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New Warning in Murder of Prison Chief; North Korea Court Launch Missile; Obama to Return 5 Percent of Salary; North Carolina to Establish Own Religion?; Exonerated Man Signs with NFL Team; Motives Sought in Sheriff's Murder

Aired April 4, 2013 - 09:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now in the NEWSROOM, Colorado issuing a dire warning. Two men, members of a white supremacist prison gang, being sought in the Tom Clements murder case. They are armed and dangerous and on the loose.

Also, nuclear threat.


CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Some of the actions they've taken the last few weeks present a real clear danger.


COSTELLO: North Korea this morning giving final approval for a strike.

Plus, Kevin Ware, one-on-one and the moment that shocked the nation.


KEVIN WARE, LOUISVILLE GUARD: I don't want to see the video. I don't plan on ever seeing the video honestly.


COSTELLO: The Louisville guard on his recovery, his team, and the Final Four.

And North Carolina proposing an official state religion.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does this blind the face of the U.S. Constitution?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think so.


COSTELLO: Can the Tar Heel State go its own way?

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Good morning, thank you so much for joining me, I'm Carol Costello. This hour there are new warnings in the killing of Colorado's top prison official. Tom Clements was shot to death at his home by a former prison inmate. Now investigators believe Evan Ebel may have plotted that murder with fellow white supremacists.

Clements had cracked down on their prison gang, the 211 Crew. Colorado officials say that Thomas Guolee and fellow gang member James Loh are believed to be armed and any police officer who crosses their path could be in danger.

Back to Evan Ebel, though, Ebel apparently spent a lot of time fantasizing about killing people in law enforcement, and it goes back years, long before he died in a police shoot-out in Texas.

CNN's Martin Savidge is in Denver this morning. He joins us by phone.

Marty, you have a glimpse into Ebel's hate-filled mind. Tell us about it.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Right, Carol. And it wasn't just they, it was prison authorities as well. I mean, they knew for a long time the interaction he had with prison guards, that he had a real problem with authority, and he would often threaten them. He would strike them and he would threaten them with death. And not just them, he would threaten their families.

And then they also managed to get a hold of a letter that he was writing to someone on the outside. And this is where the fantasy issue comes in. He was telling the person he was writing to, and most of his language we can't use, about alleged abuses the guards were making and how he handled that. And he said at one point, quote, "I just fantasize about catching them out on the bricks and subjecting them to vicious torture and eventual murder."

Now authorities believe that in the case of Evan Ebel, he went beyond just fantasizing once he got out. He actually carried out those murders. He is the prime suspect, as you point out, in the Tom Clements case. And as you see, this was just one more red flag in the series that authorities had before them.


SAVIDGE (voice-over): While Evan Ebel was serving time for armed robbery, prison disciplinary documents show he was anything but a model prisoner. Several times threatening to harm or kill prison authorities. In November 2006 this report describes Ebel striking a staff member. The note said, "Threatened to kill staff member and family."

In 2005, this report described another chilling account of Ebel's rage, telling a staff member he would kill her if he ever saw her on the streets and that he would make her beg for her life.

This new information on his violent behavior, combined with the revelation that a clerical error led to Ebel being released four years early, that only to anger to the anguish of victims' families.

Katherine Leon is the widow of the first person Ebel suspected of killing, Nathan Leon.

KATHERINE ANN LEON, WIFE OF NATE LEON: Clerical error. 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, daddy was murdered because of a clerical error?

SAVIDGE: In addition to that mistake, documents obtained by CNN show it took Colorado authorities five days to realize a paroled Ebel had disabled his ankle monitor and fled. Beginning what investigators say was a deadly crime spree that ended in a Texas shootout.

7:20 a.m., March 14th, Ebel makes his daily call to parole officials. Eight hours later, the tamper alarm goes off at his ankle monitor. Instead of investigating, the monitoring service sends Ebel a message to schedule a repair.

March 15th. Ebel fails to call parole officials, or make a repair appointment. March 16th. Still no sign of Ebel. Not until March 17th did the monitoring company notify parole officials Ebel had failed to come in to have his ankle monitor repaired. It's the same day authorities believe Leon was murdered.

March 18th, prison officials contacted Ebel's family to inquire about his whereabouts. The next day police search his home and determined he left in a hurry, or has gone into hiding. They begin the process of revoking his parole. That night, Clements is shot to death at his home outside Colorado Springs.

March 20th. The State Department of Corrections issues a warrant for Ebel's arrest. Citing parole violations.


SAVIDGE: And, of course, it was the very next day that Ebel was killed in a shootout in Texas with authorities there.

It should be pointed out that authorities here never stopped their investigation, even with the death of the prime suspect. They always wanted to make sure there weren't names on a potential list and that there weren't other associates out there that might carry on after Ebel. And that might explain why there is now a search to find two other potential associates of his -- Carol.

COSTELLO: I'm sure that manhunt underway. Martin Savidge reporting live for us this morning.

Be sure to watch CNN's "AC 360" tonight. Will have an exclusive interview with the widow of Colorado's murdered prison chief, Tom Clements. That's at 8:00 Eastern.

In Texas, a $200,000 reward is being offered in three high-profile killings. Kaufman County Distinct Attorney Mike McLelland was gunned down in his home along with his wife Cynthia. Today, a public memorial is being held for them. Their killings come just two months after McLelland's chief felony prosecutor Mark Hasse was shot to death. While no clear suspects have emerged, police concede that white supremacists are among their focus. In fact, months before the killings, state officials warned that the Aryan Brotherhood could retaliate for dozens of gang members being arrested. ABC News reports they wanted to attack anyone involved in those cases.

This time, it could be much more than bluster. Just last hour, CNN is learning North Korea could launch a mobile ballistic missile within days or weeks. That's according to a U.S. official citing intercepted communications. This as the United States is sending ballistic missile defense to Guam.

Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon with more.

Barbara, what are you hearing?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Carol, as we watched all this North Korean rhetoric for the last several days, it's really the question of missile launches and nuclear testing that has U.S. and military officials most concerned right now. There are intercepted -- intercepted communications, satellite imagery, showing that North Korea might be planning to launch a mobile missile.

Why is this of such concern? These mobile missiles move as you see on these truck launchers actually that can readily move around the countryside. Makes it almost impossible for U.S. intelligence to track them and to follow them and to know in advance if they are being launched. So there is almost no warning about it.

These mainly are intermediate range missiles if you will, that could attack targets in South Korea, Japan, Guam, maybe, maybe as far as Hawaii. But this has really put the entire region out there on edge, of course. U.S. watching all of this very carefully -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Barbara Starr, reporting live from the Pentagon this morning. Forced spending cuts have President Obama breaking out the checkbook. He's writing a check each month right back to the federal government. The president giving up some of his salary while other federal workers feel the pinch. But don't look for some in Congress to follow the president's lead.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: Most of my colleagues are the bread winners in their families. Pay cut to me doesn't mean as much. I mean, I don't think we should do it. I think we should respect the work we do. I think it's necessary for us to have the dignity of the job that we have rewarded.


COSTELLO: All right. Nancy Pelosi said that back on February 15th.

Our White House correspondent Dan Lothian is at the White House right now.

So is this just a stunt or are people really into this?


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I think this is more symbolic than anything else. Obviously the president is not going to feel any economic pain from this gift in addition to his big salary that he's -- he gets for being president, he makes some outside income from books, but nonetheless, there are a lot of people out there who are feeling the pain from these cuts, and so the president is reaching into his own wallet.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): President Obama, putting his money where his sequestration is. The White House says he'll give up 5 percent of his salary this year. He makes 400,000 a year. So that amounts to $20,000. And administration officials says the president will write a check to the Treasury each month.

It's an attempt to show unity with federal workers hit by the forced budget cuts.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It just means that all -- everybody at the White House and the broader EOP is dealing with the consequences, both in its -- in many cases in their own personal lives but in -- you know, how we work here at the White House which is true across the federal government because of the impact of the sequester.

LOTHIAN: The president is not alone in giving back. Other officials writing their own checks, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, and EPA acting administrator Bob Perciasepe.

A handful in Congress doing so as well. In February, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul announced he's giving back $600,000 from his Senate office budget. Money saved, he said, by being frugal. A word many federal employees may have to learn to live by.


LOTHIAN: Now earlier this week White House spokesperson Jay Carney said that 480 employees of the Office of Management and Budget, that's OMB had received furlough notices. Inside the White House itself we are told that they have made some adjustments, such as cutting back on the use of air cards and there were some open positions that are not being filled. But so far no specific information about employees inside the West Wing area, if you will, getting any furlough notices -- Carol.


COSTELLO: Well, I have to say that all of the people giving back so to speak make enough money to be able to afford to do that.

LOTHIAN: That's right.

COSTELLO: You know your average federal worker doesn't make $400,000 a year. But I am curious, where will the president's $20,000 go?

LOTHIAN: You know, the White House has not specified exactly where it will go, other than going to Treasury. So what we expect is that it will go sort of into the general fund, not be earmarked for any particular thing. But the president no doubt, you know, will be sitting down, we're told, and writing out these checks every month until this whole sequestration issue gets resolved.

COSTELLO: All right. Dan Lothian reporting live from the White House this morning.

Checking other top stories for you this morning at 11 minutes past the hour. Earlier this morning in Connecticut, lawmakers in the House passed a gun control measure that's billed as the toughest in the nation. Comes in response to the Sandy Hook school massacre in Newtown. The new measure adds more than 100 types of guns to the state's banned list. The governor is expected to sign it into law at noon Eastern.

In Kentucky, police are looking for the person who gunned down an Army civilian employee outside of the Fort Knox building. The Army post immediately went into lockdown for about an hour. Investigators now say the shooting stems from a personal dispute.

A traffic accident leads to a parking lot scuffle between police and a woman who is eight months pregnant. Police in Springfield, Illinois, say they had to use a taser on the pregnant woman when she resisted arrest. Wow. Police officials and the taser company say the electrical shock was safer to the woman and her unborn baby than a violent struggle would have been.

It started with a prayer before a board meeting of North Carolina state officials, and now those officials are facing off against the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU. Some lawmakers in North Carolina are pushing a resolution that says, in part, that North Carolina has a right to establish an official religion. Sponsors say it backs the right of county commissioners to pray.

Here's one representative summed up his support.


JUSTIN BURR (R), NORTH CAROLINA GENERAL ASSEMBLY: I want that my right and any other right of other elected officials or individuals in this state to be protected and for them to have the freedom of speech and their freedom of religion to practice as they so choose.


COSTELLO: Joining me now, Eric Marrapodi, the co-editor of CNN's Belief Blog.

Good morning, Eric. ERIC MARRAPODI, CO-EDITOR, CNN BELIEF BLOG: Hey, Carol. Good morning.

COSTELLO: So that's a serious charge. What exactly is going on in North Carolina?

MARRAPODI: So earlier this week, two state representatives in the North Carolina House of Representatives, Harry Warren and Carl Ford, both Republicans, introduced this bill to protect the freedom of religion, they say, for folks in Rowan County. And what's at issue here is a lawsuit that was filed last month by the ACLU against Rowan County commissioners.

Since 2007 the suit alleges they have opened up their county board meetings there with an invocation, an opening prayer. The ACLU says that prayer has been explicitly Christian 97 percent of the time. Ending in things like "In Jesus' name we pray" and other insertions of Christian doctrine. And they say that steps on the rights of other folks in Rowan who aren't Christians.

And so they are suing the county to get them to stop those invocations and to make them -- if they do them at all -- broader and more inclusive for other religions.

Now the state representatives responded by filing this bill. It's not really a piece of legislation as it is a resolution like when people say hey, the Girl Scouts are great and we should recognize them. That's similar to what they're doing here as opposed to getting them to amend the Constitution there in North Carolina.

And what this bill said is hey, look, the Constitution doesn't apply to our own state if we want to make rules regarding the establishment of religion. And that's what got people so fired up and critics went ballistic about this and said North Carolina just cannot make their own state religion.

Carl Ford, the representative who filed this bill, gave a statement to his local paper, the "Salisbury Port," yesterday. Let's take a look at that statement. He said, "We're not starting a church, were not starting a religion. We're supporting the county commissioners in their freedom of speech."

And that's going to be the big issue with that ACLU lawsuit. Do those county commissioners, when they're acting as state reps, officials of the government delivering an invocation, do they have a right to free speech.

Typically the courts have said no, they do not when they're acting broadly as a representative about the government. Here's what the ACLU had to say last night about this resolution that went before the statehouse there in North Carolina. The ACLU said, "The bill sponsors fundamentally misunderstand the constitutional law and the principle of the separation of powers that dates back to the founding of our country."

So, Carol, that lawsuit is heading its way into court. We'll see what happens and we'll be following it very closely.

COSTELLO: OK, we'll check back with you. Eric Marrapodi, thanks so much.

Brian Banks is getting the chance of a lifetime after his life was changed by a crime he did not commit. Banks was exonerated last year in a rape and kidnapping of a high school classmate. He had served a five-year prison sentence before his conviction -- before his conviction, rather. Banks had been a high school football star, and now he is getting a shot at the NFL.

"Bleacher Report's" Andy Scholes is here just to further explain.

The young woman who accused Banks recanted. Said she made it up, so he got out of jail.

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: Well, he got out of jail first. He went to jail for five years, on probation and she finally sent him a Facebook friend request, weird, right? And then they get together and she agrees, hey, I'll go back on what I said. Admits it's all false, right?

An amazing story. So, now, his life, he was one of the best high school football players in the whole state of California. He was going to go to USC on a full ride. All that was derailed. He went to prison, but now, he's getting a second shot with the Atlanta Falcons, which is just a great, great story.

COSTELLO: So does he have a contract? Tell us more about that.

SCHOLES: Well, yes, they assigned him to a contract. This isn't his first chance. The Seahawks gave him an invite to mini camp last year. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, was the coach at USC that recruited him back when he was in high school. So, he gave him his first second chance.

But he's raw, you know. He's trying to go from a junior high school football player to missing about eight to nine years of football, straight to the NFL.


SCHOLES: You know, it's a long journey. And he's been working out as we see in the video nonstop and now that they think he's finally physically ready to compete in the NFL and the Falcons have given him a contract. He will be going to the offseason workouts with mini camps and training camps. So, he'd still have to prove himself as an NFL member, but at least he's getting that chance.

COSTELLO: It just seems so impossible. I mean, I hope he makes it because he certainly deserves. But, man.

SCHOLES: Yes, one of the best stories we've ever seen in the NFL. We are all rooting for this guy to make a team.

COSTELLO: Andy Sholes, thanks so much. Just ahead, a newly elected sheriff is killed while eating lunch in his car. Now, police are trying to figure out why.


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

Alabama's governor is expected to sign a bill that would toughen standards at abortion clinics. The bill would make it a felony for anyone other than a physician to perform an abortion. Doctors would also have to ask patients under 16 who is the father?

Critics say it's unnecessary.

California authorities have found one of two teens missing since Easter Sunday ion an Orange County forest. Nineteen-year-old Nicholas Cendoya was discovered by another hiker on Wednesday night and later airlifted to a local hospital. Cendoya was unable to tell police what happened to his hiking partner Kyndall Jack. Search crews are still looking for her.

Police are seeking a motive in a killing of a West Virginia sheriff who was gunned down killed while he ate lunch in his car.

In the meantime, his accused killer is recovering in the hospital. Police say 37-year-old Tennis Maynard shot and killed sheriff Eugene Crum just blocks from the courthouse. Police chased Maynard and shot him in the chest after he pulled out a gun. Crum became sheriff back in January. He had a reputation for targeting drug dealers in the rural community.


EVELYN KENNEDY, LIVES IN MINGO COUNTY: He was in my heart the best sheriff that Mingo County has ever seen and probably ever will see. He did more in less time of being in office than any sheriff I have ever known.

REBECCA DUNN, LIVES IN MINGO COUNTY: Heartbreaking. Heartbreaking. The whole community is just heartbroken, because we knew he really cared and that he was really doing the right thing to Mingo County and to keep our kids safe.


COSTELLO: CNN national correspondent Susan Candiotti in Williamson, West Virginia.

Susan, tell us more.


You know, really, what is the motive here? It's hard to figure that out. Right now, they are trying to look, for example, CNN has learned the suspect in this case said something to investigators after he was shot and arrested. They are not saying what it was. Only that it could be interpreted in different ways.

So, there are -- we also learned that the father told CNN affiliate WSAZ that his son suffered from mental health problems after an industrial accident in Alabama some time ago. And that he was exposed to dangerous chemicals. Again, whether that had anything to do with this, we don't know.

We also don't know how he got his hands police say on 40-caliber Glock handgun that was used to shoot the sheriff, as well as what led him to this? It's stunning, the entire community here, Carol.

COSTELLO: Are other law enforcement officials worried there?

CANDIOTTI: Well, they certainly are, and not only that, so are the residents. They have added extra security at the courthouse where the sheriff had his office and they've also brought in additional officers from the West Virginia state police to help with added security, but also to give relief to the officers who are working so hard to try to get to the bottom of what happened in this case.

And, again, we don't know -- we do know this, rather. There is a persistent prescription drug abuse problem here. They don't know whether that is the link to this crime, but it's one of the things they are looking at.

COSTELLO: You know, it's hard not to jump to the conclusion that this may be connected to the killings in Colorado and Texas.

CANDIOTTI: That's right. And it certainly is on everyone's mind here. At the very least, when you hear about the shootings that have happened involving law enforcement officers and prosecutors, for example, that there might be a connection and they wonder about that, they hope not. They think that it may be a single event involving just this one individual. But they're not excluding anything.

And there is always the possibility they say that someone might get the idea of seeing those events and carry out something similar possibly in this community. They simply don't know yet.

COSTELLO: All right. Susan Candiotti, reporting live from West Virginia this morning.

Talk back question for you this morning: are universities responsible if students can't find jobs?, or tweet @carolCNN.


COSTELLO: Now is your chance to talk back on one of the stories of the day. The question this morning, are universities responsible if students can't find jobs?

It's tough out there. If you are a new college grad, good luck in finding a job. Sure, you paid upward of $40k for that law degree. Chances are you going nowhere fast, like this Southwestern law grad who had to move back home. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL LIEBERMAN, LAW SCHOOL GRADUATE: I had high hopes. So I thought this degree would be very important for me getting a job.


CANDIOTTI: Especially since Southwestern boasted 97 percent of its graduates landed a job within nine months.

But with no legal job, Lieberman is suing the school, false advertising he says, and he's not the only miffed unemployed student. There are similar lawsuits in at least six states.

Actually holding universities responsible for the unemployed is a new trend. North Carolina's governor, outraged by high tuition and what he calls useless choices like gender studies wants to limit taxpayer money to public colleges unless they put, quote, "butts in a job."


GOV. PAT MCCRORY (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Right now, we pay based upon how many students you have, not on the results of how many jobs you are getting people into. I'm looking at legislation which would change the basic formula and how education money is giving out to our universities and our community colleges. Not based upon how many butts in seats, but how many of those butts can get jobs.


COSTELLO: And again, no amount of schooling could make a bad job interview good or sluggish economy. And some would say the value of higher education is not what you earn, but what you learn.

Talkback question today: are universities responsible if students can't find jobs?,, or tweet me @carolCNN.

Coming up next, show of solidarity or political P.R. stunt? Mr. Obama giving back part of his salary because he feels guilty about the sequestration stuff. Is it a stunt, or will voters like it? We'll discuss.