Skip to main content
Search
Services


 

Return to Transcripts main page

NANCY GRACE

Break in Disappearance of Texas Teenager

Aired June 8, 2006 - 20:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


NANCY GRACE, HOST: Tonight, breaking news, Lubbock, Texas! After two long years, a break in the disappearance of a Texas teenager, Joanna Rogers. Could a man already behind bars on another murder be the real killer?
And tonight, a romantic getaway at a lakeside resort ends when 37- year-old Florence Unger is found floating face down in the water. Accident, or was she pushed?

And tonight we are taking your calls. First to Lubbock, Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This case is about a modern-day family tragedy, a tragedy that occurred in this case totally and completely because of accident.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: Right now, we are live with Philip R. Klein, private investigator there in Houston, Texas. What is the latest in the Joanna Rogers` case?

PHILIP R. KLEIN, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: Hi, Nancy, how are you tonight. It`s been a pretty interesting two days. Mr. Rodriguez, Rosendo Rodriguez has apparently given a confession, a tape recorded confession on videotape last night and has admitted to the killing of Joanna Rogers, in the same form and fashion as Ms. Baldwin.

GRACE: Straight out to Renee Rockwell, defense attorney. Renee, this guy is going to avoid the Texas death penalty.

RENEE ROCKWELL, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, maybe.

GRACE: By confessing to -- you don`t think there`s a deal in the works? This guy`s confessing for nothing!

ROCKWELL: Well, Nancy, there has to be a deal somehow or another. What he`s trying to do only is put the family at ease. Then he comes up and says, I`m going to tell you about this. I`m going to tell you how I did it. That way I don`t want to get the death penalty. But it sure is a disgusting thing, is it not?

GRACE: Well I don`t know, you`re the defense attorney that represents murderers. It sounds to me like this guy`s willing to say anything to escape the Texas death penalty, Renee.

ROCKWELL: But the family doesn`t necessarily believe him yet. They want to see some hard facts.

GRACE: What about it, Phil Klein, Philip R. Klein with us tonight, private investigator there in Houston, Texas. Why should we believe this guy?

KLEIN: Well, I think from visiting with a lot of the detectives over the last few days, he`s given some details that only the killer would know. He`s given some specific details on where he left the body. And I think how she was dressed that night. And we were the first team on the ground when it started and when it was first called in. And I think that -- I think that there was some things that he said in that initial interview and in that videotape statement he gave yesterday that matched --

GRACE: videotaped statement. To Greg Skordas, defense attorney. Why videotape the statement, Greg?

GREG SKORDAS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, his attorney certainly probably wanted that at the beginning and say look, we`re not going to let our guy talk to your unless you have this videotaped, audio taped so that we can preserve the evidence. The state wants it in case he goes south on him and later decides, well, I was being coerced. I wasn`t given my Miranda rights. I didn`t know what I was talking about. I was intoxicated, whatever. So both sides have a great interest in preserving that testimony.

GRACE: Renee, I always wanted the videotaped recording of any confession or statement because the next thing you know, you jump up a trial. And the defendant will say, oh, they beat me. They tortured me. They threatened me. I`ve been tricked. That`s a false confession. Blah, blah. When you have it on videotape, you can show a jury this guy doesn`t have a cut, not a bruise. He gets his Miranda rights. They bring him coffee. Do you want milk? Do you want sugar or sweet-in-low during the confession. No coercion here, Renee. It is buttoned up.

ROCKWELL: That`s right, Nancy. But still, you might have a lawyer that will take the tape, try to make sure it hadn`t been stopped, changed, modified or cut. Make some -- they can sometimes have people taking parts out.

GRACE: Renee, do you have any reason to suggest to me tonight that this guy`s taped confession has been edited or tampered with in any way? You are just throwing that out there.

ROCKWELL: No, I`m just saying that even though it`s taped, you will still have a lawyer that will come in and say, I want to see it. I want an expert to look at it. I want to make sure it hadn`t been altered.

GRACE: I agree. Take a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t think my son ever had to pay for sex. He`s a very good looking young man. He`s attractive. He`s kind, all the qualities that I would think that a young lady would want in a man. I believe in my son`s innocence. You know, his life has not been perfect. But everything -- the overwhelming majority of what he`s done, his life has been very good and very positive. And it`s just inconceivable to me. But I am biased.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: Let`s go out to Mark Kennedy, joining us now with KAMC. Welcome, Mark. This is a big, big break. Two long years have passed since Joanna Rogers went missing out of her own home. It`s not like this girl was look at that, that beautiful red-head, that big smile. What a smile. Every shot I see of this little girl, just 16 years old. There she is - look at that. What a little cutie, goes to bed at night. The parents wake up the next day. She`s gone. She`s gone, people. To Mark Kennedy, how did this thing go down and where in the hay did she meet the alleged killer? I guess I have got Mark Kennedy with me. Mark, are you there?

MARK KENNEDY, KAMC: Yeah, I can hear you a bit, Nancy.

GRACE: OK, can you hear me now, Mark?

KENNEDY: Yeah, I can hear you, Nancy.

GRACE: OK. I`m going to re-question you. How did this girl go missing? What were the circumstances? And how did she possibly meet the alleged killer? OK, for some reason, guys, Liz, let me know when you get that satellite fixed with him. I`m going to try Philip Klein. Philip, do we know any of those answers?

KLEIN: Yes, when we arrived in Lubbock approximately 16 hours after the initial disappearance, we knew two things for sure. We knew, one, that she was not a runaway and a runner, as we call it in the business. Her -- I will never forget the minute I opened the door to her bedroom, seeing her, -- with her favorite blanket, she called it her Binkie. Seeing her pillow with the indention of her head. And then seeing the curtain pulled back from the window. We knew at that point, someone had come to the window, knocked on the window and she had left with someone out the back door. According to the statement, her parents gave of the dog`s barking in the middle of the night, about 3:00 in the morning. We knew we had a crime on our hands. We knew we weren`t chasing after a young teenager or somebody running. And it was -- it`s a memory that I don`t think that I`ll ever forget when I opened that door.

GRACE: Didn`t she have like a dance recital the next day or something they`d all been looking forward to?

KLEIN: Sure. And not only that, but she had a great group of friends. She had a dance recital, she was excited about. She had a job she was doing really well at. All of her fellow employees at her job, said how much she liked to work and how much she got along with her friends. Her teachers, her counselors, everybody we interviewed in those first 16 hours, told us that there was no doubt in their mind that she would not have run. And then there was a couple that told us there was a possibility she had run but none of it matched. The cell phone was there. The car was there. The keys were there. Everything was there. And she didn`t take anything with her.

GRACE: Everything was there except 16-year-old Joanna Rogers.

KLEIN: Exactly.

GRACE: Take a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope that everybody will just keep an open mind. And allow the law to run its course. And you know, I have an undying faith and confidence in my son.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our hearts are broken. The community searched feverishly for two years for Joanna and for answers. I don`t know that we`ve quite gotten our answers yet. What we`re hearing, just absolutely breaks our heart for the Rogers and for Joanna.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: There may be answers tonight in the disappearance of a 16-year- old Lubbock, Texas, girl. Joanna Rogers went missing in the midst of controversy there in the small town of only about 200,000 because not one, two, three, four, five -- but six women gone missing or dead in this tiny community. Do the answers lie in the mind of Rosendo Rodriguez, just 25 years old? Back to Philip Klein with Klein Investigations. Philip, six women gone, many of them dead in Lubbock, Texas. 200,000 people. How many serial killers and killers do you think are in a town of only 200,000 people? How many women`s lives do you think this guy has on his hands?

KLEIN: You know, when you look at Mr. Rodriguez and you look at his background and you look at his training in the military and you take a good hard look at this young man, I think you`re right up the right tree. I think there`s a lot of questions that need to be answered and I think those answers are in his computer. I think he was communicating with a lot of women. Both of the women that we now know according to him, that he has killed, he communicated with on the computer. We know that he was very proficient in using different screen names. And there`s a lot of issues that I think every parent in the United States today should be opening their eyes. This is another example of a gentleman by the name of Mr. Rodriguez that set his victims up over a computer and it`s pretty scary.

GRACE: Well, didn`t this girl, Joanna Rogers, work at a local Subway sandwich shop?

KLEIN: Yes she did.

GRACE: Do you think they met there and then started communicating or was that backwards?

KLEIN: No, I think it`s backwards. I think that they made contact through the computer. I think that he eventually coerced her and brought her in like all of the other sexual predators do. They brought her in. He made a date with her. And he called her in the middle of the night. And they`ve been able to establish that there was some phone communication at 3:00 in the morning and that`s right at the same time that she went missing.

GRACE: Let`s go out to, speaking of computers, to detective Lieutenant Steve Rogers. He is a former computer crime investigator. Sir, thank you for being us.

LT. STEVE ROGERS: You`re welcome.

GRACE: Explain to us -- I`ve got a question about IMs, instant messages. Now, I know that regular e-mails and addresses you go to on your computer are basically embedded in your computer forever. If you want to get rid of that take it outside onto the asphalt and beat it with a sledgehammer. But what about IMs? Can they be captured as well?

ROGERS: Well, IMs cannot be on its face be captured. However what I lot of people will do, Nancy is cut and paste the IM messages onto a word document and then they`ll save it. And believe it or not, through the screen names that are placed on that word document, they`ll be able to somehow through an encrypted code that gets into the hard drive, at least backtrack to where that particular message came from. So it is possible with the sophisticated technology that we have today. It is a tough task but it can be done.

GRACE:I want to go forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Hunter. Now so far (INAUDIBLE) we don`t have the body of Joanna Rogers, yet. OK, we don`t have her body. We do have a body I believe of another girl, Summer Baldwin. Summer Baldwin, Dr. Hunter, was found in a suitcase, her entire body was in the suitcase. She was last seen with the same guy, Rosendo Rodriguez, 25 years old. Now when and if this guy`s statement checks out and they find Joanna Rogers` remains, the 16-year-old girl, what physical evidence will be left?

DR. MICHAEL HUNTER, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST, MEDICAL EXAMINER: You know I think if we can assume that her death occurred soon after her abduction, that`s two years. She`s going to be almost completely skeletonized at this point. But in this case, since there is some thought that she was placed in a suitcase, that may confine at least some evidence in a small space. So if she is, say, wrapped in material or if she has items that were used to bind her, that might be helpful in providing some evidence. But so far as looking at her physically, she`s most likely going to be very skeletonized. So there`s going to be a limited amount of work that you can actually do on her remains.

GRACE: Eric what about Summer Baldwin.

Here is why Rosendo is in -- Rosendo Rodriguez is in prison the first place. They tracked the suitcase she was found in. We`ve got an example of it here, by a bar code on the inside of the suitcase. They tracked it back it a Wal-Mart. They found some security, video footage. They had it on his credit card that he had purchased a suitcase similar to the one we brought here and some latex gloves and when they found the suitcase that her body was in, they were able to track that bar code.

GRACE: From the bar code.

Back to Rodriguez` suitcase.

GRACE: So let me get this straight, do we have mark Kennedy now, Liz? OK, Mark, welcome back, friend. Mark is with us, KAMC TV. Mark, how did they connect this back, was it to a Wal-Mart? And we`re talking about the other victim, Summer Baldwin who was found in the suitcase?

KENNEDY: Right. They actually tracked her back to the bar code as was previously shown (INAUDIBLE). They actually have surveillance video from that Wal-Mart showing Rosendo Rodriguez not only purchasing, giving his credit card to the clerk, then another camera shows Rosendo walking out to his truck with great video surveillance video showing him walking out the door of Wal-Mart to his truck with the suitcase.

GRACE: What time of the day or night was that purchase?

KENNEDY: About 3:00 in the morning.

GRACE: Ah, I knew it! I remembered it. OK alert to Wal-Mart, cashiers. A guy comes in 3:00 a.m., buys a giant suitcase and rubber gloves. Red flag. Let`s go quickly to Amy in Pennsylvania. Hi, Amy.

CALLER: Hi, Nancy. This may be a rhetorical question. But how can these defense attorneys with a straight face say that this killer was confessing to put the minds of the parents at ease when the parents wouldn`t need their minds put at ease if the killer didn`t kill the daughter.

GRACE: You know what, you hit it right on, you hit the nail on the head. Renee Rockwell, I believe it was you that said that, about putting the parents` mind at ease. He will explain how they killed their daughter, possibly dismembering her and thrown away in the suitcase. That`s going to put their mind at ease Ms. Rockwell?

ROCKWELL: Well, Nancy, I think probably the hardest thing for the parents is the not knowing, whether their daughter`s dead or alive. Here he is gratuitously saying, oh, and by the way besides Summer Baldwin I also killed her. Don`t forget there`s a third victim that they`re also thinking about that he may be involved with. But by virtue of the fact that he`s coming forward and it`s all that he`s got at this point, Nancy is the fact that he`s going to confess (INAUDIBLE) where the body is.

GRACE: Renee, let me tell you something that you already know, Renee, veteran trial lawyer. This guy is doing nothing gratuitously. If this story is true, he`s doing it to save his own skin from the Texas death penalty. But we`ll just see if his statement checks out or is it a false confession so he can avoid the DP? Very quickly, we`ll all be right back.

But let`s go to tonight`s "case alert" -- wanted no more. The number one terrorist on the U.S. military`s most wanted list, dead in Iraq. Abu Musab al Zarqawi killed in a massive air strike as the leader of al Qaeda (INAUDIBLE) behind some of the bloodiest suicide bombings and kidnappings. Zarqawi personally responsible for beheading American hostages. Officials confirm Zarqawi`s death using fingerprints and body ID. Tonight, Zarqawi dead. Put that head on a stick, people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Last night, their persistence and determination were rewarded. On behalf of all Americans, I congratulate our troops on this remarkable achievement. Zarqawi is dead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The community searched feverishly for two years for Joanna and for answers. I don`t know that we`ve quite gotten our answers yet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: You`re looking at home video of the beautiful little girl that was growing into a woman, Joanna Rogers, just 16 years old when she went missing in Lubbock, Texas. Now Rogers went missing during a rash of missing and murdered women, six dead that we know of. Now three of them seemingly don`t matter on the stats because they were hookers. This was a young girl living at home with her parents, a dance recital set for the next day. Is there a break in the case? I want to go out to her parents joining me now, Kathy and Joe Bill Rogers. These are Joanna`s parents. Mr. and Mrs. Rogers, I know we have a little delay here, but we want to wait on your answer. Do you believe this guy, Rosendo Rodriguez III is telling the truth?

JOE BILL ROGERS, JOANNA`S FATHER: I haven`t seen him tell the truth. I haven`t seen anything that`s concrete. Pretty much what we know now we`re getting more from the media than we`re getting, that we`re actually - - they`re hearing more than we are apparently but I know that in the next day or two that we should have something a little more factual. But I`m perfectly satisfied with the way things are happening now and I do believe that it`s pretty well on the way home.

GRACE: Mrs. Rogers, thank you also for being with us. I see that throughout the commercial break and now you too are tightly holding hands. How has this whole horrible ordeal affected you?

KATHY ROGERS, JOANNA`S MOTHER: Well, in a lot ways, it`s torn our hearts apart but it`s brought us closer together. My husband and I work very closely with each other even though he`s been in California for nine months. We`ve been apart physically for nine months, but we still agree on things that have to be done. And we love each other very much. We`ll celebrate our 30th anniversary in September. And I won`t trade him for anything. He`s there for me. But we wish Joanna were here, too.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN OVERSTREET, LUBBOCK SHERIFF`S DEPT: There had been some developing information, just recently, just, soon after the Rosendo Rodriguez`s arrest concerning the Summer Baldwin case, there is some computer information linking Joanna and Rosendo together. And in addition to that information, we`ve uncovered additional information linking the two together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: Welcome back. Does a jailhouse confession in the investigation to the death and disappearance of 16-year-old Joanna Rogers? Her remains yet to be found. Let`s go out to the phones. Donna in Georgia. Hi, Donna.

CALLER: Hi, Nancy. How are you?

GRACE: I`m great, what`s your question, dear?

CALLER: My question is, do you believe, or does anyone on the panel know, how her family feels about the death penalty?

GRACE: Good question.

CALLER: Is this a death penalty state?

GRACE: Yes, yes, it is. And I`m going to throw that straight to Joanna`s parents, Kathy and Joe Bill Rogers. Joe Bill, are you OK with this guy not getting the death penalty in exchange for a confession?

JOE BILL ROGERS: Justice is served. Death penalty`s are OK but I`d be more than happy to see him spend the rest of his life in jail.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I saw the body. I did an autopsy on the body. The second autopsy, I saw she had fractures, a lot of bruises in the brain, and she had a lot of brain swelling. Very little doubt in my mind that she was not able to then get up and walk around and end up in the water by herself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: A 37-year-old woman goes for a romantic reconciliation trip to a lake and ends up in the lake face down. Now, did she drown by accident or was she pushed?

Let`s go out to assistant city editor with "The Detroit News," David Spratt is with us.

Hi, Dave. What`s the latest?

DAVE SPRATT, "DETROIT NEWS": Well, today the defense rested. They`ll take tomorrow off. And the jury -- I`m sorry, Wednesday the attorneys will make their closing arguments. And then the jury will get the case.

GRACE: Let`s go back. Let`s go back in time for the viewers just joining on the case. What are the circumstances surrounding the case?

SPRATT: The Ungers were in northern Michigan at a resort. They were there to discuss some of the details of their divorce. She ended up -- the next morning, she was found faced down in the lake. The prosecution argues that he pushed her or somehow...

GRACE: The husband.

SPRATT: ... made her fall -- yes, the husband, I`m sorry -- and then dragged her into the lake, where she either drowned or was already dead.

GRACE: A couple of quick questions, Dave.

SPRATT: Yes?

GRACE: Were the children there?

SPRATT: The children were there. They were in a nearby cabin sleeping.

GRACE: OK, ages?

SPRATT: Ten and seven at the time.

GRACE: What time at the day or night did the incident take place?

SPRATT: It was night, around midnight.

GRACE: Had there been any arguments overheard by anyone else there at the resort?

SPRATT: No.

GRACE: Now, it`s my understanding that he, the husband, posed this as a reconciliation, "Let`s try to go away together." She didn`t want to go but her lawyer told her to go ahead and cooperate, yes, no?

SPRATT: Yes, yes.

GRACE: OK, now that was a little bit of an equivocal "yes." Why do you say that?

SPRATT: Well, I`m not so much sure it was as much a reconciliation as it was just trying to kind of iron out the details of the divorce.

GRACE: Kill her? OK. I`m not quite sure that`s what he had in mind, but I`m going to go with that.

Let`s go out to Dr. Michael Hunter, forensic pathologist. He is a medical examiner, as well. One of the keys to this case, as to guilt or innocent, in my mind, all hinges on the condition of the body, agree, disagree?

HUNTER: Yes, I do agree.

GRACE: Why?

HUNTER: Well, there are several issues that are brought up here. One is unconsciousness. What can you point to at autopsy that allows you to say that this person is unconscious?

Well, clearly this person sustained what is called severe head trauma. We have bruises on the brain, and that certainly equates to unconsciousness, and that`s going to be from the fall.

The next question is: Well, how does this person who has this head injury and is unconscious make it into the water?

GRACE: Well, why couldn`t she fall into the water and hit her head in the water?

HUNTER: Well, I`m not exactly sure what the landscape of this is, but she`s clearly taken a severe blow to the head. And through, I think, the testimony from the experts, there had to have been at least movement of her by someone else into the water.

GRACE: I see. So she would have to fall, sustain this horrific blow to the head, and then somehow manage to drag herself into the water. I see what you`re saying.

Very quickly to Dave Spratt with "The Detroit News," why is it? What did they say in court as to why she couldn`t have fallen into the water and hit her head there?

SPRATT: Well, the water is -- it`s not clear what the lake bottom is like there. But if she had fallen from the pad into the water, that would have only been a fall of about a foot or a few inches maybe. So it seems reasonable that the injury, the more series injury, would have been caused by a greater fall than that.

GRACE: Do we know what she hit her head on?

SPRATT: There`s a cement pad at the bottom the boathouse deck that was about three or four feet wide. And it appears that`s what she hit.

GRACE: Why do they think she hit her head on that? Was there blood there?

SPRATT: Yes.

GRACE: Ah, well, there you have it. Her blood is there on the cement pad. And how far away is that from the water?

SPRATT: I think it was -- well, it`s about a three- or four-foot-wide pad, so probably not two feet maybe.

GRACE: So she has to get from that into the water. OK, let`s take a look at some of the other factors surrounding the death of this young lady.

To Bethany Marshall, psychoanalyst, go ahead, Bethany, shrink me.

BETHANY MARSHALL, PSYCHOANALYST: Well, I mean, first of all, this husband wasn`t very much in control of his emotions. He had multiple additions: alcohol, gambling, drugs.

She wanted to leave him for a long length of time, and he kept convincing her to stay. It sounded like an abusive relationship. And women are often at the greatest risk for homicide as they`re about to leave a relationship, and I think she went with him on this trip not to reconcile, not to iron things out, but to smooth out the ending of the relationship. So she was at great risk.

I think what happened, as is the case often with a lot of these perpetrators that emotions overrode his ability to think, his destructive impulses came out. And if he did it, he shoved, kick, hit, pushed and, you know, off she went.

GRACE: Take a listen to what Unger himself has to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK UNGER, ACCUSED OF MURDER: You know, we were just having a relaxed time. We took the kids to dinner, just relaxing, it seemed to be, that she was glad that we came up.

And my whole world exploded. There`s no other way to put it. My whole world just stopped. We all miss my wife terribly, but this is about being reunited as best we can, me and my kids, and that`s all that we can focus on right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: Well, there`s a little other information we need to focus on, Mr. Unger, like, who killed your wife?

I want to go back to Dr. Michael Hunter, medical examiner and forensic pathologist. Dr. Hunter, in her lungs, I understand that there was a great deal of water, as well as blood. What does that mean?

HUNTER: Well, I mean, she`s taken a blow to the head from this fall, so she`s probably going to have some injury to the mouth, maybe the nose, fractures and so forth. So that`s going to be the source of blood.

Now, the fluid in the lungs can really be two sources. It can be from the water itself, so she goes into the water alive but unconscious, subsequently drowns, but you can also get a lot of fluid accumulation from a death, from head trauma, called neurogenic shock.

So the fact that you have a considerable amount of fluid there certainly suggests drowning, but it`s not necessarily an absolute.

GRACE: Wait, wait. You have a head trauma and your lungs get fluid in them? What`s that, neurogenic shock?

HUNTER: Right, well, what happens is, if someone sustains a severe head trauma and it`s severe enough to really impair that person`s ability to breathe, the heart`s continuing to pump blood to the lungs, but you`re not breathing, so a lot of that fluid will essentially accumulate there.

So you`re going to have what are called heavy lungs, that you would also expect to see in drowning. Now, one thing that I think is real helpful in drowning is also to see fluid outside the lungs, into the chest cavities, also within some of the sinuses. And I`m sure those were looked at.

GRACE: And very quickly, Dr. Hunter, if she had fallen into the water and hit her head, would blood still be in her lungs if she had gone directly into the water?

HUNTER: Well, I don`t think that`s what happened here, based on...

GRACE: But you know what? You`re right.

HUNTER: ... the other pathologists.

GRACE: You`re right, because we see the blood on the cement pad. We know that`s where she fell. You`re right.

Let`s go to Linda in Indiana. Hi, Linda.

CALLER: Hi, Nancy. How are you?

GRACE: I`m good, dear. What`s your question?

CALLER: Well, I was just wondering, were there any defensive wounds on the husband? Did it look like there was a struggle before she went into the water, before she was tossed in the water?

GRACE: Excellent question. To Dave Spratt with "The Detroit News," any defensive wounds?

SPRATT: Not to our knowledge, no.

GRACE: Hmm. Question: When did they first speak to the husband after her body was found? Did the police immediately question him, or could there have been defensive wounds and they didn`t question in time to get photos of them?

SPRATT: He was on the scene when she was found, so the questioning began immediately.

GRACE: Did they take pictures of him? Did they make him take off his shirt?

SPRATT: None of that has been presented in court.

GRACE: Hmm.

OK, back to Bethany Marshall, how common is murder of a spouse?

MARSHALL: Well, approximately one-third of women who are murdered are murdered by a husband or boyfriend. Very frightening, don`t you think?

And I think it`s good to note at this point -- you were talking about defensive wounds -- this guy had his SUV packed within two hours of having learned about her murder and was ready to get out of town.

(NEWSBREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want justice for Florence Unger, who is laying in the ground.

M. UNGER: We all miss my wife terribly, but this is about being reunited as best we can, me and my kids. And that`s all we can focus on right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: An alleged reconciliation in a marriage that was in trouble ends when a 37-year-old wife is found face down in the lake, the lake resort where she went, Florence Unger, leaving behind two children.

Back to Bethany Marshall, psychoanalyst, you know, the Ungers had so many difficulties. She had wanted a divorce for so long. Why go away with him to a remote lake resort? And do you think the fact that he insisted on bringing the two young children made her think, "Well, certainly nothing would happen with the two kids there"?

MARSHALL: Well, I think a lot of times women have a false illusion of safety when they have their children around, but I think we have to consider the possibility that she was somewhat frightened of him and brainwashed over time.

We know about these homicidal men. They confuse separation with abandonment. Separation is you want a separate life, you want to leave me. Abandonment is you`re the mommy who was supposed to be there for me and you`ve left me in a terrible way and I`m going to punish you.

And the punishing attitude on the part of the man makes the woman feel very frightened. And then as she has her attorney telling her she doesn`t go to child abandonment, that could have put her in a very, very vulnerable state.

GRACE: Let`s go the lines, to Christy in Kentucky. Hi, Christy. Christy, you there?

CALLER: Yes, I am.

GRACE: Hi, dear, what`s your question?

CALLER: Hi, my question is: What did Mark have to gain by this? Was there any life insurance policy? Were there any children involved? Was the wife -- was his wife pregnant at the time? What did he have to gain?

GRACE: Interesting. I know there were two kids. What about it, Dave Spratt? Dave`s the editor of "The Detroit News." What would he have gained?

SPRATT: Well, there was a $750,000 life insurance policy, to answer her question. Other than that, I can`t imagine what else he would...

GRACE: Other than that, other than the three-quarters a million dollars he was -- cha-ching! -- going to go home with. Good point, Dave Spratt.

And to Christy in Kentucky, you`re right on.

Renee Rockwell, give me your best shot on this one.

ROCKWELL: Well, Nancy, besides the money...

GRACE: Besides the million dollars?

ROCKWELL: Almost close, $750,000, but there was two children. They were going to be involved in a custody battle. That`s reason enough. There`s some allegation that she was having an affair with one of his best friends. There you have another motive.

GRACE: Renee, a trial update, trial update. While you were in court -- everybody, Renee, veteran trial lawyer -- the boyfriend did testify. It happened. All right, go ahead.

ROCKWELL: So there`s motive enough.

GRACE: You know, so you`re mixing in revenge, getting the kids.

I want to go to Greg Skordas. Greg, I know you`re a defense attorney. Do you ever do any divorce law?

SKORDAS: I have done quite a bit of divorce law. My partner is divorce law.

GRACE: Woo-hoo! Let me tell you something: I would rather prosecute a serial killer than get between two people trying to get a divorce and fight over child custody. Forget it. They will shoot you, the lawyer, in the parking lot and be happy about it.

SKORDAS: Right, and I was a prosecutor for years. And people say, "How do you feel about people you`ve prosecuted?" Or, "How do you feel about people that you`ve defended?" Well, the people I was worried about were the people whose husbands that were against us on a divorce case.

GRACE: And, Bethany Marshall, it`s strange to me. I would go into court so many times and try dopers, and child molesters, and killers. And I`m telling you, the most outbursts, the most animosity in the courthouse was over custody and divorce. So that, in itself, all the anger...

MARSHALL: Right.

GRACE: ... right there could be motive. Why is that?

MARSHALL: Well, first of all, they`re divorcing for a reason. They use the children as pawns, and then there`s just a lot of destructive rage that gets released on the brink of the separation. And you were talking about motivation. Motivation for homicide is I`m going to punish you for leaving me. It`s a very primitive -- it`s very basic -- "I want you dead because you want to go."

GRACE: Take a listen to what the district attorney had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today, I`m announcing a one-count charge of first- degree murder against Mark Unger for the willful, deliberate and premeditated killing of his wife, Florence Unger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This case is so weak that you might well say to yourself, when it`s over with, that the crime involved in this matter was bringing charges like these against him when the kind of evidence they have is almost nonexistent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRACE: The state of Michigan is not a death penalty state, in case you are wondering.

There you go. When we refer to red and blue on the show, it`s anything but politics. It is about the death penalty. There you see 38 states plus the federal government has the death penalty, signified in red. Blue, non-death penalty. That would be the state of Michigan.

So I guess -- out to Renee Rockwell -- beating your wife`s head on a concrete block and throwing her into the water with your kids sleeping about 30 feet away, that just is not heinous enough for the death penalty, huh?

ROCKWELL: Well, Nancy, you`re not going to strike up a death penalty, not in this state, but this still is enough for them to fight about, because there`s going to be a difference between murder in the first degree, murder in the second degree.

Don`t forget: If he gets convicted of murder in the first degree, it`s life without parole. In the second degree, he can get out at some point.

GRACE: Got you.

Let`s go out to Jennifer in Michigan. Hi, Jennifer.

CALLER: Hello.

GRACE: What`s your question, dear?

CALLER: I was wondering if Mr. Unger has ever gone under any kind of psychological evaluation or if he has any history of abuse?

GRACE: Good question. Dave Spratt with "The Detroit News," was there any history of prior abuse?

SPRATT: Not to our knowledge, no.

GRACE: How long had they been married?

SPRATT: Twelve years, I believe.

GRACE: OK, 12 to 13, you`re absolutely right. And who is the boyfriend?

SPRATT: That was a friend of both the Ungers. They were friends with the couple, a couple, and the friend, Stark is his last name -- I`m sorry.

GRACE: So he`s a friend of the couple, is that the answer?

SPRATT: They`re a friend of couple, yes.

GRACE: And to Bethany Marshall, nothing to stir the pot like, a, having an affair, and b, with a friend?

MARSHALL: Oh, I mean, talk about a narcissistic injury. You slept with the neighbor? Well, the guy was a neighbor, I understand, too. So you slept with our best friend? He`s a neighbor. I feel humiliated. I`m going to humiliate you. He`s dishing it right back at her. And, if he did this, he did it in the worst way.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRACE: Last night, we learned that Jerry "Buck" Inman was released early, paroled from prison before serving his entire sentence, in the Clemson University bikini murder case.

A Florida parole commission tells us, in fact, Inman was released by Florida Department of Corrections. A registered sex offender, Inman served only 16 of 30 years before the "stop turning prisoners" law took effect, that law ensuring prisoners serve 85 percent of their sentence.

Tonight, if you want to take it up with Florida, you can call the department of corrections there, 850-488-0400, to ask for answers.

And tonight, we are looking for answers in another case. A 37-year- old mother of two tries to reconcile, ostensibly with her husband. She ends up floating face down in a lake there at the resort.

Out to Greg Skordas, defense attorney, Greg, give me your best shot. What`s your best defense?

SKORDAS: This was an accident. She fell off the railing. The government, in fact, had a forensic expert that looked at the railing. They`ve been less than forthcoming about disclosing that information to the defense. She has a head injury that even the government`s own expert cannot say was intentionally caused by this man. And there`s just no evidence that he was present at that time or caused the injury.

GRACE: So I guess she snuck out of the cabin they were sharing together, jumped on the railing like Nadia Comaneci, hit her head, and floated out in the lake. OK, you know what? I think the defense needs you, Skordas, Greg Skordas, and Renee Rockwell, to bail them out on this one.

I want to thank all of my guests. But before I thank them all, I want to stop and remember tonight Marine Corporal Andres Aguilar, Jr., just 21, Victoria, Texas, killed, Iraq. Aguilar remembered by friends and family for bravery and honor. Andres Aguilar, an American hero.

And now, thank you to all of our guests, but our biggest thank you is to you for being with us and inviting us and all of our legal stories into your home. I`m Nancy Grace signing off again for tonight. See you right here tomorrow night, 8:00 sharp Eastern. And, until then, good night, friend.

END

Search
© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by CNN.com
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines