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Deadly Battle in Russia With Possible Ties to Tamerlan Tsarnaev; World Trade Center to Get Taller; James McCormick Sentenced for Fake Bomb Detectors; DOJ Appeals Morning After Pill Decision; Face Transplant Changes Woman's Life

Aired May 2, 2013 - 12:30   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We're getting new information in the Boston terror investigation right now. Two federal law enforcement officials tell CNN the FBI has, in fact, recovered -- yes, recovered the laptop that the bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, left in his dormitory room.

You may remember officials went through a landfill near the University of Massachusetts' Dartmouth campus last week in search of the laptop and other items. Three of Dzhokhar's college buddies are accused of removing that laptop from his dorm room, a backpack as well, and Vaseline after the Boston bombings. The 19-year-olds were arrested yesterday. They are in custody of the FBI right now. Their lawyers say their clients are cooperating with investigators.

Authorities also want to know more from the widow of the older suspected bomber, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Investigators say Katherine Russell had a phone call with her husband after his picture appeared on worldwide television, but before investigators had actually identified him.

Two sources now telling CNN, authorities want to know the nature of that phone conversation and why she did not notify the police. Investigators are also looking into a possible connection between Tamerlan Tsarnaev and the Canadian boxer-turned-jihadist, William Plotnikov. Plotnikov was killed last year by Russian troops in his and Tsarnaev's homeland, Dagestan in Russia. Tsarnaev was in the same area of Dagestan when the shootout took place.

Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson traveled to the site of that deadly battle.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In these lush mountains, Dagestan's rebels hide from Russian forces, our journey here, a trip into the unknown.

We're on our way to the village where Canadian boxer William Plotnikov was killed in a gun battle with Russian forces.

Fifteen minutes from the secure coastal highway, Utmayesh (ph), a tiny town of 3,400 people.

We've been given special permission to go into the graveyard. They are all moderate Muslims here and follow peaceful traditions.

Plotnikov's grave, not hard to find at the cemetery's edge, a place for strangers, he was a convert to Islam.

Well, this does seem to be his grave. Plotnikov, William Vitalyevich, his father's name, he born third of May 1989, died 14th of July 2012, last summer.

The local imam tells me we had never seen him before. We didn't know anything about the rebels he was with. His father came from Canada and asked we bury him a Muslim.

Indeed, as I talk to local officials, they all tell me the same. The rebels he'd joined lived out of town. When I asked if they'd ever seen alleged Boston bomber, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, they all tell me, no.

The town mayor tells me I wish I could say we're safe, but since last summer, we worry when we take our cattle to the forests.

On the edge of town, they take us to the farm where Plotnikov faced off with Russian forces.

The gate's been locked up. They just opened the gate to let us in. This is the farm up here.

Fields are overgrown. Looks like it's been deserted for a long time. There's vineyards over here, an orchard back up here. Looks like a shot-up van as well over here.

Six other rebels died in the firefight. Two days later, Tsarnaev left the region. The farm owner survived the battle. In his police confession, he never mentioned Tsarnaev.

The farm appears stuck in time from last summer. The clothes are still hanging up here, a camouflage T-shirt, camouflage hat, and on the wall, this mud-and-straw wall, you can see the bullet holes up here, here, pattering it all over.

This official tells me they are trying to prevent such situations, counseling vulnerable young men, trying to build the local economy.

Italians and Israelis, he says, have just visited. Both want to invest

Amid such fertile fields and bucolic charm, easy to imagine a better life. But reality seems never far away.


BLITZER: And Nic Robertson is joining us now from Dagestan.

Nic, excellent piece. Have investigators found out if Plotnikov had any contact with Tamerlan Tsarnaev when he was there for six months last year?

ROBERTSON: Wolf, if they have, they're not making it public at the moment. And for investigative reasons, you can imagine they may not want to do that.

But there have been strong rumors, reports in some media here, that Plotnikov was detained by the Russian security forces when he came to Dagestan in 2010 and, at that time, admitted knowing Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

So there's a possibility of a connection there, but no one is saying -- being able to say here that the two of them actually met each other.

But just what has people very suspicious here is obviously they both share the radical brand of Islam, both boxing. One lived in Canada. One lived in the United States. Many things in common.

But the fact that Tsarnaev fled or left very quickly two days after Plotnikov was killed, that has officials here wondering was there a connection and what the nature of it was, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yeah, he got out of there without even getting his new Russian passport which supposedly was one of the reasons he went back there to begin with. He was clearly trying to get out as quickly as he possibly could.

All right, we'll continue to investigate. Nic Robertson is in Dagestan for us doing an excellent job.

Still ahead, how a British man took a modified golf ball finder and actually convinced governments and militaries they could use it to detect bombs.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: One World Trade Center is about to get a little bit taller. The Port Authority just released this video of workers raising the final sections of the spire to a temporary platform. It will be the tallest building in the Western hemisphere when completed.

Can you imagine a country paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for a bomb detector then finding out it's really just a cheap golf ball finder?

James McCormick going into the courtroom today. He was just sentenced to ten years in custody for making and selling fake bomb detectors.

How could he fool entire nations into believing this device could be used for national security? Our Atika Shubert digs into this story.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The ADE 651 stood for Advanced Detection Equipment and it certainly looked the part, sleek black casing, a swiveling antenna said to detect everything from bombs to $100 bills and a card that indicated what the device had found.

This is the man behind the device, James McCormick, in this video leading a training session on the ADE 651 to police in Niger by a live minefield.

But they don't work. British police say the ADE 651 is really "The Gopher," a novelty golf ball finder with the label removed.

This device independent tests show has no better than a random chance at finding a golf ball much less a bomb.

EDWARD HEATH, DETECTIVE INSPECTOR: And these devices contain absolutely nothing inside. There's no laws of science and physics that these devices could work.

He's a con man. He uses sleight of hand and absurd sales tactics to actually con governments, officials, private individuals out of money to buy these devices.

SCHUBERT: McCormick spent less 18 months as an entry-level policeman in the Liverpool area before becoming a salesman of radio equipment.

But in this training video to potential salesmen in India, he had said, quote, "worked with explosives for British police."

It was the "made in the U.K." label that tipped British police off. They found that McCormick had the components made separately then assembled them here at a cost of less than $60 each.

He sold the devices to government agencies and private companies around the world, in at least one case for as much as $300,000 apiece.

Iraq's law enforcement agencies bought 6,000 of the devices to scan for explosives at checkpoints.

So just how much money did James McCormick make off this scam? An estimated $60 million to $80 million.

And he spent $8 million on this historic home in Bath, England, formerly owned by Hollywood star Nicolas Cage. complete with a pool in the basement.

He also bought a million-dollar yacht and holiday homes in Cyprus and Florida, assets the police are now trying to seize.

HEATH: What we intend to do is ensure that his assets are confiscated and that we get the money back from them so he can't live a life of luxury from this crime.

SHUBERT: McCormick insists the devices do work, but he's been convicted of fraud.

Yet the ADE 651 is still in use in Iraq and other countries, potentially putting lives at risk. Atika Shubert, CNN, Somerset, England.


BLITZER: Amazing story from Atika. Thank you, Atika.

A mother of two badly disfigured in an attack shows her new face to the world just months after transplant surgery.

We'll have her remarkable story. That's coming up next.


BLITZER: The Justice Department is appealing a ruling that would allow young women easier access to emergency contraceptives. This applies only to the Plan B one step pill. A federal judge ruled that the morning after birth control pill should be available over the counter to girls as young as 15. Some women's groups believe the government's appeal is politically motivated. Emergency contraceptives are intended for use 72 hours after unprotected sex.

A truly amazing story of survival and spirit. A woman whose face was destroyed by her ex-husband six years ago now has a new face and a new life. Three months after her surgery, Carmen Tarleton spoke to reporters about her full face transplant.


CARMEN TARLETON, FACE TRANSPLANT RECIPIENT: There is a lot to learn and take from horrific events that happen. I want others to know that they need not give up on healing themselves when tragedy strikes. But instead, they can make a choice to find the good and allow that to help them heal.


BLITZER: Our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen visited Tarleton and her new boyfriend and heard their incredible story.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Carmen Tarleton loved her husband, but when their marriage fell apart, he attacked her, dousing her with industrial strength lye. Her beautiful face, destroyed. Deep burns on over 80 percent of her body. More than 50 surgeries saved her life, but doctors couldn't erase the scars.

COHEN (on camera): You're the head of a major burn unit. Have you ever seen a burn injury like this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never. Never seen anything like this.

COHEN: Then doctors at Brigham Women's Hospital in Boston came up with an idea. How about taking a face from a woman who died and giving it to Carmen? In a 15-hour surgery, doctors replaced Carmen's skin, muscles, tendons and nerves with those from the donor. Now, for the first time, Carmen is revealing her new face three months after her surgery.

COHEN (on camera): How does it feel to go from having this horribly scarred face to having a face without scars?

CARMEN TARLETON, FACE TRANSPLANT RECIPIENT: It's -- well, it's a gift. I'm thrilled. I'm thrilled with what I've got.

COHEN (voice-over): And she doesn't just have a new face. She also has a new man in her life, her piano teacher, Sheldon Stein.

COHEN (on camera): So you walked in for a piano lesson -


COHEN: And you got --

TARLETON: I got the love of my life. How lucky is that?

COHEN (voice-over): Sheldon fell in love with Carmen a few weeks before she got her new face.

COHEN (on camera): What about Sheldon touched your heart?

TARLETON: That he was able to see me through my scars at the time.

COHEN: I'll be honest with you, a lot of men couldn't handle all this.

TARLETON: Oh, I definitely know that.

COHEN: But Sheldon?

TARLETON: Sheldon's different.

COHEN: Sheldon, when you look at Carmen, what do you see?

SHELDON STEIN, CARMEN TARLETON'S BOYFRIEND: I see an incredible woman. I see a woman that loves strength, a lot of inner beauty and outer beauty.

COHEN (voice-over): Right now, Carmen doesn't have much control over her face.

COHEN (on camera): Can you smile? That's great.

TARLETON: Yes, little bit, yes.

COHEN (voice-over): Doctors tell her it will keep getting better and better.

TARLETON: He kisses me. I can't pucker and feel yet, but I am looking forward to that day, because I know that day will come. So I am looking forward to it.


BLITZER: What a story. Elizabeth is joining us now. What an inspiration this woman is, Elizabeth. Can she see? How much can she see?

COHEN: You know, she can see a bit. Wolf, you might have noticed one eye was closed. And that eye is completely blind. But the other eye was taped. A little piece of tape holding it open. And the reason for that is that Carmen can't open her eyelids on her own. Now, doctors hope in the coming months they can remove that tape and she'll be able to work her eyelids on her own.

BLITZER: Has she recovered emotionally from the attack? I guess that's going to be very, very difficult.

COHEN: It has been difficult. But the attack was in 2007. And she says that she really has recovered as much as anyone could recover. She said a key part of recovering from it emotionally was forgiving her ex-husband for dousing her with lye. And I said to Carmen, how can you forgive him for doing something like that? And she said to me, Elizabeth, forgiveness isn't something you do for the other person, forgiveness it's something you do for yourself so you can keep moving forward.

BLITZER: Did he go to jail? What happened to him?

COHEN: He did. He is currently in prison right now and will be for a very long time.

BLITZER: Yes, I assume. All right, thanks very much. What an inspiring story that is.

COHEN: Thanks.

BLITZER: Thanks, Elizabeth Cohen.

Still ahead, a startling revelation from the 17th -- yes, the 17th century. Turns out settlers from Jamestown got so hungry during one bad winter they apparently resorted to cannibalism. Stay with us. We've got the scoop (ph).


BLITZER: Winter weather in spring. Yes, it's May 2nd. And this is what it looks like today in parts of Colorado, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Up to a foot of snow fell in some areas, breaking records. Snow also expected today in parts of Nebraska and Iowa.

A tweet from Seattle police says things have quieted down in that city, but officers are still keeping a close watch on downtown areas to prevent more of this. This violence erupted at yesterday's May Day protest. Police say they had to use pepper spray and flash bang grenades against demonstrators who pelted officers with rocks, bottles, metal pipes and anything else they could get their hands on. Eight officers were slightly injured. Seventeen people were arrested.

And sad news from the music world. That was Chris Kelly during what's believed to be his last performance earlier this year in Atlanta. Kelly, half of the '90s rap group Kriss Kross, was found unresponsive in his home Wednesday, later died at an Atlanta hospital. Kelly, along with Chris Smith, gained stardom back in the '90s with their rap single "Jump." The duo was famous for wearing their clothes backwards. Police say they are investigating Kelly's death as a possible drug overdose. He was only 34 years old.

Coming up in the next hour of the CNN NEWSROOM, a five-year-old boy accidentally kills his younger sister using a rifle he got for his birthday. We're going to have details of this tragic story.