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Texas D.A. & Wife Found Dead in Home; Interview with Kaufman Mayor William Fortner; Gruesome Injury Mars Louisville's Win; Immigration Reform Closer to a Bill

Aired April 1, 2013 - 08:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good Monday morning. Thank you for being with us. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman. Our STARTING POINT this morning, the intense manhunt for a killer or killers who murdered a district attorney and his wife. This all comes just two months after another prosecutor was gunned down in the very same Texas town and now police are trying to find the suspect.

BALDWIN: Also this morning, a 5-year-old with disabilities bullied on the school bus and you're absolutely not going to believe who did this.

BERMAN: Such a high price to pay to reach the final four. Star Louisville guard snapping his legs trying to block a shot. Will Kevin Ware ever play again? We're going to tell you the prognosis coming up and it may surprise you.

BALDWIN: And only in California, a hare on a hog. Why this Easter bunny got pulled over by police. It is Monday. The 1st of April, happy April Fool's. STARTING POINT begins right now.


BALDWIN: Our STARTING POINT this morning -- Kaufman, Texas, where half a dozen agencies are on the hunt this morning for the killer, possibly killers apparently bent on taking out top criminal justice officials. You have this man, District Attorney Mike McLelland, and his wife. They were shot to death over the weekend in their home southeast of Dallas. All of this happening two months after assistant district attorney Mark Hasse was gunned down in broad daylight outside the county courthouse.

BERMAN: Now, as you can imagine, the small Dallas suburb on edge right now and the county judge says there seems to a strong connection between the crimes.

George Howell live from Kaufman, Texas. And, George, what are investigators saying this morning?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, good morning. You know, no new leads in this case. Investigators are not any closer -- at least they're not telling us if they're any closer to narrowing down a suspect in this case. There are a lot of questions here this morning.

But when you talk to people, we've talked to some public officials here in town, they believe that Mr. McLelland might have been targeted, that Mr. Haass also may have been targeted because they worked very closely together on similar cases. That this may have somewhat of a revenge hit.

Now, again, investigators are not saying that, they're not linking these killings. But these unanswered questions leave the community in 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.


BALDWIN: George Howell reporting.

Now with us we have the mayor of Kaufman, Mayor William Fortner. Mr. Mayor, good morning. How is your community holding up?

MAYOR WILLIAM FORTNER, KAUFMAN, TEXAS: Good morning. The community is holding up fine. Everyone is concerned that other officials might be targeted by these people. So far, there is no news of any other ones. But we're this good shape here. I'm the mayor of Kaufman, and this crime did not happen in our city, but Mr. Hasse's murder did occur in our city.

But my plan as mayor is to get good people in place and let them do their job. Now, we have very good police chief, Chris Aulbaugh, and then we have the citizens of Kaufman County were wise to elect Sheriff Byrnes to his job. And they're very good at their jobs and they're going to catch these people.

BERMAN: You know, Mr. Mayor, can I ask you? Do you feel as safe this morning? Do you feel as safe today as you did two weeks ago?

FORTNER: I feel safe. This is a very low crime area. As a matter of fact, our crime rate in Kaufman has been down about 60 percent in the last five years, which is unprecedented for a community.

BERMAN: What are you telling the people who work for you, particularly in the law enforcement community? What they should be doing differently today?

FORTNER: I don't tell them what to do. They're not -- I wouldn't know what to tell them to do differently. I'm not an expert on law enforcement. I'm a family physician.

BERMAN: Fair enough.

BALDWIN: Let me talk about Mike McLelland, father of five, Army veteran of some 23 years. We talked to judge of Kaufman last hour, Judge Wood, and he had just talked to Mr. McLelland last week. Listen to this.


BRUCE WOOD, KAUFMAN COUNTY JUDGE: I did talk with Mike several times over the last few weeks and what you saw on television with Mike was very much his persona. That was not a put-on, that was his every day lifestyle. He was a very outgoing person and very dedicated to finding the killer of Mark Hasse.


BALDWIN: I understand Mr. McLelland, you know, when he would walk his dog, he would carry his gun, even, you know, taking extra care because of what happened to the assistant district attorney in your neck of the woods two months ago, you know, that he took caution. He was also tough-talking man. And, you know, well-liked it seemed.

Did you know him? What was he like?

FORTNER: I knew him casually. I was not a close friend with Mike McLelland. He did not live in this community before he was elected. But I talked to him on numerous occasions and I'm halfway retired from my family physician job and part of my current work is to see the jail inmates when they get sick and I'm familiar with a lot of cases.

And I believe he was doing an excellent job as district attorney. I wonder if the governor is going to find anyone brave enough to take the job of district attorney, because that's what I've been told, the governor will appoint a new district attorney before long.

BALDWIN: That's a good question. Who would want to take that job?

Mr. Mayor, we appreciate you this morning. Thank you.

And bottom of the hour, we will continue talking about the story, talk to Congressman Ted Poe. He is also former Texas judge, prosecutor, talks about how he himself has been threatened being in positions of that nature.

BERMAN: All right. Six minutes after the hour right. And they started with 68 teams. Now, just four are left. We're talking about the Final Four, of course. Louisville meets Wichita State in one game, Syracuse taking on Michigan in the other. This happens next Saturday. The winners will play a week from tonight for the national championship.

Of course, Louisville paid a high price to advance. This morning, it's the one game and the one moment people are talking about. Louisville sophomore guard Kevin Ware suffering what may be, honestly, is the most awful sports injury I've ever seen.

Ware snapped his leg in the first half of the game against Duke. It's so bad, so awful, you can see the reaction there from the players and coaches on both sides there. That tells the whole story. You have players and coaches in tears minutes after it happened. We're not going to show it to you. It's too tough to watch right now.

We will tell you this, Ware is recovering after surgery and Louisville head coach Rick Pitino says his team was inspired by this young man while still down on the sidelines, literally still down, just after the injury, he told his teammates, I'll be just fine. Just win the game.

I want you to look at this Instagram picture showing him in his hospital wedding who with Louisville's trophy for winning the Midwest regional.

BALDWIN: I want to talk a little bit more about Kevin Ware's injury. It was an open fracture.

So, Elizabeth Cohen is standing by. You talked about how initially the fear, Elizabeth, was just infection.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, exactly, because if you've got a bone sticking out of skin, you want to make sure that you clean that up. And so, it looks like that happened.

He was taken to the hospital very quickly, and had a two hour surgery very quickly.

Now, it's interesting. This is such a gruesome accident as we can see from the faces of his fellow players, such a horrible thing to watch. But the doctors I talked to said it's really quite fixable. We spoke with orthopedic surgeons who are not, of course, taking care of Ware, but they have done the surgery many times.

And what you do is you take a steel or titanium rod down the length of the shin bone. That allows the bone to heal. And believe it or not, the next day, the patient is up on crutches. But they're up.

So, it really is a relatively easy injury to fix if it's the injury that we think it is.

BERMAN: We're talking about the future here, the prognosis going ahead, and Elizabeth, I'm frankly shocked by what doctors are telling you about how quick his recovery might be.

COHEN: Right. The doctors we talked to said six months or so. They think that he will likely be playing basketball again. And these doctors have worked on other athletes with similar injuries and they say they know professional and college athletes who went back and had fabulous careers after this same kind of injury.

BERMAN: Well, that would be wonderful.

BALDWIN: Just --

BERMAN: Go ahead.

BALDWIN: It would be wonderful for him. But I'm also just wondering would he be well enough to make the trip to Atlanta next week to see the game at the Dome?

COHEN: I mean, it could be possible because again the very next day, they try to get people up on crutches. So, would they want him to take those risks of getting through an airport and all that kind of stuff, you know, maybe, maybe not. But he did say -- those doctors did say that they do try to get them up and walking around on crutches very quickly. And they have them have physical therapy every day.

So, they might not want him to come to Atlanta because they might want him to stick to a physical therapy schedule, but who knows, he might be up for it.

BERMAN: Can you imagine what an inspiration it would be to happen there?

BALDWIN: Can you imagine just walking through -- hobbling through the airport, I'm sure applause. Just like, you know --

BERMAN: And it's on his own time, so it would be nice for him if he could get there.


BALDWIN: Elizabeth, thank you.

COHEN: Thanks.

BERMAN: All right. Christine Romans has an update on a developing story we brought you last hour. We also have the rest of the day stories.

BALDWIN: Good morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Good Monday morning to both of you. Updating you now on this developing story. A suspicious device in a passenger's carry-on forcing the evacuation of the north terminal at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Right now, explosive device teams are on the scene. Here's a live look.

An airport spokesman says this only affects the north terminal. Not the main hub, the McNamara Terminal. Passenger delays could be several hours, but too soon to say for sure. We're going to bring you more as it becomes available.

ROMANS: New this morning: three people feared killed during a rescue mission in the Alaska wilderness. State troopers helicopter crashed after pick up a stranded snowmobiler. The wreckage was found yesterday. The pilot, the trooper, the rescued snowmobiler were on that chopper. It's not clear why it crashed.

The Catholic Church needs to build a better relationship with the gay and lesbian community. That's according to Cardinal Timothy Dolan. New York's outspoken archbishop telling ABC News it's time for the church to improve its outreach.


CARDINAL TIMOTHY DOLAN, ARCHBISHOP OF NEW YORK: We've got to do better to see that our defense of marriage is not reduced to an attack on gay people. And I admit, we haven't been too good at that. We try our darnedest to make sure we're not an anti-anybody. We're in a defense of what God has --


ROMANS: Dolan says he's not sure exactly how the church can improve its outreach to the gay community, but he says the process needs to begin with listening.

Disturbing video this morning to show you of a school bus aid repeatedly bullying a 5-year-old boy with disabilities.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to teach you a lesson, buddy.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: Police in Port St. Lucie arrested 37-year-old Daneta McPherson and charged her with stalking. They say she screamed at the boy, grabbed him, forced him into a seat. We reached out to the school district for comment. No response yet to CNN on that.


ROMANS: We've seen it again and again where you have people who are dealing with kids with disabilities who seem to not have -- appear not to have any training with how to deal with children, especially in school buses going back and forth. I mean, this happens more frequently than you'd like to see.

BERMAN: You just want your children cared for when you send them --

ROMANS: Absolutely.

BERMAN: This is not what you want to see.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT: there is word, members of Congress are close to a deal on immigration reform. They're also of course major hurdles along the way. We will talk about that with former Congress members Mary Bono and Connie Mack, next.

BERMAN: Plus, Google has you covered. Their new April Fool's prank coming you.

You're watching STARTING POINT.


BERMAN: All right, some big news right now on possible immigration reform. Members of the bipartisan so-called Gang of Eight senators working on immigration reform legislation say they should reach consensus on a draft bill by the end of this week.

BALDWIN: Mary Bono Mack is a former Republican Congresswoman from California, and Connie Mack is a former Republican Congressman from Florida. Good morning.

We were talking basketball, so important, in the commercial break, but we have to talk immigration reform now. I wanted to ask both of you, the Gang of Eight says they will have a draft on the immigration bill, they say, by the end of this week. But you have these two groups, AFL-CIO, reaching a deal with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on a guest worker program. These two groups. Explain the significance of these groups being on board.

CONNIE MACK, (R) FORMER FLORIDA CONGRESSMAN: Well, I think what it does is, you know, if they were not on board, then they would be out attacking the bill and trying to persuade members to vote against it. The fact that they're on it shows you that they're going to go out and support the bill. But I think they're still a long way to go. We still have hearings that need to be done.

We don't want to have another situation like we had in health care where a bill is brought and nobody has a chance to read it. So, I think you're going to see the Senate go through a process of having hearings on the bill, understand what's in it, and then see if we can pass something.

BERMAN: Well, you think there is a lot more ground to cover, so does your former colleague from Florida, Senator Rubio, who is a member of the so-called Gang of Eight. And after there was this sense that there was progress being made, he sort of put a little bit of a chill on it over the weekend. He released a statement that got a lot of attention. I want to read some of it right now.

He says, "I'm encouraged by reports of an agreement between business groups and unions on the issue of guest workers, however, reports that the bipartisan group of eight senators have agreed on a legislative proposal are premature." What do you think is going on there, Mary?

MARY BONO MACK, (R) FORMER CALIFORNIA CONGRESSMAN: Well, I think, first of all, the compromise or the consensus between the two is just the beginning. The AFL-CIO and the chamber and business groups, it really is -- it's just the beginning of the conversation. And, you know, I hate to argue process about having to go through the hearing and mark-up, you know, process, but --

CONNIE MACK: I just did.


MARY BONO MACK: I know. Other than Connie being always right, it's critically important, because look, there are a lot more people who care deeply about this. And it's very important. You know, I've always said immigration is a three legged stool and you can't, you know, shore up one at the expense of the other or the whole thing is going to fall apart.

Border security is critically important to the American people. They have to know that Congress is actually going to follow through on what they say they're going to do. I think the Gang of Eight has really established some sort of sense that at least they're talking to each other.

BERMAN: Can i ask about Rubio, though, Sen. Rubio? It seemed to some people like he was trying to cover his right flank with that statement. Yes, he's working with these bipartisan Gang of Eight, but at the same, he's trying to placate the conservatives of his own party and also some Tea Party groups who could be essential for his national political future.

MARY BONO MACK: Well, whether or not he's trying to placate the right, I think it's very important to recognize that it's not done, and that negotiations are ongoing. And you know, no bill is final until it's actually signed into law. And there really is a very long pathway between now and then. A lot of competing interests to take into account. And I hate to say it, in the Senate, a lot of egos come -- you know? I know --


CONNIE MACK: You know, I would say this, though. I mean, it's easy to point at Marco and say is he doing this for political reasons. But at the same time, I think Chuck Schumer went out there and maybe spoke to soon. And so, maybe he was playing a little bit of politics trying to force the other members of the Gang of Eight into something that they weren't ready to agree with.

So, these are the types of negotiations that happen all the time. I think it is smart, but we need to get something done, but we need to make sure that the American people and the Senate and the House have an opportunity to really vet what the proposal is.

BALDWIN: What about North Korea? Totally switching gears. Last couple of days, really ratcheting up from Pyongyang what we've been seeing. We learned a couple of days ago that now there are rockets facing U.S. military bases right in the pacific, fears of some sort of action from this young leader, Kim Jong-Un.

We know that he's fired a number of people who were on his dad's staff, maybe, you know, shrinking his staff. I was talking to Gordon Chang a couple of days ago and said that he thinks it's increasing risk the fact that he's done this. Do you think he's bluffing, though?

CONNIE MACK: I think he's an immature brat.

BALDWIN: An immature brat.

CONNIE MACK: And so, I think what he's doing is coming -- trying to go into the world stage and try to prove that he's got some muscle that he can flex. But at the same time --

BALDWIN: Will he flex it?

CONNIE MACK: I don't know. At the same time, the United States, we need to be prepared. And so, making sure that we don't cut funding from vital programs that secure the United States is very, very important.

MARY BONO MACK: Aside from that name calling, honey, let me just say this. I think he's a wild card and I think he's dangerous because it seems that he's an unknown and he's willing to do anything for the attention that he is seeking so badly. I think he's a megalomaniac, and they should recognize that he is a wild card.

You know, I don't know. I guess, it's fine that Connie said that, called him that. To me, it's a little bit more frightening than that because I have no idea. Nobody has any idea what he's going to do. And I think we should go back to where is the U.N. in this, why is there so much silence surrounding this?

Why isn't anybody from the international community really standing up and saying that the guy is, you know, insane and just seeking attention.

BERMAN: There is name calling but his name calling with nuclear weapons now which makes it very serious. All right. Connie Mack, Mary Bono Mack, thank you so much for joining us.

MARY BONO MACK: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thank you very much.

Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, even the Easter bunny is not above the law. The story is beyond hilarious. The picture is worth a thousand words. That's next. Twenty minutes past the hour. You're watching STARTING POINT.


ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans with today's "Smart is the New Rich."

Let's look at your stock portfolio and where could be headed to the first day of the second quarter. One thing's for sure, the last three months are going to be tough to top. The Dow jumped 11 percent, making it the strongest first quarter in 15 years, but now what? Money managers surveyed by CNNMoney say this is probably as good as it's going to get this year.

They expect stocks to finish 2013 only a bit higher than where we are right now because that first quarter was so strong. The S&P 500 finished Thursday an all-time high, on the plus side. Stocks are well-priced, analysts say. The U.S. economy is recovering, but they are still worried about debt problems in Europe. Dow futures right now up about ten points, guys.

BERMAN: Just keep it coming.

ROMANS: You know, and I will say, money managers aren't always right, too. If they were right, they would have a different job like living on an island somewhere.


BERMAN: I've applied for that repeatedly --


BERMAN: All right. Twenty-four minutes after the hour right now. Looking at some of the stories trending on the web this morning.

Tears for gleeks. One of the stars of "Glee", Cory Monteith is going to rehab. His representative telling CNN the actor voluntarily admitted himself to a treatment facility for substance addiction. The 30-year-old has talked openly about his previous struggles with addiction. Back in 2011, he told "Parade' magazine he was, quote, "lucky to be alive."

BALDWIN: And now to the very, very bad bunny. (LAUGHTER)

BALDWIN: A man dressed in a giant Easter bunny costume. I love this picture. So, this bunny on his way to a charity event, this is near San Diego -- is it crying? Is that what he's doing? He's pulled over. The reason? Take a good look. Why do you think? Because he's not wearing a helmet, folks.

In the Easter spirit, though, the California highway patrol officer did give the bunny a break, letting him off with just a verbal warning. I mean, you're on a motorcycle going down the highway. You're going to stand out as it is. How do you not --

BERMAN: Someone has got to make helmets that have little holes in them for their ears.


BERMAN: Christine Romans, a business idea. I'm helping you out here.


ROMANS: One day a year, you'll have customers. One day a year.


BERMAN: So, also trending this morning, another golden April Fool's gag by Google. Google treasure map. So it turns your maps into pirate worthy versions complete with hand drawn landmarks and treasure chests. You may use a telescope feature to zoom in to Street View. (INAUDIBLE) also posting a three-minute long web video detailing a pretty elaborate backstory, including that the map belonged to the infamous pirate Captain Kidd and was found during an exhibition to the Indian Ocean to expand underwater street view.

BALDWIN: All of this for April Fool's.

BERMAN: Google, like, getting into this big time.

BALDWIN: They are, and maybe your kids later, according a text from your wife.

BERMAN: Yes, I know. My kids are not allowed to celebrate April Fool's Day today. We are not observing.

Ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, a man arrested twice for playing his music too loud refuses to turn it down. His neighbors call it a nuisance, but he calls it necessary. That's next.

BALDWIN: And we're following the terrifying manhunt in Texas after a district attorney and his wife were gunned down. We will talk with Texas Congressman Ted Poe, also a former judge, former prosecutor, why he thinks organized crime in this case is involved.

BERMAN: Interesting.

BALDWIN: Twenty-six past the hour. You're watching STARTING POINT.