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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Investigations Continue into Background of Boston Marathon Bombing Suspects; Wildfires Threaten Parts of California

Aired May 3, 2013 - 07:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christine Romans. Our STARTING POINT this morning, disturbing new developments in the Boston bombing investigation. CNN learning it was another holiday the suspects planned to target. We're live in Boston.

BERMAN: Then, wildfires burning across Southern California. Hundreds forced from their homes, 8,000 acres burned, and it may only get worse. We will have a live report.

ROMANS: Plus, this is one unexpected and unwelcome passenger. How did a bear get inside this man's truck? Locked the doors.

Friday, May 3rd, STARTING POINT begins right now.

BERMAN: We begin with major new developments this morning in the Boston marathon terror investigation. CNN has learned that the bombs allegedly detonated by the Tsarnaev Brothers were built in Tamerlan Tsarnaev's apartment. Also, the Boston marathon allegedly not their original target. They had a bigger one in mind.

Also, Tamerlan Tsarnaev's body finally claimed by his family. His parents are demanding an independent autopsy, and there is controversy about where the body should be buried, so let's go straight away right now to CNN's Jason Carroll who is live in Cambridge, Massachusetts with the latest. Good morning, Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And good morning to you, John. And we are live outside of Tsarnaev's apartment. And what we're learning, as you are learning, is not only disturbing, it's also insightful. The original plan was not to detonate these bombs on Patriots Day. The original plan was to detonate the bombs on Independence Day.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: A U.S. law enforcement official tells CNN the Tsarnaev brothers initially considered a suicide attack during the fourth of July celebration, when Boston's Charles River esplanade is typically packed with spectators for an open-air concert and fireworks. All of this according to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev who told investigators they moved up the date to the Boston marathon because the bombs were ready sooner than expected, bombs Tsarnaev says, built in the very home his older brother Tamerlan shared with his wife and child. Late Thursday, a van believed to be carrying Tamerlan's body transferred it to a funeral home outside Boston. All this as investigators continue to focus on his widow, Katherine Russell. Yet it is unclear what, if anything, Russell may have known or suspected. Russell's attorney says she continues to cooperate with authorities.

And authorities also have more questions for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's three friends from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, now facing charges of obstructing justice, and lying to authorities, one of whom led authorities to Tsarnaev's laptop, which could provide more clues. And as the investigation continues, so, too, does the recovery for victims. Like Mark Fucarile (ph), who lost a leg in the bombing, the other leg shattered, his arms riddled with shrapnel.

MARC FUCARILE, BOSTON BOMBING VICTIM: I was scared because it was dark. I thought I was dead. I thought it was over.

CARROLL: Fucarile says he draws strength every day from a photo of his five-year-old son.

FUCARILE: It stuck me with another needle or they cut me or they did something, when everything changed, I look at that picture. That's what got me through it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: And John, since the bombs were ready early, the bombs they had made here at their apartment, they just decided to move up the date of the attack. But regardless, whatever the decision was made, to move up the attack, on whatever holiday, it was still very much a deadly attack.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It was a deadly, awful attack on the Boston Marathon. The Fourth of July on the esplanade there for the Boston pops concert, about 100,000 people, maybe more, packed in very tight quarters there, that could have been deadly, perhaps even worse.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: We're following developments in southern California where a wildfire burning out of control. That fire in Ventura County is being fueled by heat, dry conditions, high winds, 8,000 acres have already burned, these flames threatening some 2,000 homes, forcing people in Camarillo and nearby communities to evacuate. CNN's Stephanie Elam is live in Ventura County for us. Stephanie, what's the situation there?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well right now, things have been pretty calm. The winds got calm, Christine. And earlier overnight we've been out here for a few hours the entire hillside behind me was engulfed in flames. Just right now we're going to pan up to show you there are some flames that are just cresting on the hillside right above us. This is interesting because previously these flames were heading south. The winds changed and now they're heading north.

But with seven fires burning throughout California over the last couple of days, this is definitely putting a tax on resources.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELAM: High winds, soaring temperatures and dry brush are giving California fire season an early start. Wildfires across the state are churning toward home, keeping hundreds of firefighters busy, and residents on edge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stay until I know that my house is still here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As long as our family and our dogs are safe we can get through this.

ELAM: Fire sprouted up in four southern California counties over the last couple of days. Two of the fires were contained quickly.

JULIE HUTCHISON, BATTALION CHIEF, CALFIRE: So we staffed up several weeks ago. We brought on air tankers, hired seasonal firefighters. What it bodes for us is what the rest of the year is going to be look and are we going to wear people out. That's the bigger question.

ELAM: But as firefighters were getting a handle on the summit fire burning about 25 miles west of Palm Springs a blaze in Ventura County began to spread quickly, on 25-mile-per-hour winds. Erupting between the 101 freeway and the Pacific Ocean north of Malibu, the so-called spring fire charred about 6,500 acres in just five hours.

HUTCHISON: Now we're getting those hot, long days, winds, and the low humidity, and this stuff is just ripe and ready to burn.

ELAM: It's the number of active fires, including three burning in northern California, that's making this outbreak unusual.

HUTCHISON: We don't see this type of activity usually until August, September.

ELAM: In the wake of the summit fire, one man is dealing with immeasurable loss. His mother, who bought this home in 1973, passed away just one month ago.

JOE KLEINER: Thank god I wasn't in the house when it happened. Thank god I was able to get my dog out. And my mom was watching over me. And so are the neighbors that are around.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ELAM: Now, unfortunately that man was the only one who lost his home in the fire down there, the summit fire. Which is obviously good news on one level, because now they can say that they have the fire 55 percent contained. It burned about 3,000 acres.

Here in Ventura County, where I am, some 140 miles away, as you can see from the flames that we showed you, the fire continues to burn strong. They say it's only about 10 percent contained. We're going to keep our eyes on this flame to see if it marches down towards us. We are standing off the side of the pacific coast highway. The flames have already jumped over the highway and just burned out into the Pacific Ocean here to my left. We're going to see if that continues to happen here. Christine and John, back to you.

ROMANS: Stephanie Elam for us in California.

BERMAN: We talked to Stephanie a little earlier and there were flames literally right behind her there.

We want to bring right now in "Los Angeles Times" staff writer Catherine Saillant, who has not only been covering this story, she's part of it. Her home is in Newberry Park that was evacuated yesterday. She took these photographs as she was covering the story just moments after she and her daughter finished packing their own personal belongings. She joins us right now from our Los Angeles bureau. Thank you so much for being with us. First, I should ask you, we have some pictures of your house that you sent us. How's everything right now?

CATHERINE SAILLANT, STAFF WRITER, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Everything is OK. The winds died down late last night. And the fire moved more to the west toward the ocean. And luckily the winds have not picked up again, so we're keeping our fingers crossed for today, although it's supposed to be in the 90s again today with some gusty winds.

ROMANS: You weren't home when news of the fire broke, so where were you? And what was your reaction? It must be interesting to be a reporter, and also be part of the story.

SAILLANT: That's so true. This is one of those days when my real life and my work life collided. I was in downtown Los Angeles getting to do -- starting a regular day of work when I saw on the TV screen that my home was in the evacuation zone for this fire. So I jumped into my car and raced home, which took about an hour, and during that time my daughter was calling me panicked, saying, mom, this fire is getting close, when are you going to be here?

We have three cats at home. She put them all in carriers, and by the time I turned up my drive, all of my neighbors were packing their bags, getting ready to go. So, I gave my daughter a hug, went over, and started packing up our own photographs and important documents. And got Taylor to calm down, gave her a hug.

And then when everything was stabilized I knew what I needed to do next, which was to go start reporting. This was my community in danger. And I knew how to tell the story.

BERMAN: It sounds like your daughter is pretty on the ball, too, good for her to get everything ready for you there. What are fire officials telling you about how things might go today and when you might be able to get back in your home?

SAILLANT: The evacuation orders were lifted late last night. So we're able to get back into our homes. A lot of people didn't evacuate anyway. So that's not a problem today. But, we are going to have, again, tinder-dry conditions and hot conditions. That's never good in terms of fire. And even after fire passes over a certain area, there are hot spots that can flare up again. And that's certainly what I'll be looking for today around my neighborhood, because the hillsides are all blackened. It looks like a moonscape today. And also monitoring developments for my paper.

BERMAN: We are looking at just amazing pictures. Catherine Saillant, our thanks to you. Our best to you, your daughter and all your neighbors as well.

SAILLANT: Thanks so much.

ROMANS: New question now, what will the weather today bring? Those hot, dry, gusting winds are fueling these fast-moving wildfires, threatening so many homes out there in California. Let's bring in Jennifer Delgado live in the CNN weather center. What can firefighters expect out there today?

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We're really going to start to see those winds picking up as we go to about 5:00, 6:00 hour in the morning, and we're going to see some wind gusts up to 40 miles per hour. Anywhere you're seeing in the pink shading that is the area under the red flag warning. That includes parts of, of course, southern California.

But as we go through the morning, again you can kind of see how those winds are going to pick up. For Santa Clarita, look at that, 26, 27 by 8:00 a.m. As we go late in the morning into the early afternoon, those winds will eventually start to subside but the red flag warnings will be in place as we go until 5:00.

Keep in mind it's going to be hot out there. We are checking high temperatures in the 90s. And relative humidity values down to about two. So that is just really pretty just incredible.

Looking at the rain, down throughout parts of Florida, flooding there, and the rain has been coming down. Look for video coming out of Fort Lauderdale from yesterday. Keep in mind you're seeing people driving through flooded streets, a very dangerous situation, and people were getting around in little canoes. But the problem is more rain is on the way. You see it on the radar.

As we go through the next couple of days. Maybe if you're going to Florida this weekend, it's a bad weekend to go. Look at those totals for Daytona Beach, Jacksonville - 10 or more inches of rainfall. This is going to lead to extreme flooding across the area. We're also looking at flooding setting up for parts of the Midwest where they are still trying to recover from the flooding from last week where rivers right along Mississippi river, levels are still at moderate to major flood stage.

ROMANS: All right, Jennifer Delgado, thank you so much. I'm trying to see if I see my hometown where it was so dry last year and this year.

New this morning, emergency crews in Louisiana working frantically to keep a second oil storage tank from exploding. A nearby tank has already erupted into flames. This is in Denim Springs about 13 miles east of Baton Rouge. Some 30 homes in the area have been evacuated. No word yet on what caused that explosion. BERMAN: New developments in the North Korea standoff. A report from the Pentagon says North Korea will eventually have a long-range ballistic missile that can deliver nuclear weapons to the United States. The annual report to lawmakers cites the North's advances in ballistic missile systems as well as development in nuclear technology. It calls North Korea one of the biggest threats to the U.S. because of its willingness to undertake provocative behavior.

ROMANS: The sister of a U.S. citizen who's been sentenced to 15 years hard labor in a North Korean labor camp is defending her brother. North Korea's state news agency says Kenneth Bae is guilty of hostile acts against the Pyongyang regime. His sister Terri Chung says her brother shouldn't be used as a political pawn.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TERRI CHUNG, SISTER OF KENNETH BAE: We just prayed and asked for leaders of both nations to please just see him as one man caught in between, and I just ask that he be allowed to come home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Chung says her brother owns a travel agency. He was in North Korea on business. She claims he visited North Korea five times without incident last year before he was arrested in November.

BERMAN: We're learning more about a man who opened fire near a ticket counter at Houston's Bush intercontinental airport. He's been identified as 29-year-old Carnell Moore. Officials say he fired shots into the air yesterday sending everyone ducking for cover before a federal agent confronted him. The agent then reportedly shot Moore at the very same time the suspect was shooting himself in the head.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was two shots about six or seven second delay, and two more and then the final one, a bunch of screaming, people running.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A TSA agent told us we should get down and we made our way to the back and exited the elevator down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Moore left behind a suicide note indicating he was struggling with, quote, "a monster inside."

ROMANS: For the very first time there's a woman on the FBI's most wanted terrorist list -- 65-year-old Joann Chesimard, also known as Assata Shakur, was convicted in the 1973 murder of a New Jersey state trooper. She escaped from prison in 1979 and has been living under political asylum in Cuba where the FBI says she has been receiving VIP treatment. In our next hour we'll bring you a live update from CNN's Patrick Oppmann in Havana.

BERMAN: Wall Street will be watching very closely, so will Christine when the April jobs report is released in just over an hour. Economists surveyed by CNN money predict that 140,000 jobs were added in April. They're forecasting the unemployment rate will hold steady at 7.6 percent. The Labor Department releases their report at 8:30 eastern time, and, as I said, Christine Romans champing at the bit to break it all down and tell you what it all means. We will bring that to you as it breaks at 8:30.

ROMANS: Nothing is more exciting on a Friday than a bunch of papers from the labor department. I can't wait to parse them for you.

Evan Nielsen's pickup truck has seen better days. This is what a California man found behind his wheel, a bear. He broke out his cellphone to report the whole thing. He says he felt safe since the bear somehow got locked inside with the windows rolled up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EVAN NEILSEN, CAR OWNER: At one point he had both hands up on the steering wheel was honking the horn with his snout. And it was pretty amusing for a while.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: "Amusing for a while." He eventually called police. An officer opened the truck door and the bear raced back into the woods.

BERMAN: A bear with road rage. Can you see the steering wheel? It's all mauled.

ROMANS: He's just looking for some chicken nuggets between the seats.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, President Obama heading to Costa Rica today with what leaders there hope the U.S. will do about drug trafficking. That's next.

BERMAN: And he's lost 100 pounds and kept it off. What can he do about Tim Tebow? Head coach Rex Ryan from the Jets. He's here live with how he did it. And we'll ask him the burning questions about the Tebow era, as well. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: President Obama is on the road this morning. He begins his day in Mexico City where he'll meet with college students as well as Mexican entrepreneurs.

ROMANS: Then it's off to Costa Rica for a meeting with central American leaders. CNN's Brianna Keilar is with the president in Mexico City. Good morning, Brianna

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John and Christine. After landing in Mexico City yesterday, President Obama met with the new President of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto, who took office in December. This was their second meeting. In a joint news conference, the two men emphasized economic ties between the U.S. and Mexico. They also promised cooperation on fighting drug-related violence. Even as Pena Nieto has made clear that he wants to usher in a new era of U.S. officials being more restricted in how they operate within Mexico. Of course the debate in the U.S. of overhauling the immigration system is of so much importance to Mexicans, also very important domestically to Americans and President Obama talked about that saying there's an economic imperative to tackling reform.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's important for everybody to remember that our shared border is more secure than it's been in years. Illegal immigration attempts into the United States are near their lowest level in decades, and legal immigration continues to make both of our countries stronger and more prosperous, and more competitive. And this in part reflects the economic progress and greater opportunities here in Mexico. I think this progress should help inform the debate in the United States, and I'm optimistic that we're finally going to get comprehensive immigration reform passed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: President Obama will deliver a speech this morning here in Mexico City. He'll also meet with Mexican entrepreneurs and then it's to his second and final stop on this mini-tour that he's doing of Latin America. He'll be going to San Jose, Costa Rica. He'll be joining a summit of heads of state from central American nations as well as the Dominican Republic. A top concern for those leaders, American assistance in their fight against drug trafficking and organized crime in a region that has become a narco corridor for drugs heading to the U.S.

John and Christine?

ROMANS: All right, Brianna Keilar, thanks so much. We look forward to more reports as the president's trip conditions.

BERMAN: Ahead on STARTING POIN the March jobs report was pretty bleak. So what will April bring? we're about to find out in a little more than one hour. We're going to give you a preview. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, I'm Christine Romans, minding your business. just about an hour away the biggest economic report of all and it affects your money because it affects your job. The April jobs report, 140,000 jobs were likely created. That's what economists tell CNNMoney, 7.6 percent unemployment. That's unchanged But with manufacturing slowing and forced spending cuts in effect others are expecting it to be worse. Stock futures holding steady in anticipation.

All right. Your money and your house. The 15-year mortgage rate record low 2.56 percent. The 30-year rate, pretty close to a record low, as well. Even if you're not refinancing or buying this affects you because low rates bring in new buyers, boost home value, and that can help people who are under water on their mortgage.

House flipping is back. I'm not kidding. House flipping. Realty Track says these are the best places to flip a house. Number one, Orlando where the average profit is 68 percent. In real dollars, Realty Track says that's about $65,000 profit. Also on this list, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tampa. You see the common denominator? These are states and cities that top the list of foreclosure during the housing crisis. That has created a buying opportunity for investors. A lot of cash purchases there.

I'll tell you another interesting story this week. The so-called pocket listings are back in some of the very hot markets. Pocket listings -- that means they don't list the house to everyone. They list it to the people who got cash or a lot of money just ready to buy. Another sign that in some markets, not everywhere, but in some markets real estate is hot again.

BERMAN: Good news.

ROMANS: Good news, if you've got a bunch of cash in your pocket. Twenty-five minutes after the hour right now. Ahead on STARTING POINT, the prosecution called her a cold-blooded killer. Today the defense begins its closing arguments to try and save Jodi Arias' life. What we can expect, next.

ROMANS: Then after the Boston bombings, security is increased around the country. We're live at the Kentucky Derby with its plans to keep visitors safe.

BERMAN: And you are going to want to see this. Brand-new dash cam video showing the moment that Reese Witherspoon was arrested. What she said, and did. And forced a police officer, how she did, to put her into handcuffs. This is ugly. You're watching STARTING POINT.

ROMANS: Do you know my name, Berman? Do you know who I am?

(LAUGHTER)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT everyone, I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. By the end of the day, jurors in the Jodi Arias murder trial will finally be ready to deliberate. First, the defense delivers its closing argument. Arias lawyers claim that she killed boyfriend Travis Alexander in self-defense. Prosecutors in their closing yesterday painted a very different picture of this defendant. CNN's Ted Rowlands will be in the courtroom today. He's live in Phoenix. Good morning, Ted.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. The prosecutor in this case, Juan Martinez, took nearly four hours for his closing argument. He depicted Jodi Arias as a compulsive liar who carefully planned the murder of her ex-boyfriend.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JUAN MARTINEZ, PROSECUTOR, JODI ARIAS MURDER TRIAL: Absolutely without a shadow of a doubt, she's a liar.

ROWLANDS: Jodi Arias broke down listening to prosecutor Juan Martinez methodically lay out his closing argument that she is a cold-blooded killer who premeditated the murder of her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander.