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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Three Kidnapped Women Rescued; Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Accused of Sexual Assault; Amanda Knox Speaks Out

Aired May 7, 2013 - 07:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Christine Romans.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Our STARTING POINT, breaking news we're following.

Three women found alive after a decade of captivity. Their incredible escape and the frantic 911 call that saved their lives.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMANDA BERRY, MISSING FOR 10 YEARS: Help me, I'm Amanda Berry. I've been kidnapped, and I've been missing for ten years, and I'm here. I'm free now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: That was the call that changed everything. We're going to talk with family members and neighbors who are in shock over the discovery.

ROMANS: Then, an air force officer charged with sexual battery and attacking a woman. But get this, he's in charge of the sexual assault prevention program. How did he end up in that position of power?

SAMBOLIN: And North Korea issuing a new threat this morning. Warning they'll take action if even a single shell from U.S. and South Korea naval exercises falls in its water. But could the north actually be backing down?

It's Tuesday, May 7th, STARTING POINT begins right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

ROMANS: We begin with our breaking news, Zoraida, this morning. Three women who vanished without a trace a decade ago now found alive in a Cleveland neighborhood, not far from where they were abducted. And the three brothers suspected of kidnapping them all behind bars this morning.

SAMBOLIN: Amanda Berry is one of the victims who disappeared in three separate incidents between 2002 and 2004. It was her frantic, breathless 911 call that brought the ordeal to an end.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: And Martin Savidge is joining us live from Cleveland this morning. The last time anyone saw Amanda Berry, she was finishing her shift at a Burger King in 2003 on the eve of her 17th birthday. No one was ever expecting to see her alive again, Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, they weren't. I mean, that was -- she was leaving her job at Burger King. She said she got a ride home and that was the last that anybody had heard or seen until yesterday afternoon. The house in the background with the flag, that is the house in question here.

In fact, if you look carefully at the front porch, you can still see the section of the bottom of the door that was kicked away which is how Amanda Berry managed to make her escape, and it was the fact that she got out that she was able to notify authorities and then the rescue of the other two women took place. Truly a miracle.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Michele Knight disappeared when she was 19. That was 2002. Amanda Berry disappeared the day before her 17th birthday. That was 2003. Gina DeJesus disappeared when she was 14. That was 2004.

Then, Monday evening, a decade-long nightmare ended when Amanda Berry made an emotional 911 call to police.

911 DISPATCHER: 911.

BERRY: Help me, I'm Amanda Berry.

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

BERRY: I need police.

911 DISPATCHER: OK. 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: OK. And what's your address?

(EXPLETIVE DELETED)

BERRY: I can't hear you.

911 DISPATCHER: It looks like you are calling me (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

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

911 DISPATCHER: OK. Stay there with those neighbors --

BERRY: Please help me.

(CROSSTALK)

BERRY: OK.

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

BERRY: OK. Hello?

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

BERRY: OK.

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, OK?

BERRY: OK.

911 DISPATCHER: Who's the guy who went out?

BERRY: His name (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

911 DISPATCHER: All right. How old is he?

BERRY: He's like 52.

911 DISPATCHER: All right.

BERRY: I'm Amanda Berry. I've been on the news for the last ten years.

911 DISPATCHER: OK. I got that here. I already -- what was his name again?

BERRY: (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

911 DISPATCHER: And is he White, Black, or --

BERRY: Hispanic.

911 DISPATCHER: What's he wearing?

BERRY: I don't know because he's not here right now.

(CROSSTALK)

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

BERRY: (INAUDIBLE). 911 DISPATCHER: All right. The police are on the way. Talk to them when they get there. OK?

BERRY: I knew -- OK.

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

BERRY: Thank you.

SAVIDGE: She made that call after she was able to look out of the house where they were being held and flag down a neighbor.

CHARLES RAMSEY, NEIGHBOR: Heard screaming. Eating at McDonald's, I come outside. I see this girl going nuts trying to get out of the 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 was a violence dispute. So, I open the door, we can't get in that day because how the door it is, it's so much that a body can't fit through, only your hands. So, we kick the bottom and she comes out with a little girl and she says, "Call 911, my name is Amanda Berry."

REPORTER: Did you know who that was when she said?

RAMSEY: When she told me it didn't register, until I got the calling 911. And I'm like, "I'm calling 911 for Amanda Berry?" I thought this girl was dead, know what I mean?

And she got on the phone and she said, yes, this is me. The girl Amanda told the police, I ain't just the only one, it's some more girls up in that house.

So, they go on up there, 30, 40 deep. When they came out, was just astonishing.

SAVIDGE: Police moved in, swarming the house, rescuing the women. They arrested a 52-year-old former school bus driver who lives there, Ariel Castro. They also arrested his two brothers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They made some statements to the responding officers that gave us enough probable cause to affect an arrest.

SAVIDGE: The rescued women were taken to a nearby hospital and checked out. A photo of a beaming Amanda Berry and her sister appeared on Facebook.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Currently, they're safe. We're in the process of evaluating their medical needs. They appear to be in fair condition at the moment.

This is really good because this isn't the ending we usually hear to these stories. So we're very happy.

SAVIDGE: That sense of happiness and relief shared by police. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a great -- it's a great day.

SAVIDGE: And the people of Cleveland.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's an unbelievable day.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAVIDGE: That's a great word, unbelievable day. You know I grew up in this town. I had a conversation just a few minutes ago with a police officer. He's now moved up in the force. He was at my wedding. He was saying he remembers being on the beat, looking for these women, going day after day trying to find them. Yesterday, he says, those are the days you train for. Those are the days you pray for. They're very happy here.

ROMANS: That is great. Thanks, Martin.

People this morning asking whether that neighbor, Charles Ramsey, maybe he's eligible for a reward. This is what we know. The FBI was offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to Amanda Berry. We don't know whether Ramsey or anybody else will be getting any of that money. But I'm telling you right now that guy did the right thing when it sounds like for 10 years there may have been other missed clues, that guy did the right thing.

SAMBOLIN: We were talking about earlier that he thought this was a domestic issue, right? And most people when there's a domestic issue, they don't want to get involved. But he did the complete opposite. And, and when you hear about the struggle that they had in order to open that door, I mean, he really at the end of the day, he deserves, he deserves a lot of recognition for what he did.

ROMANS: He comes by, and kicks through the bottom of the door so that she can get out. One thing I think is interesting about that 911 call, you can hear the desperation. Finally, finally she's out, and then she's told, well, we'll send a car when one is freed up. She's like, no, no, no, no, not when one is freed up, I need a car, a police car right now.

SAMBOLIN: And one of the things that she was worried about, that she said, before he comes back. So just really a remarkable story. So we're going to get new details from the Cleveland police department of public safety. We're going to bring you that press conference that's happening live at 9:00 a.m. eastern.

So neighbors wondering how the man living on their streets could be the lead suspect in the shocking abduction of three women. And if what they knew about his home could have helped save them. Israel Lugo was Ariel Castro's neighbor for years. He joins us now. Mr. Lugo, very nice to have you with us. Thank you. We say that you lived in the neighborhood for a long time. How long have you lived there, and did you imagine anything like this was going on next door?

ISRAEL LUGO, NEIGHBOR OF SUSPECT ARIEL CASTRO: Well, ma'am, I been here for 33 years. I knew the guy for 18 years and that would be the last thing you would expect in our neighborhood. For him to have a school bus and park it off on the side of the road every day for three hours we never thought nothing of it, you know what I'm saying? And it's a good thing. There's more to see.

SAMBOLIN: You told me in 2011 you saw something kind of strange at Ariel Castro's house

LUGO: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: And you called the police. Tell me about that.

LUGO: Yes. Well, I think back like November of 2011, there was incident when my niece my sister was walking back over, and all of a sudden I felt like a little bad so I call the police. Cops come, half hour later around then like about five, 10 minutes. No one answered, they look around, they can't see through the windows, so what they do usually, they get back in the squad car and they leave.

SAMBOLIN: There was a lot of commotion going on yesterday. Tell us what you saw during that rescue?

LUGO: I saw it was so hectic out here yesterday everybody screaming, Amanda Berry holding a child, my neighbor Chuck trying to get the other ones out of the house, the dispatch teams making some kind of hoax about Amanda Berry and everything. And I just say, they been looking for these ladies for a long, long, long time you know what I'm saying? When you mention these girls names people think that you're playing or a gag or something. But it was real thing yesterday it was real live event yesterday about that and you know what it -- if it wasn't for that man Chuck, it wouldn't be no how long more --

SAMBOLIN: I know he really is a hero in all this. Israel, tell me, what kind of the guy is the owner of this house? You've known this suspect. What kind of a guy is he -- is he --

LUGO: He -- Ariel, when he moved over here it was his wife and his two daughters. And I don't know what happened. They split up. She took the kids and left. And he turned out like a little different, everything. But we would never suspect that. But my sister's always telling me, please watch the kids around him. There's something about him. I'm iffy about it. The man would come out here. You don't know your neighbor until you know your neighbor, I guess.

SAMBOLIN: Have you ever been inside that house?

LUGO: I was in the house when I was little, way, way back, you know. And the way I look at the house from the outside, and you could tell you know what I'm saying the windows, been like that for the past 14, 15 years you know what I'm saying. And he -- I can't even explain, you know what I'm saying? It's like -- know it but you don't want to know it. You don't want to think it is your neighbor but it is your neighbor. That's the part that really kills me we got kids and everyone running through here. I don't want to be the next parent.

SAMBOLIN: Mr. Lugo, there are three men behind bars this morning, his two brothers as well. Did you see them coming and going from the house often?

LUGO: I'd seen him and his brother as we call him Coco which is the oldest one. The third brother we never seen that man walk in or out the house. That's why -- every day. I don't know how they got him out. I don't know how they got -- I don't even know how Amanda Berry had a baby in there, because she come out with a baby. The baby was like five years old. And I had seen that baby Sunday at the park. You know. And then yesterday, this happens.

SAMBOLIN: Did he ever explain who that little girl was that he was walking around with?

LUGO: I asked him Sunday. He told me it was his daughter.

SAMBOLIN: Mr. Lugo we certainly appreciate your time this morning. Thank you very much for joining us.

LUGO: Thank you.

ROMANS: Plastic bags over the windows -- creepy. The whole thing is totally creepy. We're going to continue to follow this at 9:00. There's going to be a press conference. We'll get a lot more answers we're hoping with Cleveland public safety folks.

All right, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is expressing outrage and disgust this morning that the man in charge of preventing sexual assault in the air force now stands accused of committing one. Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Krusinski was arrested for allegedly fondling a woman in a parking lot. Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon. Good morning, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. A very high profile statements from the defense secretary but all too often sexual assault is a silent crime that happens every day in the U.S. military.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Krusinski had been in charge of a section of the air force's sexual assault prevention and response program only since February. He made this video back in Afghanistan.

LT. COL. JEFFREY KRUSINSKI, DVIDS: This is lieutenant colonel Jeff Krusinski from NATO training mission Afghanistan.

STARR: He was immediately removed from his Pentagon post after being arrested early Sunday morning for allegedly approaching a woman in a parking lot, and fondling her. It's a huge embarrassment for the Pentagon, which has been racked by the scandal of sexual assault.

The Pentagon is expected to announce an increase in reported sexual assaults in 2012. But, as always, officials say it's not entirely clear if that is due to an increase in incidents, or more victims becoming more comfortable in reporting what is often a crime kept silent. In 2011, there were a total of 3,192 reports of sexual assault involving service members. The issue is getting plenty of attention from congress.

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE, (R) NEW HAMPSHIRE: Sexual assault and rape is not about the weakness of the victim. It's about power and control and the assertion of that. And that obviously, in a military context, becomes an even greater problem.

STARR: The Pentagon has increased its efforts to hold perpetrators accountable. It's establishing a special victims unit with specially trained investigators and prosecutors. It's trying to improve tracking of sexual assault reports. And now, service members who report a sexual assault can more quickly transfer from their unit, and away from their alleged perpetrator.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: You know, Christine, with all of these efforts by the Pentagon, it looks like the statistics, the cases of reports of sexual assault are still on an upward trajectory.

ROMANS: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Thank you, Barbara.

SAMBOLIN: New this morning, threats from North Korea, who says it will take military action, even if a single shell from U.S. and South Korean naval exercises fall within its territorial waters. But there are signs the tough talk is just talk. A U.S. official says two ballistic missiles have been withdrawn from a launch site on the eastern side of the country. Meantime, South Korea's president Park Geun-hye is in Washington expected to meet with president Obama a little later today on the agenda, North Korea's strategy, and economic cooperation.

ROMANS: It may take weeks for investigators to figure out how a stretch limo burst into flames on a California bridge this weekend killing five women in a bachelorette party including the bride-to-be. This morning we're hearing from one of the four women who survived. She's claiming the limo driver did little to help her or her dying friends.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He says, I told you there's smoke, and then the fire came out. We said stop the car. Stop the car. Then he get out from the car, he just opened the door, that's all he did. I said, help me, help me, because bring out my head from the compartment, help me. So I could squeeze myself over there and slide myself. We said open the door, open the door. He didn't do anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The limo driver Orville "Ricky" Brown told CNN's Dan Simon everything happened so fast, he wishes he could have done more. And he says watching that vehicle burn with the women inside was like a nightmare.

SAMBOLIN: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie secretly had lap band surgery to lose weight. CNN sources confirm that he was thinking about his four kids and how it was time to start improving his health. Christie told "The New York Post," quote, "I've struggled with this issue for 20 years. For me this is about turning 50 and looking at my children and wanting to be there for them." He also says losing weight had nothing to do with a possible bid, that it's so much more important than that. Christie reportedly checked in to a surgery center on February 16th. Sources told "The Post" he has already lost nearly 40 pounds.

ROMANS: Wow.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, no resting place for the deceased Boston bombing suspect. Why his body may have to return to Russia. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: New developments this morning in the Boston marathon bombings. First the funeral director who took in Tamerlan Tsarnaev's body says Russia may be the only place willing to bury him. Meantime victims of the bombing are starting to find out how money raised for them will be spent and a friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the friend accused of lying to investigators, has now been released on $100,000 bail. CNN's Paula Newton live in Boston for us this morning. Good morning, Paula.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning Christine and Zoraida. As you pointed out, we had major developments in this investigation now running day after day and yet, a drama unfolding still with Tamerlan Tsarnaev's remains, and no quick solution in sight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

Still sheltered by her parents, and under constant watch by the FBI, Katherine Russell has kept her silence publicly. Letting one act speak for itself. As next of kin, she refused to deal with her husband's burial, instead releasing Tamerlan Tsarnaev's remains to his family, and setting off an absurd chain of events. First his body remained unclaimed in a morgue, and now for five days, Tsarnaev's body has been in limbo at this Worcester, Massachusetts, funeral home. No cemetery will accept him, no family member has offered a solution. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick acknowledged the outrage that is building over this.

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: This isn't a state or a federal issue, it's a family issue. And the family has some options. I assume they will make a decision soon.

NEWTON: Cremation is not an option forbidden for Muslims. But the funeral home director says sending Tsarnaev's body back to Russia could be a solution. Still, it all raises more turmoil for victims and their families who, for the first time now, are learning how money will be distributed from the One Fund Boston.

KENNETH FEINBERG, ONE FUND BOSTON: I'll tell you right now, whatever we do with this fund is inadequate. And everybody I suggest lower your expectations about this fund.

NEWTON: At $28 million and counting, it will be a trying process to attach a dollar figure to pain, suffering, and years of recovery ahead. With many asking why the Tsarnaevs weren't stopped sooner. On Monday, Robel Phillipos, a friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev who was accused of lying to investigators, was released in the care of his mother on $100,000 bond. His lawyers claim he knew nothing of the attacks.

SUSAN CHURCH, LAWYER FOR ROBEL PHILLIPOS: At no time did Robel have any prior knowledge of this marathon bombing. No did he participate in the -- any of the planning done by the defendant in this case.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NEWTON: Now we should point out that the two Kazakh students, also friends of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, remain in custody. You know, in the meantime, Bostonians are just getting on with it. Live Nation (ph) announced they had that charity concert May 30th. It sold out in seconds and it will add more needed dollars into that One Fund Boston.

SAMBOLIN: That is really great to hear. Paula Newton live in Boston. Thank you very much.

Ahead on STARTING POINT Amanda Knox opening up about facing a retrial in Italy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMANDA KNOX, FACES RETRIAL FOR MURDER: I'm afraid to go back there. I don't want to go back into prison.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: What she says when our Chris Cuomo asks if she will go back. That's next.

ROMANS: Then, he was the second person to walk on the moon, and now he wants to get us to mars. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin joins us about his new book and about his dream for the space program. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Isn't that a lovely picture? Good morning, New York. Beautiful skyline. I think it's going to be 71 degrees today. And sunny. All right Amanda Knox says she is scared to face a new trial for murder in Italy, but will she face her fear and actually go back? She opens up about her sensational case and her personal life in her memoir waiting to be heard. CNN's Chris Cuomo spoke to her one-on-one, asking that very question of whether she will go back.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Will you go face the trial? Will you go back? KNOX: I don't know yet. It's a really complicated question. I mean, I'm afraid to go back there. I don't want to go back into prison. I don't want them to all of a sudden do a court order when I'm there just respecting the court and going there and the prosecution asks that I be put in preventive detention again. I was there for four years.

CUOMO: Could you do more time?

KNOX: Could I do more time? If they --

CUOMO: Could you do it? Could you handle it? Could you handle it?

KNOX: I'm having to handle things. I'm not really being given a choice. And I think people sort of underestimate what that means, and what -- what effect that has had on me and my life. And I have no choice but to face this. And I constantly ask myself why. Why me?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN: From her fight against a new trial to her new book our Chris Cuomo asked some really tough questions. Can Amanda Knox convince you that she is not a killer? Watch a special interview, "AMANDA KNOX, THE UNANSWERED QUESTIONS" tonight at 10:00 p.m., right here on CNN.

And ahead on STARTING POINT we're following breaking news out of Ohio. The discovery of three missing women who were kidnapped for ten years. How did the suspect hide in plain sight? We're going to talk with former "America's Most Wanted" host John Walsh.

ROMANS: Today's the day former South Carolina governor finds out if voters have forgiven that infamous affair. We're live with a look at this very contested congressional race next. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. We're following breaking news from Cleveland this morning. Three women missing for a decade, presumed dead, found alive, and three brothers suspected of kidnapping them holding them captive are behind bars this morning. CNN's Martin Savidge is live in Cleveland. What do we know about these brothers, Martin?

SAVIDGE: That's a good question and one that authorities are investigating right now. We know that one of them has been identified by Cleveland city councilman. His name is Ariel (ph) Castro and he is believed to be the owner of the home, the white frame one with the American flag there where the three women were held.

If you look closely at the bottom of the door, that's the screen door, you can see the section that amanda Berry allegedly kicked out yesterday. And it's also where Charles Ramsey came into play. He was the neighbor that heard the screams, knew she was in trouble, and responded. Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAMSEY: I heard screaming, I'm eating my McDonald's, I come outside. I see this girl going nuts trying to get out of the 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. We see this dude every day. I mean every day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long you lived here?

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: Again we just want to tell you that the investigation into this very early stages, Christine. Three brothers, though, as you point out, and their ages 50, 52, and 54. Cleveland police are going to hold a news conference.