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CNN WOLF BLITZER REPORTS

Paul Wellstone Killed in Plane Crash; Death Penalty Faces Sniper Suspects in Multiple Jurisdictions

Aired October 25, 2002 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, WOLF BLITZER REPORTS: ...sniper suspects, the latest right now on WOLF BLITZER REPORTS.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR (voice-over): A small plane goes down in Minnesota, among the dead Senator Paul Wellstone, members of his family, members of his staff, and the flight crew.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the unthinkable. This is what it is. It's the unthinkable.

BLITZER: Shock and mourning for the one time underdog who became a champion of the little guy.

SEN. PAUL WELLSTONE (D), MINNESOTA: I focus on the issues that are important to people in terms of their jobs and education and health care, and that's who I am.

BLITZER: We'll have the latest on the crash, the investigation, and the political ramifications at the climax of a tough reelection campaign.

The sniper suspects, the big question today why? As the legal process begins, who will put them on trial? One community wastes no time.

CHIEF JOHN WILSON, MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA POLICE: We do intend to seek the death penalty.

BLITZER: And, a deadline just hours away, will gunmen holding hundreds of hostages in Moscow start killing their captives?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: It's a day of mourning here in the nation's capitol as well as around the country. Today, flags are at half staff. The United States Senate has lost one of its members. Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. His campaign manager calls it earth shattering and unthinkable. As we've been reporting all afternoon, Paul Wellstone, Democrat senior Senator from Minnesota has been killed in a plane crash, along with his wife, daughter, and five others.

They were in a chartered turbo prop with two pilots at the controls that crashed in a wooded area near Eveleth, Minnesota. That's about 175 miles north of Minneapolis. The Wellstones were there to attend a funeral for the father of a state lawmaker. Now, flags in Washington, Minnesota, and elsewhere flying at half staff and questions are flying about what this will mean for the election, which is only 11 days away.

Wellstone was in a tight battle for reelection, that race one of a handful that will determine control of the U.S. Senate. And while news of Wellstone's death shocked and saddened colleagues on both sides of the aisle, it was especially difficult for his staff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLLIN MCGINNIS, WELLSTONE CHIEF OF STAFF: The Department of Transportation has confirmed that the identification number on the tail of the plane that went down southeast of Eveleth, Minnesota matched the serial number of Senator Wellstone's plane. The reports are that there were no survivors. We are shocked and saddened by this horrible news. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those who were on the plane. We will provide additional information as we have it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We often turn to CNN's Miles O'Brien during stories like these. He's a pilot. He's very familiar with the kind of plane Senator Wellstone was on. Miles is joining us now live from Atlanta with more on that -- Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we got to start off as we always do with a caveat that this is obviously very early in this investigation and it would be speculative to get too far into the causes. But we can tell you what was going on in the atmosphere, and it was not a pretty day for flying there.

First of all, let's tell you a little bit about this trip from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, 175 miles north to the small town of Eveleth. As we look at our graphical computer device which allows us to look at satellite imagery, let's zoom right on down into the Minnesota area.

The flight left from an airport in suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul, Eden Prairie specifically, the Flying Cloud Field, and it was a King Air A-100. Now this is kind of a mainstay of business turbo prop aviation. It's been in service for about four decades and is an excellent plane with good reliability, twin turbo prop, 850 horsepower engines.

The flight went north across Minnesota, the Land of Lakes, and we didn't get to show you the airport where it landed, but there is -- there we go. Let's bring you into the airport. There's Eveleth- Virginia Municipal Airport. There is an east/west runway there which is in all likelihood what they were trying to approach at the time.

Let me show you, as we get back to that video and show you the King Air, this is some videotape we have of King Air, similar type of model. This is a C-90. This was an A-100, very similar type of aircraft. If you go to the web page we have up, I have a picture of the actual plane. This is from the Web site of the air charter service there at that field. That is the King Air 100, which was involved in this particular crash.

You can see the seating chart in the lower right there. It's actually below the words there. Let me bring it up there and you can see it has eight to nine seats. There were eight people onboard. Let me show you quickly, using some software I use to fly, a little sense of what the weather was all about.

As we look at the route, as we move to the computer in the other control room, the weather got progressively worse as the aircraft flew north, 160 nautical miles, 175 statute miles, and as it approached the Eveleth Field, the weather conditions were such that it was very close to the at bare minimums allowable for an approach to that airport.

What it required was approximately, as you look at this right here, you see that red area there. What that's telling you is visibility when I checked it was seven statute miles, 400 feet is where the cloud deck was. Well, the absolute bare minimums for an approach from the west, as we were just telling you about, would have been 400 feet with one mile of visibility. That's certainly something that is well within the bounds of the capabilities of anybody who flies air charter.

Nevertheless, what we're telling you here is that we are talking about the edge of capability for this uncontrolled field, meaning no control tower. There's a blue line which extends across there. I don't know if you can see it very well. That blue line very clearly indicates that this was icing conditions in the area and, as the National Transportation Safety Board gets on the scene, icing will be one of the things they'll look at.

Let me just explain to you why icing is a big problem. As an airplane flies through the clouds with the temperature just so, and freezing rain would be just so, the ice can build up particularly along the leading edges, on the propellers, inside the intakes for the engines, and what that can do is it reduces the aerodynamic lift of the wings, reduces the performance of the engines, can in fact take out an engine, and can put an airplane in a very difficult position, a position that is difficult to recover from.

I should tell you, Wolf, that the National Transportation Safety Board team of a dozen is on its way to the area right now in two separate aircraft. They thought they would go to Eveleth, but they chose not to. The pilots feel the weather is not good enough. They will instead fly to Duluth where there is a more precise instrument approach. So, that in and of itself is kind of telling of what's going on there right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Telling indeed, Miles O'Brien thanks very much.

And here in Washington, Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives are mourning the death of Senator Wellstone. Among them, one of his colleagues, Senator Pete Domenici who's joining me now live. He's a Republican from New Mexico.

Senator Domenici, you must be very sad even though you and Senator Wellstone often disagreed.

SEN. PETE DOMENICI (R), NEW MEXICO (via telephone): Well, I was very, very taken by this and very sad even now. We had very big differences but you know what brought us together was our advocacy for the mentally ill. He has a brother that's mentally ill and that brought us together and we worked all the time to try to get the best for them.

And, one remaining thing that just disturbs me that we didn't get it done, that was to pass a permanent parity of health insurance coverage. That drove him. That kept him moving and we just couldn't get it through the House, and I feel sorry about that. But you can bet, my friend it will be started up this coming year and it will be named exclusively for you.

So, it's a very tough day for my wife, Nancy and I. We became great friends. I hope everybody understands aside from this party business, we are normal Americans with emotions and sadness and great friendships, and he was one of my best. Thank you.

BLITZER: Senator Domenici, before I let you go, just tell us a little bit about Senator Wellstone's passion, passion for some of the issues that were so close to his heart.

DOMENICI: Well, you know you couldn't find a Senator that had more, gave more of his heart to his causes. There was always activity. He was constantly trying to get this last effort done and the U.S. House just wouldn't let us get it done but he just wouldn't give up. He was never mean spirited, never overbearing. He just wanted to get it done and he worked at it persistently and with great passion. That's the definition of him.

BLITZER: Senator Domenici well said, thanks for sharing your thoughts with our viewers, appreciate it very much. And reacting to the death of Senator Wellstone, the Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura has ordered state offices to fly their flags at half staff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JESSE VENTURA (I), MINNESOTA: We must be strong and to be strong, we only need to remember Paul Wellstone's energy, Paul Wellstone's integrity, Paul Wellstone's absolute love of his country, the people he represented, his friends and most of al his family.

On behalf of the people of Minnesota, the members of my administration and my family, I want to say that Paul Wellstone will long be remembered as the great man he was. In his honor, I have ordered state flags to be flow at half staff now through the election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That election coming up, of course, in 11 days. The former Vice President Walter Mondale who served two terms as a Senator from Minnesota says Wellstone had a very good mind. He was an honest man and had a great heart.

Republican Congressman Jim Ramstad represents Minnesota's Third House District. He's joining me now live from Minneapolis.

Congressman, I know you're on a different party but what does this mean for Minnesota, the loss of Senator Wellstone?

REP. JIM RAMSTAD (R), MINNESOTA: Well, like all Minnesotans, Wolf, I'm overwhelmed by sadness at the loss of Paul and Sheila and Marsha Wellstone, as well as the five others who perished in this unbelievable tragedy. We lost a tireless advocate for people in need, a champion of the underdog. Paul was...

(AUDIO GAP)

BLITZER: All right.

RAMSTAD: ...worked their heart out for abused women and their children. We lost two great public servants and great friends.

BLITZER: Congressman, talk a little bit about the man himself. What was he like in your day-to-day encounters?

RAMSTAD: The public persona was the same as the private person. Paul was always very genuine, very authentic, very real. He believed very passionately in his causes and fought very hard for them. He had a great sense of humor, Wolf. I don't have any friends with a better sense of humor. He loved his wife and family, loved Minnesota, loved the people of Minnesota.

You know, I had lunch with him a couple weeks ago in the Senate dining room, and what other United States Senator, Wolf, goes back to the kitchen and thanks the dishwashers, the people who cook the food. That was Paul Wellstone. He just loved people.

BLITZER: Congressman, that probably explains why we're seeing so many people show up at his office in the U.S. Senate now, bringing flowers, just trying to express their condolences, their tribute. They're walking over. They're showing their sympathy, their condolences to this Senator who may have been short in stature but was passionate and fiery in his commitment.

RAMSTAD: Well, this outpouring of love, the support from people from all walks of life right behind me at his headquarters says it all. People regardless of their station in life respected, admired Paul's determination, his courage, his integrity, and his passion. We lost a great public servant and a great friend today, Wolf.

BLITZER: Congressman Jim Ramstad, we all remember, we will always remember Senator Wellstone. Thanks for sharing some moments with us.

RAMSTAD: Indeed we will. Thank you, Wolf. BLITZER: Thank you very much. Paul Wellstone, 58 years old.

Let's turn now to some other top stories of the day. Sniper suspects caught by their own mistakes, find out what we know so far about their cross-country journey into the bizarre. We'll have live coverage from our investigative team.

Also, an acquaintance who warned police back in Washington State, find out why he thought they were so dangerous. Plus, Hurricane Kenna slams the Mexican coast driving thousands from their homes, the latest on that and more, all of which is coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(AUDIO/VIDEO GAP)

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: ...has become the focus in the sniper investigation. Authorities from Maryland, Virginia, Washington, and the federal government are still debating who has the best chance for conviction. But Montgomery County where six of the 13 sniper victims were struck decided its going ahead and filing murder charges.

DOUG GANSLER, MARYLAND STATE ATTORNEY: We are able to present the best or most extensive evidence here in Montgomery County.

KOCH: Alabama was first out of the chute announcing in a morning press conference that it would seek the death penalty if sniper suspects John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo were tried there.

WILSON: We will make an example out of somebody.

KOCH: Alabama, Maryland, and Virginia all have the death penalty but Maryland has a moratorium against it and forbids the death penalty for minors. Still, governors where the sniper struck insist in this case the penalty can and should be applied.

GOV. PARRIS GLENDENING (D), MARYLAND: It will not in any way be deterred or impacted by that moratorium.

GOV. MARK WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: Clearly, this is a case that I believe where the death penalty is appropriate. I hope we will pursue this to the full extent of the law.

KOCH: The two suspects are being held at an undisclosed location in Maryland. Meanwhile, flowers and gifts flowed into Montgomery County Police headquarters in an outpouring of public gratitude. Elementary school children crafted banners and cards to thank officers for keeping them safe.

OFFICER TOM BAKALIS, MONTGOMERY CO. POLICE: It brought a tear to my eye. This is what being a police officer, a Montgomery County police officer is all about, see the love and the appreciation, just knowing that those kids can go outside and run around today like they did when I was there. It was all worth it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOCH: Washington, D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey also said that a thank you should go out to members of the media. He pointed out that if the alert hadn't gone out across the airwaves, across the television, about the Chevrolet Caprice with the New Jersey tags that perhaps that car would have just disappeared into the night, the killers never being caught or perhaps more sniper killings would have gone on perhaps for weeks or months before the men were brought to justice -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Kathleen, to be precise, Governor Parris Glendening the Maryland Governor, where there's a moratorium on the death penalty, he's saying that both Malvo and Muhammad would be eligible for the death penalty even though Malvo is only 17-years-old?

KOCH: No, Wolf, that's not what he's saying. He is saying that Muhammad they would seek the death penalty in that case. However, though they are trying Malvo as an adult, that at the age of 17 he would not be eligible for the death penalty, only life in prison.

BLITZER: All right, Kathleen Koch with the latest from Montgomery County thank you very much.

And here's your chance to weigh in on this story. Our "Web Question of the Day" is this: do you think the sniper suspects can get a fair trial? We'll have the results later in this program. Vote at my Web page, cnn.com/wolf.

While you're there, I want to hear from you. Send me your comments. I'll try to read some of them on the air each day at the end of this program. That's also where you can usually read my daily online column, cnn.com/wolf. I didn't write one today because we were involved in breaking news coverage on the death of Senator Wellstone. There will be another one there on Monday.

And, one of the few certain facts in the sniper case right now is that the two suspects are behind bars but motives, potential targets, and other key elements remain a big part of this complex mystery.

Joining us now with more developments in this extraordinary case, our Justice Correspondent Kelli Arena -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as investigators continue to delve into the lives of John Lee Malvo and John Allen Muhammad, more details do continue to emerge. Now hopefully when all the work is done, there will be a clearer understanding about why these two men took the lives that they did.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARENA (voice-over): John Allen Muhammad converted to Islam 17 years ago, but only recently changed his last name from Williams to Muhammad. Friends and family say they noticed a definite change in him in the last year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something has happened in John's life that has created this because this is totally out of character.

ARENA: Muhammad, according to investigators, made anti-American statements and sympathized with those who participated in the September 11 attacks when talking to his neighbors in Washington State. As a member of the Nation of Islam Organization, he provided security during the Million Man March in Washington in 1995. There is no evidence to support that he's a member of any organized terrorist group.

But sources say investigators are practicing due diligence, looking into whether Muhammad or his teenage counterpart had any ties to the Muslim terrorist group Jamat al Fuqra (ph) which investigators say has a U.S. presence. FBI agents are also questioning detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and elsewhere about the two men.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ARENA: Now the investigative work is far from over. Muhammad used at least eight aliases and, as for Lee Malvo, his role is coming into sharper focus. Investigators say that writing samples taken from Bellingham High School in Washington State appear to match the writing and the letters left after two sniper attacks. Sources say that investigators believe that Malvo also may have been the shooter during some of the attacks.

One major problem right now, Wolf, is neither man is offering much information to interrogators. In fact, Malvo we are told by sources, even tried to escape from his interrogation room by climbing up into the ceiling ducts when investigators left the room for a small amount of time, back to you.

BLITZER: They both have been given court-appointed lawyers though, right Kelli?

ARENA: That's right, Wolf.

BLITZER: And we assume their lawyers are telling them they have the right to remain silent.

ARENA: I'm sure they were read their rights and they know that, yes.

BLITZER: Have you been able to clarify the mystery of the white vans and the box trucks? Were there ever any such cars?

ARENA: You know, Wolf, this is just one of those things that happens in a situation like this. There were, in fact, you know -- witnesses did see white vans and a white box truck at the site. These witnesses were determined to be credible. They turned that information over to investigators. Investigators put that information out.

But it was very hard because even though we heard investigators saying don't close your mind to that, you know, it could be anything, but this is what's been seen, so many people here were fixated on white vans and trucks, and as a matter of fact any time, you know, one of these incidents took place, you know the highways were shut down and we saw people, you know, being pulled out of white vehicles. So, it's just one of those things that happens, Wolf.

BLITZER: And a lot of second guessing, I assume, on that Chevy Caprice, even though the District of Columbia Police Chief Charles Ramsey did say early on that an eyewitness saw a Chevy Caprice.

ARENA: That's right.

BLITZER: A dark Chevy Caprice leaving the scene of that murder here in northwest Washington.

ARENA: That's right, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, a lot of footnotes are going to be tied up on this as we go along. Kelli Arena doing meticulous, precise reporting for us as she always does, thank you very much Kelli.

And in a moment, more on the sniper suspects was Chief Charles Moose really mad at the news media the day that he talked? And, appearances may not necessarily always be what they seem, we'll explain. That's coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. The public face of the sniper investigation was Charles Moose, the police chief of Montgomery County, Maryland.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve has new information on his key role.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The revelation was not what investigators wanted or needed but Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan reveals that Chief Moose's show of temper was in part a strategy to further the investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIEF CHARLES MOOSE, MONTGOMERY COUNTY POLICE: I beg of the media, let us do our job. If the community wants you to do it, they will call today and we will have a vote and if it's decided that Channel 9 is going to investigate this case, then so be it. So be it.

DOUG DUNCAN, MONTGOMERY COUNTY EXECUTIVE: They had some communication from the shooter. They had to show that there were directions in that communication. They had to show that they had nothing to do with the release of that information.

MESERVE: So the real audience for that outburst wasn't the media. The real audience was the sniper?

DUNCAN: Absolutely. Absolutely and they were -- and you know what, he did this knowing he was going to be criticized for it. He did this knowing that he was going to be the bad guy and be portrayed that way by the media.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MESERVE: Duncan says he has no indication that anyone other than the two men in custody were involved in the shootings, no accomplices. He also says he believes had they not been caught, they would have kept up their rampage. That is why, he says, investigators held their breath and hoped they'd be caught before they killed again -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jeanne Meserve thanks very much.

At the start, authorities thought the sniper suspects were really smart. Then police had reason to believe otherwise. We'll show you why.

Also a hurricane pounding Mexico forcing thousands from their homes, the latest on this Category 5, Kenna.

And later, a hostage crisis with gunmen threatening to kill, but first a look at news making headlines "Around the World."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): Moving in. Israeli troops took over the West Bank town of Jenin, imposing a curfew and exchanging fire with Palestinian gunmen. Israel says Jenin was the home of two suicide bombers who killed 14 Israelis in a bus attack this week.

There was ruckus in Caracas when thousands gathered to call for the ouster of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. A growing number of military officers have joined the protest.

Was it politically motivated? A member of the Japanese Parliament was stabbed to death outside his home? Japan's last political assassination took place more than 40 years ago.

Trial twist. In Britain there has been an ironic development connected to the theft trial of Princess Diana's former butler. It turns out that while Princess Diana's mother was testifying in London, she herself became a theft victim. Someone broke into her home in Scotland and stole jewelry.

Backhand victory. Retired tennis star Boris Becker was convicted of tax evasion in Germany. He was sentenced to pay a half a million dollar fine but managed to avoid prison. The three time Wimbledon champ called staying out of jail "my most important victory."

Here is a story that gives a new meaning to the phrase "talking trash." Some garbage trucks in Taiwan are equipped with loud speakers so that while they make their daily rounds, they also teach English.

MECHANIZED VOICE: Where are you from?

MECHANIZED VOICE: I am from Taiwan.

BLITZER: After six weeks, the project is at least a partial success. Someone is learning English -- the trash collectors.

And that's our look "Around the World." (END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to CNN. I'm Wolf Blitzer. More on the sniper suspects, but first, let's take a look at some other stories making news right now.

Mexico's Pacific coast is being slammed by one of the most powerful storms to hit the area in decades. Hurricane Kenna landed with 115 mile an hour winds, downing trees and power lines. At last resort, the storm had moved inland, and sustained winds were at 80 miles an hour.

Prosecutors had in Maryland say they'll file six counts of first degree murder against the two sniper suspects, and Alabama officials are charging them with capital murder for a killing at a Montgomery liquor store that predates the D.C. area killings. John Allen Muhammad could face the death penalty in both states. His alleged accomplice, 17-year-old Lee Boyd Malvo, could be executed if he's convicted in Alabama.

Joining us for some analysis of this on the phone, CNN Legal Analyst Jeff Toobin.

You've all often said, Jeff, as many have said, that possession is 99 percent of the law. It looks like Montgomery County, the Maryland authorities, have possession of these two suspects. Does that automatically mean they'll be able to prosecute them?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it doesn't automatically mean it, but it certainly means that they have a very good shot at it. I'm sorry, that's a poor choice of words. But it is likely that Maryland will go first mostly, I think, because you have six victims there, and you don't have more than one victim in any other county around the country.

BLITZER: What did you make of Governor Parris Glendening of Maryland's announcement today that the moratorium on the death penalty in Maryland would not be applicable in this particular case?

TOOBIN: Well, even though he's not running for office any more, he is a politician, and I think he sees which way public sentiment is going. I also think, as a technical legal matter he's right. As I understand the moratorium, it applies to no new executions until he can be satisfied that the procedures they are using of fair. People can still be sentenced to death. So, since the suspects have not yet been sentenced to death, it would fall outside the moratorium. Given a less politically popular case, he might have chosen to express himself a different way.

BLITZER: I guess you could argue that one of the reasons the authorities in Alabama would like to try these guys for murder and potentially face the death penalty is -- if, in fact, they're convicted, let's say in Maryland but don't necessarily get the death penalty, serve 40, 50 or 60 years are still alive, they could theoretically still try them down there. Is that right?

TOOBIN: It's not theoretically, it's absolutely true, and consider if Malvo goes first in Maryland, he's sentenced to life in prison, he could get up the next morning, go on trial in Virginia, and get the death penalty in Virginia in any of several counties in Virginia. So Malvo, though he doesn't face the death penalty in Maryland, he could get it in any of several counties in Virginia, and he could get it in Alabama as well.

BLITZER: What are they going to do to make sure that these two suspects, assuming they're tried, let's say here, in Maryland, they get a fair trial. Will they have to move it, not only to a different county, but perhaps even to a different state?

TOOBIN: Well, I don't think there's any precedent for moving a state court trial out of the state. What's so extraordinary is just the amount of publicity these killings have gotten, and when you're talking about Maryland and Virginia, you're not talking about very big states. So it's not like you could move it very far. I think what one thing the defense will certainly ask for is to let some time pass. You know, not have an immediate trial, and perhaps move it to a different part of the state where -- certainly Montgomery County strikes me as an unlikely locale for this trial, just given the obsession that this case was there. But, you know, it's hard to argue that any part of Maryland is -- was immune from it, but I think, you know, you can't really move a state trial out of state, so the defense will do as best they can.

BLITZER: One final question before I let you go. Can we assume that both of these suspects eventually will get very prominent, famous, well-known defense attorneys to come in and represent them?

TOOBIN: I don't think you can assume that at all. You know, this is not -- this is a high-profile assignment, but it is not a particularly glamorous assignment. It likely to be a very long representation. When you consider all the different jurisdictions that are lining up to try these people, you know, I think it is frankly unlikely that a very prominent lawyer will come in for either of them. I could be wrong, but I think the government is likely to subsidize a competent defense, but I don't see a long line of high profile attorneys coming in for this one.

BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, our legal analyst, thanks for your expertise. Appreciate it very much.

Meanwhile, a man in Washington state who says he knew both suspects has come forth with a stunning twist in this case, a warning to police that something deadly was being planned.

Ray Lane of our Affiliate KING in Seattle reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HARJETT SINGH, FORMER FRIEND OF SUSPECTS: They mentioned that they are going to shoot from distance, from the bush, and this and that. RAY LANE, KING CORRESPONDENT: Harjett Singh says he feared it would come to this, that he warned police months ago that John Muhammad and Lee Malvo were dangerous. Singh met the two at a Bellingham YMCA, where they worked out together, soon sharing conversations and dinners, but not long after that, he says the pair started talking about the downfall of America, wanting to kill police officers and plans involving high-powered guns.

SINGH: They slowed me the blueprint of silencer, and silencer itself. Then that make me really concerned that they're up to something no good. They're up to -- they're serious what they're saying.

LANE: Malvo, 17 years old, briefly attended Bellingham High School starting one year ago, but by December, the red flags started popping up. School officials, then police, could not figure out who he was.

CHIEF RANDY CARROLL, BELLINGHAM POLICE: He had arrived at Bellingham High School without transcripts or without documents. We were attempting to assist the school district in verifying where he came from.

LANE: Malvo left school abruptly, not even finishing the school year. In the past few days, investigators moved in at Bellingham High, searching and finding handwriting samples from the teenager, most likely to compare against handwriting on those letters left all around the Washington, D.C. area. For nearly half a year, the suspect stayed at the Light House Mission, a homeless shelter along the waterfront, leaving there in January.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Muhammad was accompanied by a teenaged male whom John claimed to be his stepson.

LANE: It was also there at the mission that the Whatcom County Sheriff's Department tracked down Muhammad and his three other children, ages 8, 9, and 11, who were staying in his custody illegally.

DAVE CHESSOM, LIGHT HOUSE MISSION: He was -- yes, he was acting a little bit strange, but we had just taken his three children away, so at the time, it didn't seem really out of character for him but he was certainly acting a little bit different.

LANE: But Harjett Singh cannot help but wonder what if, what if these two men, if they are indeed the snipers, were never allowed to terrorize in the first place?

SINGH: Their motive are killing people, spreading fear. There's no doubt about that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: That report from our affiliate KING in Seattle. Thanks very much. And we have this information just coming into CNN. The FBI has issued a federal warrant, we're told, for one Nathanel Osbourne, who is believed to have sold the car -- at least made the car available to John Allen Muhammad, the Chevy Caprice that we have all now become familiar with, as a material witness, a warrant under seal as a material witness, not, repeat not, as a suspect. Nathaniel Osbourne wanted for questioning as a material witness by the FBI. I repeat, he's not wanted as a suspect.

We're developing this story. We'll get more information and make it available to you just as soon as we get it.

And as the investigation into the D.C. sniper attacks unfolded, authorities' perception of the killer started to change. And CNN has learned they also had the suspects within their reach more than once. Here's CNN investigative correspondent Art Harris.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ART HARRIS, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the beginning, there were just bullets coming out of nowhere and a climbing body count. To law enforcement's top criminal minds, it looked like a brilliant serial killer at first -- elusive, calculating, able to vanish without a trace. It was baffling, experts agreed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's willing to do anything to prove no one can control him.

HARRIS: Was it a spree killer, or a classic serial killer driven by inner urges, or maybe a rare combination of both?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He doesn't want (UNINTELLIGIBLE). He wants to think he's above them and controlling them, and so -- but he wants to start some kind of communication so he can have fun with this.

HARRIS: Was it possible they were dealing with a killer or killers who fit no pattern, no classic profile, some new strain of evil?

Then came the shooting at the Ponderosa steakhouse in Ashland, Virginia, where investigators found a note demanding $10 million.

(on camera): CNN has learned this was one of the key turning points, prompting the task force to take a hard look at just how crafty the sniper really was. Just how smart was his demand that money be wired to a bank account tied to a stolen ATM card, a transaction that could pinpoint his location and maybe photograph his face?

(voice-over): Experts say classic serial killers are driven by inner urges, not cash.

Then came his demand to talk to the task force using a pay phone that could be tapped and staked out by police. Another clue to make them question they were dealing with a mastermind. As it turns out, the suspect's car had been spotted in the Washington/Baltimore area, and the tag run several times during the investigation. And the car was even photographed after running a red light. But the car wasn't connected, sources say, until after police got their big break.

One suspect had left a fingerprint at the scene of a Montgomery, Alabama murder. While the killing was cold blooded, sources say an emerging motive for murder remains unclear and appears to more mundane than purely pathological, like money and maybe cheap thrills.

One law enforcement source calls the alleged killer or killers "dumb with a lot of dumb luck."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Wolf, I've got this latest information that a D.C. police officer pulled over their blue Chevy Caprice October 3 about 7:00 p.m., just hours after the first four murders, and about two hours before Pascal Charlot was fatally shot in the chest in Washington, D.C. Sources tell me the officers stopped the car because it didn't come to a complete stop at a stop sign. He ran the tag to see if the car was stolen, but it came back clean. And no ticket was issued. Law enforcement is now looking further at that traffic stop -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting information, Art Harris. Thanks for joining us. Thanks for that report.

And coming up, a breaking story: 600 people held hostage, and gunmen warn they'll start the mass killings unless their demands are met. We'll go live to Moscow. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We want to go to this news conference from the NTSB in Eveleth, Minnesota, where that plane crash occurred carrying Paul Wellstone and seven others. Let's listen into the National Transportation Safety Board investigators.

PAUL MCCABE, FBI: ... to the southeast from here, maybe about a quarter to a half a mile away from the airport. The information that we first received is that the plane was making an approach into the Eveleth Airport when something happened to it. It went down. The area where the plane is at would be when you look out here, it's pretty much what you're looking at. It's the typical wooded area of northeastern Minnesota. The approach to get into the scene is very swampy, it's wet. A lot of pine trees. It's a real unpleasant piece of property. It's not high ground or anything like that.

After the initial report came in, the first responders had gone out there. The (UNINTELLIGIBLE) township fire department responded, due to a fire that was associated with the crash. They were assisted by the Eveleth Police Department. Our personnel arrived along with the rescue squad. Some of the agencies that are on the scene, Kevin had eluded to it earlier. The FBI is here. Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, public safety. Our office, the sheriff's office, the state patrol's assisting. The National Transportation Safety Board is expected to arrive at approximately 8:00 tonight. Paul can brief you a little bit more on the team that is coming from the FBI, which is their evidence recovery team.

From our personnel who had been out at the crash scene, you should be aware that because of the fire that resulted from the crash, a lot of the plane itself has been, you know, suffered the effects of the fire, but the recovery of the victims from the accident probably will not take place in the immediate future. There's a lot of work to be done on that yet.

I won't be releasing any names. We've been in contact with the family, obviously, to try to get some background information to aid the medical examiner's office with the examinations that have to be conducted by them. That's basically in a nut shell what I can tell you right now. I'll try to answer any questions that you have if I can.

QUESTION: Sir, is it true that there was a gentleman here at the airport who apparently heard some intercom traffic, was expecting the aircraft, didn't get it, went out looking for it? Can you tell us at all what people at this end might have heard in terms of from the airport, did everything appear normal on the intercom traffic?

MCCABE: I believe what you're talking about, I had heard that also. You know, don't hold me to this, but I believe it may have been the manager of the Eveleth Airport. He was aware that the plane was coming in. I think he was doing some work out, and then realized that in, say, 10 minutes, we'll use that as a point of reference, that the plane hadn't landed and he noticed some smoke. It's my understanding that he went up in a plane, took a look around and actually found the plane down on the ground.

QUESTION: But sheriff, was there any distress call, was there any transmission of air control of any kind that the plane was in trouble?

MCCABE: To my knowledge right now, no, I haven't been made aware of anything like that.

QUESTION: Sheriff, when was the last contact of the plane? We have heard seven miles out.

MCCABE: That's the information that we received from the Duluth Airport, that they were approximately seven miles out.

QUESTION: Sheriff, can you talk a little bit more about the state of the aircraft was in, the extent of the damage, kind of a little more visual description of what the scene looks like, please?

MCCABE: Sure. The -- it has changed from the time when the first people arrived on the scene. At that time, the main fuselage of the airplane was pretty much intact. The wings had broken off. I think there was some damage to the tail section which may have broken off. So part of that had come off on impact, but the main fuselage was in tact. From the resulting fire, that has degraded that considerably.

QUESTION: Sheriff, can you describe also again the conditions that your deputies went out to the site?

MCCABE: That's correct. .

QUESTION: What the conditions were like out there?

MCCABE: If the -- I'm not sure if I understand exactly what you're asking.

QUESTION: (off mike) Describe the foliage, describe how difficult or easy it was to get to.

MCCABE: It's difficult to get to it. What we're doing is using like all-terrain vehicles, track vehicles to go in and out. The approach to get into there is very swampy. It's real wet, muddy. A typical bog type of area.

Where the plane itself actually is more of a wooded area, you know, with pine trees and what you would normally see out here when you look at the area.

QUESTION: (off mike)

MCCABE: Pardon?

QUESTION: Can you confirm that everyone is deceased? Is that correct?

MCCABE: That's correct.

QUESTION: Sheriff, can you follow up on what you said about the crash site? Was everything before the fire essentially in tact meaning engines, wings, something to suggest there wasn't a catastrophic structural failure or something that would obviously explain what happened? Was everything there?

MCCABE: Yes, understand I have not been at the scene. You know, there's just a few people that go in there. Obviously we're trying to keep the integrity of the scene as well as we can.

The information I have received from the investigators who have come back in and reported back to us. It would be I don't want to say typical, but it would be typical of a plane where there's some type of malfunction or some event that causes it to crash.

BLITZER: All right. We've been listening to the local sheriff on the scene in Northern Minnesota where that plane crashed with eight people on board, including the senator, the Democratic senator from Minnesota, Paul Wellstone.

I'm joined now by Bob Francis, the former vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. Bob, you've been listening to the descriptions. Some sort of malfunction, the sheriff suggesting, that could have caused this crash. As an investigator, and you've been on the scene of these kinds of crashes many times over your career, what goes through your mind when you listen to the sheriff give that explanation, offer that description?

BOB FRANCIS, FRM. NTSB VICE CHAIRMAN: Well, I think the sheriff, and maybe this isn't my place to say, but as a professional investigator, I would say that somebody like the sheriff that's talking about this accident at this point, it's really very difficult. He's talking about secondhand witnesses. He's using words like "I believe," "it appears," "it might." Wait for the people who are professionals doing this to go in and talk about if it might have been a mechanical problem or not.

BLITZER: And normally what would the NTSB, the FAA, what are they going to do right now? What should we anticipate?

FRANCIS: The first thing they will do is go out to the scene and they will -- and it's been cordoned off according to what the sheriff said, and that's entirely appropriate. They will look at the wreckage of the airplane and make sure the integrity of that is guarded.

They're then going to be very interested in the weather. They will be interested in were there any witnesses. Witnesses are not necessarily that reliable, but there can be very reliable witnesses, so you do witnesses.

They will be going to talk -- the sheriff made reference to the fact that there may have been some radio between the people on that small airport and the aircraft. If that's the case, they certainly want to talk to and would hope that maybe that's been recorded. They'll want to talk to the air traffic controllers. I assume it's the Duluth Approach Control who are controlling the airplane. Maintenance records.

BLITZER: And this investigation could go on for months and months and months.

FRANCIS: Yes, absolutely.

BLITZER: Thanks, Bob Francis as usual for you expertise.

And to our viewers, I want to offer this caution -- what we are about to hear is a statement that's just been made by Senator Tom Harkin, the Democratic senator from Iowa, remembering his good friend Senator Wellstone. He gets very emotional. I just want to issue that alert to those of you who may not want to watch this. Now here's Senator Harkin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(sobbing)

SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA: Paul Wellstone...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Deep breath. You can do this.

HARKIN: Paul Wellstone was my closest friend in the Senate. He was the most principled public servant I've ever known. Paul truly had the courage of his convictions, and his convictions are based the principles of hope and compassion. The Good Samaritan, helping those left on the roadside of life. His courage was an example for all. He didn't just talk about political courage or about standing for what you believe in against all odds, he led by example.

It didn't matter a bit if his was the only vote for or against something. If Paul was convinced it would advance the cause of social and economic justice, if his position would temper human greed or help silence the drums of war, he stood his ground. And by doing so, gave hope and courage to others.

Bobby Kennedy never knew Paul Wellstone, but he spoke about him in his speech in...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Senator Tom Harkin speaking about his good friend Paul Wellstone. Like so many others in the Senate, choked up, barely able to speak. Spoken with several senators who feel precisely like Senator Harkin.

Senator Wellstone, after 12 years in the Senate, was seeking a third term here in Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): Paul Wellstone was in a tough battle for reelection but he was never within to shy away from a fight.

WELLSTONE: You push the envelope all the time, but everything time you can get something done for Minnesota, you do it.

BLITZER: Wellstone was unabashed liberal whose heroes included Eleanor Roosevelt, Robert Kennedy and the Reverend Martin Luther King. And he often was at odds with centrists in his own Democratic party.

"Mother Jones" magazine called him the first 1960's radical elected to the U.S. Senate. This month he was the only Senate Democrat in the competitive race to vote against military force in Iraq. If it accomplished nothing else, the vote showed how little Wellstone had changed since his early days in the Senate when he spoke out about the first U.S. confrontation with Iraq.

WELLSTONE: I believe that if we rush to war, it will be a nightmare in the Persian Gulf. Our country will be torn apart. And Mr. President, very little good will happen in the United States of America or in the world for a long, long, long time.

BLITZER: The son of Jewish immigrants from Russia, Wellstone was born just outside the nation's capital in Arlington, Virginia in 1944. In 1963 he married his wife Sheila, who died by his side in the crash that took his life.

After earning a Ph.D. in political science from the University of North Carolina, Wellstone became a college professor in Minnesota, the state that produced such liberal icons as former Vice Presidents Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale.

In 1990, Wellstone decided to follow in their foot steps. He challenged incumbent Republican Senator Rudy Boschwitz. It sometimes looked like a Quixotic campaign, as Wellstone traveled across Minnesota in an old green school bus and spent his nights at the homes of supporters. But Wellstone narrowly won the election, and six years later he defeated Boschwitz again. This time the margin of victory was more comfortable.

Wellstone considered running for president in 2000, but decided against the idea blaming a bad back.

This year, Wellstone revealed he had a mild form of Multiple Sclerosis, but he continued his campaign for reelection anyway.

WELLSTONE: I am blessed -- sound like a real politician -- but I am blessed to be a senator from Minnesota.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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