an invasive surgery, it requires general anesthesia, and the way the marketing campaign has been designed here in southern California, it really makes it sound like it`s simple drive-through medicine. That you can take your lunch hour off, 45 minutes- an hour later, they advertise it`s safe, a one-hour procedure, they can bill it all to your insurance, and you can go right out and buy new clothes off the rack.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Doctors at the hospital also diagnosed her with sepsis, which is a bacterial infection of the bloodstream.

Right now to Brian Oxman, he is the attorney for 1-800-GET-THIN and they are also defendants in the lawsuits -- Again, a lot of paperwork here, lawsuits. Even though 1-800-GET-THIN is not performing the surgery, Brian Oxman, do they need to take steps to make sure that the clinics that they are recommending are top flight?

BRIAN OXMAN, ATTORNEY FOR 1-800-GET-THIN: They absolutely, Jane. You`ve got to make sure that the doctors who perform these procedures are advertising correctly, that they`re qualified, that they`re certified, and 1-800-GET-THIN makes sure that every single doctor to whom it refers a patient meets all the certification requirements for the state of California and that they are qualified by Argonne (ph), who is the maker of the lap-band, to perform that surgery and each of these doctors are qualified.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, what do you say to that, Alexander Robinson, you`re the attorney for the families?

ROBINSON: Right. What I say is we`re focusing this class action lawsuit on the deceptive nature of the advertising. There`s no warnings; when the FDA approved the lap-band back in 2001, they required that the distributors and the manufacturer list all of the counter-indications, the side effects, the warnings. None of that shows up in the 1-800-GET-THIN advertising, on the billboards, the bus placards and the TV and Radio --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. I want to get to Dr. Li. You`re an actual plastic surgeon. How high-risk is lap-band surgery and what exactly does it do?

DR. LINDA LI, PLASTIC SURGEON: Lap-band surgery is actually much safer than the gastric bypass surgeries we were doing 10 to 15 years ago. And in the appropriate patient, the risk of death or morbidity is 1 in 2,000. Because it is much safer than the gastric bypass surgery, the requirements for lap-banding are a little lo0ser. They say that even 50 pounds overweight is sufficient for a lap-banding.

But it is real surgery. It requires general anesthesia, it requires real surgery.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Analysis of medical malpractice suits on the other side of the break in a moment.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, plastic surgery nightmares: four obese women die after calling 1-800-GET-THIN and getting lap-band surgery. Laura Faitro died five days after surgery. Did she have secret lacerations on her liver the doctors ignored? The attorneys for both sides are on the show.

We also want to go to Susan Filan, legal expert. Isn`t it very hard to prove medical malpractice, Susan, especially in California? I understand that there is a lot of hoops you have to jump through to prove medical malpractice.

FILAN: Yes, there are. There`s a standard of care and there has to be a deviation of standard of care. But I think this case raises absolutely fascinating issues of advertising and the medical practice. Can you just throw up on a billboard, feeling fat? Have surgery without exposing the risks.

I think it`s very, very, very dangerous to set up this kind of precedent that you can have this kind of slick advertising for surgery, whether the surgery is essentially basically safer than gastric bypass or not. To throw up a billboard, "feeling fat? Have surgery. Cut something out." I think is really, really putting people, moving people toward very, very thin eyes. I think the law has to put safeguards in place.

So the medical profession doesn`t start basically offering, you know, "We`ll cut something out for a price so that you can feel better." That`s just -- I don`t think -- I think that`s a really rotten intersection between cash and medicine. I think the law has to step in to protect the people here.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And I`ll tell you what; Susan, I think that I always worry about people self-medicating and self-diagnosing and sort of deciding for themselves what their medical solution is. I think doctors are supposed to do that.

But that`s leading me to my big issue tonight: addicted to food. A lot of times people who get the surgery end up regaining the weight because it changes the size of their stomach but it doesn`t address the emotional and mental issues of why they`re overeating.

Our nation`s obesity crisis is something I talk about in my new book "Addict Nation" which I call an intervention for America.

John Faitro said his wife who was 5`6, weighed 250 pounds. Ok? Now, apparently she was a stress eater who began gaining weight 25 years ago when her husband lost his eyesight from diabetes. So a rubber band around your stomach isn`t going to cure the emotional problems stemming from, let`s say, caring for a husband who is very sick.

Dr. Li, plastic surgeon, don`t we have to, like, hit bottom on this idea that, oh, a rubber band is going to stop what is essentially an addiction to food?

DR. LI: Absolutely. Absolutely. The American public needs to realize that food is not a crutch, but when it becomes too difficult to just lose the weight on your own, sometimes you need a little bit of help. But it needs to be an inclusive program of both psychological, counseling, sometimes medical intervention, exercise programs. It needs to be everything as opposed to just a one-fix kind of deal.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What it really needs to be is an admission, a hitting bottom and an admission that you`re an addict and that food is your drug and that you are powerless over it.

Thank you, fantastic panel for joining me tonight.

Now, by the way, check me out on "The Soup" on the E! Network tonight at 10:00 Eastern along with a bunch of encore showings this weekend -- I make a total fool of myself. That`s the only tease I`ll tell you. It`s a lot of fun.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell and here`s my issue. For those struggling with their weight, lap band surgery is a dangerous and ultimately superficial solution because it`s not a solution. Most people who are severely overweight have a food addiction. They`re food addicts. The way to overcome any addiction is to admit your life has become unmanageable and surrender to the fact that you are powerless over your substance of choice -- in this case, food.

Unlike alcohol which you can give up altogether, you do have to negotiate with food, but there are ways to narrow the playing field. One simple solution is to say, no to fast food. Say, I will not go through that fast food drive through -- period, never. If all Americans took that one simple step we could get a grip on our nation`s obesity crisis. This is an epidemic that swept our country. It`s time we started using the 12 steps to overcome food addiction.

Nancy Grace is up next.