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Tensions Rising in the Koreas; Murder of Texas District Attorney; Michelle Shocked on Anti-Gay Rant: "I'm Sorry"; Opportunity Knocks for Florida Gulf Coast Coach; MLB Opening Day Recap; Team Leno versus Team Fallon

Aired April 2, 2013 - 06:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning, North Korea playing nuclear chicken. Their plan to ramp up production of fuel for bombs.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: No comfort for the families of murder suspect Evan Ebel. They've learned a clerical error set him free when he should have been behind bars.

BERMAN: Amazing.

Mark Sanford's big chance. Can the disgraced former South Carolina governor get back on the comeback trail with a political victory today? Big political day in South Carolina.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans, filling in for Zoraida today. She's off this week. It's Tuesday, April 2nd. It is just about half past the hour.

Right now, the United States is smack in the middle of a war of words between North and South Korea. The communist north taking aim at the U.S. new propaganda video playing on state TV in North Korea shows soldiers shooting at paper targets of U.S. soldiers.

Also this morning, Pyongyang announcing it plans to restart a nuclear power complex in Yongbyon, a complex that's been idle for six years.

Barbara Starr joins us live from Washington. Barbara, North Korea plans to restart this complex shut down in 2007. What is the significance of this?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Christine. A lot of worry about this, because if they proceed and restart this reactor, that gives them the ability to create enough plutonium to continue to make their nuclear bombs, perhaps as much as one bomb per year according to some estimates.

So, you have all the rhetoric on the surface. No indication that they're moving conventional forces around and planning any big land attacks. Behind the scenes this nuclear question back now front and center. If they reopen the reactor that puts them back on a nuclear track that the U.S. does not want to see.

ROMANS: The U.S. is positioning more military into the Korean peninsula despite saying it doesn't believe this recent -- the recent North Korean rhetoric, at least.

Why? What's the concern here from our military perspective?

STARR: Well, you know, there's a couple of things. The South Koreans really are on the edge about all of this. They're very concerned, making a lot of statements about how quickly they would respond if they see a North Korean provocation. So, the U.S. wants to put some firepower into the area to reassure the North Koreans, the Japanese, the other U.S. allies in the region, that they're there for them.

But listen to what the White House had to say about all of this just yesterday.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I would note that despite the harsh rhetoric we're hearing from Pyongyang, we are not seeing changes to the North Korean military posture, such as large-scale mobilizations, and positioning of forces.


STARR: So if you're not seeing this large-scale mobilization, what's the worry? The worry remains that the new leader in North Korea, Kim Jong-un, is trying to consolidate his power, trying to rally people behind him, consolidate with his generals, and the question is, is he going to wind up backing himself into a corner, where maybe he will have to lash out and react in a military fashion.

That's why the U.S. is there trying to calm the South Koreans down, trying to achieve some stability in the region.

Christine, you know, Asia, economic powerhouse behind it -- beyond the security question. This would be an economic disaster if some kind of hostilities, even minor, were about to break out.

ROMANS: Oh, absolutely, Barbara. Absolutely. OK, Barbara Starr, thanks.

BERMAN: Thirty-one minutes after the hour.

Six thousand lives lost in Syria's brutal civil war in the month of March alone. The opposition says that is the deadliest month since the civil war erupted a little more than two years ago.

Now, CNN cannot independently verify these numbers, and the tally does not include people who are held in detention centers or people who have been kidnapped by the rebels, their fates unknown.

ROMANS: The man accused of fatally shooting Colorado's prison chief last month, he wasn't even supposed to be out of jail. Court officials say Evan Ebel was released four years early because of a clerical mistake. He's suspected of murdering the prison chief Tom Clements and the other man you're seeing on your screen, a pizza delivery driver.

Ebel died in a shoot-out two weeks ago with police in Texas.

BERMAN: Security for prosecutors has been stepped up across the state of Texas after the fatal shooting of Kaufman County district attorney Mike McLelland and his wife last weekend. That came, of course, two months after an assistant D.A. was also gunned down.

Meantime, Kaufman County now has an interim district attorney as an investigation into the double murder continues.

CNN's George Howell following all of the new developments for us. He is live in Kaufman county this morning. George, what is the latest this morning?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, good morning. Yes, no new leads at this point from investigators regarding these murders. But as you mentioned we do know now that this county has an interim district attorney. Randi Fernandez will fill that spot for a period of 21 days until the governor here of the state, Rick Perry, appoints a new district attorney for this county.

Also, we have new information from a search warrant affidavit. We now know that the McLellands' bodies, they were discovered by friends who'd been trying to reach them for some time that day. We know McLelland also spoke to relatives on Friday, according to that affidavit. And investigators now, they're trying to track down phone records, mobile phone records from a cell phone tower near the home. So that's the latest that we know from the investigation, John.

BERMAN: We have some new details just in about the services for the McLellands, who were killed this weekend.

HOWELL: Right. Yes, on Thursday. That's when there will be a public memorial service. It will be 1:00 p.m. That will happen in Sunnyvale, Texas. And then the funeral and burial to follow will happen in Wortham, Texas, John.

BERMAN: And we've been talking about the fact that security has been ramped up for law enforcement officials all around the area. But what's the general mood, George?

HOWELL: You know, when you talk to public officials, and when you just look at law enforcement here, you get the sense that people are aware. There is an acute awareness of the danger of the job, the possibility here, John, that law enforcement, that public officials, are being targeted. Still not clear, but that is a big concern.

So what we're finding today, and you know, the other day, here at the courthouse, stepped up security. You're seeing visible security here, and you can tell that law enforcement officers, they are paying very close attention to their surroundings as investigators try to figure out who's behind these murders.

BERMAN: All right, George Howell, Kaufman County, Texas, this morning. Thanks for being with us.

ROMANS: So, in Colorado, the death penalty remains on the table for alleged Colorado movie theater killer James Holmes. The prosecutor rejecting a plea deal to avoid execution. If Holmes is convicted saying he will seek the death penalty.

Last summer's rampage left 12 people dead, 58 ears wounded. Holmes' trial won't begin until next year. His attorneys say they intend to pursue an insanity defense.

BERMAN: So get this, the Jodi Arias trial could end today in a mistrial because of a juror accused of misconduct. Arias' lawyer says juror number 5 has been talking to other jurors about the case. At the very least, they want this juror booted from the panel. The judge is expected to rule today.

ROMANS: Talk about balloon payments. Salary records show former Missouri Congressman Todd Akin roughly doubled his staff's payroll in the last three months of 2012, paying his 14-person staff nearly $400,000 for the quarter. Akin's former communications director says it was a, quote, "separation package" for staffers who were losing their jobs after the congressman was beaten by Claire McCaskill in the Missouri Senate race in November.

BERMAN: A bit of a conspiracy theory to tell you about. A friend who advised Ashley Judd to run for the U.S. Senate says Kentucky politics has both Democrats and Republicans working against her. Last night on Erin Burnett's "OUTFRONT", Jonathan Miller claimed both sides sabotaged Judd's political aspirations.


JONATHAN MILLER, ASHLEY JUDD'S FRIEND: Some of them wanted another candidate, Secretary of State Alison Lundergran Grimes and some for good reasons wanted her, they thought she'd be a stronger candidate. But others sought to either profit from her, working on her campaigns, or would love to have a friend in the U.S. Senate.

And then, kind of ironically on the other side, you had people who weren't friends of Secretary Grimes, who wanted to push her into the Senate race, so that she wouldn't be running for governor or lieutenant governor back home, because she might be a rival of one of their preferred candidates.


BERMAN: Welcome to politics.

Miller claims others circulated lies about statements reportedly made by Judd, as well as President Clinton's involvement in the race.

ROMANS: Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford finds today if voters are willing to forget his past. Sanford is in a GOP runoff election to see who will face Democrat Elizabeth Colbert-Busch next month for the open congressional seat in South Carolina's first district. Sanford who left office in disgrace after lying about his extramarital affair in 2009 -- remember he went on that hike that wasn't a hike.

BERMAN: The Appalachian Trail.

ROMANS: That's right. He's being challenged today by former Charleston County Council Member Curtis Bostic.

BERMAN: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie makes it official. Kids under 17 cannot use tanning beds in the Garden State. And 17-year- olds must get their parents' permission first. Christie signed a bill into law that was initiated after New Jersey mom Patricia Krentcil made headlines, accused of taking her young daughter in a tanning booth with her. Those charges of child endangerment were later dropped. But, you know, the tabloid headlines and photos certainly did not disappear.

ROMANS: And in Jersey, you can still go to the gym and do laundry. You just can't do the T in the GTL if you're under 18.

BERMAN: "Jersey Shore" reference there.

ROMANS: There you go. I met Snooki last week. So, I have to bone up on my "Jersey Shore."

Mix 20 pounds of bacon and 40 pounds of decoupage glue, this is what you get, a dress made of bacon. The creation was just unveiled at the Annual Blue Ribbon Bacon fest in Des Moines, being modeled by the festival's bacon queen. Here's the kicker, though, turns out the dress has to be warmed up before it can be worn.

We love our pork in Iowa. We love our pork in Iowa.

BERMAN: I think it's fitting. You are from Iowa. We expect a bacon dress tomorrow here on EARLY START.

ROMANS: I love my bacon but I don't wear it. I eat it.

BERMAN: Thirty-eight minutes after the hour. And her anti-gay rant left lots of fans fuming. Now singer Michelle Shocked is explaining to our Piers Morgan what she meant. It is a CNN exclusive, coming up.

ROMANS: Plus, a crook trying to make a clean getaway meets a clean window head-on.



ROMANS: Welcome back. Good morning. Brooke Baldwin joins us now with a look at what's ahead on "STARTING POINT."

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, good morning. Got a big morning for us on "STARTING POINT" with this guy, John Berman, who is joining me.

First, we're going to continue talking about this intense manhunt for whoever killed the Texas district attorney and his wife, that continues this morning, with many in this small town Texas community, Kaufman County, very much living in fear. Police are trying to figure out if white supremacist gangs are to blame.

We'll get some insight from a former skinhead, former member of the Aryan Brotherhood. He'll be talking to us this morning.

Also, it's the injury everyone is still talking about. Louisville player Kevin Ware now on crutches, after that surgery, because of his leg snapping, this massive open fracture during the game against Duke. His team plays Saturday, sans Kevin Ware.

We're going to talk someone who knows what he's going through, former NFL quarterback, Joe Theismann. He's apparently been texting with Jeremy. So we'll talk about that.

Also, if you heard about this story out of Mount Hood here in Oregon. This hiker was stranded for six days on Mount Hood. We will find out how Mary Owen survived this whole ordeal.

And "Castle" fans, there are many of you, actress Stana Katic talks about the show. The 100th episode apparently airs this week. And we've got a little personal. She was talking about her character and how her character is smooching and working with the guy who plays the character "Castle". So, we kind of went there.


BALDWIN: She's kind of gorgeous. But, yes, that's coming up this morning. So see you then.

BERMAN: Can't wait for that. All right. Thanks, Brooke.

ROMANS: Berman just can't (INAUDIBLE).

BERMAN: Here we go. Welcome back, everybody.

Felt like spring yesterday here in New York and much of the Northeast. But apparently that is completely over, besides bad storms reported in parts of the South. Jennifer Delgado is live in the CNN weather center with all the details.

Hey, Jennifer.

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi, guys. You're right. We are talking about very cold temperatures this morning. In fact, many numbers are below freezing. Look at St. Louis, 31 degrees. Washington, D.C., 39, 34 in New York.

Now, as we go throughout the morning, temperatures are going to feel even colder out there, because the winds are really going to be kicking up, especially in the Northeast. We're going to see some wind gusts up to about 35 miles per hour. So hopefully you didn't pack away those warm clothes just yet.

Look at the high today, 44 for New York. For Kansas City, 52. Have you noticed the blue? All the cold air has dipped all the down towards Texas, and that means, your high temperatures, say for Dallas, today high of 71. Tomorrow, we're only talking a high of 53 degrees.

Now, on a wider view, want to point out to you, windy conditions, a lot of sunshine right along the East Coast. I think all the way down toward the south for Texas. Also we are going to be looking at some severe storms. You could see some of these storms picking up, some strong winds, hail, as well as isolated tornadoes.

Right now, some storms moving through parts of Oklahoma City as well as into Dallas, and even into Kansas City. You have a little bit of that wintry mix. We're not expecting much to accumulate. But still, you want to be careful on the roadways.

Down towards the south, the rain will be coming down over the next two days. Houston could see four to five inches of rainfall, and then all that rain spreads over towards the east. Now, we want to focus kind of on fog this morning. Let's go to a live shot.

Coming out of Florida, now, you're looking at this area. This is in Central Florida, known as Alligator Alley. You're wondering why cars are driving so slow and there's a reporter there and I think we have some video of that situation there. They closed this down because visibility has dropped down to a quarter mile or less, and it's going to stay that way through 9:00 a.m.

And I tell you what, you don't want to be stuck in Alligator Alley with bad visibility. I'm just saying.

BERMAN: Bad place to be changing a tire. That's for sure.

DELGADO: Yes, exactly.

BERMAN: All right. Jennifer Delgado, our thanks to you.

DELGADO: You're welcome, J.

BERMAN: Forty-five minutes after the hour. Singer, Michelle Shocked, apologizing for an anti-gay rant at her concert last month in San Francisco where she slammed same-sex marriage and suggested that God hates homosexuals. In an exclusive interview on "Piers Morgan Live," she said people misinterpreted her comments.


MICHELLE SHOCKED, SINGER, SONGWRITER: I admit I made a mistake, Piers. If I had the chance to go back and do it again, I don't think I would have taken the audience up on their choice. In no way do I disavow the LBGT community in the same way that I don't disavow my faith community.

PIERS MORGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Do you have any problem with gay marriage?

SHOCKED: No, I don't.

MORGAN: You support it?

SHOCKED: I do. MORGAN: So, you support full gay rights?

SHOCKED: Absolutely.


BERMAN: So, Shocked claimed she was expressing the way other people feel about same-sex marriage. The rant costs her several gigs that were canceled after the outburst.

ROMANS: All right. Australian police are looking for a purse snatcher who made a painful exit from the scene of a crime. Surveillance camera captured him smashing through the wrong side of a sliding glass door. He is knocked out and shoppers run to help him. But an accomplice scares off the shoppers, drags the hapless thief to a get-away car. Investigators are checking DNA from the blood he left at the scene.


ROMANS: OK. Americans winced as Louisville's Kevin Ware fell at agony, but today, could mark a milestone in his recovery. The Bleacher Report coming up.

BERMAN: And, will a duet end the rumors of a feud between Jimmy Fallon and Jay Leno? A west side story duet, no less. Stay with us.


BERMAN: Big news this morning for the coach of the Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles. Big money news. He's leaving the team he led to the Sweet 16 at the NCAA tournament.

ROMANS: Vince Cellini has details in the Bleacher Report. Good morning.

VINCE CELLINI, BLEACHER REPORT: Good morning. It's not all about money, but this does show you the power of the NCAA tournament. And like his team, Andy Enfield bursts onto the national scene and now moves from Fort Myers, Florida to Hollywood. After just two seasons at Florida Gulf Coast, Enfield is headed to USC.

His 15th seeded Eagles made a run to the sweet 16 with a high-flying, wide-open style of play that appeals to Southern Cal, and they swept up the 43-year-old coach. He'll go for making around $157,000 a year to a six-year deal reportedly at over $1 million per. Enfield is taking Dunk City from the Atlantic Sun conference to Los Angeles, and the pac-12.

FGCU star guard Brett Comber tweeted this about his coach. "I love Coach Enfield to the end. I was his first recruit. He made me the player I am today."

Enfield and the Eagles, they were the tournament's feel-good story. Kevin Ware of Louisville was the heartbreak. Ware suffered this gruesome leg injury back on Sunday against Duke. He later had surgery to repair a compound fracture of his left tibia. But on Monday, Ware was moving around on crutches. He was in good spirits. He could be released from the Indianapolis Hospital where he had the surgery on Tuesday. And he hopes to join his team in Atlanta midweek for the Final Four.

Ware's mother, Lisa, talked about her son's ability to come back from his devastating injury.


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


CELLINI: We wish him well. Now, baseball the Nationals' Bryce Harper accepting its Rookie of the Year Award. Opening Day, and he showed that he's not a rookie anymore. Harper blasted not one but two mammoth homeruns to lead the Nats over the Marlins. At 20 years old, Harper became the youngest player in Major League history to hit two homers on Opening Day. And I think it's safe to say Harper has the highest approval ratings right now in D.C.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, they put on a show not far from Hollywood on Opening Day, the first full Opening Day. Magic Johnson was on the mound to throw out the ceremonial first pitch when skipper Don Mattingly decided to yank him and instead replace him with Dodger legend and icon, Sandy Koufax.

But it was current Dodger pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, who carried the day. Kershaw hit his first career home run in the eighth inning giving the Dodgers a lead and then he followed that up with a complete game shutout of the defending world champs, the San Francisco Giants.

Guys, no one has thrown a shutout and hit a homer on Opening Day since Cleveland's Bob Lemon back in 1953.

That's it for Bleacher Report. And it just shows you if you do a good job somewhere, someone is watching. Opportunity knocks like for Coach Enfield.

BERMAN: Oh, yes. I'm waiting for my call from USC to coach something out there.


BERMAN: But Vince Cellino, thanks so much.


BERMAN: Bryce Harper, meanwhile, in Washington on pace to hit 324 home runs this season.

ROMANS: Wow! It is nice to hear the crack of a bat again, isn't it? BERMAN: Oh, man. It's the best thing ever.

Fifty-four minutes after the hour. So, are you a Team Leno or a Team Fallon member right now? There's a lot of buzz over who will win the battle to host "The Tonight Show". The two late-night stars deciding to set the record straight with a duet, West Side Story style.


JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON": (SINGING) Tonight, tonight, who's going to host tonight? Is it going to be Jimmy or Jay? Tonight, tonight, where will they tape tonight, in New York, will it stay in L.A.?

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": (singing) Tonight, tonight, my ratings were all right. Twenty years and I'm still in first place. Tonight, tonight, I've got it on the line or maybe I could take over for Dave. Tonight, tonight, why do they say we fight? I like you, you like me, we're OK.


ROMANS: EARLY START is back right after this.


ROMANS: All right. That's EARLY START for today. I'm Christine Romans. "STARTING POINT" begins right now.