Nancy Grace Says 'Guilt' Likely Made Mother Commit Suicide

ByABC News via logo

Sept. 15, 2006 — -- Former prosecutor turned talk show host Nancy Grace is unapologetic about her aggressive approach to a mother who committed suicide after an interview about the woman's missing son.

Twenty-one year-old Melinda Duckett was the mother of 2-year-old Trenton Duckett, who has been missing since Aug. 27.

Grace interviewed Duckett over the phone on Sept. 7 as part of a taped segment for Grace's show. Before the interview was over, the talk show host was pounding her desk and demanding, "Where were you? Why aren't you telling us where you were that day?"

One day later, Duckett shot and killed herself just hours before the taped interview aired on CNN Headline News.

In an exclusive interview with "Good Morning America" today, Grace said that she takes no responsibility for Duckett's suicide.

"If anything, I would suggest that guilt made her commit suicide," Grace told ABC News' Chris Cuomo.

"To suggest that a 15 or 20 minute interview can cause someone to commit suicide is focusing on the wrong thing," she said.

Melinda Duckett reported her son missing from their Leesburg, Fla., home on Aug. 27. She said he disappeared from his crib while she watched a movie on television with friends.

Investigators have stopped short of calling Duckett a suspect but have focused increasing attention on her movements just before the boy vanished. Police have seized notes, a computer, camera and other items from her home.

Duckett's family members disputed any suggestion that she hurt her son. They said that the strain of her son's disappearance pushed her to the brink, and the media sent her over the edge.

"Nancy Grace and the others, they just bashed her to the end," Duckett's grandfather Bill Eubank told the Associate Press Tuesday.

Some media analysts agree, saying Grace's interview went too far.

"How is that questioning doing anything but making a person in a desperate situation feeling even more desperate?" said Hub Brown, a professor at Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Communications.

Grace, however, insists her line of questioning was reasonable.

"Long story short, Trenton Duckett is still missing," she said on "Good Morning America." "And now police are agreeing with me."

Grace said that Duckett would not provide a timeline for her whereabouts in the 24 hours before her son's disappearance.

Duckett also appeared to stumble over Grace's questions about whether or not she took a polygraph test or where, exactly, she was shopping with the boy before his disappearance.

But now that Melinda Duckett is dead, none of those questions can be answered. Cuomo asked Grace if she felt her hard line stance has compromised the police investigation.

"No I don't," Grace said. "Any interview followed hours and hours of police interrogation of Melinda Duckett. Unfortunately, Melinda Duckett had attempted suicide in the past."

Grace added that in murder and missing persons cases, it's common sense to look at the last person seen with the victim.

"And she [Duckett] admitted to her own lawyer...she grabbed a shotgun, diaper bagand the baby hours before he went missing and went on an eight hour odyssey through a national forest for target practice," she said. "And that is actually where police are searching today with cadaver dogs."

Police concluded their search Thursday night in Ocala National Forest for 2-year-old Trenton. They say they have no physical evidence linking Melinda Duckett to the area of the forest canvassed by investigators. A search of construction site earlier this week also turned up nothing.

Trenton Duckett's family is holding a prayer vigil in Leesburg for the boy.

Grace said the focus should not be on the interview, but on finding Trenton Duckett.

"While I sympathize with her family and know as a first-hand victim of crime myself, you look for somebody to blame, anybody," she said. "And today the family is blaming me. ... But I would suggest their efforts go towards finding this baby."