Return to Transcripts main page

Nancy Grace

Colorado Teacher Accused of Sex with Student

Aired December 21, 2006 - 20:00   ET


JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST: Tonight, yet another teacher-student sex scandal. A 32-year-old female Colorado English teacher charged with sexually assaulting a teenage boy. The alleged crime scene? A hotel room, where her children and a teenage babysitter were asleep in beds nearby.
Also tonight, a D.C. woman doused with gasoline and set on fire. She suffered second and third-degree burns from her head to her waist. So why is the suspect, her former boyfriend, only charged with arson?

But first, alleged felony sexual assault. Another teacher sex scandal rocks a Colorado community.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see it`s not every day a teacher around here is accused of doing what investigators believe this teacher did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Supposedly this young man left his room and they got together and did things they shouldn`t have done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Investigators say it happened on what amounted to a road trip to Glenwood Springs with the football team last month inside a hotel room with the teacher`s two young girls asleep in the same room.


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

Here we go again. Another female teacher accused of having sex with a male student. A 32-year-old Colorado teacher, Darcie Esson has been arrested on the charge of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust. She allegedly had sex with the 17-year-old student, who is on the football team, during a trip for an away game.

But even more shocking, authorities charge the teacher`s two young children, ages 4 and 8, and a babysitter, a teenager, were sleeping in the very same hotel room when the sex occurred.

For the very latest on this still unfolding case, let`s go straight out to "Denver Post" reporter Mike McPhee, who is covering the story.

Mike, what is the very latest?

MIKE MCPHEE, "DENVER POST" CORRESPONDENT: Well, it sits there right now. She bonded out. She was arrested this week, Monday, and was bonded out the next day on Tuesday, so she`s awaiting the court hearing and getting into the judicial process next week.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So when`s her next court date?

MCPHEE: I haven`t learned that yet. We got clobbered with the snowstorm, and I got distracted.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, that`s a very good excuse. I want to say to our viewers a disclaimer that we always use in these cases before anyone is convicted, because they may not be convicted.

This woman has only been accused. She deserves the presumption of innocence. She has not had the opportunity to tell her side of the story, and of course, we would love to hear her side either through her or her attorney. They have an open invitation.

That being said, Mike Brooks, former D.C. police official, I think what`s most disturbing about this is that her children were allegedly in the room when this happened along with a teenager baby-sitter.

Now, they were supposedly sleeping, but the teenage baby-sitter was alert enough to say, hey, he came in at 1:30 and he left at 4. So she wasn`t asleep the entire time. What if these kids weren`t asleep?

MIKE BROOKS, FORMER D.C. POLICE OFFICIAL: Jane, we`re not talking a suite here at the Four Seasons. We`re talking what they describe as a deluxe two queens room. I went to take a look at the spacious rooms that they had. There`s not much room at all for two people, much less four, five people in the room.

You know, this is just unbelievable. She`s -- she`s one hell of a role model for the kids out in Colorado. The dating scene of Parker must be pretty bad when you have to troll your high school classes for a date. This is just despicable.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, but I have to say, Holly Hughes, prosecutor, in another sense my heart goes out to her. You know, there but for the Grace of God. I mean, here she is, she had too many drinks. She committed a horrible -- allegedly -- indiscretion. This could destroy her life and her children`s lives. Couldn`t she lose custody now of her two kids?

HOLLY HUGHES, PROSECUTOR: Absolutely. And I`ve got to tell you, my heart doesn`t go out to her. This was not only stupid; it was criminal action. And she could absolutely. Her divorce had been finalized the very day before, and if her husband decides to challenge her for custody on the grounds she`s an unfit mother, it`s likely he could win.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, psychoanalyst Bethany Marshall, maybe I`m the crazy one, with my heart going out to her. She had just had her divorce finalized. She had gone out. She had had too much to drink. She was reportedly drunk. This incident occurred -- we won`t go in all the details.

But what`s your sense of it? Does somebody go temporarily insane when they`re in the divorce process? What do you think was going on in her head? Because obviously this was one of the stupidest decisions of her life.

BETHANY MARSHALL, PSYCHOANALYST: Well, first of all, it`s very rare for women to molest. Only 1 percent to 3 percent of all child molesters are women, and so it`s a rare event. So I think that this had been brewing for some time. Women who molest are often emotional junkies. They`re often fixated at the same developmental level as the boy that they -- that they molest.

And I think what happened is she may have felt jilted as a result of the divorce or she could have felt as free as a bird. I feel like she`s had an emotional relationship with this guy for some time and she just finally culminated it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you may be right there, because there were apparently 120 text messages and cell phone calls from his cell phone to her in one way, shape or form, which is a bombshell in itself.

Let`s listen to the school superintendent.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Supposedly this young man left his room and they got together, and did things they shouldn`t have done.

She seemed to be a very energetic and dedicated teacher, and, you know, on face value, not someone I would have suspected of doing these things.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: The reporter for the "Denver Post" apparently she had a great reputation until this happened.

MCPHEE: She had a very good reputation. She was the faculty sponsor of the student council and also the National Honor Society chapter at the school. And everybody speaks highly of her.

But I question the analyst`s use of the word "molest," because according to the affidavit, she came back after drinking and went to bed. It was the student who crawled out the back window for the second time that night. He was caught once by the coach and crawled out a second time. He came down to her room.

According to the affidavit, she was going to bed. So I don`t know what verb you use, but "molest" doesn`t seem to fit for me.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, what you`re saying is it seems that this young man was stalked by her, that he was pursuing her with 120 text messages, as well as sneaking out of his room to go to her hotel room.

Let`s bring in the defense attorney, Doug Burns. Could that be a mitigating factor if, in fact, and we don`t have all the facts, but if in fact the 17-year-old football player was pursuing her.

DOUG BURNS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Absolutely. This case -- at the end of the day is going to be a lot different than you think. This is not a molestation. This was a consensual situation. And what they`re doing is they`re charging it under a statute of a position of authority.

First of all, she wasn`t his teacher. Second of all, she wasn`t there as a teacher. She was there just as a visitor.

I agree that her behavior is bizarre. She has a reputation inconsistent with it, but in my view, and we`ll see if I`m right, it`s a weak criminal case.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, we have the police chief, Terry Wilson, from the area, the jurisdiction with us tonight. Thank you so much for joining us, sir. You just heard the defense attorney say that he thinks it`s a very weak case. What do you say to that?

TERRY WILSON, POLICE CHIEF: Well, I guess I say we`ll just have to find out in court, as we usually do on these things. We tend to disagree with the defense attorneys from time to time.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. But his point was that this is not a straight assault. This is specifically sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust.

And his argument is she had been his English teacher in the past, but she was not his English teacher currently, and they had gone on this field trip where they were 200 miles away from school. So his argument is essentially that she was not in a position of trust over this young man.

WILSON: And I certainly think that`s a viable issue for the courts to settle and for a jury to hear.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And let me ask you about one of the most confusing aspects of this case. We`ve been trying to figure it out all day. And that is the age of consent, because this is a crime because she was a teacher, but let me ask you this question.

Theoretically, if she were not a teacher, if she was another 32-year- old woman who had no connection with him, could she legally have sex with this 17-year-old under the consent laws in Colorado?

WILSON: At the age of 16 or above, yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So I just want to make sure I`m understanding this right. She could have had sex legally with him, except for the fact that she was his teacher?

WILSON: That is my understanding of the specific charge. Now, that may be amended or changed as we get further into the court process. The arrest process is very, very preliminary.

And once the district attorney`s office here has a chance to review the totality of the circumstances, they have the option and the opportunity to evaluate all the information and evidence and make a decision if this is the most appropriate and convincing statute to charge under, or if there`s a different section they would prefer to be charged.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Prosecutor Holly Hughes, we discussed this in the past and I know you disagree with me, but I think age of consent laws are way too complicated. They vary from state to state. Sex is legal; you cross the street in another state the sex is illegal. It depends on a whole variety of factors.

How is a teenager supposed to know if he or she is breaking the law if the powers that be can`t figure it out?

HUGHES: Well, that`s the problem. It`s not left in the teenager`s hands. It`s left in the teacher`s hands. She`s the one that`s charged with the crime.

And as an adult, first of all, common sense, Jane. Come on. As an adult, you shouldn`t be sleeping with your students. I mean, she`s supposed to be the adult in this situation. She should have known not to sleep with her student, regardless of what the age of consent is.

There are moral and ethical considerations here as well as criminal ones. And I don`t think you have to put it back on the teenager. I don`t think the fact that the teenager was calling her and pursuing her has anything to do with it.

One of your other guests said, you know, he came to her room. Well, of course he did, but she let him in, and offered him alcohol and she had sex with him while her children were in the bed. This is not about the actions of the victim in this case. This is about the criminal actions of the defendant, Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s go to the phone lines. You make some excellent points. Cory in Rhode Island, what`s your question?

CALLER: Thanks for taking my call. I just want to know if the lady had any criminal record? And was there any foul play suspected in this?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Foul play? Well, let`s go back to Chief Terry Wilson. From what we`ve learned, chief, she had a pretty good reputation, an excellent reputation up until this time, but yet we hear about those 120 text messages and cell phone calls from the young man, allegedly, to her.

Now, a responsible teacher would say, "Cut it out. I don`t want to hear from you again. I`m going to call the principal if you call me one more time." But apparently -- well, did she do that?

WILSON: I really am not going to comment on the specifics involving the phone records until we`ve had a chance to investigate that more completely.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, I guess I`m going to have to go back to the psychoanalyst, Bethany Marshall, to try to understand where this woman and so many other women like her are coming from, because let`s face it, Bethany, this is an epidemic of female teacher sex with young male students.

And there are a lot of commonalties. Some of the ones that I instantly recognize are the use of text messaging. Has that erased the boundaries that used to exist, that used to keep this formal relationship between teacher and student? Now if you`ve got their cell phone and you`ve got their e-mail, you can have a relationship with them.

MARSHALL: I`ll tell you where the boundaries are really erased. It`s in the mind of the perpetrator. That`s where this crime starts.

And so really, what happens with these female -- and I`m going to call her a molester, because she really engaged in grossly inappropriate behavior, not only with this young man, but also her 4-year-old and 8-year- old were in the room and then another 17-year-old baby-sitter.

So she had no imaginative capacity to know what these children and what this other young person might have been thinking. She thought that whatever was in her mind was in his mind. If it was OK for her, it was OK for him.

And as I said earlier, what we will probably find out is she`s very emotionally validated, and she is, in her mind, a 17-year-old, as well, which makes her a fun teacher, but it really makes her a lousy role model.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, defense attorney Doug Burns, everybody is coming down very hard on this woman. She`s accused of committing a very serious crime, and I`m certainly not trying to make light of it.

But there has been with all these cases -- Debra LaFave, Beth Geisel - - this larger societal question of whether these young men feel victimized, or whether they view it as some sort of conquest.

And even psychiatrists that I have spoken with, noted psychiatrists, have disagreed about the psychological trauma to a 17-year-old boy. Let`s remember that the same statute says if you`re younger, until 15, for example, it`s a much more serious felony.

BURNS: We`ve said this time and time again that there`s a double standard. We don`t want to have one legally, because there shouldn`t be, but when a man does this to a young woman, forget about it, the handcuffs are slapped on and they`re taken off to prison. When a woman does it, all of a sudden, we scratch our heads and say, well, didn`t the male simply look at this as a positive? Shouldn`t they get psychiatric counseling? There`s a huge double standard on it. It`s extremely unfortunate.

But last comment I want to make is that, in this case, she used horrific judgment with respect to having the children there. And that`s where everybody is teeing off on her, legitimately, but there`s a distinction between that poor judgment call and criminal conduct.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Mike Brooks, former D.C. police official, is it because the kids were in the room that this has become a national case and that she, in fact, could go to prison? When these situations are looked at by the courts, do those extenuating factors come into play? Or is it just open and shut, she had sex with him allegedly, she did it. Therefore, this is the result?

BROOKS: No, those kids, that`s going to play a huge role in this particular case. And you know, and also the alcohol. She offered him alcohol, and he refused it. You know, at least he used his head one way, but, you know, at least he refused the alcohol. There was a condom found in the bathroom.

The baby-sitter confronted her about the condom. She said yes, it was hers. She apparently had been dating some other guy. And the -- I mean, the baby-sitter knew -- apparently knew this person and knew it wasn`t her boyfriend.

And then, you notice, are these people victimized? Are 17-year-old boys victimized? His friends were giving him a hard time about being a virgin, and that`s when he came out and said, "No, I slept with miss so- and-so." So -- and then there was another student who apparently overheard this in the cafeteria, and that`s the woman who started the ball rolling in this case. Otherwise, we would never even know about it possibly.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And he initially did not cooperate with authorities. Is that not true?

BROOKS: That`s exactly right. And he didn`t -- initially he didn`t cooperate with school officials. Then he also apparently lied with his parents there to law enforcement. And then finally the mom came forward with the cell phone records. Apparently, it was on her bill and sewed, well, look at all these cell phone calls and text messages.

It`s -- he didn`t do anything at all. That`s just unbelievable.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She has been put on administrative leave, and the school district says she could be fired as early as January 11 at a Board of Education meeting. According to an arrest affidavit, the teacher- student affair happened in a hotel room as the teacher`s two young children and a teenager baby-sitter were asleep in the same room.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell, in tonight for Nancy Grace.

Why does it keep happening? Despite the massive publicity over similar scandals in the very recent past, yet another female teacher has been accused of having sex with a teenage boy, a student who was on the football team of his Colorado high school.

Prosecutor Holly Hughes, I was struck reading the arrest warrant by one comment. She allegedly told him not to say anything because she feared she would lose her job.

I mean, you have to be living under a rock not to know about the Debra LaFave case and the Beth Geisel case, all the horrors and the humiliations those women went through. Debra LaFave having photographs taken of her genitalia. These women being registered as sex offenders. Why would you want to join that club? How is it possible that she had not heard about all this controversy while deciding if she was thinking whether or not to do this?

HUGHES: That`s exactly right, Jane. And again, it goes to consciousness of guilt. If you don`t think you did anything wrong and you`ve got some kind of skewed judgment and you can`t help yourself, you`re not going to be denying it. You`re not going to be telling your student to keep it quiet.

She knew exactly what she had done was wrong. She knew it violated not only the school`s but the state law. Like you said, you`d have to be living under a rock not to hear about that. I mean, all the way back to Mary Kay Letourneau we`ve been hearing about this kind of craziness.

And she absolutely knew that she was guilty of not only breaking the school rules but also the criminal law, or she wouldn`t have asked him to keep it quiet. If there`s nothing wrong with it, you don`t need to hide it, Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Bethany Marshall, psychoanalyst, I keep coming back to the why, and I have heard with women it`s a little different than men. Sometimes they become infatuated and actually feel that they`re in some kind of relationship with this underage person.

And often alcohol plays a role. We remember Beth Geisel admitted to having a very serious alcohol problem. Alcohol was involved here, as well, clouding the judgment of the individual.

MARSHALL: Yes. Well, alcohol is -- there`s a strong corollary between alcoholism and women having relationships with teenage boys, but you keep talking about the differences between boys and girls and how they experience this.

Boys do tend to experience -- teenage boys, when they have a relationship with an older woman, they experience it as a rite of initiation. Whereas when girls have a relationship with an older man, they`re much more likely to report it as a rape or a molestation.

And what we know about that is that testosterone does shape the way a boy experiences himself in the world. But if he has sex with an older woman when he`s too young, it can have serious consequences on his life later on in terms of trusting women.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I think it can last a lifetime. You`re absolutely right.

To tonight`s "Case Alert." Holiday vandals caught on tape beating up Frosty the Snowman. Are you kidding me? No.

Two Ohio men arrested after using a screwdriver to stab an inflatable snowman displayed in a neighborhood yard. Not the first time Frosty`s been attacked. The owner then set up a hidden video camera.

The perps have been charged with criminal damage.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Supposedly this young man left his room, and they got together and did things they shouldn`t have done.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell, in tonight for Nancy Grace.

The latest teacher sex scandal out of Colorado, a 32-year-old English teacher and mother of two young children accused of having sex with a 17- year-old student who`s on the football team during a trip for an away game.

The sex allegedly occurred with her two small children and a baby- sitter sleeping in the very same hotel room. What was she thinking? Couldn`t she realize that she was going to get into deep trouble if in fact she did this?

She has not been convicted yet; she`s just been accused, because of the all the other scandals that we`ve all heard about. In fact there was one in her area just a month ago.

For that, let`s go to our fact maven. Erly (ph), tell us about it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it was another female teacher in the Denver area, accused of the same crime, sex assault on a child by a person in a position of trust. The difference, though, in that case, one of the school administrators was also charged with failing to report and tampering with a witness, because they didn`t report it right away.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: My gosh, well, this is a can of worms that engulfs anyone near it.

Delilah from Indiana, let`s go to your question.

CALLER: I wanted to know if the teacher will be charged with either child abuse or neglect because her kids were in the room?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s a good question. Chief Terry Wilson, Glenwood Springs Police Department, you are handling this case, sir. Have all the charges that are going to be filed against her been filed? Or could she face additional charges because these young children were in the room at the time the sex allegedly occurred?

WILSON: That is something that as the entire case file is made available to the district attorney and to social services that they make an evaluation on that. That comes a little later in the process in filing the case.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Holly Hughes, you had mentioned that she could lose her children. These stories have ripple effects on everyone. Think of her parents tonight suffering. She`s suffering, her kids are suffering. Everyone. This young man, his parents. It doesn`t end, does it?

HUGHES: No, there`s no end to it. When you violate the trust that`s placed in you as a teacher, it`s going to have a ripple effect. It`s going to keep going, and it`s going to have long-term effects.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His name is Terrance James. You couldn`t miss his banded hands and red nose at the defendant`s table. Police say he burned them when he deliberately set this apartment and his girlfriend on fire last Saturday. Patricia Scales is in a hospital bed, with burns over 40 percent of her body, mostly her face, head and upper torso.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want them to keep him locked up for life. He doesn`t deserve to breathe the air that we breathe.


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

A horrifying story out of the Washington, D.C., area. A 16-year-old girl wakes up to her mother`s screams and finds her mom engulfed in flames, twisting and hollering in agony on her bed. As the heroic young girl runs for help, she says she notices her mother`s 48-year-old ex-boyfriend standing over the bed with a lighter and smelling of gasoline. Now, initially, that ex-boyfriend was charged with assault with intent to kill. But now that has changed.

So now the world is wondering, why has he only been charged with arson? For the very latest on the victim`s condition and the controversy over these charges, let`s go straight out to investigative reporter Patti Tripathi.

Patti, what is the latest?

PATTI TRIPATHI, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Thanks, Jane. What is horrifying -- as you said, it`s a heinous, heinous crime. And what is horrifying is that there have been three such incidents of domestic violence in the Washington, D.C., area in the last 15 months, where a woman has been doused with gasoline and then set on fire, allegedly by her boyfriend or an estranged husband.

In this case, victim 45-year-old Patricia Scales is listed in critical condition, with second- and third-degree burns to her body from about her head to her waist. And suspect, 48-year-old Terrence James, as you mentioned, is charged with arson and is expected to appear in court again on December 27th, where a grand jury could decide if and what additional charges would be filed against him.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Dr. Jonathan Arden, medical examiner and forensic scientist, this sounds so painful to me, I`m almost terrified to ask. How could you describe the extent of her injuries? I mean, because it`s almost hard to fathom when you have second-degree and third-degree burns over 40 percent of your body, from your head to your waist.

JONATHAN ARDEN, MEDICAL EXAMINER, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: These are indeed extensive, and very serious, and potentially life-threatening injuries. Second-degree burns are those that cause blistering of the skin and are not necessarily going to be as dangerous to the victim or likely to cause long-lasting scarring.

Third-degree burns are full-thickness skin burns. They require much more intensive treatment. They`re much more painful; they`re much more prone to fluid loss and infection invading in the body. Those are the kinds of burns that put you in a situation where you are more likely to need skin grafting and plastic cosmetic procedures in order to maintain a skin covering later on and then try to restore the appearance.

So those are very serious. And the greater percentage of your body surface area that is affected by them, the more dangerous and the more likely they are to be life-threatening, so I`m sure it`s a horrible experience for her.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: She is in critical experience, according to the reporter. We pray for her; we hope she comes out of it. If she does, what kind of rehab, what kind of extensive rehab does she have to go through?

ARDEN: Oh, she could potentially have a very long and difficult process, much of which would be to restore the skin`s surface, as I said, with things like skin grafts, plastic surgical procedures. Sometimes as the grafts or the burns heal, the tissues contract, the way you see with an ordinary scab or a more superficial injury.

Sometimes those contractures need to be released surgically and new grafts put in. And, of course, all the while you`re worried about infection and trying to maintain the person`s immunity and defenses of the body.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It sounds excruciating. Thank you, Doctor.

ARDEN: Thank you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s listen to the victim`s daughter.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was pain, pain, it hurts. My mother`s doing fine, and I`m doing fine. I`m staying strong for my mother.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What kind of person would do this in front of a little kid? This little boy, this is going to be engraved in his mind for the rest of his life. I want them to keep him locked up for life. He doesn`t deserve to breathe the air that we breathe.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That is the victim`s best friend, and before that you heard from the victim`s daughter, heroic young woman who raced to get her mom the help that she needed, and ultimately saving her life by getting a blanket filled with water and putting it on her mom just in the nick of time.

Congratulations, considering your heroic efforts, you always know that you saved your mother`s life, no matter what.

I have to ask Mike Brooks, D.C. police, why is this man not charged with attempted murder? This seems like an open-and-shut case. Obviously, he hasn`t been convicted, and he deserves the presumption of innocence, but apparently he was standing there with a lighter, and he smelled of gasoline, and he had matches, and she had had problems with him, she was going to get or had talked about getting a restraining order. He was described as extremely jealous.

And the biggest thing, he allegedly told an arson investigator, "You don`t have to look for anyone else. I have to stand and account for what I did."

MIKE BROOKS, FORMER D.C. POLICE: Yes, it`s a great question. He was initially charged with assault with intent to kill. And now awic (ph) is the proper charge, but they went ahead and charged him with arson initially, just as a holding charge, because when he goes for a preliminary hearing on the 27th of December, it`s easier to prove probable cause-wise arson, because you don`t have to have intent, Jane.

And I can guarantee you: When it does go to grand jury, they`re going to come back with arson, assault with intent to kill, burglary, all kinds of other charges that they`re going to get in a grand jury. But this basically is a holding charge. And as I said, it`s easier to go ahead and charge arson, because you don`t have to show any intent whatsoever, where with awic (ph), you would.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, we are very honored to have with us tonight Yvette Cade. She is a burn survivor. And, in fact, you heard the reporter initially talk about three incidents. Her story is one of those three incidents that occurred in the last 15 months in the D.C. area.

Thank you so much for joining us tonight, Yvette.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: First of all, I want to say you`re a hero. To me, in my mind, you have behaved heroically by the way that you have reacted to this tragedy in your life. You actually -- and I want to hear your story in a second -- but you actually went and visited, I understand, the children of this latest victim. What did you tell those children to help them cope with this horror that has entered their mother`s life?

CADE: I told them that this is actually -- it`s not going to be the end, that it`s not God`s work, it`s definitely the devil`s craft, but through faith and hope we are praying to God that she will survive through this horrific attack and come out with flying colors.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, that`s wonderful, wonderful advice, and I also understand that you told the oldest, the daughter, the hero who saved her mom`s life, to work in a journal and to write down her thoughts and feelings, which is also excellent advice.

I have to ask you: What happened to you? Apparently, just more than a year ago in October, something awful happened involving your ex-husband.

CADE: As you can see on the tape, my ex-husband, nonchalant, walked into my place of employment in Clinton, Maryland. And I was standing at the counter. And he came in. I heard him say hello to my coworker, Nina. And then I heard him call my name, "Yvette, I love you," and I turned around with disgust.

I continued working with the customer. And from that point, I sat down in my chair. And the next thing I know, I was putting my hands up trying to protect my face, because he had thrown now to be known the substance of gasoline. He began dumping it on my head.

I ran, because I did not want anyone else in the store to get hurt, thinking that he would just leave, he just wanted to humiliate me. As it turns out, he continued to run, chase me out through the back door, outside into the parking lot, and he crushed every bone in my foot.

I fell to the ground, set on fire, just totally in shock that someone that I spent many years married to would set me on fire, and through the grace of God, I actually made it to the back of the store and began showering my face with water, attempting to put out the flames.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yvette, we want to hear more from you. I`ve never - honestly it just baffles me. It boggles my mind. We need to talk about why this epidemic of male-on-female violence. Stay right there. We will be right back.

To tonight`s Trial 101: arson. A felony crime, arson, the willful or malicious damage or destruction of property by fire or explosion. In this case, the initial case we were talking about, prosecutors potentially filed lesser charges of arson to keep the defendant behind bars until the case goes to a grand jury. At that time, more serious charges could be filed. More -- lots more -- on this story when we come right back.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here`s one of Scales` new friends, a woman who has risen above the pain. Yvette Cade`s estranged husband filled a spray bottle with gasoline, doused her with it, then set her on fire. He got life, and Yvette Cade got mad. She`s now advocating for other victims, demanding their abusers pay for their crimes.

CADE: We can`t afford to continue to let domestic violence kill our mothers, our sisters, our daughters any longer.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell, in tonight for Nancy Grace.

Why are there a growing number of cases in the Washington, D.C., area involving men allegedly setting women on fire? In one case, at least, a conviction. Three such incidents reported in a little over a year, all inflicted on women who had been the suspect`s intimate partners.

Psychoanalyst Bethany Marshall, is it a copycat effect, you know, they see a highly publicized case and then they kind of copy it? Or is it something deeper that`s going on in our society, involving men inflicting violence on women?

BETHANY MARSHALL, PSYCHOANALYST: I think it`s copycat with something deeper in operation. You have to think about the fact that 75 percent of women who are injured as a result of domestic violence are injured after they leave their partners and usually after having been stalked for about a year.

And I think what happens is these guys are personality disordered, they can`t take the rejection. They want to incinerate the woman because she has rejected and abandoned them. And I think the choice of fire is that they want to disfigure the woman so that she will not be sexually appealing to other men and so that she will lose her femininity. And I think that`s what`s happening symbolically.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Prosecutor Holly Hughes, I have to think that, if the tables were turned and it was three women setting their ex-intimate partners on fire within the course of about a year, it would be a massive national story. We`d be talking about it as a crisis.

But because it`s men, well, there`s a certainly assumption that, well, this is just the way it is. And I think that the first thing we need to do is challenge that assumption. We, as women in general, need to say, "This is a crisis. Enough. We don`t accept it."

HOLLY HUGHES, PROSECUTOR: Absolutely. And I agree 100 percent with Dr. Bethany. She was talking about -- it`s a control issue. We know that rape is not a crime of violence. It`s a crime of domination and control.

The same thing when you`re talking about domestic abuse. It is about controlling that woman, keeping control over her actions, her behaviors. And that`s exactly what we`re seeing. And we need to raise the hue and cry. This is enough.

Symbolically, that is exactly what`s happening. He`s obliterating her life. He is trying to disfigure her so that no one else will want her. This way, even if he gets locked up, Jane, even if he goes to prison for these crimes, he is still exercising control over her in his own mind, because no one will want her, no one will find her attractive, no one will want to date her, be her friend, because they don`t want to talk about how uncomfortable it is, because of her burns, because of the way she looks.

And, yes, it`s absolutely time we stood up. We need to give harsh prison sentences. We need to lock these people up for as long as the law allows in their jurisdiction. And we need to send a very clear message that this is not acceptable.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I 100 percent agree.

Yvette Cade, you not only are a burn survivor, but you`ve become a crusader against domestic abuse. Your husband was convicted and is now doing life in prison, but I know that you want to do more.

What do you think, since you have experienced this and are the expert on it, that we as a society should do beyond punishing the individual, perhaps as women banding together, saying, "We will not tolerate this anymore"? There is something fundamentally wrong with our society that this is happening with such frequency.

CADE: Beyond my recovery, I want to say loud and clear, my focus is to support Patricia throughout her recovery, as hope, to remind her, regardless of her outward appearance, her life is still worth living.

I am going to, until my dying day, represent for every woman that is in the house being held captive as such by their abuser, their husbands, boyfriends. It`s totally insane.

And I am going to do everything that I can to -- I had an idea of now that it`s becoming so heinous and they want to set women on fire for no apparent reason, that that`s not -- it`s just corrupt. But I would like, from now on, for as many people to address Congress by writing in and asking them to now take the identification off the driver`s license.

And once you file that protective order, have them sign those numbers so that, when they`re stopped by the police, they can be identified as a domestic violence abuser.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Did you have a protective order against your ex- husband who attacked you?

CADE: Yes. I got it in June, and he set me on fire in October of 2005.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mike Brooks, I have heard this so many times. It`s almost like, what is the use of having a protective order? It almost gives the person a false sense of security so that they continue going about their lives, kind of feeling, "Well, I`m protected because I have a protective order." But it doesn`t work that way.

BROOKS: No it`s not. It`s just a piece of paper; that`s basically all it is. And, unfortunately, you can`t follow these people around all the time to make sure they`re going to act right. And it`s just unbelievable.

You know, we were talking about also other charges. There`s a charge in the District of Columbia, the D.C. code, called mayhem, that speaks specifically to disfiguration. I had a case one time where someone threw lye, a man threw lye in a woman`s face, and I charged him with mayhem. And that`s another charge that should be and hopefully will be added on by the U.S. attorney`s office.

And I can tell you that Mrs. Scales is in one of the best hospitals of country, the Washington Hospital Center burn unit. I did some training there when I was going through rotations for my paramedic training, and the people there are just incredible.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mike, you`re a guy. I certainly don`t want to condemn all men for the crimes of a very handful, few men, but nevertheless should we as women have to curtail all our freedoms because of the dangers out there posed by men? As a man, as a former D.C. police official, what is the big-picture solution? I`m talking beyond locking the actual criminals up, the bigger societal issue. Is it getting rid of violence on television? That could be a good idea.

BROOKS: Jane, that`s a great question. And this is something that`s been talked about all the time. You know, is it a copycat crime? Is it because of violence on TV? Is it because of video games?

I don`t know. I don`t know the solution. And, you know, until we take this and study this, what Mrs. Cade was talking about, maybe going to Capitol Hill, maybe we can get some action.



CADE: We can`t afford to continue to let domestic violence kill our mothers, our sisters, our daughters any longer.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: And she is absolutely right. I`m Jane Velez- Mitchell, in tonight for Nancy Grace.

Closing thoughts on intimate partner violence, as we ponder the horror of women being set on fire, allegedly, by their former lovers. Are we in the midst of an epidemic of male-on-female violence in America? And do we need to declare a crisis in this country? I actually think we do. Too many women, too many are being assaulted and brutalized in just too many ways.

And, psychoanalyst Bethany Marshall, I think it all gets down to education and what we are told as children about what it means to be a boy and what it means to be a girl.

MARSHALL: Stopping domestic violence starts in the home. Mothers and fathers, make your boys feel important, because insecurity leads later to jealousy and possessiveness, and it leads to domestic violence. And women, if you`re in a relationship with a man who`s possessive, jealous, or isolates you from other people, that is not OK, and that is abusive.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`re going to give Yvette Cade, the burn survivor and a crusader against domestic violence, the last word. We only have a few seconds, Yvette. What would you tell women out there to do to stop the violence, to prevent what happened to you from ever happening to them?

CADE: Well, I want to call on Congress, along with No Child Left Behind programs, we need anti-bullying programs on all levels of education. And, women, we do not have to take this. You can do it by yourself. Just stand up for what you believe in, and listen to your inner voice. You are special.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And you are a very beautiful person. Thank you for coming on the show tonight.

Tonight, we remember Army Captain Michael Cerrone, just 24, from Clarksville, Tennessee. A West Point graduate, Cerrone was a paratrooper, a black belt in karate, and loved surfing. Awarded multiple medals, including the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. The son of a brigadier general, Cerrone leaves behind proud parents and a grieving brother, James. Michael Cerrone, an American hero.

We want to thank all of our guests tonight for their insights, and thanks to you at home for tracking these very important cases with us. I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell, in for Nancy Grace. We hope to see you right here tomorrow night, 8:00 sharp Eastern. Until then, have a terrific and a safe evening.