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ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL

Mom Vanishes While Jogging; Ian Burnett, 22, Disappears from NYE in NYC

Aired January 10, 2012 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, a 43-year-old Montana mother goes out on a run and never comes back. Then a gut- wrenching discovery. A single running shoe found in a ditch. Was someone waiting for her? Was she abducted? I`ll talk to this woman`s devastated family, live.

Plus, a 22-year-old visiting New York City for New Year`s Eve vanishes. Cops say he left his Virginia home the day after Christmas and set off for the big city. He was reportedly last seen in an apartment he rented with friends. His family says he has no history of alcohol or drug abuse and comes from a loving home. So what happened to Ian Burnett?

Plus, outrage as convicted killers are suddenly released from prison. This man, the outgoing Mississippi governor, let them all walk free. It just so happens the killers did menial work at the governor`s mansion. Now angry family members and a victim left for dead. Join me to fire back against this junk justice.

And new rumors fly in the search for missing toddler Ayla Reynolds. Did the child`s father throw a party at his home right before Ayla vanished? Why won`t he tell the public who was at his house that night? We`re taking your calls.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Saturday morning, Sidney teacher Sherri Arnold went for a jog and never returned home. She was last seen at around 6:30 a.m. Saturday as she left her home for a morning jog without her cell phone.

BOB BURNISON, ASSISTANT CHIEF, SIDNEY POLICE DEPARTMENT: We just feel that there`s something drastically -- either happened to her or something to that effect.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: A thousand of her friends and neighbors have volunteered to help find Sherri Arnold, but so far police have only turned up a single running shoe.

GARY ARNOLD, HUSBAND: Sherri is a fighter. She will do anything it takes to get through this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Authorities say time is of the essence in this investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re going to keep going until we can get some answers here.

ARNOLD: We`re going to keep trying. We need to find Sherri. Badly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Good evening, Jane Velez-Mitchell coming to you live from New York City.

A beloved high school math teacher goes out for an early morning jog and is never seen again. And now a community is rallying together in a desperate race against the clock to find her.

Tonight we go across the country to a remote region in the sparsely populated state of Montana. Right now, as we speak, a frantic search is gripping the small town of Sidney, population 6,000. Four days ago, Sherri Arnold, a popular 43-year-old mother of three who taught math to local kids for two decades, went for an early morning jog on one of her favorite routes and has not been seen since.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BURNISON: We just feel that there`s something drastically -- either happened to her or something to that effect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: She was last seen last Saturday at 6:30 in the morning. The next day an ominous clue surfaces: one of her running shoes is found in a ditch on the side of the road.

The close-knit community has been rocked by this news as Sherri was a beloved math teacher at the local high school for 18 years. Hundreds have joined search parties across towns and fields to look for her. They are certainly not giving up hope. Listen to this from ABC`s "Good Morning America."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARNOLD: Sherri is a fighter. She will do anything it takes to get through this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want to hear from you if you have any thoughts or know anything: 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297.

Straight out to my very special guest Gary Arnold, the missing woman`s husband, who is pausing briefly in his desperate search for his wife to talk to us to try to keep this story out there, keep her face out there.

Gary, our hearts go out to you. We hope and pray that your beloved wife is found safe and sound. Were you awake, sir, when your wife went out running at 6:30 a.m.? And tell us about those last moments the last time you saw her.

ARNOLD: Well, actually, I was -- I was awake when she went out, but I wasn`t home. Sherri had been tired a couple days earlier, and she said, "Let me sleep in tomorrow." And she said, "You want to go out, go out," which meant -- I do a walk and she meant, go ahead out on your walk. So I`m an early riser. I got up at 5:30, went out for my walk.

When I came home at 6:30, I could see that she`d gotten up. I could tell because the kitchen sink light was on, bedroom door was open. And I could tell she`d brushed her teeth in the sink, and there were little droplets all over. And anyway, I knew she`d gone out for a jog. I didn`t know which route, but she never -- she never came home.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Early Saturday morning, Sherri went out for this run, and apparently, it was one of her favorite routes. She was out on Ninth Avenue, according to published reports, which was on the very edge of town near factories and referred to as the truck route. And we`re told -- we`ve been investigating this -- that thousands of large trucks pass through there to nearby oil fields and to factories. Beyond that, the town just ends, and it`s vast open space.

So, Gary, what can you tell us about this area? And how far away from the home was the shoe found?

ARNOLD: I don`t know exactly. You`ll have to talk to the police. Bob Burnison would be a good one to talk to about that. I`ve never gone to the location they said they found that. I don`t know. But they`d, I`m sure, be willing to talk to you about that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: They haven`t told you where they found the shoe?

ARNOLD: Well, they told me about -- they said toward the east end of the truck route, but, you know, not specifically so. Those kind of questions I`m going to refer to them...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK.

ARNOLD: ... because they`ll give you accurate information, more clearly than I can.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let me ask you this. Does she have any known enemies? Has she had an argument with anybody recently?

ARNOLD: No, not that I know of.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Is there anything unusual?

ARNOLD: No, not that I know of. I don`t know who -- who would want to harm her in any way. She is one of the best people I`ve ever known. She`s a good person. She`s kind. She`s sincere. She`s loved -- she is a great teacher. She`s a referee. She`s a great wife and mother. I don`t know. I don`t know.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Did she take the same route every day when she jogged? Because certainly, we`ve always warned women not to do that, only because somebody out there who may not have the best of intentions could find a pattern and wait for her. Did she do the same route?

ARNOLD: No, not every day. In fact, she didn`t jog every day. During the school year it`s kind of hard for her to jog in the morning before school. So what we do in the school year generally, is she and I go for a three-mile walk at night after school. But during the weekend, that, of course, is a little bit different. She has time to sleep in and she has time to go for a jog, and she would frequently use either Saturday or Sunday or both to do that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, there`s an added intensity to this search because I understand, sir, that bad weather is about to come to this area, Sidney, Montana, which is already remote. It`s expected to be zero degrees tonight, the low, with rain and snow. How are you and those others in your community who love your missing wife, how are you going to search in these temperatures?

ARNOLD: I don`t know. The temperatures aren`t as bad as the snow might be, because the snow will bring wet with it. But I can`t answer that. I`m not in the search parties. If you would call Uppers (ph) and he can put you in touch with Marshall. He`s the guy that`s kind of organizing the searches. But...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Nobody saw her? And here`s one thing -- nobody saw her? So did any of your neighbors say, "Oh, yes, I saw her. She was jogging past my house"?

ARNOLD: My neighbors don`t get up that early, and I don`t think -- somebody may have checked -- that`s what you`ve got to ask the authorities about. You know, they`ve been interviewing people. Mr. Burnison said that someone saw her at the stoplight crossing Central Avenue at -- I don`t know -- 6:30, and there was a second person that saw her maybe at 6:40. I don`t know the exact times, but they were two people that kind of were sure they saw her that morning.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, when did you become alarmed? How long -- sometimes people can jog for a long time. At what point did you decide, oh, my gosh, she`s missing, and I better go look for her or call the cops?

ARNOLD: I don`t know the exact time, but I`d have to think through everything I did that morning. But I do know that a half hour would have been about the time I expected her to run. If sometimes she did a long run, which is about six miles, it takes an hour. When an hour passed, I was a little irritated because she didn`t tell me she was taking a long run. And -- but it was nothing unusual.

But as time went on, I grew more and more concerned that she wasn`t there. And I finally grew concerned enough where I thought, I better go check this out, because she had cancer. She had had a leg -- in her leg. She`d had her -- I think it`s the fibula, the small bone removed, the top part of that, which had damaged her, severed the nerve in that leg. And she couldn`t lift the toe very well. But they did something called a bridal procedure, which moved tendons to the top of the foot and then lifted the foot.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So you thought maybe she had fallen and hurt herself.

ARNOLD: Yes, yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: How long have you been married?

ARNOLD: Oh, we`ve been married 13 years.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, my gosh.

ARNOLD: I think.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You have four children between you -- or three children.

ARNOLD: Actually, we have five. We`re a blended family.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, wow.

ARNOLD: But three -- my three were older, and they were -- they`re already moved out. And hers are still home. We have a freshman, Holly, and a junior, Jason.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you are very brave, sir, to remain as calm as you are. I know you`re doing everything you can. I know you told us that you were literally stopping and talking to us to get her face out so that you can just take a pause. But you`re going back to search for her. We wish you the best. Call us if there`s any update whatsoever, and we will update it. We want to find her safe and sound, and we -- our hearts go out to you.

We`re not done with this story, but also coming up, how can convicted murderers just walk free? Well, you might want to ask the outgoing Mississippi governor, who pardoned them all on his way out the door to become a lobbyist, by the way. I`m going to talk to one victim`s outraged family and what they would like to say to now-former Governor Haley Barbour.

We`re taking your calls on this outrage! Convicted killers walking the streets free tonight, celebrating, while the victims` families quake in fear. 1-877-JVM-SAYS. Hang in there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, he`s in jail for 18 years. She was 20 years old when she died and had her child laying in her arms when he shot her in her head. And he`s pardoned?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Millions converge on Manhattan every New Year`s Eve to celebrate, and that could be making the frantic hunt for a missing 22- year-old from Virginia even tougher tonight.

Ian Burnett left his home in Richmond, Virginia, the day after Christmas and headed for the Big Apple with plans to stay the week and have a good time and ring in the new year. But Ian vanished 12 days ago before he could even see the ball drop. The last place he was seen, at the apartment he was staying with some friends. Cops say his last known contact was a text to his college roommate. What happened to this engineering student?

All right. Give me a call if you have any thoughts or you`ve seen him, 1-877-JVM-SAYS.

All right. This case is unfolding as we speak, and it`s a breaking news story. We found out pretty shortly before air, I know we have some principles here. We have a friend, a former girlfriend of Ian`s, Megan King.

Megan, thank you for joining us. We`re very concerned about this young man, as obviously are you. His family says he has no history of drug or alcohol abuse. He`s an engineering student. Not the type of guy to go out and get in trouble. What would you say so that we can at least define what we`re dealing with here?

MEGAN KING, FORMER GIRLFRIEND OF IAN`S (via phone): Yes, ma`am, he was a very good boy. Ian has always been very smart. He`s an Eagle Scout, graduated valedictorian in 2008 from New Kent High School. He has always had a good head on his shoulders. Probably one of the sweetest people that I have ever come in contact with, very smart, very forgiving. You know, as young people can be a bit vindictive going through breakups and such like that. But I actually spoke to him on Christmas, and you know, we`ve been OK.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, joining me by phone is it Ian`s very worried father, Mark Burnett. You are at a vigil for your son right now in Virginia. First of all, I`m so sorry you`re going through this. We want to be helpful. We are showing your son`s face. What are Ian`s roommates saying about the last time they saw him?

MARK BURNETT, IAN`S FATHER (via phone): Ian was communicating via text with them, and the last bit of information that we had was that he was just stepping out to go out for the evening, and we don`t have any other information other than that.

I received a routine, you know, type of text, talking about touring in New York on the 28th, and he did transmit some text messages about his return on the 2nd or thereabouts. And generally we`re just -- we`re facing a mystery here.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Sir, may I ask you. He apparently left the Riverside Drive or that area apartment without taking his cell phone. Is that correct, sir?

BURNETT: Yes. And that`s not untypical for him. He doesn`t communicate via phone very often. He does use his phone for texting occasionally, but he doesn`t carry it with him at all times.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Did the friends have any idea of who he was going out with? I mean, he says, "Hey, I`m heading out." Did he say, "I`m meeting some buddies" or "I`m going to dinner" or what?

BURNETT: I don`t have any other information about that, and they -- we have not been able to determine that from anyone. At this point, what we`re trying to do is find out these answers.

There`s a lot of people out there trying to look on the streets and see what`s happened, but the fact is, we just don`t know.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right.

BURNETT: And we really -- we`re trying to find someone who might know, and that`s what we`re trying to do.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, we`ve got some experts here. If you just want to stand by for a second, sir, we`re going to bring in some of these experts and then maybe ask you another question.

Ian texted his parents December 27, and I think he just mentioned December 28. Cops say his last known context -- or contact was to a friend Friday, December 30. And then he was last seen at the apartment on Riverside Drive, which is along the Hudson River.

And Riverside Drive -- I`m born and raised in New York City -- it goes from a very ritzy neighborhood to what can be a dangerous neighborhood. This is the Harlem area. It`s very trendy right now, a lot of very expensive homes going up in that area, and remodeling, gentrification and all sorts of wonderful things happening in Harlem. But there are parts of it and there are places at certain times where it can be dangerous.

What say you, Mark Eiglarsh, criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor, about what cops should be doing in a huge city, where wow, last I checked, what, 8 million people minimum, to find this young man?

MARK EIGLARSH, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes. This is a tragedy, Jane. And usually, there`s more detail to work with. We`ve got nothing here. One minute he`s there; he uses his phone. Next minute, no.

Obviously, the phone is the key. I would go through and really study everything you can get from that. And the other thing is -- the only other thing you can do is keep putting his face out there and hope that somebody sees your show or someone on the local news looks up and says, "Wait, wait, I saw some foul play involving that kid" and then reports it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mike Brooks, he did not take his cell phone but apparently took his driver`s license and credit cards.

MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Right.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: This -- this area that he was in -- again, born and raised in New York -- there are some parts of it that can be considered dangerous. What do cops do, vis-a-vis, let`s say, surveillance cameras? Are surveillance cameras all over the city?

BROOKS: You do have them. You know, he disappeared when he was at 139th Street and Riverside Drive. And I know New York very well myself. And -- but he did have his credit cards, but there`s no activity on the credit cards.

I did speak to an NYPD -- a New York City Police Department source that says right now they have no sign, Jane, of any criminality. But, still, it`s early on in the investigation.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, we`re just getting started. More on the other side.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC: "AULD LANG SYNE")

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VELEZ-MITCHELL: Look at the crowds there, and it really shows us the challenge right now that police have in finding Ian Burnett. Ian Burnett, who went from Virginia, his home state, to the Big Apple to have fun New Year`s Eve. Didn`t even make it to New Year`s Eve. He disappeared December 30, and apparently went out of his Riverside Drive pad, where he was staying with some buddies and has not been seen since.

Wendy Murphy, former prosecutor, he has two looks. One, he has facial hair here, and he appears a little bit older. And there he is looking a little younger with no facial hair.

Millions and millions and millions of people, and a lot of them look very similar in the subway. He doesn`t -- he`s unfamiliar with the city. What do cops do?

WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Yes. Good-looking boy.

You know, Jane, I don`t know how to solve this crime, but I would say I`m -- I`m as concerned as Mike was about the role of the phone.

Here`s the thing. This kid is smart, valedictorian in his high school. He`s in a not very safe area of New York. I think he`s smart enough to know that having your phone with you is a safety issue, right? If you get in trouble, you can call someone.

I`m thinking either someone told him not to have his phone with him, because you know if someone disappears, then you can find them through pings and so forth, GPS devices, even. Either someone told him not to bring it or he intentionally didn`t bring it. But it makes me very nervous.

What I want to know is, who are those two people he was with in the apartment and why were they missing when the family showed up to look for him? Where are they? I read a report who said it was two women. Who are they? What do they know? The phone is important, but the last people to see him alive are important, too, and they appear to be missing.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Mark Burnett, you`re the father of Ian, who`s missing. What do you know about these -- these people? Are they females? And have they cooperated, or have they vanished?

BURNETT: Yes. And we do know where they are, and the NYPD is in contact with these two people and trying to find out some information from them.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Are they females?

BURNETT: Yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And what was the relationship between your son and these women?

BURNETT: They -- one of them went to school with Ian at VCU. They were acquaintances; it was not a romantic relationship.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Was Ian possibly dating someone? Did he meet somebody that he was going to hook up with, possibly?

BURNETT: No. We do not believe so. He went up there just to have a -- a post-Christmas tourist visit to New York City and to celebrate New Year`s Eve. There was -- he was intending to just spend a short time there and then return back to Virginia.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Megan King, you`re a friend of Ian`s. Did you know these two women?

KING: No, I didn`t.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Do you think it`s odd that he goes and shares a place with these two women? Do you think -- I mean, I don`t know whether they`ve disappeared. Apparently, police are in contact with them, but why wouldn`t they be out here, you know, hollering at the top of their lungs, "Our friend is missing! Help us"?

KING: Your guess is as good as mine. I know that`s exactly what I would be doing. But honestly I have no idea.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, are you concerned about these people at all, Mark, father of the missing student, these two women?

BURNETT: I don`t know. At this point, I`m not a professional at this. I`m just a father. And I`m hoping that those people who knew how to investigate these matters can do that. That`s my hope.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Sir, we want to help find your son. Thank you.

Up next, convicted killers freed!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Outgoing Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour outraged the people by pardoning four killers over the weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is Governor Barbour going to pardon our aches and pains and heartaches that we have to suffer?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Family members are incensed that Gatlin would be released by an official pardon by Governor Haley Barbour.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They had received a letter Friday from the Parole Board stating that he was not going to be paroled.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The four murderers worked as trustees in the governor`s mansion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s in jail for 18 years. She was 20 years old when she died and had her child laying in her arms when he shot her in her head.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The governor himself is going to have to look me and the family in the eye and say, Hey, I`m going to let this guy go. But there wasn`t any of that. That`s the coward`s way out, if you ask me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is he going to pardon a child that had to grow up without a mother?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was left laying on the floor in his mother`s blood that day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Uproar tonight as a pack of vicious convicted killers are walking around free celebrating their freedom while the families of the people they murdered are left in fear and rage without any answers.

As he packed up to leave and by the way become a lobbyist, outgoing Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour gave complete pardons to four killers. And they`ve already walked out of prison. These convicts worked menial jobs in the governor`s mansion while they were serving life sentences for murder. What`s that about?

One man viciously gunned down this young woman -- look at her, beautiful, at the start of her life -- Tammy Ellis. She was cradling her young baby when he slaughtered her. Her mom is devastated to hear that Tammy`s killer has just been, hey, you`re free to go. Your record is expunged. Go with god.

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BETTY ELLIS, VICTIM`S MOTHER: Is Governor Barbour going to pardon us for our aches and pains and heartache that we have to suffer? Is he going to pardon a child that had to grow up without a mother? Is he going to pardon me from never being able to feel her arms around my neck again? What is Barbour going to do about that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: The killer of Tammy, David Gatlin, also shot Tammy`s friend in the head. He miraculously survived and will be my very special guest tonight. Also allowed to walk free, Charles Hooker; in 1992 he murdered the principal of the school where he taught. Anthony McCray shot his wife in the back. She`s dead. He`s pardoned and who knows where he is tonight. Joseph Ozment, convicted of murder, conspiracy and armed robber also a free man as we speak.

Haley Barbour pardoned an unbelievable 214 convicts since the beginning of the year. Ok. Breaking news, the number keeps rising. Guess what, Mr. Barbour, you`re not talking about any of this tonight, but we`re not going to forget this as you head to become a lobbyist. Ok? All we can hope and pray is that these murderers that you unleashed in your wisdom -- not -- don`t kill more innocent victims. This is an absolute betrayal of the public`s trust.

What do you think? Call me, 1-877-JVM-SAYS; that`s 1-877-586-7297.

Straight out to my very special guest tonight, Randy Walker, who was shot in the head and left for dead by the now-freed killer David Gatlin; and Tiffany Brewer, the sister of Tammy Ellis who was tragically murdered by Gatlin.

Tiffany, let me start with you. The number keeps rising. We`re hearing more and more people who have been pardoned by this outgoing governor. But the most horrific example is your sister`s killer. What runs through your heart as the world learns that this guy is now out on the street? Are you in fear?

TIFFANY ELLIS BREWER, SISTER OF TAMMY ELLIS: I am. I`m greatly in fear for my family, for Randy`s family. He maliciously took a life, and she had so much to live for, a 6-week-old child that had everything. He lost a mother that day. I lost a sister. My mom lost a daughter. It outrages me.

You know, Governor Barbour, I would like to think, didn`t have all the facts because if he did and he pardoned this man anyway, we`ve had a monster for a governor.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I have to say, first of all, you and Randy Walker who was shot in the head by this monster who has been pardoned by Haley Barbour, are very courageous to come out because I would be thinking, oh, my gosh, this guy is out, he may have a vendetta against us.

Randy Walker, you were shot in the head by David Gatlin. How has that impacted your life, and what is your reaction to the fact that the guy who shot you in the head at point-blank range is out tonight walking around?

RANDY WALKER, VICTIM OF DAVID GATLIN: Well, I mean it`s clear that David intended to kill me, too, so if I had died it would have been a double murder there. When he actually turned himself in, he actually said that he had killed two people. So he thought for a while that I was dead.

But I`ve been left with some permanent hearing loss. I have some issues with my jaws. I can`t open my mouth as wide as I could. There`s some foods I can`t eat anymore. I have some nerve damage on the right side of my face. But to look at me out on the street, you probably wouldn`t know it. I deal with headaches on a daily basis from the aftermath and I`ve had multiple surgeries to correct stuff like that.

And I`m -- you know, my first thought was maybe Haley Barbour just didn`t know. But after today, learning that he`s pardoned over 200 on top of this, I think he just doesn`t care.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, here`s my take on it, and I`d be happy to get everybody`s reaction. This illustrates the prison industrial complex that`s going on in our country. There are right now as we speak more than two million Americans living behind bars, more than two million. That`s equal to the entire population of Macedonia, which is a country.

About one out of every 100 adults in the United States is in prison in the criminal justice system in one way, shape or form. Some of those people didn`t shoot somebody in the face. Some of them are nonviolent offenders, people who may have gotten overly harsh convictions, people who are addicted to drugs, people who did nonviolent crimes.

Were those people the people that he set free? No. He`s setting free these murders, ok? These people are actually the ones who do deserve to be locked up for the rest of their lives. Why on earth were they even working in the governor`s mansion serving him cocktails? In my opinion, this is selective sympathy on the part of the governor.

I want to bring in Wendy Murphy, former prosecutor. To me, it seems like first of all it`s some sort of perverse tradition that people convicted of murder gets to serve in the governor`s mansion of Mississippi; I don`t think that`s a good idea -- A. B, he gets to know them and realizes, oh, yes, they`re people and they can be nice. And I`m going to feel really good about myself and let them go, because I`m a good guy.

Whereas if he was a really good guy, Wendy, he would be worried about all the people who are maybe locked up in prison with overly harsh sentences, maybe they didn`t do it. Go to the nameless, faceless people who actually need help.

WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Yes. You know, I thought this was a joke when I first read it, to tell you the truth, Jane. Because there is no philosopher, no moral policy maker who would say, Let me choose between the nonviolent drug offender and the convicted murderer. Who should I release? Who should I invite to my mansion to feed me grapes?

This is so dumb on so many levels and I don`t understand it. It`s not like he gets more votes. I mean maybe he thinks this is good for him in some -- maybe he`s, this is some kind of sick apology for the bad things he`s done in his life.

I`ll tell you one thing, though, I know you`re against the death penalty, as am I, this is why people are for the death penalty in this country. Because they say, there`s no such thing as life in prison. There is no such thing as life behind bars. Because nutso governors release dangerous killers with this little trick called the pardon.

And don`t ever tell me that it doesn`t happen when we have a death penalty debate, I`m going to stick up for the pro-death penalty types until this kind of nonsense is off the books.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, here`s something truly outrageous. Apparently David Gatlin was up for parole a few days ago, and listen to what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID RUTH, LEAD INVESTIGATOR ON GATLIN CASE: They had received a letter Friday from the parole board stating that he was not going to be paroled and that it would be considered again in October of 2012. Then to receive a call not even 24 hours later that he`s going to be pardoned, I certainly think that someone is not in sync with things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tiffany, did you know this was going to happen? Did you get advanced warning? Were you told? Did you say, "Hey, we`ll put a cop outside your door so that nothing can happen to you"?

BREWER: I had no idea. No idea. My husband walked in the door and told me that David had been pardoned. We never got a phone call. It`s my understanding that he came up for parole in December. We did not get a call about that.

We were informed, like I said Friday, that he would not be paroled, and the phone call Saturday our families were called and said that he had been pardoned.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Outrageous. Mark Eiglarsh, our system is completely messed up.

MARK EIGLARSH, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, in this instance it clearly is. This is a miscarriage of justice all the way around. Here is the message that this governor is sending. First of all, what kind of justice somebody gets hinges upon what job they`re entrusted to handle while they`re in prison.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Exactly.

EIGLARSH: So it`s good to be the governor and it`s good to be the governor`s trustee. Had these four killers not worked in the governor`s mansion they wouldn`t have gotten the pardon.

Second of all: a pardon? You could commute their sentence if you think there`s something there. But why pardon? In other words, they can now walk around and say, yes, it didn`t happen. I didn`t do it. Sure. They can get that expunged from their record and go around and say they`ve never done anything.

Finally, the most outrageous thing is how the victims were treated here. They showed up probably every day to court back in the day, wanting justice and then here all of a sudden they just get -- they get raped by the system. It really was abhorrent.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And it`s also sexist. Five of the eight murderers released by the governor were convicted of killing their wives or girlfriends.

HLN`s Vinnie Politan calls the pardons the ultimate act of cowardice. You have to check out his commentary, hlntv.com.

We are all fired up over this.

And up next, we`re going to talk about missing toddler Ayla Reynolds. What`s going on there? Was there a party at her dad`s home? Why are we not finding out who was in the home the night she vanished? What`s the big secret? We`re taking your calls, 1-877-JVM-SAYS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is still no sign of the 20-month-old toddler whose father says vanished in the middle of the night from her grandmother`s home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was wearing -- last seen wearing some green pajamas with white polka dots that said daddy`s princess.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her father Justin Dipietro says the next morning she was gone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Searchers have scoured several blocks surrounding Ayla`s home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to pick her up and I want to hold her and I just want to tell her like she`s going to be ok.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would give everything I own if we could have her back. Please bring her back. Please. Just bring her back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s a race against time to find baby Ayla as the details around her disappearance get more and more and more mysterious and confusing. This toddler Ayla Reynolds disappeared -- look at her, look at how beautiful this angel is -- disappeared from her Waterville, Maine home more than three weeks ago. Her dad says he put her to sleep at 8:00 at night and the next morning she was missing. And he called cops and reported her missing.

I wonder, though, how does a child -- I`m not a parent myself, but I hang out with parents and I see them checking on their kids every 45 minutes, every 30 minutes, every 10 minutes minute. They don`t put a toddler to sleep at 8:00 at night and check on them the next morning. I`ve never seen that.

Cops have kept mum about the details that night, only saying several adults including one non-relative were at the house that night. There have been rumors about a party in the house that night baby Ayla disappeared. Now her paternal grandma has denied those claims.

But guess what? She`s also changed her story about her own whereabouts that night, first saying she was in the house and then saying, oops, no, I actually wasn`t in the house that night. So can her version of events be trusted?

Baby Ayla`s mom thinks that she is not getting the whole story. Listen to this from NBC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT LAUER, NBC HOST: There seemed to be some discrepancies in Phoebe Dipietro`s story -- that`s Ayla`s grandmother. At first she said there was no party the night Ayla disappeared at Justin`s home and that she wasn`t the last to go to bed that night. Now she`s saying she was not at the home the night that Ayla disappeared. Does it make you concerned that you`re not getting the whole truth?

MOTHER OF AYLA REYNOLDS: I know I`m not getting the whole truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And that woman, of course, estranged from the father of the child, she -- that woman -- was not in the home that night. She doesn`t even live there.

What do you think was going on inside that house? Call me, 1-877-JVM- SAYS.

Straight out to HLN law enforcement analyst Mike Brooks. Mike, you`ve been talking to your sources. What is law enforcement telling you about Baby Ayla`s family and the fact that the father won`t even say the obvious to the public, hey, who was there that night?

MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Law enforcement isn`t saying a thing.

But I tell you I think the grandmother, she speaks volumes, Jane. Why change your story? Why change your story at all? When she was asked, well, did you hear anything? No, I didn`t hear anything. I`m not sure who the last person to go to bed was. I`m not sure if the door was locked. Now all of a sudden she says, well, I wasn`t there, but the reason I changed my story is because law enforcement doesn`t want us talking about that.

You know what? I think that`s BS, Jane. Law enforcement, they`re not saying anything at all. The investigation goes on. You know, you see Kristen Reynolds, you see her dad, Don Reynolds (ph) he`s on there in tears.

Grandma -- I`m not trusting her story. Then, when asked, where were you really? Where were you? Well, I really can`t say because law enforcement doesn`t -- that is total BS. Just say, I was somewhere. I was somewhere. I`m not buying her whole story, and I`m not buying her conflicting stories. I`m not buying her change. I`m not buying anything she has to say.

And, you know -- and Justin, I`m still -- his -- he`s now out there putting up flyers, Jane? It`s about time. She disappeared on the 16th of December and now he`s out there putting up flyers? Now he`s acting like the concerned father? What about back then? Why weren`t you out looking for your daughter then, Justin?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`ve made some incredible points, but in her interview with CNN, to Mike Brooks` point, Ayla`s grandmother first gives the impression that she`s in the house the child disappeared from the night that she goes missing. Listen closely because she then changes it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You didn`t hear any noise?

PHOEBE DIPIETRO, AYLA`S GRANDMOTHER: I did not hear anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Then after that she says, oh, by the way, I wasn`t there that night. That is what Mike Brooks is talking about -- very strange indeed.

I want to go out to the phone lines because we`ve got Beth from Maine, the very state in which this is going down. Beth, your question or thought.

BETH, MAINE (via telephone): My question is, I`m wondering if there`s a possibility that the baby`s father may have been in some kind of an illegal mess and maybe he owed somebody some money or something and they may have taken that baby.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. I`m not really aware of any criminal background whatsoever. I don`t want to say anything -- this father, by the way, not considered a suspect or a person of interest. And so we don`t want to speculate in any way, shape or form.

But I have to tell you on the other side of the break we`re going to show you a video of little Ayla playing with her toddler cousin who was in the same room from which Ayla disappeared. How does the other child not see or wake up?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Where is baby Ayla? Her dad now finally coming forward and putting up these posters. This video from NBC`s "Today" show, and he`s also talking to NBC`s "Today" show. Let`s listen to what he has to say, and then we`re going to analyze.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUSTIN DIPIETRO, FATHER OF AYLA REYNOLDS: Initially the first few days I was emotionally incapable of coming out to do an interview. And I had been advised that by coming on and doing an interview by law enforcement that it could possibly hinder the investigation, and I`m here to help in any way I can.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok. So the child disappears December 17th and he`s just in the last few days come forward to talk. So many questions we`d like to ask him. Tell us who was in the home. What were you doing? Were you having a party or not? And how is it possible that -- we have this home video to show you -- little Ayla playing with her toddler cousin who apparently was in the same room where Ayla disappeared from, and this -- this cousin is fine, so that doesn`t make a lot of sense, Mark Eiglarsh, nor does the fact that a neighbor reported hearing a loud noise at 3:30 in the morning coming from this house that woke up her dog who apparently started barking. It`s a mess. What do you make of it?

EIGLARSH: Well, there`s a lot that doesn`t add up. Let`s start with the general. Statistics show that these child abductions typically are committed by those who are close to the child. So while they still should consider a random person coming in and taking the child, it would behoove law enforcement to continue to focus on those closest to the child.

Now you add in specifically that you`ve got grandmother clearly lying. I mean, this isn`t a mistake. There`s a clear lie here. They should continue to interview each one of these people who I apparently heard they are cooperating. They are actually sitting down. Nobody is invoking their rights, so continue to talk to them and find the inconsistencies in their statement, and maybe somebody gives up what happened.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Let`s face it. This isn`t the first time that we`ve had a situation where a child just vanishes into thin air. Remember the Baby Lisa case; that was not so long ago. That case remains unsolved. The mother went and got a box of wine. We remember that, right? And then she goes back to the home, drinks a box of wine and says she puts the child to bed, and that child goes missing. But in that case there were signs of forced entry.

In the case of missing baby Ayla from what I`ve read, the reports are that there were no signs of forced entry. So how does a baby disappear from a house with adults inside the house, possibly asleep, and then there`s no sign of forced entry? Something doesn`t add up.

We`re going to go to the phone lines, Maddy in Ohio. This is a Skype call that we`re taking -- we`re getting real high tech on you, people. Maddy in Ohio, your question or thought via Skype.

MADDY, OHIO: Well, I think that the grandma and the dad are in on something because all the stories are all messed up and all of them are lies, I don`t even know.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, ok, you make a very good point, and I`ve got to tell you that the little girl`s mother, Ayla`s mom, is estranged from this guy and feels that she`s not getting the whole story.

Now she has a history of addiction and went into rehab, and that`s one of the reasons why the child ended up with the father in the first place. So there`s issues on both sides, although I applaud her for going into rehab. She shouldn`t be penalized for that, but there are questions about this couple that is now estranged and their relationship.

More on the other side.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wendy Murphy, how do cops break this logjam and find out what happened to this child?

MURPHY: Well, I think they actually know a lot more than they are letting on, Jane, which is often the case. Here`s the thing. You know, I think the mother`s lying is intentional, a kind of prop meant to distract us from paying attention to the baby`s father. I mean I still want to focus on him. I know he`s not a suspect and so forth, but how can we as a lawyer, and we can`t even know the lawyer`s identity, because maybe we would find out it`s a criminal lawyer? I don`t know.

How come he doesn`t take his polygraph? How come, how come, how comes are all about the father? I think the mother`s lies are a distraction. I want to stay focused on, you know, the person we should be focused most on because he`s the most responsible adult in the room.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I think you`re absolutely right, and I think that it`s a tragedy that a voiceless, helpless toddler goes missing. And we don`t even know who was there when it happened.

"NANCY GRACE" next.

END