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Investigative Reporter Found Dead in Burning House
Aired July 25, 2012 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RITA COSBY, GUEST HOST: And breaking news tonight. A quiet, close- knit Virginia town stunned when the farm cottage of a well-known local reporter and photojournalist goes up in flames, Sarah Greenhalgh found dead in her bedroom. Suspicions begin to mount when it`s revealed just hours before Sarah`s death, she`s on Facebook complaining about a mystery "crazy boy." It`s her last Facebook post before her brutal death.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The search is on for who killed Sarah Greenhalgh, the reporter found dead in a house fire.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Flames engulfing her Virginia cottage.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her burned body was found in her bedroom.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Virginia news reporter Sarah Greenhalgh.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just shocking. We`ve lost a great friend.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The police immediately began investigating as a homicide.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She reportedly makes a Facebook post, quote, "Going to be sleeping with the windows wide open. Now if bat (EXPLETIVE DELETED) crazy boy would just leave me alone."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The investigation led police to this apartment complex, where witnesses say they saw Greenhalgh arguing in the parking lot with a man.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it was, like, really loud, and they were, like, swearing at each other.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The cause of the fire and cause of Sarah`s death still a mystery.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY: And good evening, everybody. I`m Rita Cosby, in for Nancy Grace. Thank you so much for being with us tonight.
We go live to Virginia for the murder mystery of a local reporter found dead in her own cottage. Does a Facebook posting just hours before Sarah`s death provide some new clues?
For the very latest, let`s go to Robyn Walensky. She`s an anchor and reporter with TheBlaze. Robyn, tell us what happened here.
ROBYN WALENSKY, THEBLAZE.COM: Well, Rita, good evening. You know, this Facebook posting is going to be key to unlocking the mystery of this woman`s murder. Basically, she`s a reporter, 48 years old, working on an investigative piece, Rita. You never really know who you`re interviewing or you`re dealing with. She was also doing Internet dating.
So again, there`s all kind of characters out there. But this Facebook post -- and I`m going to quote from Facebook -- she writes, "Going to be sleeping with the windows open. Now, if that" -- blank -- "crazy boy" -- curse word there -- "would just leave me alone."
That`s very suspicious. That means that someone -- someone was irritating her and she was clearly afraid -- Leaving the windows open, I hope he leaves me alone -- that`s really suspicious, Rita.
COSBY: It sure is! It raises a lot of red flags. Robyn, tell us also what happened with her -- we know that suddenly, she puts this posting on, and then the next thing we know, what, hours later, an off-duty firefighter goes by?
WALENSKY: Yes, that`s right. She posts that at night, on a Sunday night. And then Monday morning, a firefighter, off-duty, is driving by her home, which is a cottage located about an hour out of Washington, D.C., in a much more rural area. And he sees the smoke. And the firefighter dials 911. The fire folks arrive, and they find her in a back bedroom, dead.
COSBY: Let`s go to Joe Gomez, investigative reporter with KRLD radio. Joe, she`s in this back bedroom, dead. Sort of describe this house, this cottage that Robyn was just talking about.
JOE GOMEZ, KRLD RADIO: That`s right. This is a small cottage on a piece of farmland somewhat isolated. We understood that Sarah moved out here because she felt safe and it reminded her of a home that she used lived in when she was very young.
Somebody that came here -- police are treating this as a homicide investigation right now, Rita. So if somebody were to come here and do something to Sarah, they would have had to have known, you know, exactly how to get in the house, potentially how to start a fire. As I mentioned, police are treating this as a homicide, as though foul play were involved.
Right now, investigators are dipping into every possible lead they can, looking through past boyfriends, also looking into former stories that she was involved in to try to find out if there are any leads at all.
COSBY: You know, you bring up a lot of great points, Joe. First of all, tell us a little more about the neighborhood. Were there homes nearby? Would someone have, you know, surely have seen something or someone suspicious walking in, as you point out? Did they see anything interesting?
GOMEZ: As I mentioned, this was on a stretch of farmland in a rather isolated part of town, Rita. So unfortunately, we don`t know at this point if anybody actually had seen a car pass by. But we do know that police have set up checkpoints in the area and were interviewing cars that were driving through this neck of the wood, trying to find out if they had seen anything. At this point, we just don`t have the answer to that, though, Rita.
COSBY: Robyn Walensky, do we know how big this cottage is, this sort of farm cottage where she is? And also, you mentioned she was found dead in the back of the cottage. Do we know where the fire started?
WALENSKY: That`s a great question. They`re not releasing where, you know, the fire started. But they definitely knew on first glance, Rita, that it was suspicious.
The home, to my eye, looks relatively small. She was living there alone as a single woman, 48 years old. And the Internet dating, the information on her computer, what Web sites she was using, who she was communicating with on Facebook, and also, of course, her phone, BlackBerry, is going to be key to this because, obviously, as a news reporter, she was in contact with a lot of people, sources that she was working on this investigative piece, plus the Internet dating. So there`s a lot of people to go through here.
COSBY: Joe Gomez, do we know exactly if she died from the fire, or was she killed before the fire and the fire was a cover-up?
GOMEZ: You know, that`s a very crucial piece of information that we still don`t have, Rita. We don`t know the cause of death yet. Obviously, if somebody had murdered Sarah before they burned down their house -- I mean, my goodness, the lurid details here just get, you know, even -- even more weird and creepy and bizarre.
But we don`t know. We don`t know if she died from smoke inhalation, if her body burned in the house fire, or if somebody perhaps might have came in and killed her beforehand. These are questions that we certainly would love to have the answers to and that would undoubtedly help us in finding the person responsible for Sarah`s death.
COSBY: And Joe Gomez, it sounds like, again, right away, they knew it was suspicious. Do we know why they right away knew that this wasn`t, you know, an accidental burning in the house, that maybe there was cooking or something that led to it? Right away, they zeroed in and said, This is a murder. Do we know why?
GOMEZ: Right. Right away. Exactly. They zeroed in and they said, you know, This -- there is foul play involved here. Investigators are keeping a lot of the information very tight to their chest possibly because they may be zeroing in on a suspect right now. Maybe that`s why they don`t want to have this information out there.
But they`re not letting us -- they`re not giving us any kind of information as to, you know, why they believed immediately this was foul play or why even they believe that, you know, somebody had potentially murdered Sarah.
COSBY: Woodrow Tripp, former police commander, also a polygraph expert -- Woodrow, when you hear all this, I would imagine they can determine how long that fire was burning. You know they can also probably determine where, again, it started. There`s a lot of pieces they can put together here, right?
WOODROW TRIPP, FORMER POLICE COMMANDER: They absolutely can. You`re talking about, you know, where it originated at, your accelerants, whether she was able to inhale smoke, which would show that she was still alive. It appears that the assailant planned on the fire burning her up. Apparently, that did not happen, and as a result of that, that autopsy should be very telling as to her cause of death.
COSBY: Yes, you would imagine, also, right now, they probably, Woodrow, have some preliminary results, don`t you think? It`s fascinating, I think, that right away, they are not saying the cause of death. They`re not saying, We don`t know. They`re saying, We`re not telling you. And I always sort of look at language. I bet that maybe there`s some clue that they`re holding back to be able to get this person, whoever did this.
TRIPP: Well, certainly. And that`s the edge that we have, you know, as we`re doing this investigation. It`s those little inside tidbits that keep us alive as it relates to the investigation, as we pursue suspects and persons of interest.
COSBY: Let`s go to Dr. Zhongxue Hua. She`s (SIC) the Union County, New Jersey, chief medical examiner. And sir, if you could, tell me sort of what you could glean from an autopsy of her.
DR. ZHONGXUE HUA, UNION CTY, NJ, CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER: First thing autopsy will easily tell you whether someone was died before the fire or after fire. Second thing is a detailed autopsy will tell you whether evidence of gunshot wound and a knife injury and a blunt injury to the head or not. Basically, you can reconstruct the scene, what it looked like, what the moment before she die, what look like would be.
COSBY: Would you be able to determine how long she had been dead? Would you also be able to determine -- as you point out, you know, if there was blunt force, if she had been shot, I mean, there`s a number of things that you would imagine you would probably still be able to determine, correct?
HUA: You`re not going to give a specific time. I mean, can give you a window...
COSBY: Can you get a ballpark? You can probably get a window.
HUA: Yes, give you a window and ballpark, yes.
COSBY: And would you get also probably a good sense -- again, we don`t know all the evidence, but how she was killed?
HUA: Oh, yes. That`s definitely. That`s the main purpose of performing autopsy.
COSBY: Let`s go to Johnna with West Virginia. She`s on the line. We are taking your calls. Also, everybody please get ahold of us on Facebook and Twitter, as well.
Johnna, what`s your question tonight?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Rita.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I actually live fairly close to where this happened.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And all the local news, even, everyone that`s covering it, nobody`s mentioned -- they talk about her being as a co- worker. They`ve talked about her being, you know, a person, a family member. But nobody`s talked about if she -- especially now that I heard about the Internet dating, nobody`s talking about if she had a mate or a boyfriend or ex-husband, anything.
COSBY: That`s a great question. And apparently, there`s quite a bit on that. Let`s go to Robyn Walensky. Apparently, there were -- she has a boyfriend that had a little bit of a turbulent relationship with a number of guys, correct?
WALENSKY: Yes, that`s right. She was dating a couple people, but her family says that the most recent guy she was dating was this man by the name of John Kearns, Rita, who`s 49 years old. And he has sort of a troubled past. They say that he`s divorced just recently in March, reportedly depressed. He has a criminal record, a probation situation where about a year ago, he got involved in some sort of a road rage incident and was supposed to be checking in and going for counseling.
COSBY: Wait, wait, wait! Robyn, what kind of -- what kind of road rage incident? So there was sort of some anger issues there?
WALENSKY: Yes, apparently, he beat somebody up. He was in a car and the guy was on a motorcycle. Now, he is a person of interest, and tonight he is locked up on this probation situation.
But again, Rita, you know, there`s so many people in this woman`s life, between the people she was interviewing for the paper and then the dating. He`s one of many people that the police are looking at.
COSBY: And there are a lot of persons of interest, as Robyn just points out.
Let`s go to Kelly Saindon, former prosecutor. Kelly, there`s a lot of stuff here, right, because you go on line, as Robyn was just talking about, all these stories she`s done, and it sounds like she`s had a kind of up and down relationships with a number of people.
KELLY SAINDON, FORMER PROSECUTOR: You`re right. I mean, there is so many possible options. And the thing about the Facebook post is, when she posts, I`m going to sleep with my windows open, that could be anyone because she`s now gave them a method of entry into her house.
COSBY: You know what`s interesting, Kelly...
COSBY: I thought the exact same thing. Why sort of put that on Facebook? It is a warning to everybody out there. Don`t put these things on Facebook -- although, you know, it`s a beautiful, quiet neighborhood, she would just never imagine this would happen.
SAINDON: You would hope that`s the case. And as for this -- does that mean that she was fearful of the boyfriend because she said -- or the guy she was dating -- she hopes that he leaves her alone. No, they had an argument. That doesn`t equate to murder.
And the fact that she had a violent ex-boyfriend in her past, the fact that she is investigating some things that, you know, people not might want out there, and she`s in a remote area, she`s made herself a potential victim by saying, My window`s open and I`m out here going to sleep -- so I really think that a prosecution has to be very careful, a prosecutor, and the police, to make sure that they don`t rule out potential suspects. They have to go through, get the cause of death, and enable them to build a solid case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police now calling the house fire suspicious.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her burned body found in her bedroom.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... make a troubling posting on Facebook the night before she`s found murdered.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ve lost a great friend.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Popular, successful and now a murder victim.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY: And I`m Rita Cosby, in for Nancy Grace. Sarah Greenhalgh, a photojournalist and investigative reporter, found dead in her burning house in a beautiful neighborhood not used to crime whatsoever. What happened in this murder mystery?
Well, let`s go back to Robyn Walensky. Robyn, give us a little background about the type of reporter she was, and you pointed out before, some of the stories she was working on.
WALENSKY: Right. Her most recent story, Rita, was an investigation. The exact subject matter I am not familiar with, but the newspaper does confirm -- it`s a small paper with about 30 people -- that she was working on an investigative story.
And Rita, the two of us -- we have worked on investigative stories for years, and sometimes, you know, you talk to people who don`t want to be spoken to. They don`t want to give you the quote. You don`t really know what the dynamic is. And you`re interviewing maybe some -- who knows who she was in contact with.
What is really disturbing to me is that -- the on-again, off-again boyfriend. She had a nickname for him, like, when she would refer to him to her sister or to friends, and she would call him "bat" -- blank -- "crazy boy." And to me, that alludes to something that it was just something not right there.
COSBY: Yes, there`s something absolutely strange with that. And then on the other hand, Joe Gomez, investigative reporter, I was reading somewhere that Sarah`s sister said that`s sort of the way she spoke and she used that phrase in sort of an endearing term and sort of, like, you know, a fun term.
What do we know about this relationship with this woman and, quote, "crazy boy"?
GOMEZ: Well, we know, Rita, that they had some sort of an argument the night before that Sarah was found dead. We understand that they had some kind of an argument outside of -- let`s call him "crazy boy," quote, unquote -- apartment in the parking lot. Neighbors heard them arguing.
You know, I also want to zone in on the fact that this guy had this horrible road rage incident, you know, where he apparently threw some guy off a motorcycle for allegedly cutting him off, then according to this police report, threw him against his car and began kicking him. I mean, that to me doesn`t sound like the most stable person in the world, Rita. I don`t know about you.
COSBY: The other -- the other thing -- it certainly doesn`t. Hey, you know, the other thing, Joe, there was something in divorce documents. This guy`s divorced. Wasn`t there something also kind of strange, that his wife, again, it`s allegations, but his ex-wife was alleging, Don`t, like, bring him near me, type thing?
GOMEZ: Right. Right. He was cited by the court for apparently making harassing phone calls to his ex-wife, even though we understand that she had some sort of protective order against him, you know, to make him stop contacting her. We know that he suffered from depression. Look, we know he has a past of violence -- not to point the finger of blame at this individual because there`s certainly a lot of people that are involved and could potentially be suspects. But I mean, right now, it seems like there`s a lot of red arrows pointing to one, Rita.
COSBY: Yes, it`s a very strange situation. Let`s go to the defense attorneys. Let`s go to Randy Kessler, also Mickey Sherman. He`s also the author of "How Can You Defend These People?"
My dear friend, Mickey, what do you think? I mean, this guy`s got a history, Mick, as you can hear, you know, you take somebody off a bike, that`s not just a bad day, that`s a really bad day, especially for those cyclists, you know?
MICKEY SHERMAN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I`m just so happy that we`re not calling him a suspect because...
COSBY: And he is -- by the way, it is important. There are persons of interest, apparently, out there, you know, plural, not just this guy, but he`s an interesting character, Mick.
SHERMAN: Yes, but that`s a lot of baloney, Rita. He`s clearly a suspect. We`re putting his picture on TV. The police have released his picture. He`s divorced. He`s depressed, had a little road rage action. He`s on -- he`s on...
COSBY: Guess what? Hey, Mickey! Hey, Mickey, the guy on the motorcycle must have been extremely depressed when he yanked him off of it and threw him out in the road! That was probably a bad day for the motor - - the guy on the motorcycle!
SHERMAN: Do you know how often that happens? Do you know how many people commit road rage? The blame for that...
COSBY: (INAUDIBLE) are you trying to tell me that people -- just a normal person just goes down the street, yanks people off?
COSBY: I`m not saying he`s the guy, but he does...
SHERMAN: An angry normal person.
COSBY: ... have an anger...
SHERMAN: An angry normal person.
COSBY: He`s got anger issues! He`s got anger issues!
SHERMAN: It happens every day. We`re not putting Donny Osmond`s picture on TV, we`re putting this poor guy`s picture on TV. And he`s clearly guilty because who else could it be? He`s divorced, depressed, road rage. I mean, there are -- there`s...
COSBY: And he`s got -- and Mickey, he`s got an ex-wife, too, who said that there are some issues. She didn`t want him around.
SHERMAN: ... in this country...
COSBY: Oh, you know, Mickey, then there`s a lot of very angry, very frustrated people, then there wouldn`t be any motorcyclists because they`d all be yanked off by people like this!
SHERMAN: No, but there`s a lot of angry people who`ve gone through some bitter divorces. It`s not the -- the exception, it`s the norm. It`s the norm.
COSBY: ... we got a crazy normal country under your laws, Mickey Sherman!
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The death of Sarah Greenhalgh.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Found dead in a house fire just hours after she reportedly makes a Facebook post.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "Going to be sleeping with the windows wide open. Now if the crazy boy would just leave me alone."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The cause of the fire and cause of Sarah`s death still a mystery.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY: And I`m Rita Cosby, in for Nancy Grace. Let`s go to defense attorney Randy Kessler. Randy, you know, one thing that is interesting -- they have all these sort of persons of interest. They`re obviously -- they question this guy. They serve a search warrant on this guy.
RANDY KESSLER, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Right.
COSBY: They`re basically alluding that he may be this, quote, "crazy boy" that she`s talking to, even though the sister says it was endearing. How do they determine sort of to take it to the next step, whether it`s him or someone else? What`s the difference -- at this point, they`re not calling them suspects, though.
KESSLER: If they had him dead to right, he would be locked up for this crime, not for his other crimes. I mean, this is somebody...
COSBY: And you do bring up a good point because he is in there for a probation violation unrelated to this.
KESSLER: That`s right. And there are so many unanswered questions here. Let`s see. She left her window open. She put it on the Internet. So that narrows the list of possible suspects to anyone who uses the Internet, right? Or...
COSBY: Well, and that -- that...
COSBY: Don`t you think, Randy, that makes it so tough for investigators because you`ve got this where she makes this posting -- and that certainly -- you obviously have to zoom in. They had an argument. You kind of at least have to question this person who clearly has anger issues.
KESSLER: There are a lot of questions...
COSBY: But -- but -- but then, you know, as you point out, it`s right there on the Facebook, and she was doing investigative stories, too.
KESSLER: How did she die? I mean, did she start the fire? Did she do something crazy in her house? We don`t know for sure. The autopsy...
COSBY: Wait, wait, wait, wait!
COSBY: But Randy, what are you alleging there, she did something crazy? What did she, like, set herself on fire? Is that what you`re (INAUDIBLE)
KESSLER: You`re not going to lock this way -- this guy away for life until you know that it`s a murder. No one`s...
COSBY: No, I`m asking you...
KESSLER: ... said it`s a murder.
COSBY: I`m asking you, Randy, are you trying to accuse her that she did something to set this whole frame (ph) this (ph)?
KESSLER: If I`m the defense lawyer, I`m going to explore every single option. We better make sure 100 percent that it`s him before you put him to death or you lock him away for life. Everyone`s accusing this guy...
COSBY: Wait, wait, wait! But you...
COSBY: You`re going into the blaming the victim, that she, what, she poured accelerant...
COSBY: ... doused herself, and then say, Hey...
KESSLER: Alternative theory.
COSBY: ... this will look great, I`ll open -- I`ll say -- I`ll blame (ph) it in (ph). If that`s the case, there will be fingerprints. There`ll be other things.
KESSLER: That`s right.
COSBY: You`ll be able to detect that right away.
KESSLER: Would you want your family member locked away forever unless they ruled out every other option? Let`s make sure she didn`t do it herself. There`s a lot of other things there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "Going to be sleeping with the windows wide open."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A troubling posting on Facebook the night before she`s found murdered.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "Now if that" -- blank -- "crazy boy would just leave me alone."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But what happened in the hours before firefighters were called to a fire at her home?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Search for the truth.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: More questions than answers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY: And I`m Rita Cosby, in for Nancy Grace.
Well, Sarah Greenhalgh, a 48-year-old investigative journalist, puts a very disturbing posting on Facebook. It`s the last time anyone hears from her, and then the next day she`s dead in a burning house.
Let`s go for the very latest to Robyn Walensky, with "The Blaze."
Robyn, just give us a quick summation of how sort of a cop, I guess it was a firefighter, who stumbled upon the scene.
ROBYN WALENSKY, ANCHOR/REPORTER, THE BLAZE: That`s right. It`s a Monday morning. He sees smoke. He`s in his car. He calls it in. The firefighters find her. A 48-year-old woman, single, a news reporter, working on an investigative piece.
Rita, she was dead in her back bedroom. Most disturbing in this story, the key nugget is the Facebook posting where she basically says, you know what? I`m leaving my windows open, but I`m hoping to be left alone.
When you put that out there that you want to be left alone, that means that somebody is bothering you, bugging you, irritating you. Was it her on again-off again boyfriend who just got a divorce? Someone she met online or one of the sources she was working with on a story?
Key to the case, Rita, is going to be the forensics, fingerprints at the scene, possibly a shoe print outside that window. Accelerant, gas can, cigarette, a match. That`s going to be key to this case. Who was in her house and what trail of evidence that they leave behind.
COSBY: I agree, I think that that is going to be key.
Woodrow Tripp, former police commander, don`t you think, too, that there are reportedly are elements because this firefighter stumbles upon at the house, we don`t know how much destroyed, but there probably were some pieces of evidence inside, wouldn`t you think, either inside or outside? As Robyn just points out, maybe there`s footprints of somebody walking up.
WOODY TRIPP, FORMER POLICE COMMANDER, POLYGRAPH EXPERT: Absolutely, Rita. And that`s the whole point for this. It`s a great stroke of luck that this off-duty firefighter --
COSBY: Amazing. Right? Because there could be a plethora of clues because of that man just happened to be driving by.
TRIPP: Probably even more than a plethora, a cornucopia of evidence there.
TRIPP: I mean literally, and the whole point of setting that fire was to destroy all this. It wasn`t destroyed. And in fact, it`s going to be overwhelming the amount of evidence and I`m certainly sure that they`ll be able to determine a cause of death, which will lead them down the path.
COSBY: Absolutely, and let`s hope whoever did this horrible thing is brought to justice.
Let`s go to Sidney (INAUDIBLE). She is a close friend of Sarah Greenhalgh.
And Sidney, and I just want to just first of all thank you so much for being with us and we`re so sorry about the loss of this wonderful woman.
SIDNEY ANN BANASZAK, CLOSE FRIEND OF MURDERED REPORTER SARAH GREENHALGH: Thank you, Rita, I appreciate your remarks. There`s a couple of corrections that I want to make. And I want to make sure that --
COSBY: Sure. Go ahead. Sure, please.
BANASZAK: Confusing with the reaction. This is more of a correction. Her home is not too far from the road. It is very plausible that a firefighter saw the smoke rising from her home. It`s -- that`s not too far.
The other correction that I wanted to make is that there is a playhouse that`s -- or a theater that`s directly behind her house. I was speaking with the trustee from the Board of Lynchburg College where she attended and he had been actually to a play in that playhouse the evening that her life celebration service was happening on the 20th.
COSBY: That -- Sidney, can I ask you a question? That`s interesting. This theater. It was an active theater or -- give us a little background of sort of the kind of traffic --
BANASZAK: It is an active theater.
BANASZAK: You would have to actually lift that information -- I`m just --
COSBY: Was there something going on, though, like that night, that Sunday night or that Monday morning?
BANASZAK: No. He was there on the night of her -- after her life celebration service which was on July 20th.
COSBY: But was the theater used, I guess my question to you is --
BANASZAK: The theater was used, yes, it was.
COSBY: So it was. Well, that`s interesting. So there could have been people kind of coming in and out that night before.
BANASZAK: You know, there could have been anything, Rita, we`re not investigators, I`m not investigators, I`m here to give a truthful story on who Sarah Greenhalgh was. She did not have up and down relationships. I want to make that very clear. Generally speaking her personal life was calm and uneventful.
COSBY: You know, I want to ask you, when I see these pictures and I look at some of the things in her background, I mean she seems like she was a great journalist, a very fearless journalist, a caring person. Give us a description of sort of who she was.
BANASZAK: Who she was? A couple of quotes from some of her other friends that are real close in the circle. Like I have known her for 34 years. I have -- you know, she did not take stupid chances in her life. She studied them. She studied the stupid chances that other people took in their lives. You know she was a reporter and she was a photographer.
COSBY: Was there anything, Sidney, that was concerning to her? I mean she put this posting of this crazy boy and then we`re also hearing that she was, as we know, you know, doing investigative stories. We talked about sort of studying this subject.
BANASZAK: Right. Of course she was doing investigative --
COSBY: Was there anything that concerned her?
BANASZAK: She`s a reporter. There`s a lot of different kinds of stories.
BANASZAK: You know. That blank crazy boy was not an endearing term. It was a message for those of us like myself who know her from the core of who she is. She was very smart. She has had communications with us about, you know, some of the people that -- she did not, did not date a lot. You know everybody is making it seem as if, you know, she had a lot, and it wasn`t true. She occasionally dated through online connections, but it was nothing out of the ordinary.
COSBY: What -- how did you take then, Sidney, and this quote, this crazy, you said it was not an endearing term, correct?
BANASZAK: I -- my point of view is that it was not an endearing term. My point of view is that it was a term that she used as a message for those of us who know her, those of us who were very close to her. We`re all trying to figure out what that message was.
COSBY: You know, what do you think? How do you -- you know, as someone who -- you know, who knew this incredible woman, how do you interpret that message?
BANASZAK: Incredible is a very, very calm word to use for Sarah. She was tenacious, she was genuine, she was strong, she was humble. She was honest, fun, lighthearted and she was fierce. She put most of her energy into her work. She dated occasionally. She had many long-term friendships that span decades.
You know to see her death simplified into a cheap scenario that we have all read before enrages those of us who knew her well. Every single man and woman on this earth has had at least one person that they have become involved with who is later found out to be slightly more unstable than they originally thought.
COSBY: No. And you know what, you bring up some great points, because, you know, you don`t always know someone`s background, you don`t know how they`re going to act. And this does sound like an e extraordinary, extraordinary woman and great friend.
Stay with us, Sidney. Let me bring in Elizabeth Beer, if I could, also another long-term friend.
Elizabeth, what`s your perspective on all of this? Here she is, this courageous, great journalist. How do you make sense of sort of what happened here?
ELIZABETH BEER, LONGTIME FRIEND OF MURDERED REPORTER, SARAH GREENHALGH: It`s hard to make sense of it. And I do agree with Sidney that Sarah wasn`t all about dating. Sarah was more focused on life, work and friends.
COSBY: Yes, I heard -- by the way, I heard she was workaholic. Like such a tenacious reporter.
COSBY: And really -- and I know that where she worked, this is an enormous loss.
BEER: Sarah was going about 30 directions at once, and doing it to an amazing level. She was a terrific, terrific writer. People tend to really dwell on her photographs which were amazing, but her writing skills were so good, she was just, you know, entering the peak of her career.
COSBY: Was there anything, Elizabeth? Was there anyone who would wish to do her harm? Or how do you interpret this crazy boy comment, all these different messages?
BEER: You know, Sarah had a very cynical humorous sense about her that she had terms for everybody, but you know she wasn`t really afraid of anyone. And, you know, the areas she was living in and the world she worked in was not a world full of very dangerous or strange people. I mean the horse world is a terrific, terrific world of generous, kind and caring people.
The areas she lived in, very safe. This is just so far out what happened. That it`s shocking to the core.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Who would want to harm Sarah Greenhalgh?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: News reporter Sarah Greenhalgh`s body found among flames engulfing her Virginia cottage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sarah as recent today has a devoted concentration on search for the truth. It`s just that now that`s our job to do for her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY: And I`m Rita Cosby in for Nancy Grace.
A killer on the loose and now a community living in fear.
Let`s go to Leslie Seppinni, clinical psychologist, also author of "Who is Casey Anthony."
Leslie, you know, when you hear hear this story about this woman, you know, shrewd journalist, sharp. Give us sort of a profile of how you look. I mean she doesn`t seem like somebody who would so something sort of crazy? She doesn`t, you know, she`s had some people in her life as I think most people have.
LESLIE SEPPINNI, PSY.D., CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Yes.
COSBY: Who`ve done something. But how do you sort of piece this together, Leslie?
SEPPINNI: Well, I think unfortunately coming out -- as a result of a tragedy, I mean, nobody wants to lose their life over something like this. I think one of the sad things, and I think it`s a great question, because so many women miss the signs and signals.
And when you see crazy coming, you need to run. So the moment someone tells you or you find out they`ve beaten someone, you know, silly or they`ve had a history of domestic violence, or any type of criminal record, you want to check that person out. And you want to take it seriously. And for women across the country that come from smaller towns --
COSBY: You know the problem is, Leslie? And you know the problem is a lot of times they don`t know.
COSBY: I mean they`re not necessarily saying, hey, by the way, I threw somebody off a bike. Again, there are many persons of interests in this case, it`s not just this guy, clearly he has some anger issues.
SEPPINNI: Right. But --
COSBY: But, you know --
COSBY: They don`t go -- by the way --
COSBY: We just started dating, and I want to give you my background. You know?
SEPPINNI: Right. But you don`t need them to do that to get to know somebody. People tell you who they are when you meet them. It`s whether or not you want to hear it. And a lot of times we want to believe that we like the person so much that we can either fix it or it can`t really be that bad, or it`s being exaggerated. Or they`re just going through a rough time like this guy was having this divorce.
And I think it`s a real wakeup call to women that you have to really pay attention to what the guy is saying, don`t try to fix them, if they have those kinds of problems, run as fast as you can.
COSBY: Right. It`s not your job to fix them, absolutely.
SEPPINNI: The last thing I`m going to say is it`s just like you have to learn the signs and symptoms also of what`s going on with men and understand men a little bit better and check them out.
COSBY: You know the other thing, too, everybody, I thought it was fascinating, which Sidney brought up, the fact that there was this theater, there was this public space behind her home.
And of course, Woodrow Tripp, former police commander, that also brings up the idea, you know, obviously she had this guy who had anger management issues in her life, but also there was this theater, there could have been a lot of people at that theater that night. How do you determine if it was somebody who knew her or if it was a random crime?
TRIPP: Well, as Randy said earlier, I mean, you know, with her post on Facebook, you know, I mean, it pretty much included everybody in the world as a suspect once she said that about the open window.
But also the fact as you`ve just asked, Rita, you know, the forensics is going to be very telling in this. And to answer your question, thank goodness we have all of this there that they`ll be able to examine and rule out a lot of, you know, impertinent evidence.
COSBY: And Woodrow, what kind of things they will look for to sort of determine whether it was just somebody who happened to stumble upon it or someone who saw the Facebook, or indeed someone very intimate close to her?
TRIPP: Well, certainly forced entry is a good indicator. They`ll also be looking at her computer. You know as far as text messaging. Everything that went on with her that night. You know, did she use her cell phone, what exactly went on in that house, television programs that maybe were preprogrammed.
Everything that she was doing will be looked at and fortunately with the fact that the fire was extinguished before it burned everything up. There`s going to be a lot there. There was a lot there that person that did this wasn`t planning on having it to be examined.
COSBY: And let`s go to the callers. Denise from Illinois, you`re on the line, Denise. What`s your question real quick?
DENISE, CALLER FROM ILLINOIS: Hi, Rita.
DENISE: First, I want to give condolences about your dad and thank you for responding to my note.
COSBY: Thank you. Thank you very much, thank you dearly.
DENISE: You`re welcome. Also I am concerned about that Facebook thing, of course, and if there were people in and out like in that back house, do we know if somebody got in and opened the window?
COSBY: You know what, that`s a great question, Denise, and you know what, I actually think as we just heard from Woodrow, forensics will be able to determine, was it someone from the outside in, was it someone who came in the door, was welcomed in? What will happen? I think we`re going to find a lot of clues.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COSBY: A community living in fear after a very gutsy and talented journalist found dead in her burning home.
Let`s go to Sarah Greenhalgh`s dear friend, this is Sidney Ann Banaszak. Let`s go back to her.
Sidney, one of the things we`re talking about, and there was immediately, after she did this Facebook posting, talking about a crazy boy, now I can sleep well, you know, I`m looking forward to -- I`m going to have my windows open. Then they did serve a search warrant, the authorities, on this gentleman`s home. They took a couple of items. Tell us about the nature of her relationship with this guy.
BANASZAK: Honestly, I can`t speak to the exact nature of the relationship with this guy because she and this guy were the only one in that relationship. I can tell you that she did see crazy, and she probably was running. She -- you know, the argument that she had with this man in the parking lot speaks volumes to me. She had no time for crazy, and she really I believe had maybe even that night set it straight, maybe -- as she does with her honesty and she, you know, with everybody, listen, you know, maybe she laid it down and who knows what else went on after that.
I would actually like to stop playing the suppose-suppose-suppose game.
COSBY: Can I ask you, though, Sidney, what kind of mood was she in, though, in general? I understand she was in a pretty good mood aside for this obviously crazy boy which is concerned. But overall she was pretty happy, right?
BANASZAK: She really was not affected. She didn`t have time for that kind of thing. She really -- she was very focused and she did not -- she just really didn`t give a lot of her energy to people like that because once you take that energy in, you make it become part of you. And she was no part of that, you know. Her friends and -- we`re all left very broken by her death.
BANASZAK: And we have very few chances to smile, you know, ever since we`ve learned of this. But I just wanted to thank Randy for a chance to smile because I think it`s absolutely outrageous that he decided that it was -- that it was maybe she lit the fire --
COSBY: Absolutely. By the way, and you heard I went right after that. Absolutely outrageous.
BANASZAK: Evoke more of a response that quite frankly I`m going to pass because I don`t have the energy for that. So Sarah was a strong woman who had a keen eye. And she took the path less traveled, one of independence and courage and strength, and she had enough tenacity for a complete army. But not only did she possess many powerful characteristics, she both demanded --
COSBY: And now a community living on the edge, very concerned after a beautiful, very talented journalist was found dead in her burning home.
Let`s go to Mickey Sherman, criminal defense attorney. Mickey, this was going to be a hard one to piece together for investigators because you`ve got online, you do have this crazy boy with obviously these anger issues. And then also she`s a journalist, she`s an investigative journalist, and apparently a pretty gutsy one, too. There`s a lot of pieces, right, Mick?
MICKEY SHERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY, AUTHOR OF "HOW CAN YOU DEFEND THOSE PEOPLE?": Yes, but -- yes, but, you know, Rita, when you look at gutsy investigative journalist, you look that up in the encyclopedia, that`s your picture.
SHERMAN: OK. And I`m saying that because --
COSBY: No. She sounds like -- she sounds like an extraordinary woman. Thank you, Mick.
SHERMAN: I don`t think she`s taking as much chances as you have in investigative journalism. And nobody`s taken a shot at you so far that I would know.
COSBY: Well, you`ll protect me, right, Mick?
SHERMAN: Totally. Legally as well. But I think the other guy is a dead end. The fact that he has this other legal issues it doesn`t make him more of a suspect than anyone else, in my opinion, unless there`s some electronic root channel. If he`s on Facebook making comments to her, that`s -- that will be interesting.
COSBY: Elizabeth Beer, also longtime friend of Sarah Greenhalgh.
Elizabeth, when you hear this, and I`m flattered to be associated who`s gutsy as this gal, how is the community handling this? Because this is a beautiful community and obviously so many people loved her. There was a huge, beautiful tribute to her. It`s got to affect the whole community, correct?
BEER: It really does. It really does. Nothing happens like this out there. It`s so -- nobody worries about their safety out there. Everyone`s so honest, straightforward, self-reliant and capable, and Sarah was truly self-reliant, capable. Someone you`d never think would have a self-defense issue also.
COSBY: You know, Woodrow Tripp, former police commander, FBI has been brought in. What can they do maybe that the local authorities can`t?
TRIPP: Well, they`ll have the capability, Rita, for the forensic examination, the laboratory, everything that goes with that, accelerants, certainly at some point even Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms will jointly may be involved in that because of the fire and the accelerants. But FBI provides all of your laboratory assistance and again goes right back the road leads back to all of that.
And everybody, tonight, let`s stop to remember Navy Chief Special Warfare Officer Jason Freewald, 30 years old from Armada, Michigan, killed in Afghanistan. He was awarded the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart. A Navy SEAL, he`s buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
He loves skydiving and scuba diving. And he leaves behind his parents Richard and Terri, his brothers Jeremy, Adam and Eric, who are also serving in the Navy. And his widow Stacy and a daughter Jasmine.
Jason Freewald, a true American hero.
And I want to thank all of you for your very kind words about the recent passing of my hero, my father, Lieutenant Richard Cosby, who just died recently from cancer. My father was a POW in World War II and he was literally saved by American troops. He was 90 pounds when he escaped from that POW camp and saw wonderful American troops.
And in his honor we`re raising money for the USO helping wounded troops and their families. Go to quiethero.org. You`ve got to click on the words "quiet hero" or click on the USO box on quiethero.org. Be sure to say, "in memory of Richard Cosby."
I`m Rita Cosby, in for Nancy Grace. Dr. Drew is coming up next. Don`t touch that dial.