Guest: Ben Wolfinger, Jim Moret, Susan Filan, Jim Thomas, Daniel Horowitz, Erin Runnion, Clint Van Zandt, Dr. Joseph Deltito
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up a mother, her son found dead in their home, and a 9-year-old brother and 8-year-old sister are missing.
ABRAMS (voice-over): With no lead, Idaho authorities call in the FBI to help find this boy and his sister, last seen getting off a school bus. An Amber Alert is issued.
And what seems like more trouble for prosecutors in the Michael Jackson case, a social worker who interviewed Jackson‘s accuser and his family the very day the alleged abuse began says they had nothing but good things to say about Jackson.
Plus, who is this man? He was found wondering the beach in a suit and soaking wet. He won‘t or can‘t talk. He can sure play the piano. We unravel the clues.
The program about justice starts now.
ABRAMS: Hi everyone. First up on the docket tonight, three people found dead in a Coeur d‘Alene, Idaho home. An Amber Alert has been issued for two children who live there, 8-year-old Shasta Groene and her 9-year-old brother, Dylan. The dead, the children‘s mother, a teenager believed to be their older brother and an unidentified man. At a press conference just a few moments ago the Kootenai County sheriff commented on the focus of the investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROCKY WATSON, KOOTENAI CTY, ID SHERIFF‘S DEPT.: Our main concern right now are the two children we cannot find. We‘ve got search dogs and the search rescue are working the immediate area. All surrounding law enforcement agencies are notified, Amber Alert trying to find out where these children are and what happened to them. We don‘t have a clue yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Police responded to a call from a neighbor at about 6:15 last night reporting suspicious circumstances. Those circumstances, actually a lack of activity at the home. The children were last seen getting off a school bus at their house on Monday. The mother and father of the children divorced. Authorities talked to the father and he‘s not considered even a person of interest.
Joining me now on the phone is Captain Ben Wolfinger from the Idaho Kootenai County Sheriff‘s Department. Thanks a lot Captain for joining us on the program. We appreciate it.
CAPT. BEN WOLFINGER, KOOTENAI CTY, ID SHERIFF‘S DEPT. (via phone):
ABRAMS: So, you got any leads here?
WOLFINGER: No, we don‘t and that‘s the frustrating at this point. We have no leads and we are really asking the public to help us out with that.
ABRAMS: Explain to me, did the mother—the mother did not live with her husband, correct?
WOLFINGER: Correct. They were divorced, lived apart, and she lived here in the rural part of the county.
ABRAMS: And the—is it clear that the older brother was one of the people who was killed in the house?
WOLFINGER: Yes, we are able to make positive identification of the three victims just moments ago. We know—we have confirmed the mother, Brenda Groene, the son, her son Flaid (ph), the older brother, and then her boyfriend, Mark Envy (ph), who are the three victims in the residence.
ABRAMS: Do you believe that—were the other two children not in the house at the time that this occurred or do you have any sense of that?
WOLFINGER: Well we really don‘t know at this point. Our evidence people have just gotten into the house and are really starting (INAUDIBLE) the inside crime scene and it‘ll take us several hours, maybe until sometime tomorrow before we can determine that.
ABRAMS: How did you decide that after questioning the husband that he is, you know, not a person of interest, not a suspect? Is that just to say look, there is no reason to believes that he knows anything more than he‘s saying?
WOLFINGER: Our investigators met with him last night and they haven‘t exactly explained to us why they have ruled him out. But they were very confident that they can rule him out at the time.
ABRAMS: Do you know the cause of death?
WOLFINGER: We aren‘t disclosing that yet. We have some ideas, but until we process the bodies inside the scene we can‘t confirm the cause of death.
ABRAMS: All right we should have—I want to have pictures up of the children more often. That‘s why you are on the program, so we can help identify. There are the children. Do you know.
WOLFINGER: Very good.
ABRAMS: Do you know how long ago these pictures were taken, Captain?
WOLFINGER: I believe the pictures are this school year, this past school year, so probably the fall of the year. We got those pictures from relatives as the most recent picture.
ABRAMS: And finally let me ask you, are you confident that the—and again those two are missing, let‘s be clear. Those two are, you know, hoped and believed to be alive and that‘s why there‘s—those numbers up there on the screen, is if you‘ve seen those children to please call.
Finally, this business about someone calling in after there being no activity in the house, explain to me what that was about. Why did someone call in and report suspicious circumstances?
WOLFINGER: Well the neighbor had the 13-year-old boy mow his lawn the day before, and he had come down to pay the young man for the lawn-mowing job and noticed the lack of activity, seemed wrong. All the vehicles were there, so he called our office and had a deputy investigate. That‘s when they found the dead bodies.
ABRAMS: All right. Well Captain, good luck in the search. We‘re going to put up the pictures again with the phone numbers again. Again, if you‘ve got any information on the whereabouts of Shasta and Dylan Groene or any leads that might explain what happened at their home, their mother apparently being killed, their older brother, please call the man we were just talking to, the Kootenai County Sheriff‘s Department, 208-446-2292 or 208-446-2293.
Now to the Michael Jackson case. The parade of celebrities promised in those star studded witness list are going to continue later this week. Talk show host Larry King could take the stand for the defense on Thursday followed by “Tonight Show” Jay Leno, who we could see next week.
More on that in a moment, but first, legal analyst, senior correspondent for “Inside Edition” Jim Moret is live outside the courthouse in Santa Maria with what happened today. All right so Jim, social workers come there and they‘re basically saying yes, we were at the house of the accuser and his mother. Yes, this was on the day that the alleged abuse supposedly started and they are telling us nothing happened and Michael Jackson is a great guy.
JIM MORET, “INSIDE EDITION” SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well the social workers were really investigating the family for two reasons. They were investigating the mom for general neglect and then also Michael Jackson for alleged sexual abuse. And the important thing is that after talking with the family, the two social workers, the one social worker and her supervisor who were both there said that the family seemed just fine, that there appeared to be no basis to the allegations of neglect by the mom and the kids.
The mom, all of them had wonderful things to say about Michael Jackson. There was no alleged abuse. But you have to remember the prosecution‘s timeline says that the abuse occurred after this interview. What happened before, according to the prosecution, was false imprisonment. Now according to the two social workers, there was no indication that they were being held against their will. No indication that they were fearful for any reason whatsoever and again, they had only wonderful things to say about Michael Jackson.
ABRAMS: And the prosecution actually moved the timeline. I mean initially the timeline did go further back. They then moved it.
ABRAMS: . to make it fit with this interview, I believe. How important.
MORET: And the timeline.
ABRAMS: Yes, go ahead Jim.
MORET: I‘m sorry. The timeline, I think, is a very big problem for them. I think if you take out this conspiracy, and you know people have been talking about that being the weakest element. Regardless, if you remove that from the case, it is just easier to understand. You have a molestation or four alleged acts of molestation and it‘s easier to present. And the waters seem to get muddy when you bring in this conspiracy because that‘s when you start attacking from the defense standpoint, the mom and the son and that‘s really, I think, confusing the issue.
ABRAMS: Jim, bottom line, how good a day was it today for the defense?
MORET: I think overall it was pretty good for the defense. They are showing that these boys were not the angels that they were purported to be by the prosecution. We‘ve had now three witness who put alcohol in the hands of these two boys, the accuser and the brother, both at times when was Michael Jackson was not at Neverland. So anybody who contends that Michael Jackson gave these kids alcohol for the purpose of molesting them, you now have three witnesses who all put alcohol in their hands and Michael Jackson is no where to be found.
ABRAMS: Was it in their hands or was it in the area? I mean were they saying that they saw them actually drinking or were they saying that they saw the boys sitting there and there was open alcohol around?
MORET: One witness said that he walked in on the boys in the wine
cellar and saw them sitting at a table and there was a wine bottle open
half full between them. Another witness testified that he was instructed -
· this was an employee at Neverland—instructed by the accuser‘s brother to add alcohol to a milkshake, and if didn‘t do so, he‘d tell Michael Jackson and get him fired. And the third witness testified—this was a cousin of Michael Jackson, just off the stand within the last half an hour
· said that she saw the boys at 1:00 in the morning in the main house and each had a bottle of wine in their hands and they were leaving, going out the back door.
ABRAMS: Did the accuser when he testified say anything about when he drank? Did he say he only drank at Neverland with Michael Jackson?
MORET: Yes, he said that—well not only that, but it even got broader than that, but yes, specifically, that‘s the only time that this person had ever had alcohol and that‘s with Michael Jackson.
ABRAMS: Right and so that becomes important as to credibility, right?
MORET: Oh absolutely. I think that you‘ve seen the defense try to whittle away at the credibility of the accuser on the stand and now you‘re seeing it continue in the defense.
ABRAMS: All right. Jim Moret, stay with us because coming up, Larry King and Jay Leno scheduled to take the stand starting this week. What is their connection to the case? They‘re specifically going to testify about incidents. This is not about Michael Jackson as a person. The question, you know a lot of people are saying what are the jurors going to do when they see these guys taking the stand? How important are they?
And Samantha Runnion kidnapped, sexually assaulted, murdered, one of the most gruesome crimes in years. Jurors recommend her killer get the death penalty. I‘m going to talk to her mother in a moment.
Plus authorities piecing together the clues to figure out who this man is found wet, wandering the beach in a formal suit. He won‘t or can‘t talk or write. All he‘ll do is play the piano.
Your e-mails firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: We‘re back talking about the Michael Jackson case, which has become a celebrity trial in more ways than one. We‘ve already seen comedian George Lopez and former child actor Macaulay Culkin in the courtroom. And later this week, we could see two talk show hosts, Larry King and Jay Leno, testifying as well. Joining me now, MSNBC legal analyst, former prosecutor Susan Filan, former Santa Barbara County sheriff, Jim Thomas, also an MSNBC analyst, and criminal defense attorney Daniel Horowitz.
All right. Let‘s be clear, Jim Moret, they are not just being called because they know Michael Jackson. There are specific incidents that Larry King and Jay Leno would testify to. Lay them out for us.
MORET: Supposedly going to testify that he and Larry Feldman, the defense attorney who—or the civil attorney who settled the ‘93 allegations against Michael Jackson and who also represented the accuser in this case, Larry King will purportedly say that this attorney said the family was out for the money. They were only interested in the money.
Now Larry Feldman has already been on the stand and he‘s refuted that, but that‘s supposedly what Larry King is going to say. Jay Leno, a different issue. Jay Leno goes back to the issue of whether the mom and the child are grifters and he is supposedly going to come in and testify that he was contacted by the boy and he got the feeling, Jay Leno did, that he was being hit up for money, setup basically to take the fall for money so he contacted authorities.
That‘s supposedly what he‘s going to say. So whether or not it happens, you know we‘ve seen witnesses come on the stand and say completely the opposite of what was expected, so it‘s hard to guess at this point what really will happen.
ABRAMS: Yes. Susan, would you be worried as the prosecutor about these high profile people? The jurors are probably going to recognize them walking in the courtroom and saying things which, if they say what Tom Mesereau, the defense attorney, says they‘re going to say is not helpful to the prosecution.
SUSAN FILAN, FORMER CONNECTICUT STATE PROSECUTOR: I‘ve always said that this juror is not going to be star struck by the Hollywood people.
ABRAMS: How do you know?
FILAN: . that they‘re hard working people. They‘re looking for the facts. But I‘ve got to tell you when somebody like Larry King with a certain amount of gravitas walks into that courtroom and someone like Jay Leno who is in your home every single night, he‘s a household world, I mean they‘re going to be fascinated by seeing this comedian in person in a role in which he has to be very serious and very factual.
That is going to pack a very powerful punch because it‘s what they say and who it‘s coming from that‘s going to have to have a huge affect on this jury. Now I still don‘t think that they‘re going to go with what they‘re saying one way or the other just because it‘s Jay Leno or it‘s Larry King, but you better believe they‘re going to be riveted in their seats.
FILAN: . staring at these people, if for no other reason, to actually see them in real life. It‘s a very small courtroom Dan.
ABRAMS: After all.
FILAN: They‘re going to be practically nose-to-nose.
ABRAMS: Yes. After all, they are sitting there with Michael Jackson every day in court. Thomas Mesereau.
FILAN: That‘s worn off.
ABRAMS: . in his opening statement said we will also prove that her lawyer, meaning the accuser‘s lawyer, Larry Feldman who the prosecutor acknowledged had sued Mr. Jackson a long time ago. We will prove to you that this lawyer was having lunch with CNN talk show host Larry King and told him—quote—“She wants money.”
Jim Thomas, a concern?
JIM THOMAS, FORMER SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SHERIFF: Well I think it‘s always a concern anytime you‘re dealing with a celebrity, because like Susan, I think they will be a little bit star struck. But the issue with Larry King is whether or not he will be able to testify. Perhaps one of our legal analysts on the panel can talk about that from the standpoint of hearsay evidence.
I think the thing with Jay Leno is a direct contradiction to what the boy said. The accuser said he did not talk to Jay Leno. He left a message. We have to find out then did Jay Leno get an actual phone call or did he hear a taped phone call. And I think that will have a lot to do with the credibility of the young accuser.
ABRAMS: This is what Tom Mesereau said in the opening statement about Jay Leno. Jay Leno told the police something was wrong. The conversation was recorded. It was the accuser calling him, not the mother, but he said I could hear the mother in the background and the way he approached me saying I love you. I watch you late at night suggested to him something was wrong. Leno terminated the conversation fairly quickly. He told the police they were looking for a mark and Daniel, the boy has denied he ever spoke with Jay Leno.
DANIEL HOROWITZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Dan, I think that‘s the door that lets this evidence in. You know Judge Melville is letting both sides throw everything and the kitchen sink into this case. In a normal case that normal lawyers have, we never get to put in this type of he-said, she-said evidence. But since the boy made a denial, Jay Leno is going to get up there and say the boy either forgot or didn‘t tell the truth because here is what happened. And the jury is going to take a lot from that because Jay Leno just like Larry King, Dan, have no motive to lie in this case. They‘re bigger than Michael Jackson in certain ways.
ABRAMS: I just wonder whether they‘re going to actually say what the defense is saying they‘re going to say. You know maybe they will.
HOROWITZ: I think Mesereau is too good to misstate something that significant.
ABRAMS: Well I don‘t know. There‘s already been.
THOMAS: That‘s already been done.
ABRAMS: Yes, go ahead, on which case Jim Thomas?
THOMAS: That‘s already been done. When you are looking at George Lopez, Louise Palanker.
THOMAS: . and Jamie Masada, Tom Mesereau said that these people will come and testify that this accuser‘s mother hit them up for money. All three came in and said no, that did not happen, so we have to wait and see if that‘s the case with Jay Leno or not.
HOROWITZ: I just think it‘s different with Larry King and Jay Leno. They are so big, they would be very clear with Mesereau as to what they‘re going to say. They would be on the same page.
ABRAMS: Yes. I don‘t know. All right, well here‘s.
FILAN: But when you talk about Mesereau not misstating, right now he is under the act, the executioner‘s acts of having been accused of making a misrepresentation to the court with respect to that attorney-client waiver that we talked about.
HOROWITZ: Oh Susan, don‘t start with that.
FILAN: . last week, so.
ABRAMS: All right. But that‘s—you know, look, that‘s a separate, completely separate issue. All right.
FILAN: But he‘s not above reproach. He is not perfect.
ABRAMS: Department of Child and Family Services that became the crucial issue today in court. Two people testifying who were there interviewing the boy and his mother right on February 20. They said that nothing happened. We are the only ones who have a piece of the tape of them actually being at the house as that interview was to begin. Let‘s listen.
DCFS REP. 2: OK, this is what we‘re going to do. I have to interview. We have to interview each one of you separately, so (INAUDIBLE) it‘s confidential, so the other people are not going to be able to remain.
MOTHER: I also wanted to know the—all the allegations.
DCFS REP. 2: I‘m going to do that. We‘re going to go through all of them.
MOTHER: I want to be present when they ask my children questions.
What are my rights? What are their rights?
ABRAMS: You know, Jim Moret, I‘ve always thought that this is very problematic for the mother. I mean she supposedly just been held at Neverland against her will and there are these people who she could report anybody to and look, I‘m not saying she has to report it, but she seems far more concerned with how the questioning is going to transpire than she does about getting out the truth.
MORET: Well, doesn‘t forget that this is really partly an investigation of her as a mom and if the investigators thought anything untoward was happening to those kids or there was neglect they could have taken those kids immediately into protective custody and I think the mom was well aware of that. She was very concerned with that. But you know this tape was made without the knowledge of the social workers. It‘s illegal to tape this according to the social worker. But the social workers did take notes, which directly contradicts the mom saying the social workers came, they never took any notes, never filed a report. We know that that‘s not true.
ABRAMS: Yes. Jim, bottom line, how do you think the case is going for prosecutors? I mean how they would have expected it to go insofar and how it has actually gone in, how do you think it is going?
MORET: You know, I think it‘s gone actually quite well.
ABRAMS: I‘m sorry.
MORET: . for the prosecution.
ABRAMS: Well go ahead. First Jim Moret, then Jim Thomas. Go ahead Jim Moret.
MORET: I think it‘s gone actually better for the prosecution than they could have hoped because the defense frankly puts this case directly on track once again with the first several witnesses on the molestation, and I think they are stronger on those issue than they have been for the last several weeks.
ABRAMS: Jim Thomas.
THOMAS: Well I think, for example, today Dan that they thought they did pretty well with the two social workers because they came across and said they were the ones that recommended that the mother seek an attorney, that—she has been criticized for that. They also said that this is the first time they had ever seen actual security guards for a defendant at an interview regarding the defendant. They also said that she didn‘t want to go to Brazil and they also found that she was a good mother, so those things came across very well. I think the prosecution (INAUDIBLE) out of those two witnesses today they were probably a little ahead.
ABRAMS: What do you make of that, Susan? I mean you were in court.
You are a former prosecutor, but give us the objective analysis.
FILAN: Well, I think that as far as the social workers today go, I would pretty much discount their testimony. Sure, they were called to rebut the conspiracy claims that they were being held against their will, but just like Jim Moret said, these—this mother wasn‘t going to open up to these people because she didn‘t want her kids yanked from her. So she‘s not going to say hi, I‘m mother of the year, my kids are at Neverland drinking, watching pornography and running wild. Her objective in the interview was to do anything she possibly could to basically get DCFS out of her life and get her back with her kids. So to me that was a wash. The other thing that really bothered me about the social worker‘s testimony is that their report was based completely on self-reporting.
In other words, they asked the mom is everything fine? Yes, everything is fine. They asked the kids—is everything fine? Yes, everything is fine. Is anything bad happening to you? No. End of story. That‘s not how you do an investigation. To me that was just very, very superficial and very shallow.
We‘d also heard testimony earlier on that the social worker‘s main concern at one point was not getting sued and not getting fired. So today I heard a lot of cover your backside. And I don‘t really think that they advanced the ball for the defense. I thought the prosecution made great headway on cross exam, pretty much neutralizing these witnesses, making them pretty much a non-issue. It‘s a wash.
ABRAMS: Daniel Horowitz, I mean look, you have been reading the transcripts of the case so far. You know you hear Jim Moret, a straight shooter, tell you that the prosecution case is going better than he might have expected. You know, as a defense attorney it might actually (INAUDIBLE) maybe you do have to call Michael Jackson to the stand in the hope that the case hinges on that.
HOROWITZ: Well Dan, I actually think Tom Mesereau is feeling pretty good about his case. But I thought about this—I would put Michael Jackson on the stand and here is why. There is a lot of personal animosity inherent in this case. Sneddon is putting on character attacks on Michael Jackson that he doesn‘t need to put on to make his case. I think it‘s time that Michael took the stand and took the bullet and look Sneddon right in the eye and say I didn‘t do it. And even if he takes some shots, Dan, I think the jury is going to identify with Michael and not with Sneddon and they‘ll vote not guilty.
ABRAMS: Well we‘ll see. All right, Susan Filan, Jim Thomas, Daniel Horowitz, Jim Moret thanks a lot. Coming up.
THOMAS: Thank you Dan.
ABRAMS: . jurors decide Samantha Runnion‘s killer should be put to death for kidnapping, assaulting and murdering her. Her mother sat only feet away from the killer during the entire trial. She joins us next.
ABRAMS: Coming up, a story that touched parents nationwide—
Samantha Runnion abducted from her front yard and sexually assaulted and murdered. Samantha‘s mother joins us after a jury sentenced her daughter‘s killer to death, first the headlines.
ABRAMS: Five-year-old Samantha Runnion was playing a game of Clue with her friend when a man came by and asked her to help him find his missing dog. At that, Alejandro Avila grabbed her, kicking and screaming, forced her into his car. Samantha‘s naked body found the next day on a cliff. She had been suffocated, her head battered, her mutilated from the force of the sexual assault. Yesterday the jury that convicted him of kidnapping, sexually assaulting and murdering little Samantha offered their sentencing recommendation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We the jury in the above-entitled cause find the appropriate penalty to be imposed upon the defendant, Alejandro Avila, is death.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Avila will be formally sentenced on July 22, exactly three years after he was charged with the crime and just four days before what would have been Samantha‘s 9th birthday. Joining me now is Samantha‘s mother, Erin. Thank you so much for coming on the program. I know even now this is still got to be hard for you to talk about even though you‘ve been such a public voice now. But let me ask you; are you relieved that this part of the process is over?
ERIN RUNNION, SAMANTHA RUNNION‘S MOTHER: I am relieved, Dan. I feel very blessed to have this portion over. That Samantha‘s fight was vindicated, that her courage was honored, and that this man is never going to be able to hurt another child.
ABRAMS: And I think that what some people who haven‘t followed this case so closely forget is that it was Samantha‘s strength and her fighting that left the key evidence in this case.
RUNNION: That‘s right. That‘s right. She fought to her death literally. Everything about the way that she died makes it clear that she left DNA from either her tears or sweat on the door handle in his car. She scratched him and they were able to recover his DNA from under her tiny little fingernails and so I feel very proud of my little girl.
ABRAMS: What was it like to have to sit in court every day only feet away from him?
RUNNION: You know it was really hard at first. But over—at some point I kind of changed the way I looked at it and decided that it was really important to me that he have to see me every day. You know, that he has to face what he did.
ABRAMS: (INAUDIBLE) so you took the sort of proactive approach, which is to say you‘re not going to let him victimize you in that courtroom. You‘re going to say I‘m going to victimize him.
RUNNION: Right. Right. Well I‘m going to remind him that Samantha was a human being.
RUNNION: She was a little girl with an entire family and community that loved her and he should have to face that.
ABRAMS: Before I ask you about what you have been doing recently, let me ask you, do you know how her friend, Sarah Ahn, is doing? I mean this is such an unbelievable story that this is her little 5-year-old friend who‘s with her, who identifies, you know helps the police create a sketch of what this man looks like, identifies the car, et cetera. I mean she was the reason that he got caught. How is she doing?
RUNNION: Yes. She is doing really well, thank you. Thank you. Yes, she, I believe, is getting the reward money and.
RUNNION: . it‘s going to be put in a trust fund, absolutely. Yes, so she‘s doing really well.
ABRAMS: There she is.
RUNNION: Yes, they were inseparable. They were so cute together. She was waiting that day—she waited on the couch for Samantha to finish eating so that they could continue to play.
ABRAMS: So tell me what have you been up to? Tell me about the—that you‘ve been a very public voice as of late. Tell us about it.
RUNNION: Yes. Well, you know, shortly after Samantha‘s death, I realized that it was rare for a child to get the kind of attention that Samantha got. That her case is really just an extreme case of such a pervasive problem of pedophilia in this country, that I felt a responsibility not only to Samantha, but to all of the other victims we never even hear about, to really do everything I could to raise awareness and really send a message of hope that we really can prevent crimes against children if we work together as communities and collaborate, to make sure that every child is being watched and cared for. And so that‘s what I‘ve been busy doing, talking to community groups, parents, schools and helping them facilitate organizing their neighborhood.
ABRAMS: It‘s a horrible way to have to get involved, but the cause couldn‘t have a better spokesperson. Erin Runnion, thank you very much for taking the time.
RUNNION: Thank you.
ABRAMS: I appreciate it.
RUNNION: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, -- sorry have I just have to take—that story just (INAUDIBLE). He was found soaking wet, dazed, wandering on a beach. He won‘t talk, but he can play the piano. Who is the guy? That‘s next.
Your e-mails email@example.com. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: Coming up, the mystery piano man found on a beach, soaking wet. The labels cut out of his suit. He won‘t or can‘t talk, but he plays the piano. Break down the clues up next.
ABRAMS: Authorities in England are dealing with an unusual missing person‘s case. A man found soaking wet in a formal suit turns up on a beach, no I.D. The tags on all his clothes have been ripped out. He won‘t communicate with authorities. It seems all he wants to do is play the piano.
NBC‘s Don Teague has the story.
DON TEAGUE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Who is this man? Where did he come from? And why won‘t he speak? So far, the only sound he is making is at the piano.
TEAGUE: It is a mystery straight from Hollywood. The British press recalling the Oscar winning movie, “Shine”.
TEAGUE: Authorities say the mystery man hasn‘t spoken a word since he was found some six weeks ago, dazed and wandering alone on a British beach, drenched in seawater and dressed for a black tie dinner.
KAREN DOREY-REES, MENTAL HEALTH EXPERT: He‘s soaking wet. He was just wearing a suit. Not talking. He didn‘t communicate with police at all and again very distressed.
TEAGUE: Apparently uninjured, the man was taken to a mental hospital where doctors discovered the labels had been cut from his clothes. They described him as agitated and extremely vulnerable, unable to speak or write, but he drew this picture and when staffers led him to a piano in the hospital‘s chapel, he played, a virtuosos performance.
MICHAEL CAMP, SOCIAL WORKER: The music obviously is one way of communicating and that‘s something we ought to maybe we need to tap into.
TEAGUE (on camera): Authorities are also asking the public for help. A tip line here in London received 160 phone calls on Monday alone, but so far, no solid answers.
TEAGUE (voice-over): So the “piano man” as he is now called plays on, haunting eyes of virtuoso hiding a bizarre mystery.
Don Teague, NBC News, London.
ABRAMS: What do you do with a case like this? Joining me now to talk about what the authorities may do to identify him is psychiatrist Dr. Joseph Deltito and former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt.
All right, Clint let me lay out some of the clues.
CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER: Yes.
ABRAMS: . that we have, all right. Here are the clues. He‘s found dripping wet, wearing a formal suit and tie.
VAN ZANDT: Right.
ABRAMS: All the labels from the clothing removed. Refused to speak, but appeared agitated, drew a detailed sketch of a Grand piano, plays the piano very well for hours and the piano playing calms him down. What do you do with that?
VAN ZANDT: Well it sounds like something out of a 007 movie, you know, where James Bond swims ashore, he sheds his wet suit, he has his tuxedo on, and then he goes on up, he has a cigarette, he has a martini, sits down and plays the piano and then knocks off whoever he is supposed to knock off. But that‘s the movies, Dan. That‘s not real life.
Real life, we‘ve got to get into why would the labels be cut? You know this is either someone who himself intentionally has tried to disguise his own identity, somebody else cut everything off and threw this guy off a cruise ship for some reason or perhaps this individual is autistic. Sometimes autistic individuals are obsessive compulsives. That may have led him to cut these labels out.
And you know, what would be the wildest thing, Dan, is if this turns out to be a scam. If it turns out to be somebody who is looking to sell records, who is looking for 15 minutes of fame. You know I mean I would rather it be that than this guy wondering around who took a lump on the head who really can‘t understand who he is or what he is doing. But you know he‘s got something going for him. He‘s got 10 fingers. There‘s fingerprints. There‘s DNA. There are things that the authorities are going to be able to do to help figure out who this man is.
ABRAMS: Well Doctor, let‘s assume he‘s for real for a moment. Let‘s assume that this is not a fake. It‘s not a fraud. Based on the fact that he is on the beach, wet, can‘t really seem to speak but can play the piano, how would you approach him as a doctor?
DR. JOSEPH DELTITO, PSYCHIATRIST: Well generally you want to try to interview him. We don‘t even know if he speaks English as far as I know. You try to get any other clues as you are doing as to who he is.
ABRAMS: Right, but he won‘t talk.
DELTITO: . you try to make a nice environment in which people seem friendly and caring and you hope that he talks. Now there are a lot of things that can account for his current condition and interestingly, there are certain forms of brain lesions, which can leave someone without the ability to talk, but they can communicate musically or even sing, but they can‘t talk discursively.
I would doubt that that‘s what is going on. These types of aphasias are very rare. He could have a larger psychiatric illness like schizophrenia or autism. The most likely thing, though, is that he‘s electing not to talk because he‘s somehow hiding out or this is part of a elaborate hoax.
ABRAMS: OK. So you think that that‘s the more likely explanation rather than some sort of, you know, amnesia where he washes up on the shore and suddenly doesn‘t know who he is.
DELTITO: In Hitchcock films that‘s quite common. In real life it‘s very rare. I can‘t say that it can‘t happen. It could possibly happen. But in diagnosis I teach that the most common things occur most commonly and the most common thing here is that this is part of a elaborate hoax or the guy is hiding out.
ABRAMS: (INAUDIBLE) Clint, seems—I mean you suggested it in the first place, but I think that‘s where you are leaning as well?
VAN ZANDT: Yes, it is Dan. You know, if it looks like, talks like, smells like, it probably is. And you know this is too good to be true. You know, and as they tell us, when you are watching infomercials, if it‘s too good to be true, don‘t buy it.
ABRAMS: But it‘s possible, right that he didn‘t literally wash up on shore but that he literally went to the beach, right.
ABRAMS: . sort of suicide, I don‘t know, something and just is—has real serious psychological problems.
VAN ZANDT: Well it is and it‘s just as possible that he cut the labels and sanded the name off of his shoes and got rid of his I.D. and walked out into the ocean and then walked back out again knowing that someone would find him, too. So you know I‘m not saying let‘s lock the guy up, Dan. I‘m saying that let‘s do everything we can to help him. Let‘s make sure he‘s in a nice, comfortable environment, but let‘s also make sure we don‘t get scammed.
ABRAMS: Yes. All right. Dr. Deltito and Clint Van Zandt, thanks very much. Appreciate it.
VAN ZANDT: Thank you.
DELTITO: Thank you very much.
ABRAMS: Coming up, I was trilled about the U.S. Supreme Court decision that eliminated those state laws that prevent vineyards from shipping wine out of state, but I‘m still not satisfied. I want more, so I can drink my wine. Coming up.
ABRAMS: My “Closing Argument”—if you saw yesterday‘s show, you know how thrilled I was about the Supreme Court decision that said no to laws that prevent consumers from ordering wine directly from out-of-state wineries. I want to order my wine from California and Washington without a middleman. I began counting the cases of California Cabernet I‘m going to have delivered to my New York home. But now that I‘ve calmed down a bit, there is still one battle left to wage.
What the Supreme Court really did yesterday was say that states can‘t favor wine makers in their own state over out-of-state producers. Meaning, I should be able to order wine from California as easily from a New York winery. But each state has to take the lead from here. New York could decide that rather than allow California wineries to ship into the state, it‘s going to prevent all wineries from directly shipping all together. Some states like Oklahoma and New Jersey already do that.
But that just means more money for the middlemen. Some state regulators claim they are discouraging minors from ordering wine over the Internet. Come on. Even a Federal Trade Commission study showed that doesn‘t help. The Supreme Court agreed. What‘s really at stake here is just money. If New York, for example, chose to prevent my favorite wineries from shipping to me, they are protecting the middlemen, the liquor distributors and wholesalers.
The middlemen have spent a lot of money to hire very effective lobbyists to try to argue their case. After all, why would I buy a case of wine from a local wine store if I can get it for less than the winery itself or what about those hard to find wines? The distributors don‘t even have them, so you have to lug it back from California with you on a plane. Remember, small, local wineries account for 96 percent of this country‘s wine labels and they‘ve been at a disadvantage for decades because these are archaic laws. So I call on New York and every other state to stop the madness and let me order my wine.
Coming up, you guys just don‘t want to cut me a break when it comes to Michael Jackson and talking about his animals. You think I‘m being unfair to Michael. Your e-mails are coming up.
ABRAMS: I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”. Last night in my closing argument, the retraction of a “Newsweek” story, which relied on one unnamed source that interrogators at Guantanamo Bay desecrated detainees‘ copies of the Koran, even flushed one down the toilet leading to heavy riots in Afghanistan and Pakistan. At least 16 killed. I said if “Newsweek” conceded they were doubting the source, the story should have been pulled immediately.
But Suzanne Kenney writes, “Sometimes you‘re really dense. I don‘t believe for a second that “Newsweek” got it wrong. I think flushing the Koran down the toilet is very believable. It seems rather evident that “Newsweek” merely buckled under White House and Defense Department pressure.”
Well OK, Suzanne, well then talk to the people at “Newsweek” because they conceded from the outset that they questioned the source.
Nancy Roberts in Houston, Texas, “So “Newsweek” retracted the story because it may have included information that wasn‘t accurate. Does this mean the Bush administration will retract the war in Iraq, which most definitely was based on inaccurate information. Amazing that some people seem far more concerned about a little news story than they are about a full fledged war.”
Also last night, much to my delight, the Supreme Court invalidating the state laws that prevent customers from ordering wine directly from out of state wineries. I said now I can order my favorite wine from California instead of going through a middleman.
But Red Bank, New Jersey, Jennifer Woods, “I was surprised to see how excited you were about yesterday‘s Supreme Court ruling. Don‘t take this the wrong way, but I was surprised to see that you knew the difference between Cabernet and Cabriolet. You seem more like a beer guy.” Thanks Jennifer. I won‘t take it the wrong way.
More fallout from the clips we showed of Michael Jackson talking about his relationship with the animals at Neverland including his chimps and their household responsibilities, which included cleaning his room, dusting, the dishes. Bubbles even flushed the toilet after using it. I thought it was as hilarious as it was ridiculous, but many of you still writing.
Psychotherapist Toni Maita in Walnut Creek, California. “I have six Golden Retrievers who are like my children. I hug them and I—they love me unconditionally. They sleep in my bed with my husband and I. They lay on my furniture. They never complain, never talk back and don‘t gossip or judge me. Am I a freak? Dan, you‘re becoming a little too judgmental.” No, Toni, that has nothing to do with anything. Do they clean up your house and use the master bathroom? That‘s all I was laughing about. Not talking about being funny that someone comes home and hugs a pet. That wasn‘t the issue.
Donna in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, “Wow, I would love to have a monkey, any monkey, clean my house if he or she does it well and doesn‘t poop all over. Please don‘t knock it.” I think it‘s a fair point, Donna.
Your e-mails abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com. We go through them at the end of the show.
“OH PLEAs!”—why consensual sex doesn‘t mean all is fair in love and war, as one man is left feeling broken even after 10 years. On Monday, the Massachusetts State Appeals Court ruled the no foul play occurred during a night of frisky fornication between a man and a woman that left the man with a fractured, well, yes, he fractured it. The wounded Casanova identified as John Doe filed a lawsuit in 1997, claiming the gentle woman wasn‘t gentle but negligent after she was a little too rough on him during a session in 1994.
Joe underwent emergency surgery, endured a painful and lengthy recovery, but says he still suffers from some dysfunction. The lawsuit was thrown out by judges in a district and superior court and on Monday, the state appeals court upheld the lower court‘s ruling stating that consensual rough housing wasn‘t wanton or reckless. Can you imagine if he won? She might have had to wear a warning label, sex with me can be hazardous to your health.
That does it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. More on the Michael Jackson case tomorrow—again, this week, we‘re expecting to see some big names taking the witness stand. Larry King, Jay Leno, just among the names being thrown around. They‘re actually going to testify. So we‘ll have full coverage.
E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for watching. See you tomorrow.
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