Millions converge on Manhattan every New Year`s Eve to celebrate, and that could be making the frantic hunt for a missing 22- year-old from Virginia even tougher tonight.
Ian Burnett left his home in Richmond, Virginia, the day after Christmas and headed for the Big Apple with plans to stay the week and have a good time and ring in the new year. But Ian vanished 12 days ago before he could even see the ball drop. The last place he was seen, at the apartment he was staying with some friends. Cops say his last known contact was a text to his college roommate. What happened to this engineering student?
All right. Give me a call if you have any thoughts or you`ve seen him, 1-877-JVM-SAYS.
All right. This case is unfolding as we speak, and it`s a breaking news story. We found out pretty shortly before air, I know we have some principles here. We have a friend, a former girlfriend of Ian`s, Megan King.
Megan, thank you for joining us. We`re very concerned about this young man, as obviously are you. His family says he has no history of drug or alcohol abuse. He`s an engineering student. Not the type of guy to go out and get in trouble. What would you say so that we can at least define what we`re dealing with here?
MEGAN KING, FORMER GIRLFRIEND OF IAN`S (via phone): Yes, ma`am, he was a very good boy. Ian has always been very smart. He`s an Eagle Scout, graduated valedictorian in 2008 from New Kent High School. He has always had a good head on his shoulders. Probably one of the sweetest people that I have ever come in contact with, very smart, very forgiving. You know, as young people can be a bit vindictive going through breakups and such like that. But I actually spoke to him on Christmas, and you know, we`ve been OK.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, joining me by phone is it Ian`s very worried father, Mark Burnett. You are at a vigil for your son right now in Virginia. First of all, I`m so sorry you`re going through this. We want to be helpful. We are showing your son`s face. What are Ian`s roommates saying about the last time they saw him?
MARK BURNETT, IAN`S FATHER (via phone): Ian was communicating via text with them, and the last bit of information that we had was that he was just stepping out to go out for the evening, and we don`t have any other information other than that.
I received a routine, you know, type of text, talking about touring in New York on the 28th, and he did transmit some text messages about his return on the 2nd or thereabouts. And generally we`re just — we`re facing a mystery here.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Sir, may I ask you. He apparently left the Riverside Drive or that area apartment without taking his cell phone. Is that correct, sir?
BURNETT: Yes. And that`s not untypical for him. He doesn`t communicate via phone very often. He does use his phone for texting occasionally, but he doesn`t carry it with him at all times.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Did the friends have any idea of who he was going out with? I mean, he says, “Hey, I`m heading out.” Did he say, “I`m meeting some buddies” or “I`m going to dinner” or what?
BURNETT: I don`t have any other information about that, and they — we have not been able to determine that from anyone. At this point, what we`re trying to do is find out these answers.
There`s a lot of people out there trying to look on the streets and see what`s happened, but the fact is, we just don`t know.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right.
BURNETT: And we really — we`re trying to find someone who might know, and that`s what we`re trying to do.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, we`ve got some experts here. If you just want to stand by for a second, sir, we`re going to bring in some of these experts and then maybe ask you another question.
Ian texted his parents December 27, and I think he just mentioned December 28. Cops say his last known context — or contact was to a friend Friday, December 30. And then he was last seen at the apartment on Riverside Drive, which is along the Hudson River.
And Riverside Drive — I`m born and raised in New York City — it goes from a very ritzy neighborhood to what can be a dangerous neighborhood. This is the Harlem area. It`s very trendy right now, a lot of very expensive homes going up in that area, and remodeling, gentrification and all sorts of wonderful things happening in Harlem. But there are parts of it and there are places at certain times where it can be dangerous.
What say you, Mark Eiglarsh, criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor, about what cops should be doing in a huge city, where wow, last I checked, what, 8 million people minimum, to find this young man?
MARK EIGLARSH, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes. This is a tragedy, Jane. And usually, there`s more detail to work with. We`ve got nothing here. One minute he`s there; he uses his phone. Next minute, no.
Obviously, the phone is the key. I would go through and really study everything you can get from that. And the other thing is — the only other thing you can do is keep putting his face out there and hope that somebody sees your show or someone on the local news looks up and says, “Wait, wait, I saw some foul play involving that kid” and then reports it.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mike Brooks, he did not take his cell phone but apparently took his driver`s license and credit cards.
MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Right.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: This — this area that he was in — again, born and raised in New York — there are some parts of it that can be considered dangerous. What do cops do, vis-a-vis, let`s say, surveillance cameras? Are surveillance cameras all over the city?
BROOKS: You do have them. You know, he disappeared when he was at 139th Street and Riverside Drive. And I know New York very well myself. And — but he did have his credit cards, but there`s no activity on the credit cards.
I did speak to an NYPD — a New York City Police Department source that says right now they have no sign, Jane, of any criminality. But, still, it`s early on in the investigation.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, we`re just getting started. More on the other side.
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VELEZ-MITCHELL: Look at the crowds there, and it really shows us the challenge right now that police have in finding Ian Burnett. Ian Burnett, who went from Virginia, his home state, to the Big Apple to have fun New Year`s Eve. Didn`t even make it to New Year`s Eve. He disappeared December 30, and apparently went out of his Riverside Drive pad, where he was staying with some buddies and has not been seen since.
Wendy Murphy, former prosecutor, he has two looks. One, he has facial hair here, and he appears a little bit older. And there he is looking a little younger with no facial hair.
Millions and millions and millions of people, and a lot of them look very similar in the subway. He doesn`t — he`s unfamiliar with the city. What do cops do?
WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Yes. Good-looking boy.
You know, Jane, I don`t know how to solve this crime, but I would say I`m — I`m as concerned as Mike was about the role of the phone.
Here`s the thing. This kid is smart, valedictorian in his high school. He`s in a not very safe area of New York. I think he`s smart enough to know that having your phone with you is a safety issue, right? If you get in trouble, you can call someone.
I`m thinking either someone told him not to have his phone with him, because you know if someone disappears, then you can find them through pings and so forth, GPS devices, even. Either someone told him not to bring it or he intentionally didn`t bring it. But it makes me very nervous.
What I want to know is, who are those two people he was with in the apartment and why were they missing when the family showed up to look for him? Where are they? I read a report who said it was two women. Who are they? What do they know? The phone is important, but the last people to see him alive are important, too, and they appear to be missing.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Mark Burnett, you`re the father of Ian, who`s missing. What do you know about these — these people? Are they females? And have they cooperated, or have they vanished?
BURNETT: Yes. And we do know where they are, and the NYPD is in contact with these two people and trying to find out some information from them.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Are they females?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And what was the relationship between your son and these women?
BURNETT: They — one of them went to school with Ian at VCU. They were acquaintances; it was not a romantic relationship.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Was Ian possibly dating someone? Did he meet somebody that he was going to hook up with, possibly?
BURNETT: No. We do not believe so. He went up there just to have a — a post-Christmas tourist visit to New York City and to celebrate New Year`s Eve. There was — he was intending to just spend a short time there and then return back to Virginia.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Megan King, you`re a friend of Ian`s. Did you know these two women?
KING: No, I didn`t.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Do you think it`s odd that he goes and shares a place with these two women? Do you think — I mean, I don`t know whether they`ve disappeared. Apparently, police are in contact with them, but why wouldn`t they be out here, you know, hollering at the top of their lungs, “Our friend is missing! Help us”?
KING: Your guess is as good as mine. I know that`s exactly what I would be doing. But honestly I have no idea.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, are you concerned about these people at all, Mark, father of the missing student, these two women?
BURNETT: I don`t know. At this point, I`m not a professional at this. I`m just a father. And I`m hoping that those people who knew how to investigate these matters can do that. That`s my hope.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Sir, we want to help find your son. Thank you.