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Precious Doe Identity Solved; NYC Blasts; Jackson Trial

Aired May 5, 2005 - 10:59   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's get started by -- with a look about what's happening "Now in the News."
Police in Missouri think they have solved the heartbreaking case of Precious Doe. They say the child whose headless body was found in Kansas City four years ago has been identified. A news conference is set to begin any minute. We will have live coverage.

Police are renewing surveillance tapes -- and they're reviewing them as well, searching for clues after two small explosions in New York City. Two devices exploded outside the building that houses the British Consulate and several other offices. Windows were shattered, but no one was injured. We'll have a live report just ahead.

Breaking news out of Houston. According to The Associated Press, police say a man shot and killed two people at an oil company office building just a short time ago. The building has been evacuated. No word on whether the gunman has been captured. We will update you as we get more information.

Another wave of attacks in Iraq has killed at least 23 people. An Iraqi police officer died when a suicide car bomb exploded outside the house of a high-ranking official. A suicide bomber killed at least 13 soldiers at an army recruitment center. And nine police officers in eastern Baghdad were killed in ambushes.

President Bush takes part in observances marking the National Day of Prayer. Mr. Bush spoke at a ceremony in the East Room early this morning.

Keeping you informed, CNN is the most trusted name in news.

Checking the clock, 11:00 a.m. on the East Coast, 8:00 a.m. on the West. From the CNN Center in Atlanta, good morning once again. I'm Daryn Kagan.

We go first this hour to Kansas City, a case that generated plenty of mystery but few clues. That is, until today.

Police are expected to announce this hour they have solved the grisly murder of a little girl known as Precious Doe. The FBI and police tried for four years to figure out who this child was and why she was killed.

They now say they know her name, Erica Michelle Maria Green. She was 3 years old. Motorists found the girl's decapitated nude body alongside a dirt road in 2001. Her head was found three days later wrapped in a trash bag.

Authorities exhumed Erica's body and skull two summers ago for a fourth time. Anthropologists built a model of the girl's face hoping it would lead to clues.

But as police will tell us in a news conference this hour, in the end it was the girl's grandfather who led them to the accused killer. Police say Precious Doe's mother is now under arrest and admits she had a hand in her own child's death.

We go live to Kansas City and the police briefing when it happens later this hour.

Right now, though, we want to go ahead and bring in Alonzo Washington, a community activist who has put the spotlight on this little girl's case for many years.

You're standing by, Alonzo, I believe, at that news conference waiting to hear the latest?

ALONZO WASHINGTON, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: Yes, I am. I'm heading upstairs to the press conference right now.

KAGAN: All right. Before you go, tell us how you came to be involved in this case a few years ago.

WASHINGTON: Well, it was a case that really wasn't getting a lot of attention. And so I began to create advocacy around it, created the mock memorial, and also began to encourage people to get involved with the case.

KAGAN: Well, and you got very involved. As I understand it, you received the call from the tipster. Tell us about the call.

WASHINGTON: Yes, 100 percent. This year I had begun to run ads in local newspapers asking people to get involved. And we did the four-year anniversary memorial. And all of a sudden, I got a call two days afterwards.

And this was a tip that was called in last year. He said no one was pursuing it. He said, you know, "I believe in your work. You are an activist. You can make them take it seriously."

And I called the tip in to Oklahoma Police Department, the local police department, again, to put press attention on it. And we have, we have our little girl now. She is no longer Precious Doe. She is exactly who he told me she was. She is now Erica Green.

KAGAN: So the man who called said that he was this girl's grandfather and he actually even sent you a photo of the girl?

WASHINGTON: He sent me a photo. He sent me DNA from the mother.

It was -- you know, you couldn't have wrote this in a movie script. I mean, you know, he remains -- he wants to be anonymous. You know, I helped raise $10,000 for the reward. And I expect him to get all of the reward money. It's $33,000 up, and it's just a glorious day that we are able to figure out who this child was.

KAGAN: What was it about this little girl that captured your heart, Alonzo? That you wouldn't let the world forget about her?

WASHINGTON: Well, I am a father of seven children. And if my children were lost, I would expect them to get national attention. And I expect them to get much more attention than a runaway bride.


WASHINGTON: And so when I would deal with this case and see some of the news stories that were getting national attention, I said, OK, if I can't make it national...

KAGAN: Alonzo, I'm just going to jump in here because the news conference is starting. Let's hear what the police have to say.

WASHINGTON: OK. Thank you.

CHIEF JAMES CORWIN, KANSAS CITY POLICE: The little girl that we have known for four years as Precious Doe has a name: Erica Michelle Maria Green. Erica was almost 4 years old when she was killed in April of 2001. She would have been 8 years old on May the 15th.

Kansas City, Missouri, police detectives are in Muskogee, Oklahoma, continuing this investigation. This case could not have been solved without the hard work and the cooperation of many, many people.

And I would like to thank those people right now. And I am sure I am going to leave a lot of people out you. And I apologize for that now.

Sergeant Dave Bernard and members of the 1020 Homicide Squad for their past and present hard work. Members of that squad are currently in Muskogee, Oklahoma, right now working on this case.

Certainly the men and women of the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department that have been working on this case for four years and will continue to work on this case to follow it up.

Alonzo Washington, Ron Hunt, and the Precious Doe Committee for keeping this case in the forefront of everybody's mind. Mr. Alvin Brooks, Mayor Barnes, Representative Craig Bland, Councilman Terry Riley, Cynthia Canady for her leadership in the neighborhood where Erica was found.

Certainly Mike Sanders, the Jackson County prosecutor, the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their support and assistance throughout this case. The community of Kansas City for pulling together and not losing faith as this day would come.

And I would hit on that point very hard today. The police department doesn't solve crime without the help of the community. And this is a perfect example of what I am talking about. We work together to solve crime and to prevent crime.

The Muskogee, Oklahoma, Police Department, and Curtis Productions (ph) and the producers of the cold case files.

At this time I want to turn the podium over to our Jackson County prosecutor, Mr. Michael Sanders, for details of the case.


At 12:35 a.m. this morning we signed a warrant for the arrest of Michelle Lynn Johnson (ph) for her involvement in the April 28, 2001 alleged murder of her daughter, Erica M. Green, better known to us as Precious Doe. She has been charged with two counts in this complaint, one count of felony murder, and additionally one count of endangering the welfare of a child.

We have asked for and received a $500,000 cash-only bond for her. We will also ask that she be extradited from Oklahoma as soon as possible.

As the chief has said, like so many cases that we prosecute and that we see, what led to our ability to stand before you here today is the hard work of the community and someone that called with a tip that led to these arrests.

You know, many of the details about this case that we obviously can't discuss. As the chief has said, this is an ongoing investigation. There are a number of people that still need to be talked to. But what we can say is that additional charges are very likely very short -- shortly in this case.

It's good to finally be able to give a name to the child. It really gives us and the community and us in law enforcement a sense of purpose. Because now that we have her name, we know that we -- who we are going to be fighting for when we go to court in the months and years ahead.

We hope that by having her name that this can finally begin to bring some closure and some healing to the community. The death of this little girl has touched our community in a way that I think is absolutely unprecedented. Absolutely unprecedented.

Literally, we can thank hundreds of people throughout our community for what they have done over the last four years to allow us to be standing before you here today. Some of these people the chief has already talked about.

Move up (ph), obviously Mayor protean (ph) Al Brooks and his hard work. Alonzo Washington, we have to give great credit to Alonzo Washington for his work in this case. and Ron Hunt.


SANDERS: Ms. Cynthia Canady and the Precious Doe Committee, but also the "The Call" newspaper for running the ads, which obviously were very helpful in this case. But additionally, we have to thank the Kansas City Police Department and the hard work of Sergeant Dave Bernard.


SANDERS: You know, I think we can all say, those of us that know Dave, I mean, he has spent many, many sleepless nights. There were a lot of us that worried about his health because of the hours that he was putting in. And we think that the toll this was taking on his body, psychologically as well as physically -- so, Sergeant Dave Bernard, we have to thank him and the hard work of the Kansas City Police Department. But for their work, the community's work, we wouldn't be standing here before you today.

Once again, many details about this case that we can't discuss, obviously, as this investigation is ongoing. With that being said, what I would like to do now is turn this over to the mayor of Kansas City, Mayor Kay Barnes.

MAYOR KAY BARNES, KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI: This is a bittersweet day because we have lost Erica. And yet, it is a day of closure. It's a day to thank everyone who has been so steadfast in the efforts to bring us to this -- close to being a conclusion.

So on behalf of the citizens of Kansas City, Missouri, I want to acknowledge and thank all of the individuals and groups that have been mentioned already this morning. That's what building a community is all about, for us to come together in both times of celebration and times of grief to do whatever we can to deal with problems, to deal with situations, and to move forward.

KAGAN: An amazing story out of Kansas City, Missouri, today. She has a name. They are talking about a little girl, the victim of a gruesome crime almost exactly four years ago, where her body was found on April 28, 2001, her head found a few days later.

And then nobody knew who she was. For all these years she went by the name of "Precious Doe." Well, now, because of a community activist and police who wouldn't give up on this, they have solved the crime they say.

The little girl's name, Erica Michelle Maria Green. She would have been 8 years old this month.

Her mother, who has been tracked down in Muskogee, Oklahoma, is being charged with her murder. They expect additional charges as well in the case.

But once again, Precious Doe has a name, Erica Michelle Maria Green. That story today out of Kansas City, Missouri. Our Drew Griffin on the way to Kansas City, and he'll have more for us later in the day.

Right now we're going to take a break. And we'll be back after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KAGAN: In our CNN "Security Watch," two small explosions rattled nerves and shattered windows in New York this morning. It happened outside a building that houses the British Consulate and other offices. But officials don't know if the consulate was the actual target.

Our Jason Carroll is live at the scene with the latest.

Jason, good morning.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Daryn.

And you are right. At this point, the question is, who did this and why? Investigators simply don't have the answers.

What they do know is that the explosive devices that were used were planted inside a planter located outside the building, and that the explosion happened early this morning. Investigators actually found two improvised explosive devices inside those planters.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly called them "relatively unsophisticated." He also described what they looked like and what they contained.


RAYMOND KELLY, NYC POLICE COMMISSIONER: We believe these to be two novelty-type grenades.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you mean by that?

KELLY: Like World War II-type. In other words, a type that people might have on their desk.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were they real or fake?

KELLY: No, they were, as I say, novelty. We believe they're fake grenades. Not active hand grenades. But we believe they were packed with some powder, perhaps black powder put inside the body of these two novelty grenades.


CARROLL: Very, very little damage at this point. No one has claimed any responsibility. Mayor Bloomberg saying there were no calls, no threats made before this explosion. No calls, no threats made after the explosion -- Daryn.

KAGAN: The mystery continues. Good to hear that everyone is OK there in New York City. Jason Carroll, thank you.

Well, after that incident in New York City, two blocks of Michigan Avenue near the British Consulate in Chicago were closed briefly this morning. It was a precaution. The street reopened before the morning rush hour and police conducted security checks.

CNN "Security Watch" keeps you up to date on safety. Stay tuned day and night for your most reliable news about your security.

Sixteen minutes past the hour. Michael Jackson's lawyers begin his defense today. Will the case against the singer actually hold up?

Plus, the brain behaves in mysterious ways. What could have made a man start speaking after a decade of silence? That is today's "Daily Dose."

And Rick Sanchez on the run? Oh, yes, you thought the stun gun was good. We are going to top that. He goes inside a manhunt to show you what it's like to go for the hunters and to be the hunted.

All ahead this hour when CNN LIVE TODAY returns.


KAGAN: Live pictures from Santa Maria, California. Michael Jackson arriving at the courthouse.

A big day as the defense gets under way with the defense of Michael Jackson in this child molestation trial. In case you are counting, it has been about 10 geek weeks, 80 or so witnesses by the prosecution. Michael Jackson gets to defend himself today against the molestation charges.

Our Rusty Dornin is looking at the defense's strategy and the prosecution's last witness.


RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: First up this morning, out of earshot of the jury will be the defense asking the judge to acquit Michael Jackson of all the charges, claiming that the prosecution didn't prove their case over the last 10 weeks. Now, if that is turned down, the defense will proceed calling their witnesses.

Now, we are expecting three now young men who were visitors to Neverland in the early '90s as children, including actor Macaulay Culkin. Now, Culkin has always said that Michael Jackson never touched him inappropriately. He also did not want to get involved in this case. Apparently, he is being dragged into it.

Now, during the prosecution's case, several witnesses testified that these young men were molested in some way. They are expected to take the stand and debunk that theory, saying that Michael Jackson never molested them. Macaulay Culkin is not expected to testify until sometime next week.

Rusty Dornin, reporting in Santa Maria, California.


KAGAN: Thank you, Rusty. Let's take a look at the docket and see what else is happening in legal briefs this morning.

Military prosecutors will now decide whether to refile charges against Private Lynndie England. A military judge -- well, that's a strange picture. A military judge has -- there we go -- has rejected her not guilty plea. He declared a mistrial in the Abu Ghraib prison case. Testimony suggested England did not understand it was wrong to pose with naked Iraqi prisoners.

A U.S. Marine will not face a court-martial for shooting an apparently wounded, unarmed Iraqi at a Falluja mosque last fall. The incident was captured by television cameras and generated worldwide outrage. But a military investigation concludes the Marine was acting in self-defense.

And here in Atlanta, a grand jury may issue indictments as early as today in the case of accused courthouse shooter Brian Nichols. Nichols was on trial for rape this March when police said he overpowered a guard and opened fire. Three people were killed.

The Duluth, Georgia, runaway bride has not spoken publicly since she returned to suburban Atlanta on Saturday night. We do expect Jennifer Wilbanks to issue a statement this afternoon, probably around 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

A lot of people think she deserves some sort of punishment for the anguish and trouble that she caused. Or at least she should reimburse officials for the cost of the three-day manhunt. Wilbanks herself is not talking, but she has hired a lawyer to speak on her behalf. Attorney Lydia Sartain talked to CNN earlier today.


LYDIA SARTAIN, JENNIFER WILBANKS' ATTORNEY: Jennifer is not a criminal, did not act with criminal intent. What she really is, is a very troubled young woman who got caught up in something that she just was not able to adequately manage.

I do not believe that she has committed a crime in Georgia or in Gwinnett County. I do not believe that jail time would serve any purpose here in this case.

Understandably, she knows she has -- there are consequences to her actions. And there are a variety of ways that she will suffer those consequences. But I do not believe that a criminal prosecution would be appropriate or serve any purpose.


KAGAN: So unclear if Jennifer Wilbanks will appear later today. But either way we will have that statement live for you, 4:00 p.m. Eastern, here on CNN.

Let's check the weather. Rob Marciano handling that for us today. (WEATHER REPORT)

KAGAN: Tracking a criminal. How does law enforcement go about finding a fugitive? We sent Rick Sanchez, a fugitive from this own program.

All right. We will be checking in with Rick just ahead.


KAGAN: Two homemade bombs exploded early this morning outside a Manhattan building that houses the British Consulate. No one was injured and damage to the building was minimal.

Great Britain is holding a general election today. But it's not known if there is a connection there. Police don't have any suspects.

In Kansas City, a little girl who was once known as "Precious Doe" has been identified. The decapitated body of 3-year-old Erica Michelle Maria Green was discovered four years ago. As we heard at the top of the hour live, charges have now been filed against the girl's mother in Oklahoma.

The murder of an African-American teenager in Mississippi 50 years ago is getting closer scrutiny. The body of Emmett Till will be exhumed from a Chicago cemetery in coming weeks. The FBI will be looking for clues that others may have been involved in the crime besides the two white men who were acquitted. Both men later confessed.

And in Baghdad, Iraq's transitional government held its first cabinet meeting today. This is video of many of those officials being sworn in yesterday. Top items on today's agenda included security, budget and ethics. And some key posts remain unfilled, including ministers for oil, electricity and defense.


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