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Boston Bombing Investigation; Russian Connection; Militant Linked to Tsarnaev?; Navigating Charity Scams

Aired April 29, 2013 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The surviving Boston bombing suspect locked in a 10x10 cell this morning, and talking less about the attack now that he's been read his Miranda rights.

Plus, tracking the terror trail in Russia with secret recordings traced to the suspect's mother.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: And new heights for New York and actually for the nation. A live look at the skyscraper rising from the site of the fallen Twin Towers about to become the tallest in the western hemisphere.

Good morning to you. Welcome to EARLY START. Happy you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin in New York.

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

It is Monday, April 29th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And we're back in Boston this Monday morning following all the latest developments in the Boston Marathon bombing investigation.

And our lead is reconstructing exactly what happened in Russia. The FBI is now working with Russian security officials to piece together suspected Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev's every move during his 2011 visit to Russia. Investigators have said they believe the Tsarnaev brothers were likely self-radicalized and that they used the Internet to learn how to make their bombs, but they are still looking at the possibility that other people in Russia or in the U.S. may have been influences or accomplices.

Among these people, their mother, along with Tamerlan's wife, Katherine Russell, who converted it's to Islam when she married him in 2010. Again, these are just the leads they're following right now.

The bombing suspect's father has now postponed his trip to the United States. He told Russian state media that he is in the hospital because of a blood pressure spike.

And two weeks after the Boston terror attack, more than two dozen people are still recovering in the hospital.

Right now, officials say Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is able to speak. He's locked in a 10x10-foot cell, at a federal prison facility about 40 miles west of Boston.

Our Pamela Brown is live in Devens this morning with the latest on the investigation.

Good morning, Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, John.

According to a prison hospital official we spoke with, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is now speaking and interacting with hospital staff here. We're not sure if that means he's also talking with interrogators or his attorney for that matter. But what this does indicate is that his condition has improved significantly.


BROWN (voice-over): Inside these federal prison hospital walls in Devens, Massachusetts, 40 miles outside of Boston, bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is living in solitude in a 10x10 cell, equip with a steel door, slot for food, and a small window where he's being observed 24 hours a day. The accommodations are spare, limited to a toilet, sink and bed. Tuck away in a restricted area reserved only for high risk inmates. There's only room for 30 offenders in this special section, and now Tsarnaev is one of them.

As investigators figure out how and why he allegedly killed out the attacks with his brother later killed in a police shootout, the Justice Department's role in the investigation has come under intense scrutiny. Tsarnaev has stopped given substantive information to authorities since being read his Miranda rights, sources have indicated.

And in an exclusive interview with CNN's Brianna Keilar at the White House Correspondents' Dinner Saturday night, Attorney General Eric Holder defended the decision.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Can you comment on the suspect being mirandized and whether that was appropriate?

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, I mean, the decision to mirandize him is one that the magistrate made and that was totally consistent with the laws that we have. We had a two-day period we were able to question him under the public safety exception. So, I think everything was done appropriately and we got -- we got good leads.

BROWN: Republican Congressman Peter King strongly disagreed, saying more time to interrogate Tsarnaev could have brought forth new critical information to keep America safe.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Absolutely disgraceful, because that interrogation could have ended up saving many American lives. We don't know what the full consequences are going to be, who else is involved, who was involved then, who could be involved in the future, and we may not know because of Eric Holder. BROWN: Tsarnaev's brother Tamerlan and his mother had been listed in a U.S. counterterrorism database since Russia raised concerns about both of them in 2011, and intelligence officials told CNN it was within that same year that an official with knowledge of the investigation is now saying that Russian intercepted communication between the Tamerlan's mother and one of the two sons discussing jihad, in a conversation described as vague. The information came on a wiretap of the mother that the Russians turned over only in recent days.

Earlier in the week, Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, acknowledges that the situation could have been handled better. "To my great regret," he said, "we were not able to provide our American colleagues with information that would have had operative significance."


BROWN: Attorney General Eric Holder declined to comment on the wiretap. Meantime, in addition to the terrorism charges Tsarnaev faces, he could face more charges soon. A grand jury is being presented with evidence and then an indictment will be presented sometime in the next few weeks. After that, we can expect to see Tsarnaev in court -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Our thanks to Pamela Brown who's in Devens, Massachusetts, where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is being held right now.

We want to go right now to Russia at this point because we have some new information coming out of Russia this morning.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is live for us in Moscow. Nick, what's the latest?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, I need to explain a complex chain of events here, but it leads to effectively a village in Dagestan last night where at 5:00 in the morning, Russian special forces killed two militants. Now, they are linked through their own investigations here. They are sort of tangential links between them and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

Let me explain this a little bit to you. Tamerlan Tsarnaev linked to a video of a man called Abu Dujan off his YouTube page. We don't know if they met, but we do know that clearly, Tamerlan was interested in his activities because he links to his video.

Abu Dujan was killed in December, but in his group are a number of other militants. One of them, a man called Shakhrudin Askhabov was killed last night by Russian special forces in Dagestan. They surrounded the house he was in. There appears to be some sort of standoff and then quite a violent end.

We know these men were linked, not only have we seen pictures of them hanging out together in the forest. That's Askhabov and Abu Dujan. You can see some of these pictures here.

We also have seen a police wanted list at a police station in southern Russia which shows these men, showing them as part of the group, all sought by Russian authorities.

Now, we don't have a direct tie between Askhabov and Abu Dujan and Tamerlan Tsarnaev apart from that link on the YouTube page. What this does tell us is that right now, as the FBI are hunting people stateside, the FSB, special services here, are hunting down the militants who have some sort of links to Tsarnaev. And one of those raids ended deadly early hours this morning -- John.

BERMAN: So, Nick, at a minimum, a great deal of activity among the Russian special services directed again at this group that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was interested in here. At least that's where he posted videos, correct?

WALSH: Absolutely. This is the key thing here. We heard very little information from the Russians about what they knew when publicly. They seem to be handling information through closed channels to the FBI at this point, although some suggestions to be perhaps some of this was belated.

But on the ground now, and this may just be a coincidence, but on a ground now, Shakhrudin Askhabov, a man linked to the militant group who Tamerlan Tsarnaev was interested enough in to link to on his YouTube account, that man was hunted down last night with his accomplices. It's said perhaps he is the brother who took Abu Dujan's place as the leaders of this particular group, a group of about 10 to 12 people responsible for some pretty outrageous crimes in southern Russia, that this man was hunted down by special services just last night, John.

BERMAN: All right. A lot of activity going on in Russia this morning. Nick Paton Walsh, thank you for being with us from Moscow. Really appreciate it.

Meanwhile, we are back here in Boston, standing in front of the memorial, where just two weeks ago this was the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Now, this memorial hill, Zoraida, is growing bigger and bigger by the day. Some more remarkable messages I was reading here this morning -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: It's quite lovely. Maybe you can share some of those messages with us a little bit later, John. Thank you.

Eight minutes past the hour.

New this morning, a Mississippi man due in court today accused of sending letters to President Obama and two others tainted with the deadly poison ricin. Forty-one-year-old James Everett Dutschke, a martial arts instructor and former political candidate, was arrested over the weekend. He is charged with possession and use of a biological agent. Dutschke allegedly sent the tainted letters to the president, Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker, and a local Mississippi judge as well.

And four people recovering from injuries this morning after a man with a knife charged a church choir in Albuquerque, New Mexico, during its closing hymn. Witnesses say the suspect jumped over several pews and just started stabbing people. Parishioners, including the flute player, tackled him and held him until police arrived.


GERALD MADRID, CHOIR MEMBER: I just instantly dropped my flute, I charged the guy. I got him into a bear hug and pinned him against the wall, but he was much taller than I have. We had one woman, 80 years old. She wouldn't have been able to defend herself.


SAMBOLIN: Twenty-four-year-old Lawrence Capner (ph) was arrested. Authorities say he is not a member of the church. The four people who were stabbed are expected to recover.

And President Obama will nominate Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx to become the next transportation secretary. That's expected later today. Foxx's city hosted the Democratic National Convention last year, and the nomination would make him the only African-American picked for a cabinet spot in the president's second term. He's received a lot of criticism for that.

And a very big milestone in New York City today. At noon Eastern, the final sections of the spire will be raised to the top of One World Trade Center. Once they're installed, the Freedom Tower will officially become the tallest building in the western hemisphere at 1,776 feet. A proud day for New Yorkers and the entire nation after more than six years of construction.

Only two buildings in the world will stand taller once that spire is in place. The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the tallest, 2,714 feet. That is followed by the Makkah Royal Clock Tower Hotel. And that is in Saudi Arabia. Very excited about that.

All right. Coming up, who killed an 8-year-old girl in her California inside her home over the weekend? Look at her picture right here. A manhunt is now underway. We're going to have a live report on the investigation, coming up.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. I'm John Berman live in Boston this morning.

I want to bring you some updates on the Boston Marathon bombing investigation.

The FBI is now working with Russian security officials to piece together suspected Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev's movements in 2011. That was his six-month visit to Russia.

Investigators believe the Tsarnaev brothers were self-radicalized on the Internet. But still, they're looking into the possibility that other people in Russia or perhaps the U.S. may have been influences or even accomplices. Among the people they're looking into, the mother and Tamerlan's wife, Katherine Russell, who converted into Islam when she married him in 2010. The bombing suspect's father postponed his trip to the United States. He told Russian media he's in the hospital because of a blood pressure spike. We just got news a few minutes ago that Russian special forces have raided a group with possible links to Tamerlan Tsarnaev. We'll bring you much more on that a little bit later.

Let's go back to New York for some of the other news.

Hey, Z.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you very much, John.

A developing and disturbing story. It's a desperate search for the person who stabbed an 8-year-old girl to death. She was discovered Saturday by her brother inside their home in the rural community of Valley Springs. That's about 60 miles southeast of Sacramento, California.

Leila Fowler's mother says the family is devastated, that Leila was so full of life and she's pleading that someone turn the killer in.

CNN's Paul Vercammen is in Valley Springs.

And, Paul, what is the latest on this investigation?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, in this foothill community, you've got sheriffs deputies out looking for any clue, trying to solve this mysterious and heartbreaking killing of an 8- year-old girl.


VERCAMMEN (voice-over): It's a rural community on edge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They had the helicopters going over our house last night.

VERCAMMEN: A place where doors go often unlocked, now bolted shut.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sure a lot of families last night locked all their windows and locked all their doors for the first time.

VERCAMMEN: A killer is on the loose. The killer of an 8-year-old girl, Leila Fowler.

Police say she and her 12-year-old brother were home alone Saturday afternoon when he saw an intruder leaving the house. The boy called his parents who called 911. He then found his sister stabbed, severely wounded. She later died.

Since then, police have been running down leads. They have no specific suspect they are looking for a white or Hispanic male, about six feet tall with a muscular build wearing jeans and a dark shirt. He is considered armed and dangerous.

CAPT. JIM MACEDO, CALAVERAS CO., CALIF. SHERRIF'S DEPT.: We're searching extensively into attics, and storage sheds. It is a difficult area to search. It's rural, remote, and the grasses are tall right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are a lot of empty homes and outbuildings around here. A lot of huge rock croppings where somebody can hide in.

VERCAMMEN: Authorities have combed the home and neighborhood for evidence.

MACEDO: We did collect some fingerprints during that search. We also collected what we believe to be a DNA. Those prints and that DNA will hopefully be processed within the next week.

VERCAMMEN: There will be an added police presence today at schools and bus stops in the area. As one resident said, this kind of thing just doesn't happen here.


VERCAMMEN: And this little girl would have turned 9 years old in June -- Zoraida.

Oh my goodness. That just breaks your heart for the family and for that community. Paul Vercammen live for us this morning. Thank you very much.

And a developing story this morning in Peru. Rescue teams searching the coast for a hot air balloon pilot and a passenger. They have been missing since that balloon plunged into the pacific south of Lima. Five people were rescued and search crews are trying to find the other two.

Authorities say the balloon was not equipped with any life jackets and right now, it is not clear why it crashed.

And the lawyers in the Michael Jackson wrongful death trial will deliver their opening statements in just a few hours from now. The civil suit was brought by Jackson's mother and his three children. It claims concert promoter AEG Live is liable for Jackson's death because it hired and supervised Dr. Conrad Murray. Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the criminal trial. The civil trial is expected to last three months.

There was "Pain & Gain" at the box office this week. And the Mark Wahlberg action film debuted at number one with $20 million, and it was followed by a Tom Cruise sci-fi "Oblivion", which took in more than $17 million. And a Jackie Robinson biopic "42" came in with $10.7 million. I love "42."

So we've seen the Boston Marathon attacks bring out the best in Americans, donating to the victims and to their families. It also brings out scam artists. What to watch out for. We're going to tell you, coming up next.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START and good morning. We're minding your business this morning.

In the wake of the Boston bombings, Americans are pointing, clicking and they're donating a lot. Unlike crowd funding has taken off. But how do you know that it is not a scam? Sadly it happens very often. How to identify it, Christine Romans here to tell us.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. You know, it's been more than $26 million raised since the Boston bombing. And it is not just through the One Fund Boston. Tens of thousands of people have donated nearly $3 million through something that's known as crowd funding.

Supporters like it because they can see who they're giving it to. They can pick a personality and give money directly to them. There's Help for Patrick and Jess, Celeste and Sydney Recovery Fund, Bucks for Bauman.

The idea is to get money to the victims as quickly as possible to help with medical cost.

But be careful if you are the donor. told us that for every legitimate page on its site, two had to be shut down because of fraud. Since they're so new, the sites haven't been evaluated by watchdog like Charity Navigator.


KEN BERGER, PRESIDENT, CHARITY NAVIGATOR: They have no track record. They have no financial reports that we can look at. There's no real data to show whether or not they're going to be legitimate and effective.


ROMANS: And this is crowd funding we're talking about, when you're donating to individual people online and you seek them out.

So, this is what you need to keep in mind. There are fees as high as 8 percent of your donation, depending on the site. Check the transaction fees. You will not qualify for a tax deduction because it's not a recognized charity.


ROMANS: And find out if there are safeguards to make sure the funds do go for the victim. On Go Fund Me, I'm going to say that again, Go Fund Me, organizers looking to raise money have a link to a legitimate Facebook profile, and on Give Forward, checks can be written to the victim not the organizer. And, again, One Fund Boston, that is the big sort of overarching fund set up by the governor and the mayor of Boston. So interesting when you look at that, you can follow along and see how much is individual donations, how much is corporate donations. That's a bigger site. That -- I'm pretty sure that's going to top $27 million by the end of the day.

SAMBOLIN: No absolutely. But it concerns me that it's not considered a charitable deduction for anyone either when you go to the specific person. You're watching these stories, you identify with somebody and you say I want to help this particular person.

ROMANS: Right. If you want to make -- if you want a charitable deduction, you need to go to, or you need to go to Red Cross. You need to go someplace that's big, established --

SAMBOLIN: A 501(c)3.

ROMANS: A 501(c)3 -- if your heartstrings are pulled, and you want to give bucks to Bauman, go for it. But you will not be able to write that off.

SAMBOLIN: And make sure it's a safe place.

ROMANS: That's right.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: Twenty-five minutes past the hour.

While you were sleeping, developments across the globe on the Boston Marathon bombings. Russian special forces conducting raids in connection with the case. We have the latest, just ahead.