CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview With Beth Veglahn
Aired August 7, 2002 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, before he was accused of murdering Samantha Runnion, Alejandro Avila was acquitted of molesting two other young girls. The mother of one of those girls and Avila's former fiancee, Beth Veglahn, shares her painful story for the first time.
And later, another high-profile child abduction case, closing arguments in the sensational trial of David Westerfield, accused of kidnapping Danielle van Dam from her home and murdering her.
Joining us, defense attorney Mark Geragos; on the opposite side of the country with nearly opposite level views, Court TV anchor and former prosecutor Nancy Grace; back in L.A., jury consultant Jo-Ellan Dimitrius (ph). In New Haven, famed forensic expert Dr. Henry Lee; and in San Francisco, a man who lost his daughter, Polly, to a horrible crime, Marc Klaas. They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We begin with Beth Veglahn, the former fiancee of Alejandro Avila, the man accused of kidnapping and murdering 5-year-old Samantha Runnion. Back in 2001, a jury acquitted Avila of molesting Beth's young daughter and Beth's young niece. It's got to be a rough time for you.
BETH VEGLAHN, ALEJANDRO AVILA'S FORMER FIANCEE: Yes. Very, very much.
KING: Take me back. How did you meet Mr. Avila?
VEGLAHN: Well, actually, he was the boy next door. We met through a mutual friend and she introduced me. And it took off from there.
KING: He lived next door?
VEGLAHN: Pretty much, yes.
KING: What kind of work was he doing at the time?
VEGLAHN: He wasn't working at the time at all. He was on unemployment. And he was living with his mother and sisters.
KING: What attracted you, Beth? That's always difficult to recapture why we are attracted to whom we are. Do you remember?
VEGLAHN: He was a nice guy. He was a nice, normal guy. And he had a sense of humor.
VEGLAHN: Yes. He was very soft-spoken, and he had a sense of humor and that's what attracted me to him.
KING: And so you dated. Did you plan to marry?
VEGLAHN: Yes, we did.
KING: Had you set a date?
KING: What ended it?
VEGLAHN: He became physically abusive.
KING: Of you?
VEGLAHN: Yes. And I had been in an abusive relationship before. And I know the signs, and I got out.
KING: Was it associated with drinking or drugs of any kind or was he...
VEGLAHN: No, not at all. He just would get angry, and at the drop of a hat, he would just get angry and become violent. And I knew the signs and I got out.
KING: Something he had not shown you at all in the earlier dating period?
VEGLAHN: Yes, he had shown it to me a couple of times. But as our relationship progressed, it got worse and worse and worse.
KING: And having been in one previously, you were experienced in this kind of thing, right?
KING: Aren't they hard to get out of, these kind of relationships when someone is physically abusive to another?
VEGLAHN: Yes, very.
KING: How did you break it?
VEGLAHN: Well, he was at work, and I decided enough was enough. And a friend of mine and my brother helped me move out in the middle of the night.
KING: You were living with him?
VEGLAHN: Yes. And what happened was, my brother and a friend of mine helped me move out in the middle of the night and Alex had come home that morning right when I was moving out.
KING: So he was there when you were moving?
KING: What did he do?
VEGLAHN: He tried to stop me.
KING: How did you get away?
VEGLAHN: Well, I actually yelled for my brother and the friend of mine at that time, and they came up and pretty much set him straight.
KING: Was that the last time you saw him, or did he continue to hound?
VEGLAHN: No. He did continue to hound me. I had moved in with my brother at the time, and he did continue to hound me. He would stalk me at my work. And I literally had to lock myself in the classroom just to get away from him.
KING: You teach?
VEGLAHN: No. Actually, I was working for the Elsinore School District as a custodian late at night. And I would have...
KING: Make it easy for him to stalk you?
VEGLAHN: Yes. Yes.
KING: How did it finally -- how did you finally get him out of your life?
VEGLAHN: I just wouldn't accept his phone calls. I told him to stay away from me. I put in a restraining order against him, just stayed away from him.
KING: Alex was the English name you used for him?
VEGLAHN: That's the name he uses.
KING: Oh, he doesn't use Alejandro.
VEGLAHN: No. That's his birth name. But he uses Alex. He likes to be called Alex.
KING: Alex Avila is how you know him.
Now your daughter's involvement. When did you learn -- by the way, since it has to be asked because since that's one of the things he's accused of, was he physically OK -- I mean in the romantic area. Was he normal?
VEGLAHN: Yes. It was normal. It was a normal relationship.
KING: No idiosyncrasies that you could see?
VEGLAHN: Everybody has their little quirks. Yes, there was little idiosyncrasies that he did have, yes, a couple of them.
VEGLAHN: Kind of like I never saw his feet. I never saw the man's feet.
KING: Opposite of the foot fetish.
VEGLAHN: Yes, pretty much.
KING: He would never let you see his feet?
VEGLAHN: No, never, ever. And I don't know with couples, you know, they're intimate, you know, I just -- he would -- when he would use the restroom and stuff like that, you know, or shower, he would always lock himself in. And I would have to...
KING: You couldn't go and see him in the shower?
VEGLAHN: Right. Nothing like that. And I just thought, well...
KING: Everybody has...
VEGLAHN: Everybody has their little hang-ups.
KING: When, Beth, did you learn about him harming your daughter?
VEGLAHN: Well, it was a year...
KING: You saw nothing while you were with him?
VEGLAHN: Looking at the time, no.
KING: That's what I'm talking about, at the time. He was abusive to you, but not to your daughter.
KING: How old was your daughter at this time?
KING: She's now, like...
VEGLAHN: She's going to be 12. KING: Going to be 12, OK. But she said nothing to you?
KING: And you never noticed him? Was he ever abusive to you in front of her?
KING: But not of her?
KING: All right. How did you learn of it?
VEGLAHN: Well, it was a year later and I was sitting on the couch. And at the time, I had a new boyfriend at the time. And she told me that she needed to tell me something. And she went into the bathroom with the phone, because it was a cordless phone, and she told me that...
KING: She was not at home with you?
KING: So she called you?
VEGLAHN: She called me, yes.
KING: And said?
VEGLAHN: She said, mommy, I have something important to tell you. And I said, well, is it good or bad? And she go, it's bad. And she goes, well, wait, I have to go into the bathroom and tell me. And she did.
KING: She was where, at her father's house?
VEGLAHN: She was at her father's house.
KING: And he didn't know?
VEGLAHN: No, he didn't. And she told me that Alex had molested her.
KING: A lot?
VEGLAHN: I didn't ask that at that time.
KING: What did you do?
VEGLAHN: I told my daughter -- I took a deep breath and I told my daughter that I loved her and everything is going to be OK, that there are some things that mommy has to do, so you need to get off the phone and mommy will call you right back.
KING: And what did mommy do?
VEGLAHN: Mommy called the sheriff's department immediately.
KING: We'll be right back with Beth Veglahn and more of her story on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. John Walsh tomorrow night. Don't go away.
KING: We're back with Beth Veglahn, the former fiancee of Alejandro, or Alex, Avila. That's the first time we've heard that name used.
Why did she wait so long to tell you?
VEGLAHN: Well, come to find out from hearing, you know, her testimony and stuff like that...
KING: At the trial?
VEGLAHN: At the trial, he had threatened her with her life and me.
KING: So after you had broken up with him, he continued to threaten her?
KING: That he would harm her if she reported anything, and you?
KING: If she reported anything about molesting her.
How about the niece, your niece being molested? When -- did that occur at the house, too?
KING: And how old was she at the time?
VEGLAHN: Well, my niece and my daughter are only three weeks apart, and they're best friends, so...
KING: How did you find out about the niece?
VEGLAHN: I found out -- the night that my daughter told me, I found out everything, including that from my daughter.
KING: She told you about your niece?
VEGLAHN: Yes, pretty much.
KING: And did the niece then confirm it?
VEGLAHN: Yes; she had talked to her parents. KING: How -- did he do this a lot?
VEGLAHN: Well, from reading the court transcripts and -- I was -- I went in with my daughter and I had to listen to everything that was done.
KING: She had to describe it?
KING: What he did to her, and the niece, too. More frequently to your daughter right?
VEGLAHN: More to my daughter.
KING: Was it frequent?
KING: How, during that period of time, do you think she was able to keep that from you? Was it under threat?
VEGLAHN: Yes, I believe that. I believe he scared her so bad. And she loves her mom, and so do my boys. And I believe that he scared her so bad that she just didn't say anything for a whole year.
KING: What was the trial like for you?
VEGLAHN: Horrible. Very bad.
KING: You had to testify, of course? Or didn't you?
VEGLAHN: Yes, I did.
KING: Was the defense attorney tough on you, the attorney for Alex?
KING: Because he's been on this show a few times, he's sort of a mild-mannered guy.
VEGLAHN: Yes. No, he wasn't. He didn't browbeat me or anything like that or, you know, try to discredit me or anything like that.
KING: Your daughter testified too?
KING: And so did the niece?
VEGLAHN: Yes. KING: Were you there when they testified?
VEGLAHN: I wasn't there when my niece testified, but I was there when my daughter did.
KING: Did she hold up well?
VEGLAHN: She is a strong little girl, and she held up really good. It was me who didn't.
KING: Meaning you broke up in the courtroom?
VEGLAHN: Oh, yes. Yes.
KING: Was it tough for you to face Alex?
KING: How about your daughter? She had to sit on the stand and look at him, huh?
Take it easy, you're OK.
VEGLAHN: I didn't want my daughter to -- I didn't want her to look at him at all. Focus on the DA and focus on me. But I didn't want her to go over there, and I didn't want her to look at him at all.
KING: And did she do that.
KING: Didn't she have to look at him at one time? Didn't she have to point him out?
VEGLAHN: Yes, real quickly.
KING: Are you OK?
VEGLAHN: Yes, I'm OK.
KING: We'll get some tissue.
VEGLAHN: It still kind of hurts, yes.
KING: Were you shocked at the verdict?
VEGLAHN: Absolutely. Absolutely.
KING: Did you see Mrs. Runnion on this show?
VEGLAHN: Yes I did.
KING: I think we have that tape. I want to play that tape for you of Mrs. Runnion, the mother of the girl who was killed in which Mr. Avila is charged. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIN RUNNION, SAMANTHA'S MOTHER: I think I heard the Riverside district attorney's office, the DA was saying that he has to live with this for the rest of his life because of the acquittal.
And he doesn't have to live with this. He did the best job he could.
KING: In the previous trial...
RUNNION: Yes, in the previous trial.
KING: ... guy was on the street, yes.
KING: So you don't blame him?
RUNNION: No. I blame every juror who let him go. Every juror who sat on that trial and believed this man over those little girls, I will never understand.
And that is why he was out, and that is why his sickness was allowed to do this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Were you there when the verdict was announced?
KING: Were you shocked?
VEGLAHN: I was very shocked. I was. My whole world had crumbled at that point.
I started crying hysterically. And I told them that they made a mistake...
KING: You told the jurors?
VEGLAHN: Yes, and it's only a matter of time before he does it again.
KING: You said that to them?
VEGLAHN: Yes I did.
KING: Did they say anything to you?
VEGLAHN: No. KING: Why do you think the state lost that case? Mrs. Runnion thinks it's because they didn't believe the girls, or there was enough doubt created.
VEGLAHN: Well, apparently they believed Alex. And I think if they would have...
KING: But he didn't testify, right?
VEGLAHN: No. I think if they -- if those jurors would have dug a little bit deeper, they would have done something. I think they would have changed their mind. But they didn't.
KING: Did you see Alex after the verdict?
KING: And have not seen him since, or...
KING: Now time goes by. You have to live with this, right? Your daughter has to live with it.
By the way, the -- it's going to last a long time, what happened to her, right?
VEGLAHN: A lifetime.
KING: And the niece.
VEGLAHN: A lifetime.
KING: Are they still best friends?
KING: What -- when the Runnion girl went missing and everyone read about it, heard about it, saw television, did you at all think that could be Alex?
VEGLAHN: Well, I -- the news, to be honestly, the news depresses me, so I don't watch the news because all I hear...
KING: But you heard about it, didn't you?
VEGLAHN: I did hear about it. The only way I heard about it was through my ex-husband. He had called and -- because I was going to go and see my children that day, and he had called and left me a message, and I called him back. And he had told me what he had thought, that this might be the guy and it was a 50/50 chance.
KING: The children were with him?
KING: You have other children, other than the daughter?
KING: What do you have?
VEGLAHN: I have two boys and a girl.
KING: Two boys and another girl?
VEGLAHN: No, they're all brothers and sisters...
KING: I know, but -- there are two girls and two boys?
VEGLAHN: No, two boys and one girl.
KING: One girl.
The boys, did he ever harm them?
KING: When he was brought in, and the body found and everything, what did you make of it? I mean, he had never, to your knowledge, killed anyone, right?
KING: And he, by the way, we must say he is accused. He is not convicted of this. He is going to go on trial.
KING: What did you think?
VEGLAHN: It was like the nightmare never stopped. It just keeps going and going and going. And I never -- honestly I never thought in a million years that this would ever happen. Ever.
KING: That he'd kill someone?
VEGLAHN: Yes. I never thought -- I never thought that this would ever happen. Never. I thought there was a 50/50 shot here. Apparently it swayed.
KING: In retrospect, can you come up with any reasons now, if he is the one who did it?
KING: We'll be right back with Beth Veglahn. We'll be including your phone calls. Our panel will join us later.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERIFF MIKE CARONA, ORANGE COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: We have confirmed that Alejandro Avila is our suspect in this case. We have, therefore, arrested Mr. Avila on suspicion of kidnapping, and for the murder of Samantha Runnion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: If guilty, Beth Veglahn, do you want him to get the death penalty?
KING: Let's take a call. Bullhead, Arizona. Hello.
CALLER: Hi. Beth, I'm sorry about what your daughter and niece went through. I'm just kind of curious what this guy's relationship was with his mother and his sister.
VEGLAHN: Good. He had a good relationship with them. I think out of all of -- I think out of all the brothers, I think that he had -- they had the best relationship with the mother and the sisters.
KING: Did you know them?
KING: Did you like them?
KING: To Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. Hello.
CALLER: Hi. Mr. King and your guest, I am really a big fan of this show. My question, for your guest is Mr. Westerfield in the van Dam trial has been found to have perused child pornography. Do you think that might have contributed to Mr. Avila's sickness?
VEGLAHN: No, I don't.
KING: Was he interested in stuff like that, to your knowledge?
VEGLAHN: Not to my knowledge when I was with him. No.
KING: In other words, you never saw him go in to look at child pornography or try to...
VEGLAHN: No, never.
KING: ... bring off things from the Internet and the like, et cetera?
KING: Los Angeles, hello.
CALLER: Hi. I know that this must be very difficult for you, but I'm just wondering how often your daughter was left alone with Mr. Avila and what were the circumstances?
VEGLAHN: Well, the circumstances was I was a single mother at that time and I had to work. I had to go to work. And I worked four hours at night. And it usually was on Fridays. I had the weekends off and that's what I could come up with.
KING: So he was with her?
VEGLAHN: On Friday night.
KING: How about your two boys?
VEGLAHN: Them, too.
KING: So he was able to do this without them having any knowledge?
KING: And he did this frequently?
VEGLAHN: Well, apparently on Fridays.
KING: Los Gatos, California. Hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry and Beth. I have a question for you, Beth. First of all, as a mother, I am truly sorry. And I'm sitting here crying, listening to your story. But my question is, do you have any relationship or any conversation or contact with Samantha's mom?
VEGLAHN: No, but I would like to. I would like to see her. I need to see her.
KING: Why? You need to see her.
VEGLAHN: I just need to -- I feel a bond with her, and I need to talk to her. And on a personal level, mother to mother, I need to do this.
KING: Well, I think the kind of woman she is, and everyone around here, the way they felt about her, I think she would be very amenable to that, if you could contact her and we could set it up through your lawyer, I would be happy to do -- I'm sure we would do what we could to see that you get with her. You certainly do have a bond.
VEGLAHN: Yes. Forever.
KING: Would you go to his trial?
VEGLAHN: Yes. Yes, I would.
KING: Is this -- is that revengeful or a desire to see justice? What draws you there, because some people might say, I'm through with it?
VEGLAHN: What draws me is I want to see justice finally served. Not only for my daughter, but for Samantha. And I would go. Bottom line.
KING: What keeps you going?
VEGLAHN: I think the hope -- my children. They're my life. They keep me going. You know? Even if it's just a little ounce of hope, that's all I have.
KING: Do you ever feel guilty? Picked the wrong guy?
KING: That's normal, but it's not your fault. I mean, people pick wrong people all the time. You didn't harm that girl.
VEGLAHN: No, but I can't help but -- I can't help but feel that even though I tried to do everything that I could, I guess it wasn't good enough.
KING: Let me get a break and we'll spend a few more moments with Beth and then we'll meet our panel. Tomorrow night, John Walsh, the victim of tragedy himself, will be with us. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY RACKAUCKAS, ORANGE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Today, as Orange County district attorney, on behalf of the people of the state of California, I announce my decision to seek the death penalty as to Mr. Alejandro Avila, for kidnapping, forcibly committing lewd acts upon and murdering Samantha Runnion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back. We're going to spend a few more minutes with Beth Veglahn and then meet our panel. And we'll take a call from Jacksonville, North Carolina. Hello.
CALLER: This question is for Beth. Did the jurors provide reasons as to why they chose not to believe the girls, and have any of these jurors contacted you since the Runnion case?
VEGLAHN: No, ma'am.
KING: I don't think anyone's heard from any of these jurors.
KING: And they gave you no reason when you asked them?
KING: What, they just didn't answer?
VEGLAHN: They didn't answer.
KING: San Antonio, Texas. Hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry. Hi, Beth. I have a question for Beth. In so much commentary on this case, I believe I heard that he -- your niece or your daughter lived in the vicinity or in the same apartment complex as the Runnion child?
KING: Did your daughter live near the Runnion child?
KING: She does?
VEGLAHN: She did.
KING: She did live near the Runnion child.
VEGLAHN: Yes, she did. Just actually...
KING: That's with her father? He lived in that neighborhood.
VEGLAHN: He lived approximately across the courtyard, probably about three or four doors down.
KING: So, yet you didn't associate it immediately?
KING: Because he didn't kill anybody?
KING: Battle Creek, Michigan. Hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry. How are you doing?
CALLER: Good. Love your show.
KING: Thank you.
CALLER: I have a question for Beth. Beth, I have been a mother for 24 years, OK. And up here in Michigan, they teach the kids in school good touch, bad touch. Has anyone ever taught your kids that? Because my youngest is 10 and I have taught him good touch, bad touch. Anybody ever touches you like that, you come tell mommy. Have you ever told your kids that?
VEGLAHN: I have told them. I don't know if their father has told them. I asked my children if they had any type of problem, you need to tell me right away and mommy will take care of it.
KING: We should explain this. There will be court cases. We're not going to get involved in it, but the father currently has the children, right?
KING: And he lived in the courtyard near Avila at the time.
KING: That's right. So you don't know what he told them. But you tell them.
VEGLAHN: I know what I told them.
KING: You had warned them.
KING: Thinking back, did you ever -- now that you have -- that's all you have is your memories. That's all any of us have. Can you ever say, I should have spotted this. Do you remember that time she did this? I should have, or he looked at her. Did you go through that?
VEGLAHN: Yes, I look back now. At the time I didn't see it. But I look back now, and, yes, there were red flags, yes, that I should have seen and I should have been aware of.
KING: How do you explain to yourself Alex Avila?
VEGLAHN: Who he is?
KING: His liking -- yes, who is he? Who is he? I mean, professionals are looking at this and psychologists, but you're just a woman who was attracted to him, had a relationship with him.
VEGLAHN: In the beginning of it, it was a normal relationship. He was a funny guy. You know? He's...
KING: We'll never understand it, will we?
VEGLAHN: I'll never understand. There are no words to say.
KING: Not funny any more. VEGLAHN: No.
KING: Thank you, Beth. I know this wasn't easy.
KING: I appreciate you coming.
VEGLAHN: Thank you.
KING: And we'll do all we can to see you meet Mrs. Runnion.
VEGLAHN: Thank you.
KING: Beth Veglahn, former fiancee of Alejandro "Alex" Avila.
Our panel joins us next. Saturday night, for you baseball fans, Bob Costas, maybe could have been commissioner, looks at the dilemma of baseball and where it goes from here. And will there be a national pastime and have a World Series?
The panel is next. Don't go away.
KING: Let's meet our panel. Here in Los Angeles, defense attorney Mark Geragos; in New York, the anchor for "Trial Heat" on Court TV and former prosecutor Nancy Grace; back in Los Angeles with Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, jury consultant and CEO of Vincent and Dimitrius, one of the world's top jury and trial consulting firms; in New Haven is Dr. Henry Lee, the world renowned forensic expert. He last book was "Cracking Cases: The Science of Solving Crimes," and he was chief emeritus for scientific services, former commissioner of public safety, state of Connecticut. And in San Francisco, Marc Klaas, whose 12-year-old daughter Polly was abducted and killed. He is an advocate for child protection and the founder of KlaasKids Foundation.
Mr. Geragos, before we talk about what might happen in San Diego tomorrow, any thoughts on what Mrs. Veglahn had to say?
MARK GERAGOS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know, it's interesting, Beth, I think, during that interview, which was incredibly powerful, the most intriguing thing, at least from a legal standpoint, besides just the raw emotion, is the fact that her girl lived in that complex across the courtyard...
KING: With the father.
GERAGOS: With the father. She's going to have prosecutors knocking on her door and that little girl is going to have prosecutors knocking on the door along with the investigators. That's a highly significant piece of information.
MARC KLAAS, KLAASKIDS FOUNDATION: Yes, absolutely.
KING: Marc Klaas agrees. Nancy, what did you think? NANCY GRACE, COURT TV: Absolutely, major, major point for the prosecution in this case. I don't know if the next jury for Avila will ever know about this evidence you and I have heard tonight. But it is a major connection -- in fact, there had been some speculation he was actually looking for his two prior victims when he came upon Samantha.
What stuck out with me, Larry, is when she said she had seen red flags, but to an untrained eye, it means nothing to you if your 9- year-old begins wetting the bed again, their grades drop, they become a behavioral problem, or they demonstrate a sexual knowledge beyond their years, all classic symptoms of child molestation.
KING: Jo-Ellan, I guess the toughest thing of all was, and we've discussed this on other nights, can we find a jury -- you're a jury consultant -- of 12 people who have no independent opinion about Mr. Avila's guilt or innocence?
JO-ELLAN DIMITRIUS, JURY CONSULTANT: Well, certainly Orange County is one of the largest populations county-wise in California, but I think it would be unreasonable to assume that there isn't anyone out there that hasn't heard something about the case.
KING: So what do you do as a jury consultant?
DIMITRIUS: Well, as a jury consultant, depending on what side you're looking for...
KING: Because you could be retained by the prosecution as well as defense?
DIMITRIUS: You bet. You bet. What you have to do is to find out how much information, what their source of information was, and how strongly they hold on to an opinion, if they have an opinion.
KING: Dr. Lee, apparently in this case we don't know the forensic evidence, do we?
DR. HENRY LEE, FORENSIC EXPERT: Right now we don't, but looks like going to have some direct linkage, maybe DNA, maybe the semen was found on the body. Has to be something absolute certain, not like the Westerfield case. Those are circumstantial evidence. Here something must be very important directly linked the victim suspect together.
KING: And, Mark, what did you think of what Mrs. Veglahn had to say?
MARK KLAAS, DAUGHTER ABDUCTED AND KILLED IN '93: Well, that was an amazing interview, Larry. I think it's instructive that single mothers of young children are so vulnerable in our society, and they are preyed upon by the pedophiles. These are very manipulative men who will do anything they can to get near the children. And, in fact, I would suggest that there are probably millions of women in America who have undergone similar types of victimizations during their lives, and because of the embarrassment, because of the unevenness of the jury system or of the trial system, they choose not to tell anybody, and go through lives living -- ruined lives, quite frankly, always trying to put the pieces together and sometimes not even knowing how.
But it was amazing and, quite frankly, her daughter's lucky that she's alive. Because I think she may very well have been the target of that attack.
KING: You were -- you are a single parent. Do you ever worry about your daughter?
DIMITRIUS: Oh, absolutely. And I think that's the one thing that as a parent we all see, and all these cases of abductions and ultimately if there's a murder along with it. I mean, my heart was bleeding for Beth and for Mrs. Runnion and the things that they've gone through. And there but for the grace of God go one of my children. It absolutely terrifies me.
KING: The lawyer for Avila is up against it, isn't he or she, Mark?
GERAGOS: The public defender is a very...
KING: The public's not going to blame her, are they?
GERAGOS: Well, no, they already have. I mean, she's received death threats. She's received all kinds of hate mail and awful kinds of threats. And it's the -- you know, the public defenders in this country have probably one of the hardest jobs that there are, because they take these cases. They're appointed. They have no choice. They can't say no. And the public tends to vilify them.
KING: Nancy, do we know -- it would be a guess -- why someone who kills didn't kill sooner? Why are Mrs. Veglahn's niece and daughter alive and Mrs. Runnion's daughter dead, assuming Avila did it?
GERAGOS: You know what, Larry, I have wondered that myself. In a particular serial murder case that hit home when I found out the defendant had raped a few women, two, before he began killing. And when I interviewed them, I just got chills looking at them and wondering how close they had come to being killed. And, you know, I have asked myself why a million times and the sad answer is, there's no way to go inside a mind and figure out what triggers them on that day to go beyond the molestation and kill.
KING: Well said. Dr. Lee, do you have any thoughts as to why the person who doesn't kill earlier kills later?
LEE: Yes. We investigate quite a few similar cases. Usually we -- if the subject surrendered himself on sort of, for example, this case with the girlfriend's daughter and the cousin, so when the victim try to fight back or, say I'm going to tell, usually can triggers like a trigger point.
GRACE: Well, Larry?
KING: I see. Mark Klaas, do you have a thought? Let Mark go first, Nancy. Mark? KLAAS: Well, you know, I believe that he was after Beth's daughter, and I believe that since she brought him to trial before, he might have been able to do whatever he wanted with her and let her go. But there was no way that he could let Samantha Runnion go and establish a pattern of this kind of behavior.
KING: Nancy, you believe that, too?
GRACE: Well, I think that's possible. I think that's just as good an explanation as any. But I was thinking in the first case, with these two little girls, he went to trial. They pointed a finger, and he could have come very close to being convicted. This time, he didn't want to go to trial. He didn't want that possibility, so he got rid of the evidence and killed Samantha.
KING: Now let's turn to the case that's going to wind up tomorrow. Have you watched that case, the case?
DIMITRIUS: Off and on, yes.
KING: What did you make of how the defense handled that? By first questioning the kind of living style of the parents, and then dealing with the experts and conflicting evidence.
DIMITRIUS: Well, having certainly worked for the defense before, what you obviously want to do as the defense is to take the attention away from whatever the physical evidence may be, and I think he's obviously done a fine job of doing that by throwing suspicion on the lifestyle of the parents.
But unfortunately, I think that that can backfire, and I think that, you know, one thing that could backfire as well is pointing at the son as being one of the possible contributors to the pornography. I know, certainly people I talk to on the street said, hello? An 18- year-old kid doing that? I think it's so farfetched that I think ultimately it's going to work against him.
KING: To our veterans of the courtroom. Nancy, should this jury be out quickly if you're looking for a guilty verdict, and the longer they're out, are you suspicious of a not guilty or a hung jury?
GRACE: I always think the quicker the verdict, the more likely it is a state's verdict. I have watched word for word every day the testimony in this trial over at Court TV, and I have got to tell you the defense hammered home on some pretty good points tonight in closing argument. He argued there was no motive.
Of course, sexual predator is a motive. And also, he pointed out some fingerprints that were found on the banister leading up to the girl's room, to Danielle van Dam's room. They could never be identified as anybody's. He also pointed out the entomologist that differed as to when her body had been disposed, basically ruling him out as the perp. But long story short, the DNA will trump all of that.
KING: Is -- the question was, I'll ask it of you, Mark -- if they're out a long time, does that help the defense?
GERAGOS: I'll go out on a limb and tell you right now that there -- I don't believe that there's any chance of an acquittal in this case, none.
GERAGOS: I think that the defense already accepts that, based upon their closing argument today. I think the defense's only hoping right now for a hung jury. We've heard before from the reporters down there that there's a history of hung juries, at least in San Diego and some other large high profile cases.
KING: So if they're out a while...
GERAGOS: If they're out a while it becomes increasingly more likely that it's a hung jury. But there isn't any chance that there's going to be an acquittal. I suppose I could be wrong. I doubt it.
KING: We'll be right back with more. We'll include some of your phone calls, too. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF DUSEK, PROSECUTOR: They cannot exclude him from what they found in his house, in his bedroom, in his bed. They found her hair, Danielle van Dam's hair in his bed. On the pillow, on the top sheet, on the bottom sheet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVEN FELDMAN, ATTORNEY FOR DAVID WESTERFIELD: Because this case is only circumstantial evidence. There's nothing more. There's no videotapes. The law has special rules of instruction which I keep going back to, because I'm afraid. I'm afraid that there's so much public passion, that there's so much bias, there's so much pity, there's so much empathy, all of which are completely human emotions, completely worthy of respect.
And I'm not in any manner trying to be nasty about it. I'm just being honest. The truth, from the lawyer is: You've got to be objective, folks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Good point, Jo-Ellan?
DIMITRIUS: Well, of course. The jurors take their job very seriously. And I think that's what a lot of people don't appreciate is they're there, they have a very serious issue in front of them.
And I know earlier we were talking about how long it might take them. This jury isn't going to be sequestered, and so they've got as much time as they want to go through all of the evidence. And I think they will be objective.
KING: Do you expect a verdict tomorrow?
DIMITRIUS: No, absolutely not.
GERAGOS: No. No way.
KING: No way?
GERAGOS: This -- I mean, I hate to keep making these predictions. I hate to keep making these predictions; we'll come back tomorrow and you can play the tape. But I don't believe this jury is going to come back tomorrow. They're going to be out, they're going to go through the evidence.
People don't understand. You hear a lot of people talk about the jury system and make comments about the jury system. When people swear and take that oath, they are serious as it gets.
KING: Nancy, do you think it's over tomorrow?
GRACE: I think verdict will come home tomorrow, and I think we'll head into the penalty phase. Because we can argue until the cows come home about the profile of a pedophile and how he didn't fit, and he was successful and he dated full, mature adult women.
No. Her hair in his bed. Her blood on his jacket.
That settles it. That's what the jury is going to do.
KING: Dr. Lee, do you think it's going to come back tomorrow?
LEE: It all depends on how much weight they put on anthropological evidence, the maggot evidence. If they discard maggot evidence, of course it's going to be a quick verdict. If they consider that, and that's going to be a longer time to consider.
KING: Marc, what do you think -- Klaas?
KLAAS: Well, certainly the DNA's going to trump the bugs.
But, you know, they have an awful lot of stuff to sift through, so I don't see how there's any way they're going to be able to come up with a decision tomorrow.
But I think people have to remember that the prosecutor has to convince 12 people based on evidence, and the defense attorney only has to put doubt in the mind of one. So this is way up in the air. It could be hung.
GRACE: Marc, Marc Klaas, I just got to remind you, Marc, her hair was found in his trash can along with bleach where he had tried to clean everything up. That one thing alone.
And when that jury started crying when they saw that violent child pornography, Marc, you know, I think that settled it right there.
KLAAS: You now, absolutely, Nancy.
But I think one thing that we have to remember is depending on what you were watching, you had to wonder who was on trial. If you watched the prosecutor, obviously Westerfield was on trial. But if you watched the defense, it seemed like the van Dams were on trial.
GRACE: It was a shame.
KING: Charlotte, North Carolina -- let me get a call -- hello.
CALLER: Hey, my question is for Mark.
KING: Yes. Yes.
CALLER: This is about the Avila case. Mark, would you have taken -- would you take this case. And as a defense attorney, how would you handle the case?
KING: Mr. Geragos?
GERAGOS: I -- you know, I wouldn't take the case, but it's for reasons that aren't what you might think. I mean, I've talked with Beth, and I've had many conversations, several conversations with Beth. So I would be conflicted from taking that case because of the relationship that I have with Beth.
The defense lawyer in this case is going to do -- in the public defender, they've got a very able public defender there. What they're going to do is they're going to take a look at the scientific evidence. They're going to take a look and see if there's DNA, and they're going to also take a look and see if the cellular phone records show that he was in the area at the time, and also see if the cellular phone records, when he claims he was at the Ontario Mills Mall show, in fact, that he was actually somewhere else.
If that's the case, then the public defender, my guess, would be, we'll start exploring some kind of a mental defense.
Otherwise it will be -- if that kind of evidence is not there, they would then try to defend it on a reasonable doubt defense.
KING: Lumberton, North Carolina, last call, hello.
CALLER: Yes, this is for Dr. Lee.
CALLER: What's the difference between circumstantial and real evidence, and is blood circumstantial? I thought you just said that. And has David Westerfield taken a lie detector, and what's the result. I never could catch that.
KING: The difference, quickly, Dr. Lee, between circumstantial and real evidence? LEE: Well, circumstantial evidence basically you cannot provide any direct link. And if you have witnesses watching what happened, or you have something, let's say semen found in the victim's vagina which DNA matched this person. Which where (ph) the blood found on the jacket or hair can have a secondary transfer. That's more circumstantial evidence.
KING: Do you know if Westerfield was given a lie detector test?
GERAGOS: My understanding is that he was not -- and I could be wrong on that -- at least by the authorities. If -- one of the secrets of the criminal defense world is that if you give your client a lie detector test and he fails, you don't make it public, so...
KING: As I understand it...
GERAGOS: ... something you're going to want to put out there.
KING: When the jury sits down tomorrow, they don't just say, right, what do we all think and they vote right away?
DIMITRIUS: Well, I mean, it depends.
KING: They can do anything they want, right?
DIMITRIUS: It depends on who the foreperson is and how the foreperson takes them through it. He or she may say, let's go around the table and take a vote. Let's write down our verdicts on a piece of paper. It just really depends on the dynamics.
GERAGOS: They're got an enormous amount of exhibits to go through as well. I mean...
KING: The panel's vote is four-to-one no verdict tomorrow. Nancy says verdict tomorrow. Geragos and Dimitrius and Lee and Klaas say no verdict tomorrow. And Grace says yes. Let's see who wins, or who comes out right.
We thank you very much for joining us.
When I come back I'll tell you about tomorrow night and a few nights ahead. We've got some exciting shows coming on LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
KING: Tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE John Walsh will be here. There may be a verdict in the van Dam case.
On Friday night an extraordinary young man, Frank Melero will join us, one of the two boys that was tied up and left by their automobile and by a tree while two girls were apprehended by a man eventually killed.
Frank Melero will be here.
And Bob Costas on what goeth with baseball on Saturday night.
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