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Female DNA Found on Bombs; Investigation Targeting Suspect's Widow Katherine Russell; Michael Jackson Wrongful Death Trial; Amanda Knox Breaks Her Silence; Queen of Netherlands Abdicates Throne

Aired April 30, 2013 - 05:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, how did female DNA get on a Boston Marathon bomb fragment? FBI agents seeking answers at the home of a suspect's widow.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: A huge barrier broken in major league sports. Will other well-known athletes come out as gay now that NBA's Jason Collins has paved the way?

And a parade of star witnesses on tap with testimony in the Michael Jackson wrongful death trial, set to start just hours from now. Why one lawyer says it is going to get ugly.

Welcome back to EARLY START. Glad you're with us. I'm Zoraida Sambolin in New York.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. It is -- I'm in Boston right now where it is a beautiful morning. It is Tuesday, April 30th. About half past the hour right now.

We want to update you on some potentially big developments on the Boston Marathon bombing investigation. Female DNA found on one of the detonated devices. So, now, federal investigators are closely monitoring Tamerlan Tsarnaev's widow, Katherine Russell. You can see her here at her parents' home at Rhode Island. Agents were seen leaving that home with potential evidence, including DNA samples. Our cameramen can see them in the plastic bag. They're also trying to figure out what Katherine Russell did in the days before and just after the attack.

Also this morning, "The Boston Herald" reports that the state medical examiner has determined Tamerlan Tsarnaev's cause of death, but, they're not releasing the details because Russell or no one else has claimed the body yet. As for surviving suspect, Dzhokhar Tsaranev, another lawyer has been added to his growing defense team.

Death penalty expert, Judy Clarke, her past clients include Susan Smith, convicted of drowning her two children, the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, and also, Jared Loughner who killed six people and wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the 2011 rampage in Tucson. All those high-profile clients avoided the death penalty and got life sentences, instead. So, in addition to the discovery of the female DNA on bomb fragments in Boston, FBI agents have now met up with the mysterious Misha. Now, he's the man that some family members say helped radicalize suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Pamela Brown is live this morning in Devens, Massachusetts. That's where Dzhokhar Tsaranev is being held. Pamela has more on the latest on the investigation. Let's start, Pamela, with this female DNA found on bomb fragments.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. So, authorities found female DNA on one of the bombs used in the Boston Marathon bombing. At this point, we don't know who that DNA belongs to or whether its presence means that a woman was involved in the attack in any way. But at this point, it appears the investigation is focusing on Katherine Russell.

She is the widow of Tamerlan Tsaranev. And we saw yesterday, FBI agents enter the home she's been staying in in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. They carried out two black equipment cases and clear plastic bags marked DNA samples. Now, authorities want to see if Russell's DNA matches the DNA that was found on the bomb that we referenced. Now, even if it does match, though, very important to note here, that does not necessarily implicate her.

It's still very premature. Her attorney said she had no involvement in the attack and has been fully cooperative. Here's what the attorney said in a quote, "We want to state what we stated before. Katie continues to assist in the investigation in any way that she can" -- John.

BERMAN: So, one of the most intriguing figures, a mysterious in this whole investigation, has been this Misha character who some relatives of the Tsaranevs says is the man who radicalized Tamerlan and maybe Dzhokhar, as well. What have you learned about him?

BROWN: Well, we've learned a lot recently, John. We know now that FBI agents have been interviewing Misha. His real name is Mikhail Allakhverdov, we've learned. He is the man that Tamerlan's relatives blame for influencing him, for radicalizing him. But now, we're hearing from Misha, himself. This is from a reporter who interviewed him, from "New York Review of Books."

And the reporter says Misha strongly denied influencing Tamerlan negatively. He said that he hasn't seen him in three years. Here's what the reporter had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was very, very, very intent on explaining that he had nothing to do with any kind of radicalization. What he told me was, "I was not his teacher. If I had been his teacher, I would have made sure that he knew that doing something like this was wrong."


BROWN: So, we heard there, John. He denies any wrongdoing, but as you said, he is very -- he's been a very intriguing figure in this whole investigation. We hope to learn more about Misha -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Pamela Brown, great work out in Devens, Massachussetts today. You know, each day it seems like we get a new piece of information about this case and this and this investigation. As well as each day that passes in Boston, it's more like normal here. More like things before the marathon. And overnight, a real sign. Crews were busy repainting the Boston Marathon finish line.

Traditionally, they do that within hours of the end of the marathon when all of the runners finish the race, but this year, for obvious reasons, they waited. And that process was delayed by about two weeks. That's just a block from here. Again, that happened last night just after 10 o'clock -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So much happening overnight where you are. Nice to have you there. Thank you, John.

And Jason Collins couldn't have been more clear, quote, "I am a 34- year-old NBA center. I am black. And I am gay." That revelation in a "Sports Illustrated" article, triggering a huge show of support among fellow athletes and beyond that. Collins tweeted his thanks, saying, "All the support I have received is truly inspirational. I knew that I was choosing the road less travelled, but I am not walking it alone."

Collins is the first player in a major U.S. team sport to come out while still active. A former NBA star tells CNNs Anderson Cooper, he wasn't surprised to hear it.


CHARLES BARKLEY, FMR. NBA PLAYER/TNT ANALYST: For the first thing, I was happy for Jason because I'm -- you know, anybody -- people should get to be who they want to be. But no one has a gay player in the NBA. I think anybody who think they never played with a gay player is an idiot. I played with several gay players. It's their own business. And I think they should get to be who they want to be.


SAMBOLIN: Jason Collins has played 12 seasons for six NBA teams, most recently, the Washington Wizards. And right now, he's a free agent and he hopes to continue his playing career.

And in just a few hours, the first witness will take the stand in the Michael Jackson wrongful death trial. A suit brought by Jackson's mother and his three children claims concern promoter, AEG Live, is liable for billions of dollars in the pop star's death. Yesterday's opening statements providing a glimpse of what is to come.

With the Jackson lawyers calling AEG executives ruthless. And the company saying things could get ugly. CNNs Kyung Lah has more from Los Angeles.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You could barely see Jackson Family members amid a crush of cameras. They arrived at the wrongful death civil trial, the familiar circus that follows Michael Jackson even beyond the grave. Part of the performer's rehearsal for his ill-fated "This Is It" tour was the first videoclip played by his family's lawyer during opening statements.

Jackson's mother, Katherine, and her three grandchildren, Paris, Prince Michael, and Blanket, say concert promoter, AEG Live, was a greedy commercial enterprise that put profits ahead of Jackson's health, by hiring and controlling Dr. Conrad Murray. Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for injecting the insomniac pop star with the lethal dose of the anesthetic, propofol.

Seated in the court's first row, 82-year-old Katherine Jackson listened as her lawyer, Brian Panish, told the jury, AEG ignored the obvious red flags and they hired Dr. Murray. They were ruthless, and they wanted to be number one at all costs. The Jacksons say AEG live should pay. On the witness list, Jackson's defense attorney in his child molestation trial.

THOMAS MESEREAU, JACKSON'S CRIMINAL ATTORNEY: The question is, what was Michael Jackson's life worth? He died at 50 years of age. He was the son of a wonderful woman, Katherine Jackson, the father of three beautiful children. What was his life worth? And it was worth quite a bit. He was the best-known celebrity on the planet.

LAH: But AEG Live defense attorney, Marvin Putnam, told jurors the blame at Jackson's death lies with Jackson, promising the case will get ugly. Putnam said Jackson's ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, helped administer propofol 10 years ago and his decade long use of the drug was Jackson's deepest, darkest secret. They didn't see this coming. They had no idea, said Putnam. They were a concert promoter. How could they know?

(on-camera) The next step, testimony begins. And what promises to be a star-studded lineup, from Sharon Osbourne to Spike Lee and Jackson ex-wife, Lisa Marie Presley. This trial could last well into the summer.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Los Angeles.


SAMBOLIN: Thirty-eight minutes past the hour. Amanda Knox breaking her silence about her explosive murder trial in Italy. In an interview with ABC News, the former college student from Seattle says she's glad her story can finally be told after six years. Knox was convicted in 2009 for the murder of a fellow student. And that case made international headlines with Knox being labeled a temptress and a she-devil.


AMANDA KNOX, FORMER CONVICTED MURDER: For all intents and purposes, I was a murderer. Whether I was or not. And I had to live with the idea that that would be my life.


SAMBOLIN: Knox's conviction was overturned in 2011 because of mistakes made by prosecutors. The Italian courts want to try her again.

Virgin Galactic is one step closer to becoming the world's first commercial space line. Virgin's new passenger spacecraft completed its first rocket-powered flight Monday over the Mojave Desert. The spaceship, too, didn't actually go up into space. But it did break the sound barrier before hitting a maximum altitude of 56,000 feet.

The rocket-powered engines were in use for about ten minutes. And the entire test flight took about an hour. The company hopes to reach full space flight by the end of the year. Would you go?

All right. It is a big day on Broadway. The Annual Tony Award nominations will be announced less than three hours from now in New York City. And the show, "Kinky Boots," is one of the leading contenders to be nominated for the biggest Tony prize. That's musical. It features songs by Cyndi Lauper. Another of this year's musical favorite is "Matilda," a British import based on the beloved novel by Roald Dahl.

There will be a live web cast of this morning's nominations at The Tony Awards ceremony will be televised live on June 9th from Radio City Music Hall.

And the Dutch queen stepping down this morning. Why Beatrix decided this was the time to abdicate her throne after 33 years? A full report from Amsterdam coming up.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. Forty-three minutes past the hour. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands abdicating the Dutch throne about an hour ago. She is 75 years old and reigned as monarch for 33 years. Beatrix is stepping aside so her 46-year-old son, Willem- Alexander, can become king. And Max Foster, royal correspondent for CNN International, is on the phone from Amsterdam this morning.

Good morning to you. So, I was reading here, this will be the first king the Dutch have had in more than 120 years. How is the country responding?

VOICE OF MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, actually, just to get to this point, I had to fight through thousands of people. I mean, the scene's extraordinary in Amsterdam. Everyone dressed in orange, completely excited. It is normally Queen's Day. It is Queen's Day. It started that way and turned into King's Day. It's always a national holiday. But, people actually are thrilled about this changeover.

They like both of them immensely. A popular monarchy in Europe, according to the polls. And, you got a real sense of the emotion when you saw the queen sign that bit of paper, which is all she had to do to become a princess and turn her son into king. Last night, she did give key words, giving her thoughts about stepping down from the throne.


QUEEN BEATRIX, NETHERLANDS (through translator): In handing over my task as monarch, I feel above all deep gratitude. Without your heartwarming and moving expressions of encouragement, the sufferings of which there were some, would have been heavy to bear. In this farewell, I want to let you know, that your support has given me great strength.


FOSTER: We saw her introduce her son as the king as they came out (ph) on the balcony. Next, a formal occasion where they didn't crown the monarchs here, Zoraida. There will be a crown there symbolizing sovereignty of the state, but he basically speaks an oath in front of joint session of parliament.

You also got all the world crown prince and princesses here for an occasion. It will happen in the next couple of hours. And then, they will be partying through the night, I think.

SAMBOLIN: I would suspect that they are going to be partying through the night. Max Foster reporting live for us. Thank you very much.

Forty-five minutes past the hour. Mark Sanford may be running for Congress, but he can't seem to run from his past. The former South Carolina governor is trying to resurrect a political career that ended in disgrace in 2009 when he was forced to step down after lying about an extramarital affair.

During a heated debate last night, Sanford's Democratic challenger, Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, couldn't resist turning back the clock.


ELIZABETH COLBERT-BUSCH, (D) S.C. CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: When we talk about fiscal spending and we talk about protecting the taxpayers, it doesn't mean you take that money we save and leave the country for a personal purpose.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She went there, Governor Sanford.

MARK SANFORD, (R) FORMER GOVERNOR: I couldn't hear what she said.



SAMBOLIN: That was an awkward moment. He has to be anticipating that. Sanford never actually responded to Colbert-Busch's comment. The two candidates square off in a special election for a House seat. That is next week.

And coming up on EARLY START, the late shift mystery. Police in Michigan are trying to solve the case of a missing gas station attendant who simply vanished at the end of her work day.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. A beautiful morning here in Boston. We wanted to update you on a really interesting development in the marathon bombing investigation. Female DNA discovered on one of the explosive devices. Federal investigators are closely monitoring Tamerlan Tsaranev's widow. Agents leaving that home with potential evidence, including DNA samples.

They're also trying to figure out what, if anything, Katherine Russell did in the days before and just after the attack.

As for the surviving suspect, Dzhokhar Tsaranev, another lawyer has been added to his defense team, death penalty expert, Judy Clarke. Her past clients include Susan Smith, you may remember was convicted of drowning her two children. She also represented Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, and the Tucson shooter, Jared Loughner.

All of these clients avoided the death penalty, getting life sentences, instead, Zoraida, after pleading guilty to some degree in one way or another -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. We'll see what happens here. Thank you very much, John. It's 50 minutes past the hour.

Police in Michigan are combing through dozens of tips in a search for missing gas station attendant. There's a picture there. Investigators believe 25-year-old Jessica Heringa (ph) was abducted from her job at an Exxon Mobil gas station as she prepared to close up shop on Friday night. Police are now searching for a silver mini-van that was seen at the station a few minutes before she disappeared.

In Fargo, North Dakota, melting snow expected to raise the banks of the red river by, get this, 35 feet tonight and into Wednesday. It is according to the National Weather Service. That would make it the ninth-highest well on record as well as the latest date the river has ever peaked, thanks to all of this late-season snow. And to make matters worse, it is raining in Fargo.

So, for the very latest, let's check in with Jennifer Delgado. She is live in the CNN Weather Center with more details for us. Good morning, Jennifer.

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Zoraida. You're right. We are starting off the morning with some showers moving through Fargo. But, it doesn't look like it's going to have that much of effect on the river levels because we are expecting the cresting to become a little bit less than what we originally expected.

I also want to point out to you, showers moving through the north, including parts of Wisconsin as well as in the Illinois, including Chicago along with a lightning, but real action towards the south across parts of Central Florida as well as moving away from Miami and into parts of Houston.

Of course, we know about that flooding that happened in Houston over the weekend. Now, as we go through today as well as tomorrow, notice for yourself. We are talking about a lot of rainfall, Tuesday into Wednesday. This is going to lead to some flooding problems right along the Gulf Coast. Some of these locations, three, four inches of rainfall, could lead to some flash flooding.

But the other story we're following is the snow that's going to be developing late tonight, moving into parts of Denver, Colorado, as well as in the Cheyenne, and even into Minnesota, where some locations calling for four to six inches of snowfall. Seems late in the year for that, but, reality is, snow is coming down. And it will start later on tonight.

On a wider view, severe storms setting up for the Upper Midwest. And speaking of the Upper Midwest, I have some great video. I mean, this is incredible. Some people call this chandeliering ice. Zoraida, you're going to call this amazing. Listen to this ice just cracking and you can see it splintering there right along the coastline in Minnesota.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, wow. That's cool.

DELGADO: Totally cool. I have to tell you, there's really no official term for this. But what it's happening, the sun is drying it out. It's losing that moisture. And what you're seeing with crystals just basically popping away. I would imagine, probably trick you in the finger, too, before it melted.

SAMBOLIN: It looks like one big science experiment.

DELGADO: It does.

SAMBOLIN: Very cool for the kids. Thank you, Jennifer. We appreciate that.

DELGADO: We're all weather nerds now.


SAMBOLIN: All right. Thanks. We'll check back in with you.

And up next, how a new Hampshire man managed to lose a ton of cash at a tub of fun carnival game. You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. Fifty-seven minutes past the hour. We're going to take a look at the top CNN trends on the web this morning. So, check out these high-resolution images. They're taken from a NASA spacecraft. It is capturing an enormous hurricane on Saturn. Scientists say the eye of this gigantic storm swirling around the planet's North Pole is about 1,250 miles wide. That is 20-times larger than the average hurricane here on Earth. Aren't you glad you live here?

All right. So, this is a true story and a crazy story. A New Hampshire man losing his life savings at a carnival game. There he is right there. Henry Gribbohm, left only with a giant, dreadlocked banana after dropping 2,600 bucks. He says he lost $300 in a matter of minutes at the tubs of fun game trying to win an Xbox console. So, he went home, and he grabbed $2,300, which he also lost, while trying to win his money back.


HENRY GRIBBOHM, LOST LIFE SAVINGS: Because you get caught up in the whole double or nothing. I've got to win my money back.


SAMBOLIN: No way, dude. Gribbohm says when he went back the next day, the man operating the game actually gave him back $600. And he got that big banana also. But Gribbohm still filed a complaint with the Manchester police department. He is alleging the game was rigged. I could have never walked in and said, I lost $2,300 trying to win a banana or an Xbox, I guess.

EARLY START continues right now.