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Houston Teen Found Murdered; Celebrity Chef Charged with Soliciting Murder

Aired May 18, 2010 - 19:00:00   ET



JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, student by day, stripper by night. A bizarre double life ends in murder. Tonight, the war on women crosses the border. This beautiful, popular Houston high school senior found brutally beaten to death in Mexico. Her murder staged to look like a car accident. Is her murder connected to human smuggling?

And cooking up an alibi. A Hollywood chef accused of hiring homeless hit men to kill his wife. Tonight a bizarre new twist straight out of Shakespeare. The chef claims his wife wanted to be murdered because she couldn`t have kids. Is anybody buying his half-baked story?

Plus desperation in paradise. Tonight we`ll go inside a family`s frantic search for Laura Vogel. She vanished while hiking in Maui. That was three long months ago, and there`s still no sign of this beautiful woman. Tonight I`ll talk to Laura`s heartbroken, frustrated brother.

Plus growing outrage in Detroit. A 7-year-old girl shot dead by a police officer while the child was sleeping inside her own home. Cops call it an accident. The family says it`s all a cover-up, and tonight a stunning new twist. Did cameras filming a reality TV show capture the whole thing?

ISSUES starts now.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight a bizarre murder mystery. A beautiful, popular high school senior who dreamt of being prom queen is brutally murdered. But now we`re learning that 18-year-old Elisabeth Mandala had a dark and twisted double life. Did her toxic secrets lead to her grisly murder?

It turns out none of her friends or family had any clue this bubbly, outgoing teen was moonlighting as a stripper. Now it turns out she may have also been an aspiring coyote. That`s slang for a human smuggler who sneaks immigrants across the border.


ADRIANA MANDALA, ELISABETH MANDALA`S SISTER: She had the regular teenager life. She played soccer. I just looked at her progress report. It was all as, maybe one or two B`s. I mean, we were just talking. She asked me for my gown, you know, because she was going to graduate.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Elisabeth was last seen three weeks ago leaving her mother`s Houston home. After four agonizing days of waiting, her frantic mom reported her missing.

The only chilling clues to Elisabeth`s whereabouts, her Facebook page. What else? The very last thing she posted, "I`m in Mexico -- smiley face. I`ll be back Thursday." Tragically, she never made it home. Elisabeth`s battered body was discovered in a smashed truck in Mexico. With her in that pickup truck, two Mexican men twice her age. All three were dead.

Now, at first it looked as if they had died in a car accident, but then autopsies showed Elisabeth, seen here in photos from, and her two mystery companions were beaten to death hours earlier. It was staged to look like a car accident. A heavy rock was jammed onto the truck`s gas pedal.

So who committed this gruesome triple murder? What a mystery. Call me with your theories: 1-877-JVM-SAYS. That`s 1-877-586-7297.

Straight out to my fantastic expert panel: HLN law enforcement analyst Mike Brooks with us tonight, as well as forensic psychologist Brian Russell. And we`re delighted to have "Houston Chronicle" reporter Moses Mendoza with us. But we begin with investigative reporter Michelle Sigona from

Michelle, what is the very latest in this bizarre murder mystery?

MICHELLE SIGONA, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Well, just moments ago, Jane, I got off the phone with Elisabeth`s father Robert. And he says it`s still an open murder investigation. He has not gotten any word that investigators in Mexico are any closer.

Earlier today, I spoke with the Houston police, and they said that, if the Mexican authorities do need their assistance, they will, in fact, work together to be able to assist them. Houston police handled the missing person investigation of this particular case.

He also tells me that Thursday, before his daughter went missing, he did have text messaging back and forth with her. And he told her -- she told him that she was in Mexico, and he said, quote, "You do not know how dangerous it is. You need to be back in school." And then he said, "It`s so dangerous to be in Mexico alone," and he really wanted his daughter back.

Then the next day, he sent another text message that says, quote, "I know you don`t realize the danger you are in, but you`d better get your butt back home."

Also, he tells me that the reason why she may have gotten involved in the stripping was to earn a little bit more money because she kept talking about some sort of scam that was coming -- she didn`t realize it was a scam allegedly, that was coming over from England. And someone was telling her about, if she invested in something, she would receive a large sum of money back.


SIGONA: He thinks she may have been saving...

MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Boy, how many times have we heard that one?

SIGONA: Exactly. But when you`re 18 years old, you`ll believe sometimes anything.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I know adults who have gotten trapped in those schemes, pyramid schemes and other...

SIGONA: She was very excited about that.


SIGONA: Exactly, Jane. And so he thinks that she may have been moonlighting as a stripper to be able to earn more money and then, you know, of course, paying into this particular pyramid.


SIGONA: I also spoke with her mother earlier today, as well.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, you`ll tell us about that in a sec.

Mike Brooks, what do you make of the double life to gain money for what could be a pyramid swindle?

BROOKS: Well, it sounds like she was trying to make a big -- a quick buck, Jane. I mean, that`s what it exactly sounds like. And, again, Mexico is no place for an adult right now. There`s a war going on in Mexico. And her mother knew that she was thinking about being a coyote. So what role is mom playing in here, too?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I have to say a couple of things...

SIGONA: I also want to mention...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... that one, all parts of Mexico are not dangerous. There are many vacation resorts that are perfectly safe. We`re talking about crossing the border from Texas into Mexico, and some of the extreme violence that`s going on.

BROOKS: I don`t care. San Diego, Houston, California, Houston, right now is not a great place for Americans to be in Mexico, especially when you`re dealing with this -- with this scam, Jane, period.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Right, right. But I`m just saying that, you know, it`s a big country, just like the United States of America is a big country. I lived in Mexico for a year. So I`m pretty familiar and acquainted with various parts of Mexico. And I can tell you that the violence is concentrated more toward the American border than it is, let`s say, in Cancun or Cozumel.

BROOKS: Well, as a matter of fact, Jane, within the last year, the police chief of Cancun was assassinated -- was arrested for planning a murder. So come on, you know.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I`m not going to...

BROOKS: You`ve got to use due caution no matter where you go.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, yes. Listen, you can get killed in Detroit. You can get killed in Trenton, New Jersey. So I understand what you`re saying. I`m just saying, let`s not condemn an entire country because violence happening in certain sections.

BROOKS: I got you. I got you. You`ve got to use your head.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Well, she`s a young girl.

Karen, your question or thought.

CALLER: Yes. First, I want to give my sympathy to the family...


CALLER: ... losing their beautiful girl. Yes, I agree with your guest that, for a young girl that age to be going across the border into Mexico at this time is a very dangerous thing to do. I have a niece the same age, and I would never condone that.

My other question is, if she was leading a double life being a stripper, what age is the actual legal age that someone can do that in Texas?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Excellent questions. And as we look at some video, more video from CBS, we`re going to ask that question, you know, to friends. Elisabeth was friendly. She was clean cut. She was a popular high school senior, involved in clubs at the school.

But then there were other clubs that she was involved in, to clients at the seedy gentleman`s club Moments Cabaret, she was known as Lovely. Now, check this out. Take a look at this. Here`s the strip joint where Elisabeth was moonlighting as an exotic dancer. The owner tells reporters Lovely was a hit, one of his most popular strippers.

So let`s go to Moses Mendoza, reporter with "The Houston Chronicle." You apparently have a Houston nightlife guide that actually shows Elisabeth as her alter ego Lovely. Show it to us and tell us what you know about her double life, Moses.

MOSES MENDOZA, REPORTER, "THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE": Well, here she is. This is her as Lovely. You know? And what I know is...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Can you hold it up a little bit so we can see it?

MENDOZA: Sure. Can you see it.


MENDOZA: There you go. That`s her. This is in the nightclub guide here in Houston. You know, when I went to the strip club, they told me she was extremely, extremely popular. She had just been there for, you know, a few months. She had turned 18 in March. She was a very, very popular attraction there.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, well, it`s -- she`s a young, beautiful woman, and so, of course she`s going to be popular.

Joanne, Pennsylvania. Your question or thought.

CALLER: Hi, how are you, Jane?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: How are you doing?

CALLER: Thanks for taking my call.


CALLER: Here`s where my concern is. OK? If she only turned 18 in March, OK, where`s the mother at?

BROOKS: Thank you.

CALLER: I have a young daughter, OK? I know every move that child makes. And until she walks out of my house to get married, I will know where she`s at. How can she -- how can she be crossing over the Mexican border and her mother not know? How can she be working in a nightclub at - - you know, in the evening? There`s curfew. How could she be doing all this before she was even 18?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Brian Russell, a forensic psychologist, when people develop toxic secrets, sometimes they`re very convincing about the false facade that they present to the public.

BRIAN RUSSELL, FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, it`s true, Jane. You wrote a whole book on this, "Secrets Can Be Murder." You know that people keep secrets mainly because of fear, fear of what would happen if the truth came out. And this sounds like a girl who had, you know, was not like a lot of girls her age, looking very far into the future. Had an interest in seeking adventure, seeking thrills, seeking fortune, seeking fame.

And I don`t go buy that nobody knew anything about it. I think the caller has a point, is that there was probably some willful head turning going on.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, it`s called denial. And many parents practice it.

On the other side of the break, we`re going to be the other side of the border and take a look at what happened right at the crime scene. Everybody, stay right where you are. More on this bizarre, mysterious triple murder. We`re taking your calls: 1-877-JVM-SAYS.

Plus, missing in Maui. Laura Vogel vanishes without a trace, three months ago. Still no sign of her. Tonight I will talk one on one with her desperate, frustrated brother.

But first, why would an 18-year-old young lady ready to graduate from high school get involved, first, in being a stripper and secondly possibly in human smuggling, becoming a coyote? And did it lead to her murder?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was such a popular, successful kid. She was in all advanced classes.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: A close family friend talking about a beautiful, bright high school senior, who wanted to be prom queen, who was leading a dark and dangerous double life.

Elisabeth Mandala`s own mother says her daughter talked about wanting to become a coyote, but the family said they thought that she was joking about wanting to be this person who smuggles immigrants across the border. She ended up dead on the other side of the border.

Michelle Sigona, investigative reporter, I understand that you have talked to the mother, because we`re talking about how is it possible that she didn`t know that her daughter was a stripper by night?

SIGONA: I`ll give you a little bit of background, Jane. Elisabeth`s mother and father are divorced, but they have six children together, including Elisabeth. So she has five other siblings.

I asked Mom about the other life that she was allegedly living, and she told me that she -- because she doesn`t speak very good English. But she did say that she really didn`t want to talk about that too much, didn`t comment. And that`s when I tracked down her father. That`s when he told me that the family really didn`t know about anything else that was going on in her life.

But he did want me to say, and I do want to point this out, and I promised him that I would say this, is that every day, at least three to four days a week, she was working in his office at his reception business. He does a lot of weddings and things like that. So she would get out of school at 12:30. She would come to his office and work. And so like he said, he was very surprised, like a lot of other people, to learn that she may have been actually stripping at night.


RUSSELL: Hey, Jane, can I jump back in for a second?


RUSSELL: You know me. I am the personal responsibility guy. But I do think that this girl was probably recruited into whatever she was doing south of the border. I think she probably went to work at the strip place and met these two guys, who then enticed her to come south of the border and get involved in whatever she got involved in down there, which points out, Jane, that we have got to know who is coming in here and what they`re doing here. You can agree or disagree with how a particular state does it, but we`ve got to know because people are coming in and recruiting.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wait until I give you some facts about what these guys had on them when they were found murdered on the other side of the border, because I think that this actually could have been her first attempt at being a coyote, and she didn`t meet these guys in the United States. She may have picked them up in Mexico for the purposes of transporting them.

Let me explain. Elisabeth`s sister says the teen once told her about her bizarre desire to be a coyote, but the whole family thought it was a big joke. Listen to this from NBC`s "Today Show."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t think she wants to -- my sister went to go smuggle immigrants.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, take a look at this crime scene video, also from NBC`s "Today Show." Two older Mexican men, one 38, a merchant. The other, age 44, cab driver from Mexico City, were found dead in this pickup truck. They both had multiple fake I.D.s on them. One man was even carrying a fake voter`s I.D. card with his photo and somebody else`s name on it.

So my question now, Brian, is could this have been Elisabeth`s first mission as a coyote, and these were her customers? She was trying to get them across the border. Something went terribly wrong, and they were killed on the other side of the border.

RUSSELL: I don`t think so. Mike Brooks can weigh on in on this. But that sounds to me like the kind of stuff that coyotes, human traffickers, would have on them that they would use for their own elusion of law enforcement or to give out to people or to sell to people.

And I just have to say, Jane, there are people coming into this country recruiting young people for -- for even worse things than human trafficking, which is why we`ve got to know who`s in here and what they`re here for.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I will say that, and I will also say that human trafficking is a huge problem domestically.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: And there are plenty of people recruiting people to be sex slaves right here at home that are home grown.

OK. OK, Joanne in Texas, your question or thought.

CALLER: hi, I`ve got a thought. I live in El Paso right on the border with Juarez...


CALLER: ... in the state of Chihuahua. We have it up close and personal right here. This poor young lady, my heart goes out to her. I don`t know if she wanted to do some do-gooding, bring in some poor immigrants who need, you know, the work and the life. I`m not sure what her mission was. But I`m so sorry about what happened.

We have kids crossing the bridge here, all the bridges, all the time. The high school kids. They`ve been warned and warned and warned. They go over, and they get killed. Not engaging in that kind of activity, just going to the clubs and dancing.

But here we`ve got the drug issue. Whether -- whether that overlapped in what happened to her, I certainly don`t know. None of us know yet. But there`s a huge tie everywhere on the border from California to Brownsville. Also, be real, real careful about the Yucatan, Cancun.


CALLER: All the way up to San Diego. Be real, real careful.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Thank you, ma`am. I think you made some good points. I don`t agree with everything you said, but I think you made some good points.

OK, Mike Brooks, what about the possible drug aspect to this? Drugs has not been mentioned.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: But I think the caller makes a good point, that once you`re on the other side of the border, there are drug wars going on. They could have been caught in some kind of crossfire in that.

BROOKS: Right, and some of these people are involved in both of these escapades, Jane.

And you know, Brian is absolutely right. Most likely, she met them at the club. That`s where the Mexican authorities had to include the Houston police because they`re going to, I guarantee you, if these men had been in that club, they`re going to have surveillance video, because in every strip club there is, there`s always surveillance video.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. My point was that, since they had taken their pictures and put it on a fake I.D., that wouldn`t be something that they would then be selling to anybody else to transport that other person across the border.

BROOKS: They could.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, no. Because they`d want that person`s photo on the I.D. That`s the reasoning there. I don`t have the answers. I have no idea. It remains a huge mystery. But fantastic panel. Excellent job. We`re going to stay on top of it.

A 7-year-old girl shot dead by a police officer. Now family members say cops are covering it up. Tonight a new twist. Was it all captured on camera?

Plus a Hollywood chef accused of hiring a hit man to kill his wife tonight claims that his wife wanted to be murdered. What? We`ll explain next.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight a mind-boggling twist in the celebrity chef murder-for-hire plot. Were Juan-Carlos Cruz and his wife so devastated that they couldn`t conceive a child that they plotted their own deaths?

New reports that the former Food Network Calorie Commando and his 47- year-old wife had been struggling with fertility issues for years. TMZ sources say she talked about wanting to end her life and that Juan-Carlos was honoring her wishes? Here they are in happier times.


JUAN-CARLOS CRUZ, CHEF: My wife says I`m downright cranky if I don`t get my exercise in.

JENNIFER CAMPBELL, WIFE: You`re faster, sleeker, stronger.

CRUZ: That`s right. The better one.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Cranky may be an understatement. Prosecutors say Cruz tried to hire at least two homeless men in Santa Monica to carry out the hit on his wife. Take a look at these dudes. We`re talking Big Dave, Shane, and Little Dave. They told TMZ a very bizarre story involving a weapon and some cash. Police would not confirm or deny their claims.

Cruz has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and solicitation to commit murder.

Ken Baker, executive news editor of E!, explain this crazy story if you can. It`s pretty wild.

KEN BAKER, EXECUTIVE NEWS EDITOR, E!: Basically, what it comes down to is law enforcement, specifically Santa Monica Police Department, investigated this. They had gotten a tip from these homeless men that Juan-Carlos Cruz approached him. And I guess they just hung out in the streets near this guy`s house, and he started allegedly talking to them about coming and them exactly how they could kill his wife.

And when the police got wind of this, they set up a sting operation. They actually put a wire on one of the homeless men. And they feel as though, according to them, they got enough information from that wiring of the homeless man and the conversations that took place to arrest him and then just charged him with attempted murder, and like you said, solicitation of murder.

So he`s facing some very serious charges. He`s right now in the L.A. County lockup. A $2 million bail has been set. He`s still in jail. And it`s unclear exactly what`s going to happen to him except for this. We have not heard his side of the story. We`ve only heard law enforcement`s side. And you know there`s always two sides to the story when these cases come out. At first you always hear law enforcement first. It`s going to be interesting to hear the defense`s side.

And what`s coming out in these reports about a possible murder then suicide on his part. For all we know, we can`t confirm that here, but that could be something that`s being leaked out by the defense. That sounds like something that may be thrown out there by the defense.

And you know that the defense at some point is going to attack the credibility of these witnesses. They`re homeless men. They may have something in their past that makes them maybe not have as much credibility as another witness. It`s going to be very interesting to see this play out.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: A friend of Juan-Carlos Cruz spoke to ABC`s "Good Morning America." Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Juan`s a nice, gentle person, one of the last people on earth I think that would do something like this.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: So Ken, what kind of reputation does he have? And have we heard anything from the wife at this point?

BAKER: No, we haven`t heard anything from his wife. She`s gone totally silent. We`ve actually found out that she herself is an attorney. But a lot is not known about her. We do know that they were high-school sweethearts. We`ve all seen some of the videos out there of them seemingly being in love. They`ve been married a very long time. She`s 47 years old. But no one has seen her. She`s sort of gone into seclusion at this stage.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And what I find so bizarre about this is that he allegedly asked these guys to slit her throat. And that doesn`t sound like something you do if you were just doing a mercy killing.

Ken Baker, thank you so much.

The war on women hits paradise, Hawaii. Laura Vogel vanishes.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Desperation in paradise: tonight we`ll go inside a family`s frantic search for Laura Vogel. She vanished while hiking in Maui. That was three long months ago, and there`s still no sign of this beautiful woman. Tonight I`ll talk to Laura`s heartbroken, frustrated brother.

Plus growing outrage in Detroit: a 7-year-old girl shot dead by a police officer while the child was sleeping inside her own home. Cops call it an accident. The family says it`s all a cover-up. And tonight a stunning new twist: did cameras filming a reality TV show capture the whole thing?

Tonight, a family`s desperate search for their beloved sister, who went missing in Maui three months ago. For the Vogel family, the dreamy island paradise where 43-year-old Laura was living has turned into a hellish nightmare.

The last time anyone heard from Laura was when she texted a friend about where she was camping, saying she was, quote, "meeting all the locals". That was February 21st. Then nothing, nada, no communication at all.

Maui cops found Laura`s van near a homeless encampment. The keys were still in the ignition. Her cell phone was never found. However, part of a phone similar to hers was discovered nearby. Phone records show two - - count them -- two mysterious calls made from Laura`s cell phone the very night she disappeared.

Who made those calls? Ok. Who made those calls on her phone? That`s key.

Are cops in Hawaii doing everything they can or should to solve the tragic mystery of what happened to this innocent young woman? ISSUES reached out to police in Hawaii. We did not hear back before air time.

Mike Brooks and Brian Russell, back with me, and I am joined right now by Tim Vogel, Laura`s brother. Tim thank you for joining us. We can barely imagine your pain right now as you frantically search for your sister. You`ve devoted your life to this cause ever since she went missing three months ago. What are police telling you about this case? Do you feel they want to solve it?

TIM VOGEL, BROTHER OF MISSING WOMAN: Thank you so much for having me on.

You know, the answer to that question is we`re really frustrated right now. Despite repeated attempts to really get in touch with the police, we haven`t heard any communication with them in the last four weeks.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s pretty shocking. I mean, what, you call them, and they don`t return your calls? You get a voicemail, and they don`t return your calls?

VOGEL: Called, e-mailed tips, e-mailed them questions, everything, and we just have not had any communication with them.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow. Mike Brooks, you`re the law enforcement analyst. That doesn`t sound good to me.

MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: No, I can`t make any excuses for the Maui Police Department. I mean, if they say there`s no lack -- there`s no issues of foul play, they think.

But you know, she just vanished, Jane, and these calls are a mystery to me. You know, where were these calls? You can always go back and try to find out where the cell phones were pinging to or from. You know, is there any record of that? I`m not hearing of any.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: How can they say it`s not suspicious when her keys were found in the ignition?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: When`s the last time any of us just parked our car and left the keys in the ignition of our car as we waltzed away?

BROOKS: Exactly. And all her camping gear was there in the vehicle, but her keys -- I mean but her wallet and cell phone were not. And they found a back that was similar, but they can`t say for sure if it was hers or not.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We actually got some new information on that that`s just in. Two key pieces of evidence: Laura`s wallet and her cell phone.

We just learned something new about her wallet. Initial reports were that cops did not find her wallet. But the family now says that, when cops released Laura`s van back to them, voila, there was the wallet.

I got to ask you this. Tim Vogel, how is it possible that cops can go through a car and not find a wallet in the car and then report it as there was no wallet when the wallet was right there in the car?

VOGEL: Yes. I mean, I don`t know how to answer that question. I know that the vehicle was said to be processed. Once it was processed, it was released to us. Once we got into that vehicle, we found the wallet immediately.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So what do you make of that? The cops didn`t look hard enough, under the seat for the wallet?

VOGEL: Yes, I don`t know how to answer that. I`m baffled by that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Where did they find the wallet, Tim? Where did you find it?

VOGEL: The wallet was found in the middle console underneath a plastic piece.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow, wow, wow.

BROOKS: Were all the contents, Tim, still in the wallet? Were all her personal papers and credit cards and everything still in the wallet?

VOGEL: Everything. And that was a real point of frustration to us as a family. We did a lot of leg work finding out if there was any kind of financial transactions at her banks and credit cards and all that stuff to weeks later find the wallet there completely intact.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, what about this phone call, two calls made to a number that did not show up in her address book? The calls were placed actually to a prepaid phone card in the possession of some mystery individual. What do you know about that? Apparently, that mystery individual was tracked down and questioned.

VOGEL: That piece of evidence is significant, and one of the reasons we`re pushing so hard to get the FBI involved in this case, the last statement I gave on your last show was that the FBI is involved and continues to be involved. But since we`ve lost communication, we don`t know if the FBI involvement is being pursued or even happening. That`s really important piece for us.

BROOKS: Tim, I would suggest, if you call the FBI office, there`s always a duty agent on duty at the FBI office there in Honolulu. Call them and follow up with them. That would be my advice to you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, let me ask you this question. Apparently, there were other missing persons in the area, and there was also a person of interest at one point. What can you tell us about that, Tim?

Well, I mean, because it`s an ongoing investigation, I can`t talk much about that person of interest, but we are pushing hard to have the FBI involved partially for that reason. There`s clearly a history of violence and missing people in that very specific area. And I can say that if Laura knew about the history of that area, she wouldn`t have been down there, and we wouldn`t have had this conversation.

In fact, someone went missing just a couple of miles down the road a month after Laura went missing.

BROOKS: Jane can I say something about that --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Does this have to do with the homeless encampment?

VOGEL: I don`t know. I mean I do know that that specific area is used for meth dealing, for drug dealing, for meth parties, and frequented by meth users. So it`s just a dangerous area, and there`s a history of violence there.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Brian Russell?

BRIAN RUSSELL, FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST AND ATTORNEY: You know what this reminds me of, Jane? It reminds me of when there are seedy areas near college campuses, and the cops sometimes don`t want to be as straightforward as they otherwise might be about the danger that`s there because they don`t want to scare parents and students and prospective parents and students, but that does not serve the public well.

If this is a seedy area that becomes dangerous at night; it sounds like there`s a lot of homeless, which correlates with drug traffic and also mental illness, unfortunately, then the public needs to know about that, and it needs to be cleaned up. In the meantime, people need to be made aware of the threat.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let`s remember that this is a vacation resort.

BROOKS: Oh, yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And of course, just like Mexico, they have vacation resorts there, and people who live there want to make sure that the tourism industry doesn`t die.

After her daughter went missing, Laura`s mom spoke out about what cops were telling her. Listen to this.


JOAN VOGEL, MISSING WOMAN`S MOTHER: I think they feel that she slipped and fell over the cliff, which is a 50 to 60-foot sheer rock cliff that goes right into the ocean.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Contrary to published reports, Laura, it turns out now, was not thought to be hiking. Laura`s family says she was in flip-flops hanging out. What can you tell us about that, Tim? Why were we told that, oh, she was hiking and the cops felt maybe she fell off a cliff? Now, she`s not even hiking?

VOGEL: No. She just wanted to be under the stars for a night. She had been to that area during the day, knew it was a beautiful area. She texted a friend saying down from the (INAUDIBLE) pools, giving a location, and meeting all the locals, meaning people down in that area.

And it`s highly suspicious that not one person in that entire area or anywhere that we can find says they even saw her that night. And the reality is people know. That`s one thing I`m desperate about is somebody knows something. We need people to come forward with information.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I know you can`t talk about a person of interest, but obviously there is a person of interest, and so, you know, the cops are the ones who declare that, a person of interest. They simply will not update you on the status of the investigation?

VOGEL: That`s what`s so frustrating is there`s some critical pieces to this investigation, and we just don`t know what`s happening with those critical pieces, if they`re being pursued at all.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, that`s crazy. You know, Maui cops, if you`re watching tonight, there is a desperate, frustrated brother who loves his sister very much, as well as a whole extended family who have not been able to sleep for three long months because their loved one went to Hawaii and was in Maui having a good time and disappeared. So give him a call, please.

Anything you want to add to that, Mike?

BROOKS: No. I think that`s great.

I mean, Tim, how long had she been there before all this happened?

VOGEL: Let me see. She`d been living on the islands in general for about a total of 9 years. She`d been on the big island in Oahu. But she`d lived in Maui specifically for only about six months.

BROOKS: What about some friends and associates? Had they been to that area with her before?

VOGEL: Yes. I mean, almost all of her friends said, if I`d have known she was going there, I would have told her not to go there.


VOGEL: But she had been there during the day, and it`s just a gorgeous place.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tim, I`ve got to tell you, we`re going to stay on top of your case. We`re not going to let your sister`s case --

VOGEL: Thank you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: -- become a cold case. Ok.

VOGEL: Thank you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Come back and give us updates.

VOGEL: Absolutely.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Next -- a mayonnaise meltdown. Cops say two women waged war at Wendy`s against the staff because they didn`t get enough mayonnaise.

Plus -- the pain of a family looking for answers. A 7-year-old girl shot and killed by police. Could this tragic death have been prevented?

We`re taking your calls on this controversy. And boy, is it a controversy. 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297.


CHARLES JONES, FATHER OF AIYANA JONES: She was asleep. And they came through the door, shoot and throwing flash grenades burning my baby, and then shot and killed.



VELEZ-MITCHELL: Outrage in Detroit. A 7-year-old girl killed by police. Now the family says cops are trying to cover it all up. What really happened in the dead of night? That is next.

But first "Top of the Block" tonight.

Mayonnaise madness. Here`s the story of the day. Cops say two women in Daytona, Florida, went bonkers when they didn`t get enough mayo and mustard packets at Wendy`s. Instead of driving up and asking for more, they went into a condiment frenzy. They drove back to the restaurant, allegedly busted out a stun gun, and then, cops say, started chasing employees around the restaurant.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They came in with a taser and then she was like pressing it. Somebody got tased, but he was going to get tased if he didn`t run all the way back.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: How can anybody explain becoming that upset over not getting enough mayonnaise packets? I wonder if perhaps this is addict`s behavior. If so, is the addiction in question food addiction? Yes, we know drug addicts have been known to kill for drugs.

Now some studies claim fast food triggers equally powerful addictive cravings. Was the suspect allegedly in the throes of mayo withdrawal? Plus food for thought anyway.

That`s tonight`s "Top of the Block".

Tonight, a tragic story: accusations of a police cover-up in Detroit following the horrific shooting death of an innocent 7-year-old girl. Aiyana Jones was simply sleeping on her sofa with her favorite Disney princess blanket when cops raided her house and shot her dead.

Cops say it was an accident, but the girl`s family says no way, and they vow to make Detroit police pay. Police raided Aiyana`s home at 12:40 a.m. Sunday morning, hunting for a murder suspect. Everybody was sound asleep, including little Aiyana and three other young children.

The cops were not alone. Along for the ride, a crew from the reality show, "The First 48" on A&E. And there was plenty of drama for them. Police ran up to the house and threw a flash grenade through the window. Moments later, Aiyana was shot.

The question is how did that happen? We have two wildly different explanations tonight: one from police, one from the family, who is inconsolable at a news conference today.


MERTILLA JONES, GRANDMOTHER OF 7 YEAR OLD KILLED BY POLICE: I saw the light leave out of her eyes. I knew she was dead. She had blood coming out of her mouth. Lord Jesus, I`ve never seen nothing like that in my life. My 7-year-old grandbaby, my beautiful, beautiful, gorgeous granddaughter.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, this is what a flash grenade explosion looks like, boom. Ok. Can you imagine that suddenly happening inside your living room in the middle of the night? Why such a dramatic approach? Could the presence of TV cameras have had any impact on the officers` decision-making process?

I`m taking your calls on this one. 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586- 7297.

Straight out to my fantastic panel: HLN law enforcement analyst Mike Brooks back. Detroit free press reporter Niraj Warikoo.

But we begin with legal contributor, Midwin Charles from "In Session", our sister network TRUTV.

Midwin, you`re familiar with Detroit having lived there. What is your take on this tragedy?

MIDWIN CHARLES, LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR, "IN SESSION" ON TRUTV: Well, I think this is horrific. I mean, remember this is something that happened at the hands of law enforcement, police. People who are sworn to protect the lives of people who live in Detroit and I just cannot believe that things happened in this way.

Why it is that they had to enter that house in this sort of black ops, undercover style, I think, is because the cameras were rolling, and they were probably trying to give those people a show. Unfortunately, a 7- year-old girl lost her life as a result.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, Mike Brooks, I hear you are shaking your head.

MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: No. I just -- I`m going to have to disagree with my colleague from "In Session", Midwin. She and I sometimes agree, sometimes we disagree.

On this one, they were going after a subject who was armed and dangerous, ok, Jane? So when you go in, you don`t go up and knock on the door and ask for this person. They had been watching this house. They`d seen family members going in and out of this duplex, and they decided that they were going to go ahead and go in and then try to get this guy without any law enforcement being injured.

But I can guarantee you, Jane --


BROOKS: -- there is not one cop who is happy about losing a 7- year-old girl.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But, Mike, but guess what? I`m going to have to raise this as my big issue tonight. And my issue is we`re cops performing for the cameras?

BROOKS: I doubt it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: The grandmother describes total mayhem inside the house. Check this out.


M. JONES: They wouldn`t even let us go check on the other babies. They wouldn`t even let us go check on the other babies. They were so rude to us. And when I see Aiyana, they killed my grandbaby Aiyana, I said oh (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and grabbed her up and ran out of the house.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok. So the question, did the presence of cameras affect the way the police conducted this raid?

You know, one communications professor said, there is absolutely no dispute that people do change their behavior in the presence of cameras. This professor says law enforcement quote, "Sometimes has people who may consciously or unconsciously want to perform more heroically or with more machismo when the cameras are rolling."

Let`s debate it Midwin.

CHARLES: I think that`s right. I mean we are talking about police officers, law enforcement who are being filmed. The whole point of being a cop and law enforcement, there is some bravado that goes with that. And if you have someone who was filming of course they`re going to give them what it is that you think they want.

BROOKS: I have to disagree with you, Midwin.

CHARLES: But Mike, you said something that was important. You said that home was under surveillance, i.e., they should have known there were small children in that house.

BROOKS: Right. Maybe, maybe not but I --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok. Guess what? On the other side of the break, we`re going to get into that issue.

Stay right there.



CHARLES JONES, FATHER OF VICTIM: I will never be the same. I`ll never be the same again. That`s my only daughter. She is the only thing that can make me happy. That was my only daughter for a reason. She was my happiness. She was my joy.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Heart breaking words from the family of Aiyana Jones shot by Detroit police during a raid. We knew camera crews with A&E`s "The First 48" were there. The family`s attorney is saying that he disputes the police account that the gun accidentally discharged. And he says he`s seen video that shows that the police threw a flash grenade into the house and then fired from the porch.

We don`t have the truth let`s see if video tells the real story eventually. B.J. from Michigan, your question or thought.

B.J., MICHIGAN (via telephone): Good evening.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Good evening.

B.J.: I think this whole thing is a terrible, terrible thing to happen. I do believe that the Detroit police have a very difficult, terrible job that they have to continue doing. But I`m sorry. I think this is a terrible disgraceful accident that should have never happened.

If this house was under surveillance, then truly they would have known which house to go into or look for this person. My thoughts and prayers are with this family.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, thank you, ma`am. And I agree. All of our thoughts and hearts go out to this family.

Niraj Warikoo, "Detroit Free Press" reporter, there is controversy about whether or not police knew there were children in the house. There were at least three children in the house. What were some of the signs that there might have been kids in the house?

NIRAJ WARIKOO, REPORTER, "DETROIT FREE PRESS": Exactly. I was at the scene that day, the day of the shooting, and I clearly saw toys, children`s toys strewn throughout the yard. So there was evidence that there were young people inside the home.

Regardless, even if they were adults, the question is why did they hurl that grenade through the family room window where the girl was sleeping? According to the family members I spoke to, she was burning when she was shot with the bullet. So not only was she shot dead but she suffered in a painful way for those brief moments before she died. That`s what has the family very concerned about what happened.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, and apparently at the news conference, a cousin said he was walking his dogs and when the police began the raid, he said to them, he warned them twice, there are kids in the house, there are kids in the house.

WARIKOO: Exactly. I spoke with a family member, a cousin who told me the same thing. That he was shouting, "Look, there are kids in the house." He said it repeatedly loudly but apparently they didn`t listen.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. The family is suing on behalf of Aiyana and her grandma. The family says cops are not telling the truth when they said the grandmother struggled with police moments before the girl was shot. Listen to this.


JOHN ROACH, DETROIT POLICE SPOKESMAN: We cannot undo what occurred this morning. All we can do is pledge an open and full investigation, and to support Aiyana`s family in whatever way they may be willing to accept from us at this time.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, we do know, the police did ultimately arrest the fiancee of Aiyana`s aunt for the murder of a 17-year-old. So Midwin, do you have to say, well, we don`t know if he is guilty or not, but if you`re involved with alleged criminality, you`re likely to bring this kind of danger to your family.

CHARLES: It is unfortunate. The question is was he in that house or the duplex next door? I know that that`s questionable.

WARIKOO: He was upstairs.

CHARLES: But that doesn`t mean that what happened to this girl is excusable simply because of her familial relations to the man who was arrested.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. We have to leave it right there. We`re going to stay on top of this.

Thank you panel.

You`re watching ISSUES.