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International Sports Star Shoots Girlfriend; "Gross" Cruise Ship Due in Ala. Today; Dorner Hostages Speak Out; Getting to Know Ethan; Lady Gaga Out with Hip Surgery; Arrests in Brutal Beating Video

Aired February 14, 2013 - 05:30   ET



ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news: the girlfriend of international sports star Oscar Pistorius dead after a shooting at his home.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Bound and gagged, a couple taken hostage by a fugitive in his final hours on the run. They are telling their story this morning.

SAMBOLIN: And counting the minutes, maybe the seconds aboard a cripple cruise ship. Squalid, smelly, steamy conditions on deck with the end of the ordeal hopefully, hopefully just hours away.

BERMAN: It just sounds awful.

SAMBOLIN: I know. At first, I thought this was, oh, not a big deal, it's going to be OK. But as we get the details, horrific, absolutely horrific.

Welcome back to EARLY START. Glad you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is 31 minutes after the hour right now. We want to update i don't you on a breaking news story, a shocking story involving the blade runner, Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius. His girlfriend, 30-year-old Reeva Steenkamp, shot and killed in his home in South Africa.

Now, police not yet naming the 26-year-old man they're arrested, only saying he will appear in court today, but it is very it's important to know that Oscar Pistorius is 26. Now, Pistorius races with carbon composite blades because he was born with a birth defect, born without fibulas. He was the first double amputee to run in the Olympics. He reached the 400 semifinals in the London games this past year.

I spent the day with him a few years ago. He had to overcome so much to even get to this point, but this is a horrible, horrible tragedy for families, you know, in South Africa right now.

SAMBOLIN: This is a man who is widely admired.

BERMAN: A international star. Now, huge questions surrounding him. SAMBOLIN: All right. Thirty-two minutes past the hour. So, right now, the nightmare, Carnival cruise that's been floating lifeless in the Gulf of Mexico has 4,200 people on board. It is slowly chugging its way into an Alabama port, thanks to the help of now four tugboats. Passengers describe conditions on board as frankly disgusting, saying the walls are smeared with sewage.

The carpets are soaked with urine and the stench is so bad that people are sleeping out on the decks. So, just how much longer will this ordeal last? Our David Mattingly is live in Mobile, Alabama. How far away is the Triumph right now?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're about 50 miles away from Mobile. That doesn't sound very far but, today, for the people waiting for that ship to get here, it's going to feel like a lifetime. They were looking about maybe 10 to 12 hours before they reach this facility here behind me where they will finally disembark, go to buses, and then go off to hotels or back to their cars in Texas for that drive home.

But right now, there's actually some family members gathering in Mobile, not waiting for these families to come to them. They're going to be here to pick them up as soon as they get off the boat. Listen.

KIM MCKERREGHAN, MOM OF A 10-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER: When the boat pulls up, I don't have to see my daughter step off the boat. I'm going to be running to my daughter on that boat if I can. As soon as I can see her on the pier, I'm going to be hollering for her, screaming. I mean, I don't know. I played it over in my head over and over and over. You know, I just want to grab her up, snatch her up, and carry her home.


MATTINGLY: Those two mothers you saw there on camera, they actually drove here from Texas. They brought all sorts of food with them for their two young daughters ages 10 and 12. They got a very frightened phone call from them earlier in the week and haven't heard from them since. So, needless to say, they are very anxious to see those young girls step off that boat today.

SAMBOLIN: No. The mom of the 10-year-old said that she was worried that she would never see her daughter again. It was just incredibly frightening. So, the big question here is how Carnival going to handle all of the logistics of getting everybody home?

MATTINGLY: Well, the passengers are going to have a couple of options when they finally get off of that boat. There are going to be buses waiting for them. Those buses will either take them to a hotel. Rooms have been set aside if passengers want to go there, get a hot shower, sleep it off in a nice, warm bed for a change, maybe get some hot food before they go on home. There have been some charter flights have been arranged to take them back to Texas where this cruise originated.

If they want to, they can stay on those buses and go directly back to Texas today, back to Galveston where their cars are parked if they drove to the terminal. That way, they could drive home tonight. So, they're going to have those choices available to them. A lot of these people haven't had any access to any hot water or good sleeping conditions for the past few days. You might see some of those people going to hotels before they go on home.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, I suspect that I would probably choose to do that as well. And another big question here is, how is this going to affect the bottom dollar for Carnival cruise lines and future cruises as well?

MATTINGLY: Well, we can tell you what's going to happen to that particular ship. They've already canceled the next 12 cruises that that ship had scheduled. So, there's not going to be any passengers going back on board that boat, at least, until some time later in April. So, all of those cruises are a complete loss and we're finding out yesterday that Carnival has sort of sweetened the deal for the passengers on board the ship right now.

They're actually going to give them all $500 in addition to refunding the cost of this cruise and then providing them a credit for another cruise that they might want to take in the future.

SAMBOLIN: I wonder if that's enough, huh? David Mattingly live in Mobile, Alabama. We really appreciate you being there. You know, I very naively when the story broke said, oh, you know, Carnival is going to take care of them. Give them another cruise. What is enough, right?

BERMAN: If they're offering 500 bucks now, it shows that they're nervous about the possible repercussions legal and businesswise down the line.

SAMBOLIN: Absolutely.

BERMAN: Other news now, we are hearing from some of the victims who came face to face with fugitive ex-cop Christopher Dorner in the hours before he apparently died. Dorner may have been hiding for days in an unoccupied resort condo just steps from a police outpost. The unit belonged to Karen and Jim Reynolds. They walked in on Dorner and wound up bound and gagged.


JIM REYNOLDS, DORNER HOSTAGE: When he jumped out and hollered stayed calm, Karen screamed and started running. He ran after her. And it's harder about the door --


J. REYNOLDS: On the staircase, he brought her back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It sounds like he tried to calm you down.

J. REYNOLDS: He did.

K. REYNOLDS: Yes, he did.

J. REYNOLDS: Absolutely.

K. REYNOLDS: He was talking to us.

J. REYNOLDS: You could see that big gun sticking up there.

K. REYNOLDS: Yes. Yes. He had his gun drawn the whole time.


BERMAN: I still can't believe their smiles. They seem so relaxed.

SAMBOLIN: I know. Such a sweet couple.

BERMAN: I'm so happy for them. Rick Heltebrake also had a close encounter with Dorner. Get to listen to him described being car jacked by the rogue ex-cop.



RICK HELTEBRAKE, CARJACKED BY DORNER: Well, I felt in danger, you know, as far as knowing what his history was and that I had a gun pointed at my head. However, he said he didn't want to hurt him and I believed him. And, he wanted me to get out of my truck and walk up the road with my dog and that's what I did.


BERMAN: It's almost certain that Dorner died in a burning cabin on Tuesday during a shootout with police. It could be days, though, before the charred human remains found inside the cabin are positively identified.

So, at 8:30 eastern on "Starting Point," we're going to talk about Dorner and the many, many lingering questions about the police investigation. We will be joined by former Los Angeles police chief, Bill Bratton. He knows so much about these types of investigations.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-eight minutes past the hour.

The Illinois Senate is expected to vote today on Valentine's Day on a measure legalizing same-sex marriage in that state. That measure is expected to pass and Democratic governor Pat Quinn has indicated that he will sign it. If approved, Illinois would be the tenth state to legalize same-sex marriage along with the District of Columbia.

BERMAN: Chuck Hagel's nomination as Defense Secretary running into some roadblocks in the Senate. He is facing a potential Republican filibuster which prompted Majority Leader Harry Reid to force a vote tomorrow to end the debate over whether to confirm Hagel. Republican Senator Rand Paul telling CNN they need to hold Democrats to a higher standard here.


SEN. RAND PAUL, (R) KENTUCKY: If they're not going to give us the information, the only way to get the information is to threaten to hold them to a higher standard of 60 votes.


BERMAN: Hagel's nomination made it out of the Armed Services Committee on a party line vote.

SAMBOLIN: General John Allen may withdraw his nomination to become the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO. In fact, a staff member's written statement indicates that he is considering taking a break to reunite with his family, maybe even possibly retire. General Allen spent 19 months directing NATO forces against Taliban insurgents.

Last year, embarrassing e-mails with Tampa socialite, Jill Kelly, came to light during CIA director, David Petraeus' sex scandal, but Allen was cleared of professional misconduct.

BERMAN: The stage is set for President Obama's visit to a preschool indicator, Georgia, whose emphasis on the staging. Students at the College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center are actually on winter break this week. The principal e-mailed parents offering a one-day experience mimicking a normal school day to coincide with the president's visit. No comment from the White House on the timing.


BERMAN: Look, if you're in preschool, I bet you don't mind seeing the president. It's not exactly a hardship to go spend a day with the president.

SAMBOLIN: I bet not. I bet not.

Thirty-nine minutes past the hour. His hostage ordeal is over, but the lingering effects are certainly not over. Coming up, we'll hear from the little boy held for days in a bunker in Alabama, Little Ethan, and his mom.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BERMAN: We have an update on the shocking story we've been reporting this morning. A shooting at the home of Olympic and Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius of South Africa. He is the runner without fibulas, without legs who runs on those carbon composite blades. His girlfriend, 30-year-old Reeva Steenkamp shot and killed at his home in South Africa.

Oscar Pistorius as of now is at a police station in South Africa. A press conference has just concluded there. A man has been arrested in connection with this murder. A 26-year-old man has been arrested and charged with murder. We don't yet have confirmation that it is Pistorius but, again, officials say a 26-year-old man has been charged with murder. It is important to know Oscar Pistorius, himself, is 26.

And we know right now he is at the police station. We are also told by police at this press conference in South Africa that, in the past, there have been reports of incidents at Pistorius' house of a domestic nature. Those are the words they used there. Right now, Oscar Pistorius, an international figure in the sports world, known as something of a hero for running in the Paralympics and Olympic games.

He was a big hit in London over the summer right now, as of now, in a police station in South Africa. His girlfriend shot and dead overnight. A man of Pistorius' age charged with murder. We will bring you more details as they come in this morning -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: That is absolutely shocking, John.

All right. I have another update to a story here. Look at these pictures of a smiling and playful and very brave little boy. This is Ethan, the six-year-old Alabama boy who was abducted and held for six days in an underground bunker. He and his mother spent time with Governor Robert Bentley yesterday.

They also spoke with Dr. Phil in a show that aired yesterday. Ethan's mother told him despite the smiling photos that you just saw, that her son is acutely aware of what happened to his abductor and to the bus driver that tried to protect him.

Here's Erin Burnett.


DR. PHIL MCGRAW, TALK SHOW HOST: Give me five. I like it.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nine days after Ethan was freed from an underground bunker in Midland City, Alabama, the world is getting the first glimpse of this brave six-year-old, but his mother, Jennifer Kirkland, tells Dr. Phil the recovery has been difficult.

JENNIFER KIRKLAND, ETHAN'S MOTHER: He is having a very hard time sleeping soundly. He slings his arms and tosses and turns and he's cried out a few times.

BURNETT: In a story that captivated the nation, Ethan was kidnapped at gun point from a school bus last month. His abductor, the local resident, named Jimmy Lee Dykes, had boarded the bus and killed the driver. For six days, Ethan was held underground by Dykes in an 8 x 6 bunker. Neighbors say over the years, the Vietnam veteran and retired truck driver behaved strangely and that he'd even beaten a dog to death with the pipe. But kirkland says Dykes took surprisingly good care of her son.

KIRKLAND: When he found out that Ethan was autistic and took medication, I believe that's why he started caring and letting Ethan have the things that he was letting him have.

BURNETT: Authorities say Dykes fed the boy, gave him toys, and even allowed him to take medicine for his autism. Kirkland told Dr. Phil, waiting for Ethan's return was the hardest thing she's ever been through.

KIRKLAND: I wanted to be there. There's not one second of this whole thing that I wouldn't have begged that man to let me have Ethan. And then, I would have turned around and given him to my family and I would have took his place at any moment, any second, had I been allowed to.

BURNETT: For almost a week, police and FBI officials tried to convince Dykes to let Ethan go free, but they ended up storming the bunker in a daring rescue on February 4th.

KIRKLAND: We were told that he had stopped negotiating and that had he grown agitated, and that it had just become time to get Ethan out of there.

DR. PHIL: And what did they do?

KIRKLAND: I understand that a hostage team went in. They had put like explosives on the top of the doors and they blew the doors off and knocked him off guard with that. And, they went in and covered Ethan with a vest and they shot Mr. Dykes.

DR. PHIL: Did he see Mr. Dykes shot and killed?

KIRKLAND: He absolutely did. He had seen the army came in and shot the bad man.

BURNETT: Ethan who played quietly with his toys as his mother spoke to Dr. Phil says little about what happened in those harrowing days, but when Dr. Phil asked him how he gets to school, here's what he whispered to his mother.


BURNETT: Kirkland says she's already forgiven Dykes and is ready to move on, devoting all of her attention to protecting Ethan.

DR. PHIL: How are you coping with all of this?

KIRKLAND: I'm not sure yet. I've been so busy trying to make sure he's OK first. I mean, I'm basing it on how he's doing. If he's doing OK today, then I'm fine.


BERMAN: Oh, man. When he whispered, "Mommy, my bus driver is dead."


BERMAN: I can't --

SAMBOLIN: Heartbreaking. Absolutely heartbreaking.

All right. So, coming up on "STARTING POINT", we'll talk to psychiatrist Dr. Charles Sophy about Ethan's behavior and how children can handle this type of trauma. Hopefully, how a parent can also handle this. It's incredible.

BERMAN: We need the help, too.

Forty-eight minutes after the hour right now. So, listen up all you little monsters out there, Lady Gaga down for the count, at least, for a little while.

SAMBOLIN: I was wondering where you were going with the little monsters.

BERMAN: Gaga -- you know the Lady Gaga thing.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, yes --

BERMAN: Little monsters, I'm told, because you know, I know so much about Lady Gaga.


BERMAN: The latest on her injury, coming up.

SAMBOLIN: It's good to laugh.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. Three men in Newark, New Jersey, now charged in a vicious taped beating. Now, I got to warn you here, some of these images really are quite disturbing.

The alleged suspects forced the victim to strip naked. They sprayed him with water and they whipped him with a belt dozens of times. So, this all happened last summer. The viral went video -- the video went viral after it surfaced recently on YouTube, and this brutal crime has a lot of people outraged, Newark's mayor among them.


MAYOR COREY BOOKER, (D) NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: This is not who we are. We are Newark, New Jersey. We do not tolerate this level of cruelty, of callous disregard for the dignity of humanity. We do not tolerate this viciousness. We do not tolerate this kind of evil in our community.


BERMAN: Newark police say all three suspects have gang affiliations.

SAMBOLIN: The feds shutting down a cross-border drug smuggling tunnel in Nogales, Arizona. Authorities seized 1,200 pounds of marijuana in the process of doing that. They say the crude hand-dug tunnel, about 68 feet long and two feet wide was just finished yesterday. The entrance on the Mexico side is set to be in the front yard of a private residence in Nogales. BERMAN: All right. So, little monsters and music fans listen up. Lady Gaga has canceled the rest of her "Born This Way Ball" tour. The tour operator says the singer has a torn hip caused by strenuous repetitive movements. She's going to need surgery, followed by really strict down time. Live nation says fans can get refunds for the canceled shows where they bought their tickets starting today.

SAMBOLIN: I thought yesterday we reported that it was some sort of a medical condition that she had?

BERMAN: Well, if it's in the hip, it's a joint thing. It's an inflammation that just keeps apparently getting worse and worse and worse, and she needs some surgery there.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Well, that's a lot of gyrating going on. So --

All right. Fifty-four minutes past the hour. Smash, smash, smash, hit! The homeless hatchet wielding hippie who became a YouTube star. He has a new song for you.


SAMBOLIN: Fifty-seven minutes past hour. Welcome back to EARLY START. We are taking a look at the top CNN Trends this morning. This is a doozy.


BERMAN: Oh, yes. Remember Kai? He is the hatchet wielding hitchhiker of YouTube fame? He went viral with his description of how he stopped a racial attack.


KAI, THE HOMELESS HATCHET-WIELDING HITCHHIKER: So (EXPLETIVE DELETED) ran up behind with a hatchet, smash, smash, smash!


BERMAN: So, that was the blunt end of the hatchet he was talking about anyway. Well, now he has other talents. When he's not wielding a hatchet, he's apparently strumming a guitar. Take a look.




BERMAN: You know when you get your 15 minutes, you stretch it, stretch it.

SAMBOLIN: No doubt.

BERMAN: Stretch it.

SAMBOLIN: This would qualify.

BERMAN: Our congratulations to the newest musician on YouTube, Mr. Kai, there.

To check out other top CNN Trends, head to

SAMBOLIN: EARLY START continues right now.