Skip to main content


Return to Transcripts main page


Spokane Toddlers Found Home Alone

Aired May 11, 2007 - 20:00:00   ET


NANCY GRACE, HOST: Tonight, home alone. Three little toddlers fend for themselves, only saved when one of the three children call 911 to report Mommy, Daddy, bye-bye. Police find a filthy home strewn with unwashed laundry, trash, and methamphetamine in plain reach of the three little toddlers. Cops then find frozen food on the floor in front of the fridge, where the three children had tried to feed themselves. All the while, Mommy gambling at a luxury casino. Mommy and Daddy bye-bye, all right, to the state pen!
And tonight to Chicago, day 11 in the search for a young mom of two who reportedly goes for a jog, then never heard from again. Friends and family say no way would she leave her two children behind. As police and volunteers dive local waterways, searching bike and jogging trails, her husband still refuses a polygraph tonight. On Mother`s Day weekend, where is mother of two Lisa Stebic?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Plainfield woman, who worked as a lunch lady at her children`s school, was last seen at about 6:00 PM on April 30 by her husband, Craig. She was in the home they shared, though the two were in the process of a divorce. Family and friends numbering close to 100 gathered at a prayer vigil. Husband Craig attended the vigil with the couple`s son and daughter. However, some of Lisa`s family members are expressing frustration with Craig because he is refusing to submit to a lie-detector test on the advice of his attorney. Family members say Craig filed for exclusive custody of the couple`s two children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stebic`s attorney, Dion Davey (ph), did file that emergency petition in Woll (ph) County court today -- actually, yesterday. He`s seeking temporary sole custody of their two children. Craig`s attorney, Dion Davey, has claimed that if Lisa is out there alive and well, she may sneak back home and leave with the kids.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The police would like to do additional questioning. And Craig, has -- you know, he`s listening to a lawyer who is saying, you know, Don`t speak, which I suppose is understandable. But you know, we`re trying to find Lisa. Lisa has been missing for 10 days. If there`s any additional information that he might have, we would urge him to talk to the Plainfield police and cooperate with them in any way that he can.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re very, very concerned about Lisa`s whereabouts. We miss her. We`re longing for her. And we need her back.


GRACE: Good evening. I`m Nancy Grace. I want to thank you for being with us tonight. First to Spokane, three toddlers home alone while Mom gambles at a luxury casino.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jen Rigutto returned home this morning to find police on her porch and her kids gone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What happened to them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They got placed with CPS.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Child Protective Services took the 1-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son and her boyfriend`s, Mike Perry`s, 3-year-old son away. One of the kids called 911 this morning.

911 OPERATOR: Is your momma there?

CHILD: Momma bye-bye.

911 OPERATOR: She went bye-bye? What about daddy?

CHILD: Daddy bye-bye.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When police arrived, they found the kids all alone and baggies of methamphetamine in the bedroom.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I did not leave them alone. I would never, ever, ever leave my kids alone. Ever!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now Rigutto and her boyfriend face drug and child endangerment charges.


GRACE: The saddest sight police say that they saw when they got into the home -- forget about the smell of filthy laundry, the trash that they had to wade through and step over -- the saddest part not the amphetamines within reach of the three toddlers, but the fact that, apparently, the three children, one of them had gone into the freezer, and they found on the floor frozen vegetables, a frozen chunk of cheese and frozen sausage, where the little children were trying to feed themselves while Mommy gambled at the casino.

Straight out to KXLY radio news 920 Julie Scott. Julie, what happened?

JULIE SCOTT, KXLY NEWSRADIO 920: Well, it was a horrific situation. And Nancy, what we know at this time -- originally, we thought that the children`s mother, Jennifer Rigutto, had left for the casino at 4:00 in the morning. But she had also left the night prior. She had left at 9:00 or 10:00 in the evening, came back to the house and left the children with her ex-husband, and then left again to the casino at 4:00 in the morning.

GRACE: Julie, I`ve been taking a look at the affidavit and the police information. I`ve got it right here. And you`re dead on. I want to be specific because it is so farfetched to me. This mother -- two of these children were hers. One was the boyfriend who was out with her at the casino. They leave around -- correct me if I`m wrong, Julie. They leave around 9:00 PM, come back around 2:30 AM, then leave again. I mean, they`re out partying at 4:30 in the morning!

SCOTT: It`s unthinkable. I mean, it`s one of those things where you`re scratching your head and you don`t understand how -- you know, how this can happen. Not to mention the fact that there is drug paraphernalia all over the entire house, left out in the open for these children to get into, to -- you know, it`s everywhere in this house. And the house is in complete disarray.

GRACE: Another thing I noticed -- with us Julie Scott from KXLY 920 - - is that one of the charges is going to be meth with intent, which means you don`t just have enough methamphetamine for you, you`ve got enough to sell. Is that correct?

SCOTT: That is correct. Actually, the charges are the methamphetamine with intent to deliver and manufacturing drugs with intent to deliver. And Jennifer Rigutto, actually, when she questioned by authorities, basically said, Yes, I was making methamphetamine but making it for my friends.


SCOTT: She was selling it only to her friends. That was her comment to law enforcement here in Spokane.

GRACE: OK. I`m having a hard time thinking that she thought that that would help her, that she`s cooking up methamphetamine with toddlers in the home.

Hey, to you, Ed Miller with "America`s Most Wanted."


GRACE: Ed, tell me more about the conditions of the home. Wasn`t methamphetamine found on a spoon? And there is drug paraphernalia, which suggest it`s not only being cooked up there, it`s being used there. Paraphernalia is a device to cook it and use it.

MILLER: Absolutely. You know, I don`t even know where to begin on this. Yes, the home was filthy -- dirty laundry, as you said, the frozen food the most shocking thing. The children were obviously so hungry -- anyone, any patient can tell you of small children that if a child is hungry, even if the child is not hungry, he`s going to put something in his mouth. So Lord only knows how lucky those children are that they did not put any of that methamphetamine inside them.

But cooking methamphetamine -- we`ve done many, many, many stories about how dangerous that is, not just the chance of explosion, but the fumes themselves of methamphetamine are very dangerous for young children. That`s why when cops go into a situation where there`s methamphetamine, they go in with spacesuits, asbestos suits. It`s a very dangerous situation.

GRACE: Oh, Ed, please, I`ve seen it a million times. Whenever I hear of a house or a trailer blowing up, I`m not worried about the gas main. Somebody`s cooking up meth in there. If you want to hear something heartbreaking, here it is. On Mother`s Day weekend, how many people would love to have these little toddlers, love to love them, to bring them up, to take care of them, and there they are in the kitchen floor, trying to eat frozen food off the floor.

Take a listen to this 911 call.


911 OPERATOR: Is your momma there?

CHILD: Momma bye-bye.

911 OPERATOR: She went bye-bye? What about daddy?

CHILD: Daddy bye-bye.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rigutto told detectives she didn`t leave the kids alone, their father did. She left them with her ex-husband at 5:00 o`clock this morning while she and her boyfriend went to the (INAUDIBLE) casino.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He must have left. I did not leave them alone. I would never, ever, ever leave my kids alone. Ever!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now Rigutto and her boyfriend face drug and child endangerment charges.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jen Rigutto returned home this morning to find police on her porch and her kids gone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What happened to them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They got placed with CPS.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Child Protective Services took her 1-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son and her boyfriend, Mike Perry`s, 3-year-old son away.


GRACE: Did you see that? Did you see that? The acting! She should get the Oscar nomination! Oh, my God! What`s happened! I can`t believe it! I leave my children alone with my husband, that I`ve got two orders to stay away. He told cops he was smoking meth that night with the children, caught him trying to get on a bus, I think.

How did that go down, Julie Scott?

SCOTT: Well, basically, the interesting thing about the ex-husband -- he was in the house temporarily, did confess to smoking methamphetamine, left to go on a walk and completely disappeared, left the children alone for hours on end and came back last night and while, actually, our news crew is doing a live shot, came up through the live shot and basically said, What`s going on here, completely oblivious to anything that was going on. So it was the first time we had seen the husband last night.

And he actually was arrested. We called 911. He was arrested then and there. And that`s when he told police, I had been doing methamphetamine, and I just left the children alone. He basically kind of went on to this rant about God and how God was looking after the children and that he had left them -- the children alone many time in the past and - - or in the past, he had left them alone and that God was looking out for them.

GRACE: Yes. It must have been -- is he saying God`s the one that threw the frozen sausage on the floor of the kitchen for the children to eat, Ed Miller? And isn`t it true, Ed Miller with "America`s Most Wanted," that this woman had already gotten two official stay-away orders for this ex-husband? And yet, she leaves him there, a meth head, who tells cops flat out, I was smoking meth and left, leaves them there with him, and then she`s all shocked?

MILLER: Yes. Let`s go back and repeat what she said. You know, she said that she would never leave her children alone. No, instead, she left them with the irresponsible ex-husband. That`s her excuse. Certainly, she knew about that and the fact that he was rather irresponsible and that he, too, may take off.

GRACE: Irresponsible? He`s a meth head!

MILLER: Absolutely.

GRACE: Did you see the photos we were just showing the viewers, the before and after meth? You can`t leave children way meth head. Where do you think he went? He probably went out to get meth. He left the children alone, just like she did. And the cops only found out when they heard this...


911 OPERATOR: Is your momma there?

CHILD: Momma bye-bye.

911 OPERATOR: She went bye-bye? What about daddy?

CHILD: Daddy bye-bye.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The kids being found by themselves totally shocks me. I would never think that that would happen there because I could tell that she really loves her children. She`s capable of being a super-mom, you know, and -- because I could see that in her. But it sounds like she just really needs help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve seen the cops over there numerous times since I`ve lived over here, and it`s just -- it doesn`t surprise me at all. They don`t look neglected at all, but you never know. I mean, neglect can be a lot of things. It can be leaving them alone or not feeding or not bathing them.


GRACE: Well, there`s plenty of blame to go around. Back out to you, Ed Miller with "America`s Most Wanted." Didn`t CPS, Child Protective Services -- weren`t they called the week before? They heard the little boy crying hysterically?

MILLER: Yes. As a matter of fact, we should point out that, you know, in the very beginning of this particular day, Child Protective Services called the house that day, you know, because they were going to make an appointment. They were going to come over to check on the children. So again, there is a history of complaints or concerns, shall we say, history of concern on behalf of the state over the welfare of these children.

And again, we`ve seen this over and over and over again. Especially in the cases of child neglect and child endangerment, it takes an awful lot before the state will step in and actually take those children away and remove them and put them in protective custody.

GRACE: Yes, some like me would say, Ed Miller, it takes too much.

Out to the lines. Gail in Canada. Hi, Gail.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. How are you, Nancy? We love you.

GRACE: I`m good, dear. Thank you, dear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`d just like to ask you, if this lady has had so many complaints put before her and obviously priors, why was she allowed to have custody of these children? Why weren`t they placed in others` care?

GRACE: You know, good question. I guess the authorities were looking between her and her meth head husband. Believe it or not, this mom does not have a criminal record.

Let`s go out to the lawyers. Gloria Allred, civil rights attorney out of LA, Carmen St. George out of the New York jurisdiction and John Burris - - the fighting John Burris -- out of San Francisco. You know, there`s no good alternatives here, Gloria Allred, unless you stick them in foster care.

GLORIA ALLRED, CHILD ADVOCATE: Well, that`s true. And I think that we have a trend in this country to wanting to keep children with their parents, if at all possible. Now, of course, children can be removed, but only if there`s abandonment, abuse, or if they`re a victim of act of cruelty or neglect. And so that is what has to be shown. And even then, if they`re removed into foster care, Nancy, they have to be reunified with the family, if at all possible, if it`s going to be safe for the children.

GRACE: And to you, John Burris. You can defend dopers and murderers, but what would you do in a case like this? How you would defend this mom?

JOHN BURRIS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I don`t think can you defend the overall facts about how she`s living her lifestyle. I think what you have to do here is try to rehabilitate her...

GRACE: What?

BURRIS: ... and maybe to a drug program of some kind because it takes a lot to ultimately take these kids away. But she does have to show that she`s willing to do that, and she`s surrounding herself in drug atmosphere. You can`t have that.

GRACE: You know what, John Burris?

BURRIS: You`ve got to work hard to see if can you rehabilitate this woman, and you do that through a drug rehab program or something where she wants to step forward...

GRACE: Judge?

BURRIS: ... and admit she has a problem and go forward from there.

GRACE: Judge? Judge? I agree. I actually concur with you. And I think Allred and St. George will agree with you. For a mother to get their kids taken away, she has to be wearing a pair of hot pants and a halter, spike heels, lying on the courthouse steps, shooting up heroin, basically, is the only way, to Gale in Canada, the mom`s going to lose the children. What about it, Carmen St. George?

CARMEN ST. GEORGE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think, Nancy, what we got to look at is what is in the best interests of the children, and we really have to focus on who is in custody of the children. If she has the defense that the husband was supposed to be in their care and custody, I`d be hard pressed to sell that case to a jury because she used poor judgment in letting the ex-husband have the kids...

GRACE: Poor judgment.

ST. GEORGE: ... if that was what really happened. So really, we`re talking a plea-bargain situation here.

GRACE: Carmen St. George, you`re totally jaded. You`re talking about best interests of the children, plea arrangement. These kids were eating frozen sausage off the floor, off the filthy floor!

When we get back, we`ll be talking to Officer Bill Hager from the Spokane Police Department and a former detective, Donald Schweitzer. And to this lady, Jennifer Rigutto, who`s all shocked her children were alone this far away from methamphetamine -- here, you can have this in the ladies` penitentiary tonight! Happy Mother`s Day!

To tonight`s "Case Alert." This is why we have tort law. A car plunges into a neighborhood pool, Davey (ph), Florida. Ouch! Police say 21-year-old Jeannette Boch (ph) on her way to work when she loses control of the car and crashes through this fence into the pool. Here`s the good news. She escaped safely through the window. But she doesn`t escape a ticket.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jen Rigutto returned home this morning to find police on her porch and her kids gone. Child Protective Services took the 1-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son and her boyfriend`s, Mike Perry`s, 3-year-old son away. One of the kids called 911 this morning.

911 OPERATOR: Is your momma there?

CHILD: Momma bye-bye.

911 OPERATOR: She went bye-bye? What about daddy?

CHILD: Daddy bye-bye.


GRACE: Three little toddlers found alone at home, eating frozen sausage and frozen vegetables and frozen cheese off the kitchen floor. Well, I can see from that picture somebody`s got a French manicure. Seems like she can actually afford a babysitter.

Joining us, Officer Bill Hager, Spokane Police Department. Officer, thank you for being with us. Officer, what do...


GRACE: Yes, sir. What do you believe the charges will be?

HAGER: I believe the charges are going to be what (ph) the drugs involved (ph) is going to be possession with controlled substance with intent to deliver because of the quantity that they had in the house themselves. And for right now, they`re going to be charged with the endangerment of the children with the controlled substance.

GRACE: Officer Hager, where are the children tonight?

HAGER: The children are with the child protective agency here in Spokane.

GRACE: Poor little things. I know they`re so confused and twisted up.

HAGER: It`s terrible.

GRACE: They don`t know where Mommy and Daddy are.

HAGER: It`s terrible. That`s all they`ve got. And even though they`re finally getting something to eat and a warm and clean place to stay, they still, I`m sure, want their mom back. Officer Hager...

HAGER: Oh, they do.

GRACE: Yes. And I don`t know how you tell a kid, You can`t have your mom. Officer, what did you find -- what was found when you guys went into the home?

HAGER: Oh, it was terrible. When we walked into the front door, it was, like, the living room was such a mess. It was just cluttered with soiled clothing, dirty diapers. And when you took a step, you couldn`t even see the carpet. There was that much clutter. And then when we went into the kitchen, your feet stuck to the floor. It was so dirty and horrendous. And then we all -- it was like we noticed at the same time the frozen food laying on the floor defrosting. And it`s, like, Oh, my God, I can`t believe that this is happening. And unfortunately, this is not a lone incident, that there are other households out there that this same situation happens.

GRACE: Is it true you found a methamphetamine cookbook?

HAGER: Yes. There was a cookbook inside the place. There was open narcotics on the dresser drawer, where the children would easily have had access it to. And at the small age of those children, just the minute possibility of ingestion would kill them.

GRACE: Could have killed them.

HAGER: It`s terrible.

GRACE: With us is Officer Bill Hager with the Spokane Police Department.

When we come back, former detective Donald Schweitzer and psychologist Susan Lipkins weighs in. We`re taking your calls live.

But now to tonight`s "Case Alert." Video emerges showing former NASA lady astronaut Lisa Nowak stalking her love rival for three hours in the Orlando airport just before a near deadly attack in the parking garage. Nowak drives 900 miles from Houston to confront Colleen Shipman, wearing a diaper to avoid stops. That`s nice. Nowak armed with pepper spray, a BB gun, knife, mallet, and wearing a disguise, tonight charged with attempted kidnap and assault.



911 OPERATOR: Is your momma there?

CHILD: Momma bye-bye.

911 OPERATOR: She went bye-bye? What about daddy?

CHILD: Daddy bye-bye.


GRACE: That`s right. The toddlers left at home all night long while mom`s at a luxury casino.

Out to the lines. Nicki in North Carolina. Hi, Nicki.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Nancy. I just want to know why it is that it`s always the mother`s face (INAUDIBLE) carted off in handcuffs and it`s never the father, especially being that he was the one that was supposed to be caring for them, and why it is that there`s always somebody there to make sure it`s fair for the criminal, the person that left their kids alone, and never anyone there to make sure that it`s all right for the children and their safety.

GRACE: Out to officer Bill Hager. Is the father arrested, as well?

SCOTT: The father of the two children of Rigutto is in jail at this same time.

GRACE: So there`s your answer, Nicki. Mommy and Daddy in lockup tonight. That`s good to know.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jen Rigutto returned home this morning to find police on her porch and her kids gone.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They got placed with cps.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Child Protective Services took her 1-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son and her boyfriend, Mike Perry`s, 3-year-old son away. One of the kids called 911 this morning.

DISPATCHER: Is your mama there?


DISPATCHER: She went bye-bye? What about daddy?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When police arrived, they found the kids all alone and bags of methamphetamine in the bedroom.

RIGUTTO: I did not leave them alone. I would never, ever, ever leave my kids alone, ever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now Rigutto and her boyfriend face drug and child endangerment charges.


GRACE: If that methamphetamine had been digested by one of those children, it could have killed them. The children ages 4, 3, and 1, found by police after one of them called 911 -- I don`t know how they knew to do that -- trying to eat frozen sausage and frozen vegetables off the gummy kitchen floor.

Back out to Officer Bill Hager with Spokane Police Department. What`s the history of these children? I know Protective Services was out there when the child was crying. Have there been other calls? And I know the father has left them alone before.

OFFICER BILL HAGER, SPOKANE POLICE DEPARTMENT: Yes. The information that we received is that the father, who they leave when they go out, has left them alone before, through statements through the investigation.

GRACE: I want to go out now to Donald Schweitzer, former detective with Santa Ana Police Department. She is charged with possession with intent, intent to deliver. In some jurisdictions, it`s called intent to distribute. In other words, there`s too much meth for one person to enjoy all on their own. What else can she be charged with, Detective?

DONALD SCHWEITZER, FORMER DETECTIVE: She could be charged with just, you know, endangering the children. She can be charged with personal possession. She can be charged with, you know, manufacturing. You know, I`m not from that jurisdiction, but I imagine that there`s a lot of serious felonies that she could be charged with, regarding this incident.

GRACE: And, Detective, explain why someone who`s charged with simple possession of meth versus possession with intent to deliver?

SCHWEITZER: Well, when the prosecutor looks at this type of a case, they`re going to be looking at corroborating evidence, that it wasn`t just for personal use, such as the way it`s packaged, whether or not there were pay-owe sheets, any other corroborating evidence. The quantity is very important, as well. And, by the way, I`m not a detective anymore.

GRACE: Oh, what are you?

SCHWEITZER: Former detective.

GRACE: Former detective, good to know.

SCHWEITZER: Believe it or not, I`m a lawyer.

GRACE: Really? Oh, we don`t like lawyers on this show. Throw him off the set, Liz.

Another thing I want to find out, apparently neighbors had been called many times before, Ed Miller, neighbors had called police or called child services before. Why were the kids still in the home? That`s what I don`t get.

ED MILLER, REPORTER, "AMERICA`S MOST WANTED": Well, you know, that`s a very important point to bring out, and I`m so glad you did that. You know, according to the law, after the Lisa Steinberg case in New York that made national attention, it is the obligation of neighbors and teachers and people that come into contact with child neglect or child abuse cases, it is their obligation, according to the law, to report what they see.

In other words, they could be held liable if they ignore the situation. But you`re right, the neighbors did call the cops.

GRACE: You know, Gloria Allred, you`ve handled a lot of cases like this for the victims. And I don`t know if you know this little tidbit, Gloria. Listen to this: The mom had already filed two no-contact orders to keep the father away, the babysitter that night. The most recent incident with Child Protective Services happened two days before when the child was screaming hysterically in the back yard.

The last time she left the children alone with the father, which she did again, he left them alone. He said he had to go talk to God. And a month ago, she left the kids with him again. He left them alone. He said if they got run over out in the street, it would be God`s will.

GLORIA ALLRED, ATTORNEY: Well, this is a big problem for the mother, because she`s trying to say she would never leave them alone, Nancy. But look at the person that she left them alone with.

Certainly, she would have had knowledge about the kind of person it is. It`s not enough just to have a living human being there with little children. It`s got to be a responsible person. And even if she would get off on that issue, the endangerment issue is very serious, as you point out. And sometimes -- and I might add, meth is a scourge across Middle America. It`s a big problem.

But sometimes people who are involved with meth, if, in fact, she was, rationalize. And she may have rationalized that, OK, there is somebody there with my kids, and rationalized that they couldn`t get to the meth, but there is no way that she should have allowed these children to be exposed to the risk of harm. And there is a risk, if they`re anywhere near that meth.

GRACE: Out to Dianne in Indiana. Hi, Dianne.

CALLER: Hi, friend.

GRACE: Thank you. What`s your question, dear?

CALLER: Well, they`ve mentioned the mother and the boyfriend being on charges, and rightly so, but what about the boyfriend? He left his child.

GRACE: Oh, the mother, yes, has charges. The husband who, by the way, Dianne in Indiana, was caught trying to get on a Greyhound bus and leave town, all right, and he told police at that time he had to leave the house because he was smoking meth and couldn`t go to sleep.

But, OK, so the mom, the dad both behind bars. They`re still looking for -- tell me about it, out to you, Officer Bill Hager, with Spokane Police Department, they`re still looking for Michael S. Perry. Here`s a shot of him. Take a look, 30 years old. He`s the dad of the 3-year-old. What do we know about him?

HAGER: That is correct. He`s got a long criminal history here locally in Spokane. And it`s just going to be a matter of time before he pops back up, but he is hiding right now. And we are actively looking for him as we speak.

GRACE: And this is something I always like, Susan Lipkins, psychologist and author, I always like to argue to juries how a defendant or suspect acts when they see a cop. When they pulled up from the luxury casino, night gambling with her French manicure, when they pull up to the home, the boyfriend, this dude, Michael Perry, sees the cop car. He opens the door and jumps out like a bullet. He jumps out of the car and takes off running.

Now, I don`t know about you, Lipkins, but when I see a cop car, I don`t take of running and go try to hide. So what do you think?

SUSAN LIPKINS, PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, I think it`s obvious that he knew that there was something bad happening and that he`s guilty and a lot of other people are guilty. I think the real issue is, why is our society reactive instead of proactive? So many people, so many bystanders, the cops knew, everybody knew. When are we going to fix the system and take care of those children?

GRACE: You know, is it a system, John Burris? Take off your defense hat just for a moment. It`s starting to seem like a system to me, because you and I talk about this all the time. Usually we talk about it when we have a dead kid, when a kid, after Child Protective has been called so many times, the kid`s finally dead. Is it beyond fixing? Should it go to privatization? I mean, what can we do?

JOHN BURRIS, FMR. PROSECUTOR, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: No, I don`t think it goes to privatization, but I do agree that it`s a collective effort here. And, certainly, if I`m the defense counsel, I wouldn`t be looking at it strictly from protecting her. I would be looking at it from the totality of the circumstances and seeing what we can do for the kids and what we can do for the mom and for purposes of trying to perhaps reunite them down the line.

GRACE: What is with you?

BURRIS: I certainly...


GRACE: The kids are eating frozen sausage off the floor.

BURRIS: I don`t believe you get to take someone`s kid because of this particular incident. I don`t believe that. And that`s a philosophical view.


GRACE: It`s not just this incident.

BURRIS: No, you have to work with this mom and see what you can do. It may be later on it`s determined that she`s not salvageable. But she has no criminal record. We don`t know what`s really going on with this lady. Let`s try to find out. Because we`re going to hurt these children substantially in the long run if we don`t make an effort to try to reunite them with the parents. If it can`t be done, that`s true. But we ought to make the effort.

GRACE: John, John, you know what? I don`t agree with you, but I do respect you.

BURRIS: I understand.

GRACE: I respect you the courtroom. I really do. But what you`re saying is total B.S. Why should we put her rights before these children? Haven`t they been through enough?

BURRIS: I`m not saying we put her rights...


GRACE: My god, man!

BURRIS: These are total rights that...

GRACE: Right to what? Live in filth?

BURRIS: She is a mom. These are her kids.

GRACE: But not at the expense of the children.

BURRIS: But we don`t know that that`s at the end of the day.

GRACE: Yes, we do.

BURRIS: She has a problem, no question about it.

GRACE: I do know.

BURRIS: Let`s see if we can solve this problem and reunite them. Maybe we can`t, but let`s try.

GRACE: Hold on.

BURRIS: Let`s try first. We don`t have a right to just take these kids.

GRACE: Officer Hager, tell Burris what the house looked like.

HAGER: It was horrendous.

BURRIS: We already know.

HAGER: There was soiled clothes all over. You couldn`t even see the carpet. It was disgusting. The house smelt. There was dirty diapers all over the floor, and there was frozen food dethawing on the floor that was sticky and covered with dirt.

GRACE: Out to the lines. Marcella in Delaware, Marcella?

CALLER: Hi, Nancy.

GRACE: What`s your question, dear?

CALLER: Thanks for taking my call. I was wondering, have these poor little children been taken to a doctor or to a hospital...

GRACE: Good question.

CALLER: ... to be tested for any ingestion?

GRACE: Very quickly, out you to, Ed Miller.

MILLER: I don`t know. And, usually, when they are taken into Child Protective Services, they are.

GRACE: All right, let me try Julie. Julie Scott, do we know?

JULIE SCOTT, REPORTER: ... standard procedure, Nancy, as far as the children`s welfare and the health being in disarray, Officer Bill, you might have more information on that, but that`s probably protocol. I`m sure that they have been looked at.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... is severely hampered by Craig Stebic, that he refuses to answer even the most basic of questions. He refused to let the kids talk to the cops. He has refused to take a polygraph test.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How would any child do when they`re used to seeing their mother every day after school and she hasn`t been home now for 12 days? I mean, it`s -- you know, you just can`t even comprehend of how that would feel to a child. It`s very hard this Mother`s Day. It`s a very hard Mother`s Day this year.


GRACE: A young mother of two disappears out of upscale Chicago suburbs, reportedly goes jogging, never heard or seen from again. Her friends and family say no way would Lisa Stebic leave behind her two children. Forget about it. As we head into Mother`s Day weekend, where is this lady, this mom of two, Lisa Stebic?

To you, Ed Miller with "America`s Most Wanted," what are the facts?

MILLER: OK, I`ve got some new information for you. I`ve been digging into it this afternoon, and this is going to shed some light on the situation. The time line here is particularly important. And what I`m about to tell you is going to kind of open up some new questions here.

As you might recall, the children 10 and 12 years old, say they last saw their mom at about 3:00 in the afternoon. We now know that dad gave the children money to go to the store to buy some candy. At that point, that meant mom and dad were left alone in the house. When the children return, mom is gone. That`s the last time anyone saw her. So the children saw her at about 3:00 or somewhere in there. Mom had made the kids dinner. Dad gives the kids money, again, to go to the store to buy candy. And when they come back, mom is gone.

GRACE: Ed Miller, very, very disturbing, very disturbing.

MILLER: This may be why he is not allowing the children to speak to the cops. We want to make this crystal clear, because I looked into this very carefully. He is saying that he is -- in public, he is saying, "I am cooperating with the police through my attorney. I am cooperating. I am telling them." That`s not the definition of cooperation that police want. In other words, his attorney is saying, "Well, call us next week. We`ll see if we can arrange a date that`s mutually convenient for the dad and the police." That`s not what we`re talking about.

GRACE: Mutually convenient? Mutually convenient? The woman is missing, day 11. Got a question for you, yes, no, Ed Miller, had he done this before, given the children candy money, and they left to go get candy?

MILLER: I believe he has, but I don`t know that for a fact.

GRACE: We`ll find out. Out to the lines, Chris in California. Hi, Chris.


GRACE: What`s your question, dear?

CALLER: My question is, does the husband have a criminal past?

GRACE: What about it, Ed Miller?

MILLER: No, he does not have a criminal past. They were called -- you know, police were called to the house once before because there was a verbal disagreement, you know, husband-wife kind of thing, but there was no physical abuse, just screaming.

GRACE: No criminal record.

Joining us now, Lisa Stebic`s cousin, Melanie Greenber. Melanie, I understand that searches, dives have been made of waterways and retention pools, that it`s very murky, it`s a very difficult thing to dive and see into those conditions. I know for myself, you have to feel your way along. What can you tell us, Melanie, about the search as of tonight?

MELANIE GREENBER, LISA STEBIC`S COUSIN: Well, I know there were several divers coordinated by the Plainfield Police Department today in retention ponds and areas close to the Stebic home. Tomorrow morning, we`re calling for volunteers to come and help the Plainfield Emergency Management Agency coordinate a massive search starting at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow morning at Lincoln Elementary School, where Lisa worked as a lunch lady.

GRACE: Volunteers needed.

GREENBER: There are going to be 120 -- at least 120 professional searchers from all over north Illinois and even as far south as central Illinois coming to help search for Lisa tomorrow.

GRACE: Help find Lisa Stebic. That`s tomorrow, Saturday, May 12th, 7:00 a.m., a volunteer search. Take a look at Lincoln Elementary, there on Meadow Lane in Plainfield, Illinois.

We do have some information on the husband, Craig Stebic. He is not a suspect. He has not been named a suspect. He was arrested in 1995, charged with two felony counts, unlawful use of a weapon; four misdemeanor counts, unlawful use of a weapon; operating unsafe motor vehicle. In a negotiated plea, the firearm charge was dismissed. He got one year court supervision and a fine on a misdemeanor ammo charge.

That`s what we know. And in addition to Ed Miller correctly advising us there was a domestic call, no physical abuse alleged.

Out to you, Gloria Allred, very unusual in that he refuses a poly. Would you advice a client -- would you advise your client in this situation not to take a poly, even if you thought he was innocent?

ALLRED: Well, Nancy, I don`t represent suspects or potential defendants. I represent victims. But I can understand why the attorney would say, "I don`t want him to take a polygraph."

Having said that, they`re playing good cop-bad cop. Craig is saying, "Oh, I would take it, but my attorney says I can`t, so basically I have to listen to my attorney." Well, he could tell his attorney, "You know what? I know you`re telling me not to. I know you have to tell me that, but" -- because it will be malpractice not to, under this set of circumstances -- "but on the other hand, I have nothing to fear. I`m going to take it." He could take it.

GRACE: Right. OK, out you to, Carmen St. George, agree or disagree?

CARMEN ST. GEORGE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Nancy, I would advice him not. He has no benefit by taking a polygraph exam. It`s not going to be admitted unless the prosecution and the defense agree. There`s (INAUDIBLE) measures, there`s respiration, and any kind of anxiety would prove that he`s lying. He has no benefit to take it. Right now, he`s not a suspect. He`s not a target, and he`s cooperating with the police.


GRACE: What a week in America`s courtrooms. Take a look at the stories and, more important, the people who touched our lives.


GRACE: As depicted on Friday night`s episode of NANCY GRACE, that would be me...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She`s 25. This is not an excuse, but she claims that her publicist, Eliot Mintz, told her it was OK to drive. And people like that have...

GRACE: Whoa.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She took legal advice from a P.R. agent. If that`s in fact what she did, not only is she guilty of a DUI, she`s guilty of being stupid.

GRACE: Crime enthusiasts? OK, these people are not crime enthusiasts. They`re pervs. They`re freaks. Who would want Recidez`s (ph) toe nails? Gloria, they`re going...

We talked to Yale Gallanter, Simpson`s attorney forever. He`s going to sue Jeff Ruby for racial discrimination. Did you hear that?

ALLRED: Yes, I did. And he has zero chance.

GRACE: The husband files an emergency motion for sole custody. Sounds like he`s not expecting her to walk through the front door.

Elizabeth? Elizabeth? I want to see you. Why are you running the bikini commercial? OK. Take it down. Thank you. It`s still up. Thank you.


GRACE: Tonight, we remember Army Specialist Astor A. Sunsin-Pineda, just 20, Long Beach, California, killed, Iraq. An Army combat engineer, first tour, loved school, his step-dad`s auto shop, the Bible, soccer, snowboarding. Always cheering up friends, wanted to be in the Army or a police officer. Sunsin-Pineda phoned home all the time. Leaves behind a grieving family, step-dad Julio. Astor Sunsin-Pineda, American hero.

Thanks to our guests, but especially to you for being with us. A special good night from a California guest here on the set, Bob. And happy birthday to cameraman Mike. He`s a cutie. Special good night and happy Mother`s Day from the New York control room. Good night, Liz, Brett, Rosie. And from master control in Atlanta, Grason and David.

And tonight, happy Mother`s Day to all you moms, especially you, Mother. See you tomorrow night, 8:00 sharp Eastern. And until then, good night, friend.


© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines