Return to Transcripts main page
Secret Lives; Message From Hero Teen
Aired July 16, 2014 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
Every time someone is charged with a shocking crime, it seems you hear the same thing: "He was such a nice guy. We had no idea."
But what happens when secret lives unravel? A 51-year-old father of five, a respected executive at Google, dies on his yacht. And prosecutors say this 26-year-old woman he met on a sugar daddy dating site allegedly shot him up with heroin, coldly stepping over his body as she left.
And, of course, there is Justin Ross Harris, charged with murder after leaving his toddler son in a hot car. Prosecutors say he was sexting with six women while his son was dying. Is technology making it easier for us to have secret lives, secret lives that can go horribly wrong?
We're going to take a look at the dangers of sex, lies, and technology.
Plus, a hero teen who survived a massacre that killed her whole family. Now the woman who survived her own unspeakable family tragedy is reaching out to help.
And, as always, we want to know what you think about all of this. Make sure you tweet us using #AskDon.
But, first, here is my take on people with secret lives. The details are often salacious, especially when they involve prostitution, drugs, death. You may be surprised that CNN is giving this story so much attention. But it speaks to who we are as a country now, the incredible wealth of Silicon Valley, rivaling and even exceeding that of Wall Street with a similarly larger-than-life lifestyle, the technology that encourages us to communicate in secret sometimes even hook up.
And it speaks to the staggering explosion of heroin use in America. So can you ever really know someone, even those closest to you?
Here is a test for you. Would you allow the person with whom you're in a relationship to go through your cell phone texts, your photos or your e-mail? As you're pondering that, make sure you stay tuned. You will want to watch this show.
Let's get to the case, that Google executive found dead of a heroin overdose on his yacht. Alix Tichelman, the young woman he met on a sugar daddy dating site, pleaded not guilty today to manslaughter and other charges.
CNN's Kyung Lah is in Santa Cruz, California, with more tonight -- Kyung.
KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, what we heard today in court, it was quite brief. As you mentioned, she pled not guilty.
She did ask the judge to release her on her own recognizance. That was denied, also for bail to be lowered. It is currently standing at $1.5 million. That request was also denied.
But we also, Don, heard her defense attorneys speaking with the press. And they painted a different picture. We have heard all the details about what she is, that she was a prostitute, that she is addicted to heroin. That's the tale that is coming from the police. What her defense attorneys are trying to say is that, yes, she is a heroin addict, but what is at play here and really what happened aboard this yacht was drug use gone awry -- Don.
LEMON: Kyung, let's talk more about that video evidence that they supposedly have. We heard more today from the video that is on board that yacht. What do we know about that?
LAH: Well, we actually are getting two tales of the same video. We haven't seen this video. We don't know exactly what is on the video ourselves. We are only hearing this through the police and through her defense attorneys.
Today, we heard the defense attorneys lay out what they think is on that surveillance tape. This is tape that was on the yacht. It was recording as she was injecting Forrest Hayes, the 51-year-old Google exec, with heroin. The defense attorneys say you can see it. You can see Mr. Hayes take his cell phone, use the light of his cell phone to show her where she could find a vein.
She injects the heroin into his arm. He becomes lethargic, according to her defense attorneys, and then he falls asleep. She gathers her things and leaves. The police department has a very different tale of the exact same tape. They say, when he became lethargic, he actually started to suffer. He falls to the ground, and then she stepped over his body not just once, but multiple times.
She finished drinking her red wine as he was dying at her feet. They're estimating it was about seven minutes. And she wiped off her glass, gathered her things, drew the blinds, and then left. So two very different takes of the same videotape -- Don.
LEMON: Kyung Lah, thank you so much for your reporting.
You know, the death of Forrest Hayes is shining a light on the that world of so-called sugar daddy sites, especially Seeking Arrangement, which calls itself -- quote -- "the leading sugar daddy dating site where over three million members fuel mutually beneficial relationships on their terms."
And joining me now is Angela Jacob Bermudo, the spokesperson for SeekingArrangement.com.
We're glad you're joining us now to get more information on this, Angela.
As we heard from Kyung, Alix Tichelman and Forrest Hayes met on your site. What is your reaction to this case?
ANGELA JACOB BERMUDO, SEEKING ARRANGEMENT: Well, both the parties that are involved in this case did in fact meet through the site. That is pretty much the length of the involvement that Seeking Arrangement has to this case.
LEMON: Seeking Arrangement bills itself as a site -- quote -- "where beautiful, successful people fuel mutual beneficial relationships."
Do you still stand by that? How was this mutually beneficial relationship for Mr. Hayes?
BERMUDO: Of course. We stand by that 100 percent.
And, you know, fact of the matter is Seeking Arrangement is to women or sugar babies as Silicon Valley was to startups and techies back in the day. It stands as a beacon of hope for women that says no matter what background you come from, you know, you can attain the same success that these men have achieved through wealthy benefactors, as well as life guidance from these men.
And on the opposite side, of course, these men are able to find their ideal relationships in exchange for the financial assistance that they provide for these women.
LEMON: What it sounds to me like, it sounds like you're talking about prostitution.
BERMUDO: It is not. Seeking Arrangement is in no way or form prostitution.
Prostitution is a transactional relationship. And I use the term relationship loosely. It's a transaction that exchanges sex or sexual favors for money. Sex is never a part of the arrangement.
LEMON: But you're saying it's for money. You're talking about what is beneficial to these women, and that's wealthy men. What they get out of it is a relationship of some sort. So, many people will see that -- might see that as prostitution.
BERMUDO: Absolutely not.
Just like in relationships, you don't join a relationship and expect sex. That's not how it goes. And we certainly don't allow any arrangements to specify sex as part of the agreement between two individuals. If we find any evidence of that on the site, the members are immediately suspended and booted off the site.
LEMON: Police are referring to Alix Tichelman as a prostitute, though. So how was she allowed on your site, if you say this is not a site for prostitution?
BERMUDO: Well, the fact is, Alix Tichelman, we went through her profile and we actually did a background image search, which we do to all members to make sure that they're not on any escorting or prostitutional Web site or anything that might promote that.
And the fact is, her profile didn't raise any red flags, nor was there anything within the contents of her profile to indicate that she was using the site for these purposes. It's unfortunate that these are the activities that she chose to do off the site. But we stand by the fact that we do vet our profiles and do the image searches to make sure that we don't have people like that using the site.
LEMON: You said you vet the profiles. But is there a background check? And is there a strict background check? What is this vetting?
BERMUDO: Well, I'm glad that you actually pointed that out. We're one of the only Web sites, let alone dating Web sites, that offer background verification on the site.
As for the regular vetting that we do on the site, we do check the language to make sure that it doesn't match what we have deemed similar to those that are on escort Web sites or any Web sites that promote prostitution.
LEMON: So it is easier than ever now for married people to conduct affairs online. You have to admit that. But the question is, does your site have any idea whether its users or married or single, or do you even care?
BERMUDO: Absolutely. Well, we do care. About one-third of our members are married. However, more than half of those that do use the site as married individuals have an open relationship, where their partner is aware that they have a sugar baby.
LEMON: And what about the other half?
BERMUDO: I beg your pardon?
LEMON: You said half of them are aware that they have a sugar baby. What about the other half? They're not aware?
BERMUDO: I would say the other -- I would say the other -- the other half do have affairs that are unbeknownst to their partner.
LEMON: All right, thank you very much, Angela Jacob Bermudo. We appreciate you joining us here on CNN from SeekingArrangement.com.
When we come right back, my legal experts weigh in on the case against Alix Tichelman, the security camera video as well. Does it tell the whole story of what really happened on that yacht that night?
Also, technology has made it easier than ever for Americans to have secret lives. Do secret lives, though, lead to crime?
And the teen who survived the massacre that killed her family, how a woman who survived her own tragedy is reaching out to help.
LEMON: Welcome back.
The case of that Google executive who died on his yacht after his date injected him with heroin has all the elements of a tabloid shocker.
Now Joe Johns digs deeper into our story of sex, lies and technology.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A married Google executive, father of five, by all accounts a great dad, meets a young woman on a Web site called SeekingArrangement.com. A liaison on a yacht, an overdose of heroin, and the executive ends up dead.
A father of a 22-month-old boy allegedly messages six women, sending and receiving explicit texts, including nude images, while his son is dying in a hot car. What is going on? Has technology made having an affair, living a secret life too tempting for some to resist?
Jessica Carbino of UCLA is an online dating expert.
JESSICA CARBINO, UCLA: The online component of an anonymous interaction with individuals with whom you may never have any contact, with whom you don't have to give your real name, your address, any information that can theoretically be used against you when you're in the process of having the affair, is definitely appealing to an individual looking to engage in that type of lifestyle.
JOHNS: Secret life hookup culture among those already in a relationship used to be mostly on the down-low in America, not exactly advertised. But it is steadily creeping over to mainstream, inevitable perhaps with the rise of social media, even some sites that promote the relationship category now known as married but dating.
To see the reach of online infidelity these days, you need look no further than this Chris Brown video titled "Loyal," with 97 million views on YouTube, a young woman receiving a message from the now famous Ashley Madison have-an-affair Web site.
The explosion in mobile communications, an estimated 208 million cell phones in America, means both genders and all sexual persuasions and virtually all ages can communicate quietly and secretly any time, anywhere. There are countless options for married people looking for love in all the wrong places, the personal section of Craigslist, Adult FriendFinder, and countless forums and blogs that cater to everything from old-fashioned cheating to swinging, cuckolding, and even polyamory.
(on camera): There is even an app called Yo that lets you know in one word who is interested and one called Secret that needs no explanation. The biggest concern, that children can be lured to content that is intended for adults.
CARBINO: The more you have, the more danger you may have to deal with. And I think that, as parents, they need to be responsible about what their children are downloading.
LEMON: That was CNN's Joe Johns reporting.
That Google executive death is getting a whole lot of attention. But is this case as cut and dried as some people might think?
Joining me now is Noel Biderman. He's the CEO of online affair dating site AshleyMadison.com, also defense attorney Jayne Weintraub, and CNN legal analysts Mark O'Mara, and attorney Lisa Bloom.
That package got me -- the story got me all flustered there. I feel like we should have given a warning, guys, with that.
Jayne, to you first. Let's talk about these court documents and what they said, because they shed more light on what may have happened on that yacht. And I want to read part of what we learned, OK?
JAYNE WEINTRAUB, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Sure.
LEMON: It says: "The man calmly watched a woman inject herself with an unknown substance. The man gestured in a manner, directing the woman to similarly inject him in the arm with the same substance. The man calmly watched as the woman kneeled between his legs and examined his veins. The man rubbed and hit his inner elbow in an attempt to help the woman locate a vein. The man shined the light from his cell phone on to his inner elbow to assist her."
LEMON: And there is more. "The man was injected."
So if a camera on the boat shows Forrest Hayes assisting in the fatal injection, how can the prosecution prove manslaughter?
WEINTRAUB: Well, what they're going to do is, they're going to try and prove that she gave him an overdose, and that it was a negligent homicide. It's an unlawful killing because whether he is a willing participant or not doesn't excuse the fact that he died of the overdose.
If it's a bad drug, maybe there was something in the heroin. In this case, though, she injected herself as well. So I think so it's going to be tough for the prosecutors. And, remember, we only have one small snippet of a camera. We have no audio on any of this.
Mark, did I hear -- were you muttering there criminally? What were you saying?
MARK O'MARA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, no, no, the concern is, as Jayne was just saying, it's going to be particularly difficult. But when you have an underlying criminal act, the fact that she participated and he did voluntarily doesn't excuse her behavior.
She could very easily, probably is going to be held responsible for the reckless act of injecting somebody intentionally with heroin, which is an illegal drug.
LEMON: I want you to listen Tichelman's defense attorney said in a press conference today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY BIGGAM, ATTORNEY FOR ALIX TICHELMAN: There was no intent to harm or injure, much less kill Mr. Hayes. Why would she? He was a lucrative source of income to her. She appreciated his generosity, and she had a motive, if any, to elongate, not end the relationship.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Mark, what about motive? Is it going to be hard to prove here?
O'MARA: In one sense, yes. But you don't have to have motive for a negligent act. So the negligent homicide, acting recklessly, you don't need motive for.
My concern with that statement today is I think any defense attorney needs to be very careful laying out their defense day two, because we don't know what else is going to come out. There are these other potential deaths she may have been involved in. Her ex-boyfriend may have killed somebody with a heroin overdose.
I think the defense attorney needs to be very, very careful coming out and saying here is what we have, because that's the one right a defendant has is to not say anything until all the facts are out. This is not the time to present a defense.
LEMON: Before I get to my other panelists, I want to go back to Jayne.
Prostitution, escort services, dating Web sites, if money is being exchanged, where is the line? Aren't these sugar baby a Web sites just really a front for prostitution? I asked my earlier guest that.
WEINTRAUB: Well, I don't think so, and I don't think that we can regulate them as such morally, because then you're going to have prohibition on any adult activity.
Look, I don't condone that behavior, and I'm not visiting that Web site, but I don't want it to be illegal to have a Web site to meet people, because when you start going too close as Big Brother, then we're going to have a bigger problem. James Madison and Thomas Jefferson didn't envision any of this when they were writing the Constitution. We're on new territory with the Internet.
LEMON: OK, Noel, I want to ask you this. This man and women, they met on an online relationship site. As a CEO of another online relationship site, are you concerned at all that there could be people using your site to engage in illegal activities like prostitution and drug use?
WEINTRAUB: Well, of course, that would be the concern.
LEMON: That's for Noel.
NOEL BIDERMAN, CEO, ASHLEYMADISON.COM: I just think what you could do is, you could extrapolate a whole bunch of things from this.
You can talk about drug use, heroin use. You can talk about, does Google have a big problem here? Executives are using drugs. There's a whole bunch of things you can go and pass, you can take down.
Listen, anybody operating an online dating service wants a great outcome for their membership. This is clearly not a great outcome. And so you as a CEO have a job to do. You have got to police your policies. You have got to make sure that the membership knows what is expected of them. And can you get it right every time? Apparently not. But I don't think you look at inanimate objects as being responsible here. This is clearly between two human beings who made a bunch of bad decisions. Right?
LISA BLOOM, LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, please.
LEMON: Lisa, Lisa, listen.
BIDERMAN: Oh, please what? What does oh please mean? That's not a very intelligent -- what does oh please mean?
BLOOM: Can I expound?
LEMON: I'm going to ask her. She is going to get to it.
Go ahead, Lisa.
BLOOM: Listen, you set up a Web site so that married people can cheat on their spouses, you shouldn't be surprised if people use it for morally repugnant ends.
(CROSSTALK) BIDERMAN: Is that criminal? Is that a criminal act?
BLOOM: No, of course it's not criminal, but I don't know how you look at yourself in the mirror every day either.
LEMON: Lisa, go ahead.
BIDERMAN: What are you talking about? Why is that morally repugnant?
BLOOM: It's my turn now.
BIDERMAN: Is Bill Clinton a morally repugnant person?
LEMON: Hang on. Stop, Lisa. Hang on. Stop. Crosstalk is really so disrespectful to the audience. So, please, one at a time. I appreciate your passion.
But will you listen to me? Let Lisa speak.
And, Noel, you will get your turn.
Go ahead, Lisa.
BLOOM: Thank you.
CNN is set up for news. We turn it on to get news. If people want to cheat on their husband or wife, they can go on AshleyMadison.com. Don't pretend like it's morally neutral. Of course it shouldn't be illegal. But I don't know how you look at yourself in the mirror every day.
LEMON: Go ahead, Noel.
BIDERMAN: I guess because I'm not an attorney, so it's easy to look myself in the mirror.
The bottom line is, people have a right to pursue what they want in their own bedrooms. You might have a problem with people in interracial marriages. You might have a problem with people in same- sex relationships.
BIDERMAN: That's your own bigotry. That's your choice. That's your choice.
LEMON: Noel, what we're talking about here, we're talking about things that are illegal. That's not...
BLOOM: How does interracial marriage come into this?
LEMON: Neither of those things is illegal.
BIDERMAN: There is nothing illegal about having an affair. That's my point. There is nothing illegal about having an affair.
BLOOM: We all agree with that.
BIDERMAN: OK, great. So, then why are you judging me? No, your guests, they are judging me.
LEMON: We're also talking about things that are involving prostitution, Noel.
BIDERMAN: No. But what does that have to do...
BLOOM: Yes, I am judging him.
BIDERMAN: What does infidelity have to do with prostitution? Nothing.
BLOOM: Infidelity is lying to the most important person in your life, potentially bringing diseases into a relationship, breaking up families. Most of the world sees it as morally repugnant.
BIDERMAN: No, that isn't true at all. But that's your perspective, and you're entitled to it.
BLOOM: Oh, OK.
BIDERMAN: And the bottom line is that the Internet has changed the playing field.
The Internet has changed the playing field for women. Men have always been unfaithful. Non-monogamous behavior by men in strip clubs, massage parlors, and yes, with escorts has always gone on. But now women too are using the anonymity the Internet provides to start to level the playing field.
They have the economic freedoms. We don't punish them as a society as harshly. We don't paint them with scarlet letters or take away their children in custody hearings if they're unfaithful. And it turns out when you remove those inhibitions, women have affairs too. That might shock your guest, but she is not that educated on the topic of infidelity.
LEMON: Listen, Mark, I know you guys are raring to go. Lisa, you're raring to go. but just stand by, because we're going to talk more after the break.
Everybody, please stay with me.
Next, this isn't the first case this summer of a secret life turning deadly. I want to talk more than when we come right back.
LEMON: Welcome back, everyone.
Silicon Valley is home to fast brains, fast money, and fast crowds. Prosecutors say Google executive Forrest Hayes, his secret life turned fatal.
But Northern California is not the only place people are living double lives.
I'm back now with Noel Biderman, Jayne Weintraub, Mark O'Mara, and Lisa Bloom.
Mark, technology, is it making it easier for people to live double lives and have affairs?
O'MARA: Oh, without question.
The perceived anonymity of a digital existence makes it much easier to sort of distance yourself from your own morality. That's just what happens because it's so much easier to be somebody you want to be but know you shouldn't be when you're online.
Literally, by the time a child is 18 years of age, they have killed over 1,000 people in video games and online things. There is that type of disconnect. And when you have a place like Ashley Madison, you can make believe that it is just consenting adults, and it is.
And I'm well in favor of the Bill of Rights and the freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. But to suggest and to deny that that is attacking and degrading the moral fiber of our nation just ignores what you're doing.
At least own up to the fact that that is what it's there for. You certainly haven't come up with a Web site to feature monogamy. So, at least be honest about it.
LEMON: Jayne, what do you make of what Mark is saying? Do you think more people are leading double lives than we might realize?
WEINTRAUB: And I agree with Mark, obviously.
And it's easier access and less accountability. But that's our day- to-day life as well, isn't it? The problem here is that with the Internet comes all -- more access, more information. It comes down to, it's power. And with all power, we have to have responsibility and consequences.
And it's like we have to teach our kids or drill it into them. You know, there is no such thing as privacy anymore. I don't care what delete says. There is no delete. Once it's out there, it's out there. We have to have consequences, and realize that.
LEMON: Lisa, why do you think -- listen, and I took note to what Mark said. Mark said, the perceived anonymity.
LEMON: Why do you think, Lisa, that people go online and risk so much to have an affair? And that, you know, as Noel was saying, listen, it's not illegal. People are wanting to do it. They're consenting. But still, there is a huge risk here especially if you're looking at the story that we're profiling tonight.
BLOOM: Well, look, some people are just sleazebags, and they're always going to be. And they're going to find whatever they want to find online. I have a little different perspective respectfully from Jayne and Mark. I run a very busy civil rights law firm. And almost everyone in my cases, my best evidence is some kind of electronic evidence, a video, and audiotape, text, e-mails, in a sexual harassment case, what the boss sent by e-mail to his secretary is exhibit A for me in my case. That's fantastic. I'm in a race discrimination case all day today. We have a videotape of a brutal beating of my client. So, I think it's exactly the opposite. I think there is less anonymity. Everybody is pulling out a video camera. Everybody is audio recording. Everybody is saving those text and e- mails. And good for them, because it helps them get justice.
LEMON: Listen, Noel, you have heard people here talking about the morality of it, right? And here is what your website says. The world's leading married, dating service, where discreet encounters. It also says life is short. Have an affair. How do you defend this? I mean, do you ever think about the families that you are possibly breaking up?
BIDERMAN: Well, there is two points there. One is, what was the light bulb moment? The reason Ashley Madison was created is because so many people were going on to singles dating sites that weren't truly single. It was tempting to create a profile that had nothing to do with reality. Right? You could pretend to be that tall, dark, handsome architect if that's what somebody else was looking for. And so, you were really roping somebody else, an un-expecting individual into an affair.
And so Ashley Madison became that steam valve and a very successful one. And the second thing is, no tag line is going to convince anyone to have an affair. These are not, you know, anomalous people. These are your friends and neighbors. This is sitting presidents have had affairs. You know, the director of the CIA, your favorite athletes that you adore, entertainers. This is really everybody. The majority of people tend to struggle with monogamy. And so we as a society, to better and said, why, why are we so bad at being monogamous?
LEMON: Mark, you know, we talked about these parents, right? Parents should hold their kids responsible, or should parents be responsible for their kids bullying online, right? Another child online. You said that social media has reached the Wild Wild West phase. So, in all of these cases you're talking about now, is it ever really wholly possible, and especially for the owners of these websites to monitor their clients and to monitor a person's interaction online?
O'MARA: Well, they intentionally tell you that they're not going to monitor it. They can't. If Ashley Madison or anyone of these other ones suggest that they're going to monitor it, they would be out of business, because they can't do it. So, I understand what they're doing is, they're the portal for people to do something wrong. And I say wrong in the moral sense. They're going to do whatever they are going to do. But yes, the way that we look at the whole social media part of it, and I agree with Lisa. You know, that's why I said perceived anonymity. On the other side of that same coin is, everything that we think, do and say online is captured, and it's going to be used as evidence against us. Whether it's this case, a cyber bullying case, or any other case where somebody from Ashley Madison gets into an event and hurts somebody, or gets hurt because of their hookup through that website.
BIDERMAN: And it's not at all accurate that is not an accurate portrayal. You can, if you've been doing this for a decade, build algorithms for detection and hire hundreds of staff to make sure those profiles are legitimate. You are mistaken, sir. You actually don't know what you're talking about.
O'MARA: You know, I would love to be wrong, sir.
BIDERMAN: You would be blown away. You would be blown away. You are wrong.
O'MARA: I would like to be wrong --
LEMON: Let Mark finish. Go ahead, Mark.
O'MARA: I would like to think that what you're actually doing is only letting people on your website who have advised their family that they're going to go have an affair. If what you're doing is making --
BIDERMAN: Well, now you're getting into a whole bunch of nonsense.
O'MARA: Yes. Exactly.
LEMON: Noel, please, let him finish.
O'MARA: Sir --
LEMON: Yes, it is a point to let him finish. Noel, hang on. Noel, let him finish. Please. Noel, can you please be respectful and let him finish.
BIDERMAN: -- Listen to this nonsense.
LEMON: All right. Well, then, can we cut him off? Thank you very much. Can we cut his mic off? Go ahead, Mark. Finish what you were saying.
O'MARA: Noel, all I'm suggesting is I don't feign morality with an immoral website. I'm not saying that from some fundamentalist, religious perspective. What you do is you set out a portal so that people who wanted to cheat on their spouses do so in a way that most people would, as Lisa say, would consider immoral. Now obviously what you do because you have to or you would be shut down, you do make sure that they're not active prostitutes on it. But we know you missed at least one in this case. And I bet if the hundred people that you had on your website were actually 200, you would probably catch a lot more. The reality is you have to have a blind eye or you would never make the money you make.
O'MARA: I understand that is free enterprise. But don't make-believe you're acting in a moral way. That's all I'm suggesting.
LEMON: So thank you all. Listen, we let everybody have a voice on this show but you cannot be disrespectful to the other guests and to the host of the show and to the viewer by having cross talk. So, thank you all, everyone. Except, Lisa, Lisa, I want you to come back in again. Thanks Noel for joining me, we're going to be back shortly with Lisa for another segment.
LEMON: Coming up, a Texas teenager survived a massacre of her entire family in front of her very eyes. We'll talk to a young woman who survived another tragedy. Her advice for young Cassidy Stay. Stay with us.
LEMON: Welcome back, everyone. Today was the funeral for the six members of the stay family in Texas, shot to death in a brutal attack. Only 15-year-old Cassidy Stay survived. Her bravery touched the hearts of people all across America. CNN's Ted Rowlands has more now. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fifteen-year-old Cassidy Stay, the lone survivor last week shooting in Suburban Houston is getting some words of comfort and advice from Madonna Badger. Who like Cassidy lost her entire family. Badger's three daughters and parents all died in an a 2011 Christmas morning house fire in Stamford, Connecticut. While she survived the fire for years, she says she wished she died along with her family.
MADONNA BADGER, LOST HER THREE DAUGHTERS AND PARENTS IN A CHRISTMAS DAY FIRE: I prayed for that. And I screamed at God, you know, forever. Why didn't I die too, you know. Yes, that was -- I really wanted to die too.
ROWLANDS: In an open letter to Cassidy, Badger writes that love is what saved her, the love of my children and my parents that is still in my heart, and the love of friends and doctors and perfect strangers, accepting the love all around me has helped my forever broken heart. Try to let the love all around you in, and little by little you will feel a tiny bit better.
CASSIDY STAY, SHOOTING SURVIVOR: I know that my mom, dad, Brian, Emily, Becca, and Zack are in a much better place, and that I'll be able to see them again one day.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Cassidy Stay.
ROWLANDS: Cassidy made an unexpected appearance at a memorial for her family, and seemed to be incredibly strong.
STAY: I really like Harry Potter. In "The Prisoner of Azkaban," Dumbledore says, happiness can be found even in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the light.
ERIK FISHER, PSYCHOLOGIST AND AUTHOR: She is only 15. So, she's going to process his experience right now as a 15-year-old. She'll process it as her brain continues to develop and she continues to experience life, as a 20-year-old, a 25-year-old, throughout these different places in life.
ROWLANDS: Badger's letter to Cassidy, itself part of her own healing process makes it clear that the pain will never completely go away. "My sadness is still so deep, but it has changed. I accept it more now."
STAY: Stay strong.
ROWLANDS: Ted Rowlands, CNN.
LEMON: Thank you, Ted. An incredible young lady. Joining me now is Missy Jenkins Smith. She was only 15 when a school
shooting that killed her, three of her classmates and left her paralyzed from the chest down. But she has a message of hope. And she wrote about it in a book, it's called, "I Choose To Be Happy." Missy, I'm so glad you're joining us this evening, you were the victim of gun violence at high school. It's been 16 years. Do you think back to that day often?
MISSY JENKINS SMITH, AUTHOR, "I CHOOSE TO BE HAPPY": Yes, yes. And I would like to apologize, first. I'm sick. I'm starting to get hoarse voice. So hopefully you can understand me. But definitely this is something that affected me when I was 15 years old. And she has a lot of recovery and a long road to go. But she sounds like she's got a positive attitude.
LEMON: You mentioned that you were 15. She is 16, around the same age you were shot. What does Cassidy need most now, do you think?
SMITH: She definitely needs a lot of support. That is exactly what helped me get through this whole thing is the support of my friends, of everyone around the world. I really received 600 letters and 45 packages a day from people all over the world just supporting me. In any way possible. So she needs that support. So anybody from anywhere, I had people all over the world supporting me.
LEMON: You know, Madonna Badger faced an awful tragedy as well. And you've seen the letter from Madonna Badger to Cassidy Stay. It's a message of love and strength. Does that resonate with you?
SMITH: Oh, definitely, definitely. Every person that wrote to me, from all over the world were telling me that they're praying for me, that they were thinking about me. And then definitely what kept me going. And I really think what has brought me here today to be more positive, to write the book, "I Choose To Be Happy" because it is a choice you make. And I know that it is definitely something that Cassidy is going to have to do. She is going to have to make a choice on whether to be angry and mad about what happened or change the situation. Just admit that she could look for a positive thing and help others that might be suffering through this.
And kind of put, you know, kind of use it for good. You know, make sure that it doesn't always have to be negative. Because if we let the negative shine through, we're just letting that control us. And that's exactly what I felt I wanted to live. I had a second chance out of life. I wanted to turn that tragedy into something positive. And she can do the same. But you just kind of have to make that choice. But with the support of friends and the family that she has, she can do that.
LEMON: I think it's amazing that you forgive the boy who shot you almost immediately. You visited him in the hospital. And of course your book "I Choose To Be Happy," we're going to talk much more. Stay with me, Missy. Because when we come right back, more messages of hope for people who have experienced tragedy.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: Welcome back, everyone. We are talking about Texas teen Cassidy Stay who survived the massacre of her family, and the help that she'll need to put her life back together.
Joining me now is psychologist Ken Druck, the author of "The Real Rules of Life" and founder of "The Jenna Druck Center," named in honor of his daughter who was killed in a bus crash in India.
And then back with me also, is Missy Jenkins Smith and Lisa Bloom. Ken, to you first, you lost your daughter Jenna as you said in a tragic bus accident when she was traveling in India. But both Madonna Badger and Cassidy Stay lost their entire families. How do you even begin to help someone whose loss is so profound? Where do you start?
KEN DRUCK, FOUNDER, "THE JENNA DRUCK CENTER": Yes, there is no way of possibly for any of us to possibly understand the magnitude of that kind of a loss. Basically, you're family and your life as you knew it is obliterated, and you're starting from scratch. And so it's admirable that they can even get to the next breath. And to see a young woman standing up on behalf of her family, and to see another family, another person whose whole family was lost paying it forward and giving her core advice is extremely admiral. But we have to be really careful. When we start using words like negative and when we start telling people they have to be positive, we're skipping over one of the most important elements of grieving, and that is the choice less phase that we go through where we may be in shock, but the shock is going to wear off and reality is going to set in.
LEMON: But I wonder at her age, though, as a teenager, how much do you think she understands of what is going on?
DRUCK: Well, you know what? She is getting -- she's surrounded by support. She's obviously still in shock. And we do remarkable things in shock. I gave my daughter's eulogy. Ask me if I could do that today. I probably couldn't. We do amazing things and we're surrounded by enormous support. The important thing is sustainable support so that when the reality begins to set in, and it begins to hit her as to what has happened and all the choices she has about where to go from here, that there is just as much, if not more support around her. And that's the key.
LEMON: Lisa, you work for, you know, many victims of violent crime. What advice do you give to your clients to help them recover from situations like this?
DRUCK: Well, the first thing is that --
LEMON: This is for Lisa.
BLOOM: You have to have a very powerful support system around you, be it family members, friends, groups of other like people. You know, that's for the therapist. That's for the counselors. I'm the lawyer. But I'll tell you. I get so much more from my clients than they get from me. I represent a 12-year-old girl who was sexually abused, she is brave enough to come forward. She doesn't want to hide her face. She doesn't mind saying her name. She says why should I be ashamed. Let him hide his head in shame.
You know, these are the people who are inspirational to me, people who suffer from a terrible tragedy and keep going, keep going forward, often have so much profound wisdom to offer the rest of us and make the rest of us feel like why are we complaining about silly little trivial things in our life when people can go forward after these terrible crises and be so inspirational to the rest of us.
LEMON: Missy, I want you to listen. I want everyone to listen to what Cassidy's grandfather said at the memorial for his murdered family member.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER LYONS, CASSIDY STAY'S GRANDFATHER: Difficult to imagine how we will ever move on. The best way we think is to concentrate on the living, to cling to the hope of a life that has emerged in this terrible darkness, to all the lives that were spared, including our own.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Missy, he says concentrate on the living. We saw Cassidy speak at the memorial service. She was very courageous. But what lies ahead for her?
SMITH: Well, I definitely think that she needs to make sure that she talks to anyone about this. I really feel like ever since this happened to me, to talk to other people, to share what I experienced, it definitely helped me go through this and to get through this. And I also kind of have made it my mission to help prevent what happened to me from happening to anyone else. And so if, you know, you look for a positive mission in what you can in the situation that was created. And it's almost, you know, it's been 16 years. And I really feel like that's what helped me get through this, the support, and then just making it my mission to do that. Because I really truly believe that it's part of my purpose. That's what helps keep me going, if I can put a positive thing on it.
LEMON: Missy, if you can answer this quickly, you know, I asked a question to Ken earlier how much might she understand at this age. How much did you understand at that age?
SMITH: At that age, I did. It was something that I never thought would happen to me. You know, at 15, 16, you kind of watch and think oh, it happens to other people. You think that you're invincible. But once it happened to me, I kind of then had to grow up faster. I saw some things I never thought I would see in my life. It was a bit difficult to understand some of the things that I was learning. But I think I did have to grow up faster than most 15, 16-year-olds.
LEMON: Missy Jenkins, Ken Druck and also Lisa Bloom, thank you very much. I appreciate you joining us here on CNN.
SMITH: Thank you.
LEMON: We'll be right back. But first here is your "The Sixties" minute.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Three, two, one, zero. We have liftoff.
(singing): There is something happening here but what it is ain't exactly clear.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: The space race was about our own sense of security.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We didn't know whether a human could survive in space. And the soviets send this guy to space and he survived.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We were in a race, and the Russians were the bad guys. And they were winning this race.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I would say for most of "The Sixties," we had a sense of being behind.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I believe that this nation should commit itself to landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.
(Singing): Stop, what's that sound.
ANDREW CHAIKIN, AUTHOR: It was a moment when the whole world kind of stopped in their tracks.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: All of human experience will be divided into two eras, before man walked on the moon and after man walked on the moon.
"The Sixties" tomorrow night on CNN.
LEMON: This is CNN TONIGHT tomorrow, the stories you'll be talking about tomorrow. First up, Israel and Hamas have agreed to a temporary ceasefire for five hours tomorrow to address humanitarian needs. This follows the deaths today of four Palestinian boys killed by an exploding Israeli shell. The ongoing violence has killed one Israeli and more than 200 Palestinians. And meanwhile, President Obama today expanded economic sanctions imposed on Russia, adding Russian banks, energy, and defense companies to the list of targets. He is calling on Russia to stop supporting Ukrainian separatists with weapons and manpower.
And it's the coast guard to the rescue. One hundred and eighteen passengers and crew aboard the casino boat escapade were transferred off the ship when it ran aground off Tybee Island, Georgia. There are no reports of injuries.
That's it for me tonight. Thank you so much for joining us. I'll see you back here next week on CNN. "AC360" starts right now. Good night.