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NANCY GRACE

Congress Passes Emergency Legislation in Schiavo Case; Interview With Mark Lunsford

Aired March 21, 2005 - 20:00:00   ET

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


NANCY GRACE, CNN HOST: Tonight, day four with neither food nor water for Terri Schiavo. Remember the Florida woman? She`s been left to starve to death in her hospital bed. Well, now Congress is in on the act, passing late-night emergency legislation that now throws the hot potato into the lap of a federal judge. Terry Schiavo`s family now standing by, hoping to be allowed to feed their daughter.
And nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford, as you know, stolen from her own bedroom, brutally murdered by a neighbor and a convicted sex offender. The country in shock. Why are repeat offenders, violent child molesters, out of jail and exposed to children? Jessie`s father, Mark Lunsford, is with us tonight.

And in Colorado, a man murdered his three children after his wife got a restraining order against him. Their mother, Jessica Gonzales, called police practically on the hour begging for help. She says they did nothing. And in the meantime, after all those hours had passed, the three girls were murdered by their dad. Now the Supreme Court decides whether Gonzales can sue the police for $30 million. I think she`d rather have her three girls back.

Good evening, everybody. I`m Nancy Grace. And I want to thank you for being with us tonight.

The murder of nine-year-old Jessie Lunsford has galvanized the country. Convicted sex offender, a guy with a rap sheet a mile long, John Evander Couey faces murder charges and likely the Florida death penalty. His face, allegedly, the last face Jessie ever saw. Tonight, we learn that Jessie was sexually assaulted before her murder.

And today, the Supremes decide whether a mother whose three children murdered by her own husband can sue police who refused -- refused -- to enforce a restraining order against him and bring the three girls home to their mom.

But first, after Congress stopped to pass an emergency statute last night, Terri Schiavo`s life is back in the hands of a federal judge. But now after four days without food or water, Schiavo is running out of time, literally starving to death in her hospital bed.

Tonight, in L.A., Christian singer Pat Boone, his grandson, Ryan, was in a coma; in Atlanta, defense lawyer, Chris Pixley; in San Diego, defense attorney, Jan Ronis; in L.A., psychologist, Bethany Marshall.

But, first, to Miami and Time Magazine`s Tim Padgett.

Tim, bring us up to date, friend.

TIM PADGETT, TIME MAGAZINE: Well, at this point, everything`s up in the air. Judge Whittemore made it very clear at the end of the hearing this afternoon that he was not going to tell either side either where, when or how he was going to rule on this case. And tonight we`re still waiting.

One assumes that he might want to make a very timely ruling, given the timeline urgency. As you just pointed out, this is day four. And when a person`s feeding tube is removed, as hers was on Friday, it usually takes about a week to ten days for that person to die. So there is some sort of timeline urgency. But as of yet tonight, he has not come out with a ruling.

GRACE: Tim Padgett, I`m a little surprised. The woman is starving to death. This is day four. What`s he waiting on?

PADGETT: Well, Judge Whittemore has -- if you look at his history, he`s a no-nonsense judge. And I think he doesn`t want to be bullied by either side into making a swift decision on this, either by the side of Michael Schiavo, who`s claiming this is constitutionally invalid act on the part of the Congress, or on the part of Terri Schiavo`s parents who say that her 14th Amendment rights are being violated.

GRACE: Tim Padgett is with us with Time Magazine. He`s the Miami bureau chief, bringing us the latest on the Schiavo case.

Let me quickly go to Pat Boone. Many of you are probably fans of Pat Boone. He`s been a real inspiration to so many people.

Welcome, sir. Your son was in coma, much like...

PAT BOONE, SINGER: Well, my grandson.

GRACE: ... excuse me, your grandson -- much like Terri. Right, your grandson. I`m very familiar with the case. What are your thoughts tonight? I know you must feel what her parents are going through.

BOONE: Yes, my daughter, Lindy, Ryan`s mom, and my wife, and so many of our family have been so empathetic in identifying with her parents. Because when Ryan was hurt so grievously -- he fell 40 feet through the skylight of a building in West L.A., total accident, but the paramedics thought he was dead. They took him to UCLA. The doctors told us that first night, "We`re doing all we can to save him. But we`ve got to warn you that nobody hurt this badly, hardly anybody survives."

And we just believed that he would survive and our prayers would be answered. In a couple of weeks, he was in a coma. He was on all kinds of life support, tracheotomy and all of that. And the doctor, the neurosurgeons, brought us together as a family and said, "Look, Ryan is in a vegetative state. We don`t think he`ll ever breath on his own. He`ll never be able to speak, never be able to do anything."

You`re seeing now that he can and has and does. His improvement continues. It`s very dramatic. He`s still got a long way to go. It`s been over 3 1/2 years. But if we had believed the neurosurgeons -- and it was their best opinion -- but if we`d believed them, they wanted us to consider when we would pull the plug. We didn`t.

What we said to them is, "You`re the medical team. We`re the faith team. Let`s work together." And we have. And we do. And Ryan is conversational. His sense of humor is back. He has got good use of his right arm, more and more of his left, both legs.

But he has something Terri has not had -- Terri Schiavo -- over the last ten years, which is loving, therapeutic treatment. I understand that for maybe ten years now she hasn`t had any kind of physical therapy. There is something about moving the limbs of the body and giving her therapy that triggers responses in the brain.

And I know some of the doctors think that she can`t possibly recover. They say she doesn`t have a cortex. Well, they`ve been wrong lots of times, mercifully and wonderfully. And to rule out the possibility that she not only is alive and cognitive, but can develop and recover to at least some extent, is, I think, really wrong.

The bible says, "Open your mouth for the oppressed and the cause of those appointed to die," which is what we`re doing. And also, Proverbs 6 says, that there`s six things, yea, seven God hates. And one of those -- and you`d better pay attention to things God hates -- hands that shed innocent blood.

Terri is innocent. She deserves to live. Even if she did say -- and we don`t know. It`s hearsay. It wasn`t in writing.

GRACE: Right. It certainly is disputed, Pat, between the parents and the husband.

Very quickly to Bethany Marshall, psychoanalyst. Does Terri have any realistic chance for recovery?

Bethany, many doctors have seen her and they say that her reactions are involuntary, that they`re from the brain-stem region, not from, as Pat was just saying, the outer cerebral cortex, where we get our cognitive responses.

BETHANY MARSHALL, PSYCHOANALYST: Right. Well, science suggests that she won`t recover. But what I think about this case is that it`s very unnatural for parents to have to grieve the loss of a child. Grieving is saying, "With this person, I may never, ever receive the love that I hope to receive." And when they scan her face looking for signs of a response, they may also be looking for signs of love.

And they may be experiencing something that we call complicated bereavement, which is a wish to undo the loss and to undo the grief. And that`s a very terrible and traumatic state of affairs for the parents.

GRACE: We`re taking a quick break.

As you know, this matter has gone to a federal judge, who, surprisingly, according to Tim Padgett with Time Magazine, hasn`t ruled. I guess he`s going home to have a nice dinner tonight, while this woman is without food or water while he twiddles his thumbs trying to make a judicial decision.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL SCHIAVO, TERRI SCHIAVO`S HUSBAND: This is what Terri wanted. This is Terri`s wish, OK? It`s not President Bush`s wish. This is about Terri Schiavo, not the government, not President Bush, and Governor Bush. They should be ashamed of themselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL SCHIAVO: Terri can`t communicate. She cannot swallow. This case has been in front of the state courts for seven years. Twenty judges have heard this case, including the Supreme Court justices. And Bobby Schindler is up there stating inaccurate facts and the Republicans up there are feeding into it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: Well, it was a battle that started off between a husband and his in-laws over the fate of Terri Schiavo. Now, Congress is involved. We`re talking about the Florida woman who has been on a feeding tube for many, many years now.

Allegedly, the husband turned down $10 million. He was offered tons of money to butt out and let the parents take over. He turned that down. Many people say she is in a vegetative state. But take a listen to what a doctor said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM HAMMESFAHR, NEUROLOGIST: She`s very much aware of her surroundings. She can discriminate between different people. She`s partially blind. So when you look at videos, you`ll notice that a lot of times that she looks sort of off into space. And when her mother comes by, she suddenly will light up. And that`s because she can only see about 18 inches in front of her. But I asked her to do different things. She was able to squeeze each hand independently, do different motions with her arms and legs. Obviously, she can follow and track balloons. She understands English. She can really do quite a bit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: You know, Tim Padgett, he`s Time Magazine, Miami bureau chief.

Tim, even the doctors are divided on this. I mean, there you just see a doctor that`s actually had contact with Terri Schiavo, saying she is not a vegetable, that she recognizes her mother, that she responds. Then you`ve got all these other doctors who say that this is from the main brain-stem region, not the cerebral cortex, where you and I get cognitive and emotional responses.

So if we can`t figure out, and a doctor can`t figure it out, Tim, who the hay is a federal judge to figure it out?

PADGETT: Well, one of the arguments that Terri Schiavo`s parents` lawyers were making today was that, as a Catholic, Terri shouldn`t have to die this way because she`ll be in purgatory for too long a time. I think that...

GRACE: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. I`m sorry. I don`t get the rules. If her feeding tube is pulled out, then she goes to purgatory? Where was that written?

PADGETT: They were arguing that to die in the state that she has, it would unnecessarily put her in purgatory, according to the Catholic faith. But I bring that up because that`s a very apt word for where we are both clinically and politically in this issue.

One of the big divisions here is, is she in a coma-like state or is she in just a disabled state? And that`s where I think we`re going to have to start studying, at least after this case, the distinctions between things like breathing tubes and feeding tubes. If you`re on a breathing tube, is that the limit? Is that where it stops? And if you`re on a feeding tube, is that where the right-to-die movement sort of steps over the line when they ask for life support to be taking off?

GRACE: Well, I`ll tell you, when I start getting really nervous, Jan Ronis, is when the legislature, when Congress and politicians get involved. What`s in it for them? Is this turning into a political story as opposed to a family or a legal story?

JAN RONIS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, it`s clearly turning into a political story. Because, as we know, the Florida courts have had this case kicking around for many years. They were certainly competent to adjudge this issue. There was actually a trial. The doctors testified. The decision of the court was that she had no cognitive powers and they basically wanted to proceed with allowing her to die a dignified death.

The problem is it`s now been politicized. You know, the religious fundamentalists in this nation kind of hijacked Congress over the weekend. They had this extraordinary session. They`ve now taken the jurisdiction away...

(CROSSTALK)

GRACE: Well, nobody hijacks Congress. Believe me. Their sole concern is their own survival and their own reelection. Nobody can hijack Congress.

RONIS: Well, but the same constituency that would say that the states don`t have rights and there`s too much power in the government has now shifted the power from the state of Florida, which was perfectly capable of handling this problem, to the federal courts in the same jurisdiction that they`re always complaining about, you know, has too much power. So there`s a lot of political hypocrisy going on here. The state of Florida is certainly competent to handle this.

GRACE: Well, you know what? Please, political hypocrisy, aren`t you being a little redundant right there, Jan Ronis?

This U.S. district judge, James Whittemore -- let me go back to Tim Padgett. Tim, I`m stunned that he wouldn`t make a decision. I know he`s familiar with the case. Now, you know, federal judges are on the bench for life. You can`t drag them off the bench, OK? So there is no accountability for him going home tonight and having a nice steak dinner while this woman has her feeding tube laying by the bed.

PADGETT: Well, we don`t know if he`s having a steak dinner or pouring over legal documents. But he`s dealing with sort of a two-pronged case here right now.

On the one hand, Michael Schiavo`s attorneys arguing that this case should be dismissed immediately because it`s constitutionally invalid. Congress has no right to step on the state judiciary this way. And on the other hand, he has Terri Schiavo`s parents` lawyers arguing sort of a new dimension to the case, which is that her 14th Amendment rights under the Constitution are being violated.

And so he has got these two differing arguments here to juggle. And that may be one of the reasons why he didn`t want anyone to think that he was going to be coming up with an immediate ruling on this. He didn`t want to raise the expectations that this was going to be done perhaps tonight or even tomorrow morning. As I said before, I think he realized also how hot the passions were in this, and he didn`t want to be bullied into, you know, being too expedient about this.

GRACE: Well, you know what? That`s why he`s on the bench, to reach a decision.

Very quickly to Chris Pixley. Chris, on the hot seat, how is this going to turn out?

CHRIS PIXLEY, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Oh, Nancy, I strongly believe that this federal judge is going to reinforce the state court decision to remove her feeding tube. Remember, there are 19 different judges that have been involved in this, six different courts. And by the time that this is all said and done, Terri Schiavo`s parents wail have availed themselves of literally every level of our state and federal court system.

I find it hard to believe that a federal court under those circumstances would conclude that Terri Schiavo has been denied her due process rights. If anything is the case, she`s been given more due process than most of us could ever hope for in a lifetime.

GRACE: As we go to break, Pat Boone, final thought?

BOONE: I think the three main questions that are raised here, one is, did she really say this, that she didn`t want to live in some kind of state like this, because it`s only hearsay? And even if she did, a lot of times we say things when we`re young we change our minds about. Secondly, what caused her to be in this state? I`m not sure that`s ever been established. Thirdly, if she does regain her speech, what will she say? Is Michael worried about what his wife might say if she regains her speech?

GRACE: Pat Boone, thank you for being with us. And to all of our guests, as we go to break.

Breaking news now out of northern Minnesota. Today, a high school student killed two of his grandparents then went on a shooting rampage at Red Lake High School, killing five, wounding up to 15 before turning the gun on himself. Another high school shooting.

We`ll continue to update you on the story as it unfolds.

And now to "Trial Tracking": A California man on trial for the murder of little Samantha Runnion. Remember her? She was kidnapped from her own yard, July 2002. Now, remember, two years before -- repeat, two years before -- Alejandro Avila, the man accused of the murder, had been found not guilty in the molestation of two other little girls. Defense attorney John Pozza helped Avila beat the rap.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN POZZA, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR ALEJANDRO AVILA: We argued the facts and the evidence and submitted it to a jury where 12 individual people from the community made a decision. And it was an individual decision. It has stopped me on a personal level to contemplate whether I did anything wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH DAWSON, LUNSFORD FAMILY FRIEND: When you have a rabid dog, you put it down. It`s time that we realized that certain parts of our society that continue to prey on our children need to be eliminated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: Today, Sheriff Jeff Dawsy says authorities will seek the death penalty for John Evander Couey, the sex offender and repeat offender to the tune of over twenty arrests. Couey confessed to kidnapping and killing Jessie. Also, he admitted he buried Jessie in the yard of his sister`s home. It was catty-corner from Jessie`s home there in Homosassa, Florida. Her body was uncovered over the weekend.

And tonight, from Homosassa, Jessie`s father, Mark Lunsford.

First, to CNN`s Sara Dorsey. Sara, bring us up to date, friend.

SARA DORSEY, CNN REPORTER: Well, Nancy, probably the most tragic news we learned today was how young Jessica was killed. According to the arrest affidavit I was given that was given by the Citrus County sheriff, the medical examiner has ruled that the cause of death was asphyxiation.

Now, also, we have learned probably the best news for the Lunsford family, and that is that John Couey will face four charges in relation to their daughter`s murder, the first being capital murder. The family is very happy about that. Also, sexual battery on a child less than 12 years old, kidnapping, and burglary with battery. I can tell you that all of those are no bond.

And I talked to a sheriff`s deputy, Nancy. And he told me this guy was the boogeyman walking. And because of these charges, he will not be back out on these streets at least for quite a while. He will have his first appearance in court tomorrow for these charges. And I can assure you that we will all be there. The last time we were there on Sunday when he appeared on those unrelated charges, he was shackled and just walked straight through. He didn`t look at anybody.

GRACE: Let me go to Mark Lunsford, Jessie`s father.

Mark, I`m so sorry. So many prayers and thoughts with you and your family tonight.

I was taking a look at John Couey`s rap sheet, Mark. And I see all the way back to 1987, indecent exposure, sex offense against a child in `91. I mean, this rap sheet, it has got 20 entries. What do you have to say? Do you feel like the justice system let him slip through their fingers?

MARK LUNSFORD, FATHER OF MURDERED GIRL: Well, I mean, I`m not going to criticize the system on how it works or how it works out for people like him. But we got him now, and he ain`t going nowhere. He will never hurt anybody again.

GRACE: Mark, do you plan to attend the trial? Do you think you can stand to hear the evidence?

LUNSFORD: Oh, yes. Oh, I will be there. I will be there everyday that I can.

GRACE: How`s your family? How`s your family doing?

LUNSFORD: They`re hanging in there. They`re doing pretty good today. Funeral arrangements were made today. So, I mean, we`re almost done.

GRACE: Mark, what do you think is the appropriate punishment if Couey is found guilty?

LUNSFORD: Well, the death penalty, for sure. I mean, if we could just for one day use the electric chair, I would like that.

GRACE: When you first learned that Couey had given a confession, what was your immediate response?

LUNSFORD: That somebody needs to kill him.

GRACE: When you go back to your parents` home, what is it like going back in without Jessie being there?

LUNSFORD: She is here. She`s right here with me. You just can`t see her, but I can. And she`s right here with me. And that`s what keeps me going.

GRACE: Mark Lunsford, again, our thoughts and prayers are with you. Thank you for being with us.

LUNSFORD: Thank you.

GRACE: And also thank you -- yes, sir.

Also, thank you to Sara for bringing us up to date. We`ll bring you the latest on the case as it progresses and ultimately goes to trial.

As you know, we here at NANCY GRACE want desperately to help solve unsolved homicides. Tonight, take a look at Tanya Willis. Tanya, shot to death in her home East St. Louis, Illinois, December 2003. If you have any information on this beautiful girl, Tanya Willis, please contact the Carole Sund/Carrington Foundation, 888-813-8389. There could be a reward involved. Please help us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SOPHIA CHOI, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, I`m Sophia Choi. Time now for your "Headline Prime Newsbreak."

Officials in northern Minnesota say a high school student is responsible for a shooting rampage that left seven people dead. The student reportedly shot his grandparents before heading to the school. Once there, officials say, he shot up to 15 people, killing five of them. And then he killed himself.

Drawing attention to steroid use in Major League Baseball may encourage more high schoolers to try them. That`s the concern of some health experts who say now that it`s in the news every day, more teens are equating steroids with doing well in sports.

And the cost of filling up is at an all-time high. On average, Americans are paying $2.10 for a gallon of unleaded. But keep in mind, that`s a dollar less than the record high in 1981 when you adjust for inflation.

And Camilla Parker-Bowles may become the queen of England after all. The British government says only special legislation could deny her that title if Prince Charles takes the thrown.

That`s the news for now. I`m Sophia Choi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JESSICA GONZALES, DAUGHTERS KILLED BY EX-HUSBAND: He knew the only ones that loved him were his daughters. And I think, besides hurting me, he thought he would take that love with him. In his sick way, that`s what he thought.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: Today, a case very dear to my heart, all the way up to the Supreme Court. That`s right. The Supremes hear oral arguments in the case of Jessica Gonzales of Castle Rock, Colorado.

The city is trying to squash the lawsuit, this lawsuit by Gonzales, who says police refused to enforce a restraining order against her husband the night he killed their three little girls. Simon Gonzales took seven- year-old Leslie, eight-year-old Katheryn, and ten-year-old Rebecca to an amusement park and then murdered them before dying in a shootout with cops himself.

Tonight from Washington, Jessica Gonzales and her attorney, Lenora Lapidus. Also from Washington, Rocky Mountain News reporter M.E. Sprengelmeyer.

Thank you to everyone being with us. I want to go quickly to Jessica Gonzales.

But also, before I ask you your first question, Jessica, take a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t know whether he picked them up today or not. Usually, they come in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) there was no sign of him around or anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: Jessica, when you hear that 911 phone call, the first of many calls you made that night, it must put a chill up your spine.

JESSICA GONZALES, MOTHER OF SLAIN CHILDREN: Right, because I think originally I thought he was just playing one of his really cruel jokes. And you know, the children were so frightened of him that I wanted to know if he was in the neighborhood. And I had to assume that he was the one that picked them up, especially because there was a fourth child involved that evening.

GRACE: Would you take it from the beginning, Jessica, and tell the viewers what happened? It`s almost beyond comprehension what went down.

GONZALES: Gosh, it started really early in the day. Actually, maybe two days before Simon had tried to get back into the marriage with me. And he thought by breaking up with his girlfriend and sending me flowers two days in a row that he would get back into my good graces and, of course, our lives. That wasn`t, of course, the case.

And our conversation at noon ended with, "Well, then I know what I have to do," is what he said. But I didn`t know what that meant at that time.

GRACE: And the kids went out to play around -- they were out around 4:30, right?

GONZALES: That`s correct.

GRACE: What happened then?

GONZALES: Well, I think around 4:30, they were still around. I think a neighbor saw them being picked up from in front of the house about 4:40. And just about 5:30, I realized that an hour had gone by, which was really unusual because they usually check in every hour -- had gone by and I had heard nothing from them.

GRACE: Did you call the cops?

GONZALES: Yes, I called the cops at 5:50. And I waited until 7:30. And of course, I, you know, told them that I had a restraining order. And there was a fourth child involved. And I needed to know, you know...

GRACE: What did they say, Jessica, when you told them you had a restraining order? As I recall, you actually read portions of the restraining order to them.

GONZALES: Yes, I took it out of the glove box. And that was about 8:30 that I read the restraining order to them. Because, at that time, I was looking for them to go to find the children (UNINTELLIGIBLE) when I finally located them.

GRACE: You mean, at the amusement park?

GONZALES: That`s correct.

GRACE: Let me go to chief of police in Castle Rock, Colorado. Joining us now is Tony Lane.

Welcome, Mr. Lane. Mr. Lane, Chief, why didn`t you just send a cruiser over there? I know you say it was out of your jurisdiction, in Denver jurisdiction. Why didn`t you just send a cruiser over there? She told you where he was with her children.

TONY LANE, CASTLE ROCK CHIEF OF POLICE: Well, that`s not totally accurate. We did send two police cars over, not one, but two, which actually that night we had four cars on duty.

GRACE: To the amusement park?

LANE: No, we sent them to Jessica`s house to take a report. We did not know what the situation was when the call came into the dispatcher other than the kids were missing. And as far as we were concerned, we had three missing children that were probably with the father, but we wanted to confirm that.

GRACE: Well, since there was a restraining order, was it really up to you or the police to decide what to do? The judge had issued a restraining order because of atrocious behavior by Simon, including trying to hang himself in front of his girls.

LANE: Well, Nancy, this information was not known to the officers at the time that they took this report.

GRACE: Did they know there was a restraining order?

LANE: They knew later on that there was a restraining order. The dispatcher knew there was a restraining order. The officers never saw a restraining order initially when they went to Jessica`s house.

They took the information. Like I said, two officers responded and then they divided the town up into two districts and they started looking for Simon`s truck, for the girls, for confirmation that the girls were with their father. We had no, at that point, probable cause to believe that a crime had been committed. He had...

GRACE: Well, what about the violation of the restraining order itself? I mean, what good is a TPO or a restraining order if they`re not enforced?

LANE: The restraining order says that the girls had one night, or Simon had one night a week that he could take the girls to dinner. He had done this in the past. They changed the night. And we were even told that there was this loose arrangement that he was probably going to pick them up that night. And, in fact, he did.

GRACE: Let me go to back to Jessica Gonzales. What do you say to that, Ms. Gonzales?

GONZALES: I actually have witnesses to say that I gave them the restraining order out of the glove box when they finally arrived two hours later after my initial phone call at 5:50. And that, on my initial restraining order, when I applied for it to the courts in front of a judge, I did put that incident on the initial restraining order, in the garage with him hanging himself.

GRACE: What type of behavior had he exhibited in the past to make a judge issue a restraining order, Jessica?

GONZALES: He had been harassing the children about me leaving the children to him and giving him custody, and also giving him possession of the house, and wanting me to leave. And he followed them around the amusement park some weeks before that and brought them home, stating, you know, lining them up in front of me, making them cry, forcing them to tell me that he was going to get me out of the house and take custody of them.

GRACE: Jessica, do you believe the cops went and looked for the girls?

GONZALES: I don`t know what to believe. I don`t think they ever took me serious about the children and the dire, you know...

GRACE: Nature.

GONZALES: Yes. Simon`s behavior was so bizarre during those six months that he was gone, and their interactions with him, I think, was a big red flag of how dangerous he really could be. And they were very offended when they actually served him at the police station with that restraining order, that he thought he was above the law, and he was not intimidated by authority at all.

He went through two doors that said "No Trespassing" and waited five minutes for the police to come and meet with him. And when they didn`t meet with him, he got up and left. And they physically restrained him and brought him back into the police station and cited him for something like avoiding the police or...

GRACE: Well, Jessica, let me ask you a question. How many times did you call the cops that night?

GONZALES: I had five phone calls and one visit to the police station, six contacts.

GRACE: You actually finally went to the police station with the restraining order?

GONZALES: Well, yes, the restraining order was in my glove box. That`s where I was told to keep it by the judge and that`s where...

GRACE: And what would they tell you, Jessica, when you would call?

GONZALES: That I needed to wait and see if he brought them home and call back in two hours. And that was on three different occasions.

GRACE: As we go to break, the reality is that after all of the phone calls and hours had passed, ultimately, he shot his three girls and then drove around with them for a considerable amount of time with their dead bodies.

Stay with us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GONZALES: I was planning to live my life according to the way my children left me. You know, slowly but surely, grew and left.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three benches will soon fill this flattened space. One of the inscriptions, "Three peas in a pod."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I couldn`t describe them any more perfect. There were tons of pictures of them together and hardly any separate. They were always together.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And now, a memorial sits on the side of the hill to honor the three young inseparable girls who used to come here everyday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just wanted to say thanks. And I appreciate it. I know I don`t do that very often, but I just want to say thanks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: You know, it`s just not right that all that`s left of those three little girls is a memorial.

Let`s go to their mom, Jessica Gonzales. How old were your girls, Jessica?

GONZALES: Ten, eight, and seven; Rebecca was ten, Katheryn was eight, and Leslie was seven.

GRACE: I`m going to go back to the chief of police, Tony Lane.

That night, when he finally came to the police station -- of course, he had already murdered the three girls -- they were dead in the car. What happened when he got there?

LANE: He pulled up in front of the police department, and he started firing shots at one of the officers that was inside the police department. That officer was unable to return fire, but another officer on the side of the building who was coming out exiting the building returned fire. And in the meantime, the dispatcher called the other two units that were on duty into the station that shots were being fired.

GRACE: So cops almost lost their lives that night as well because of Simon Gonzales.

Back to Jessica. Jessica, did you tell the cops you were afraid your estranged husband would hurt the girls?

GONZALES: I had no idea he would hurt the children. I thought that he would hurt himself or he would hurt me, but my children, I never thought in my wildest dreams. I thought he was just playing the sick little jokes that he always played. And I mean, he did some wild things. He had car chases through the meadows, from the highway, and threatened people. He changed the locks on my front door.

GRACE: Wouldn`t you guys come home and he would have broken in and just be sitting in there?

GONZALES: Oh, yes. Oh, yes, definitely. I mean, he would come out of dark corners, and he never really gave up the keys.

GRACE: Chief Lane, what does this guy have to do to get arrested?

LANE: A lot of this information was never reported to us, first of all. And let me make this record clear.

First, we are very, very saddened by this tragedy. I can`t imagine the loss of three girls like that. But our officers responded. They did everything they could that night under the circumstances and what information they had available to them. All of this information came out later on in the night and throughout the course of the investigation.

GRACE: Chief, why didn`t you send a cop to the amusement park? I mean, she told you, "He`s at the amusement park with the girls. He`s in violation of the restraining order."

LANE: At that point it was not clear he was in violation of that restraining order. He had the right to take the girls...

GRACE: She read you the order, Chief.

LANE: Let me -- can I finish?

GRACE: Yes.

LANE: He had the right to take them out to dinner. He took them to the amusement park. Jessica called him on the phone. She told us that she had made contact with Simon, that they were at the Elitch Gardens. She asked him to bring them home.

She said that she wasn`t sure whether he would bring them home or not. But she was also asked if Simon would hurt the girls. And she replied, "No, he would never hurt the girls." Under the circumstances, and with the information that we had available to us that night, we did everything possible that we could and then some.

GRACE: Take a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GONZALES: They always tell me when they`re leaving with him. And, you know, tonight`s not even his night to have them. And I was being nice...

911 DISPATCHER: When was the last time you saw him?

GONZALES: About 5:30. They were like, "We`re hanging out." And I`m like, "Well, if Daddy comes, you let me know."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: To Jessica`s lawyer, Lenora Lapidus, clearly she told the cops this was not the night he was supposed to have the girls.

LENORA LAPIDUS, LAWYER FOR JESSICA GONZALES: Yes. I mean, what is clear here is that Jessica Gonzales called the police, told them that she feared her husband had taken the children in violation of the protective order.

And the police certainly did not do everything that they could. In fact, they did just the opposite. They said to her, "There`s nothing that we can do." When she called again later, they said, "Call us back again later. Nothing we can do." Repeatedly throughout the night they just kept telling her, "We can`t do anything here. Call us back later."

GRACE: To M.E. Sprengelmeyer -- he`s a correspondent with the Rocky Mountain News -- when do you expect a ruling by the Supremes?

M.E. SPRENGELMEYER, ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS: It would be sometime this summer probably. I mean, it could be June or July they`ll announce their decision. And there`s much more at stake than just this one case. I mean, folks on both sides have a lot at stake. The police say that if they lose this case they`re going to have to add manpower and change the way they do business.

GRACE: Well, what would be wrong with that?

SPRENGELMEYER: Well, you might ask Chief Lane how big his department is. But there`s a lot of departments might make claims that they`re too small to dedicate a certain number of officers just to domestic violence, that sort of thing.

GRACE: Wait, what, what -- did I hear you say "just to domestic violence"? Is it somehow different from other kind of violence?

SPRENGELMEYER: No, I didn`t mean to use the word "just" in that sense. But I would...

GRACE: Jessica, what are your thoughts tonight? Your case has gone all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Do you believe that cops and judges treat domestic violence cases as less important than other cases?

GONZALES: Absolutely. It`s a very low priority on their agenda, usually, to the point where they didn`t even show up when I waited for them about half an hour at his apartment building that night. I ended up going and filing a report with them. And I believe the officer that took the report went to lunch after that.

GRACE: Jessica Gonzales, we have our eye on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Chief Lane, thank you for being with us and answering some hard questions. To all of our guests, thank you.

LANE: Thank you, Nancy.

GRACE: All I can remember, the rest of tonight, is that shot of those three little white caskets with the three girls in them.

We`ve got to go to "Trial Tracking," a different case. No moonwalking today. Michael Jackson slowly shuffled into the courtroom, late again. The judge didn`t do anything. Propped up by bodyguards. He seemed sick in court, though, shaking and sobbing. He actually looked like he might throw up.

Local news next for some of you, but we`ll be right back. And, remember, the Jackson trial tomorrow, Court TV, 3:00 to 5:00. Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRACE: If you are a crime victim with a story to tell, if you know of an injustice or a case that needs a spotlight, call 1-888-GRACE-01, 888- 472-2301, or go to our Web site, cnn.com/NancyGrace.

Before we go to break, I want to have one last word with Jessica Gonzales, a mother that has lost her three girls to murder.

Ms. Gonzales, what do you think of the justice system tonight?

GONZALES: Well, I am still kind of in limbo about that, only because I put my trust in a court order that I felt was there to serve and protect me. And obviously that has been a huge failure.

And I feel that until something is done and we are able to change the way cops think and the way they`re trained, or rather, lack of training, as victims, I think we`re victimized even more by having an order if we happen to be unlucky enough to be within a department, a police department, that is not going to serve and protect.

GRACE: Right. Ms. Gonzales, you are so right, because it makes you believe you`re protected, and then you`re not.

GONZALES: That`s right.

GRACE: Thank you, ma`am.

GONZALES: You`re welcome.

GRACE: I want to thank all my guests tonight, Jessica Gonzales, Lenora Lapidus, Tony Lane, M.E. Sprengelmeyer. Chris Pixley and Jan Ronis, didn`t get to visit with you much, or Bethany Marshall. Please join me again, guys. Earlier, Mark Lunsford, Sara Dorsey, Tim Padgett, and Pat Boone.

But my biggest thank you, as always, is to you for being with us tonight and inviting all of us into your home. Coming up, headlines around the world. I`m Nancy Grace signing off again for tonight. But I hope you join us back here tomorrow night, 8 o`clock sharp Eastern. Until then, good night, friend.

END


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