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tv   Lockup  MSNBC  January 1, 2015 3:00pm-4:01pm PST

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due to mature subject matter, viewer discretion is advised. ♪ ♪ an inmate finds himself at the center of more than one battle. >> again, i didn't start it, but i finished it, as i always do. >> and he traces his problems back to the real-life nightmare that haunts his family. >> the story you see like in the michael meyers movie.
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>> some lady was like, honey, is that your blood? is that your blood? i'm looking at my hands like, no, it's hers. it's hers. >> a young new arrival faces a charge of reckless homicide. >> i'm putting my life in the hands in the life of a public pretender. >> another inmate fears that he doesn't have the proper defense that could put him away for life. >> i was charged with simple -- third-degree simple assault. i was brought over here and booked into the facility. >> the day the sheriff was booked into his own jail. ♪ ♪ southern charm and a rich sense of history make downtown charleston, south carolina, a top tourist draw.
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ten miles away, however, is a very different setting. the sheriff al cannon detention center serves as charleston's county jail. most of the 1,300 men and women incarcerated here are only charged with crimes and are awaiting trial and resolution of the cases, including david ratliff jr in the disciplininary segregation unit for his altercation the night before. >> i had a little altercation -- actually a big altercation with a few amigos yesterday. apparently i used to date one of his girlfriends. it's a small world. this is charleston.
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you know, everybody knows everybody around here. i didn't start it. i finished it. you have to fight in here if someone calls you out. come on. >> staff reviews surveillance footage which shows ratliff did not throw the first punch. >> this is ratliff hanging around the pillar a couple of times. officer breaks it up. >> seconds later, another fight breaks out. a different camera angle shows ratliff joining the fight, which quickly escalates. >> this is where all six get involved. >> the punishment will be the same for all the combatants, extended stay's disciplinary segregation where they will be locked in one sell 23 hours a day and lose most of their privileges and possessions. >> we're going to talk. we're going to talk. all right. we give you 30 days. listen. >> come on, man. >> it seemed like the officer pulled you away, and then you ran back. if you hadn't ran back, you probably wouldn't have got 30
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days. okay? >> well -- >> all right. >> damn! >> this is ratliff's third stay in segregation during the three months he has been in jail on two unrelated charges. the first is for fleeing the scene of a single car accident that left his passenger with injuries, including brain damage. while on the run, authorities also charged him with criminal sexual conduct for an alleged relationship he had with an underaged girl. he has pled not guilty to both and is awaiting trial. >> got into some trouble, hung out with the wrong people. got into drugs. >> ratliff has had numerous prior stays, convictions including assault, trespassing and drug possession. but the name david ratliff is known in the jail and in the city of charleston for other reasons. it's a name he shares with his father. >> that is my father.
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they overlooked him in the attic. i was downstairs, along with the rest of my family that was there for my grandma's funeral. and he waited for his moment. he shot my mom in the neck through the attic vent. my mom was rushed to the hospital. he missed by just this much. they couldn't operate, take the bullet out because it was so close to her spine. till this day the bullet is still in her neck, three years later. and after he did that, he turned the gun on himself. >> david ratliff sr. began his spree of violence shortly after his release from the same jail in which his son is now incarcerated. he had served 119 days for threatening and abusing his wife. family members say he had never been violent until about a year earlier when depression, alcohol, and drugs sent him over the edge. >> he was a great father growing up.
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like many jails throughout the nation, the cannon detentiop center and charleston, south carolina, is named after a man believed to have stellarlplp accomplishments.e1-al u$oughlp retired or deceased. al cannon is not only alive and well, he's still the sheriff and has been for more than a quarter of a century. >> how are you doing? all right. >> i actually don't spend a part of my management philosophy is, you have to trust your people. i think they appreciate the fact that i have enough confidence in them that i'm not breathing down their back. >> al cannon began his career ap az -- a charleston county patrol officer in 1971ç and was elect sheriff in 1988. he fought for and helped design three expansions to the jail, the largest consisted of two new buildings that opened in 2010, which more than doubled inmate capacity to 1,900.r
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they were designed with better security systems and open bay ld housing units which provide inmates with more freedom of movement. >> we w.(isted that people who worked in the detention facilitá have an opportunity to provide input into the design.xd fter having been so n.xd overcrowde(&#or so many years, was pretty low. >> shortly before the new buildingt$were opened the county council voted to dedicate the entire facility to sheriff cannon, stating over his long ñc years of service, he molded the sheriff's office into a premierp law enforcement agency. >> i'm honlb ñ would i rather have it on a school? yeah. but this is whoxd i am andr do. >> maximum security inmates are still housed at the older fá section of the jfjail, where th
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are confined to cells for the majority of the day. >> for the most part if i'm not sleeping or working out, writin( something, reading something and thinking, a whole lot of thinking.fár ♪ çótimeq has come now ♪ toñr setñi us free ♪ theq kings are rising ♪ what good is a heart when you( don't have the brain what good is a lion when the lion tame ♪ ♪ listen the time has come they've got to set us free ♪ >> adrian smalls is no stranger to the jail. but says this time,fá with a fiancee and four children to take care of, he'sfáxd focused gz inmates.ith o>h ♪ >> i don't partake in gambling, card playing, any that have
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stuff. i'm gambling right now, with my life.é@ that's the biggest bet i ever çó made. >> his gamble is whether to go to trial or accept a plea deal.w on his latest charge. >> try not to do 10, 15, 20 years for punching somebody. >> small says he was gambling 18 months earlier when he was arrested on this latest charge.r he and his alleged victim were 1 shooting pool at a bar. he suddenly feared for his a fight is exchanging blows and -- somebody got punched. this just happened to have been a situation gone totally wrong. >> prosecutors say his punch fractured the man's skull, leaving him in a coma with fá permanent brain damage. t( >> i'm truly remorseful for what happened. my life has changed because i'md away from my family but i'm healthy. i mean, this guy is in a coma, n brain damaged.
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so, i mean, i can't sit here and just cry about it because his life is forever changed. e1 now he is charged with assault d and battery of a high and aggravated nature. though he has admitted to punching his victim, he has pled not guilty. >> i'm here, not trying to plead my innocence. i'm just lookinghft) leniency.w3 i don't know how long i could be in here. aìmple assault turned into worst case ç;nario. now i'm fighting for my life. changed his victim's life as fá well as his own, smalls is hardly alone.lp8g÷ geraldo johnson has just been c3 charged and booked into the r jail. ten days earlier, he was a driver in a terrible car crash that took the life of his passenger. t( >> death happens every day but d watched my girlfriend of a year die in front of me.e13w3wmya5ñi
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i had blood all over my hands. some lady was like, honey, is that your blood, is that your ñr blood? i'm looking at my hands like, no, it's hers. it's hers. 'páh!een charged with reckless homicide.lp police say he was driving too fast for conditions and veered across the road and crashed into a row of trees. his 17-year-old girlfriend was ejected from the car. by the time help arrived it wasó too late. ñi >> they started doing cpr on her.ok i was giving her the breath. spitting blood out of my mouth, giving her the breath.t(okt(c spitting blood outok of my mout. and i asked, is she still there? and nobody wanted to talk to med so much planned. so much we wanted to do. in june or july, we were w3 supposed to move out with each other.xdr how much the apartment was going to cost. the cable, the electric, the water. after everything that happened, ouse. everything that happened, we had a safe.
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i opened the safe and looked at t was j]sg like,e and looked at this isn't going to happen anymore. okxdçó >> johnson will soon enter a r plea and go to a bond hearing tk learn if he can return home as his case proceeds. ñixd >> am i going to be here for a month? am i going to be here for a year? just trying to keep hope. coming up, geraldo johnson faces the judge. >> you're charged with reckless homicide. xd >> but has support from homñ.ktd 4['am!victim of violent crime >> he held a knife to my throat that night. and then one day you tap the bumper of a station wagon. no big deal... until your insurance company jacks up your rates. you freak out. what good is having insurance if you get punished for using it? hey insurance companies, news flash. nobody's perfect. for drivers with accident forgiveness,
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♪ at the sheriff al cannon detention center, hearings are conducted through a video conferencing system.
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today, geraldo johnson, who has now entered a not guilty plea to reckless homicide will learn if he will be granted bail and if so, how much amount. >> the judge will put a bond on him or he may get a pr, which is basically a get out of jail free card and then he'll go home. >> johnson was arrested a day earlier, due to a car crash that killed his girlfriend. >> yeah, i've cried but i haven't broke down yet. i'm kind of sort of hoping i do and hoping i don't. once i do, it's going to hit me like a mack truck. >> outside the courthouse, a crowd of friends and family
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accident. two lives have been destroyed and he's a good child. he's an athlete. doesn't drink. he doesn't smoke.
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he has massive support, friends, family, church. just about everybody in this room is here for him, to support him. >> i can't ignore the seriousness of the charge. the bond is $50,000 on reckless homicide. we are finished, sir. thank you. you may leave the room. thank you. >> for $50,000 bond, johnson would need to post $5,000 to be released while he awaits trial. the remainder can be posted by a bail bondsman. >> me and my mother, my
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impacts on a violent crime victim? depression. what else?
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>> the tragedy sent missy's son, david ratliff jr. who, at the time was 21, on a downward spiral. >> 21-year-old man. how did you deal with that? >> not the right way. i started -- my drug use took a whole other level. i started shooting heroin, shooting whatever i could. i mean, that was it. i was numbing myself to complete numbness. kept coming to jail. kept getting other chances. >> what is your relationship with your mom now?
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>> after everything everything that happened, it was crappy. i blamed her for a lot of -- a lot of it. i blamed her. i blamed myself. i blamed her parents. i felt like everyone just came down on my dad too hard. and i still feel that way a little bit. >> i get a lot of the blame. and, of course, i understand it. and i take it. and i accept it. and it's okay. i'm a mom. that's what i do. i know that what his father did is not my fault. i love my son. he's my heart. and i'll never give up on him. although i have practiced tough love. >> i'm not someone who looks the other way and pretends he doesn't no wrong. >> missy says that david has written her several angry letters.
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so for now she has decided to stop writing back or visiting. >> tough love, you think? >> sure. however long she's going to use that excuse. tough love. what, she can't talk to me? she can't write me back? whatever. >> i love him and support him, no matter what he does. but i'm not going to enable him. he keeps making bad choices and that's why he keeps ending up here, because he has a drug problem, which i don't think he'll admit to that, even so. he thinks it's more recreational, but i'm his mother and i know. been around it long enough. >> how are you making a different path than your dad? >> as of right now, i'm not. following in the same footsteps as him. but i don't ever see myself doing something crazy like he did. i just don't have it in me. but i'm sure he said the same thing. coming up -- >> you come in this jail and talk to 150 other guys who have the same lawyer. >> adrian smalls voices serious concerns about public defenders.
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and they agree with him. >> i can't say that their concerns are not perfectly legitimate.
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here's what's happening. today marked the first burial of a victim from the airasia crash. bad weather hampering efforts to find the others on board. a storm system brought snow to snag np. and in politics, jeb bush may be considering 2016. he resigned all members on corporate and non-profit boards. back to "lockup." due to mature subject matter, viewer discretion is advised. >> in charleston, south carolina, 27,000 men and women a year are booked into the sheriff al cannon detention center.
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>> this is the intake area, where they first come in at, being booked in, medically screened, bond hearing set up and classification. >> the majority of those booked return to the streets within 24 hours. either on bond or a promise to return for later court hearing. but all are photographed, fingerprinted and processed into the system. it's usually a routine procedure except when arrestees are intoxicated, high or agitated. one booking two years earlier was very unusual. it was for the man the jail is named after, sheriff al cannon. >> i'm a police officer first and foremost. i don't just sit behind a desk. one morning on the way into
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work, i was nearly rammed by an individual. my initial assessment was that this was a reckless kind of action that indicated to me that there was something going on with this driver. so i hit my blue lights and siren. and that began a pursuit that lasted for about 35 minutes. the last ten minutes or so was in the middle of the national forest. and he wrecked. >> the multi-car pursuit, which reached speeds of 120 miles per hour ended with the apprehension of the suspect. >> i go over to the back door where this kid is sitting and i said what the "f" is wrong with you? you could have killed i don't know how many people. he said nothing wrong with me, man. and when he did, i slapped him. >> cannon says he quickly realized he had crossed the line. >> i needed to make the public aware of what i had done. and as a result of that, i was
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charged with third-degree simple assault. i was brought over here and booked into the facility. >> cannon qualified for pretrial intervention, a diversionary program for first-time offenders in south carolina. after completing the court ordered counseling program and 30 hours of community service, his charge was dismissed. >> i picked up trash along the road. i certainly have a greater appreciation for the trash and littering problem. it was an unfortunate incident that was not what we expect of the sheriff's office, certainly not what i expect from myself. i did accept responsibility for it and dealt with the system and the process the way it's supposed to be dealt. >> with multiple stays in the jail, adrian smalls is familiar with the intake process. awaiting trial after punching a man during a pool game. the victim was left in a coma. he suffered brain damage.
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>> i always expect the best but prepare for the worse. wauz -- because i know that is my reality. i could end up in prison. >> he faces up to 20 years if found guilty. he admits to injuring the man and has pled not guilty in hopes of reaching a plea deal for a shorter sentence, but says the odds are stacked against him because he is represented by a public defender. >> i'm putting myself in the hands of a public pretender. my representation is, i feel, minimum. very minimum. you can come into this jail and talk to 150 other guys that have the same lawyer. how much time does she even have to put in on my case or, for that matter, anyone else's? >> i talk to clients who are extremely frustrated and i can't say that their concerns are not perfectly legitimate. they are. >> attorney ashley pennington oversees the public defender's office for charleston and one other county in south carolina.
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>> the south carolina public defender system is symptomatic of an overall grossly underfunded legal system. >> how are you? >> when you have 700 people in jail and 20 lawyers to deal with that 700, the odds are stacked against you. what's going on is that the lawyers are in court all the time. as a result, the ability to get over and actually have that face time is just very scant. >> this is something that you're going to have to do yourself. >> 150, 160 is about average for our office. many times, the smaller charges take just as much time as the larger charges. that's very difficult, trying to balance all of their needs. >> the personal contact with an attorney is less important than it was 20 years ago. >> sheriff cannon, an attorney himself, says public defenders have access to their clients through phone and video conferencing and their long hours in court is actually a
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benefit. >> public defenders actually, in many respects, have an advantage over other paid attorneys because they are in more -- in court more. they're in a better position to weigh the relative case that a prosecutor has. this is an argument that is rarely made. >> you have some people in here because they're trapped in the system. some are here because they really committed a crime. some because they're trapped and don't have a way out. >> adrian small says the problem with overworked public defenders leads to prolonged jail stays like his, of 18 months now, and plea deals taken out of desperation. >> i see the same situation over and over again. you've been here in ten months and they tell you you've got a trial coming up. if you lose you're going to get 30 years in prison. are you going to take this ten that we're offering you? because he has no legal defense and -- it's just sad to watch. some people don't have the means to buy lawyers, bond out. if you don't have it, you don't
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have it. >> geraldo johnson fears a long jail stay, if not a prison term, could be in his future as well. he is charged with reckless homicide due to the death of his girlfriend that -- in a car that he lost control of. with a bond of $50,000, he needs $5,000 to leave jail. >> everything in my room, just sell it. just sell it. >> mr. johnson? you can have your phone call. >> johnson asked permission to speak to his mother on the phone for an update. >> thank you. >> hello. so what's the plan? so i'm getting out today? thank you, mom. thank you. i love you, too.
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really good to hear. my mom, basically my backbone. any time i need something, regardless of how she's feeling, she gets it done. i don't know how many times my mother has pulled out miracles. >> yes, ma'am? >> yes, sir, i'm coming to pick up my son, geraldo johnson jr. >> the bond is heavy. prior to even coming to court this morning, i prayed. i stayed in constant contact with a lot of friends and family. a lot of people have been praying for us. i knew as long as he got a bond it was going to be okay and that's exactly what it is. >> all right, man. take it easy now. >> i couldn't put a band-aid on it. i couldn't kiss it and make it go away. it's a process and it's definitely been hard for myself and my entire family. >> hi, baby.
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>> come on now, randy, let somebody else get some. come on. coming up, david ratliff gets out of segregation for a bit. >> walker, daniel, i'm back!
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david ratliff has just completed his 30 days of segregation for fighting. though the rec yard and general population, at least now he can walk it without handcuffs and shackles. >> feels good. it sure does. still jail, though, you know. so, it still sucks, but it's better than being just in jail and jail in jail. >> ratliff will be allowed much
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more time out of his cell and have other privileges restored. >> ready to eat some food, some cantene. shave. looking pretty rough. >> i actually just got a mirror i could see myself in. i look bad. >> ratliff is now in the same unit as adrian smalls, who has been writing spoken word pieces while awaiting trial. >> stand up, black man, stand up and rise to power. this is our year, our month, new day and the time is ours. we must all crawl before we walk and also think before we speak. because the blood of our black brothers, mixed with the tears of our black mother vs cried our very own red sea. >> smalls hopes to reach a plea deal as a result of a punch that left a man with brain damage and in a coma. >> this is where i spend a lot of time time in here. this is like my outlet.
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i call it my lab. i sit and write my mind. write what i think. before you strap on your combat boots and pick up your gun to shoot remember this lesson i'm trying to teach must go forward if my message is ever going to get through. you could easily learn about guns, drugs, murder and sex if that was the only thing ever taught to you. but now that you're grown think of the consequences before not after you shoot. >> this is one of the books i've been reading. a lot of my writings come from after i read books like this. anybody can tell you anything. unless you dig into that subject for yourself, you always have a judgmental aspect on it. america has the nerve to spend billions of dollars on wars in afghanistan and iraq when, in fact, the real war is right here in america and blacks are under attack. so many dead bodies are being stacked in these new modern day plantations, prisons, are overpacked. medicaid and medicare is being cut while the price of a good education is being jacked. written for the people. my people. by yours truly, adrian smalls. >> suddenly, an emergency call is issued for officers to
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respond to a fight in smalls' unit. after two inmates exchanged words, one threw his food tray at the other, triggering a brawl. following jail protocol, unit officers wait for the jail special operations crew or soc, to arrive. >> when a fight breaks out, we call soc. the unit officer, they're supposed to step back and clear the area. get everybody back to their cells. let the two combatants continue. only time we'll step in is if one of the combatants has a huge edge and the other is in danger. sfl armed with less than lethal weapons, the soc officer arrives and orders them to stop fighting. one inmate tries to comply. the other continues to fight. soc officers move one of the men out of the unit. having just been released from segregation, david ratliff is now on his way back. [ bleep ]. >> what happened, man? >> i beat this dude's ass on the
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street because he was beating on this girl at the bar. he just came over and sucker punched me and i beat his ass again. that's what [ bleep ] happened. i can't go nowhere, bro. god just [ bleep ] got out of this today. >> got out of here today? >> yeah, i just went into the unit an hour ago. [ bleep ] >> did you see any of it? >> no. i was in the room. i had a whole blind spot. i can't really see too good. >> got you. >> i know what happened, though. one dude screaming, i just come out of lockup. well, your ass going back. >> i beat him pretty bad on the street. i guess he saw me when i came in today. came in my room at dinner, sucker punched me. cy worked his ass in the room. then the door was open. we kind of broke up and then i knew i was going to one anyway
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so i went back at him. again, i didn't start it. but i finished it, as i always do. >> the other inmate involved in the fight is kevin russell. >> have a seat in that gray chair. >> both men are taken to the infirmary for examination. >> how are you feeling, man? are you all right? talk it over, man. you don't hit me. -- you don't hit females. >> obviously you heard him say that about hitting the girl. and truth to that, or is he just making up stuff? >> no. me and my old lady got in a scuffle. i held her back from hitting me and that's what that's all about. >> after the investigation and another hearing, ratliff and russell both get 30 days in disciplinary segregation. >> 30 days, it will be 80 days i've done this whole entire trip, more than half my time
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i've been here. >> do you see a pattern developing here, david? >> i got an anger problem, i guess. each fight i have been in, i have not started it. >> walker, daniel, i'm back! >> as ratliff begins his next 30 days in segregation, jail officials allow us to leave him a digital camera to record his thoughts. >> what's up? i swear, they hand out 30 days like [ bleep ]. 30 days. them 30 days hurt. i don't care what anyone says or how hard you try to act. [ bleep ], it just hurts. i'm telling you, man. these walls start to talk to you in your mind, man. god put me in here for a reason, you know. shape me up.
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for the longest, i blamed my mom for everything that happened. thought she drove him to craziness. you know, i have no right to blame my mom or my grandparents or anyone for that matter for everything that happened. can't blame nobody but myself. and, trust me, i am. i'm very disappointed in the person i've become. i look in this mirror every day. and tell myself things are going to be different. and i'm not going to be the person, you know, my dad came to be. i know he had a helping hand in screwing my head up. he did. yeah. but still i look in this mirror and i see a man that's going to change.
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that has to change if i want to live. got to change. coming up -- >> pisses me off. that's my mom. she's an [ bleep ]. whatever. >> personally i think it's manipulation at its finest. >> a mother and son cope with tragedy and each other. and even piano tuners were just as simple? thanks to angie's list, now it is. we've made hiring anyone from a handyman to a dog walker as simple as a few clicks. buy their services directly at no more calling around. no more hassles. start shopping from a list of top-rated providers today. angie's list is revolutionizing local service again. visit today. thover 65 million years ago.rth like our van. yeah. we need to sell it.
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>> david ratliff and his mom have had a troubled relationship. still missy is a frequent visitor to the jail. >> she volunteers here at the jail. tells her story and tries to lead inmates into the right direction. it's a crazy story. i know it can touch some people and help some people. >> i think he's proud of me for doing it. my concern was that i would have some of his cell mates in the
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program and i didn't want them to go back and harass him in any way, shape or form. but this is what i do. stop getting locked up and it won't be an issue. >> still awaiting trial on unrelated charges of leaving the scene of an accident in which his passenger was badly injured and criminal sexual conduct for an alleged involvement with an underage girl. ratliff has had problems both in and out of jail. he says everything went wrong three years earlier after his father went on a spree of violence. he murdered missy's mother, shot and wounded missy and then took his own life. >> this right here is my mom and dad in florida. >> what do you think when you look at that picture of your parents, happy together? >> only good things, you know. the good days, when everyone got along and that's a great picture of my son and my dad. i love that picture.
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i just wish he was still here. help me through these times and like he wasn't finished teaching me things sometimes. i don't know. >> what would you say to your dad, if you could say anything to him now? >> the question everyone wants to know. why? and i love him. and why? why? why? why? >> ratliff says he has not heard from his mother in weeks. >> i wrote her a letter last night. i haven't heard back from her yet from the last letter or the letter before that. she's an [ bleep ]. whatever. pisses me off. i mean, that's my mom. >> it pisses you off or hurts you? >> both. it does both. i mean, she's been my mom my whole life. >> i'm not currently speaking to him. he thinks i hate him. >> ratliff's mother, missy
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hayes, says she will not respond to his angry letters. >> personally i think it's manipulation at its finest. i know he feels hurt and lost and abandoned and all of that completely natural. that doesn't give him the right to be mentally or emotionally abusive to me. i think david has misplaced anger. he doesn't know how to handle what his dad did. he has never dealt with it. because she chose dope to cope. he put himself there. he's the only one that can pull him out of it. i cannot fix this. >> missy still lives in the home where her husband, david sr., fired the shots that forever changed her life. >> well, my mother was killed here. i was shot at the kitchen table. i'm not going to let that take away from my home. he took enough. i love my home. i love coming home to my home. i'm very proud of my home. it's my peace. this is my happy. this is my safety zone. believe it or not.
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>> you've lost your mother in this horrible way. he almost took your life. but tell me what's the hardest right now and why? >> my son and watching him suffer. my mother, she's at peace and she's good. and i'm good with where she is. and david, well, he did what he did. and he's at peace. and little david is still walking and breathing and suffering and it's just hard to watch that. i pray for him every day. every day. first thing i do when i wake up. last thing i do before i go to bed.
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due to mature subject matter, viewer discretion is advised. >> i love you. >> love you too. we do talk sexually through the vents and stuff. vent sex, yes. vent sex. >> a young woman finds love in the jail's one co-ed housing unit. >> robbery just been something that always came natural. >> charged with a spree of armed robberies, an inmate comes under


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