The Web      Powered by
powered by Yahoo!


Return to Transcripts main page


Ex-Con Captured; Was Jessica Lunsford Buried Alive?

Aired April 12, 2005 - 20:00:00   ET


NANCY GRACE, HOST: Tonight, he literally wrote the book. An author and expert on life behind bars has been on the run for days, wanted for two South Carolina murders and the rape of teenage girl. After a massive manhunt, Stephen Stanko behind bars tonight.
And all reports indicate 9-year-old Jessie Lunsford was buried alive. Investigators believe an autopsy reveals exactly how the little girl was killed. Jessie`s family now fighting back against sex offenders and taking on Florida politicians.

And did Michael Jackson bribe an alleged molestation victim?

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

Was 9-year-old Jessie Lunsford buried alive? Tonight, Jessie`s father, Mark Lunsford, describes his reaction and his plan to fight back.

And, in the Michael Jackson child sex trial, the mother of Jackson`s `93 accuser on the stand, claiming Jackson cried and begged to let her little boy sleep with him. And explosive claims Jackson tried to bribe his young accuser.

But, first, captured, Stephen Stanko, author and ex-con suspected of murdering a 43-year-old librarian, an elderly man, 74 years old, and sudden of the rape a teenage girl tonight now behind bars after a nationwide manhunt.

In Watertown, Massachusetts, Dr. Gordon Crews. He collaborated on this book with Stanko. In Atlanta, defense attorney Renee Rockwell and prosecutor Eleanor Dixon.

But first to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and public information officer for Horry County Sheriff`s Department, Lieutenant Andy Christenson.

Welcome, Lieutenant. Thank you for being with us.

Lieutenant, what can you tell us tonight about the capture of Stephen Stanko?

LT. ANDY CHRISTENSON, HORRY COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT: At about 3:25 this afternoon, Stephen Stanko was captured in Augusta, Georgia, without incident. A multitude of law enforcement jurisdictions were involved, to include the sheriff`s department there in Augusta, as well as the FBI and the U.S. Marshals.

GRACE: Exactly how was he captured? Is it true that he was at a mall of some sort?

CHRISTENSON: Yes. He was at a shopping mall on the western side of Augusta, Georgia. And once we obtained information as to his whereabouts, of course, a plan was implemented and the different law enforcement agencies proceeded on in and they were able to take him into law enforcement custody without any further incident.

GRACE: Lieutenant, just curious. What would a guy wanted for two murders and the rape of a teenage girl be shopping for?

CHRISTENSON: We`ve been told by the authorities in Augusta that he was actually applying for a job in one of the stores there at the shopping plaza.

GRACE: OK. You know what? I don`t have a shrink tonight.

I`ve got to go to somebody that knows this guy. Don`t move, Lieutenant.

Let`s go to the co-author of Stanko`s book. The book was titled "Living in Prison: A History of the Correctional System With an Insider`s View." And you can say insider again, Stanko behind bars on a kidnapping. Got a 10-year sentence, did 8 1/2 years.

Sir, how did you meet Stephen Stanko?

GORDON CREWS, CO-AUTHOR, "LIVING IN PRISON": Actually, it was through a publishing company. He had submitted a manuscript back in 2000 that ultimately turned out to be this book and the publishers wanted an academic, a writer to work with him, since he was incarcerated at the time.

So, we started to work over I guess 3 1/2 years on the book.

GRACE: Hold on just a moment. Let me get my producer.

Elizabeth (ph), can you show me -- rack that video up, something that Dr. Gordon Crews just stated, an academic to help him. This guy looks like he just came out of Stanford University`s library. Check it out, other than the handcuffs, of course.

So, what was this guy like, Gordon?

CREWS: Well, you know, like all the other descriptions, I mean, very, very intelligent, very -- he could write. You know, I think he just -- he was painting himself as a, you know, coming on strong, new academic type, new writer, and he was very capable.

GRACE: My next question is to defense attorney Renee Rockwell.

You know, that`s pretty bold to have such a massive manhunt going on for you and you are totally undisguised at a shopping mall. South Carolina is not that far from Augusta. It`s across the river. Applying for a job, Renee. It`s like he`s waving a flag, here I am. Come and get me.

RENEE ROCKWELL, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Was he trying to act like maybe he wasn`t guilty? I know they`re looking for him, Nancy, and apparently he got fired from his job, his last job on April 4, where he was selling stucco.

Now, don`t forget, he just served 8 1/2 years on a 10-year kidnapping sentence. Was this guy on parole? Who was watching this guy?

GRACE: Interesting. Interesting.

Back to the lieutenant. He was on parole. He had about a year and a half left on his sentence. This guy is wanted for the murder of the woman he was living with. Apparently, he could easily gain people`s trust. The rape of a 15-year-old girl that called from the murder victim`s home and the murder of a 74-year-old man.

So, Lieutenant, who was minding the parolee?

CHRISTENSON: What was your question, ma`am?

GRACE: Who was in charge of his parole?

CHRISTENSON: That`s an entirely separate part of the judiciary branch other than what we deal with. I would assume some sort of probation officer he was reporting to. Other than that..


CHRISTENSON: ... he didn`t report to law enforcement specifically.

GRACE: Eleanor Dixon is with us, a veteran prosecutor.

Eleanor, so many questions come to mind. This has been a massive manhunt. Stephen Stanko behind bars now, but it seems as if he was given many, many liberties behind bars to work on this manuscript, to work with a co-author. The people that he murdered, he met them in the library. The woman he was living with and the elderly gentleman, he met in the library, Eleanor.

ELEANOR DIXON, PROSECUTOR: Well, that is not so unusual, that you would meet your victims, get to know them, gain their trust. And that way, you`re able to pretty much do what you want with them. It`s just like grooming children in a child molestation case. You`re going to befriend the people first and gain their trust. And that way, you can sort of have your way and do what you want with them.

GRACE: Well, let me quickly go to a guest now joining us, Sheriff Lane Cribb. He`s the sheriff of Georgetown, South Carolina.

Sheriff, thank you for being with us.

What can you tell us about the case tonight?

LANE CRIBB, GEORGETOWN COUNTY SHERIFF: Well, what I`d like to say is just thank the U.S. Marshal Service and the authorities in Augusta for helping us apprehend him. The Marshal Service was on board right from the beginning, where we called them early Friday morning. And without that help, I don`t think we could have captured him this soon.


GRACE: What can you tell me about Stephen Stanko, about the two murders and the rape?

CRIBB: Well, I can tell you about the one murder and the rape.


CRIBB: Which happened in Georgetown County of the adult female and the juvenile, is, it was a violent murder and a violent attempted murder on the juvenile.

GRACE: What was the relationship, Sheriff, between the lady, her name Laura Ling, 43-year-old woman he met in the library? He was living with her. This guy was definitely a wolf in sheep`s clothing. He had pulled the wool over so many people`s eyes, gotten special privileges, written this book, met these people in the library, ended up allegedly killing them.

You say a violent murder. Was it not a strangulation?

CRIBB: Well, partially, partially from strangulation. But you`ll see from when the autopsy results are complete that it was -- the scene was a violent scene.

GRACE: And he tried, allegedly, to kill the girl, too, the teenager?

CRIBB: Yes. It is our opinion he thought she was dead, that he left her for dead.

GRACE: Eleanor Dixon, how does the parole system work? This guy`s out on parole. How often does he check in? Does he have an ankle bracelet? How does it work?

DIXON: Well, it would depend on the parole board and who`s monitoring him. He could be on an ankle monitor. When you`re on parole, you have to do things like have a job, have a steady source of income. Perhaps you`re getting some type of counseling, drug and alcohol evaluation and treatment, if that`s necessary. So, it really depends on the individual as to what type of parole they`re on.

GRACE: In this case, a violent kidnapping had gone down. This guy wrote a book, as you all know.

Let me go back to his co-author, Dr. Gordon Crews.

Doctor, what was his book about?

CREWS: Well, again, the book is kind of a past-current-future look at corrections. But the third section is written by Stephen Stanko and it`s basically an overview of what it`s like from your views of committing the offense, being arrested, you know, arraigned, trial, conviction, sentencing, incarceration, and, you know, it was beginning to end.

GRACE: Very quickly, Renee Rockwell, wasn`t he planning to write another book about how to stay out of prison?

ROCKWELL: That`s my understanding, Nancy.

And it is interesting because he met Laura Ling. And everybody describes her as being just a wealth of knowledge, a walking encyclopedia. And, according to all sources, she mentioned that she was not afraid of him. He was very up front about his situation being an ex-con, very comfortable to talk about that. He just lured her right in. They were living together, I understand.

And here you go, someone killing someone that they`re living with and someone they had trusted and befriended.

GRACE: Sheriff Lane Cribb is with us.

Is there a death penalty in South Carolina? I believe there is.

CRIBB: There is.


CRIBB: There is a death penalty.

GRACE: I want to thank all of my guests and especially a big thank you to Lieutenant Andy Christenson from Horry County. That county is responsible for the apprehension of Stephen Stanko, wanted tonight, an author from two murders and the rape of a teenaged girl.

OK. One wanted felon down. How many left to go? When we come back, we`re switching gears and speaking to the father of Jessie Lunsford, the 9- year-old girl who went missing in Florida. Was she hiding in plain sight right across the street from her dad, still alive? Was she buried alive? Will there be a death penalty case and why is her father fighting back and how?

Stay with us.


CHRISTENSON: Every available investigative technique was utilized in the apprehension of Mr. Stephen Stanko. He was still operating in the 1996 Mazda pickup truck that was taken from here in Horry County.




MARK LUNSFORD, FATHER OF JESSICA: Just how soon are we going to prosecute and kill this man? Because I just -- he just doesn`t -- I just want to see him die. I want to watch him. I want him to look me right in the eye when he dies.


GRACE: No one will ever forget the face of 9-year-old Jessie Lunsford -- at least I won`t -- after one of the biggest hunts in Florida history. Jessie was found so close to her father`s home.

Tonight, from Homosassa Springs, Florida, Jessica Lunsford`s dad, Mark Lunsford, is with us.

But first to Miami and CNN correspondent Susan Candiotti.

Susan, welcome, friend. Bring us up to date.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest is that the judge has now agreed to a motion filed by the prosecution that requires DNA samples and, this is intriguing, handwriting samples as well, from murder suspect John Couey, the defendant in this case.

And according to the prosecutor`s motion, he states -- quote -- "There`s a reasonable basis to believe that handwriting samples will establish the defendant`s connection to the case.

Now, exactly -- we don`t know what that means, but we do expect some discovery, some material to be filed publicly in the case, we hope as early as next week. So, might learn more about that.

GRACE: Well, you know what? Susan, you`re dead on, because we all know why there would be a DNA request. And a defendant can`t fight that. If there`s a warrant, it is just like a warrant to search your home or your car or your bank accounts. If there`s a warrant for your DNA, you must give a sample, typically, in the form of a blood sample, a blood withdrawal behind bars.

But this handwriting thing, I`m a little stumped by that. Any idea why Couey would have written someone to link him to Jessica`s death?

CANDIOTTI: I can`t. I`ve been still trying to find out more about that through sources as to what exactly that is. We have been trying, certainly. What did he write that would connect him to this case specifically?

I mean, it makes you wonder, was something left behind in the trailer? Really, it`s pure speculation at this point. I don`t know. Still trying to find out.

GRACE: Well, or something written for a receipt, something written for a hotel, for a Greyhound bus ticket. It could be a number of things where he used an alias, not his name, but they want to get that handwriting sample to show a scheme or a pattern of activity.

Let me go -- Susan, please don`t go away, friend.

I want to go to Jessie`s father. With us is Jessie`s father, Mark Lunsford.

Mark, last week, I know that you learned the theory that Jessie was buried alive. How did you find out and what was your immediate reaction?

LUNSFORD: Well, I found out through the sheriff`s department. They always -- they keep me well informed of things that Couey says, that he done this or he done that.

But, you know, I also know that Couey`s a compulsive liar. I mean, I just -- I try not to think about. The only thing I try to think about is just changing the laws and working with the congressmen and congresswomen and senators.

GRACE: You know, another thing, Mark, is that not only is he alleged to be a compulsive liar, but a drug addict as well. So, if police are simply relying on his word that he buried Jessie alive, that really means nothing.

I want to ask you, Mark, what was your reaction when you found out Jessie could possibly have been kept alive for days right catty-cornered from your parents` house?

LUNSFORD: That`s what I`ve heard. You know, I have heard him make that accusation, that that`s the way it was. I don`t really -- I wouldn`t know. I don`t know what to believe. So, rather than to think about that and stay upset, I just focus on making changes.


Take a listen, speaking of the Florida legislature, take a listen to this, Mark.


REP. GINNY BROWN WAITE (R), FLORIDA: The Jessica Lunsford Act is a comprehensive bill that attempts to fix many of the problems that concern parents and advocates all over the country. Victimization of our children should not be tolerated by anyone. I`m confident that the Jessica Lunsford Act will go far to protect our children and keep them safe from sexual offenders and predators who would prey on their innocence and their youth.


GRACE: Mark Lunsford, what exactly would Jessie`s Act be?

LUNSFORD: It covers a wide area of things. I mean, I`d have to read it to you to be able to tell you everything. Senator Argenziano and Sheriff Dawsy, they have worked real hard on this, on filling these loopholes and these cracks. And I`m just -- I`m just proud to be acquainted with them. And I`m just real happy by it.


GRACE: Well, what I`m happy about, Mark, is that you are apparently turning the most tragic thing that could ever happen to a parent into something positive that will end up -- it will -- mark my words -- it will end up helping some other little girl some day, maybe a little girl just like Jessie.

LUNSFORD: Oh, yes. Oh, most definitely.

And, see, this isn`t -- it doesn`t stop here, though, with Senator Argenziano and Sheriff Dawsy. I`ve also had a lot of contact with Senator Dorgan and Congresswoman Ginny Brown Waite. Senator Dorgan has got a bill for federal registration.

And I just -- I want everybody to call their senators and their congressmen and ask them to support Senator Dorgan.

GRACE: You know what, Mark? We will.

I want to go back to CNN correspondent Susan Candiotti.

Susan, exactly what will the legislation encompass? What do they hope to gain by Jessie`s law?

CANDIOTTI: Well, on the state side, they`ve got a couple things going. They`re trying to find enough money -- and this would take millions and millions of dollars in a state where, of course, money is strapped. But they think they can find money, according to Florida Senator Argenziano, who wants to, among other things, require ankle bracelets for convicted sex offenders and predators. They would have to wear these all the time once they`re out of jail.

And these things can actually pinpoint not only where you are, that you left home, but if you leave and you`re down the street, for example, if a burglary took place on Maple Avenue at a particular time, this kind of technology can actually pinpoint exactly where you are, at what time of day you might have on that street, as an example.

Now, it can`t say, of course, what you`re doing, but it can pinpoint location.


GRACE: Go ahead.

CANDIOTTI: Well, another part of the legislation would on the federal side is to create a federal registry that would require offenders and predators not only to check in once a year with the various states, but at least twice a year.

Now, if you don`t, then you get fined. That might -- you know, how do you enforce something like that?

GRACE: Exactly.

CANDIOTTI: Might be more difficult.


GRACE: You know, one thing I don`t understand, Susan, is you can take -- you can pull a lot of tricks with an ankle bracelet, a GPS ankle bracelet. You can stick it in a car in the back of a Greyhound bus. It goes one way, you go the other. By the time the cops finally found it, you`re way, way gone.

There are a million ways to beat an ankle bracelet. I`m wondering if there are any constitutional restrictions on a parolee, someone already convicted, with a privilege of parole, having a dental chip, something more difficult for them to remove, Susan?

CANDIOTTI: Well, I`m sure there`s going to be considerable discussion about this, particularly from civil libertarians, that will discuss that very thing that you mentioned, Nancy.

I mean, that could be a problem that will have to be addressed. The Florida legislature is in session right now. There will be debate about this.

GRACE: Oh, yes.

CANDIOTTI: But there certainly is also a feeling that they want to do something.

GRACE: You are right, Susan Candiotti. The ACLU will lie prostrate on the courthouse steps whining about a dental chip. What I`m concerned about is parolees getting out, like John Evander Couey, and preying on innocent little girls like Jessie.

With me tonight, CNN correspondent Susan Candiotti. Also with me, Jessie`s father, Mark Lunsford. He`s not only taking on sex offenders, but he is taking on Florida politicians.

Stay with us.


GRACE: Nine-year-old Jessie Lunsford, this is her in a school photo and then later in another photo. She went missing after her grandmother tucked her in bed at 10:00 p.m. one night. When her dad went to wake her up, 6:00 a.m., eight short hours later, she was gone without a trace, with nothing but a little doll her father had given her from the fair.

Welcome back. Let`s go straight out to Jessie`s father.

Mark Lunsford, I understand, as of tonight -- Susan Candiotti, is this correct, that the house mates are not being charged?

CANDIOTTI: ... dropped those charges, saying that they couldn`t prosecute the case because there`s actually no Florida law that prohibits you against lying to a police officer in all situations.


CANDIOTTI: The sheriff is outraged. So is Mark.

GRACE: Mark, what are your thoughts on the house mates not being charged? They had to know she was in there.

LUNSFORD: They had to know. You know, you know and I know they had to know, but there`s no way to prove that, I don`t guess. So, I guess that`s why they dropped the charges.

I work with the prosecuting attorney`s office. And, you know, so I just kind of grit my teeth and just try to keep on believing that they`re going to do everything they can to prosecute Couey. Mainly, that`s my main concern. But with this new legislator, that will change, too.


We are taking a quick break.

Elizabeth (ph), let`s go out with a shot of Jessie.




MACAULAY CULKIN, ACTOR: Nothing happened, you know? I mean, nothing really. I mean, we played video games, you know? We played...


CULKIN: They go, "Oh, you slept in the same bedroom as him." I don`t think you understand. Michael Jackson`s bedroom is two stories. It has like three bathrooms and this and that, so when I slept in the bedroom, yes. But you have to understand the whole scenario.


GRACE: Tonight, in Santa Barbara, California, the uncle of Michael Jackson`s `93 accuser, Ray Chandler, is with us. In New York psychologist, Dr. Robi Ludwig. But first to Santa Maria, California, and "Celebrity Justice" correspondent, Jane Velez-Mitchell.

Jane, bring me up-to-date, friend.

JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, "CELEBRITY JUSTICE" CORRESPONDENT: Well, the stepfather of the current accuser, Major Jay Jackson, took the stand today and testified on a wide range of issues, some of the highlights he said his stepson`s personality took a dramatic turn for the negative after he began hanging out with Michael Jackson, that this once loving boy became surly and started using curse words and didn`t want anything to do with his own family. Something that dovetails with what the `93 accuser`s mother said about her son.

He also talked about the alleged conspiracy, and he said that at one point, his now wife, then girlfriend, began getting this harassing phone calls from one of the alleged unindicted conspirators: "Do this rebuttal video that will clear Michael Jackson. Do it now. We need your help."

And they resisted. And one point, he said, this guy, Frank Tyson, even offered to pay for the kids` college education and give them a house. He says they turned it down, but ultimately the mom did the rebuttal video for free.

GRACE: To defense attorney Dino Lombardi, joining us out of New York. Dino, now we`ve got it -- allegations of bribes. Is every witness lying except Michael Jackson`s defense lawyer, Tom Mesereau?

DINO LOMBARDI, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: No, certainly not. That defies common sense, human wisdom.

But I think what Mr. Mesereau is going to try to show is that there may have been a lot of different reasons why there was hesitation to cooperate in the video. And some of these things, that it`s really still a little bit off center from whether at the center of this was a cover-up of sexual abuse with this child in this case.

GRACE: To Ray Chandler, he is the uncle of the `93 accuser. Ray, did you ever hear of these alleged bribes to try to get him to, your nephew, to cooperate or bribes in any way?

RAY CHANDLER, UNCLE OF 1993 ACCUSER: Well, not bribes to try to get him to cooperate. You mean in the `93 case. But what there was is, you know, his mom testified that one night Michael`s private investigator, Anthony Pellicano, took my nephew alone and quizzed -- and quizzed him out of the presence of his parents.

This was set up by Michael. Michael told the boy this was going to happen. He told him to lie. He told him he`s going to -- what questions are going to be asked. He said to say no about everything that has to do with sex. He said, "If they ask you anything about your dad, say your dad wants money."

And then, this was all arranged, because what was happening is he was the -- the boy was supposed to be turned over to his father. And they were afraid that the father would go to the authorities, and they wanted to make sure that the programming of my nephew would stick and that he wouldn`t say anything.

So, you know, I wouldn`t necessarily call it a bribe, but it`s criminal activity. There was a lot of criminal activity surrounding the cover-up of 1993, and it would not surprise me if we had some right here in this case, as well.

GRACE: Jane Velez-Mitchell, sound familiar compared to what you`re hearing in court?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: There are a lot of similar patterns all over the place. The change in the boy`s personality, a very common theme. The efforts to get people to do what Michael Jackson allegedly wants them to do. The harassment, the following.

But of course, this conspiracy charge that we`ve been hearing about today from the step-dad is very complicated, convoluted. It occurs over a two-month period, 28 overt acts. And I`ve got to tell you, it`s very hard to follow. There isn`t a chart on the wall saying who did what when. And at some point you`re scratching your head, trying to figure out the comings and goings of all these various people.

GRACE: And Renee Rockwell, when she says overt acts, explain.

ROCKWELL: Well, this would be something that they can actually -- Nancy, remember, that this accuser has not taken the stand.

GRACE: Right.

ROCKWELL: We`re talking about his family members and people that are close to him.

GRACE: Well, the current accuser, yes. Not the `93 accuser.

ROCKWELL: Right. The `93 accuser, that`s what we`re talking about right now. He`s not even in the courthouse. He`s not taken the stand.

So what they`re trying to do is get the family members or the uncle or the mother or whatever to talk about what she saw. What she saw, the change in the personality. This is testimony that the jury can listen to and act on.

But Nancy, we were talking about this earlier. These are just similar transactions. Mind you, he`s not on trial for that `93 accusation. He`s on trial for what happened in the case at hand.

GRACE: Right.

ROCKWELL: The jury`s just got all this to consider, and don`t you know they get confused?

GRACE: Well, you know, Eleanor Dixon, I don`t know that they`re going to be that confused. Juries are given complicated money laundering cases, conspiracy cases, all the time. And they manage to sort through the evidence and come up with a verdict.

So Eleanor, back to an overt act. You`ve got to have an overt act to show a conspiracy. A bunch of deadbeats sitting around in their apartment coming up with a plan is not against the law. You`ve got to commit an overt act first to show a conspiracy. Yes, no?

DIXON: Yes, you do have to do that. And here you are seeing some of the overt acts, I believe. Also what I think is interesting are the bribes, allegedly, that Michael Jackson was giving to some of these victims, offering to them.

And what makes it so interesting and how you can distill it for the jury, that happens all the time in child abuse cases. The bribe may be an ice cream cone. It may be some money. It may be a special toy. But there`s often a bribe in these types of cases. That doesn`t surprise me at all.

GRACE: Exactly. And to Dr. Robi Ludwig, psychotherapist, Robi, I recall a child molestation case I had where the bribe would be rolls of quarters. Because my little victim was mentally handicapped, but he would come alive when he would go to the arcade. So his molester, an adult male, would groom him, bribe him with a pack of quarters.

ROBI LUDWIG, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: Right. And children are vulnerable, because they are children. And they can be seduced so easily.

What`s not clear, and this may come down to a battle of the experts, because Michael Jackson doesn`t look like the predator type of pedophile. What -- he looks odd, but he doesn`t look like a predator.

And one can say, you know what? Even though Michael Jackson appears believable and he seems to be believing what he`s saying, that doesn`t mean necessarily that he`s not damaging these boys. That because of his bizarre background, he somehow is trying to remake himself through his relationship with these little kids. And in the process, he could be sexually abusing them. I think that would be very powerful.

GRACE: You know, Robi, you -- you give this elaborate psychological explanation for molestation. Do you really think it`s that complicated?

LUDWIG: I think it can be very complicated in Michael Jackson`s case, because he`s a person that never had a childhood. He over-idealizes childhood. He grew up in an environment where he had to perform in front of an audience, so he has a very distorted view of the world.

And I think because of that, he`s very much stuck in his mind. And so he`s stuck in this place where he needs to play with little boys and he needs to -- it`s almost like he`s treating these little boys the way he wished he had been treated. And then he gets lost along the way and could end up crossing the line.

However, on the other hand, if you have a con artist family that is aware that Michael Jackson has a problem, they can go in for the kill and attack him, and that could be happening in this case, as well.

GRACE: Very quickly before we go to break to Jane Velez-Mitchell. Jane, so today, how many witnesses on the stand? Who were they?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We had the step-dad on the stand. And he`s not done yet. The cross-examination is going to continue tomorrow. And Tom Mesereau is trying to show that it was the dad out for money, that during that conversation where the bribe was offered, the dad said, no, no. We don`t need a house or a college education. What are you going to offer us in term of monetary funds?

And that`s when the alleged co-conspirator turned around and said, "What are you trying to do? Blackmail us?" And the conversation went downhill from there.

So it really depends on what side of the mirror you`re looking at this whole thing from.

GRACE: OK. We`ll be right back with you, Jane. Jane is live right outside the courthouse.

To "Trial Tracking," the defense for Alejandro Avila, accused of kidnapping, rape and murder of 5-year-old Samantha Runnion, opens its case. Defense witnesses claim they heard nothing suspicious from Avila`s hotel room the night of Samantha`s murder.

But the defense has plenty to overcome. Prosecution experts claim Avila`s DNA was found in Samantha`s fingernails, and DNA from the little girl`s tear drops found in his car.

If convicted, Avila could face the California death penalty.


GRACE: Michael Jackson, a music icon. Many people actually believe Jackson is a deity, a god, that he is more than human. I wonder if any of them are sitting on the jury.

Welcome back, everybody. Let`s go straight out to Ray Chandler. He is the uncle of the `93 accuser.

Ray, is there any way your nephew is going to come into the courtroom, take the stand, and tell what happened to him at the hands of Michael Jackson?

CHANDLER: Well, barring some epiphany on his part, no, I don`t think so. I think he`s -- I think he`s decided not to do it.

But you know, I just want to talk about that bribe thing for a second. Michael Jackson is the bribe. Hanging around with Michael Jackson is the bribe. When my nephew would balk about doing things, he would tell my nephew, "Well, other boys love me and they do these things. And if you love me, you`ll do them." The implication is, "I`ll get rid of you. I`ll get someone else. You won`t be able to hang around with me anymore."

GRACE: To Jane Velez...

CHANDLER: He himself is a bribe.

GRACE: Well put. We`ll see if the jury buys it. To Jane Velez- Mitchell, what is next? I know the cross-examine of the stepfather, right?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And then after that, a very pivotal, possibly, moment in this case. The word has spread that perhaps the mother of the current accuser may want to take the Fifth, may not want to testify.

Back at opening statements, the D.A., Tom Sneddon, said, "Hey, this woman isn`t perfect. She`s made mistakes in her life. She`s going to tell you from her own lips that she committed welfare fraud."

Well, apparently she`s having second thoughts about that. Maybe she envisions the possibility of Michael Jackson walking and getting acquitted and her going to jail for welfare fraud at the end of all this.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wouldn`t that be ironic? So apparently, she doesn`t want to possibly take the stand about that issue. The judge has to make a determination as to what he`s going to do about it tomorrow.

GRACE: And of course, if she takes the Fifth, she will not have to do that in front of the jury. They may never know what happened to the current accuser`s mom.

Thank you to the Jackson panel. I want to switch gears. Tonight here in Atlanta, the author of "Hunting Eric Rudolph," Harry Schuster.

None of us can forget the Olympic bombing tragedy. I was there that night, Henry, at the time the bomb went off here in Atlanta. And then, the bombings on the abortion clinic, as well as a nightclub. How did Eric Rudolph stay on the lam for so long and how was he finally caught, Henry?

HENRY SCHUSTER, AUTHOR, "HUNTING ERIC RUDOLPH": He was caught dumpster-diving behind a grocery store up in Murphy, North Carolina. He stayed on the run for five and a half years and he shouldn`t have been on the run in the first place. There was miscommunication the day he was finally identified as a suspect that allowed him to get away, and then, you know, he grew pot in the woods of North Carolina. He was -- he had some Army training in survival.

But he was also getting a little bit of help. He got some help from someone six months into the manhunt. Now that he`s talking, he`s saying he might have gotten help from another person who is now dead.

He depended on his own wits. He depended on all sorts of survival skills. It`s a pretty isolated area up in the mountains there.

GRACE: You know what I don`t understand, Henry? You know the case better than anybody. Why? I mean, the state is prepared to complete the trial. Why are they taking a plea instead of proceeding on the death penalty? A police officer was killed.

SCHUSTER: You know, that`s a good question, Nancy. And that`s a question that ought to be directed to the Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, because he, by all accounts, is the man who said let`s make a deal.

The prosecution beforehand under John Ashcroft had said very plainly, "We`re going for the death penalty. We want the maximum, and we`re going to get it." And prosecutors had talked very confidently about getting it.

Obviously, Rudolph and his attorneys knew that their case was in trouble. It was in deep trouble. And this was a great deal for them.

GRACE: Henry, I recall distinctly the night of the Olympic bombing here in Atlanta. The others were of the abortion clinic, where two bombs were set off. Cops got there and then the bomb was timed by Rudolph to go off again shortly after so all the police would be bombed.

Then the bombing of a bar, a local bar. Three entirely different targets. Why?

SCHUSTER: You know, this is a guy who would, if you look at his own mind, all these targets made sense, because one of the things is that they`re all like -- let`s take the Olympics first, it`s a -- you know, to them it`s bringing the United Nations to your doorstep.

Then you`ve got an abortion clinic. Then you`ve got a gay and lesbian nightclub. And then you`ve got another abortion clinic in Birmingham. To this, who was guy steeped on hate -- his mother exposed him to this ideology called Christian Identity, which is basically a theological version of white supremacy. You know, he -- he just was raised on hate. He hated the government. He hated especially the federal government. Yet strangely enough, this is a guy who joined the Army and learned how to make bombs.

GRACE: That is an odd component of this. Why, if he hated the government so much, did he join the military, Henry?

SCHUSTER: You know, one can only guess that he wanted to get the bomb making skills and some additional training in survival, and he got both of those. And then, when he got tired of being in the Army, he just smoked pot in front of his officers and he got thrown out of the Army.

GRACE: Did you ever interact with Rudolph?

SCHUSTER: No. I`ve seen him at some of the various hearings. And...

GRACE: What`s his demeanor, Henry?

SCHUSTER: Well, you know, it`s changed over time. At first, it was defiant. And now he seems to be -- you know, his defense attorneys during some of these hearings, it seemed like they were preparing him for trial. So he became a little bit more warm and cuddly. He would smile. He would seem very engaged with them. He would take lots of notes.

He had one little outburst at a hearing last November, so I think that they really told him to clean up his act. But, you know, that is guy who - - think about it. He spent five and a half years in the woods. So what`s going through his mind now as he takes this plea deal, is that it`s just another form of survival.

And I think in his own mind, he thinks that somehow he`s going to walk out of prison. You know, his family, if you can believe this, believed that their house in North Carolina was a refuge against a coming race war. For all we know, this guy thinks that he`s going to survive, and he`s going to walk out of prison a hero.

GRACE: You know, Henry, it`s incredible, the panic that spread, the fear he caused, him staying on the lam for so long. How he lived in the wilderness for five years, I don`t know.

With us tonight, the author of "Hunting Eric Rudolph." This guy is scheduled to take a plea and avoid the death penalty after multiple bombings. Stay with me, Henry.

But first, now to all points bulletin tonight. The FBI and law enforcement across the country want this fugitive brought to justice. Take a look.

Robert William Fisher allegedly his killed his wife and two young children, then blew up the house in Scottsdale, Arizona, April 2001. Six feet tall, 190, a noticeable gold crown, upper left tooth. Fisher, armed, dangerous. He turns 44 years old tomorrow. I`d like to see him in jail for his birthday.

Any information on Robert William Fisher, call your local FBI office. Visit its Web site for more details. Local news next for some of you. But we will be right back.

And remember, live coverage of Michael Jackson tomorrow on Court TV, 3 to 5. Please stay with us.


GRACE: We at NANCY GRACE want desperately to help solve unsolved homicides and find missing people. Take a look at Angelo Ravella, a college student from San Leandro, California, killed in a random drive-by shooting. Just 23.

Police are looking for this man. Take a look at the composite. If you have any info on this case, Angelo Ravella, please call the Carole Sund Carrington Foundation at 1-888-813-8389. Please help us.

Welcome back. I want to go straight back to Henry Schuster in our final moments. He`s the author of "Hunting Eric Rudolph." Eric Rudolph set to plead guilty tomorrow in a court of law to what, Henry?

I can`t believe it. Ashcroft swore this was domestic terrorism and he would seek the death penalty, and now it`s all falling apart like a house of cards. I don`t buy it. Why, Henry? What`s the deal?

SCHUSTER: You know, like I said before, Nancy, I hope maybe you can ask Attorney General Gonzales to come on the program. He`s the one who made the decision, by all accounts. The prosecutors in Birmingham and Atlanta were set to go and go to the max.

GRACE: What have you heard, though? What is the buzz as to why this is degenerating into a plea?

SCHUSTER: It`s all coming from Washington is what I have heard.

GRACE: Ugh! You know, I was thinking about what you said about Rudolph being full of hate. Is it true that he called the television the electric Jew? Did he hate everybody?

SCHUSTER: Yes, except for his family, and even though his brother was -- he has a gay brother. He bombed a gay and lesbian nightclub. This is a guy who -- Christian Identity believes that unless you`re a white Anglo- Saxon Protestant, everybody else are what he calls mud people, Nancy.

GRACE: Did you say mud?


GRACE: Mud, mud. What is his deal? Life plus life without parole?

SCHUSTER: Four life sentences consecutive. No chance of parole, but, you know...

GRACE: Somebody wimped out, Henry. Somebody waffled. This is a death penalty case if there ever was one. Henry Schuster`s book, "Hunting Eric Rudolph." Friend, thank you.

SCHUSTER: Thank you, Nancy, for having me.

GRACE: I want to thank all of my guests tonight, but as always, my biggest thank you to you for being with us and inviting all of us into your home.

Coming up, headlines from around the world. I`m Nancy Grace, signing off for tonight. I hope to see you right here tomorrow night, 8 p.m. sharp Eastern. Until tomorrow night, good night, friend.


International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.