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ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL
Was Russell Armstrong Murdered?; M.E. Answers Questions about Mansion Death
Aired September 7, 2011 - 19:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, was the husband of a "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" star actually murdered? Cops say he committed suicide, but now his family reportedly thinks his money problems may have led to murder. I`ll talk to his mother for the dramatic new developments.
Then, from one shocking and controversial so-called suicide to another. Stunning new claims about what Rebecca Zahau`s billionaire boyfriend may have said on the very day she died.
Plus, a mind-boggling case. And a TV weatherman is at the center of it. A naked man is found dead, wearing a dog collar in an empty hot tub, with the town`s meteorologist sleeping right next to him. Do cops suspect foul play?
And a major ruling in the Michael Jackson death trial. Will the trial finally start tomorrow? We`re taking your calls.
ISSUES starts right now.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, one beautiful coastline, two totally chilling deaths. New doubts surface about two apparent suicides behind the gates of two of America`s swankiest communities. Both of them, no surprise, in California.
Good evening, everybody. I`m Jane Velez Mitchell, coming to you live from New York City.
Is there something more sinister to these cases than meets the eye? The mother of Russell Armstrong is asking, was her son`s death really a suicide? Or might he have been murdered? Russell`s mom is my exclusive guest tonight here on ISSUES.
Russell, the estranged husband of "Real Housewives" star Taylor Armstrong -- you see the two of them right there -- he was found tragically hanging inside a friend`s home in Los Angeles on August 15.
Now, it`s a totally separate case, but follow me for a second. A month earlier, this beautiful woman, Rebecca Zahau, is found hanging naked at her billionaire boyfriend`s San Diego estate. The bizarre evidence, including the way her hands and feet were bound, have a whole lot of people questioning that official ruling of suicide in her case.
Russell`s mom took a long look at the experts expressing doubts over whether Rebecca really killed herself in the San Diego area and began wondering, "Well, hmm, did my son Russell really kill himself in Beverly Hills?"
Now, here are some of the folks second guessing to cops in Rebecca`s case in San Diego area.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s awfully quick to declare a suicide under such bizarre circumstances.
CYRIL WECHT, PATHOLOGIST (via phone): The manner of death should have been left as undetermined.
HOLLY HUGHES, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It doesn`t mass the smell test.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: None of that is consistent with suicide. None of that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t think that homicide should be so quickly ruled out at this point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now those are reactions to the suicide ruling in Rebecca Zahau`s death.
As for Russell`s death, the man you`re looking at here, the L.A. coroner`s office told us it`s officially been determined to be a hanging suicide. And they add, there were no legal or illegal drugs in his system, no alcohol, nothing to indicate foul play.
Taylor Armstrong, his estranged wife, has read the coroner`s report, and she says, "I buy it. I don`t question it." But Russell`s mother does, and she joins us tonight. So we are very honored to have with us tonight John Ann Hotchkiss, Russell Armstrong`s mother.
Again, thank you for being on our show. I know this is extremely painful for you. I know that you are in the grieving process, and I know you are speaking up only because there`s no way your son can speak for himself right now. Ma`am, what makes you think your son may have been murdered?
JOHN ANN HOTCHKISS, RUSSELL ARMSTRONG`S MOTHER (via phone): Well, it was in the back of my mind when it happened because of Russell`s personality. And just his character. I don`t think he would do this. He loved his family. He loves his children almost to a fault. They were everything to him. And just -- just the way he was.
At his memorial service, all of his friends came up. It was well attended. And old and dear friends all the way back to grade school. And each one said to me, "Russell would not do this. Is anyone going to have this investigated?"
The others -- the others did not know that each one was saying this. But this has been circulating ever since it happened. When you -- anyone who knew Russell would know how out of character anything like this was.
I just -- I wondered about it, because just the way he is and the way he feels about his family and life and how -- sure, things got bad occasionally in his career. And in the line of work he was in, there are often ups and downs, in that financial business, but he also came back. And I just can`t imagine that this would lead him to this.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, let me ask you this, if I may, John Ann.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you. One day after Russell was found dead, hanging tragically, his friend and fellow venture capitalist, a man by the named of Alan Schram, was found dead in a car very close by, and he had, according to police, shot himself in the head. Now, both of these men were members of the Tiger 21 club, a group of high-net-worth investors who trade advice.
Russell, your son, was being sued for $1.5 million, supposedly, for allegedly having a problem in terms of how he led investors. We had heard reports that he was having severe money problems, that his credit cards hadn`t been working.
What do you make of these two back-to-back deaths that authorities are calling suicide? Your son`s death and this friend who shot himself, according to cops, just a day after your son`s body was discovered. Do you think it`s a bizarre coincidence? Or do you think, John Ann, they could be connected?
HOTCHKISS: I think it`s coincidence. I did not know the young man. I don`t -- did not -- we did not hear as much about his death where I am in Texas, although I think it`s national news. But it`s kind of overshadowed by what`s been going on about Russell.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Can I -- can I jump in, John Ann, and ask you this question? What motive would anybody have for murdering your son, given that your theory now is that he may have been murdered?
HOTCHKISS: I said possibly. Because I know -- I knew him all of his life. I know his personality, his characteristics. And all -- as I said, all who knew him, even you know, people in other states that were not at the memorial service, called to ask me about it. They said are you going to have this looked into further?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Have you hired a private investigator?
HOTCHKISS: That`s something the attorney will do. I don`t -- I don`t want to -- I don`t want to discuss that in depth, if you don`t mind.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: No problem. We want to discus what you feel comfortable discussing. But I do have to ask you, I know it`s painful, but did your son have enemies as a result of his financial problems? If, in fact, you believe that there might have been a murder of your son, then who? I don`t even want you to speculate on who, but what motive?
HOTCHKISS: If he did -- you have to remember, Jane, he was -- I was in Texas. He was in California. I didn`t know all the people with whom he associated, business-wise. So I don`t know -- I didn`t know the whole story.
However, I would like to address something you said, though, if you don`t mind. You said, you know, in the end, Russell`s credit cards weren`t working. Are you aware that $90,000 was put on his credit card in June? Not by him? Are you aware of that? And most people`s credit cards wouldn`t work under those circumstances. That was his American Express.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, thank you for informing us of that. What -- what`s behind that? What would you say...
HOTCHKISS: Taylor put it on there. And...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Excuse me, could you repeat that? I didn`t hear you, ma`am. I`m sorry.
HOTCHKISS: Taylor put $90,000. and I don`t mean to be bashing Taylor, but it`s a fact. Taylor put $90,000 on his credit card. And I guess I think she separated in June and, you know, how many people`s credit card is going to work when someone charges $90,000 to you?
And secondly, the person who was suing him for $1 million was one person, whom I know. And I do not have a very high opinion of. I think he`s -- well, I guess it`s not really important. But I`m sorry, I do not have a high opinion of the man. I think he`s an opportunist.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Can I get back one more time? And I`m so sorry. I don`t mean to harp on anything. I know you`re going through a lot, but what motive would anyone have to murder your son?
HOTCHKISS: I don`t know if it might have been a business deal gone bad. Although, you know, look at all the things that have happened, you know, like in the last year and a half, Bernie Madoff. But no one murdered him.
I don`t know. You`re asking me an unknown. I don`t know.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Would you like to see -- would you like to see the L.A. Coroner`s Office and the L.A. law enforcement authorities reopen your son`s case?
HOTCHKISS: I definitely would. I -- I most definitely would.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, what would you say to them?
HOTCHKISS: Well, same thing as with the Rebecca Zahau, is that it?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, Zahau.
HOTCHKISS: Zahau, yes. I think her case needs to be reopened. I understand that it`s been cold. You know, I urge her parents, don`t let that happen. Follow up on that. I think that`s the most blatant example of any of one that needs to be reopened and reinvestigated.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: John Ann Hotchkiss, we`re out of time. I want to thank you for taking the time to call. I know this is a difficult time for you. Our hearts go out to you. You`ve lost your son. You`re trying to do the best by him. And we will stay on top of this story. And we will express anything that you want to get out there. You call us, and we`ll get it out there. Thank you.
HOTCHKISS: Thank you.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you, John Ann.
Well, she mentioned the Rebecca Zahau case. We`re going to talk about that next. We`ve got new information from Radar Online. And we`re taking your calls on all of these stories: 1-877-JVM-SAYS. Stay with us. J
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s awfully quick to declare a suicide under such bizarre circumstances.
WECHT: The manner of death should have been left as undetermined.
HUGHES: It doesn`t pass the smell test.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: None of that is consistent with suicide. None of it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t think that homicide should be so quickly ruled out at this point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, we`ve got breaking news for you as the questions and suspicions mount in this case. We`ve been talking about it. Will police continue to insist Rebecca Zahau`s baffling death was a suicide?
How and why would a beautiful woman -- a beautiful woman with no history of mental illness strip naked, bind her own hands and feet in elaborate knots that sailors normally use and then hang herself? Did I mention naked? At her millionaire boyfriend`s beachfront estate, no less?
Investigators practically launched a public campaign to explain their ruling of suicide. They even filmed this video, a recreation of the possible knot-tying that Rebecca, they say, did herself.
Well, Rebecca`s family says cops got it all wrong. Rebecca`s sister spoke to HLN`s Dr. Drew. Here`s what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SNOWEM HORWATH, REBECCA ZAHAU`S SISTER: I believe that my sister did not commit a suicide. My sister...
DR. DREW PINSKY, HLN ANCHOR: Do you...
PINSKY: Do you have a theory about what did happen?
HORWATH: I believe that my sister was murdered.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. What`s your theory: 1-877-JVM-SAYS?
Straight out to Dylan Howard, senior executive editor of "Star" magazine. You`ve got breaking news to tell us about. What is it, Dylan?
DYLAN HOWARD, SENIOR EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "STAR" MAGAZINE: Well, Jane, there are a few developments this afternoon. The San Diego Police Department are making noises that they are prepared to reopen this investigation in the event that new evidence is forthcoming. That`s what they tell us at Radar Online.
But it`s interesting to note, at that same time, they`re saying there is very little evidence to suggest this was anything beyond a suicide, as they initially concluded.
What`s more, we`ve also established at this time, a portrait of Jonah Shacknai, the billionaire businessman, the boyfriend of Rebecca Zahau, and his immediate actions in the aftermath of Rebecca being discovered at his mansion.
What we`ve been able to establish is that Jonah Shacknai told Mary Zahau, Rebecca`s sister`s husband, that he immediately concluded that she had committed suicide. What`s more, he also hired a private investigator who went to collect, on the day Rebecca died, the couple`s dog from a dog daycare facility.
So a portrait is emerging of Jonah Shacknai`s behavior in the immediate aftermath of her death, and it shows a level of inconsistency about his story. Because on the one hand, here he is hiring a private investigator, seemingly concerned about the suspicious nature of his girlfriend`s death, yet, at the same time immediately declaring it a suicide to her family.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, it`s interesting, because we talked to Hot Diggity Dog, the guy who runs the boarding facility, and he -- I seem to remember him saying that he spoke to Jonah himself, and Jonah Shacknai wanted to get the dog back and made those arrangements himself. But we`ll see. We`ll see what transpires.
Now, the medical examiner addressed all the questions people had after they said it was a suicide, and they offered explanations for each of these doubts. Some of the key doubts: tape residue was found on both of her legs. The coroner says not significant. It doesn`t look like evidence of leg binding.
A T-shirt stuffed in her mouth, wrapped around her neck. The coroner says not really sure why. And people sometimes put things in their mouths before hangings.
OK, Rebecca`s head injury, that was the biggest one. The medical examiner says her head injuries -- she had bruising under her scalp -- were minor and she may have struck her head on the way down.
OK. Very briefly to Ann Bremner, because we want to get to Roy Black, a criminal defense attorney out of Miami. But Ann Bremner, do you still believe this was not a suicide? You represent the family.
ANN BREMNER, ATTORNEY FOR REBECCA`S FAMILY: Well, absolutely. I mean, we`ve heard from experts all over the air, Jane, who say this doesn`t pass the smell test. I have been inundated with information, and experts have been hiring experts for the family, including Dr. Cyril Wecht, who said that it should at best be undetermined. Those blows to the top of her head. She`s bound, gagged, taped, she was bleeding.
It was even impossible she could have gotten over that way. We`ve talked about that. They only demonstrated just the binding of hands. There`s a lot more to the equation, of course, experts. I could go on and on. But you know, it would be great if they would reopen the case. That`s what we`ve been asking for. And so it`s a great day if that`s going to happen, for the family and for me.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want to bring in criminal defense attorney Roy Black. He is very famous in the world of -- well, legal cases and beyond. He`s had a slew of high-profile clients: William Kennedy Smith, Kelsey Grammer, Rush Limbaugh.
What do you make of this, this controversy over whether or not she really committed suicide or perhaps it was a murder? That`s what some people are speculating.
ROY BLACK, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Good evening, Jane.
I was the same way. When I first looked at this, when I first heard about it out -- I was out in Los Angeles this summer, it`s a very strange, bizarre. You have to be suspicious about what happened. In fact, the police were. Four separate police agencies took a look into this case.
And, you know, everybody now has all kinds of opinions and theories about it. But there are certain incontrovertible facts that I think substantiate the fact that this is a suicide. This is a...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: One second. We`re just about to a commercial break. On the other side, we`re going to get your theory of why this had to be suicide. Stay right there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WECHT: I`m just thinking, maybe they`re going to say, "Well, maybe she didn`t want to be rescued and she didn`t want to scream, and so she put it in her mouth." I don`t know. I mean, you see what I mean? It`s absurd.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And that was famed forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht talking about the fact that Rebecca Zahau had a T-shirt that was wrapped three times around her neck, partially stuffed in her mouth when she was found naked and hanging from a balcony at her billionaire boyfriend`s estate with her hands and feet bound.
And that famous forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht thinks that authorities should not have automatically rules it a suicide but have left the cause of death undetermined, because he feels that there`s some bothersome issues here.
And we are talking to Roy Black, a famous, famous attorney, who is giving his explanation for why he thinks the cops made the right decision by determining that it was suicide.
Now, what are your reasons, Roy?
BLACK: OK. You can nitpick everything. That happens. Criminal defense lawyers do it all the time. But let`s take a step back and look at this rationally.
Rebecca was a young woman who was considered to be a health nut, who aggressively worked out. She was pretty strong, pretty tough. In order to tie her hands behind her, tie her feet, put a rope around her neck and throw her over a balcony, you`d have to put up quite a fight with her to do that.
Yet, look at the circumstantial evidence. Look at the details that the police came up with. First of all, DNA. They took ten samples of DNA from the ropes around her feet, around her hands, on the bedside where the rope is tied. Numerous places. They only came back to her. Not a single flake from anybody else.
The fingerprints, they`re on the door going into that room. They`re on the bedpost where the rope is tied. They`re on the paint tube, which she used to paint this message. Nobody else`s fingerprints are anywhere else.
You would have to think that a person would have to come in in some type of space suit to do this.
And the balcony where she was on was extremely dirty, according to the police and the photographs that I looked at. Hers are the only footprints on there, showing in a V-type manner how she stood right behind the railing and then tipped herself over.
So time and time again, the actual facts, the actual details determined by the police tend to show that this was a suicide, because there was no third party involved.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, now, I just want to say, by the way, that the police have concluded beyond a shadow of doubt that Jonah Shacknai was not at the house. He was by the side of his so, who had had a terrible fall, a 6-year-old boy, on Rebecca`s watch. Rebecca was watching the child, and the child later died. So that is part of the back story.
But Anne Bremner, your response to Roy Black`s explanation of why he feels that the cops got it right by saying that she committed suicide?
BREMNER: Well, I have great respect for Roy, and he`s fabulous. I can tell you, in a case like this, I mean, the fact is, she died on her back, the experts are saying. She probably was dead when she went over. She didn`t have a broken neck. There`s no fingerprints from the perpetrator because they probably wore gloves.
She didn`t write that note. Her family says it`s not her handwriting. The fact that she had no depression, no suicidal ideation, no kind of psychiatric defect or issue before this. And (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- totally experts. The family says no way she knew how to do slip knots, square knots, seafaring type of knots.
And the footprints on the balcony. You know, there`s two together, but then it`s just a partial kind of toe print right before the side. I would submit to you that you can`t have your feet bound, your hands bound, gagged, and not...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Guess what? We`re holding this over to the next block, because we`re going to continue this debate. We want to get to the bottom of it. Stay right there.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: A mind-boggling case and a TV weather man is at the center of it. A naked man is found dead wearing a dog collar in an empty hot tub with the town`s meteorologist sleeping right next to him. Do cops suspect foul play?
And a major ruling in the Michael Jackson death trial, will the trial finally start tomorrow? We`re taking your calls.
We`re going to get to those stories in a moment, but we are extending our coverage of the Rebecca Zahau death. She is the Burmese beauty, 32- year-old who was found naked, hanging from the balcony of her billionaire boyfriend, Jonah Shacknai`s estate, a 27-room estate worth about $13 million. Her hands were bound behind her. Her lets -- her feet were bound. And she also had, according to the autopsy report, some hemorrhaging underneath her scalp. The authorities said it was suicide. Her family is furious, saying no, they think she was murdered by somebody.
And we are not here to point the finger at anybody. In fact, we can tell you that the police have determined that Jonah Shacknai, whose home it was, whose estate it was, was at his 6-year-old son`s bedside at the hospital or at the nearby house where he was waiting. This beautiful young boy tragically died falling down the stairs, or down a banister, reportedly headlong.
And the back story of this is that Rebecca Zahau, the beautiful woman who was later found dead and hanging was watching him. So the question is did she kill herself because she was depressed and felt guilt over the little boy`s ultimately fatal injuries? Or is there something more sinister at work?
We`re going back and forth with two very well known attorneys. And Roy Black, you heard what defense attorney Ann Bremner who represents Rebecca Zahau`s family said. I`d like to give you your piece now, Roy.
ROY BLACK, ATTORNEY: Fantastic. And Ann I also, you know, appreciate the work that she does but let me give you my rebuttal. As to motive, we know that Rebecca at 12:50 a.m. hears for the first time that Max is going to die. He`s gone brain dead -- he`s brain dead, he`s on life support. Two hours later, she commits suicide.
Now remember, she left her job to take care of this child. She was in the house in the second floor, at the same time that this child went over the balcony and was killed. Anybody who has a child knows how traumatic that would be. Could that possibly tip her over to commit suicide? I certainly think that is far more reasonable than thinking a third party did this.
Not only that but the conspiracy here to cover up would have to be far greater than O.J. Simpson. You`ve got four police agencies. You`ve got the Coronado Police Department, San Diego Sheriff, San Diego medical examiner, California Institute of Justice, all investigating this. All suspicious, all four of these agencies find that it was a suicide.
So those four agencies would have to conspire with somebody to cover up a murder. I find that to be highly unlikely.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Ann Bremner, your piece.
ANN BREMNER, ATTORNEY FOR REBECCA ZAHAU`S FAMILY: Do I get my rebuttal. I`m ready.
You know, the fact is in this that she had wounds to the top of her head. She also had defensive wounds that they didn`t say that she had and (INAUDIBLE) said this. She -- in terms of, you know, her psychological thinking that there was some phone call, there`s no phone message Roy. It`s erased. And so there`s no evidence that she was told anything. There`s just nothing.
And then the third party, she saved him, can you save her on the note? You know, I`m sorry but these things -- I`m not saying there`s any kind of conspiracy. I don`t believe in conspiracies. What I believe in is thoroughness. And so they`re not done with the investigation. Seven short weeks and they say suicide?
No experts; didn`t look at anything else in terms of any other possibilities. They didn`t even check her footprints against her own foot. They didn`t look at other people`s fingerprints.
I mean this is just something that needs to be completed. And maybe they conclude at the end of the day, it`s a suicide. I don`t think they will.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right.
BREMNER: I don`t think there`s any evidence in this case. And I`ll say one more thing. Have you ever seen one like this of a woman naked, bound, gagged, hands, feet, over railing like this? Expert knots with that kind of writing? I don`t think so.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We have to wrap it up. I`m going to give you literally --
BLACK: Right. Ann, one last thing --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: 15 seconds -- one more thing then we`ve got to go.
BLACK: All right. Ann have you ever seen O.J. Simpson in a slow motion chase before? Let`s face it, unusual and bizarre things happen and unfortunately, this is a bizarre event. But the facts tend to show that it`s a suicide.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I will say --
BREMNER: It doesn`t make it probable.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`ve always found truth stranger than fiction. And this is a horrible tragedy for everyone involved. And all I can say is I don`t know, but my heart goes out to everybody involved.
Thank you both -- excellent. If I`m ever in trouble, I`m calling both of you.
BLACK: Thanks Jane.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, we` going to move on to another story tonight.
A meteorologist, a TV weather man at the center of a bizarre -- talk about truth stranger than fiction -- scandal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who`s keeping you safe during severe weather? Or providing an accurate forecast to plan your day. Your weather authority is a team sport.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And as experienced meteorologist, we`re always ready.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brett Cummins, the team and technology you can count on. .
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, that guy at the center of this really tragic and bizarre case. Yes, that`s the weather man there. Cops say a dead man was found naked wearing only a dog collar and laying next to this snoozing local weather man in an empty jacuzzi tub.
Investigators say a wild party took place in a house right outside of Little Rock. The host of the party says meteorologist Brett Cummins arrived with his friend Dexter Williams at around 11:00 p.m. although some say they met at the house. Allegedly Cummins and Williams were drinking alcohol and according to some reports -- we`re going to find out the full story from cops in a second -- snorting unknown drugs, allegedly. Before all three men got into the hot tub to have another drink.
The party host, according to published reports said he left the tub to sleep on the couch. When he woke up at 8:00 a.m., he found this man, the snoring weather man, seen here in a Facebook video, and the other guy, Williams dead, naked, wearing nothing but a dog collar.
Cops say the dead man`s face was discolored. There was a small ring of blood at the bottom of the tub. They have not made any arrest. They haven`t ruled out foul play either. So what exactly happened here? Was this a booze and drug-filled accident? Or did something more sinister occur?
All right, what do you think? 1-877-JVM-SAYS.
Straight out to Dana Bradley, reporter for KARN News Radio; you are right there in Little Rock; that`s the market where all this is going down. First of all, this has got to be quite the story in Little Rock. I`m sure everybody is talking about it, right.
DANA BRADLEY, REPORTER, KARN NEWS RADIO: Yes, everybody is talking about it. And it is the lead story here in Little Rock, Arkansas, as well as just the state in general. What they were all wondering now is exactly what happened.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. That`s what we`re wondering, too. Again, Brett Cummins is a local meteorologist, a TV weather man for Little Rock station KARK. The station released this statement. "Our meteorologist Brett Cummins was at the home at the time of the death and we felt we should share this with our viewers. Brett will not be on the air as he`s mourning the loss of a friend. Our thoughts go out to the family and friends of Dexter Williams."
Now, we have Jim Hansard, lieutenant with the local police department. Thank you for joining us on the phone, sir. What happened? Was there drugs -- were there drugs being used at this location? This party? And why was this man -- do you have any idea -- naked and wearing only a dog collar in a hot tub, allegedly with this local weather man?
LT. JIM HANSARD, LITTLE ROCK POLICE: Well, obviously this is an ongoing investigation so I`m not going to be able to discuss all that`s not on the report. What we do know is that we were called to the residence on September 5th at 8:10 in the morning to a person that had drowned in a hot tub.
The officers got there. They located the man`s body actually inside the house. He was inside the master bathroom bathtub. And it`s a whirlpool style tub but it was actually inside the house.
We found what you just described. An adult male; he was unclothed. He did have what appeared to be a dog collar around his neck and I can confirm the statement you made about the blood also.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: What was the weather man doing there in the tub with this guy? Was he also -- had he been undressed or was he dressed.
HANSARD: At the time that the police had reached (INAUDIBLE) -- arrived on the scene, he was not there. He had left the residence and soon thereafter returned on his own and made a statement to the investigators on scene.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. We have some other footage from Facebook that we can show you. All right. Did he know this guy? There`s conflicting reports whether he showed up -- the weather man showed with the man who later died or did he meet him at the party?
HANSARD: No. Every indication we have is that he arrived at that residence with Mr. Williams.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. I want to bring -- will you stand by sir and don`t go anywhere -- but Holly Hughes, criminal defense attorney, what do you make of this? This is certainly a shocker.
HOLLY HUGHES, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, you know, I think when you call it bizarre, Jane, you really nailed it. But the thing that sticks out to me the most was most suspicious, when you wake up next to a dead guy, why do you leaving the scene? I mean are you taking away evidence? Are you discarding evidence?
You know is this some kind of odd erotomania that went bad. But if you wake up next to your friend who`s dead, you call 911 and you stick around to assist the investigation. This taking off is highly suspicious and I think they`re going to go looking to see where exactly he went and what he took with him.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you know, I have to say, and I`m a recovering alcoholic with 16 years of sobriety, that I know that strange things happen when you get alcohol involved.
Apparently, Lieutenant, there were all drinking. What about the drug aspect?
HANSARD: We`re still waiting on toxicology reports from the Arkansas State Crime Lab and I`m going to have to defer all those questions due to the openness of the investigation. I just simply can`t talk about that right now.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. I`ve got to say that if the weather man, Brett Cummins, wants to come on our show and explain his side, we want to be fair. We would be very happy to hear from him.
Maybe it was just a party that got out of hand and he slept through it and woke up and there was a dead person there. And wow. Crazy story.
Up next, another crazy story -- we`ve got a lot of them tonight. Michael Jackson --
MICHAEL JACKSON, SINGER: This is it. I mean this is really it. This is the final -- this is the final curtain call.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a gentleman here that needs help and he`s not breathing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael Jackson, the king of pop --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was taken to the hospital and there were rumors --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, he`s not breathing, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ok, and he`s not conscious either?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, he`s not conscious, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The legendary king of pop, Michael Jackson passed away on Thursday, June 25.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did anybody witness what happened?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, just the doctor, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: LAPD investigators focused in on the singer`s personal physician, Conrad Murray.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s no way that Dr. Murray would pump Michael Jackson full of a bolus of Propofol sufficient for major surgery and walk out that room.
DR. CONRAD MURRAY, ACCUSED IN THE DEATH OF MICHAEL JACKSON: You`re honor, I am an innocent man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Will Michael Jackson`s alleged killer be brought to justice? A desperate 11th-hour attempt to delay this big trial failed. That means the biggest celebrity trial since O.J. starts tomorrow morning. It is full steam ahead.
The king of pop died more than two years ago. His personal doctor has now been charged with involuntary manslaughter. Authorities say this man Dr. Conrad Murray administered the lethal dose of anesthetic that caused Michael Jackson`s death.
His lawyers say Michael Jackson`s so famous the jury has to be sequestered. Listen to their argument.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EDWARD CHERNOFF, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: We can trust jurors to be good human beings, but we cannot necessarily assume they`re not going to be looking at television and looking at the Internet and all the other things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: But just today, an appeals court said sorry, we don`t buy that. So the jury will not be sequestered, cameras will be allowed in the courtroom unless the California Supreme Court gets involved.
Will there be justice for Michael Jackson? Call me, 1-877-JVM-SAYS. Again, jury selection kicking off tomorrow and as soon as opening arguments begin, I`m going to be reporting live from Los Angeles, bringing you the very latest details day in and day out.
But right now, we`ve got some breaking news to tell you about. Let`s go straight out to Dylan Howard, senior executive editor of RadarOnline. What do you know about Conrad Murray, Dylan?
DYLAN HOWARD, SENIOR EXECUTIVE EDITOR, RADARONLINE: Well Jane, the defense is taking hit after hit. First it was the inability to question Dr. Arnold Klein about whether he administered the Propofol. Then it was today`s developments.
But what we can tell you is that Dr. Conrad Murray is almost certain to take the stand. It`s a stunning development that is going to put him well and truly in the prosecution`s crosshairs. But as we understand from talking to people close to his defense team, he has nothing to hide.
Indeed the strategy that they plan on taking now is that they will argue Michael Jackson administered the fatal dose of Propofol, himself, at a time when Dr. Conrad Murray left the Holmby Hills estate -- he left the bedroom at the estate to go to the bathroom and to take a phone call. And at that time in act of desperation it was Michael Jackson who administered the lethal dosage.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, now, news today broke that the defense, as Dylan Howard mentioned, wants to ban a prosecution witness. The drug Propofol actually is the key to this case one way or the other. The defense is going to claim reportedly that Michael Jackson gave himself the deadly dose, most probably by drinking it. The prosecution wants to call this expert to testify that Propofol cannot be fatal if you drink it -- if you drink it. Apparently there were some volunteers in Chile who drank it and nothing happened to them or they didn`t die anyway.
So I want to bring in Dr. Nat Strand, anesthesiologist; you`re the expert on this. Can you overdose by drinking Propofol?
DR. NAT STRAND, ANESTHESIOLOGIST: Hi Jane, it`s really good to be here. First of all I want to say that Propofol is an intravenous drug so most of the studies are definitely done for the intravenous route. I don`t personally believe there`s any way that Michael could have died from swallowing the Propofol. You would need a much larger dose. And likely is the majority of the Propofol would have been inactivated if he took it by mouth. I don`t think that this theory makes any sense.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok, let me just say this. According to a published report, there is 70 grams of fluid that were found in Michael Jackson`s stomach at the time of the autopsy that tested positive for traces of Propofol. So Dr. Strand, what other way could the traces of Propofol gotten into his stomach if he didn`t drink it?
STRAND: Actually even though it`s counterintuitive, it`s quite easy for it to go into the stomach after being in the bloodstream coming retrograde into the stomach. That has happened with overdoses of narcotics as well. So having traces found in the stomach doesn`t in any way mean that he swallowed it.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, on the other side of the break, I`m going to ask this very crucial question. They claim, the defense does, that it`s possible that Jackson drank the Propofol or ingested him somehow himself -- in other words, killing himself. But Dr. Murray told cops he administered 25 milligrams of Propofol to Michael Jackson. Now, would that have knocked Michael Jackson out? And if so, how could he have given himself more of the drug? Next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: I have done all I could do. I told the truth and I have faith the truth will prevail.
I am taking my life back, step by step. And I wanted to come home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you plead?
MURRAY: Your honor, I am an innocent man. I therefore plead not guilty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, we`re hearing that he might, according to RadarOnline, now decide to take the stand. It is a good chance. He certainly likes to talk as you saw from those clips. But if he does take the stand, he will be cross-examined about all the different types of drugs he administered to Michael Jackson that very, very tragic night. You can see, they go on: 1:30, 2:00, 3:00; Valium, Ativan, Versed. Then 5:00 a.m. Ativan; 7:30 a.m. Versed; 10:40 a.m., Propofol. He`s actually backed off this timeline, but this is what he told cops initially. Jackson remained awake. Approximately 1040 hours, Dr. Murray finally administered 25 milligrams of Propofol and Jackson finally went to sleep and Murray stated that he remained monitoring him after possibly ten minutes.
Dr. Murray said he left Jackson`s side to go to the restroom and relieve himself. When he came back, Jackson wasn`t breathing. So Dr. Strand, my question to you is, I`ve had Propofol for surgery, it knocks you right out. If he had gotten 25 milligrams of Propofol from Dr. Murray, how would he have been able to wake up and then give himself some more to overdose?
STRAND: You know, that`s an excellent point, Jane. Two things could have happened. Number one, he could have been sedated but not completely out. And in that case, Dr. Murray would have left a sedated patient who didn`t have his normal mental faculties with him alone with drugs -- irresponsible. The other thing is that he probably was induced into some sort of deep sedation, maybe even general anesthesia, so giving even small doses of Propofol after you`ve given so many other drugs can induce general anesthesia.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, somebody told me today, well, 25 milligrams of Propofol will only keep you asleep for three to five minutes. But right here he told cops Michael Jackson immediately went to sleep for at least ten minutes before he left the room. So would that indicate that maybe he gave him more than 25 milligrams? Does 25 milligrams of Propofol keep you asleep for only three to five minutes?
STRAND: Usually it does. But that`s assuming that you`re maintaining oxygenation and ventilation, meaning that you`re ensuring that the patient is breathing either by breathing for the patient or monitoring for adequate breathing on the patient`s behalf. A patient who doesn`t breathe for three to five minutes can certainly stay asleep for a long time due to brain injury from lack of oxygen.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow. This is so complicated. I`m wondering in confusion could there be reasonable doubt? Remember, he`s only facing one charge, involuntary manslaughter. If the jury doesn`t find him guilty of that, he walks.
Nancy, South Dakota, you`re so patient. Your question or thought, Nancy.
NANCY, SOUTH DAKOTA (via telephone): I lost my son to a prescription drug that was delivered to my home. And his three friends, we don`t know if he gave them this drug or not, but nothing happened to these three friends. For hours they did things to my son, they turned him over, cleaned up evidence, got rid of things and a witness seen them -- two of them leave my home. And when the girlfriend came upstairs to tell me my son wasn`t breathing, I came down and found my son with bloody, foamy stuff coming out of his nose.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, I`m so sorry.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know what; on the other side of the break, I`m going to respond to that.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: That last caller was talking about the horrors of drug addiction. Prescription drug addiction is a huge crisis in this country. More people OD`ing from prescription drugs now than illegal drugs. And this trial that starts tomorrow, Michael Jackson death trial, I believe Dr. Nat Strand, is going to shine a spotlight on our national crisis of prescription drug abuse. Do you agree?
STRAND: I do agree. It is a huge problem.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. It really is. And I have to say that doctors are part of that problem. And what Dr. Conrad Murray did in administering all those drugs, in my opinion, highly irresponsible. The jury is going to have to decide if it is criminal and if it is criminal, if it constitutes involuntary manslaughter.
STRAND: I agree with you Jane.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m kind of worried that there is only one charge because, if they find him not guilty of that, he walks.
"NANCY GRACE" next.