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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN
Mark Sanford Wins Seat; Amanda Knox Speaks Out; New Information on Benghazi Attack, Republicans Say; Three Kidnapping Victims Rescued; No Burial Place for Tamerlan Tsarnaev; Mark Sanford Wins Congressional Election
Aired May 8, 2013 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BERMAN: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman live in New York.
SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin live in Cleveland. Our STARTING POINT this morning, we are learning more about the nightmare that the three women lived through while held in captivity for ten years. But there are still so many questions about what actually happened and the three men that are now in custody.
We are live in Cleveland with all of the developments for you. Then, the hero neighbor recounts the heart-pounding moments of the rescue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAMSEY: I'm trying to get the door open and can't -- because torture chamber that some kind of way and locked it up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAMBOLIN: Why he says that he is not a hero.
It is Wednesday, May 8th, a special edition of STARTING POINT begins right now.
Welcome to a special edition of "Starting Point." We are live from Cleveland for you. I'm going to step out of the way here. I actually asked the camera to take a look at the house here on Seymour Street where these girls were held for ten years in captivity. Just yesterday, when we were here yesterday morning, you could see that there were two flags that were hanging there on the porch.
One was the American flag and the other one was a flag from Puerto Rico. I understand from one of the photographers here that yesterday, they were taking down the American flag and they were going to walk away and leave the Puerto Rican flag there on the porch when the crowds erupted. They wanted that flag taken down, as well.
And this morning we're here, this investigation still under way. We still don't have charges. But we are waiting that today. We understand that after 48 hours we should be hearing something, so at some point today we will find out what this living hell was for these three women that they had to endure inside the home here right on Seymour avenue. So, federal investigators have been turning this house inside out ever since Amanda Berry, Gina Dejesus, and Michele Knight's stunning escape on Monday. They're not revealing yet what they have found inside the home. Today, FBI agents will question kidnapping suspects Pedro, Onil, and Ariel Castro for the very first time. The brothers could also be criminally charged today.
And Amanda Berry, whose chilling 911 call brought an end to this decades-long ordeal, is finally getting the chance to reconnect by phone with her grandmother and other family members in Tennessee. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANDA BERRY, KIDNAPPED FOR 10 YEARS: Hello?
FERN GENTRY, AMANDA BERRY'S GRANDMOTHER: Amanda.
BERRY: Yes, grandma.
GENTRY: How are you? I'm glad to have you back. I thought you were gone.
BERRY: Nope, I'm here.
GENTRY: I'm here for you.
BERRY: Thank you so much.
GENTRY: The little girl is your baby?
BERRY: Yes, she's my daughter. Born on Christmas.
GENTRY: I thought about you all this time. I never forgot you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAMBOLIN: And for the very latest on the investigation and what we're learning about the suspect let's go right to Martin Savidge. He's live from the county justice center where the Castro brothers are being held, and we understand they're going to be questioned today. You are a native from here. What are you hearing?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Zoraida. You're right, questioning today on two fronts. You're going to both have the federal level, the FBI, but also the local level. They work in partnership here. That's something the FBI stresses. We're hearing it's going to be perhaps officers from the sex crimes unit and that, of course, gives you an indication of just where, what direction this investigation appears to be going. It's focused on two fronts, one of the suspects in custody, two, the house on Seymour.
SAVIDGE: Investigators scour the home on Seymour Avenue searching for evidence in this house of horrors. Throughout the day and late into the night, FBI agents meticulously search, removing the front door, searching the crawl space, carting away a red pickup and a jeep. At one point bringing in a cadaver dog. It's not known what, if anything, the dog found. The FBI taking the lead in the search.
DET. JENNIFER CIACCIA CLEVELAND POLICE SPOKESWOMAN: This is just the tip of the iceberg. This investigation will take a very long time.
SAVIDGE: The three suspects, 52-year-old Ariel Castro, his brothers Pedro and Onil, behind bars. They'll face more interrogation today. Authorities have 48 hours to file charges. And that window closes later tonight.
In the neighborhood, residents are still celebrating, the jubilance tempered with shock and disbelief.
TITO DEJESUS, KNEW ARIEL CASTRO FOR 20 YEARS: Unreal. And I know who lived there and they brought cameras to his house, it was like I turned white. My wife told me, what's wrong, are you OK? I was like, I was dumbfounded.
SAVIDGE: Away from the cameras Amanda Berry, Gina Dejesus and Michele Knight, the three women who endured a decade of captivity trying to piece their shattered lives back together.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a miracle, a very, very large miracle, and we're all excited.
SAVIDGE: And in Tennessee, Amanda Berry's grandmother got a very important phone call from the granddaughter she hasn't seen in years.
BERRY: Yes, grandma.
GENTRY: How are you?
SAVIDGE: A giant step to try to close the door on this house of horrors.
SAVIDGE: That's a very specialized team going through that house on the part of the FBI evidence gathering team. Up to two dozen agents, all brought from across northern Ohio to do it. Zoraida?
SAMBOLIN: Martin I know that we don't have any details about what they found in there, but you did allude to earlier that there would be gruesome details. Can you explain that?
SAVIDGE: Yes, that's coming from a couple of sources. For one, I know a lot of officers, they've been hearing that, as well, and the initial sort of debriefs that have been taking place, but also from neighbors. And it's the neighbors that are really troubled by this. Because they say, look, we saw these warning signs. One neighbor in particular who says she saw one of the girls naked in the backyard being forced to get down on the ground, and other indications that things were not right.
The neighbors say that they notified authorities, that calls were made and the police did come out but apparently knocks on doors didn't get any answers so the police left. Many feel that if the police had taken them seriously, these young women could have been rescued years earlier. Zoraida?
SAMBOLIN: And really a lot of neighbors in that particular area, a lot of the folks who live in that community, feel that way, right? They're very frustrated with the police department.
SAVIDGE: They are, and it remains to be investigated. So we shouldn't jump the gun on who is right and who is wrong here. There's no question, many in that neighborhood are troubled by the fact that for ten years this could go on and it wasn't discovered. And why is that? And so a lot of soul searching happening.
SAMBOLIN: All right, Martin Savidge live outside the courthouse. Thank you very much.
Cleveland dishwasher Charles Ramsey is being called a hero for his role in rescuing the three women and a child who were held captive for years. He also has become a viral video star for his very lively description of everything that happened. In an exclusive interview, Ramsey tells CNN's Anderson Cooper that he has had a hard time sleeping after setting those women free.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: What does it feel like to have been living next to this for a year?
CHARLES RAMSEY: See, that's why now I'm having trouble sleeping. See, up until yesterday, the only thing that kept me from losing sleep was the lack of money. You hear what I'm saying? So now that that's going on, and I could have done this last year, not this hero stuff, just do the right thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAMBOLIN: We're going to hear more of what Charles Ramsey had to say to Anderson Cooper coming up later this morning on STARTING POINT.
And what do we know about the home where these women spent the last ten or so years of their lives? Tom Foreman takes a closer look at the neighborhood, and the layout of that house.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What do we know about this house? Not much. We know that the neighborhoods didn't pay much attention to it simply because it seemed sealed a whole lot of the time. Some of them, in fact, thought that maybe no one even lived here. But occasionally they saw things that attracted their attention, and made them wonder what might be going on, including the appearance once in a while of a woman in a window that's right up here on the house, peeking out. That happened a few times, spotted by a neighbor, until that window was covered over.
Inside the house, also a big mystery. We know that there's a small living room right up here to the left as you come in. That's where this man kept his musical instruments, his bass guitar and his amplifier. Just beyond that was a small dining room, and the kitchen was back here. The house has four bedrooms. We believe all of those are up here on the second floor, along with the one bathroom for the house, which we think is back in that corner.
But of particular interest here is the basement. Many people have speculated about it. In this area, the ground is very soft. So basements are typically built smaller than the house above them. This one may be only 15 feet by 15 feet, something like that. It would have a furnace in it. It would have a water heater in it. And almost without exception, in this part of that city, it would have some kind of leakage. It would be a dank, damp, cold, miserable place for anyone to be held, and yet a place where you could call and call out for help and likely no one could hear you. John, Zoraida?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAMBOLIN: Hmm, so many interesting details coming out of there. Some of his friends who were musicians who had actually entered the house then, they said that they never suspected anything.
Jaycee Dugard was held captive for 18 years, and she says the three women who were abducted in Cleveland can't let that experience define them. Dugard was 11 years old back in 1991 when convicted rapist Phillip Garrido and his wife Nancy shocked her with a stun gun and held her captive for years in Antioch, California. Jaycee and her mother appeared in Washington last night to accept awards from the national center for missing and exploited children.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAYCEE DUGARD, KIDNAPPING VICTIM: Thank you for tonight. And I want to say what an amazing time to be talking about hope with everything that's happening.
TERRY PROBYN, JAYCEE DUGARD'S MOTHER: I'm a little emotional as I stand here in front of you today. Another miracle happened yesterday, and three girls are alive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAMBOLIN: Isn't that incredible the timing of that? And she gets to share her perspective as well. So Jaycee Dugard said the women rescued in Cleveland need the opportunity to heal and connect back in to the world and for everyone to give them the time to do so.
And now we're not getting too far from this story. We are live here in Cleveland, and we're going to bring you much more throughout the day on CNN, all of the details, as we get them. John Berman has the rest of today's top stories. He is - stories. He is in New York.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much, Zoraida. We are also following new developments in the Boston Marathon bombings. The dilemma over what to do with the remains of Tamerlan Tsarnaev continues this morning. Protesters have been demonstrating outside the funeral home where his body has been taken. Tsarnaev's uncle is asking the government now to help find a solution. CNN's Paula Newton is live in Boston this morning. Good morning, Paula. What's the latest?
PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Many still asking what could that solution possibly be? You know, it's been six days and Tamerlan Tsarnaev's remains are still at that funeral home in limbo. Some say we could see a resolution in the next few hours, but it seems that the preferred option, for his remains to go back to Russia, could still be a difficult one.
NEWTON: The body of Tamerlan Tsarnaev is still at this funeral home. His resting place has been so contentious, Worcester police are now trying to broker a way out, meeting with the funeral director and Tsarnaev's uncle. But it's clear, there is no simple solution in sight.
SERGEANT KERRY HAZELHURST, WORCESTER POLICE DEPARTMENT: I don't think he's going to specifically target Massachusetts. I think he's just trying to reach out to anybody or anywhere.
NEWTON: The mayor of Boston vows Tsarnaev won't be buried in his city.
MAYOR THOMAS MENINO, BOSTON: It's not dignified to put him in Boston. He's not from Boston, he's from someplace else, and he needs to go back to his homeland.
NEWTON: Ruslan Tsarni, Tsarnaev's uncle, knows his family would like his nephew's remains returned to Russia, but it's unclear if Russia would accept his body for burial. And the bizarre set of circumstances involving Tsarnaev's remains has been hurtful to some. The family of Brittany Loring says they are trying to put the whole thing out of their minds, concentrating instead on their sister and daughter, a bombing victim trying to recover from leg injuries and a skull fracture. For Brittany, a difficult road ahead -- rehabilitation, how to pay for medical bills. They say that's where the attention should be, on the victims.
ALYSSA LORING, SISTER OF BRITTANY LORING: To hear that people are trying to block his remains from being buried, I have mixed feelings about it. I try not to think about it, though, because it's not -- it's not anything that my energy is going to help.
NEWTON: The frustration here, John, is many are wondering why is this still an issue? We're on day six, that uncle, Ruslan, was there for at least a couple of hours yesterday at that funeral home. We will let you know when we have word from there today that they might be able to announce where those remains are finally going to end up. John?
BERMAN: I'm sure the families in Boston would like to see it resolved very soon, the families of the victims. Paula Newton in Boston for us this morning, thank you so much.
So a political comeback for the ages. After the affair, after the infamous hike on the Appalachian trail, Mark Sanford is back. The former South Carolina governor won his old seat in Congress in a special election. Our national political correspondent Jim Acosta has been following it all. He is live in Charleston this morning. Good morning, Jim.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. It was a long and winding trail, but Mark Sanford appears to be out of the woods. He is no longer the former governor of the Appalachian Trail, as you put it. He is now congressman-elect Sanford.
MARK SANFORD: Some guy came up to me the other day and said, you look a lot like Lazarus.
ACOSTA: Once left for dead in the political wilderness, Mark Sanford blazed a comeback trail that will take him all the way to Washington.
SANFORD: I just want to acknowledge not just with second chances, but third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth chances because that is the reality of our shared humanity.
ACOSTA: Sanford captured a vacant South Carolina congressional seat by a decisive margin, overcoming a scandal that nearly destroyed his political career. The extramarital affair with a mistress from Argentina that he once falsely claimed was a hike on the Appalachian trail, may finally be behind him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this redemption?
SANFORD: Yes, I think we're always on the search for redemption. I think that this certainly political redemption. We'll see where things go from here. It's less about that than it is about the second chance to make an impact in Washington, D.C., where I think impact is desperately needed.
ACOSTA: If Sanford's life has at times seemed like a trashy romance novel this latest chapter has been a real page turner. For some voters all was forgiven.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He who is without sin cast the first stone.
ACOSTA: Others, not so much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't like him, I don't trust him. I don't respect him.
ACOSTA: But it wasn't enough to help Sanford's opponent, Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, sister of comedian Stephen Colbert, in this conservative district.
ELIZABETH COLBERT-BUSCH, FMR. CANDIDATE FOR SOUTH CAROLINA CONGRESS: I will continue to fight for all of you in South Carolina.
SANFORD: Thank you as well for being here, love. Appreciate it.
ACOSTA: As for Sanford, his personal life is also on the mend. His mistress is now his fiancee. A chapter she's keeping private for now.
MARIA HELEN CHAPUR, MARK SANFORD'S FIANCEE: It's Mark's night. Thank you so much for everything. But it's his night. So I hope you understand.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are going to want to know, can we trust this guy? Is he going to let us down?
SANFORD: You asked that question before and you're coming back to the same question and I give you the same answer, which is that the trust is ultimately our --
ACOSTA: And Mark Sanford could be sworn in as early as this week, but Democrats are already mocking his comeback. One top party operative said he should be placed on the Foreign Affairs Committee. If you get that one. But Sanford is getting the last laugh. He won. But in the words of one voter I talked to yesterday, John, if he messes up again, God help him. John?
BERMAN: All right, our thanks to Jim Acosta with a beautiful look at the low country right behind you. Jim Acosta in Charleston, South Carolina this morning.
Bottom of the hour we're going to hear from Congressman-Elect Mark Sanford. We will speak to the Congressman-Elect live.
Other news now, overnight a Southwest Airlines flight diverted because of several unruly passengers on board. The flight took off from Orlando and was headed to Providence, Rhode Island. But late last night it diverted to Charleston International Airport. Three passengers, we are told, were disruptive, unruly and failed to follow instructions from the flight crew. We're told they are now in FBI custody.
Amanda Knox, labeled a seductress, an ice queen, a devil, a killer, but she insists she did not murder her roommate Meredith Kercher during their year abroad in Italy. Knox talks about what she's been through in her new book and during last night's CNN special "AMANDA KNOX THE UNANSWERED QUESTIONS," our Chris Cuomo asked about Kercher's loved ones and their need for justice.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: But if the bottom line is, if they want a retrial what does it mean about how they feel about you?
AMANDA KNOX, ACCUSED OF MURDER: It means they think I'm guilty. And I know this. And -- I mean, they -- they are grieving the loss of their family member. And they deserve to have every answer. The idea that someone knows what happened or was a part of what happened and isn't saying anything,and isn't being held responsible is maddening, I understand that. But it's not -- I'm not responsible for what happened. I didn't do it. I wasn't there. I don't know anything more about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Knox said the prospect of going back to Italy to face trial again cripples her with fear.
Ahead on STARTING POINT we could hear damning information today about the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Will today's hearing back up GOP claims that there was a White House cover-up? We'll have a live report next.
BERMAN: House Republicans claim they have new evidence of a cover-up in the attack in Benghazi, which they will reveal in a hearing later this morning. But Democrats say the revelation will be one-sided because they say they have not been allowed to talk one-on-one to the Republican witnesses. Dana Bash joins us live now. What's the latest, Dana?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, a Republican Congressman who is involved in preparing for this hearing told me that they've saved some surprises for what they hope will be a blockbuster hearing today. But it's those surprises that are making Democrats very unhappy.
BASH: House Republican sources insist their State Department witnesses will reveal new information about the stakes before, during, and after September's deadly Benghazi attack, and bolster GOP claims of an Obama administration cover-up.
REP. DARRELL ISSA, (R ) OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM CMTS. CHMN.: Whistle-blowers are courageous to come forward, and they're essential in a case like this.
BASH: A star GOP witness is Gregory Hicks, the second ranking U.S. diplomat in Libya at the time of the attack. Hicks will say administration officials knew from the start the attack was not what they publicly suggested, a spontaneous demonstration.
"I think everybody in the mission thought it was a terrorist attack from the beginning," Hicks told investigators. That goes to the heart of the central Republican question about those infamous administration talking points about the attack. Who stripped out references to al Qaeda and why? Republicans call it a political decision. A fear of stepping on the president's campaign message that he crippled al Qaeda.
ISSA: We want to find out who made this decision, who made the decision to change talking points in a way that caused the American people to be lied to.
BASH: Then there is the military response. Hicks will say military personnel were ready to board a Libyan plane to Benghazi to help Americans under fire there, but were ordered by superiors not to go.
ISSA: They may not have arrived in time to save lives, but at the time the decision was made, the decision was wrong.
BASH: Who made that decision?
ISSA: We want to find out who made this decision.
BASH: Democrats warn it will be a partisan show.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, (D) OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM CMTE. RANKING MEMBER: We have been iced out.
BASH: The committee's top Democrat complains Republicans won't let them talk to one of the whistle-blower witnesses, a counterterrorism official. Elijah Cummings called that unprecedented.
CUMMINGS: Everything that I've seen so far with regard to this investigation shows me that it is a one-sided investigation, and it leaves me sad, really. I just know that we're better than that.
BASH: And Cummings insists he, too, is interested in getting answers to what happened and why in Benghazi. But he says the partisan way Republicans are handling it, quote, "makes the work product of the committee questionable." John?
BERMAN: All right, Dana Bash in Washington. Those fireworks coming today. Stay with CNN for special coverage of today's Benghazi hearing beginning at 11:30 a.m. eastern time.
Ahead on STARTING POINT, next, we know the hero neighbor who helped rescue those three women in Cleveland is a big fan of McDonalds. How the company is reacting. We'll tell you all about that next. You're watching STARTING POINT.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. minding your business this morning, a new record for the Dow industrials, closing above 15,000. What's more impressive, these are gains for the year, folks. The Dow is up almost 15 percent. The NASDAQ and S&P 500 posting strong gains. It is only May. A very strong start to the year. Futures slightly lower right now. Companies slowly getting smart about reacting to news with social media. McDonalds reaching out to Charles Ramsey who is being called a hero for helping to rescue those Ohio kidnapping victims. This tweet, "We salute the courage of Ohio kidnap victims and respect their privacy. Way to go Charles Ramsey, we'll be in touch."
It's so interesting they've been so careful, John, many times when a corporate name is tied to a big news story, not of their own doing, they try to step back, but in this case stepping forward. How many times did you hear the word McDonald's in the past three days?
BERMAN: A lot.
ROMANS: A lot, that's right.
BERMAN: And interesting the did it with a tweet this morning. Christine Romans, thanks so much.
Ahead on STARTING POINT we're going to look at the latest on the investigation of the three women rescued from captivity. Why Cleveland police are reviewing the 911 call that Amanda Berry made and the dispatcher on the other end.
Then, redemption for Mark Sanford. We will speak live with the Congressman-Elect about his big win in South Carolina. You're watching STARTING POINT.