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Drunk Mom Sleeps on Baby, Kills Him; Woman Torches Sleeping Fiance

Aired June 11, 2012 - 20:00   ET


NANCY GRACE, HOST: Good evening. I`m Nancy Grace. I want to thank you for being with us. To the heartland. A young mom wakes up screaming when she discovers her baby boy dead on the family sofa, his tiny body cold and purple. But tonight, we learn that Mommy downs a fifth of vodka. Did she kill her own baby?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: According to authorities, 29-year-old Toni Medrano, a Minnesota mother, came home and fell asleep on the couch, passed out drunk on top of her 3-week-old baby. The mother allegedly admitted to drinking a fifth of vodka before she fell asleep.

-- a fifth of vodka...

-- mom drank a fifth of vodka...

Three-week old Adrian smashed between his mother and the couch pillows.


GRACE: And tonight, a 25-year-old has a dream engagement, looking forward to the wedding when tragedy strikes. Police discover the groom to be dead in a residential fire, his body burned to a crisp. But tonight, we suspect the blushing bride douses him with gasoline then sets him, not the home, on fire as he sleeps! Yes, as he sleeps! Her defense? Self- defense!


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A 25-year-old woman doused her fiance with gasoline while he slept on a couch, then ignited the fire that engulfed him in deadly flames. The man who she supposedly wanted to marry never stood a chance. Firefighters found Michael Gonzalez`s (ph) charred body inside the couple`s apartment after responding to an early morning fire.


GRACE: Good evening. I`m Nancy Grace. I want to thank you for being with us.

Bombshell tonight. Did a 29-year-old Minnesota mother, Toni Medrano, down a fifth of vodka, then pass out to sleep it off on the sofa, all the while, her baby boy crushed beneath her? Tonight, we uncover repeat DUIs. Did Mommy booze it up and kill her baby?

We are taking your calls. Straight out to John Michaelson, news director, KTCN. John, what do you know?

JOHN MICHAELSON, KTCN (via telephone): Well, Nancy, Toni Medrano and her husband, out at a gathering with friends. They come home. The mother comes home with her kids earlier. The father comes home later, tells Toni not to sleep on the couch with the baby because she could fall asleep and suffocate him. That`s exactly what eventually happens overnight.

GRACE: It was my understanding, John, that the father had been to work?

MICHAELSON: No, actually, that is not the case. What we`re hearing from the police now is, actually, he and Toni had been at a gathering with friends that evening. She came home earlier. He came home later, about 2:00 in the morning. She was already on the couch, had already downed about a fifth of vodka, which, you know, depending on how you measure it, is somewhere between 17 and 25 drinks. He told her not to sleep there. She still did. He went upstairs. And the next morning, all hell broke loose when she found the baby cold, purple and dead between her and the couch...

GRACE: All right, hold on just a minute. Let`s see how many drinks you can make out of a fifth, all right? Ellie, crack this one open. Let`s start pouring.

John Michaelson, my question is, why no murder one charges? But hold on. Let`s start our experiment. Here you go. Here`s one.

Mark Zarrell, what more can you tell me?


GRACE: No, me, either.

MATT ZARRELL, NANCY GRACE PRODUCER: Nancy, the father says that...

GRACE: One so far! Go ahead.

ZARRELL: Nancy, the father says that the mother had spent the weekend drinking, that apparently, she was a deep...

GRACE: Whoa! Whoa, whoa! Back it up! The mother spent a week doing what?

ZARRELL: The mother spent the weekend drinking, apparently, is what the father told cops. Now, what happened...

GRACE: Spent the weekend drinking. And -- no takers. OK. Two down! Still going. She spent a weekend drinking? Why?

ZARRELL: Well, apparently, this woman likes to drink. She`s got a history of DWIs, in fact, two of them within a month just a couple of years ago.

GRACE: Three!

ZARRELL: And now we`re learning more about what happened. She gets home. She goes into a deep sleep. Now, Nancy, she woke up multiple times that following morning and had conversations with her five children. But at no time does she get up from the couch.

GRACE: Four!

ZARRELL: So one thing we`re learning is that...

GRACE: Wait! Wait! Wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wait! She was on the sofa. She drank a fifth of vodka. You`re telling me she woke up several times during the night?

ZARRELL: In the early morning hours, as the kids were getting ready for school, once at about 6:00 to 6:30, once about 7:30 to 8:00 AM, and once between 8:00 and 8:30. Now, she told cops...

GRACE: OK, hold -- hold that! Hold that! Hold that! Because that`s actually very important.

Out to Dr. William Morrone, medical examiner, forensic pathologist and toxicologist, joining us out of Madison Heights. Dr. Morrone, it`s good to see you. I got a question. The newborn infant -- are you familiar with the condition of the baby`s body?

DR. WILLIAM MORRONE, D.O., MEDICAL EXAMINER, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST (via telephone): Yes, I`ve had three or four cases just like this.

GRACE: All right. OK. This is what, number five? OK, five. Doctor, it`s my understanding that the baby`s body was stone cold and the body was purple. In an ambient room temperature, how long do you believe the baby had been dead?

MORRONE: The fact that the baby`s cold means hours.


MORRONE: This woman laid on top of this baby for hours. And the fact that it`s purple -- the purple is probably the side of the baby that was down, and that`s a sign of blood pooling that takes hours. It`s very sad.

GRACE: OK, this is extremely important. P.S., I`m on drink number nine here, FYI, out of a fifth of vodka.

Back to you, Matt Zarrell. You`re telling me -- and I want to hear again -- how many times she woke up from the time her husband warned her, You`re not supposed to sleep on the sofa with the baby. How many times did she get up after that? Did she wake up after that, that we know of?

ZARRELL: We know of four times, Nancy. Let me take you through the timeline because the husband gets home at about 2:00 AM. At 3:00 AM, the mother wakes up and says that she feeds the baby. So at that point, the baby is alive. Then she goes back to sleeping on the ouch with the baby underneath her. At between 6:00 and 6:30 AM, she wakes up once when one of the children is getting ready for school. Keep in mind there are five children in the house in addition to the infant. Then she gets up again at 7:30 to 8:00 o`clock, when some of the other children wake up and start getting ready. And then again between 8:00 and 8:30, she wakes up again.

GRACE: To C.W. Jensen, retired police captain. What this says to me -- and that`s why I was so interested in the condition of the body, how long Dr. Morrone believed the child had been dead before 911 was called and the number of times the mom woke up -- so all this time, the baby was right there. It most likely could have been saved. It had been dead for hours, so she`s actually waking up, and she is so drunk off of a fifth of vodka, she doesn`t even know her baby is laying there dead beside her.

There were hours there -- there was a long period of time that baby`s life could have been saved, C.W.

C.W. JENSEN, RETIRED POLICE CAPTAIN: Right. And her blood alcohol, Nancy, was well over the legal limit. I think it was, like, a .11, so she was hammered, probably had no idea the baby was there. Obviously, that`s probably why they charged her with manslaughter.

GRACE: Joining me right now, Greg Malcolm (ph), detective with the Cottage Grove Police Department joining us tonight out of Minnesota. Greg, thank you for being with us. Detective, what exactly did she say when she spoke to police?

DET. GREG MALCOLM, COTTAGE GROVE PD (via telephone): She indicated that she -- as you`ve already mentioned, that she had been consuming alcohol throughout the weekend. She had consumed alcohol the day prior to the baby`s death, and again later in the evening, after returning from this gathering with her friends.

The exact amount of alcohol we`re not able to determine that. We did find a number of empty alcohol containers in the trash that are consistent with the story that she`s giving us.

GRACE: Isn`t it true that she had stated that she had been drinking the entire time and that she had other children in the home? In fact, the other children wondered what -- where was the baby, wondered about the baby. They didn`t realize the baby was dead?

MALCOLM: That`s correct. One of the older children had checked -- had thought he had checked on the child at about 6:00 in the morning and thought the child was OK. Again, that`s an 11-year-old child, and his ability to understand what was going on probably isn`t the best. And so I don`t think he recognized what had happened.

GRACE: Unleash the lawyers. Joining us tonight, senior assistant district attorney out of Macon, Georgia, David Cooke, Mickey Sherman, renowned defense attorney and author of "How Can You Defend Those People," and high-profile lawyer out of Seattle Anne Bremner.

All right, let the games begin! Mickey Sherman, hit me. What`s your best defense for Mommy?

MICKEY SHERMAN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It`s an accident. It was a mistake. It was stupidity. It was (INAUDIBLE) on her having had so much to drink. But this was not an intentional act. That`s why she`s not charged with murder or anything more serious than a manslaughter.


GRACE: OK, let me just interrupt you with this thought, Mickey. I hear where you`re going. It`s all a big accident. Anne Bremner, you have been a witness to and handled lots of DUI, driving under the influence cases. I, as a former felony prosecutor, got them by the time they were a habitual violator, which is a felony.

And this is what I always argued. It`s not unintentional. When you take that first drink, you intend to. When you pour -- I`ve got the fifth, Anne! When you pour the eighth, the ninth, now the tenth drink -- as I assume I`m pouring them correctly out of a fifth -- all those are intentional.

And isn`t it true that intent under the law can be formed in the twinkling of an eye? In the time it takes me to raise this fifth and pour it in my glass, under the law, that is enough time to form intent.

Her husband warned her not to sleep on the sofa with the baby. She woke up multiple times in the night and never even thought to check on the baby, never thought, Hey, my baby`s not lying here beside me. Where`s the baby? You know how many times, even at age 4-and-a-half, I check on the twins during the night?

So explain to me, where`s the accident in all that? Because every one of those acts were intentional, Anne Bremner.

ANNE BREMNER, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, Nancy, but the other thing is, is she didn`t mean to do it. We need to have mens rea and (INAUDIBLE) rea is the intent and...

GRACE: That`s what every killer says, Anne, I didn`t mean to!

BREMNER: That`s right, but Nancy, she was also asleep. She wasn`t even conscious when it happened, by anybody`s description of what happened. And you know and I have had this argument before about voluntary intoxication as a defense.

But I got my iPad here with a whole chart of the cases I`ve been going through, Nancy, getting ready for today in terms of dealing with that kind of an issue. She was not even conscious.

GRACE: To David Cooke, senior assistant district attorney. David, the reality is, every single thing she did was intentional, all right, including waking up in the night and not even bothering to check on the child that was supposed to be laying beside her! That tiny baby boy found, his body stone cold and purple. This is after we uncover at least two DUIs, her blood alcohol limit off the chart!

DAVID COOKE, SR. ASSIST. DA, MACON, GEORGIA: You know, Nancy, a parent is always on duty. You know that. And when a parent starts drinking to excess like this, they know that they`re putting their child in danger. You know, co-sleeping is dangerous enough when you`re stone cold sober. But when you drink 17 shots of vodka, you`re putting your child`s life in danger.

GRACE: To Christi Paul, anchor, "HLN News Now," author of "Love Isn`t Supposed to Hurt." Christi, I don`t see how this whole thing was an accident, and I want murder charges!

CHRISTI PAUL, ANCHOR, "HLN NEWS NOW": I`m sure you do. And Nancy, I mean, you and I are both parents. We know that at 3 weeks old, when she woke up at -- even when she woke up at 6:00 o`clock, there were -- or 6:30, there were three-and-a-half hours there. We`re talking about a 3-week-old. There`s no way, or it`s very rare for a 3-week-old to sleep six to seven hours at one take.

At some point, when she woke up, had she been coherent, any mom or father watching this will know she should have known at that time, the first time she woke up, that something was wrong.

GRACE: At this hour, we are live in the heartland. Vodka mom wakes up to find her 3-week-old baby boy stone cold and purple. But tonight, we suspect it was at vodka mom`s own hand her baby is dead!



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police say a Minnesota mom drank a fifth of vodka and then passed out on top of her 3-week-old infant, killing him. The medical examiner says 3-week-old Adrian died of asphyxia after being laid (SIC) on while the mother was sleeping.


GRACE: Mommy wakes up to find her child stone cold and purple. They call 911. But as we dig deeper, we find out Mommy has a fifth of vodka that night and is up (ph), sleeping on the sofa with the child, crushing the child, asphyxiating him to death. Why no murder charges?

What I don`t understand -- out to you, Brad Lamm, board-registered interventionist, author of "How to Help Someone You Love" -- Brad, to me, this is like a vehicular homicide. What`s different in this as the murder weapon and a gun? The baby is dead, thanks to Mommy. What`s the difference? Help me out! Does it -- is he any less dead because Mommy got drunk off a fifth and killed him? Is -- is...


GRACE: ... going to change his status in the grave?

BRAD LAMM, INTERVENTIONIST: No, but here`s a question, Nancy. Do you believe that addiction is a disease or not?

GRACE: I do.

LAMM: You do? Well, then you actually...


LAMM: If you believe it`s a disease that needs to be treated, not just locking the people up -- like in California...

GRACE: I didn`t say she shouldn`t have treatment, Brad.

LAMM: They`re mandating in California that a person spend a day in treatment instead of a day in jail, if you agree to it. I mean, I`m all for that...

GRACE: But that`s not what I said. I said alcoholism is a disease. I know personally it is a disease. That does not change the nature of this crime. I`m not all about the vodka mom killer, I`m all about the baby victim. That`s what`s going on here. Fine, get rehab. Get treatment behind bars on your life sentence!

LAMM: Look, I agree, for manslaughter, but I don`t think that you can make a case that a person murdered their child in this case.

GRACE: You can argue that with every single DUI that it shouldn`t be vehicular homicide!

LAMM: Well, I know, and every minute -- every 39 minutes in the U.S., somebody dies...

GRACE: Well, excuse me! How is this different? Do you think DUI -- when you`re on your fifth or sixth DUI and you finally end up killing somebody, you should just get treatment?

LAMM: No. That would be vehicular manslaughter, wouldn`t it? Do you see people...

GRACE: But tell me...

LAMM: ... being charged with murder?

GRACE: Are you telling me that you should just get -- oh, I think that`s a murder charge, too. But you`re suggesting...

LAMM: You do?

GRACE: ... that she just treatment.

LAMM: You know what? I think it`s different, though, getting behind the wheel of a car. I -- that`s just my sense...

GRACE: Different?

LAMM: ... as a clinician.

GRACE: Different? Put Lamm up, please. Brad Lamm, you know, no offense. You know I like you a lot and I respect what you do. I`ve plugged your books. I`ve read your books. I support you. But you`re just flat-out wrong because the baby is dead because of vodka Mommy, all right? I don`t care if she was driving a car, holding a pistol or holding a fifth of vodka. Doesn`t matter to me. The baby is dead at the hands of the mommy. And I have found, when there are child victims, somehow things get pled down. You get off easy. There`s a plea to probation where it`s not ever even prosecuted. And you`re advocating that!

LAMM: Well, here`s a question. Why after 2 DUIs is she even out on the streets?

GRACE: Yes, that is a question, but that`s not my concern tonight. My concern tonight is seeking justice in this case! I know there`s a bigger problem.

LAMM: I`d say lock her up...

GRACE: I can`t help...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... but I would much rather see her in treatment.

GRACE: Well, why can`t we have both? Why do I have to have one or the other? Why can`t I lock her up on a murder charge and get her her treatment?

LAMM: Yes, you don`t really want the state paying for 10 years of her...


GRACE: The state`s already paying!

LAMM: ... in jail for 10 years for this.

GRACE: The state`s already paying! Three hots and a cot. What (ph) does one counselor bother me?


GRACE: We are taking your calls. Mommy wakes up screaming when she finds her baby infant, her baby infant boy, purple and cold to the touch. He is dead, just 3 weeks old. Why? Because Mommy got blasted on a fifth of vodka, making how many drinks, Ell?


GRACE: But how many should it make? Seventeen drinks. Don`t know how you know that off the tip of your tongue -- and sleeps on top of the baby, asphyxiating the infant that was helpless to cry out.

Out to the lines. Amy in Pennsylvania. Hi, Amy. What`s your question?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My question is, if the father was so overly concerned about this, why did he not physically take the infant from her and put the baby in the crib? I`m also concerned about the other kids if this is, you know, a thing that she just does as far as drinking...

GRACE: You know, that`s an excellent question, Amy. And I`m going to go to our two shrinks, Dr. Ramani Durvasula, clinical psychologist, LA, and with us, interventionist Brad Lamm, author of "How to Help Someone You Love."

Ramani, do you think it`s an issue of turning a blind eye when it`s someone you love? I mean, he warned her. Do you think it`s that he didn`t want to accept it? And I`d like to hear from you, too, Brad. Go ahead, Ramani.

RAMANI DURVASULA, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: I do. It`s a quick fix, Don`t just sleep with the baby. That`s a small problem, compared to the fact that this mother was chronically -- chronically an alcoholic and has four other children. This was a tragedy waiting to happen, and it happened in the form of this 3-week-old infant`s life.

LAMM: But here`s a question. If this woman is guilty of murder, is her husband then an accessory to murder?

GRACE: No, under the law. That`s a quick answer to that question. But how about the other question I posed to you? Is it an issue of the husband being an unintentional enabler?

LAMM: Well, I think -- I think he`s actually an intentional enabler. I mean, that`s what happens to a husband who`s married to an alcoholic, is you don`t know which way is up and you normalize crazy behavior.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: According to authorities, 29-year-old Toni Medrano, a Minnesota mother, came home and fell asleep on the couch, passed out drunk on top of her 3-week-old baby. The mother allegedly admitted to drinking a fifth of vodka before she fell asleep.

-- a fifth of vodka...

Mom drank a fifth of vodka...

Three-week-old Adrian smashed between his mother and the couch pillows, couldn`t breath anymore. When she woke at 10:30 AM, she found Adrian cold and purple. Adrian died from asphyxia, according to the medical examiner. The mother allegedly screamed, The baby is dead.


GRACE: It seems to me tonight, from where I sit, that no one is taking the side of baby Adrian. No one is concerned about justice for this child, if there even is such a thing.

Mommy awakes to find her infant boy cold to the touch and purple. Then we uncover that that evening, she admits to drinking, downing a fifth of vodka -- that`s like 12 drinks or more -- then going to sleep with the baby on the sofa, the baby asphyxiated to death.

To Dr. William Morrone, medical examiner and toxicologist. How much do you believe she drank? When her blood alcohol was taken, I believe it was 1.something, the legal limit in that jurisdiction, I think, is .08. It was 1.1, right, Ellie -- .11 -- .11. Obviously, that was hours and hours and hours after the drinking, so I`m assuming her blood alcohol had dissipated by then.

MORRONE: If you take for an account that it could have been eight to ten hours later, and she was a .11, when she was drinking and when she fell asleep, she could have been a .3 or a .4, and that`s why she was unconscious. And that`s why...

GRACE: You know, everybody in this -- everybody in this studio right now just involuntarily -- I was watching them, all of them, as you spoke, they went -- when you said that, Dr. Marrone, and that`s exactly the reaction a jury is going to have.

Unleash the lawyers, David Cooke, Atlanta, Mickey Sherman, New York, Anne Bremner, Seattle.

All right, Mick, here`s the deal. And Mickey, no offense, but I don`t believe you`re afraid of a cocktail. So a fifth, Mickey? A fifth of vodka, Mickey, and you`re still trying to tell me it was an accident?


GRACE: In my mind, every time she put the glass to her lips...

SHERMAN: No jury is going to believe...

GRACE: ... that was an intentional act.

SHERMAN: ... that she intended to kill her child. A jury`s going to...

GRACE: I don`t care if it -- that`s not the burden of proof to a jury...


GRACE: ... intent to kill the child. The intent -- the intent you`ve got to show is intent to do the act because every killer could jump up and say, Oh, I know I held a gun to your head and pulled the trigger, but I just meant to scare you. That`s not what the law says!

SHERMAN: I disagree. I disagree. To find this woman guilty of murder or something more than manslaughter, you would have to show a jury that she intended the consequences of her act. She was stupid. She was a moron. She was a drunk. But that doesn`t necessarily make her a murderer.

GRACE: So you lay on top of your child and asphyxiate it with your body. I`m believe the law would assume the natural consequence of that act, Anne Bremner, would be death?

BREMNER: Well, the thing is, though, Nancy -- and again, when you`re -- you`re not even conscious. And you know, she`s got the voluntary...

GRACE: No, no, no, no! She got...


GRACE: No! Do not mislead the viewers on the facts because she got up three or four times during the evening, including to get formula for the baby.

BREMNER: She did.

GRACE: So she was not unconscious. She just didn`t bother to say, Hey, you know, my baby fell asleep on the sofa beside me and now it`s gone.


BREMNER: She was obviously -- she was obviously unconscious at some point when this happened because she did get up and she did get up other times when the kids went to school.

But the fact of the matter is she doesn`t know when that baby died and she was in shock when she found out the baby had. So obviously, she`s asleep and obviously was under the influence, to a certain extent, even the next day, and over the limit. So that accident works, and we only punish people for their criminal thoughts, and this has to be criminal negligence, which it isn`t.

GRACE: Greg Malcolm, with us, detective, Cottage Grove police department. I know the father warned her not to sleep on the sofa with the baby. I know she`s got two other DUIs, that we know of. What more can you tell us about the possibility of intent, Greg Malcolm?

MALCOLM: In speaking with Mrs. Medrano, I sincerely don`t believe that she had any intent to cause harm to her child on this evening. By all other accounts, she`s been a productive mom, a good mom. She`s done a decent job of raising her children. She, unfortunately, was in the habit of sleeping with this particular child from the day it came home from the hospital.

GRACE: Hey, Greg...

MALCOLM: She was -- yes?

GRACE: The other two DUIs that she had with really high blood alcohol limits then, too, she was also a mom. There are, I think, four other children in the home. So when you say her being a good mom -- the DUIs were while she`s a mom. Could you explain to me how you can be a good mom when you`re stone cold passed out on the sofa and it ain`t your first time at the rodeo?

MALCOLM: Yes. And there`s -- certainly her behavior in the past has indicated some patterns of irresponsibility. However, you know, she did not have the children in the car with her when those prior DUIs occurred.

GRACE: Greg, have you ever handled a vehicular homicide?

MALCOLM: I have.

GRACE: OK. So in those cases, isn`t it true that the driver always says, I didn`t mean to? I didn`t mean to kill anybody?

MALCOLM: And I think that`s -- in their mind, I think that`s true. But if people get behind the wheel of a car...

GRACE: That`s kind of what you`re saying...

MALCOLM: ... with the idea that...


GRACE: ... right now, Greg. You`re saying she didn`t mean to.

MALCOLM: I don`t believe she did.

GRACE: OK, Christi Paul, anchor, HLN, author of "Love Isn`t Supposed to Hurt," your new book -- and the title really applies to today -- I have no doubt that in her mind, she loved the baby. But you know, when you`re a mom, it`s a whole different ball of wax.

PAUL: It is!

GRACE: It`s not a romantic love, it`s a different kind of love. It`s a love that`s really based in duty. There`s plenty of times at 5:00 o`clock in the morning I don`t feel like changing diapers or I don`t feel like...

PAUL: But you do it, don`t you?

GRACE: Yes, because that is my duty, and I want very much to be the best mother I can be.

PAUL: And this is what`s so alarming to me, Nancy. When you think about it, there were actually five other children in this house. She had six children total. So this night, there`s a 3-week-old to an 11-year-old in the house in the middle of the night, and the only person there with them is a mother who`s drunk on the couch, sleeping next to and later on her child, who ends up dead.

Think about the pressure of that 11-year-old. We just heard a little while ago how the 11-year-old got up at 6:00 o`clock and was looking for the baby. Clearly, those children know something isn`t right. If the 11- year-old is getting up and feels that kind of pressure, that uneasiness to look for the baby and make sure it`s OK, that doesn`t tell us that this is a household where the mom is being a mom 99 percent of the time.

GRACE: C.W., retired police captain, C.W. Jensen -- C.W., why do people, when you find out the killer is a mom -- why do people just automatically start making excuses?

JENSEN: You know, Nancy, one of the things that I think is interesting that you`re bringing up is she`s got the prior DUIs. She`s drunk. Her husband even tells her, Don`t get on the couch. I like where your head`s at, kind of, here. This seems even more than recklessness, which is manslaughter. This woman disregarded everything and intentionally did whatever she wanted to do, and that was sit down on that baby! It just seems more reckless than we would give her credit for.

GRACE: You know, Dr. Marrone, I`ve been thinking about what this child went through, this infant went through at the time of his death, lying there, and the one person in the world you can count on is Mommy. The one person that, come hell or high water, is going to come through for you, you know, will take her own life before you get hurt -- dying there on the sofa, struggling to breathe, what did the child go through physically in death?

MORRONE: Well, the first thing in the struggle would have been to continue breathing and getting weaker and weaker response, and then lapse into unconsciousness with the continued compression, compression on its lungs and its airway, and in three to five minutes, it would have been all over.

GRACE: Everyone, I want to remind you about "On the Radar" tonight, tracking crime and justice on our Web site, Orlando, Florida, Sandra Lamere (ph) vanishing after meeting up with a man she meets on the Internet. Georgia, a young woman goes to work to deliver pizza, found bludgeoned to death with multiple stab wounds. And to Mississippi, accused kidnapper and killer Adam Mayes (ph) on the FBI 10 Most Wanted, kills himself. Boo-hoo! His family donates his body to science? To study what? "On the Radar" -- for more "On the Radar" or to get your story on our radar, go to


GRACE: A dream engagement, the man she always wanted, a wedding to look forward to -- until tragedy strikes, her groom to be found dead in a residential fire, his body burned to a crisp. But then police begin to turn the finger toward her, the blushing bride. They now believe that she doused him with gasoline and set him on fire.

Straight out to Joe Gomez, investigative reporter, KTRH. What happened?

JOE GOMEZ, KTRH: Yes, Nancy, a shocking story, isn`t it. You know, while her boyfriend was asleep on the couch, police say that Gina doused the couch with gasoline and then walked to the front of the door of the apartment, Nancy, and then she flicked (ph) a piece of paper that was on fire at her boyfriend, lit him on fire as he was asleep on that couch! Police say then she left. She hightailed it out there and called her mother. She was subsequently taken into custody. But my God, Nancy, what a story!

GRACE: My question -- out to Andrew Rogers, news director, KSRM. Thanks for being with us. Andrew, did he die of smoke inhalation, or did he literally burn to death?

ANDREW ROGERS, KSRM (via telephone): From what it looks like right now, he actually did burn to death. Really, the fire being set right around the couch that he was sleeping on, there was really no other choice but to have that as the leading cause of death, Nancy.

GRACE: What an excruciating death. To Lieutenant Dave Parker, special guest, joining us -- joining us from the Anchorage police. Lieutenant, thank you so much for being with us. Is it true that the blushing bride`s story changed a couple of times?

LT. DAVE PARKER, ANCHORAGE PD (via telephone): She actually told them at first that he was drinking gasoline and was intoxicated. And then later on, when they had an additional interview with her, she came up with the story that she had actually purchased gasoline, doused him with it and then lit him on fire.

GRACE: To Angel Gonzalez, the brother of Michael Gonzalez, apparently set on fire and killed by his fiancee as he sleeps. Mr. Gonzalez, thank you for being with us.

ANGEL GONZALEZ, BROTHER OF MURDERED MAN (via telephone): Thank you, Nancy.

GRACE: When did you learn about what had happened to your brother?

GONZALEZ: My parents had to call me with the news after being notified. It was quite a -- after they had done their initial identification, so it was probably by my time late evening.

GRACE: Angel, I know it must be devastating to think what your brother went through in death. What was this woman like? It was my understanding she was looking forward to the wedding, she had this great engagement. What was she like?

GONZALEZ: That`s pretty much what I got passed down from him, that he was excited, he thought that he -- you know, that this is -- that this is the one.

GRACE: You know, it`s my understanding -- to the lawyers -- that death by actually burning, death by fire is one of the most excruciating, horrible causes of death.

OK, Bremner, go ahead. What this time? Accident? Insanity? Where are you going with this one?

BREMNER: I`m thinking, Nancy, all of the above. I mean, she`s looking forward to her wedding and she does this?

GRACE: An insane accident?


BREMNER: Yes, an insane accident, sane (ph)-slash-accident. I mean, she`s...

GRACE: OK, Mickey Sherman...

BREMNER: ... so out there and...

GRACE: ... accident theory is impossible. There`s no way this can be an accident.

SHERMAN: No. Nancy, there`s part of this puzzle that we just haven`t not learned about yet. There`s got to be something else out there. I don`t know whether or not it was, like, a "Burning Bed" scenario that -- you know, the famous Farrah Fawcett movie with...

GRACE: Oh, here we go!

SHERMAN: ... the abuse -- I don`t know. I`m just saying I don`t know and you don`t know, either.

GRACE: So David Cooke, prosecutor joining us tonight out of Atlanta - - so David Cooke, bottom line, that`s what the defense is going to be right there. Mickey Sherman hit it on the head. She`s going to claim she`s a victim of domestic abuse, that she went to the gasoline -- the grocery store, the Seven-11, got the gasoline, went back, set him on fire because he had beaten her in the past. That`s what it`s going to be, David Cooke.

COOKE: Right. Right. And one of the first things I would do, if I had this case, is look to see if there were any prior reported instances of domestic violence, or if she just made it up at the last minute.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A 25-year-old woman is charged with first-degree murder in the death of her fiance, now facing a host of arson and other criminal charges in addition to murder. The man`s fiancee allegedly covered him in gasoline while he slept on a couch, then set him ablaze, Michael Gonzalez`s body found charred inside the apartment.


GRACE: We are taking your calls. The blushing bride looking forward to her wedding day when tragedy strikes, her groom-to-be found burned to a crisp in a residential fire, until cops point the finger at her.

Out to the lines. Theresa, New York. Hi, Theresa. What`s your question?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. My question would be, what could this man have possibly done to make her do this? I just can`t understand. Even if she was cheated on, or even beaten, there`s ways of running, not -- not, you know, taking a life like that and having to live with something like that for the rest of your life.

GRACE: I agree. And remember, the battered women`s syndrome defense works under certain circumstances, not revenge circumstances.

Out to the victim`s brother, Angel Gonzalez. Mr. Gonzalez, what`s your response when people ask what did he do to deserve this? How did he get to be the bad guy, Angel?

GONZALEZ: That`s -- that`s the question that no one -- that we can`t -- that we don`t know. The Michael that we know is -- I mean, he goes to work -- he goes to work every day, is on time. He isn`t late, a valued member, at least for work here (ph). He`s -- the youngest sibling, our youngest brother looks up to him. He changes people`s -- he changes people around him and for the better.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The man who she supposedly wanted to marry never stood a chance. The blaze, they say, was set by the man`s soon-to-be bride. Prosecutors allege the woman doused her fiance with gasoline while he slept on a couch, then ignited the fire that engulfed him in deadly flames.


GRACE: We are taking your calls. To Dr. Ramani Durvasula, clinical psychologist joining us out of LA. I have encountered as a volunteer at the battered women`s center for 10 years, the battered women`s center -- battered women`s defense. What do you make of it in this case?

DURVASULA: In this particular case, again, without evidence of what the -- if there was any history of abuse -- I mean, this was a -- again, the nature of the crime, so dramatic, it`s almost like she was trying to destroy their surroundings. The defense is a tricky one because without knowing her history, it`s hard to know.

GRACE: Right.

DURVASULA: But it is -- it`s easy (INAUDIBLE) someone snaps. And if someone has been battered, they snap.

GRACE: To Lieutenant Dave Parker, joining us out of the Anchorage police department. Again, thank you for being with us, Lieutenant. Is she alleging domestic abuse? Isn`t it true that all she has mentioned is that she now claims he was verbally abusive?

PARKER: There`s no indication, but that`s still under investigation. There was a report of some kind of a disturbance in the apartment earlier on in the evening.

GRACE: Let`s stop and remember Army pilot Sam Huff, just 18, Tucson, Arizona, killed, Iraq, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Commendation, Army Good Conduct medal, loved music, played flute and piccolo, later became a drum major in high school, wanted to join the FBI, leaves behind father, Bob, half-brother and sister Sean (ph) and Tara. (ph) Sam Huff, American hero.

Thanks to our guests, but especially to you for being with us. And tonight, congratulations to little crime fighter, California friend, Owen, 5th grade graduation. Here he is with our "Dancing With the Stars" friend Ricki Lake. Way to go, Owen! Next stop, Harvard!

And happy birthday to Birmingham`s Harris Emerson, a Navy veteran married to Doris 65 years. Three children, eight grands later, they`re still going strong. Happy 94th birthday, Harris Emerson.

Everyone, stay tuned for "DR. DREW" coming up next. I`ll see you tomorrow night, 8:00 o`clock sharp Eastern. And until then, good night, friend.