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Missing Mom, 4-Year-Old and Sex Offender Seen on Wal-Mart Tape

Aired June 15, 2009 - 20:00:00   ET


JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, GUEST HOST: Tonight, breaking news. Live to Ohio. Is there a break in the case of missing 4-year-old Haylee Donathan? Investigators believe they have surveillance video showing what appears to be little Haylee, who has been missing since May 28th. Authorities believe little Haylee is with her mom, Candace Watson, and registered sex offender Robbi Potter, the man who escaped from a halfway house. The video, recorded at a Wal-Mart in Marion, Ohio, shows Watson inside the store, Potter outside, and what appears to be a child in the couple`s pickup truck.

Also tonight, authorities offer a reward for information leading to the arrest of fugitive Robbi Potter. Tonight, where is Haylee Donathan, who may be in extreme danger?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: U.S. Marshals released this surveillance video. That is Candace in the white shorts and shirt walking in alone, an orange tent in her hand. She returns the tent and looks around a bit, then goes to the bathroom before emerging wearing a black pair of shorts. Candace leaves the store and goes to a waiting truck. That`s when we see Robbi Potter in the driver`s seat. They trade places and he walks to the passenger side of the vehicle. Look closely now because it is at that moment that we see a child that U.S. Marshals believe could be Haylee Donathan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s just so hard for me to believe that she would leave her in the truck. I just don`t understand it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The hope is that this video, paired with a $10,000 reward, will bring Haylee home.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Also tonight, a beautiful 24-year-old Los Angeles mom takes her 18-month-old baby girl, Emma, to a local park, then is suddenly attacked from behind. Hours later, Stacey Barker comes to, her clothes ripped and torn. But her baby girl, Emma, is gone. Emma`s lifeless body is later found discarded like trash, thrown away in high grass off the Golden State Freeway.

Did the mother stage a fake beating and a sex attack to cover up the murder of her own baby girl? It`s outrageous! Police say she changed her story several times. And it was her own family, not her, who called 911. The mom pleads not guilty. But why isn`t she being charged with murder one?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She first told investigators someone hit her in the head and stole her child. Investigators say she changed her tune and said baby Emma died in an accident.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stacey Barker -- she`s a 24-year-old mom. She`s at a park in Lancaster, California. She`s just putting her little 18- month-old daughter, Emma, into a carseat when she says a guy comes up behind her, knocks her on the head, knocks her out. About five hours later, 10:30 at night, she says she wakes up, she`s in a park-and-ride lot several miles away. The little girl is nowhere to be found.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The body of 18-month-old Emma Barker was found dumped in a grassy lot near the Golden State Freeway. Police believe the baby girl was smothered.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`re going to see bruising on the mouth and on the nose, and you`re going to see characteristic red splotches in the eyes. If someone is accidentally suffocated, you don`t see these signs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This case is a tragedy. A beautiful 18-month- old girl is dead.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Good evening, I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell, sitting in for Nancy Grace. Thank you so much for being with us tonight. There is a break in the case of missing 4-year-old Haley Donathan. Investigators believe they have surveillance video that shows the missing toddler.

Lots of new developments tonight, and straight out to Matt Bruning, reporter for Newstalk 610 WTVN. Matt, what is the very latest?

MATT BRUNING, NEWSTALK 610 WTVN (via telephone): Well, the latest we know now is that we have this surveillance video, actually, from two different Wal-Mart stores, one in Ontario, which is just west of Mansfield. That was shot on May 29, but Haylee did not appear in that video. But a couple of days later, another Wal-Mart surveillance video appears. It was May 31st from Marion, which is about 40 miles to the west of Mansfield. And it does show Haylee for a brief moment in a truck out in the parking lot, along with her mother, Candace, and Robbi Potter, that sex offender. They were all in the truck together.

The video also shows Candace going into the Wal-Mart store there in Marion, buying a couple items or looking at a couple of items, and then maybe even shoplifting a couple of items, police think, because she went into a bathroom and when she came out, she was wearing some different clothes. but one of the most important clues is that we now have more details on the pickup truck that these three are in. We`re now also getting a new license plate number, DNS-9729 (SIC). It`s a blue 1998 Chevy pickup truck, again, Ohio license plate DNS-9729.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, now, we are very delighted to have with us the assistant chief deputy U.S. Marshall for the northern Ohio violent fugitive task force, doing a great job trying to track down this trio, one very innocent member and one a convicted sex offender and one a mom with very, very bad judgment, to say the very least.

Drew Deserto, tell us what you were doing, and tell us about the new reward that`s being offered.

DREW DESERTO, ASST. CHIEF DEP. U.S. MARSHAL: Well, thank you for having us on, Jane. We really appreciate all your assistance in getting the word out there. And yes, I want to clarify first, that plate on that truck is "E" as in echo, ENS-9729. We`ve actually just confirmed that in the last couple hours, so I definitely want to update you on that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let me just say this. Here`s my problem with this video. It`s fantastic video, but we`re now in the middle of June and this was taken toward the end Of may. And so in those 15 days or so, they could have gone anywhere. We`ve heard reports they`re going to go to Arizona. They might be headed to Colorado.

How do you -- it`s like searching for a needle in a haystack. Yes, you`ve got this vehicle, but how does this video help you, given the fact that so much time has passed?

DESERTO: Well you`re absolutely right. There`s a large search going on, and there`s pretty much a possibility of them being anywhere at this point. We`re following up leads in many states. The good thing about this video is that we can confirm, at least, on May 31st that Haylee was with them. We believe that is Haylee. So at this point in time, we believe she`s still with them, and our search is still on.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, we have also with us a very, very special guest, Mary Watson, the grandmother of the adorable child that you`re seeing on your screen right now, Haylee Donathan, and also Candace`s mother. Mary, thank you for joining us. I know this has to be so tough for you right now. What are you going through in terms of the emotions that you`re grappling with? It`s got to be very, very confusing and complex.

MARY WATSON, GRANDMOTHER: I`ve been very upset. I`ve been crying. I`ve been having mixed feelings. I`m just hoping that they`re OK out there. And I know that the U.S. Marshals are doing their job as best as they can, and hopefully, they`ll be found real soon.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, I have to say that what makes this case so tough is that authorities believe that your daughter went willingly with her daughter, with this guy who`s got a record, who broke out of a halfway house. What can you tell us about why your daughter would make that decision, if you believe that that`s really what she decided to do, to take off with this dangerous guy, knowing perhaps his history? I understand that she -- your daughter -- and listen, I`m a recovering alcoholic with 14 years of sobriety -- that your daughter had suffered from an addiction. Will you tell us about that and how that might have contributed to her confusion about this situation?

WATSON: She -- she never was an alcoholic.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wasn`t -- didn`t she have an addiction, though? Didn`t she have some drug problems?

WATSON: She was on crystal meth at one time. She`s been doing real well. She was planning on going to school. She never knew at the beginning what this man was about. When she had called home, she had finally found out what he`s about. I don`t know if he`s keeping her and Haylee captive or what. I just hope somebody finds out something soon.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Leslie Austin, you`re the psychotherapist. The reason I mention addiction is that even if she wasn`t using at this moment in time, this is certainly not being emotionally sober. And if you were a recovering addict and you go on some kind of a spree like this, you know, obviously, you`re in danger of slipping once -- if you do slip, God only knows what`s going to happen to this child. I mean, this is a recipe for disaster here.

LESLIE AUSTIN, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: Well, there`s an emotional underpinning to addiction that may be playing here, even if she`s not doing any kind of drugs or alcohol at all, and that is bad impulse control and doing something in the present moment and not being able to plan forward, and sometimes poor boundaries, as well. So it may be some old emotional issues are getting challenged by her wanting to be in a relationship with this guy.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. We`ve got some phone calls lighting up. And Rhode Island, your question or thought, ma`am?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Jane. How are you?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Fine, thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good. Jane, question for you on the case. It`s very disturbing. My question is, if they can look at her and see her on video in Ohio, does she have an untraceable cell phone that they`re having trouble tracking, or does she have -- is there any cell phone involved?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, wow. Well, we have Marc Klaas, president and founder of the Klaas Kids Foundation, who has really tracked so many of these hunts for missing children. Marc, what is the cell phone situation? How would that help find them?

MARC KLAAS, KLAAS KIDS FOUNDATION: I really don`t know the cell phone situation. But if she has one or if he has one and they know the phone number, then they will be able to ping those phones if and when they use them.

I think the good news, though, Jane, is that they do have a vehicle description, a very detailed one. They know the license plate they`re looking for. And they know, as of the 31st, that the little girl was still alive. So you know, this is a huge organized force, the U.S. Marshals. And if they`re on the case, I have no doubt that they`re going to break it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let`s bring in the attorneys, and starting with Eleanor Dixon, prosecutor. If they`re naive enough to go into a Wal-Mart, where there are surveillance cameras and traipse around there and walk in and walk out, they might be naive enough to hang onto their cell phones, which would mean that we would have pings to follow them with.

ELEANOR DIXON, PROSECUTOR: Exactly. That`s the best way to discover somebody`s whereabouts. And even if you don`t know their numbers, you may know friends they regularly call, so get the friend`s cell phone records and see what numbers are showing up. So you can kind of do it in the back door that way, Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Peter Odom, defense attorney, everybody`s wondering about this mother, if she`s found, what she could be prosecuted for. And remember that you have the father of this little child who was arrested for allegedly abetting the escape of this guy, too, so that if they do charge this mother with a lot, she could essentially end up orphaned with neither the father nor the mother.

PETER ODOM, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Which would be tragic. I`ll tell you, Jane, what concerns me is that everyone is assuming that this mother is there voluntarily. What I`m seeing on this videotape is the mother in the store with someone outside in the car, apparently with the child. This mother could be an unwilling participant in this. I think it`s not -- I don`t think it`s wise to jump to the conclusion that she`s doing this voluntarily at this point.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, let`s go back to Drew Deserto, assistant chief deputy U.S. Marshal. I mean, what facts do you have to support the idea that she went willingly?

DESERTO: Well, at this point in time, we believe she went willingly. But like they said, we can`t say for sure one way or the other. But what`s important is that this man is a danger, and we need to catch him and we need your help.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Another day and no Haylee. It`s just tearing me apart. I brought Haylee up here last year, and it`s just getting to me, wishing she was here with me again.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sex offenders, when they are in jail, they have notoriously poor relationships with others. They`re picked on. So when they escape or are released, they`re usually angrier and even more ready to offend than ever before. And that`s what puts this little girl at even greater risk.

NANCY GRACE, HOSE: What`s your reaction to learning your daughter has been spotted at a local Wal-Mart?

WATSON: Where`s my granddaughter?

GRACE: That`s my question, too.

WATSON: I want my granddaughter home.

GRACE: Why would your daughter leave the grandchild, your grandchild, little Haylee, with a man she`d just met at a gas station?

WATSON: I don`t know, but I want to know. And I want my granddaughter. She`s got to be found.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ohio investigators have turned up some surveillance footage they say shows a missing 4-year-old girl. Police say the video shot at a Wal-Mart -- there it is, that`s in Marion, Ohio -- shows Haylee Donathan`s mother inside the store -- there it is highlighted -- then outside in the parking lot. Investigators say Candace Watson gets into a pickup truck with Robbi Potter, a registered sex offender who escaped from a nearby halfway house. And if you look close, police say you can also see a child in the truck. The girl has been missing since the end of May. Police believe she is with her mother and Potter. A $10,000 reward is being offered for any information leading to Potter`s arrest.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell, sitting in for Nancy Grace. Where is missing toddler Haylee Donathan, believed to have been taken on a very twisted journey with her mom and her mom`s sex offender boyfriend, who escaped from a halfway house? Now they could be halfway across the country in a dark blue pickup truck. And a big question -- how are they surviving? In fact, there are so many questions.

Phone lines lighting up. Pat in New York, your question or thought, ma`am?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: First of all, I don`t believe she`s taken against her will. That`s number one. And she was -- she could have, when she was in the store, spoke to someone, called the cops or something. My question is, what are the good chances of this daughter -- when they -- when they are found, that this little girl will be taken away from her definitely?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Alex Sanchez, defense attorney.

ALEX SANCHEZ, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, you know, I keep hearing everybody refer to her as missing. You know, how is this child is missing? One of the privileges of being a parent and the right of being a parent is to take your child wherever you want to take that child. And as long as...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, with a sex offender?

SANCHEZ: ... you`re not violating any laws...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Give me a break!

SANCHEZ: Yes. And regarding...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: With a sex offender who`s a fugitive...

SANCHEZ: Yes, any...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... who broke out of a halfway house...

SANCHEZ: You know what?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... after serving three years...

SANCHEZ: That may...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... for sexual battery...

SANCHEZ: That may be poor...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... on two kids?

SANCHEZ: That may be poor judgment on her part, but it is not illegal for you to say, I want to hang out with a sex offender, even though my child is here. So I`m not sure if any crime has been committed by this woman at this point...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m not sure I agree with you.

SANCHEZ: ... which would justify the child being taken away.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Eleanor Dixon, this is something that`s just a mother`s choice?

DIXON: No! I`m telling you here, Alex, you`ve got it all wrong. She`s at least endangering her child. And he is not supposed to be around small children or any children under 18. He is a sex offender. He`s not out there saying, Hey, come get some candy, little girl, because he`s got Mom bringing the child right to him.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, Matt Zarrell, you`re the NANCY GRACE producer who`s been tracking this story since the very start. We`re trying to figure out a couple of things. There`s some controversy over whether she went willingly or not. The reports that we`ve heard up to this point is, yes, she left willingly. So how did these two meet? And why, if she went willingly, did she decide to do this, did you think?

MATTHEW ZARRELL, NANCY GRACE PRODUCER: Well, this all goes back to Cyle Watson. This is Candace Watson`s brother. Now, apparently, Cyle Watson and Potter were staying as residents at the halfway house. Potter wanted to escape. Now, Cyle Watson had a grudge against Potter, tried to set him up, tell him to leave, and figuring the cops would arrest him. Turns out what happens is, Potter goes next door, where Haylee`s father, James Donathan, is living in an apartment complex. Donathan thinks that Cyle Watson sent him over, gives Candace Watson a call, figuring that Watson is the one that can help him, and gets a ride from Watson.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, but why would Candace -- when did Candace first meet Robbi Potter?

ZARRELL: Our understanding is it was that day. It was literally that day she met him.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wait a second. So you just meet somebody and you take off with them and go on a ride when they`re a fugitive? I just don`t understand.

ZARRELL: Well, that`s what the family`s been telling us. There`s still been conflicting reports. We`re still trying to gather all the information.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, well, Mary Matson, let`s try to clarify this. Let`s try to break it down, OK? Your daughter is with her child, your grandchild, and this guy somewhere. What are the circumstances, do you believe, that led to her taking off with him?

WATSON: As far as I know, she had went and picked him up, was supposed to have dropped him off. I guess they got along. She started going out with him. She didn`t know what his background was. She didn`t know until that Sunday, when she had called my home and we had told her. And now I don`t know if he`s keeping ahold of her of what`s going on. I just don`t know, but I want to know.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And they decided to go camping? Because they went camping, and then they apparently they went back and returned the tent?

WATSON: As far as I know, they did. I`m, like, out in the blue, just like you are. And I know she didn`t know his background when she had first picked him up at all. And I don`t think she would have ever put her daughter, my granddaughter, in that kind of danger, if she would have knowed.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It just seems so odd that you would make that kind of a rash decision, not knowing somebody that well. I mean, I wouldn`t go on a trip with my best friend, really. I wouldn`t want to spend that much time with anybody going camping. You know, and suddenly, she meets this person and goes off with him on a whim. There`s something here that doesn`t seem to add up. Something seems, like, crazy, for lack of a better word. But we`re going to investigate it when we come right back.

Tonight, we mark the 25th anniversary of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. More than 135,000 kids have thanked this organization for bringing them home safely to their families. More missing children are found than ever before from their non-stop dedication to protect America`s tots. Congratulations on your anniversary. And let`s hope this little tot, this little Haylee, comes back OK, safe and sound.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... the search for little Haylee Donathan. Authorities believe that she`s with her mom and the mom`s sex offender boyfriend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: May 31st is the last sighting that we`ve had, based on that camera footage and according to the grandmother`s conversation with her daughter.

GRACE: Little Haylee Donathan tonight, according to police, in extreme danger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have an intensive manhunt going on right now for Mr. Potter. We`ve now offered a $10,000 cash reward for any information leading to his arrest.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell, sitting in for Nancy Grace. We are analyzing this amazing newly released video showing the mother going into a Wal-Mart, the mother we`re searching for, along with her child. She changes her clothes and then she walks out again.

Now, John Lucich, you`re an investigator. A lot of people are saying, Well, why didn`t she go for help? That means that she went of her own accord. But what if this guy was showing the child hostage, which it appears he was, in the vehicle outside? She might have been too scared to say anything.

JOHN LUCICH, FORMER INVESTIGATOR: ... tape, though. Look at the stride of this woman. When someone`s very, very nervous, they don`t walk that way. They don`t walk with purpose. They`re always thinking about what they`re going to do, how they can get help. She was very clear of what she wanted to do once she got there and was walking right out. There`s no doubt.

And those tapes tell us a lot of other information. You know, when you take a look at the first tape and the second tape, and then the fact that they were heading west, gives you a clear indication. So these tapes are telling us a lot more than just the fact that -- that -- where she was at a specific time, but where they might be going also.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Dr. Hua, you`re the medical examiner. This child, if she`s living out of the back of a pickup truck, just her physical safety might be in danger, not even to mention the fears of her possibly being sexually assaulted by this guy.

DR. ZHONGXUE HUA, UNION COUNTY, NJ, MEDICAL EXAMINER: Yes, absolutely. I mean, normal kids need to be feed and to be sleep proper. In this case, if you are simply stay inside a truck, I mean, it`s a big problem.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today U.S. Marshals released this surveillance video taken that day. That is Candace in the white shirts and short walking in alone. Candace leaves the store and goes to a waiting truck. That`s when we see Robbi Potter in the driver`s seat.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police in northern Ohio say a 4-year-old girl`s in danger traveling with her mom and mom`s sex offender boyfriend.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: U.S. marshals released this surveillance video taken this day. That is Candice in the white shorts and shirt walking in alone. An orange tent in her hand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This surveillance video is taken May 31st at a Wal-Mart in Marion, Ohio.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She returns the tent and looks around a bit. Then goes to the bathroom before emerging wearing a black pair of shorts. Candice leaves the store and goes to a waiting truck. That`s when we see Robbi Potter in the driver`s seat. They trade places and he walks to the passenger side of the vehicle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Apparently there`s a child in the pickup truck.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look closely now because it is at that moment that we see a child that U.S. marshals believe could be Haylee Donathan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She`s been missing now since May 28th. Police say mom took Haylee and is now on the run with this guy, Robbi Potter. This guy`s a level 3 sex offender, considered the most dangerous.

JAMES DONATHAN, MISSING GIRL HAYLEE`S UNCLE: I don`t know him personally, you know, but I found out -- a little bit about him the last couple days. Found out he`s a tier 3 sex offender. He`s known for messing with kids. It`s kind of hard to say what I think, you know, because honestly I know what I would do to him, you know. But, you know, anything could have already happened by now.


JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, GUEST HOST: I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell, sitting in for Nancy Grace.

Have you seen this trio? A nationwide manhunt on for this convicted sex offender and the mother, along with the child, a 4-year-old child in extreme danger at this hour.

Leslie Austin, I have to ask you, obviously, this guy that we`re searching for did three years for two counts of sexual battery on two children. There`s been various reports, 9 and 11 or 7 and 9, either way, he`s done time for sexual battery on kids.

Now we`re hearing initial reports that the mom went voluntarily. Perhaps not knowing the situation at all or knowing his past. At some point, the concern is that this situation`s going to change. She`s going to be held against her will. And he could do something to this child. So that is the big fear.

The big fear is that they`re not just on some vacation, that he could be acting as the predator. He`s convicted of being.

DR. LESLIE AUSTIN, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: Right. And the difficult thing here is when she did find out about his back ground, why did she stay with him? That really put her child in danger. And she`s going after her own self-satisfaction, and putting her child in a terrible, terrible -- dangerous disadvantage.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s go back to the mother of this missing woman and the grandmother of the child that`s being sought, Mary Watson. We thank you for being here. We know this has to be tough. And we hope maybe this conversation will spark something that will lead to finding these individuals.

How did your daughter support herself? Because I`m wondering how are they surviving right now. Was there anything that was taken? She lived with you. Anything taken from your home that they might have been able to pawn? Did she have savings that she cashed out?

MARY WATSON, GRANDMOTHER OF MISSING GIRL HAYLEE DONATHAN: She did not live with me. She had her -- she had two roommates in Crestline, Ohio. And the one roommate has three children. There was two living with her. She`s -- she worked at Mansfield Memorial Homes. She`s an STNA. She was planning on going back to school this coming quarter to be a nurse. This is -- it`s just unbelievable.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Do you have any knowledge, then, of whether she took any money with her? If she had any savings? How are they surviving out there on the road?

WATSON: I really don`t know. Besides her -- when -- her checks.


WATSON: When she -- her last check was this last Friday. And I don`t know what`s going on with that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I assume, Drew Deserto, you`re the assistant U.S. Marshal, that they are doing this kind of financial investigation as well to find out whether she cashed out her savings or what she -- what money they may have.

DREW DESERTO, ASST. CHIEF DEPUTY U.S. MARSHAL (via telephone): Yes, Jane. You can be fairly confident we`re investigating all avenues here. And what`s important to remember is that -- you know this is a dangerous man. And we`re really concerned about the welfare of the child. And that`s why we`re offering this $10,000 reward for information leading to Mr. Potter`s arrest.

We`re confident someone out there knows where they are. Someone out there has seen them. Someone is talking to them. We need somebody to come forward and give us a hand.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m just absolutely flabbergasted that three people, including a young child, who obviously -- they need to go to the bathroom, they need to drink, they need to eat, can remain hidden with the entire country on the lookout for them. It really kind of blows my mind.

John Lucich, how?

JOHN LUCICH, INVESTIGATOR, AUTHOR OF "CYBER LIES": Not bringing that child out in public. They`re making the child go -- they`re bringing her to dark areas. There`s no way -- like they did not bring that child into Wal-Mart. They`re not going to be that stupid.

The cops are doing everything they can. But these people are laying low. And even he didn`t go in because they know he`s wanted. So they`re doing what they need to do to keep secret and they`re keeping that child secret.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Shelly, West Virginia, what is your question or thought, ma`am?

SHELLY, CALLER FROM WEST VIRGINIA: Hi, Jane, love your show.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, thanks. I`m filling in for Nancy and I`ll pass that along to her.

SHELLY: Hey, I`d like to know, why would the mother even run away with a sex offenders when he`s already raped, what, two kids? Why would she even put her child in that danger?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I think we`re trying to figure it out. We`re trying to figure out what she knew and when she knew it, as they like to say. And we`re trying to understand whether or not she was aware of his past or even aware that he had gotten out of a halfway house.

And the thing I have to come back to is, Matt Zarrell, NANCY GRACE producer, set up the clip for us. What were the circumstances at the moment that she took off with him?

MATT ZARRELL, NANCY GRACE PRODUCER, COVERING STORY: Well, our understanding is that May 28th is when Potter escaped. Now May 29th, Potter and Watson go to this Wal-Mart and they buy a tent. That`s where we see this surveillance video of her going in and out of the restroom.

Then on May 30th, they stay at the camping ground May 29th. Then the following morning they go pick up Haylee. Haylee is with family members. The grandmother and the aunt have both told us that Haylee was staying with them at some point during the day.

Then they stayed with Haylee at the camp ground May 30th. May 31st is when you see the second surveillance video and they go back to Wal-Mart. They returned the tent, and the video catches Haylee in the car.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And that she just met him when?

ZARRELL: Our understanding it was literally that day, May 28th, the day that he escaped.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I just don`t understand this. Leslie Austin, you`re the psychotherapist. We need a shrink on this. I don`t go camping with my best friends, much less somebody I just met.

AUSTIN: Boy, I could use a good shrink on this one, too. Honestly, I don`t know what her thinking was. But clearly, she was captivated with him in some way and decided to just take a lark. That`s what it sounds like.

I`m sure there`s more going on here than we understand. But whatever it is, if she knows his background now, she needs to get her child to safety. She may be doing the not-in-my-backyard, he-won`t-do-it-to-me-or- my child, but he very well could. He has and he will again.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Marc Klaas, this is a cautionary tale. We covered this story over and over again. With mothers saying things like, oh he deserves a second chance. Anybody could be a molester. It wasn`t that bad. Minimizing and rationalizing. Why?

MARC KLAAS, PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER, KLAASKIDS FOUNDATION: Well, sex offender registries exist for those individuals who actually don`t deserve a second chance.

What we`re dealing with here, Jane, is a dangerous, broke, noncompliant sexual predator with an extensive criminal history who is wanted by the law. The only asset they seem to have is the vehicle, which they very well might sell and then steal another vehicle. If they`re staying any place, they`re staying in low-rent motels.

Now as a child advocate, I would reconsider the reward and I would probably issue it for the safe return of the little girl as opposed to the capture of this creature, Potter.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now let me go back to grandma, Mary Watson. And I appreciate your indulgence that you`re answering these tough questions because it`s all about trying to find your daughter and your granddaughter.

But your son, Cyle, right, is also a person who`s experienced trouble. He`s been in jail. And that`s -- that`s where they had contact, the guy who`s missing right now and being hunted and your son Cyle. Tell us about why your son was in jail.

WATSON: I don`t think that has anything to do with what`s going on right now. Where our main concern is finding Haylee and my daughter.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, again, I feel awkward, but I think that we have to really lay out all the facts if we`re going to find your daughter and your granddaughter. So Matt Bruning, why don`t you just bring us up to date on the situation with the child`s uncle?


MATT BRUNING, REPORTER, NEWSTALK 610 WTVN: Well, Cyle served some time in prison on sex related charges back in 2006. Was found guilty of rape and attempted rape. Three years in prison then. Probation. Two charges of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor we`re dismissed. And then in April of this year, he was actually arrested for violating his parole.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, so Matt Zarrell, give us a connection of how this uncle, the child`s uncle, knows the guy who`s now off with the child.

ZARRELL: Potter and Cyle Watson, the uncle, did time together in jail both for their criminal charges. Cyle Watson for rape, the other one for sexual battery. They met in jail. That`s where the grudge formed. And that`s where he tried to set him up. Unfortunately Cyle Watson set him up with Potter with Haylee.


WATSON: I`m just so scared that something`s happened. And I`m worried to death about them. It`s just so hard for me to believe that she would leave her in the truck. I just don`t understand it. The video -- I`m glad that I seen that she`s OK. But that was 14 days ago.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A young California mom could face life in prison after being charged with murder in the apparent smothering death of her baby girl. The body of 18-month-old Emma Barker was found dumped in a grassy lot near the Golden State freeway.

Police believe she was suffocated but her mother claims she died accidentally. Barker initially told police daughter Emma was abducted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, basically, what we know is that she was partially clothed and more interestingly, she had this contusion on her head. It was obviously part of what was -- a very weak story, didn`t last very long, about trying -- which basically was some sort of abduction.

It took basically one night with the sheriff detectives and three or four versions before she eventually folded and admitted that she put her child in the long grass about 30 miles away.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: What a beautiful child. This makes me sick to my stomach. I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell sitting in for Nancy Grace. A beautiful 24-year-old Los Angeles mother takes her 18-month-old baby girl, the precious Emma, to a local park. Then is suddenly supposedly attacked from behind.

Hours later, Stacy Barker comes to, her clothes are ripped and torn but her baby girl, Emma, gone, nowhere to be found. Except that Emma`s lifeless body is found later discarded, thrown away like trash in high grass off the Golden State freeway.

Did the mother stage a fake beating and sex attack to cover up the murder of her own baby girl? Is it possible? Look at that beautiful child. It`s inconceivable to me. But it happens.

Let`s go straight out to KABC Newsradio reporter, Jo Kwon, for the very latest in this case.

JO KWON, REPORTER, KABC NEWSRADIO, COVERING STORY: She actually was supposed to have a preliminary hearing today but she was actually delayed to the end of this month. She pled not guilty a couple of weeks ago. But, you know, she`s still in jail right now on $1 million bail. They`re just waiting on a preliminary hearing.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Lew Stowers, explain to us this whole timeline of what happened. She said she was putting her daughter into a car. And then suddenly she was assaulted from behind. And then there`s this sort of gap. She wakes up, well, what, a couple of hours, five or six hours later and then what?


LEW STOWERS, REPORTER, METRO NETWORKS: Right. About -- well, she claims that on March 18th, that she was -- was beaten up and then while she was putting baby Emma in her car at Lancaster City Park, and then was knocked unconscious, and then woke up about five hours later, about 10:30 that night, at a mass transit parking lot called a park-and-ride in Los Angeles County, where the baby was gone out of the car seat.

And that`s when detectives were contacted by the L.A. County Sheriff`s Department, and they went into action, sending out everything from helicopters to bloodhounds. And then that`s when the story started to unravel from Stacy about Emma`s disappearance.

And eventually she recanted the story the next day, saying Emma allegedly died accidentally. And Stacy allegedly panicked and dumped the body in that vacant lot in San Fernando Valley about 50 miles away in Sylmar (ph).

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ellie Jostad, you`re the NANCY GRACE producer who`s been tracking this story. What could possibly lead this mother -- and again, she`s just been accused, she hasn`t been convicted of anything, but she`s accused of killing her daughter. What could possibly have led her to do that? What do we know about her?

ELLIE JOSTAD, NANCY GRACE PRODUCER, COVERING STORY: Right. Well, the L.A. County Sheriff`s Department says that they do have a motive in this case but they`re not ready to release it yet. But they say that this was - - it`s not some sort of accident as Stacy Barker claims, but they believe the baby was suffocated at the hands of her mother.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So essentially give me the change in her story, Ellie. She starts out by saying that she was assaulted, her child`s missing. And then she recants. What does she say really happened?

JOSTAD: Right. Well, what she later says, and we know she initially told police she`s attacked, they say she`d torn her clothing. They say she self-inflicted a head injury. But apparently after several hours in questioning she then says, no, there was some sort of accident, the baby died and I had a panic. And I left the body here, I`ll take you to it. So she did then claim this was an accident and she tried to cover it up.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So Dr. Hua, you`re the medical examiner. We haven`t gotten the autopsy results released yet. How do the authorities determine whether she`s telling the truth this time that it was an accident and she panicked after the child died? How can you tell the difference between somebody suffocating a child intentionally and a child accidentally suffocating?

DR. ZHONGXUE HUA, UNION COUNTY, NJ, MEDICAL EXAMINER: You have to do exactly detailed autopsy with each step to figure whether any airway has injury. If you suffocate the body, you would expect the injury on the facial and nose area. There`s some like hemorrhagic, a bloody spot in your eye, certain area of the face, certain area of the neck would be injured. So will be good documentation would suggest there`s a homicide.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, let`s bring in the lawyers starting with Eleanor Dixon. Why is this mom not getting murder 1 charges at this point?

ELEANOR DIXON, PROSECUTOR: I have no idea, Jane. Because if you look at it, there was clearly planning. Suffocation doesn`t happen instantly. That takes a couple of minutes. So she would have had time to change her mind as to killing her child. So I don`t understand why we don`t have that charge yet. Maybe they`ll get it after the autopsy is released.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Somebody calls, coming in on this one. Linda, Colorado, your question or thought, ma`am.

LINDA, CALLER FROM COLORADO: I`m wondering if some of these mothers have just reached a place where they can`t cope with their children anymore. And we have the program for the first however many days when they`re born. Do we have any program that would let one of these mothers go to somebody and say, I can`t handle my child right now, I need help?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, what is -- Leslie Austin, you`re the psychotherapist, what is going on with these mothers? Is this something that has always gone on since the dawn of time? Because it seems like we`re hearing more and more of these highly dysfunctional young mothers and the daughters ending up dead.

AUSTIN: No, I actually think our culture has changed. Life is much more fast-paced and much more demanding. We have -- we don`t have the same kind of nuclear family we used to have. The demands on single mothers especially are much greater than they used to be.

There are programs for support. But you have to know to reach out. Hopefully there are family and friends who can send warning signals to say please, let us help you get some support if you can`t handle your child by yourself.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ellie Jostad, there are comparisons being made to the Casey Anthony case.

JOSTAD: Right. That`s true. In both cases, we have a single mom. We have a mom living with the child at the grandparent`s home. However, unlike Caylee Anthony, the father was in the picture here. Apparently the father had visitation, he paid child support, he was involved in the child`s life.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So, you know, this -- Marc Klaas, again and again, we look at these gorgeous children and we think, oh, what a precious child, what a beautiful child, how could anyone hurt them? And yet they end up dead. And then we have the mother being accused. And in this case, she says it was an accident. And then I just panicked and buried the child.

KLAAS: And the irony is, is that anybody, I -- anybody would be more than happy to adopt and raise any of these kids. The trend that really bothers me right now, Jane, obviously, besides the fact that these women are murdering their kid, allegedly, is the fact that these fake Amber Alerts are being set up that are based on nothing more than the say-so of the mom.

We`ve got this one. We`ve got the Weaver case out of Dallas from last week. We`ve got the Swinton lady from Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago. It`s very disturbing. And I would hope there would be a penalty enhancement that would be considered by the legislatures.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A young California mom could face life in prison after being charged with murder in the apparent smothering death of her baby girl. The body of 18-month-old Emma Barker was found dumped in a grassy lot near the Golden State freeway.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, first, I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell sitting in for Nancy Grace. First this mom says, oh, I was assaulted. And she`s even taken away in a gurney very dramatically and she even somehow managed to give herself an injury. Her clothes are ripped.

And then after a little grilling, she admits, no, my child died accidentally. And I panicked and I left her in the grass. But according to the sheriff`s department, they believe the child was suffocated at the hands of the mother.

So, Peter Odom, defense attorney, why is she just charged with second degree murder?

PETER ODOM, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Jane, why is it that people keep throwing around the murder word when the prosecutors who are closest to the case, who know the evidence the best, are not charging her with murder?

You`ve got two things here. You`ve got a child who died, perhaps at the hands of the mother, at least not while in the mother`s care, and you`ve got her lying about it. Those two facts don`t necessarily add up to murder. Homicide, maybe. A reckless act, a negligent act, not murder.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, but Alex Sanchez, you make up a story like that, that takes a certain kind of person to make up that crazy story and even rip up their clothes.

ALEX SANCHEZ, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, the story`s an egregious story. But I don`t think at the present time she should be charged with any crimes at all. Until that autopsy report is released. And we know for a fact that she died from some cause other than natural causes. Why should she be charged at this time at all?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What? She should be charged, all right?

SANCHEZ: What? What if she.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And we`re going to stay on top of this case. And I know Nancy will. Thank you, Alex, for that insight tonight.

Let`s stop to remember Army Private Christopher Palmer, 22, Sacramento, California, killed in Afghanistan, on a second tour of duty. Palmer previously spent a year in Iraq. He loved sports including football, soccer and wrestling. He had a brown belt in Tae Kwon Do and enjoyed lifting weights.

After the army he wanted to join the San Diego Police Department and serve on its SWAT team. He leaves behind mom, Annie.

Christopher Palmer, American hero.

Thanks to all of our guests for their insights and thanks to you at home for tracking these very important cases with us. See you tomorrow night, 8:00 sharp Eastern. In the meantime have a terrific and a safe evening.