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Father of 2-Year-Old Gunned Down by Wife`s Boss
Aired February 23, 2012 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST: Here we go. A father gunned down dropping his sons off at daycare. The shooter, his wife`s boss and alleged lover. Insanity defense. A demon with a voice like Barry White and then angel with the face like Olivia Newton-John.
Also, the medical mystery we have been covering, was the original diagnosis for the New York teens right all along, could it happen to your kid? Let`s get started.
Good evening. Tonight, a man guns down a young father outside his 2- year-old`s daycare. Now he is pleading guilty by reason of insanity.
Now, we`re going to examine this plea and what his mental state is and what it all means. But first, watch this.
PINSKY (voice-over): 36-year-old dad, Rusty Sneiderman, just dropped off his son at daycare when a minivan pulled up behind him, a man wearing a fake beard disguise got out, approached Sneiderman and shot him several times at close range and fled.
After intense manhunt, the shooter was identified as Hemi Newman. Hemi Newman was not a stranger. In a strange twist, it turns out he was the boss of the victim`s wife. Prosecutors say Newman was in love with Rusty`s wife and the two were having an affair. They say Newman knew what he was doing and shot Sneiderman to get rid of his romantic rival.
The victim`s widow has denied an affair on the stand but admits the two held hands.
ANDRES SNEIDERMAN, RUSTY SNEIDERMAN`S WIDOW: I was doing the best I could to deal with that situation.
PINSKY: Newman pleaded insanity. He says voices in his head told him kill.
DON GEARY, ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY, DEKALB COUNTY, GEORGIA: Six foot dark demon. It looked and sounded like Barry White, a six foot bright white angel came to him. Looks like, sounded like Olivia Newton-John.
PINSKY: Now, Newman`s attorney says he has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, that he had a manic episode, he is psychotic, has delusional symptoms, he has hallucinations, he sees this vision, he hears voices.
The question here is, did maniac with bipolar disorder mania, did that cause him to kill or is it just a desperate defense in an attempt to save himself?
Straight to my guest. Former Miami-Dade county judge, host of "Judge Karen", judge Karen Mills Francis. And criminal profiler, Pat Brown.
Pat, I know you`re harder on people than I am. And you just think this is the way to get away with murder.
PAT BROWN, CRIMINAL PROFILER: Well, Dr. Drew, yes. We have seen it ever since David Berk with son of Samson, that dog made me do it. And then later on, he said not really, I just made that up.
It is about the only defense you have when you absolutely did it. So, you may as well go the insanity defense although it rarely works, especially when you target a specific person. You know, the angels didn`t tell him to kilt garbage man. Oddly enough, they told him to very cleverly kill the husband of the woman he wanted. So it is not a very good defense. I don`t think he is going to win in this case.
PINSKY: Isn`t it possible that he was bipolar? I mean, that this -- when I heard his symptoms, it is bipolar sense things like that, and they get very agitated, they get delusional and then go kill people, that happens sometimes.
BROWN: Well, I would look at his history. Did we see him having all these delusions prior to this or did they suddenly crop up that particular day when it was convenient. So, I think that`s what we`re going to see, we`re going to see the history of it, and I don`t think we`re going to find it.
PINSKY: Well now, speaking of history, apparently he did have a troubled childhood. He claims his dad who himself was a concentration camp survivor was mentally and physically abusive to him. He was sent to boarding school, and in Israel apparently at age 13, that`s when he says he began hearing voices.
Now, his attorney gave a few examples of manic episodes. Interestingly what I am going to tell you about is depression, apparently couldn`t get out of bed for a period of time in college. That`s the depressive stage of a lot of bipolar.
BROWN: A lot of us can`t.
PINSKY: Pat, I know I can count on you. But, I am sure Karen will get in the mix in a second. But in then a few years later, the bipolar quality. I want to educate people about what we`re talking about. They get euphoric, he bought his wife a diamond ring. He`s flying his kids out to expensive trips to Puerto Rico which kind of typical to me. They spend lots of money. They do all these kinds of stuff.
Karen, let me give you a chance to ring in here. Do you buy this defense? I mean, I don`t know why --
JUDGE KAREN MILLS FRANCIS, FORMER MIAMI-DADE COUNTY JUDGE: I don`t buy it at all.
PINSKY: Guys, you know what, I have to tell you something, as a physician I see lots of bipolar disorder. Don`t see lots of psychopaths. That`s why you begin with psychopaths.
FRANCIS: You know, he says he sees visions, what he saw was the Specter of death. This is a textbook first degree premeditated murder case. I mean he went out, bought a gun, and he told the gable he bought the gun from, don`t tell anybody you know me. He bought a disguise. He bout it to rent a car that was different from the car he normally drives.
I mean, this guy planned this thing from top to bottom. And it`s really convenient now that he`s on trial to say, by the way, I suffer from depression. Who doesn`t suffer from depression? You can walk into any Barnes & noble, go on amazon.com, buy books that tell you what the symptoms are manic depression are, what the symptoms of some of the other sigh coast east are.
But I don`t think he was psychotic at all. I think he knew exactly what he was doing. And he couldn`t come up with something better than Barry White? What is it? Never going to give you up? Can`t get enough of your love, baby? What was Barry White saying to him?
PINSKY: I have to tell you Karen --
BROWN: Or Olivia Newton-John, that`s even worse.
PINSKY: I must tell you, ladies. That`s the part, I know we`re laughing and it is funny, but that`s the part of it that actually rang true for me. It was so random and bizarre, it is hard to think. I mean, if I were just dreaming up a bipolar defense, I would say an angel visited me, you know an angel, angel and he told me to do things. People don`t know enough about bipolar usually to go to bring in the bizarre quality with bipolar.
FRANCIS: Come on. Elvis has left the building. I mean --
PINSKY: Maybe they have good consultants.
FRANCIS: He could have done better than this.
PINSKY: Let me ask this. Yes, go ahead.
FRANCIS: He was on the phone with his wife six different times right after he committed this murder. My question was how did he know at what time and at what place this husband was going to be? I`m really surprised the wife hasn`t been charged with anything here. It seems really convenient. Seems really convenient. I mean, you have witnesses that say they saw them, you know, feeling up on each other. We have e-mails where she`s away on vacation, he writes to her, says oh, my God, I wish you were here with me, she writes back ditto. I mean, what does that say? They had something going on here.
And another thing, can I say one other thing, this woman was the only one bringing in an income in this household. He wasn`t working. The victim was a house husband. Maybe she thought it would be convenient to get rid of this guy. Maybe she thought he was free loading at this point, even though he was a Harvard graduate.
PINSKY: Wow. You guys think only the worst of people. I`m impressed.
FRANCIS: Well, we see the worst of people.
BROWN: This is a murder, Dr. Drew.
PINSKY: What`s that, Pat?
BROWN: This guy was a murderer, a cold-blooded murder. And the second thing, I agree with this idea about the wife because I have seen it too many times. A guy usually kills because the woman encourages them to do so to get rid of her husband.
Now, the problem with prosecuting her, you have to prove she told him absolutely to do it. And what she can do is hint, like boy, we`d have a better life together if he weren`t around, wink, wink. And if he is already psychopathic, he will take her up on that suggestion and she tells him sort to where her husband will be at what time. He just picks up our son at 8:00.
FRANCIS: And when the school called her to tell her that there was an incident at the school, the school didn`t say it involves your child or involves your husband. She didn`t even call her husband. She didn`t even text her husband and say there`s a problem at the school. Why? Maybe she knew he was dead already.
PINSKY: And Karen, one last thing for you. Don`t the courts look at the -- they don`t seem to care as much about history as those of us that are clinicians do. Evidence of psychopath in the guy or the woman or the wife. They don`t seem to look at that. I have about 30 seconds. Can you tell me --
FRANCIS: No. What they look at what was the psychotic mind of the person at the time of the incident. This guy planned this thing out too well to a specific person as the doctor just said that he couldn`t have been psychotic at that time. Doesn`t matter if he was psychotic yesterday.
PINSKY: Guilty. That`s it! It is over. The case is done. So thank you, ladies. Coming up.
FRANCIS: Thank you, Dr. Drew.
PINSKY: Including us laugh when they hear this man says Barry White and Olivia Newton-John are the voices in his head. But those of us with bipolar, it is funny but not that funny. Before you write it off as a defense as my guests just did, I really want you to be -- understand things about bipolar disorder. You won`t believe what can trigger a manic episode, how quickly it can turn deadly. I am going to talk to a bipolar soap star who says he almost killed his wife during a manic episode and we have her here as well. That`s next.
PINSKY: And tonight, the trial is presently under way for a man that gunned down a Georgia dad while he was dropping off his toddler as daycare. It`s a very sad story. The accused killer, Hemi Newman, has pleaded guilty by reason of insanity.
Now, insanity due to a bipolar state is what he claims. And although you heard my legal experts a few minutes ago completely squashing that defense, I did want people to understand what the condition is and why when he made this defense, it sounded like it could be bipolar disorders.
So, we are getting into this a little bit. I am joined by general hospital star Maurice Bernard. Maurice has suffered from bipolar disorder for quite some time, and he actually is in a manic state tried to kill someone, his wife. And Maurice`s wife, Paula Bernard is also on the phone with us. Hi Paula.
PAUL BENARD, MAURICE BENARD`S WIFE (via telephone): Hi.
PINSKY: Hi there. We will get to you in a second. And I got Melanie Moezzi. He joins us by via Skype,. She`s a spokesperson for bipolar disorder and sufferers, people that suffer from the disease.
And I also got psychiatrist from Harvard medical school and author of "the Emotional Calendar" Dr. John Sharp.
So Maurice, I go to you first. You had a manic state. And was this before you were diagnosed? Or this was when you stopped medication?
MAURICE BENARD, ACTOR, BIPOLAR SPOKESPERSON: Yes. You know, basically with me, every time I stop taking my medication, something happens again. I have been taking it now for 20 years straight.
PINSKY: That`s what we call mood stabilizing medication.
MAURICE BENARD: Yes, lithium.
MAURICE BENARD: Saved my life.
PINSKY: Yes. and so, when you were in the manic state, what did it look like, what did it feel like when you were in it?
MAURICE BENARD: Racing thoughts, grandiose.
PINSKY: Spending lots of money?
MAURICE BENARD: Not buying cars and that kind of stuff, because at that time I don`t think I had the money but you know, yes, you spend, you don`t care what kind of money you spend, and my thing is anger comes with it.
MAURICE BENARD: Yes. That can get scary.
PINSKY: Did you hear the defense?
MAURICE BENARD: I was watching in the back.
PINSKY: Do you think that`s plausible? Sound like bipolar to you?
MAURICE BENARD: Somewhat, somewhat.
PINSKY: How about his capacity sorts to systematically plan it out. It is not like you`re detached from reality all the time.
MAURICE BENARD: No. You brought up, I threatened to kill my wife during one manic episode. But for me, even though I am saying I am going to do it, I knew I wouldn`t do it. For me, it was all about getting her to believe that I would.
PINSKY: So you think this guy having done it is something else?
MAURICE BENARD: Well look, I don`t know. I can only speak for myself. I mean, was there drugs involved? I don`t know.
PINSKY: Interesting question. Great question. Paula, let me go out to you. What was it like to see him in that condition? Must be very scary for family members.
PAULA BENARD: Yes, it was horrifying. I mean, it is just one of those -- go ahead.
PINSKY: No, you, please, go ahead.
PAULA BENARD: It is one of those times where I felt like this is my husband, but this is not my husband. And I was able to see a difference.
PINSKY: And you heard this defense of this gentleman that killed this man in Georgia. Did that make sense to you? When you saw your husband in that agitated state, did you feel he could do something completely off the scale from what he would normally do?
PAULA BENARD: I do, yes, and then Maurice at that time also had alcohol. I mean, at that time he had drank an excessive amount of alcohol. So I believe absolutely it was possible. He doesn`t, but --
MAURICE BENARD: I don`t think so.
PAULA BENARD: Me --
MAURICE BENARD: We`re going to have an argument.
PINSKY: Let me, Paula, I am going to side with you. I am going to side with you. I`ve seen some really wild behavior of people in a manic state they would never do when they`re what we call it (inaudible) stage, when they stabilized. And I have seen super human things happen. I have seen people dive through plate glass and stuff and squeeze through tiny holes, and I`ll tell you the characteristic for people at home if they wonder if they have this, characteristic thing that my manic often say is, I figured it out. You feel like you understand everything, you understand the universe. And so, that`s a manic state.
PAULA BENARD: You know what, my husband thought he was psychic. He literally --
MAURICE BENARD: But I was psychic.
PINSKY: He says he is psychic. That`s back to you fighting again. Hold on. Let me go to my guest on Skype. Melody. Melody, does all of this conversation sound familiar to you?
MELODY MOEZZI, SPOKESPERSON, BIPOLAR DISORDER (via Skype): It sounds familiar, but at the same time I think it is very important. I have bipolar disorder, so I know exactly what you`re talking about, but the majority of people with mental illnesses are victims of violent crime, not perpetrators. And it is unfortunate that when events like this happen, suddenly we begin talking about mental illness, but we need to be talking about the majority of people with mental illness who does not commit crimes.
Of course, if you`re in a manic state, that`s horrible and you may do a lot of horrible things, but most people are not consistently in a manic state, and there are amazing treatments. As I`m sure you know, Dr. Drew, for bipolar disorder the problem is the stigma prevents people from taking medication.
PINSKY: You know, manic like their manias, too, it is hard to get people to skip taking medication. You tried it at the time.
But Melody, you bring up a really important point. Let me list a couple of people we know and discussed publicly their bipolar disorder. You will see, these are extremely capable gifted people. Catherine Zeta Jones, she entered a treatment facility for bipolar just last year. Demi Lovato went to treatment, diagnosed bipolar. Sinead O`Connor told Oprah she was a bipolar, Linda Hamilton diagnosed, Carry Fisher diagnosed at 28, Patty Duke has talked for years about her bipolar disorder.
So, these are rich, rich important people on all our radar, so it is not that somebody is bad or as you say, Melody, can become a bad person, do bad things because of mental illness.
MAURICE BENARD: You named a lot of women. Seems like men don`t want to talk about it.
PINSKY: Well, let me go to Dr. Sharp. Dr. Sharp, do me a quick favor, I have a minute and a half, and let`s differentiate the two types of bipolar. And Maurice brings up an interesting point. Are men diagnosed less frequently or just less likely to talk about it.
DOCTOR JOHN SHARP, PSYCHIATRIST, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL: Thanks, Dr. Drew. Absolutely, it is so important to try de-stigmatized this. And I think Melody makes a good point. That you don`t want people to think people who have bipolar disorder kill people. I mean, it really is so highly unlikely and rare.
But to answer your question, bipolar disorder is a mood disorder, right So, you have normal mood swings, up and down. People with bipolar disorder have extensive downs as well as extensive ups. That`s the bipolar. So, it is like depression plus separate, discrete periods of mania.
And if it is through the roof mania, we really out of touch with reality testing, where you`re crazy manic, that`s bipolar one. And if you don`t reach those intense high, but you still get a naturally high elevated expense and irritable, grandiose, then that`s bipolar two.
So, those are the kinds of bipolar disorder. I don`t know whether this man had either one though.
PINSKY: And really quickly, 20 seconds. Are men less likely diagnosed or less likely to talk about it?
SHARP: Less likely to talk about it. And the one big point I want to make is that psychosis is a matter of severity. So, you can`t be a little bipolar and psychotic. So, this guy would have had to be really bipolar to be that crazy. I don`t know if the behavior is consistent with that.
PINSKY: I agree with you. That`s an interesting conversation. Thanks to the panel. Maurice, Paula, Thank you. Dr. Sharp, and of course, Melody.
Coming up, the victim`s widow takes the stand. We are going to take a look about at her body language with a body language expert. So, do not go away.
PINSKY: Tonight, the trial is under way for the Hemi Newman. He has accused of shooting a young father who had been dropping off his son at daycare as we said terribly, terribly sad story. Now, it turns out he knew the victim`s wife, he was her boss. Prosecutors say they were having an affair. She says she previously ignored his advances, but knew that he was kind of obsessed with her. Her testimony was at times, call it bizarre. Take a look. You decide for yourselves.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many times did you call Rusty?
SNEIDERMAN: Call Rusty?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rusty.
SNEIDERMAN: Zero times.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why didn`t you call Rusty?
SNEIDERMAN: Because they told me something happened to Rusty. What are the chances he is going to be answering his cell phone?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: I am joined by body language expert Mark Edgar Stevens.
Mark, what did you see during her testimony, right there, people repeat a question to me, I immediately think they`re trying to think of an answer.
MARK EDGAR STEVENS, BODY LANGUAGE EXPERT: That`s right. And you know, it is what miss America does when you ask her a question, she repeats the question so she has a chance to think about it. When we`re telling the truth, we are able to come out with whatever it is we`re going to say.
STEVENS: When we have to makeup what we think the person wants to hear, we do pause, we do stop, we do use things to delay to get a chance to think about it.
PINSKY: And the typical one is asking the question over.
STEVENS: Yes. Yes.
PINSKY: That`s how people - whenever it`s like on my show "Love Line" on the radio, which I still do by the way. You should check it out. When people call on something bogus and I asked, you know, what was she wearing that night? What was she wearing that night? I know immediately.
If it was an intense thing like your husband just died, you would know everything that happened every second.
STEVENS: When we remember the truth, we don`t have to think about it because it is in our minds that already. When we are making up stories, we`re always thinking about it. It is the thing that slows us down. She does something else that`s interesting. She showed surprise. Oh, my husband Rusty? Yes, your husband Rusty.
PINSKY: Now, this is her. Look at her. She`s crying now on the stand. We are watching her. Did you buy that as authentic emotion? Or did you have a chance to look at it.
STEVENS: I didn`t have a chance.
PINSKY: I saw anguish, right?
STEVENS: Here is the thing. That`s with body language, we never know why the person is feeling what they`re feeling. We know what they`re feeling. One of the things she shows a lot in the interviews, anger. She gets very angry, almost that she has to sit there.
PINSKY: I see she`s hurt right now. What was she showing is that in dig nation?
STEVENS: Look, how she is covering her mouth. Covers her mouth. She doesn`t want to have to deal with what`s going on. She doesn`t want to have to be up there in this particular situation.
PINSKY: OK. So, she feels uncomfortable being there. Not necessarily because she`s duplicitous, but the whole thing makes her angry.
STEVENS: It makes her angry. An again, I can`t say whether she was in on this or she wasn`t, but she looks like somebody messed this up and now it has gotten her involved. That`s my feeling looking at this.
I mean, look at her. Look how defensive she gets. Someone in this situation would show more sadness.
PINSKY: In a second you see her crying, the sadness. See that?
STEVENS: Yes. Yes.
PINSKY: And the head goes back, that`s the anguish again.
PINSKY: I see the anguish.
STEVENS: Yes. But let me ask you, what does it look like she`s doing, does it look like all natural and happening or look like it is forced?
PINSKY: Looks like it is through a prism and anger and something.
PINSKY: There some prism there its pushing through.
STEVENS: I think this woman is thinking a great deal about what she needs to be saying and what`s going on, and I think she`s thinking a little too much to make me comfortable feeling like it`s all a natural thing.
PINSKY: Mark, thank you very much.
STEVENS: You`re welcome.
PINSKY: For that insight. We will keep up on the story.
Up next, your questions and comments on for instance, one thing, a new weight loss drug that`s a medication you heard about. I am going to talk about that.
Later, an update on the ticking and twitching girls in Leroy, New York. Some - they are showing (inaudible). Go to hlnTV.com to read more about this or any other story we`re talking about tonight. We`re back after this.
PINSKY: Rumors seem evident for a new prescription weight loss pill for the first time in many years, but is it safe?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY (voice-over): Approval seems imminent for a new prescription weight loss pill for the first time in many years, but is it safe? I`m taking your calls.
And later, medical mystery seemingly recovering. A breakthrough in the strange affliction in Le Roy, New York that`s made life a living hell for at least a dozen teenage girls and their parents. Was it conversion disorder after all? We`ll make sense of this for you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY (on-camera): Now, suppose your doctor offered you a pill that would help you lose about 10 percent of your body weight within a year. No dieting per se, no exercise, just a pill. Well, it`s here. An FDA Advisory Committee endorsed it this week. The drawbacks as with any pill, remember this, guys, you put a pill, a medication, all dangerous. It`s whether the risks are worth it.
So, in this case, the risk are heart problems, memory loss, birth defects. So, would you risk it? Something to think about it. Now, Donny on Facebook here who writes, "I`m overweight with diabetes and I need something like that to get me on my way to a healthier me. I think when taking a pill like this, it should come with mandatory nutrition classes so when the pill is gone, you cam continue to eat the right way. I do that in a heartbeat."
And you know, I don`t know for sure that`s how the pill is going to be used. It might be something that people take long term that possibly might be advocated that way. They haven`t made the recommendations yet. But I like the way you`re thinking. You do it to lose the weight. You`re diabetic. The consequences are profound if you don`t lose the weight. It might, for you, be worth the risk taking something like this.
Along the same lines, Lorinda writes, "I`m obese with risk factors for heart disease. I have glaucoma. I`m carrying the Alzheimer`s gene, 99 percent, according to the gene test. As a physician, as an MD, would you prescribe Qnexa to me?" And of course, she`s putting me on the spot. Thanks for that, Lorinda.
Qnexa is this new medication that has been approved. What it is is a combination of a low dose of something called topiramate. It`s also called Topamax for (ph) long time. It`s an anti-seizure med. It`s a mood stabilizing med. You might use it in a bipolar patient. And I`ve used it for people to help people lose weight in low doses for a long, long time and it`s effective.
Main thing is, again, birth defects and liver inflammation, worry about that a little bit. But, for people who really need to lose weight, it has been effective. The other medicine, again, Qnexa is topiramate and phentermine. Remember phentermine? Remember Phen-fen? I saw disastrous from Phen-fen. Phentermine is a psycho stimulant.
So, phentermine scares me. I`m not saying don`t do this, but I`m saying if you have any history of addiction, you have bipolar disorder, phentermine not for you. Maybe just take the Topamax by itself, the topiramate, and not the Qnexa. This is going to be an interesting thing to see how it works out.
Again, here`s how I suggest to lose weight. Move more, eat less. That`s the best way to lose weight. Exercise, eat less. If you can handle that. Now, I`m not unrealistic about these things, I understand it`s very hard. Some people need a little help. And certainly, there`ve been surgeries and things advocated. That`s how desperate people get to prevent the consequences of not losing that weight. So, it`s a controversial, but a big deal.
Dawn from New Mexico is calling me. Hey, Dawn.
DAWN, NEW MEXICO: Hi, Dr. Drew.
PINSKY: What`s up.
DAWN: Thank you so much for taking my call.
PINSKY: My pleasure. What`s up?
DAWN: I have just a quick comment and then a question.
DAWN: this last week between Whitney Houston and then Oscar De La Hoya, I was so encouraged at his story, and then, last night with Andy Dick on, a range of different addictions and experiences.
PINSKY: I think -- are you an addict, Dawn, yourself?
DAWN: I am. Both of my parents were addicts and alcoholics. My father on the paternal side was a third generation.
PINSKY: OK. So, is what you`re trying to spit out there that you were motivated by what those guys were saying, that you would like to get sober yourself?
DAWN: I do. I have been on fentanyl patches for almost five years now.
PINSKY: All right.
DAWN: I was a risk taker. I did a lot of extreme sports, and I had a very bad rock climbing accident.
PINSKY: Right. And you know that risk taking, Dawn, goes along with the genetics, the profile of biology of being alcoholic addict. So, let me just say this. You need to detox. You need to get of the meds. People will bring up a thing called suboxone to do the detox. Please get off it immediately.
It is not -- you`re just trading one for another if you end up staying on the suboxone or the methadone (ph). I don`t advocate that. To restore a truly flourishing life, you need to detox. You need to get in a program just like Andy and Oscar and whoever else we had on this program talking about, and it takes a long time when you`ve been an opiate addict. It takes a long time.
And I would advocate a structured environment, say, for next three months or so if you can -- even if it`s just a sober living. Someplace -- you think Oscar was fragile. When you come off opiates, you`re even more fragile.
DAWN: Well, my first opiate was six years old.
PINSKY: I know.
PINSKY: But my dear, you`re motivated now, let`s do this. Let`s live a flourishing life. Let`s live like you`re meant to live, not the one on the couch, half stuporous from fentanyl, OK?
DAWN: Thank you so much.
PINSKY: Good luck, Dawn.
Shaleyna, she`s also on the line from Wisconsin. What`s your question there?
SHALEYNA, WISCONSIN: Hi, Dr. Drew.
SHALEYNA: How are you doing today?
PINSKY: I`m good. Shaleyna, is that right?
SHALEYNA: No, it`s Shaleyna.
PINSKY: Shaleyna, I beg your pardon. What`s going on?
SHALEYNA: It`s OK. Don`t worry about it.
PINSKY: What`s up.
SHALEYNA: I was a teen mom. I became pregnant at 15 and gave birth at 16. Then got married and had another child at 18, soon after I was divorced. I struggled as a teen mom.
PINSKY: And I`m sure, Shaleyna, you know that teen moms, the vast majority in divorce and not with the dad around. Is the dad still around?
SHALEYNA: He is around for his children, yes.
PINSKY: OK. That`s good. So, you got that part. So, what`s going on now?
SHALEYNA: I did manage to have my own place since age of 16. I am now 24, remarried, and have a new baby.
SHALEYNA: My children are amazing, and I`m just scared that history will repeat itself.
SHALEYNA: I just wonder you might be able to give some words of advice. They`re all girls.
PINSKY: Well, Shaleyna, here is the one thing is that one of the highest predictor of being a teen mom is having had a mom that was a teen mom. And I think that`s what you`re talking about, right?
SHALEYNA: Right. Yes. My mother wasn`t a teen mom, but I am.
PINSKY: OK. Now, honest to goodness, this is going to sound sort of self-serving, but I believe in that show we`re doing, the "Teen Mom" and "16 and Pregnant." I believe it shows the consequences. So, use that as a model. You`re still going to be mom. And they`re going to think, oh mom, you`re great. I love you. How bad could it have been to be a teen mom?
You need to find other 16, 14, 18-year-olds who were actually struggling with the teen pregnancy to tell your kids when they`re that age exactly what the reality is like because they don`t hear it well from adults. That`s why these MTV programs work so well. It`s the actual destruction of the young people`s lives, a story they can relate to from a relatable source.
So, please, yes, keep educating, keep talking about it. I think you`re going to have great success. You seem enlightened and get other teens to talk to them when the time comes, OK?
SHALEYNA: Definitely, thank you so much.
PINSKY: Well done.
Now, next up, I have an update on the medical mystery, so to speak, that plagued the teen girls in upstate New York, the town of Le Roy. There was twitching and ticking. Remember all that stuff? But the fact is they`re improving now, and the question is, are they improving because they got some treatment? There was a diagnosis made. We`ll talk about that. Or was it all conversion and they just kind of got better the way we expect conversion would. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAUREN SCALZO, IMPROVING FROM "MYSTERIOUS ILLNESS": I want all this to stop. I want all this pain to like go away like I hate seeing people on a daily basis, like do what we do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: All right. Now, welcome back. What`s been going on in Le Roy, New York in the past months? It, in fact, had the entire nation sort of scratching its head. I certainly was interested in it. Twelve healthy teenage girls and others spontaneously started stuttering, and twitching and ticking, uncontrollably.
Some were plagued by verbal outbursts, and we even saw some seizure- type activity. Here`s a reminder of what consumed the town from much of the fall and winter.
PINSKY (voice-over): Remember this, a dozen teenage girls in Le Roy, New York spontaneously ticking and twitching. They developed the symptoms around the same time in the fall.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They don`t want people to see me because everyone stares and says things they shouldn`t, and it`s just makes me want to cry.
PINSKY: A doctor treating them says they suffered from conversion disorder, a very real condition resulting from trauma or stress. It, sometimes, can affect groups of people. In the Le Roy case, most of the suffers attend the high school and junior high school there. Some in town disputed the diagnosis, believing that something else, maybe an environmental cause, was to blame.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What`s going on? Is it something contagious? What`s causing all these girls at once to come down with the same sort of symptoms?
There was a toxic spill resulting from a train derailment in the town decades ago. Chemicals were thought to have leeched into the soil and were released, perhaps, by heavy rains and flooding, the same time the symptoms appeared. Environmental activist, Erin Brockovich, joined the cause conducting independent tests.
The results haven`t been revealed. Meanwhile, another reason for the ticks was offered PANDAS or Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder, which is associated with strep and other infection.
Those treated with antibiotics are the ones who seem to be showing improvement. Most medical experts believe the symptoms would improve, and eventually, go away. And, so far, in a couple of cases, that maybe so.
PINSKY (on-camera): Now, we send our own team to investigate and found that the site of the train derailment had not been properly maintained. Tonight, we have some news. Some of the girls, apparently, have gotten better over the past three weeks, some did have antibiotics, and the question is to what extent that they played a roll here or was this a placebo or something else.
Joining us with an update is Dr. Laszlo Mechtler. He has been treating the girls from the beginning, and psychiatrist, Dr. John Sharp, who`s a faculty member at the Harvard Medical School and author of "The Emotional Calendar," and mom and daughter, Lana Clark and Lauren Scalzo. Lana, I`m going to start with you. And what, I`ll start with Lauren. Lauren, how are you doing?
PINSKY: You look more comfortable. You look like you`re having less symptoms.
PINSKY: Certainly, smiling a lot more, mom, isn`t that right?
LANA CLARK, DAUGHTER WITH "MEDICAL MYSTERY" IMPROVING: Yes, she is. She is. She`s doing really well.
PINSKY: And Lana, how is the community doing? You know, I`ve met -- we`ve talked about all the consternation with the school and the information slow to come out. Is that all settling down?
CLARK: Yes. The community is awesome. There`s a lot of people out there that are very, very supportive. Everything is looking on the up and up.
PINSKY: And Lauren, has she -- since things getting better, has her behavior changed in any way?
CLARK: Yes. I mean, less headaches, stomachaches, no ticking, and she`s been more energetic. And, she`s been doing really well.
PINSKY: Smiling more, that`s for sure. I want to remind people we`ve been talking about conversion disorder, if you haven`t really following this story with us. I want to explain once again what that is. Symptoms usually begin or can begin after a stressful experience. People are at more risk for conversion if they also have medical illness, other psychiatric and personality disorders.
Symptoms include poor coordination or balance, paralysis in arm or leg, inability to speak, vision problems, and things that look like seizures and convulsions. Dr. Mechtler, thank you for joining us. What`s your sense of what`s going on? Is this just the natural history of conversion or did Dr. Trifiletti`s intervention with antibiotics have something to do with this?
VOICE OF DR. LASZLO MECHTLER, DIAGNOSED LEROY TEENS: As you know, we have not seen all the patients. We`ve seen the majority of the patients. Right now, we`re actively seeing about 11 of these young ladies, and as you well know, one boy. We feel that the diagnosis is a form of conversion disorder. And as you stated before, mass psychogenic illness which is basically conversion disorder occurring in a group of individuals that are in a small area.
We still maintain that the diagnosis, and we reached out to experts around the country who felt and have been supportive of that. So -- and the good news is no matter what the treatment has been, most of these young ladies are improving. In fact, of the 11 patients are still with us, (INAUDIBLE) myself, eight are improving and three are back to normal.
In fact, a patient today requested that they go back to work tomorrow. So, you know, there is some good news, and I`m pleased to see that they are improving, and this is what we expected, especially over the last two weeks when things have been settling down a little bit.
PINSKY: Great. And also nice to see the community sort of settling a bit as well. Now, I mentioned Dr. Trifiletti, and again, if you haven`t been following the story, he came forward and started throwing around the term PANDAS, which as I said, stands for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder, classically associated with streptococcal infection.
It`s -- in recent year, it become a term used to describe a subset of children who developed obsessive compulsive disorder and/or tic disorders such as Tourette`s-like syndrome and whom symptoms worsen and following a strep infection. They also say it can follow other kinds of mycoplasma infection, Lyme disease has been thrown in the mix.
Dr. Sharp, I want to go to you. You know, I`ve worked in a psychiatric hospital for over 20 years, and I`ve seen psychiatrists reach for medical explanations for psychiatric problems as long as I`ve been a physician, which is almost 30 years now. I suppose that`s the responsible thing to do because a lot of things through history of psychiatry ended up being medical.
Do you think that treating these girls as PANDAS, because apparently, they had some positive tests, some antibody tests that suggested they had these infections, do you think treating them had any effect on this progress we`re seeing?
DR. JOHN SHARP, PSYCHIATRIST, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL: Well, you know, it`s a great question, Drew. Let me point out that when you`re treating conversion disorder, there certainly are objective findings. You know, we can`t talk about them on TV, but you got to be able to understand in these girls` psychology, you know, why this reaction would have been set forth, what makes sense about it.
And you`ve got to address it with a specific treatment plan. And part of that treatment plan is actually somatic. So, it could be neuromuscular, biofeedback or physical therapy or even some kind of infusion.
So, from my way of thinking, the girls who are working with Dr. Trifiletti, maybe they`re getting the right care, they`re getting some kind of IVs, something to treat their, you know, infectious exposure, but it also could be placebo. It could be something that`s helping them, a kind of face saving way out while their emotional issues are being addressed.
PINSKY: Now, we all mentioned Dr. Trifiletti. He was on the show some time ago. He`s been treating the girls, as we said. And here`s what he has said on this program, what he believes to be the potential cause. Let`s call it or inciting influence for this condition.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ROSARIO TRIFILETTI, PEDIATRIC NEUROLOGIST: We have some early results on some of the children. I can tell you that they are testing positive for -- each one is testing for either streptococcus or microplasma, which is are known triggers of the PANDAS syndrome.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: Dr. Mechtler, what`s the prognosis going forward? How do you expect the next few months are going to play out for this community and these girls?
MECHTLER: I think the community will get better, will heal as the young ladies will heal. You know, in my mind, the outcome is what counts. If they get better by receiving antibiotics in a reasonable fashion or if they get better with counseling and psychotherapy and group therapy, it really, really doesn`t matter to me.
Let these girls heal and with time, they will, and we`re optimistic that one day, we`ll be sitting down and talking to these young ladies and be back to normal. So, that`s our goal and I think that`s realistic.
PINSKY: Well, thank you very much. Finally, back to Lana and Lauren, you guys are the ones that are at ground zero and have been dealing with all this. Just something you put behind you and move on. Is this the time to do that?
CLARK: No. I mean, we heard today that there are more kids that are showing the symptoms. And, you know, I think we need to figure out actually what`s caused it. You know, whether it is an environmental issue, environmental trigger. I don`t know.
PINSKY: Well, I know, Lauren, that people are continuing to diligently call through the data to make sure nothing is being missed. So, we`re going to look at whether this thing has been solved when we come back. So, stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m done listening to you. You guys need to do something. You are not doing your job at all.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m not answering questions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: Welcome back. We are talking about the medical mystery in upstate New York. The investigation began because concerned parents just couldn`t sit back and watch their kids suffering. Doctors diagnosed some of the affected teens with conversion disorder. Other physicians have said it is PANDAS.
We`re still waiting for results from Erin Brockovich`s tests about the possibility of some environmental hit. Lauren, I want to go to you real quick. Lauren, did you just wake up one day and the symptoms were gone or did they slowly fade? Were you excited, happy? Tell me about that.
SCALZO: Well, they didn`t go away when I first woke up. They started to like calm down when I got on the medication that I`m taking, and like they`ve been like getting better. But like if I get extremely upset still, they will come back, and like they`ll be like not as bad as they used to be. Like they`d only be like the facial tics that I do, but like they`re calmer, not as bad.
PINSKY: OK. Fair enough. Fair enough. And before the break, Dr. Sharp, we heard Lauren`s mom, Lana, still wanting answers, still feeling like there`s some unfinished business in this story. Is there any harm, do you think, Dr. Sharp, in continuing to diligently cull through what we are collecting here and just leave the door open to the possibility that, at least, leave no stone unturned before we close the chapter?
SHARP: That`s right. And trying to make sure that everybody is benefitting from the wellness that we need to see the whole community achieve. You know, as long as people are moving forward with treatment, Drew, not waiting to find out the answer, but proceeding in a reasonable way with what makes sense, then we`re fine.
We want to build resilience. We want to help with stress management. We want to address the problems that we can see. And I think we`re seeing that that`s happening.
PINSKY: And then, finally, Lauren, how are the rest of your friends doing, some of the girls we`ve been watching over the months, is everybody getting better, everyone feeling better or are there people you`re still concerned about?
SCALZO: I think everyone is getting better. Tracy is like doing a lot better and like a lot of other girls are, too.
PINSKY: And Lana, any concerns as we go forward?
CLARK: Well, I`m a little bit concerned on how things will be when she finishes the antibiotics. I mean, because if it is an environmental issue, you know, I`m concerned what happens with repeated exposure, you know, after she is no longer on the medication.
PINSKY: OK. Well, the medication is not designed to prevent repeated exposure. It`s to eradicate an existing infection or existing process. So, it`s not something -- you don`t need to keep taking it to get the effect, unless, you`re taking steroids. Is she taking prednisone?
CLARK: Yes, she is.
PINSKY: OK. Well, then that`s a concern then because things can come back as you taper off that. That will be interesting, I agree. And hopefully, Dr. Sharp, I`m sure you agree with me that our expectation is they will continue to improve.
SHARP: Indeed. Indeed.
PINSKY: OK. Thank you to Lauren. Thank you to Lana. Dr. Sharp as always helping me out tonight both on this story and on our bipolar discussion earlier in the evening.
These cases are things we`re going to keep watching rather carefully. I hope you learned a little about bipolar disorder earlier in the evening. Obviously, Erin Brockovich, we`ve been reaching out to her. She is back in the country. We hope to get a report from her when they have some data soon. So, stay tune for that. I want to thank you all for watching, and I`ll see you next time.