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Nancy Grace

Parents Charged for Keeping Boy in Dog Cage

Aired May 03, 2007 - 20:00   ET


NANCY GRACE, HOST: Tonight, busted. Police say this mom and dad routinely forced their 10-year-old little boy to wear a electric shock collar -- yes, like dogs -- then shocking the child by use of a remote device to abuse the little boy. To top it all off, the child was forced into a dog cage while dad took up crack cocaine and -- you know it -- child services were alerted years ago and did nothing.
And tonight, a stunning twist in the law, a deadly legal loophole. She confesses to suffocating her 11-month-old baby girl to death, claiming the tiny infant cramped her lifestyle of drinking beer, hanging with friends, smoking pot. Well, tonight, a judge lets her walk free, claiming her confession`s not enough to convict.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Chicago mom Stacy Samuels (ph) admits suffocating her 11-month-old baby girl with a pillow because she was frustrated being a mom and missed her lifestyle of drinking, smoking pot and hanging with friends. A jury convicts Samuels of murder one, a sentence of 30 years behind bars. Then a Illinois appeals court reverses the conviction because, they say, the confession is not enough.


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

First, a 10-year-old boy placed in a cage wearing an electronic shock collar.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Police say what happened to two boys who lived in this trailer was unthinkable. Jessica Botzko and John Westover allegedly locked their sons, ages 5 and 10, in a cage used for animals. And according to this court document, they condoned (ph) a shock collar around the neck of their 10-year-old and in which the child was shocked with the use of a remote control device repeatedly. Detectives say it`s the same type of collar used to train animals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know there was at least one occasion where he did have that collar on his neck and shocked by (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Detectives found the boys on a porch Tuesday night after they ran away from home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said he was tired of being put in a cage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A search warrant states the mother claims the boy`s father put an electronic pet collar on her son and zapped him, causing him to cry. Neighbors are appalled.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I knew that, I`d have turned them in a long time ago.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The parents are locked up, charged each with two counts of child endangering. The father also faces drug charges. Court papers state the boys were regularly locked in a cage similar to this one while their father did drugs. The boys are in the custody of Lucas County Children`s Services. Detectives hope to interview the 10-year-old in a couple of days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have people certified to interview children in situations like this. We`re going to be doing it at a facility that`s a more child-friendly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Meanwhile, neighbors say they`re terribly disturbed by what police say is one of the worst cases of child abuse they`ve ever seen.


GRACE: Can you believe it? A little boy -- PS, he only weighs 61 pounds. At his age, that is in the 10th lowest percentile. According to the studies that we looked up, he should weigh around 115 to 130 pounds. He weighs 61 pounds. These two, now suspected of putting a dog collar, a electric shock collar on the little boy, then torturing him via remote.

Out to you, Kurt Franck, managing editor of "The Blade" of Toledo. What happened?

KURT FRANCK, "THE BLADE": Well, we found out, going through our police reports, that the other night, two boys got away from their home and...

GRACE: Got away or ran away?

FRANCK: They ran away. When I say "got away," they were free from their home because -- the reports bear this out, that they were -- the 10- year-old was kept in a -- I`m in my home right now, and I have a little dog cage that we keep a Jack Russell in. Imagine that size of a cage, where the child would be held by his -- according to police reports, held by his father where -- because he was unruly or something like that. And there was the dog collar.

The kids were able to get away -- the boy got away when his father wasn`t home and his mother was working at a strip club where she`s a stripper, at the Deja Vu (ph) in Toledo. And at that point, he went to -- the kids went to a neighbor and went under the porch, and the neighbors then called the police.

GRACE: Take a listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Police say what happened to two boys who lived in this trailer was unthinkable. Jessica Botzko and John Westover allegedly locked their son, sages 5 and 10, in a cage used for animals. And according to this court document, they condoned a shock collar around the neck of their 10-year-old and which the child was shocked with the use of a remote control device repeatedly. Detectives say it`s the same type of collar used to train animals.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Toledo police search the home of Jessica Botzko and John Westover again today, and again they say they found evidence the couple was up to no good. They confiscated stolen property. But perhaps the most disturbing determination, they say the parents not only locked their boys in a cage, but forced their 10-year-old son to wear an electronic dog collar.


GRACE: With us tonight, Court TV correspondent Jean Casarez, also on the story. What more can you tell us?

JEAN CASAREZ, COURT TV: Well, you know, Nancy, once the two boys -- they`re brothers. One is 10, one is 5. Once they were found on the neighbors` porch, then authorities went to the mobile home. There was consent for them to enter. When they entered, according to the police report, they found filth, trash, and they found that cage. And now the two, 37-year-old John Westover and 28-year-old Jessica Botzko are behind bars, both charged with two counts of child endangerment.

GRACE: Joining us tonight is a very special guest, Captain Ray Carroll with the Toledo Police Department. Captain, thank you for being with us. I`m very disturbed not only about the little boy wearing a electric shock collar, but I`m also disturbed not only about the little boy wearing an electric shock collar, but I`m also disturbed that he only weighed 61 pounds and that DFAC, Department of Family and Children Services, had been on to these two for years.

CAPT. RAY CARROLL, TOLEDO POLICE DEPARTMENT: Well, when we first encountered the children was the night that they had fled their home. And when we were called, it was noticeable to the officers that he was very thin. In fact, they thought he was a little girl when they first saw him, he was so small. When they went to the home, they -- the mother had subsequently returned, and she allowed the officers to go into the house. And she admitted to the officers at that time that -- that she had witnessed her husband putting the child into the cage.

GRACE: You know, though -- Captain Ray Carroll is with us from Toledo Police Department. Is that supposed to somehow exonerate her, that she stood by and let him do that, let him put the little boy in a cage for a dog that would fit a Jack Russell terrier? I mean, I guess he can fit. He was only 61 pounds. But she`s just as responsible in my eyes.

CARROLL: Absolutely, and that`s why she`s charged, as well, with the same charge as he is. The little boy indicated that he had to tuck his knees up to his chest to even fit in there and that he had slept in there - - you know, he`d been in there long enough that he just fell asleep, and also indicated to us at that time that he had not eaten in a couple of days.

GRACE: How were the boys living, Captain Carroll? How did they get by? They clearly weren`t eating.

CARROLL: No. And that`s a mystery to us, also, because when we did the search warrant, we searched everything, and we actually took photographs of the refrigerator. The refrigerator had a lot of food in it, had crab legs in the freezer, it had cheese, milk. So they -- it wasn`t like the family didn`t have food. The little boy, according to what his father said, was stealing food, actually, probably because he was so hungry. And some of those thefts, if you will, resulted in him being placed in a cage.

GRACE: Wait a minute. The father says the little boy was stealing food from who? Where? Why?

CARROLL: Well, he said he was stealing his food from the refrigerator. He took some things, you know, like kids would take candy bars and such. The father`s a diabetic, not very...

GRACE: What`s he doing with a candy bar anyway?

CARROLL: I don`t know.

GRACE: I mean, Captain, when you see people like this -- have you ever seen anything like this, putting a electric dog collar on a little boy, then remote -- oh, we`ve got one right here. They`re really simple to use. Put this remote collar on. It fits right into the neck. There are two electric sensors right here. And then you remote. And they would apparently torture this little boy while he`s in the cage by shocking him with electrocution shocks to the neck. You know what? Ten years is too good for this guy!

CARROLL: Well, we were pretty upset, too. It`s tough for cops to get upset about a lot of things, especially 30, 20 years on the job, or whatever. But this -- when we did the original search warrant, we saw the squalor that they were living in...

GRACE: Like what?

CARROLL: Oh, it was terrible. It was garbage, old boxes, old cans of hair spray or whatever. In fact, the one sergeant who was in one room said he was standing on three feet of garbage in the room. And what was ironic was, as terrible as the house was, they had a lizard in an aquarium, and the lizard aquarium was pristine. The glass was clean. The sand was clean. And it was just such a difference between what the children were living in and what this lizard was living in.

GRACE: To Jean Casarez, Court TV correspondent. What can you tell us about how many times DFACS, Department of Family and Children Services, had been alerted to this situation?

CASAREZ: Well, 2003, there was a claim filed. They came to the home, apparently. It was unsubstantiated, so that was it. A year later, there was a call made, but the family had moved at that point. So they had been to the house, but nothing had come of it.

GRACE: Let`s go out to the lines. Tina in Ohio. Hi, Tina.


GRACE: What`s your question, dear?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why were the parents charged with child endangerment instead of child abuse?

GRACE: Good question. What about it? To you, Captain Ray Carroll.

CARROLL: That`s what the Ohio revised code is suited for, the child endangering. And within that code, there`s different provisions for escalating that from a felony three to a felony two, depending on the harm that was inflicted upon the children, and permanent harm and serious harm.

GRACE: Back to you -- I want to go back to you, Kurt Franck, managing editor of "The Blade" of Toledo. What do we know about what the neighbors said?

FRANCK: Well, the neighbors -- that makes a interesting point. If I could go first to say that we have been able to find that there was a crime report filed in 1998, when the mother was only 19 years old. And one of the neighbors saw the little boy, who at that point was 18 months old, out in the street, playing and was concerned and went to the door, and the woman was sleeping. Now, keep in mind the child was taken out of the home at the time and kept in Children`s Services and passed -- the mother was at that time going through a drug program, and she was able to fulfill that period and get the child back.

Now, you`ll say, Where did it fall through the system? I got to tell your readers (SIC) that the neighbors never saw these boys. They didn`t play outside, like my kids play outside. They never went to school because the older child is home schooled.

GRACE: Home schooled?

FRANCK: One neighbor even said that they didn`t know they had children, so...

GRACE: Home schooled? Home schooled?


GRACE: Joining us also is Dean Sparks. He`s the executive director of the Lucas County Children`s Services. Welcome. Thank you, Mr. Sparks, for being with us. How can you -- just can anybody just home school? You`ve got a stripper and a guy cooking up crack, home schooling. I see a problem with that.

DEAN SPARKS, LUCAS COUNTY CHILDREN`S SERVICES: Yes. I`m not very happy with the home schooling laws in the state of Ohio. There is some kind of oversight possible if it`s more of a organized thing, but you know, parents can home school their kids. And frankly...

GRACE: Well, aren`t they regulated?

SPARKS: Pardon me?

GRACE: Aren`t they regulated? Can you just keep your kid out of school and say, I`m home schooling him?

SPARKS: Well, you know, I don`t know the laws about home schooling as well as perhaps our educational system does, but what I do know is that this is not the first time I`ve seen somebody say, Well, my child is home schooled, which allowed the parents to have continuous...

GRACE: Mr. Sparks, it`s my understanding that child services knew these children were in distress, not only this county but in another county, and yet they were still living there. There had never been a in- home visit, and the kid was living in a dog cage for a Jack Russell terrier.

SPARKS: You know -- you know, we didn`t know that these kids were living in this situation. I don`t know about the other county right offhand, as I`m sitting here in my home. But you know, we did that. We did act to protect these kids. This little one, when he was a year-and-a- half old, as a matter of fact, we removed him from his home.

GRACE: Then how did he get back in?

SPARKS: The situation was that the -- as the reporter indicated, that the mother was a 19-year-old mother, single person living, working two jobs. She was asleep. The child got outside the house and was picked up, and we placed him in custody, kept him there for several months while the mother worked with us and worked with other treatment providers, successfully completed her treatment program. And after reading the recommendations of the treatment providers, my staff at the time, the children`s attorneys and the court were all convinced that the mother had successfully completed her treatment program.

GRACE: Dean? Dean Sparks?

SPARKS: Yes, ma`am?

GRACE: After the baby goes back into the home, was there follow-up to see how she was doing?

SPARKS: Oh, yes. As a matter of fact, we had maintained court- ordered supervision for -- you know, for six months. And then even after that, we stayed with it for a while. You know, people`s life situations change, people coming in and out of their lives. You know, we had contact with them. We don`t maintain contact with people for long periods of time. You know, one of the things that we do, at least in our community -- you know, the unfortunate reality is most of the kids that we take from their homes never return to the same people from whom they were removed.

GRACE: Well, in this case, that didn`t happen, and it ended up with that same child that you guys put back in the home living in a cage for a Jack Russell terrier, wearing one of these, a electric shock collar.

SPARKS: There`s no way we couldn`t have known that. We haven`t had any contact with them since 2003.

GRACE: Really? Really? You let a parent that actually has a complaint, letting the kid wander outside, home school? I mean, that is a red bell of alarm right there, that you would let a negligent parent home school. I mean, clearly, there should be a little cross-referencing between abusive parents and home schooling parents. How`s the teacher going to report bruises, cuts, scrapes, tears if there`s no school to go to?

And this story isn`t -- tonight isn`t the first time we`ve heard this story. Look at these children. DFACS kept coming out. This kid was found weighing about 45 pounds, stealing food out of a trash can, Faheem Williams. DFACS in New Jersey, they knew about Faheem Williams. He was found dead and emaciated in the basement.

Lisa Steinberg -- this little angel was beaten to death by Joe Steinberg as her mom, Hedda Nussbaum, looked on. Nixzmary Brown -- how many times was child services alerted? Nixzmary Brown is dead.

While I`m thankful to Dean Sparks for being with us, finding out that the child was taken out of the home many years ago -- he got put back in. He was forced to wear a electric choke collar and lived in a cage for a Jack Russell terrier. Thank God the baby`s alive tonight.

To tonight`s "Case Alert." Caught on video, a Tampa woman speeds across town to see her dad at the emergency room, ends up handcuffed, thrown onto a cop car right there in the hospital parking lot. Melissa Langston (ph) begs Deputy Kevin Sabins (ph) to let her see her dad, who just had a heart attack. After waiting for her speeding ticket near the hospital, Langston took off and drove to the parking lot to see her dad. There she was arrested, her car impounded. Tonight, all charges against Langston dropped, the deputy suspended. Langston`s father recovering.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Out of the car! Put your hands behind your back. Now you`re going to jail!




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I told you not to go anywhere, didn`t I.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) not going to get to see him because you`re going to jail.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the stun gun that Albany police say the father used on his own young son.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When Morrison (ph) arrived and heard a baby crying, he followed the noise to this oven, where he found his 1-year-old niece stuffed inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police told China (ph) that her child had died by means of a microwave.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The 18-month-old baby girl tested positive for cocaine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two-month-old Christina (ph) showed up at the hospital with a blood alcohol level of .364.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were your kids in cages?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) allowed to live in a place like that, under circumstances even without the cage situation, they just -- it was horrible. It was terrible. I don`t know how people can allow their children to live like that.


GRACE: And now, this, an electric collar used to shock a 10-year-old boy as punishment. Punishment for what? Stealing food out of the refrigerator. He only weighed 61 pounds. And why were the children still in the home?

I want to go back to Captain Ray Carroll, Toledo Police Department. What can you tell me about another infant dying of SIDS?

CARROLL: When we were transporting the mother down to our safety building, I asked if she had any more children, and she indicated that she had a child who died about five years ago from SIDS death. And we probably will -- you know, when the dust settles with this current case, we`ll probably be contacting the coroner`s office to see if there was anything suspicious at that time.

GRACE: So you`ve got three kids. One died of SIDS, the other two mistreated. Where are the two children tonight?

CARROLL: The two children are in the custody of Children`s Services board.

GRACE: Let`s unleash the lawyers. Joining us tonight, child advocate Linda Shay Gardner, defense attorney Michael Mazzariello and defense attorney Jan Ronis, Jan out of the California jurisdiction, Mazzariello out of New York, Gardner out of Pennsylvania. Welcome to all of you.

Very quickly, to you Jan Ronis. What`s your best defense?

JAN RONIS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, sometimes this is one of those cases where it`s tough to be an attorney. I mean, I think it was a colossal failure of the social services...

GRACE: Yes. I asked you what the defense was.

RONIS: Well, what I was about to say, sometimes being an attorney, it`s just a matter of trying to mitigate punishment. I mean, if everything they`re saying is true, it`s a very tough case for any attorney. And so this is one of those cases where, if, like I say, everything is correct, it`s a tough one.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A search warrant states the mother saw the boy`s father on at least two occasions put a electronic pet collar on her son and zapped him, causing him to cry. Today, the parents were charged with two counts of child endangering.


GRACE: Out to the lines. Rita in Virginia. Hi, Rita.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Nancy. I just have a question. I just wanted to know if they had any -- doesn`t the state have any regulations on home schooling?

GRACE: That`s what I was just asking Dean Sparks. What do you know about that, Kurt Franck with "The Blade" of Toledo? Can just anybody keep their kids out of school?

FRANK: Well, they have to fulfill some requirements and take some tests, but generally, the parent can go ahead and home school the child, as long as the tests are taking place. Home schooling is a problem just not in Ohio, it`s a problem throughout the United States.

GRACE: True. True. Back to Gail in Georgia. Hi, Gail.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Nancy. I love your show.

GRACE: Thank you, love.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`d like to know where the grandparents and the family members are.

GRACE: Good question. To you, Dean Sparks with Lucas County Child Services. Where`s the rest of the family?

SPARKS: Well, we`ve just begun talking to them as we`ve located them. Remember, we haven`t had contact with these folks in four years. So now that this is -- that folks know that we`re involved in it, the parents -- or the relatives are calling us and saying this family has pretty much isolated themselves from everybody.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you have small children like this who obviously have suffered some physical problems and also some mental problems, apparently, psychiatric problems, being allowed to live in a place like that under circumstances when even without the cage situation, it just -- it was horrible. It was terrible. I don`t know how people can allow their children to live like that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A search warrant states the mother saw the boy`s father on at least two occasions put an electronic pet collar on her son and zapped him, causing him to cry. Today, the parents were charged with two counts of child endangering.


GRACE: Welcome back. Busted. Police say this couple -- they`re no spring chickens themselves, the mom`s 28, the dad`s 37 years old. Jessica Botzko and John Westover not only kept their 10-year-old boy, who only weighed 61 pounds, in a dog cage for a Jack Russell, two by two, but also tortured the boy remote with one of these electric shock collars, just tormenting him as he was in that cage, making the boy cry and beg.

I want to go back to Captain Ray Carroll with the Toledo police. What were the conditions inside the home?

CARROLL: Conditions were terrible. The -- as you walked in, there was, like I said, garbage all over. There was no bedding, no bed sheets on the bed, piles of garbage. The toilet, you couldn`t get within a couple of feet of it because of the garbage around it. The kitchen was a mess, things on the counter, dirty dishes. It was like they`d never seen an outside garbage can before.

GRACE: You know, I want to go you now, Pat Brown, criminal profiler. The kind of person that would torture a child, for instance, with a electric shock collar -- I`ve never seen anything like it.

PAT BROWN, CRIMINAL PROFILER: Well, it`s funny that when we look at people and their children, we put them in a separate category as somebody - - as strangers. In other words, if we had a person kidnapped a child off the street and put them in a cage and torture them with that dog collar, we would -- (INAUDIBLE) consider them a horrible psychopath that need to put away forever. We charge them with kidnapping and torture.

But because these are supposedly parents, then we give them -- (INAUDIBLE) this concept that they`re -- they care about the children, and they don`t care about the children. Those children came into the world, they didn`t know what to do with them, so they treated them animals and animals they didn`t love. And I want to bring one more thing out, this Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. If we had a requirement by law that was considered a suspicious death and was investigated as a possible homicide, this might have been found out a long time ago, what was going on in this home.

GRACE: You know, it`s really interesting. Let`s unleash the attorneys again, Gardner, Mazzariello and Ronis. To you, Michael Mazzariello. Why is it that the father and the mother are not charged with kidnapping, in that they forced the child, they moved him, that`s asportation (ph) under kidnapping, and forced him into this little dog cage? Why not? Why not a greater felony?

MICHAEL MAZZARIELLO, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I think the district attorney`s going to look into that now. I mean, their penal code probably doesn`t allow it. It isn`t...

GRACE: That doesn`t even make sense, Michael Mazzariello.

MAZZARIELLO: Well, it`s probably encompassed in the endangering of the welfare of the child charge, so...

GRACE: No, no. No, no. Kidnapping is typically 10 to life. Child endangerment in this jurisdiction, max, 10. It`s not encompassed in child endangerment. That`s impossible. Child endangerment would be a lesser of kidnapping. Think, think, think!

MAZZARIELLO: Well, I don`t know if on a state level or a federal level, what would be the kidnapping...

GRACE: Federal? Federal?

MAZZARIELLO: ... that they -- that they...

GRACE: We`re under state law.

MAZZARIELLO: They -- they allegedly put these children in a dog cage in their own home.

GRACE: Doesn`t matter. Doesn`t matter!

MAZZARIELLO: We`d have to look at the penal law of -- of Ohio...

GRACE: You know what, Michael?

MAZZARIELLO: ... there to see what it says.

GRACE: Let me see Mazzariello`s face, please. Michael Mazzariello, you tried plenty of cases.


GRACE: And you know that under kidnapping, you can move someone an inch and that qualifies under asportation. That qualifies as kidnapping, if it`s against the person`s will. You want to tell me this kid wanted to be in a dog cage that was two by two?

MAZZARIELLO: Well, what I`m telling you is that the district attorney of that county to evaluate it, go through the facts and see whether or not he can make out that charge, Nancy.

GRACE: Michael, we know that. We know the DA will bring charges. I`m asking you why child endangerment and why not a serious felony of kidnapping?

Let`s try it with Linda Shay Gardner. Why the lighter charge, Linda?

LINDA SHAY GARDNER, ATTORNEY AND CHILD ADVOCATE: I don`t know, in this particular case. But it seems to me that there are plenty of other things that they can look at. Apparently, there may have been drugs in the house. There may have been many other things going on in there. They took out photographs and memory cards from a camera. I think this case is going to go much deeper, and I certainly hope that the district attorney will look into every possible aspect, and they should be charging them with other things as we speak.

GRACE: Well, I agree with you. Let`s do a quick recap on that. To Jean Casarez. Stolen items and drugs -- what can you tell us?

CASAREZ: Exactly. What they found in the home, they found paraphernalia for using and manufacturing and selling drugs. According to the police report, it was crack cocaine. Remember, charges were just filed yesterday, and I think there definitely could be more to come. The story may not be over at all.

GRACE: Crack cocaine. To you, Captain Ray Carroll with Toledo police. It`s my understanding that the residue was found in a cooking device, which clearly means it`s being melted down to either cook for himself, to turn cocaine into crack, or to sell. So that`s at least one felony, even if authorities want to ignore what`s happening to the children. Cocaine in practically every jurisdiction is a felony, even if it`s a tiny amount.

CARROLL: Right. Well, just to touch on what you`re saying, the -- when we originally charged him with what we did, two felony 3s apiece, our plan is to -- that`s an original charge. And as we interview the young man, the 10-year-old, and we consult with the prosecutor and gather more evidence, we can always indict at a higher level felony.

GRACE: Right. Elizabeth, let me see Captain Ray Carroll. See him? Captain Carroll, thank you for telling me that because you and I both know when somebody gets a charge of child endangerment -- here`s the harsh reality that they don`t tell you outside the courthouse. Say you get five years on child endangerment. You`ll be out on a charge like that in maybe, maybe 18 months, even if you get sentenced to five years. You will not do the whole time. To do the whole time, there has to be a more serious felony charged that carries more time.

Captain, what can you tell me about the stolen items Jean Casarez was referring to?

CARROLL: Our property sergeant, Sergeant Bob Bumgartner (ph), had received information that a burglar or a snitch who knew about these burglaries had been leaving property at that location, same location where we took the children from. They executed a search warrant today, and my understanding is that they did recover some stolen property from there.

GRACE: Man, you have to clean this place out with...

CARROLL: We would like to.

GRACE: Yes, a pitchfork. Let`s got to the lines. Barbara in Ohio. Hi, Barbara.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Nancy. You`re the bomb (ph).


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) I`m watching this since it broke. I live about an hour outside Toledo. My daughter goes to UT. And my question is, I`m concerned. I heard the children were put in foster care. And I was wondering if they`re being hospitalized at this time and checked for -- well, of course, their malnutrition, I`m sure -- but other medical problems, and if they`re expected to have a full recovery?

GRACE: Good question. And Barbara, good luck to your kid at UT. To you, Dean Sparks with Lucas County Children`s Services. Are the children being evaluated medically? And please tell me they`re not going to go back to relatives.

SPARKS: No. These kids are in foster care. They`ve already had a screening by our nursing staff. And you know...


SPARKS: ... we`re making arrangements for a physician to see them as quickly as we can.

GRACE: As quickly as possible. How long have they already been -- how long have you had them?

SPARKS: Twenty-four hours.

GRACE: OK. Quickly as possible. You guys don`t have an ER?

SPARKS: Well, what we will do is we`ll have our child abuse specialist take a look at them.

GRACE: OK. Very quickly, to Jeff Gardere. The mother -- she`s going to probably try to skate and blame the dad. She`s just as guilty.

JEFF GARDERE, PSYCHOLOGIST: Yes. She is going to -- and if I were her attorney, I would definitely blame the dad and say that this is a case of extreme domestic violence. He`s isolated her, isolated the kids. But she has to accept all responsibility because we know that...

GRACE: Jeffrey! She was still stripping at a strip bar! She wasn`t isolated.

GARDERE: Well, they were...

GRACE: Please!

GARDERE: ... isolated from their relatives. But I agree with you that she should have been there, taking care of those kids...

GRACE: Strip bar! Isolated!

GARDERE: They were found outside of the home, one of them wandering while she was sleeping. Who was taking care of them?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On a November day in 1996, a teenage couple went to this motel in Newark (ph) Delaware and inside room 220, gave birth to a baby boy, an infant who was later found dead in a dumpster next to the motel. The mother was Amy Grossberg (ph), the father her high school sweetheart, Brian Peterson (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) your own children, at that, I mean, because no matter what Susan went through, or, you know, what others had to go through, they (INAUDIBLE) who have been through the exact same thing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the family home where they have waited for three years for Melissa Drexler (ph) to be granted her parole. She is being released early, serving 37 months of a 15-year sentence for killing her baby at the 1997 Lacey (ph) high school prom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After you drew the bath water, what was your intent? What were you about to do?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A 21-year-old Chicago mom smothers her infant daughter with a pillow, suffocating the child. Two whole weeks go by. Then Stacy Samuels picks up the phone, making a tearful 911 call, confessing to the murder of 11-month-old Michaela (ph).


GRACE: Tonight, a stunning twist in the law, a legal loophole. She confesses to suffocating her 11-month-old baby girl, claiming the girl cramped her lifestyle. She couldn`t drink beer, hang out with friends and smoke bud, marijuana. So she gives a tearful confession, confessing that she suffocated the little girl. Took her two times to do it. But now an appellate court has let her free, reversed the conviction, stating that her confession simply isn`t good enough for a conviction.

To Steve Patterson (ph) with "The Chicago Sun-Times." What happened?

STEVE PATTERSON, "CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Stacy Samuels was 21 in 2001, and she had an 11-month-old baby, Michaela. She said she -- told police initially she was rocking the baby to sleep when she just stopped breathing. And for days after that, the medical examiner couldn`t figure out why she died, what caused her death. They released the baby. They buried her. It was two weeks later that Stacy made the 911 call, admitted to smothering the baby. And police came, questioned her, arrested her, charged her and she was convicted based solely on that confession.

Unfortunately, there was no other evidence, no witnesses, no physical evidence to back up that confession, and that`s what the appellate court based the reversal on.

GRACE: I want to go out to a very special guest joining us tonight, Dr. Joshua Perper. He is renowned in his field. You probably became aware of him first during the autopsy of Anna Nicole Smith, the famous covergirl. Doctor Perper, I find this very, very difficult to believe. And yes, Doctor, I know the law. The law is you cannot get a conviction based solely on a confession, all right, to avoid false confessions and people paying someone to confess to their crime so they don`t have to go to jail. That`s why we don`t do that.

But Dr. Perper, the autopsy alone should show cause of death in a suffocation.

DR. JOSHUA PERPER, BROWARD COUNTY MEDICAL EXAMINER: Well, in this particular case, the appellate court dismissed the case because they said that there`s no corpus delicti because the medical examiner, in making a determination of the manner of death, did not make a independent decision but he relied on the confession of the mother.

GRACE: But Dr. Perper, remember when you were doing the Anna Nicole Smith investigation? You kept waiting. You wouldn`t tell us the final answer because you were waiting on more and more evidence to come in before you gave your final answer. You`ve got to know cause and manner of death. That`s just what you did. You waited until you had all the evidence.

PERPER: Well, that`s correct. I think that the decision is springing out of a misunderstanding by the court of the function of the medical examiner and how he`s making the decision. And when we make a decision of the cause of death, which is the medical cause of death, and the manner of death, which is suicide accident or so on...


PERPER: ... we take in consideration the critical (ph) case...

GRACE: Dr. Perper...

PERPER: ... for these circumstances and everything.

GRACE: Dr. Perper, I don`t want to cut you off, but I`ve got to ask you a few questions before we go to break. Her petichiae in the eyes were hemorrhaged. That is an example of suffocation or strangulation. And what of this alveolar (ph) hemorrhages, hemorrhages or bruising and bleeding within the airways?

PERPER: Those are findings which are consistent with asphyxia. This is a child who has normal medical history, normal birth. And this in conjunction with the confession of the mother, which was uninvited -- and she, by the way, strangled or smothered the child twice. It`s very clear what`s the cause and manner of death and...


GRACE: And what would you say the cause of death is, Dr. Perper?

PERPER: The cause of death is smothering and the manner of death is homicide.

GRACE: And this woman is going to walk free, told police the little baby cramped her life style of hanging out, drinking beer and smoking pot.

Let me shift gears quickly. Tonight, we shine a spotlight on ordinary people making a extraordinary difference. Tonight, Headline News heroes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is tape two.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The corporate motto is obsolescence and a lack of imagination.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we don`t reuse our waste now, it`s all that future generations will have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is James Burgett. I`ve been collecting electronic waste and giving away computers for the last 13 years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hire people that are outside of the normal employment stream. I teach them how to build the computers. I`ve been pretty much on my own since the age of 14. I slept on peoples` floors. I slept in various places. I started pulling computers out of dumpsters, refurbishing them and then trying to sell them. The objective was to fund my drug habit. Every time I made any money, I immediately stuck it up my nose or in my arm. I quit doing drugs because I found that giving away computers gave me a self image that made it so I didn`t need to do so.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s very adamant to give them away for free. This is one of the things that he wants to do, he can do and he will do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`re not going to ruin it. This is your computer. If you ruin it, we`ll give you another one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We hire convicts. We hire people with psychiatric histories. We hire people with drug histories. All you really need to do is give them something that they can say, Hey, I`m not a parasite today. I mean, these are the best feelings we`ve had since we did drugs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just checking in, Aaron. You got anything I need to know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s all gravy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s all gravy. OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We take things that are considered broken, and we then repurpose, refurbish. This applies to me, this applies to my staff. This applies to every computer we give away. Every single thing you see here, somebody somewhere decided that no longer had value, and they were wrong.


To Headline Prime`s Glenn Beck. Hi, friend.


GLENN BECK, HOST, HEADLINE PRIME: You know, if Democrats and Republicans can agree on one thing, it`s that sex and stupidity are nonpartisan issues. They both engage in it. Seven more names are going to be released from the D.C. madam`s little black book. Who are they? Do you really care? I mean, is it important that we know or is it just entertainment? I`ll tell you what I think in just a bit. And then tonight`s "Real Story," I`ll tell you about Hillary Clinton`s temper tantrum over the size of her private jet. And we`ll sit down with Academy Award winner Robert Duval. Yes, a guy from Hollywood on this show. It`s crazy. All that and more next.


GRACE: Welcome back. She confesses to suffocating her 11-month-old baby girl, claiming the little girl cramped her lifestyle of smoking pot and hanging with friends. Now that has been reversed, saying the confession just wasn`t good enough. With us tonight, Marijane Placek, her attorney at the murder trial. Welcome. Everyone...


GRACE: ... is a veteran trial lawyer in the Chicago area. I`ve got to ask you a question. Didn`t the grandmother state that the defendant, your client, came down and said, The baby`s unconscious, the baby`s unconscious. The grandmother tried to revive her and did so. The defendant went away with the baby, came back and the baby was dead. Doesn`t that corroborate the confession?

MARIJANE PLACEK, ATTORNEY FOR MOTHER ACCUSED OF SUFFOCATING BABY: No, not according to the appellate court, and also because the grandmother said that that happened constantly. These were poor people. And one of the things I kind of resent -- no, not kind of, definitely resent is the fact that it was described as a happy confession. The 911 call. which I heard several, several times, was an absolute call of a hysterical woman calling on the phone. She cried. She was...

GRACE: OK, I understand. I...


PLACEK: ... she was also a mentally ill person. Her mother, the grandmother of the child, also testified to that.

GRACE: Has she ever been in the hospital for mental illness?

PLACEK: She has been, in fact, treated for psychiatric before the birth of the child, and her mother verified that, which was the grandmother of the child. And as a matter of fact, to correct the pathologist that you had on your show, the pathologist during the trial...

GRACE: You know what? I appreciate that, ma`am, but the jury clearly disagreed with you and convicted your client.


PLACEK: The jury disagreed because, in fact, juries don`t understand. They believed that, in fact, if someone gives a statement or an admission of guilt that...

GRACE: Everyone, we are signing off. I want to thank all our guests and especially you for being with us. Until tomorrow night, good night, friend.