Return to Transcripts main page

Nancy Grace

California Battles Massive Wildfire

Aired October 27, 2006 - 20:00   ET


NANCY GRACE, HOST: Tonight, four dead in a California inferno. Police confirm arson, but motive and ID unknown, that wildfire now headed to Palm Springs. Tonight, the hunt for the suspect, the reward climbing tonight to $300,000.
And tonight, a parent`s worst nightmare, a 2-year-old boy tucked into his crib, mom in the next room with a video, then she says the screen slashed, the baby gone, police openly naming mom, Melinda Duckett, prime suspect. Tonight, new details emerging.

But first tonight, to murder by arson in southern California.


GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: This is a very sad day for California, and I want to let the families and friends of these brave men know that all Californians are heartbroken and our thoughts and prayers are with them.


GRACE: Good evening, everyone. I`m Nancy Grace. I want to thank you for being with us tonight. Tonight, to southern California, a deadly blaze claiming the lives of four people, a fifth in critical condition.

Out to Gary Tuchman, CNN correspondent standing by there in California. Gary, how did the fire start? We understand there`s an arson investigation going on. What are police confirming?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right now, police are confirming, Nancy, that this fire began literally only about 40 hours ago. It`s been burning for less than two days, just a few hundred acres yesterday, now it`s up to 24,000 acres. And they definitely are sure that this is an arson fire. They think they`re looking for one or more arsonists.

The reason they think it`s arson, Nancy, is because the fire actually started -- its beginning point was near an intersection in the open. There was no rain, no bad weather. Lots of these fires start from lightning or downed power lines. There`s no sign of anything that would have started a fire in this area. And also, most importantly, a witness saw two unidentified men leaving the scene shortly after the blaze started. So that`s why not only are they very concerned, Nancy, they`re very angry, authorities here.

GRACE: Gary, explain to me again where exactly police believe this fire started.

TUCHMAN: Right. They believe it started in an open area. Most brushfires start in the middle of rough areas, where you can`t get to very quickly. They start from lightning strikes. As a matter of fact, right here in this area, near Palm Springs, California, just about a month ago, there was a huge brushfire. That started from lightning. And no one was killed, a great relief to the firefighters who were out here.

But this starred in an open area. They did not find an accelerant, but the combination of seeing two unidentified men running away and also the fact that there was no bad weather, no lightning, no power lines down, they believe it`s an arson fire.

GRACE: Out to Dave Hillman. He is the chief of law enforcement and fire prevention for the California Department of Forestry. Chief, thank you for being with us. How is it that an investigator can look at the inception of a fire and determine it`s by arson?

DAVE HILLMAN, CHIEF OF FIRE PREVENTION, CAL. DEPT. OF FORESTRY: Nancy, it`s actually a combination of good forensic science and a little bit of good, old detective work. The investigators on this fire I`m sure have looked over the scene with a fine-toothed comb. They have gathered whatever evidence is there. Now the hard part starts, and that`s trying to track down the suspect.

GRACE: Back to Gary Tuchman, standing by there in California. Gary, four people dead, a fifth in critical condition. Who are they? And how did they manage to perish in the flames?

TUCHMAN: It`s so sad and tragic, Nancy. These five men were in a fire truck, trying to save a house that was being threatened by the blaze. They were in the truck. They thought they were in a safe place. And that`s the thing about -- and we see this covering these fires. They jump and move so quickly. If you`re anywhere near the flames, you are in danger. There`s no question about that.

These firefighters were near the flames, and all of a sudden, the gust of winds were blowing. And you can see right now the gusts are up to 40 miles an hour here. That`s what makes this so dangerous. And they were overtaken by the flames while they were in the truck. Three men killed right away. Another man died in the hospital. The fifth man is in the hospital right now, and doctors say his prognosis is poor. He has burns over 90 percent of his body.

So that`s a real important point, Nancy. They`re not just horrified by what happened, they`re really angry at what happened because people started this fire that has led to these deaths. And these men, when they`re caught, will very likely -- can very likely be charged with murder. Same as a murder in a convenience store, this is murder.

GRACE: Four dead firefighters, a fifth, his life hanging in the balance. To Dr. Jonathan Arden, medical examiner. Describe the injuries that these firefighters endured.

DR. JONATHAN ARDEN, MEDICAL EXAMINER, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: The types of injuries that these firefighters would have are very much specifically related to the flames and the contact with the body. This is unlike the injuries you get in an ordinary structural fire, a house fire, where you die from smoke inhalation. This is actual contact of flame, as well as breathing in super-heated gases. So you get seared from the inside and outside simultaneously, and it is the burning and the heating of the body that causes the destruction and causes the death.

And you can see that because of the two men who brought out -- who initially survived, one of whom has since succumbed, they`re being treated for thermal burns over almost the entirety of the body, as opposed to a smoke inhalation situation. And so that`s the kind of injuries that they get and the kind of -- the problems that they develop later with burns and infections, and so on.

GRACE: Dr. Arden, the arsons that I have prosecuted, the victims died not from flame but from smoke inhalation. Explain to me again. You`re saying that the air was so super-heated, they burned on the inside?

ARDEN: They`re -- in this situation, they`re burning from flame contact on the outside, and the gases are so hot that when they breathe them in, they sear the airways in the lungs. So there is -- it`s not quite a thermal burn on inside, but it is a burning experience on inside.

In the ordinary house fire, as the type that you`re familiar with that we see much more commonly, those people normally succumb to smoke inhalation of the poisonous gases from the fire, and burning, if it occurs, happens after they die. This is a very distinctly different situation, where the flame contact and the burning is the actual primary injury and the real culprit here.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s with great sadness today that we confirm the names of the Forest Service firefighters who tragically lost their lives yesterday while in the line of duty. The deceased are Mark Loutzenhiser, Jess McLean, Jason McKay and Daniel Hoover-Najera. Our very deepest condolences go out to the families and friends at this very tragic time. All of us here on the forest and all of us in this fire community are suffering a great loss today.


GRACE: And tonight as we speak, the life of another firefighter hangs in the balance. He is 23 years old. He`s in critical condition. He has burns over 90 percent of his body. The prognosis poor. Currently at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, Colton (ph), California.

Back out to Gary Tuchman, there on the scene in California. Gary, I`m just sick. I`m sick that someone would intentionally do this, claiming the lives of four that we know of. Tell me again, what was observed about the suspects?

TUCHMAN: There is a witness who says he saw two unidentified males -- and obviously, if they were identified males, the authorities would know exactly what they`re dealing with. They don`t right now. But two males running out from the area where the origins of the fire are.

Now, I`ll tell you, there`s no question, people are really stupid when they go out in the woods and they go out in these dry conditions and these windy conditions. They set fires. They set bonfires. It`s not a wise thing to do because in these conditions -- southern California is used to it. They`re used to having these brushfires and these wildfires. But this time of year, when it`s so dry and when it`s so windy, you just set an innocent little bonfire, it could develop into what`s happened. That`s what`s amazing, 24,000 acres, and it hasn`t been 48 hours yet.

GRACE: Gary, tell me about the extent of the devastation so far.

TUCHMAN: Nancy, say that question again. I couldn`t hear that very well.

GRACE: Tell me about the extent of the damage. I know that there is nearly little 24,000 acres, about 38 square miles ruined. How many people have been affected?

TUCHMAN: What we`re talking about here so far, about 10 homes have been destroyed, but it`s estimated that there are 500 to 600 homes that are very vulnerable right now. Thousands of people have been evacuated. There is immense concern that we`re talking about a 23,000-acre growth in over 24 hours. This could be much bigger tomorrow. So there`s a state of emergency right now here in Riverside County, California, and authorities are very concerned that at this time tomorrow, we`re going to have much more damage. They`re hoping they don`t have any more loss of life.

GRACE: Gary, I`ve been taking a look at the death penalty statute there in California. Of course, all death penalty statutes are different across the country. But in my reading of the statute, arson will definitely make this an aggravating circumstance.

Let`s go out to the lines. John in Pennsylvania. Hi, John.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. Yes. This is John from Harrisburg.

GRACE: Hi, dear. What`s your question?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was wondering what kind of charges would the persons responsible be charged with? Because I know a murder charge, you actually have to physically do harm to somebody else, and this would be more of a -- looks more like a negligent homicide or involuntary manslaughter.

GRACE: Well, the fact that it is now pointing toward an intentional arson, the law presumes, John, that a perpetrator intends the natural consequences of their act. This is the one I used in front of juries. If you hold up a piece of china and then throw it down to a cement floor, the law presumes you intend to break the china. Here, you start an arson fire in a dry area like California, with the Santa Ana winds coming in, the law presumes you intend an arson fire of this magnitude.

Let`s go out to the lawyers. Joining us, Carmen St. George, and from the California jurisdiction, Michael Cardoza. Michael, Carmen, thank you for being with us. Michael, what kind of charges are we looking at?

MICHAEL CARDOZA, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, first of all, Nancy, it`s not going to be a death penalty charge, not death penalty. And I`ll tell you, if you want to cause to go after, after hearing from the doctor how those firefighters died in this magnitude of an arson fire, I`ll tell you, laws in California should be changed because we have four firefighters dead, one more maybe. Maybe we should add that.

GRACE: Well, wait a minute. I`ve got a question.

CARDOZA: So no death penalty.

GRACE: I`ve got a question!

CARDOZA: No death penalty...

GRACE: Wait a minute!

CARDOZA: ... but first-degree murder. Go ahead.

GRACE: Wait.

CARDOZA: Go ahead.

GRACE: After reading your statute, under the death penalty statute -- and you know this better than me, being in practice in California lawyer -- it specifically mentions arson and it specifically mentions a destructive device. Also, four dead? More than one body equals mass murder.

CARDOZA: But Nancy, you have to have the arson -- the intent to kill. You have to set the fire with the intent to kill, the specific firefighter that died. So in this case, no death penalty. But you can get them on a first degree, and it`s a felony murder because the felony is arson. Because of that arson, four people died, so you`d have four first-degree murders, five if the other person dies. God forbid that, but if the fifth dies, that carries 25 to life. So you have at least four 25`s-to-life, plus on top of that the arson charge, and I think that carries six. So certainly...

GRACE: I understand...

CARDOZA: ... you can put them away forever.

GRACE: ... where you`re coming from, but I don`t think that murder requires an engraved invitation.

To Mike Brooks. Agree, disagree?

MIKE BROOKS, FORMER D.C. POLICE, SERVED ON FBI TERRORISM TASK FORCE: I agree with you, Nancy. And we -- you know, they`re going to look at the motive. And you know, what is the motive for this particular one. Is it revenge, profit, vandalism, extremism, excitement or crime -- you know, covering up a crime? They`re going to take a look at the motive. But you set a fire of this magnitude in this kind of an area, with those Santa Ana winds, you`re trying to burn something up and you`re -- there`s a possibility you are going to kill someone. And I think the death penalty would be right on time here.

GRACE: Back to Gary Tuchman. What about the reward? It`s up to $300,000. Has Schwarzenegger kicked in?

TUCHMAN: Hot off the press, Nancy, we`ve got some information. The reward has now been upped to $500,000, half a million dollars for any information that leads to the capture and the conviction of the arsonist or arsonists.

GRACE: Gary, I want to go back over the suspects. You said it was two white males, correct?

TUCHMAN: I don`t know their race, Nancy. I do know two unidentified males. That`s how it`s been described to me, but they saw two -- a witness saw two men he did not recognize running away from the area after that particular witness noticed flames where this wildfire began.

GRACE: Did they get into a vehicle?

TUCHMAN: Don`t know. That much hasn`t been told to us. But it is very fair to say authorities think this is a very important tip that two men -- and that`s -- that two men were there. And that is how -- that is partially how they based their diagnosis here that we`re dealing with...

GRACE: Arson, right.

TUCHMAN: ... an arsonist or arsonists.

GRACE: Right. Gary Tuchman, there on scene in California.

To Thomas Roberts, CNN Headline News anchor. Has there been any more information about these possible suspects, Thomas?

THOMAS ROBERTS, CNN HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: Nancy, you know, that`s something that we`ve been following since this broke during our broadcast yesterday. We`ve been following this now for the completion (ph) of when the fire started and we got the first information until now. And we really don`t have much more information about who they could possibly be. Our focus has really been on the fact of the 1,750 firefighters that are on the scene, the 24,000 acres that are burning, and meanwhile, this one firefighter that`s clinging to life right now, with 90 percent of his body completely burned.

GRACE: What do you know about it, Mike?

BROOKS: Well, I`ll tell you, with the investigation, you`ve got Riverside County sheriff`s office, you`ve got the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, ATF. They are the main arson investigators. And you`ve got the FBI. The ATF has also said, Nancy, that if they can find who`s responsible for this, they want to charge them federally also.

GRACE: Back out to Gary. Gary, a state of emergency has been called. Explain.

TUCHMAN: Right, Nancy. The state of emergency means that people who live in the affected area are being told they must leave their homes. Just like a hurricane, it`s not like the police come around and grab you and take you out of your home. But if you stay at your home, you are staying there at your own risk. So there are thousands of people who have been told to evacuate the area.

And I don`t know if you can see behind me, it`s a beautiful sunny day in this part of California, but when you come to this area, you can see the grayness. That`s not clouds, that`s the fire.

GRACE: Gary, I understand that people being evacuated are not being allowed to bring their livestock, their horses, their animals. They`re all left behind.

TUCHMAN: What we`ve found in other wildfires, Nancy, is that people who anticipate there might be an evacuation order start trying to get their livestock out. And we`ve seen people who`ve loaded up their trucks with horses and with pigs and with cattle and with sheep. But if you don`t anticipate in enough time, you`re not going to have enough time to get out because a lot of these roads in the mountains are very narrow and they need room for the fire trucks to go up them. So it gets to a certain point, you just have to go and you have to leave the animals behind.

GRACE: Gary, we can see behind you, but I was reading reports where when a eucalyptus, a stand of eucalyptus trees, caught fire, the eucalyptus oil, the sap, turned into something similar to hot grease and was popping and exploding. What are the firefighters up against tonight?

TUCHMAN: That`s a very good point. There is so much here that is like kindling wood -- eucalyptus trees, like you`re saying, the dry brush, winds. And that is a major factor. We`re talking right -- and humidity. We`re talking right now 7 percent. That`s the humidity. The lower the humidity, the more vulnerable to the flames spreading. But the wind, all day long, it`s been about 20 miles per hour sustained, 40 miles per hour gusty. And that is an enemy of the firefighters, those kind of weather conditions..

GRACE: Gary, when you turn around and you see the devastation behind you, can you even comprehend it`s because of two idiots that started a fire?

TUCHMAN: Well, that`s the thing. You know, I was telling you when we were here in this very area just about a month or so ago, covering another huge brushfire, it was started by a lightning bolt. And no one was killed. So people were scared. The firefighters were scared. The homeowners were scared. But they weren`t angry at that point. And they weren`t so saddened because they were able to save all life. They lost a lot of buildings. They lost a lot of land.

But now you`re dealing with the loss of human life, four people killed, possibly a fifth, and it all started because of at least one individual. That`s why there`s just so much seething anger here right now.

GRACE: And here. Gary Tuchman there, live on the scene, thank you, friend.

Very quickly, to tonight`s "Case Alert." Four suspects in custody tonight possibly linked to the Florida Turnpike murders. A family of four, including a mother and two young sons, fatally shot, their bodies found October 13 near the Florida Turnpike, Port St. Lucie.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got fire coming your way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got (INAUDIBLE) to the left. Any action, or just keep watching it closely?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch that structure. Get ready to deploy there. Get the pumps fired up.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it`s established. It`s going to be coming down the canyon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) up in the storage area.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an arson fire. This is a deliberately set arson fire. A deliberately set arson fire that leads to the death of anyone constitutes murder.


GRACE: Under California law, this is murder. This fire was intentionally set. Tonight, four dead, a fifth clinging to life, their injuries horrific.

Out to Lola in Florida. Hi, Lola.


GRACE: What`s your question, dear?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What I wanted to ask you is I`d heard before that the terrorists had threatened forest fires for us. And I`m wondering if anyone is investigating that possibility.

GRACE: What about it, Mike Brooks?

BROOKS: Well, that could be a motive. But right now, it doesn`t look like it`s terrorists. It looks like it`s someone who set this fire intentionally right at an S curve in an open area. The chief was talking about that yesterday. But no terrorism nexus has been mentioned whatsoever.

GRACE: Joining us now from CNN, weather anchor Rob Marciano. Rob, thank you for being with us. Explain to me with the map where the fire is headed.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN WEATHER ANCHOR: Well, it`s headed in the direction the wind is going, which has been the same for really the past couple of days. It`s towards the southwest, from the northeast. We`re looking towards the southwest. Here is the Cabazon, where the fire started. I-10 here cuts through this canyon in the San Gabriel Mountains towards and around Palm Springs and then back towards the west, towards LA.

So what happens when the winds come in this direction, they`re forced down the mountains. That dries them out and compresses them and heats the winds even more. And then right in through this canyon, it`s forced through this narrow opening. Just like putting your thumb over a hose, it shoots it out even more quickly. So it`s quite dramatic.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a deliberately set arson fire. A deliberately set arson fire that leads to the death of anyone constitutes murder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re angry. And I want everyone here to know, and particularly that person watching today that committed this offense, we will not rest. We will find you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We mourn this loss as though they were members of our own family. And I assure the public family that we will use all the resources of Riverside County, including the Riverside County Sheriff`s Department and district attorney, to ensure that we bring the perpetrator or perpetrators of these crimes to justice.


GRACE: And what`s even more disturbing is that perpetrator or perpetrators are probably watching the coverage of the fire right now.

Joining us right now, a very special guest, Pat Boss. He has retired from the U.S. Forest Service, and he is a very good friend of Captain Mark Loutzenhiser who lost his life in this fire. Mr. Boss, thank you for being with us. I understand that Mark was very, very experienced. How did this happen?

PAT BOSS, FRIEND OF FIREFIGHTER KILLED IN ARSON WILDFIRE: Nancy, we really don`t know how it happened. I mean, wind events are wind events, and they take place so fast. But I would like to make a correction. All five firefighters were outside their vehicle. As first reported, three were inside. That`s been confirmed when they got on the scene that all five firefighters were outside their fire engine, doing fire protection on the structure. And they were a little ways away from their vehicle when they were found. They had no warning.

Mark Loutzenhiser was a very high professional and very dedicated firefighter of 21 years, and his whole crew was really highly dedicated and knew what they were doing.

GRACE: Pat, does he leave behind a family?

BOSS: He leaves five kids, Nancy...


BOSS: -- the oldest being 18 and the youngest being 8, a pair of twin boys, a wife and a community that`s devastated. He was so active in it, and all the young kids up here considered him their coach because he was so active in sports and activities for the young kids.



911 OPERATOR: What is Trenton wearing, honey?

MELINDA DUCKETT, LATE MOTHER OF TRENTON DUCKETT: I don`t know. He was ready for bed. I know who frickin` did it.

GRACE: Why aren`t you telling us and giving us a clear picture where you were before your son was kidnapped?

M. DUCKETT: Because I`m not going to put those kind of details out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My granddaughter just killed herself.

JOSH DUCKETT, FATHER OF TRENTON DUCKETT: I just want my son back. I mean, that`s why I go. He`s my pride and joy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We still want the picture of Trenton in the news, and it`s very important that we keep his picture out there. We`ve got to know.


GRACE: The search for 2-year-old Trenton Duckett goes on in Leesburg, Florida. Out to Court TV`s Jean Casarez on the story from the beginning. Updates tonight, explain.

JEAN CASAREZ, COURT TV: ... information coming out. You know, investigators have wondered about that screen, the screen that had a 10- inch cut in the bedroom that allegedly the boy was abducted out of. What they found is that they cannot determine if the screen was cut from the outside in or from the inside out. And that`s because the screen is a nylon mesh. And once it`s cut, it just sort of goes together.

But under one of those search warrants they also wanted to determine if any of the sharp objects found in Melinda`s apartment -- where we`re talking about knives -- could have been used to the cut that screen. So they actually took five different knives, a medium knife, a small knife, a box cutter, and a pocket knife, among others, and they tested those knives for trace evidence. They couldn`t find any trace evidence.

So there is no smoking gun, Nancy, that one of those knives actually was used to cut. But what investigators have said, any of those knives could have been used because they tested the knives on the kitchen screen, which was the same type of screen, and all could easily make that 10-inch cut.

GRACE: And, Jean, it`s my understanding from what you`re saying, the police did take several cutting utensils from Melinda Duckett?

CASAREZ: That`s right: Five all together.

GRACE: Out to Thomas Roberts, Headline News anchor, what about the computer? Are they still testing Melinda Duckett`s computer?

THOMAS ROBERTS, CNN HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: Nancy, they were able to receive materials from that computer, some deleted things and the hard drive, et cetera. They were able to retrieve that material, and they were able to get back some deleted items.

Now, that stuff has really come up inconclusive, as well, nothing that they deem very valuable so far in this investigation. But that doesn`t mean that they`re done going through the mountains of evidence that they did pull from that, though. So it`s kind of confusing right now exactly how far they`ve gotten and how far they need to go.

GRACE: An article was written in the "Orlando Sentinel" by Ms. Lauren Ritchie describing our show`s plan to go down and aid in the search and highlight the search next week.

"Trenton Duckett, the 2-year-old reported missing two months ago, today will be found on November 16th or 17th, just before the 8:00 p.m. time slot. How do I know? Nancy Grace is coming to town, the CNN Headline News host who`s taken this case on as a personal cause, making her way to Leesburg where she`ll be showing the simple folk how a real investigation is conducted."

Well, contrary to Ms. Ritchie`s article, I doubt I will be diving or helicoptering as she reported, but what we will do, however, is focus our attention where it belongs, not on attacking others, but on finding a 2- year-old little boy Ms. Ritchie seems to have forgotten.

Miss Ritchie goes on, "So what is Grace doing here? She`s pursuing the same goal as always: ratings."

Tonight, I speak directly to the "Orlando Sentinel." Is it so hard for you to believe that someone, even a lawyer like myself and our staff, want to help find Trenton? This is about a search for Trenton that has been forgotten by so many.

The article goes on, "Her ratings jumped, however, when she got nasty with Melinda Duckett, the missing child`s mother." Take a listen.


GRACE: Melinda, have you taken a polygraph?

M. DUCKETT: I`ve spoken to the investigators, and Joshua is on the outside loop of it. And as far as the investigative techniques are concerned with polygraph, stress test, physical searches, interviews, et cetera, my family and I have fully cooperated with local law enforcement and...

GRACE: Have you taken a polygraph?

M. DUCKETT: ... the federal and everything...


M. DUCKETT: And locally, they don`t have enough necessary experience, and that`s why the FBI was called in to begin with. I`ve been instructed to only speak with them, with their unit, and anything that they release to the media or the public is up to them. Now, as far as...

GRACE: Have you taken a polygraph?

M. DUCKETT: ... or anything -- like I said, I mean, anything that I do or anything is in cooperation with them. I`m doing everything they want me to. But as far as details and everything, I mean, I`m leaving everything up to them.

GRACE: Right. Have you taken a polygraph?

M. DUCKETT: I`ve done everything they`ve asked me to.

GRACE: Where were you? Why aren`t you telling us where you were that day? You were the last person to be seen with him?

M. DUCKETT: And we`ve already gone out and distributed the fliers and spoken to...

GRACE: Right, why aren`t you telling us and giving us a clear picture of where you were before your son was kidnapped?

M. DUCKETT: Because I`m not going to put those kind of details out?


M. DUCKETT: Because I was told not to.

GRACE: Ms. Duckett, you`re not telling us for a reason. What is the reason? You refuse to give even the simplest facts of where you were with your son before he went missing. It is day 12.

M. DUCKETT: (INAUDIBLE) with all media. It`s not just there, just all media, period.

GRACE: And what store did you go to, Wal-Mart, J.C. Penney`s, what?

M. DUCKETT: I`m not going to get into any specifics.


M. DUCKETT: Because I`m not dealing with media very well.

GRACE: Well, can you remember where you were that day?

M. DUCKETT: I can remember perfectly well where I went that day, just like I`ve spoken to the FBI. But as far as anything else goes, we haven`t had very good dealings with any of them.

GRACE: Well, don`t you think it would be a great idea, for instance, if you were at a local J.C. Penney`s or Sears-Roebuck to tell the viewers right now, "This is where we were. Did you see anything? Did you notice anything? Here`s your child`s picture. Here`s my picture. Help me"?


GRACE: Ms. Ritchie, those questions were not nasty. They weren`t even hardballs. Where did you go? Who were you with? Did you cooperate with police? Did you take a polygraph? Those are easy.

But the ugly part is that Melinda Duckett refused to answer both me and the police, refused to take a polygraph, provide a truthful time line to help find a missing 2-year-old, her 2-year-old. Trenton has not been found, Ms. Ritchie. Other than attacking me, I`d like to know what you`re doing about it.

Ms. Ritchie goes on, "I love when New York publicity buddies send messages to us hicks at the remote end of the continent. When I know one of their communiques is in en route, I race to the windmill and crank for dear life so I can generate enough electricity to fire up the telegraph. Sometimes they use big words, and then I got a call a teacher to help me."

Ms. Ritchie, I am from a red, dirt road in Macon, Georgia, and don`t appreciate us small-towners being portrayed as hicks and simple folks. Ma`am, you`re not referring to just me, but to many of my viewers and your readers. Why would you insult them, too?

And, also, you refer to young women as bunnies. Ms. Ritchie, be careful. Guess what? People actually get sued for that kind of talk in the workplace.

But last, from the beginning, we are here at the N.G. show set out to shed light on the justice system, lend a voice to victims of injustice. But why would a critic like you care? You know, Ms. Ritchie, if the world listened to critics like you, no achievement great or small would ever take place, no task ever get done, no dream attempted.

So you sit back and you take pot shots. Hey, enjoy yourself. I`d be mad if you didn`t. For me, I plan to help the search for Trenton as best as I can, as I know how to, no matter what critics like you have to say.

Out to Josh Duckett, Trenton`s father, who is having another fundraiser tomorrow, handing out candy for donations to try to raise money for the Trenton Fund. Josh, has Ms. Ritchie actually come to try to help with the search?

J. DUCKETT: No, not at all. I`ve never even heard her name mentioned before.

GRACE: Until now?

J. DUCKETT: Until now.

GRACE: Have you ever spoken to her? She`s written of you before.

J. DUCKETT: No, I haven`t spoke to her.

GRACE: Tell me about Team Trenton and your operation to find your son. Also, tell me about tomorrow night.

J. DUCKETT: We`re uniting all as one. We have a very large community that`s helping us, and we`re just trying to do everything that we can to get the word out, trying to get as many flyers out as possible, to get people out with shirts so that people actually see his picture and, if they ask questions, we`re able to answer as much as we can.

We`ve been holding fundraisers as much as possible, trying to raise the money to raise the reward and to keep stuff going with the command center and help progress with that. We`re doing a fundraiser on Main Street in Leesburg tomorrow night, just to help try and make people aware of what`s going on and to try and help raise money so...

GRACE: Well, it is simple Trial 101. What we need now is an informant, someone to come forward.

Out to the lawyers, Courtney Anderson, with the reward climbing, it is possible someone will speak, even anonymously. I think -- I`m sorry. Carmen, are you with me?

CARMEN ST. GEORGE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, Nancy, I am. Nancy, I can only hope that perhaps the two people that she was watching a movie with will come forward, perhaps other people she was communicating with on MySpace, some of the hard drive evidence that we will get will provide some of her friends who she`s spoken to, to come forward and help us out.




J. DUCKETT: I`m keeping my hopes high, but, I mean, you got to prepare yourself for the worst and hope for the best. But, I mean, I`m still 100 percent confident that he`s somewhere out there. I mean, I`ve got to stay positive through all this and keep moving forward and progressing and putting 110 percent in. So, I mean, I`m still very, very hopeful that he`s still out there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think there was seven altogether, if I remember correctly, seven copies of the ultrasound. So why would she need to keep seven? Three is in here. This was the first sonogram taken on March the 30th.


GRACE: That is the grandmother of Trenton`s mom, Melinda Duckett, showing a photo album.

Out to Dr. Patricia Saunders, clinical psychologist. The grandmother struggling with the fact that Melinda Duckett apparently threw away sonogram, baby toys, baby food, baby toy chest, all sorts of paraphernalia belonging to Trenton the day she reported him missing. Actually, around the time she reported him missing. How do you deal with something like that?

DR. PATRICIA SAUNDERS, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, the way most people deal with it, Nancy, is how her grandma`s dealing with it, which is by denial and trying to rationalize it. You know, when we`re dealing with the unthinkable, the idea that Melinda may have had something to do with Trenton`s disappearance, if not death, is just not acceptable. So the mind comes up with all kinds of intricate and at times dazzling rationalizations to deny it.

GRACE: Out to the lawyers, Carmen St. George and Michael Cardoza, Michael, explain the theory of anonymous tips. When people call in these lines and give information, that doesn`t mean they`re going to end up witnesses at a trial.

MICHAEL CARDOZA, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Not necessarily, because, as you said, the key phrase there is "anonymous." They don`t know who they are. But that piece of information they give may lead, unfortunately, to the discovery of Trenton`s body or lead to some answers in this particular case.

So people that think, "I don`t want to get involved," they could at least phone in and anonymously give information and keep their anonymity in the case. So I would certainly encourage people to come forward if they know something.

GRACE: Yes. Back out to Josh, Trenton`s father. What is the reward up to now, Josh?

J. DUCKETT: It`s up to $15,000.

GRACE: To Carmen St. George, veteran defense attorney, Carmen, you have had informants at trial before say that the witness had to come forward. What`s the worst that can be done on cross, say they get a reward? So? That doesn`t mean that their information isn`t accurate.

ST. GEORGE: No, Nancy, and that`s why we`re here to encourage people to provide information that would help to some relieve. If, at all event they have to come and testify before trial at some point or lead to prosecutorial evidence, they will be protected by the state as much as they can. But you need to encourage people to provide whatever information they can, which might lead to something else.

GRACE: Out to Dr. Jonathan Arden, medical examiner, it`s been two months since Trenton went missing. If his remains are found, what condition would the body be in?

JONATHAN ARDEN, MEDICAL EXAMINER, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: Two months is a fairly long period of time. And depending on the circumstances, the environmental conditions, indoors versus outdoors, someone who is dead that long is likely to have undergone a significant amount of decomposition. Much of the soft tissues, I`m afraid, will be unrecognizable or not subject to any detailed examination.

He probably will not be skeletonized entirely in that time frame, but it is the kind of condition that, if there are injuries, it could easily mask those injuries, unless there are injuries that have left their mark literally on the bones, which will be preserved for a much longer period of time through the environment.

GRACE: Out to Fran in Ohio. Hi, Fran.

CALLER: Hi, Nancy, how are you doing? I love your show.

GRACE: Thank you, dear.

CALLER: I was wondering: Has anyone ever talked to the girl`s parents about taking a lie detector test?

GRACE: I believe that her parents were actually up in the Northeast at the time that Trenton went missing. You may be talking about the grandparents, because they were the ones that said they saw him last. Out to you, Jean Casarez, what about it?

CASAREZ: ... heard that the grandparents have worked with investigators and police all the way.

GRACE: OK. You were clipped at the beginning. Are you saying they did or they agreed to or what?

CASAREZ: No, I don`t think we`ve ever heard whether or not they were asked to or took a lie detector test. What we have heard is that police and FBI believe that the grandparents have worked with law enforcement the whole way.

GRACE: To you, Mike Brooks, right now police still working behind the scenes. We know that they`re still analyzing what they got off Melinda Duckett`s computer. And let`s face it, have you seen the reams and reams of blogging this woman would do? I say, if there`s anything to be found, it`s on the computer. Why?

MIKE BROOKS, FORMER D.C. POLICE: There`s a good possibility of that, Nancy, especially all the things she wrote on MySpace and all the e-mails and everything else she used. She used a computer quite a bit.

But it`s going to take analysts a pretty long drive to get into that hard drive and to go ahead and pull all those and to analyze them very carefully as to her state of mind, exactly what she was saying. I also know that the FBI did polygraph the second man who was with Melinda the night that she reported Trenton missing. As you recall, she was watching a movie, a two-hour movie. And at about 9:00, she went to check on Trenton, and that`s when she found him missing.

And it was also one of those men apparently was the one who put the trash into the dumpster there near her apartment. The FBI has polygraphed this person, and he did pass the polygraph, as well as the other person.

GRACE: That is a major, major development that both these guys passed the polygraph. Out to the lines, Betty in Tennessee. Hi, Betty.

CALLER: Hi, Nancy. I love your show.

GRACE: Thank you.

CALLER: Are any of the ground land searches being done at this point? And if not, is it possible that this time of year a hunter could find the remains? I mean, I hope we find Trenton alive, but is it possible that could happen?

GRACE: You know what? I`ve been hoping the very same thing. Back out to you, Mike Brooks.

BROOKS: I`ve been told by law enforcement that the hunting season down there is getting ready to start. They`re not doing any ground searches unless they come up with a lead that leads them specifically to one area.

The south part of Lake County is extremely rural with thick underbrush, and if there is Ocala Forest involved, if that plays in, there could be a possibility that hunters could find him, if he is in either of those places.


GRACE: What a week in America`s courtrooms. Take a look at the stories and, more important, the people who touched all of our lives.


GRACE: Tonight, cover girl Anna Nicole Smith is facing an alleged eviction from her home there in the Bahamas. Gloria Allred, it`s a good thing that here in America just because somebody disapproves of you lifestyle, they can`t boot you out of the country, huh?

GLORIA ALLRED, ATTORNEY: Well, that`s true. On the other hand...

GRACE: I frankly think you would have been gone a long time ago, Gloria.

ALLRED: That could be.

GRACE: A Florida serial killer confesses to stalking multiple college coeds fights Florida`s lethal injection all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

What is your opposition to the death penalty for Danny Rolling?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, Danny Rolling was convicted under a system that is broken.

GRACE: Can you give me the name of one person executed in Florida that was later exonerated?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police investigators have brought charges against Brian Rooney, age 36 of Richmond, Vermont, for aggravated homicide in the death of Michelle Gardner-Quinn.

GRACE: A 21-year-old Vermont coed goes missing after a birthday celebration at a local restaurant. Tonight, stunning developments in the prime suspect speaks out for the first time in court.

A 23-year-old girl sitting in her own home watching television with friends, suddenly a home invasion. She vanishes. Remains found and identified as those of Michelle Bullard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michelle, she`s in a better place. I know where she`s at. I know how I raised my child, and she`s a lot better off than we are.


GRACE: This Friday night, we remember Army Captain Matthew Mattingly, 30, Reynoldsburg, Ohio. A graduate of Xavier U., on a second tour of duty, killed, Iraq. He received a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star, leaving behind loving parents, two sisters, and a fiancee, Air Force Captain Alicia Burke. Matthew Mattingly, American hero.

Thank you to our guests, but especially to you for being with us. Tonight a special goodnight from the New York control room. There they are. Goodnight, Liz. Goodnight, Rosie. And a special goodnight to our friend, Jennifer Simpson. Walk slow and hurry back.

NANCY GRACE signing off. See you tomorrow night, 8:00 sharp Eastern. And until then, goodnight, friend.