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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Girlfriend of Track Star Killed; Couple Held Hostage by Christopher Dorner Speak to Media; Cruise Ship without Power Being Towed to Land

Aired February 14, 2013 - 07:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning: new overnight, a major jolt to the sports world. Olympian and double amputee Oscar Pistorius' girlfriend has been shot and killed in Pistorius' home. We're live with developing details this morning.

Then, the cruise from hell is almost over. We've got live reports from the sky tracking ship's slow progress as it makes its way to shore.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": New information in the case of accused killer Christopher Dorner. The hostages he reportedly tied up at gunpoint speaking out overnight for the first time.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And a massive airline merger this morning. U.S. Airways and American Airlines will join forces to create the world's largest airline. I will tell you what it means for your frequent flier miles and for your fares.

O'BRIEN: Among our guests this morning, two moms who've got young daughters on that Carnival cruise ship that's now stranded in the Gulf. Also we'll talk to Ariana Williams, she's the ex-girlfriend of Christopher Dorner. And former Los Angeles police chief Bill Bratton will join us. Fitness guru Richard Simmons is with us, and Westminster Best in Show winner, Banana Joe, is our guest.

It's Thursday, February 14th, Valentine's Day. STARTING POINT begins right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody. We start with breaking news this morning. There's been a deadly shooting at the home of the Blade Runner, track superstar Oscar Pistorius. His girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, shot and killed in Pistorius' home. Police say there is a 26-year-old man in custody and that man has been charged with murder. They have not yet confirmed, though, that that man is Pistorius, although we should note Pistorius is 26 years old and that he and Steenkamp apparently were the only ones in the house at the time of the murder.

We've also learned moments ago that there were previous incidents of a domestic nature at the home. That comes to us from authorities this morning. Nkepile Mabuse is outside the Pistorius home in South Africa. She is joining us by phone. What can you tell us about the very latest of this case?

NKEPILE MABUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm actually joining you from the magistrate's court in South Africa where we're expecting the 26-year-old that was arrested by the police in connection to this murder to appear here. The police, as you said, not confirming that this 26-year-old is Oscar Pistorius. But this is in relation to the murder of Oscar Pistorius' girlfriend in Oscar Pistorius' home in the early hours of this morning. We know that the 26-year-old has been charged with murder and the police are saying that they're going to be opposing bail, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: So we're waiting on confirmation of that. There have also been reports of incidents of a domestic nature. Can you tell us more about that between Pistorius and his girlfriend apparently?

MABUSE: Well, at this moment what I can tell you is there had been rumors for a couple of years now about possible violence in relation to Oscar Pistorius and his girlfriend. There have also been media reports of wild partying, et cetera. Police today confirming that there have been previous reports of a domestic nature, not reports where Oscar Pistorius was charged and convicted that we know of.

So at this moment it is reports that the police have actually confirmed, which would be very, very disturbing for South Africans to hear because when we woke up this morning, a lot of people just assumed that Oscar Pistorius was possibly trying to defend himself against an intruder, somebody that he mistook as an intruder. Because of high crime levels in this country people are very nervous all the time and many people carry guns to protect themselves. That was the assumption in the morning.

But for the police to now say that there have been reports of previous domestic violence at Oscar Pistorius' home, this will be disturbing for many South Africans. But we will await and hear what the bail hearing -- what comes out of the bail hearing because the police will have to show the court that they believe that Oscar Pistorius should not be released on what grounds. It should be interesting.

O'BRIEN: Nkepile Mabuse is monitoring this developing story for us this morning. Thanks, appreciate that.

Another developing story we're watching is this nightmare Carnival cruise ship that continues to float in the Gulf of Mexico. It's slowly chugging its way back into an Alabama port. It's being pulled by tugs now. Passengers have described the conditions on board as just disgusting. Sewage is leaking into the rooms. The carpet is soaked with urine, the stench so bad people have to leave their rooms and sleep on the decks of the ship. There's no air conditioning, of course, and a lack of food too.

David Mattingly is live in Mobile, Alabama, which is where the ship is headed. It's called I believe the Triumph. How far away is the Triumph now to where you are in Mobile?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, according to the U.S. coast guard they're probably less than 50 miles away from Mobile right now. That might sound pretty close, but it's probably going to feel like an eternity before they get here, which is probably about 10 hours from now.

There was a flurry of activity last night with helicopters delivering new supplies to the ship and some new generators. So that sort of implies that they might have some means to have more electricity on board and everyone to have perhaps more food and more water before they get here.

But once they do arrive here, that's when things are going to start moving relatively quickly for the 3,100 passengers on board. Here the plans have already been made to have buses waiting for them to take them back to their cars in Galveston, Texas, so they can drive right home tonight if they want to, or they can take them to a hotel where you can bet there will be plenty of people anxious to get to that first hot shower they have had in quite some time. You think about this, Soledad, this ship was supposed to arrive in Galveston, Texas, on Sunday. They're now 500 miles of course and five days overdue.

O'BRIEN: Or they could take them right to the lawyer's office, because I imagine there will be people suing carnival cruises after this. We're going to be talking to some of the parents who have kids on board that ship, also talk to some of the folks in Alabama, how they're planning to accommodate those 4,000 people who have to be exhausted and tired and a little furious as they come on land in the next little bit.

Also this morning, we have new information about the manhunt for Christopher Dorner. You remember the rogue ex-cop who apparently died after burning in a cabin after this nine-day reign of terror through Los Angeles and California. It looks like Dorner may have been hiding in fact for several days in a nearby resort condo located just steps away from the police command post that had been set up to find him. The unit belonged to Jim and Karen Reynolds. The couple says that they were the ones who were taken hostage, it wasn't their housekeepers. Here's how they describe coming face-to-face with Dorner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM REYNOLDS, TAKEN HOSTAGE BY DORNER: When he jumped out and hollered "stay calm," Karen screamed, turned and started running and he ran after her. He caught her about the door.

KAREN REYNOLDS, TAKEN HOSTAGE BY DORNER: On the staircase.

JIM REYNOLDS: On the staircase and brought her back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He had his gun drawn the whole time.

JIM REYNOLDS: He had the gun drawn showing with the --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you know it was him?

KAREN REYNOLDS: Yes.

JIM REYNOLDS: Oh, yes, as soon as I saw him.

KAREN REYNOLDS: He talked to us, trying to calm us down and saying very frequently he would not kill us.

JIM REYNOLDS: He had some plastic ties, great big tie and he made us put our hands behind our back and he tied our hands. He made us get up and walk into the back bedroom back there. First he had us lay on the bed and cross our feet. Then he changed his mind and had me lay on the floor, lay flat and cross my feet and he bound those with the plastic tie again and he pulled the hands real tight so you couldn't move and cut my circulation off, Started going numb immediately.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Nick Valencia is live for us in Big Bear Lake. Lots of questions, I think, nick, about how police have conducted this entire operation from start to finish. Walk me through some of those questions.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the blatant lingering question at hand is how they could have missed him. We're right here outside of the first command post for the San Bernardino's police department and it's literally under 100 yards from where Christopher Dorner was allegedly staying in this cabin.

I want to give you a sense of what we're looking at. It's not that cabin right here in front, this is a condo complex of cabins. It's the one immediately right behind there. I just took a walk back there. If you walk up there, you can see that that cabin leads right into the woods so it seems to be a very calculated decision on Chris Dorner's part to set up shop there.

You may ask the question as well, Soledad, if he's an expert marksman and has training in weapons and is a good shot, why he didn't take a shot if he was so close to the command post. From the vantage point up there, you couldn't really see and get a clear shot of where the command post was, so we can only speculate that's why he didn't act on his intentions that he listed in his manifesto.

O'BRIEN: Nick Valencia watching this story for us as well. Thanks, Nick, appreciate it.

We'll talk to Ariana Williams, Dorner's ex-girlfriend and describes how he was when the two of them were together.

First, though, John Berman has a look at some of the other stories making news this morning.

BERMAN: Thank you, Soledad.

New this morning, don't expect to see Pope Benedict XVI in public once he steps down at the end of the month. The Pope speaking to priests from the Rome diocese in the last hour telling them he will remain hidden to the world once he leaves his post. He will withdraw into prayer, he says. Students and staff at a Decatur, Georgia, preschool will have their game faces on when President Obama comes to visit today. The students are actually on their winter break, but the principal e-mailed parents asking them to mimic a normal school day for this visit. The president will outline his plan announced during his state of the union for national access to pre-kindergarten classes.

New pictures of the six-year-old Alabama boy who was abducted and held for six days in an underground bunker. This is Ethan, spending time with his mother at Alabama Governor Robert Bentley's office. And in a new interview, Jennifer Kirkland tells Dr. Phil that despite the smiling photos you just saw, her son is acutely aware of what happened to his abductor and his bus driver. She also explains why she thinks Jimmy Lee Dykes took care and even cooked for her son.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNIFER KIRKLAND, ETHAN'S MOTHER: I think he took care of Ethan to the best of his capabilities.

DR. PHIL MCGRAW, PSYCHIATRIST: Why do you think that is? I mean, he stormed the bus. He shot and killed a man.

KIRKLAND: I was told in the beginning that he is sympathetic to children with disabilities. 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: There was one particularly heart-wrenching moment when Dr. Phil asked Ethan about riding the bus to school. Ethan whispered to his mother, "My bus driver is dead." Very sad.

So it could be the second most famous phantom bunch ever next to Ali- Liston two. A Boxer has been suspended for allegedly taking a dive 13 seconds into a fight against former NFL defensive end Ray Edwards. See this for yourself, check it out. The phantom upper cut misses his much-smaller opponent. He misses by a foot here. But the guy sells it, knocking himself off of his own feet. Reports say Turbo Tax was a last-minute replacement for a couple of no-show Boxers. North Dakota's fight governing body is now reviewing this fight. Yes, indeed, I would say they are. He was like this far off.

O'BRIEN: And he jumps and does fall.

Well, she dated Christopher Dorner when he was working with the Los Angeles Police Department, tells us that he was stressed about work and often paranoid. This morning we'll talk to Ariana Williams and she'll discuss her relationship with Dorner, what he was he really like.

Also there's business big news to talk about this morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: That's right, big business news, Soledad, an $11 billion deal is done to create the world's largest airline. Does this mean you'll end up paying more for a ticket? I'll tell you what it means for you. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. This morning for the first time we're hearing from the couple that Christopher Dorner took hostage. It turns out that it wasn't a cleaning crew but owners of the rental cabin. They told reporters about their encounter with Dorner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAREN REYNOLDS, HELD HOSTAGE BY CHRISTOPHER DORNER: He had said I just want to clear my name.

JIM REYNOLDS, HELD HOSTAGE BY CHRISTOPHER DORNER: He said that quite a few times. He said I don't have a problem with you. I just want to clear my name.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: The question of course remains how could Christopher Dorner swing from calm to murder potentially. Let's get some insight on him from Ariana Williams. She dated Christopher Dorner five years ago. It's nice to have you with us.

You dated back in 2006, a little more than five years ago. Tell me a little bit about what you first thought when you heard that he was the suspect in this manhunt?

ARIANA WILLIAMS, EX-GIRLFRIEND OF CHRISTOPHER DORNER: I think any time you hear something of this nature and this extreme, it's a shock. And I mean I was just as much in shock probably as the next person and it was just like it threw me for a loop.

O'BRIEN: But did you think I'm shocked but I expected it or was it I'm shocked, he could never have done something like this?

WILLIAMS: I'm shocked. I sort of expected it. I can't tell you I said this would never happen. When you see signs of someone's behavior and the manner that sort of like stress-induced type behavior also, I think coupled with maybe how their personality already is, I think it makes it easier to understand why something like this could possibly happen.

O'BRIEN: What kind of signs were you seeing that would lead you later to think it was not such a stunning development?

WILLIAMS: Well, I think just a lot of on the job stress, and I think maybe his beliefs and his values about how cops should behave and just hearing a little bit at that time about how he was a little bit stressed out at work.

O'BRIEN: Did he talk to you specifically about it? Did he say there's this incident or this is happening at work? What did he tell you? What was stressing him out?

WILLIAMS: Just -- where he was assigned to, the harbor division and the LAPD is a very tough beat to be assigned to. There's a lot of crime there, a lot of drugs and gang activity and whatnot. I think with him sort of being a rookie still at that point it was a lot for him to take in and really deal with.

O'BRIEN: What was he like when you were dating? Obviously he describes in the manifesto how proficient he is, and we've seen video, with weapons. Were those in your life a lot?

WILLIAMS: It's a known fact at this point. He would come over to my house and sometimes there would be firearms laying around. I just attribute that to him being a police (ph) officer and protecting himself at that time, you know.

O'BRIEN: When you say laying around, what do you mean?

WILLIAMS: There would just be like a firearm in the kitchen, there would be one by the bed. I guess just maybe for easier access in case something happened.

O'BRIEN: Because you lived in a tough neighborhood?

WILLIAMS: That's what was very interesting about it. I lived in a very secure building at that time. A lot of security, a lot of cameras, so kind of didn't understand that part of it.

O'BRIEN: You eventually would break up. I think you're the one who put him on don'tdatehim.girl.com, right?

WILLIAMS: Yes, that's true.

O'BRIEN: That's a website I should tell people for once you date someone and you want to warn other women, you put them up there. What was your issue you thought other women should be warned against dating him?

WILLIAMS: Just in general the fluctuation of his behavior, the swinging from the highs to the lows. The extreme nature of his personality and there was never an even-keeled nature about him.

O'BRIEN: Were you afraid of him?

WILLIAMS: Not really afraid. I just don't need to be around this person. Something is just not right. It just didn't sit right with me.

O'BRIEN: Were you afraid while the manhunt was under way?

WILLIAMS: Oh, yes.

O'BRIEN: You thought you might be a target?

WILLIAMS: Yes, I did. And you know I spoke out about it while he was at large and while the whole incident was unfolding on television. It was just -- it was very scary. And, you know, I made a decision to speak out because if anything had happened to me, I'd want my family to at least have an idea about maybe who it was and sort of for me staying silent would have been for me in my mind, okay, they would have never known what happened to me. At the end of the day I wasn't in the manifesto, I wasn't singled out or named in it. It was still scary though.

O'BRIEN: I think the big question for many people is why. The manifesto is this thick document with sort of every grievance from childhood but his career ending. Why did he -- what happened?

WILLIAMS: Like I said, I think when you have a profession where you worked your whole life to really obtain something, that level of success, and I think when you go into that environment where everyone else is not maybe lined up with the way you believe and the way you think, after, you know, time, you could -- the stress could probably wear on you. I don't think it's in any way justifiable, someone going out and killing anyone because they're stressed out at work. There are ways and outlets of releasing stress. Chris unfortunately was one of those people he bottled up a lot of his emotions and wasn't very good at expressing himself.

O'BRIEN: He didn't have close friends? He didn't talk to his mom?

WILLIAMS: I believe he did have a good relationship with his mother and some of his close friends, but even, I think, in the manifesto he lists how he just sort of alienated himself from everyone towards the end.

ROMANS: Did he think he was better than everyone else? That manifesto is so narcissistic, isn't it?

O'BRIEN: Completely. Everything is I was always the best and somehow I was done wrong.

WILLIAMS: I mentioned that yesterday. One time I think maybe sort of as a light note -- I kind of have to laugh about something in this or else it makes you a little crazy in your mind. But he would do little raps and say I'm Chris, I'm the man or in joking or in passing talking and be referring to something in the military that he did an exercise or he accomplished something and it's like he was very much, you know, proud, overly proud of things that he was doing or he had done in the past.

O'BRIEN: So many whys in this thing. So many whys behind this whole entire case. Ariana Williams, nice to talk to you. thanks for coming in to talk with us. We appreciate your insight on this.

Some business news to get to as two major airlines announced just about half an hour ago that they're merging and will create together the world's largest airline. Will the deal that joins American and U.S. Airways also raise ticket prices for us? Our STARTING POINT team is heading in to talk about that and much more this morning. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Our team this morning, Lou Palumbo is back with us. He's a retired police officer, he was working in Nassau county, New York, now runs his own security agency. Kim Mance is a host with the Travel Channel a correspondent for Forbes. Mark Orwoll is an international editor at "Travel and Leisure" magazine. Nice to have you all with us. A lot to talk about on the travel front in just a little bit. First we want to talk with business news with Christine.

ROMANS: Big, big development for two major airlines we're watching here. It's official here. U.S. Airways and American have said they will merge. This is an $11 billion deal to create the world's largest airline. The American name and the headquarters in Dallas Fort Worth will stay. U.S. Airways will maintain its corporate presence in Phoenix.

Here's some pictures of the new planes. They have the artwork all figured out. The number one question, will it lead to higher fares? Most experts are saying no. That's largely because there's not a lot of overlap between U.S. Airways and American. Look at where their hubs are. You can see it's spread out all over the country. This gives American more of a presence in the northeast. Still the deal does leave customers with fewer choices. There will now be four major carriers. Those four companies fly more than 80 percent of all passengers. Travel expert Mark Murphy says mergers are the norm these days, big mergers, because making money in the airline industry is not easy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK MURPHY, TRAVEL EXPERT: Airlines can't keep operating at a loss. I mean American Airlines has lost billions of dollars. That's not a sustainable business model.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: American Airlines of course is in bankruptcy right now. The deal will need a bankruptcy judge to approve it. Also regulatory and shareholder approval.

O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning we're going to talk a little more about that cruise ship that's been stuck in the Gulf of Mexico about 50 miles from shore right now. We're going to hear from a woman who's going to be there to greet the ship's nearly 4,000 passengers. Imagine if that's your job.

Also suing over a C. A college student says she needs more than a million bucks in a lawsuit because that grade ruined her professional career. Does she have a case at all? We'll look at that ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. That crippled Carnival ship that's been stuck in the Gulf of Mexico is expected to arrive in Mobile, Alabama, today to let off nearly 3,000 passengers and more than a thousand crew members. You'll remember they have been stranded on board this ship since an engine fire set the cruise ship adrift several days ago. Phone calls and messages to family members from the people on board describe the conditions there as absolutely disgusting. So preparations are now under way in Mobile to accommodate all those folks, 4,000 people once they get off that ship.

Sheila Gurganus is helping organize those efforts and she's the Alabama cruise terminal general manager. It's nice to talk to you. So you've got to imagine 4,000 angry people coming of the ship in a little while. They're hungry, they've been living in disgusting conditions including out and out sewage on their ship.