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Relisha`s Grandmother Speaks Out
Aired April 2, 2014 - 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. Shocking new developments in little Relisha Rudd`s disappearance, as secrets and lies surface. Why does the missing 8-year-old girl`s mom keep changing her story? Relisha`s maternal grandmother is joining me live tonight.
Plus, I`ll talk exclusively to the alleged kidnapper`s nephew. Were there warning signs?
Good evening, I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell, coming to you live.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Police still searching a Washington, D.C., park right now for 8-year-old Relisha Rudd.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Searchers found a body, believed to be that of 51- year-old Khalil Tatum, the man suspected of being on the run with the 8- year-old.
SHAMIKA YOUNG, RELISHA`S MOTHER: I just hope we find her. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t think he would hurt her. But you know, when you get under pressure...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Several questions about her relationship with Tatum.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She told me, he`s good.
WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Who lets the janitor take the kid?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She`s a child; she`s a baby. And just think of her out here in the woods alone, it`s just -- it`s touching (ph).
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Cops say Relisha`s family gave her away on February 26 to Khalil Tatum, a janitor at the Washington, D.C., homeless shelter where the family was living. He was supposed to take her to his house. But there is surveillance video right here of the two of them walking into a hotel room. An ominous sign.
Cops say the last confirmed sighting of little Relisha was March 1. The next day, March 2, Tatum buys heavy-duty trash bags, a shovel and lime, tools often used to dispose of bodies.
Fast forward to March 19, 20. Soon after cops start searching for Relisha on March 20, they find Tatum`s wife murdered in the hotel. And just this week cops find the body of Tatum himself in a Washington, D.C., park. They think he killed himself.
So now that this accused murderer and kidnapper is dead, have cops lost the only person who knew where the child was hidden? And is she dead or alive? How did Tatum convince everybody at this homeless shelter he was a great guy?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
S. YOUNG: I have a lot of questions to ask you, and I want you to answer them properly, and give me the correct answer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did you trust him?
S. YOUNG: He didn`t look like that type of person. He looked like a good person. The way he played with everybody`s kids, the way he did his job, the way he needed to do his job, buffing them floors. He didn`t look like an intimidized (ph) person. He really didn`t.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: But should we even trust what Relisha`s mom says? What do you think happened to little Relisha? Call me, 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1- 877-586-7297.
We have a fantastic Lion`s Den debate panel tonight. But first to my special guest, Relisha`s maternal grandmother.
Melissa, I am so sorry that you`re going through all this. I know it`s got to be gut-wrenching, heart-wrenching. But you have told us that you do not blame the now-dead janitor, Khalil Tatum, for murdering his wife or kidnapping your missing grandchild. Why not? And look at this precious child.
MELISSA YOUNG, RELISHA`S GRANDMOTHER (via phone): What I said was, I don`t believe that he killed his wife.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Why not?
M. YOUNG: What I said to the reporter that interviewed me, I never said I don`t blame him. What I said was, I don`t believe that he killed his wife.
What I believe -- what I feel right now, and what I believe since finding out that he was found murdered, whether he committed suicide, I believe his wife walked in and interrupted something, or heard something, or seen something that she wasn`t supposed to see or know. That`s why she lost her life.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, if he didn`t kill her, who did?
M. YOUNG: I don`t know. Maybe it could have been one of the ones that was seen at the hotel with them.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: One of the ones...
M. YOUNG: I don`t know who could have killed her.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: So tell us -- tell us about that. Because authorities are saying, and we see the surveillance video of your precious grandchild with this man, this janitor, on February 26, walking into a hotel room. Never a good sign for an adult man and 8-year-old girl to be walking into a hotel room. There it is.
Authorities haven`t said anything else about anybody else. But you`re giving us new information. What are you saying?
M. YOUNG: What the family got, as far as that video of him being -- him and her being seen in the hotel, in the Comfort Inn over there -- that hotel over there on New York Avenue, she went to a pool party. They were supposed to have -- her and his granddaughter were supposed to have had a pool party at the hotel, at the indoor pool there at the hotel.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You mentioned something about other people.
M. YOUNG: I don`t know if a party took place there or not.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You said just now about something about other people. What other people?
M. YOUNG: The hotel where his wife was found. The hotel where Mr. Tatum and Relisha was is here in the District of Columbia. It was five people. It was three other people seen entering that hotel room with him and his wife. So we don`t know who could have killed his wife. Maybe one of them. Maybe Mr. Tatum. We don`t know. Only those that was in the room knows who actually killed his wife.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, some might say why are you so quick to defend somebody who your granddaughter disappeared on his watch? And let me just set it up...
M. YOUNG: ... at all My thing is, you`ve got two people that turns up dead, OK? In Mr. Tatum`s case, where they found him at, they searched the same very exact location when they first started searching for my granddaughter. They found nothing. No signs of him nor my granddaughter at this very exact location.
On Monday -- Monday just past, you get a tip that leads to right back to that location. What you find when you get back to that same very location that you`d already searched prior to beginning the search for my granddaughter, and you find his body. That should tell you something.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`re suggesting that somebody -- somebody dropped his body there and planted his body there. You`re almost suggesting a conspiracy.
M. YOUNG: That`s what I -- that`s what I feel. That someone killed him, someone else, and put his body there, and then called Metropolitan and told them to go back, that they will find something.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: It almost sounds like you`re suggesting...
M. YOUNG: ... Mr. Tatum in any type of way.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. What do you think happened to your granddaughter? What do you think happened to your granddaughter?
M. YOUNG: I don`t know what happened to her. Right now, it`s only -- like I said, in his wife`s case, the only ones that knows that killed her was the ones that was there.
The whereabouts of my granddaughter, the only one that knows the whereabouts right now is Mr. Tatum. And he`s deceased.
Now, if he killed himself, the question leaves now, who -- was she present when he murdered himself or did he leave her with someone else?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you know, what you`re suggesting is also, if you extrapolate, you`re suggesting maybe he didn`t kill himself, that he was killed and planted there. Oh, my gosh, my head is exploding with this conspiracy theory.
M. YOUNG: That`s -- that`s what I feel. That`s my opinion on how they found the body and where they found the gun laying next. That`s my opinion on it. It was put there by someone else.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want -- I want to stop you for a second, and I appreciate your candor. But Melissa, hang on, don`t hang up.
Areva Martin, attorney, look, the authorities believe that he kidnapped this child, may have done something untoward with this child. We`re praying that she`s somehow miraculously alive, but she`s very possibly, as the police have said, dead, and that he would be responsible. That when it started to hit the fan, as it were, he kills his wife, and then a few days later he kills himself.
Well, now you`re hearing from the grandmother of the missing child a totally different scenario. What do you make of it?
AREVA MARTIN, ATTORNEY: I hear a grandmother that`s in grief. She`s grieving the loss of her granddaughter. I don`t think this grandmother is trying to contradict or suggest that the police doesn`t know what it`s doing. She`s simply trying to hold onto some hope that her granddaughter is alive. And maybe there`s some explanation for everything that`s happened in this case that would lead us, or lead her granddaughter to still being alive.
But now`s not the time to trash the grandmother. She`s only trying to share her story...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m not trashing her. Believe you me -- I just wanted to hear her side of the story.
MARTIN: I just...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: But I wouldn`t be following my journalistic responsibility if I didn`t ask questions. Because our primary loyalty is to this child, and our primary mission is to find out where she is. So we have to leave no stone unturned.
Now Areva, let me -- we have so many panelists tonight. I need to go through a couple of things. So many conflicting stories here.
A family friend told us Relisha`s family did not report the child missing, because the little girl`s grandmother, the lady we`re speaking to, spoke to Relisha over the phone on Wednesday, March 19. And that she sounded great. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Tatum called my sister and the grandmother at 9:07 in the morning.
First they talked to Mr. Tatum. After they talked to Mr. Tatum, then they talked to Relisha. Relisha clarified what Mr. Tatum was telling them at first, that she had cooked breakfast, she had cooked scrambled eggs and toast. They asked if she burned down the place. She said, "No, Grandma, no, Auntie, I did not burn down the place, and actually it was good."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: But cops insist the last confirmed sighting they have of the little girl was way before that on March 1. And that any reports of the child as seen or spoken to after that are just wrong. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Through further investigation, we have determined that the -- the last best information of when she was actually confirmed seen was March 1.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. So somebody`s wrong. Cops say the child vanished March 1. But you, Melissa, Relisha`s maternal grandmother, say you talked to her, your granddaughter, more than two weeks later. So if you`re right, she was definitely alive long after cops say she vanished. So tell us, on March 19, what did you hear? Who did you talk to?
M. YOUNG: On March 19, Mr. Tatum called my daughter, Ashley`s cell phone, because my phone was off. I could not receive no incoming calls, no texts. He called her cell phone. I put it on speaker.
We spoke to Mr. Tatum first. He said Relisha cooked breakfast this morning. She cooked toast, scrambled eggs.
I said, "Did she set the fire alarm off or did she burn the house down?"
He says, no, no smoke detector and no fire trucks. Actually, everything was good. The eggs was great and the toast was wonderful, not even burnt.
Then we asked can we speak to Relisha. Relisha gets on the phone and says, "It`s my Nana. Wow. I`m talking to my Nana today. Nana, I fixed scrambled eggs and toast. I didn`t burn the house down. I didn`t set the smoke detector off. Everything was good."
M. YOUNG: She got off the phone. The next phone call that me and her aunt actually received was at around -- between 12:09 and 12:30. But I must say 12:30.
He called. I asked, where was Relisha. Once again I put the phone on speaker so that everyone in the house could hear. He says, his words were, Relisha was downstairs with his wife, playing with his 9-year-old granddaughter, and his daughter was downstairs. They were going to go out the door to go to the mall and he would see me at 5 p.m.
M. YOUNG: I told this to the FBI and Metropolitan Police. They told me that Mr. Tatum -- I never spoke to Relisha, that Mr. Tatum was at D.C. General. Like I asked them, "How am I supposed to know if I`m sitting in my daughter`s house, and he`s calling me on his cell phone?"
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Are you sure? Are you sure it was your granddaughter`s voice?
M. YOUNG: I know my granddaughter`s voice. Out of all six of my granddaughters, one is still a baby, so he`s not talking; one`s just learning how to talk. Out of all six of my granddaughters, with the exception of the two younger two, she and her younger brother are the only ones that get overly excited when they talk to me on the telephone.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: So I have to stop you there. And again, I really appreciate your candor in explaining your version of events. Because we just want to -- it`s complicated. We just want to get to the heart of it.
So I want to bring in Marc Klaas. Your daughter was tragically abducted and killed. You`re the founder of Klaas Kids Foundation, the premier expert on missing children.
Now, you hear first of all the discrepancy. The police say she disappeared on March 1. This grandmother right now is telling us, "No, I talked to her on March 19."
MARC KLAAS, FOUNDER, KLAAS KIDS FOUNDATION: Well, there`s a couple of things here.
First of all, the police should be able to easily verify whether those phone conversations happened or not. She should have done something to verify who she was talking to. And I`ll tell you why.
When Polly was kidnapped, the day after Polly was kidnapped, a family member of mine received a phone call from a little girl who said she was Polly. And that she was being held captive at a certain hotel in a certain city in the Bay Area. That turned out to be a hoax. But we weren`t able to verify that until the next week, when that child called again, and we asked a very specific question that only Polly would have known and she was unable to answer it.
Now, as far as this guy being found in the park, I think there`s two logical explanations. First of all, search and rescue does not find a missing body, or a dead body, the remains of somebody on the first pass of the search very often. Sometimes they have to go back to a location multiple times.
The second explanation is that he hadn`t even committed suicide the first time they went through, and only went back afterwards and done himself in.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You are right, because authorities said he was only dead for 36 hours, which just pushes it back -- They found the body Tuesday -- to this past weekend.
Stay right there. We`re just getting started. This is a gut- wrenching mystery. It`s tantalizing, because not everybody can be right. Somebody`s wrong here. When did this child vanish? Is she dead or alive? Where is Relisha? On the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tatum has sold her, and I believe that she`s alive, and we need to be looking, I think, expand our search in other states. There`s a lot of predators preying on these children.
He was always giving money to these young girls. And now she just turns up missing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She`s a child. She`s a baby. And to think of her out here in the woods alone, it`s just -- it`s touching.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m hoping that she`s still alive. I`m hoping that he has a heart. But by taking himself out, it looks -- it looks the other way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Where is Relisha Rudd in the middle of this massive search for little Relisha? Her own mother now says, "Oh, I didn`t leave her with this janitor, Khalil Tatum. I gave little Relisha to my own mother. So here`s the mother`s story, which has been changing. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
S. YOUNG: I wasn`t under the impression that she -- that she was missing. I was under the impression that she was still at my sister`s house, where I left her. And under the care of my mother. I didn`t actually let this man, or give this man my daughter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: But again, here`s the surveillance video from February 26, showing the child not with her grandmother, but at a motel with this guy, or a hotel.
So I want to go back out to Melissa Young, Relisha Rudd`s grandmother. Why is your daughter saying she gave the child to you, or her sister, when we see the child with Tatum?
M. YOUNG: I don`t know why she`s saying that. I don`t know. It could be for personal reasons. I don`t want to speculate.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Have you had...
M. YOUNG: I don`t know why she could be saying that.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: So you didn`t take the child? In other words, your daughter is saying, well, you had her. You`re saying, "No, I didn`t."
M. YOUNG: No. No. I didn`t take my granddaughter.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And I`m sorry, Melissa, and I want to say, I`m sorry to have to ask you these difficult questions. We`re just on a search for what happened, and the clock is ticking.
M. YOUNG: I know.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: So thank you. I thank you for, you know, having the courage to -- to take all these questions that are not pleasant to ask. I want to go to...
M. YOUNG: I didn`t mean to -- I didn`t mean to cut you off, I`m sorry. But I was listening to the gentleman when he was speaking, and before he started speaking, I noticed the lady that was speaking, she said the word kidnapping.
In the beginning, Mr. Tatum didn`t kidnap her in the beginning. My daughter actually -- when she -- OK. I don`t know what their relationship, you know, really is, or what the agreement was, with my granddaughter...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wait a second. Did your daughter have a relationship with Khalil?
M. YOUNG: She was never in a sexual -- never, and you can quote me on this, she never had no type of sexual relationship with Mr. Tatum. Mr. Tatum is not Relisha`s father. Personally, no Relisha`s father lights (ph) up.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. I want to ask you if you could stand by for one second. So we`ve got so many people who are just -- just absolutely itching to weigh in.
Wendy Walsh, psychologist, host of Investigation Discovery network`s "Happily Never After," what do you make of it?
WENDY WALSH, PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, Jane, it`s heart-wrenching here. And the big question is, who was looking out for the child? Everyone seems to be pointing fingers somewhere else. The mother says it was with the grandmother. The grandmother says, "I spoke to him. He was with this man."
Who is this man that you would give an innocent sweet angel to to just take home, like you`re taking home some takeout goods? Why on earth would they give a child to a stranger man? It`s confusing to me.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And Jon Leiberman, investigator, here`s what I think. OK?
March 19, the very morning that this grandmother says she spoke to this child, I think it was the perfect storm. That happened to be the day the school sent over somebody to the homeless shelter looking for Dr. Tatum, who was writing notes for the child because she wasn`t showing up at school. That`s when Tatum flees.
The next day his wife is found dead. So what I`d like to know from you is what do you think happened during that perfect storm? What was the fight between the -- Mr. Tatum and his wife?
JON LEIBERMAN, HLN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, that is the million-dollar question, Jane. I mean, police have been frustrated since the beginning about this timeline. They still, to this moment, haven`t been able to nail down an exact timeline, because of all the different stories they`ve been told, unfortunately, by Relisha`s mother, by other family members. They haven`t been able to corroborate a lot of what they`ve been told.
And I would be curious to hear from the grandmother. She mentioned that Tatum and Relisha`s mother didn`t have a sexual relationship, but now I`m wondering did they have any sort of relationship? We know that Mr. Tatum would give gifts, and it`s almost like he was breeding many of these children at the homeless shelter to be comfortable with him.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let me jump in and cut to the chase. Melissa Young, there are some who suggest maybe your child was sold -- to...
M. YOUNG: No, she was never sold.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Your granddaughter.
M. YOUNG: My granddaughter was never sold to Mr. Tatum. He asked the question what everyone is wondering, what was my daughter`s relationship with Mr. Tatum? They kind of relationship they had, they had a friendship relationship. Nothing sexual, nothing like that.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let me jump in. Let me jump in and ask you this. Why the doctors` notes? Now, what we are told was that Dr. Tatum...
M. YOUNG: I didn`t know anything about a doctor`s note that Mr. Tatum was giving -- giving to the school. I knew nothing of the notes. I know the school had asked me could I get a note from her doctor. When I told the school that her doctor never called me back, to see what I needed, I gave them Mr. Tatum`s number. But it never said Dr. Tatum on it. It said Mr. Tatum, because I didn`t know how to spell his name.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, thank you for clarifying that. I appreciate.
John Kelly, host of Investigation Discovery`s "Dark Mind," what do you make of it?
JOHN KELLY, HOST, INVESTIGATION DISCOVERY`S "DARK MIND": Jane, I`ve got to tell you, I -- this whole situation is so bizarre. The focus has to go on the person of interest. The person of interest in the abduction, and person of interest in the possible murder of his wife is dead.
So now what do you do? Your person of interest is dead. You can`t interview him. You can`t talk to him. So now what do you do? You`ve got to focus on where he`s been, where he goes, the areas he`s familiar with, what he likes to do, where he`s gone for private time. This is where the focus has to take place.
My heart goes out to the family. This is very, very sad situation.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: So does mine. My heart goes out to the family.
On the other side, we`re going to talk to the nephew of Khalil Tatum. That`s right, the janitor`s nephew. He says his uncle is not a monster. Stay right there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: An image that breaks your heart. But stepmom Tammi Bleimeyer says she`s not responsible.
TAMMI BLEIMEYER, STEPMOTHER OF ABUSED CHILD: I`m shocked.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The pregnant mother of six is charged with felony child endangerment. Not just because police found this 5-year-old severely underweight, but because he was allegedly forced to live in a closet under the stairs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think Mr. Tatum has sold her. And I believe that she`s alive and we need to be looking. I think we need to expand our search in other states. There`s a lot of predators preying on these children.
He was always giving money to these young girls.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Elizabeth Espinosa, CNN Espanol anchor, is it possible that there`s a sex trafficking aspect to this story, that the child may still be alive but has been put into sex trafficking?
ELIZABETH ESPINOSA, ANCHOR, CNN ESPANOL: That would be so awful. And you know something? If you look at the numbers, they`re staggering. It definitely is a possibility.
But you know -- and I don`t want to trash Grandma, and as you pointed out, Jane, we`re so thankful she`s willing to at least give some information, since apparently she talked to the little girl, but doesn`t know because her daughter said that, you know, "No, I dropped her off with you." But apparently she didn`t know she did that.
I mean, this is a nightmare. And I truly feel, as I said to you in the first place, like a week ago, we, all of us, as a society have failed little Relisha, an 8-year-old girl. You see her bouncing and dancing. She`s innocent. How is it that Grandma, who clearly, with all due respect, Grandma, you`re in denial. You are in denial that this man obviously, why does he want to spend so much time with an 8-year-old girl?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right.
ESPINOSA: Oh, wait. And then the wife is found dead?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. I mean, I think they had an argument over his behavior with the child, or the fact that the cops at that particular moment wanted that child turned in, and they wanted to talk to him. And maybe she said, "Turn the child in." And he said no.
But to get to the other side of the story, we have an exclusive interview right now with Andre Tatum, who is Khalil Tatum`s nephew, the nephew of this janitor who turned up dead in the park, who died of an apparent suicide, who is suspected in the murder of his wife and the kidnapping of this child.
Andre, thank you for coming on. I appreciate you taking the time to talk about this difficult situation. How would you describe your uncle?
ANDRE TATUM JONES, NEPHEW OF KAHLIL TATUM: I would describe my uncle as a caring man. Anything that you needed, he would give to you. He`s not what people portray him on the news as being -- as this monster who kidnapped this little girl. He is a pretty nice man, and if you ever had the pleasure of knowing he would touch your life.
JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well Andre, there are a lot of people who look great on the outside and who may be wonderful to some family member, but they may have proclivities that are secret. Why would this man take this child and then when police were looking for him, not turn the child in?
TATUM-JONES: The only reason, from my personal experience, that he would not turn the child in is if he found that the child would be in danger, if he would return her back to the mother or her family members, to be honest.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: So you don`t think he had anything to do with this? You don`t think that he took inappropriate -- at the very least he made inappropriate decisions of taking a child, an eight-year-old girl under his wing, and taking her out of the homeless shelter, totally against the rules, by the way, of an employee of a homeless shelter to have this kind of interaction with any of the families.
TATUM-JONES: Yes, I`d say that was a bad move, him taking the little girl from the shelter. Yes, I would say that. But also, you have to also think about maybe he seen as though the girl was in danger -- maybe.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Andre, did you know that reports are that your uncle had filed for divorce from his wife of 24 years, the wife he`s now suspected of murdering?
TATUM-JONES: I have heard of that. But it wasn`t -- it wasn`t how (inaudible) but I have heard of that, yes.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Marc Klaas, I know you`re the expert on these things. These people are speaking up for family members that they love. They don`t know basically the other side, that cops say exist, the secret side. So what would you say to the nephew of this man and to the grandmother of the missing child?
MARC KLAAS, FOUNDER, KLAASKIDS FOUNDATION: Well, first of all, I understand that the authorities will be ending their search today. And I think that that`s terribly unfortunate, because this child is somewhere, and she does deserve to be brought home.
Secondly, I would say that what`s happened with Relisha, homeless children in our society face enormous challenges. And easily fall through the cracks. They can be abducted. They can find themselves in human trafficking rings. They can just find themselves without any resources whatsoever.
This guy had classic pedophile patterns. He took an inordinate amount of attention, paid an inordinate amount of attention to the children. He gave little girls gifts when he shouldn`t. One parent even told him to get away from his child. He took this child when he wasn`t supposed to take her. He made excuses. He pretended to be a doctor.
This is a bad, bad man, despite what the nephew is saying. I understand pedophiles can be nice, but they can also have evil intent and a dark, dark heart.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And we still don`t know, where is Relisha Rudd? Nancy Grace has another important angle on the search for Relisha Rudd. She will have more right at the top of the hour so keep it here on HLN.
But first, an amber alert is out for a missing 14-year-old girl. Cops say she could be with a 26-year-old man she met online. I will talk to them about the search for this beautiful daughter -- I`m talking about the parents of the missing teen.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, we talk to two desperate parents, who are searching for their 14-year-old daughter, who they believe has been taken by a child predator. Beautiful, young Lacey Dewent was reported missing on Monday when she failed to show up for school in Albuquerque, New Mexico. When they found out their daughter had vanished, Lacey`s parents immediately thought of this much older man, 26-year-old Robert Butler -- There he is.
Lacey and Robert met online and they`ve been communicating for the past year. It gets even more disturbing. Lacey`s mother recently found Robert hiding in her teenage daughter`s closet. That`s right, she`s 14. She called the cops and they arrested the 26-year-old man. But they claim they were unable to charge him, because the 14-year-old girl had let him into the home. Really? She`s not an adult. It`s not her home. It`s her parents` home.
Lacey`s parents got a restraining order against Robert, but he violated it again and again. Little is known about this Robert. He may be a resident of Florida. Investigators believe he and Lacey could be headed for Florida right now, but they don`t know for sure.
Straight out to our exclusive guest -- Lacey`s mom, Jessica Dewent. I`m so sorry. My heart goes out to you that you`re going through this hellish experience. We want to help. Tell us how you discovered this alleged predator was talking to your 14-year-old daughter online and what you did to try and stop him.
JESSICA DEWENT, MOTHER OF LACEY DEWENT: The first time that we found out she was talking to him online, we just kind of noticed she was getting a little bit more and more into her text messaging, which she had never been into text messaging. It was all coming together. Then we started taking her phone and reading it. And then we realized what was going on. So we took all the electronics away, and blocked everything, we blocked his number, stopped everything. We contacted him and said, "She`s 14, stop talking to her. You`re 26, you have no business being with a 14-year-old - - talking to a 14-year-old the way that you are. So he stopped.
It all stopped for a while. We thought it was done. And then I don`t know how they contacted each other again, if it was -- if she was borrowing friends` phones from school or getting on library phones, how it was. Actually, she ended up -- he ended up coming from Florida to our home in Albuquerque.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: So he is from Florida originally. Your daughter is very pretty.
DEWENT: Thank you.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s give some other facts to our viewers. We have experts standing by. Lacey never showed up for school on Monday. She texted her mom that morning at about 6:30 to say she loved her. That, you know, sounds like a good-bye. She also texted her dad and told him that she was at school. That was a lie. She turned off her phone at around 8:00 in the morning. She has not been seen or heard from since.
It`s been reported she was last spotted, however, at a store in Hastings, in Albuquerque. Jessica, who spotted your daughter there? When is the last time anyone saw her?
DEWENT: It would have been right before that. She had taken the school bus that morning, instead of being driven to school like normal. Her friend, she told her friend she was going to go down to Hastings. I`m not sure if to get coffee. I guess that`s what they did. And so she was going to go over to Hastings to get coffee, which wasn`t part of the routine. We had a tracker on her phone. She was not to leave the school property. We can watch it through the GPS. And at that point I think she turned off her GPS. I think it was at (inaudible) that point once we realized it wasn`t updating anymore and so she walked out of Hastings and never came back to school. So her friend from school was the last one to see her.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want you to stand by for a second because I want to go to Jon Leiberman, and actually -- yes, Jon Leiberman, our investigator. She mentioned, the mom mentioned, well, we called him, we contacted him. So they have some information on.
Very quickly (ph) what can they do to use that information to help police track this guy down?
JON LEIBERMAN, HLN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, police are tracking it down. They`re looking at a social media. They`re looking at it`s 1,700 miles between Albuquerque and Ocoee, Florida which is outside of Orlando. That`s where they think these two might be headed. They put out an All Points Bulletin, all the states in between New Mexico, and Florida, number one. They do have information from the restraining order about this young man.
So they`re looking into his background, social media accounts, cell phones and things of that sort to try and track him.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Dan Dewent, another exclusive guest, the father of this missing child -- again, sir, I`m so sorry you`re going through this hellish experience. I`m struck by the fact that this man actually got into one of your homes -- I understand you`re divorced but working together on this -- one of your homes. And the police were called. They arrested him but then they said they couldn`t charge him because your daughter let him in.
She`s 14. The house isn`t in her name. Does that infuriate you?
DAN DEWENT, FATHER OF LACEY DEWENT: Absolutely. You know, they say they couldn`t charge him with trespassing, but like you just said, she`s 14. And this guy`s hiding in her closet for maybe up to 24 hours? You know, that`s got to be something more they could have done at that point in time.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Do you think your daughter went willingly, or do you think she`s been abducted?
D. DEWENT: You know, at this point, it seems like, you know, she went willingly. But I also, you know, feel as though this guy`s done a lot to brainwash her, manipulate her. This isn`t something, you know, that she would normally do.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Listen, we only have a couple seconds. Marc Klaas, we want to make sure that this has a very happy ending. My message would be, if this guy`s there, just let this girl go. Drop her off at a 7-eleven and go on your merry way. What do you say, quickly?
KLAAS: I think that that`s absolutely what he should be doing that I don`t think that he`s going to be doing. I think they need to run a deep background check on this guy. Find out who he is, who his associates are, all the information that is readily available from a variety of sources online.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Parents, my heart goes out to you. We`re tracking this. We`ve got investigators working on it. Would you be willing to come back tomorrow if we learn something new?
J. DEWENT: Of course.
D. DEWENT: Yes, definitely.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok. So together, hopefully we can get your child home safe.
Next, parents accused of horrific abuse -- horrific abuse of this five-year-old boy. Now we`re hearing from, on camera, the biological mother, who`s horrified and the stepmother, who has explanations and excuses.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The residents charged with endangering a child.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They keep this kid locked away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In a small four by four room under a stairwell.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Police found this five-year-old severely underweight.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At the hand of his own father.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: CPS has known that we`re involved in this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t know what caused him to look like that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s something that nightmares are made out of.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, breaking developments in the gut-wrenching case of an emaciated and beaten five-year-old boy. Both his stepmom and biological mom are breaking their silence tonight.
We`re also learning new heartbreaking details about how severely this innocent child was abused. He was near death when police found him inside a motel room Friday. CPS took emergency custody of the stepmom`s own six children and placed them in foster care. They`re trying to get custody of this little victim, too, as is this biological mom.
CPS told us the boy has bleeding of the brain, trauma to his abdomen and cuts and bruises all over his little body. He was wearing a soiled diaper when cops found him and rescued him. Yet this little boy`s father and stepmom face one measly charge of injury to a child. How about attempted murder?
Dad is still in jail. Stepmom posted bail and waltzed right out. Stepmom, by the way, pregnant with her seventh child and she says, "I`m filing for divorce now."
Police say the boy was forced to live inside a 4 by 4 foot closet under the stairs in their Houston are home. But stepmom mother says the five-year-old and his dad live in another state -- Alabama. And they were just visiting. She says she has nothing to do with any of this and she had no clue the boy was in such horrific condition. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAMMIE BLEIMEYER, VICTIM`S STEP MOM: I`m shocked. I`ve never seen him look like that. And I`ve never seen him with his shirt off recently.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Psychologist, Wendy Walsh, do you buy the stepmother`s claim that she had nothing to do with this?
WENDY WALSH, PSYCHOLOGIST: No. Absolutely not, Jane. I mean, if she`s supposed to be the stepmother, she`s supposed to be mothering him. That means not having him in soiled diapers. And yes, you would see him naked if you were bathing him and being a mother, like you were supposed to.
I am so concerned about all these children in her care and of course, any child in the care of that crazy biological father.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, the boy`s biological mother says her ex, the man you`re referring to, took off with their son in the spring of 2012 and has kept their child away from her, the biological mom, for two long years. So she`s putting the blame for her son`s injuries squarely on his biological father.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WINDY HILL, VICTIM`S BIOLOGICAL MOTHER: A lot of the things that he has told me would just mortify anyone. And to know that it was done to him at the hand of his own father. It`s something that nightmares are made out of.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: CNN Espanol anchor, Elizabeth Espinosa -- what I wonder is why not issue an alert? Call it a kidnapping if a father just takes off with a kid for two years.
ELIZABETH ESPINOSA, CNN ESPANOL ANCHOR: Yes, I honestly can`t even believe that this mom is like, "Oh, my god, I had no idea." He took him in 2012.
Listen Jane, I am a grown woman. I am on the radio and television. My mother, if she doesn`t hear from me by midnight she will call everybody, including the local police department. This stepmom, by way also, is the devil. I cannot believe -- she`s going to have another baby. It`s amazing. There`s so many women who can`t have babies, and here this one`s blessed with, you know, a seventh children. So as soon as she has that baby they should take that baby away.
And there is no confusion of what an emaciated child looks like. I reported in east Africa, and there is no question. And also as Wendy Walsh points out, if you`re mothering, then you give the child a bath. I mean it`s pretty obvious. And that father -- throw away the key.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: If the stepmother is as innocent as she claims when police were moving in, why did she flee with the little boy and get holed up in a hotel?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLEIMEYER: A lot of this story has gotten very twisted. There have been things added to it, things changed and, you know, there is a lot of lies out there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s the stepmother of this emaciated child. Areva Martin, attorney, if the stepmom has nothing and didn`t know he was suffering, so why did she take the child and flee and hide in a hotel as cops came to investigate?
AREVA MARTIN, ATTORNEY: Jane, her story is so unbelievable. You know, there are so many missing pieces to this story. One we should mention is that the Child Protective Services were involved with this family. Apparently there had been a visit as early as February of this year. So it`s not just the mom, the stepmom and the dad that have failed this child -- also child protective services failed this child. The entire safety net is to blame for what happened to this child.
The stepmother`s story makes absolutely no sense, and I wish that the charges were more severe and that both the parents would see some serious jail time for this behavior. And definitely the stepmom at this point is not fit to care for her other children.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Wendy Walsh, psychologist, CPS says in their own defense they did photograph the child on February 20th, I believe -- late February. They said the child did not look this emaciated, and then when they tried to go back for a follow up, the family had shut down, hired an attorney and claimed that this little boy and his dad had moved out of the state. Do you buy it?
WALSH: Of course they`re going to have all kinds of stories because they knew that they were on to them. I`m wondering why the school wasn`t involved. He was five. That`s kindergarten age. Was he not in school? And also, I had heard the utilities to the house had been cut off because they weren`t paying their bills. No water, no electricity. The Homeowners Association got involved because of this.
If you knew there were seven children in the house and there were no lights on and no running water, that`s a call to the Department of Children`s Services right there.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And you know what kills me? It`s that this dad is overweight, so while the little boy is starving, 29 pounds at age five, look at him, he could use a diet. Maybe he`ll get one behind bars.
I have to tell you, Nancy Grace is up next. She`s got the very latest on the story we covered earlier, the disappearance of Relisha Rudd. Where is this child? Is she dead or alive? Nancy Grace all over it with the latest on the investigation and so stay right there.
By the way, tomorrow we`re going to have the latest on Relisha as well as that missing 14-year-old whose parents are scared.