Reporting Kurtis Ming
TRACY (CBS13) — The 2009 surveillance video from a Tracy mobile home park shows an innocent Sandra Cantu skipping in her Tracy neighborhood. They are the last images of the 8-year-old alive.
“Please whoever has her, let her go,” her mother pleaded before cameras. “She needs to come home to her mom who very much misses her.”
After ten days of gut wrenching agony, searches, vigils and news conferences, Sandra’s lifeless body was located in a suitcase in a nearby pond.
Tracy Police Detective Tim Bower says of the 1,400 tips that poured in during the investigation, 300 to 400 of them came from psychics.
“She had a vision of a child near railroad tracks,” Bower reads from a tip sheet.
He says none of these psychics were accurate, although some did say Sandra was in a body of water. Detective Bower says those tips aren’t helpful because seventy percent of the world is water.
“Do they want to tell me an irrigation pond? Do they want to tell me a swimming pool, a backyard pool, a fishing hole? That’s a good tip,” Detective Bower said.
Marc Klaas, whose daughter Polly was abducted from her Petaluma home and murdered nearly two decades ago, says psychics are predatory.
“They’re vile and evil. They have absolutely nothing to offer besides false hope in a missing child’s case,” said Klaas who now runs the Klaas Kids Foundation.
After Shawn Hornbeck disappeared from his Missouri neighborhood in 2002, self proclaimed psychic Sylvia Browne of Campbell, California told his family on the Montel Show that Shawn was dead and within twenty miles of home. Shawn was found four years later, alive and living with his kidnapper.
Published reports state Browne apologized in a newspaper interview saying, “I’m terribly sorry that this happened, but I think my body of work stands by itself. I’ve broken case after case…I think it’s cruel to jump on this one case in which I was wrong.”
OUR UNDERCOVER TEST
Sacramento psychic detective Debra Dominique claims she received the gift as a child and says she helped police find Laci Peterson’s body. She says she’s done some work for the FBI many times. What she doesn’t know is as we meet with her at a coffee shop, we’re undercover. Our producer has a picture of a ten-year-old boy named Matthew, wanting to know what happened to him.
After staring at his photo, she uses a special pendulum claiming it allows her to talk with the dead.
“They’re saying he’s not alive anymore,” Debra tells our producer.
She tells a tale of how a man on drugs kidnapped Matthew and sold him to a rich man where she sees him alive until he was fifteen. She says he died while trying to escape and his body can be found in water near an overpass in Europe.
“I see him by water,” she says.
She then claims she’s connected with Matthew directly. She says he’s wearing white and is in heaven.
But we know that’s not true because Matthew, the boy in the photo is a CBS13 worker and he was sitting in the booth in the coffee shop right behind her. After the hour long reading, our producer paid Debra her $160 charge. I meet her outside.
“I understand you thought he was deceased,” I ask. “Yes, I believe he could be,” she responds.
I reveal the boy in the photo is alive and standing right behind her.
“That’s great. Oh my goodness, that’s great,” she said.
“How can you say he’s deceased?” I asked.
“That’s what I was feeling,” she responded.
“You said he was in Europe. You said he was taken. Weren’t those a bunch of lies?”
“No. At the time they weren’t.”
After I questioned her about taking money from families, she immediately returned our $160 and apologized.
THE FBI’s TAKE ON PSYCHICS
The FBI’s Chris Hopkins is a 23-year veteran and has worked several high profile missing persons cases including Sandra Cantu’s.
“We don’t seek psychics and we don’t utilize psychics for any of our investigations,” said Special Agent Hopkins.
“Has a psychic ever helped solve a missing person’s case?” I asked.
“The FBI is unaware of any case that’s been resolved with information from a psychic.”
Marc Klaas thinks psychics are looking for fame and fortune hoping one of their stories may turn out to be true, ”which will certainly raise their profile and get them on the cover of tabloid magazines if nothing else,” he said.
Detective Bower confirms one psychic tried to collect reward money after Sandra Cantu was found in the pond. The tipster said she deserved the money because she tipped off authorities that Sandra was located in water. Tracy Police did not pay the psychic the reward money.
“The last thing you need is a distraction when searching for a missing child,” Klaas said.
We checked Debra Dominique’s claim of helping find Laci Peterson’s body with the FBI and Modesto Police Department. Modesto Police say she did not help them. They do confirm a woman by that name called in a tip that Laci’s remains were near the San Mateo Bridge. Investigators say that tip came six days after the media started reporting of searches in the San Francisco Bay. Laci’s body washed up ashore approximately twenty miles away near Richmond’s Point Isabel.
After our sting, we emailed Debra asking her to supply us cases she’s helped solve, and the names of contacts within law enforcement agencies who could back her claims. She did not respond.