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JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL

Did Beloved Principal Kill Husband?

Aired September 3, 2013 - 19:00:00   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. A huge twist in a murder mystery out of California. It sounds like it should be a made-for- TV movie. This is crazy.

Good evening. I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell coming to you live.

A highly respected, very popular elementary-school principal and mother of three is accused of brutally gunning down her husband of 17 years and dumping his body in a field. Jaws dropped as cops arrested principal Leslie Chance.

But then moments ago, the case got even stranger. As she was about to be formally charged, cops suddenly said, "Oops," and released her, saying, well, they want to keep investigating. Did a prestigious elementary school principal really murder her husband or is there a vicious killer on the loose?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A popular elementary school principal is accused of shooting and killing her husband.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just -- it is out of character and very hard to believe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A school system, an entire community in shock.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To commit murder, you know, what are the kids going to think?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The question, is it her and why if it is?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, as far as I know, no complaints. Hardworking.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Leslie Chance, a respected educator, in jail, no bail.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Cops arrested 46-year-old Leslie Chance and accused her of shooting her husband multiple times and then discarding his body near a dirt road in Bakersfield, California. Farm workers found the body of 45-year-old Todd Chance, a truck driver, in a field near an almond orchard. Cops then found his Ford Mustang, abandoned 20 miles away from the body. Cops say his wife ditched his car after brutally killing him.

Leslie Chance, though, is a well-respected, loved principal at Fairview Elementary. The accusation left everyone in the community absolutely stunned.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t know. I`m shocked.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can`t believe it was her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shock. Disbelief. Just not believing. Got to be a mistake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t think she would do something like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Was their seemingly perfect marriage not so perfect behind closed doors? Who is the real principal Leslie Chance? Did she lead a secret double life, or did cops bungle it? Is there another murderer on the loose?

Call me: 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297.

And we have an incredible panel in the Lion`s Den tonight, including former FBI agent and host of "Deadly Women" on Investigation Discovery, Candice DeLong. And radio show host Mo Ivory. And many others.

But first, let`s go to Bakersfield. We have a live picture now of the jail. Leslie Chance could leave this jail facility at any moment. You are looking at a live picture.

Joining me from Los Angeles, CNN correspondent Stephanie Elam with the breaking news on an unbelievable about face. Stephanie, what you got?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is so true, Jane. This is a case where we were waiting for her to be arraigned today so we could hear what her plea was. Instead, what we found out from the D.A. is that they are not going to press formal charges against her.

Instead, the D.A. has taken her file and given it back to the current county sheriff and has asked them to do further investigating on this case.

What that means for Leslie Chance is that now, with no formal chances -- charges against her, she`s free to go. At some point this evening -- could be any minute now, could be later on tonight, more likely -- she is going to go free, because there`s nothing against her. Keep in mind that her husband`s funeral is set for tomorrow, as well.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, if she`s released, which we should be any second now, she`ll be able to attend her husband`s funeral.

Straight out to the Lion`s Den. Let`s go to our incredible panel right now. I`ve got to get reaction to this, because this is a mind- blower. Oh, my gosh, Mo Ivory. I mean, what the heck?

MO IVORY, RADIO SHOW HOST: Jane, I am saying the same thing. I`m split. She`s either the smartest killer that we have seen or she is being, you know, set up to fall for a murder that she did not commit. But I mean...

BRIAN SILBER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I`m not split.

IVORY: I`m serious. Wait, wait. Is she going to go to the funeral tomorrow? Well, I`m really interested to find out if she will end up going to the funeral tomorrow. Because I think that that will be very telling.

But I just don`t know what to make of it. Listen, you never know who...

SILBER: Listen, there`s only one reason why she was...

ANNA YUM, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It`s not even close. What appeared to be an open-and-shut case clearly is not even close. What this shows to me is that clearly the D.A. had some doubts in their mind, and there`s a lot of questions that need to be asked and answered for...

(CROSSTALK)

SILBER: There`s one reason why she was -- there`s no probable cause.

YUM: ... for us to make a determination.

SILBER: There`s no probable cause.

YUM: There`s a difference between probable cause and proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The officers only need probable cause to make an arrest, where the D.A. needs to...

SILBER: They don`t even have that in this case.

YUM: And they have some doubts. They have some doubts.

SILBER: But Jane, this happens -- this happens a lot...

(CROSSTALK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Guys, I`ve got to -- I`ve got to bring you back down to planet earth for a second, because we`ve got some more information coming in.

Cops say eyewitnesses spotted the principal, Leslie, suspiciously dumping her husband`s sports car in a residential neighborhood. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When she parked the car and just left it, I feared it was a stolen vehicle. She never even looked back. She just got out and left.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Now, I understand that there could be some questions about that right now. In other words, maybe there`s something wrong with that witness. So if the eyewitness did spot Leslie dumping the car, that`s pretty incriminating. But what if there`s a problem with that witness?

You know, it`s never a good idea to hang your entire case on one person`s word, because people can have bad eyesight. People can mistake other people and think they see somebody, but they might see somebody else. People can have an agenda.

I want to go out to our very special guest, Candice DeLong, retired FBI profiler. And she is host of "Deadly Women" on Investigation Discovery. We`re going to show you a clip, because they`ve new episodes premiering every Friday at 10.

There you are on your show. Candice, what`s your analysis of this case?

CANDICE DELONG, HOST, INVESTIGATION DISCOVERY`S "DEADLY WOMAN": Well, I find it quite surprising. When I left my house to come to the studio here, it was my understanding she was being charged, with first-degree murder is what I read. And now I`m finding out, well, maybe not so much; she can go. This is a rather interesting turn of events. Either the police and the D.A.`s office are not working closely together, which would be odd, or something has come up.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you know, I`ve got to say, Jon Leiberman, "Wild about Trial," investigative journalist, this is rare. This is rare. Everybody, and we`re going to talk to an assistant superintendent who worked with Leslie in just a second. But it`s rare to hear all over the news somebody has been charged with murder and then, just as they`re about to be formally charged -- that`s the arraignment process -- "Never mind. You can go on your way."

JON LEIBERMAN, HLN CONTRIBUTOR: Jane, I`m going to -- I`m going to challenge you a little bit on that assertion, Jane. Because you do see it more often than you think where there`s friction between agencies like a sheriff`s office and a district attorney`s office.

Clearly, they weren`t communicating through the process. Clearly, police thought they had all their ducks in a row. But when the D.A. got involved, they looked at this, and they said, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a second. There`s not enough to charge this woman with first-degree murder," which is what the police recommended. But that`s the D.A.`s choice: Is there enough evidence to charge? This doesn`t mean that she`s going to walk free forever. It means...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: There`s the dead body right there.

LEIBERMAN: ... that the sheriff`s office needs to investigate more.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: This is a very serious case. Look at this man`s dead body. He was riddled with bullets. His body was found in a field. The workers who work on that farm did not see anything at 7:30 a.m.

At 9:30 a.m., they discover the body. That`s a two-hour window. That`s a very short period of time.

I want to go to Kenneth Chichester. I hope I pronounced your name correctly, sir, assistant superintendent out of Bakersfield. I understand that you know the -- the principal, Leslie Chance. I`d say the suspect, except she`s just been released.

First of all, what was your reaction when you first heard that she had been arrested for her husband`s murder?

KENNETH CHICHESTER, ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT (via phone): I was -- it was complete shock. Shock and disbelief that that could actually take place.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now that we hear that she`s been released. I was shocked to hear that she -- that she`s being released, and we`ve got a live picture that we can show you any minute now. She`s going to be whisked out of the jail facility. This is a live picture of the detention facility in Bakersfield, California.

Sir, do you think they just made a mistake about your dear friend and acted too quickly?

CHICHESTER: You know, I don`t know. I just found that out within the last hour. I know the people that work with her professionally. They have found it very difficult to believe all along that she was capable of doing that. So surprise and shock has been the common response to that. People believing maybe they got the wrong person. But we`re not privy to -- to all the evidence, and I just did find out that they were going to be possibly releasing her later today.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let me ask you about her and her marriage to her husband, who was a truck driver. We did a background check, and we found that they have no debts. They have no liens. They have no bankruptcies. They have no money problems. They have no domestic violence. It`s all no, no, no, no, no. They have no problems whatsoever of any legal sense. So were they happily married?

CHICHESTER: You know, I don`t know that personally. As a couple, I`ve only worked with her professionally. So I`m not privy to that information. But I -- everything I have heard and understood, I have heard of no difficulties.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, you know her and work with her professionally.

CHICHESTER: Yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Does she strike you as a person who`s capable of pumping her husband`s body full of bullets, dumping his body in a field, an almond field, then driving 20 miles away and dumping her husband`s car and then pretending like nothing happened?

CHICHESTER: Well, she`s a very -- very well-respected, professional individual who is well liked by students and staff. And fairly quiet and hardworking, and that`s certainly not the characteristics that I would envision of someone doing something like that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But as a human being, when you get a sense of him, would you ever -- like in your mind -- you know, people always say, I`m shocked. But do you think that it`s in her makeup to have the capacity, for whatever reason, to do something like that? You`ve looked at her eyes; you`ve worked with her. What`s your best guess on that?

CHICHESTER: Well, I would say no. That`s not something I would ever see coming from her.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow. OK.

We`re just getting started. We`ve got so much more to dive in. But again, breaking news, and hopefully, Stephanie can stay with us, our reporter, because she`s got some new information that we`ll tell you on the other side about this so-called witness who saw her driving a sports car and leaving it 20 miles away. Is there a problem with that?

Also, the weapon was found. So whose gun is it? Does it have her prints on it? Where was the gun found? So many unanswered questions. Stay right there. Did cops get the wrong person when they arrested this popular principal?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some parents are afraid to have their kids at school. This has nothing to do with school; the school is safe. We have teachers here, teaching. Our job is to educate, and that will take place as normal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When she parked the car and just left it, I figured it was a stolen vehicle. She never even looked back. She just got out and left.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Stephanie Elam, CNN correspondent, covering this case in California where it`s all going down. You saw that witness in shadow talking about her leaving the car. Is there a problem with that witness?

ELAM: There`s not been any indication that there`s a problem with the witness. In fact, we -- the spokesperson for the Kern County Sheriff`s Department acting like this was a key reason why they felt like they had an open-and-shut case here on what happened.

Also, the gun that was allegedly used to kill Todd Chance was also found inside that car, as well. They also have a theory on how she was able to get home, because that`s where she was when people went to her door to tell her that they had found her husband shot to death.

So obviously there`s something here that we`re not knowing about that the D.A. saw and was concerned about. When you look at these facts and the fact that the spokesperson even told us again today that they did have this witness, someone seeing her just walking away from this car, something isn`t adding up.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Fascinating stuff. Let`s go right out to the Lion`s Den. And we have another very special guest tonight, Lisa Lockwood, investigator and author of "Undercover Angel" out of Chicago.

I find all this fascinating, but I will say this. This happened on a Sunday. It`s the victim`s day off. He`s a truck driver. He wasn`t working. Seven-thirty a.m., the farm workers do not see anything. Nine- thirty a.m., they find the body. This is a narrow window. I really wonder, Sunday morning, what was this principal doing?

LISA LOCKWOOD, AUTHOR, "UNDERCOVER ANGEL": Within two hours. Now somebody mentioned something earlier about not fitting the profile. Here`s a woman who`s a schoolteacher. Well, let`s go back on a case of a woman from NASA who drove across the country wearing a diaper to make sure that she took care of somebody to get revenge. So it`s absolutely possible that somebody can be completely calculating about this.

So you know what? My hunch is that the police didn`t get enough evidence. Very good possibility that that witness wasn`t 100 percent credible. They could have done a background check on him. And she got those fingerprints off the gun.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, I just wonder...

YUM: Jane, what`s astounding about this case -- what`s astounding about this case is that it`s not like a Jodi Arias situation. I don`t anticipate people coming forward and saying that this woman is two pedals short of a bicycle, that she`s some psycho lady that had a stalking issue. I mean, we`re talking about people who are saying she`s like Mother Teresa.

LEIBERMAN: Yes, but you never know what goes on inside of a marriage. You just never know.

YUM: I know. I understand -- I understand that. You never know what can go on. But let`s talk about motive. And I understand motive is not necessary in a criminal prosecution, but it certainly helps, especially if her whole community is rallying behind her and her students are saying what type of person she is. No complaints, no criminal history, no violence, no debt.

LEIBERMAN: I think this case is going to turn on forensic evidence.

YUM: Well, speaking of motive, cops said they were positive that Leslie shot her husband multiple times, but they admitted they are still clueless about the motive. Is that what led them to say, "You can leave now." Might walk out any second. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We really don`t know what the motive is at this point. Hopefully, we will be able to determine what the motivation was for this murder. But we`re confident that there`s enough evidence to show that Leslie Chance is responsible for Mr. Chance`s shooting death.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Candice DeLong, retired FBI profiler, host of "Deadly Women" on Investigation Discovery. What was the rush? I mean, I covered so many cases where the authorities wait and wait and wait. This woman does not seem like a flight risk. She`s principal at an elementary school. You`ve got to wonder why they felt the need to arrest her so quickly. This happened on the 25th. She was arrested on Friday, approximately five days later. Where is the fire, as they say?

DELONG: Well, I don`t know. Maybe the fire was in their mind, and they believe she did it. Maybe -- maybe they have very good reason to believe she did it. Not as far as the D.A. was concerned.

But here`s the thing about -- talking about motive. The two leading motives that we see for wives killing husbands is, No. 1 -- and this is one of the main motivators of all murders -- jealousy, perhaps. She found out something that made her jealous.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: He was a trucker. He was a trucker, which means traveling long distances away from home a lot. I`m not saying that means she was cheating.

DELONG: I`m not saying that either.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Just putting it in the mix.

DELONG: Right. I`m just saying the possibility certainly is -- is high. That`s a main motivator of murder.

The second one is money. They -- we see wives more than husbands getting into terrible debt. Their husband doesn`t know it. The bills are coming due. They`ve been hiding the foreclosure notices and, "Oh, my gosh, hubby has a life insurance policy. Hmmm, that would be a good way for me to get out of this jam."

We see that a lot. But there`s no indication that`s what happened here.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We did a background check. They do not have money problems. It`s a very thorough background check. No restraining orders, no bankruptcy, no big debts, no domestic violence, either.

What`s her motive, if cops have the right person? And did they make a mistake? Is that why they`re releasing her? She could leave jail any moment. We have a live picture of the jail, and we`re going to show you her walking out, if she does so within the next few minutes. Maybe she`s driving out in that car right there. We`ll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She`s an amazing, caring person. And she always has her family here for all of the school events and scuff. So it`s just kind of weird that it happened all of a sudden like that, when they had such a good home life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well-liked as far as I know, no complaints. Hardworking. Pretty quiet. Well-respected. Professional.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s very hard to believe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Several of the people I talked to, the first response was, they got the wrong person. It`s just -- it is out of character and hard to believe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And maybe they did get the wrong person.

We are looking at a live picture of the jail in Bakersfield, California, where this high school -- excuse me, elementary school, even more shocking -- principal Leslie Chance is about to be released. She was arrested and accused of murdering her husband by pumping him full of bullets and then dumping his body in an almond grove and then disposing of his car 20 miles away. An eyewitness reportedly saw her walking away from said car.

But now, just on the verge of her being formally charged, the D.A. apparently is the one who said, "Never mind, let her go." We`ve to do some more investigating. Guys, you don`t even know the motive, do you?

So let`s go out to the phone lines. Jim, Idaho, your question or thought, Jim, Idaho.

CALLER: My question, could it be religion related? And the reason I`m wondering is I think a high school principal back in the early `80s went on a murder rampage and killed his whole family in Boise, Idaho, and they blamed it on religion.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Religion? You know, I don`t know anything about her religion. All I can tell you this is happened on a Sunday morning.

And there`s a police vehicle leaving the jail right now. I certainly don`t expect her to walk out by herself, but she may. She doesn`t have a vehicle there, so somebody has to pick her up so she can go to her husband`s funeral tomorrow.

But what about it? And I`ll throw this to Brian Silber, criminal defense attorney. It happened Sunday morning. Some people go to church on Sunday morning.

SILBER: And some people don`t. You know, the fact that it happened Sunday morning I don`t believe is any indicator in this case.

What I think is going to be much more important is the forensic evidence. And most importantly, and if I was the investigator, I would look at her cell-phone records, and I`d want to do a forensic evaluation of her computer.

So I think if they have any evidence at all -- and by the way, it`s clear that this is one of those cases where they think they have their culprit but don`t have enough evidence. If they can support an application for a search warrant, I think a plethora of evidence will be found in her electronics, and I think that will provide us with a lot of very important leads that fill the gap in this case.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But let`s -- Anna Yum, criminal defense attorney, something about this doesn`t smell right to me. Usually in these cases, when we do a background check, we find some kind of problem: domestic violence, a call to 911, a drama-filled home. Something. Debt. There`s nothing there. And there was -- and she`s been at this school district for 16 years.

YUM: I hear you, Jane. And she`s been married to the same man for 17 years.

Now, I think it`s a mistake to automatically assume that she`s off the hook. Because clearly, what the D.A. is doing right now is saying, "Listen, at this point in time, we just don`t have enough in our investigation to be able to say to a jury that I can convict -- convict her beyond a reasonable doubt." And that`s not to say that that won`t change in the future.

In fact, I handled a gang murder case where my client was released under 48 hours because he wasn`t seen by a magistrate, but later on they filed charges. And that`s something that they might do.

Now, they`re probably scratching their heads, based upon what you said. I mean, she seems like this pristine woman with a pure reputation and, like I said before, so many people are supporting her. But pending investigation, we`ll come to see what the forensics are. And your other guest mentioned, and I completely agree with him.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Look -- look at his body. If you look at the photos of this poor dead man -- may he rest in peace -- but he`s a big guy. How does she get him, after being shot, into the car? That`s what I don`t get, Lisa Lockwood. It makes me wonder -- like, that doesn`t add up either, does it?

LOCKWOOD: Exactly. Is there an accomplice? A body riddled with bullets is a perfect case of crime of passion. Somebody who acted passionately, based on pieces of information they found out. And they were in a heat of the moment and a rage, and that happens to the most upstanding people.

But the piece of the puzzle, like you said, was the size of the body, moving that body, getting it out of the vehicle. I mean, that`s going to take some effort. And why wasn`t the evidence in the vehicle? Why weren`t the police able to secure that? That`s the biggest question right now.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. We have more information. Stay right there. Taking your calls on the other side.

Is this woman a cold-blooded killer, despite her being an elementary- school principal, beloved by hundreds of students and their parents, who are shocked? Or did cops make a big mistake and get the wrong person? And if so, does that mean the real killer is out there? Stay right there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t know. I mean, I`m shocked.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I couldn`t believe it was her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shock, disbelief. Just not believing, had to be a mistake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t think she would do something like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A popular elementary school principal is accused of shooting and killing her husband.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s just -- it is out of character and very hard to believe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A school system, an entire community in shock.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To commit murder, now what are the kids going to think?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The question, is it her and why if it is?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well-liked as far as I know, no complaints, hardworking.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Leslie Chance, a respected educator, in jail, no bail.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You are looking at a live picture out of Bakersfield, California. Any second now that elementary school teacher and principal, Leslie Chance, is going to go through those gates and be a free woman. Free to attend her late husband`s burial tomorrow.

The district attorney decided oops, not enough evidence to formally charge her. But cops believe it was Leslie who drove her husband`s 2011 Mustang and dumped it miles from their house after hiding her husband`s body in a field after murdering him by gunning him down, shooting him multiple times.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAY PRUITT, SPOKESPERSON, KERN COUNTY SHERIFF`S OFFICE: We do believe she is the person who drove his vehicle to that neighborhood and left it in that neighborhood and then walked away from the vehicle.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But did cops act too soon? At 9:30 Sunday morning, August 25, workers found Todd, her husband`s bullet-riddled body in a field 16 miles from his home. Later, his abandoned Mustang was found about 20 miles from where the body was dumped. They also recovered the murder weapon inside his car. Less than a week later, just this past Friday, they arrest his wife, this popular elementary school principal.

Straight out to "The Lion`s Den" -- Mo Ivory, CBS radio personality out of Atlanta, should they be looking for another killer tonight?

MO IVORY, CBS RADIO PERSONALITY: Absolutely, you know, absolutely Jane, that`s my theory. From what I`m hearing now, not knowing about what she had said to them, what she`s providing, it sounds like there`s a third person.

And let`s not assume that this third person is an accomplice. Maybe she was instructed by this third person, "This is what you`re going to do next. You`re going to drive the car here. You`re going to leave it. You`re going to walk away. Then you`re going to go back to your house, because if you don`t, I`m going to come back and I`m going to get you."

BRIAN SILBER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: No way, I don`t buy it.

IVORY: I mean we just don`t know.

JON LEIBERMAN, HLN CONTRIBUTOR: No.

IVORY: Well, listen. We just don`t know.

SILBER: If that`s what they -- if that`s what they thought that`s what they would say.

(CROSSTALK)

IOVRY: Obviously there`s not enough. Obviously what we do know is that there`s not enough to keep her and she`s walking out of jail today.

SILBER: Right. And that`s exactly what this is about. This is one of those classic cases where they think they know who did it, but they don`t have enough to bring up the case. That`s what it is. If they thought it was someone else, they would come out and say so.

(CROSSTALK)

IVORY: But that doesn`t mean that it can`t be somebody else.

LEIBERMAN: There`s not enough --

(CROSSTALK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right.

SILBER: I`m not saying what really happened. I`m saying what they`re thinking.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Order in the non-court. Anna Yum, criminal defense attorney, go for it.

ANNA YUM, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I think the DA obviously is making a very calculated decision in delaying this investigation, because they don`t want to make a rash decision.

Jane, we`re talking about first degree murder, right, murder with premeditation and deliberation -- 25 to life. And then here in California, there`s a gun enhancement. If you kill somebody and you use a gun, it`s called -- in our line of work it`s called "use a gun and you`re done". That`s another 25 to life.

So clearly they want to make sure that they look at everything before they make a filing decision that could affect her life --

SILBER: You`re giving them too much credit. No way.

(CROSSTALK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Jon -- Jon Lieberman, doesn`t she have a lawsuit?

SILBER: They don`t have the evidence and that`s the bottom line.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: If they got the wrong person -- I`m talking lawsuit, lawsuit.

LEIBERMAN: Potentially. But two things, Jane. Number one -- because they were talking -- somebody said about moving the body. Police believe that he was shot in the vehicle, and then she took his body out of the vehicle, at the scene. They believe there`s only one crime scene here, and that is where the body was dumped. And the car was right there. That`s number one.

But the second thing is -- and Brian hit the nail in the head -- they just don`t have the evidence right now. I don`t believe -- I believe you`re going to see her back in custody over the next several days. They just don`t have it right now, and they can only hold her for 48 hours. So that`s what you`re seeing.

LISA LOCKWOOD, INVESTIGATOR: I`m in agreement. It was an overzealous police officer, and now the DA doesn`t want to risk their reputation, because somebody who acted very rapidly to get this case solved and off you go. I believe she will be in custody again very soon.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, all I can say is, they have already ruined her life you might argue, because even if they clear her, let`s say they decide no, you didn`t do it, there`s always going to be people that think, well, maybe.

If they don`t re-arrest her or charge her -- you know what, it could also make it much harder if she is guilty, and I`m saying hypothetically if, if, if -- to win a case. Don`t you think her defense attorneys are going to use this? They can`t even figure out their own case, they let her go. Oh, yes, I can just hear the opening statement right now.

All right. On the other side of the break, we`ve got another breaking news story. A major development in a case we`ve been following, the disappearance of beautiful Alexis Murphy. And now they found her cell phone. What does it mean?

Stay right there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There`s just all kinds of holes in this story. Why would a 48-year-old man need to ask a 17-year-old where to buy weed?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Remember that outrageous story we told you about right here about a Montana judge who sentenced a rapist to just 31 days instead of 15 years? The rapist -- a teacher whose 14-year-old victim killed herself? Turns out the judge is rethinking his controversial sentence. There is a new hearing on Thursday and we will be all over it right here.

Stay right here. Back for more in a second.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`ve got to get her home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last seen on surveillance video at a Lovingston gas station.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With the arrest of Randy Allen Taylor, we made a significant step closer towards bringing her home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Randy Taylor?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Investigators arrested Randy Allen Taylor and charged him with abduction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you wish to have an attorney represent you?

RANDY TAYLOR, SUSPECT IN ALEXIS MURPHY`S DISAPPEARANCE: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He remains in jail without bond.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will never stop until you are home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You do not deserve whatever has happened to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, a massive break in the case of missing teen Alexis Murphy. Cops say they just found perhaps the most important piece of evidence, her cell phone -- so crucial, so filled with information. Now, this is her alleged abductor, car dealership employee and ex-con Randy Taylor sits behind bars tonight as Alexis is still missing and her family grows more frantic by the hour.

A gas station surveillance camera captured Alexis right before she disappeared August 3 near Charlottesville, Virginia. The video shows Alexis and this creep, Taylor at the same place at the very same time. The suspect doesn`t deny he and Alexis interacted but he offered a bizarre explanation for why cops found one of the 17-year-old`s hairs in his camper. Here`s his lawyer with that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HALLAHAN, ATTORNEY FOR RANDY TAYLOR: She made a comment to him about smoking marijuana based upon her seeing him at another carwash in Lovingston, weeks, a month before that. He had he indicated to her that he would like to get some more. She said I know a guy. She told him to meet at another location in Lovingston. And they rode up there in both cars.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Of course, that could be all made up by this ex-con who is probably a pathological liar to boot. After that, Taylor claims he and Alexis and this mystery drug dealer went to his camper where he and the man smoked pot and then Alexis drove off with the drug dealer never to be seen again.

The story, of course, has her family outraged. I`m going to talk to them in a second. Could Alexis Murphy`s cell phone hold a clue to blow this case wide open?

Straight out to Nadine Maeser, WDBJ reporter on the ground in Virginia -- what is the very latest tonight?

NADINE MAESER, WDBJ REPORTER (via telephone): Well yes, Jane, as you mentioned, that cell phone is such a crucial piece of evidence. I spoke to a lead investigator just a few hours ago. It`s the first time he`s spoken to any of the media since they`ve held any press conferences. He told me that they actually found several cell phones during their search throughout Nelson County. One did make a match for Alexis` and he really couldn`t comment any more on what they found with that because you know, there`s an ongoing investigation.

They also upped the ante on their search efforts this weekend. The crews were on the ground by foot with canines for the first time that we have seen in a few days. Several people out there, they did recover a red piece of clothing from the Rockfish River but I`m told just a few hours ago that that does not belong to Alexis Murphy. So they`ve hit a dead end with that. But again this cell phone is a very crucial piece of evidence like you said.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And there is video of Alexis, the last time she was seen at this location where there`s a gas station, as well as a restaurant where she would grab a frozen drink, a dessert drink. And there is the creepy guy that claims that she approached him and they started talking about pot.

You know what? As her relative said, the idea that she would go out of her way to interact with this guy really doesn`t pass the smell test. Our very, very special exclusive guest right now: Angela Taylor, the aunt of the missing teenager, Alexis Murphy.

Angela -- thank you for coming on our show. First of all, I have to ask you, what have cops told you? This is such -- you know, this has the pings, it can figure out wherever this was, where she might have been. What do you know?

ANGELA TAYLOR, AUNT OF ALEXIS MURPHY: Well, Jane, thank you for allowing me to be on the show this evening. We know this is what they have released to the press at this point, that one of the cell phones found in one of their searches did belong to Alexis. So, you know, that`s really all that we know at this point in time. But you know, it`s just one more piece of the puzzle, a big piece of the puzzle, and hopefully the other piece will come and that will be her and then this puzzle will be solved and complete and she`ll be home safely.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Did you get any sense of where they found it because obviously that would be so crucial? You`re looking at sort of a depiction of the pings. These cell phones, if they`re on, can tell cops where the individual who is holding the phone has gone. And it`s probably the biggest advance in law enforcement in decades. Did they give you a sense of where they found it?

A. TAYLOR: They did not. You know, it was found in Nelson County. The exact location was not confirmed to us. So that information I do not know.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, if you could stand by a moment, we`ve got a team of experts here to help us find your precious, precious Alexis Murphy. The search for her obviously becomes more desperate with each passing day. She`s a high school senior -- she vanished exactly one month ago. Cops have gotten hundreds of tips. They`ve been following up on leads with search teams.

Let`s listen to this and then we`ll discuss.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILLY MAYS, NELSON COUNTY SHERIFF`S CHIEF DEPUTY: Some of the areas that we`re searching, there`s been witnesses that have -- think they may have seen Taylor in these areas. Some of the areas are within close proximity to where he was residing. Other areas are just secondary roads that are very secluded and off the beaten path.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, Alexis` car was found abandoned at a movie theater parking lot in Charlottesville, Virginia. But that`s 35 miles away from where she was last seen at that gas station/restaurant in Lovingston, Virginia.

I want to go to Candice Delong, retired FBI profiler, host of "Deadly Women" on Investigation Discovery -- what really just freaks me about this is that where her car was found abandoned is right near where this creepy guy, who is an ex-con with a long rap sheet, had rented a porn video or actually a couple of porn videos right around the time that she disappeared. So he`s spotted with her in one location, this gas station/restaurant near where they both live. And then there`s also a link to her abandoned car and the place where he rented pornos 35 miles away.

CANDICE DELONG, HOST, INVESTIGATION DISCOVERY: Right. Yes. Well, it obviously doesn`t look good for him. What I think he`s asking the police to believe the story that she approached him about buying marijuana and went off with him is ludicrous. Look at this young woman.

And another thing, the last thing in the world a teenage girl is going to voluntarily get rid of is her cell phone. So I`m very, very, very worried about this.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m very worried about it, as well. Lisa Lockwood, investigator and author of "Undercover Angel," as we parse all this information, obviously the clock is ticking with every hour that passes.

LOCKWOOD: Having a lot of cases and working with a myriad of sex offenders and the fact that he did get porno right before that, you have to look at a lot of factors with this. If she was at the house and she didn`t spoke pot, what does that mean? She was a good girl. He was trying to portray her as the good girl and she was there trying to set up a drug deal with somebody else. All of it is really, really ugly and my faith and my hope goes to the family that they find her safe.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And that`s just the beginning. There`s another young woman who disappeared right around the time she was talking to this guy. Stay right there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said they drank a beer together and they smoked. The girl did not smoke or drink anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Time for Pet of the Day, send your pet pics to hlntv.com/jane. Gabby -- you are fabby, Gabby with that hat. Winston and Louie, yes well, the casual look. Mollie and Maggie, they are just called in sick and they`re hanging out in their beds. And Tianna with her tiara is absolutely magnifica -- magnifique.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAURA ANN MURPHY, MOTHER OF ALEXIS MURPHY: I still have hope. For me a mother would know if something is, if her daughter is really gone, but I still have hope. I don`t feel that. I don`t have it in my heart. I just want her back. I miss her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And authorities have a break in the case of missing beautiful young woman, high school senior Alexis Murphy. They have found her cell phone and they have arrested 48-year-old Randy Taylor in her abduction. But she`s still nowhere to be seen.

Now this same suspect was talking to another young woman three years ago shortly before she disappeared. That young woman Samantha Clarke has also not been found. And the same kind of story, oh, yes, I was talking to her but there was another guy who was following her -- variation on the same story this creep Randy Taylor told about Alexis.

I want to go to Trina Murphy, Alexis Murphy`s great aunt -- thank you for joining us out of Charlottesville, Virginia. There`s the suspect right there. My heart goes out to you. How are you and your family? How are you holding up?

TRINA MURPHY, ALEXIS MURPHY`S GREAT AUNT: With the support of our family and community and really the nation, we`re doing ok.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m glad to hear that. I assume that this is just something that you are very hopeful about, that the information in the cell phone that they recovered could be the break in the case.

T. MURPHY: Oh, absolutely we`re more hopeful and prayerful now that the phone, you know, we`ve determined that the phone really does belong to her. It`s just really given us a boost of energy today and it`s something else for us to hold on to and we`re just moving forward. You know, his story is crumbling bit by bit and we`re going to get to truth and find Alexis.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And the searches are still ongoing. We saw video of people in kayaks and with search dogs going through every inch of the area. Our hearts go out to you. We want to find Alexis Murphy.

Stay right there.

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VELEZ-MITCHELL: Nancy Grace is up next

END