Two weeks after telling police that her son had been snatched from his crib, Melinda Duckett found herself reeling in an interview with TV's famously prosecutorial Nancy Grace. Before it was over, Grace was pounding her desk and loudly demanding to know: "Where were you? Why aren't you telling us where you were that day?"
A day after the taping, Duckett, 21, shot herself to death, deepening the mystery of what happened to the boy.
Police have refused to say whether she left a suicide note, and said nothing they have found so far in their investigation of her death has shed light on the whereabouts of her 2-year-old son, Trenton.
Investigators have stopped short of calling her a suspect but have focused increasing attention on her movements just before the boy vanished and the notes, computer, camera and other items seized from her house.
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 said Tuesday. "She wasn't one anyone ever would have thought of to do something like this. She and that baby just loved each other, couldn't get away from each other. She wouldn't hurt a bug."
Janine Iamunno, a spokeswoman for Grace, said in an e-mail that Duckett's death was "an extremely sad development," but that the program would continue covering the case.
"We feel a responsibility to bring attention to this case in the hopes of helping find Trenton Duckett, who remains missing," Iamunno said.
Duckett had told police that after she finished watching a movie Aug. 27, she went to check on Trenton in his bedroom, and all she found was an empty crib _ and a 10-inch cut in the window screen above it. At the time she was living her son, wading through a messy divorce with the boy's father and trying to get her life back on track after getting laid off from her job with a lawn care company.
The boy's disappearance in this town of 19,000 people about 45 miles northwest of Orlando stretched the 75-member police force to its limits. Fliers were posted on gas station doors around town, asking for information from anyone who might have seen the boy, a brown- haired youngster wearing denim shorts and a diaper.