Return to Transcripts main page


Mother Calls for Re-examination of Accidental Death Ruling

Aired August 7, 2012 - 19:00   ET


JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST: And tonight new twists and turns in the mysterious deaths at a tycoon`s beachfront mansion. A 6-year-old boy and his multi-millionaire dad`s girlfriend dead within days of each other last summer.

Police said young Max Shacknai had an accidental fall down the stairs. And Rebecca Zahau committed suicide. Case closed. But, no, now tonight Max`s mom is saying her son`s death was a homicide, and she is insisting this case be reopened. She joins me live in a moment.


VELEZ-MITCHELL (voice-over): Tonight, a shocking new twist in the million-dollar-mansion death mystery. A little boy`s supposedly alleged death and the allegedly balcony suicide of his dad`s girlfriend, all within one week, devastated a pharmaceutical mogul`s family.

Now the little boy`s mother says she has proof her son`s death was actually a homicide. If so, who did it and why? I`ll talk to the mother live tonight.

And brand-new developments in the hunt for a man accused of faking his own death. Cops have now arrested his 22-year-old son, claiming an e-mail chain proves the son knew what his dad was planning and even helped him carry out the sinister plot. Tonight, why does the missing man`s wife now say she is in fear for her own life?

Also, more Miley Cyrus drama-rama. The 19-year-old starlet tweeted a photo showing her bare midriff, sparking people to ask is the former Disney star just too thin? I`ll show you the photo. And I`ll take your calls.

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

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Max Shacknai fell down the stairs of this 27- room mansion near San Diego.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The home`s registered owner at 1043 Ocean Boulevard is Jonah Shacknai, an Arizona pharmaceutical tycoon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The body was found at the bottom of these stairs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Max was under the care of Rebecca Zahau at the time of his fall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I got a girl hung herself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, sir, is she still alive?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her hands and feet tied together.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was naked, her wrists and ankles tied with rope. These eerie photos show two knives used to cut the rope on the floor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The condition of the victim and the circumstances surrounding the scene are suspicious in nature.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Suicide and homicide at times can look very, very similar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The manner of death appears to be somewhat of a violent nature.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s still a mystery exactly what happened.

DINA SHACKNAI, MOTHER OF MAX: I hope that they will now make it right and reopen the case. And really find the truth about what happened to Max.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Good evening. Jane Velez-Mitchell coming to you live. Stunning new developments tonight in the San Diego mansion deaths that gripped the nation last summer.

Both the young son and the girlfriend of pharmaceutical tycoon Jonah Shacknai died within days of one other. Six-year-old Max`s death was ruled an accident. Girlfriend Rebecca Zahau`s death was ruled a suicide.

But tonight, Max`s mom says her child`s death was not an accident at all. And she`s got a brand-new report from experts that she says proves her son was assaulted and killed?


SHACKNAI: The results are we`re looking at a homicide. Real science doesn`t lie.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Max`s mother is my very special guest tonight. Will police listen to her and reopen the case?

Investigators say Rebecca found little Max unconscious at the bottom of the staircase at his father`s mansion. Two days later, as Max lay hospitalized in a coma, Rebecca was found hanging off a balcony at the very same mansion.

The circumstances of her death were beyond bizarre. Police say Rebecca was naked, her hands and feet bound behind her with a rope and a T- shirt stuffed in her mouth. A cryptic message painted on the door saying, quote, "She saved him. Can you save her?"

Four days after Rebecca`s body was found, Max tragically died from his injuries.

Even though a lot of people found the double deaths very weird and suspicious, police insisted there was no foul play involved in either of these two deaths.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were these deaths the result of criminal conduct? Was Max`s death a homicide? The answer is no. It was a tragic accident.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Joining me now, Max Shacknai`s mother, Dina Shacknai, and her attorney, Angie Hallier.

Dina, thank you so much for joining us. And first of all, my heart goes out to you over the loss of your precious son, Max. I know you are searching for the truth. And that`s why you hired your own team of forensic experts who have finished their report. So tell us about this report. Tell us what they concluded.

SHACKNAI: Well, thank you for having me on the show tonight. There were -- the independent experts that I retained have been working diligently for nine months. And the findings, after working in collaboration with one another, were that Max suffered from an assault first -- an assault scenario and then was the victim of a homicide.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, the people who were there, tell us exactly in your opinion who was at the mansion at the time that this incident with your son occurred.

SHACKNAI: From what I understand, the persons present, according to the coroner`s department, were Rebecca and her sister Dia (ph) Zahau.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So essentially, what do you say happened? Who did what to whom in your opinion?

SHACKNAI: I think that the experts that we have retained, Doctors Bove and Dr. Melinek, were so thorough in their -- in their investigatory process, and they have presented us with science. Dr. Bove really ruled out the scenario that Dr. Gomez presented. And the scenario that the Coronado Police Department presented really defied gravity. Max couldn`t have gone over that railing like he did.

And Dr. Melinek, a forensic pathologist and a chief -- a medical examiner substantiated this basically and said that there was an assault scenario. And the injuries that he had and the multiple plains of injury all over his body, including the top of his head, above his eye, on his back, abrasions on his back, bruises on his neck, that they were not consistent with an accident.

So I am really hoping and think that the Coronado Police Department will reopen this and that they are the experts who can determine what happened to Maxie.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let me say this. You`re saying that Rebecca, the girlfriend of your ex-husband, 32 years old -- and my understanding her kid sister, who`s about 13, are the only two individuals who are in the mansion at the time that this incident occurred with your son?

There is a picture of Rebecca, who is also deceased at this point.

Dina, our affiliate, 10 News, is reporting that you had instructed that Max should not be left alone with Rebecca, who, again, was the girlfriend of your ex-husband. You saw a picture there of them together. Is that true? And if so, why did you feel Rebecca should not be with your son when your ex-husband was not present?

SHACKNAI: Jonah and I had an agreement based on a meeting that she and I had the September prior to this. And at the time that I met her, she gave me a name that she had never used, as far as I knew, in this country. So she had used the name -- she gave me the name Rebecca Zahau, but at the time, her name was Rebecca Nalecka (ph). I didn`t -- she didn`t share with me that she was married at the time. And she didn`t share with me that she did have a shoplifting incident. And so these things were concerning.

As a mother you want to know who`s -- who`s taking care of your child. So not to share your name seemed very unusual and gave me cause -- concern to talk with Jonah, have an agreement and then go forward and learn a little bit more about why she didn`t share, you know, al that information in our first meeting.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. So you had concerns about your ex-husband`s girlfriend.

Listen to what cops believe happened to 6-year-old Max at his father`s mansion. And this is from affiliate KGTV.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something caused him to trip. Whether it was a ball, whether it was the dog or something that he then tripped and fell over that railing, grabbing the chandelier, twisting him around to where his back impacted the railing on the other side, went down to his knees and then to his head.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now our affiliate 10 News reports that your independent investigation showed it was not possible for somebody as short as little Max, who was 6 years old, to accidentally fall over the railing. And also that there were no injuries, according to your experts, on Max`s hands from grabbing the chandelier.

So Dina, I want to cut to the chase here. You`re saying that you don`t think this was an accident. So in your opinion what are you saying about who did what to your son?

SHACKNAI: What I`m saying is that I have received -- it`s been very hard to really remain silent about this. But what I`m saying is I`ve received reports from experts who have -- independent experts who have a great degree of knowledge in their fields -- their respective fields and they have presented me with compelling evidence that Max was assaulted and he was a victim of a homicide.

So I can`t say who did that. And I would hope that the -- given that we have presented the Coronado Police Department with real science -- and science doesn`t lie. And I hope that they take the science and then they open this investigation and they change the disposition of the case. And that`s what I`m asking for.

I know Rebecca`s family is grieving because she -- they have experienced the loss of a sister and a daughter. And I`m not in the position to say, because I`m not an investigator for the Coronado Police Department. I think it is their responsibility to more carefully look at this based on science that we have provided. And I hope they will do that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: One question, Angie Hellier, you`re the attorney for Dina. You`re sitting right next to her. These experts came up with a very different conclusion from police. So if it`s so evident to your experts, how did the police miss this?

ANGIE HELLIER, ATTORNEY FOR DINA SHACKNAI: You know, we don`t know. Dina was debriefed on what they were going to announce at the press conference, the accidental finding, just shortly before the press conference. At that time all she saw was the diagram. She received a copy of the Coronado Police Department`s biomechanical engineer`s report three weeks later, and that`s when the questions arose.

I don`t know if they didn`t have enough time. Our experts had nine months. I can`t speak for their investigation, but I can say that our experts thoroughly, thoroughly looked at the evidence locker. We were given access to the police records. We were given access to the medical examiner`s office. Jonah Shacknai provided us access to the residence where this occurred.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want to jump in for a second. Do you think that Rebecca Zahau was involved in Max`s death?

HELLIER: I don`t know. All I know is that we have the scientific evidence. We`ve presented it to the police department. We believe it`s their job. And we hope they will reopen the investigation. And as part of the reopening do further investigation to determine exactly what happened.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. I want to thank you, Dina and Angie. Dina, again, there are no words. I know you are suffering as a result of your son`s tragic death. And I know you want the truth. And that`s all we want too. So we ask those questions. Thank you so much.

SHACKNAI: Thank you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: On the other side we`re going to talk to an attorney for Rebecca Zahau`s family. And feel free to stay. And we`re going to, again, search for the truth.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rebecca Zahau was hanging from a second-floor bedroom balcony. Jonah`s brother, Adam Shacknai, was staying in the guest house across the courtyard. He told detectives he ran up after spotting her and cut her down. He called 911. Paramedics responded and performed CPR but couldn`t revive her.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Was that a suicide? And a couple of days earlier, Max`s fall, was that an accident? Two very strange and suspicious incidents two days apart at the mansion. Cops basically saying both of them not foul play.

But you just heard the mother of this precious child, Max, who tragically died. She`s hired independent experts who say, "Unh-uh, we feel that this little boy did not accidentally die, that there was an assault, that this was a homicide."

I want to go now -- and by the way, we reached out to Jonah Shacknai, who is the pharmaceutical tycoon -- there he is -- whose mansion this was, the father of this child. And obviously, he has suffered tremendously, as well. We did not hear back. He`s invited on our show or his representatives any time.

But I want to go to Anne Bremner. You represent the Zahau family. What is your reaction to what you heard from the mother, the devastated mother of little Max saying it was no accident, it was an assault?

ANNE BREMNER, ATTORNEY FOR ZAHAU FAMILY: Well, first, Jane, great to be on with you. And there`s too much grief to go around in this case. And I have, like you`ve said, so much empathy for Dina and Jonah Shacknai; of course for the family of Rebecca Zahau, my clients. She has parents that are grieving her loss, too.

But this case, we`ve been around now for a year going to the San Diego sheriff, going to the attorney general, going to the D.A. with investigation, talking to witnesses showing that this was not a suicide of Rebecca Zahau. I can count the ways, too. I know we`ve talked about this case before.

My reaction to what I just heard is you can`t get over the loss of a child. You want to look for answers. But these are not independent experts. They used the words "our experts." Dr. Melinek is charging $600 an hour, and she does point to Rebecca Zahau in these reports.

But these are independents, basically saying, "I see injuries on this boy`s face." What we heard from the experts from Coronado was that he fell on his face.

It`s just speculation and conjecture and baseless to say that this was a homicide.

And Dr. Bove, the other expert, said he couldn`t conclude anything. So that`s really what we have today. It`s a horrible loss, I know, but it`s not a homicide.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Now you -- your family, the family you represent, doesn`t feel that Rebecca killed herself.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s -- let`s show this. A woman is trying to do a re-enactment here, and she loops the ropes around her wrist. We`re going to show you this re-enactment video. It`s pretty extraordinary. And then you see this.

he police did this to prove that, oh, yes, Rebecca could have tied her hands and bound her feet and stuck a T-shirt in her mouth and still have jumped off the side of the mansion and found hanging naked from a balcony.

But what about this cryptic comment, "She saved him. Can you save her?" that was supposedly written on the door? And what about people who say women do not commit suicide naked, that it`s just not plausible?

BREMNER: Right. And this can take a Cirque du Soleil artist. And women don`t commit suicide this naked. In fact, there`s never been a case reported like this ever. And she had lividity in her back, which meant she died on her back, where her blood settles when you die. Not in her extremities where you go from hanging. And she had blunt force trauma to the top of her head. So this truly was not a suicide by any shape or form.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So what are you saying? Who did what to whom? I`ll ask the same question I asked the boy`s mother.

BREMNER: You know, it`s funny, Jane. In listening to what has just been said and what we`ve been looking at in all this case, we`ve asked for Max`s case to be reopened too. We asked for both cases to be reopened because we think there`s more questions about Max`s death.

We don`t say it`s a homicide. And we`re not pointing fingers in either case. These are horrible deaths. Seven weeks they took to investigate. That`s it. We`ve been involved since before they said it was a suicide. I think...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Are you saying that there`s some kind of cover-up? That police...

BREMNER: No. No. I think they just didn`t get anywhere. It`s not a cover-up. They just didn`t investigate the case fully. And I`d hate to say cover-up because I don`t think it was that sophisticated. They just didn`t finish.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Jon Lieberman, investigative journalist, your thoughts.

JON LIEBERMAN, HLN INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: I think that Anne brings up a good point. And perhaps they should open both of these cases up. I read this entire report. A few things stuck out to me, Jane. One was that -- a line in here, "An unassisted accidental fall, as depicted in Dr. Gomez` scenario, does not explain the subsequent resting position of the Razor scooter on top of Max`s leg, where there`s no bruising, and the complete lack of glass shard dicing injury to Max`s body." That stuck out to me.

Also this report does take a shot at the police, as well, saying that they saw no thorough psychological assessment of Rebecca Zahau, her mental state or inquiries into previous aggressive acts.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, on the other side we`re going to talk to somebody who talked to Rebecca, possibly hours before she died, next.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I got a girl hung herself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Sir, is she still alive?



VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Now, Jon Lieberman, tell us about who made that 911 call. Because that was the person who discovered Rebecca`s body hanging from the balcony.

LIEBERMAN: Yes. And that is so tragic. You heard that. I want to go back to what we were just talking about in the break, which is that also medical examiners and coroners, they can`t say that it`s murder, for example. They can say it could be criminally negligent homicide. They could say manslaughter. There are so many scenarios as to what this report indicates could have happened to that little boy. So I did want to point that out.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, now, the person you heard on that 911 call was the brother of the mogul. And he, by the way, was a tugboat captain who had heard about Max, his nephew, having this injury. And he raced in only to find his brother`s girlfriend hanging naked from the balcony. How bizarre.

Now, right before she died, Rebecca, the girlfriend, called a local day care company for dogs to arrange so she could go to the hospital where Max was being treated. Here`s what the dog day care owner told me last year.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very, very quiet. I would say very upset. But definitely not distraught or anything that would indicate she would have been suicidal. She did ask about the cost of us taking the dog to the veterinarian for the vaccination.

So that alone would indicate that, you know, if you`re going to commit suicide, why would you even care about the cost?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Good question, Anne Bremner.

BREMNER: Absolutely. And not only that. We have other people, of course, her sister, that talked with her. And she was fine.

And here`s no history of depression at all with Rebecca. And there`s no history of her having any kind of issues other than using her married name. I think we heard earlier she used her married name. A lot of people do from a prior marriage.

But there was absolutely nothing to indicate she would want to kill herself. She didn`t kill herself.

And then you also have other things we had in experiments where pulling on the bed with ropes, they were expert knots. She didn`t know how to tie those kind of knots. And pulling on the bed, it only went seven inches. May have been picked up and moved with those ropes. With an experiment done it went seven feet. You can go on and on about this case, but she wasn`t depressed. She didn`t kill herself. And it needs to be resolved.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Unbelievable mystery. We`ll stay on top of it.

Up next, another very bizarre story involving a disappearance, a fake one.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This guy, Raymond Roth, was pulled over for speeding in Florida last week. Everyone thought the 47-year-old was dead, drowned in Long Island Beach.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ivana Roth says she was worried sick until Wednesday when she discovered a disturbing chain of e-mails allegedly between father and son, detailing plans for Raymond Roth to fake his own death and disappear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did your dad force you to do it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He thought his dad, Raymond Roth, drowned ten days ago swimming at Jones Beach. Prosecutors say the younger Roth lied about that and instead may have been involved in a scheme to fake his father`s death.

He hasn`t come face-to-face with his family or with investigators who are looking for him and are now launching criminal charges against his son.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, breaking news as a tangled web of deceit unravels, a son arrested for allegedly helping his own dad fake his death and clean out the family bank account.

Tonight, the dad remains on the lam. His son is sitting behind bars. Twenty-two-year-old Jonathan Roth now faces charges of insurance fraud and filing a false report in connection with his father`s so-called disappearance. Prosecutors say young Jonathan tried to cash-in on a $50,000 life insurance policy only days after his dad supposedly vanished.

Jonathan Roth pleaded not guilty today. The judge set bail at $10,000.


CHRISTI MAYLEAI, JONATHAN ROTH`S GIRLFRIEND: He`s just scared and really upset. And he`s mad at his dad for throwing him into this. He really thought his dad had drowned.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: This all started when the son, Jonathan Roth, called 911 on July 28th to report his dad, 47-year-old Raymond Roth, was missing. He told cops his dad went swimming off Long Island and never came back. Rescue crews spent a lot of money and time searching for days, nothing turned up.

Now, prosecutors allege the younger Roth made it all up in order to help his father flee town. Then five days later the missing dad, Raymond Roth, turns up very much alive 750 miles south in South Carolina.

Cops pull him over for speeding at something like 90 miles an hour. Roth`s wife says that`s not all.


EVANA ROTH, WIFE OF RAYMOND ROTH: He emptied out my accounts Friday, Saturday morning even up to the time when supposedly we think that this poor man is drowning in the water, he`s driving.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Roth`s very unhappy wife says her husband also increased the size of his life insurance policy months ago. And now she says she fears for her life and wants a protection order. Cops believe her husband is back in New York laying low and they want to talk to him.

Will this dad let his son take the fall? Did prosecutors throw the book at the son to flush the dad out of hiding? Call me, 1-877-JVM-SAYS.

Straight out to HLN contributor, investigative reporter Jon Leiberman. Jon, it seemed like this guy who was a telecommunications manager, his life was falling apart. Connect the dots for us.

JON LEIBERMAN, HLN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. We`ve learned a lot, Jane, about this guy. For one, he had recently lost his job. For two, he had put his house up for sale for $550,000. And what you saw -- you know, people say why should we care about this story? I`ll tell you why, because police spend tens of thousands of dollars when they have to launch these huge air searches and land searches.

And this today by arresting and charging the son, this is a message to the father. They`re going to lean on this son. They`re building more of a case against the father. And they will eventually arrest him.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: The girlfriend of the son says she blames Jonathan`s dad for this entire mess.


MAYLEAI: I feel that his dad should be in the place of Jon. His dad should be the one in jail and arrested.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Matt Semino, criminal defense attorney, Huff Po contributor, here`s what I don`t get. Cops say we stopped the dad, Raymond Roth, in South Carolina for driving 90 miles an hour. We informed him that he`s listed as a missing person 750 miles away in New York. That he`s been searched for. And then they just let him drive off? What the heck were they thinking?

MATT SEMINO, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: They weren`t thinking, Jane. It`s absolutely unbelievable. But let`s remember here, it`s not necessarily illegal for someone to fake their own death. It only becomes illegal when it crosses the line into other criminal activity, which it looks like it has here.

One, he could have been trying to steal someone`s identity. Another one, he could have been trying to commit insurance fraud or conspiracy to commit insurance fraud with what his son has been charged with tonight.

So the investigators are going to have to first find him, question him and then start building a case against him just like they did with the son and they charged him today.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And we can`t find this Raymond Roth, but I say if you`re watching, "Come out, come out, wherever you are." We`d love to have you on our show to hear your side of the story, Mr. Roth.

At the core of this mystery, e-mails that this man, Raymond Roth, 47 years old telecommunications expert allegedly sent his son -- we got these from WCBS in New York -- in one dated the day before he vanished, Raymond Roth allegedly wrote "There needs to be a way for me to find out how things are going. Call me Sunday night at the resort. You cannot call from your phone."

A second e-mail purportedly says, "Hey, Number One, I need to get to the bank for cash for the trip. Do not allow that expletive to give the house away -- I think he`s referring to his wife in that one. No wonder she`s unhappy. The son insists he never got those e-mails. Now reports claiming the son tried to collect on his dad`s $50,000 life insurance policy.

Ann Bremner, criminal defense attorney, cops are definitely I think are putting the squeeze on this young man in order to flush the dad out. But he could go to jail for something like 15 years. Is there any way that he can kind of back pedal and put the blame on his missing dad?

ANN BREMNER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I mean, sure he can. There`s one thing you don`t want to do in the United States, Jane, is defraud an insurance company. I mean they go after you. They`ve got special units. They`ve got the police involved. I mean it`s nothing but trouble if you want to do it. So that`s a shout out to anybody who thinks about the smallest insurance fraud. You never want to do that.

That having been said, yes, they may want to use him to get the dad. He`s the real bigger fish. He`s out there thinking sometimes an unfortunate accident can be a man`s best friend. I don`t think so. What a world of hurt he`s in right now. And it`s all going to be -- he`ll end up in prison

VELEZ-MITCHELL: For sure. Oh, yes. I mean we don`t want to convict anybody. Again, in this story, there`s like at least three sides.

Raymond Roth`s wife describes an abusive marriage. We have no way of confirming that. But here`s what the wife and her attorney have said about this whole fiasco.


ROTH: Be nice. It`s kind of like a threatening message to like scold -- he was just that type of person that you could not communicate with. It was his way or no way at all.

LEONARD LEEDS, ATTORNEY: He`s threatened to kill himself according to Jonathan, his son. He`s threatened to kill Jonathan. And you know, Mrs. Roth says that he`s an alcoholic. He may be using drugs. And she`s very concerned because of that.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, my gosh, this wife says that she was completely duped. That she was grieving because she thought her husband had drowned off the coast of Long Island.

Hell hath no fury like a wife who has been lied to and whose bank account has been cleaned out. Judgment day awaits -- come out, come out wherever you are, Mr. Roth. Your wife wants to talk to you.

Time for your "Shocking Video of the Day"; watch this as this Massachusetts store owner decides he`s going to take matters into his own hands literally. Two suspected robbers try to hold up this convenience store with knives.

Look at this. The owner ends up having the last laugh. He strikes back with a stick from behind the counter. He says he`s been robbed earlier -- just last week, and decided, "Huh-uh, I`m not letting this happen again. It`s war."

Next, Miley Cyrus.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: And check out your viral video of the day. Awe, look at that -- a boy and his dog. Isn`t that the sweetest? They love each other and great for kids to get a companion animal. Make sure it`s a rescue. And spay and neuter your pet. Look at that.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Miley under attack.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Take a look at Miley Cyrus.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Miley Cyrus gets fed up with comments about her weight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The 19-year-old Miley, 22-year-old Liam are in fact engaged.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Destroying her little girl image with a roar that said I`m not a Disney princess anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And she`s saying this is what I look like. And it`s terrific.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: An Internet firestorm erupts over a twit pick from Miley Cyrus. Is the former Hannah Montana star losing too much weight and posting the results for all to see? Or is this Hollywood princess promoting a healthy, fit, lean lifestyle? We have the controversial image. You judge for yourself. Call us about this one.

This is the image Miley posted on Twitter. She`s posing in front of a mirror, her face obscured but she`s baring her incredible shrinking midriff. Her pants are loose but her striped top is skin tight leaving many to comment Miley looks way too thin especially for someone who previously embraced her curves.

When posting the picture, "My fiancee jeans, but for real though." I guess I`m not in the demo. That`s pretty cryptic as far as I can tell. But maybe Miley isn`t unhealthy.

Remember that even though she grew up in front of the camera, she hasn`t had any major Hollywood meltdowns. In fact, the only thing she`s ever been accused of doing is showing a little skin which she even sang about it when she hosted "Saturday Night Live". Watch.


MILEY CYRUS, SINGER: Never stolen that clip or got a DUI. Never cheated on my wife like that golfer guy. So what you can see, a little goof on the side. I`m sorry that I`m not perfect.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Call me, 1-877-JVM-SAYS. I want to hear from you.

Straight out to RadarOnline`s Alexis Tereszcuk who`s always on top of everything Hollywood; Alexis, what do you think motivated Miley to post this particular picture?

ALEXIS TERESZCUK, RADARONLINE: I think Miley is incredibly proud of having an amazing body. She works really hard. The thing is, she`s not working right now in Hollywood. So all she has time for besides hang out with her really cute boyfriend is going to the gym. Unlike other 19-year- olds who are in school or who have jobs, Miley has no job except to keep her body looking amazing and she`s actually doing a really good job of it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, we reached out to Miley Cyrus for comment, did not hear back. She`s welcome on our show any time -- boy, that would be a lot of fun. On Twitter she claims the reason she`s lost weight is she`s on a very specific food regimen.

"For everyone calling me anorexic, I have a gluten and lactose allergy. It`s not about weight. It`s about health. Gluten is crap." So she says gluten is one of the hardest things to do, giving it up.

I just want to go to Christine Avanti, celebrity nutritionist, author of "Skinny Chicks Eat Real Food". What say you about this picture -- let`s show it again? She gave up the gluten. And check it out.

CHRISTINE AVANTI, CELEBRITY NUTRITIONIST: I think she looks amazing. You know, here`s the thing, she is working hard. She`s eating well. Anorexia, it`s a disease. It has to be diagnosed by a physician. She is not -- she doesn`t look anorexic to me, number one. Number two, she looks great.

Here`s the thing, anorexia, people are saying, oh, it`s such a problem. She`s a role model. She`s putting thoughts of being too skinny in the minds of her fans. Give me a break.

Here`s the problem. The teenage obesity rate in this country`s at 17 percent -- that is a huge percentage. If you look back into the 1950s, we were at like maybe 1 percent. So how in all of these years have we gone up to 17 percent?

One in four teenagers will get diabetes. That is a major, major problem. It`s not one of four teenagers getting an eating disorder or anorexia. That`s less than 1 percent of our teens in this country. It`s 17 percent are overweight. One in four will get diabetes.

I think she`s an amazing role model. I`m not saying everyone needs to be on a gluten-free diet. But we need to get off this whole she`s too skinny, celebrities are too skinny.

Here`s the problem. We`re not facing our own bad eating habits. We`re not coming out and saying America is overweight. We need to eat better and get healthy. And I`m grateful for celebrities who actually eat well and are healthy and are role models like her. She`s not anorexic. She`s not having an eating disorder. She`s not hurting anything anybody.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So, Alexis, who is upset about this? Because somebody is.

TERESCZUK: Lots of people are upset. This is incredibly skinny. And you know what; there`s a huge amount of pressure on women in Hollywood to be very skinny. You see it for the celebrities who give birth and are pressured to drop weight immediately. All of the women in Hollywood are held up to this very high standard that they have to be so skinny. The camera adds ten pounds.

There`s a lot of pressure from everyone. And Miley felt it too. That`s why she`s writing back on Twitter. She feels that she has to be as skinny as possible to get roles, to keep her fiancee, to look good in clothes. There`s a lot of pressure in Hollywood. A lot of people don`t understand that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And so we are debating. Is this too thin? Or is it just lean and mean? Is she an exercise machine? Or is she thin for the wrong reasons? Is she an exercise machine or is she thin for the wrong reasons. Does she have an eating disorder?

I don`t know. We reached out to her. What do you think? Does she look good? What say you?

More next.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Time for our "Pets of the Day". Oh, look at these three. What a trio -- Charlie`s Angels. Leo and Grumpy are very, very handsome, statuesque.

These are our viewers` pets. Emme, you rock the house, Emme. Send your pet pics to Sophie, you rock.





VELEZ-MITCHELL: There`s Miley and here`s Miley`s twit pic that`s causing an uproar.

Let`s go out to the phone lines, Vivian in Michigan, your question or thought, Vivian? Vivian?

VIVIAN, MICHIGAN (via telephone): Yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hi. What`s your thought on this picture?

VIVIAN: Hi Jane, how are you?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hi. How are you doing?

VIVIAN: With Miley Cyrus, I think she looks absolutely gorgeous. She`s not anorexic. She`s not got any eating habit. She doesn`t have anything wrong with her. She`s just eating properly. She`s got six-pack on her stomach. I mean she`s really got a beautiful body.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So let me ask you Vivian, why do you think people are so upset about this picture?

VIVIAN: Because people are in the media and they`ve always got to have something going. She`s just gorgeous. She`s just gorgeous.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. You know, I do --

VIVIAN: I bet her daddy`s proud of her now.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And you know what; Billy Ray, I interviewed him once, he is a charmer. I just was all -- I was speechless.

Ok, Miley is not the only one to face criticism about being too thin. Angelina Jolie came under fire for looking even thinner than usual at the Oscars earlier this year. And what about another former Disney star, Demi Lovato. She spoke publicly about her battle with eating disorders.

Listen to this from Ellen.


ELLEN DEGENERES, TALK SHOW HOST: You were bulimic, is that right?


DEGENERES: And anorexic as well, or just bulimic?

LOVATO: Well, they called it anorexia binge-purge type so it was technically both and in a way I was anorexic when I was 12 years old.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. So Alexis, when you have an eating disorder, there`s certain things you do. And we have absolutely no information that Miley is doing any of them. She may be just working out and eating healthy. But there are some who admit, yes, I binged and purged for example. That is the definition of having an eating disorder?

TERESCZUK: It absolutely is and you`re right. And Demi Lovato is a perfect example. Another Disney girl under so much pressure, she was not the skinniest girl around -- so much pressure to look tiny, to fit into a perfect mold. To look good in close on the red carpet, to look on camera and she took it to the extreme.

And the thing is Miley has the financial means and the physical means to do this in a healthy way. But a lot of young girls do not. So they look up to Hollywood stars that do this. But the only way that they can achieve this body is through drastic measures like eating disorders.

So it`s really hard to compare a Hollywood starlet to a regular person. Regular people don`t have chefs, they don`t have personal trainers. They have to be at work, eight, ten, 12 hours a day. So it`s really --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, well, well -- you know what; you pick up an apple, you take a bite, and you eat it. There is no excuse for not eating healthy. It`s not more expensive to eat health. That is a big myth.

On the other side, overweight Olympians, question mark?



HOLLY MANGOLD, OLYMPIC ATHLETE: People will say stuff about how big I am. But you know what; I`ve been this size forever. I think I`m doing pretty all right for myself. I mean, you tell me some other, you know, 350-pound girl that can do what I`m doing so. It`s all right.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: 22-year-old Olympian Holly Mangold has been criticized for her weight. She currently weighs in at 346 pounds. She says it helps her as a weight lifter and she says you can be athletic at any size.

Well, I say maybe for a weightlifter. What say you Christine Avanti?

AVANTI: You know, I think for a weightlifter possibly. She doesn`t have to be as heavy as she is. Here`s the thing, I`m not going to diss her. She`s an Olympic athlete. How many of us can say we`re an Olympic athlete?

So yes, there`s definitely a lot of intense training she`s gone through. She is an athlete. But she doesn`t have to carry -- I don`t think -- that much body fat. I would be curious to know what her body fat percentage and then say ok, well, also what does her blood work like.

Because if she`s got high cholesterol, high blood pressure, this and that, then that`s not a good thing. If she can carry that weight and have a good blood panel, then I guess it`s none of my business.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. I have to contest the idea that you can be athletic at any size. I mean maybe for this --

AVANTI: For lifting weight.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: -- but for running, I can tell you when I put on five pounds, it really impacted my ability to run. You pant, you get out of breath more quickly.

AVANTI: Right.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s go back to the phone lines. Charlie, Kentucky, I think you`re calling about Miley Cyrus?

CHARLIE, KENTUCKY (via telephone): Yes, ma`am. I think she`s too thin.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Why do you say that, Charlie?

CHARLIE: She needs -- to me, she looks like she can, you know, to be healthy she looks like she can be about 110 or maybe 115 to be good and healthy.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok, so, this gentleman is saying -- thank you for your call, Charlie. This gentleman is saying, 110, 115 isn`t healthy. Here`s the truth though is that studies have shown that lower body weight increase longevity, it means you are going to live longer.

Nancy`s next.