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New Evidence Casts Doubt on Mansion Death; Conrad Murray Seeks Sequestered Jury

Aired September 6, 2011 - 19:00   ET



JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, an ominous note painted on the door at a pharmaceutical tycoon`s multimillion-dollar mansion. It was found near his girlfriend`s dead, naked, hanging body. Now we learned she was gagged. Could this be a message from her murderer? Will cops still insist she killed herself?

Plus, "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" premier pandemonium. New controversy over how they handled the suicide of the husband of one of the show`s stars. Was he exploited? And how will his family react?

And will Michael Jackson`s death trial be delayed again? Dr. Conrad Murray`s lawyers make an emergency appeal for more time. Will there ever be justice for the late King of Pop?

Then, her daughter vanished three months ago in Indiana. And now Lauren Spears` desperate mother issues a heart-wrenching letter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are responsible for Lauren`s disappearance. You know where she is. You are guilty of a heinous crime.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What happened to this beautiful coed? We`re taking your calls.

ISSUES starts now.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was Rebecca`s death a homicide? Again, the answer is no. It was a suicide.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Rebecca`s devastated family is furious, insisting that cops got it all wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don`t know exactly how this event.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It looks like someone hit her with something and he says there was residue, suggesting her legs were bound with tape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No suicide letter. How is that a suicide?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No woman would ever hang herself nude.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The case is suspicious. There`s no question about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only person who can answer that, unfortunately, is deceased.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, chilling new details cast even more suspicion in the death of a tycoon`s beautiful new girlfriend. I`ve got to tell you, people: This case gets more bizarre by the hour.

Good evening. I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell coming to you live from New York City.

Rebecca Zahau`s death was officially ruled a suicide just a few days ago. Her family insists that`s wrong. Wong, wrong, wrong. And they are fighting to get this case reopened.

Now, let`s recap and review. Rebecca`s naked body was found hanging at her boyfriend Jonah Shacknai`s historic beachfront estate. He is a billionaire, by the way. Her hands and feet were bound. San Diego police said unequivocally, just this past Friday at a big news conference, that Rebecca took her own life. It was suicide, case closed. They spent nearly two hours laying out the evidence.

Yet here is what investigators did not mention during that news conference. Duct tape residue on Rebecca`s leg, a T-shirt stuffed in her mouth and, most significantly, head injuries. Could those head injuries stem from some kind of struggle?

Tonight, world-renowned pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht is saying police were too quick to draw a conclusion and close this case.


DR. CYRIL WECHT, PATHOLOGIST: As a medical examiner, as a coroner, in my opinion, the manner of death should have been left as undetermined. When you put all of this together, you know, it just is bothersome.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: What about the cryptic message left at the scene? Quote, "She saved him. Can you save her" was painted in black paint on a door that led to the balcony where Rebecca was hanging. Her family says that`s not her handwriting, and it`s in the third person. Who could have written it, if not her?

What does that reference mean? Is it a reference to Jonah`s son, Max, 6-year-old child who was badly injured falling down the stairs while Rebecca was in charge of watching -- watching him and looking out for him. And then that little boy died two days after Rebecca did.

Call me: 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297. What do you think?

Straight out to Ann Bremner, the attorney for Rebecca Zahau`s family.

Ann, thanks for joining us tonight. I know the family is upset.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s start with these new developments. The autopsy report, which I`m holding in my hands, shows Rebecca had severe head injuries under her scalp.

Now police had a long news conference on Friday that we all watched. They did not mention that...


VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... at the news conference where they announced their conclusion that she killed herself. That seems strange to me. Why did you think cops left that very significant detail out?

BREMNER: I have a little bit of trouble with my ear -- with the sound. But Jane, they did not mention that there were injuries to her head. Dr. Cyril Wecht has said -- he`s a renowned pathologist, as we all know -- she has blunt-force trauma to her head, as indicated in the autopsy report. And they didn`t mention that the -- what could be a gag or a T- shirt in her mouth with it wrapped around her neck three times. Nor did they mention tape residue on her legs at that press conference on Friday. But that`s what`s reflected in the autopsy report that you have in your hand.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, I think it`s odd. And I`ve got to say one other thing.

I think it`s odd that police videotaped a re-enactment, which we`re going to show you right now...


VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... a re-enactment of a woman of Rebecca`s approximate size, recreating knots around her hands and feet. We`re going to show you this video. Look at this. I mean, this is something out of -- well, I`ve heard -- I`ve heard from Cirque du Soleil or Houdini.

But basically, their point is that it was possible that Rebecca tied her hands behind her body, bound her own feet, and then somehow wiggled over to the balcony and tossed herself off the balcony. What are your thoughts, Ann Bremner, when you watch this video?

BREMNER: Well, you know, to say something`s possible when it`s such a remote type of suicide with women. In fact, I can`t find anything on record that has these facts, even remotely like this, Jane.

But they show that it`s possible to tie her hands behind her back, but they stop there and didn`t show if it`s possible or even probable to bind your legs, to bind your hands, to put something in your mouth, to wrap something about your neck. To make expert knots like slip knots, square knots. And tie this to a bed and then hop over -- over a balcony. That was never demonstrated, because I don`t think it can be.

And finally, the footprints show there`s two footprints together kind of in a plie like ballet. But then the footprint is only a few toes right by the railing of this Juliet-type balcony. So don`t you think if you`re hopping in that manner and bound and gagged like this, that you`d see at least two footprints?

So many unanswered questions, but a lot of it was answered on Friday when they showed this very partial potential demonstration that was complicated. And this whole thing would require a contortionist at best, and it`s such a remote. Even to say it`s a possibility, it would be remote, at best.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Marcia Clark, famous for being the prosecutor of the O.J. Simpson case and author of the forthcoming legal thriller, "Guilt by Degrees." Great to have you on our show tonight.

I find it odd that the cops would hold this long, wide-ranging news conference, never mention the fact that she had bruising under her scalp which Cyril Wecht said would have to come from either her hitting her head or getting hit on the head. Maybe we can show it again, actually videotaping some girl doing some sort of reenactment. It seems like they`re trying a little too hard, the local authorities there, to try to say this is a suicide. And of course, that I ear dealing with an incredibly powerful, powerful family in a very rich community.

Do you think the cops are trying a little too hard here to make everything just get wrapped up and go away?

MARCIA CLARK, AUTHOR, "GUILT BY DEGREE:": It does seem like it`s awfully quick to declare a suicide under such bizarre circumstances. Even the videotape, Jane, I have to say, I`m watching it. I`m thinking this only makes it more bizarre to me that you can conclude that it was a suicide. That is some very fancy knot tying. And the ability to slip her hand out, then be able to slip her hand back in behind her back and of course, hop over.

Wouldn`t you expect to see whole footprints near the balcony. Then the blunt force trauma to the head, that to me is a real red flag. Stop and think. I cannot say that anybody is wrong in concluding this isn`t suicide. I don`t think it necessarily can be ruled out, but I don`t think that homicide should be so quickly ruled out at this point, knowing what we know, of course, was a blunt-force trauma to the head, which is extremely suspicious.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, and this is not to say that we`re pointing the finger at anyone. In fact, we`ve just gotten off the phone with the sheriff`s department, who verified, for example, Jonah Shacknai, the boyfriend, the mogul of the dead woman, the father of the child who died. And the sheriff`s department has verified his account of where he was, namely by his dying son`s side at the time that she died and at the time Rebecca`s body was discovered.

So we`re not -- we`re not certainly -- our hearts go out to the Shacknai family, but what we are saying is it seems very odd that the police would be so hell bent on calling this a suicide so quickly, hold a news conference and then not mention some very key things like the fact that she had hemorrhages under her scalp.

Frankie, North Carolina, your question or thought, Frankie?

CALLER: Hi, Jane.


CALLER: Thanks for taking my call. I love your show. And you just said all the things I was going to say.

But I will say that they released some photos I saw on the previous show of a tube of paint and the knife and everything on the floor. Rebecca`s fingerprints were not on those items, and there were no fingerprints. There`s no gloves that she could have used. I mean, there`s no -- I just think that they were too quick to say suicide. And this boy - - this little boy`s parents are rich. I frankly think it`s murder for hire.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, listen, we don`t want to point the finger at anyone. This is a grieving family. And in fact, the family of Jonah Shacknai issued a statement, saying, "This is a very sad day for our family." This was on Friday. "We`re again reminded of the enormity of these tragedies." They thanked the San Diego County Sheriff`s Department, and they spoke of their emptiness and sadness that will remain in their hearts forever.

They lost a son. Jonah Shacknai lost his love. They were reportedly planning on getting married. So we certainly do not want to point the finger, but we are saying that the conduct of the police seems very strange. It`s like they`re hell-bent on coming to a conclusion why. Why? Where`s the fire?

OK, we`re taking your calls on this. And on the other side of the break, we`re going to talk to Larry Kobilinsky, who`s a famous forensic scientist, about what he thinks, given these stunning details in the autopsy report that just came out.

All right. Give me a holler: 1-877-JVM-SAYS.

More on the mystery mansion in a moment.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The hands were bound behind the back and the feet were bound. They did not appear to be bound together. You used the term hogtied. That did not appear to be the case.




WECHT (via phone): I`m just trying to think. Maybe somebody is going to say, "Well, she -- yes, she didn`t want to be rescued," and she didn`t want to scream, and so she put it in her mouth. Hey, I don`t know. You see what I mean? It`s absurd.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Now, here is a very cryptic, cryptic aspect of this case. A message painted in black on the bedroom door that says, "She saved him. Can you save her?" She saved him. Can you save her?

And we can also show you the photograph, a crime scene photograph. You see paint. You see knives. You see these ropes that are tied intricately, which the family says she would not -- or she didn`t know how to tie ropes like that.

And another aspect of this: the cops did not take a writing sample, because they say, well, it`s paint. It`s paint from a brush on a door. Writing samples would not apply.

Larry Kobilinsky, famous forensic scientist from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, what do you make of that? That the cop didn`t take a writing sample, even though the family says, "That`s not the way she does things.

LARRY KOBILINSKY, FORMER FORENSIC SCIENTIST: Well, first of all, as you showed just a moment ago, the letters on the door are block. They`re block letters. Very difficult, almost impossible to make a comparison between a known exemplar and this sample.

So I don`t know how many conclusions they could draw from that.

But I must say, Jane, you described all of the characteristics that we know at the crime scene. We know from the autopsy. None of that is consistent with suicide. None of that.

And the most critical piece, as you said, the sheriff left out a description of the hemorrhages under the scalp. Now if somebody is going to hits someone on the head, it`s on the side, the front, not the crowd of the head. And even if she were cut down by the brother, she would have fallen vertically. How do you get hemorrhage on the talk of the head? It`s totally inconsistent with a suicide and left unexplained. It leaves all kinds of questions. Sounds like Ann Bremner this is blunt trauma, another indication that a struggle took place.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, it`s unbelievable. Now, here`s another source of controversy. Police at the news conference said with some confidence, well, Rebecca had been depressed since last spring. Let`s hear what they have to say about that, because the family does not agree.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We interviewed a witness who reported she had contact with Rebecca in January, having observed Rebecca had lost weight, seemed stressed, was not sleeping well, and was not exercising, which was normal for her.

We received information from witnesses that Rebecca was distraught over Max`s injury.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now I understand the Rebecca being distraught obviously over Max`s injury. Apparently, she had gotten a voice mail saying that he wasn`t going to make it shortly before her life ended. That I get.

But Marcia Clark, this idea that, oh, she lost weight and that`s a sign that she took -- I don`t know about you, but when I lose weight, I get happy. That`s a sign that I`m happy. It`s not a sign that I`m depressed. As a woman, we understand that.

CLARK: Well, that`s true, Jane. When I lose weight, it`s yay, a cause for celebration. But that`s not true of all people. And honestly, some people do lose weight when they`re depressed. It`s not uncommon. It`s not an uncommon symptom of depression.

But that doesn`t necessarily mean that depression is so profound that it turns to suicide. And given the contrary indications we have now, the T-shirt in the mouth is another one that gives me great pause that she would stuff that in her mouth. And it doesn`t make a whole lot of sense to me.

And you can, of course, explain everything away bit by bit. But that`s another reason why cause and (UNINTELLIGIBLE). You have this cryptic message. You have this T-shirt with her saliva on it. You have this blunt-force trauma to the crown of the head. That to me is so -- is so incredibly out of keeping with anything that is self-inflicted. You don`t hit yourself on the top of the head.

And, of course, then the intricate knots. And the feet as well as the hands being bound. Now, that`s something that I don`t understand. If you want to restrain yourself to prevent yourself from blocking the suicide effort, then I understand binding the hands, but not the feet.

So there`s a great deal here that makes me say stop, wait, rethink and keep analyzing and keep talking to people.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ann Bremner, again, this is not to point the finger at anyone. Anyone from any aspect of this case is invited on our show to tell their story.

But I have to wonder, the fact that this is a very, very rich community. That you`re dealing with a billionaire, that there is this -- do you think -- I mean, because I`ve never seen a news -- I`ve never seen a case where police do a video to try to prove their case and hold a news conference and then leave out key details. To me, do you think that they are influenced by the fact that we`re not dealing with a poor group of people here?

BREMNER: Well, I think in a community like Coronado that`s very wealthy, where you don`t have a really high homicide rate, that when you have really a high-profile case like this, Jane, I think that they just want to be very, very careful and transparent.

That having been said, though, there`s no reason to rush to judgment. There`s no -- beware of the rush to judgment in a case like this. Just think it through, look at all the questions that remain unanswered, and make sure you`ve reached the right conclusion. And right now...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`re staying on top of this one. I`ll be back in a minute.



MICHAEL JACKSON, POP STAR: I`ll be performing the songs my fans want to hear. This is it. I mean, this is really it. This is the final. This is the final curtain call.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Michael Jackson, just before his death in 2009.

Now the man accused of killing the King of Pop says he`s not going to get a fair trial. He wants to delay it, and he has filed this emergency appeal. Stop the trial, stop it from happening.

Jury selection in the Dr. Conrad Murray trial is slated to start in just two days, this coming Thursday. But his lawyers have filed this appeal, saying they don`t think this jury is going to be impartial.

Here`s what they want. They told the judge to either sequester the jury or bar cameras from the courtroom.

Straight out to my good buddy, attorney Brian Oxman.

Brian, you represented Michael Jackson and the family during the criminal trial. You know firsthand, this is going to get a lot of attention. But this to me, does this smack of sort of an 11th hour trying to stop the progress of justice, given that we`ve known that Michael Jackson is a superstar for most of our lives, and we know going in this case is going to get a lot of attention? Duh. He`s the King of Pop.

BRIAN OXMAN, ATTORNEY: Yes, yes, yes. You have a very good point there, Jane. Except this is almost to be expected. This is the kind of wranglings we see in big cases at the 11th hour. It`s almost standard operational procedure.

What I think you can see here in this case is that the big issue is the cameras in the courtroom and the sequestration of the jury. I can only remember the Charles Manson jury being sequestered, the Sirhan Sirhan jury being sequestered, and of course, you had the O.J. Simpson case. What we found from all those cases: it really doesn`t help. It just doesn`t make any difference. I don`t like sequestering juries.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And of course, Casey Anthony, that is the most recent example of a sequestered jury. And she found...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It did not help, did it?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, it helped her. It helped her a lot. She was found not guilty of all the serious charges. So if you think about O.J. and you think about Casey Anthony, you could say well, hmm, get a sequestered jury, maybe it helps the defendant.

OXMAN: I would say that it heightens the jurors sense that people are watching. It creates an unnatural atmosphere in the jury. And what I remember in the Charles Manson case, the jury saw a big headline in the "L.A. Times" that the president says that Manson is guilty.

So you sequester them, they`re on the bus. They saw the newspapers anyway.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Well, what they`re saying here is that if the jury is not sequestered, with the Internet, with television, with newspapers, with radio, anywhere they go, they`re going to be inundated with this case. I don`t know if that`s sort of overreaching a little bit. Certainly they`re bound to hear Michael Jackson music, but are they really going to be walking down the street, inundated with coverage? I kind of doubt that.

OXMAN: I`ve got to agree with you, Jane. We were in the Michael Jackson case in Santa Maria, the biggest criminal case being covered of recent memory. There was something like 2,400 journalists credentialed. There were from some 36 different countries. They were selling spots in the parking lot.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And your point? Four seconds.

OXMAN: It didn`t make any difference.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Good seeing you, Brian.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Her daughter vanished three months ago in Indiana and now Lauren Spierer`s desperate mother issues a heart-wrenching letter.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are responsible for Lauren`s disappearance. You know where she is. You are guilty of a heinous crime.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: What happened to this beautiful co-ed? We`re taking your calls.

Plus the "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" premiere pandemonium: new controversy over how they handled the suicide of the husband of one of the show`s stars. Was he exploited?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are responsible for Lauren`s disappearance. You know where she is. You are guilty of a heinous crime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re still determined. We`re still hopeful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You call the police department, you call the airlines and you wait -- each passing moment, agony.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lauren. Lauren. Lauren.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No clue is too small. No piece of information that you have is too small. That it all leads to filling this puzzle that we so desperately need to have filled.

Do you think we`re going to rest until we find Lauren? We will not. You have no idea who you have taken from us.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: A desperate mother`s emotional letter to her daughter`s unknown assailant.

Good evening. I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell back with you live in New York City.

It was three months ago that beautiful college co-ed Lauren Spierer just vanished into thin air. Lauren was last seen June 3 after leaving a bar late at night in the college town of Bloomington, Indiana. Police have gotten thousands of leads, but if they found anything, they are not talking.

So now Lauren`s desperate mother has literally written an intimate letter. A letter to the public, a letter to whoever did something to her daughter, describing what it`s like to learn that her daughter is missing.

Listen to part of this open letter, read by an ISSUES producer.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Initially you feel physically sick; your heart races, your breathing all but stops. You feel as if you cannot stand. You call the police department. You call the airlines and you wait -- each passing moment, agony.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: She eloquently describes the torture she`s undergoing. Charlene Spierer wrote this little specifically to those who may have harmed or kidnapped her daughter. Why reach out to the guilty party? Charlene Spierer explained why on the "Today" show.


CHARLENE SPIERER, MOTHER OF LAUREN SPIERER: I have no way of speaking to this person, and you know, I`m not naive enough to think that they might actually be reading this letter. But maybe somebody associated with the person responsible for Lauren`s disappearance is reading the letter and can put some pressure on the person to come forward and give us some information.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, what do you think happened to Lauren Spierer? Call me, 1-877-JVM-SAYS, that`s 1-877-586-7297.

Straight out to Trisha Shepherd, WRTV evening anchor; you have been all over this case. What is the latest? Cops aren`t talking. We want to know what`s going on with this investigation.

TRISHA SHEPHERD, WRTV EVENING ANCHOR: Well, Jane, what`s interesting maybe is what`s not going on. What`s been frustrating is police aren`t saying much. They`ve searched a land fill recently. Come up with nothing. We don`t have a suspect; there`s never been a body or any kind of a clue since basically the first day she disappeared.

What is new, as you mentioned, is the mother`s letter to the public -- very heartfelt letter. These parents are not giving up, keeping this in the public eye. They are pushing hard to make sure we`re still talking about this in hopes that somebody will come up with more information.

But really all that remains out there is this deep suspicion mostly coming from the parents and I think people in that community that someone close to her may have been involved in this tragic disappearance.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let`s go over the time line and I have to tell you this time line is from We called authorities trying to get any kind of verification. We couldn`t. So we`re going with information that`s reported. We have no independent confirmation of it.

But here`s what this one report is saying. On the night she disappears, Lauren leaves her shoes and cell phone at a sports bar and she goes to a friend`s apartment, with a friend. She leaves the apartment ten minutes later. At some point during the evening, her friend gets punched in the face. He claims he doesn`t remember anything, wakes up the next day in his bed.

Later in the night, a security camera captures Lauren arguing with three men. She`s last seen walking barefoot at 4:30 in the morning three blocks from her apartment.

Again we called Bloomington police they`re not talking about this. Do you have anything to add to that, Trisha?

SHEPHERD: Well, Jane, I think you`re right that they`re not clarifying a lot of that. That is pretty close to the timeline we`ve been given. It appears that that friend that she was with towards the end of the evening, Cory Rosman (ph) is someone that she had just met recently, which is kind of an interesting twist. Not someone that she had known or been in her circle of friends for a long time. Her roommate was saying that they had just met him at the Indy 500 race a few weeks before.

We also know that she was not with her boyfriend that night, and that all of the people around her, including the boyfriend, who was elsewhere but we don`t know where, are considered persons of interest. Now, this conflict that happened in her apartment complex where there was a fight and this Rosman was punched, we don`t know a lot about that, but there`s been some speculation that had something to do with someone who is a friend of her boyfriend.

So there`s a lot of questions here. But clearly it was an unusual night. And we`re also told there was video showing her looking very intoxicated towards the end of the night. So there are deep concerns about her condition.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And as far as the names that you mentioned, none of those people are considered suspects. And anybody who wants to come on and explain anything, they are welcome on this show. We want to be very careful and just want to get to the truth here.

But Charlene Spierer, the missing woman`s mother has been talking about the strange silence coming from her daughter`s friends. Listen to this mother.


SPIERER: I am extremely disappointed by the fact that only one of Lauren`s friends have called the police department, the Bloomington Police Department with any information. I`m extremely disappointed and my question to all of you is why? Because as I`ve said before, I guarantee you, Lauren would have been the first to call.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Marcia Clark, what do you make of that? That apparently there`s some kind of veil of silence here. There may be more to this story.

MARCIA CLARK, PROSECUTOR: Jane there may be. And when I heard her say that, it did make me wonder. It reminded me of a case here in California where a teen approximately 17, 18-year-old transgender woman was taken out and murdered. And all of the teens at the party who knew very well what happened closed ranks, refused to talk to the police for quite some time, two to three weeks went by with no one saying anything.

So we know it`s possible for this to happen. Now, did that happen here? I can`t say that obviously. But it does worry me that the other people who know her well enough don`t come forward to say look, I saw her that night, I didn`t see anything, or I saw her that night, she was ok when I saw her.

Just even to say that, it`s surprising that we`re hearing a complete almost total silence from all of her friends who should have something to add to the picture here.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Lauren`s parents actually moved to Indiana to keep the search for their daughter alive. And her dad explains why. Listen to this.


ROBERT SPIERER, FATHER OF LAUREN SPIERER: We`re hoping that somebody here, one of the students that comes back will come to hear some information, be in possession of some information that they can provide to us or the police and it can be done anonymously to help us find Lauren.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Former NYPD detective Gil Alba joins us by phone. You are now a private investigator, what do they need to do to crack open this case? Something`s got to change.

GIL ALBA, FORMER NYPD DETECTIVE (via telephone): Well, you know, just following the Spierer family, they`ve been there for three months. They know everything about the case now. And that letter that was written, I think, was an excellent letter. I think that was really pinpointed to whoever the mother wanted to send that letter to. And it`s probably one of the persons of interest that were involved. You know, Jay Rosenbaum (ph) or Cory Rosman (ph) were there.

I mean she disappeared and it`s foul play. They believe it`s foul play. They know something happened to their daughter. So I think they are really focused in on these guys talking or saying something. The lawyer for one of them for Jay Rosenbaum says that he took a lie detector test and he passed it. But I don`t know if the police ever got that result. I`m sure he gave the test result to them.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well look, I don`t think any of us could jump to conclusions about anybody`s alleged involvement. Nobody has been charged in this case. Nobody`s even been called a suspect. And the fact is that you`re talking about a young woman walking around barefoot in the dead of night, you know that anything that can happen. That can attract some bad element, a total stranger.

So just because she may have been involved in an argument or been seen with people, we can`t jump to conclusions. But I agree with you Gil that the letter is absolutely amazing. Let`s listen to more of the missing woman`s mother`s letter.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think this is a game? This is no game. We`re in this for the long haul. Do you think we`re going to walk away without finding out the answers? Do you think we`re going to rest until we find Lauren? We will not. You have no idea who you have taken from us. We will never give up.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`ve got to say, this is an absolute mystery. We`re going to stay on top of this case. We want to find out what happened to this beautiful young woman and we`re not going to let it go.

So stay with us. We`ll have more, we hope, very soon.

All right, up next. You won`t believe what`s going on with the "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills". There`s been a tragedy. The husband of one of the cast members committed suicide. Now the premiere of the second season -- what did they do? How did they deal with the suicide? It`s a new controversy. Give me a call, 1-877-JVM-SAYS. If you saw it, if you didn`t, if you have theories -- 1-877-586-7297.


JOHN ANN HOTCHKISS, MOTHER OF RUSSELL ARMSTRONG: I asked Russell, "Can`t you stop the bashing? Can`t you talk to the producer?" And, you know, he said, "Well, you know, this is the way reality TV is. I said, "Russell, this is brutal."



VELEZ-MITCHELL: Reality TV likes nothing more than drama, and this is drama.

TAYLOR ARMSTRONG, "REAL HOUSEWIVES OF BEVERLY HILLS": Thankfully I have five strong women that are standing next to me now and they`ve got my back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The friend went over to the back window and saw him hanging there.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Chilling new revelations in the "Real Housewives" suicide shocker.

ARMSTRONG: A lot of the issues in my marriage are definitely addressed this year.

JAWN MURRAY: Physical abuse and debt, those are things that can be made up by producers.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Russell was terrified how he would be portrayed in the upcoming season of "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills".

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The show characterized him as someone that abused his spouse.

DUNCAN ROY, "SEX REHAB WITH DR. DREW": I think Bravo will end up showing him because frankly reality TV has at its core no heart.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, reality after tragedy; was the "Real Housewives" premiere good business or poor taste. Bravo rolled out their new season last night less than one month after Russell Armstrong`s suicide. He was going through a divorce from housewife Taylor Armstrong, one of the stars of the show, when his body was found hanging inside his friend`s Los Angeles home.

So the premiere last night begins with this brief prelude where the cast minus Taylor discusses Russell`s suicide. Let`s listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that in the town that we live in, where your financial status is so important, that there`s this need to keep up, this front of what you have.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But I believe that she really wasn`t even aware of the financial mess they were in.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That entire scene lasted about four minutes. After that, back to business as usual; the drama that "Housewives" is known for.

Check out this preview they ran last night.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`ve had my fair share of interaction with people that are on the drugs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At least I don`t do crystal meth in the bathroom all night long, bitch.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know what Brandy? Let me tell you something. You do not want to go there.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Listen, listen. Enough.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`re a slut pig.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hey, leave pigs out of it. Don`t insult them. What do you think of how Bravo handled Russell`s death? Call me, 1-877-JVM- SAYS, 1-877-586-7297.

Straight out to senior executive editor from RadarOnline; Dylan Howard, you`ve got some major news to tell us about this season`s "Beverly Hills" episodes as they concern Russell and Taylor`s marriage even though we all know now that he committed suicide. Tell us.

DYLAN HOWARD, SENIOR EXECUTIVE EDITOR, RADAR ONLINE: Well, Jane, as we understand it, Bravo has made the decision not to edit Russell out of the series completely. One key story line out of Season Two was the marriage troubles of both Russell and Taylor and involved them attending marriage counseling sessions by a noted Hollywood therapist and laying bare their deep problems.

We understand that Bravo has made the decision to continue to air portions of that treatment as part of a plot line for the forthcoming series. However, as we understand, individual sessions where Russell Armstrong was speaking one-on-one to the counselor will not be shown. Taylor`s, though, on the other hand, will be shown.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me just make sure I understand you right. You`re saying they`re going to discuss, even though he`s committed suicide, his marital problems with one of the show`s stars, Taylor and they are going to include his image or not?

HOWARD: They are going to include his image. They`re going to include him and Taylor in counseling. His private sessions, which were recorded, won`t be shown, as we understand it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, I have a feeling that the family is going to be very upset about that. Because they told me right here -- his mother told me, not one frame, not one frame.

Now here`s exactly how Bravo transitioned from the talk of Russell`s suicide last night to the rest of the show. Check this out.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is such a tragic situation and so many people have been left hurt by it. But as difficult as that is, life goes on, it has to.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Last season on the "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: There`s Jiggy (ph). Rob Shuter, PopEater`s "Naughty but Nice", got to say, they left out the big question. Nobody discussed the big question, did his getting verbally beat up on the show in some way contribute to his decision to commit suicide? Nobody talked about that. Isn`t that interesting?

ROB SHUTER, POPEATER`S "NAUGHTY BUT NICE" COLUMNIST: Yes, nobody is asking this question. Bravo do not want this question asked. They don`t want it answered and it was amazing to me and maybe some of your viewers how quickly they thought a four-minute intro could put this in a tight little package with a tight little bow on it and pass it away.

The one thing that I did find very interesting is "The Housewives of Beverly Hills" are in New York right now doing press, promoting this show and one of them apart from Taylor, who obviously is missing, one of the housewives is missing, Camille Grammer, Kelsey Grammer`s ex-wife.

And what sources are telling me is that she just doesn`t want to be part of this big promotion for the show that obviously has some very serious questions.

Ok. Calls on the other side; we`re just getting started.



VELEZ-MITCHELL: What is your reaction to Bravo`s decision to go through with Monday`s premiere?

RANDY EDWARDS, FRIEND OF RUSSELL ARMSTRONG: Well, I mean, they`re just taking advantage of all the free publicity. I mean most of the world likes to see a train wreck and the media, I mean it has been everywhere and they`re just taking advantage of a bad situation.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: The late Russell Armstrong`s attorney sent us this statement about last night`s premiere of last night`s show depicted non- scripted actors engaging in what appears to be a very scripted preamble to the show written by attorneys. Each show will be carefully monitored and Russell`s dad will be advised on a weekly basis. So basically they`re watching the show and they still say if they see something they don`t like, they may take action.

Let`s go to Dianne, Missouri. Your question or thought, Dianne.

DIANNE, MISSOURI (via telephone): Hi, Jane.


DIANNE: I happen to support the fact that Bravo did air the show. I`m a fan of the show. At the same time, my heart truly does go out to his family and his friends, his best friend, but no one leaves or has a suicide in their circle and walks away unaffected or un-impacted.

So I support their decision. I thought they handled it with taste and they did have a commercial about suicide prevention, who to call, who to talk to and I thought they did well. I love the show. And I don`t see why their lives should continue to be impacted as far as airing the show because of a decision that he made.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok. All right Dianne, I think you`re making a very good argument. Bravo itself says "We`re still editing the season; any comment on the content is sheer speculation." But boy, you did speak in favor of Bravo. And we want to be fair here. So that`s great to hear that some people didn`t find it tasteless at all.

Now Taylor has accused Russell of abuse, of physical abuse in her divorce filing. Cast members actually made veiled references to this alleged domestic violence last night. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had too much information to want to connect with him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The things that she had told us about their marriage was heart breaking.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we were all told the same thing. We were only reacting from what we have been told and what we were doing -- I think we have all been doing it -- was just trying to protect our friend.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Rob Shuter, what do you think of the veiled references to the alleged abuse, sort of dancing around that subject?

SHUTER: I think that`s exactly what they`re doing, they`re dancing around it. Bravo is known to put these people on TV and be fearless about what they tell us about these people. So to suddenly be this sort of like quiet and subtle tells me that there is something very odd going on.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I mean Dylan Howard, I think that they`re trying to find a balance between just disbanding the show and saying, never mind, we`re going to drop this whole thing and moving forward, given this horrific tragedy.

HOWARD: Sure, Jane. But last night, midway through the episode, at Adrienne Maloof`s house, they were having a discussion about marriage troubles, Taylor Armstrong got into a heated discussion with Lisa Vander Pump`s husband at which point Ken Vander Pump said, quote/unquote, "going to marriage counseling was a sign of weakness".

All of a sudden, Russell Armstrong`s issues were trivialized. It was ghoulish. They had a chance to edit and they didn`t do it right.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Have to leave it there. Thank you, both, gentlemen. I`ll see you soon.

Back in a minute.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: On ISSUES last week, I told you about defenseless starving animals locked in cages inside the abandoned Tripoli Zoo. Many went without food even water for seven straight days. When we heard about this here on ISSUES, we contacted the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Tonight, good news for you; we just got word that the IFAW has gotten enough money to help more than a thousand animals caught in this crisis. IFAW says it costs $2,000 a day to feed these starving creatures. Their support will make sure that they have enough food and water.

So I`ve said it before, I don`t believe in zoos. This is the kind of thing that can happen. Animals don`t belong in cages, they haven`t committed any crime. But it`s real torture to lock them up and then deny them food and water.

Thank you IFAW for extending the lifelines of these animals. You can help, go to So, it is good news. We hope we can help save the lives of those animals in war torn Libya.

"NANCY GRACE" up next.