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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Hunting for the Mysterious Misha; Interview with Golden State Warriors' Rick Welts; Jason Collins, Trailblazer; New King Crowned in Netherlands; Panetta Family Six Months After Sandy; Using Yoga to Beat Addiction

Aired April 30, 2013 - 08:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everyone. A really intriguing twist in the Boston bombing investigation. Female DNA found on a fragment of one of the Boston Marathon bombs. And now the big question is where did this fragment, where did this DNA come from? The FBI has visited Tamerlan Tsarnaev's widow, Katherine Russell, at her parents' Rhode Island home. Agents were seen leaving with bags of DNA evidence.

Meantime, the Massachusetts medical examiner has determined Tamerlan Tsarnaev's cause of death. But these examiners are not releasing details, because no family members, no one has claimed Tamerlan's body.

As for surviving suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, another lawyer has been added to his defense team, death penalty expert Judy Clarke. Psst clients include Susan Smith, who you may remember was convicted of drowning her two children; Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, and also Tucson shooter Jared Loughner. All these clients were spared the death penalty, getting life sentences, instead.

There's also developments involving the mysterious man known as Misha. Some of Tamerlan Tsarnaev's relatives believe that it was this Misha who influenced, maybe even brainwashed, Tamerlan.

Brian Todd tracked down Misha in Rhode Island.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRAIN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Their search for the shadowy figure of Misha has taken investigators to Rhode Island. But it's not clear if the man who's here is the same Misha who relatives say radicalized Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

Reporter Christian Caryl of "The New York Review of Books" interviewed a man named Mikhail Allakhverdov who said he'd known Tamerlan, that he was a convert to Islam of partially Armenian descent, as Misha's been described. Allakhverdov said he'd been interviewed by federal authorities who he said were about to close his case. He told Caryl he had no role in the Boston Marathon bombings. CHRISTIAN CARYL, CONTRIBUTOR, NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS: And he denied very emphatically he was a teacher of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. He said, no, I was not his teacher. I didn't instruct him in anything. I had nothing to do with any of his development.

But I couldn't get him to tell me anything more than that about their relationship. He was just extremely agitated and didn't want to go into details.

TODD: That interview brought discuss a crush of other reporters to this apartment complex in West Warwick, Rhode Island, identified as a residence of Mikhail Allakhverdov's parents. No leads here until a lawyer showed up.

As he emerged from the apartment and was swarmed, attorney Richard Nicholson said he represented the parents of a man he identified as Mike Allakhverdov. He said they've also been interviewed by law enforcement.

RICHARD NICHOLSON, ATTORNEY FOR PARENTS OF MIKHAIL ALLAKHVERDOV: I suspect that the authorities will be asking additional questions, but at some juncture, they will close that part of the investigation.

TODD: But law enforcement sources have not told us conclusively that Mikhail Allakhverdov is the same Misha who heavily influenced Tamerlan Tsarnaev according to his relatives.

RUSLAN TSARNI, SUSPECTS' UNCLE: I said this person, he just took his brain. He just brainwashed him completely. Tamerlan is off now. There's no any obedience or respect to his own father.

TODD: Other relatives say Misha was seen preaching to Tamerlan Tsarnaev at their Cambridge, Massachusetts, apartment late at night causing tension between the parents.

If Misha has been interviewed by federal law enforcement authorities, what would they have asked him about Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: How did that radicalization go? And how much involved this was Misha? Did he do more than just put these thoughts in Tamerlan's head or get Tamerlan to change his philosophy about his religion?

TODD: Adding to questions of whether Misha is this man in Rhode Island or not, law enforcement authorities had previously told CNN they were working with their overseas partners to try to locate him.

Brian Todd, CNN, North Kingstown, Rhode Island.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: Our thanks to Brian Todd on the trail of this of Misha.

Meanwhile, runners in the upcoming Rite-Aid Cleveland Marathon will have a way to support victims of the Boston bombing. Race organizers will be offering blue wristbrands inscribed in yellow with the phrase, "Boston Strong." Supporters will be able to get one of these bracelets with any contribution. All proceeds go to One Fund Boston, which helps families affected by the terror attack and has thankfully raised millions and millions of dollars already.

Christine Romans back in New York with the rest of the day's top stories. Hey, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, John.

"I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay." With those words, NBA veteran Jason Collins made history. This morning he spoke about his decision.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JASON COLLINS, NBA PLAYER: Now it's kind of mind boggling. I think I talk about that -- that I never set out to be the first, and it's -- I was sitting there, you're sort of waiting around for somebody else to raise their hand. And I'm ready to raise my hand but you still look around like, OK, come on, guys.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: But two years before Collins became the first active openly gay athlete, Rick Welts became the highest-ranking executive in men's professional team sports to publicly come out. Rick is the president and COO of the Golden State Warriors and the former executive vice president of the NBA. He joins me now.

Good morning.

RICK WELTS, PRESIDENT & COO, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS: Good morning.

ROMANS: So two years ago you came out, then became president of the Golden State Warriors. Last month you gave an interview; you said that someone in the NBA would come out eventually, but predicting when would be impossible. Well, here's the when. Did you know Jason was gay? Did you ever think it would be so soon?

WELTS: No, I didn't know Jason was gay. And I think we saw over the course of the last several months some momentum building toward a real inevitable moment that we experienced yesterday. I think the question what player, which sport, when would it happen? And yesterday, Jason answered that question.

ROMANS: It's so interesting because his whole career, you look, he's such a team guy. He's about the team. And now the story has become about Jason Collins and the leadership he's shown sort of beyond the team. How do you think that's going to resonate with other players? Is it going to knock down -- knock down barriers, you think, for other players?

WELTS: Well, the toughest thing Jason really had to face in making this decision was the fact that there had been no player that had gone before him that he could watch from the sidelines and see what their experience would be like, how it would unfold. And that's been the barrier, I think, that no player has chosen to cross at this point. Now that he has done that, yes, I think it's going to make it much easier for others to come to grips with is this the right time for them?