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Widow, Apology Not Enough; Investigation Continues in Texas; More Threats from North Korea; Kevin Ware Certain he will Play Again; Michael Jackson's Mom Sues Promoter; "Buckwild" Star Found Dead

Aired April 2, 2013 - 09:00   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Happening now in the NEWSROOM -- breaking overnight, America responds.

GEORGE LITTLE, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: It's about showing the South Koreans that we are ready to protect them in the face of any threats.

COSTELLO: U.S. warships move in. Sea-based radar is activated. North Korea now vowing to start a key nuclear reactor.

Also, a tale of two states and two very different gun laws. One Georgia town requiring you to own a gun.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If anything should happen, that they would have to use a firearm, that they are backed up by their government.

COSTELLO: On the flip side, Connecticut to pass the nation's strictest gun ban.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody needs to think about it and look into their hearts and try to do what's necessary to make the changes that have to happen.

COSTELLO: Plus -- mystery on MTV's "Buckwild". Star Shane Gandy found dead in a truck stuck in feet of mud. New questions about what happened on that rural West Virginia road.

And words of motivation.

LISA JUNIOR, KEVIN WARE'S MOTHER: I have no doubts that he would be back.

COSTELLO: The mother of Louisville guard Kevin Ware speaking out about her son this morning.

JUNIOR: It seems as if every obstacle that he has to go through, he becomes a better man.

COSTELLO: An amazing recovery and new pictures of Kevin from the hospital.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



COSTELLO: Good morning, thank you so much for being with me. I'm Carol Costello. We begin in Colorado, where a very upset widow says a public apology will not bring her husband back.

Katherine Leon, the wife of a murdered pizza driver, is irate after learning Evan Ebel, the man accused of killing her husband and Colorado's prison chief, Tom Clements, was mistakenly freed four years early from prison because of a clerical error.

Will Ripley from affiliate KUSA has the unbelievable story.


KATHERINE LEON, MURDER VICTIM'S WIFE: Clerical error ain't going to bring my husband back. It's not going to bring Tom Clements back. It's not going to bring my children's father back. How do I tell my 4-year-olds, oh, Daddy was murdered because of a clerical error?

WILL RIPLEY, REPORTER, KUSA: Outrage does not begin to describe how Katherine Ann Leon is feeling.

LEON: Irate. How do you feel when something like this happens?

RIPLEY: The man suspected of killing her husband, Nate Leon, should still be in prison. A Fremont County court made a mistake, a clerical error, that led to Evan Ebel's release four years early. Police say Ebel killed Leon while he was delivering pizzas and then they say he killed Department of Corrections director Tom Clements.

BERNADETTE ALNESS, MURDER VICTIM'S MOTHER-IN-LAW: I want to know who is going to stand up and be accountable. And I don't mean by saying we send condolences. Who's going to stand up and be accountable to my daughter, to my grandchildren?

RIPLEY: Bernadette Alness says her son-in-law's death leaves his family feeling empty.

ALNESS: Because Nate fit in all these different places -- a husband, a father, son, brother.

RIPLEY: After five years of marriage, Leon's husband is gone.

LEON: He was the greatest person I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. By far.

RIPLEY: His suspected killer would still be locked up if not for a clerical error.

LEON: A simple sorry ain't going to suffice in my book. I'm a 30- year-old widow with two little 4-year-olds that I have to go on the rest of my life explaining what happened to their dad, that this could have all been prevented. And it makes me sick, and it angers me something fierce to sit there and think this all could have been prevented.


COSTELLO: That was Will Ripley from affiliate KUSA reporting. Evan Ebel was killed in a shootout with Texas police last month in the days following those murders in Colorado.

In Texas, an interim prosecutor will head the Kaufman County district attorney's office following the second murder of a prosecutor in three months. Randy Fernandez was chosen following the death of her boss, district attorney Mike McLelland. McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, were found murdered on Saturday. Another county prosecutor was killed back in January, but investigators are struggling this morning with no new leads in the case.

George Howell joins us live now from Kaufman, Texas. Good morning, George.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, good morning. Put it this way, investigators have plenty of angles to look into. They can look into the Aryan Brotherhood possibility, the possibility of drug cartels, or was this an inside job? The bottom line -- we don't know at this point. There's still no suspect in custody, but there are so many unanswered questions. For many here, it is taking a toll.

(voice-over): Just off the town square in Kaufman, Texas.

LISA HAUK, KAUFMAN RESIDENT: They would eat up in the front room most of the time. It's a little private area, so they would have -- him and his wife and some friends or whatever.

HOWELL: Lisa Hauk and Debby Ray say the McLelland's were regulars at the Especially for You Tearoom. In fact, they saw Mike and Cynthia here just a few days ago, just days before the county's district attorney and his wife were shot dead in their own home.

(on-camera): When you heard about what happened --

DEBBIE RAY, KAUFMAN RESIDENT: I was heartbroken. Heartbroken.

HAUK: It was shocking. Very shocking. Not really soaking it in, I don't think.

RAY: This is a small town. It hits very close to home. People are on edge a little, and afraid for the rest of the city employees.

HOWELL (voice-over): It's the second prosecutor to be killed in two months in Kaufman. First, Assistant DA Mark Hasse gunned down on January 31st, and then his boss, DA Mike McLelland and his wife, found dead Saturday, shot multiple times. There are many questions, but answers are in short supply, even public officials are taking precautions.

JUDGE BRUCE WOOD, KAUFMAN COUNTY, TEXAS: I'm certainly aware. Fear, I don't know that that's the right word, but awareness. All of us are cautious now. HOWELL: Police say they have no suspects, the motive is unclear, and authorities have not officially said whether the killings of the two prosecutors are connected, but that's what most people here seem to think.

DELOIS STOLUSKY, KAUFMAN RESIDENT: It's just one and one makes two. You can't keep from connecting these. And so of course our concern is what is going to happen next.


HOWELL (on-camera): Just the other day, the hearse arrived at the funeral home to prepare for events later this week. We know Thursday there will be a public memorial service that will be held in Sunnyvale, Texas, at 1:00 p.m. and then on Friday, the funeral and burial to follow in Wortham, Texas. Carol.

COSTELLO: George Howell reporting live from Kaufman, Texas, this morning.

Now let's shift gears and take it overseas to the sound and the fury of North Korea.




COSTELLO: Yes, the north ratchets up the heat again and raises the stakes just hours after its state-run TV shows communist troops opening fire on symbols of the United States and South Korea. The regime announcing it will restart a nuclear reactor for its weapons program. It is the latest move that shows just how belligerent North Korea has become.


COSTELLO: You remember that? Just five years ago a CNN crew was among a select crew to witness the demolition of a water cooler at that same nuclear facility. The message: North Korea was committed to the disarmament process.

But that was then and this is now. Overnight, the U.S. deployed a warship off the Korean coast and is now moving a radar platform, like this one, closer to monitor any military moves.

CNN learned more U.S. naval deployments could be coming and the United States keeps a wary eye on North Korea. Here's more from CNN's Kyung Lah.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The message is clear: North Korean soldiers firing on a target with the words "USA" on the helmet. The live fire drills that aired on state TV vowed to show its enemies, the United States and South Korea, that it was ready to fight, showing off the military skill with weaponry, and the nation's top athletes running through physical drills with ease.

The hermit kingdom releasing this video just days after it declared it was in a state of war. This is not the first time North Korea has aired this sort of military readiness video. In March of last year, it pledged a, quote, "sacred war" against South Korea. State video showed soldiers unleashing dogs in the snow, attacking an effigy of then-South Korean President, Lee Moon-Bak.

A train is shown running over a cutout of the president. State TV also showed the military using rocket launchers to blow up an effigy of the then-president that they call the leader of the, quote, "puppet nation of traitors."

But what's unusual about the latest video is the rare show of firing on a U.S. target, even if it is just paper. The Pentagon says it remains unconcerned about what North Korea says. The U.S. cares what it does.

GEORGE LITTLE, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: We haven't seen any kind of troop movements that would indicate immanent military action. So we think things may be dialing down just a bit on the Korean peninsula. At least we hope so.

LAH: South Korea responded to North Korea's days of threats with a warning of its own. South Korea's president announced any provocation by North Korea against her country would result in a strong response and initial combat, essentially lowering the military's barriers to respond immediately to a North Korean attack.

(on camera): The big concern here on the peninsula is miscalculation, that in this heated environment, there could be a mistake, either from the North or the South and then this region could trip into conflict.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Seoul.


COSTELLO: Ten minutes past the hour. Time to check our other top stories.

Now, nearly four months after the Sandy Hook school massacre, the NRA today will unveil the last part of its school safety initiative in Washington. That plan includes putting armed guards in every school in America. The pro lobby group has been pushing that idea after 26 teachers and children were killed in Newton back in December.

Also in reaction to the Newtown shootings, Connecticut lawmakers tomorrow will take up a bipartisan plan being called the strongest and most comprehensive in the country to curb gun violence. The proposals include adding more than 100 guns to the state's assault weapons ban, and limiting the capacity of ammunition magazines to just ten rounds.

In the meantime, the small Georgia town of Nelson just passed an ordinance requiring all households to have a gun and ammunition. It's mainly seen as a political statement on gun ownerships and city officials made it clear they will not enforce the law. Residents can opt out if they choose without facing a fine or penalty.

Talk a little bit about sports now and Kevin Ware. He is facing the biggest challenge of his young life, but the Louisville guard is certain -- he's certain he'll play basketball again after shattering his leg in Sunday's NCAA tournament game against Duke. Ware is expected to leave an Indianapolis hospital today following surgery. His mom also believes he will play again.


LISA JUNIOR, KEVIN WARE'S MOTHER: I have no doubts that he will be back stronger and even better than he was. Like I said, he's had to overcome a lot of obstacles, and it seems as if every obstacle that he has to go through, he becomes a better man because of it.


COSTELLO: Bleacher Report's Vince Cellini is here. I guess one thing Kevin has going for him is he's young.

VINCE CELLINI, BLEACHER REPORT: Well, that's true. And I think another thing is his attitude. That's really the most important thing for him right now, is how he approaches this injury. And he's already tweeted out that he's going to be back by next season, so that's a powerful sign. But also it's going to be a difficult road because he had a rod placed in the right leg. That's a gruesome fracture he's trying to come back from.

You know, earlier today, Joe Theismann, the former Redskin quarterback, spoke to CNN's "STARTING POINT". And he said when he saw this injury to Ware, it brought him back to the injury he suffered in that Monday night game against the Giants, you know what I'm talking about.

COSTELLO: Yes, I do.

CELLINI: And this was the memory it conjured up for Joe.


JOE THEISMANN, FORMER NFL QUARTERBACK: All of a sudden it conjured up all the memories of what happened to me some 28 years ago. I mean, the vividness was incredible, and it has been in my mind. I can see the faces around me, smell the smells, hear the sounds, feel the moisture on my back when I close my eyes. It's like I relived that moment all over again through Kevin.


CELLINI: And Joe has reached out to Kevin Ware, so they've had conversations. Ware spoke to the "New York Daily News" by phone and said, "Tthis is a minor setback for a major comeback." There's the attitude we talked about. "I have to have the right approach to it. They told me things are going to be good for me. This is not a lifetime injury where I can never play basketball again."

And I think, Carol, really, the best medicine for Ware right now is to rejoin his teammates midweek here in Atlanta for the Final Four. That will give him a big lift and the team a big lift.

Well, one more thing on this. People are searching for answers as to why this happened -- why, how could this possibly happen? Don't do that. It just does. You know this; you're a sports fan. It's inherent once you step between the lines or you step on the court, you can be injured like this, unfortunately.

COSTELLO: Yes, you just land the wrong way and it happens, sadly.

CELLINI: And he did. Exactly.

COSTELLO: The other thing, too, there've been medical advancements since Joe Theismann broke his leg, right? So who knows? Maybe medical science will save Kevin Ware, too.

CELLINI: Well, we'll bring it full circle -- he's young, and that will help in the healing process, as well. Got great treatment right away. And again, with rehab, hopefully we'll see Kevin Ware on the court next year.

COSTELLO: Oh, I hope so.

CELLINI: Wouldn't that be great?

COSTELLO: It would be great. Vince, thanks so much.

Jury selection begins in a Los Angeles courtroom this morning in the Michael Jackson wrongful death lawsuit. Katherine Jackson, Michael's mother, says a concert promoter is liable in the death of her son. The company denies that claim.

Here's Miguel Marquez with more for you.


MICHAEL JACKSON, KING OF POP: This is it, and see you in July.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): "This is It" meant to herald Michael Jackson's comeback.

Like so many things in Jackson's life and death, it's become a supersized trial. Reports that Jackson family seeking from concert promoter AEG as much as $40 billion for the wrongful death of the 50- year-old King of Pop. Reports the Jackson camp denied.

KEVIN BOYLE, JACKSON FAMILY ATTORNEY: If the jury feels the family deserves $40 billion, that's what they're going to get. But I can tell you, no demand has been made by the Jackson family for $40 billion from AEG. That is just not true.

MARQUEZ: At the center of the trial, who hired Dr. Conrad Murray, found guilty in 2011 of involuntary manslaughter for injecting the insomniac pop star with a lethal dose of the anesthetic Propofol? PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: What do you think as his mother caused his death?

KATHERINE JACKSON, MICHAEL JACKSON'S MOTHER: I don't know. All I know is they used Propofol and they shouldn't have used it.

MARQUEZ: The plaintiffs, Jackson's mother Katherine and his three kids, blame AEG. Its lawyer says there was never a signed contract and, Murray, who was never paid anything, served only at the pleasure of Michael Jackson.

MARVIN PUTNAM, AEG ATTORNEY: If you look at the draft explicitly is that he was chosen by Michael Jackson to be there at Michael Jackson's behalf. Michael Jackson was the only person who could get rid of him at will.

MARQUEZ: Possibly testifying, Jackson's 16-year-old son, Prince Michael, and 14-year-old daughter Paris. Also on the list but not expected to testify, the artist Prince, who had his own history with AEG.

Musician Quincy Jones could take the stand to testify how much Jackson could have earned if he had lived.


MARQUEZ: Now, if there is no settlement in there and there's always the possibility of a settlement here, it could get ugly very quickly. The Jackson folks, in terms of evidence, say they have reams of documents and e-mails from AEG, proving that they were responsible for hiring Dr. Murray. On the other side, AEG says they are going to bring everything in, including Michael Jackson's 2005 molestation trial to prove this was a guy essentially trying to kill himself.

Back to you.

COSTELLO: Wow. Miguel Marquez, thanks so much.

"In Session" correspondent Jean Casarez is live in Phoenix. She's also keeping an eye ton this case.

Good morning, Jean.


COSTELLO: So, does Michael Jackson's family have a chance?

CASAREZ: They definitely do. You see, this is a civil action. It's wrongful death. They believe AEG caused the death civilly of Michael Jackson, and they have a number of grounds that they are alleging. But number one, they are saying that AEG was the employer, Conrad Murray was the employee, AEG paid Conrad Murray his salary.

And, furthermore, that AEG knew or should have known that it was foreseeable that a traveling doctor with Michael Jackson would give him legal drugs in an illegal manner, so he would be able to perform. And they are saying they did not investigate Conrad Murray, they did not know he was so in debt.

And there is an e-mail that I think the plaintiffs are going to say is very particularly important that comes 11 days before Michael Jackson died. It was from the head of AEG Live to Kenny Ortega and it was after Conrad Murray stopped Michael Jackson from going to a rehearsal. And the e-mail states, but I'm summarizing, but it says, "We pay Michael Jackson -- AEG, we pay Conrad Murray, not Michael Jackson, Murray needs to know he has a job and he's got to do it with Michael Jackson."

So, the pressure was on Conrad Murray.

COSTELLO: Wow. So what is the dollar amount? What will the dollar amount be, in your mind?

CASAREZ: Well, that's going to be up to a jury, and they are asking for the amount of money that Michael Jackson would have earned if he had lived out the rest of his life.

COSTELLO: Forty million dollars?

CASAREZ: That's speculative -- billions, yes. But it's also very speculative because of Michael Jackson and the person he was, the life he led, and thereby you have AEG's defense, too, they are saying Michael Jackson is responsible himself for his own death, because he was the one that decided he wanted the Propofol, he is the one who wanted Conrad Murray, demanded Conrad Murray, had known Conrad Murray in the past.

And there may be evidence on other tours, Michael Jackson had doctors give him Propofol.

COSTELLO: Wow. Jane Casarez of "In Session" on truTV -- thanks so much.

CASAREZ: Thanks, Carol.

COSTELLO: Just ahead in THE NEWSROOM, he's one of the stars of a hit MTV reality show "Buckwild." Question this morning, how did Shain Gandee die?


COSTELLO: It is 22 minutes past the hour. Time to check our top stories.

Later this hour, President Obama will unveil a $100-million initiative to research the human brain. The goal is to unlock the secrets of brain disorders like Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injuries. The first funds become available some time after October 1st.

Today, Hillary Clinton makes one of her first public appearances since leaving the state department less than two months ago. She'll attend an event honoring women leaders and speak in the coming days. In a few weeks, Clinton's expected to earn a six-figure paycheck with her first paid speaking appearance.

And a frightening robbery caught on video. Thieves in England used a bomb to explode and rob a gas station ATM. No one was hurt. I guess they blew it up with that bomb. No word on how much money was taken after all of this.

Authorities are asking people to be very cautious when approaching ATMs. They also don't want people to touch the machines if anything seems unusual or out of place.

This morning, West Virginia officials are trying to determine how one of the stars of the MTV hit reality show "Buckwild" died.


SHAIN GANDEE, "BUCKWILD" STAR: I don't have a phone. I don't have a Facebook. I don't have a -- none of that internet stuff. If I need to talk to my neighbors, all the I got to do is come out on the porch, hey, guess what, I need a loaf of bread, bring it over here, I need a cup of milk, bring it over here.


COSTELLO: That's 21-year-old Shain Gandee. He was found dead inside a Ford Bronco, along with his uncle and another man in Sissonville, West Virginia. That's the same time where the MTV show was shot and filmed.

Our entertainment correspondent Nischelle Turner is with me now.

Anymore clues as to why this happened?

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a couple, Carol, actually. A spokesman for the Kanawha County Sheriff's Department tells us that Gandee was found dead Monday in a car near Sissonville, West Virginia.

And as you say, Carol, they also found the body of Gandee's 48-year- old uncle and a third victim, 27-year-old Donald Robert Myers. Now, the causes of death are still under investigation, but there are no signs of foul play at this point and an autopsy will be performed to determine the causes of death.

They do say, though, that Gandee's 1984 Ford Bronco was found partially submerged in deep mud and the muffler was below the surface of the mud. That is leading to speculation the three could have been killed by carbon monoxide poisoning. But as I said, the official cause of death has not been determined.

Now, there has, of course, been an outpouring of reaction from the local community and MTV community. The network released a statement to CNN, saying, quote, "We are shocked and saddened by the terrible news about Shain Gandee and those involved in this tragic incident. We are waiting for more information. But at this time, our main concern is for the Gandee family and their friends. Our thoughts and prayers are with them. Shain had a magnetic personality, with a passion for life that touched everyone and he will be missed dearly."

His cast mates also expressing their shock and grief on Twitter, Carol, saying, "RIP Shain Gandee." That's from cast member Ashley Whitt. She also tweeted, "You are the most amazing person I've ever known. I know you will be watching over."

"This is the emptiest I've ever felt." That's from Cara Parrish. She also tweeted, "Please, pray for Dale and Loretta, Gandee's parents."

Now, a second season of "Buckwild" was recently given the green light by MTV. But, now, production has been reportedly halted after the loss of Shain Gandee, Carol.

COSTELLO: Understandable. Nischelle Turner, thanks so much.


COSTELLO: Still ahead in THE NEWSROOM, the talk back question for you: will America have come together on guns?,, or tweet me @carolCNN.


COSTELLO: Now a chance to talk back on one of the big stories of the day, the question this morning: will America ever come together on guns? America's big discussion on guns illustrates one thing, we live in two Americas, one that lives in Nelson, Georgia, where council members just passed a law requiring people to own guns, although there's no penalty if you don't.


EDITH PORTILLO, NELSON CITY COUNCIL: That doesn't mean that they are going to be somebody knocking at their door and say, you have to have it.