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Texas Officials Murdered; South Korea's Warning to the North; Louisville Advances Despite Adversity; China Moves to Cool Housing Market

Aired April 1, 2013 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Fear in Texas. A district attorney is gunned down just weeks after the murder of his deputy. The killer or killers still out there this morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Tough talk on the Korean peninsula. But this time, it's the South vowing to strike if the North crosses the line.

BERMAN: A frightening scene on a New York City street. Witnesses swear they say an armed -- they saw an armed abduction in broad daylight. But was this all just an elaborate hoax?

ROMANS: A gruesome injury then a rousing finish. The Louisville Cardinals landing a spot in the Final Four, minus a fallen warrior.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans this Monday for you.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. It is Monday, April 1st, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

We're going to start in Texas where at this moment there is an intense manhunt under way. The search for some person or some people targeting public officials for assassination, the latest victim, Kaufman County district attorney Mike McLelland. He and his wife gunned down in their home southeast of Dallas.

Now, this is the same county where less than two months ago, assistant district attorney Mark Haase was killed as he walked to work. Officials have not yet publicly linked the two killings. But this morning, there is heightened security at the courthouse and that community clearly on edge.

Our George Howell is there live from Kaufman, Texas, with this developing story. And, George, what's the latest?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, good morning. You know, no new leads in this mysterious murder case. Investigators -- they are not any closer to narrowing down a suspect in this case. But we are, John, hearing from several public officials here and they say this, they believe that these two men worked very closely together on different cases and they believe this may have been a revenge hit. Now at this point, police here are not officially linking these killings, but the unanswered questions have consumed this community with fear.


MIKE MCLELLAND, KAUFMAN COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: We're going to find you. We're going to pull you out of whatever hole you're in, and we're going to bring you back and let the people of Kaufman County prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.

HOWELL (voice-over): A promise from Kaufman County, Texas, district attorney Mike McLelland two months ago to the unknown killer of an assistant D.A. in his office -- a promise, though, he would never see fulfilled. Saturday night, police found the bodies of the D.A. and his wife Cynthia at their home.

DAVID BYRNES, KAUFMAN COUNTY SHERIFF: They both had been shot, and we are in the process of completing the crime scene workup right now.

HOWELL: An investigator says police found several shell casings inside the home from a high-powered rifle.

BYRNES: It's pretty obvious it's unnerving, and it's unnerving to the law enforcement community, it's unnerving to the community at large.

HOWELL: There are no suspects. And the sheriff's office has not officially said whether the McLellands' deaths are connected to the killing of Kaufman County assistant D.A. Mark Haase, who was shot outside the county courthouse in January. The sheriff says extra precautions are being taken to protect county elected officials, as well as the public.

BYRNES: There will be complete security at the courthouse tomorrow, visible security.

HOWELL: McLelland said his coworkers were like a family, but they all knew their job came with risks.

MCLELLAND: When you deal with bad people on a regular basis, you know that there's always the potential for these bad people to do something bad to you, because they've already done something bad to somebody else. And so, they could always concentrate and backlash on you.


HOWELL: So this office here, it was a very close-knit office, and Haase's death had a big impact on that office. McLelland was determined to find his killer and now we don't know who will take McLelland's position, who will replace the D.A. here. We know that Mr. McLelland and his wife, they leave behind two daughters and three sons. One of those sons is a Dallas police officer, John.

BERMAN: George, it's so chilling to hear McLelland in his own words from two months ago. Let's leave that aside for a moment.

What are the plans in Kaufman today?

HOWELL: Right. Well we do know the courthouse will reopen, as you mentioned, with heightened security, very visible security here. The D.A.'s office, though, will remain closed as investigators try to get to the bottom of this case.

BERMAN: All right. George Howell in Kaufman, Texas, today. You know, there are so many questions about this case, including the big one, obviously, which is there a serial assassin on the loose right now targeting public officials in Texas. We're going to talk to former FBI assistant director and CNN contributor Tom Fuentes. That's going to be in our 6:30 a.m. time slot.

Later on "STARTING POINT", we're going to talk to Pete Schulte, he's a friend and colleague of the murdered Texas prosecutor Mike McLelland, along with Kaufman County Judge Bruce Wood, Kaufman Mayor William Fortner and former Texas judge and prosecutor, Representative Ted Poe.

ROMANS: All right. New this morning, a tragic ending to a rescue mission in the Alaska wilderness. A state trooper's helicopter picked up a person stranded on a snowmobile Saturday night, and then the chopper went down. The wreckage was found yesterday.

Authorities say they didn't find any survivors. The pilot, a trooper, and the rescued snowmobiler were all on board that chopper. Officials say the helicopter caught fire but it's not clear how.

BERMAN: Also new this morning, it looks like a crime, but New York police are starting to think a dramatic kidnapping caught on surveillance camera was staged. The apparent kidnappers are seen racing around a corner. Eventually, they force a man and woman into a minivan.

Some witnesses say they saw a gun but the NYPD is seeing a lot of red flags in this because no one in the area has been reported missing. They think it may have happened is that a group of friends staged the whole thing as part of a birthday prank. Some prank.

ROMANS: All right. Well, finally, new developments this morning from the Korean peninsula. South Korea with some tough talk of its own after a series of threats from the North, its president warning that any provocation will result in, quote, "a strong response."

Meantime, the U.S. has sent two stealth fighters to South Korea, as the two countries continue joint military exercises.

CNN's Kyung Lah live for us in Seoul this morning. Kyung, North Korea declared itself in a state of war. But South Korea says it's ready to retaliate against further threats. Where does this all put the U.S., these escalating tensions?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what it means for the United States is that they are bound by treaty to respond if there is some sort of skirmish between the United States and -- between South Korea and North Korea. The intent here, not being that anyone here wants to. A lot of this is just smoke and dagger talk, it is smoke and mirrors. But the concern is, is that there will be a miscalculation, and that this region could then trip or stumble into war. That is what is really at stake here.

What you have is a president in South Korea, the first female president for this country, with something to prove in a male- dominated country. Then you have the man-child to the North, with his finger on the nuclear button. The question is, is will both sides then make a mistake with the U.S. trapped in the middle, Christine.

ROMANS: Absolutely. When you look at, I guess, the smoke and mirrors, as you say, of what happens on the Korean peninsula and try to separate out what -- how likely war is, what are the real new tensions, and what the miscalculations could be, clearly American officials must be concerned.

LAH: Very concerned because, it's so easy to make a mistake.

Two years ago, there was an attack on an island. It was a conventional attack with some missiles. There was the sinking of a South Korean warship.

The U.S. recently signed -- if you could look at it as strengthening of the treaty in this region. Two years ago, if that treaty were in place, the United States would feel more obligated to come to the defense of South Korea's quickly escalating tensions.

So that's why all of this is very, very tenuous. That's why all sides are trying to remain as calm as possible, but certainly very difficult when you hear all this rhetoric out of the North.

ROMANS: And Americans in South Korea, any movement of Americans trying to leave South Korea?

LAH: You know, I talked to a number of Americans since we've been here and we haven't really gotten this reaction that Americans are throwing things in their bags trying to catch the next flight out of here. Even though North Korea is so close, even though the nuclear threat is here, and remember, make no mistake about it, this is the first time that we've seen such a totalitarian regime with nuclear weapons. We aren't seeing that, you know, tremendous flight out of South Korea by Americans yet.

ROMANS: Kyung Lah in South Korea, thank you.

BERMAN: Eight minutes after the hour right now. And three people killed in a spectacular 95-vehicle crash along the Virginia/North Carolina border, 25 others taken to the hospital. The crash was described as a chain of 17 separate wrecks. In one of them the bed of a tractor trailer caught fire after colliding with six cars.

It took tow trucks hours to clear off Interstate 77. All lanes have now reopened. Investigators are saying that fog may have been a contributing factor. BERMAN: So, a little punch to stake it to the Final Four, but they never imagined what they'd have to overcome to get there. The Cardinals 85-63 victory over Duke marred by a gruesome injury. The sophomore guard Kevin Ware suffered a broken leg.

We're not showing it to you, because you know what, this injury is simply too disturbing to watch, seeing and hearing the break brought players and coaches to tears, and left the crowd in Indianapolis eerily silent. A senior member of Louisville athletic department spoke to CNN's Don Lemon last night.


KENNY KLEIN, SENIOR ASSOC. AD, UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE: While Kevin was down, one of the players -- called the players over and said, you know, win the game. Win the game. It was his message to the team. And they certainly took it to heart, and got the task accomplished.


ROMANS: You have to imagine that those guys at that level are -- they want to win so bad. Klein said surgery to repair the bone on Kevin Ware's leg was successful. He'll remain in the hospital until at least tomorrow. This Instagram picture overnight shows Ware in his hospital bed with Louisville's trophy for winning the NCAA -- there it is on the left -- winning the regional tournament.

Meanwhile, Michigan cruise past Florida Sunday, 79-59, to earn its trip to Atlanta. It's the Wolverines' first Final Four berth in 20 years.

OK, the Final Four match-ups are now set, Louisville versus Wichita State. Syracuse versus Michigan. Next Saturday, the winners meet a week from tonight in the national championship.

And I got to say that Kevin Ware, that -- I mean, what an amazing -- what an amazing finish for --

BERMAN: I've never seen --

ROMANS: For all of his hopes.

BERMAN: I've never seen an injury like that, an outpouring of emotion like that, over an injury. I've never seen a team rally like Louisville did. The game was essentially tied when he went down there and they came out in the second half after what must have been an unbelievably emotional speech from Rick Pitino and took over that game.

ROMANS: And yet his surgery was successful to repair that leg.

BERMAN: May take up to a year to recover from that.

ROMANS: All right. Sunday was a great day to be a Louisville Cardinal. Not to be outdone by the men, the Louisville women's team scored a ginormous upset beating top-seeded Taylor, 82-81, to advance to Elite Eight in the NCAA women's tourney. Baylor, the defending women's champ, have lost just once in the last 75 games.

BERMAN: This was an epic upset. You're seeing right there, Brittany Griener right there, who may be the best college basketball player ever. She plays for Baylor. She didn't score until the second half yesterday. She didn't get a basket until the second half.

This was an unbelievable upset. I don't think anyone saw this coming.

ROMANS: Wow. OK. So, Zoraida, by the way, is number one in our CNN bracket challenge. She, you know, came number one. Chris Cuomo is third. Berman is eighth. I have slipped to 15th.

My husband said I'm the hare not the tortoise because I was number one for the first week. And Jake Tapper --

BERMAN: Tapper is last.

ROMANS: Tapper is last.

BERMAN: So you're beating Tapper. But I think you need to highlight the headline which is you are no longer beating me. For a week, you were in first place gloating, oh, I'm winning, I'm winning. But no more, and I am officially ahead of you in this pool. So, let's mark the occasion right now.

ROMANS: I will prepare for your gloating for the next week.

BERMAN: All right. It's 11 minutes after the hour right now.

And terror in the aisles of a California Walmart after a man crashed a car straight into the store. And this was just the beginning of his rampage. We're going to have a live report about this coming up.


ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome back to EARLY START. A terrifying Easter for Walmart shoppers in California. San Jose police trying to figure out why the man behind the wheel of this red Oldsmobile drove it straight into a Walmart store. People inside the store dazed and frightened.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of a sudden, I see all kinds of people running and screaming toward the back of the Walmart. It's like, what's going on?


ROMANS: That crash was just the beginning.

Nick Valencia live from Los Angeles. Nick, what happened next?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What happened before that led up to all this. Witnesses say he was seen driving erratically in that parking lot. He sideswiped at least two cars before crashing into the storefront there in San Jose. Witnesses say he was going at least 40 miles per hour before he skidded in that front store entrance, stopped by the beer display.

Now, police say afterwards he got out of his car, allegedly picked up a blunt object and began attacking customers.

Now, it was obviously a very scary scene for those inside.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He almost ran me over, and some guy picked my bike up and hit the back of his car -- and he was going inside the car -- I mean inside the front door. I mean, he was going to -- I mean he was in there to hurt people, you know? I know there was a lot of people -- I know a lot of people got hurt. And I just grabbed my bike and took off across the street, you know? I didn't want -- I just know he was in there to hurt people.


VALENCIA: That woman was one of at least 70 people inside the store. Four people were injured, one of them seriously, the others with non- life-threatening injuries. One of those injured was a Walmart employee -- Christine.

ROMANS: Oh, wow. So what do we know about the suspect? Any indication why this happened?

VALENCIA: People right now are asking the same questions, Christine. They really don't know. There's not much being released about the suspect other than to say that he's in his 30s. And police so far this morning have not released a motive.

ROMANS: All right, Nick Valencia. Clearly very, very sad Sunday that San Jose Walmart. Thanks, Nick.

BERMAN: It is 17 minutes after the hour. Let's bring you up to date.

A manhunt under way in Texas right now following the murder of Kaufman County D.A. Mike McLelland and his wife. The couple shot to death in their home. This killing came two months after the assistant D.A. Mark Hasse was murdered outside a courthouse. So far officials are not officially linking the two crimes, but that community is on edge this morning.

Atlanta educators, including a retired superintendent, are expected to start turning themselves into the county jail this morning. Thirty- five former principals, teachers and other public school employees indicted on racketeering charges for allegedly changing students' standardized test scores and then covering it up. Investigators say top school officials got bonuses based on bogus test results.

BERMAN: So just last week, you remember Karl Rove saying he could imagine a Republican presidential candidate supporting same-sex marriage? Now, a Republican lawmaker is taking that sort of a step further. Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona is saying he doesn't think there's any avoiding it.


SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: I think that's inevitable. There will be one, and I think he'll receive Republican support, or she will. So I think that yes, the answer is yes.


BERMAN: And Senator Flake added that he personally thinks marriage should be between a man and a woman, but the Supreme Court considering two same-sex marriage cases, of course, right now.

ROMANS: All right. We're expecting 338 million dollar Powerball winner Pedro Quezada in court today over $29,000 in unpaid child support. His son says he hired an attorney and is working through the problem.

Quezada has five children but no word which of them would be covered by these payments. Meantime, a man who describes himself as a close friend told "The New York Daily News" that Quezada has promised to pay the rent for everyone who lives on the same block as the bodega he owns.

BERMAN: So, he's got a new face and now, he's got a new life. Dallas Wiens, the man from Texas who got the first full-face transplant, got married over the weekend. The couple exchanged vows at the same church Fort Worth where Wiens was badly burned in 2008. He was painting the church when he touched a power line. Wiens met his wife in a burn victim support group. She was burned in a traffic accident three years ago.

ROMANS: All right. Investors celebrating more than Easter over the weekend with the S&P sitting at a record high. Before today's opening bell. The question is: where do stocks go from here? A closer look, next.

BERMAN: That's a good question.


BERMAN: We're minding your business this morning. It is the start of a new quarter on Wall Street. But, man, the last three months are going to be tough to top.

ROMANS: The technical term for the last quarter is awesome. It was an awesome quarter.

Look, coming off the strongest first quarter in 15 years, up 11 percent. The S&P 500 soared 10 percent, but what now?

Well, money managers surveyed by CNN Money say this is as good as it's going to get. They expect stocks to finish 2013 only a little bit higher than where they are now, because that first quarter was just so strong. The S&P 500 finished Thursday at an all-time high. The Dow hit highs many times throughout the quarter. The plus side, stocks are well-priced. The U.S. economy is recovering. But analysts are still worried about debt problems in Europe. Dow futures are down about 15 points today.

China this morning in the news, taking steps to keep its housing market from getting out of control. Authorities in Shanghai are telling banks to stop giving loans to people who want to buy a third home. In Beijing, residents will only be able to buy one house.

And if you sell your home, you're going to get hit with a huge tax bill, because both cities will enforce a 20 percent capital gains tax on any income earned in a property sale. This comes a month after China's government said it was worried about the housing market getting too hot there. Real estate prices have been rising there for much of the last decade.

And it's opening day at ball parks across the country. In honor of that, CNN Money did a survey to see which locations charge the most for beer and a hot dog and I'll tell you this Monday morning, we're dreaming of a ball park beer and dog. New York Met fans pay the most, $6.25.

BERMAN: You also get the Mets for that.

ROMANS: True. For that price, Cincinnati Reds fans can get six hot dogs. The Cincinnati Reds, the cheapest of all 30 teams.

As for beer, the most expensive is at the Washington National's ball park 8 bucks for 16 ounces. It's always more expensive when it comes out of Washington. And a 12 ounce draft in Cleveland is just 4 bucks.

You can check out to see how your team stocks up and to start getting excited about baseball.

ROMANS: It's the best day of the year. The Red Sox are tied for first place today, for the only day of the year no doubt.

All right. Twenty-five minutes after the hour. A district attorney who vowed to hunt down his colleague's killer has himself now become the victim of murder. Both men targeted by the same gunmen? Is that the case? We'll have a live report, coming up next.