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No Final Resting Place for Tsarnaev; Limousine Fire Kills 5 People; Syrians Vow Retaliation Against Israel; Interview with Danny Danon, Israel's Deputy Defense Minister and a Member of Israel's Parliament; "Can I Separate Sins From Sinners? No"

Aired May 6, 2013 - 08:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: It's Monday, May 6. STARTING POINT begins right now.

There may not be a cemetery in the state of Massachusetts or the United States that is willing to be the final resting place of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The uncle of the suspected Boston bombers wants him buried in Cambridge. He says it was Tamerlan's home. But town officials say no way.

Susan Candiotti is live from Boston this morning. Good morning to you, Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. No cemetery, no burial plot and funeral director wondering what he's supposed to do. The city of Cambridge also weighing in saying it wants no role in burying the body of a suspected bomber.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Send him back to Russia.

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): For days, protesters outside of Woster Funeral Home making it clear suspected bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev is as hated much dead as he would be alive. One side reads, bury the garbage, but not in America. His remains in limbo at a funeral home much to the chagrin of its director.

PETER STEFAN, FUNERAL DIRECTOR FOR TSARNAEV FAMILY: We have to bury this guy. Whoever he is, in this country, we bury people.

CANDIOTTI: So far not a single cemetery will take Tsarnaev's remains. His uncle from Maryland who in the days after the bombing called his two nephews losers spent Sunday at a funeral home to cleanse and shroud the body as required by Islamic faith.

TSARNI: I'm left alone to deal with this matter and I want to stress that Tamerlan Tsarnaev has no other place to be buried.

CANDIOTTI: President Kennedy's assassin Lee Harvey Oswald is buried in the Dallas area. Home grown Oklahoma City terrorist bomber Timothy McVeigh's ashes were scattered after his execution. Where remains a mystery. As for Tsarnaev's widow, according to her in-law, she's steering clear of burial plans. Her attorney says she's still cooperating with the FBI.

On Sunday, FBI investigators wearing protective suits spent hours back at Tsarnaev's home where a law enforcement source says bomb residue had earlier been found on a kitchen sink, table and bathtub.

Surviving bombing suspect Dzhokhar told the FBI the bombs were built in that top floor apartment.

And a few hours from now, one of the younger brother's three jailed friends, American student Robel Phillipos, will ask a federal judge to set him free on bail pending trial. He's accused of lying to investigators about going to Dzhokhar's dorm room. Two other students from Kazakhstan are accused of ditching evidence.


SAMBOLIN: And Phillipos is arguing to the court that these charges have ruined what he calls his once bright future -- Zoraida.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Susan, I want to end on a positive here. Right behind you is a memorial and you actually spent time with one of the victims that got out of the hospital.

Can you talk to us about that experience and what she had to say to you?

CANDIOTTI: It sure was. It was a surprise. Everyone, no one really noticed it actually until we spotted Adrianne Haslet-Davis, she is the one who lost her left foot in the bombing. And she showed up on Saturday. She and her mom were outside for the first time having left the rehab hospital and she came here to the memorial.

She said they just happened upon it and immediately as people started to recognize her, they approached her and hugged her will and wanted to hold her hand and pose for photographs with her. And tell her what an inspiration she is to them. And she said it was a remarkable moment that she will always forget -- will never forget. Excuse me.

SAMBOLIN: No, absolutely. And it's really nice to be able to see that, right? And a little difficult for her getting all of the attention, but she is a superstar to a lot of people and a survivor. Susan Candiotti, live in Boston, thank you very much.

So moments now, we're going to talk with the Worcester funeral director who's in position of Tamerlan Tsarnaev's body and ask about all the problems that he is now facing.

ROMANS: New details emerging this morning about a limousine fire that killed five women who are headed to a bachelorette party over the weekend. One of those victims, the bride-to-be, four other women and the driver got out. It's not known exactly what caused the limo to burst into flames.

CNN's Dan Simon is live in San Mateo, California. Dan, what are you learning this morning about this tragedy?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Christine. You know, a couple of the main questions this morning, how exactly did this fire start. Was this an electrical problem, was there a fuel leak? It seemed to have started in the rear of the vehicle. Perhaps in the trunk area.

The other question is, why couldn't all of the victims escape?

And adding to this tragedy, this limo was literally just minutes away from the hotel where they were going to have this bachelorette party.


SIMON (voice-over): It was supposed to be a night of celebration. A bachelor receipt party near San Francisco where a woman getting married next month in the Philippines. But as they crossed the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge in a stretch limo Saturday night, they noticed smoke.

OFC. AMELIA JACK, CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL: We got calls of smoke coming from limousine. Limousine pulled over and then, all of a sudden, it became engulfed in flames.

SIMON: There were 10 people in the limo, including the driver. He and four women in the party escaped. Five others, including the bride to be, did not. They died in the flames. So badly burned, it's reported that dental records will be needed to make positive IDs.

JACK: The driver was able to get out. Some Good Samaritans did stop and assist and try to pull people from the fire.

SIMON: The mother of one of those who survived distraught but relieved.

ROSITA GUARDIANO, VICTIM'S MOTHER: We did not sleep -- both of us crying and crying. No. Thank God that she survived.

JACK: All of the women were in their 30s or 40s. Most if not all were nurses.

GRACE KANU, CO-WORKER: All of us worked Friday night, so hard that on Sunday morning, we'll (INAUDIBLE) that both of them died. It's so unbelievable.

SIMON: The limousine was operated by a company called LimoStop. In a statement, the company said it was deeply saddened by the deaths and that LimoStop will do everything possible to investigate and assist authorities in will determining the cause of the fire in order to help bring forth answers and provide closure to the victims and their families.


SIMON: We should tell you that the driver was not hurt. He has since spoken out and says that originally he thought the passengers were asking if they could smoke when in reality they were complaining about the smoke. He estimates that it took about 30 seconds to a minute before he was able to pull over.

Now, of the four survivors were able to escape by climbing over the partition which separates the driver from the passengers. They were then able to apparently get out of one of the front doors. The five who died were found right up against the partition. This just tells you how fast that fire spread which even melted the taillights -- Christine.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my gosh.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks so much. Nice to see you and continue to give us new details as you get them. Thanks, Dan.

SAMBOLIN: Five minutes past the hour.

Massive explosions rocking Syria this weekend and the Assad regime is now vowing to take revenge on Israel. The Syrians say Israelis are behind the targeting of a military research facility just outside their capital and they claim Jerusalem and al Qaeda are now allies.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen live from Damascus for us this morning. What you can tell us?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Good morning, Zoraida. You know, this region, of course, is on the edge even in the best of times. But now after this, all of those tensions are just that much higher. But as you said, the Syrians are threatening retaliation as their military licks its wounds.

Have a look.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): It was at around 3:00 a.m. local time that gigantic explosions lit up the skies over Damascus. One deafening blast after another, it went on for more than an hour, rocking a large military area in the suburbs of Syria's capital and prompting terrified nearby residents to run for cover.

The Deeb family lives a little over a mile away. Daughter Anna tells me what happened.

ANNA DEEB, WITNESS: After the first two bombs, we kept hearing explosions. There were like nine of them, because everything kept exploding over and over again. We can hear gunshots, we can hear people screaming. So, basically, we didn't know what to do.

PLEITGEN: In the second alleged Israeli airstrike in three days, the Syrian government says the latest target was a military research facility. The opposition says it was an ammunition depot.

In an exclusive interview with CNN, Syria's deputy foreign minister said Syria would retaliate at its own time and way.

FAISAL AL MEKDAD, SYRIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: This is an alliance, I mean, between al Qaeda, Wahhabism and Israel attacking together Syria. It shows common interests. And what Israel and its allies have tried to hide for a long time is more clear.

PLEITGEN (on camera): Is it a declaration of war?

AL MEKDAD: When they attack, this is a declaration of war.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Israel has neither confirmed nor denied the attack, but as the violent uprising against the regime of Bashar al Assad drags on, Israel has become increasingly worried about Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles and believes the regime is trying to ship conventional weapons to Hezbollah, an extremist group that the United States and other countries have declared a terrorist organization.

AL MEKDAD: Until now, the information is not very clear on what happened. Did they fire a missiles or planes? It's not clear for me because me I'm not aware how it happened. But, of course, it's worrying but Israel will suffer the same.


PLEITGEN: And you know the big question is how much --

SAMBOLIN: Fred Pleitgen reporting live for us.

ROMANS: All right. Let's talk more about this with Danny Danon. He's Israel's deputy defense minister and a member of Israel's parliament.

Good morning and thank you for joining us. You can confirm to us that Israel has carried out the air strikes including firing rockets at the research center near Damascus?

DANNY DANON, DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER: Good morning, Christine. We cannot confirm neither deny any activities in Syria, but we have concerned about the involvement of Iran in the Middle East. We see it in Syria, Lebanon with Hezbollah, and also in the south with Hamas and activities of Iran in our region.

ROMANS: Can you tell me why you're not confirming or denying? I mean, it's widely reported that this is an Israeli action in Syria. Can you just tell me why you're not going to claim it?

DANON: That's a clearer fact. We're not confirming or denying any activities regarding the issues you just brought up, but we are following up what's happening. And, yes, we see what's happening today in Syria, in the civil war in Syria, and we are worried about the outcomes, about the fact that there are weapons of mass destruction will be in the hands of Hezbollah, will be in the hands of terrorists. We are worried about it and we are following it very carefully.

ROMANS: So you're worried about rockets in particular, rockets in Syria that you think are going to be shuttled to Lebanon, shuttled to Hezbollah. Is that what the concern here?

DANON: Any game-changing weaponry that will be in the hands of Hezbollah will be a problem for Israel, will be a problem for the region, and I'm saying it very clearly, we'll do whatever is necessary to ensure the security of the people in Israel. And we will not the allow Hezbollah to obtain the weapons that Syria or other nations that contain today in the region.

ROMANS: "Reuters" reporting that Prime Minister Netanyahu met with his security cabinet Thursday night, a group of ministers who help make diplomatic and defense decisions. They usually meet before action like this.

Was that meeting related to these strikes and are they ongoing in monitoring the situation?

DANON: The meeting taking place once a week or twice a week and there's nothing extraordinary to the activities here in Israel today. But we are following what's happening in Lebanon and Syria very carefully.

ROMANS: I mean, you heard the Syrian deputy foreign minister, Faisal Al Mekdad, assuming you just heard that report from Fred Pleitgen, he called the strikes a declaration of war on Syria. He says Syria will retaliate. Syria will make it painful for Israel.

What's your response?

DANON: Well, in the region that we are living, you know, we are used to hear such declarations almost every week. We just need to listen to what the people in Iran, the leadership, are saying, in Syria, the Hezbollah. So we are not worried about the declarations. We have the capability to defend ourselves and I think also our neighbors know that.

ROMANS: Are you worried it could lead to a larger escalation or more regional conflict?

DANON: We have no intention, I think we see that Israeli is a peace- seeking nation and we want to live peacefully. But the region that we live is a problematic and we see what's happening today in Hezbollah, in Lebanon, and we cannot ignore the reality today.

ROMANS: All right. Israel's deputy defense minister, Danny Danon, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

DANON: Thank you very much. Good morning.

ROMANS: Tensions with Syria will be at the top of the agenda when Secretary of State John Kerry visits Russia tonight. Kerry Calls his trip to Moscow long overdue. And despite chilly relations with the Russians, Kerry will be looking for help to rein in the Assad regime.

The secretary of state will also be focusing on arms control and economic ties between those two superpowers, laying groundwork for a summer meeting between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

SAMBOLIN: Twelve minutes past the hour. New this morning, some shocking images to show you. It's a vintage plane that's going down during an air show in Madrid. Thousands of people were watching in horror.

Let's show you the images. The plane crashed into a building. Take a minute here. Look at this. It exploded into a fireball.

The pilot was killed. Several people on the ground were injured. The victim was an experienced pilot. He worked as an assistant to Spain's defense minister. The cause of that crash is now under investigation.

ROMANS: The U.S. is demanding that an American citizen sentenced to 15 years at a North Korean labor camp be released. But so far, North Korea hasn't budged. And state-run media there says Kenneth Bae's case is not a political bargaining chip. They say he confessed to various crimes aimed at state subversion.

SAMBOLIN: And ahead on STARTING POINT, the family of one of the Boston bombing suspects trying to bury his body, but one community is not having it. The funeral director in possession of Tamerlan Tsarnaev's body is joining us next with the protest and the problems that he is facing.

ROMANS: And then reports of shots fired near Jennifer Lopez's film set. Details on that in a moment.

You're watching STARTING POINT.


SAMBOLIN: Eighteen days after his death, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the alleged Boston bombers has yet to be buried. The funeral director who accepted his body is running out of options, turned down by every cemetery that he has approached.

So, let's bring in Peter Stefan, owner of the Grand Putnam and Mahoney Funeral Parlor, that is, in Worcester, Massachusetts. He's a nearby (INAUDIBLE). Thank you, sir, for joining us this morning. We've been watching video where there are protesters actually gathered outside of your funeral home. How are you holding up to all of the pressure and the stress?

PETER STEFAN, FUNERAL DIRECTOR IN POSSESSION TAMERLAN TSARNAEV'S BODY: Well, the protesters are there which have been very, very good, haven't caused any real problems. The city of Worcester officials, especially the police department, have been outstanding what they've done for us.

And, we've got a lot of support. Initially, we were criticized, but we're getting support from all over the world as far as Saudi Arabia thanking us for what we're doing.

SAMBOLIN: And sir, how do you feel about all of the criticism that you're getting?

STEFAN: Well, I think a lot of the people don't understand. And, it's an emotional problem, obviously. But after it settles down and people think about it, they do know that we have to bury somebody. That's what this country does.

SAMBOLIN: You say, we've spoken to you earlier and you say we take an oath to do this. Can I pick and choose? No. Can I separate the sins from the sinners? No. We are burying a dead body. That is what we do. So, are you surprised then that the cemeteries are refusing to take his body?

STEFAN: Not at all. I think they fear reprisals from people that have loved ones buried there. People may potentially buy lots there. And I don't think that really works out because what happens here is that there could be an after the fact. People could say why didn't do you it when things calm down.

It's like when I talked to two families that are fighting. If I settle that dispute when the families get back together again, guess who the bad guy is? Me.

SAMBOLIN: Now, the boy's uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, he performed the Muslim burial rights on Tamerlan's body on Sunday. I'm assuming that you had an opportunity to speak with him. Is there another option here for him with this body?

STEFAN: Well, we've thought about some, preferably, a Muslim cemetery maybe out of the state. But I feel the same problem exists when the neighbors and the people find out what we're doing. It has to be accepted. A muslim cemetery would be much more acceptable for the people there.

Most of the cemeteries we have here are non-sectarian with a section set aside for Muslims. The only true Muslim cemetery is in Connecticut.

SAMBOLIN: And I understand that, perhaps, there could be some federal involvement here. What do you think will happen? I believe that also the governor has been contacted. What are you hoping that the outcome is here?

STEFAN: Well, at this point, any outcome would be better than nothing. We do have to bury the person. (INAUDIBLE) what we did, as I said earlier. This country, we bury the dead. Funeral directors have done this for years. They continue to do it. And there aren't too many options. When there's no problem, it's very easy with the cemetery.

But this is a big problem. But somebody has to step in and say, look, we're going to have to do something here. And we have to. I've gone as far as I can go with this.

SAMBOLIN: And one last question for you, sir. The boy's uncle, how is he handling all of this? We saw a little bit of it on camera. In your opinion, how he is handling this?

STEFAN: The gentleman is very sad. It's a nice family. He just is totally sad mostly all the time. Sometimes to tears. He just doesn't understand why this was done.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Peter Stefano, owner of the Grand Putnam and Mahoney Funeral Parlor in Worcester. Thank you so much for joining us this morning. Good luck to you, sir.

STEFAN: Thank you for inviting me.

ROMANS: All right. Ahead on STARTING POINT, shots fired near a Jennifer Lopez film shoot. Was the actress ever in danger? We're going to give you the rundown on that. That's what's trending next.


SAMBOLIN: Let's take a look at some of the stories trending on the web. This morning, scary moments near where Jennifer Lopez was filming a music video with the rapper, Pit Bull. Ft. Lauderdale police say they got a call last night about shots fired near the park where the filming was actually taking place. They say they didn't find any evidence of a shooting. Officials said J. Lo was safe inside her vehicle at the time.

ROMANS: Also trending online this morning, Honey Boo-Boo's mom and dad now married. June Shannon and Mike Thomson better known as Mama June and Sugar Bear, they tied the knot over the weekend in their Georgia hometown. Guests were told to show up in full red neck attire, Zoraida. They were not supposed to bring cell phones or camera.

I wonder if they got some big multimillion-dollar, you know, like, you know, magazine spread or something coming. Mike and June met nine years ago in an online chat room.

SAMBOLIN: Can you say their names?

ROMANS: I don't really know --

SAMBOLIN: Sugar bear.

ROMANS: Mama June and Sugar Bear. As you can see, I'm not a fan of --


ROMANS: I haven't really watched. I'm trying to sell it.

SAMBOLIN: But you say it with a great accent.


SAMBOLIN: I love it. All right. The whole pack is back. The "Hangover" crew made a special "Saturday Night Live" appearance with Zach Galifianakis hosting during a Jennifer Aniston look-a-like sketch. Take a look at this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, and we actually have co-champions. It's Bradley Cooper and Ted Pounds (ph)


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This hasn't been my day, my week, my month, or even my year.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll be there for you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I'll be there for you, too, because in the immortal words of the friends theme song --



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not the friends theme, guys.




SAMBOLIN: So, our producer said Bradley Cooper looks great in a skirt.


SAMBOLIN: The "Hangover 3," by the way, arrives in theaters May 24th.

ROMANS: All right. Ahead on STARTING POINT, Orb gets the win at the Kentucky Derby.

SAMBOLIN: Clappy (ph) orb.

ROMANS: Oh I know. Could he take the Triple Crown? Trainer, Shug McGaughey, joins us live to talk about this first victory.

SAMBOLIN: And could a cure for gray hair be on the way? And you may not need dye or surgery. We have details in a moment.

ROMANS: Oh, and then a soccer ref dies after he punched by a player. His daughter joins us next with the heartbreaking story. You're watching STARTING POINT.