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ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL
Teen Bludgeoned to Death in Bedroom; Father Admits to Burying Children
Aired December 6, 2010 - 19:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, a terrifying discovery. A mother comes home to find her 15-year-old girl brutally beaten to death in her own bedroom. Is this connected to another teenager`s recent murder? We`re hunting down the cold-blooded killer.
Then, yet another stepmother and dad arrested over young children in their care. While their father makes his own court appearance, cops reveal a smocking scenario of what they fear happened to little Natalie and Jonathan DeBlase.
And a stunning new theory emerges in the mysterious murder of celebrity publicist Ronni Chasen. Her brother doesn`t believe the so- called person of interest who blew his brains out as cops moved in to question him had anything to do with her death. So why does he think his famous sister was gunned down? We`ll talk to a Beverly Hills private eye who is close to the victim in an exclusive live prime-time interview.
Pluses, a former Yankee World Series champ a free man with a paltry $500 fine. Jim Leyritz, who was convicted of DUI after a horrific clash that killed a mother of two. Cops add the victim was drunk driving at the time, too. So is his punishment fair or completely outrageous? Five hundred dollars for a life?
ISSUES starts now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s her only child, you know. She`s been through a lot with her, and raising her by herself, it`s sad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was shocked. I didn`t believe it at first.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was a cool person to hang around with. She liked to talk to different people, and she was just friendly to everybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, despair and mystery swirl as detectives investigate the violent, bludgeoning death of a beautiful, popular teenage girl in Louisiana. There she is right there. These details are horrific.
Fifteen-year-old Taylor Adams, her lifeless body discovered by her own mother. Imagine that. In her own bedroom yesterday morning. What were you doing yesterday morning? Imagine what that mother was going through yesterday morning. She comes home from work and sees her daughter bludgeoned to death.
Cops say Taylor was covered head to toe in blood, and that she had blunt force trauma to her head. Cops say they think somebody killed her at about 1 in the morning, but they haven`t said why they think that.
Now Taylor`s mom reportedly left her home alone Saturday night while the mom worked her night-shift job as a security guard. But one witness saw Taylor with a friend shortly before she was murdered. Who was that so- called friend?
Meantime, another close friend of the family is absolutely terrified. Now, this lady, she`s so scared she didn`t want to appear on camera.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s like it was happening in my house because we are close, you know. It`s just like it could have been one of mine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All this and still no clue whatsoever to a suspect or a motive. And this isn`t the first teenage girl to be found dead in the very same area in recent months. More on that in a moment.
I`m taking your calls. What do you think happened? 1-877-JVM-SAYS.
Straight out to my expert panel, we begin with former prosecutor Wendy Murphy.
Wendy, no sign of forced entry, no robbery, no evidence of sexual assault. What do you make of it?
WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Well, a couple things, Jane. First of all, there was an awful lot of rage in this killing. You know, she didn`t die by capture -- you know, being sort of shocked by finding someone in her home accidentally, and then they kind of tried to just knock her out of the way. This was a rageful killing, blunt force trauma, that much blood. What that tells me is that it`s someone who knew her and was angry.
And I can tell you I bet cops do have a theory about this. It sounds retaliatory.
The other thing we know is she got home at about 11:30. She didn`t die until around 1 a.m. Someone knew she was home alone and waited. You know, this wasn`t whoever that friend was that walked in with her, because it was two hours after she got there.
I think what`s scary to all of us is that, you know, this is -- this could be any of our children. I mean, it`s just so scary. Fifteen is old enough to be home. Her mother was working the overnight shift. She`s old enough to be home alone. I`m sure she understood to take precautions and lock the door. This had to be somebody who wanted her dead, and that would scare any mother.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And it could be someone who knows the mother`s routine and knows the mother...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... is going off to work the night shift, which would mean that this is somebody who knows the family.
Taylor`s mom says she spoke to her 15-year-old daughter 9 p.m. Saturday night and fully expected her daughter to be home all night long. Home alone. But here`s what one neighbor witnessed. Watch this carefully.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was walking in -- back to her house with one of her little friends, but she went inside.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, ISSUES reached out to police. They did not hear back -- we didn`t hear back. Cops say they are searching for a suspect. I have to wonder what about this little friend? I want to know, John Lucich, criminal investigator, is this little friend male or female? I would certainly hope the cops have talked to this person by now.
JOHN LUCICH, CRIMINAL INVESTIGATOR: Absolutely. Those are some things that they would be looking at. Also, remember the friend may not be the suspect in the case, but certainly they may have seen something.
The one thing the cops have going for them, with the brutal nature of this crime, there has to be DNA all over this place. When someone is in such a rage, and I do believe it was rage, because remember, there was no evidence of a break-in. There was absolutely no evidence of sexual assault. So if this was a rage, and when someone is in rage mode, they`re not thinking about what they do. They`ll leave fingerprints. They`re going to forget what they touched, and they`re going to get out there as quickly as possible. So I believe that the cops already know who they`re looking for.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I`d have to wonder: does this young lady have any kind of a boyfriend, or was there any kind of problem dating? Was anybody obsessed with her? Did anybody have a crush on her? Did she reject anyone? This is usually what comes up, Dr. Dale Archer, when you look at these things. That there`s some kind of back story. It doesn`t happen out of absolutely nowhere.
DR. DALE ARCHER, PSYCHIATRIST: You`re absolutely right, Jane. And I agree with John and Wendy that clearly, this is a case where the perpetrator knew the victim and knew the routine and wanted her dead.
And you look at the picture of that little girl, and obviously, she is a beautiful little girl, and you can imagine there were guys out there that did have crushes on her. And perhaps there was a jilted boyfriend in the picture. But I`m sure the police are looking at all that. But this is a crime of passion without a doubt.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you know, I never say without a doubt. I understand your point, Dr. Dale, but there`s so much senseless crime out there today, crime that occurs for apparently no reason. Somebody who`s rageful and who hasn`t worked on themselves and hasn`t worked on their anger issues, and looking for anybody to strike out at. And all they have to say is one wrong thing. This girl could have gone out to a -- just stretch or tie her shoelaces, and said the wrong thing to some stranger, and this does happen today.
But I will say this. As cops furiously investigate this gut-wrenching crime, one neighbor -- and I`m sure more than one -- understandably freaked out and is wondering what she or he should do next. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARY FORTADO, NEIGHBOR: I`m ready to move. You don`t see stuff in this neighborhood like that. It`s a quiet neighborhood. Obviously I`ll put more cameras on my house. My husband and -- we just went and got them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, Taylor lived alone with her mom in LaPlace, about a half hour drive from New Orleans. One neighbor said crimes like this aren`t happening in this area.
Another neighbor said she was concerned, because there were no extra squad cars on Sunday, the next day. OK? She called cops and asked about stepped-up surveillance and patrols, and she was forwarded to voice mail, she said.
That really bothers me, Wendy Murphy, because when people are terrified, the least that law enforcement can do is provide more squad cars in the area.
MURPHY: Yes. But you know, Jane, the other explanation is that cops know there`s no crazy guy running loose. They can`t quite tell that to the neighbors. They probably want to keep some of the facts on the Q.T. But if they didn`t respond, it`s -- it`s very likely it`s because they know who they`re looking for, and it`s not somebody that the neighbors should be frightened of.
What`s terrible to me is that, if I lived in that neighborhood, I would want the cops to at least whisper in my ear, "Don`t worry. We`ve got it covered, and you have nothing to worry about. And it`s sad that they`re not at least giving them some comfort, because it is scary."
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, they may not want to tip them off.
MURPHY: This could be somebody breaking into homes.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Listen, I`ve got to talk about the other girl...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... 19-year-old nursing school Courtney Carroll. She was in the area, same neighborhood. Went jogging at 8:15 on September 29. Her body was discovered the next morning.
Now, the sheriff is reportedly saying, "Hey, this has nothing to do with it, because this was not a homicide," because they determined it was an accidental overdose. Who goes jogging and then overdoses accidentally, Dr. Dale? That doesn`t make sense to me.
ARCHER: No, it doesn`t make sense. And the other thing in that case that doesn`t make sense, Jane, is she went out jogging in her jogging clothes, but she was found the next day in regular street clothes. So how do you put those together?
And just because someone is using drugs doesn`t mean that they were out there trying to kill themselves or would go to the canal and overdose there. I think that two brutal killings in that same neighborhood within a three-month period of time is very, very frightening to me.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Pretty young women.
MURPHY: Beautiful young women, right.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Right. Part of the war on women. We talk about all this, I just get so sad and so sick of talking about it. One victim after the other, night after night. What are we going to do about this societal problem where women -- a 15-year-old girl can`t stay home alone while her mom does a very tough job, working overnight as a security guard? What is wrong with our culture that this little girl is dead tonight, bludgeoned to death? We all need to think about what we can do.
All right. Got to leave it there.
Now, up next, a father and step-mom arrested after cops discover his kids were missing for months. Now authorities believe these precious children are dead. What happened to them? Did this guy bury them? Was he high on pills when he did? Call me, 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297.
Plus, celebrity publicist Ronni Chasen`s unsolved murder. I am sitting down with her close friend and private eye in an exclusive, prime- time live interview, coming up in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our detectives were here on a follow-up. And this person was a person of interest from the Chasen incident. And that`s all we have at this point.
As the captain mentioned, this person shot himself. It was a self- inflicted gunshot wound, pronounced dead later on. And the investigation is ongoing at this time. We`ve got nothing further to disclose about the investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD DEBLASE, GRANDFATHER: Natalie was getting to the point where she was beginning to read. And she was our princess. Jonathan was our ladies` man. Jonathan would actually go in the store and start throwing kisses to the women.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: A devastated granddad speaks out as a sick, twisted couple sit in jail tonight, charged with hideous crimes related to the disappearance and presumed death of two adorable little children.
Tonight, cops say these two individuals -- there`s one, and we`ll see the other in a moment; there he is -- pointing the finger at each other from behind bars.
Police say this dad, John DeBlase, admitted to them that he buried the bodies of his two children, 4-year-old Natalie and 3-year-old Chase. The children step-mom, Heather Keaton, is accused of child abuse.
Now, the boy, Chase, was reportedly last seen in March. His older sister, Natalie -- look how beautiful these kids are; look how beautiful these kids are -- last seen in June, this little girl.
This case heated up just a couple of weeks ago when the step-mom, Heather, went to cops, begging, "Please give me a restraining order against my husband." She said she suspected he may have murdered his children. That`s the first time they found out about this. These kids went missing in the summer.
Now, there`s the dad, OK? Cops caught up with him, and they say he just spontaneously blurted out, "I didn`t do it." Kind of suspicious, huh? They hadn`t even asked him a question yet. Police say the dad later admitted that he killed the children. And what`s more, they say Dad was so wasted on pills he doesn`t even remember exactly where he allegedly dumped his children`s bodies, except to say that each child was allegedly dumped in different states. One in Mississippi, one in Alabama.
OK, this dad, again, he admits that the children are dead, and he admits to disposing of the bodies. As to whether or not he admits to killing them we`re still trying to figure that out. He apparently is pointing the finger at the step-mom. Neither of them is charged with murder, OK?
Could the dad have killed these kids and not remembered that either? Give me a call: 1-877-JVM-SAYS.
Straight out to reporter Cherie Ward from "The Mississippi Press" and "The Mobile Press Register."
Cherie, what are these parents charged with tonight? And what is the very latest? Sort out this very complicated case for us, please.
CHERIE WARD, REPORTER, "THE MISSISSIPPI PRESS"/"THE MOBILE PRESS REGISTER" (via phone): Well, they`re charged with child abuse and child neglect, and then abuse of a corpse. I`m told by Mobile investigators the reason why the father is charged with abuse of a corpse is because of the way the bodies were disposed of. It wasn`t properly.
Now, each of them are pointing the finger at each other. One thing that they have agreed on so far is that the little boy is actually -- had been dumped in Van Cleave, Mississippi. It`s a rural area. And investigators said that the father led them out there Saturday. They examined about a 12-mile radius.
He told investigators that he actually took a shovel and had planned to bury the boy, but the ground is really thick, hard clay, and it was too hard for him to dig, and he dumped his body. He told the Jackson County sheriff investigators and the sheriff that he was so messed up on drugs he wasn`t exactly clear where in Van Cleave he left him. But it`s a rural wooded area so, know, it`s hard to say.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Who is -- who is saying anything about how these children died and why?
WARD: Nobody is saying anything about how they died yet, because apparently, they`re just pointing the finger at each other. He did it; she did it. Investigators at this point haven`t been clear with whether or not, you know, they were killed by the mother, the father, the stepmother. They just -- they don`t know at this point.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Or if they died from neglect, right?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Then later, as these children die from neglect, they may have been buried. It`s -- look at these angels. It`s unbelievable.
Now, here`s the thing. Cops say Dad told them, as you mentioned, Cherie, that he was so high on pills when he dumped his own children`s bodies in their graves in two different states he doesn`t remember exactly where he put them.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Police say he told them on Saturday morning as he led a group of officers around a rural area near a Mississippi highway.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Cops say that`s why the dad couldn`t pinpoint, "Hey, here`s the exact location of little Chase or Natalie."
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Which brings me to my big issue: pill-popping parents. If Dad`s high on pills at that time, can we make the assumption this isn`t the first time? And if it`s not the first time he`s high on pills, addiction expert Jamison Monroe, should we wonder if drug abuse has everything to do with this gut-wrenching story?
JAMISON MONROE, ADDICTION EXPERT: Jane, I don`t think it had everything to do with it, but I do think it was a large possibility. Because it is possible, while you`re abusing substances, to black out for long periods of time, days even. So while DeBlase probably had characteristics that were not positive, per se, the substance abuse could have exacerbated those. And especially if he was in a blackout, it could have made them even worse to where he would have been acting and not really even knowing what he was doing.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I guess what I`m saying, Wendy Murphy -- that`s a good answer, but I think when Dad`s high on pills, when he`s disposing of his children`s bodies, I think there`s a good bet that he might have a drug abuse problem, and that`s one of the reasons why these kid were neglected, allegedly.
MURPHY: Yes. And let`s mix together the drug abuse with the sexual abuse that was reportedly going on, too. Those two things often come together. And then how many stories have we done where kids then end up, you know, sexually abused; kids then end up dead in a swamp somewhere. This is not the first time, Jane.
What I`m outraged about is the idea that this guy thinks, because he was wasted, that that somehow forgives him the memory problem that he`s so conveniently developing around the location of the bodies.
We do have a legal system problem in this country that too often, when somebody is wasted on drugs, we give them a discount when they kill children, when we should give them an uptick in punishment, saying, "Are you kidding me? Bad enough you hurt your child. You are also a drug abuser? You`re going to jail twice as long." But in this country we give discounts. That`s embarrassing, and it is an epidemic...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: These kids have been missing since this summer. Where on earth was the Department of Children and Family Services?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Samantha in Texas, your question or thought, ma`am.
CALLER: Yes. I have never in my life seen so many copycats night after night after night. Somebody`s killing the kids, burying the kids. You know, the whole -- this whole generation that`s coming along, they`re crazy. They`re high on pills, this, that and the other. It`s no excuse for this. I mean, there`s no excuse for killing your children and then burying them.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Ten seconds, Dr. Dale Archer, are we just learning more about it, or is it getting worse?
ARCHER: Well, unfortunately, we are in a narcissistic culture where, if kids are a burden or problem, the parents feel that they`re just going to get rid of them. And I think that, along with the drug abuse, that`s what happened here.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hang on. More on the other side. Stay right where you are. You won`t believe this. A world-famous World Series champ, a former Yankee, no jail time after a DUI in which a woman died. The wrong call?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEBLASE: The only stable environment they ever had was here, and they`ve got their own rooms here. They had all their toys, everything. What we`re going to do, we`re going to get one of the angels off the angel tree and dedicate it to Natalie and Chase. That`s all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: That was a devastated grandfather of these two adorable siblings missing and presumed dead. Their own dad reportedly tells cops he was high on pills when he buried their bodies in two different states. Meantime, that dad and his wife, the two of them`s step- mom, blaming each other for these horrific crimes.
Luke, Arkansas, your question or thought.
CALLER: Yes, Jane. I was just wondering, is it possible that this man was so high on pills that he was not able to drive his car to Mississippi and Alabama, that he may have sold his kids for even more drugs?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I think you make a good point. Jamison Monroe, one thing we know about -- and you`re an addiction expert -- about drug addicts is they`re total liars. You can`t believe a word they say. I mean, why should cops even trust that he`s telling them the truth now?
MONROE: Yes. They shouldn`t trust him at all. I mean, Jane, this is one big, red flag. Because it reminds me of the person that gets mugged on the street, and nobody does anything about it. There had to have been red flags and neglect from the parents for the past few years, and no one did anything. No one called anybody; no one warned any authorities.
So it`s a good point to the viewers out there, that if you`re witnessing any neglect or terrible parenting or abuse or addiction, you should report it now. Because if you don`t, then something like this could happen.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Cherie Ward, in the mother`s petition, domestic violence petition, she says not only that she feels he murdered his kids, but, "He told me if he can`t have me, no one can." He said, "We would not be alive if we were not together." He says, "He will take care of our daughter." Yes, they have an infant daughter on top of these two. Can you believe it?
"When she tries to run away, he dragged me back to the house. He monitors my phone calls. He takes and keeps my phone from me. I`m afraid that he`s going to do something to harm our daughter." This is the infant. God willing, she`s in good hands tonight, away from these two.
And, get this, she says that he makes the kids watch movies of massacres and torture. Can you believe that, Dr. Dale Archer?
ARCHER: Well, obviously, this is a sick guy, but you`ve got to wonder why in the world the wife waited so long before she goes to the authorities with these complaints. I mean, the kids have been missing for three months now. What is she thinking? Why don`t you get involved and take some action ahead of time?
So I look at her as every bit as complicit as he is, and I think at this point, she is just trying to mitigate the circumstances against herself and to save herself. But I think they`re both very, very much to blame here.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Cherie Ward, what do we know about this infant that these two have?
WARD: I do know that the state -- I learned this from investigators in Mobile -- the state has actually taken custody of the baby. So the baby is safe. She`s actually still in Kentucky, the stepmother is, and she`s supposed to be extradited back to Mobile sometime this week. And really, investigators are hoping they can sort out this "he said, she said" story. She blames him; he blames her.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And we know the big lesson is, these children should not have been with these individuals. Grandparents out there, if your kids are sick, take the kids away from them! Don`t leave them in the hands of demented children, adult children.
HLN`s coverage of this tragic case continues top of the hour. Don`t miss Nancy Grace. She`s got the latest, 8 p.m. Eastern. So much more.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Stunning new theory emerges in the mysterious murder of celebrity publicist, Ronni Chasen. Her brother doesn`t believe the so- called person of interest who blew his brains out as cops moved in to question him had anything to do with her death. So why does he think his famous sister was gunned down? We`ll talk to a Beverly Hills private eye who was close to the victim in an exclusive live prime-time interview.
Plus, a former Yankee World Series champ a free man with a paltry $500 fine. Jim Leyritz was convicted of DUI after a horrific crash that killed a mother of two. Cops said the victim was drunk driving at the time too. Is his punishment fair or completely outrageous? $500 for a life?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAPT. KEVIN MCCLURE, LAPD: The person that they were looking for showed up. They attempted to talk to the suspect. When they did, the suspect produced a handgun and there was a self-inflicted gunshot wound at that point in time and the suspect was pronounced at the scene.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight -- head-spinning new details in the murder of famed publicist Ronni Chasen. Cops now have surveillance video that shows Chasen`s Mercedes and a mystery car right after Chasen was gunned down. A mystery car -- we`ll talk about that.
Plus, new reports claim another woman came face-to-face with a gunman in this same neighborhood just days before Ronni Chasen was murdered. Could there be somebody preying on women in this very, very exclusive neighborhood in Beverly Hills?
Ronni Chasen died three weeks ago driving through Beverly Hills on her way home from a party. She was shot several times, possibly from a vehicle that pulled up alongside her car. A friend had actually warned Ronni Chasen that Ronni`s flashy new Mercedes could make her a target out on the road.
Listen to this from "The Today Show".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTHA SMILGIS, FRIEND OF RONNI CHASEN: Believe it or not there are nutcases out there -- many of them -- and they`re out driving around at night. They have guns. And it very well could be that.
That said the rumors are flying because it`s the movie business. You know, I hear Russian mob. I hear gambling debts. I hear -- first, she did not gamble. Forget that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.
SMILGIS: Everything was above board in the business. You know, but there are rumors -- Ronni could be tough about money, but, again, I mean this was -- she really virtually had no enemies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: If that friend is right and Ronni Chasen did not have any enemies, then could a random attack make the most sense? But there was no robbery. Nobody tried to take that car. And what about those who insist this appears to be a professional hit? From the way the bullets fired at her.
Call me, 1-877-JVM-SAYS.
Straight out to "Inside Edition" chief correspondent, Jim Moret. Jim, tell us about this breaking news, this e-mail that was circulating warning people about a gunman.
JIM MORET, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, "INSIDE EDITION": Well, I mean actually to be honest with you Jane, the briefing that we have been following up on is that mystery car that you talked about. The gunman, I`m learning from your show, that we went out to that scene at 3:00 this morning and tried to re-create exactly what happened with Ronni Chasen`s car.
The mystery car you`re talking about was captured on home surveillance right across the street from where Chasen`s car actually went into the curve. And that was a Lincoln Towncar that was going in the opposite direction.
And police want to know if that car and the driver of that car was in any way involved or if it was simply someone who`s driving by and failed to stop. And you see how Ronni Chasen`s car is. You should have noticed that that car was at the angle it was.
I`ll tell you something though, Jane. I`ve been at that scene several times with a former LAPD captain, a retired captain, and it doesn`t seem like she was shot at sunset. It seems like she was shot closer to where the car came to rest.
And also the likelihood of road rage is less likely if she was shot on that residential street because it`s a one-lane street. You couldn`t have gotten to the right of her. So the only way for her to have been shot on that street was if the gunman was on foot, which is possible because at the stop sign just 50 feet away from where that car came to rest there`s a hedge that someone could have been hiding behind.
Look, there are a lot of theories and police are really at a dead end right now because as you know the suspect who killed himself has all but been ruled out because the gun did not match ballistics and it doesn`t look like that person was involved at all.
So there are really frankly more questions now than answers. And this tape that you`re talking about could be the next best lead that there may have been a gunman in the area.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And what I want to say about this town car is, we`ve all taken them when we`re going to do let`s say a hit for a TV show. They are on a very tight schedule. So it could have been that this person who was driving this town car, picking somebody up or dropping somebody off, didn`t want to get in trouble with his boss, didn`t want to get involved, right, and says, it looks like a car accident to me, maybe not realizing a woman was shot dead in the front seat, and just keeps going.
Or it could be that that town car has something to do with it.
Let`s go out to John Nazarian, private investigator who knew Ronni Chasen. What are your thoughts on that town car that has now been spotted in the surveillance video?
JOHN NAZARIAN, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: I think the town car could very well be another red herring. I mean, ok, let`s assume that the guy had a schedule to pick up, he had to go pick up some -- he had to go pick up a sandwich or he had to go pick up some apples, whatever the reason. His opportunity to give aid to a woman who was in distress, never mind not realizing she had just been shot down in cold blood, that he should have stopped. If in fact he wasn`t involved. But again it`s another loose end.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And, Andrew Blankstein, crime reporter "Los Angeles Times", are authorities talking to every car service in Los Angeles trying to figure out who that town car belonged to and who was driving it?
ANDREW BLANKSTEIN, CRIME REPORTER, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Well, the detectives are going to look at anything that comes up, whether they get a tip or something that comes from video, somebody who calls in. This is the way they do things. They`re going to check out everything.
I think there`s a lot that goes on below the surface in these investigations that doesn`t come to light until much later, usually in court. And so --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Andrew, let me ask you this -- let me ask you this about "The Daily Beast" reporting that a woman driving in the very same neighborhood one week before Chasen was shot was threatened allegedly according to this e-mail through here window by a gunman under similar circumstances. And this e-mail also claims or there`s also claims in "The Daily Beast" that ten days after Chasen was killed an L.A. a man barely survived a nearly identical murder attempt, shot several times through the passenger side of his car at around the same time that she was murdered.
Have you heard anything? You`re a crime reporter for the "Los Angeles Times". Have cops said anything about this at all?
BLANKSTEIN: No. I mean, in talking to Beverly Hills police, talking to the Los Angeles Police Department, "The Los Angeles Times" keeps a careful record through our crime database, mapping L.A. crime maps. There`s no kind of epidemic that`s claimed in that story about either carjackings or shootings between Cold Water Canyon Boulevard and/or Benedict Canyon. You just go back a couple months and there`s nothing that resembles that at all. So not to say that they won`t check out those reports, but we have no knowledge of that.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. A lot of times after this --
NAZARIAN: You know, Jane, it`s almost like we`ve got serial killers now driving around and my only question to this woman, whoever this other person was, was the individual driving the car dressed like an Easter Bunny? I mean, this doesn`t help the investigation at all.
Unfortunately, the police will be burdened with the job of having to go and talking to these people. It just slows the entire process down.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let me translate what you`re saying. I think what you`re saying is that every time a case like this happens, and Carlos Diaz you and I have reported on crimes in the L.A. area for years, is that people start talking and it sort of takes on a life of its own and somebody says, oh, yes, something like that happened to me, and if there`s no police report and cops aren`t admitting it, there`s a very good chance that somebody is just sort of exaggerating.
DIAZ: And Jane, this is the worst-case scenario.
NAZARIAN: Jane, you`re exactly right.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hold on. Let Carlos talk.
DIAZ: This is the worst-case scenario because you`ve got a town full of people who get paid to tell stories -- you know that`s what they do for a living. And right now the cops have no leads. So what are we getting? Stories.
I mean when this Harold Smith guy blew his own head off, everybody was saying, oh, yes, he was with bragging about a $10,000 payment, he was saying that he was the one responsible. Now cops are saying he had nothing to do with it. So what we`re seeing here is everyone has their own theory.
But until cops have a tangible lead, which right now it doesn`t look like they do, you`re going to keep hearing theory after theory after theory.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Diana, Washington, your question or thought, ma`am.
DIANA, WASHINGTON (via telephone): Hi. Here`s my big issue. I had to steal that from you. Sorry.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s ok.
DIANA: here`s my big issue. Everybody on there is pretty much from L.A. or has been to L.A. I`m an L.A. native, 27 years. I`ve been down that same road.
Here`s my big point, I won`t say it again. If you have hollow-point bullets, that`s -- that`s meant to kill somebody. She`s shot five times allegedly. That`s what they`re coming out with. This is my thing. I honestly think --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I think what you`re saying is that it looks like a professional hit.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Jim Moret --
DIANA: But I think it`s family.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You think it`s family.
DIANA: I think it`s family.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, who wants to take that? Andrew Blankstein, there`s been a lot of talk about the will. What do you know about this will?
BLANKSTEIN: Well, you know, again it`s a will that`s prepared in 1994, presumably it`s been updated. I mean when you look at facts like these that are thrown out -- documents. The fact of the matter is that they`re going to look at -- they`re going to start from the inside out, people who were close to her.
They -- obviously in the first day -- they served search warrants at the business, got her phone records. They are trying to work from people who knew her best and then work out. A lot of killings as you know are -- are done by people who knew the victim, crossed paths with the victim, either personally or in business. And that`s generally where -- is a starting point; to point the finger in any one direction at this point is very premature.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We are just getting started.
BLANKSTEIN: And I think --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hang on we`ve got a lot more to talk about right after the break.
And also, a former Yankee convicted of DUI after he crashed into and killed a mother of two, walks free. And cops say the victim was also drunk driving at the time. So was this fair? Was this lenient? I want to hear your thoughts on this very, very complex case. Does the punishment fit the crime?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALAN DUKE, CNN PRODUCER: If someone were stalking Chasen as she left this after party at the W Hotel, it possibly would have been obvious. There are security cameras around here and plenty of people, and they would have had to have been lying in wait to see, as she left, one would think.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And cops are indicating tonight they don`t believe the person of interest who killed himself last week, Harold Smith actually had anything to do with Ronni Chasen`s murder. This guy shot himself in the lobby of his apartment building when cops walked up to him. He had been bragging to friends that he killed Chasen.
And somebody called in a tip to "America`s Most Wanted."
But here`s the thing, Carlos Diaz, just because the gun he used to kill himself didn`t match the one he used to kill Ronni Chasen, I personally don`t think that`s enough to -- to strike him off the list.
DIAZ: Right. But they`re also saying that he is -- he had nothing to do even though he was bragging to people at the apartment complex, which by the way he didn`t live at, he was evicted from, and this doesn`t seem like -- this doesn`t seem like the kind of guy that could pull off a complex hit, if you will.
But they are saying as we`ve said before there`s e-mails circulating right now that a woman ten days before Ronni Chasen was killed and a man sometime after she was killed was threatened by a person on Sunset Boulevard. The only thing I could say about this is that I travel this route every single day. I make that left on to Whittier every day coming home from CNN.
And I have never felt threatened in any way like I`m driving through a neighborhood where a murder could take place anytime. That`s the perplexing thing to me. This seems like one of the safest neighborhoods in America.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, Jim Moret, Ronni Chasen left about $60,000 grand to charity and the rest of her $6 million estate to relatives, which included her brother, director Larry Cohen. But former prosecutor raised the red flag on GMA. Let`s listen to this quickly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBIN SAX, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Speculators at the funeral saw you that Larry Cohen didn`t seem to have the emotion one would expect and people are talking around, why is it that he is so hung up on this road rage theory, when no one, no professional, no expert has come out and even thinks anything supports that theory whatsoever?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, the brother Larry Cohen is certainly invited on this show anytime to express his beliefs. But Jim Moret, quickly, is this another red herring, this whole will thing and speculation about the will?
MORET: Well, I mean, I think it`s a red herring in the sense that when it`s released that one person is -- is cut out of the will and this will as Andrew said was written in 1994 that immediately that person is -- is implied that they`re a suspect. You know, Robin has -- Robin Sax was a great prosecutor, she has good instincts as a prosecutor. And I think that -- that in any investigation you look as Andrew said first to those within the circle, those closest to the victim and then work your way out.
MORET: I don`t think anything is being discounted now. And I think - -
MORET: -- that it`s too soon to discount anything.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Got to leave it right there. Bottom line, we don`t know who killed her or why.
Thank you very much, gentlemen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM LEYRITZ, FORMER NEW YORK YANKEE: I can tell you for that one second in time, that one fastball I ever hit, one slider I ever hit, the last out of the World Series that I caught, there was never a moment more - - that I was more afraid to just know that my freedom could be taken away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, a jaw-dropping sentence for a disgraced World Series hero involved in a fatal DUI. Even though a woman died in this accident, former New York Yankee Jim Leyritz scored probation and a $500 fine. Not a night in jail.
Is this another case of a celebrity getting a free pass? Leyritz was out celebrating his birthday back in 2007 when his car collided with another vehicle driven by a 30-year-old married bartender and mother of two, Frieda Veech was killed.
Now here is the problem, she was also legally drunk. She was not wearing her seat belt. Leyritz was charged with DUI manslaughter and could have been sentenced to four to 15 years in prison but a jury voted to acquit him. They found him not guilty because the prosecution couldn`t prove that he ran a red light and there was evidence that indicated maybe the victim had run the red light. Ok?
So the jury essentially decided he did not cause the collision. Still, Leyritz, according to some critics, may sound a little -- some have said smug about his experience. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEYRITZ: In my situation it was somebody else hit me and it was an accident. And unfortunately, because I had a few drinks, it was a price that I had to pay for almost three years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: So somebody died. The big question tonight, did he pay the price? He says the accident has changed him, but I think the big question is, has this former jock actually quit drinking?
All right. So give me a call, 1-877-JVM-SAYS. By the way he is invited on our show any time of day or any night I should say to tell his side of the story. We`d love to hear it.
I`m going to begin with former prosecutor Wendy Murphy. Does this sentence sound fair to you? Probation, no jail time?
WENDY MURPHY, AUTHOR, "AND JUSTICE FOR SOME": I don`t it sounds fair to anybody. Come on. He was driving drunk and a woman is dead. And he got the equivalent of what one gets when one steals a loaf of bread, ok. That`s the punishment he got.
No, human life is actually worth more than that. And I know he was acquitted of the actual killing. I don`t care. The point is this was a serious situation, serious incident. And I don`t know this guy, I`ve never heard of him but I can tell you that this is not the first time a fancy pants athlete got a deep discount. I don`t know how -- you know, how many cases have we covered on this show alone?
The thing that I`m worried about, Jane, you said, is this going to help him stop drinking? Here`s the problem, if he`s an alcoholic, if he has an addiction problem, right, what he just got as a gift with a nice little red bow tie for the holidays from the judge is going to inspire him to continue to drink because he just got a pass.
He didn`t get punished. He got a pass. He`s going to go home, chockfull of himself and say, look at me, I got away with it. That`s the problem. This does nobody any good and it`s insulting to the dignity of that poor woman`s life. And I don`t care that she was drinking.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Carlos is shaking his head.
DIAZ: Wendy, how long are you going to spout before you actually make sense?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Carlos. Is that the Carlos I know?
DIAZ: He was acquitted by a jury of his peers, all right? It was not a judge who said, you`re not going to jail.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: More on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM LEYRITZ, FORMER NEW YORK YANKEES: One of the things that I do feel strongly about is that being Jim Leyritz the baseball player, World Series guy, at this particular time, worked against me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Former New York Yankee Jim Leyritz dodges jail time as he`s sentenced for a DUI conviction. He was driving drunk when he got into a wreck with another woman who was also drunk. He gets one year probation and a $500 fine. But the woman`s sentence, well, she died.
The judge told Leyritz if he violates probation or the law again, he will get the maximum sentence. But is all of this enough?
We`re just getting started. Susie in Louisiana, your question or thought?
SUSIE, LOUISIANA: Hi, Jane.
SUSIE: Thank you for taking my call.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`re welcome.
SUSIE: Did we forget that she was drinking, no seat belt, she was speeding towards a red light, and they proved that she may have been distracted by her cell phone, texting and telephone calls. He could have been taken away from his children just as easily as she was.
I think that he got -- I think that he got, you know -- I think it was fair he was judged by a jury of his peers. And plus, he settled his civil suit way before he had to. I think he is repenting so badly. He has to live with this.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: well, let me say, ma`am, you`ve raised some very, very good points. But I want to say this. Wendy, you`re laughing, I understand this.
The defense attorney urged the judge to show leniency, saying, Leyritz has settled a civil suit. Should the civil suit have any bearing in a criminal case, first of all?
MURPHY: Well, that`s exactly part of why I was laughing. Are you kidding me? So rich people should get less punishment than poor? I think we already have a problem with that in this country.
And you know, look, the fact is a person could be walking across the street and they`re blind, and so your drunkenness isn`t the only reason they end up dead, but if it`s at all a reason, you need to be punished. This is not let`s make a deal, the rich people get a discount, the famous athletes get a discount. The people who kill other drunk people get a discount. That`s not how it works. There are no discounts.
When you are drunk and you drive, you take the responsibility on when you hit someone who may not be fully capable and he got a triple discount.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me say this, prosecutors argued that he has a history of alcohol abuse. I don`t know. I haven`t been with him when he`s out, but the prosecutors said that the evidence showed that he drank on a daily basis.
So I have a couple of questions. Jamison Monroe (SIC), my understanding is that he did go through two alcohol rehab treatments, which I think is commendable, but then the court put a device on his car that detects alcohol on the driver`s breath and the interlock device went off several times in 2008 and 2009.
His attorney said that Leyritz misunderstood. He didn`t know he was banned from consuming alcohol, and he blamed it on Listerine and chicken wings. Now, Listerine does contain alcohol. Do you buy that explanation? What`s your assessment?
MOORE: I don`t buy that at all. I used the Listerine excuse one time myself and got away with it, but I don`t buy it at all Jane. I think what you have here is you have a guy that killed a woman, innocent lives are ruined, and you have a guy that`s still continuing to drink and drive.
So you have a guy that`s also admitted to drinking on a daily basis, which is typically indicative of alcoholics. You have an alcoholic who`s killed somebody, who continues to drink and drive. So you`re not just a dangerous alcoholic, but a guy, a loaded weapon that`s driving around that may do this again.
I`m always a proponent of treatment before incarceration, but here you have a guy who`s been to multiple programs and is still drinking. So he needs to be incarcerated for a little bit --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I have to say this. I have to say this. He was acquitted of manslaughter. He was acquitted of manslaughter, we have to say that. This is his first DUI.
I do hope he works --