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Militant Linked to Tsarnaev?; Boston Bombing Suspect Interacting; Raid by Russian Special Forces; Court Hearing for Mississippi Man; Man Stabs Four in Church Choir; Foxx Tapped to Be Transportation Secretary; Freedom Rising; Search For A Killer

Aired April 29, 2013 - 06:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The surviving Boston bombing suspect is 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 overseas. Right now, Russian special forces going in guns blazing, hunting down militants that might be linked to the bombing suspects.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: And a manhunt underway. Who killed an eight-year-old California girl inside her home over the weekend? The investigation intensifying this morning.

And new heights for New York and the entire nation. 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. Glad you're with us. I'm Zoraida Sambolin in New York.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman live in Boston this morning. It is Monday, April 29th. It is 6:00 a.m. in the East.

And we have some brand new developments this morning in the Boston marathon bombing investigation. I want you to take a look at this man right here. He's reportedly a key part of a militant group out of Russia that that may have ties to alleged Boston bomber, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Today, Russian Special Forces took him out, bombing this building in Dagestan. All this as investigators work to reconstruct the Tsarnaev's actions in Russia.

The FBI is joining forces with Russian security officials to piece together his every move during his six-month visit back in 2011. And even though they don't believe the brothers were self-radicalized online watching videos they're still looking into the possibility that other people in Russia or maybe here in the United States may have been influences.

Among them, people in their inner circle like their mother, and also possibly Tamerlan's wife, Katherine Russell who converted to Islam when she married Tamerlan back in 2010. The bombing suspect's father has postponed his trip here to the United States. He told Russian state media he's in the hospital because his blood pressure spiked. It has been two weeks now since the Boston terror attacks and more than two dozen people are still in the hospital. Again, two weeks later, even as the investigation moves on, life for these people still in recovery mode.

Right now, bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is now at a medical facility for federal prisoners. He's locked up in a tiny cell, that's about 40 miles west of Boston. Pamela Brown is live there in Devens, Massachusetts with the latest on the investigation. Good morning, Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, John. Some new developments this morning, we have learned from a prison official that 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is speaking and interacting with medical staff here at Federal Medical Center Devens. This is an indication 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 equipped with a steel door, and a small window where he's being observed 24 hours a day.

The accommodations are bare, limited to a toilet, sink and bed. 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 try to figure out how and why he allegedly carried out the attacks with his brother, later killed in a police shoot-out, the Justice Department's role in the investigation has come under intense scrutiny.

Tsarnaev has stopped giving substantive information to authorities since being read his Miranda Rights, sources have indicated. In an exclusive interview with CNN's Brianna Keilar at the White House Correspondent's Dinner Saturday night, Attorney General Eric Holder defended the decision.

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

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, I mean, the decision to Mirandize him was one that the magistrate made and that was totally consistent with the laws that we have. We had a two-day period that we are able to question him under the public safety exception so I think everything was done appropriately and 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), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Absolutely disgraceful because that interrogation could have prevented saving many American lives. We don't know what the full consequences are going to be. Who else was involved? Who was involved then? Who could be involved in the future? We may not know because of Eric Holder.

BROWN: Tsarnaev's brother Tamerlan and his brother had been listed in a U.S. counterterrorism database since Russia raised concerns about both of them in 2011 an intelligence official told CNN.

It was in that same year an official with knowledge of the investigation is now saying that Russia intercepted communication between Tamerlan's mother, and one of the two sons discussing Jihad in a conversation described as vague.

The information came from a wiretap of the mother the Russians have turned over only in recent days. Earlier in the week, Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, acknowledged 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 that wiretap. Now, in addition to the terrorism charges Tsarnaev already faces, he could face more charges soon. A grand jury is looking over evidence, and then an indictment will be presented sometime in the next few weeks after that sometime down the road we'll see Tsarnaev in court -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Pamela Brown our thanks you. Pamela Brown reporting from Devens, Massachusetts, about 40 miles west of Boston where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is currently in custody. Thanks, Pamela.

We are going to find out more now about that militant group that may have ties to Tamerlan Tsarnaev. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is live in Moscow with details for us on this development, really breaking overnight -- Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. The early hours of Sunday morning that this raid you're seeing now, remarkably violent it appears, was aimed at trying to kill and successfully killed the man called Shakhrudin Askhabov.

Now let me wind back a little bit and explain to you why he's significant in the Tsarnaev case. Shakhrudin Askhabov is part of a militant group led by a man called Abu Dujan. Now Abu Dujan, a video of him was linked to by Tamerlan Tsarnaev on his YouTube Channel. We don't know if the two men met.

But of course, it is interesting that this man, Tamerlan Tsarnaev who spent time in Dagestan when Abu Dujan was here and active before his death at the hands of Special Forces in December that he links the video of him.

Now Shakhrudin Askhabov is a member of that militant group, his brother is reported, became the leader of that militant group once Abu Dujan was killed and I can show you some pictures of him killed in the early morning special forces raid in the forest with the Abu Dujan militant group.

So at this point, we don't know if the man you've just seen or Abu Dujan ever met Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The link is from his YouTube page. What we do know while though is that while the FBS clearly handing information to the American counterparts at the FBI, there are ongoing Special Forces raids just as early as yesterday morning to take out some of these militants in Abu Dujan's group -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Nick Paton Walsh for us in Moscow. Again, the news here, at a minimum Russian Special Forces with an uptick in activity against some of these militant groups that may be connected to Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

Ahead at 6:30 Eastern, we're going to talk to CNN law enforcement analyst, Tom Fuentes, about the Boston bombing investigation as well as these new developments in Russia, these special forces raids. Again, Tom Fuentes coming up about 6:30 a.m. Eastern Time.

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

SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you, John. Well, the man accused of sending letters to President Obama and two others tainted with the deadly poison ricin is due in court today.

The 41-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 also to a local Mississippi judge.

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


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


SAMBOLIN: Gerald Madrid is a hero. The 24-year-old Lawrence Capner was arrested. Authorities say he's not a member of the church. The four people who were stabbed are expected to be OK.

And President Obama will nominate Charlotte's Mayor Anthony Fox to become the next transportation secretary that is expected to happen later today. Fox'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.

And it's an inspiring 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. Take a look here. 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 actually the entire nation, after more than six years of construction and only two buildings in the entire world will stand taller once that spire is in place. The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the tallest at 2,717 feet. That is followed by the Makkah Royal Clock Tower Hotel in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, looking forward to that.

And coming up a disturbing story has police on a manhunt this morning. This little girl, an 8-year-old girl, stabbed, and right now, no leads on who did it. A live report coming up next.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. I'm John Berman live in Boston this morning. I'm standing at the memorial site in Copley Plaza about a block away from the finish line here. We've been looking at some of these memorials and remembrances that have been left behind.

You're looking at the marker for Sean Collier, he was the MIT officer killed the night of that manhunt one week and a half ago at this point. There's a note actually behind it, you can't read it, but I just took a look at it.

Really a lovely note from police officers from Colorado Springs, Colorado, who were here, and it basically says, you know, rest easy Sean Collier, we'll take the watch from here. And that note was from police officers, again, all the way from Colorado so people all over the country leaving notes and remembrances behind.

We're here, of course, to follow the bombing investigation. There were some overnight developments we want to tell you about. Russian Special Forces raided a militant group with possible links to Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

They took out this man, reportedly a key part of that militant group, and these are new images of this operation in Dagestan. You can hear the shelling of that building right now, going down in a mess of flames and explosion.

Again, these new Special Forces raid just happened over the weekend. We're just getting the video now. U.S. investigators and Russian security officials are trying to piece together Tamerlan Tsarnaev's movements during his six-month visit to Russia, which began in 2011.

They think that he and his brother were self-radicalized by watching videos, but that has not ruled out the possibility that others in the United States or in Russia may have influenced the brothers. Still looking into the Tsarnaev's mothers right now and also looking to find out more about Tamerlan's wife, Katherine Russell who converted to Islam when she married him in 2010.

Meanwhile, the Tsarnaev's father has now postponed his trip to the United States. He told Russian state media that he's in the hospital right now because of a blood pressure problem. So, all kinds of new developments breaking overnight, Zoraida, in the investigation here.

SAMBOLIN: A lot going on. We'll check back in with you. Thank you.

And we have a developing and incredibly disturbing story this morning, the 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 is speaking out this morning. In a statement she writes, "We are devastated. If someone is helping hide him, turn him in. Look at our baby girl. She did not deserve this. She came from a large family with many siblings. She loved her daddy more than anything in this world."

My goodness, that is so difficult to look at. CNN's Paul Vercammen is in Valley Springs. He is covering the very latest on this story for us. Do they have any suspects?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, they do not, Zoraida, and one insider telling me this could be a very difficult case to solve. As of right now, sheriff's deputies out there canvassing neighborhoods, looking for any clues. This is a killing that is absolutely rocked this foothills community in the Sierra Nevada.


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 says 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 lead but have no specific suspect;

CAPT. JIM MACEDO, CALAVERAS CO., CALIF. SHERRIF'S DEPT.: We're searching extensively into attics, 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. And 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 does not happen here.


VERCAMMEN: And Leila's mother telling CNN that she had five siblings, brothers and sisters, living here in Valley Springs and they also had an extended blended family, three other siblings out of state, Zoraida, and they said that Leila just loved all these brothers and sisters.

Back to you.

SAMBOLIN: I was taking a look at their pictures here that the mother sent. Just an incredibly beautiful family. Your heart really goes out to them.

Thank you so much, Paul Vercammen. Appreciate it.

And a developing story this morning in Syria and the country's ongoing civil war. A car bomb exploded in Damascus today, Syria's prime minister apparently the intended target. He was not harmed but one person was killed in that blast. No one has claimed responsibility but the attack is significant because it happened near President Bashar al Assad's palace.

And opening statements will begin in just a few hours from now in the Michael Jackson wrongful death trial. The civil case pits Jackson's mother Katherine against concert promoter AEG Live and it seeks billions of dollars on behalf of Jackson's three children. The Jackson's family claims AEG is liable for Jackson's death but it hired and supervised Dr. Conrad Murray, who was convicted of involuntarily manslaughter in the criminal trial.

This trial is expected to last about three months. We heard between two and four months.

And a lesbian teacher fired from a Catholic high school in Ohio is fighting to get her job back. Carla Hale (ph) mentioned her same sex partner when she wrote her mother's obituary. The school found out and let her go, after 19 years. Listen to former students reacting to the firing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's sad that it happened this way. I feel sorry that it was so publicized, and that she doesn't have a job anymore. But I also still think this school and the diocese had a choice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just think that goes against everything the Catholic Church preaches on homosexuality. Yes, they don't believe in marriage or homosexual partnerships but they also preach love and compassion.


SAMBOLIN: The diocese says staff who publicly mentioned relationships that contradict church teachings cannot work for the church. An online petition supporting Hale has nearly 95,000 signatures.

"Pain & Gain" was a story at the weekend box office. The Mark Wahlberg true crime thriller debuted at number one earning $20 million. It was followed by the Tom Cruise film "Oblivion", which made more than $17 million. And the Jackie Robinson biopic "42" with $10.7 million.

So, it's a holiday gift of sorts. The holiday is Memorial Day. The gift: cheap plane tickets. How much you could save this year. That's coming up next for you.


SKIP RUSSO, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: I think there's no higher purpose right now than to take care of the folks who put themselves in harm's way to protect our freedoms.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More than half a million folks have done more than one tour. So, that's a tremendous emotional and physical burden we put on our folks that's totally unprecedented.

RUSSO: We're acknowledging that people are always going to have some effect. We just want them to be able to be better at making that transition back to civilized society, and not carrying around that pain of war for the rest of your life.

I'm Skip Russo, clinical psychologist at the University of Southern California, Institute for Creative Technologies.



SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. Good morning to you. Twenty- three minutes past the hour. Minding your business this morning.

What a rally it's been, right? Stocks have gone up every month this year. Will we see another gain as we end this month? Christine Romans, what say you?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Every month this year. We could. We really could. A couple more days left for the month. The stock market every month this year, just two trading days do go. The Dow on track actually for five months higher in a row. The S&P and NASDAQ, that rally started even sooner. They're set for six months in a row. The Dow is up more than 12 percent just this year. That's better than what we mostly see in a full year. It's been a nice return for your 401(k) or your IRA up for the stock component of it. Futures are higher this morning and European stocks are encouraged this morning that Italy, one of Europe's debt-ridden countries has formed a new government. That's a sign of stability there.

Here at home, stocks have been rising on signs that the American economy is here. Consumers are spending money on cars. The housing market is rebounding. But unemployment is still too high. The Federal Reserve is keeping interest rates artificially low. That's really hurting savers, and forced spending cuts will unfold throughout the summer. So those are some of the things holding back optimism heading into the summer.

SAMBOLIN: And I am very excited about some airfare deals that you're going to talk about.

ROMANS: I am. A little bit of a savings for you. "USA Today" says the average roundtrip domestic flight from May 23rd to May 28th, $341 and that is down, Zoraida, 2 percent from last year. International flights are down about 1 percent. It's better than being up, right?

SAMBOLIN: OK. All right.

ROMANS: Memorial Day, of course, is the start of the peak summer travel season when fares usually go up because more people are traveling. But analysts say demand this time has been weak, so carriers have cut prices.

You should still book early. You got a month. According to Travelocity, history shows leading up to Memorial Day prices go up $10 to $25 each week.

SAMBOLIN: And what was that, $341?

ROMANS: Three hundred forty-one dollars.

SAMBOLIN: I always complain and you always say put it in perspective because those are low prices. If you look at the --

ROMANS: Yes, it used to be the most expensive part of your trip was the airfare, you know, a generation ago. Now, it's the hotel is the most expensive part because airfares have been held back.

SAMBOLIN: We'll try to remember that, Christine. What is the one thing we need to know about our money?

ROMANS: Today is a good day to check your credit history, especially if you plan to borrow money in the next six to 12 months. FindLaw says 22 percent of people have never looked at their credit report. Never. Even though it's free. It's basically your financial report card. It's the thing every lender knows about you. Even potential employers look at your credit report.

So, you're entitled to it by law for free once a year at, free. You don't have to pay for it, It's free. I feel like a commercial.


ROMANS: But don't pay me, because it's free.

SAMBOLIN: No, no, tweet it out. Because a lot of people go to the wrong site and get then they sucked into paying.

ROMANS: I will.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you so much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

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

The U.S. and Russia are working together now, but better cooperation beforehand might have made a big difference in Boston. A look at the missed warning signs in the bombing investigation.