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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

FBI To Interview Suspects; Abduction Story Stuns Ohio Community; Escape From Captivity; The Politics Of Forgiveness; Sanford Wins Back House Seat; Hero Neighbor Speaks Out; Shock In Cleveland

Aired May 8, 2013 - 07:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to a special edition of STARTING POINT. We are live in Cleveland inside a house of horrors. A lot of questions this morning about the three women who made a dramatic escape from captivity after a decade trapped inside that Cleveland home.

FBI agents have been going through every corner of that house since Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michele Knight managed to break out on Monday. But they are not yet shedding any light on what the women endured inside of that home.

Later today kidnapping suspects, Pedro, Onil and Ariel Castro will be interrogated by federal agents for the very first time since their arrest and the brothers could be formally charged by the day's end. The Castro brothers are being held right now in the County Justice Center in Cleveland.

And that's where Martin Savidge is standing by. Where does the investigation stand at this hour, Martin?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, just as you point out, Zoraida, it's really focused in two different areas, but of course, in the same case. The first being the three brothers now in custody and finding out what they know and what they're telling authorities and they're going to be investigated both by the FBI and by local authorities and I'm told it's members of the sex crimes unit.

If that's true then, of course, that would indicate that this investigation is going on a certain path. Then on top of that there was the focus at the home. There you have a very specific FBI team up to as many as two dozen agents that have been brought in from across Northern Ohio.

Specialized in prospecting, I guess you could say, all of that evidence, a decade or more of material inside that home. They've collected things like the front door, famous because that's how Amanda Berry was able to escape, vehicles in the backyard, on and on and on. So you know, you've got the house that's being looked at. And of course the suspects are being looked at. What we will look for are the charges that are expected later today.

SAMBOLIN: You know, Martin, as you were talking I'm looking over my shoulder and from our vantage point, we can see a lot of police officer cars, sheriff's cars, we can't see behind the home so we don't know if there are FBI agents and their vehicles behind that particular home at this hour.

But there is another investigation that's happening right now and it's the 911 dispatcher who spoke with Amanda Berry we understand is under review now. There was a lot of criticism because we've heard that 911 call repeatedly and a lot of folks were really disturbed by the fact that the dispatcher did not stay on until the very end, until police arrived.

SAVIDGE: Right. You know, there are a lot of people. I was hit with that right away, friends told me, did you hear that call? Remember, 911 operators are trained in a very dispassionate way to deal with a lot of information coming in. Should be pointed out that the first officers, I believe, arrived on scene within 2 minutes of the call.

So the dispatcher did get people moving, which is exactly what you want. Ending the call early, that is a problem. The city put out a statement they are investigating and one of the issues they said they were looking at was specifically that, that maybe the caller, the 911 operator, rather, ended that call too abruptly. But they also point out help was received, the women got freed. The job was done.

SAMBOLIN: You're absolutely right. I mean they actually detail out the moments that it took for the police to arrive and it was actually very, very quick that they were on the scene. Now Martin Savidge reporting live for us right outside the courthouse. Thank you.

And John Berman is back in New York. He has the other big story that we're following this morning -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: That's right, Zoraida. So four years ago, his political career nearly disintegrated when he disappeared for five days, admitting to an extramarital affair. This morning, he's mounted a remarkable political comeback to win back his old seat in the House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK SANFORD (R), REPRESENTATIVE-ELECT, SOUTH CAROLINA: I've talked a lot about grace over the course of this campaign, and until you've experienced human grace as a reflection of God's grace I don't think you really get it and I didn't get it before. And I get it in a way that I never have before, and I want to publicly acknowledge God's role in all of this. I am one imperfect man saved by God's grace.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Mark Sanford beat out Democratic challenger, Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, actually fairly resounding victory, 54 percent to 45 percent in South Carolina's first congressional district. It is the seat that he once held from 1995 to 2001.

We're joined now by Congressman-Elect Mark Sanford. He joins us from Charleston, South Carolina. Thank you so much for being with us, sir. Let me just ask you this, after what you've been through over the last few years, after your victory last night, as you sit here this morning, what have you learned?

SANFORD: Well, that would be an encyclopedia, if you will. I mean, I've learned a lot. I think, you know, life is a series of course directions, a series of changes. We learn by every experience, both good and bad. I boil it down to what our minister talked about a couple of Sundays ago, which is the events of your life refine or define your life.

I think that, you know, we're all going to have stumbles and falls, but the question is do we let those events define our lives or refine our lives. And I think part of the essence of the journey of spirituality, the message of God is having those events become refining in each one of our lives.

BERMAN: You've called yourself a Lazarus. It's been called a political comeback, been called a redemption. There's another politician trying to forge a similar redemption up here in New York, Anthony Weiner considering a run for mayor. Based on what you've seen in your run in South Carolina, what would your advice be to former Congressman Weiner?

SANFORD: I wouldn't presume to give any other politician advice. I just know that, you know, we had a rather robust conversation down here in the first congressional district, both on policy, because I had a long-held record with regard to trying to watch out for people's pocketbook or their wallet, actually rated number one in the whole United States Congress in efforts to reduce federal spending, reduce federal taxation, actually rated the most financially conservative governor in the United States of America, first governor to turn back stimulus money.

So I think that you know I've got a well chronicled track record on that front but it was actually complicated given my own past in 2009. So, what I would say is I wouldn't presume to give anybody else advice. I'm trying to, again, worry about my own before I worry about fixing anybody else.

BERMAN: So Congressman Weiner is going to have to hire his own consultants. You're not going to service one to him. In the issue of politics, national Republicans, the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee kind of distanced themselves from you during this campaign. What reception are you expecting when you get to Washington, and are you at all concerned about that?

SANFORD: I'm not. You know, we won the primary without their help. We run a runoff without their help, and now we won a general without their deep involvement. So that's fine. That's the nature of a campaign, which just ended yesterday. Now we move on to this process of governance.

The folks down here, I hope to be as good a congressman for somebody who voted and worked against me as I do for somebody that did. And the same I guess would apply up in Washington, D.C. I look forward to working with everybody, whether Republican, Democrat, independent, whatever, and I had the good fortune of serving in Congress a number of years ago. A number of those folks are now in senior level positions both in the House and Senate. Really look forward to rejoining them, working with them on outcomes that make a difference in people's lives here, both in the first congressional district, and across this country.

BERMAN: Four years ago when your career was really derailed when you were the governor and you had that tearful press conference in front of the whole country, did you ever think that you'd be sitting here this morning elected once again to political office?

SANFORD: I did not, for all the obvious reasons. I thought my time in politics was forever over. But I go back to the notion of redemption, and a god of second chances, and have had the blessing of seeing that firsthand, both at a personal level with people I know across this community, and I guess on my own inner spiritual journey, as well, which is a much longer conversation.

BERMAN: Your fiancee was with you last night in your victory. She was also with you when you won the primary several weeks ago, and there were some people who criticized her presence at those events. Was there any discussion about her maybe not being there with you last night?

SANFORD: No. And to her credit, she flew a continent to be here last night. Whether I won or lost she wanted to be here. I'm simply really appreciated her being willing to do so and I think as folks get to know her, I think they're going to love her.

BERMAN: The newest member of Congress, Congressman-Elect Mark Sanford of South Carolina's First Congressional District. Thank you so much for being with us this morning. Congratulations on your victory.

SANFORD: Thank you so much.

BERMAN: Ahead on STARTING POINT, the hero neighbor who helped free the three Ohio women talks about those simply unbelievable moments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLES RAMSEY, HELPED FREE MISSING WOMEN: I'm trying to get the door open and can't because it's -- torture chamber did some kind of way to lock it up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: More of the shocking details coming up next. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to a special edition of STARTING POINT. We are live in Cleveland this morning. And we've been telling you about the neighbor, Charles Ramsey, the character who was one of the neighbors to notice Amanda Berry was screaming for help. His actions have people calling him a hero now. But he said he was surprised to find out what was allegedly going on at his neighbor's house. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAMSEY: I've been here a year. I barbecue with this dude. We eat ribs and whatnot and listen to salsa music.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you had no indication --

RAMSEY: Not a clue! That that girl was in that house or anybody else was in there against their will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: So last night CNN's Anderson Cooper spoke exclusively with Charles Ramsey. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN'S "AC 360": So you moved in about a year ago.

RAMSEY: Yes.

COOPER: You'd seen Ariel Castro around, right?

RAMSEY: When I moved here only because he was my neighbor.

COOPER: Right.

RAMSEY: You know what I mean?

COOPER: What was he like?

RAMSEY: Cool. He was no freak of nature. He was like me and you because he talked about the same things you talking about. He talk about you, you know what I mean? You know, regular stuff, bro.

COOPER: So yesterday what happened?

RAMSEY: I'm going to tell it all. Around 3:00, I was on my porch, and the mailman put his mail in my mail. I'm looking at it like here is his mail. Couple minutes later, he pulled up, checked the mailbox before he went in the house. I said Ariel, here go your mail. Just have the same conversation with the mail. He said they can't get it right.

I said nope, that postal service. That's it. He left. I jumped on my bike, went to McDonald's, came back home. I'm in my house, but I'm in the living room, and I'm right by the front door, I'm looking out the front door and man, this girl screamed like a car had hit a kid. Which made me, you know, stop eating what the hell was that?

Because that -- so when I got up I saw this, my neighbor across the street. He run across the street and I'm thinking, well where you going? There isn't nobody next door because I just saw Ariel leave. And I know isn't nobody over there. I heard that girl scream and saw him run across the street. And I went outside and wonder what he was doing. And Amanda say, I'm stuck in here. Help get me out. So he -- don't know English that well or panicked. So he just looked at me and he's like, it's a girl and that's all he did. So here I come with my half eaten Big Mac and I look and I say, what's up?

And she's like I've been trapped in here, and he won't let me out, me and my baby. I said well, come on. I'm trying to get the door open and can't because it's -- torture chamber some kind of lock, right? Had to kick the bottom of the door, and she crawled out of it. She grabbed her baby and threw me off. All right, fine, I got some girl and her kid.

COOPER: What did she look like? I mean, what was she wearing?

RAMSEY: Jump suit. She had a white tank top on, rings on. Mascara, you know, she was like -- she didn't look like she was kidnapped. That's what I'm saying. That's what threw me off. She said I've been here trapped. You weren't kidnapped maybe you got a boyfriend problem. I'm thinking I know who lives here. And he's 50-something. You can't be the boyfriend problem. You know, it can't be him. Maybe you're dating the son.

COOPER: You never seen her before?

RAMSEY: Bro --

COOPER: In the year that you been there?

RAMSEY: Bro, that -- man, listen, never. That woman didn't come out the house. The only kids that came out the house were two little girls they played in the backyard with two dogs. And where I live actually is next door, my bedroom is upstairs. So there's kids playing I know it's them. They do the same thing, play in the backyard for a couple hours, go back in the house, same thing every day. The neighborhood knows them as his grandchildren. So, isn't no big deal. He got his grand kids over all the time. I thought.

COOPER: Amanda Berry then what asked to call 911?

RAMSEY: And I took her to my house. Now, I'm nervous as hell, so I'm fumbling with my phone. So I finally get it right. She can't wait. I don't blame her what I do is tell her go across the street and use their phone. Now we're both calling 911. Now she gets through and I get through. She be with the moron, me, too.

COOPER: You said -- what do you mean a moron?

RAMSEY: Idiot.

COOPER: I heard the 911 call for her.

RAMSEY: Imbecile, can't do their damn job.

COOPER: The woman was like hang up and wait for the police.

RAMSEY: Really? How about stay on, and I will talk to you until they get there.

COOPER: Right.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN: And we'll hear more of Anderson Cooper's exclusive interview with Charles Ramsey coming up on our next hour of STARTING POINT.

And Charles Ramsey is now getting what may be the ultimate internet accolades. His interviews have been auto tuned. Listen to this.

I know what you are saying. You're sitting at home and you're saying I predicted this. So did I. But did you predict this? Hodges Cleveland, which is a restaurant here. It's actually where Charles Ramsey works. They have this T-shirt now up for sale. You can go to their website.

And it's essentially a T-shirt with the face of Charles Ramsey on it, and all of the proceeds that they raise will to benefit the victims here. Do we have a picture of it? Can we put it up for folks? I'll get it later and show it for you. This guy is doing a wealth of good. Not just rescued the girls, but raising money for them as well.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, just who is Ariel Castro and his two brothers accused of holding the three women in Cleveland captive. A relative of the Castro brothers is joining us next. You are watching starting point.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome to a special edition of STARTING POINT. We are live in Cleveland. We're following the investigation into the three women found alive after 10 years in captivity.

Joining us now is Maria Castro Montes. She is the cousin of the suspects, Ariel, Pedro and Onil Castro. Thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it. How are you holding up with all of this scrutiny that's happening right now and with the revelation about your cousins?

MARIA CASTRO MONTES, COUSIN OF SUSPECTS: Our entire family is actually in shock and very devastated with all of these accusations that have come out about our cousins, and at this point, I'm not going to even say accusations. I don't think there is any doubt what has transpired here.

SAMBOLIN: Why do you say that?

MONTES: Because of everything that's come out of home and everything that the girls have so far said to media, you know, my family's main concern right now is with these three girls. We want these girls to know how sorry we are that this happened to them at the hands of someone that is a part of our family, and we want them to know that, you know, nothing changes with the rest of us. We ask that this community not judge an entire family based on one person's actions or not judge an entire race based on one person's actions. You know, these are family members that obviously, we have grown apart over the years, as most people do, when you grow up, get married move on, with your own lives and families.

We saw each other occasionally, family funerals or weddings. There was a recent family funeral back in August and that was the last time I saw the brothers, their mother and another sister, and never any indication for any of this. I mean, no one in our family would have remained quiet or covered up any of these horrific details if we had any idea what was going on.

SAMBOLIN: I know we talked a little bit off camera, and you said your family, they are pillars of the community, the grocery store right down the street owned by your family. You grew up here. This is your neighborhood.

MONTES: This is my neighborhood. It has remained my neighborhood and as part of the neighborhood, we also held vigil with these families and we prayed for these girls and we hoped they would come home and my family is obviously elated that these girls were found. I mean, I was screaming my head off when it came out on the news, you know, we've hoped for this, prayed for this.

Their families never let their memory go away, I mean, they posted posters of these girls all over the neighborhoods and surrounding neighborhoods, not a neighborhood you can walk into that you don't see pictures of Gina and Amanda, and, unfortunately, Michele didn't get the type of publicity.

Because she was an adult obviously when she disappeared, and they thought perhaps it wasn't an abduction and it's sad, but, you know, thanks to the efforts of the Berry family and to the efforts of the DeJesus family.

SAMBOLIN: Let's talk about the DeJesus family. Did you know them personally?

MONTES: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: They were part of your life. Tell me about the relationship.

MONTES: I've known Nancy, Gina's mother, since I was a little girl. My father has been friends with Gina's grandfather, Benny, since they were little kids, going back to Puerto Rico. You know, we've known the family. They have frequented my father's store, see them in the neighborhood. I didn't know Gina personally. Amanda Berry, my sons went to school with her, both Wilbur Wright and John Marshall.

SAMBOLIN: So that's the connection. That's why -- because everybody has been talking about the connection that perhaps Ariel, your cousin, actually targeted her in particular. Do you know anything about a relationship there? MONTES: Nothing. You know, obviously, all of this is starting to unfold in front of our family, just as it is the rest of the nation and we are shocked some of the things that are coming to light. We are shocked by some of the things that are being said. We don't know what the relationship was there. We can't speculate on that it's an ongoing investigation with Cleveland police and the FBI, some of Gina's family has come forward to say, yes, they knew him, yes, they had associated with him. Had even, you know -- a couple of them played in a band with him.

SAMBOLIN: So maybe Gina trusted him.

MONTES: Perhaps. Obviously, there are photographs circulating that Ariel's daughter was very good friends with Gina. How he planned this, why he planned this, why it happened, we have no idea. You know, we're a good family, and, unfortunately, every villain out there has a family, that has nothing to do with what they have done and what their actions are.

You know, he is going to pay the price for what he did. He's my cousin, and obviously, I can't say that now, but there was a time I loved him dearly and our whole family is hurt over this. He has hurt our family, but that's not even the important part.

The important part, what he did to these girls, what he took from them that they will never get back. They are the heroes here. Everybody wants to talk about this man that has saved these girls, and, yes, he played a part in that, but they are the real heroes.

They survived. They stuck together. They took care of each other. They kept their faith alive.