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Grandmother Weighs in on Haleigh`s Disappearance; Search Continues for Girl, 5, in Florida; Search Continues for Haleigh Cummings; Crash of Continental Flight 3407; Octo-Mom Outrage

Aired February 13, 2009 - 19:00:00   ET



JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): The desperate search continues for missing 5-year-old Haleigh Cummings.

SHERIFF JEFF HARDY, PUTNAM COUNTY, FLORIDA: The world is a suspect. And we really haven`t excluded anybody.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Police expand the search area as shocking questions emerge. What`s the significance of reports that Haleigh wet the bed the night before she vanished? And was she in the same bed as her father`s girlfriend that night? We`ll examine some conflicting reports.

Were there visitors at the home shortly before Haleigh`s disappearance, including an air-conditioner repairman? Haleigh`s father, Ron, and girlfriend, Misty Croslin, both took lie-detector tests. Both say they passed. So why haven`t the results been released?

Plus, George Anthony, Leonard Padilla, Tim Miller. These key players in the Caylee case are joining the search for Haleigh. I`ll examine the eerie similarities between these cases.

And just a few short weeks after the heroic landing of a U.S. Airways flight in the Hudson, 50 die as a commercial jet nose-dives into a home near Buffalo. No mayday call, no sign of distress moments before the crash. What went wrong? A 9/11 widow is among the dead in the first fatal commercial plane crash in the U.S. since 2006. I`ll have the very latest on the tragedy.

And more octo-mom drama. The LAPD investigating death threats reported by Nadya Suleman`s publicist. Meantime, octo-doc reportedly has a patient expecting quadruplets. What`s with this guy? I`ll have all the bizarre details.

ISSUES starts now.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Today, stunning new developments in the search for Haleigh Cummings. The adorable little girl, called Doodle Bug by her family, disappeared from her own bed sometime between Monday night and Tuesday morning. Now, just hours ago, the Putnam County sheriff made a major announcement about the investigation`s progress.


HARDY: Yes, ma`am. All the sex offenders have been interviewed, and their residences have been searched.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are they cleared?

HARDY: They`re cleared. They`re cleared as far as us contacting them and speaking to them.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Remember, there are more than 40 registered sex offenders who live near little Haleigh`s home in the small town of Satsuma, Florida.

Also, shocking inconsistencies are now coming to light in the accounts of Haleigh`s disappearance from the 17-year-old girlfriend of Misty`s father. Here is one version.


MISTY CROSLIN, GIRLFRIEND OF HAYLEIGH`S FATHER: I put her to bed about 8 o`clock, and I woke up and she was gone. The door was open. That was the last time I seen her, when I put her to bed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were y`all in the same bed?

CROSLIN: No. She was in her bed in front of the TV. And me and Junior was in my bed.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Meantime, more frightening echoes of the Caylee Anthony case. Caylee`s grandfather, George Anthony, volunteers from Texas EquuSearch and even bounty hunter Leonard Padilla arrive in Satsuma to help in the desperate search for little Haleigh.

Joining me right now is Haleigh`s maternal grandmother, Maria.

Thank you so much for joining me, Maria. I know this has to be so very difficult for you right now. And we hope this interview helps somehow in finding your precious grandchild.

This is the fourth day of this search. Knowing what you know now, what are your questions about this case? What is troubling you as you process all the information that you`re getting?

MARIA GRIFFIS, HALEIGH`S GRANDMOTHER: Just the fact that there`s so many conflicting stories about where the children were sleeping at that night. Once they`re all three in the bed together. Then once Junior is in a bedroom by himself and Haleigh is in her room. And now both of them was in their bedroom and she was in her room. And it just makes me more suspicious.

And the back door, how did the back door -- it`s secured by the father. On an interview, he said he secured that door, and the deadbolt was up high enough, Haleigh could not reach it and open the door. So it leads me to believe somebody had access with a key from the outside or either someone was in the house or either Misty unlocked the door for someone.

It -- it just makes the stuff come tighter together on the girlfriend, to me.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And, of course, we`re just learning information as it comes in, and there are conflicting accounts. But our understanding from authorities is there were no signs of forced entry.

So the door is closed. She says she went to sleep with the door locked. And when she wakes up, the door is open. Do you know, Marie, who else might have had keys to that home? Sometimes people leave keys with -- with neighbors in case they get locked out. Sometimes they leave keys with friends who want to come over. Do you have any information about other people having keys to that house?

GRIFFIS: No. The only people I would think that -- the father, Ronald, would give a key to would either be his mother, Theresa, or his grandmother, Annette. I don`t see Ronald trusting anybody else with the key.

And as for Misty, I mean, who knows? I don`t know the girl. I`ve only saw the girl. I`ve never spoke with the girl. I know she has family that lives right on this same street. Maybe she could have give some of her family members a key. Maybe she could have give some of her friends some keys. It`s just -- it`s question upon question. Question upon question. And we`d like to have some answers.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, according to Misty, she says her older brother came over with her nephews, and the AC guy. Authorities have told us that the air conditioning guy has been interviewed, the repairman and he`s been cleared of any wrongdoing. And we`re not to suggest in any way that the older brother is any way involved. That`s not my suggestion.

But my suggestion -- my question to you is what about the older brother and the nephews? Have you ever met them?

GRIFFIS: No, I haven`t. I just learned that there was possibly one or two brothers of Misty`s. I haven`t heard of any nephews. This is the first time I`ve heard of them. But if her older brother was over that day, why hasn`t he took a polygraph test? And why hasn`t he been grilled yet as to what he was doing there and how long he was there and if he returned that night?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, we certainly don`t know everything that the authorities are doing. They may very well have conducted a polygraph and interviewed him. They`re keeping very tight-lipped at this point.

Now, Misty appears to have offered up a number of differing accounts, as you mentioned, when it comes to these details about the night Haleigh vanished. There is the matter of the blanket. Listen to this.


CROSLIN: We had a blanket hanging on the window. And I had to wash that. And her blanket was -- she had peed on her blanket the night before, I guess. And I took it and put it on there, but it smelled like pee. So I washed the blanket and gave her little sheets to cover up with. And she fell asleep. And I put a blanket on her and then I laid down.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Was -- was Haleigh a bed-wetter?

GRIFFIS: No. She -- at my home, Haleigh hasn`t wet the bed in my home in at least two years.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So you hear Misty saying that the night before Haleigh disappeared, it would appear that she wet the bed, because she was going to put the blanket on and she smelled pee, as she said. And then she cleaned the blanket and put a sheet on the little girl instead and then later put a blanket on her.

So what is your reaction? What -- what thoughts occur to you as you hear that story?

GRIFFIS: That`s not like Haleigh. Haleigh has wet the bed previously when she was a couple of years younger. But when she spends time with me and her mother, her mother would tell me if she was wetting the bed. She hasn`t wet the bed at my house. So why would she wet the bed at their house? Maybe they`d give her too much to drink or maybe she was in a stressful situation and wouldn`t go to the bathroom before she went to sleep.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, the thing that occurs to me is that, when a child wets a bed, you also change the sheets and even clean the mattress underneath. It would appear that the blanket itself on the top is -- is not what would be the wettest.

GRIFFIS: Yes. The whole -- the whole bed and mattress would be wet. I mean, you`d want to flip the mattress over and wash the sheets also underneath it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me get back to what you said at the very beginning of this interview about the conflicting reports about where they were all sleeping. And remember, some of those conflicting reports could be inaccuracies in reporting.

What I heard first, and what everybody reported first, was that they were all sleeping in the same bed, and then we heard different stories. The last story that I`ve heard is that she was sleeping with Junior in one bed and little Haleigh was sleeping in another bed next to the TV. That`s from the mouth of Misty.

Does that mean they were in separate rooms, because that would be very significant? Have you ever been inside the house? Do you know whether the bed near the TV is near the main bed that Misty would sleep in?

GRIFFIS: I don`t know anything about the TV. My daughter, Crystal, has been in that house, and she said Haleigh and Junior have beds set up in one room and then there`s a big bed in the room that, I guess, Ronald and Misty would sleep in, and that`s the one that we understand that they were all three in.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But, again, we`re hearing now that that`s not the case...


VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... that Junior and Misty were in one bed and Haleigh was in another. And I think that`s so significant because the whole -- everybody just wondered how could somebody come in and abduct a child while two people are asleep and not wake up either one of them or the child. But if they were in separate rooms, that might be easier.

Marie, I want to thank you so much for joining us. We`re going to do everything in our power to find your little granddaughter. And we`d love you to come back as we continue to focus on this story. We`re going to do everything we can.

GRIFFIS: Yes, ma`am. I thank you for all the coverage y`all are giving us on this so that we can find Haleigh.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s pray we find her. Thank you, ma`am.

All right. A quick reminder. Nancy Grace will have the very latest on the search for Haleigh. She is up after this program at 8 p.m. Eastern. And right here on ISSUES, we will have much more on the disappearance of Haleigh Cummings. Some of the key players from the Caylee case are now joining the search for Haleigh, including George Anthony.

Here he is showing support for the Cummings family. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE ANTHONY, GRANDFATHER OF CAYLEE ANTHONY: This is not about guys. This is not about me. This is about Haleigh Ann Marie Cummings, age 5, that needs to be found and brought home to this beautiful family. They need prayer; they need hope. And they need -- and they need me.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does the door look like it was pried open? Does it look like -- does it look like you had someone try to enter into your house?

CROSLIN: Hold on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And another thing. Make sure you and your husband don`t touch the door anymore. Don`t mess with the door or anything.

CROSLIN: No, it doesn`t.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That was Misty Croslin`s call to 911 at 3:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

I am joined by my fantastic panel tonight. Don Clark, former FBI special agent in charge; Jennifer Hurtz, the clinical psychologist; Darren Kavinoky, attorney; Michelle Sigona from "America`s Most Wanted"; and joining us by phone, T.J. Hart, news director at WSKY 97.3 in Gainesville, Florida.

T.J., what`s the very latest?

T.J. HART, NEWS DIRECTOR, WSKY: Now, the very latest is that we had some more people going out on the search today. More interviews of relatives and others today. And that is going to include some re- interviews today.

Each of the 44 registered sex offenders who live within the five-mile radius of the Cummings home have either been interviewed or had their whereabouts confirmed.

Getting back to the search, they`re using horseback to get into some tough areas, especially around some marshy areas. There were more than 100 volunteers on the ground and at least 50 law officers out today, as well. And these are veterans of these kinds of searches from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

We also have Tim Miller and his Texas EquuSearch folks, who are also positioned and ready to go in the search endeavors.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Are they doing one of these grids where they keep expanding it and expanding it so that it`s very systematic, where they start at the location where the child vanished and then they just move out in sort of a grid pattern?

HART: They`re going out in a grid pattern at this -- at this point. They did that initially with the five-mile radius search. But now they are closing in with probably about 100 or so people today spaced out a couple hundred feet, and they`re going right into this very thick vegetation and into this marshy area. They seem to be concentrating on that area.

We`ve not heard any results on this. In fact, Sheriff Hardy has been a bit close-lipped on a lot of questions that were posed to him.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. One last question about the search, and we do have a Google map that really absolutely reveals how thick and how wooded this area is. So let`s go to the Google map when we can. There is a huge forest near the home of this child. What about the search in that forest?

HART: Well, like I said, people are only a few feet apart when they`re going through there. They`re going through that real thick vegetation with sticks. And they are -- that was one of the first places they looked. And, of course, that`s one place that, of course, is going to be searched and re-searched as well.

That`s indicative of the area around the St. John`s River in that area, as a matter of fact. You have houses that are kind of spread out. You have a lot of thick vegetation and a lot of heavy forest and some very, very soggy, watery canals in that area, too.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And we`re looking at video of people just hitting the grounds with sticks and, apparently, they were also using machetes. This has to be an extremely grueling search.

I want to go to our panel now and talk a little bit about the evidence that`s coming in. Darren Kavinoky, particularly the conflicting reports. We heard that all three, Misty, Haleigh, and the 3-year-old, Junior, were in the same bed. Now we`re hearing that Misty and Junior were in one bed and Haleigh was in another bed, possibly in another room. What do you make of these inconsistencies?

DARREN KAVINOKY, ATTORNEY: Well, those kinds of conflicting reports can be very, very telling. And that`s something that law enforcement often focuses on as they narrow their search for the perpetrator.

And of course, in any case involving a missing child, the parents or whoever the child is in the custody of are often under that first focus. So those conflicting reports can be very, very meaningful, because it will only heighten the scrutiny that will fall upon those folks.

Of course, now we`ve got conflicting reports. We`ve got possibly lies about the lie detector. There are all sorts of issues. And in the absence of any further evidence, it seems like anybody`s best guess is like saying Colonel Mustard in the kitchen with the night stick. I mean, it`s -- it`s just terrible.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Well, Don Clark, let me ask you about this whole polygraph. Both Misty and Ron say they`ve taken polygraphs and they`ve passed. The authorities are not saying anything. When authorities administer polygraphs, do they tell the people who have taken the polygraph, hey, you passed, you didn`t pass?

DON CLARK, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Not really. That`s a process that they`re going to keep to themselves. They may make some conversation with it, but it`s not going to be sitting up there and saying, "OK, you passed, you`re free to go." Unless, of course, at some point later now -- because the polygrapher who takes the test, Jane, that person doesn`t give out any information. It has to be the investigators, because they have to assess that with all of the other things that`s going on.

And with the inconsistencies, Jane, that`s gone on that we hear about in this case -- I mean, I heard the grandmother just a few minutes ago, and she`s right on the money, is that how can you rule anybody out, from the 44 sex offenders that`s out there to neighbors that`s close by to the people that`s living in the house. Nobody can be ruled out yet, because there are just too many inconsistencies. I can`t imagine someone saying, "Yes, I`m clear of the polygraph."

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, in fact, Michelle Sigona, the authorities said everybody is a suspect. Now, would they announce, we have -- they start of did announce that they have tentatively eliminated the 40-plus sex offenders who live in the area. But will they come out and say, "OK, now we`ve eliminated this person and now we`ve eliminated that person," so that the media can sort of keep track of the direction in which this investigation is going?

MICHELLE SIGONA, "AMERICA`S MOST WANTED": Well, here`s what I can tell you. I just got off the phone again with the lead investigator on this case, Jane. And what he tells me is that, look, the 44 sex offenders, we have gone around, we have searched their homes. We have talked to them. We have verified their whereabouts from the time that Haleigh was allegedly, you know, went to sleep, up until the time she allegedly went missing, up until that point.

So that`s where they are as far as the sex offenders.

As far as the neighbors and the friends and the family go, right now as we speak, they are pulling in more family members and more friends and interviewing them and going over timelines and going over more information about this case.

So as far as coming out and saying, "We`re going to rule this person out, we`re going to rule this person out," I don`t think that`s going to come as of right now. I think what they`re focusing on at this point are the ground searches that will continue over the weekend along with keeping that house roped off.

There is no one allowed back inside of the home where Haleigh went missing from. That is so -- in case they need to go back in as they pull information from these people to pull out more evidence to send to the lab in Jacksonville with a lot of the evidence is right now. They`re waiting for a lot of the forensic tests to come back.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, stay right there. We are just getting started.

And Nancy Grace will have the very latest on this case coming up at 8 p.m. immediately following this program. It`s absolutely astounding. ISSUES, we will have much more on the disappearance of Haleigh Cummings.


CROSLIN: I put her to bed about 8 p.m., and I woke up and she was gone. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)




RONALD CUMMINGS, FATHER OF HALEIGH: Bring her back anonymous, give her to someone else to bring back. However she gets back, we want her back safe. If you`ve done something with her, tell us where she`s at, if she`s OK. Something. We just -- I want my daughter back. That`s it. That`s all I want. I want my daughter back. I`m not out for revenge.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That was Haleigh`s dad, Ronald Cummings, making a plea to the public for whoever has Haleigh to just return her.

Michelle Sigona, have you ever seen a plea like that work?

SIGONA: Well, here`s the thing. Yes, of course. Whenever -- I mean, I`ve covered just hundreds of missing children cases throughout my career. And a lot of times in the cases, the parents will come out. They will make pleas.

I mean, if you listen to that 911 call, which we will also have up on, you can really hear the sincerity in his voice and how he just wants to have someone there to help find his daughter. And this is very common with parents, I mean, especially when their child comes up missing and/or abducted in this particular case.

And so getting the word out there and doing whatever he can, and that is what the dad is doing. And investigators say at this point the dad is not a suspect. The girlfriend is not a suspect. But that they`re...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What about ex-boyfriends of Misty? Are they checking into that? I mean, they have been going out approximately six months, Ron and Misty. So what about other people in their sphere?

SIGONA: Well, at this point, what investigators are saying, they`re not really going into a lot of detail as to every single person that they`re targeting. But, of course, as you know, Jane, I mean, you`ve covered hundreds of these cases, as well. They will go as far -- you know, as far back as six months to a year. They`ll start bringing people in from everyone`s past. You know, as the -- the immediate attention kind of makes its way out. Sort of like the search.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Haleigh and Caylee are joined now by more than just the similarities in their stories and their names. Now their families are starting to come together. Caylee`s grandfather, George, came to Satsuma to offer his support to Haleigh`s dad. Listen.


ANTHONY: They need to eat. They need to sleep. They need the community support. They do not need to be judged. They do not need to be scrutinized. They need your help. The community needs to come together to help this family to bring this beautiful little girl home. I understand it. Some of you might not, but I understand it.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: George speaks from experience, Darren Kavinoky. I mean, this is a man who, as we both discussed, has become so despondent in the past about the tragedies in his own life that he reportedly attempted suicide less than a month ago. Now he`s out helping others. Good idea for him, good idea for the case?

KAVINOKY: I think it`s fantastic. He understands what`s going on in a way that few other people do. And while he may receive criticism from some who would suggest, look, he just got over his own problems, as you mentioned, this -- this suicide attempt. He was in a mental institution, in a lock-down facility. He should just stay home and get better.

The real truth of the matter is that he can help, and by helping this other family, he`s really helping himself. He`s got something unique to give, unique experience to share. He`s going to help this other family, and this will be extremely therapeutic for him.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Don Clark, Leonard Padilla is offering a $25,000 reward, but my understanding is there`s a time deadline of Saturday on it. Good idea?

CLARK: Well, often there`s an award. That`s fine, if somebody takes it. Jane, you and I know that frequently those things don`t come to fruition that takes place. What has to take place, though, is that, look, law enforcement is going to come together and continually to revisit these issues. And I think that`s what`s going to develop the evidence out there.


CLARK: Once they do that, then forget about the award.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thanks so much. Don, Jennifer, Darren, Michelle, thanks for the insights.

In just minutes, the latest controversy surrounding octo-mom and her doc.


JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HLN ANCHOR: Octo-mom Nadya Suleman set up a website for donation, but according to her publicist, some people are using the site to post death threats. The LAPD is investigating.

Meantime, octo-doc shows no signs of slowing down. He has another patient expecting quadruplets. What`s with this guy? I`ll have all the bizarre details.

First, back to the questions that seem to be piling up as the desperate search for five-year-old Haleigh Cummings enters its fourth day. Still with me: attorney Darren Kavinoky and Michelle Sigona from "America`s Most Wanted."

Michelle, something doesn`t seem to add up here. There were no signs of forced entry according to law enforcement. They went to sleep. They wake up, the door is open. A light is on. A child is missing.

How does anybody come in through a door and grab a child and leave without waking up the two people or the child and not making any signs of forced entry on the door?

MICHELLE SIGONA, "AMERICA`S MOST WANTED": Absolutely, Jane. That`s a very good question. I want to lay out some of the background for you on this home.

The girlfriend and also Ronald, the father of the children, I spoke with Ronald last night. To my understanding, they`ve lived inside this mobile home for the last four months.

This is apparently the back door, from what he tells me. He`s only used this door about two times in the last four months that he`d lived there. He says that he has used this door to go out and vacuum out his truck. This door that constantly will stay locked and dead bolted. So it`s not something that people randomly come in and out of or anything like that.

From what the girlfriend has said and what investigators told me today, look, we understand that her story did shift a little bit, that she originally did say that all three -- both children were in the bed with her -- that all three of them were in the bed together, but this is actually in a bedroom.

This queen-sized bed that she and the 3-year-old, Ronald Junior, were sleeping in, and there`s also youth-sized mattress in the same room, just a few feet away that she says that Haleigh was sleeping in. The dad tells me that and the investigator also tells me that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So they`re in the same room, but --

SIGONA: In the same room, right.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But Junior and Misty are in one bed and Haleigh in another bed.

SIGONA: Right. In the youth bed and there`s a queen-sized bed and to my understanding they don`t have box springs. They`re just on the floor inside this room.

So basically at this point, from what we`ve learned from investigators, is that at some point in the middle of the night between 10:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m. when she wakes up -- when the girlfriend, Misty wakes up to go to the bathroom, which she alleges that someone did enter the home and exited through that door that no one goes through and that the screen door was propped open with a cinder block.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow. It`s truly a baffling mystery. That`s all we can call it right now. The sheriff has said that Haleigh`s disappearance he agrees is a big mystery. The question of whether an abduction would have caused a stir has come up.

Let`s listen to what Misty says.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you hear anything?

MISTY CROSLIN, GIRLFRIEND OF HALEIGH`S FATHER: I didn`t hear anything at all. Nothing. If I heard something, I would have got up and I wouldn`t have let them take her.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Darren Kavinoky, we`ve just laid out -- Michelle has laid out very, very brilliantly, really, the setup here, where these people were sleeping. And you just heard she didn`t hear a thing.

What are your thoughts because you have a number of very unlikely events occurring back-to-back?

DARREN KAVINOKY, ATTORNEY: You do. But one of the most telling things is this whole polygraph test that was administered. And, of course, we don`t know the official results. So we don`t know whether somebody passed or failed. Although it`s been touted in the media that Misty is no longer considered a suspect.

Anecdotally, I can tell you this, that whenever I have a question about whether a client of mine or a witness is telling me the truth and I offer them the opportunity to take a polygraph, their results are often more telling than the polygraph itself.

If there`s any reluctance, any hesitation, any offering of an excuse about why they wouldn`t want to take a polygraph, that tells me there`s something wrong there. In this particular case, since we don`t have the results to scrutinize, the mere fact that they were willing to step up and take them is very telling to me.

So as unlikely and bizarre as this may all sound, there isn`t enough in the inconsistencies here to make me say definitively, well, this woman is lying and they need to refocus their scrutiny on her.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely. It`s so easy for us, sitting at home, to say, yes, you know, it doesn`t add up. But, again, how would we react in the same situation?

KAVINOKY: Exactly.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We might wait a couple of minutes before calling authorities.

I`m going to give you the last word, Michelle. Do you have any inkling as to where this investigation is pointing?

SIGONA: Well, at this particular point, investigators, again, are being extremely careful, Jane. They don`t want to label anyone as a suspect. They want to say, we`re looking at everybody at this point. I think that that`s important in this investigation. They`re focusing on Haleigh and that is our focus at this time.

It`s figuring out where this little girl is, if she`s out there, you know, somewhere close to the home, the water is only 400 yards away from that back door. So, you know, as far as -- investigators are doing a great job. They`re going out there, they`re scouring the ground, and that is going to be the focus this weekend.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, well put. I thank you both, Darren and Michelle. Thank you.

KAVINOKY: Great job as always.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Don`t forget, Nancy Grace is up next at 8:00 p.m. She will have the very latest on the frantic search for little Haleigh Cummings.

It was just a few short weeks ago that we were celebrating a miracle plane landing on New York`s Hudson River. Tonight, we mourn a terrible tragedy. Continental flight 3407, a commuter plane bound for Buffalo, New York, from Newark airport in New Jersey nose-dived into a home in a suburban Buffalo town called Clarence Center late last night. This catastrophe sent flames shooting as high as 100 feet in the air and it could be seen for miles.

The heat was so intense it hampered the valiant efforts of firefighters to search for any survivors. Sadly, all 49 people on board and one on the ground perished.

Flight 3407 reportedly lost radio contact with Buffalo air traffic control five miles from the airport. One witness described what he heard in the final moments of Flight 3407.


DAVE HARTVELL, WITNESSED PLANE CRASH: So as the plane was going over, you knew something was wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was almost stuttering really.

HARTVELL: Absolutely. Just like that as it was coming at us. So you knew that the engine -- there were engine problems because you could hear it as it came in.

It was just an enormous ball of flames. It was like 50 feet high, just completely orange, engulfing the whole area. The firefighters, very calm, standing around just hosing -- having hoses on the scene but just burning, burning. Just jet fuel all over the place.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: The NTSB has confirmed that both the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder, the black boxes, have been found and sent to Washington for analysis. This was the nation`s first fatal crash of a commercial airliner in two and a half year years; a truly sad, sad day.

Let`s go to my expert panel: John Goglia, former NTSB board member and a senior vice president at JDA Aviation Technology Solutions; Denny Fitch, former United Airlines pilot; Jim Tilmon, retired commercial pilot; Ron Connolly, former air traffic controller and on the phone, Barbara Burns, reporter from WBEM Radio in Buffalo.

Barbara, what is the very latest?

BARBARA BURNS, REPORTER, WBEM RADIO, BUFFALO: Well, as you had mentioned, the big news the last couple of hours is the discovery of those two boxes. The condition of those boxes, unknown at this time but -- I`m sorry. I`m so tired. I`ve been up over 24 hours.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I understand that. I totally empathize; been there.

BURNS: The NTSB investigator said they wants to get those boxes to Washington ASAP. So number one, that they can determine exactly what kind of condition they`re in and begin analyzing them as soon as possible. So they can try and figure out exactly what happened here.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, we have so many questions. And we`ve got a great panel of aviation experts, hopefully, who can answer all of this.

Now, John Goglia, let`s talk about the icing issue, the de-icing mechanisms on this particular aircraft, and what the environmental conditions were as this plane attempted to make a landing and was not successful. Signs of icing, tell us about that.

JOHN GOGLIA, FORMER NTSB BOARD MEMBER: Well, certainly the weather conditions were very conducive to the accretion of ice on any airplane. The dew point and the temperature range that they were in is a red flag for investigators on accidents like this. It just puts ice as the number one issue.

Now, the airplane itself is certified to fly in ice. It has anti-icing systems on this, in this case, the icing boots. And the airplane is newly manufactured. It looks like it`s a little more than a year old. So all those pieces would lend itself to saying that the airplane should have continued flying in icing conditions.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Denny Fitch, you`re a former United Airlines captain. According to the Associated Press, after the crash, at least two pilots were heard on air traffic control messages saying they had been picking up ice on their wings. They`d been getting ice since 20 miles out of the airport.

What does that tell you? Again, these planes have de-icing systems. My question to you is if there is an icing problem, how does the pilot know that if it`s dark? Is there a signal within the plane that lets the pilot know, hey, there`s an icing problem on the wing?

DENNY FITCH, FORMER UNITED AIRLINES PILOT: Well, the system in this particular aircraft I`m not familiar with so I can`t address that directly. But traditionally, we can look for visual cues out the window.

One of the things, of course, would be hearing other pilots in the area saying, I`m picking up ice. So pilots are very attuned to ice. We`re very much aware of it, and we don`t like it. We don`t want to stay in it. That alone is one giveaway.

The second was visual cues, perhaps a windshield wiper, seeing an accretion on a knob outside the window. Those are the visual cues you go for. But clearly before he left -- I think they`ll find this -- before they left Newark, part of the weather briefing, if you will, for the crew was that the conditions -- I`m sure there was some warning out there in general that icing conditions were to be expected. So the cues were all there to let them know that they needed to use this system.

And in this particular airplane, although the engines are protected by an anti-ice system, it sounds like, where the propellers are heated, the inlet to the jet engine is -- that drive the propellers are heated. The boots themselves are -- are something that --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`re going to get into boots, we`re going to define that in a second. Stay right there, gentlemen. So many questions in this tragic story; we`re just getting started.

Here is President Obama`s statement on the horrific crash in Buffalo.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends who lost loved ones. And, as always, our thanks go out to the brave first responders who arrived immediately to try and save lives and who are still on the scene keeping people safe.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Delta 1998, look off your right side about five miles for a dash 8, should be 4300, you see anything there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Negative Delta 1998, we`re just in the bottoms and nothing off TKs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Colgan 3407, Buffalo.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Colgan 3407, Buffalo Tower, how do you hear?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) this is some ground communication. We need to talk to somebody at least five miles northeast, OK, possibly Clarence, that area right in there, Akron area, either state police or sheriff`s department. We need to find if anything is on the ground. This aircraft was five miles out and all of a sudden we have no response on that aircraft.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All I can tell is the aircraft`s over the marker, and we`re not talking to them now.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Chilling conversation. What you just heard was a conversation between air traffic control and another plane after controllers lost contact with doomed flight 3407.

I am back with my fantastic panel.

I want to go straight out to former air traffic controller, Ron Connolly. What do you make, sir, of the fact that there was no May Day call from the doomed pilot before the crash and also the controller and the pilot, their concern level was totally normal before this crash? There was no indication in their conversation of anything being wrong.

RON CONNOLLY, FORMER AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: Well, upon reviewing that tape and listening to that flight inbound of 3407 Colgan, they were giving initial contact, altimeter setting and time to expect. Now, after that, everything is routine on the tape. Even changing the aircraft over to the control tower.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Jim Tilmon, let me ask you this question. The plane nose- dived according to eyewitnesses. So they lost radio contact at about 5,000 feet. So what happened between 5,000 feet and the ground?

JIM TILMON, RETIRED COMMERCIAL PILOT: What happened is what this investigation is all about. The NTSB will examine those boxes you talked about and come up with answers for that. There still may be some questions because apparently something happened, an event occurred that was catastrophic and sudden, and they had very little time to react before actually striking the ground. I`d say seconds.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: The CEO of the company that operated this plane, a Q400 Bombardier, had this to say in the aftermath of the crash. Take a listen.


PHILIP TERNARY, PRESIDENT & FCEO, PINNACLE AIRLINES: I don`t think there`s anything I can say to the families that will ease your pain. You say you`re sorry, you ask what you can do. That`s about it.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: This particular plane, a Bombardier Q400, we see the plane right there, same plane; the images from a previous flight. This plane had no issues previously. I`m talking about this particular aircraft that was involved in this crash. It was only in service less than a year is our understanding.

But we also understand that Scandinavian Airlines actually grounded its Q400s back in 2007 after three crash landings in just a number of weeks in Europe. So let me ask you this.

I`ll put this question out to John. What do we know about this particular type of aircraft and its safety record?

GOGLIA: The airplane has been very reliable. The incidents you mentioned are the only blots, so to speak, on the record of the airplane. And I believe at least one of those was caused by maintenance, not really by design of the airplane. So it may be a little bit unfair to blame the airplane for all of those three failures.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I don`t think anybody is blaming anybody at this point. Obviously the black boxes are being analyzed. What will the black boxes tell us, Jim Tilmon?

TILMON: Well, you`re going to get a lot of information. These are very sophisticated boxes. You will get something about all the details of the flight situation. The air speed, the altitude, the attitude of the airplane at the time and all of those things will be in real-time sequence.

Together with the cockpit voice recorder, we`ll be listening to actual conversation between the pilots and all the warning sounds that occur in the cockpit to let them know that something is going on. You`re going to get a lot of information out of those boxes. I just hope they`re in really good shape.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I just want to try to understand the connection between the icing and the mechanisms that are supposed to either warn a pilot that there`s an icing problem or take care of that icing problem.

Let`s go to Denny Fitch. Give us a sense of the tools that you have at your command to deal with an icing problem when it occurs.

FITCH: Well, we have to be specific to this airplane, and this airplane is a little bit different. Most airliners, the jet-powered airlines that we`re familiar with, have leading edges and their wings are heated. They have air taken from the engines that heat those so that when ice hits it, it immediately is dissolved or made into liquid. In the case of this type of --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Okay. Well thank you to my fabulous panel. We really have no answers at this point.

We`ll have to wait for the NTSB investigation.

The latest now on the Octo-mom outrage in just a moment.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: On this doomed flight was Beverly Eckert, a woman who lost her husband on 9/11. She had recently met with President Obama. This is such a sad day but can you imagine what this family -- the family of Beverly Eckert is going through right now?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Scandals still swirling around everyone`s favorite the mother of 14. We told you octo-mom Nadya Suleman is soliciting donations through a new Website but instead of cash, people are leaving death threats; at least that`s what her publicist says.

Now, the LAPD reportedly is investigating the matter. Meanwhile, her doctor Michael Kamrava, reportedly has a 49-year-old patient who is pregnant with quadruplets. Reports claim he transferred at least seven embryos to the woman even though she only wanted one child.

Everybody`s ganging up on octo-mom but many are now starting to scrutinize octo-doc. Joining me is Mike Walters is the assignment manager at TMZ. Mike, what is the very latest on these death threats?

MIKE WALTERS, TMZ ASSIGNMENT MANAGER: Basically whether she likes it or not, Jane, she`s a celebrity. That`s why TMZ has put stuff up on her on our website. She is getting death threats, emails and harassing phone calls and that`s because -- let`s get real, people are upset at this lady.

All of the factors, and you can start with the disability payments, you can go to the state having to pay for the babies because these are premature babies and it`s costing the state. We are in a $42 billion hole right now.

People are upset at this lady. I mean obviously there`s people that are giving to her Website and that feel bad she has 14 kids under seven but the reality is people are upset and that LAPD has to look into this. It`s their job and right now we are told they are.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But my understanding is that she has moved back home. She had at one point been living at an undisclosed location that was being funded by an anonymous donor but that she decided that the threats had subsided and came back home.

WALTERS: Right. Yes, we are hearing the same thing. I mean, obviously she moved out of her mother`s house because it was at that point really bad. And yes we are hearing the same things she`s going back to her mom`s but the reality is whether or the threats were pertinent and it was happening right then or they`re investigating it, they are coming in.

I mean, even on our comments on our website on some of the pictures which, by the way, I know you have seen the picture; the best picture ever.


WALTERS: Oh. When I saw it, I was like -- like this.


WALTERS: But anyways, yes a really great photo. But even the comments, half of them are, wow that`s unbelievable and how great it is that these eight babies are alive and breathing on their own. And the other half is, what an idiot. Like and that`s literally how black and white it is, Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We don`t have very much time but any deals on the horizon. We`ve heard all this talk about she`s going to get a deal. Has she gotten a deal?

WALTERS: I don`t know but here`s my future. I`m going to look in the future for you real quick. She`s going to getting a house from Oprah. A minivan from Dr. Phil and her mom got some money from an online agency. That`s my future.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, well, Mike, I hope you have a crystal ball there. Thank you so much.

I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell and you are watching "ISSUES" on HLN.