A look at the claims, predictions and behavior of a media "psychic".

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Montel: Amanda Berry Reading

Sylvia Browne tells a mother that her missing daughter is dead.

Amanda Berry

Amanda Berry

Background

At around 7:45pm on April 21 2003 (the day before her 17th birthday), Amanda Berry left her job at a Cleveland area Burger King. She called her mother on her cell phone, told her that she had gotten a ride, and would call right back.

She has not been seen since.

Nearly a year and a half later, Louwana Miller (Amanda's mother) appeared on an episode of the Montel Williams show to ask Sylvia Browne what happened to her daughter.

The Reading

The episode was first broadcast on November 17, 2004.

Here is a transcript of the reading:

(Montel) Williams: My next guest needs to know what happened to her missing daughter. Now, this has been crazy, Sylvia. Take a look at this.

[Excerpt from videotape]

Williams: On April 21st, 2003, 16-year-old Amanda Berry left her part-time job never to be seen again.

(Louwana) Miller: It was the day before her 17th birthday. She had just got off of work, and she was walking home. Then she said, `I got a ride. I'll call you right back.'

Williams: Amanda never made it home that night. She was last seen getting into a vehicle with three men. Local law enforcement and FBI were immediately called in. The FBI, who had tapped the family's home phone, discovered that the stranger had called from Amanda's cell.

Miller: I got a phone call four or five days later, and they said, `Amanda's with me. She's fine, and I'll have her home in a few days.' And then a few days never came. It's been a year and a half since I've heard anything from my daughter. I need to speak with Sylvia to see if she can help me find out where my daughter is.

Williams: To this day, Amanda Berry has never been found.

[End of excerpt]

Williams: Please welcome Louwana to the show. Louwana, I mean, did your daughter normally--she called, obviously, and said to you, `I have a ride home.' Was that normal? That--just that? She would get a friend to pick her up and bring her home?

Miller: Yeah, she usually had somebody to take her to work or a friend would, you know, meet her outside or something because she just hated walking in that uniform. She hated it.

(Sylvia) Browne: Did she know of anybody by the name of...(censored by network).

Miller: I don't--I don't know. That don't sound familiar.

Browne: Now, what I don't understand is her jacket was in a dumpster. Because she's wearing a jacket.

Williams: Was she wearing a jacket?

Miller: She had on a black, hooded jacket, yes.

Williams: Would that give a clue to who--I mean, obviously...

Browne: Oh, yeah.

Williams: ...the last witness who saw her said three people?

Browne: Because with the--the "CSI" and everything else we have on now, the forensics--and I'm not trying to knock the police department, because I know they're overloaded, and I work with a lot of them.

Williams: But did she not say, `I have a ride home,' as if it was one person?

Miller: Right, she said, `I have a ride.'

Browne: There was only one person.

I am not clear why Williams thinks that "I have a ride" implies only one person.

An eyewitness had told police that they had seen Amanda getting into a car with thee men. Was Williams saying this to defend Browne's description of only one person?

The reading continues (emphasis mine):

Miller: She was talking to my other daughter, and she said, `I have a ride, and I'll call you in a minute,' which we always keep in contact.

Browne: Now, the thing that gets me is this sort of Cuban-looking, short kind of stocky build, heavyset...

Miller: Can you tell me if they'll ever find her? Is she out there?

Browne: She's--see, I hate this when they're in water. I just hate this. She's not alive, honey. And I'll tell you why, here we go again. Your daughter was not the type that would not have called you.

Miller had just said that she and Amanda always kept in contact. Browne is just repeating that back to her, as though Browne knew it "psychically," typical in cold-reading performances.

Miller: Right.

Browne: In other words, there's a lot of runaways. You know what I'm saying...

Miller: Right.

Browne: ...that I've had on this show, where I say, `Oh, forget it, they're in Podunk, Idaho, or somewhere.' Your daughter was not the type that wouldn't have checked in with you if she was alive.

Miller: Right. Right.

Browne: But I'm sorry they didn't find the jacket. I'm sorry they didn't find, because that had DNA on it.

Williams: Is there any way that they can--this case will be solved? Or...

Browne: I think it will, especially if they look for this person. I can't believe--can you go back? Are there any people working there now that was working there then?

Miller: I don't think so.

Browne: Well, there's got to be somebody that you could track or the police could track.

Miller: He was a young kid? Or...

Browne: He was maybe 21, something like that, 21, 22.

Miller: Does he have...

Browne: Always wore his pants very low, you know?

Williams: The police have no--nothing, correct?

Miller: Nothing. And if anything they do find out, I--I don't hear nothing of it until it comes out on the news or something and they...

Browne: That's very common because a lot of times, they don't want to give any clues to anyone because we have a lot of copycats, and then they'll call in, you know? I remember when I was working on the Bundy case, they wouldn't let anything out, no.

If Browne is talking about Ted Bundy, the famous serial killer, I have seen no evidence that Browne ever "worked" on the case.

Miller: So you don't think I'll ever get to see her again?

Browne: Yeah, in heaven, on the other side.

Williams: Let me take a little break. We'll be right back after this.

News Reports

As of this writing (June 11 2007), Amanda Berry is still missing.

But here are some excerpts from news reports about the case which may show some of the aftermath of Browne's "reading."

On Her Heart: Missing Mandy - Cleveland Plain Dealer, Match 5 2006

The full article can be purchased here.

Plain Dealer Publishing Co.
Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

March 5, 2006 Sunday
Final Edition; All Editions
SECTION: METRO; Pg. B1
LENGTH: 535 words
HEADLINE: On her heart: missing Mandy
BYLINE: REGINA BRETT, Plain Dealer Columnist

Every few months she called.

She always wanted the impossible: Find Mandy.

She wanted me to do more. Write another story. Call the FBI. Get the TV cameras rolling.

"Please, honey," she begged.

She always called me honey, though she was younger than I.

I never met anyone like Louwana Miller, whose daughter Amanda Berry vanished after her shift at Burger King on April 21, 2003. She had told her sister on a cell phone, "I've got a ride. I'll call you back." Then she vanished between Burger King and her home a few blocks away on West 111th.

...

When I was there, she was watching a psychic on Montel. "We need her," Louwana hollered at the TV as a friend wrote down the number.

Before that psychic did her in, Louwana tried everything else.

She pestered the police and FBI for clues. She got people to knock on doors, staple fliers on telephone poles, hold candlelight vigils and prayer rallies.

She begged the media for more coverage, and we let her down.

...

She told me she named Amanda from a Conway Twitty song, "Amanda, the light of my life." She still bought Christmas presents for Amanda and sat on her bed listening to her music.

Louwana started every conversation angry, cried in the middle, and ended saying, "Thank you for doing whatever you can, honey."

The last time we spoke, she demanded, "I want her on the news. She's faded away from the whole world. It just kills me. This is killing me." It finally did.

She got her wish to see psychic Sylvia Browne, who told her about a short, stocky Burger King customer in his 20s wearing a red fleece coat. The psychic said Mandy died on her birthday, that she didn't suffer, that her black hooded jacket was in a Dumpster with DNA on it.

The psychic promised, "You'll see her in heaven." That was Louwana's final hope.

Around Christmas I heard Louwana was in the hospital. It still shocked me when she died Thursday. I couldn't help thinking of how she took the faded yellow ribbons off the front yard fence, washed them and put them on Mandy's bed. How she cried, "No one cares."

The truth is no one cared as much as she did. No one could. She was a mother facing a fate worse than death: not knowing.

Every time I called the FBI, special agent Bob Hawk, who has since retired, would tell me, "We are working on it every day. We haven't given up."

Louwana did.

She died of heart failure.

To contact the FBI with tips, call 216-522-1400.

Woman looking for missing daughter dies - 19actionnews.com

Read full report here.

CLEVELAND - A woman who had spent the last three years looking for her missing daughter died of heart failure at 44, her family said.

Louwana Miller had been hospitalized since December for pancreatitis and other ailments. She died Thursday at a rehabilitation center in suburban Lakewood, said her sister, Theresa.

The disappearance of her daughter, Amanda Berry, had taken a toll as Miller's health steadily deteriorated in recent months, family and friends said.

...

Along with community activists, Miller publicized the girl's disappearance through walks, vigils and interviews with local media.

Art McKoy, a Cleveland-area advocate for crime victims, said Miller changed after a psychic on the "Montel Williams Show" told her that her daughter was probably dead.

"From that point, Ms. Miller was never the same," McKoy said.

Analysis

Was Browne right? We don't know. But it would appear that the information she provided on the show was of no use to law enforcement, despite her having given a description of the kidnapper, and evidently, his name.

But, was Browne's reading in some way responsible for Louwana Miller's death?

From news accounts, it apparently had a dramatic effect on her emotionally, but there is no way to know for certain whether that had any connection to her decline in health and subsequent death.

Conclusion

Up until now, this site has only profiled Browne's "missing persons" readings when the outcome is known - the missing person has been found, whether alive or dead.

So far, in every single one of those cases, Browne has been proven substantially wrong, with few if any of her statements turning out to be correct.

But while this particular reading cannot be firmly placed into either the "Browne Was Right or "Browne Was Wrong" column, it still illustrates very poignantly that Browne's nonsense can have a dramatic negative impact.

Sometimes, Browne has given false hope, telling people that their loved one was alive when that loved one was in fact already dead.

Other times, she has taken hope away falsely, telling people that their loved one was dead when in fact the loved one was still alive.

When confronted with this list of total failures, Browne (and her supporters) often say "Nobody is right all the time," and this is certainly true, especially of Browne. At this point, I have yet to find a single verifiable case where Browne was substantially correct in a missing person or homicide case.

Given this abysmal track record, it would seem to me that Browne has to be one of three things:

1. A cold-reader, pretending to be psychic, or
2. Self-deluded, and mistakenly thinks she is psychic, or
3. An extremely bad psychic who is seldom if ever right about missing persons cases.

I firmly believe she falls into the first category. But, whichever of these she is, what business does Browne have telling the families of missing persons anything, especially that their loved one is alive or dead?

I have yet to see Browne be substantially right in one of these cases. But even if she was right 87% of the time (as she claims), how could anyone with an ounce of compassion in them tell a parent that their missing child is dead, when they really don't know for sure?

Louwana Miller may well be a tragic - if extreme - example of what that lack of compassion can do.

My thanks to QG for finding this case, and to LA for obtaining the reading transcript from LexisNexis.

amandaberry.net

Amanda Berry as she might appear today

Amanda Berry as she might appear today

Amanda Berry is still missing. The above image is an "age progressed" photo of what Amanda may look like today.

For more information on her case, visit Find Amanda Berry (www.amandaberry.net).

Anyone with information should contact:

FBI Hotline: 1-888-660-5437

Cleveland Crimestoppers: 1-216-252-7463

Cleveland Police Dept.: 1-216-621-1234

Update: June 01, 2013

Amanda Berry in hospital with her daughter

Amanda Berry in hospital with her daughter (born during Amanda's captivity)

On May 6th, 2013, Amanda Berry, along with two other young women (Georgina DeJesus and Michelle Knight), was found alive and being held captive in a house in Cleveland.

Unfortunately, Amanda's mother did not live to see this day.

Sylvia Browne is taking some well-deserved criticism for having told Amanda's mother that Amanda was dead. For more information on this, see Backlash against psychic Sylvia Browne - USA NOW video.

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