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Did Mental Illness Destroy Pyne Family?

Aired November 21, 2012 - 19:00   ET


JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST: Tonight, did mental illness destroy an entire family? Secrets are spilling out in the trial of a young man accused of murdering his bipolar mother, who had been arrested for trying to strangle him. Did the young man`s devoted father unknowingly give cops the most incriminating evidence against his own son? We`re investigating.


VELEZ-MITCHELL (voice-over): It seemed like the perfect family, but did this family implode because of the mother`s mental illness? A valedictorian on trial, accused of brutally murdering his bipolar mother by stabbing her 16 times in the family`s garage. Could his own father`s confession about missing 2 by 4`s send this promising 22-year-old to prison? We`ll bring you the very latest from inside court.

Then Lindsay Lohan is back, starring in what`s been hailed as the television event of the year. But is LiLo`s portrayal of iconic actress Elizabeth Taylor Emmy-worthy or a big, fat flop? Our pop culture panel weighs in.

Plus as shoppers face the prospect of Black Friday madness, a fast- growing movement says you can say no to all of it and break free. We`ll show you how.

BERNARD PYNE, HUSBAND OF MURDER VICTIM: My wife, she`s laying in the garage. There`s blood everywhere. I don`t know what`s going on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Twenty-one-year-old Jeffrey Pyne is accused of stabbing and beating his mother to death in their own home. Ruth was found dead in the garage of the Pyne family home on May 27, 2012, by her then 10- year-old daughter and husband.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This was an extremely personal crime. This 51- year-old mother of two was found dead in her garage by her daughter. She had been brutally beat in the head repeatedly, like by a 2 by 4. And she`d been stabbed 16 times in her neck.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The prosecutor plans to argue that Jeffrey was angry with his mother at the time of her murder.

B. PYNE: I know my son. And I know he`s not capable of this. I know he would never harm his mother.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: A family torn apart by a mother`s mental illness and her mysterious murder. Prosecutors say her 22-year-old son, a former high- school valedictorian and a University of Michigan biology student, is a vicious killer.

Tonight his father`s anguish as he comes forward and says there`s no way his son could have done this, while at the very same time, giving cops what could be the smoking-gun evidence against his son.


B. PYNE: He had nothing to do with this. He would never harm his mother. He loved his mother.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Jeffrey Pyne accused of bludgeoning his bipolar, sometimes violent mom with a 2 by 4 and then stabbing her 16 times.

There is the defendant, a clean-cut young man. He was loved in the community. Tonight, we`re learning Jeffrey`s dad told detectives he was missing several things from his home`s garage, the very place Ruth Pyne, his wife, was brutally murdered. Missing were a 2 by 4 and another piece of wood, a screwdriver and a box cutter. Those items were never found. Prosecutors believe Jeffrey used the wood plank and the other items to viciously kill his own mom.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A 2 by 4. He took that and was holding it, and HE hit her in the back of the head. And he hit her again and again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody else committed this crime. We believe the evidence will show you it.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Straight out to Dave Phillips, court reporter for the "Oakland Press." You`ve been in court. What have the big moments been on the witness stand?

DAVE PHILLIPS, COURT REPORTER, "OAKLAND PRESS" (VIA PHONE): Well, very interesting moment recently in testimony was sheriff`s office detective Steven Zdravkowski was testifying yesterday, finished up his testimony. He was asked by defense lawyer James Champion, who has asked every witness so far. He`s asked, at the end of his questioning, do you know who killed Ruth Pyne?

He asked that to the detective. His response was, "I know who killed Ruth Pyne. Your client, Jeffrey Pyne, killed Ruth Pyne. I`m basing my opinion on the evidence on that scene and my own observation."

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So basically, the defense sort of stuck its foot in its own mouth, and we happen to have that clip. One of the most dramatic moments, as you said, in the trial. This detective telling the jury, point blank, "Yes, I know who killed Ruth Pyne."

Listen to this from ABC`s "Good Morning America."


JAMES CHAMPION, PYNE`S DEFENSE LAWYER: You don`t know who killed Ruth Pyne, do you?



ZDRAVKOWSKI: Yes. Your client, Jeffrey Pyne, killed his mother, Ruth Pyne.

CHAMPION: So you were in the garage?

ZDRAVKOWSKI: I was not in the garage. I`m basing my opinion based on the evidence that I know of and my own observations.

CHAMPION: So that`s an opinion? Thank you.

ZDRAVKOWSKI: When it comes to his alibi, he lied about where he was at; he lied about what he was doing. Was I in the garage? I was not in that garage, but my opinion is that Jeffrey Pyne killed his mother.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Attorney Tanya Acker, they say in the law never ask a question you don`t know the answer to. But they knew the answer. They knew a detective was going to believe that this guy is the killer. It was the defense who will listen to this very damaging testimony from the detective. What on earth was this defense attorney thinking?

TANYA ACKER, ATTORNEY: Well, you know, you nailed it, Jane. I mean, you simply don`t go there. You know that the state is really premising its case on the opinion of these prosecutors.

What they should be doing is talking about some of the evidentiary problems here. I mean, when the police first went to the house, they weren`t wearing gloves. They weren`t wearing booties. We don`t know who else was in the house. We have serious -- we could have serious evidence contamination problems.

So really, rather than asking the questions that they know they`re going to get bad answers to, they need to be starting -- they need to really be trying to plug holes or point out the holes in the state`s case here.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And remember, this young man, he`s not saying, "Oh, I did it in self-defense. I did it because my mother who was bipolar tried to strangle me at one point." He said he wasn`t there, that he was planting lilacs. That is his defense.

Prosecutors say this very promising 22-year-old was furious at his mother, who was often violent toward him and his kid sister because of her bipolar disorder. In fact, there was testimony that he was afraid Mom was going to try to kill his kid sister, and he wanted to protect her.

You may not be able to hear it, but the little girl is reportedly crying hysterically in the background as her dad calls 911 upon discovering his wife`s body bludgeoned to death.


B. PYNE: My wife, she`s laying in the garage. There`s blood everywhere. I don`t know what`s going on.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mike Brooks, HLN law enforcement analyst, if the defendant, Jeffrey, was indeed trying to protect his kid sister, if he did as prosecutors allege, bludgeon his mother to death, didn`t he hurt her, the sister, more than anyone by traumatizing the child? She is reportedly the one who first discovered her own mother`s bludgeoned body in the garage.

MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Right. She and her father. And, you know, and there`s other evidence, too, Jane, about the blisters on his hands. We saw pictures when we were on the opening of blisters on his hands. He said that he told his boss he got them from throwing shipping palettes. Well, shipping palettes are wood and they`re similar, made up of pieces of, basically, 2 by 4s. So -- or 1 by 4s. So is there a possibility of that? Yes. You know, did he really get those blisters on his hands from moving shipping palettes? Who knows.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: People battling bipolar disorder have very high highs and then extremely low lows. It used to be called manic depressive in some cases. But when they`re not having these episodes, they often appear normal. But it`s very hard on the family, because a lot of times the family is the one who sees the worst of it behind closed doors. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The one time they generally stop taking the medications are when they`re in the manic phase, which is the highly charged and energetic phase, because it feels so good to them. It feels awful to everybody else around them. But it feels very good to them to be in this state of mania, which can feel highly euphoric but can flip very quickly into something more angry and violent.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Dr. Robi Ludwig, this has to be a cautionary tale for every family battling with bipolar disorder, which is very, very common.

ROBI LUDWIG, PSYCHOLOGIST: Right. Bipolar disorder is very common, and there`s a range. So there are people at the extreme range who need to be hospitalized who can be potentially dangerous and then those who are more at the mild range.

But I think any family living who is living with somebody who is mentally ill and intermittently violent, they need to get help. And I think people have so much shame about mental illness they don`t get help. They don`t realize what their resources are and what`s available to them and worst-case scenario, it can end up in extreme violence or even homicide.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And this was a ticking time bomb.

Dave Phillips, you`re the court reporter for the "Oakland Press." You`ve been in the courtroom. Has the issue of the victim, the mother`s mental illness, her long history of bipolar, the fact that she had attacked the defendant at least nine months prior, she had tried to strangle her own son in one of these episodes she was having and did a couple weeks behind bars and then was ultimately taken to the hospital. And then she promised to stay on her meds and she was let out. Has all that come out before the jury?

PHILLIPS: There`s been a brief focus on that. They haven`t really delved into that topic quite -- quiet much yet. One thing that has been stated, though, is Bernie Pyne said on the day that she -- her body was found, apparently said to many people that she had -- she had switched her medication and appeared to be improving. Her condition appeared to be improving in the days leading up to that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And we say Bernie. That`s the husband of the dead woman, the father of the defendant, a family tragedy.

We`re just getting started. What every family dealing with mental illness has to know.



B. PYNE: I don`t believe that I`m a naive, unthinking father that`s just hoping that his son isn`t guilty. I truly -- I know my son. And I know he`s not capable of this. I know he would never harm his mother.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That is the victim, and we are talking about that victim, 51-year-old Ruth Pyne. She had a long history of bipolar. She became unruly and violent when she didn`t take her meds and she was hospitalized over and over again. Neighbors say Jeffrey`s dad was considering divorcing her.

Perhaps worst of all, she actually went to jail for trying to strangle her son, Jeffrey, who is now the defendant, accused of killing her, just nine months before he allegedly murdered her.

The National Institutes of Mental Health say almost 6 million adult Americans are affected by bipolar. You know, we`re talking millions of American families dealing with similar situations to this one.

Dr. Robi Ludwig, I had a friend who knew somebody who was bipolar so I started to understand what it was. But up until that time, I had no idea. I`d hear bipolar.

LUDWIG: Right.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Describe it. What does a bipolar person act like to the point where this defendant, this son...

LUDWIG: Right.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... might have been so enraged that prosecutors say he beat his mother with a 2 by 4 and then stabbed her 16 times.

LUDWIG: People who have bipolar disorder have a mood disorder. So they have extreme highs, at least one manic episode and then extreme lows. And in some cases, they`re just really irritable and can become volatile and violent.

It is very true that people who have bipolar disorder, especially if they run on the higher side, feeling high, don`t want to give that up. It`s like a drug. So in some cases, they`re very resistant to treatment or taking medication because of side effects. Especially somebody who has a severe case where they need to be hospitalized.

So what happens is this person who is -- has bipolar disorder, refuses medication, becomes irritable, intolerable to live with in the home. Basically ruins the home environment by either being nasty, violent, volatile, just impossible to live with on an ongoing basis.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: There`s a surprising amount of support, perhaps because of all the reasons that Dr. Ludwig just mentioned, coming from the community. The people who live around this defendant are behind them, regardless of whether they feel he killed his mother or not. Listen to this from ABC`s "Good Morning America."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The people in this community don`t much care whether or not Jeffrey Pyne killed his mother. They are rallying around him.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Community members have been holding fundraisers. Even though many reportedly believe, yes, he killed his mom, but looking back, given this violence in his home nine months earlier, the whole town knows his mom tried to strangle him, was taken to the hospital and then promised to stay on her meds.

Ironically, Tanya Acker, had she been treated like a criminal for trying to strangle her son and been sentenced to hard time, she`d still be alive right now. That is the irony of the entire situation.

ACKER: ... a little bit about some of the conclusions that are being drawn by the prosecutors in this case. You know, we hear the detectives say that they`re sure Jeffrey did it because, upon learning of his mother`s death, he didn`t show a lot of emotion.

You`ve got to think that, you know, living with somebody who is this ill, someone who`s tried to kill you, your feelings upon learning upon their death are going to be far more mixed than people -- than might ordinarily be the case.

I mean, so when I hear the detectives say they`re sure that he did it for, among other reasons, because he didn`t -- he wasn`t hysterical, he was pretty even about it. We don`t know what was going on in the head of this kid. We don`t know what he`s had to live with other than the attempted murder that we do know about.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But Tanya, who else has a motive? Who else has a motive to kill this woman? She tried to strangle him.

ACKER: I don`t know. I don`t know who else has a motive, and I`m not going to diminish the strength of the evidence that`s there, but we still don`t know. We don`t know what sort of engagements this woman got involved with. We don`t know what -- what she might have brought into her life or into her family`s home. Mentally ill people act unpredictably. And I think we just don`t know. And I don`t like some of these leaps the detectives are making because this kid didn`t show enough emotion.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: On the other side, is the defense making a smart decision by saying he had nothing to do with it, he wasn`t there?



B. PYNE: There`s blood everywhere. I don`t know what`s going on.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: The defendant, the victim`s son Jeffrey Pyne, claims he didn`t do it, that he was planting lilacs at the time. Some of evidence the prosecution focused on, injuries to Jeffrey`s hands. Jeffrey told his boss, "Oh, I hurt my hands throwing around a wooden palette." Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he tell you anything about these injuries?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, he told me that he threw a palette. Did seem odd. But...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did it seem odd to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, just a quick glance, I looked at it and thought it looks more like a rope burn.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: HLN law enforcement analyst Mike Brooks, here are the defendant`s wounds. Really significant injuries to his hands. Given that -- given that the crime scene was cleaned up, the sink cleaned, et cetera, implying somebody who may have felt comfortable within the home, people are asking, given that the defendant was attacked by the victim about nine months earlier and almost strangled, would it have been smarter to plead self-defense?

BROOKS: Well, if he didn`t do it, no, don`t plead self-defense.

But these wounds on the hands. You don`t get blisters like that from picking up a wooden palette, Jane, and throwing the wooden palette. I`ve dealt with palettes before. And you heard his boss, who said it looked like a rope burn.

So if you`ve got a 2 by 4 and you`ve got your hand around that, and you`re beating someone and you`re crushing their skull, breaking their arm, and then you stab someone sixteen times, could you get blisters from that? Absolutely.

But I`m going to have to agree with Tanya about the whole attitude of him. The cops thinking, well, he wasn`t remorseful enough. You know, with everything that goes on in that house and what he`s been through, maybe he would show not -- maybe he wouldn`t show emotion like someone would if their mother who was killed who had never had any confrontation with them.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tanya, a lot of experts in the law are saying he would have been smarter to say, "Yes, I was trying to protect my kid sister. I thought she was going to kill." That what he believed. "And she was coming after me again." And that that would have really been a tremendous mitigator.

ACKER: I`ve got to tell you, Jane, that is the fact that he didn`t say that is one of the reasons why I think that maybe it`s appropriate to take a step back and not give so much -- many presumptions to the state`s evidence here.

If this kid really did do it, I cannot imagine a jury who would have convicted him if he said, "My mother tried to kill me again. I was trying to protect myself and trying to protect my family. I`ve had to live with this 21 years." I think that that would have been an incredibly sympathetic argument for at jury. And the fact that he`s not making it does leave open the door that something else may have happened.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you`re absolutely right. And nobody is saying he doesn`t deserve his day in court. He does. And I feel sorry for this entire family. If he didn`t do it, who did? Who else was -- life was made hellish by this -- by this woman who was severely mentally ill, reportedly? We`re going to stay on top of this case.

Now, just minutes from now, Nancy Grace has the story of a Hollywood stuntman who survived after being shot four times in an almost fatal assassination attempt. Did his actress ex-wife hire a hitman to kill him following a bitter custody battle? Nancy, at 8 Eastern right here on HLN.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some stories trending online right now got our attention. Lindsay Lohan`s rep said that she didn`t feel up to an interview with Barbara Walters when she canceled on her, but she did talk to Jay Leno to plug her new Elizabeth Taylor movie.

A.J. HAMMER, HLN ANCHOR: Lindsay Lohan`s comeback movie getting slammed. Yes, critics are calling Lindsay`s new movie, "Liz and Dick," a train wreck and spectacularly bad.

"Lohan is woeful as Taylor from start to finish. But whatever you do, don`t miss `Liz and Dick.` It`s an instant classic of unintentional hilarity."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her playing somebody as respectful as Elizabeth Taylor makes about as much sense as Amanda Bynes playing Meryl Streep one day.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Say it ain`t so, LiLo. Lindsay Lohan`s big comeback role as Elizabeth Taylor in the Lifetime movie "Liz and Dick" airing this Sunday. It`s getting -- well, it would be hard to say slammed by the critics, because some of them hate it so much they have crossed over and love it now but for the wrong reasons.

Before we judge, let`s take a look at a clip from Lifetime.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God that woman knows how to make an entrance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s Elizabeth Taylor and Mr. Richard Burton.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They drink, they fight, they fornicate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You just ended your fourth marriage.

LOHAN: Who`s counting?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow. My head is spinning. This was supposed to be her triumphant return, a role that seemed perfect for her. A beautiful former child star struggling with the attention of being in the spotlight, battling substance abuse. This is the real Elizabeth Taylor from "Who`s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?"




TAYLOR: Quiet, you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wouldn`t go on with this is I were you.

TAYLOR: You wouldn`t, would you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have already sprung a leak about you know what.

TAYLOR: What? What?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About the sprout, the little bugger -- our son. If you start in on this business, Martha, I warn you.

TAYLOR: I stand warned.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: One of my all-time faves. Ok. Again, compare and contrast. There is a certain je ne sais quoi that they both seem to have in common.

Rob Shuter, "Naughty but Nice" from Huff Po, this was supposed to be the big comeback, the home run. What happened?

ROB SHUTER, HUFFINGTON POST: I`ve seen this movie, so I got an advance of the movie. I`ve seen it. Jane, it is so bad it is fantastic. It`s like Christmas has come early. We sat there with some friends and screened it. It`s only 90 minutes.

It`s fantastic. There`s not one line in it that isn`t going to be become a classic that people are going to repeat. It`s almost that bad it`s actually pretty darn good.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. But what is the impact going to be on her career?

SHUTER: That`s a good question. But let me answer that. I think this really makes some sense. On Sunday if it`s a monster hit, this will really help her. TV is all about one thing -- ratings.


SHUTER: Not necessarily quality, but ratings. So if everybody tunes in on Sunday and this is a blockbuster, she`ll be back.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s take another look at Lifetime`s "Liz and Dick" airing this Sunday night.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why the hell did I marry you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many did you take?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For you Elizabeth, anything.

LINDSAY LOHAN, ACTRESS: You know I love you.

I hate you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you marry me? Again?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: I am enjoying that clip a little too much, I have to say. David Kaplan, celebrity journalist, founder of, you saw it too. Now, let me just read you a couple of reviews.

"Hollywood Reporter: "Lindsay`s woeful as Taylor from start to finish; but whatever you do, don`t miss "Liz and Dick". It`s an instant classic of unintentional hilarity." It seems like everybody`s gotten to say it`s a guilty pleasure. You`re going to have a lot of fun watching it even if it`s a train wreck.

DAVID CAPLAN, CELEBRITY JOURNALIST: Yes. I think when you first see the movie, I saw it this weekend, you know, you`re surprised because it seems like a bit of a mismatch. But I have to tell you, what I really found watching the movie was that I saw Elizabeth Taylor in Lindsay Lohan. That`s the most important thing for an actress or an actor when they are doing a biopic.

I mean I really saw Elizabeth Taylor in here. I wasn`t thinking this is Lindsay, she`s a train wreck. I mean I really felt she sort of channeled her. It did really well. And it`s just -- you know, it`s a really fun movie to watch.

Let`s be honest. This didn`t going up against "Argo" at the Oscars. I mean it`s a Lifetime TV movie so I think for some reason, people are so, you know like, wound up about slamming it. But I mean I think you have to look at it in context.

It`s a TV movie, it`s fun. It`s 88 minutes and Lindsay has 65 costume changes. Who doesn`t want to watch Elizabeth Taylor with 65 costume changes? And I just started (inaudible) you guys were talking about ratings -- exactly. But I think the interesting thing to note about Sunday night is that this airs at 9:00 on Lifetime and you know what`s on at 9:00 on OWN is the Justin Bieber interview with Oprah for "Oprah`s Next Chapter". It will be interesting to see which people watch or if they just resolve to TIVO.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Lindsay Lohan bailed on sitting down with Barbara Walters. Something -- don`t get Barbara Walters mad, not a good idea. But she did go on "The Tonight Show" and here`s her explanation of how she got her head straight.


LOHAN: I kind of am still a kid in a way. I`m 26.


LOHAN: But I think I had to step back and kind of take myself out of everything and get my head straight and kind of focus on what it is I wanted to do. And you know, you get caught up in everything. It`s important to kind of find yourself and get yourself through that.

LENO: Do you miss --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Dylan Howard, Celebuzz, editor-in-chief, can you translate for us? I`m not exactly sure what she was saying there.

DYLAN HOWARD, CELEBUZZ, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: I don`t think anyone is actually sure. What we`re missing here in this entire discussion is that "Liz and Dick", and I watched it this morning, exemplifies just how far Lindsay Lohan has gone down. She was a bankable child star and now she`s resorted to starring in Lifetime`s tele-movie. Her career in Hollywood is suffering.

And with reports this week that her probation could be revoked and she could be headed back to jail, this could well be the last time we see her in anything in a long time. The one thing though, Jane, those trailers, they are good. They are seductive and they will get bums on (inaudible) in front of the couches on Sunday night. They`re not going to be happy at the end of it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh my gosh. I feel like we`re ganging up on this poor girl. Let`s be fair. Elizabeth Taylor is not somebody easily copied. She was considered the most beautiful woman that ever lived, a sex symbol like no other. And who can forget "Cleopatra".


RICHARD BURTON: Why should I ever want to hold or look at --

TAYLOR: Remember? I don`t want you to forget me. Please.

BURTON: Forget, how? I could never be more far away from you than this.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: I was always captivated by the romance between those two. Does Lindsay Lohan wear a head dress?

SHUTER: She does. She looked like Liz Taylor. Watch this movie Jane, it`s fantastic.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I love a guilty pleasure. 52 percent say, yes, we`re going to watch it. And you know that a lot of people say I was really watching PBS but somehow the dial accidentally ends up on Lifetime.

Listen, my heart goes out to this girl. I mean she`s in her 20s. Do we remember what we were like in our 20s? The pressure, the paparazzi. I mean now with the dad, oh my gosh. She`s got these siblings that she didn`t know she had. Honestly, we have to cut her a little slack. And at the very least, I think we all owe it to ourselves and to Lindsay.

Watch this movie. However you feel about it, watch it. Make it a ratings hit because we don`t want her to disappear.

All right. More on the other side.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: This used to be my garbage can. Kind of sounds like a Madonna song, doesn`t it? Well, guess what; this is my new garbage can. Look how tiny this little fellow is. And guess what; it even comes with a reusable garbage bag. This is how little I throw out that I don`t recycle.

The recyclable containers that I have -- this is where the recycles go, right, much larger. Or you can use your traditional garbage can as your recycle can. It`s all about changing the equation to emphasize the environment. It`s that easy.

Healthy body, healthy mind.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my gosh. It`s so small.



VELEZ-MITCHELL: You voted this the "Viral Vid of the week. A tiny kitten being pulled out of the Lincoln statue in Florida; a three-week old kitten got trapped inside for three days.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just days away. And according to the National Retail Federation, as many as 147 million people will shop online or visit stores this weekend looking for holiday deals.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We do it every year -- just kind of part of tradition for us.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s Thanksgiving eve and that means Black Friday shopping madness. Scenes like this are going to play out across America. Check this out from YouTube.

Take a look at these stampedes. Is this what you think the holidays are meant to be? Really? Up to 147 million people will participate in shopping online or in the stores or going through these stampedes for Black Friday. And then they throw another holiday, Cyber Monday -- they keep inventing new ones.

Look at this. Is this the spirituality of the holidays? 118,000 Hostess workers are staring at the prospects of joblessness, people everywhere struggling to find work. Even those with jobs are feeling the pinch, feeling uncertainty.

If you don`t think Black Friday stampedes and Cyber Monday extreme shopping is fun, there`s another way. There`s actually a new movement sweeping the nation. It`s called the "buy nothing movement". It`s now celebrated in 65 countries.

Straight out to syndicated radio host Chris Markowski on the Watch Dog on Wall Street, I kind of like it. I`m sort of there already. I don`t buy a lot of physical gifts. I get people donations. I adopt a turkey. I get a cleft palate operation for some kid in it the third world. I don`t buy gifts whenever possible.

CHRIS MARKOWSKI, RADIO HOST: I suggest, you know, time is the most important thing you`re going to have. If you have kids and loved ones, why not take a little trip, do something with them because I think that they are going to appreciate that a lot more than anything else.

But you mentioned all this commercialism and stuff that goes around with it. I mean the original Charles Shultz "Peanuts" Christmas special; that took place in the mid-1960s when he did that and that was about commercialism. Not only it`s just gotten out of control, you have people camping out in front of electronic stores.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And then I just read an article today that said you`re not going to really save that much money by doing all that. Instead of buying gifts, why not throw -- here`s an idea -- it`s not like you don`t have to exchange any gifts but you can do a no-shop swap.

I actually organized one of these for my friends and myself. You take stuff and you trade it. Stuff that`s good and it`s wonderful in your house but you don`t simply need and you have a party and trade it. Check this out.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s brilliant. It`s not just better for the planet. It`s better for your wallet. You`re greening the planet and you`re greening your wallet. I think it`s brilliant.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You go through your closet and you realize I haven`t worn this in x amount of time.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s the criteria.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Here are some lovely dessert glasses.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a couple of things for non-leather purses.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. There was no consumption, no wrapping paper. And here`s another idea. Take a look at this. If you want to teach your kids creativity, this is a work of art made from totally thrown out stuff. This is a piece of wood that was found on the street. These are (inaudible) pods. So you can actually teach your kids creativity at the same time you save money and you don`t damage the environment.

Americans throw 25 percent more trash away during that period between Thanksgiving and the New Year. And it`s devastating the environment. Up to 40 percent of extra retail spending occurs during the holidays and for what? I mean honestly, a kid needs a gift. But to give them too many is almost like hurting them more than giving them nothing at all.

So let`s teach our kids creativity; let`s teach them generosity. Let`s teach them gratitude for what they have. Let`s save the planet and avoid horrible storms and celebrate the holidays.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Time for "Pet o` the Day". Send us your pet pics to

Finn, I like, you`re hanging out. And Hunny, you`re a hunny bunny. Look at you. What a smile. And Bella. What a cute little fella, Bella. Antonio like Antonio Banderas -- cute.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The turkeys eat right along with us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are eating unbelievable food and we are enjoying their company.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a completely meatless meal and the turkeys are the guests of honors instead of the main course.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It really, really is an amazing place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. It really was.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hey Rico, guess what. Do you know that there is a new trend taking over? That`s right. There is a new supermarket ad for example showing more and more people are going for meatless Thanksgivings. They are coming up with other animal-friendly options and reinventing the holidays. How? By feeding the turkeys at a wonderful sanctuary called Farm Sanctuary instead of feeding on them and they are calling it thanks- living, a compassionate way to celebrate the season.

Joining me now Gene Baur, president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary; do you sense that there is a change this Thanksgiving into a thanks-living where people are embracing turkeys as sentient beings as opposed to simply food?

GENE BAUR, PRESIDENT/CO-FOUNDER, FARM SANCTUARY: Yes. Absolutely Jane. It is amazing to see the growing awareness and people are humane and people want to live in a way that they can feel good about and they want to eat healthy food as well.

And with the factory farming system today, you have animals that are treated just like commodities; they`re treated very badly. And when people hear about it, it is upsetting and they would rather not participate. So more and more people now are looking for alternatives and we encourage people to save a turkey instead of eating one for Thanksgiving and for the holidays.

And you know, it feels better, you know, because you don`t have to feel badly about it the cruelty of supporting. And it`s healthier too. You know, you can live very well by eating plant foods and no animal foods. I have been a vegan since 1985 and I just started running marathons. So this is a lifestyle that makes a lot of sense for animals as well as for our own health.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And this growing trend comes on the heels of a new Mercy for Animals undercover investigation. The animal protection group says their hidden cameras caught allegedly workers at a Butterball factory they say taking stuffing on turkeys, dragging them by their wings and necks throwing them on the ground and other just horrific cruelty.

Gene what do you make of this? Because Butterball has said essentially they have released a statement saying that they immediately initiated an internal investigation, suspended the associates in question; they will make a determination on additional actions, including immediate termination for those involved. And they say they remain committed to the ethical and responsible care of turkey flocks. What do you make of this latest undercover investigation involving turkeys?

BAUR: Well, whenever an investigator gets into one of these places they find problems. So the problems are rampant. That has become normal. Animals are treated like pieces of machinery. It is an attitude -- it`s an attitude of callousness, an attitude of cruelty. And unfortunately, it is the norm in these industrialized factory farms.

And when people see this it is shocking because these animals have feelings. These animals suffer. These animals deserve better. And, you know, by choosing a plant based holiday meal, citizens, consumers can make a difference. We can choose not to support this kind of abuse. We can instead choose to eat healthy food that is not causing animals to suffer horribly.

So whenever these investigators get in the problems are always, always apparent.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And you have this alternate ceremony at Farm Sanctuary, and you have sanctuaries in New York and California where people come out and they feed the turkeys.

Take a look at this. It is adorable. And they eat pies and they get some pets. They are treated just like we treat our little dogs and cats.

Ten seconds, what does this do for people?

BAUR: This is a wonderful celebration. It is great to spend positive time with animals, to watch them digging into the pumpkin pie and splashing around the other turkeys and people. It is a wonderful, wonderful celebration.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. More on the other side -- how you can get involved if you want to.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Birds just like mammals, have friendships and bonds and they spent most of their time with specific birds. So Hildy has really close friends. Feather is a really close friend of hers. Kima is a close friend of hers and Rhonda is a close friend of hers. When she can`t see them and when they can`t see her, they often vocalize back and forth.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Turkeys have personalities like dogs and cats like little Rico here. Farm Sanctuary has been adopting out turkeys for almost three decades, giving them safe loving homes.

Check this out.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are taking two turkeys to Connecticut to meet up with the woman who is adopting them and there they will be their new forever home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This guy is Mordecai and the girl is Fiona.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: If somebody wants to save the life of a turkey this holiday season you can go to Jane or my Facebook, JaneVelezMitchell Facebook page and find out all about it. But Gene, what can people do in terms of adopt a turkey?

BAUR: They should go to or go to your Website as you mentioned. And it`s a great way to celebrate a compassionate Thanksgiving. They can sponsor a Turkey who lived at Farm Sanctuary and for people who have the space, we also do bring turkeys into good homes. So there`s a couple of ways to do it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And I have to tell you. Why do the same thing over and over again? If you are kind of tired of the same old holidays you`ve been having for how many years now? Talking to same people sitting next -- you know what; tradition is great but innovation is also fund. So why not try something new? It is a blast. I`ve got to tell you, it`s a very feel good experience. And it kind of puts a whole new spin on a very, very traditional day.

So I wish you all a happy thanks-living and I suggest you just check out this alternative. It could be a fun adventure.