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EARLY START WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Tornadoes Hit Texas; Romney Sweeps; Questions about Zimmerman 911 Call; Tornadoes Strike Texas; Stolen Ferrari Rats Out Smugglers

Aired April 4, 2012 - 05:00   ET

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


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We are bringing you the news from A to Z. It's 5:00 a.m. here in the East.

We start with our top stories this morning.

Texas tornadoes tossing trucks like toys. Take a look at that. It crushed cars like soda cans, totally wild video showing the incredible power of a twister.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was scary. It was so scary. It reminds you of the "Wizard of Oz" when the tornado hit and everything going round and round.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: The clean-up now beginning in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, and one of the busiest travel hubs in the country is now checking if the planes are fit to fly.

BANFIELD: New details this morning in the Trayvon Martin investigation and some new questions about whether or not George Zimmerman uttered a racial slur before pulling the trigger.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We won them all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Yes, indeed. It was a trifecta. Mitt Romney sweeps three more contests, moving closer to clinching the nomination, as President Obama mentions him by name now.

BANFIELD: And from Russia with love, a whole lot of love. Claims in a new documentary that the Russian spy Anna Chapman got cozy with a cabinet member. The FBI is now trying to stomp those rumors out.

SAMBOLIN: It's like a novel, huh?

BANFIELD: Yes, oh.

SAMBOLIN: But up first this morning, Texas sized destruction from tornadoes that ripped through the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. As many as 13 tornadoes reported touching down yesterday.

One of the twisters caught on tape in Lancaster.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holy molly. Look at that. Look at the debris fly. Oh, my God. Please. It's about a block or two away from my house.

Look at that. Oh, shoot. Oh, shoot. Oh, holy shoot.

Look at that. Oh, my God. The debris is flying. Holy molly, oh, my God. Holy molly, rain is coming. Holy molly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Holy moly, yes. He's probably a little too close for comfort there. It's about as close as you can get.

The guy shooting the video, Vincent Tang, was actually on the roof of his house.

BANFIELD: And then we've got this incredible video to show you. Check out your spotlight. That is a semi tractor trailer. Holy cow, just being picked up and thrown through the air like a toy. It seems like it's right out of the movie "Twister". Look again.

SAMBOLIN: Wow.

BANFIELD: It's just hard to believe. Look at the distance. I mean, I hate to say the trajectory. But it's just remarkable to see the power of the winds picking those up. The tornadoes ripped roofs off of homes.

Obviously, when you see this power, downed power lines seem like nothing. But remarkably, even though this kind of power, no deaths reported in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex.

The Dallas mayor maybe said it best. We dodged a big bullet.

SAMBOLIN: Wow.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is live in Arlington, Texas.

As we take a look at these images, we think, my gosh, the devastation must have been huge. What's the very latest?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a house. This is a bedroom. That's a bed right there. All of the clothes when this thing struck were sucked out of that closet.

It's always amazing to see just how destructive these storms are and yet how precise. There's a house a few feet over this way, one that way, on this side of the street. None of them were touched.

Our Ed Lavandera spoke to the homeowners here, the Lawrence family yesterday, and they took him for a little tour of their home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN LAWRENCE, HOMEOWNER: It sounded like a bomb went off. It was absolutely crazy. I thought the house started shaking and actually started (INAUDIBLE). We were sitting in the bathtub, and the wind started to pick up, then the whole started shaking. This door started shaking.

After a few minutes, it left, and we heard people screaming, is anyone in there? Is anyone alive? We came out and walked through here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUEZ: Now, as many as 13 storms hit across a very wide area, and it skipped through the Dallas area. National Weather Service teams are going to be out today surveying the damage, trying to figure out exactly how many storms did touchdown.

But I want to show you exactly how precise these storms can be. This is the tree in front of the Lawrence's home here. You can see this tree has a few leaves left.

But if you go just over the right, just a few feet over to the right, you can see that there is nothing. That tree is completely stripped. These storms are incredibly powerful, incredibly precise but fortunately this time, not deadly.

Back to you, guys.

SAMBOLIN: We're so happy to hear that.

Miguel Marquez live for us in Arlington, Texas -- stand by. We're going to talk to you later in our 6:00 hour. Thank you for that.

BANFIELD: And it's now four minutes past 5:00 on the East Coast. I wanted to give you this frantic look at a tornado on the ground near Forney, Texas, not far from Dallas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is coming toward us. Get in the building.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get in here now, Michael. Come here, Bradley. Come here quick. Hurry, hurry, hurry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: So dangerous, right?

BANFIELD: Yes, it's one of those things now with everybody who's got a cell phone that may be standing outside just a wee bit too long. After all, when you're look at what ended up being --

SAMBOLIN: Look at that. That's incredible.

BANFIELD: Pretty remarkable. When you look at what ended up being an EF-1 or an EF-2 tornado, don't let it fool you. It can kill you.

Let's go now to Alexandra Steele at the CNN weather center.

It's hard to believe when you see those tractor-trailers being thrown through the air, Alexandra. That's just an EF-1 or an EF-2.

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That storm particularly might have been an EF-2, EF-3 because some of these winds potentially 150 miles an hour.

So, what we've seen, here's the line. This is what it looked like at around 1:00 beginning when this line coalesced, moved through Dallas, potentially 13 reported tornadoes there. Again, National Weather Service has to go out.

But it certainly has been a very fast start to the season. Is it extraordinary or out of the norm to see this in Dallas? Really not this time of year. In Dallas, April and May are the peak months for tornadoes there. Last April, record setting, shattering the biggest month for tornadoes ever in the U.S., last April, getting off to a very robust season.

The problem, the setup we had yesterday that spawned all of those tornadoes is very similar to the setup we have today albeit a little farther eastward. The dynamics are all the same, the upper level mechanism, the warm moist air coming up.

Now, this could be the trigger, the stationary front. It looks like Tennessee really could be in the bull's eye today for potentially widespread tornadoes, winds, and large hail. So, again, another potentially threatening day. We do have rain right now and some very strong storms but nothing severe and no watches or warnings as of yet. But we certainly will later this afternoon.

BANFIELD: Alexandra, thank you for that. Keep an eye on things. It is the season, as they say.

Seven minutes now past 5:00 on the East Coast.

Mitt Romney is now more than halfway home in the race to clinch the Republican nomination, this after the big three, the sweeping win at the primaries last night.

Wisconsin meant 42 critical winner-take-all delegates for Mitt Romney. And so that gave him 42 percent of the vote there, and 38 percent for Santorum.

If you move to Maryland, though the numbers flip and it is quite a trouncing. Check out the numbers -- 49 percent for Mitt Romney in Maryland, 29 percent for Rick Santorum.

But now look at Washington, D.C., if you're wondering why that was such a routing, Mitt Romney 70 percent, holy molly. Rick Santorum doesn't get on the board because he wasn't even on the ballot in Washington, D.C.

But this essentially means that Mitt Romney does very well in this trifecta. A lot of people like to call that bragging rights. They try to call that bragging rights.

And he's ignoring -- Rick Santorum is ignoring his Republican rivals, though, saying that he's going to be focusing on the White House, as is Mitt Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president has pledged to transform America, and he spent the last four years laying the foundation for a new government-centered society. I will spend the next four years rebuilding the foundation of an opportunity society led by free people and free enterprises.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: OK. So, if you really want to know what numbers count the most, I've got them for you. The CNN estimated latest delegate count.

Mitt Romney is well past the halfway point, as you can see, with 648 delegates. He needs 1,144 to clinch the ultimate nomination. Santorum is a long way behind at 264. Newt Gingrich coming in at 137. And Ron Paul still hanging in there, 71 delegates that he's been able to rack up these last three months.

There is a three-week hiatus.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, a break.

BANFIELD: I think that means that John King gets a day off, maybe Wolf Blitzer gets half a day off, I'm not sure.

But coming up April 24th, you can expect a biggie as well. That's Connecticut, Delaware, New York, and then Pennsylvania and Rhode Island also holding their contests, 221 total delegates at stake, 95 of them in New York. That's a real big kahuna, but Pennsylvania is big too with 72 at stake.

You know whose state Pennsylvania is, Rick Santorum's.

SAMBOLIN: A whole lot of numbers you were talking about there.

BANFIELD: A lot, a lot of math.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, nine minutes past the hour here.

And now to developments in the Trayvon Martin shooting situation.

George Zimmerman has hired a second attorney to help prepare a defense if it is needed. That attorney Hal Uhrig told WOFL TV in Orlando he is ready for the challenge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAL UHRIG, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S ATTORNEY: You know, if you look at the forces arrayed against George, if you look at the media, particularly the national media, you look at the state attorney's office, the special prosecutor, FDLA, the U.S. Justice Department, and Craig has been standing in there tall trying to stand up for this guy. I think it's time that we have just a little bit more effort put in to putting the truth out and getting George's story out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Meantime, we have results of analysis of a controversial 911 call that George Zimmerman made. At issue, did Zimmerman use a racial slur just moments before he shot and killed Trayvon Martin?

BANFIELD: Alina Cho joins us now with the very details.

And people just eat up every minute detail. So, this one would be critical.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right. And I think people who are following the case really closely have honed in on this 911 call, a lot of debate about it, you know?

And so, we want to begin with that 911 call. Remember, this is the call that George Zimmerman made on the night of the shooting, before the shots rang out. In it, he can be heard mumbling something at one point.

Now, some people say they hear him using a racial slur. But candidly, it is extremely difficult to hear exactly what he's saying.

Now, we want you to judge yourself. Listen carefully to the very end of this clip.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

OPERATOR: He's running. Which way is he running?

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: Down towards the other entrance of the neighborhood.

OPERATOR: OK. Which entrance is that that he's heading towards?

ZIMMERMAN: The back entrance. (INAUDIBLE)

(END AUDIO CLIP)

CHO: It sounds like a lot of wind there. You can barely hear what's going on.

So, what exactly did Zimmerman say? Was it a racial slur?

We asked forensic expert Tom Owen to enhance and analyze that portion of the audio to see what he can glean from this? Owen says he believes Zimmerman did not use a slur but instead said "F-ing close".

We're going to play it for you again, but this time it's Owen's cleaned up version. We're going to play it for you three times. Again, listen carefully.

(AUDIO CLIP PLAYS)

CHO: So hard to tell us what he's saying.

You know, we brought in another forensics expert just to be sure. Can you be sure really? But we did.

Ed Primeau is his name. He did his own analysis of the very same clip. He sent us his advanced version. And he says that he believes that Zimmerman did, in fact, use a racial slur.

Here's that version. And we're going to play it for you three times.

(AUDIO CLIP PLAYS)

CHO: So hard. I mean, it's really difficult. If you're just hearing it now, three times, you still can't really tell.

SAMBOLIN: Right. You can listen to it a thousand times, and I think you would, you know, perhaps somebody could convince you that something was said.

At "STARTING POINT", a friend of Zimmerman's actually appeared and talked about the robberies that happened specifically or allegedly by blacks in that community. What do you know about that?

CHO: That's right. According to Sanford police, you know, there were eight robberies in that housing development. We want to get to that in just a minute.

But it really does speak to the question -- just back up for one second about the 911 call. It really speaks to the question of the race issue, right?

BANFIELD: It's the first time I heard anyone suggest that Zimmerman might have been saying the word "close" instead of the racial slur -- that starts with a "C," right.

CHO: And that's right. And that's part of the reason why and presumably, you know, this whole issue -- and the reason why we care about it so much is because of race and was it a hate crime?

And so, if Zimmerman did, in fact, use that racial slur, of course, that's just going to add fuel to the fire to all of those Trayvon Martin supporters who are saying, see, this was a hate crime. See, this is racially motivated.

BANFIELD: Is that what the FBI is looking at?

CHO: Of course. And we are looking -- they are looking at it very closely. Now, to your point about the robberies in the area, yes, there was crime in the area. And we did look into that.

Soledad did speak to a man named Frank Taaffe. He lives in the community. He's a former neighborhood watch block captain. And here's exactly what he said to Soledad about crime in the area. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANK TAAFFE, FORMER NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH BLOCK CAPTAIN: We had eight burglaries in our neighborhood all perpetrated by young black males in the 15 months prior to Trayvon being shot. One of those -- it would have been nine, excuse me, there would have been nine, but George Zimmerman, through his efforts of being a neighborhood watch captain helped stop one in progress, documented in the 911 calls February 2nd. My house was being robbed, and George on his nightly rounds, watched this burglary in progress, called Sanford P.D., waited for them, and helped ensure that nothing bad happened to my house.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: Stopped one in progress. Is that true?

Well, CNN did some digging. According to Sanford police records -- and this is what we were talking about before. There were indeed eight robberies in that housing development in the 14 months prior to Trayvon's shooting. Four of them involved black male suspects. Another four had unidentified suspects.

Listen to this interesting detail, too. There's also a 911 call dated three weeks before Trayvon was killed. Police were called to an address that matches Frank Taaffe's address after the caller said they saw a black male at the home. When police got to the address, there was nobody there.

So, I mean, you know, there's a lot of he said/she said going on. Obviously, a lot of competing interests in this story, people who are supporting George Zimmerman on one side and people who are supporters of Trayvon Martin and his family on the other. It really depends on who you believe, when you look at that 911 call --

BANFIELD: What it should depend on, though, is the facts.

CHO: That's right.

BANFIELD: It doesn't matter what we believe. Ultimately, if this ends up in court, it matters what a jury gets to see.

CHO: And they're going to be looking at all of this, including that 911 call.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: Don't know that. I strongly suggest a suppression hearing on that question. A hearing at least. If it ends up ever in court, we are jumping way ahead of the game on that one. You have your work cut out for you.

CHO: You're right. I do.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Alina. We appreciate it.

BANFIELD: Sixteen minutes now past 5:00.

And still ahead, a member of the president's inner circle seduced by a spy? The FBI is quickly responding to a new British documentary.

SAMBOLIN: And the naked body of a prominent French scholar and government adviser found in a New York hotel room. His cell phone possibly tossed out the window. Police are now investigating this incredibly mysterious death.

You are watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Nineteen minutes now past 5:00. Time to get our check on the stop stories with Christine Romans.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, ladies.

A massive cleanup underway in Texas this morning after as many as 13 tornadoes ripped through the Dallas/Ft. Worth area yesterday. Hundreds of homes were destroyed. The power and fury of one storm -- look at that -- lifting a tractor-trailer into the air, tossing it like a toy. One witness said the scene was like the Wizard of Oz. For all that damage, guys, there are no reported deaths.

The suspect in a deadly shooting at a Christian college in Oakland, California, making his first court appearance this afternoon. Police chief Howard Jordan says 43-year-old One Goh does not appear to be remorseful at all.

Meantime, mourners gathered for a memorial service for the six women and one man who were killed in Monday's shooting rampage.

And U.S. officials are denying claims in a British documentary that Russian spy Anna Chapman was close to seducing a cabinet official in the Obama administration. The documentary quotes a top FBI official who says Chapman was so close to seducing this unnamed sitting cabinet member that the bureau had to step in and warn him that Chapman was a so-called honey trap.

BANFIELD: Honey trap? Is that what they call it?

SAMBOLIN: Honey trap.

ROMANS: Honey trap.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: Still ahead, should have bought Apple stock. Apple now on the way to becoming the first trillion dollar company.

We are minding your business with Ms. Christine Romans.

You are watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: It's 24 minutes now past 5:00 on the East Coast. We're minding your business this morning.

U.S. markets kind of losing steam. Sorry to say. Market closing across the board. Federal Reserve indicated it was moving away from the idea of more stimulus for the economy. The Dow lost about half a percent, NASDAQ and S&P 500 less than that.

SAMBOLIN: So, let's bring in Christine Romans now to talk about Apple.

ROMANS: Something that went up.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, I know. And we were laughing earlier. It's because we didn't get in on it, right?

ROMANS: I know. Here's a news flash: you should have bought apple two years ago, three years ago, four years ago.

Apple yesterday closing at another high. Apple shares doing really well. There's an analyst without with a note. You know, every morning, Wall Street analysts get their prognosis for different stocks and companies, and this analyst came out from Piper Jaffray and said, I think the stock will go to $910, maybe $1,000 a share.

SAMBOLIN: Whoa!

ROMANS: You've seen a lot of what we call bullishness about Apple, just because Apple is churning out all these products, and people are buying them like crazy. Apple is going to release its next earnings on April 24th. So we'll get a better idea of what's happening inside the company.

And there's this rumored release of the iPhone 5 maybe in June. Now, we know it's supposed to be in the second half of the year. But analysts and stock market investors are looking at the pipeline of this company, and they like what they have to see.

One analyst who told you yesterday from Piper Jaffray giving it a $1,000 price target. Another one giving it a $1 trillion market cap, which would be unbelievable. Can I show you the stock over the past five years?

Because just in a month this year, it went from $400 to $500. Now it's over $600. This is Apple over the past five years. It's done really well.

Also, the new iPad, profits from the new iPad. There's a place called iSuppli. They've also been looking at the Apple earnings report.

You know that they sell this iPad for 499 bucks. This gives you an example of the cash machine that Apple is. It makes about $183 profit off of each unit. They're selling these right now, right now, right now, they're selling hundreds of them.

So, right, I mean, it's incredible. They have all this money in the bank. Now they're giving money back to shareholders.

Some people are telling me, Romans, it's a bubble. When everyone is talking so bullishly about Apple, it's a bubble. I heard that at $200, $300, $400, $500, and now, it's at $600.

SAMBOLIN: And it's a product that a lot of people cannot live without their products, right? So --

ROMANS: You know, there's no recession in an Apple Store. You know, people find money to buy. Now they're buying cars. Cars and Apple products are things where people are digging deep.

They're pulling back -- right -- they're pulling back someplace else, but they're buying things that make their life better.

BANFIELD: Christine Romans, you're the bomb.

Twenty-six minutes now past 5:00. Still to come on EARLY START, it's like a scene right out of twister, folks. Look at your screen. Trust me on this one.

These are the kinds of pictures that are rolling in to our offices. When you see what something like that can do to a semi trailer and watch it flying through the air, you will not believe the power of Mother Nature. It's coming at you in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Good morning. It's 30 minutes past the hour. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: We're very happy you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Here are the big stories ahead later this hour. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Large tornado on the ground! Large tornado! Large tornado on the ground!

BANFIELD (voice-over): Fear and panic and look at the pictures. That is what's causing a massive cleanup effort under way in Texas after tornadoes tore through the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex area, just tossing entire tractor-trailer units up and down through the air, hundreds and hundreds of yards away. This happened live on television.

Look at those trailers flying through the air, twisting about. It's remarkable. Hundreds of homes were destroyed. Schools were damaged. Dozens of planes at DFW also damaged.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God! We're at the Publix here. Oh, my God!

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Wow. So, that's a lot of panic at the Florida supermarket. Police releasing the frantic 911 calls from shoppers.

BANFIELD: Smugglers stealing some sweet rides, and they're outsmarted by a car. U.S. customs finding more than a dozen stolen luxury cars and trucks loaded up in shipping containers, and they would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn't for those pesky GPS units.

SAMBOLIN: And the smallest stowaway. A veteran flight attendant helps deliver a baby board on a plane that was flying from Africa to Atlanta. What did she need? Flashlight, scissors, and a vodka to welcome that baby into the world. We're going to hear from the hero ahead.

BANFIELD: Still wondering what the vodka was for.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD (on-camera): Disinfectant?

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: Perhaps, both.

BANFIELD: Could have been a little bit of both.

It's now 32 minutes past 5:00 and a string of violent tornadoes in Texas to tell you about. Cleanup efforts will be under way today in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. The twisters tore a path of destruction right across the northern part of that state yesterday afternoon while live TV cameras were rolling, too.

Those storms destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses, and one tornado could actually be seen tossing full sized tractor-trailers across a parking depot, lifting them hundreds of feet into the air, twisting them, tossing them, throwing them hundreds of yards, all of it playing out on TV with incredible images and pictures.

Twisters just ripping through that area. The National Weather Service says between six and 13 of those tornadoes may have actually touched down. But amazingly, we can report to you, so far, no deaths reported. Lt. Paul Patterson of the Dallas Sheriff's Department joins us now over the phone. Can you hear me, lieutenant?

LT. PAUL PATTERSON, DALLAS SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: Yes, ma'am.

BANFIELD: OK. For starters, thank goodness that everyone is relatively OK. I know there are some injuries that have been reported. But your mayor, Mike Rawlings, said you dodged a big bullet. I supposed, it can't be said better than that.

PATTERSON: Yes, ma'am. The areas that were hit, it's tragic, a lot of devastation, a lot of damage, but it could have been a lot worse.

BANFIELD: So, tell me just about the worst of it. We are looking at a screen right now watching tractor-trailers. We've heard this happen, but we've just never really seen it actually play out on television. Hundreds of feet up into the air, hundreds of yards away, is this the worst spot that was hit south of Dallas' downtown area?

PATTERSON: It's the worst that I'm aware of. It's where the sheriff's department has been concentrating their efforts helping the town of Lancaster that was hit pretty hard. And, that's where our efforts have been concentrated overnight.

BANFIELD: 6.3 million people in the Dallas Metroplex metro area, and you know, with that many people who likely have millions of cell phones, it certainly helps us to get a better of picture of what tornadoes look like when they come through an area, but Lt. Patterson, I am very concerned about how long people are staying out to videotape these storms rather than seeking shelter, are you?

PATTERSON: Yes, it's quite dangerous. If you had been through an area where a tornado has been and just see the power that a tornado has and the destruction it does, you need to really take cover, take shelter, don't be out trying to take pictures.

BANFIELD: And they can move so fast as well. I understand that at DFW airport, there were 110 aircraft that sustained damage from the hail. There were descriptions of hail that were at times pea sized, but at other times were baseball sized. Was there an extraordinary amount of damage if there were baseball sized hail?

PATTERSON: From what I saw on the news reports, the larger sized hail was more to the west of Dallas or, I think, possibly in the northern part of Dallas. But some of the photos I saw were almost baseball-sized hail.

BANFIELD: Cowboys football stadium okay this morning? PATTERSON: As far as I heard. I haven't heard any different. I'm sure Mr. Jones would have told us if it had been damaged.

BANFIELD: Sure. Sure. I am hearing that 47,000 homes are without power. Is that likely to be restored pretty quickly?

PATTERSON: Overnight, myself and members of the sheriff's department have been down in the Lancaster area, and I can tell you that there's a large number of repair crews that are working down there, slowly getting some of the power turned back on, and I'm sure that is the same throughout the Dallas County area.

BANFIELD: Well, Lieutenant Patterson, we're happy to report that there's no one so far that's been reported killed, but we are sorry for the damage that you're going to have to assess today. Thanks for talking to us.

PATTERSON: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: It is 36 minutes past the hour.

A disturbing mystery in Manhattan. A prominent French political scholar and government adviser, Richard Dequans (ph) was found dead yesterday in his New York hotel room. Dequans (ph) was found naked in bed, with blood coming out of his mouth. I apologized for the gory details there.

His cell phone was found on the third floor landing as if it had been tossed out of the window. Police say they have found no signs of foul play, but they have not ruled that out either.

BANFIELD: Police in Central Florida are releasing audiotapes of the 911 calls that came in just moments after a small plane crashed into a supermarket. That plane slammed through the roof of public supermarket in Deland, about 35 miles outside Orlando on Monday evening. And you can hear the panic in the voices of the witnesses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 911, where is your emergency?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 911, someone's on fire at Publix. Oh, God. I'm so --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's OK. What's on fire?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A person.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A person?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a whole -- the building's on fire, too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Get everybody out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. We got to go!

(END VIDEO CLIP) BANFIELD: Two men on board the plane are in critical condition this morning with severe burns. Three people inside that store were also hurt by that accident.

SAMBOLIN: Ratted out by a Ferrari. U.S. Customs and Border Protection recovered more than a dozen stolen luxury cars and trucks that worth more than $1.5 million. They were loaded up on containers and on their way to Hong Kong and Vietnam. Officials telling KABC that some had been labeled as used fitness equipment.

The bust was a result of a GPS signal that was given off by that Ferrari that led inspectors to all of the containers.

BANFIELD: Moral of the story is get a Ferrari, right?

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: Never mind. We didn't win Powerball either.

SAMBOLIN: No.

BANFIELD: Thirty-eight minutes now past 5:00. Coming up next, chalk up three more big wins for Mitt Romney, and as his Republican friends say, bragging rights, but Rick Santorum says, doesn't matter. He may be following further behind, but he's putting his bets on Pennsylvania, the home state that he lost in a landslide six years ago when he was running for Senate.

So, looking ahead, is it a make or break day coming up in three weeks? You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you, Washington D.C. It is 53 degrees right now. A little bit later, you're going to be enjoying it, 76 degrees. It doesn't tell me here whether it's going to be sunny or cloudy, so I'm going to assume lots of sunshine for you today.

So, chalk up Wisconsin, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., for Mitt Romney, but don't cut out Rick Santorum yet. Romney is celebrating a triple header sweep with three primary wins last night. He now has well over half the delegates needed to clinch the GOP nomination. Santorum sticking with his May strategy. He's already campaigning in Pennsylvania ahead of the April 24th primary there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have now reached the point where it's halftime. Half the delegates in this process have been selected, and who's ready to charge out of the locker room in Pennsylvania for a strong second half?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP) SAMBOLIN: CNN political editor, Paul Steinhauser, is live in Washington for us. I got to tell you, Paul, when I heard that, I thought, really? You know, isn't it Romney the one that's usually accused of being out of touch? Is Rick Santorum a little out of touch?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: It seems the storyline has changed, Zoraida. It's no longer Santorum-Romney. It's Romney- Obama. And, we're now kind of moving towards the general election.

We saw that pretty much yesterday with President Obama really going after Mitt Romney after budget chairman, Paul Ryan and the Republicans and really hitting them hard, which really told me, well, the president and his re-election team have realized this is now Obama-Romney, that Santorum is pretty much done.

Hey, you look at the math, Zoraida. Romney picked up a lot of delegates last night. He only has to win, according to our CNN estimate, he only has to win 44 percent of the remaining delegates to clinch the nomination. This road gets tougher and tougher for Santorum. Three more weeks until another primary, three weeks.

That's an eternity in campaign politics. And when we get to April 24th for the five states, a Romney territory, only Pennsylvania where Santorum's once big lead has disappeared. It's getting tougher and tougher and tougher, almost impossible for Santorum.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, we'll get to Pennsylvania in a minute, but I've got to tell you, I'm excited about the exit polls. So, I want to talk to you about them, because I never thought that they would excite me so much, but it looks almost like there's a switch here, right, a shift, and maybe we can truly now call it a momentum for Mitt Romney.

So, what we're seeing is in Maryland specifically, Romney won people with income less than $50,000. Forty percent of the vote went for him. That typically does not happen. So, what do you think? Do you think we can finally call it a real momentum here?

STEINHAUSER: Yes. You look at those -- I mean, this is such a great point. You look at the exit polls in Maryland, you also look it in Wisconsin, and Romney appears to be winning some of the groups where he has not fared very well so far this primary and caucus season. He's also winning -- I think in Wisconsin, he won slightly edged out over Santorum those people who call themselves very conservative, Tea Party activists.

And he did pretty well against Santorum as well with people who declare themselves or consider themselves born again Christians. This is all Santorum's base, but Romney did pretty well last night with those groups.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. And electability as well. You know, the question, can he defeat Obama in Maryland? Seventy-three percent picked him. And in Wisconsin, it was 67 percent. And if we look back in January to Florida, the electability was 58 percent. So, a real shift here among folks. Do you think they're buying into Romney finally and his message, particularly, when he says, I'm the one who can take out Obama in November.

STEINHAUSER: Yes. You know what, they still may not love Mitt Romney. They may not fall in love with him, but they're realizing it's getting late in the game. We need to kind of coalesce here and fall in line one candidate, and Mitt Romney appears to be the best person, and that's what I think a lot of Republicans are saying right now.

Hey, remember, Hillary Clinton won five of the last eight contests back in 2008 against Barack Obama, but it didn't matter in the end. So, Santorum, he could go on until May, he could win some of those more conservative southern states, but in the end, it really, really looks now like Mitt Romney is going to be your nominee on the Republican side.

SAMBOLIN: All right. But, let's still look at Pennsylvania, right, because you would think that Santorum would take that, but they're kind of neck and neck there, aren't they?

STEINHAUSER: Yes. The polls have tightened up. Three polls over the last week have indicated that Santorum's once double digit lead has disappeared. One poll has him up six, one poll only has him up two.

SAMBOLIN: And we also have some issues that he has in Pennsylvania, right, because when he went for -- rather was running for his Senate seat, he actually lost. And some of the same issues that people are saying that he still has problems with now.

STEINHAUSER: Yes. And one of them was, you know what, a lot of people in Pennsylvania then figured he didn't even live there anymore. He lived in Virginia. And that was the troublesome thing for him in 2006 when he did lose his re-election bid in the Senate in Pennsylvania. But he says, listen, I will win Pennsylvania. I will go on the May months. Let's see. Stay tuned. That's a long way away.

SAMBOLIN: OK. So, Paul, I'm going to put you on the spot here. Do you still think we go all the way to June?

STEINHAUSER: If Santorum stays in, it may take until June to Romney actually clinches those 1,144. but, you know, it's going to happen. Sooner or later, it's going to happen, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Paul Steinhauser, thank you very much. All right. Ashleigh, back to you.

BANFIELD: Just reworking our vacation plans for June.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: Paul's going to fill in for us.

(LAUGHTER) BANFIELD: It's 46 minutes now past 5:00 on the east coast. Time to check our top stories with Christine Romans.

ROMANS: Good morning, Ashleigh.

As many as 13 tornadoes touching down in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area causing widespread damage.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS (voice-over): In Lancaster, roofs were stripped to bare plywood, some ripped off. The city's mayor says about 300 buildings were damaged overall. And at DFW airport, more than 100 planes have some sort of hail damage. Dramatic video captured the power of these storms. A tractor-trailer was lifted sky high, tossed around like it was a toy.

Former vice president, Dick Cheney, is waking up at home this morning, released from a hospital in Virginia. He had heart transplant surgery ten days ago. Cheney is 71 years old. He has a history of heart trouble, including at least five heart attacks since 1978.

A flight attendant goes above and beyond the call of duty. Susan Barnes has been delivering food and drinks in the air for 29 years. On a flight from Africa to Atlanta in late March, she helped deliver a baby boy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUSAN BARNES, FLIGHT ATTENDANT: Everyone is looking at me, obviously. And I just held him up and I said, it's a boy. And everybody clapped. There was laughter. It was really fun and exciting. She was so happy and weepy. It was great.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Wow. Luckily, one of the passengers was not only a doctor, but an obstetrician. We're told mom and her newborn son are doing just fine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN: What a story they have to tell.

ROMANS: You know, flight attendants have a lot of crazy stories, I mean, crazy stories, but that one is a crazy story that's a good story.

BANFIELD: All that training. Twenty-nine years on the job?

ROMANS: Twenty-nine years.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: Amazing. SAMBOLIN: Thank you.

BANFIELD: Thank you, Christine.

Forty-eight minutes now past 5:00, and still ahead, making you wait, losing your bags, and making you pay for the privilege of having that happen to you. Yes, it is an airline, and it may be called the meanest one in America. Who's calling it, and what is the airline? You'll find out in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Fifty-one minutes past the hour. Time to take a look at what is trending on the interwebs.

Fresh off the report, the airlines delivered their best customer service in decades. It is reality check time. "U.S. News and World Report" is out with the list of America's meanest airlines. So, soaring baggage and fares and eliminating free food were the major factors in improving their bottom line and major factors in your frustration.

The major carriers led the way here, folks. Number one, United Airlines. Number two, Continental Airlines. So, the top two are now the same airline because they merged. And number three on the list, folks, American Airlines. United Airlines had the highest rate of complaints in 2011, late arrivals and the number of lost or damaged bags also shot up for them.

BANFIELD: I feel bad for them. They're my airline. I like them.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

BANFIELD: They do well by me.

SAMBOLIN: Apparently, a lot of people don't.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: All right. So, we've got some news that broke the day after Sarah Palin was co-hosting on "Today" show, which is a real bummer because this one would have been great for her interview on "Today." Her former potential son-in-law, Levi Johnston, is going to be a daddy again.

That's right. His rep -- and yes, he has a rep -- is confirming to "Us Weekly" that his new girlfriend, Sunny Oglesby is preggers. She is 20 years old. And he's already a dad, as you well know, to Tripp, who is Bristol Palin's son as well. So, clearly, this would have been great conversation for --

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: -- Matt Lauer and Sarah Palin to talk about on the "Today" show, but I don't know how she would have responded to that. SAMBOLIN: All right. So, speaking of Sarah Palin in the morning, how did she do as a "Today" show guest? The late night reviews are in.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": You know what happened over there on NBC today, the "Today" show, you know who was the co-host, the guest co-host for today? Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin. How about that? It was all part of their half-term governors week.

(LAUGHTER)

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": I get up this morning and a plop down in front of the "Today" show with my morning jumble and a microwave cup of Ovaltine. And I'm expecting to catch up on the morning news, weather, kind of a fun, friendly atmosphere of "Today" show, maybe catch a couple of quick segments on how best to dress for my body type, you know?

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: The "Today" show. But what do I see?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell everybody what happened when you're coming to "30 Rock" yesterday.

SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: Nicest lady in the world, she stopped me, asked me where I was headed? I said "30 Rock." And she said, oh, hi, come here. I told you. Tina Fey is here.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART: That never happened. You're the phalanx (ph) of security. My guess is nobody got a whiff.

(LAUGHTER)

It's Sarah Palin co-hosting the "Today" show, and she was there performing a medley of her greatest hits from I don't read newspapers to I write on my hand, to that old chestnut, I passive aggressively hate Matt Lauer with every ounce of my being.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD: I tend to agree with Jon Stewart. That never happened.

SAMBOLIN: That comment didn't happen. You don't (ph) believe her?

BANFIELD: I think that black car pulled right up to the entrance of "30 Rock," and she went right in the door. Yes. I don't think she was wandering around wondering if she was on, you know, 49th. That's just me. Call me crazy.

SAMBOLIN: I kind of believe her.

(LAUGHTER)

All right. So, ahead on EARLY START, a little too close for comfort, folks. We're going to hear from people who risked their lives to get amazing images of the twisters in Texas. We do not recommend you do this.

BANFIELD: And also, we've got new questions this morning about the words that were used by George Zimmerman in the moments before the death of Trayvon Martin or if they were even words at all. You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)