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Nancy Grace

Police Continue Search for Missing West Virginia 3-Year-Old

Aired September 26, 2011 - 20:00   ET


JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, GUEST HOST: Breaking news tonight out of West Virginia. Police on a desperate search for a missing 3-year-old girl. Her mother goes into the little girl`s bedroom 6:30 AM to check on her. Less than three hours later, when Mommy goes in to wake her up, little Aliayah is gone, missing without a trace from her own bedroom. At least six people in the home, and nobody sees a thing? At this hour, an intense search under way, K-9s, search teams on foot, divers all searching for 3-year-old girl.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where is 3-year-old Aliayah Lunsford?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I went back in to wake her up and she was gone!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, there`s no clues leading us anywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No clues. It`s just like she`s just disappeared.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Family members say Aliayah is a shy child.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She never leaves the house unless an adult is with her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was 6:30 in the morning the last time anyone saw the West Virginia toddler. Her mother says Aliayah had already vanished by 9:00 o`clock in the morning when she went to wake her little girl from bed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We did a foot canvas of the neighborhood, used K- 9s. Now we have divers in the water.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Aliayah is missing her top four front teeth. She has shoulder-length brown hair, brown eyes and weighs 35 pounds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are doing everything that they possibly can! But the more people we can get to help, the better chances (INAUDIBLE)


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Good evening. I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell, in for Nancy Grace tonight. A family devastated after a 3-year-old West Virginia girl vanishes from her own bedroom. Just three hours earlier, her mother sees the little girl in her Dora the Explorer PJs. And then this child disappears without a trace.

For the very latest, let`s go straight out to Reuben Perdue, news director for WAJR FM. Reuben, I understand you have been to the scene. What do you know?

REUBEN PERDUE, WAJR (via telephone): I tell you what. There are hundreds of volunteers. In fact, some of them had to be turned away today, Jane, from the primary search area close to young Aliayah`s home, where they brought in dive crews today. At this hour, still searching with the dive crews, the sheriff`s office not sure when they`ll call off their efforts tonight.

But this is now day three of a search, and it`s obviously desperate times for anyone, let alone a 3-year-old toddler gone missing since early Saturday morning. They`re still working. They`re hoping to find something right now. They`re simply looking for leads and young Aliayah.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Joe Gomez, reporter, KTRH Newsradio, this mother comes home, sees that her child is missing. What does she do? Because I understand she did not call 911 immediately. Tell us about it, Joe.

JOE GOMEZ, KTRH: That`s right, Jane. When she first found out that little Aliayah was gone, she got in her car and she drove around town, frantically looking for her little angel, Jane! She was driving around so out of her mind that she ran out of gas, had to borrow gas from somebody, and then she finally made it back home, called the police. But there was about a two-hour period there, Jane, from 9:00 to about 11:30 in the morning where Mommy was just going out of her mind, going around town, trying to find her little baby girl!

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s fascinating because you`d think maybe you`d do that for a half an hour, 45 minutes, but at a certain point, you call 911. This is a tragic situation.

Marc Klaas, president and founder of Klaas Kids Foundation, I understand they have not issued an Amber Alert. Why not? And does that disturb you?

MARC KLAAS, KLAAS KIDS FOUNDATION: Well, thank you, Jane. First of all, I agree that wandering around aimlessly for two hours serves no purpose whatsoever. Every parent should have some kind of a plan in action in place should this unimaginable kind of event occur. And that includes checking with friends, that includes checking around the house, that includes, ultimately, calling 911, all of the other law enforcement agencies, the media outlets, the non-profit organizations and really trying to get a jump start on any kind of an investigation.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, but what about the Amber Alert not being issued?

KLAAS: Sure.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Is that because they don`t have a vehicle and they don`t have a suspect description?

KLAAS: You know -- yes, I`ve had -- I`ve had issue with the Amber Alert for the longest time simply because the children that need it most generally don`t qualify for it. You need to have a vehicle description and/or a license plate number. But children like Polly, children like this little girl, these kidnappers, if there is a kidnapper in this case, they`re not advertising this car. Nobody knows what these people are driving.

So basically, you find a situation where Amber Alerts now are only effective in family types of cases because you know what kind of a car the non-custodial parent is driving.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, and look at this beautiful, beautiful angel. That`s the only word I can think of. She`s adorable. She`s sweet. And she`s missing.

And Dr. Cathleen London, assistant attending physician at New York Presbyterian, we have now passed the 48-hour mark. But we`re talking West Virginia. This is, indeed, is it not, a race against time?

DR. CATHLEEN LONDON, NY PRESBYTERIAN HOSPITAL: Absolutely! Children that young have larger body surface areas than adults, so they dehydrate quicker. They lose their body temperature quicker. So absolutely. This is very frightening.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ellie Jostad, NANCY GRACE producer, I understand there are reports that the K-9s were actually able to track her scent to a nearby river. What do you know?

ELLIE JOSTAD, NANCY GRACE PRODUCER: Right. Right. That`s right. The K-9s were brought in. They did find her scent. They were able to track it directly from the house to the river, which is only about 40 or so yards away. They say she would have had to walk around some brush to get to the river, but it`s still less than 100-yard walk.

However, once they got to that river, that`s where the trail goes cold. They had divers searching for her. No sign of the girl in the river. So they`ve turned the search elsewhere, as well as keeping an eye on that river.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, I want to go to Michael Gast, who is the founder and trainer of the National Academy of Police Diving. Now, a river is a body of water that has a moving current. So how hard is that to search? I know they sent divers down there. But what about dredging it? I mean, what else can they do?

MICHAEL GAST, NATIONAL ACADEMY OF POLICE DIVING: Well, the first thing you want to do is put divers in the water and get a feel for what the bottom is like and the contour and how fast the water is moving. Then after that, you set up a grid and you search the grid and you eliminate parts of the river.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Reuben Perdue, you`ve been down to the scene. Have they done all that?

PERDUE: Today when I saw them searching in the water, Jane, they were primarily focusing on the area directly behind young Aliayah`s house, and then a little bit downstream, maybe a quarter of a mile or so, maybe five, six, seven, ten houses at the most, about a quarter mile.

They were going up and down the river with a pontoon boat, as well as a rowboat out there and a john (ph) boat. But the primary search that I saw this afternoon focused on the area right around the bend in the bridge area, down the road from Aliayah`s home, which was nearly directly behind it, which would have been where the K-9s tracked the scent to originally.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, and I want to go back to Joe Gomez. Apparently, cops are talking to people. How many people were inside the home when this precious child disappeared? And what are they doing to talk to those people to try to determine exactly what happened? Because one thing I don`t understand is, the mother goes in 6:30 AM. She says, OK, the child`s OK. Then she leaves to take the stepfather to work. Who`s watching the kids when she left to take the stepfather to work?

GOMEZ: Well, apparently little Aliayah has about four siblings, brothers and sisters. They have various ages all the way up to about 11 years old. So presumably, one of these kids might have been in the house at the time, may have peeked in and saw little Aliayah.

We don`t know if that`s the case or not. What we do know is that, you know, Mommy came back to the house, and at 9:30, she`s gone. Her little princess is gone! And she even was wearing a pink princess shirt and Dora the Explorer pajama bottoms, Jane!

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh! It`s heart-breaking when I look at this little face and I just think that something might have happened to this child. We pray not. We pray that maybe she`s lost somewhere in the area and she`s hiding out and we can find her. But it is a race against time, that`s for sure. And we want to do everything we can to help find this child.

Take a look at the clothes she`s wearing. Take a look at that beautiful face. And there is a tip line. We`re going to be putting it up all night so that you can be part of the solution here. We pray that we find this child.

Jason, Canada -- your question or thought, Jason.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, Jane. How`re you doing tonight?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Do we have -- there you go. OK. What`s your question or thought, Jason?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were the windows left open at the time the child went missing?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Let`s go back to Reuben Purdue. The question is, did somebody perhaps break in? So tell us about this house. You`ve seen it. Is it secure? Are the doors secure doors, or would it be easy for an intruder to get in the window or the door?

PERDUE: Sure, Jane. I talked with the sheriff this afternoon about that, along with Lieutenant Parks (ph), and they said right now, they show no indication that there was anyone inside the house, no signs of any type of entrance, no signs of any type of a break-in and no indication from the family that anyone was inside the home before she was missing and now is gone when she was out -- when she was not (SIC) missing.

The only indication we get is there was a door in the home, and from what I understand, it may have been a bedroom door, that didn`t shut all the way. I don`t believe it was an outside door.

I do want to make an important clarification, Jane, if we have time.


PERDUE: There`s no indication that the mother left to take the stepfather to work. She got up with him in the morning. The mother is right now pregnant, expecting twins in about two weeks. She was up to simply see the stepfather off to work, no indication that she left. He was, in fact, picked up at the house and taken to work by a co-worker. She did not leave the home to take him to work. She was at home the entire morning.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So she`s pregnant with twins and she has little Aliayah. Does she have other kids? And if so, how many, and what are their ages?

PERDUE: Five siblings. We believe that those children are 4, 3, 5, 9 and 11. Five children in the home, including 3-year-old Aliayah, and expecting twins in a couple of weeks.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, I want to go to Paula Bloom, clinical psychologist. Why would the mother, when she realizes her child is missing, drive around for hours and hours? Why wouldn`t she call 911 immediately?

PAULA BLOOM, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Yes. It just doesn`t look good. Listen, people -- there`s a wide range of different reactions that people can have in these kinds of situations. This feels very outside the realm of something that you would expect a parent to do. A lot of times, hey, we don`t want to bother law enforcement. We may have an issue of passive law enforcement. We don`t want to bring them in. We want to do it ourselves as a parent. But I have to say it feels to me very unusual and outside the realm of what I would expect.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Except that we never know how we would act. I hate to judge because I think the first thing you do is say -- you go into denial, This can`t be happening, This can`t be happening, She`s got to be somewhere, right? And if you call 911, from a psychological perspective, it`s like, I`m acknowledging that there`s a crisis here and that my child is missing. So I think people do instinctively try to solve it themselves, and sometimes that`s a big mistake.

All right, it`s week two of season 13 of "Dancing With the Stars," and our very own Nancy Grace dancing for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. And tonight, she`s doing the quickstep, so be sure to vote. You can vote multiple times for Nancy and her dancing partner, Tristan MacManus. And everybody here at the NANCY GRACE show of course says, Good luck Nancy! We are rooting for you! Stay right there.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The more people we can get to help, the better chances of bringing her home!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three-year-old Aliayah Lunsford went missing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: About 9:00, 9:30, I went back in to wake her up and she was gone!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where is 3-year-old Aliayah Lunsford?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Family members say Aliayah is a shy child.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She never leaves the house unless an adult is with her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Combing ground and water areas near Aliayah`s home. Only a faint trail picked up by search dogs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Family members wait out the search.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Police say the trail for the West Virginia toddler has run dry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Still unsure if the river holds the answers to Aliayah`s disappearance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ve entered her as missing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We pray for answers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trying to find Aliayah Lunsford.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We love her! We miss her!


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Look at this gorgeous child, missing tonight. There is a race against time. And we`re trying to understand exactly what were the circumstances surrounding her disappearance.

It was 6:30 in the morning this past Saturday her mother says she checked on the child. The child was in her bedroom. And then she saw her stepfather off to work, and then came back at 9:00 AM and the child had vanished.

So I want somebody -- Joe Gomez, reporter, lay it out for us. Set the stage. Was this child in a room by herself? Did she have siblings with her? And if the child -- if the mother didn`t actually drive the dad to work, if she just sort of saw off the stepfather, then she`s in the house presumably. That`s a lot harder for a child to be abducted when the mother is in the vicinity, when she hasn`t actually left the premises.

GOMEZ: That`s absolutely right. You know, the three hours there, from 6:00 to about 9:30 -- there`s three hours unaccounted for when somebody could have, you know, come into the house, snatched little Aliayah. She might have wandered off. She was in her bed. She was sick (ph). She had on her princess shirt, her pink princess shirt and Dora the Explorer pajama bottoms.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But what about other siblings?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Was she alone? She was sick? OK, let`s hear about that.

GOMEZ: She was sick. She was -- she was in bed. She was sick. Is she going wander off by herself, or is somebody else going to come in there and take her away?

What we understand about little Aliayah is that she`s a shy girl. She doesn`t talk to strangers, according to police. Police believe that she would have only left the house if somebody -- you know, if maybe some adult was there trying to lead her out of the house or something like that, Jane.

It`s very bizarre! Why would this happen? Why would this little 3- year-old angel just go missing?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want to go to Woodrow Tripp, former police commander and polygraph expert. It is my understanding that polygraphs are being given to certain people, but that the mother is not being given a polygraph because she`s eight months pregnant. What`s the connection there? Why does pregnancy preclude a polygraph?

WOODROW TRIPP, FMR. POLICY COMMANDER, POLYGRAPH EXPERT: Well, Jane, American Polygraph Association has certain standards, and as a result of that, we don`t polygraph pregnant females for a lot or a host of reasons. Keep in mind, we`re recording physiological...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Give me a couple. Give me a couple.

TRIPP: Sure.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Give me a couple.

TRIPP: Sure. We`re recording physiological activity of a person`s body. Well, I`m recording heartbeats. Well, in this case, I have two that are going on. You know, we measure perspiration. We measure all of that physiological activity that`s going on. And when you have a pregnant person such as she is, you`ve got a lot of issues. And in fact, could we cause a miscarriage? All of that is put at risk.

So we very rarely, if ever -- it`s got to be extraordinary circumstances. Would this be an extraordinary? Yes, it would be. But at this point, I think there`s a lot more homework that needs to be done before they ever get to a polygraph.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ginny, Colorado -- your question or thought, Ginny?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was just wondering -- I`ve got confused about where the dogs traced her scent, from where to where? And I`m just looking at the pictures. She looks so sad all the time. I just wonder if there`s any history of social services, you know, going to the home or anything like that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, very good questions. Reuben Purdue, what`s the history here?

PERDUE: Well, on the dog scent, first of all, the dog, from when I talked to the sheriff this afternoon, traced a direct scent from the home to the river, which was about -- you know, about 40 yards away, as he said, but you have to go around some brush.

And I asked him, Can the dogs give you an indication of exactly where she went? Do they follow a direct trail? He said yes, they absolutely do. And he said this dog followed as direct a trail as you could possibly get from the home to the river, less than 100 yards away.

As for the history of the family, the mother does have a criminal record. And in fact, according to the dates from when she was incarcerated, she had some crimes out of neighboring Braxton (ph) and Gilmore (ph) Counties, where, in fact, she moved to this neighborhood from. It looks, according to our numbers, that, you know, this child may have been born while the mother was incarcerated. And keep in mind they are brand-new to this neighborhood.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let me say this. This child is an angel, and I don`t care where she was born. We`ve got to find her. It`s no fault of her own.

It`s week two of season 13 of "Dancing With the Stars" -- as we switch gears here -- our own Nancy Grace dancing for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, to help children. And tonight, she`s doing the quickstep, so be sure to vote. You can vote multiple times for Nancy and her dancing partner, Tristan MacManus. And we`re here to say, Good luck, Nancy. You go, girl! Get those feet moving because we know you can win this thing!



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A 3-year-old girl is missing from her West Virginia home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Police say they`ve dealt with missing persons cases in the past, but Aliayah`s is unlike any other.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Police say it`s like 3-year-old Aliayah Lunsford just disappeared.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: About 9:00, 9:30, I went back in to wake her up, and she was gone!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Aliayah Lunsford went missing from her Bendel (ph) home, and ever since, search teams have turned this typically quiet neighborhood has been turned upside-down in the hopes of bringing her home.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: She`s an adorable 3-year-old child last seen in her Dora the Explorer outfit. And we want to find out where this angel is tonight because she`s missing and there`s a race against time. We`ve passed the 48-hour mark.

But let me say this. It was mentioned that her mother has a criminal record, but it`s not related to the kids at all. It was for forgery. So there is absolutely no history in this family of child abuse that we can find whatsoever. So we could very well be talking about a very devastated mother who is absolutely desperate, looking for her child, who has done nothing wrong.

I want to go to Ellie Jostad and want to ask you about how the K-9s tracked her scent to the river? What do you know about that?

JOSTAD: Right. Well, it`s my understanding that they brought in a K- 9 unit almost as soon as they could, as soon as she was reported missing. This would have been early yesterday afternoon. The dogs were able to pick up her scent, which is a good thing, obviously. They traced it straight to that river, which, as we said before, is about 40 yards from her house, less than a 100-yard walk around some brush.

So that is where they were immediately focusing the search. Although it was dark by the time divers got in the water Saturday night, they continued that search in the dark until 11:00 PM Saturday. They were back out there yesterday and again today. Still no sign of her.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Dr. Cathleen London, we`re hearing now about this girl is a shy girl. She was sick. She was under the weather. So what`s the likelihood that she`s going to wake up and sneak out of the house, open a door, and then head all the way to this river when she`s under the weather?

LONDON: Oh, not just that but through brush. I mean, 3-year-olds tend to stick with familiar situations. So if it was a very familiar trek from the house down to the river, that I could see her doing by herself. But this is -- no, I don`t see this. A 3-year-old who wakes up, especially if she`s not feeling well, is going to be looking for Mommy or one of her siblings or playing in her bed by herself.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: There are 25 sex offenders in the area. When we come back, we`re going to talk about what cops are doing to question those sex offenders. And we`re going to unleash the lawyers to analyze that aspect.

Meantime, it is week two of season 13 of "Dancing With the Stars," and our very own Nancy Grace -- we are so proud -- is dancing for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. She wowed them the last time and now she`s doing it again, this time the quickstep. Be sure to vote. You can vote multiple times for Nancy and her dancing partner. She can do it!



UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Three-year-old Aliayah Lunsford.




UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Missing from her West Virginia home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want her home.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The toddler`s mother says Aliayah would never leave home alone.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Search teams have turned this typically quiet neighborhood upside down in the hopes of bringing her home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Divers in the water.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: K-9 teams reportedly tracked Aliayah`s scent to a river near her home.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Family members say Aliayah is a shy child.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Last seen wearing purple Dora the Explorer pajamas and a pink princess sweatshirt. Her hair tied in a ponytail. Authorities asking for your help tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Where is 3-year-old Aliayah Lunsford?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No clue. She`s just disappeared.


JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST, HLN`S "ISSUES": Welcome back, I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell. Filling in for Nancy Grace tonight.

Where is this precious 3-year-old? She was last seen Saturday morning at 6:30 in the morning by her mom and then the mom comes back to check on the child at about 9:00 a.m. on Saturday and the child has vanished into thin air so we are in a race against time.

We have passed the 48-hour mark, but everybody is just all hands on deck, trying to find this child.

Straight out to reporter Joe Gomez.

Joe, lay it out for us. What were the circumstances surrounding her disappearance?

JOE GOMEZ, REPORTER, KTRH RADIO: This little angel, Jane, was asleep in her bed. Three years old. Apparently sick with some kind of a cold that she caught from the night before. Mommy came in to check on her around 6:00 in the morning. Then she left, then she came back around 9:00 and her little baby was gone.

Then she got in her car, mommy drove around, searching, searching for her little princess but she couldn`t find her. Then she ran out of gas. She was so frantic trying to find her little girl she said she ran out of gas. Had to borrow gas from somebody. Finally came back home at 11:30.

11:30 was when she reported her little girl missing. This was on Saturday morning, Jane. And now -- that was Saturday. Today is Monday. She`s still out there. She`s somewhere.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Ellie Jostad, I understand -- you`re a NANCY GRACE producer -- that you`ve determined that there is surveillance video of this mother doing precisely that search. Tell me about that and also about the stepfather who goes off to work. Where does he work if he`s going off so early Saturday morning?

ELLIE JOSTAD, NANCY GRACE CHIEF EDITORIAL PRODUCER: Right. Well, first about the surveillance cameras. What the sheriff department tells us is that they were able to find some surveillance video from nearby businesses along the route where the mother said she searched and they do, in fact, see her doing just that.

Unfortunately there`s no sign of Aliayah on any of those videos. Police also tell us that they were able to confirm that the stepfather was picked up, went to work, was at work. He works at the stonewall Jackson Resort which isn`t too far from there. It`s a facility that has hotel rooms, a golf course, restaurants, et cetera.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. As Nancy would say, let`s unleash the lawyers. I`m borrowing her phrase tonight. Alan Ripka and Brad Cohen.

Let me ask you about the fact that there are reportedly 25 sex offenders within approximately a five-mile radius of where this child went missing.

So, Alan, how do authorities approach those sex offenders to see if they have anything to do with this situation?

ALAN RIPKA, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think they go knocking on doors as quickly as possible and they try to talk to each and every one of them. When you look at where that house is so close to this waterway, and we saw a boat in there with divers, someone could be back there with a boat. They could know that so many little children live n this house. Have gone by there many times and really abducted someone. And that may be why the scent ends at the river.

So you`ve go to speak to each and every one of them and look hard and try to get inside those houses.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Brad Cohen, no Amber alert has been issued. Now some would say that`s because we do not have a suspect description and we do not have a vehicle.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: But is it possible that authorities don`t consider this a stranger abduction?

COHEN: No. I think the reason why they don`t have an Amber alert is just that. They don`t -- she doesn`t meet the qualifications of an Amber alert. I think that they are definitely going to focus on the people that are closest to her, the people that are in the family.

I mean I have three nephews. I`m very surprised when you have four siblings that someone would let -- that any of them would let her sleep until 9:30 because they`re jumping on each other`s bed and waking each other up at 7:00 in the morning.

This story is a little suspicious. Again, I don`t like to prejudge. Especially this mother who seems to be -- you know everything else seems to fall in place that she actually was looking for this child. But the story really does not make any sense in terms of all these people being in the house, someone sneaking in the house, abducting this young lady.

I`m wondering if the police that would used those dogs to find out if there was anyone in the family that also was down by that river or they only sniffed for her specific scent.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s an interest question.

Reuben Purdue, do you know if they tracked any other family member`s scent?

REUBEN PERDUE, NEWS DIRECTOR, WAJR-FM: I do not know if they tracked any other family member`s scent. What I do know is that according to the sheriff, to the best of his knowledge, the child had never been to the river before. Had ever seen that shore or that river bank.

Remember they`ve only been in this house for a couple of months. This child did not wander off. And to the best of their knowledge, the child had never been to the riverbank before. So if the dogs picked up a scent and followed it to the bank, and if that is true then it would have to have been a recent scent, a very near and new scent within 24 to 48 hours.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, OK, so that makes it doubly unlikely that the child would go to an area she`s never seen before and go through brush to get to a river when she`s a shy child, it`s very early in the morning, and she`s also under the weather.

Pam, California, your question or thought, Pam.

PAM, CALLER FROM CALIFORNIA: Yes. My question is that how come the mother didn`t ask the children if they had seen her in the house and then, you know, had them look for her while she called the law?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, we don`t necessarily know that the mother did not consult the children to find out whether or not they had seen their little sibling. I don`t know that she did not do that. All we know is that she was driving around hysterically looking for her child.

But I mean, Marc Klaas, just common mathematics would tell you that if you`re dealing with a 3-year-old child there`s only a certain distance that that child can walk. So is it really helpful to drive around frantically unless you think the child has been abducted?

MARC KLAAS, PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER, KLAASKIDS FOUNDATION: Well, it`s never a good idea to drive around frantically under any circumstances. I think to get back to what`s going on here, we need to know, and this still hasn`t been answered, was the home secured or was the doors opened? Was anybody able to get in and out at will?

We don`t know that. Who`s the biological father? What`s his relationship to this little girl? And what was he doing during the time that she supposedly disappeared?

And let`s remember also, she lived in that house. She may have wandered with one of her brothers and sisters into that area. If the dogs follow the scent maybe it was a 48-hour old scent but that certainly doesn`t mean that she got up that morning and wandered in that direction.

I think there are far too many unanswered questions almost even speculation at this point. And I think for once in my life I totally agree with one of the defense lawyers. I find it very difficult to believe that a little girl would be allowed to sleep in with so many other siblings in a very small house.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Well, you raised a lot of important questions. We`re going to get to them one by one. But first Sheila, Illinois, your question or thought, Sheila.

SHEILA, CALLER FROM ILLINOIS: Oh, Jane, it`s all about Nancy, Jane and Sam Crow these days. I tell you what, I just love you guys. You guys are my life.


SHEILA: But anyway, I love you. And Nancy, you`re doing great on "Dancing with the Stars". I`m in --


SHEILA: Yes. I just love that show. That`s just (INAUDIBLE) I`ll tell you.


SHEILA: But anyway, I have a problem with the sleeping and the timeline. I have a problem with her peeking in at 6:30 and letting her sleep until 9:30. I have a problem with that whole thing going on there. I think there`s something fishy there.

And I have a problem with her teeth missing. At 3 years old I looked in my baby book and my son didn`t lose his front teeth up there until he was, you know, in kindergarten. Right around kindergarten. And I want to know where them teeth went.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, let`s bring in Dr. London. You`re saying -- this caller is saying that she has some missing teeth in the front and you presume well, OK, kids, their teeth fall out at a certain age. Does that add up given her -- that she`s 3 years old?

DR. CATHLEEN LONDON, M.D., ASST. ATTENDING PHYSICIAN NY PRESBYTERIAN HOSPITAL, ASST. PROF. WELL CORNELL COLLEGE: Yes. There`s a big variability to when teeth supposed to come in and fall out. You know some kids get their front teeth at 2 months and some don`t get them until they are 15 months old. And the same with the falling out.

Yes, it`s unusual to have the four top teeth but I also don`t know what else went on. Maybe she had a fall and lost them at an earlier time. So that doesn`t do much for me.

You know I had raised the same question earlier, you know, about the - - when I was looking over the story about a child that young sleeping until 9:30. But if she was sick that does explain that to me, and the siblings may have been simply instructed to let her sleep.

She`s sick and I don`t want you getting sick. You know, so that, I agree my kids never slept that late at that age ever. But a sick child --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me -- let me get to this number of kids.

Reuben Perdue, are there five kids total in this family? And if so what are their ages?

PERDUE: What we`re told five kids. Three-year-old Aliayah. She had a 4-year-old sibling, a 5, a 9 and a 11-year-old sibling. And as far as the kids being in the room, let`s clarify this as well.

From what we understand the 9-year-old sibling was originally sleeping in the room with Aliayah until that morning when the mother came in to check on her at 6:30 and to get the stepfather off for work. At that time the 9-year-old also woke up, went back with mom, back to mom`s bedroom.

Remember this was a kid who was sick the night before. Had to be brought home. Was diuretic, (INAUDIBLE) since she had messed at another friend`s house. They wanted to get her home and get her in bed. And the mother and the 9-year-old left the room to allow a sick 3-year-old to sleep for a couple of extra hours.

The 9-year-old was in the room. She was not completely alone. The 9- year-old left at 6:00 in the morning to allow her younger sister to sleep for a couple of extra hours in the morning when mom had to get stepdad off to work.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. So it strikes me that the 9-year-old is the key witness in this case.

On the other side of the break we`re going to talk about how authorities approach interviewing the 9-year-old.

OK. It`s week two of season 13 of "Dancing with the Stars". And our very own Nancy Grace is dancing and dancing for an amazing cause, the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children. And she`s doing the quickstep as we speak. Be sure to vote. You can vote multiple times for Nancy Grace and her dancing partner Tristan MacManus.

Best of luck, Nancy, we`re all rooting for you.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s no clues leading us anywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Aliayah is missing her top four front teeth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The more people we can get to help the better chance.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: She has shoulder-length brown hair.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Family members say Aliayah is a shy child.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We love her. We miss her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want her home.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Brown eyes and weighs 35 pounds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No clues. Just like she`s just disappeared.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: She was last seen wearing purple Dora the Explorer pajama pajamas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We did a foot cameras of the neighborhood, use K- 9s. Now we have divers in the water.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And a pink princess sweatshirt, her hair tied in a pony tail.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hello, I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell. In for Nancy Grace.

We are in a race against time trying to find this missing 3-year-old, little Aliayah last seen in her PJs. She vanished Saturday morning. Her mom says she checked on her 6:30, and then came back at 9:00 and the child was gone. And there is a 9-year-old child who apparently was in the middle, sleeping with her sibling. At 6:30 she gets up according to mom and leaves with the mother so that 9-year-old child is going to be a key witness.

I want to bring in the lawyers.

Brad Cohen, how do police approach a 9-year-old child to determine what`s fact, what`s fiction?

COHEN: You know when it comes to children you really have to have someone who is experienced in talking to children. The same way when you cross-examine a child or you direct a child in a trial you really need someone who has experience in talking to a child, trying to figure out exactly what they remember, what they don`t.

You`d be surprised when it comes to 9-year-olds their memory capability and not only their memory capability but also their reliability in terms of what they saw, what they heard. They are generally more reliable than adults because they are so truthful usually. It depends on the amount of adult influence.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, but Paula Bloom, clinical psychologist, that depends on whether or not they`ve been talked to because a 9-year-old child is also a very impressionable, are they not?

PAULA BLOOM, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST, BLOGGER, PAULABLOOM.COM: Right, well, I totally agree with a lawyer who`s saying that you need to have a heightened amount of expertise. But yes, someone is going to be truthful but also if you`re scared you`re going to get in trouble that`s going to very much influence a kid as far as what they`re going to say.

Then they believe that they`re going to get in trouble for something that they wouldn`t get in trouble to. The kids are very sensitive to pleasing a lot of times. At the expense of the truth.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Rose, Oregon, your question or thought, Rose.

ROSE, CALLER FROM OREGON: Hi. I was just wondering. No one said about the windows. Were they secure in the bedroom. And someone could have come up to the river like in a boat and picked that little baby up. So I was wondering. I have four kids and they scout around when we moved to places and I`m sure they found that river.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, yes. I don`t know that we know any details about the windows.

What I am hearing, Ellie Jostad, NANCY GRACE`s producer, is that it was kind of an older house or a dilapidated in some way, shape or form where the door, at least the door was easy to get in and out of. What do you know?

JOSTAD: Right. Well, that is what the sheriff`s department is telling us. That this was a relatively old door. It didn`t shut very well. It didn`t latch very well. And they said also that the screen door doesn`t even really have a handle. You can just push it open. So you know they couldn`t say for certain that someone would be able to get in easily or that she`d be able to get out on her own. But they said, you know, this door doesn`t secure very well.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. I want to go back to Reuben Perdue and ask apparently cops are talking to people. They are even reportedly polygraphing some people. Who are these people? Is it the stepfather? They can`t do the mother because she`s pregnant with twins. Apparently very pregnant. Who are they polygraphing?

PERDUE: The information I got this afternoon was at this point they have no reason to believe that there`s anyone who is to be considered a suspect outside of the home. They are focusing on what they call the immediate search area which is the home, and the surrounding around 1500 yards or so. Basically from the home down to the river.

The information I`ve been given this evening is that they are polygraping and repeatedly interviewing extensively the family members inside the home. Some people being interviewed as many as six times, Jane. They want to give them the opportunity to remember something, to maybe, you know, have something jog in their memory and go back over the story a couple of times now that they`ve had more time.

They don`t want to leave any stone unturned.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Woodrow, Woodrow Tripp, you are a polygraph expert. What does that tell you?

WOODY TRIPP, FORMER POLICE COMMANDER, POLYGRAPH EXPERT: It tells me a lot of things, Jane. And that`s -- and it has to do with the Amber alert and everything else. Again, it`s that immediate area. It`s that home. There`s no suspects other than those that are there and that`s where everything is leading to. The home.

And, again, keep this in mind. The mother is the only one that`s been telling this story. You know what I want to know as an investigator and certainly as a polygraph examiner is, you know, who else can tell me the story about her? Who else can verify that she was in bed? There`s a lot of unanswered questions here and it`s certainly centered in that home.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, here`s what disturbs me. We`re hearing reports that the mother does not know who or -- excuse me the father does not know that he is the father. So let`s quickly clarify that.

Ellie Jostad, the father of the little Aliayah does not know he`s the father?

JOSTAD: Right. That`s what police are telling us. That apparently the 3-year-old Aliayah`s father is not the stepfather, she has a biological father who was never told that he`s the father of Aliayah. So he`s apparently completely not in her life at all.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And so we have little Aliayah who is missing. Then we also apparently have a 1-year-old or under a 1-year-old, a 5-year-old, a 9-year-old and an 11-year-old, and the mother is pregnant with twins.

You know it raises a serious question, Dr. Cathleen London, at a certain point you have to question whether you have the capacity to really adequately monitor all of those children. This is a life or death situation, monitoring children.

LONDON: Absolutely. You know? And this is like -- you don`t need a license to have a child. We see this all the time. I`m still wrapped around that you would drive around for hours, I understand you`re missing your child, but I think back to times when my kids -- the one time I cab remember my kids missing, it was five minutes before I called the police and they turned up they were at a neighbor`s. Something doesn`t add up here.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, we`ve got -- we are going to continue to analyze this in a second. But it is week two of season 13 of "Dancing with the Stars." And our very own Nancy Grace dancing for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and we are rooting for her big time. She is doing the quick step tonight. So be sure to vote, you can vote multiple times for Nancy and her fabulous dancing partner, and quite handsome as well, Tristan MacManus.

Good luck, Nancy. We are rooting for you. We are all focused on Nancy winning "Dancing with the Stars." We`ll be right back.



UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Divers and ground crews searching for nearly three days, trying to find Aliayah Lunsford.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Police say they dealt with missing person cases in the past, but Aliayah`s is unlike any other. A search that started in their Denison Street home has led crews here to the banks of the West Fork River. But police say they`re still unsure if the river holds the answers to Aliayah`s disappearance.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: This little child is missing, and tonight here on NANCY GRACE, we are doing everything we can to find her. The clock is ticking. This is a race against time.

She has been missing more than 48 hours, and of course we have so many questions about her disappearance. But let`s not assume anything. Remember children like Jessica Lunsford, tragically kidnapped from her home and tragically found murdered, Marc Klaas, and then there`s Haleigh Cummings who was taken from her bedroom, never found, and Elizabeth Smart who thankfully was found alive.

Your thoughts, Marc.

KLAAS: Well, I think that we`re going to have to really keep investigating this. I looked at the map of this hamlet. And it`s kind of out of the way. I think that whatever the answer is in this case is going to be very, very close to home. I don`t think that this little girl is very far away from the home that she lived in.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, we pray that she is found OK. We`re going to stay on top of this case until she is found.

To tonight`s case alert. An 8-year-old Nebraska girl reported missing from outside her elementary school found dead. Now her stepfather is charged with first-degree murder. Mitchell Elementary School officials confirmed Kerra Wilson never actually made it to school that morning.

Investigators now say that information was key to solving the case. Investigators say her stepfather Salvador Lopez confessed to killing the 8- year-old girl.

And tonight, let`s stop to remember Army Specialist Sean Novak, 21, from Two Rivers, Wisconsin, killed in Iraq. He`s awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and the Army Service Ribbon.

Shawn loved working on show cars, playing video games, spending time at his grandfather`s cottage. His favorite sports teams were the Green Bay Packers and the Milwaukee Brewers.

He also loved spending time with his beloved dog Shadow. Shaun leaves behind his parents Brenda and randy, and his little brother Danny.

Shaun Novak. A true American hero.

I want to say thank you to all of our guests and thank you to you at home. And remember to vote for Nancy on "Dancing with the Stars." We`re going to see you tomorrow night, 8:00 sharp Eastern right here. Until then, good night, everybody.