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PRIMETIME JUSTICE WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD

Did Teen Cheerleader Burn, Bury Baby Girl?; Breaking Her Silence; Gruesome Details; Aired 8-9p ET

Aired September 27, 2017 - 20:00:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEW PHELPS, CHARGED WITH MURDER: I think I killed my wife.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, HOST (voice-over): A husband`s desperate call to 911.

PHELPS: I have blood all over me...

BANFIELD: His voice altered, but not his words.

PHELPS: I had a dream, and then I turn on the lights and she`s dead on the floor.

BANFIELD: His wife a bloody mess dead on the bedroom floor.

PHELPS: She`s not moving. Oh, my God.

BANFIELD: His excuse on the call...

PHELPS: I took more medicine than I should have.

BANFIELD: Too much cold medicine. But now he is charged with murder.

PHELPS: I know it can make you feel good.

BANFIELD: And he`ll have to tell that to the jury.

PHELPS: I don`t know what I -- oh, God!.

BANFIELD: A high school cheerleader accused of killing and burning her newborn baby two days after prom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can tell you that Brooke Skylar Richardson (ph) did not kill her baby.

BANFIELD: Her family defends her, saying the baby was stillborn and that no one knew she was pregnant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Skylar and her family, particularly her mother, were pretty obsessed with external appearances and how things appear to the

outside.

BANFIELD: But does her prom dress reveal her secret?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In her mind, this was not something that was going to be accepted.

BANFIELD: A 15-year-old disappears with her married teacher.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to get back home.

BANFIELD: 39 days on the run.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This ain`t (INAUDIBLE)

BANFIELD: Her family worried sick.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whatever he`s telling you is a lie.

BANFIELD: She`s found in the mountains thousands of miles from home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had a picture of this Amber Alert (INAUDIBLE) Tennessee, or whatnot. And then, like, (INAUDIBLE) That`s the guy.

BANFIELD: Now Elizabeth Thomas is breaking her silence, and what she says about that teacher just might surprise you.

An elementary school teacher found dead inside her home, the details gruesome, Vanessa McCormick (ph) violently killed, her husband a broken man

overcome with emotion. And prosecutors say he should be because he is now charged with her murder.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God.

BANFIELD: And terror on the streets, a madman behind the wheel wreaking havoc at a middle school all the while terrified on-lookers record his

rampage. And the man they arrested can barely open his eyes for his mug shot.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD: Good evening. I`m Ashleigh Banfield. This is PRIMETIME JUSTICE.

I have made all sorts of excuses for just about everything in my life. And chances are, you`ve come up with a couple of doozies, too -- dog ate my

homework, I overslept, and I killed my wife because I took too much cold medicine.

If that last one sounds outlandish, I`d like you to meet Matthew Phelps, a preacher man who`s charged with stabbing his wife to death in the middle of

the night in their bedroom.

Phelps called 911 and told the operator he`d taken so much cold medicine, Coricidin, that his nightmare turned out to be true. His wife Lauren was

lying on the floor covered in blood. He himself was covered in blood. And then there was that bloody knife. It was just lying there on the bed

beside him.

Here is his 911 call. A word of warning. If he sounds drugged to you, if he sounds unemotional to you, that may not be the case because the state of

North Carolina disguises the voices of all of its 911 callers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

911 OPERATOR: 911. What`s the address of your emergency? Tell me exactly what happened.

PHELPS: I think I killed my wife.

911 OPERATOR: What do you mean by that? What happened?

PHELPS: I had a dream, and then I turn on the lights and she`s dead on the floor.

911 OPERATOR: How? How?

PHELPS: I`m -- I`m -- I have blood all over me, and there`s a bloody knife on the bed. And I think I did it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Matthew says he is clueless as to how this happened. And he tells the operator why he thinks the cold medicine might actually be the

culprit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PHELPS: I took more medicine than I should have.

911 OPERATOR: What medicine did you take?

PHELPS: I took -- I took Coricidin Cough & Cold (INAUDIBLE) because I know it can make you feel good, so -- a lot of the times, I can`t sleep at

night.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[20:05:08]BANFIELD: Well, in the end, neither the police nor the prosecutors believed Matthew`s story about the cough medicine and the whole

bit. And it`s a safe bet the grand jury wasn`t buying it, either, because just this week, they indicted this aspiring pastor on first degree murder.

And no matter what Matthew`s God says about killing, he could get the death penalty in the state of North Carolina.

Pat Lalama is the managing editor for "Crimewatch Daily With Chris Hansen," and she joins me live from Los Angeles.

I always think, Pat, that I have heard it all. But cough medicine for the butchering of your wife in the bedroom in the middle of the night, this one

is really quite something. So question. Is this going to be his defense? Is he actually going to use this going forward with the trial?

PAT LALAMA, MANAGING EDITOR, "CRIME WATCH DAILY WITH CHRIS HANSEN": I think what you`re going to find here is a lot of really interesting legal

debate over how to approach this.

On a general level, inebriation is not a defense, but I`ve been doing some reading, Ashleigh, and this is what`s really interesting to me. Ever since

hearing about this case, I`ve done a little investigation, and there`s actually -- I`m not going to call it an epidemic, but there`s actually this

problem particularly within the military with something called the "triple C effect," Coricidin Cough & Cold. Many young people are using it to get a

really big high. And there is clear evidence that you can, in fact, become psychotic. You can hallucinate.

Two of the things that he said in his 911 calls stood out to me. One was that the blood seemed dry. So clearly, she had been dead for a while. But

he also said, I know it makes you feel good, which makes me -- and he`s had sleeping issues -- which makes me wonder if he has a problem, and will the

issue of psychosis also -- that it has a PCP-style effect -- will that change it for -- in his favor when they get to the defense table?

BANFIELD: Here`s the other thing. You don`t typically hear aspiring pastor butchers his wife. These are just not sort of, you know, coexisting

ideas. And the fact that they had just been married not even a year. They actually had this really adorable "Star Wars" themed wedding. They seemed

very happy. She was actually a Sunday school teacher. Here they are in the "Star Wars" outfits.

So none of this is congruous, Pat. Is that going to help this young man as he moves forward with a death penalty potential here on the table?

LALAMA: I think -- you and I have both covered so many cases over so may years, and I do think that things aren`t always as they appear. I think

there`s a potential there were other issues. We don`t know. It was less than a year, but that doesn`t necessarily mean eternal bliss for a lot of

couples. Things go wrong. I have no information.

I am telling you I`m going to make a prediction here. I have no facts upon which to base this. I think this man -- we will find he does probably have

an issue with this cough medicine. Whether it translates, as some scientific arenas have indicated, into psychosis, maniacal behavior,

hallucinations, then we`ll see what a defense attorney tries to do with that.

BANFIELD: I want to play a little bit more of his call. Here`s the problem, Pat. I said it before, I`ll say it again. I`m having trouble

reading into it. I always like to hear the tone of voice, the level of panic. And I think everybody wants that. Juries certainly listen, you

know, acutely to those 911 calls when they`re introduced at trial. They want to know exactly what happened at the moment.

This one`s hard. This one`s hard because the state of North Carolina won`t give us the unadulterated version of the call. So we just have to kind of

guess for ourselves and use his words, as opposed to his demeanor. Have a listen again as he talks about his wife not breathing.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

PHELPS: She`s not breathing. Oh, my God! Yes, it`s so bad. (INAUDIBLE) I don`t know what I -- oh, my God. My God! (INAUDIBLE) Oh, my God!

911 OPERATOR: Just look at her right now (INAUDIBLE) Tell me what you see. Is the chest moving, is she breathing, anything at all?

PHELPS: No, she`s not moving at all! (WEEPS) She didn`t deserve this. Why?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: So Pat, I don`t have much more to go on in terms of his voice and what he actually sounds like, but I am going to play this for you and

for our audience. When he actually, after that horrible night, was led into the courtroom for one of those typical first appearances, he has to

answer the judge. He has to answer a question. So we hear his voice for the first time, and at least there`s that comparison. Have a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[20:10:04]UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are Matthew James Phelps, is that correct?

PHELPS: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Phelps, you`ve been charged with one count of murder. Sir, you could receive the death penalty or life without the

possibility of parole.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: So you can hear there, Pat, he has a higher voice than obviously on that tape. So that tape was slowed down significantly in the

adulteration of it. I don`t know why North Carolina does it, but they do.

Stand by for a second, Pat. I want to bring in Dr. Tim Gallagher. He`s a medical and a forensic pathologist. He joins me from Daytona Beach,

Florida.

Doctor, this is such a confounding defense. It`s not a technical defense yet, but it is an initial defense on the 911 call that this young man, who

by all accounts seemed pretty distraught over all of this, Matthew Phelps, says, I took too much Coricidin cough medicine.

Is that at all possible to think you`re having a nightmare, to think you`re killing your wife, to actually come out of the cough medication and see

that it actually happened? Is it plausible to you, sir?

DR. TIM GALLAGHER, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST, MEDICAL EXAMINER (via telephone): Well, you know, it would depend on the level of cough medicine in his

system. You know, I would think that if the police or law enforcement was suspicious that this caused his behavior, then they should have at least

taken a blood sample immediately or taken him to a hospital where he can get his blood drawn immediately.

You know, as you know, sometimes when people tell you what they took, they sort of leave a few things out. So his toxicology results would be very

important in determining, you know, if this could happen. But just going over the medication...

BANFIELD: Yes, I`m just thinking -- Doctor, actually, when you say that, they legally do -- I mean, hopefully, they took a blood sample. And then

they legally extrapolate backward in time so that they can assess, you know, have you come down off of it so much so that while you`re here in

front of us, you seem just fine, but they can discuss sort of what can happen three hours prior, two hours prior. They do it for DUI all the

time.

I guess the question is, let`s say they did that, let`s say he took the cough medicine. Let`s say he had a ton of it in his system. Does it still

sound plausible to you that you can knife your wife to death and think it`s all a nightmare?

GALLAGHER: Yes, it`s difficult to say because the -- you know, I think a few of the side effects were mentioned, you know, anxiety being one,

hallucinations being another one. But there`s no record of there being violent behavior as a side effect of these medications. And that`s exactly

what happened here.

So I would be very skeptical that this medication caused violent behavior. I would agree that it would cause the hallucinations, but there`s no

information saying that it caused someone to behave in this type manner.

BANFIELD: So Doctor, when I read that Coricidin, you know, which by the way is over the counter and -- you know, and taken off-label and not

according to directions can cause euphoria, agitation, psychosis and dissociative phenomena. Are those very fancy terms -- in plain English, do

they mean you can be violent?

CASAREZ: Well, you know, everyone is an individual, you know. You know, euphoria -- well, that`s a feeling of well-being, you know, so violence

would probably not be connected to that. Disassociation, you know, probably not. You know, hallucination, you know, I think of -- I think a

lot of people have taken too much Coricidin and there`s no record of anybody who reacted violently because of it.

You know, I think here a toxicology result would be more evidence of this happening, rather than what he said he did. I mean, he doesn`t even

remember killing his wife. How does he know how much he took from the bottle? You know, that information would be very sketchy.

BANFIELD: That`s an excellent point. In fact, I just want to play something, if I can, from Matthew Phelps`s lawyer, and his name is Joe

Cheshire. He talks a little bit about what Matthew is going through.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE CHESHIRE, ATTORNEY FOR MATTHEW PHELPS: He`s been through a hell of a trauma. We have to ask everybody to withhold judgment in this particular

case until we know more. Hopefully, at the end, we`ll solve all the mysteries that surround this case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: I want to bring in Troy Slaten, if I can, defense attorney. He`s with me live from Los Angeles. Troy, you got a preacher man, you got

a wife deceased now. She was a Sunday school teacher. By all accounts from the outside, they were adorable. Got the "Star Wars" wedding.

They`re kind of newlyweds, hadn`t even made it to a year.

Is this the kind of case a prosecutor says, yes, I`m going to go for the death penalty, or do you hold back, hope for maybe a successful

prosecution, but you don`t overreach?

[20:15:02]TROY SLATEN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Prosecutors, in order to seek the death penalty, usually need some sort of special circumstance, not just

that you killed someone even intentionally, but that there be something else, that you were lying in wait or you killed multiple people. It needs

to be something other than just a murder.

But Pat Lalama said something very interesting, that the voluntary intoxication, inebriation is not a defense. However, involuntary

intoxication is a defense. So if he didn`t understand what the full effects of this medication could be, if he didn`t even understand what

would happen if he took too much of this medication, then that could very well be a defense to murder in this case.

BANFIELD: It`s a fascinating case. I`m going to ask you to stay on, Troy, for a minute, but my great thanks to Pat Lalama and also Dr. Tim Gallagher

for joining us.

I now want to show you a very pretty picture. It`s a picture of Brooke Skylar Richardson, gorgeous. That`s her prom dress. And I want you to

look really closely at Brooke Skylar Richardson and see if you notice anything unusual about the picture. Her family says that they had no idea

at the moment this picture was taken that Skylar, as she goes, was actually pregnant, and not just a little pregnant, a whole lot of pregnant, like two

days away from giving birth. And the reason this matters is because if there is a baby under that prom dress, that baby ended up dead and burned

and buried in Skylar`s back yard.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:21:00]BANFIELD: Senior prom is one of those benchmark moments in your life, love it or hate it, and buying that prom dress is a very big deal.

It has to fit just right, make you look awesome, I dare say these days even sexy.

So if you`re nine months pregnant and you`re hiding it from your friends and family, it`s an uphill battle to find a prom dress that checks all

those boxes and still keeps your baby bump a secret.

But and Skylar Richardson, a cheerleader and honor student, may have done it. Or did she? Because if the police have it right, two days after prom,

Skylar gave birth to a baby girl, killed her, burned her and buried her in the family`s back yard.

And that is why this next picture of Skylar is not as flattering. It is Skylar`s mugshot after she was arrested for aggravated murder. And I will

remind you that in the state of Ohio, that`s the kind of thing that carries with it the death penalty.

So you can understand that this cheerleader`s story is making huge headlines in her community. After all, she reportedly worked at a day care

and the local YMCA. And her attorney continues to insist Skylar is a good girl.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLES RITTGER, BROOKE SKYLAR RICHARDSON`S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I can tell you that Brooke Skylar Richardson did not kill her baby. And I will have

more to come as we receive the discovery, which is what the prosecutor claims supports his indictment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: So she goes by Skylar. And she is not waiting out this murder trial in a jail cell because she bonded out on $50,000. So she`s sitting

at home in an ankle bracelet. And let`s just say there are some people in the community who are not happy about that, either.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She could have took other precautions. She could have an abortion, which a lot of us don`t believe in it, but she could have

took that. She could have took the safe haven laws here in Ohio. She could have put the baby up for adoption.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: There is so much attention on this case that the judge actually slapped a gag order on it, a gag order for the prosecutor, a gag order for

Skylar and a gag order for Skylar`s parents.

But they did not include the extended family in that. So now that extended family is talking, and they`re all saying that nobody except Skylar even

knew she was pregnant. So I bring you back to that prom dress, that photograph. It is really, really hard, even when you take a good long look

at that photograph, to think that maybe she`s not or to think that maybe nobody really thought she was. Then again...

John Bedell is an anchor and reporter with CNN affiliate WHIO-TV, and he joins me from Dayton, Ohio. All right, so John, the facts in the case, the

photograph aside -- is it true that the family is saying or at least will contend in this case that Skylar had no idea that this baby was alive, that

Skylar believed the baby was stillborn, i.e., there`s no murder? Is that where this is going?

JOHN BEDELL, WHIO-TV: Yes, that`s what the family claimed, the extended family claimed this week, that this child that she had at her home in

Carlisle, where she lived, was stillborn and that the family said that, yes, she delivered the baby. It was stillborn at home. She got scared,

blamed herself for possibly this child being stillborn, this baby girl, as we`ve learned from prosecutors. And then the family admitted in this

interview that she had buried it at home. And they say, Was it improper? Yes, but was it murder, as that she`s been charged with, aggravated murder?

No. So they claim that, yes, she did know she was pregnant and that she gave birth to a stillborn baby.

BANFIELD: I`m going to get to that whole business of whether that baby was stillborn or not and what the prosecutors have to say about that. But

first, to the whole notion that this family had no idea because, I mean, if you look at the picture, you don`t have to be a rocket scientist at this

point to think maybe there`s something going on with Skylar at prom. The dress is a mermaid fit. And you can see her tummy.

[20:25:12]Her family has said in this Cincinnati magazine article that they did -- this is the extended family, again, not covered by the gag order --

that Skylar had had an eating disorder and had bulimia and had been very, very thin so that they were thrilled that she was becoming curvy.

So now with that in the context, take a good, long look at that picture. Would you think Skylar is just curvy in her prom dress, or would you see,

you know, a baby bump? And I`m going to tell you when it comes to that whole rocket scientist thing, here`s what the prosecutor, David Fornshell,

had to say about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID FORNSHELL, WARREN COUNTY PROSECUTOR: I think it`s fair to say that there were a significant number of people in her life who had strong

suspicions. I mean, she`s 38 to 40 weeks pregnant at the prom, which is two days before this happens, wearing, you know, fairly tight attire. It

doesn`t take a -- you know, a rocket scientist to recognize that she might be pregnant.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: So John, is there a possibility that other people may end up charged in all of this? I mean, she`s at home, presumably with some family

members at home when this happens. Are the investigators going the route of the family helping her do this?

BEDELL: So that is something that I asked David Fornshell, the Warren County prosecutor, Ashleigh, in that sound bite you just played. That was

from August 4th. That was the day that Skylar was indicted on that list of five charges, the most serious of which, again, is aggravated murder.

And I asked him, Did anybody else, one, know she was pregnant, and also, is anybody else being charged here? Right now, the answer is still as it was

on August 4th, no. But when Fornshell answered that question that I`d asked about, Is anybody else getting swept up in these criminal charges, he

said that right now, as of August 4th, no, but that the investigation, he stressed, was still open and that he said if they discovered evidence as

they go forward that suggested someone else besides Skylar needed to be criminally charged, he would do that. But as of today, no, no one else has

been criminally charged (INAUDIBLE) so far.

BANFIELD: So interesting because you saying that you`d had these conversations -- I was listening in to the conversations that you and the

rest of the local media had with David Fornshell, that prosecutor, when he gave his press conference obviously before the gag order. He`s not talking

now. He`s not allowed. But I was trying to listen in to the idea of motive. We all want to know, My God, why, why, why, why would this happen?

And he was pretty specific about it, and the press pressed him on it.

I want to play for you and our audience, as well, this amazing moment where he talked about why he thought this happened. And It all had to do with

being obsessed with appearances. Have a listen to David Fornshell, the prosecutor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORNSHELL: Skylar and her family, particularly her mother, were pretty obsessed with external appearances and how things appear to the outside

world. And you have a situation where, you know, she`s a -- she`s a cute high school grad, recent high school graduate. She was a cheerleader, a

described good girl by her attorney, as you heard after the arraignment. And I think that kind of perception is one that Skylar wanted to perpetuate

and her mother wanted to perpetuate.

If members of the community were to find out that the Richardson girl was pregnant and perhaps gave birth and even if after giving birth gave that

child up for adoption, that was something that simply was not going to be accepted in that house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you`re describing a spoiled self-entitled teenager who was more worried about vanity than keeping the life of a baby alive.

That sounds really horrible.

FORNSHELL: Those are your words.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Wow. You see the smile? "Those are your words." But a smile.

I want to bring back Dr. Tim Gallagher. He joins me again. He`s a medical examiner, forensic pathologist. Listen, you know what, Dr. Gallagher, they

were very clear, the prosecutors, in why they believe this is a murder and not a stillborn, which is what, you know, Skylar`s family contends. And I

want to actually play exactly what they said because I think a doctor needs to explain it to me. Have a listen to what David Fornshell said about this

baby actually being born alive. This is from that press conference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORNSHELL: I`m not going to speculate on exactly how long the child was born other than to say that the grand jury certainly found probable cause

that this child was born alive and then the defendant purposefully caused the child`s death.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: So Doctor, how does it work? Prosecutors can`t pinpoint the cause of death, but they can definitely say that baby was born alive. As a

doctor, can they?

GALLAGHER: Yes. You know, Ashleigh, there are a few things that we can do with the body to determine that, and one of them would, of course, require

an autopsy. We can look at the lungs and examine the lungs for air. If there`s air in the lungs, then that may be an indication the child did

breathe and was born alive.

The other thing we could do is look in the intestine, look in the stomach, see if there`s any food, did the mother try to feed the child. That would

also indicate that the child was born alive. But because of the decomposition, this is not available to us. But that doesn`t mean there`s

nothing we can do. There are a still a few tests we can do with the remains.

And one of them would be to check the remains for DNA. I was speaking to my colleague, Dr. Cecille Tapia-Santiago, and she indicated that there are

some DNA defects in the remains that could indicate a nonviable fetus --

BANFIELD: Wow.

GALLAGHER (via telephone): -- which was the defects are of such intensity that there would be no way for the child to survive outside of the mother.

BANFIELD: I mean, that`s so fascinating. Obviously, I think you`ve got to have more degrees than a circle to know that. If you`re Skylar`s age, and I

dare say even mine, you may not know that. And so that will be, you know, obviously very interesting in court. Thank you to John Bedell (ph). Thank

you again to Dr. Gallagher.

Elizabeth Thomas. Remember that name? Elizabeth Thomas is breaking her silence, and she is speaking candidly about being abducted allegedly by her

51-year-old married teacher. Why the teenager says she has no regrets about that cross country journey until she was finally found.

[20:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: A 15-year-old runs off from her rural Tennessee home. Investigators say she was convinced to do it by her married 50-year-old

teacher. The story of Elizabeth Thomas made huge headlines nationwide. And she is finally breaking her silence months after the ordeal.

She`s now back at home after that nationwide odyssey took her thousands of miles away. But Tad Cummins, that teacher, is in the world of trouble.

Authorities believe that married, father of two convinced her to live with him. Nearly 40 days on the run, they were finally found living in a shed in

Northern California.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK GYWN, DIRECTOR, TENNESSEE BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: Elizabeth Thomas is a beautiful 15-year-old girl. She`s loved by her friends, her family, and

the community of Columbia. This afternoon, we couldn`t be happier to tell you she will soon be on her way back home to Tennessee.

This morning authorities in Siskiyou County followed up on a tip called into TBI headquarters late last night and found Elizabeth and arrested Tad

Cummins. She will soon be on her way back home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Well, she made it home, but Tad did not, because Tad is facing federal kidnapping and sex crimes charges. But the scars of what happened

to Elizabeth while allegedly in his clutches will not be forgotten any time soon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTHONY THOMAS, FATHER OF ELIZABETH THOMAS: She`s going to actually need trauma therapy. Sometimes, she`ll be happy and laughing, and back to the

same old girl, and then she`ll be sometimes just in a fetal position crying. It`s a roller coaster for her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: And now nearly six months after first disappearing, Elizabeth is talking, and what she has to say is surprising. Although if you really

think about it, what she has to say may not be surprising. If that makes sense to you, well, she sounds like a young girl who is still dealing with

the after effects of trauma giving an interview to the Columbia Daily Herald.

James Bennett is the editor of the Columbia Daily Herald, and he`s the one who spoke with Elizabeth Thomas. He joins me from Columbia, Tennessee.

Thanks so much for joining me tonight, James. First and foremost, how did she seem when you came across her in a restaurant?

JAMES BENNETT, EDITOR, COLUMBIA DAILY HERALD: Well, she seemed to be absolutely fine. She seemed like she was there on a babysitting job with a

couple of kids in the middle of a fast food restaurant trying to keep up with the two that she was looking after.

I managed to go up to her and say, Mary Catherine, is that you? This is James from the newspaper. And right away she was receptive to that. And I

asked her if I could take her picture. And she --

BANFIELD: So these are the pictures we`re looking at, right? She`s wearing sort of pajama bottoms and the red t-shirt.

BENNETT: She was wearing a t-shirt and pajama bottoms. And I said, are you sure you that you want me to take your picture wearing pajamas and a t-

shirt? And she said, well, no problem, that`s what I wear most of the time, anyway. She seemed like she was just like any other teenager that you might

see in a fast food restaurant having a drink and a sandwich.

[20:40:00] I think later on in her Facebook page, she was getting a little bit of feedback about the outfit she was wearing, and she said, give it a

break, people, I was just wanting to get a sandwich.

BANFIELD: I do it all the time. I`ll just put that out there. I drive my kids to school in pajama bottoms all the time. So, I`m with Elizabeth on

that.

Let me ask you a little bit -- look, that`s the kind of interview you are masterful at being able to do it because you are dealing with a young woman

who has been traumatized and allegedly at the hands of Tad Cummins has been terribly victimized, whether she knows it or not, because she`s 15, and who

knows if Elizabeth was madly in love.

It is not a 15-year-old`s fault, but that can happen. Did you get any sense that she was (INAUDIBLE) for this man, who`s charged with abducting her?

BENNETT: Well, I did not get that sense, but I can tell you that during the entire interview, I was doing it with kid gloves on. I was sort of like

Gordon Ramsay on the "Junior Iron Chef" where he`s very, very kind to the younger contestants as opposed to older once who come on his show.

I got the sense that she was six months, five months removed from it, that she had gone through therapy. She seemed very independent. She seemed very

spirited. She seemed very confident in the comments she was making. So, that`s the impression that I got right away. I didn`t get any impression

whatsoever one way or the other about Tad Cummins from the interview.

BANFIELD: So let me ask you this. Her family member said in that interview, you know, quite some time ago, that she`s going to need a lot of trauma

therapy. That`s what he said. I think it was his brother who actually said that to "Good Morning America."

And did Elizabeth say to you that she`d been through -- and correct me if I`m wrong here, James, 78 days of therapy and that it was way too long?

BENNETT: That`s exactly right. I asked her where she had been since she came back. She said that she went to Jackson, Tennessee for therapy. I

asked her if it was about three months and she said it was 78 days, and she said it was way too long.

Now, as far as the therapy is concerned, she just turned 16 years old. She`s probably someone in her mind, feels like she`s bulletproof, she

doesn`t need anything like that.

But I think her team around her, her medical team, her legal team, her family wanted her to go through that so she could get back on her feet and

then be able to come back to her hometown and be able to readjust to where she`s been and see her old friends, people who would bring up this case to

her over and over and over again.

BANFIELD: Sure, yes.

BENNETT: She mentioned to me in the interview that she wanted to come by and talk with me about some issues and of course there were things going on

around town, things that maybe she wanted to discuss and maybe at some point she will in the future when she gets to be a little bit older.

But like I said, in the interview that I did, it was with a little bit of kid gloves. I have a 15-year-old daughter. I was sensitive to what was

happening with her.

BANFIELD: I want to just really quickly read if I can a quote from your interview with her. You asked her, do you regret having left town? She

answers, I don`t regret it nor do I say it was the right thing to do. It was an experience I`ll have to live with the rest of my life. It`s there no

matter what we do. I`ll have to deal with it.

Just quickly, I want the close, James, by asking you with those words on the screen, do you think she`s going to, A, testify against Tad, or B, be

able to testify against Tad?

BENNETT: Well, those were sort of powerful words that she ended the interview on. And it does sound like that she has a little bit of mixed

feelings about things. That`s the question, whether or not she will. I suspect that she will. They`re gathering, the criminal case is going to

start in January.

She would be a big part of the prosecution of Tad Cummins, but listen, even if she doesn`t testify, even if she`s not even called in this case by the

prosecution, they have so much evidence related to the case as you`ve gone over on your show dozens of times, that they`re going to have a pile (ph)

against Tad Cummins.

BANFIELD: James, way to go. I mean, like I said, spontaneous interview of someone that delicate is not easy to do. And I think you extracted a lot of

information in a gentle and delicate way. I really appreciate you sharing that with us. Thank you.

BENNETT: Well, thank you. Thank you for inviting me on your show and keep up the good work.

BANFIELD: Oh, bless your heart. Thank you.

I want to switch gears for a minute here. I want to talk about this beautiful young second grade teacher. She is no longer with us because she

was found murdered in her own home, and the police say they have a mountain of evidence on why it`s the man in these pictures, her own husband, who is

facing murder charges despite massive crocodile tears after she was discovered dead.

Apple is using fingerprint, MasterCard wants to use your heartbeat, and Google is working on monitoring speech patterns. One day, biometrics could

make passwords go the way of the dinosaur. But here`s a tip. Beware of these new

[20:45:00] authentication technologies. They are more sophisticated and exciting, but like passwords, they present risks. For starters, if there is

a security breach, you can`t change your fingerprint, your eyes or your face. Unless you think you`re going to have a choice to use the password

instead, biometrics are gaining ground every day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: A Boston area dad says he returned home with his little 1-year- old daughter in tow to complete and utter family devastation.

[20:50:00] His wife was dead in their home in the Boston suburb of Chelsea. Police say Vanessa MacCormack had been beaten savagely, and it`s hard to

imagine when you look at this beautiful wedding picture that this woman had some missing teeth, multiple sharp injuries to her neck.

Investigators say it looked like she`d even been strangled. Her head was in a trash bag. So, it takes a certain kind of home invader to execute that

kind of brutality. Now, officers say her husband called 911 after finding the body. But there is something very curious about that Andrew, that

husband.

Neighbors saw him very upset, crying, hugging a whole bunch of folks outside when the police arrived on the scene. But police say he played that

grieving husband all too well because the investigators say they think that Andrew killed his wife.

In fact, they have even more to the story. They say he took out a bunch of cash, he bought a bunch of drugs, and then called 911. All the while his

baby daughter along for the ride. They say his motive was the marriage was ending, and you can read for yourself what you think about that because

there is a text message exchange recovered from Vanessa`s phone and it`s a doozy.

August 31st, Vanessa says, I hate you so much. You`ve ruined our daughter`s life because she won`t have her parents together. I`ll talk to an agent

tomorrow about listing the house and I`ll look into divorce lawyers. Andrew responds, you`re crazy. I`m not signing anything to sell the house or get

divorced.

We have some pictures of Andrew in court today. Take a look. Those are some huge tears. After all, I`d be pretty upset, too, if I was charged with a

murder. And here he is. He`s charged with the murder of his wife, the mother of his child and beloved second grade teacher. His child, by the

way, was reportedly also in court today. So that is the view that his baby daughter got.

I want to talk now with Boston talk show host, Sandy Shack, about this crime. This is just sort of unbelievable. When you see that beautiful

picture of Vanessa MacCormack in her wedding dress with those gorgeous flowers, you just sort of can`t imagine her in the state that police found

her. And then you can`t imagine it would be the man she married that day who is crying in court.

Do we have any idea right now, Sandy, about the child`s appearance, who brought that child, whether the child had any reaction to seeing dad like

this? Do we know anything about that?

SANDY SHACK, BOSTON TALK SHOW HOST (via telephone): There were more -- it was more than one child in the courtroom that family members brought. I

guess there are a number of small children in the family. So there were a couple of kids in court.

And there was some sniffling and crying going on. But the baby is only a year old. My guess is she had absolutely no idea, thank you, God, about

what`s going on. I mean, she doesn`t even comprehend that her mother is gone at this point.

BANFIELD: Oh, I mean, it is unbelievable if what the police say is true, this whole story about they suggest that he went to an ATM with the baby.

SHACK (via telephone): Yes.

BANFIELD: All the while that mom is dead. Took out a bunch of money --

SHACK (via telephone): And there was surveillance --

BANFIELD: -- bought a cocaine, came back. So tell me about the surveillance. What do they have on that?

SHACK (via telephone): There`s surveillance cameras. Boston has cameras much like, you know, England does, CCTV-kind of cameras. And there are --

there`s more of them since the Boston marathon bombing a few years ago.

And so there`s surveillance of him taking money out of the ATM. He did say he went to the ATM, but he lied about the time. And then the police talked

to a known drug dealer who said this guy is a regular customer of his.

BANFIELD: Wow.

SHACK (via telephone): And his habit is like $400 to $500 a week. And that`s where the money has been going. During her wedding ring, her

engagement ring disappeared, he told that they were stolen. He bought a replacement, that disappeared. Money has been disappearing from their

account.

He said, somebody in Thailand hacked our account and took our money. It is going to be back on Friday. The day before she`s murdered, he tells her

that the money is going to be back in the account. We know from the texts that she`s going, OK, where is the money? And nothing is coming back.

So it seems like this was all leading to ahead on Saturday when she was brutally, brutally murdered. I mean, her face was smashed, teeth are

missing, knife slashes in the throat, and her head is in a used trash bag. There was already garbage in the trash bag.

BANFIELD: Oh, God, unbelievable. I want to read yet another text message from Vanessa to Andrew from September 15th. Vanessa says, you never did the

things I said would need to happen if you want me to stay with you.

Like going to marriage counseling, stepping it up financially, communicating with my family. Is it true, Sandy, that the police smelled

bleach, that they believe he cleaned up the scene?

SHACK (via telephone): As soon as the police locked the door, they said the house was just redolent with bleach.

[20:55:00] That`s all they could smell. His attorney, he`s a public defender attorney, well, that kind of shows that it couldn`t possibly be

Andrew because why would Andrew want to bleach his own house. His fingerprints would already be there.

The police countered that why would anybody else try to bleach the house. The bathroom was so clean that the only footprints in it were the police

footprints. There were no trace of anything else. It had been obviously been swabbed from floor to ceiling.

He actually lied -- there`s a bunch of lies that he told. He said -- first, his story is that his wife was there when he left, she was getting ready to

go work out. Then he told the police that she wasn`t there when he left, she`d already gone. From what they can tell from surveillance tapes from

the gym, she never got to the gym, she never went to the gym that day.

BANFIELD: We`re also learning about -- sorry, Sandy. We`re also learning about an ex-girlfriend of Andrew back in 2011 getting a restraining order

against him. I have to leave it there just for time`s sake. But, Sandy Shack, thank you for that. We`ll be back right after this.

[21:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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