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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Hurricane Wilma?; Interview With Nancy Grace

Aired October 17, 2005 - 19:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: Good evening, everyone.
Another tropical storm. Wilma on the brink of becoming a hurricane, and it could be headed this way.

360 starts now.

ANNOUNCER: Another storm, big enough to get a name, and getting bigger. Warnings from the Florida Keys to Texas. Will Wilma become the next hurricane to put the Gulf Coast in danger? A 360 look at the threat ahead.

In New Orleans, one small step back to life as they knew it. One giant leap for every student and classroom. Getting ready for the first day of school.

A soldier killed in Iraq, his family ripped apart.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's hard. It's hard. But we're just taking it one day at a time and just waiting for the decision to come in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: A mother and father fighting over the final say on where their son will be buried, a decision no family should have to make.

Murder and mistrial. The wife of a high-profile defense lawyer is killed, and a high-profile murder case is derailed. Did the lawyer's work put his family in danger?

Live from the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.

COOPER: Good evening.

We begin tonight with the hurricane season. And yes, we are still in it. The thought of another storm hitting our shores is too terrible to contemplate, but that is exactly what we have to do tonight.

Wilma is out there, a tropical storm now, likely to become a hurricane. It's the 21st named storm of the year. CNN meteorologist Jacqui Jeras is tracking it from Atlanta. Jacqui?

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Anderson, it is possible, but it's not imminent just yet. This is a very slow-moving system, and our first estimate would bring it somewhere near the U.S. coast, possibly by the weekend. And a lot can happen between now and then.

Wilma, however, has been gaining strength throughout the day, and it's now packing winds of 50 miles per hour. It's about halfway between the Cayman Islands and Central America. It's been drifting down to the south, but is expected to start to turn off to the west. There are tropical storm warnings and hurricane watches in effect for the Cayman Islands, and then tropical storm warnings have been posted from the Honduras-Nicaragua border, extending over to Cabo Cameron (ph).

Here's the forecast track of what we're expecting. Intensifying to hurricane strength by midday-ish tomorrow, with 75-mile-per-hour winds, then curving on up to the north, and heading near the Yucatan Peninsula, possibly grazing near Cancun. But it could stay over open water, and that would be a worst-case scenario, because it will keep its strength as a powerful category 3 hurricane, taking a right hook.

So it's possible that Florida could get hit yet, it's also possible it could go to the south of Florida, even father north, Anderson. We'll a close eye on it and let you know.

COOPER: Jacqui, when is the next update on the hurricane?

JERAS: Eleven o'clock we'll have a new, complete advisory, including an updated forecast track from the National Hurricane Center.

COOPER: All right, Jacqui Jeras, thanks right now. It is tropical storm.

As we mentioned, the alphabet has had a very unusual workout this hurricane season, 21 storms deserving of names, the most since 1933. If you're taking hurricane attendance in 2005, it sounds something like this. Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Dennis, Emily, Franklin, Gert, Harvey, Irene, Jose, Katrina, Lee, Maria, Nate, Ophelia, Philipppe, Rita, Stan, Tammy, Vince, and now Wilma. The letter Q and U are not used, nor are X, Y, and Z. So the next stop for names after Wilma, if there is another storm, is going to be the first letter of the Greek alphabet, which is alpha.

In California tonight, a bizarre twist in the murder trial of Susan Polk, who's accused of killing her husband. A mistrial has been declared following the apparent murder of the defense lawyer's wife. Ms. Polk is represented by Daniel Horowitz, a prominent lawyer who often appears as a legal analyst on CNN and other cable networks. His wife's body was found over the weekend. Today, a judge postponed the Polk trial until December 2.

David Horowitz is a regular on CNN's "NANCY GRACE." Nancy spoke to him yesterday about his wife's murder. She joins live form Hempstead, Long Island, tonight.

Nancy, good evening. I'm sorry it's under these circumstances.

How much of the conversation with David Polk can you tell us about? I know the sheriff, Jimmy Lee, just held a press conference, saying that his wife, Pamela Vitale, died of blunt-force trauma. What else have we learned in this case?

NANCY GRACE, HOST, "NANCY GRACE": Well, I've spoken with Daniel throughout the weekend. And ironically, Anderson, I spoke with him Friday night -- that would have been very shortly before his wife's murder -- as late as 12:00 p.m. Eastern. He had been on my Headline News show, and we had been arguing vociferously regarding the Susan Polk case, he taking the defense, I taking the side of the state.

And we continued the argument well after the show on the telephone, when they got home from dinner that night. I was on with he, his wife, Pamela Vitale, and him. And we talked for quite some time.

During that conversation, Anderson, other than arguing about the Susan Polk case, they were so happy that the completion of their home that they had been working on for so long was at hand. Anderson, they'd been living, if you can imagine, in basically an outpost on the property in a trailer. So that is where this incident went down, on -- and he...

COOPER: That's where she was found, right outside the trailer, correct?

GRACE: Correct. Apparently had opened the door to the trailer. And you know with trailers, a 6-year-old can kick in a trailer, Anderson. She apparently had gone to the door. And this is a bludgeoning death. Apparently no traditional weapon taken such as a knife or a gun.

The impact, to my understanding, was to Pamela's head. Long story short, he tells me, Daniel tells me, as do his friends and co- workers, that he was with them that afternoon working on the Susan Polk trial throughout Saturday, and then came home to discover Pamela.

COOPER: He discovered her at nighttime. Is there any sense now from either from him or authorities of when the incident might have taken place?

GRACE: Well, I do know that the time of death will be part of the autopsy. She -- her body taken into autopsy today. And there are various ways that the medical examiner can tell, usually dating back to the last meal, as to the time of the death, at the time the body quit digesting food. That is how they normally tell the time of death.

But it's my understanding he immediately called police. When I spoke to him, today and yesterday, his voice was somewhere between a whisper and a voice. Yesterday, he was on his way back to the scene to go through the scene with the police. And I want to point out right now, Anderson, there are a lot of fingers being pointed. And traditionally in the homicide of a woman, you look at the spouse, the boyfriend, the ex-spouse, the lover. And naturally, police would take a look at Daniel. But he has been totally cooperative with them and has been with them night and day.

This is such a blow. And when I last spoke to him, Anderson, his last words were, She is the love of my life. He is still speaking of her in the present tense.

COOPER: Is there any sense of -- I mean, did they -- he talk at all about any threats that he or she had received? I mean, obviously, he works with criminal defendants, you know, it's a hazardous line of work. Could this possibly be work related?

GRACE: That is an alternative that I think police are exploring. Right now, he's currently involved a very high-profile trial, mistrial just declared today, the Susan Polk murder case. That was a necessity from all points legally, Anderson. Number one, Susan Polk has a lawyer highly invested in her case. She does not want a second chair. Number two, the state does not want the jury or a juror to hear about Pamela's murder and sympathize with Daniel Horowitz.

And as far as the defense goes, what if some person on the jury thought, Hey, what if Horowitz had something to do with this?

All around, a mistrial was commanded under the law. I do not think this case will be handed off to another lawyer. I expect time will pass, and Daniel will come back and try this case. He's very invested in the Polk trial.

As far as other suspects, Anderson, when prosecutors and defense attorneys choose to enter criminal law, we unwittingly expose our family and our friends, our loved ones, to an element we may not normally associate with, dopers, rats, snitches, killers. You rub shoulders with them every day. They become part of the fabric of your life. And it is very hard to disassociate that from your home.

The reality is, I know that Daniel very often carried a weapon. I know that he had guns in the home. He had dogs there in the home. He also had about a six-foot fence around his new property. I think that will be an alternative of investigation. I think that neighbors, such as they are, in this circumstance, Anderson, this new home is situated up on a hill. It was very difficult to get to, such as a neighbor would be is someone they will look at.

But I can tell you this, Anderson, due to the remote area of the home, I do not think this was a random killing. You had to know where the home was, know who Pamela was, to effect this crime. This is not a drop-by, steal-the-VCR and leave, OK?

COOPER: Does it -- you're in an odd position. I mean, you know the people involved in this. Does it change it, reporting on it, for you?

GRACE: Well, Anderson, I've always considered myself a trial lawyer and a victims'-rights advocate at heart. Knowing them, I feel that it doesn't change the way I look at it. It gives me more knowledge.

I can tell you this, Anderson, he is a tiger in the courtroom. Outside the courtroom, I've never met a more gentle person, ever. And for many, many days, months on end, we would sit together, Daniel and myself, in court, watch the Peterson trial, argue vehemently, on air, on Court TV, on "LARRY KING," then go out to dinner with his wife and a group of other lawyers and continue the argument.

But I don't see it, Daniel. I don't see Daniel, excuse me, being any part of this whatsoever. If you could have heard his voice, Anderson, I think that said it all.

COOPER: Nancy, I appreciate you joining us tonight. Thank you very much.

A lot more ahead tonight.

Still to come, an actor who had some bit parts in some shows, including "Saturday Night Live," has killed himself. We'll tell you about it in just a little bit.

Plus, a high school principal does the unthinkable. He cancels a prom and sets off a firestorm because of the way the kids were acting at the last year's prom.

Also ahead tonight, their son died in Iraq. Now they're fighting each other over who -- over where he'll be buried. How the military rules set a new family feud.

And another apparent fumble by FEMA. Thousands of hurricane victims supposed to be out of shelters by now. We'll tell you where things stand.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Christi Paul from Headline News joins us with some of the top stories we're following tonight. Hey, Christie.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN HEADLINE NEWS: Hey, Anderson, good to see you.

A senior employee of the Coast Guard has admitted that he may have leaked information about a subway terror threat in New York last week. He apparently came to light through a series of personal e- mails citing information from two sources, the chief of intelligence for the Coast Guard, and someone in Homeland Security. Now, in addition to the Coast Guard official, who came forward voluntarily, a second person is under investigation.

The death of comedian Charles Rocket has been ruled a suicide. Remember him? Well, he was found October 7 in a field near his Connecticut home with his throat slashed. Police have ruled out foul play. Rocket appeared on "Saturday Night Live" in the early '80s, where he may be best remembered for using profanity in a spoof about the hit series "Dallas." And the National Zoo's newest panda now has a name, Taishan, which means peaceful mountain. Was named in an official ceremony marking 100 days since his birth. The cub skipped that official ceremony, though, to snuggle with his mom. What a beauty. Taishan will be introduced to the public sometime in December.

And Anderson, as I understand it, that was -- he was named in the naming contest. About 200,000 people helped win that vote.

COOPER: Wow. I did not know that. Christi, thanks. See you again in about 30 minutes.

Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers back on Capitol Hill today, where she met with a dozen and a half senators, hoping to generate a sea change in congressional opinion about her qualifications. Cameras following her showed her shaking hands and smiling, but not, in public range, anyway, speaking out about her candidacy and the uproar it's caused among conservatives, perhaps because that's a job for the president, who today called in reinforcements from the Texas to help sell his candidate. Here's CNN's White House correspondent Dana Bash.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She's impressed these, these folks. They know her well. They know that she'll bring excellence to the bench.

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These folks are six former Texas Supreme Court justices, summoned to the White House to offer personal testimonials, part of a rebooted Bush effort to fight criticism Miers is not qualified for the high court.

JAMES BAKER, FORMER TEXAS SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: I can vouch for her ability to analyze and to strategize.

BASH: Bush aides are trying to bounce back after several failed attempts to sell Miers to a furious rank and file, like playing up her religion.

BUSH: They want to know as much as they possibly can before they form opinions. And part of Harriet Miers's life is her religion...

BASH: That backfired with many conservatives. So did the president's "Trust me" line.

BUSH: I know her heart. I know what she believes.

BASH: The group Progress for America is helping the White House with their Miers-is-plenty-qualified campaign, with paid ads touting past justices with no experience. In fact, a spokesman for the group says they're footing most of the bill for the former Texas justices making the rounds in D.C.

JOHN HILL, FORMER TEXAS SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE: When we were on the lottery commission together, a lot of the problems that we had there were legal in nature. And she was just very, very insistent that we always get all the facts together...

BASH: Miers herself apparently tried to stop one bit of brewing controversy over a report two of her Texas friends told conservatives on a conference call she would overturn Roe v. Wade. Democrat Chuck Schumer says he asked her about it.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: She said no, she had not. She said, Nobody knows my views on Roe v. Wade. She said, No one can speak for me on Roe v. Wade.

BASH (on camera): That's a reminder of why the White House is now pushing Miers' resume. Bush aides realize their strategy to stop a conservative revolt by pushing information about her personal life may have ended up crossing the line.

Dana Bash, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, the conference call we just heard about from Dana Bash was the focus of a column in "The Wall Street Journal" today. It describes how two friends of Harriet Miers allegedly told a group of conservatives that she would to overturn Roe v. Wade.

John Fund is the columnist who wrote it. He joins me now.

John, good to see you again.

JOHN FUND, COLUMNIST, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Thank you.

COOPER: First of all, who was on this conference call?

FUND: Thirteen members of the executive committee of the Arlington Group, which is a coalition of religious conservative organizations.

COOPER: So like Gary Bauer...

FUND: Tony Perkins, Paul Weyerich, James Dobson, Dr. James Dobson.

COOPER: And it had been (INAUDIBLE), I mean, who was running the conference call?

FUND: It was moderated by Don Wildmon, who's with American Family Association.

COOPER: And what is the significance of this call?

FUND: It's significant because Dr. Dobson introduced the call by saying, Karl Rove has suggested that we speak with these two gentlemen. They will fill us in on reasons why -- specific reasons why we should back (INAUDIBLE) Harriet Miers.

COOPER: And the two gentlemen being Justice Hecht?

FUND: Justice Hecht, who's a long-time...

COOPER: An old friend.

FUND: ... friend, and Ed Kincaid, who's another long-time friend and a federal judge.

COOPER: Now, there's been some confusion over some of the things that were said as whether or not she does believe or whether Justice Hecht believes that Harriet Miers would overturn Roe v. Wade. You wrote -- at one point you wrote, "Based on your personal knowledge of her, if she had the opportunity, do you believe she would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade?" He was asked this. "Absolutely," said Judge Kincaid. "I agree with that," said Justice Hecht. "I concur.

But then you also write in the column that Justice Hecht, quote, "did tell the group that Ms. Miers was pro-life, a characterization he's repeated in public, but he says that when someone asked him about her stand on overturning Roe, he answered, I don't know."

FUND: Judge Hecht says he said, I don't know. But everyone else that I spoke with who was on the call said that he agreed that she would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.

COOPER: And they know this how, based on personal (INAUDIBLE)...

FUND: They were on the call.

COOPER: No, no, no. But, but, but how does Justice Hecht know (INAUDIBLE)...

FUND: You'd have to ask him.

COOPER: OK. He didn't say that on the call, then.

FUND: Well, he has had personal conversations with her, in which she says, I am pro-life. The secondary question is, your position on Roe versus Wade. Since he's not talking, I don't know.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIET MIERS, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: Thank you, Mr. President.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: You think this thing is not, you, not even going to get to confirmation.

FUND: I think the political dead weight of this is going to weigh on the senators. The hearings are going to be very controversial. Democratic senators are already talking about subpoenaing everyone on this call. And I believe that there are enough other things coming along -- you had a guest on who just talked about the lottery commission. I think that's going to be a potential issue, because, as a former lottery executive director, who was fired by Ms. Miers, who wants to subpoena -- wants to be subpoenaed, and wants to testify. COOPER: And it's also possible that anyone who was on this call could be subpoenaed to testify in confirmation hearings.

FUND: Absolutely. In fact, previous to this, Senator Specter and Senator Leahy had already talked about subpoenaing Dr. Dobson.

COOPER: It's fascinating. John, always good to talk to you. John Fund, thanks very much...

FUND: Thank you.

COOPER: ... from "The Wall Street Journal."

Still to come tonight on 360, did former House majority leader Tom DeLay turn down an offer from a Texas DA that would have let him keep his job? His lawyer says yes. We'll have the latest on that.

Plus, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is about to report the findings of his investigation into leak the identity of an undercover CIA agent. Who's he going to name? We'll try to find out what we have, what the latest is.

Also tonight, the wife of a prominent criminal defense attorney killed at her home. What the police are saying about how she died.

And back to school in New Orleans for a few students, at least.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: A big weekend in Iraq. It is still too early for solid numbers, but it appears the country's adopted a new constitution. Election officials are now counting some 10 million ballots, estimating that as many as 63 percent of the country's eligible voters participated. That's a bigger turnout than during the last election held in Iraq, which was boycotted by large numbers of Sunnis. Partial results indicate only two provinces voted against the new constitution, not enough to block it.

Today, President Bush applauded the election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: The idea that people are willing to, you know, try to work out their political differences through a process, a peaceful process, stands in stark contrast to the al Qaeda types and the terrorists and the killers that are trying to drive the process through violence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: U.S. officials said that were fewer instances of violence during the voting Saturday than in the January election. Today, however, a suicide bomber targeted mourners at a funeral held for a Sunni leader who was killed just before the vote. The sheikh had urged his followers to take part in the election.

The war in Iraq has divided a lot of families, it's caused a lot of families to make some hard decisions, including the family you're about to meet.

It's hard enough for someone to go through a divorce, and nothing can compare with the heartbreak of losing a child. But imagine having both happen, and then to have the grief of the loss become entangled in the bitterness of divorce and the bitterness over the war.

CNN's Heidi Collins reports on one couple's custody battle.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Renee Amick and Russell Hendricks (ph) are no strangers to courtroom battles. Their bitter divorce 14 years ago took three years to resolve, ugly allegations flying from both sides.

This week, they took it to the bitter end, taking to a Santa Cruz, California, courtroom, the question of where their oldest child should be buried.

Jason Hendricks, 28, died in Iraq last February.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (reading): "Dad, when I see this card, it really reminds me of you, despite the fact that you and I have never really had that close of a father-and-son relationship. You did teach me a lot when I was younger about responsibility."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: If a soldier dies without a spouse or children of his own, the Army regulations give custody of the body to the older parent. His father buried him in Oklahoma next to his grandfather. His mother went to court. She wants Jason buried in California, and claims in a phone call from Iraq, he told her that's what he wanted too.

RENEE AMICK, JASON'S MOM: This is what he considered his home. And he came home on all of his leaves here. And all of his friends that he grew up with, you know, grade school, high school, junior high. And then, of course, his family was here too.

COLLINS: During the five-day trial, even Judge Robert Yontz (ph) said he wished the family had been able to resolve this on their own. But all efforts at compromise have failed.

The Pentagon offered to bury Jason in Arlington National Cemetery, but while that was fine with his mom, it was not with his dad. Cremating the body and sharing the ashes between the parents was also rejected.

Omar James is Russell Hendricks's lawyer.

OMAR JAMES, ATTORNEY FOR JASON'S FATHER: He finds the concept of disinterment absolutely immoral, a desecration of the body of his son. And it's inconceivable to him why in the world his ex-wife is motivated to do this. It really doesn't -- it's incomprehensible.

AMICK: It's hard. It's hard, but we'll just take it one day at a time. And just waiting, you know, for the decision to come in.

COLLINS: The Pentagon is rewriting the forms soldiers will fill out before they're deployed, to eliminate painful confrontations like this on top of a sorrow of losing a child.

Heidi Collins, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: A judge is scheduled to rule on the dispute this week in Santa Monica.

ANNOUNCER: In New Orleans, one small step back to life as they knew it, one giant leap for every student and classroom. Getting ready for the first day of school.

Murder and mistrial. The wife of a high-profile defense lawyer is killed, and a high-profile murder case is derailed. Did the lawyer's work put his family in danger?

360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: The case of Valerie Plame tonight. Details and speculation coming fast and furious as zero hour approaches. "The New York Times" weighed in over the weekend about what they did and didn't know about their own reporter's involvement. Meanwhile, "Time" magazine has some ideas about the fate of some high level heads if they do indeed roll. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is investigating.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just days away from the federal grand jury deadline, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will decide whether he'll seek criminal charges against anyone for leaking the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Legal sources say Fitzgerald is also considering lesser charges like perjury or obstruction of justice.

Most of Fitzgerald's attention seems to be on Karl Rove, President Bush's top political adviser who testified for the fourth time on Friday and Scooter Libby, the vice president's chief of staff who testified numerous times before, as well.

Rove denies leaking, but has admitted to talking with reporters about the fact that former Ambassador Joe Wilson's wife worked at the CIA. According to "Time" magazine Rove already has a contingency plan if he's indicted, to resign or to go on unpaid leave, a scenario the president refused to talk about.

BUSH: We're not going to -- I'm not going to prejudge the outcome of the investigation. MALVEAUX: But Rove's attorney Robert Luskin said, "there is absolutely no truth whatsoever to the report that Mr. Rove has made contingency plans concerning his possible indictment."

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Karl's here at the White House doing the duties as he always does.

MALVEAUX: Already there's speculation about who would move in as part of Mr. Bush's new team.

DAVID GERGEN, FRM. PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: I would imagine the president would ask Ed Gillespie to step in and take that role. He's a very senior person who is experienced. The president likes him, relied on him.

MALVEAUX (on camera): But Republican sources say until Fitzgerald makes his next more, everyone is just holding their breath.

Suzanne Malveaux, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well in another Washington news, we learn today Representative Tom DeLay now indicted on felony charges could have kept his position as house majority leader is he had plead guilty to a lesser charge. DeLay's lawyer said today that Texas prosecutor Ronnie Earl had initially asked the Congressman to plead guilty to a misdemeanor plea and that DeLay turned him down.

There was no immediate confirmation on the deal by Earl's office. No details on what that charge might have been. But DeLay's attorney says it's more evidence of coercement on the part of the prosecutor that his own client has called a, quote, unabashed partisan zealot.

On Saturday, an offense (INAUDIBLE) outside San Francisco a murdered, blunt force trauma, police say. Her name was Pamela Vitale. And her husband is a well-known criminal attorney, Daniel Horowitz, a man who has appeared on CNN and other cable news stations numerous times talking about murder cases.

He is cooperating the investigation with state police, but so far no arrests have been made. Horowitz was working on a murder trial at the time of his wife's death. The judge on that case has now declared a mistrial. CNN's Thelma Gutierrez joins us live with the latest -- Thelma.

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the Contra Costa sheriff's investigators held a press conference a very short time ago and they say no arrests have been made at this case, it's very wide open. The case is wide open as you had mentioned. It all focuses around the murder of Pamela Vitale. She is the wife of Daniel Horowitz, a very prominent defense attorney in the Bay area. He was working on a very sensational case, the Susan Polk murder case at the time.

This happened on Saturday. About 6:00. Mr. Horowitz returned home from an outing. He apparently went up to the entrance of the mobile home. This is a mobile home that they are living in as they are currently building a 7,000 square foot mansion high atop a hill outside of Oakland.

He discovered his wife's body there on the ground. He immediately called 911. Investigators came out to the scene and, determined that Pamela Vitale, 52-years-old had died a very violent death.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY LEE, CONTRA COSTA SHERIFF'S DEPT. SPOKESMAN: The cause of death is listed as blunt force trauma to the head. The manner of death is listed as homicide. From the moment we received this case, we have approached this case as a homicide.

This morning, there were a large number of rumors and misinformation floating around out there. I want to clarify some things. As far as the investigation goes no one is under arrest. We have nobody in custody right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUTIERREZ: Now, sheriff's investigators are talking to a neighbor, a person whom the couple had filed a restraining order against. They had asked for restraining order claiming that the person, quote, "terrorizing them and other neighbors in the area." Police say they talked to that man that he was very cooperative. And that they have several people to still talk to -- Anderson.

COOPER: Such a strange case. Thelma Gutierrez, thanks very much.

CNN's Nancy Grace is a personal friend of Daniel Horowitz. They've often appeared on television together. Nancy Grace spoke to Horowitz and his wife on Friday night. And since his wife's death, we spoke to her a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GRACE: Anderson, when prosecutors and defense attorneys choose to enter criminal law, we unwittingly expose our family and our friends, our loved ones, to an element we may not normally associate with: dopers, rats, snitches, killers. You rub shoulders with them every day. They become part of the fabric of your life. And it is very hard to disassociate that from your home.

The reality is I know that Daniel very often carried a weapon. I know that he had guns in the home. He had dogs there in the home. He also had about a six-foot fence around his new property. I think that will be an alternative of investigation.

I think that neighbors such as they are in this circumstance, Anderson, this new home was situated up on a hill. It was very difficult to get to. Such as a neighbor would be is someone they will look at. But I can tell you this, Anderson. Due to the remote area of the home, I do not think this was a random killing. You had to know where the home was, know who Pamela was to affect this crime. This is not a drop-by steal the VCR and leave, OK?

COOPER: You are in opposition. You know the people involved this. Does it change reporting on it for you?

GRACE: Well, Anderson, I have always considered myself a trial lawyer and a victims' right advocate at heart. Knowing them, I feel that it doesn't change the way I look at it. It gives me more knowledge.

I can tell you this, Anderson. He is a tiger in the courtroom. Outside of the courtroom, I've never met a more gentle person. Ever. And for many, many days, months on end we would sit together, Daniel and myself, in court watch the Peterson trial. Argue, vehemently on air, on Court TV, on Larry King. Then go out to dinner with his wife and a group of other lawyers and continue the argument.

But I don't see it, Daniel. I don't see Daniel -- excuse me, being any part of this, whatsoever. If you could have heard his voice, Anderson, I think that said it all.

COOPER: Nancy, I appreciate you joining us tonight. Thank you very much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Coming up tonight, a bus crash, a fiery death. Who is responsible and can justice be served?

Also ahead tonight, another storm brewing in the Gulf. Say it ain't so? Will it hit our shores? Right now, Tropical Storm Wilma, that's where it is right now. Could it be a hurricane? How soon? And where is it heading? We'll give you an update ahead.

Also tonight, an age-old tradition. Ah, the senior class prom. One school says not this year because of the way those kids behaving last year at the prom. How bad could they have been? We'll find out. Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: For the adults in New Orleans, normalcy is a matter of working plumbing, reliable electricity, reopened restaurants and bars. And those are all important things, of course.

But children require something else entirely, something more difficult to arrange in lot of ways than wiring and water and table service.

And little by little, very, very slowly the children of New Orleans are beginning to get some of what they need most of all.

CNN's David Mattingly reports. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SISTER MARY ROSE, CATHEDRAL ACADEMY: So, let us give praise and glory to God as we begin this marvelous day.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): After seven weeks of hurricanes and floods, the French Quarter's Cathedral Academy is alive again with the sounds of more than 90 students returning to class.

The sounds are about all that is normal about this first day of school. Out of the 125 students originally enrolled here in September, only a dozen have returned.

Out of all the students in classes today, many come back with their homes gone, their communities destroyed, and their friends and families scattered across the country.

Between evacuations and living with relatives, this is the third school where nine-year-old Alex Harwood has had to enroll.

MATTINGLY: And did you stay in town the whole time or did you leave?

ALEX HARWOOD, CATHEDRAL ACADEMY STUDENT: I left to go to Florida.

MATTINGLY: OK. Where in Florida?

MATTINGLY (voice over): And instead of stories about what I did on my summer vacation, these students share experiences of terrible loss.

MATTINGLY: Some of these answers are really eye opening.

SISTER MARY CECILIA, CATHEDRAL ACADEMY: They are. And they were very eye opening to me.

MATTINGLY: Sister Mary Cecilia collected papers telling of lost houses and fearful separations from parents and loved ones. They also expressed deep thanks for just being alive.

MARY CECILIA: Wisdom at a very young age is what a lot of these children are going to have and they're tomorrow's leader's.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Goodbye, Jimmy. See you tomorrow.

MATTINGLY (voice over): According to teachers, the plan is to speak often of what they have all gone through and to try to restore a sense of comfort and routine as they all try to learn from the tough lessons that life has given them.

And there are good lessons along with the bad. Anderson, tonight's homework assignment is for students to go home and write about their experience with acts of generosity.

COOPER: Hmm. And we have seen a lot of those. David Mattingly, thanks.

Investigators in Texas want criminal charges filed against the driver of the bus that caught fire during Hurricane Rita evacuations last month. Twenty-three nursing home patients were killed in that explosion right there. It exploded outside of Dallas.

Deputies are recommending 23 charges of criminally negligent homicide against the driver, one charge for each of the victims.

Investigators say they found no evidence the driver helped passengers off the bus before it burned. The driver's in federal custody on immigration charges.

That's what the bus looked like after all the smoke and the flames had disappeared. There was no immediate comment from the bus company, which has been shut down by regulators.

The federal government has missed its own unofficial deadline to get hurricane victims out of shelters. The Bush administration wanted everybody out by this past Saturday. Thousands still remain in temporary housing. There are varying reports about the exact number.

FEMA says 11,239 hurricane victims are still in shelters, but a senior Louisiana housing official today said the number is closer to 48,000. And they're spending $11 million a day on hotel rooms.

Tomorrow, I'll be coming to you from New Orleans. I'll give you a firsthand account of the progress made since the hurricanes and what still needs to be done. That's tomorrow on 360, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Still to come tonight, however, the high school prom that isn't happening because of what the kids did last year. Say it ain't so. Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Ah, high school prom. Slow dancing, spiking the punch, bad tuxedos and weeks of fear and worry about who to go with: good times.

This prom season, however, students at Kellenberg Memorial High in Uniondale, New York, will have none of those good times. This year's prom has been canceled. That's right, canceled, I say, because of the excesses of last year's prom.

We're talking about low-cut gowns, sky-high hem lines, stretch limos and house parties replete with booze, drugs and hanky panky, or so it seems to school officials in Uniondale.

The kids, of course, see it differently.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think it's fair at all. I think that we shouldn't be punished for something we didn't have any part in. Our class had nothing to do with anything that happened last year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If it was a thousand dollars, it's not their money. It's our money and now we're not having a prom because of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once we leave the prom, with all due respect, it's none of their responsibility where we go. Once we leave the prom where they're chaperoning us, it's our responsibility; it's our parents' responsibility.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: With all due respect.

Well, we'll hear from the other side. It's represented by Kellenberg Memorial High's principal, tomorrow on the program.

In 27 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands, time is running out for Powerball players who want a stake in a possible record jackpot. Wednesday's drawing could produce the largest lottery prize in history, $340 million -- the odds of winning, 1 in more than 146 million. Second place money, not quite so far out of reach: those odds are 1 in 3.5 million.

Wouldn't it be great if you could write the rules to suit yourself? No parking except for me. No left turn except for yours truly. Employees must wash hands unless they're me.

Well, people with connections, companies with connections, so often do exactly just that. So, we're here with inaugurating a regular feature called "Dubious Deals," to shine a light on arrangements that at the very least make a reasonable persons eyebrows raise.

Tonight's "Dubious Deals," based on the reporting of the Charlotte, North Carolina, "News and Observer," has to do with a new law governing multi-million dollar contracts to run that state's Lottery.

Turns out the big chunks of the law were written, in fact, by executives over at an outfit called Scientific Games. Guess what business Scientific Games happens to be in? That's right, it's one of the country's largest lottery companies and it's vice president is tight with the speaker of the North Carolina House.

"The News and Observer" has collected a fine paper trail, memos, e-mails, documents, faxes, records of a party on a yacht and a steak house dinner to show that Scientific Games successfully rewrote the law to keep competitors from having a shot at the lottery in North Carolina.

Well, sure. Why should a lottery company take chances? For the record, a spokesman for Scientific Games said the company has acted entirely properly. Stay tuned for more.

Christi Paul from "Headline News" joins us with some of the day's other top business headlines. Hey, Christi.

PAUL: Party on a yacht? We are in the wrong business, Anderson.

All right, General Motors today announced a deal with the United Auto workers Union to save the company billions in health care costs.

The auto manufacturer said its savings on cost for union members and their families would equal a $3 billion a year, most likely. It says further reductions in retiree liabilities could save even more in the long run.

Now, on a less rosy note for the company, anyway, GM posted over a billion dollars in losses in the third quarter which is actually pretty hefty even for GM.

Stocks ended higher today making modest gains despite the beginning of a new earning season. The DOW rose more than 60 points to 10,348. The NASDAQ was up five points. S&P up three.

And listen to this. The Italian stallion coming out of retirement. It's been almost 30 years, can you believe it, since Rocky Balboa first duked it out on the big screen.

But, there's still more to that story. Sylvester Stallone's been working on a script for a sixth movie. Shooting on the film to be called, "Rocky Balboa," it's set to begin in December in Los Angeles and Philadelphia, no details yet on the new flick's budget for an undisputed come back.

It better do a lot better than than "Rocky 5," though. Take a look at that, that one grossed just $41 million. Far less than the original pulled in a decade earlier. Anderson, I don't know if that reflects the differences in ticket prices, over a decade, as well.

COOPER: Or the quality of the movies. Yes, I can't wait until "Rocky 6 and 7." He's got no teeth and no brain cells left but he's still fighting.

PAUL: And he wrote the script and is directing, as well, apparently.

COOPER: Yes, well, so they say. Thanks so much, Christi.

Still ahead on 360, another tropical storm threatening, hard to believe. We're going to take a look at where Wilma is now and where this storm is heading and how quickly it might be a hurricane. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: In a moment, the latest on tropical storm Wilma. But, first, let's find out what's coming up at the top of the hour on "Paula Zahn Now". Hey, Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi Anderson, thanks so much. Tonight, a story that may make you think twice about the some laws meant to protect our children. I'm talking about laws requiring sex offenders to register with police.

I'm going to introduce you to a young man who fell in love with a 15-year-old girl. Should he be marked for life as a sex offender even though his victim now says it was a consensual relationship and he served his time in prison.

It's a controversial story and we have had a lot of heated discussion about it here. Please join me for this compelling debate at the top of the hour. Anderson?

COOPER: Paula, thanks, about four minutes from now. As we said already this evening, this is now the most hectic hurricane season since 1933. Twenty-one named storms that year, 21 named storms this year, so far.

We've got tropical storm Wilma and we'll have an update on that in just a moment. We wanted CNN's John Zarrella to compare what it was like back in '33 and this year, two record seasons of violent weather.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): See that blob in the Caribbean?

GOV. JEB BUSH, (R) FLORIDA: Wa-wa, that's W.

ZARRELLA: That's right, governor. W for Wilma. Yet another pain in the neck storm Florida's Jeb Bush has to worry about.

BUSH: This storm is a volatile storm. We really don't know where it's going to go.

ZARRELLA: Not only volatile, historic, number 21. Since 1851, when record keeping began, there has been only one other year, 1933, that saw 21 tropical storms at hurricanes form.

This is the name that storm board at the National Hurricane Center. The spaghetti lines represent the paths of the 21 storms so far this year, beginning with tropical storm Arlene in early June. Dennis hit Florida's panhandle in July.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can feel it right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here we go, jump, get back, get back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look over there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's coming apart.

ZARRELLA: Katrina made land fall in August, Rita, four weeks later in September. Now, here's the spaghetti bowl for 1933. But, no one really knows how many storms formed that year. There were no hurricane hunter planes, no satellites, some storms might easily have gone completely undetected or...

RICHARD PASCH, HURRICANE FORECASTER: Or I do recall there was one case of a storm that perhaps may have been counted twice.

ZARRELLA: The eighth storm that year, they weren't named back then, just numbered, made land fall near Nags Head, North Carolina, moved inland and flooded Washington, D.C.

With six weeks left in the hurricane season, there's still plenty of time to break the record with a number 22.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: That was CNN's John Zarrella. Tropical storm Wilma now churning in the western Caribbean being watched closely by a lot people tonight, including our own meteorologist Jacqui Jeras at the CNN Weather Center. Jacqui, hey.

JERAS: Hey, Anderson. Yes, we're anxiously awaiting the 8:00 eastern time advisory. We'll bring that to you when we get it.

As of right now, 50 miles per hour winds with Wilma. And it has been sinking southerly, just barely moving today, kind of drifting even, but it appears now that it may be making that westerly turn. So, as we get those new numbers in, we'll let you know.

But, the biggest thing that you need to know is that this is forecasted to become a major hurricane and make it's way into the Gulf of Mexico.

There is a big storm system that's going to be dropping down into the gulf and helping to steer this and guide this, which could bring it in towards Florida, but the one good note about that system, it's going to, kind of, sheer off that storm, as we call it, or make the winds less favorable, so hopefully that will keep it down to a slightly weaker storm -- Anderson.

COOPER: Oh, let's hope. So, Jacqui, thanks very much. That's it for me tonight on 360. You can join me with Aaron Brown tonight at 10:00 eastern time. Right now our prime time coverage continues with Paula Zahn. Hey, Paula.

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