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Georgia Meth Lab Fire Kills 3 Children; Acid Truck Dad in Court

Aired February 18, 2011 - 19:00:00   ET



JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, addict nation out of control. A house engulfed in flames takes the lives of three adorable little siblings, all under 5 years of age. Was meth being cooked in the home? And where the hell are the young victims` parents?

Plus, new charges against the dad whose adopted song was found covered in acid in his truck and his adopted daughter dead in the back. Now Jorge Barahona accused of attempted murder as his son clings to life. Will the adoptive mother also face child abuse charges?

Then a shocking family secret exposed. The father of the famous music group the 5 Browns pleads guilty to sexually abusing his daughters when they were children. The classical piano group suffered in silence two long decades ago. Tonight I`ll go inside their agonizing ordeal.

And "Dancing with the Stars" Cheryl Burke joins me tonight. Cheryl is revealing her painful past. She was molested by a family friend at just 5 years of age. I`ll talk to Cheryl one-on-one about the scariest moment of her life and her brave battle against this monster.

ISSUES starts now.



CHRISTY BURNS, NEIGHBOR: They started pulling the babies out and laying them on the ground and running back, and the lady was screaming, "My babies, my babies."


VELEZ-MITCHELL: A horror tonight, breaking news, our nation`s drug addiction epidemic has just claimed three tiny, precious, innocent victims. Three children, ages 1 to 4, trapped inside a burning home last night in suburban Atlanta. Police say these three toddlers were forced to live in a home where meth, methamphetamine, was cooked and sold, and cops say that is ultimately what killed these children.


CAPTAIN TOMMY RUTLEDGE, GWINNETT, GEORGIA, FIRE DEPARTMENT: We also believe that the fire was caused by chemicals that ignited. These chemicals were used in the manufacturing of meth.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: The kids` mom, Neibi Brito, is charged with trafficking meth. Now a man who lives in the home -- you`re looking at him right there -- Ivan Gonzalez, charged with three counts of murder.

When Gonzalez left the scene of the fire and drove off, officers assumed he was following the ambulance with the injured kids inside to the hospital. But instead, this guy took off on the run from authorities.

These poor innocent children never stood a chance in this house of horrors. If their mother wanted to live the life of a drug dealer, as cops allege, why on earth have three children?

Straight out to HLN law enforcement analyst Mike Brooks.

Mike, what do you know about this nightmare?

MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: This is an unbelievable case, Jane. Apparently, three passersby were going past the house yesterday afternoon in Gwinnett County just right up the road here from CNN Center here in Atlanta, and they saw smoke coming from this house.

Now, two teenaged boys and a man with a ladder were able to get two of the three children out of the house. They were apparently trapped in an upstairs bedroom. The mother, she was apparently outside, wasn`t inside. She was saying, "My babies were inside." Instead of her bringing the babies out with her.

But they were able to take all three to the hospital. One baby was pronounced dead right after they got to the hospital, and the other children were later taken to the burn -- taken to the burn unit, and they later died also. Children.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. I always find out -- find it very interesting that the mother gets out, is crying outside for the kids. Why not take the kids out when you flee? Right, Mike?

BROOKS: Jane, you`re absolutely right. You know, I was a law enforcement officer but also a volunteer fire chief. I don`t know how many times I pulled up in front. You know, "My babies are inside, my babies are inside."

Well, these babies, it was a 1 1/2-year-old girl, a 3-year-old and a 4-year-old boy.

Now, I want our viewers to take a good look at Gonzalez. I just got...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s look at him. Let`s bring him up.

BROOKS: I just got off the phone with -- with Corporal Jake Smith, with that county police department. They believe that he could be trying to flee to Mexico. They describe him as 5`7", weighing about 190 pounds, and he has a large tattoo of the Virgin Mary on his calf. He also goes by the name of John McGowan Torres, as you see there on the screen.

They do not have him in custody. He is going to be charged with the murders, but they want to find him or they, as I said, they think he could be fleeing to Mexico.

And you saw Tommy Rutledge, captain from Gwinnett Fire. Right now as we speak, you have the Drug Enforcement Administration, Gwinnett Hazmat, and a bomb squad. They`re trying to figure out, Jane, what to do with this house.

They`ve sent a number of samples away to the lab that they believe were involved in making methamphetamine, including acetone. They`re waiting to get those results back and see what was inside that house.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thanks for that update, Mike.

Now, the suspect, Ivan Gonzalez, could have been captured right at the scene. He was there. But at that point, police didn`t know they were dealing with a meth lab. The priority was to put out the fire and get the kids to the hospital. Listen to this.


CORPORAL JAKE SMITH, GWINNETT, GEORGIA, POLICE DEPARTMENT: This is the subject that was attempting to fight the fire with a garden hose when officers and firefighters showed up on the scene initially. He had -- he was claiming that the victims that transported, the children, were family members of his. And he appeared to be suffering from some burns himself, and he was not challenged when he left the scene to follow the ambulance.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: So Jean Casarez, correspondent on "In Session," TruTV, they think he`s going to the hospital to be with the kids. Then they go into the house, and they see evidence that it`s a meth lab. And they start wondering where this guy is and checking all the -- all the different hospitals around. What do you know about that?

JEAN CASAREZ, CORRESPONDENT, TRUTV`S "IN SESSION": Well, obstruction of justice, first of all, because he said he was a family member going to a hospital. They did check all the hospitals in the area. He was nowhere to be found, this Ivan Gonzalez that now has two charges of murder in an arresting warrant. They are waiting for the third count to be part of that warrant.

But here`s another interesting point. The mother was at home, and she`s been charged with drug trafficking, but she was at home. Was she involved in making this meth when it suddenly blew up and the fire? Those charges could be upgraded.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely. And I got to tell you, it`s my big issue. The fact is that kids and drugs are simply a very, very dangerous mix. And if you want to be a drug dealer, as the cops allege in this case, then don`t have three kids.

I mean, first of all, Jamison Monroe, you`re founder and CEO of the Newport Academy. What you need to make methamphetamines is very dangerous, right? So you`re -- you`ve got three kids, and you`re there with a little factory cooking up this stuff. What kinds of things are used to cook up meth? And what are the potential dangers of just having kids in the house when you`re doing that?

JAMISON MONROE, FOUNDER/CEO, NEWPORT ACADEMY: Highly, highly toxic chemicals, Jane. For every pound of methamphetamine produced, there`s ten pounds of toxic waste is produced. So toxic waste byproducts.

So these kids were damaged physiologically, physically and psychologically long before this explosion happened, Jane. I mean, this is just -- this is atrocious. The couple responsible for these kids are very fortunate to be protected by the legal system. I`m from Texas. This couple needs some old-fashioned Texas justice.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely. Now, the fire chief says the flames broke out in the center of the house in a hallway between the kitchen and the stairwell. The three little kids were upstairs in a bedroom. Check this out.


RUTLEDGE: We were being told that three children were trapped on the second floor, when firefighters arrived. And even according to bystanders, the mother was already outside the home. There were several people, from bystanders to individuals we believe to be family members or relatives that were trying to rescue these children.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. So the mom is charged with drug trafficking. Mark Eiglarsh, you`re a former prosecutor, now defense attorney. Are murder charges going to be next for the mother, as well as for this guy they`re looking for?

MARK EIGLARSH, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Probably. It really does depend on the facts. She would have to claim that she had no idea what he was doing. I find that to be extremely unlikely.

If she played any role and knew, either aided in some way, then she is just as guilty as him who was probably the leader of this meth lab. The conduct is just abhorrent. There`s really no defense to it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, and you`ve got to wonder, Mike Brooks, if there is an 18-month-old girl there, how is it that the mom gets out, but the 18- month-old is still in the house? Because aren`t you supposed to observe an 18-month-old at all times? So even if you notice flames at that moment, you should be able to grab that child and get out with the child or not be able to get out at all?

BROOKS: Yes, you would think so. But I can tell you, with the chemicals that are used to make meth, Jane, they are highly flammable. What most likely happened is that they flashed over. She wasn`t probably able to get upstairs to get the kids, but -- because they had to use a ladder and pass the kids out from a ladder from the bystanders who went by. But no...

MONROE: She`s also a drug addict, and she`s a selfish individual. And all she`s worried about is herself. She`s going to save herself. She`s going to lie and do what she can to get out of any trouble.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I want to talk about that on the other side of the break.

If you are cooking meth and distributing it, are you also more likely to be a meth user? I think the answer is yes. We`re going to get into what a meth user is like.

Everybody stay right there, because this is an epidemic in America.

Attempted murder charges against the dad whose adopted son is clinging to life after he was doused with acid. His adopted daughter also found dead in the back of his truck. So will murder charges come soon? And what on earth is going on with the mother, that woman right there?

Plus, more on this alleged meth house madness.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw the smoke.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just heard the lady screaming about her babies. So it was just -- I don`t know, I guess, like adrenaline or whatever. They were pretty unconscious.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. This meth house story shows how addiction destroys lives and can even kill. In my new book, "Addict Nation," available at or go to, it talks about addiction, the epidemic of addiction that has engulfed this entire nation.

Have you battled an addiction? I want to hear your story.

Robin from Indiana says she spent four days in a crack coma before later becoming sober. She has now been in recovery for seven years, and she reaches out to others when they need help in trying to get sober. Bravo, Robin. You are one of my heroes. You have won a signed copy of my brand-new book, "Addict Nation: An Intervention for America."

Everybody else, send me your stories about overcoming an addiction, any addiction to You could win a signed copy of my new book, "Addict Nation."



RUTLEDGE: Fire investigators learned this morning that the two remaining children died at Grady Hospital through the night. So there are now three children who have died as a result of this fire.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Three innocent kids all under the age of 5 killed inside a suspected meth den. The mother got out and was crying for the kids who were still inside. Why were they separated? Why didn`t she take some of the kids out?

And what happened to this man, Ivan Gonzalez, who disappeared? Said he was going to be heading behind the ambulance to the hospital with the three kids, and ends up just disappearing? And where are they going to find this guy? How are they going to find this guy?

Mike Brooks, what are they doing right now to -- in terms of a manhunt for this person?

BROOKS: Their -- they put out lookouts all up and down the East Coast. The FBI is also involved, U.S. marshals trying to find this guy, because they believe, they believe that he may be trying...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s show the guy. There he is.

BROOKS: Ivan Gonzalez. They believe that he is trying to get to Mexico, Jane. And they want to stop him before he gets anywhere near the border.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well let`s talk about the meth problem in the U.S. of A. According to the Meth Project, 12.5 million Americans use meth. And it happens to be more addictive than heroin.

Now, this tragedy occurred in Georgia, which has seen a 447 percent increase in the amount of meth seized in just the last two years. And that is why this epidemic is why we need jarring ads like this one. Check this out.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wish my tire had blown out that night. I wish my car had skidded off the road. I wish I`d broken my neck. I wish I`d been crippled.

But I didn`t crash. I drove to that party, and I did meth for the first time. I did meth, and now this is my life. This is my life.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: This is our addict nation. And take a look at this. meth addicts are easy to spot. Look at the person with the mouth of rotted teeth. That`s what meth addiction does to you. OK?

First of all, I want to go to Jamison Monroe, addiction expert, on the effects of meth. We hear about them picking at themselves, picking at their hair, pulling their hair, and then why the rotted teeth?

MONROE: Jane, meth gets you. It`s the very, very powerful stimulant that gets you really high really fast. And it`s so high that you just want to keep getting high, so you completely ignore all of your hygiene needs, and hence the rotting teeth, and you`re smoking, and you`re causing a lot of damage to your mouth and air passageways.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Is it really more addictive than heroin?

MONROE: It`s a different type of addiction. It`s -- yes. I think it is more addictive than heroin. But it`s on the same level. Heroin is a downer; meth is -- is a stimulant.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So it`s kind of like a speed?

MONROE: Exactly. It`s very -- it is speed. Methamphetamine, the street name would be speed.

And just to talk about the epidemic, you know, the past decade, we had a lot of meth, and then it kind of went away for a little bit. It really seems like Georgia is the new West Virginia, Jane. Just a couple of numbers real quick. The DEA seized 50 kilos in `08, 300 kilos in 2010. To date in 2011, they`ve already seized 600 kilos in the state of Georgia.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But let me ask you this, Jamison. OK. Explain how you make meth. Because -- or anybody on the panel -- it`s not something that`s grown the way pot is, or the poppy. It`s actually something I`ve heard that you could buy household products almost and put it together. I don`t want to teach anybody how to make it.

But is that one of the reasons why it is so epidemic, because it`s pretty easy? You don`t have to be a brain surgeon to cook this stuff?

BROOKS: That`s exactly right.

MONROE: You don`t have to be a brain surgeon.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Take that -- take that away, Mike.

BROOKS: No, you can cook it in the trunk of your car. It`s -- you know, there`s -- it`s called a two-pot system, or you can cook up what they`re doing in the house because you use alcohol, muriatic acid, camping stove fuel. You know, like from a Coleman stove. It`s not that hard to make. And then you use, you know, cold tablets. So that`s why, when you go to get any kind of cold tablets now today, Jane, you have to show your I.D. and sign it away. And that`s because of the epidemic.

And I can tell you, it`s -- it`s anywhere from the inner city all the way out in the country. They are in -- every county around Atlanta has a task force that deals specifically with the methamphetamine problem here in Georgia.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And I think that these homes have certain characteristics. If I remember correctly, I was told once, driving through an area, I was asked -- I was asking, "Why are all these homes, they seem like the windows are shuttered. They`re covered with something like metal." Jean Casarez, this was in California that I saw what people pointed out to me to be meth houses.

There`s also a distinct smell.

You`ve covered methamphetamine cases in Nevada. What do you know about this epidemic and how it manifests? How can people tell if there`s a meth house in their neighborhood?

CASAREZ: You know, it`s pretty easy, Jane. When I was a local reporter in Nevada, Nevada was having a meth epidemic. And I would go with so many police.

Here`s the telltale sign: the water`s coming down the driveway. Because at least in Nevada, everybody made it in their bathtub, and water somehow or other came down the driveway. And that was the telltale sign for police that actually gave them probable cause to go in that home.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And it`s kind of a metallic smell if you get really close to it. I was once a reporter who went to a meth house; and they came out, and they attacked me and I ran off. It`s a scary group of people.

Up next...



JACQUI COLYER, FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES: This family`s background check, home visit, home study, was stellar. The judge said so. I`ve read it. I`ve looked at it. It was absolutely stellar.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Stellar, really? I find that hard to believe, frankly.

Tonight new charges against Jorge Barahona, the father who was found in his acid-soaked pick-up truck with his injured son and dead daughter. His daughter was in a bag.

And now there`s a new child abuse allegation involving another child in the family.

Jorge Barahona finally showed up in court today. We`re going to see him in a second. You`ll see -- there, does that look like a stellar parent to you, his hair matted? Barahona now charged with attempted first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse. He pleaded not guilty. The judge denied bond. Gee, I wonder why.

Barahona and his adopted son were found covered with chemicals in their pick-up truck on Monday. In the back, firefighters found Barahona`s adopted daughter, 10, stuffed in a bag. That horrific discovery blew the top off of a child-abuse investigation that was already in progress into this family.

Straight out to our John Zarrella, live in Miami.

John, "The Miami Herald" reporting the 6-year-old girl who blew the whistle on all this, the granddaughter of Carmen and Jorge Barahona, is also the victim of abuse. What can you tell us about that breaking news?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, that was in court this morning in Miami. We do not know exactly. It was alleged that there was abuse by the grandparents and possibly by Jennifer Perez, who is the little girl`s mother, Carmen Barahona`s daughter.

Now, what they did in court today in this proceeding, what they`re trying to do is revoke her parental rights. That`s Jennifer Perez`s parental rights.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: This is the lady we`re looking at right here.

ZARRELLA: Correct. That`s the little girl`s mother. And remember, yes, she was the little girl who told her therapist on Thursday the 10th that there were problems in the house. And then the therapist is the one who called the hot line, which started the ball rolling, which ultimately didn`t end up, you know, with anything really happening. But -- but yes. So what`s happened now is they`re going to try to revoke her parental rights.

Her husband has temporary custody of the little girl at this point in time. Another hearing is scheduled next Tuesday.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And this little 6-year-old girl is a hero, because she told her therapist that there was a horrible family secret going on at Grandma`s house. And that`s when the whole ball got rolling, when the social workers went to her house and did nothing, absolutely nothing.

Is it possible that the other girl, the girl who was the 10-year-old twin of the boy who is now in critical condition fighting for his life, is it possible that that 10-year-old girl was dead already when the social worker went to the house last Thursday, I believe? Or Friday?

ZARRELLA: Yes, I don`t think there`s any question that by Friday, something was amiss. There`s certainly a possibility. And we know that the medical examiner has determined the cause of death, which would probably mean he`s been able to pinpoint when the little girl died, as well.

But they`re telling us now that there`s no timetable for the release of that information.

And, you know, one other thing, Jane, that we were asking is what happens now to this poor little girl`s body? When are they going to release her body? Who`s going to take custody of that? What kind of burial is this poor little girl going to ultimately get at the end of the day? We haven`t been able to get answers on that yet. But we`re sure pressing it, because boy, she certainly deserves a proper burial after this.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Excellent reporting. Thank you so much, John Zarrella.

We`re going to stay on top of this story. Up next a family`s hit hard, a famous one.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: A shocking family secret exposed. The father of the famous music group "The 5 Browns" pleads guilty to sexually abusing his daughters when they were children. The classical piano group suffered in silence two long decades ago. Tonight I`ll go inside their agonizing ordeal.

And "Dancing with the Stars" Cheryl Burke joins me tonight. Cheryl`s revealing her painful past. She was molested by a family friend at just five years of age. I`ll talk to Cheryl one-on-one about the scariest moment of her life and her brave battle against this monster.


STEVE SHAPIRO, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: That`s what the victims want. Or I think it accomplishes what they wanted as far as his incarceration is concerned. I`m not going to speak as to why it took so long for them to come to light. That`s -- I think that`s a personal thing. You know, that`s the -- the victims have their reasons for not coming forward sooner.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, their albums have topped the classical music charts. They have performed on Oprah and "60 Minutes". But the sibling piano sensations known as "The 5 Browns" have been hiding a sickening sexual secret for decades now.




VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, the father of the famed Utah piano quintet, the man who also managed the group until 2008 has pleaded guilty to sexually abusing his three daughters -- the ones you just saw playing piano there, those prodigies -- when they were children. These three women, 32- year-old Desirae, 30-year-old Deondra and 26-year-old Melody reportedly went to police about this childhood incest not so long ago when they found out their dad was planning on getting back into the music business and managing another children`s musical group. Were they worried he could molest again? Apparently so.

Fifty-five-year-old Keith Brown -- you see him going into court right there -- he first went and confessed to the leader of his Mormon Church and then Brown battered and bruised from a recent car accident, walked into court and whispered to the judge, "I am guilty."

Now I believe that that`s the guy on the left there walking in. Brown faces a minimum 10-year sentence and could get life in prison. He was charged with -- are you sitting down -- sodomy on a child under age 14 and two charges of sexual abuse of a child.

Straight out to Kim Serafin, senior editor for "In Touch Weekly" magazine; Kim, what a shocking story and what is the very latest?

KIM SERAFIN, SENIOR EDITOR, "IN TOUCH WEEKLY": It really is terrible and as you mentioned. Now his lawyers are saying this all started last year when he went to a bishop at his church to confess it. But sources are saying that the girls -- they went to police when they found out that he was going to start managing child musicians again and they did not want this to happen. They were worried about the welfare of other young women, other young girls.

So that`s really what started this ball rolling and apparently they are satisfied with this. They wanted their names to be out there. They were ok with having their names publicized. Obviously usually you don`t publicize the name of sexual abuse victims but these girls were ok with this.

They just want to get on with their life right now. They put a statement on their Web site. They want to thank their fans, but they just really want to get on with their lives.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: This happened, the abuse, the incest, back in the `90s; and here we are -- it`s 2011. Look at these girls; they have been carrying this toxic secret for decades now.

I want to go to Erin Merryn who was a child abuse survivor and an activist and author of "Stolen Innocence". What kind of toll does keeping a secret like this take on one`s psyche and one`s soul?

ERIN MERRYN, CHILD ABUSE SURVIVOR AND ACTIVIST: Hi, Jane, thank you for having me. Sexual abuse in my childhood happened from 6 to 8 years old and then again from 11 to 13. And I was told by my perpetrators, "This is our little secret. No one will believe you. I know where you live. I`ll come get you."

Kids are often threatened and so they live in this fear and silence that nobody`s going to believe them. And the message you`re often sent as a child is this is their fault. And the only message they`re often given is from their perpetrator.

We don`t educate kids in schools on sexual abuse, which is why, Jane - -


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely -- yes. Absolutely, we need to educate kids about sexual abuse. We`re going to get back to you in a second.

Now, the Browns, they have been playing piano since they were 3. And all five virtuosos trained at the extremely prestigious Julliard School of Music.

Take a look at this interview they did with


DESIRAE BROWN, "THE 5 BROWNS": I`m Desirae. I`m the oldest so I guess I started taking piano lessons first. My mom was trained as an opera singer. So sometimes at home he would play the piano while she`s singing and she was practicing. I guess would reach up to the keys and try to play and she decided to get me piano lessons. And I guess it looked like fun because everybody else started when they turned three.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: The father of these kids, Keith Brown, said he pleaded guilty because he didn`t want to quote, "exacerbate harm by dragging out the court proceedings". The crimes occurred throughout the 1990s. Brown is free on bond until March 31st because the judge does not think that he is a threat. Ok.

Hello? I disagree with that. We all know that child molesters have very poor impulse control and especially Cooper Lawrence, researcher and author of "The Cult of Celebrity". If he thinks he could end up being locked up for life as of March 31st, couldn`t that impact his impulse control? I think it is a big mistake to let him go free until the sentencing.

COOPER LAWRENCE, AUTHOR, "THE CULT OF CELEBRITY": Yes, but if you think about it, you`re talking about impulsivity, right. So what is impulsivity other than acting in the moment and not thinking about the consequences?

So when people perpetuate these crimes against -- especially against children, it would never occur to them that at some point in their life they`re going to have to answer for this especially a family like this where they`re celebrities and we assign qualities to celebrities where everything is great and wonderful, which is why nobody would have seen the warning signs because nobody would even think to look for it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, just days after he was charged with the sexual abuse of his daughters, Keith Brown and his wife, the mother of his kids, Lisa Brown were in a near fatal car accident and this happened on Valentine`s Day. Reporters describe Keith as battered, bruised and scratched up as he entered the courtroom.

The man holding the piece of paper is the attorney, I believe, and the other person is actually Keith Brown, the man who pleaded guilty to molesting his children. And he was allegedly speeding his Porsche when it crashed and flew into the canyon in Salt Lake City. Now, the car was mangled beyond recognition. The Browns were knocked unconscious, but Keith Brown woke up and was able to call 911 from his cell phone.

So, Mark Eiglarsh, former prosecutor and defense attorney, the crash remains under investigation. I`m wondering if this could have been some kind of either cry for leniency by the judge or actually a suicide attempt.

MARK EIGLARSH, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Both are possible. What it was, was karma. I mean ultimately, you know, no matter how many years he spends in prison, nothing will take care of or do right by the people whose lives he took away essentially. I mean they`re living but the quality of life having suffered at the hands of him for so long, you know. So again, it`s karma. It`s payback. It`s what happens when you do stuff like this.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m wondering if there could be other victim. I mean just because these three girls have come forward and they`re now young women and said this happened back in the `90s doesn`t mean that nothing happened between the `90s and a long time.

I mean Erin Merryn, you`re an activist and an expert in child abuse and child molestation, does it make sense that somebody does something in the `90s and then doesn`t touch anybody again for decades?

MERRYN: Not at all. These perpetrators don`t stop. Statistics show that they continue this behavior. The statistics out there show that these monsters continue to keep doing this and they need to be locked away.

We need to empower --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mark Eiglarsh, what do we do about finding out whether he has other victims and how does the law enforcement, the justice system do that?

EIGLARSH: Well, you`re doing your part. It`s awareness, people now see his face, they feel comfortable knowing that he`s accepted responsibility for this, perhaps they get the same justice his daughters got. The problem is a lot of people feel that as your previous guest indicated: they won`t be heard, they won`t be believed and there won`t be justice.

And unfortunately I have seen too many victims not get their day in court or not get justice. But hopefully this will send a message to people to come forward if they`ve been victimized by this man.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And my big issue is life in prison. This guy is going to get ten years or possibly life and I think it should be life in prison.

Erin Merryn, last 10 seconds, your final thoughts?

MERRYN: My final thoughts are I just passed a law -- on Monday, Governor Quinn signed a law here in Illinois called Erin`s Law that will educate kids in the state of Illinois in schools on sexual abuse. This is a law that needs to go national and my plan is to start knocking on Obama`s doors.

EIGLARSH: Good to you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you are my hero, Erin. Wow, what a great way to turn a horrible victimization into something that is a force for good.

Thank you fantastic panel.

MERRYN: Thank you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: "Dancing with the Stars", Cheryl Burke is here to talk about what she calls the scariest moment of her life when she was molested by a family friend at just five years of age. Her unimaginable nightmare and how she overcame it all. It`s up next.


CHERYL BURKE, "DANCING WITH THE STARS": Especially with this show in particular, it`s just important to bring out your personality through the dance. And I think people at home want to be able to relate to you and you need to have fun with the process.



BURK: This man was that father that I was looking for. He would cuddle me, tell me he loves me and make me feel important.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight: you have seen her many times on "Dancing with the Stars". Tonight, professional dancer Cheryl Burke courageously exposes her deep and troubling secret that she was abused by a family friend for years when she was a little girl. What made her come forward now and why?

In just a moment, Cheryl Burke joins us live right here on issues to talk about the abuse she suffered, crimes she outlines in her new book "Dancing Lessons".

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Looking at her on "Dancing with the Stars". Wow, she can rock it. We all know Cheryl as the two-time champion on ABC`s "Dancing with the Stars" and here she is with football great Emmit Smith.

Cheryl is the fabulous female partner every male dancer on the show dreams of getting. But behind the smile, the style and the gorgeous costumes is a woman struggling to come to terms with what happened to her when she was only five.

How could a man her parents trusted betray that trust and repeatedly molest Cheryl? Sadly it`s a story so many people have lived through.

Straight out to my very special guest, Cheryl Burke; Cheryl thanks so much for being here and I applaud you, really, for having the courage to speak out. Now, why did you decide to tell the world about the horrors you endured as a young child?

BURKE: I just feel like a lot of people can relate to my story and when I got approached to write this book, I wanted to talk about how dancing has really helped me in my life. And I told my whole story because this is the journey that I went through. I started dancing at the age of 4, through now, age 26. And in between that time, I have dealt with a lot of trauma, but also a lot of great experiences as well.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Who was this guy? How did he get into your life? Why did your parents trust him? Tell us about him.

BURKE: Well, he was a family friend, and my parents were working parents, worked 12-hour days. We needed help around the house. Someone to pick me up from school, take me grocery shopping, feed me. And he was kind of like that fatherly figure that I never had.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Where did they get this guy? Who picks a man to take care of a young girl? I find that very strange to begin with.

BURKE: Well, we also had another woman there that was there from when I was born. She is from the Philippines. She was from the Philippines; she only spoke the language, never drove, so she only helped around the house. We needed someone --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me ask you this. I`ve got to ask you what happened to you. What did you experience?

BURKE: Well, he was that man that I cuddled with, he was that fatherly figure. And he would touch me inappropriately and I was really uncomfortable, I didn`t know what was going on. I was confused as to what he was doing. He would make me sit down with him and watch pornographic movies. And I knew what he was doing was wrong, but at the same time, he never physically hurt me and yet I wanted to feel loved by this man.

Let`s show some video of you dancing with Chad Ochocinco and it seems that you did have reportedly a fling with him. How has this molestation experience affected your relationship with adult men?

BURKE: It has affected me, I have to say. I think because of me feeling no self-esteem or self-confidence, I am always or I was always attracted to that unavailable man who never treated me right. I went through a couple of abusive relationships in high school --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And we`re not talking about Chad, we`re talking about other relationships.

BURKE: No. We`re not talking about Chad. Yes, other relationships in high school --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, well, listen, I want to --

BURKE: I think from then on --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want to applaud you for speaking up. It`s so important. So many people have gone through this horror. And I just want to say, you`re a fabulous dancer. I wish I could dance anything like you. You are amazing.

BURKE: Thank you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thanks. Come back soon.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m really scared, I`m really afraid. I can`t get down.


VELEZ-MITCHELL:L Tonight a gut wrenching tragedy in California sparks outrage as acre upon acre of majestic woodlands bulldozed into oblivion. Last month the L.A. County Department of Public Works moved in with giant plows and destroyed an 11-acre patch of pristine land including 70 sycamore trees and 179 coastal oak trees; some that were about 100 years old.

And get this, it was despite the fact that a crew of environmental activists determined to save those trees had perched themselves in some of the trees. And now what was once a beautiful lush landscape is basically a dump for debris.

Look at these heartbreaking before and after photos. Meanwhile, officials claim they had to do this to protect area homes from being flooded. They claim they needed a place to dump the sediment from a nearby reservoir dam, really? This is the only place on earth they could put this mud.

Straight out to my hero, environmental advocate and tree sitter, John Quigley; John you were trying to protect these trees, sitting in the tree. You were hauled in to court today; and with a slew of charges, threatened with jail time. You have called this destruction a massacre.

What was it like to watch these old trees being destroyed as you sat in one of them?

JOHN QUIGLEY, ENVIRONMENTAL ADVOCATE: Well, for anyone who cares about life and trees, nature, it was brutal. I mean the first four or five trees that went down, you know, it`s very emotional and you just kind of had to numb out because the destruction was everywhere.

And there was a helpless feeling, you know, machines ripping life out, animals scurrying, no longer having a home. And you know, it was a sad day for southern California for --



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m really scared. I`m really afraid. I can`t get down.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: The DWP claims it would have taken 50,000 full truck trips; 100,000 round trips going through neighborhoods at the rate of one truck every three minutes, seven days a week for three years to get rid of the sediment in any other place. Do you buy it, John Quigley?

QUIGLEY: No, I don`t buy it and the community certainly doesn`t buy it. There were plenty of great alternatives. The community is charging deception in this. They want an investigation.

What they think is going on is that the county was secretly wanting to create a regional sediment dump there. And obviously, you know, everyone agrees that need to make sure the dam is safe. But to dump it on this rare habitat, on this rare woodlands would be (INAUDIBLE) trees.

You know, if a neighbor was to cut a single oak tree, they`d be prosecuted. There`s actually someone in the neighborhood who`s being prosecuted for destroying one oak tree. And now the county goes and destroys almost 200 mature oak trees? It`s an outrage.

I mean it just is something that can never happen again. And, you know, now they are trying to prosecute us for standing up for the public good.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And I understand that you were in court today. You`ve been charged with trespassing, disturbing the peace and resisting a police officer. So, I find that kind of ironic that you`re trying to preserve the peace of this land and you are charged with disturbing the peace.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s kind of Orwellian. And now I understand they`re actually trying to take a hard line with you and threatening you with jail. And by the way, you are a top TV producer in Los Angeles, just in case anybody wants to think that this is the only thing this guy does.

Go ahead and tell -- do you feel you are being persecuting as opposed to just be prosecuted?

QUIGLEY: Well, I think it certainly is a waste of taxpayer`s dollars. They should be investigating the county and Mike Antonovich`s his office, for how this decision came to be.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:L By the way, L.A. County supervisor Mike Antonovich and the Department of Public Works are invited on the show anytime to tell their side of the story.

Now, in talking to the government bureaucrat, they were telling us, well, this area was designated 50, 60 years ago. Things have changed in 50, 60 years -- we have lost a lot of our trees. Birds are dying because there`s no place for them to land. Shouldn`t they consider the climate change, the environmental wreckage that has occurred in the last 50 years when making these decisions, John?

QUIGLEY: Absolutely. Our public agencies need to continue to be responsive to the needs of the community. And clearly in this case, I mean sometimes these bureaucrats and politicians, they get too cozy with themselves and they think they know better than the public. And I think this was a situation where that happened. And unfortunately, we lost rare habitat, the last oak woodlands of its kind in the whole San Gabriel Valley.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So you`ve been threatened with jail. But what can we do to stop this from happening again, final 30 seconds. What can we do to stop the next 11 acres from being destroyed by these bureaucrats?

QUIGLEY: Well, we need people to get activated. They can get a lot more information at the Web site -- that`s arcadia -- with the number 4 -- And as these -- there is a series of other projects that are slated to happen and we need people to get involved and to communicate and to hold these leaders accountable. This is America. This is democracy. They work for us.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, these trees are what Americans want to preserve. We don`t want to destroy paradise and put up a parking lot or a mud dump. All right?

Thank you John Quigley for joining me.

Everyone stay right there. QUIGLEY: Thank you Jane.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: People across the country stunned when they saw this live report on Grammy night. Check it out.


SERENE BRANSON, REPORTER: Well, a very, very heavy (INAUDIBLE) tonight --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Many feared reporter, Serene Branson, suffered a stroke, but after performing tests doctors announcing this was actually the result of a horrible migraine. Now thankfully Serene, who just watched her report for the first time in this video is ok.

Millions of people get really painful migraines just like this and they can affect your life and your job. I`m just so happy that this wasn`t a stroke or something even more serious.

And it really is a reminder that we all need to take care of ourselves. And if something doesn`t feel right, doesn`t matter whether it`s Grammy night or Oscar night, don`t wait. Go see your doctor and do it stat.

I wish Serene the very best.

And Nancy Grace is up next.

You`re watching ISSUES.