Love her or hate her, but most can agree to this much: Nancy Grace doesn’t mince words.
PEOPLE invited the former prosecutor and now HLN legal show host to give her no-holds-barred take on some of the top crime stories of 2012:
James Holmes/Colorado Theater Massacre
A young man in full assault gear opens fire on a crowded movie house in Aurora, Colo., last July, killing 12 and wounding dozens.
“It could have been stopped. It didn’t have to happen this way. He had been given off screaming red sirens of alarm for so long,” says Grace, noting that Holmes mailed planned details of his rampage to a University of Colorado psychiatrist.
Jerry Sandusky/Penn State Molestation Scandal
The longtime former football coach is accused of molesting 10 boys over 15 years in a scandal that ravaged the reputation of the famed football program and its now-late legendary coach, Joe Paterno.
“The sentence was wrong. He could have gotten hundreds of years. He should have gotten the maximum,” says Grace of the 30- to 60-year sentence given to Sandusky. “I know that it’s un-Christian of me – I go to church every Sunday – but I wish ill will for him.”
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George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin Shooting
Standing his ground or cold-blooded murder? The Florida man is arrested in February for fatally shooting the unarmed 17-year-old in a case sparking debate about race and self-defense.
“When they lied about money, Zimmerman went ahead and screwed up any chance he had of an acquittal. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel now,” predicts Grace, alluding to Zimmerman having his $150,000 bail revoked after allegedly hiding from the court that he had raised $135,000 on a website.
But Grace still says she is “worried sick” about the tone of the trial. “After ‘Tot Mom'” – her buzzwords for the Florida Casey Anthony trial that ended in an acquittal – “I thought they always win by smearing somebody else.”
Jessica Ridgeway Murder
A child of 10 is abducted – her backpack left behind on the ground – before her body is found dismembered in Colorado, not far from Denver.
“I saw her with those little glasses on, and I don’t know what it is – she’s just so precious and so sweet,” says Grace.
As for the suspect, Austin Sigg, himself a minor at age 17, who is charged with murder and sexual assault, Grace sums him up in two words: “This freak.”
The tragic unsolved disappearance of a Utah mom delves into a true horror story as her husband, Josh Powell, blows up a house near Tacoma, Wash., in February with him and the couple’s two young sons inside, leaving them dead.
“Another mistake. The two boys are dead at his hands,” says Grace of Powell, who had long been a person of interest in Susan Powell’s disappearance but never arrested.
But Grace doesn’t think the case is over yet. Powell’s father Steven was convicted in May of voyeurism after police uncovered surreptitious images of Susan and of disrobing girls who lived next door. “I think that his father needs to be further investigated about his whereabouts the time she went missing.”