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Encore: Cases That Changed America

Aired May 22, 2009 - 19:00:00   ET



JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, a special ISSUES presentation: cases that changed America. For the next hour, I`ll examine high-profile abductions that forever altered America`s legal system, starting with the disappearance of Natalee Holloway. This case have all the elements of a must-watch news story: from beautiful characters to beautiful Aruban beaches.

Natalee`s mother deftly used the media to keep her daughter`s disappearance in the national spotlight. Meantime, TV cameras caught prime suspect Joran Van Der Sloot continuously lying and admitting he held an unconscious Natalee in his arms. Did he escape justice?

Then, the amazing story of Elizabeth Smart. Nine months after being snatched from her bedroom at the age of 14, Elizabeth was rescued and reunited with her family. This incredible case shows what happens when family, law enforcement, and the media work together. And it gives hope to all parents with missing children.

Plus, I`ll examine the ground-breaking case of Adam Walsh. The little boy was abducted and tragically killed in 1981, but Adam`s courageous father turned his personal nightmare into a national inspiration. Walsh started "America`s Most Wanted" and helped pass numerous laws that continue to save kids till this day.

This ISSUES special presentation starts now.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight an ISSUES special presentation: "Cases That Changed America." Three missing persons cases all with very different outcomes that have transformed America forever.

We begin with a story that had all of the makings of a picture-perfect vacation. A beautiful 18-year-old girl in a tropical paradise, Aruba, for one last hurrah with her classmates before graduating from high school and starting her adult life.

It all turned into a nightmare when Natalee Holloway never showed up for the plane ride home in May of 2005. Natalee was last seen leaving an Aruban bar the night before with three young men: Joran Van Der Sloot and the two Kalpoe brothers. These men would weave a web of lies about that night that no one to this day has been able to untangle.

Van Der Sloot, the prime suspect, emerged as a pathological liar. He changed his story again and again. At first, he claimed he simply dropped Natalee off at her hotel. Then he left her at the beach. Then he held her lifeless body and got a friend to throw her in the ocean. Then he even claimed he sold her into the sex trade. Then he recanted that.

All the while, Natalee`s mother, Beth Holloway Twitty and her father, Dave Holloway, have never given up hope of finding out exactly what happened. Every element of this story kept us glued to our TVs. Tonight, we dive in, examining how this perfect storm transformed coverage of missing person cases forever.

Joining me to dissect this case is my fantastic expert panel: Dr. Dale Archer, clinical psychiatrist; Vinnie Politan, former prosecutor and host for Sirius XM Radio. Joining us by phone from Aruba Julia Renfro, editor in chief for "Aruba Today." And my dear friend, Diane Dimond, journalist and author of "Be Careful Who You Love."

Diane, this case has obsessed America for years now. What were the elements in this story that made it so totally compelling that we couldn`t ever turn away? It really mesmerized us. Why?

DIANE DIMOND, JOURNALIST/AUTHOR: Yes, and it did in fact change America. It changed America for parents of girls like me who, in their senior year, they want to take that special senior trip with the rest of the class. They`ve worked hard for it. And of course, you want to -- you want to thank everything`s going to be OK in a place as beautiful -- the paradise of Aruba.

But it grabbed our attention, Jane, because it was a beautiful young girl. It was sex. It was lies. It was videotape of Joran Van Der Sloot. We just couldn`t look away.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely. Even the suspect, Joran Van Der Sloot, was described as attractive. Everything about this case was attractive. And eye candy, but of course it was a real-life nightmare for the parents involved, and they were going through hell.

The day her daughter was reported missing, Beth Holloway Twitty flew to Aruba, vowing not to leave until she was found. She stepped in front the cameras at every opportunity to keep the story alive. Beth even did her own investigations when she felt Aruban authorities were failing her. Let`s listen to Beth talking about her first meeting with the three suspects.


BETH HOLLOWAY TWITTY, MOTHER OF NATALEE HOLLOWAY: Really didn`t speak with all three of the suspects. Only one of the suspects approached the vehicle that I was seated in and what was given to me from him was a very condescending, arrogant, and very cold and almost somewhat powerful attitude.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now despite road blocks early on, she never wavered, even lending her newfound celebrity to advocate for other missing persons` cases.

Vinnie, how did Beth, herself, how change relatives of victims can use the media to become champions and even activists determined to solve crimes?

VINNIE POLITAN, FORMER PROSECUTOR/RADIO HOST: Yes, you used the right word there: use the media. You know, we in the media, we`re out here to get the story, to talk to people, to find things out. And there`s this -- I guess relationship between victims and the media that sometimes, at least in the past, victims would stay away from the media, like they were the enemy.

She understood how to use the media to keep the story alive, because if that story`s alive, the search continues. The pressure stays on. And that`s exactly what happened here. And as a result of her keeping the pressure on, Joran Van Der Sloot, the prime suspect in all of this, has been pushed into the spotlight, remains in the spotlight, and he himself now has made certain alleged admissions as a result of what she`s done.

So she was able to not be a victim of the media, but able to sort of control and use the media to her advantage, which was to keep the story alive, to keep the search alive.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely. But Julia Renfro, you`re in Aruba. You`re a journalist. We also want to get Aruba perspective. You can`t be in the spotlight this much and not face some controversy and criticism.

JULIA RENFRO, "ARUBA TODAY": Yes, that`s absolutely true. And like you said, this is the perfect storm: the perfect girl and the perfect island. Aruba is renowned for having the friendliest person in the world, as well as being one of the safest islands in the Caribbean. So that`s one reasons that the media took of on this so quickly because how could this happen in Aruba?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Beth did suffer some criticism by the Arubans, did she not, Julia?

RENFRO: Yes. But that started when -- actually, in July after the two Kalpoe brothers were released. She went on television, and she asked - - or she told the world that Aruba allowed criminals to walk amongst the tourists. And this was very upsetting for us, because that`s not what happened.

We understand with her. We empathize with her. But in the same time, the justice system, we believe in the justice system as you do, as in the American system, and there wasn`t enough evidence to hold these boys.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, Dr. Archer, we can never judge a mother who has lost a child. I mean, we have not, thankfully, walked in her footsteps.

DR. DALE ARCHER, CLINICAL PSYCHIATRIST: Right. Yes, you can`t judge. But what I will say is that when I counsel my patients in cases like this is you have to take the pain, the hurt, the suffering and the anger. And you have to focus that on something positive.

And in her case, she focused everything that she had on trying to get to the bottom of what happened to her daughter. So I don`t think we can criticize her in any way, shape or form. She might have stepped over the line occasionally, but she was doing it for the right reasons. She wanted answers, and she wanted to get the truth.

POLITAN: And the reason -- and the reason, Jane, she had to step over the line is because of the way the investigation went. Well, we don`t...


POLITAN: ... criticize the system of justice in Aruba. The investigation, that`s way up in criticism from day one. I mean, Joran Van Der Sloot is the man who was last seen with her. We`ve got her on videotape with her the night before. He says, "Oh, no, I dropped her off, and these two guys got him." And all of a sudden, the investigation shifts off of him and goes onto these other two guys who had absolutely nothing to do with it.


POLITAN: That`s where the ball was dropped here. And that`s why she was probably so upset. In fact, the system of the justice in Aruba, but the investigators, the way they bungled this case.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, what`s fascinating is how videotape actually boxed Joran into a corner, not to the point that he was officially charged, but at least to the point that a lot of people felt, well, they`d finally gotten the answer. A blood-curdling twist in the case came last year when Joran Van Der Sloot was caught on tape admitting he was with Natalee when she died and that he knew what happened to her body.

Let`s listen to exactly what Joran said happen that night, caught on undercover tape, shown on "20/20" February 4, 2008.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She`s just lying still?

JORAN VAN DER SLOOT, FORMER SUSPECT IN NATALEE HOLLOWAY CASE (through translator): Still. Still. She`s not doing anything.

He says, "What happened?"

I said, "I don`t know either, man."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you try to resuscitate her?

VAN DER SLOOT (through translator): Of course. I tried everything, man. I tried to shake her. I was shaking the bitch. I was like, "What`s wrong with you, man?" I almost wanted to cry. And (EXPLETIVE DELETED) what happened to me? I said to him, "This is impossible."

He took the body. He went far out, and he threw her over the side. And then he came back, and he docked us both there. And he came by my house for a bit.


VAN DER SLOOT (through translator): Yes. Then we talked for a bit and he says to me, "you know it`s all good. She`s going to be missing. They`re going to search. But they`re not going to know a thing."


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow! Truly chilling to hear. Of course, Joran later said he was just telling this guy what he wanted to hear. This hidden admission came three years after Natalee went missing.

DIMOND: You know, Jane...


DIMOND: You know, Jane, a wrote a book called "Be Careful Who You Love." It was about the Michael Jackson case, but it so relates to so many cases. We send our beautiful young girls out there to enjoy the world and find their place in it and look at the kind of people that they can attract.

I have to disagree with your reporter in Aruba. Aruba did let killers walk among the tourists. If it wasn`t Joran Van Der Sloot, in her mind because the justice system hasn`t proved it yet. There was somebody who killed that young girl. She did not just disappear into thin air.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Julia, I want to give you an opportunity to answer that.

RENFRO: OK. Well, and I understand what you`re saying. But actually, the Kalpoe brothers have been released of any suspicion and have been, based on -- according to the statements and videos that Joran has said, these two brothers have nothing to do with it. They`re innocent. And...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m not talking about brothers. I`m talking about Joran Van Der Sloot.

RENFRO: ... released, that`s who was released and that`s who she went on television. And she asked the world to stop coming to Aruba.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, here`s the thing, we`re going to get to -- we`re going to get to the boycott issue in just a moment. I think it`s fascinating.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Obviously, there were problems with the way this investigation was handled. I think the people of Aruba didn`t want to be tarnished with a broad brush. Pointing out, for example, the JonBenet Ramsey case was never solved, and yet, nobody was calling for a boycott in Denver.

We will get to these issues again momentarily. Stay right there. More on the Hollywood mystery in just moments. I will examine an abduction with an incredible ending, a great ending: 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart snatched from her bedroom. Nine months later she was miraculously returned safely to her parents.

But first, Natalee Holloway`s mom has worked hard to keep her daughter`s disappearance in the media spotlight. Here she is venting her frustration in 2005 when suspects in the case were freed.


TWITTY: So the suspects who took my daughter from Carlos and Charlie`s on the last night of her senior trip, who were the last to be seen with her alive, and who all heard at least a dozen different versions of what they did with her, and who admitted to committing or witnessing sexual assaults against her while she was unable to defend herself, are now free.




TWITTY: When I hear Joran talking about her like that, my gosh, he just -- first you want to come through the TV and I want to kill him, and I mean peel his skin off of his face. And I think of the utter disregard he had for Natalee. And look at what he`s done -- from his friends. Look at what he`s done to a country. Look at what he`s done to everyone.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That was Natalee Holloway`s mother, Beth Holloway Twitty, on "NANCY GRACE," describing how she feels about Joran Van Der Sloot.

I am back with my fantastic panel, discussing how Natalee Holloway`s disappearance changed America forever.

Julia, you are on the phone with us from Aruba. How has the Holloway case changed the island of Aruba and the attitudes of Arubans?

RENFRO: Well, this was very, very painful for every Aruban, for the - - for the main part is the whole island was being accused of harming this young, beautiful girl. And that`s just not what happened. And, so, yes, there`s people that are still upset with the situation.

But in the same time, everybody wants it resolved. And everybody here wants to help solve this case, but we just don`t know what to do.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, and we want to talk a little bit about why there was no charge against Joran Van Der Sloot, even after that tape we heard just a few minutes ago, where he seems to admit that he held a lifeless Natalee in his arms.

But I think a key part of Natalee Holloway`s disappearance was that it was a prime example of the world as a global village. Authorities from Aruba, the Netherlands and the United States had to work in tandem.

Natalee`s parents and American viewers had to navigate, confusing American laws. That is, confusing to Americans. They were confused when suspects were held for months but never charged. Cultural differences reared their heads, and an American boycott of Aruba was also endorse for a time.

Let`s listen to what the Alabama governor, Riley, had to say about that.


GOV. BOB RILEY (R), ALABAMA: Natalee`s family believes, and I agree that we`ve reached the point where there are no other viable options to get Aruban officials to take this matter as seriously as they should. So today, Beth and Jug are here to endorse a travel boycott to Aruba, and as governor, I am joining them in this effort.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Her parents even attempted to file civil suits against the suspects in New York and Los Angeles.

Dale Archer, as a psychiatrist, weigh in on this. Many Americans didn`t realize Arubans were also watching American TV. So this case has had a huge -- a lot of turmoil. It`s created tensions between America, the Netherlands, and Aruba. And how much of this is about cultural differences? About how Americans do things versus how, maybe, things are done on an island where the primary source of income is tourism?

ARCHER: Yes, I think there`s no doubt things are done differently, but I think that`s what`s concerning here is -- for most Americans is the fact that you know where there`s smoke there`s fire, and there was so much that Joran said throughout the course of the last two or three years that it`s hard for an American to believe that at least there couldn`t be a trial here. You know...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Right, exactly.

ARCHER: ... there may not be enough evidence to convict him, but why not a trial? I think that`s what we all have a hard time understanding.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Vinnie, especially after we see that video of him, apparently, saying -- it`s a confession, according to what we see. Of course, his attorney says it`s not a confession, and he was just telling this guy what he wanted to hear because he was smoking pot.

DIMOND (ph): Oh what else was he going to say?


POLITAN: So here is the thing, I was a prosecutor. Is this going to be enough evidence? All right, you`ve got the last person seen with Natalee Holloway admits it all, lies immediately to police, lies again. And then when he doesn`t know he`s being recorded, admits the whole thing. That`s enough, from my perspective, to take that thing into court and try it.

Yes, it`s a circumstantial case, but there are some big circumstances there. Maybe more circumstances than to convict a guy like Scott Peterson.

DIMOND: Jane, that`s exactly right, and Dr. Dale is exactly right, too. So many people they I have talked to while covering this case and especially being down in Alabama with Jug and introducing him and others, it was -- isn`t there enough to take this to trial?

Joran Van Der Sloot, in part of that video that you see where he`s talking to the friend in the car, says, "I`m so incredibly lucky that they never found her body."


DIMOND: What more do you need?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s bring in this other aspect. Joran Van Der Sloot started to weave a web of lies the night that Natalee Holloway went missing. First he told cops he and the Kalpoes left the Holiday Inn and then that changed.

Let`s listen to what he told a "Current Affair" producer on September 26, 2005.


VAN DER SLOOT: I told her I had to go home. I had school the next day. And I thought maybe she`d understand. She told me no she wanted me to stay there with her because the next day she was leaving. And she wanted to stay there the whole night. I told her, no, I had to go. I even -- I even lifted her back up to carry her to her hotel. And she told me to put her down. I left her there. I sat down next to her and talked to her for a while. And I called Deepak to ask him if he could come pick me up, which Deepak didn`t do. But...


VAN DER SLOOT: She wasn`t angry. If anything, she was probably more upset that I -- that I -- that I was leaving her there. And I don`t know what reaction she had. I don`t know.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: But Dale Archer, the reason why the Aruban court said they couldn`t prosecute him is that he made up so many lies even within that story that many things that he said couldn`t be verified or verified as untrue. Therefore, his so-called confession didn`t count either.

ARCHER: Well, you know, pathological liar is absolutely the toughest individual to deal with as a psychiatrist. Because you can`t take anything they say at face value. And you can`t, you know, fill in their personality. You don`t know what`s real and what`s not.

I would have to think it would be the same as a prosecutor trying to prosecute the case. But on the other hand, I mean, you`ve got to at least try it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. All right, more on the Holloway case in just moments. I will analyze.

Also the amazing story of Elizabeth Smart, missing for nine long months. Elizabeth safely returned. The family and the media worked together. I will show you how.

Plus, the Adam Walsh case. Unbelievable.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`re back talking about the case of Natalee Holloway, a mysterious international disappearance that changed America and the world.

Joining me now is a very special guest, John Q. Kelly, the attorney for Natalee`s parents, Dave Holloway and Beth Holloway Twitty.

John, thanks for joining us.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Natalee`s parents have suffered the greatest loss any human being can face: losing a child, having no closure, no answers. Do they find solace in the fact that this case has changed the world?

KELLY: I don`t think, so really. I mean, you just can`t ease that pain at all, and the most difficult part is knowing that someone knows exactly what happened to their daughter and they can`t get the answer. And you know, they`ve done a terrific job of, you know, using the media, never seeing their search in what happened in Natalee.

But, you know, the pain is still there. And it`s always there. And as a parent, you feel that you can never do enough to get the answers you need or the closure, and they can`t get it yet.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What about the role of videotape in this case and how videotape is being increasingly used in cases like this? We all saw the apparent confession of Joran.

Of course, he and his attorneys say that is not a confession. He was just lying to please his friend. Nevertheless, the Aruban courts did not use that to prosecute him. Is that something that really irks the Holloway family?

KELLY: Well, of course it does. And the problem is Aruba`s taken the position that, you know, Joran Van Der Sloot has told so many lies that you can`t rely on one of them to serve as a confession.

But the flip side of that, more importantly, is he was clearly the last person with her. He`s fabricated at least a half dozen stories of what happened to her. She`s never been seen again since being in his presence. So the fact that the circumstantial evidence indicates that he was the last one with her, he, you know, deliberately fabricated stories about what happened to her. She`s never been found should be enough, alone, to prosecute him.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I was struck by something you said a long time ago, that adults sometimes plan for years to pull off the perfect crime, smart adults, and they`re quickly caught. And yet, it seems here with absolutely no preparation, a perfect crime was sort of pulled off.

KELLY: Well, I don`t think it was done by he alone. I think he had help. I think he had adults that helped him along, that enabled him to get away with this, which is unfortunate. And you know, it`s interesting. I think one or more of your panelists before talked about maybe back crossing the line, but I think when you are a parent and you need answers to your child`s whereabouts, and you know that someone has them and you can`t get them, it`s -- it`s hard to even go on then.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: How has Beth Holloway Twitty worked to change how people, especially Americans, American kids behave when they go abroad? The preparations they make, the coordination between parent and child. This has become her life work, I understand?

KELLY: Well, sure. Her save travel program, and she did does a lot of lecturing on it and writing and speaking and appearances.

And the bottom line is that there a lot of wonderful places your children can go within this country. You don`t want to be caught in a foreign jurisdiction where you can`t seek help, that no one will listen to your pleas, and they really don`t care about whether they`re solve your problems when they want to tend to their own instead. So she really drew the spotlight on the dangers facing children going away to foreign countries.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: John, thank you so very much for joining us.

KELLY: Sure.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Elizabeth Smart`s story gives hope to all parents whose children are missing, snatched from her bedroom. Elizabeth was miraculously reunited with her family. I will show you this incredible story and how it changed America, next.



I`ll examine high-profile abductions that forever altered America`s justice system.

Nine months after being snatched from her bedroom at the age of 14, Elizabeth Smart was rescued and reunited with her family. This incredible case shows what happens when family, law enforcement, and the media work together and it gives hope to all parents with missing children.

Plus, I`ll examine the groundbreaking case of Adam Walsh, the little boy who was tragically killed in 1981. But Adam`s courageous father turned his personal nightmare into a national inspiration. Walsh started "America`s Most Wanted" and helped pass numerous laws that continue to save kids to this day.

The case of Elizabeth Smart broke new ground in the world of crime and justice. It shattered our collective expectation that missing children never come home. It was against all odds that Elizabeth did just that. She came home.

In the wee hours of June 4th, 2002 an intruder snatched 14-year-old Elizabeth from the bedroom that she shared with her younger sister in the family`s upscale Salt Lake City home. Almost immediately, Elizabeth`s parents, Ed and Lois, took to the airwaves, pleading for their daughter`s return.




E. SMART: We want you to come home.

L. SMART: Be strong.

E. SMART: We want you to come home. And we ask that everyone pray for her. We pray that -- that the perpetrator of this will soften his heart. And realize what he has done. Please, please let her go.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: What hell. Her family held out hope over nine agonizing month, they searched, they prayed. They kept Elizabeth`s story in the media spotlight. In fact, it was the media that helped find her when cops were at a dead end.

We were shocked when she was found alive. And in the company of two drifters who were holding her just 15 miles from her home. It was by any definition a miracle.

Let`s get right to my fantastic panel. I am delighted to have with me now Elizabeth Smart`s courageous father, Ed Smart. Thanks for joining us.

E. SMART: You bet.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And on the phone, Pat Reavy from the Deseret Mountain News who has been covering this story from the beginning. Also back, Dr. Dale Archer, clinical psychologist, Diane Dimond, journalist and syndicated columnist and Vinnie Politan, former prosecutor and host of Sirius XM Radio.

Pat, we are both from the media. So often people blame the media for exploiting a story and interfering with the investigation but in this case wasn`t it the media, specifically "America`s Most Wanted" that helped find her when police really had nothing?

PAT REAVY, DESERRET MOUNTAIN NEWS: Well, really that`s the case, and I think there were a couple of key turning points in all of this. The first one being, Mary Katherine and the miraculous memory she had in coming up with the mysterious roofer who was working on the Smart`s home. That person obviously became Brian David Mitchell after he was identified.

Once that photo, that sketch, got on to "America`s Most Wanted" that really did open the floodgates for information leading to the arrest.

But I have to say, also a lot of credit goes to the Smart family because they were the ones who, really, never gave up and continued to hold those press conferences month after month, week after week. For nine months, they never gave up hope and if they hadn`t kept her so alive and so in the news, I don`t think she would have been found.


As we just mentioned, the media played a critical role in bringing Elizabeth home. In fact it was the show "America`s Most Wanted" that picked up the ball and ran with it when cops seemed to turn a deaf ear on crucial information coming from Elizabeth`s 9-year-old sister, Mary Katherine who was in the room and saw the abductor.

Cops were convinced they had their guy, the Smart`s handyman, and they were wrong. That man tragically passed away in jail. Now in desperation, dad, Ed Smart, went to John Walsh of "America`s Most Wanted" to ask for his help. In 2003, AMW showed sketches of the new possible suspect who would turn out to be Brian David Mitchell.

And when members of Mitchell`s family saw his likeness on "America`s Most Wanted" they went to the phones and dropped the dime. Ed, from this moment on, authorities began listening to kids. That`s how this changed America.

You know, why did they not listen to what your 9-year-old daughter had to say when she had this epiphany and came in to you and said, "Dad I think I know who took Elizabeth."

E. SMART: Well, I think one of the problems that you find is that the police can become so focused on one thing that they can`t see past it. So when Mary Katherine couldn`t say that she absolutely knew that it was Brian Mitchell, she said, I think it is and so they kind of disallowed that and kept on focusing back on Richard Ricci.

So I think that was really the problem that they had tunnel vision and that they couldn`t see past that. I think things have changed drastically since then. I`ve just been thrilled to see how law enforcement is working together and the changes that have occurred.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Everybody, listen to this clip of Ed Smart, the man you just saw right there, the day after Elizabeth had miraculously been returned. Tell me if you don`t get goose bumps.


E. SMART: You know I don`t know why but I had the strangest feeling that I was going down there to try to identify Brian David Mitchell and not in my wildest dreams was I anticipating walking into that room and seeing Elizabeth.



Diane, this case changed America because it showed people they always need to keep hope alive.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Even if the statistics say the chance of a child being returned plummets with every passing hour. This case beat the odds.

DIMOND: Jane, you know how many of these cases have you and I covered? Just like Polly Klaas, Elizabeth was taken right out of her own home. This could -- it was a nightmare to all of us who watched it. But this case, I happen to be live on the air with your producer Emily Barch (ph) in my ear at Court TV telling me they just found Elizabeth Smart...


DIMOND: And my first reaction was Ed Smart`s reaction, oh no, it`s her body. Yes, oh, no, terrible. But -- and then we found out she was alive.

And this case, for me, forever changed my attitude on that. It changed all of America. Always, always have hope.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Vinnie, speaking of change to attitudes I think that it also changed the attitude that this can only happen in a certain type of home. This was a very upscale neighborhood.

In fact a former United States Senator was a neighbor of the Smart`s. And they had their doors locked. They did everything right. And yet this happened.

VINNIE POLITAN, FORMER PROSECUTOR: It can happen anywhere and we`ve seen it. Keeping hope alive that this girl might be alive was just amazing and Ed Smart, so brave to go out there and keep the story alive.

And you talk about the big picture here again Jane, the relationship between the victims in the case, the ones looking for that child, the police and the media. Here -- we -- I think what everyone understood after this case was, we all do want the same ending.


POLITAN: We want this ending.


POLITAN: We want this ending. But that`s not always clear because when you get out in the field, Diane, you`ve been there, Jane, you`ve been there. When you`re out on the field, the police and the media sometimes butt heads. Sometimes the victims and the media butt heads.

But here, everyone in the end, on the same page and I think that it made us all realize that we all do want the same happy ending.

DIMOND: And if we could figure out a way to all work together, like in this case, wouldn`t that be glorious to bring more children home.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, absolutely because this, unfortunately, happens all too often in America.

Four years after her harrowing ordeal, Elizabeth Smart appeared on "Nancy Grace." In this clip, Nancy asks her about when she could hear searchers calling out her name literally.


NANCY GRACE, ANCHOR, "NANCY GRACE SHOW": At that moment when you knew people were looking for you, your parents were there, they were trying to find you, how did that make you feel?

ELIZABETH SMART, SURVIVED KIDNAPPING: You know, I didn`t know how big it was and it was -- it was good to know people were looking for me. But I -- I felt so far away. I just -- it didn`t really connect at that time.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ed, your daughter went from victim to hero to activist. How is she using this trauma today to make world a better place?

E. SMART: Well, you know, she`s helped -- helped me, along with many others, who have pushed for the Adam Walsh Act, which you know, still has not been fully funded. We did get some funding this year but it`s very minimal.

And the marshals need help. We need the appropriators of America to stand up and put the money where this authorization was supposed to be. And we really need everyone`s help to make it clear to our government that when we pass laws, we want them to be funded.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know I also find that this case sort of changed America because it seemed that in the good old days, you could reach out and provide a helping hand to someone.

Ed, you and your wife were just good people who when somebody was down on their luck, sometimes gave them a little job. Raking leaves. Give them a leg up so they can get back on their feet and apparently this particular perpetrator who took your daughter had worked for a couple of hours raking leaves at your house.

Dr. Dale Archer, those were the good old days, when we thought hey, we can help people. And sadly I think now, we`re all too suspicious to give anyone a helping hand, less they turn out to be a nut job like this guy.

DR. DALE ARCHER, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, I mean, I think life is all about decisions. And you basically just have to be aware that there are these types of people in the world.

So it doesn`t mean that we can`t help people. It doesn`t mean that we can`t still be giving. But we just have to be very cautious and careful.


Ed, thank you so much for coming on and talking about your daughter and Pat, thanks. Everybody else, sit tight.

6-year-old Adam Walsh kidnapped and brutally murdered in 1981. But his death revolutionized the way we search for missing kids.

Here is dad, John Walsh, describing his valiant efforts to use his personal tragedy to help other missing children.


JOHN WALSH, ADAM WALSH`S FATHER: We changed the way we do business and look for missing children after Adam and police all over the world have. So, you know Reve and I tried very hard to make sure that Adam didn`t die in vain. Today, this is a reaffirmation of the fact that he didn`t die in vain, that beautiful little boy.



WALSH: For 27 years we`ve been asking, who could take a 6-year-old boy and murder him and decapitate him? Who? We needed to know. We needed to know. And today we know.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: In July 1981 6-year-old Adam Walsh was kidnapped at a Sears Department Store in a Florida mall. His decapitated head was found in a canal 120 miles away, two weeks later. His body was never recovered.

It was one of America`s most infamous abduction murder cases and it galvanized Adam`s parents, John and Reve Walsh to turn their indescribable grief into action. They co-founded the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. More than 132,000 children have been recovered as a result.

John Walsh went on to host "America`s Most Wanted." That show has led to the capture of more than a thousand fugitives, including the abductor of Elizabeth Smart. John Walsh was also instrumental in the passage of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act.

Adam`s murder radically changed the way law enforcement looks for missing children. It also changed how we, as a society, watch out for our kids. Clearly, this poor boy`s hideous death has been turned into a force for good thanks to the unwavering efforts of his parents.

Back with me: Dr. Dale Archer, clinical psychologist; Vinnie Politan, former prosecutor and host for Sirius XM; Diane Dimond, journalist and author of "Be Careful Who You Love;" and joining us is Erin Runnion, an activist for children whose own beautiful daughter Samantha was brutally murdered. Erin, thank you for joining us today.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: When the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act was signed into law, your slain daughter Samantha was named as part of that act. How has the Walsh family helped you through your personal nightmare?

RUNNION: John and Reve have been an inspiration. I mean, when Samantha was taken in July 2002, I really looked to them and to Marc Klaas` as examples of what you can do to transform a truly senseless tragedy into something that`s meaningful and for the better meant of all of our children and families.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow, giving it some meaning. That is powerful, powerful stuff but it takes a lot of courage. And I applaud you for having -- having the courage to make that journey.

Listen to John Walsh as he talked about how the landscape has changed since his son`s death.


WALSH: I always tell people, don`t give up. Don`t lose hope. We`ll still continue. There`s so much to be done.

I think the most positive thing that the Hollywood police collectively said to Reve and I were, we changed the way we do business and look for missing children after Adam. And police all over the world have.

So Reve and I tried very hard to make sure Adam didn`t die in vain. Today, this is a reaffirmation of the fact that he didn`t die in vain, that beautiful little boy.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: The hell they have been through.

To show how long the Walsh family has had to endure agony. Boy was abducted and killed in 1981. What you`re looking at there was just in December of 2008 that police finally announced their conclusion that serial killer Otis Toole who died in prison was indeed the killer of Adam Walsh.

Vinnie, what were some of the missteps that police made in this case that have changed America because they don`t do it that way. They do it very differently today.

VINNIE POLITAN, SIRIUS XM RADIO HOST: Well, things are a lot different; the way that we look for children, the way that we, you know, focus on the first few hours. In this case, there was even evidence that was lost. And remember this is pre-DNA. Now we take for granted things like DNA evidence that can be left behind like that piece of bloody carpet that police lost in this case that could have helped solve this thing.

So all evidence like that now is -- in crime scenes are handled much differently. And the investigations are much better and we`ve gotten better at it.

And you know, watching John Walsh there in that press conference, you know, it`s heartbreaking for him that he lost his son and he still deals with that you. But he`s able to dig down and say, you know what -- and it`s 100 percent true -- that it`s a whole different world now when a child goes missing than it was back in 1981.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Still when you look at that precious child it just totally -- it`s heart wrenching.

Diane Dimond, I think one of the ways that it really changed is back in the old days in the `80s when your child went missing that police would say, oh you know he`s probably run away, or he`s gotten lost.

DIANE DIMOND, AUTHOR: Over at a friend`s house.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, exactly they don`t do that anymore.

DIMOND: No, look, like Vinnie says, these days it`s an alert. Have amber alerts and Megan alerts and all sorts -- on my website I have a scrolling state by state alert of all the missing children. You`d be amazed how many there are.

Back then, they lost the car in which they think this young boy died. How do you lose a car? How did the police misplace a car? I think back then, they tracked stolen cars better than they tracked stolen children.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, Adam Walsh...

DIMOND: It`s really different now.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me get into this because this is fascinating. Adam Walsh`s family obviously suffered more than we could ever imagine but they`ve changed the way America deals with missing children.

Listen to this.


REVE WALSH, JOHN WALSH`S WIFE: I think that in our 27 years around the country doing what we do that we have educated law enforcement. And I think they are more sensitive to the needs of the missing children and their families. So it may have taken us 27 years to build this up, but it`s here today and I`m grateful for it.

And I don`t look back. It`s a great day for children. It`s a great day for my family. It`s a great day for me. Thank you so much for being here.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, obviously passed into law in 2006, a major advance. But Erin, we`re just hearing now from Ed Smart that it`s not being funded.

RUNNION: No, it`s not.


RUNNION: Yes, I know and it is still not -- it has still not been funded. And the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Registry, there`s still not a single state that is in full compliance with the National Sex Offender Registry so we`re still doing a really poor job in following and tracking sex offenders.

We have over 100,000 sex offenders in this country that we have lost track of. And so I would strongly encourage viewers to contact their legislators and make sure that their states are in compliance; that they`re working towards in being in compliance.

I have to say regarding Adam Walsh, when he was taken over -- well, now it`s almost 28 years ago, when he was taken, the recovery rate of abducted children in America was about 62 percent. And today it is well over 90 percent.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We will be back.

RUNNION: And I think that speaks volumes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you, Erin.

We`ll be back with more of your observations and this case in just moments.



J. WALSH: The not knowing has been a torture, but that journey`s over.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: There were blunders and missteps in the Adam Walsh murder case, but these mistakes ultimately helped law enforcement get better at dealing with missing children cases.

I am back with my panel. Dr. Dale archer, as a clinical psychologist, it`s very important to keep these people behind bars. The Adam Walsh Act increases the mandatory prison terms for child predators because, isn`t it almost impossible to rehabilitate a child predator?

DR. DALE ARCHER, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: It`s extremely difficult. There`s no doubt about it. And I think that, you know -- I think the educational factor here is what`s most important; basically, educating the public that there are predators out there among us. They may look like just regular everyday people, but they can be deadly. So protect your children.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, it just freaks me out, Vinnie Politan, when I read these statistics, 600,000 registered sex offenders in the United States and 150,000 of them are lost. They just failed to register and fall off, they`re missing and roaming unchallenged and unchecked?

POLITAN: Yes, it`s unbelievable the large numbers. I think one thing we can do though in taking a look at that is take a closer look and not - I know they try to break them down into different tiers.

But I think if we take a close are look at those 600,000 and focus our energy on those who are the most dangerous. Those who are most likely to go after our children I think we`d be more efficient. But bottom line is we have technology now, we have ways with GPS and other ways to keep track of these folks. Make it a condition of their release.

ARCHER: But we do. We do focus on that. There is Class-1, Class-2, Class-3; so we do have categories on these offenders to be able to track the worst of the worst.

DIMOND: But part of the people on these lists sometimes are teenagers, 18- year-old with a 16-year-old girl.

POLITAN: Exactly, Diane.

DIMOND: Those are not predators we`re talking about right now. We need to sort of clean up that registry.

You know, Jane, to me the thing that really makes the biggest difference in this Adam Walsh Act that President Bush signed into law in 2006, too bad they had to wait 27 years for it was...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And too bad it`s not being funded.

DIMOND: Exactly -- was the fact that if got rid of the statute of limitations. So whenever they hurt a child, even if it was 10, 15, 20 years ago it still counts.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, I want to thank my fabulous panel. And I hope and pray that one day we evolve as a species beyond any of this. That this is something that`s part of history that we look at aghast and say, "How could this have ever happened?"

I am Jane Velez-Mitchell and you are watching this ISSUES SPECIAL PRESENTATION.