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A Daring Escape From Captivity; Hot Congressional Contest In South Carolina Today

Aired May 7, 2013 - 13:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A daring escape after a neighbor hears screaming from a house. Now three women are finally free after more than nine years. Their families call it a miracle.

Plus -- new threats of military action from North Korea as President Obama hosts the South Korean president at the White House. We'll bring you the live news conference this hour.

And the New Jersey governor Chris Christie secretly undergoes lap band surgery to lose weight. He says it's for his family. But what about a possible run for president in 2016?

This is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We want to welcome our viewers.

Let's start right now with that remarkable rescue in Cleveland, Ohio. Three young women are free today after being held captive for about ten years in a neighborhood home. Three middle-aged men, brothers, not related to the victims, they are now under arrest. Police say the real hero here is Amanda. Talking about Amanda Berry whose frantic call to 911 led officers to them last night. Once she managed to escape, Amanda Berry made that call from a neighbor's house across the street. You can hear the fear, emotion in her voice as she explains to the dispatcher she's been missing for ten years.


911 DISPATCHER: 911. What's your emergency?


911 DISPATCHER: Do you need police, fire or ambulance?

BERRY: I need police.

911 DISPATCHER: Okay, and what's going on there?

BERRY: I've been kidnapped, and I've been missing for ten years, and I'm here. I'm free now.

911 DISPATCHER: Okay, and what's your address?

BERRY: 2207 Seymour Avenue.

911 DISPATCHER: 2207 Seymour. It looks like you're calling me from 2210.


911 DISPATCHER: Looks like you're calling me from 2210.

BERRY: I can't hear you.

911 DISPATCHER: Looks like you're calling me from 2210 Seymour.

BERRY: I'm across the street. I'm using the phone.

911 DISPATCHER: Okay, stay there with those neighbors and talk to police when they get there.

BERRY: Okay.

911 DISPATCHER: Thank you. Okay. Talk to the police when they get there.

BERRY: Okay. Hello?

911 DISPATCHER: Okay, talk to the police when they get there.

BERRY: Okay. Are they on their way right now?

911 DISPATCHER: We're going to send them as soon as we get a car open.

BERRY: No, I need them now before he gets back.

911 DISPATCHER: All right. We're sending them, okay?

BERRY: Okay, I mean like --

911 DISPATCHER: Who's the guy you're trying -- who is the guy who went out?

BERRY: His name is Ariel Castro.

911 DISPATCHER: All right, how old is he?

BERRY: He's like 52. And I'm Amanda Berry. I've been on the news for the last ten years.

911 DISPATCHER: Okay, I got that, dear. And you say what was his name again?

BERRY: Ariel Castro.

911 DISPATCHER: And is he white, black or Hispanic?

BERRY: He's Hispanic.

911 DISPATCHER: What's he wearing?

BERRY: I don't know 'cause he's not here right now. That's why I ran away.

911 DISPATCHER: When he left, what was he wearing?

BERRY: Who knows?

911 DISPATCHER: The police are on the way. Talk to them when they get there.

BERRY: I need -- okay.

911 DISPATCHER: I told you they're on the way. Talk to them when they get there.

BERRY: All right, okay. Bye.


BLITZER: Wow. Police say the top priority is the well-being of the three women now back with their families. Investigators questioned them briefly last night, and FBI experts plan to talk with them more in-depth today.

In a news conference this morning, authorities on the scene said they never stopped following leads in the missing persons cases over these many years. They described the emotion of finding the three women alive.


CHIEF MICHAEL MCGRATH, CLEVELAND POLICE: There's a law enforcement person, and I know everybody within the division of police and all of my law enforcement partners feel the same, I was overseeing the disappearance of (INAUDIBLE) Johnson back in the low 2000s. She was a 12-year-old female that disappeared, and three weeks later we found her body tragically. So, to find the three girls recovered well, it makes the police department, it just gives us a boost.

STEVE ANTHONY, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Family members in law enforcement kept the faith one day they might see their daughters, their sisters, their nieces again. Monday evening, that happened. The FBI and the crime task force, as the chief and mayor mentioned, particularly men and women of the Cleveland Police Department, have pursued every tip and have stood with the families each step of the way.

And the families of these three young ladies never gave up hope. Neither did law enforcement. As you can imagine, words can't describe the emotions being felt by all. Yes, law enforcement professionals do cry.


BLITZER: The community clearly overwhelmed today, overjoyed that these young women have been found. Horrified that such a thing could happen in their own neighborhood. Martin Savidge is covering this story. He's in Cleveland for us. Martin, what's the latest, first of all, on the three men under arrest?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, let's talk about the investigation, because it gets all tied together. And beginning with the house behind us. And right now there is said to be a special team from the FBI, forensic prospectors, if you will, going through. And they say they've got at least a decade worth of evidence that has to be analyzed, has to be collected, and has to be put in some kind of perspective as to exactly what happened.

We're also being told, in addition to that, that there are dogs that are going to be brought into the nearby neighborhood to search vacant lots, to search around the home. They won't say exactly why but you can anticipate they're cadaver dogs for reasons that authorities just don't want to get into.

And then the three suspects. We know they're all related. They're three brothers: Ariel Castro, 52 his brother Pedro, 54, his other brother, Onil, 50. Now, we know Ariel is the one whose name is listed to the house to which the women were kept. Beyond that authorities aren't going into how all of the men are connected to this, and are they all equally to blame in this? Authorities aren't saying. What they are saying the investigation's huge and only growing larger. And that they really are just starting to get their arms around it. Wolf?

BLITZER: How are the people in the community there in Cleveland -- I know you're from Cleveland, Martin -- how are they feeling about all of this today because what an amazing development.

SAVIDGE: Yes, it is. I mean, I think people are still in a state of disbelief. You have to understand the missing two girls, especially the two youngest ones, those were stories that people in the community had followed. This is a story that people here - you know, they went out searches in the community. They joined the police as they canvassed door to door. For years, these girls were part of their mindset.

But then it began to fade away. Now they're found. I mean, that's the euphoria, and there's a lot of that here. But after that subsides, then the question, how is it possible? Why were those girls selected and taken? How could they be taken? And above all, how is it possible they were kept on this street for 10 years without somebody knowing something? And those are really troubling questions for law enforcement and for the neighborhood at large.

BLITZER: Great questions to ask. And there's no answers yet. Presumably, hopefullu, we'll get questions soon. Martin Savidge in Cleveland, thank you.

The incredible story took a dramatic turn when a neighbor responded to a call for help. Charles Ramley -- Ramsey is being called a hero. Ramsey said he had no idea three women were being held against their will right in his own neighborhood. He told our affiliate WEWS he was just going about his business.


CHARLES RAMSEY, NEIGHBOR WHO HELPED WOMEN ESCAPE: Heard screaming, I am eating my McDonald's, I come outside, I see this girl going nuts trying to get out of a house. So, I go on the porch. I go on the porch, and she says, help me get out. I've been here a long time.

So you know I figured it's a domestic violence dispute. So I opened the door, and we can't get in that way how the door is, it's so much that a body can't fit through it, only your hand. So we kick the bottom. She comes out with the little girl and says, "Call 911, my name is Amanda Berry."

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you know who that was when she said that?

RAMSEY: When she told me, it didn't register until I got the call for 911. I'm calling 911 for Amanda Berry, I thought this girl was dead, you know what I mean? And she got on the phone and said, yes, this is me. And the detective - Cook -- right here, Detective Gregory Cook, Charles you know who you rescued? The girl Amanda told the police I ain't the only one, it's some more girls up in that house. So they going up there, you know, 30, 40 deep. And when they came out, just astonishing. I thought they would come up with nothing. Because we seen this dude every day. I mean every day.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How long have you lived here?

RAMSEY: I've been here a year. You see where I'm coming from? I barbecued with this dude. We eat ribs and whatnot, listen to salsa music, see where I'm coming from?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And you had no indication that there's anything -

RAMSEY: Bro, not a clue that that girl was in that house. Or anybody else was in there against their will because how he is, is -- he comes out to his backyard, plays with dogs, kicking it with the cars and motorcycles and goes back into the house. You look, you look away, he's not doing nothing but average stuff. You see what I'm saying? Nothing exciting about him. Well, until today.


BLITZER: Charles Ramsey. He certainly is a hero for what he did.

Here what we're working on also this hour. Their families never gave up hope. Now three women are free. They're not alone. We'll take a closer look at other missing children who were found alive including Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard.

Also, the New Jersey governor Chris Christie long struggled with his weight. We are now finding out he had secret weight loss surgery. The real mystery is did he do it for his career? Did he do it for a professional run for the presidency? Did he do it for his family? We're trying to get some answers.


BLITZER: The prayers of three families are finally answered in Cleveland, Ohio. Three young women are free today after being held captive for about ten years in a neighborhood home. Three middle-aged men, all brothers and not related to the victims, they are now under arrest. And a special forensic FBI team is searching this house right now. It's where the girls were found last night.

Let's talk about the psychological impact of this ordeal on these young women. Jeff Gardere is a well-known presence on TV and radio. Sometimes called America's psychologist. He's joining us New York.

Jeff, these women have been through hell. None of us can imagine what it must have been like. The process of healing, what - what - what will happen?

JEFF GARDERE, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, what we're going to see is of course they're going to be debriefed because they want to file the charges and get as much factual information as they can. But yet at the same time, law enforcement does understand they can't push these young women too quickly because they don't want to retraumatize them by talking about the horrific, more of the horrific, intimate details as to what happened.

So they are going to -- law enforcement will be advised by psychologists, by mental health experts, but that will be part of their rehabilitation. Talking about this and getting supportive counseling. So, I think we'll see counseling not just with young girls but also these young women, but also with families. And if we can get the women who are in captivity together, because only they can understand what they've been through. We can only begin to imagine. But they were in it together and therefore their rehabilitation should take place together, that's supportive kind of counseling that will help them to be able to have their catharsis in a healthier way.

BLITZER: There's always a tension, as you know, the police want to do the right thing, want to help these young women, want to help them adjust. At the same time, they want to get evidence against these three suspects now who are under arrest. And it's not always easy walking that tight line. What do you make of the suspects?

GARDERE: What I say about the main suspect, Ariel Castro, from what we're learning, supposedly he was a some sort of a charismatic guy, and would hang out, do barbecues and people around the neighborhood knew him but then you see this other thing of being this horrific captor, this real monster. To me, that fits right into the profile of a psychopath. A person who can do these monstrous things but yet at the same time give a persona to other people that they're just normal, being able to have that dichotomy and do it so well and seem to have some sort of morality but we see there is absolutely no morality as part of this person's character.

BLITZER: Have you ever heard of three brothers, 52, 54, 56, all in their early -- relatively early to mid-50s, three brothers allegedly involved in something as horrendous as this?

GARDERE: This does appear to be some sort of a family pathology. On your airwaves earlier you had some anchors talking about the fact that these three members of the family were disaffected, people were not communicating, an uncle hadn't talked to them for a couple of years though they're in the same area. This is a folie a deaux or toi in this particular case where perhaps Ariel, and we all are supposing here, might have been the lead of this but brought the brothers in to be part of this horrific crime that was taking place, almost a crime of opportunity in that these brothers may have walked into a situation where we can have captives and do things and our brother's leading us but we can support it because we're also getting the gain or secondary gain of whatever torture or sex was involved, certainly against the will of these women.

BLITZER: So the bottom line right now is the police, law enforcement, everyone really who deals with these three women have to be sensitive to questions they're asking, what they're going to do because you don't want to make a bad situation even worse.

GARDERE: That's absolutely correct. There will be PTSD, there will be depression, there will be anxiety, and all of the research Wolf, shows, that if you are able to tread lightly but in a therapeutic way, steadily you have a better prognosis because you're getting them, they're not just talk about what happened, but getting the facts for prosecution, but also getting them to process that horrific series of events so that they can be healthier in life and it's going to be a long, long emotional road for these young women to be able to get back on their feet.

BLITZER: We wish them only the best. Good advice from Jeff Gardere, thanks for joining us.

The New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie, reveals his secret he had surgery to help him lose weight. We're going to tell you what made him do it.

And this program, Chris Cuomo interviews Amanda Knox, the American accused of murdering her roommate in Italy. They'll talk about her new book and her fight against a new trial in Italy. The interview airs tonight, 10:00 p.m. eastern only here on CNN. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Congressional midterm elections are not until next year but a hotly contested race is happening right now on this day in South Carolina. Mark Sanford, the former Republican governor who fell from grace after an infamous extramarital affair, is hoping to defeat Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Bush. She is the sister of the comedian Stephen Colbert. They are running for a vacant House seat in the state's coastal region. It's a traditionally Republican seat that Sanford once held. Polling right now has the race dead even. CNN will have complete coverage with the results after the polls close, that would be 7:00 p.m. eastern later tonight.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has revealed that he secretly had lap band weight loss surgery. Christie, who is 50, says did it for his kids. It was a 40-minute procedure back in February. Doctors put a band around his stomach to make it smaller, so the stomach feels fuller, faster. Chief political analyst Gloria Borger is joining us now. Governor Christie says it's about his health but how much is potentially about a race for the White House in 2016?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: This is about his life. This is about his life as a father, as a husband, and of course, as a presidential candidate. I think you'd have to say that losing weight was really a prerequisite for him for running for the presidency. His weight was a complete liability. People understand that while 64 percent of the people in New Jersey now say his weight is not a problem, when you start playing on the presidential stage, Wolf, it becomes an entirely different story.

People care about your health. They want to know you can fulfill the rigors of the office. Look at John McCain with his cancer. Mike Huckabee had a weight problem. People even questioned Bill Clinton's weight, back in the day, remember? So now, this becomes a part of his personal narrative. He can now tell a story about how he had a struggle, how he was vulnerable, and how he's tried to overcome it. By the way, Wolf, people will now continue to watch to see how he does.

BLITZER: We know that, as far as his weight in New Jersey, there was a Quinnipiac University poll registered Republican voters nationwide that in New Jersey it's not an issue. We asked among these Republicans, potentially for a presidential campaign you see registered Republicans, 19 percent for Rubio, 17 percent for Paul Ryan, 15 percent Rand Paul, Chris Christie right up there with 14 percent. You sense that this is likely to change. Let's say he loses another 50 pounds or even 100 pounds right now. I suspect that would help him dramatically.

BORGER: You know, getting thinner is not going to make conservatives love Chris Christie any more. They think he's a moderate. They don't like the way he embraced President Obama before the last election. He is, and you know this, he's for gun control, he's for immigration reform, he believes that climate change is real. This puts him at odds with a lot of people within his own party. What this public struggle does do, though, Wolf, is it allows him to present himself as a person who has a vulnerability and a struggle and part of telling your story when you run for the presidency is to have a good story to tell. And this is somebody who can now say, I'm devoted to my family, I'm devoted to my kids, I wanted to dance at my kids' wedding. And you know, that's something that really appeals to voters. So it's not going to make him any more conservative, but it might make him a little bit more personally appealing as someone who has admitted to a struggle he's had a hard time overcoming and is trying to deal with.

BLITZER: If he deals successfully with it I suspect that will help him politically as well. We wish the governor success with this effort to try to lose some serious weight. Hope only the best for him. Thanks, Gloria. See you later in the "SITUATION ROOM."

New threats from North Korea as President Obama hosting the South Korean president at White House. We'll have a live news conference coverage coming up. You see reporters ready over at the White House. That news conference coming up momentarily. We'll hear what the president and South Korean president, what they have to say about North Korea and more soon.


BLITZER: President Obama's been meeting with the new president of South Korea,and the two leaders are expected to hold a news conference over at the White House shortly. We'll go there live once it gets underway. The South Korean President Park Geun-hye's visit follows signs that tensions on the Korean peninsula may be easing. North Korea did keep up its threats today. A U.S. official says the North has withdrawn two mobile ballistic missiles from a launch site. We'll have live coverage of the news coverage. That's coming up.

We're also following a remarkable, as you know, a truly story unfolding right now in Ohio. Three young women missing for years found alive in a house in Cleveland. Amanda Berry disappeared in 2003. Gina DeJesus vanished in 2004.