CNN CNN


 

Return to Transcripts main page

JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL

Jessica Ridgeway`s Body Identified

Aired October 12, 2012 - 19:00   ET

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


JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST: Tonight, breaking news. Very sad breaking news out of Colorado. Police are now searching for a child killer as they identify the body of 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway. This announcement just moments ago.

She meant -- went missing a week ago, last Friday. And it sounds like they don`t think this killer is very far away, that he is in the community where all this happened. A live report from Colorado next.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VELEZ-MITCHELL (voice-over): Breaking news in the gut-wrenching case of precious Jessica Ridgeway. Colorado cops release a possible suspect profile, asking people to watch for men calling in sick since Jessica mysteriously vanished. Is this child predator walking amongst the townspeople?

This as the devastated community grapples with the horror of the body discarded in a field. Who did this? We`ll bring you the very latest. And I`m taking your calls.

Then, an outrageous arrest caught on tape. Ashley Davis says cops humiliated and degraded her when they arrested her in Florida. She says they hogtied her, dragged her around topless and knocked out some of her teeth. Tonight, we`ll show you the shocking video. Did these cops go too far? We`ll talk live to this woman tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This afternoon a body was discovered near the Pattridge Park open space.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re still waiting for police to identify a body they found last night just miles from where 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway was last seen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On Twitter Jessica Ridgeway is the most popular story that`s being pushed.

JEREMIAH BRYANT, FATHER OF JESSICA RIDGEWAY: It`s by far the worst thing I`ve ever been through. Still is. I just want to find my daughter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can`t imagine what she must be going through. I just thank the lord that I have my children and I pray that she will get hers returned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you have any information, doesn`t matter how insignificant you may think it is, call.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope they find her safe.

SARAH RIDGEWAY, MOTHER OF JESSICA RIDGEWAY: I watch her walk out the door. And I shut the door. And that`s the last time I saw her.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, tragic breaking news in the search for Jessica Ridgeway. Tonight, cops have a furious manhunt for a predator and a killer on their hands, because tragically, we must report that the body found Wednesday night is indeed that of missing 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway.

Good evening. Jane Velez-Mitchell coming to you live.

It took police 48 hours to positively identify Jessica`s body because it was not intact. No one wants to think of Jessica like that. But hopefully, those terrible facts will help cops catch her killer.

Here`s what police said in a heart-wrenching news conference in this Denver, Colorado, suburb just a few minutes ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s with a great deal of sorrow in my heart that I regret to inform you that the body that was found in Arvada has been positively identified as Jessica Ridgeway, the missing girl from Westminster. The family has been notified. We can`t begin to comprehend the grief that they`re going through.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Jessica vanished one week ago today, last Friday, walking to school. Her backpack and water bottle were found a couple of days later six miles from her home. So the frightening fact is somebody grabbed this little girl, this precious child within three blocks of her own house.

The question tonight, who was lying in wait? Had somebody been watching her? Were they looking for the perfect opportunity to grab her? Who is this killer? The FBI on board to track him down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re looking for abnormal behavior. It could be something as simple as shaving of their face. Could be changing of hair color, cutting of their hair.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: These poor parents. I cannot imagine what they`re going through. Just a few days ago they opened their hearts to talk about how much Jessica means to them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

S. RIDGEWAY: You don`t hear anything. And then you get the pit in your stomach that you don`t want any -- any parent -- any parent to ever experience in their whole entire life that you do when your child has just been taken.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Poor, poor woman. All of us at our show are sending our deepest sympathies and condolences to the Ridgeway family and Jessica`s friends. We want to help find this sick, evil predator who took their beautiful daughter, granddaughter, niece and friend.

And I want to hear from you. Give me a call: 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877- 586-7297.

Straight out to reporter Jennifer Morgan. You`re with the TTN network in Denver, but you also live in this very area. Give us a sense of the reaction in this community to this terrible news about the body that was found being positively identified as that of Jessica`s.

JENNIFER MORGAN, REPORTER, TTN NETWORK (via phone): Well, hello. Yes, I do live in the area. I am a resident of Westminster. Jessica`s home is just miles from my home, actually.

The community is reacting the same way they react when this has happened in other states in other areas. It`s very heartbreaking just sitting here listening to the press conference they had. People are sad. I`m sad. It`s shocking. And it`s so close to home.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tina Lobish (ph), thank you for joining us tonight, ma`am. You live directly across the street from Jessica Ridgeway`s home.

TINA LOBISH (PH), NEIGHBOR: I live kind of directly across from the street. It`s more, what do you call it? Catty...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Catty corner?

LOBISH (ph): Catty corner. I`m in the house across the street and she`s next door. I`m catty corner. I can see her house from here.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Give us a sense of the immediate neighborhood what this neighborhood is going through. Have you seen those offering condolences arriving at the house, gathering around the family, offering support?

LOBISH (ph): Well, the neighborhood is very solemn right now. There`s not too many people coming out. And we`re just, you know, waiting and wondering what`s going on. It`s kind of a quiet neighborhood except for the traffic. It`s very -- got a lot of traffic on it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And of course with the authorities announcing that there is a predator at large in the community. Those are the words they used.

How are parents reacting in terms of how they`re watching over their children, given that we`re in a school year right now, this is not summer vacation, that kids are going to and from school?

LOBISH (ph): Well, you know, there`s not that many kids on this end of the street. I mean, there`s only Jessica that lived across the street and across the street from her there`s a little girl that lives there. Otherwise this street is pretty kid free.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tina...

LOBISH (ph): There`s not a lot of -- kids.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me ask you about the three blocks. This precious young lady, this beautiful 10-year-old with her whole life ahead of her was taken walking three blocks from her home to an area where she would meet up with all of her friends to walk in a group to school. Tell us about those three blocks. Because we have a team of profilers and investigators standing by to analyze. And a lot of people want to know how somebody could have grabbed this child without anybody witnessing that in those three blocks. Are there homes stretching the entire three blocks? Or are there areas where there might be a wooded area where somebody could grab her without being spotted?

LOBISH (PH): There`s houses everywhere on this block. This neighborhood has no thorough streets, thoroughways going straight through. When you get in this neighborhood, every street comes to a section where you have to turn to go there or go there. And it`s well-traveled because this is like a main place you can go that you would kind of get from point A to point B.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Tina, are you perplexed that somebody was able to grab her without being spotted?

LOBISH (ph): Yes. Most definitely. Yep. That block is -- that park is not three blocks away. I mean, there`s long blocks on this side of the street, which doesn`t even have a block actually. I would say it was two blocks, maybe a block and a half.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Unbelievable. A block and a half she disappeared.

LOBISH (ph): Exactly.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: This is new information.

LOBISH (ph): Yes, a block and a half at least. I mean, she must have walked out her house. And there is curvy streets here. She must just hit the curvy part where her mother couldn`t see her anymore. I mean that`s not far.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want to bring in Ed Miller, investigative journalist. You`ve covered so many of these terrible cases for "America`s Most Wanted." This was the worst, worst outcome. We were all praying for another outcome. What do you make of it?

ED MILLER, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Jane, the most disturbing part about this horrible story in my opinion is the fact that the body was not found intact. That can only mean one thing. As horrible as a child killer is, this killer was even worse because he may have cut her up into pieces. So we`re talking now about almost a Hannibal Lecter type person. If you can imagine somebody who could possibly be capable of dismembering a child, if that is what happened.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s not be too graphic, but yes.

MILLER: Well, yes. But I think it`s important to know that -- you and I both know we`ve done these for a long time, that it`s important for people to know this is not -- this is not a normal person that could possibly do something like this. This elevates the status of horrible from horrible to insanely horrible.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`re just getting started. On the other side, other investigators who are going to weigh in and ask what should the local, state and federal task force that is on a mission to find this killer do now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our focus has changed from a search for Jessica to a mission of justice for Jessica. We recognize that there is a predator at large in our community.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Investigators released a profile of the suspect. They suggest a male, someone who might have left town suddenly, called in sick, changed their appearance. There are other, more sinister signs, as well. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAT BROWN, CRIMINAL PROFILER: If you know a psychopath who lives in that area who`s been acting not like he`s just going to change his hair or run away, maybe acting a little peculiar compared to what his normal peculiar is, somebody for example cleaning the heck out of his car, somebody burying clothes in the backyard. Somebody asking you to hide a knife for them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Holly Hughes, criminal defense attorney, former prosecutor, here`s the problem. They`re saying there`s a predator in this community at large. Of course, we`re talking about three small towns that are all suburbs of Denver.

But Denver is a 25-minute drive away, ten miles away. Denver holds 600,000 people. Isn`t it possible that this predator, this killer is from Denver?

HOLLY HUGHES, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It`s absolutely possible. And I know everybody wants to say, you know, "Oh, you`re going to notice things different." And we would like to believe that, but the reason these psychopaths are so successful, Jane, is they do blend in.

You know, look at Ted Bundy. Nobody thought there was anything wrong with him until they started discovering how many women he had killed. But he was normal. He did fit in. That`s how they manage to get away with it for so long.

And the sad part is, although we would like to look at the facts and say, well, somebody must have stalked her, they must have been watching and known her routine, to be perfectly honest, a lot of these child abductions are crimes of opportunity.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes.

HUGHES: It could have been like you said, someone from Denver driving through, sees a little girl by herself, and seizes the opportunity, sadly.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Don Champion, you`re down there in Denver, KMGH. We heard about this white van in Arvada, which is the area where the body was found.

Let`s show the three areas where Jessica is from where her backpack was found and where her body was found. Those are three different areas. And I understand they`re trying to check and see if there are any cell phone pings that match up to all three areas. What else is this task force doing to find this killer, Don?

DON CHAMPION, REPORTER, KMGH (via phone): Jane, on top of getting those records from the cell-phone towers, they are also still actively searching that area around where Jessica`s body was found. Also open spaces around her home. It`s clear that they`re still needing more evidence in this case that will lead to the perpetrator.

And I do want to ask about the possibility of this man being from Denver. These areas where the body was dumped and where the backpack was dumped, as well, these are off the beaten path areas, if you will. So it`s clear that this guy knows that area very well, especially when you consider where Jessica`s body was dropped off. It was several miles away from her home. It`s in an area that`s kind of isolated. There are a few homes out there. But it`s an old coal mine area. Not really an active area where you`re going to see a lot of people going in and out.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And let me tell you, in the news conference they announced that they`ve already searched 500 homes, 1,000 vehicles. They`ve responded to 1,500 tips. And they`ve covered 800 leads. And they are still asking for more. We`re talking about FBI behavioral experts. We`re talking about the U.S. Marshals, the immigration service, everybody. Every law enforcement agency is being mobilized to find this killer. Watch out.

More on the other side.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s real dark at night here. And if you were probably wanting to do something just absolutely horrible, you could -- this is the place to do it. I hate to say it. Because it`s all open. It`s all dark. Nobody would know you`re here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ten-year-old Jessica Ridgeway taken by a predator. And now the entire country wants to find the sick, sick demented person responsible.

Take a look at this video. Where you see red flags and the red markings on the ground, that`s where police found evidence related to this precious young victim, 10 years old. This crime scene was not easy to piece together.

Steve Moore, former FBI agent, to the point that Ed Miller, formerly of "America`s Most Wanted," who has investigated so many of these, he`s saying that we`re dealing with not just your average killer, if there is such a thing, but somebody who potentially is willing to -- not to be gruesome -- dismember a body, which would take this person into another level of psychosis, for lack of a better word.

STEVE MOORE, FORMER FBI AGENT: I agree. But it also takes them into another level of catchability. The more demented a person`s actions are when they commit this kind of crime, the more unusual their actions -- the more information they`re providing to profilers and police, the more evidence they`re providing.

Profiling isn`t reading tarot cards or tea leaves. It`s a science. And the more information he provides through these demented acts, as horrible as they are, the more information the police will have.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But this is what I don`t understand. They`re also saying that there is a predator at large in the community. Now, presumably this person didn`t have a personality change overnight. So if this person is from the community, you`re suggesting, Steve, that suddenly, his behavior is going to exhibit signs of psychosis that he had never exhibited before?

MOORE: There has to be a start at some point. I will admit to you that this seems to me to be quite a jump to be the very first act that this person has accomplished. I think there`s likely something earlier, maybe even somewhere else. You might want to look for somebody who has just come into the community.

But I think the sheriff -- or the police chief in this is doing a fabulous job of knocking down good leads.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Vinny Parco, you`re a very famous private investigator. I want to get your sense of this. The local law enforcement and the FBI is saying look around you, look at your neighbors. My gosh, that`s bound to make a lot of people paranoid. What`s your gut?

VINNY PARCO, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: Well, my guess is that the person is from the community, because this person had a lot of time to dismember a body. Now, you just don`t do that in five minutes. This person had a lot of time to do it. So he either did it in a van or a truck or someone`s garage or maybe a warehouse. So these are the types of places that the police should be looking at.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, that`s a very good point. And, again, let`s keep, if we can, out of respect for the family, we have to discuss the facts of the case, but I want to do it in a way that, God forbid, does not in any way add to the pain.

But Ed Miller, to that point, to find this man we have to realize that, yes, he was undoubtedly operating in that area for a couple of days. She went missing on Friday. A neighbor found her backpack six miles away Saturday night.

MILLER: Right. Absolutely. And something else I think that`s very important. You and some of the others have mentioned that she must have been snatched away, grabbed as if this were some sort of struggle. Not necessarily at all. Predators are very good at luring children, especially something her mother said about -- about young Jessica, that she was only 10, but she wanted to grow up. She was very independent. She wanted to be out on her own.

So easily a predator could say, which I know they have in the past, "Hey, you know, come along with me, this is what big kids do. They ride -- they itch rides. They go along, you know? We`re going to play hookie today." And that could be what happened.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: On the other side we`re going to talk about the white van spotted in the area the day before she vanished.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s with a great deal of sorrow in my heart I regret to inform you that the body that was found in Arvada has been positively identified as Jessica Ridgeway, the missing girl from Westminster. The family has been notified. We can`t begin to comprehend the grief that they`re going through.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s the news we didn`t want to report, but tonight we have the sad task of telling you that, yes, the body that was discovered in a field in a suburb of Denver the night before last has now been identified positively as that of 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway.

It was last Friday morning that she left her home walking, now we`re learning, just a block and a half to a local park to meet up with friends to walk to her school. And she was abducted somewhere along that first leg, that block and a half or two blocks filled with houses on either side.

Tonight, local, state and federal investigators say they are on a mission to catch this very sick killer who is in the community, they believe. Listen to this.

Well, we`re going to listen to law enforcement in the next couple of minutes. But I want to go to Holly Hughes, criminal defense attorney, former prosecutor.

They`ve searched something like 500 homes, 1,000 vehicles. Where do they take their search now? Obviously, databases trying to match up any DNA they found on the child`s backpack, which was discovered discarded about six miles from her home, but what else can they do?

HUGHES: Well, they`re using the technology. And technology has changed the face of criminal investigations. They`re doing what they call the cell-phone pings, the triangulation. We have three different locations: the location where she disappeared, where her backpack was found and, tragically, where her little body was found, Jane.

So what they`re going to do is check the cell-phone towers closest to those three locations and see if there is one particular number that pinged off of all three of those towers. Because that will place that cell phone and logically that person in the area.

So that`s what they`re doing. They`re going to continue to do what we`re doing, talk about it, put it out there in the media, describe the white vehicle that was in the area, jog people`s memories. Say to them, you know, looking back you might have thought it was an innocent thing...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Right.

HUGHES: -- thing at the time, but looking back on it, it may have a more sinister meaning now. Please tell us.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Steve Moore, former FBI agent. Also this white van the day before she vanished, some local children reported seeing a white van tailing them. And then when they looked back the van got closer. So I would think if they think it`s somebody in the community, find anybody who has a white van within 100-mile radius and check all those people.

STEVE MOORE, FORMER FBI AGENT: Yes. I`ve actually been on cases where we did that, found a certain make of car and a certain color. The problem is they`re going to come up with a lot of white vans in that area. What you might -- what they`ll try to do then is remove all the white vans that belong to a corporation and go right down to where the individuals own them.

The other thing they`re going to do is look for particles on the body that might even be a thread from a carpet and they can match that to a specific type of car.

They can go a long way here. But I think right now the other thing they`re looking for is where the killing might have taken place because that will provide them an immense amount of information.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And not to be gruesome, but the body was not found intact. There was an unintact body found in a large field that was later identified as being that of Jessica Ridgeway.

Final word, Vinnie Parco, again you`re a long-time private eye, your gut.

VINNIE PARCO, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: Well, you know, as I said, I think that it could be somebody in the community. It also could be somebody who`s opportunistic. But you have to have time. The body has to have been -- whatever they did to it at another location and then moved to that spot. So the person had time, he obviously had the time to do it. So where did he do it? Where in that community could he have time to do what -- the gruesome thing he did?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, again, our condolences to the Ridgeway family.

PARCO: It`s a shame.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Our hearts are broken along with you. And we`re going to stay on top of this. We want to find this sick, sick, sick, evil predator.

Now this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This surveillance video is blurred for a reason.

ASHLEIGH DAVIS: What did I do so wrong to make them want to treat me like this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ashleigh Davis is naked from the waist up sitting on the floor of a holding cell surrounded by male officers and deputies.

DAVIS: We were in that cell for I don`t know how long.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her bikini top came off as officers arrested her. She said it stayed off as they carted her through the crowd. It stayed off when she got to jail.

DAVIS: He got mad and grabbed the back of my head slammed it into the ground. "Try to bite again and you`ll look like the rest of them."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, a shocking secret video shows what the woman in the video calls humiliating and degrading treatment by cops. And now Ashleigh Davis is suing cops in Florida. She admits she probably deserved to be arrested, but she certainly doesn`t agree with what she describes as excessive force and humiliating treatment.

Ashleigh claims she was tackled and literally hogtied by police when she refused their orders to leave a music festival. She claims her bikini top came off while she was being detained and cops carried her through the crowd like a suitcase with her breast exposed. And she claims she was left half naked for hours inside a holding cell.

It gets worse, according to Ashleigh while she was lying there on the floor at the station, an officer put his hand over her mouth to quiet her screams. That`s when she says she bit his hand and suffered the consequences.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVIS: Once I did that, he got mad, grabbed the back of my head, slammed it into the ground, "Try to bite again and you`ll look like the rest of them around here," or something like that. I mean that was the most devastating part.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: This was allegedly the result -- three teeth shattered. We reached out to the Lake County Sheriff`s Office. They say they don`t comment on pending or open litigation. And the Leesburg Police Department did not return our calls.

Straight out to Stan Plappert, attorney for this woman, Ashleigh, you are suing on what basis? And why is your client saying that this was tremendously humiliating and degrading specifically?

STAN PLAPPERT, ATTORNEY FOR ASHLEIGH DAVIS: Well, it`s just wrong to treat a human being like this, to allow them to be naked for a two-hour or more period, to have seven male cops or more involved with her when there was a female cop on duty. They never called a female cop to help. It`s wrong to bash somebody`s teeth out when they`re helpless and they`re not a threat. Her hands and feet tied behind her back. This kind of behavior is just wrong.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Was there, in your opinion, a sexual component to this? The fact that she`s a woman -- these are male officers and she`s lying there? And you say she`s half naked for hours. Degradation can have a political component, can have a sexual component.

PLAPPERT: Absolutely could. We don`t know what their intent was or what their thoughts were. We do know they were gawking and making fun of her. So without knowing what they intended or what they were thinking, we can`t say for certain, but it sure has that appearance.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Holly Hughes, Ashleigh claimed she was hogtied, meaning her hands were cuffed and her feet tied behind her back which made her immobile. Our affiliate WFTV quoted Ashleigh as saying the officers picked her up like a suitcase.

Now, hogtying is very controversial. I looked it up, did a little research online. It`s been connected to torture in some cases. In some cases it has a sexual connotation as in S&M. Is this the proper procedure ever, Holly Hughes?

HUGHES: No. It isn`t. I understand -- and she willingly admits, listen, I wasn`t following orders, I didn`t comply. But that is not the way -- you can dislocate shoulders when you do that.

And if you read the reports, Jane, I know you know this because you read everything I read, not only did they hogtie her, she says they took a tie, like a necktie, looped it through her hands and feet behind her and that`s how they carried her out of there. You can cause serious bodily injury to someone carrying them that way. If she`s not cooperating, go ahead and cuff her, but walk her out of there or carry her upright.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want to go -- I mean I`m sorry to jump in, but I want to go to Ashleigh Davis. You are the woman in this video. You are suing police. How did this make you feel?

DAVIS: Disgusted that they treated me like that -- very embarrassed. I thought they could have handled it -- excuse me?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Continue. I`m sorry. I interrupted you.

DAVIS: That`s fine. I was just saying I was very disgusted by the way they handled the whole matter that night. I think things could have went a little better. They could have calmed me down maybe so it didn`t escalate out of control like this.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You say that you agree that you should have been arrested, but just not like this. So you are suing -- will you come back and discuss this more at length because we`ve been trying to get the response from the authorities. But we`d like to really dive into this deep. Will you come back, Ashleigh? Let`s hope you do.

DAVIS: Yes, ma`am.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: A lot of people say to me, oh, it`s boring just to eat your veggies. Au contraire. Take a look at this. I`m in a food co-op and these are beans. And you`ve got snow peas. You`ve got brussel sprouts. You`ve got green butter lettuce. Oh, take a look at this. Black kale. All right. And how about this one? This is purple kale.

And when you start treating vegetables as an adventure and exploring all the many different kinds of vegetables that there are, you`ll realize that, hey, it`s not just potatoes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Time for our "Pets of the Day. And today we`re looking at cats because we have a very special story dealing with cats. Precious and Princess, and Dexter -- you`re gorgeous. And Angel. A special cat story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(PROTESTERS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN MADISON)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: This is a controversy. There have been protests at the University of Wisconsin-Madison over experiments done to cats. Everybody knows that I`m an animal advocate, but tonight my only role is to moderate our debate on a subject that is worthy of discussion. It purportedly involves your tax dollars.

On one side we have People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals who battled to get these testing photos of a cat they say was named "Double Trouble". On the other side we have the University of Wisconsin defending their cat experiments. We`re going to try and give you both equal time and I will say "time" when your time is up.

We begin with Kathy Guillermo, PETA`s vice president of laboratory investigations. Your organization has described these experiments as useless and cruel. Explain why you`re against them.

KATHY GUILLERMO, VICE PRESIDENT OF LAB INVESTIGATIONS, PETA: Well, Jane, you know it took us a good three and a half years to get these documents out of UW. It took a lawsuit and a lot of good work from our attorneys to make this happen. And once we saw the photos we knew why UW wanted to keep them secret.

They depict the tragic life of the last few months of an orange tabby cat the university called "Double Trouble". This cat was subjected to multiple surgeries on her head. Her skull had posts screwed into it, electrodes implanted into her brain. She had an electronic device put in her ear. She was deafened. She was deprived of food in order to get her to cooperate. There was a festering wound on the top of her head that never healed -- a bacterial infection. And when it was determined that the experiment was going nowhere, she was killed and decapitated.

Now, Jane, when we see these kinds of cases, we report them to the federal authorities, the USDA and National Institutes of Health. We don`t expect much out of those agencies.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. We`re going to say "time" on that. And we`re going to say Eric Sandgren, director of the research animal resources center at the University of Wisconsin. The school has said PETA`s claims are unsubstantiated and flawed. What is your response to what you just heard?

ERIC SANDGREN, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN: I think it`s clear these are very striking pictures. That`s why PETA published them. But I think you`ve heard some information that`s a bit misleading. Three and a half years ago we provided them with 1,000 pages of documents including the protocol. All that they received recently were the photographs. If they really cared about the cats, they could have made a fuss about it three and a half years ago.

We have looked at all of the charges that they`ve leveled against us. We feel that they are not accurate. And as it turns out, the USDA investigation that was done as a follow-up has also shown that there were no citations issued that they were unable to validate what PETA has said.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. You finished before time. You had about ten seconds left. But let`s go to the rebuttal. Kathy, what`s your rebuttal?

GUILLERMO: Well, I think those photos speak for themselves. We were very interested in seeing the photos. And I have to add too that we didn`t have the complete set of documentation. The university wanted to keep this from us. And I hope that people will take a look at these photos. And what is clear in these photos is cruelty and suffering.

This cat in the last days of her life had trouble standing. She had trouble coping with what her situation was to such an extent that she was lethargic and could barely move. And the point of this experiment is inexplicable to us. None of the results have ever been published --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Time. We`re going to give you, sir, rebuttal -- Eric.

SANDGREN: All right. The point Kathy made -- she`s making some good points here. And you really do have to look at this whole thing in the context. The specifics that she`s described are inaccurate. So she`s inaccurately describing the clinical condition of the animal.

And the work done by this laboratory, and in this cat specifically is what you call textbook science. This is the kind of science that ends up in the textbooks. In fact, what we know about this area is largely derived from the studies in this particular laboratory. So there is validity to what`s going on. The picture itself -- is not enough.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. And I will say that we`re going to take a brief break. And on the other side we`re going to continue our debate, an important topic. And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It turned out pretty good. I can hear without it now, and it`s really nice. I can hear my teacher and my friends. I can actually locate sound, and I`m actually kind of glad that I`m not in a special school and I can have normal friends and not need help.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That video from the University of Wisconsin Madison shows one boy who got cochlear implants. We`re debating the cat experiments that the university says are necessary to make those implants and which PETA says are cruel and unnecessary.

Eric with the university -- explain what you believe are the benefits of these experiments?

SANDGREN: Sure. I think in order to evaluate what all that`s going on in this case, you really have to ask two questions, the what, and PETA`s described that although they`ve misrepresented it, and you also have to consider the why. That is the key feature, why do we do studies like this?

And the point of the research in this laboratory is to develop a bionic ear. If that can be developed, and there`s work under way to do that, then you can improve the quality of life for a lot of people who would like to have assistance, to have hearing assistance, to have these cochlear implants that would allow them to hear. And the work --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you. Time.

SANDGREN: Sure.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Kathy Guillermo from PETA, your response?

GUILLERMO: Well, the cochlear implants that were used in this orange tabby cat have been in use for 30 years. Nobody has ever cited this experiment as useful in any way. And one of the stated purposes of this experiment was to gain further funding for further publishing.

This is a pointless experiment. The same kinds of studies can be done non-invasively with human volunteers using the different kinds of scanning methods. And they`ll be directly applicable to people. These have been going on for three decades.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Time.

Ok. Quick response -- rebuttal?

SANDGREN: Basically, all the things that she said are inaccurate.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. That`s your rebuttal?

GUILLERMO: All of our information Eric comes from your own documents. And unlike you, we`re willing to share those with anybody who wants to see them. Come to our Web site, look at the photos, look at the documents, the clinical records are the ones you provided us.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok. Time.

More on the other side.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We reached out to the National Institutes of Health. They told us, quote, "All animals used in NIH-funded research are protected laws, regulations and policies to ensure the smallest possible number of subjects and the greatest commitment to their welfare. NIH takes very seriously all allegations of non-compliance to these policies and investigate every allegation. NIH has opened an investigation regarding the allegations sent by PETA. NIH does not comment on allegations while an investigation is under way."

Final question, Kathy, you say there are humane alternatives to the experiments. Explain what you mean.

GUILLERMO: There are other imaging techniques, including pet scans and at tomography and spectroscopy that are being done at other major universities around the country. Cats do not have to be used. The University of Wisconsin is raking in millions of tax dollars on this stupid sham science that is violence and cruelty. And it`s time for this to stop.

Everybody who`s watching this now can get in touch with the National Institutes of Health. They can come to our Web site and they can learn how to have a voice in where their taxpayer money goes. Most Americans --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Time. Time. Eric, your response?

SANDGREN: Thank you. I`m frustrated by what I hear Kathy saying, and it`s what I hear over and over again. It represents a lack of understanding of how science is actually done. The most critical aspect of science is to match the methods that you use with the question that you`re asking. And for the specific question this investigator was asking, there were no other alternatives. The only alternative would be not to answer the question at all. If you don`t feel it`s worth answering, that is your prerogative. But many people do feel that it`s worth answering.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Time. Closing statements, we`ll begin with Kathy.

GUILLERMO: Again, I think that the truth of this issue lies in the photographs and in the records supplied by the University of Wisconsin. This was a very devastated, unhappy, miserable cat at the end of her life. And up to 30 cats are used in the same way every year by the University of Wisconsin. It`s been going on decade after decade.

It`s time to put a stop to it and put our money into the kind of research that`s really going to help people.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Time. Eric, your response? Your final comments.

SANDGREN: Thanks. When I participate in discussions like this, it makes me realize more and more that there`s no simple way for somebody who cares about this issue to find out about what`s really going on unless you put the effort into doing the research. You hear Kathy talk. You hear me talk. Look at the facts. Look at the records that she`s talking about. Look at science. Do the work to try to understand that. And when you do that, I believe you`ll think that this is justified.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And we`re done. I want to thank both of you for a very, very reasoned debate and I thank you for participating.

Nancy next.

END