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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Interview with Grant Heston; Possible Gunman Found Dead by Self-Inflicted Wound at University of Central Florida; Small Plane Crashes Into a Home in Indiana; New Pope Holds Mass; Stubenville Football Players Found Guilty; Cyprus in Crisis

Aired March 18, 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, breaking news: explosive devices found on a college campus in Florida. Classes have now been canceled for the morning. We'll have the very latest on this story.

And a developing story we're following as well -- homes crushed, a small jet torn to pieces after it falls from the air, smashes into three houses in Indiana.

Also developing this morning, a fast-moving fire swallows dozens of cabins. It happened in Tennessee. Flames are still devouring acres of land as dozens of people have been forced to evacuate. We'll have more details on all these stories straight ahead.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": And just out, a stunning report on the Republican Party by the Republican Party. Voters saying the party is marginalized, unwelcoming, and they feel unwanted. So will a new plan fix their image?

And a James Bond-type escape. Two inmates bolt from prison in a hijacked helicopter.

Plus, are your brackets ready? March Madness is set. There are definitely some surprises.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And in business, a proposed bailout of Cyprus is taking a toll here at home. Stock futures are trading in the red this morning. Are we in for a roller coaster ride on Wall Street?

O'BRIEN: It's Monday, March 18th, and STARTING POINT begins right now.

Welcome, everybody. We start with breaking news this morning. An improvised explosive device have been found on the campus of the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Officials say classes have been cancelled until at least noon. Police say they received a 911 call about a suspect with a gun. Just after midnight some 500 students were evacuated from a dorm on the central campus. The explosive devices were found we're being told along with the person who is dead. It appears that person died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. A university spokesman says that right now the bomb squad is on the scene. We're going to have more on this breaking story as soon as it becomes available to us.

Let's get to Grant Heston, the associate vice president for communications and public affairs at UCF. It's nice to talk to you. Appreciate your time at a time when I know you're very busy. Tell me a little bit about what we know at the scene right now we have one student or one person I should say who is dead. Is this person a student or an outsider to the college?

GRANT HESTON, ASSOC. VICE PRESIDENT FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS, UCF: Well, I can tell you right now let me start from the beginning which is about 12:20 we received a fire alarm for tower one. There are about 500 students who live there. When our police were en route to the tower we received a 911 call for a subject with a gun. When they arrived they found a subject dead of an apparent self- inflicted gunshot wound. And when they were working the scene they discovered in addition to the handgun, they discovered assault weapons, and then improvised explosive devices. So out of an abundance of caution for the campus community the tower remains closed, the garage is closed, and we canceled classes until at least noon today.

O'BRIEN: OK, I'm told that the FBI in addition to the UCF police and the orange county sheriff department is all on the scene. I want you to walk me through a couple of things. Let's start with the subject who now apparently is deceased. What can you tell me about this person, male, female, student, outsider?

HESTON: I can tell you it's a male subject who was found in the dorm room. And the dorm rooms are set up in that they have a central area and there are four separate bedrooms and bathrooms. He was found in one of the bedrooms.

O'BRIEN: Tell me a little bit about the assault weapon and the improvised explosive devices. How many devices are you talking about and what kind of assault weapon, do you know?

HESTON: I really can't get into the details of what specifically was found except it was enough for us to bring in the orange county bomb squad and the FBI here and we're proceeding extremely cautiously with what we found. Our police chief is a national leader in terms of incidents on campus, preparing for them and responding to them. Our students and campus community are in good hands.

O'BRIEN: So then where does this stand with the bomb squad? I'm not sure how you take apart an IED? Have they been neutralized yet? Are you in the process of doing that?

HESTON: They're still in the process of doing that. They basically went into the room, evaluated it, and have determined the best way to safely remove it from the building.

O'BRIEN: You said and others have said it's multiple devices. Is it more than one?

HESTON: Right, it's multiple devices found in one bag.

O'BRIEN: OK. And that bag then would have been inside the bedroom of I believe you're saying the person who's now deceased?

HESTON: I believe it was the bedroom, that is correct.

O'BRIEN: OK, all right. So what happens now? No classes have been canceled up to 12:00 noon. What's going to happen when they make a decision?

HESTON: We'll get together and determine what's in the best interest of campus community, that's our students and faculty staff members, and decide to reopen classes on the main campus. We're the second largest university in the country. We have a lot of students who come here. We want to make sure that one, they're safe, and two, that they understand exactly what we're doing here on this campus.

O'BRIEN: Grant Heston joining us. We appreciate your information for us this morning. I know you're swamped with this breaking as we speak. Thanks for your time.

HESTON: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: You're most welcome.

A scene resembling a war zone in South Bend, Indiana. Small plane went down in a residential neighborhood. An evacuation order is now in effect, it's going to be in effect through the morning and the big concern at this point is the jet fuel. There's an investigation now into what caused this private plane to take a deadly dive. The plane slammed into two homes, damaged a third home, winded up with the nose inside of one of the homes. Jim Spellman is live on the scene for us in South Bend, Indiana, with the very latest. Jim, good morning. What happened?

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a surreal scene here, Soledad. Take a look. This white metal second, that's the tail of this twin engine corporate jet.

Our understanding is that yesterday about 2:00 in the afternoon this plane took off from Tulsa, Oklahoma, was attempting to land here, had some sort of technical difficulty. It came down to try to make an approach, bailed out for some reason, went up was going to try to come back around again to the try to land again, never made it. NTSB is on site exploring -- investigating. They have to do their initial investigation before they remove the plane from the house.

Here's what residents of the neighborhood told us they saw yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My roof is caved in. There was glass everywhere. The front of the house, windows busted out. I just grabbed my son and got him some clothes, and we ran out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a big picture window and the plane was coming right toward me, and I was afraid it was coming in the house. And it swerved and went across the street. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought that was it. When I looked up the plane was right over the top of me right then and my wife was standing in the door and I just hit the ground. I thought it was going to explode when it hit, but it didn't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SPELLMAN: We understand that two people have died and that they were both in the airplane not on the ground. Remarkably, Soledad, fire officials here tell us that the people in that very home were able to walk away.

O'BRIEN: Oh, my goodness. Considering what these pictures look like that's remarkable. Jim Spellman, thanks, appreciate the update.

Also happening now, wildfires across the country taking out homes, closing streets, from Florida up through Aiken, South Carolina, Myrtle Beach in the Carolina coast, major blaze in Pigeon Gorge, Tennessee, and Fort Collins, Colorado. The Pigeon Forge fire started yesterday afternoon very quickly 213 acres have been burning so far. More than 30 cabins in that resort community have been destroyed. Nearly two dozen fire departments are trying to fight that blaze. One woman said she's very worried about her firefighter husband.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I talked to him earlier before I headed up here, and I could hear the helicopters and he said the helicopters are flying over, and that's about the only time I've got to communicate with him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Meanwhile, a giant fire near Myrtle Beach in South Carolina this weekend destroyed a dozen homes. Four people were injured there. Smoke from a forest fire mixed with fog caused hazardous conditions on I-95. A number of traffic accidents to tell you about. Let's get right to Jennifer Delgado in the weather center. So when do you think the weather will cooperate, and help the folks that are trying to fight some of these fires?

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We are going to see a benefit happening to the south as well as in the southeast. Looking at some of these fires, anywhere in orange as well as red that indicates some of the fires we're going to be dealing with over the last 12 to 24 hours. The red indicates Pigeon Forge. Pigeon Forge is going to see a big benefit coming today, because we are going to see a system bringing some beneficial rain.

So here's the forecast. For Monday, 100 percent chance of rain. Winds 10 to 15, much more bearable than over the past couple of days. They've been gusty. We've been warm as well as very low humidity. But that's going to be climbing because you see the line of storms. They'll be making their way to parts of Tennessee as well as into Kentucky, even for areas like Florida. They're going to benefit from some of this rainfall. But we have really two big storms out there. Blizzard conditions setting up towards part of the northern plains as well as into areas including Minnesota. This is going to last through late tonight, really, to about 1:00 a.m. Tuesday, four to eight inches of snowfall there.

Look what's happening across the mid-Atlantic, snow and also sleet mixing in. This is going to be in the forecast until about 1:00 this afternoon. And then more snow makes its way up towards New England. Look at this, Soledad. We're talking 10 to 14 inches in some of those higher elevations, like the mountain snow. That's going to be good for the ski resorts, but for big cities like New York, as well and Boston, we'll be talking about maybe one to three inches for Boston. New York, maybe about a half inch for you.

O'BRIEN: All right, I'll take it. A half-inch I can manage. Thanks, Jennifer.

Another developing story we're watching this morning, a wild prison breakout. John Berman has that and other news.

BERMAN: This is nuts. Canadian police arrested two inmates who used a hijacked helicopter to pull off a daring prison escape. Police say the inmates, 36-year-old Benjamin Hudon-Barbeau and 33-year-old Danny Provencal climbed a ladder dangling from the chopper. They were whisked away from this maximum security facility outside Montreal. So the first inmate and two unidentified suspects were apprehended really quickly. The second inmate surrendered peacefully overnight. So it's weird but over.

A vigil on the campus of Seton Hill University near Pittsburgh after a deadly bus crash. The woman's lacrosse team bus skidded off the Pennsylvania turnpike Saturday, smashed into a tree. The bus driver and the coach of the lacrosse team, who was six months pregnant, were killed. There was some rain, there was some snow on the road but police have not released an official cause of the crash.

In a very public display of Republican soul searching, the RNC is set to release an internal review of the 2012 election, what many people are calling an autopsy report. It includes some 200-plus recommendations for reversing GOP fortunes in 2016.

Among the recommendations -- reducing the number of primary debates, moving the party's convention from August to July or even June, and to go where the report says the GOP has not gone enough. We're talking about outreach, and inclusion. Here's what RNC Chairman Reince Priebus is saying about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: We're going to be announcing a $10 million initiative just this year which will include hundreds of people, paid, across the country, from coast to coast, in Hispanic, African-American, Asian communities, talking about our party, talking about our brand, talking about what we believe in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: At the bottom of the hour, Ari Fleischer, the former Bush White House press secretary, will join us. He co-chaired this RNC project. He helped write this report.

New this morning, President Obama expected to announce his pick for labor secretary today. It's Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general who heads up the Justice Department civil rights division. The president also preparing for a visit to Israel tomorrow. This will be his first international trip of the second term, the first of his presidency to Israel. After visiting Jerusalem President Obama heads to Ramallah, and then to Amman in Jordan.

So the NCAA selection committee has spoken. Now it is all of our turns to fill out those brackets. While there is no obvious favorite in this year's tournament we do know there will be a new champ because after winning it all last year, Kentucky was left out. The top seed in the 68-team torn all right are Louisville, Gonzaga, Indiana, and Kansas. I've been trying to fill out my bracket all morning. It is not easy. It should be easy for you to beat me, and you can compete against all of us here at CNN. Go to CNN.com/brackets. Join the CNN group. The fun, of course, begins tomorrow night.

O'BRIEN: Who do you think takes it all?

BERMAN: I think Louisville. They're the heavy favorite overall. I can't find a reason to pick against them yet.

O'BRIEN: How long will it take you to fill out your bracket?

BERMAN: It will take me all day. My kids are going to starve tonight.

O'BRIEN: Oh, well.

BERMAN: Oh, well.

O'BRIEN: It's one night.

Pope Francis is going to sell rate his installation mass tomorrow. He'll meet with the president of his home country Argentina today. His papacy already a little bit of controversy. The Vatican disputing claims that he allowed the kidnapping of two Jesuit priests in the 1970s. You'll remember that was during Argentina's dirty war. These days, though, Francis is a little bit of a breath of fresh air for Catholics. The pontiff is not afraid to be among the people.

Senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is in Rome for us this morning. Good morning.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. It is a rainy and wet morning here in Rome but Pope Francis is enjoying a very sunny honeymoon with the Italian media. Today the newspapers, the magazines, full of gushing articles. This is the magazine that published topless photos of Kate Middleton but the Pope is getting royal treatment. Street vendors are having a field day. You can either get a very small postcard or a very big poster of Pope Francis. The municipal -- the municipality of Rome has put out special posters that say Welcome, Francis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEDEMAN: It could be any church the priest greeting worshippers one by one after Sunday mass. But it wasn't any church, and it wasn't any priest. It was Pope Francis at the Santa Ana parish church in the Vatican. His charm offensive moving full steam ahead, he stepped outside the Vatican and into Italian territory to greet well-wishers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was watching some of the video when he came out of the church, and obviously he seemed very personable. He was really connecting with the people.

WEDEMAN: In his first Sunday as Pope Francis appeared at the window of his pal apartment, overlooking a packed St. Peter's square, speaking of forgiveness and compassion, and eliciting a laugh when he insisted he wasn't providing free advertising for a cardinal whose writing he praised.

He ended his message with a simple wish, "Have a good Sunday, and have a good lunch." Argentineans, like the Pope, already feels closer to the church.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of the Catholic has had is they were so high, and you know, too low. So now he's coming low and we are very happy for that.

WEDEMAN: His personal style is going down well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is a very nice, very humble, very nice.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WEDEMAN: One group not happy, however, with the Pope, is his security detail. They're having a problem with his unpredictable movements. One of his detail being quoted in the Italian papers this morning, saying if he keeps up his behavior like this, they're going to go crazy. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Ben Wedeman for us this morning. Thank you, Ben.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, trial aided by social media. Tears and apologies in an Ohio courtroom after a young woman's attackers are found guilty of rape. Mostly due to their own texts and pictures and videos. We'll have a live report on that story straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT it is a case that's captured the nation's attention. Two Ohio teenagers, accused of raping a drunk 16-year-old girl during a booze-fueled night of partying back in August learned their fate on Sunday morning. The high school football players for Steubenville's Big Red never took the stand, maintained their innocence throughout. The judge found them guilty on all counts. Poppy Harlow was in the courtroom for the entire trial.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The mother of the 16-year-old victim spoke out for the first time since Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond raped her daughter saying this after court ended.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

STUBENVILLE RAPE VICTIM'S MOTHER: It did not matter what school you went to, what city you lived in or what sports you played, human compassion is not taught by a teacher, coach or a parent. It is a God-given gift and instilled in all of us. You displayed not only a lack of this compassion but a lack of any moral code. Your decisions that night affected countless lives including those most dear to you. You were your own accuser through the social media that you chose to publish your criminal conduct on. This does not define who my daughter is. She will persevere, grow, and move on. I have pity for you both. I hope you fear the Lord, repent for your actions and pray hard for his forgiveness.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

HARLOW: The convicted rapists, both teenage boys, showing remorse after being found guilty.

TRENT MAYS, CONVICTED OF RAPE: I would truly like to apologize to [ bleep ] her family, my family and the community.

MA'LIK RICHMOND, CONVICTED OF RAPE: I would like to apologize (INAUDIBLE). I had no intention to do anything like that. And I'm sorry to put you guys through this. I'd just like (INAUDIBLE) I just want you to understand I'm sorry (ph). (INAUDIBLE) I ruined her life for life.

HARLOW: The 16-year-old girl was raped during a series of late night parties in August when she was drunk.

JUDGE THOMAS LIPPS, OHIO: The court is able to view the demeanor of the witnesses, judge their credibility, and weigh the evidence presented to the court. The court has done so in this case and it is the court's decision that both of the defendants are hereby adjudicated delinquent beyond a reasonable doubt on all three counts as charged.

HARLOW: Ma'lik Richmond sentenced to a minimum of one year in a juvenile correction facility for rape. Trent Mays to a minimum of two years, guilty of rape and of taking and distributing an illegal nude photograph of the victim. Both Mays and Richmond will also have to register as juvenile sex offenders. Prosecutors said the girl was so intoxicated she wasn't capable of consenting to anything.

MARIANNA HEMMETER, PROSECUTOR, OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE: This case is about a 16-year-old girl who was taken advantage of, toyed with and humiliated. And it's time that the people who did that to her are held responsible. HARLOW: Eyewitness testimony from three teenage boys, all friends of Mays and Richmond, and all granted immunity from criminal prosecution, was damaging. One witness saying he videotaped Mays performing a sexual act on the girl during a car ride between parties. Two others testified they saw Richmond do the same later that night while she was lying naked on the floor. In the state of Ohio, this act performed without consent constitutes rape.

MIKE DEWINE, OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL: There seems to be an unbelievable casualness about rape and about sex. It's a cavalier attitude, a belief that somehow there isn't even wrong with any of this.

HARLOW: Text messages, tweets and photos were at the center of the trial. Fellow teens vulgarly joked about the rape.

"Song of the night is definitely "Rape Me" by Nirvana."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What if that was your daughter?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it isn't. If it was my daughter, I wouldn't care. I'd just let her be dead.

HARLOW: Witnesses read text messes including this one about the victim from Trent Mays to a friend.

"Yeah, dude, she was like a dead body. I just needed some sexual attention."

There was no jury. This was a bench trial with visiting judge Thomas Lipps rendering a verdict because this was a juvenile case.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARLOW: And, Soledad, the court also ordered Mays and Richmond to undergo treatment while they are serving time to ensure that they don't commit another sex crime after they are released. Additionally, after court, after that verdict came down yesterday, the Ohio attorney general announced that he's convening a grand jury in mid-April in order to investigate whether or not there may have been additional crimes possibly perpetrated by other people related to this incident. I spoke for a long time yesterday with the civil attorney for the victim and her family, asked if they're planning to file civil charges. They haven't decided that at this point. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Poppy Harlow for us. Poppy, thanks. What a disturbing story. Oh, my goodness.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, right now, the proposed bailout of Cyprus is affecting your stocks. We're going to talk about that.

Plus a programming note. You want to be sure to catch the debut of "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper. Starts today at 4PM eastern. We're going to be talking with Jake in just a little bit about what's on his show tonight and also some political news, as well. We're back in just a moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KOSIK: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, I'm Alison Kosik. Minding your business this morning, stocks are set to sell off a bit today. Dow futures are down about 75 points right now. We are seeing bigger declines in Asia with the major averages there down 1-2 percent each. The issue, Europe. Yep, another country needs a bailout. This time it's Cyprus, and it's a $13 billion lifeline. It will be the fourth country in the Euro zone -- in the European region to get a bailout.

Want to avoid those really annoying bank fees? Why not try a credit union. A new study from bank rate says 72 percent of the nation's biggest credit unions offer free checking accounts. Compare that to just 39 percent of banks that do so. Of course there are usually ways to avoid the fees by carrying a minimum balance or using direct deposit. But when it's unavoidable, fees at credit unions are typically lower. But the downside to banking with a credit union is you don't have, you know, the choices of the ATMs, and if you go out of town if you're with a local credit union, it will be more difficult to, you know, find an ATM.

BERMAN: The fees find you one way or another.

KOSIK: Isn't it funny how that happens?

O'BRIEN: It's a shocker, really. That's a whole other investigation. Alison thanks.

Up next a stunning report on the problems within the Republican party from the party itself. Find the GOP struggling with young people, with women and minorities. Ari Fleischer co-chairs that report. He's going to join us to talk about that.

And they're always fun to watch, but this implosion had some unexpected side effects for people's homes. We'll tell you what happened. Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. We begin with breaking news this morning and an update on the story we've been talking about since the top of the hour. Police and the FBI on the scene of the University of Central Florida in Orlando, an explosive devices found in a dorm room which a university spokesperson says is also the scene of an apparent suicide.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

HESTON: When our police were in route to the tower they received a 911 call for a subject with a gun. When they arrived they found a subject dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. And when they were working the scene they discovered, in addition to the handgun, they discovered assault weapons, and then improvised explosive devices.

(END AUDIO CLIP)