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Boston Takes Back Boylston Street; U.S. Delegation Arrives in Dagestan; Elder Suspect's Widow Aiding Investigation

Aired April 24, 2013 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Back on the streets of Boston. Boylston Street, which has been closed since the day of the marathon attack, is back open for business this morning.

What else have we learned about the bombers? Were they do-it-yourself workers, or did they have help from overseas? A fresh report today.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, a stunning twist in the ricin letters investigation. The man thought to be behind them now out of jail and talking.


PAUL KEVIN CURTIS, FORMER RICIN SUSPECT: You never heard of ricin or whatever. I thought they said rice. So I said I don't even eat rice.


SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you. And welcome to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin in New York.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman live in Boston this morning.

It is Wednesday, April 24th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And while you were sleeping, the proud, resilient people of this uniquely American city began taking back Boylston Street. Boylston Street is reopening this morning. I just went for a walk on it.

Meanwhile, there are some new developments with the suspected terrorist who is charged with shutting it down with a pair of bombs on marathon Monday.

Here is the latest. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's condition upgraded from serious to fair this morning. There are reports he could be transported out of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center soon.

As far as the investigation goes, a U.S. official tells CNN's Jessica Yellin, there is no hard evidence that the Tsarnaev brothers had any accomplices or any connections to extremists. There is another new development this morning. A delegation from the U.S. embassy in Moscow is in Dagestan right now, attempting to interview the parents off Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev with cooperation from the Russian government. We want to begin our coverage, though, right here in Boston with CNN's Miguel Marquez. Miguel's got the latest. He's been ion Boylston Street this morning.

Good morning, Miguel.


It is a historic moment for Boylston Street, over at the corner of Boylston and Dartmouth. They're just getting the streets reopened here. A little confusion about how this is rolling out this morning, but as the day gets going, you're going to see a lot more people on the street. We just shot some video, some very sensitive video. Folks are still very, very sensitive about opening this street, even running live shots down Boylston Street.

The video shows them repairing one of the sites of the bombings. They're replacing the bricks. They're replacing the cement. Perhaps most touching is that the windows that were blasted out, there's now a Boston strong message. All of this as we are learning more about the plot and the aftermath.


MARQUEZ (voice-over): New pictures of the confrontation between the Tsarnaev brothers and police in Watertown. In one of them, taken by witness Andrew Kitzenberg, you see the brothers firing at officers.

Hours later the final standoff between authorities and the younger brother, Dzhokhar, when David Henneberry climbed up a ladder to look inside his normally shrink wrapped boat. First, he saw blood inside of it, then a body.

DAVID HENNEBERRY: My eyes went to the other side of the engine box. The engine box is in the middle.

REPORTER: There was a body.

MARQUEZ: Tsarnaev already bleeding before the final shootout and surrender. The city on high alert, Henneberry knew it might just be the man police are looking for.

And we're learning more, if it can believe, about what Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is telling investigators, that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan motivated the plot. His claims, there was no outside encouragement, radicalization or communication, that he and his brother Tamerlan were fueled by online jihadist videos. And investigators say he may have consulted al Qaeda's English magazine "Inspire" for help in building their bombs.

Investigators also taking a look at an unsolved triple murder from 2011 to determine if Tamerlan Tsarnaev had anything to do with it. One of the victims, a friend and sparring partner of Tamerlan, Brandon Mess. He was found dead, along with two others, all with their throats cut. Such horrible details as Boston continues to recover, and the victims of the attacks are laid to rest. Two private ceremonies Tuesday for 26-year-old MIT police officer Sean Collier and for the youngest victim, 8-year-old Martin Richard.


MARQUEZ: Now, one other bit to update you on at the hospital. Mr. Tsarnaev is being held at the moment at Beth Israel. It is possible that he will be moved from the hospital because family, friends of the victims who are also being cared for at that hospital, are expressing concern they're being in the same place. Officials there say, as soon as he is better, they will likely move him to another facility -- John.

BERMAN: Thanks so much, Miguel. Just like Miguel, I just walked by the site of the first bomb blast, where they're filling in the sidewalks there. In addition to workers resurfacing the roadway, there are a collection of flowers on the street there.

As we mentioned, delegates from the U.S. embassy in Moscow, they are now headed into Dagestan, arriving there to interview the parents of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

CNN's Phil Black is live from Moscow with the details.

Good morning, Phil.


Yes, the embassy from Moscow has confirmed they sent a team there late yesterday. They are now on the ground. And we understand from our team in Dagestan that they could right now be interviewing the parents of the two bombing suspects in a building belonging to the FSB, the Russian internal security service.

The U.S. embassy says they are doing this, in cooperation with Russian authorities who are helping them with their investigation. This is the first chance the authorities have to talk to the parents of the men and ask them some pretty key questions, in particular, what was their son, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, up to when he visited them in Dagestan the first half of 2012, because we know that he was there for six months. There's some suspicion that it was during his time there he could have met people or been exposed to people that in some way could have increased his radicalization and led to the events in Boston.

It is also a chance for the parents themselves to talk to U.S. authorities directly about what they believe happened. They've been telling us for several days now, they do not believe their sons could have been capable of doing this. They believe that they are innocent, and they believe they have been framed by U.S. authorities -- John.

BERMAN: And they are doing that with the cooperation of the Russians, U.S.-Russian cooperation will be so key in this investigation.

Phil Black in Moscow for us, thank you so much. I really appreciate it, Phil.

So we know now that authorities in Russia contacted the FBI back in 2011, warning the U.S. they believed Tamerlan Tsarnaev had been radicalized.

So, the question is, why wasn't he watched more closely? And could the Boston bombings have been prevented all together?

CNN's Joe Johns has that part of the story.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tamerlan Tsarnaev first hit the FBI's radar in 2011, when the Russian government told the agency they should check him out.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The Russian FSB sent a letter to the FBI and other agencies we think this guy has become radical. You need to watch him.

JOHNS: An FBI statement said the request from Russia "was based on the information that he was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer, and that he had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United States for travel to the country's region for unspecified underground groups."

The FBI says it checks U.S. government databases, telephone communications, online activity. It also actually interviewed Tamerlan Tsarnaev and family members. But the FBI says it did not find any terrorism activity. So it gave that information to Russia and asked for, but did not receive, more specific additional info. Case closed.

TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Because additional information didn't come in, the FBI says, for our purposes under our system, with all the records and investigation we're allowed to do here, it hasn't risen to the level to warrant further investigation or full-time surveillance.

JOHNS: A federal law enforcement official agrees and said Tamerlan was not on a terror watch list or any no fly list because the U.S. never deemed him a threat. So, there were no alarm bells when Tsarnaev came back to the U.S. six months later.

JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND DEFENSE SECRETARY: By the time, he returned, all investigations had been -- the matter had been closed.

JOHNS: But even so, it's not clear if the Department of Homeland Security, which was charged with monitoring travel, even knew that Tsarnaev was on the FBI's radar. Feds failing to talk to each other was supposed to be a lesson learned from 9/11.

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R-GA), VICE CHAIR, SENATE INTELLIGENCE GROUP: We're trying to make sure that all of that information that was available was shared. If it wasn't, then there might be somebody who dropped the ball. JOHNS: A U.S. official says, even when there's a hit in the system, it doesn't prompt anyone in law enforcement to take action. It's just monitoring for suspicious travel.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


BERMAN: And our thanks to Joe Johns for that report.

Later today, another memorial here in Boston for yet another of the victims in these attacks. At noon, Vice President Joe Biden will attend a service for Sean Collier. He's the MIT officer killed during the manhunt for the suspects.

Meanwhile, later this afternoon, the House Intelligence Committee will receive a full briefing on the terror attack. Again, that's this afternoon in Washington.

Coming up in our next hour, we will talk with Democratic Congressman Bennie Thompson in Mississippi. He was briefed by the FBI on the Boston terror attack. We'll find out what he has to say.

Meanwhile, let's go back to Zoraida in New York for more of the day's other news.

Hey, Z.

SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you, John.

It is nine minutes past the hour.

A story developing while you were sleeping in Bangladesh. An eight- story commercial building collapsing in the capital city of Dhaka. Local reports say at least 70 people have been killed there and hundreds more are injured. Rescue workers are busy digging through all of the rubble. They are trying to find survivors who maybe trapped.

Take a look at those pictures. Just devastating. They're pulling people out of the rubble there.

And the mystery surrounding who sent ricin-tainted letters to President Obama and two other officials is deepening this morning, after charges were dropped against one-time suspect Paul Kevin Curtis.

The U.S. attorney handling the case says there is new information now, but are they any closer to finding who did send the poison?

CNN's Victor Blackwell is following all these new developments for us.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kevin Curtis calls this whole thing a nightmare. Now, he wants to get back to his family, his dog, his normal life. He was released on a bond of $25,000 on Tuesday, but now the charges have been dropped in connection with these ricin-laced letters to President Obama.

Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker, and Sadie Holland, a judge here in Tupelo.

Now, law enforcement, they're not saying much about their investigation of the letters or of Curtis, but Curtis has said from the very beginning that he was not involved. In fact, when they came to him with questions about ricin, he didn't know what ricin was. He says he thought they said rice, and he doesn't even eat rice.

PAUL KEVIN CURTIS, FORMER RICIN SUSPECT: When you've been charged with something and you just never heard of ricin or whatever. I thought they said rice. So I said, I don't even eat rice.

BLACKWELL: Well, Curtis seems to harbor no ill will against the law enforcement officials. He said the investigators treated him well and were very professional. But if he did not send the letters, who did? Well, we know that there are media reports that another home is being searched in connection with this case.

Back to you.


SAMBOLIN: Our thanks to Victor Blackwell there.

And coming up, more of our live coverage from Boston. Authorities questioning Tamerlan Tsarnaev's widow. Did she know about her husband's plans to blow up the Boston marathon? Details, straight ahead.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman here in Boston this morning.

And, behind me, you can see Boylston Street, it is back. It is open for business this morning. Police, they have removed the barriers, and that street again, as I said, officially reopens. We just took a walk.

We saw workers resurfacing the area where the first bomb went off and, of course, three people were tragically killed.

This, as we learn this morning of the surviving suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, his condition is improving. He's been upgraded from serious to fair condition and could soon be moved from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

We are also learning this morning that Russian government is cooperating with the delegation from the U.S. is in Dagestan right now, attempting to interview the parents of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Meantime, the widow of bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev says she is doing everything she can to assist with the investigation. That's from a statement issued through Katherine Russell's lawyer. The FBI, of course, wants to talk to her about her husband, but it appears so far they've only been talking with her lawyers.

CNN's Chris Lawrence has more from this morning -- more this from the Russell's' home in Kingston, Rhode Island.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tamerlan Tsarnaev's widow hustled out of her parents Rhode Island home on Tuesday. Investigators want her help as they piece together the alleged Boston bomber's plan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The reports of involvement by her husband and brother-in-law came as an absolute shock to them all.

LAWRENCE: Her attorney says Katherine Russell lived with Tamerlan in a cramped Cambridge apartment. As authorities try to determine when and where he may have assembled the bombs, investigators want to find out what, if anything, she knows.

AMATO DELUCA, KATIE RUSSELL'S ATTORNEY: She is doing everything she can to assist in the ongoing investigation.

LAWRENCE: Russell's attorneys say she didn't know anything. They say she last saw Tamerlan before she went to work Thursday before the FBI released this video. They say she worked as a home health aid while Tamerlan stayed home with the couple's young daughter.

AMOS TROUT PAINE, RUSSELL'S FORMER TEACHER: Very outgoing, very friendly, very smart, and very talented.

LAWRENCE: That's the Katie Russell Amos Trout Paine remembers. Her high school art teacher says she talked a lot about earning her college degree.

(on camera): Are you surprised how her life's turned out so far?

PAINE: I was surprised to find out she had dropped out, and I hadn't seen any indication of a particular interest in a lot of religion.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Russell was raised Christian in suburban providence. She moved to Boston for college, met Tamerlan, and dropped out. Attorneys say she converted to Islam and was an observant Muslim who wore the hijab, or head scarf.

(on camera): Sources close to the family say Katy Russell didn't speak Russian and didn't always understand everything that was being said around the apartment. Her attorneys have been speaking with federal investigators on her behalf, but they won't say whether she has spoken to authorities and investigators directly.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, North Kingstown, Rhode Island.


BERMAN: Our thanks to Chris.

So, Russell's attorneys say that she and her family are struggling to come to terms with the Boston marathon bombings and the events that led to her husband's death. They say the injuries and loss of life in the marathon have caused what they call profound distress and sorrow to Russell and her family -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you, John.

Eighteen minutes past the hour.

A multimillion dollar settlement for two women injured during the manhunt for ex-cop Christopher Dorner, that was back in February. The city of Los Angeles has agreed to pay Margie Carranza and her mother, Emma Hernandez, $2.4 million. They were delivering newspapers -- if you recall -- when the LAPD mistakenly fired on them while they were inside their truck.

Hernandez was shot twice in the back. Carranza was insured by broken glass. "The L.A. Times" says both have since recovered.

And a homeowner in San Bernardino County, California, has been forced out because of a landslide. Take a look at that picture. A broken water line beneath the house saturated the hillside, causing the dirt to slide down to the bottom of the hill.

KABC-TV reports the slide under the home's patio is 40 feet wide, 10 feet deep. That now leads that home in danger of collapsing.

America's sweetheart caught being not so sweet on this Atlanta police camera. This is new video of actress Reese Witherspoon after she was arrested Friday for disorderly conduct. It happened after her husband James Tuff was charged with DUI. The 37-year-old allegedly shouted at the officer, "Do you know who I am?" Witherspoon says she is deeply embarrassed and has nothing but respect for police.

And a hacker hits Twitter and moves the stock market. More on the tweet and the retreat, coming up.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Good morning to you.

We are minding your business this morning. Twitter almost ruins a rally. Unbelievable, the power of Twitter.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I know, and the power of the market, how quickly it responded.

Look, you might remember that flash crash in 2010. It was like 700 points. All of a sudden, the market just fell for no reason. Well, something happened yesterday that wasn't as big but also as confounding, and it already has a fun name, some calling it the tweet retreat.

"The Associated Press" says its Twitter feed was hacked, and it posted a tweet there was an explosion near the White House. I'm not going to show you that tweet again in part because I don't want to freak anybody out. That happened at 1:07 p.m. Eastern Time.

Until that moment, until that tweet, the Dow was riding a nice rally. And then look at the drop. That slide was 145 points in just a couple of minutes because of that "A.P." tweet. "The Associated Press" quickly tweeted its account was hacked. Then the Dow recovered and closed up 152 points. This is a really interesting new risk of social media in the markets, and it raises questions obviously about Twitter's cyber security. Also, just how quickly the market can react to something like that.

SAMBOLIN: But how closely they monitor Twitter as well, the Twitter feed? I was really surprised by that.

ROMANS: If markets move on just anything. They move very quick and there was concern last week about the Boston bombings. They're concerned -- terrorism is something that can cause uncertainty in the market and cause investors to get a little panicky, and that's exactly what happened at the time.

But I was telling you about Apple, how Apple is going to be the big, big story. Apple's numbers are out. It needed to do something big in the earnings report. Why? Because the stock is down 30 percent over the year. Shareholders have been asking if Apple's magic maybe fading.

Apple's response? It's going to reach in to its huge cash piles, and give money back to shareholders. If you own Apple stock, Apple will pay you a 2.7 percent return for holding Apple shares. It's not as big as other stocks. It's called a dividend yield.

It's not as big as the other one, like Intel, for example, 3.9 percent. AT&T, if you hold that stock, 4.6 percent. Altria, 5 percent of the dividend yield. But it's still way more than you get in a savings account. Of course, Apple shareholders need good news, because the stock was down 30 percent over the past year.

Apple shares up slightly in the premarket. Its profits slipped a little bit, but it's still selling a lot of devices, 37.4 million iPhones -- 37.4 million during three months.


ROMANS: That averages out to 288 iPhones every single minute for three months straight. Apple sold 20 million iPads.

But people aren't buying as many of the latest, most expensive models. They're choosing the cheaper versions like the iPhone 4S, the iPad mini, and that's one reason why the stock is down because they make more money on the higher end, newer products. Absolutely.

SAMBOLIN: The newer ones, right? Most people who do buy Apple, they just have to have the latest and greatest. I guess the trend is kind of changing now.

ROMANS: It is a little bit. Yes. And, you know, people are strapped.

SAMBOLIN: And they're a little more frugal.

ROMANS: Absolutely. That stock is up a little bit in the premarket. So, I'll watch it for you this morning.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Twenty-six minutes past the hour.

Coming up, how these veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are bringing much, much needed inspiration to the amputee victims of the Boston bombings.