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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Three Women Rescued from Captivity in Cleveland; Interview with Amanda Berry's Grandmother; Arias Asks for Death Penalty; Castro to be Arraigned Today

Aired May 9, 2013 - 07:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to "Starting Point." I'm John Berman.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning to you, John. And good morning to everyone else. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. I am live in Cleveland. Our STARTING POINT, the house of horrors, some abuse to miscarriages and one terrifying birth that is detailed in a new police report laying out the nightmare three women allegedly endured in a Cleveland house for a decade.

Then, kidnapping and rape charges, they are filed against the suspect, Ariel Castro. We have new video of him in custody as he prepares to face a judge for the first time. We're going to bring that to you live.

Plus, Jodi Arias back in court and closer to learning if she'll get life or death as her shocking comments after the guilty verdict have prison officials on high alert.

It is May 9th, a special edition of STARTING POINT live in Cleveland begins right now.

Our STARTING POINT this morning, an initial incident report obtained by CNN describing what went on inside this house of horror on Seymour Avenue right behind me for the last 10 years. We're going to have more on that in a moment.

But first, new video of a man many are calling a monster. Ariel Castro accused of holding three women captive inside his home now facing three counts of rape and four counts of kidnapping. So listen as a reporter from WOIO in Cleveland fires questions at Castro inside his prison last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you covering your face? What do you have to say to those women? How could you do that? What kind of monster does this?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Now to breaking news, really sickening new details of unspeakable abuse coming to light this morning in a police incident report that was obtained by CNN. It describes a decade of suffering endured by Amanda Berry, Gina Dejesus and Michele Knight, including the women's accounts of the day they were abducted, what officers encountered when they first arrived at Ariel Castro's home on Monday, and how one of the female captives was allegedly starved and beaten during multiple pregnancies in order to induce miscarriages. Pamela Brown is tracking all of these horrific developments for us. What can you tell us, Pamela?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zoraida, that's right. We are learning new emerging horrific details from this initial incident report obtained by CNN. In this report we're learning about the circumstances surrounding the alleged abductions. It said that Amanda Berry was walking home from her shift at Burger King, told her that his son worked at burger king and offered her a ride.

In this report he says he also lured both Michele Knight and Gina Dejesus into his car. From there he allegedly chained them up in the basement and eventually let them free from the clan chains and let them live upstairs on the second floor. Michele Knight told police she was pregnant at least five times, and when Castro found out he would starve her for at least three weeks and hit her in the stomach to cause a miscarriage.

According to the report, Michele was forced to deliver Amanda Berry's baby in a small plastic pool inside the home. Castro allegedly told Michele if the baby died he would kill her. We learn in this report that at one point the baby stopped breathing and Michele administered CPR. The report also says that none of the women was ever treated by a doctor while in captivity.

And then this morning we're learning more about what happened Monday when police arrived on the scene and the moments following the dramatic 911 call made by Amanda Berry. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It might be three of them. There might be others in the house. Georgina might be in this house also. We found them. We found them.

We've got a female. She's got a young child with her. We also have a Michele Knight in the house. I don't know if you want to look that up in the system. She's 32 years old.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: And we have learned that when the Cleveland police officer walked into the house he went to the top of the stairs, yelled "Cleveland police." Michele Knight, came out, ran into his arms and Gina Dejesus followed her and ran into the bedroom and ran into the arms of the police officer, certainly some dramatic moments there.

SAMBOLIN: Pamela, do we know why it was that those other two girls stayed inside the house? Why didn't they run out with Amanda Berry? Do we have details on that?

BROWN: Well, we know that, as we heard, that they were not bound, that they could have run out and escaped with Amanda Berry. But it's likely that they were too afraid to. We've learned that, from sources, that Ariel Castro over the years would test the girls. He would pretend like he was leaving the home and stay around to see if they attempted to flee. If any of them attempted to flee he would punish them, he would discipline them. So in this case it was likely they were just too afraid that he would return and that they would once again be disciplined.

SAMBOLIN: All right, Pamela Brown reporting live for us. Thank you for that.

And police in Ohio had a close encounter with Ariel Castro in 2008, even threatening him with arrest, but it never happened. Take a look at this police dash cam video. It show answer officer following Castro as a suspect, pulls his motorcycle into a gas station. Listen to part of their confrontation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me see your driver's license. Let me see your driver's license, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's wrong?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First off, your plate is improperly displayed. It has to be displayed left to right, not upside-down or sideways.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: The officer goes on to tell Castro that he is subjecting himself to arrest for t not wearing a helmet and for failing to have a motorcycle endorsement. Castro was never taken in to custody for that incident.

And for the first time in a decade the kidnapping victims in Cleveland are surrounded by all of their family and friends. We're hearing their alleged captor only let them out of the house twice during all that time. But now everything is over. Take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN: After more than a decade in captivity, home at last. An entire neighborhood seemingly turned out to show support for Gina Dejesus, reunited with her family after nine long years. She was held captive in the same boarded up house as Amanda Berry and Michele Knight. Shielded by a family member and rushed inside, Gina gave a thumbs-up to the crowd. She was finally free. Her father overjoyed was greeted with high fives and lots of hugs. Her mother said, she never gave up hope.

NANCY RUIZ, GINA DEJESUS MOTHER: Even the ones that doubted, I still want to thank them the most because they're the ones that made me stronger, the ones that made me feel the most that my daughter was out there.

SAMBOLIN: Blocks away, neighbors, family, and friends welcomed another kidnapping victim, Amanda Berry. She emerged from this police van with her six-year-old daughter born in captivity. Amanda's sister spoke to a swarm of reporters, still emotional and struggling to adjust.

BETH SERRANO, AMANDA BERRY'S SISTER: I just want to say we are so happy to have Amanda and her daughter home. At this time, our family would request privacy. So my sister and niece and I can have time to recover.

SAMBOLIN: The third victim, Michele Knight, remains hospitalized but is said to be in good condition. Her family has said that she looks pale, but they're hopeful she will be released soon.

BARBARA KNIGHT, MICHELE KNIGHT'S MOTHER: I'm just hope that my daughter lets me there because I would love to see her.

SAMBOLIN: As these three women begin to reclaim their lives, another prominent kidnapping victim, Shawn Hornbeck, who vanished in Missouri in 2002 and was found alive more than four years later, offered some advice to these brave women.

SHAWN HORNBECK, KIDNAPPING VICTIM: Your family is your strongest thing. That would be my advice, just to know that they are always there for you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN: So not much is known about Michele Knight. She was the first of the three victims to be kidnapped back in 2002. And according to a police incident report, she delivered Amanda Berry's daughter six years ago, and under a threat of death from Castro she even revived the newborn with mouth to mouth resuscitation when that infant had stopped breathing.

Michele Knight's mother says she searched for her daughter on her own for years because she believes police gave up on the case. Barbara Knight, now living in Florida, is hoping for a reunion even though the relationship with her daughter was already fractured before she went missing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KNIGHT: I'm thrilled. And all I want to do is hug her and say I love you and I'm glad it wasn't you that died. It really hurts because, you know, I haven't seen her in so long. And I can't wait to see her because she was my daughter and my best friend.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: And after more than ten years in captivity, Amanda Berry's first conversation was with her grandmother. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERRY: Hello.

FERN GENTRY, AMANDA BERRY'S GRANDMOTHER: Amanda?

BERRY: Yes, grandma.

GENTRY: How are you?

BERRY: I'm fine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Amanda's grandmother Fern Gentry joins us now from her home in Hampton, Tennessee. Good morning to you. Thank you for being with us this morning. I'm going to add a congratulations there because we're just thrilled and delighted that your granddaughter is back home. I know that you have been listening to all of this coverage and you know now about the allegations. How do you feel about everything that you're hearing?

GENTRY: Oh, it's hard to accept it. She lived like that so long. She's still OK and she's still alive. I just thank Jesus. I'm so thankful she's home now. They're lucky. They're lucky they came out of that.

SAMBOLIN: A lot of people are saying that they're resilient. These are remarkable girls. So, you know, your granddaughter has a lot of strength. Tell us what was going through your head when you got that phone call from your once missing granddaughter. We were eavesdropping on the conversation, so I'm going to say thank you for that. But what was going through your head?

GENTRY: Oh, my lord. She's alive, and I'm talking to her after all that time, which I never thought I ever would. But I didn't give up hope. I'm glad she's OK. For what she's been through, she sounds good. And it was a miracle that I -- that I get -- that we did get to talk. I know her life has been bad.

SAMBOLIN: Take your time. Take your time. Let me focus on something positive. I want to play a little bit of the phone call that we got a chance to hear. And then I want your reaction to that.

GENTRY: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GENTRY: The little girl is your baby?

BERRY: Yes, she's my daughter, born on Christmas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Your little granddaughter born on Christmas. That was an added bonus for you, wasn't it? Great granddaughter, I should add. This is your great granddaughter.

GENTRY: Yes, ma'am, it is. And I'm glad -- I'm glad that she had it to help her. I know it helped her. SAMBOLIN: Yes. Did you speak to her about that? We got a little bit of the conversation that we were able to participate in. But did you speak to her? Do you know when you will be able to see her?

GENTRY: I do not. I do not.

SAMBOLIN: You've said that you thought Amanda was probably dead, so tell me what it was like to find out that your granddaughter, yes, that you haven't seen in a decade was alive all of that time.

GENTRY: Oh, my god, I just -- I mean, I don't know. Your whole insides -- I don't know. It's just the thing that ever happened in my life. The most important thing that's ever happened in my life, that she's back, that she's back with us.

SAMBOLIN: Wow. There are a lot of people who did not give up hope, who relentlessly looked for your daughter. Is there anything you would like to say to them?

GENTRY: I'd like to say thanks. I'd like to say thanks, the one after went to that door, thank god. If she hadn't got out, I don't know. I don't think none of them would have lived very much longer. And I thank them from the bottom of my heart. And I'm glad Amanda was strong enough to come to that door and come on out. After that long, she made her way through and got out. And lord god, we're all -- we're just beyond words. I mean, it's just -- it's just a miracle that she appeared back with us. I just can't -- it's just so great. And I thank the lord, you know. I can't wait to see her and the baby. The baby's my great-grandchild and I love it because it's part of her, part of our lives.

SAMBOLIN: And have you had a chance to talk to your great granddaughter?

GENTRY: No, I haven't. No.

SAMBOLIN: Look, we really appreciate that you took the time to spend some time with us this morning. I know that this is just going to be emotional. I can only imagine what the reunion will be like. So if Amanda is listening right now, which perhaps she could be, are there some words you would want to give her as well this morning?

GENTRY: Amanda, you hang in there, honey. You be strong. I'm praying for you. And I love you. We all love you down here, so you remember that. And day by day, you will get better. And we are all going to be together pretty soon. But I love you with all my heart. God, I hope you're OK. I just hope you're all right, and that you can make it day by day, one day at a time.

SAMBOLIN: You know, I suspect that she will. She's got a great foundation. She's got a lot of love and support, including yours. So thank you again. And we look forward to the reunion.

GENTRY: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN Such a sweet lady. John Berman is in New York. He has the rest of today's top stories. Really emotional. I can't wait for their reunion. That's going to be something really spectacular.

BERMAN: Amazing, amazing interview. Such overwhelming sense of emotion. Our hearts go out to that grandmother. We're excited for her and her entire family.

Fifteen minutes after the hour. A lot of other news going on. We begin with a new development in the disappearance of Michigan mother Jessica Heeringa. Police now say her blood was found outside the Exxonmobil station where she worked. She disappeared on April 26th during her shift. Investigators say they only found a small amount of blood and that her family has been notified.

So in just a few hours Jodi Arias returns to court as the penalty phase in her murder trial begins. Yesterday after 15 hours of deliberations, the Arias jury returned to verdict.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We the jury duly impaneled and sworn in the above entitled action upon our oaths do find the defendant as to count one first degree murder, guilty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So the verdict was one thing, but then there was a stunning development just minutes after the verdict, Jodi Arias tells a Phoenix television station she would rather get the death penalty than life in prison, prompting authorities to put her on suicide watch. CNN's Ted Rowlands is live in Phoenix with more on that really shocking interview, Ted. I simply can't believe it happened at all.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's hard to imagine that the jail allowed her to do it. The courthouse, the sheriff's department, and her lawyers allowed her to talk when she still has yet to be sentenced and facing a possible death sentence. It's just the latest twist in this bizarre sort of "made for TV" case that continues. She will be back in court later today as the death penalty phase begins here. But she says she was shocked by the guilty verdict the first degree murder guilty verdict.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do find the defendant as to count one first degree murder, guilty.

ROWLANDS: Jodi Arias had very little reaction in the courtroom to the guilty verdict, but minutes later, she did an interview with Phoenix television station KSAZ. Arias says, she understands why the jury didn't believe her because of the lies she originally told investigators. But she maintains that she didn't plan the murder of her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander.

JODI ARIAS, CONVICTED OF MURDER: There was no premeditation on my part. I can see how things look that way. But I didn't expect the premeditation. I can see maybe the felony murder because of how the law is written but I didn't -- the whole time I was fairly confident I wouldn't get premeditation because there was no premeditation.

ROWLANDS: She also said she hopes the family of Travis Alexander will be able to find peace. In the courtroom when the verdict was read, Alexander's sisters broke down with emotion.

CHRIS HUGHES, FRIEND OF TRAVIS ALEXANDER: They're happy. You know, we would rather have Travis back but we can't have Travis back. So with that said, this is a good day.

ROWLANDS: Outside the courthouse hundreds of spectators cheered the guilty verdict. Some people were even overcome with emotion.

Why are you so emotional?

KATHY BROWN, SPECTATOR: You know, justice was served and that's all we need.

ROWLANDS: The guilty verdict means Jodi Arias is eligible for the death penalty and Arias says she hopes that's exactly what her sentence will be.

ARIAS: The worse outcome for me would be natural life. I would much rather die sooner than later. Longevity runs in my family. I'm pretty healthy, I don't smoke. I would probably live a long time. So that's not something I'm looking forward to. I said years ago that I would rather get death than life and that still is true today. I believe death is the ultimate freedom, so I would rather just have my freedom as soon as I can get it.

ROWLANDS: And, John, Jodi Arias will be back in court this afternoon along with the jury. The jury will ultimately have to decide whether she lives or dies.

BERMAN: Ted Rowlands for us in Phoenix. So much going on in the Jodi Arias trial, that shocking interview.

Plus, all the developments in Cleveland. New details about the investigation and the case there. We want to bring in HLN's Nancy Grace. She has unique insight into both of these cases. Nancy, thank you for being with us. I want to start in Cleveland where there are really just disgusting new details that we learned overnight. One of the victims, Michele Knight, apparently telling authorities she had been pregnant multiple times, that Ariel Castro had starved her, beat her repeatedly to force miscarriages, then we learned how Amanda Berry delivered her child apparently in a pool. No doctors present. What do you make of these new details?

NANCY GRACE, HLN HOST: Well, you termed them as disgusting. I view them as evidence -- evidence that will come into trial against Castro. Many people have talked about the way these women were treated and can there ever be justice for them. The harsh reality is, there is no justice for them because how can you recapture the decade that they were held captive in this boarded-up home, only visited by a monster that repeatedly raped them. There is no justice. But you can put a Band-Aid on that gaping wound with guilty verdicts -- with knowing that he is locked away forever and he can never hurt another child. BERMAN: What does that evidence do to help get that Band-Aid that you're talking about?

GRACE: Well, of course, you have to have the evidence to build a case, to get a conviction. It's very, very difficult to speak to rape victims because they're so distraught. And the feeling of helplessness is overwhelming, that feeling will follow them the rest of their lives. What I'm specially concerned about, however, at this juncture, is the child that was born in and raised in captivity. So far I have not heard any charges in relation to child abuse.

BERMAN: No, we haven't heard those charges yet. Of course, investigators say there could be more charges. Nancy, we're also learning new details about how these three young women were abducted. Apparently Ariel Castro picked them all up in separate times in his car, offering them rides. You know, you're a parent of young children. You know, what do parents say to their kids about how to be safe?

GRACE: It's very difficult, especially with children as young as mine, who are only 5 years old, to talk to them about "stranger danger" in a way that doesn't give them nightmares, that doesn't terrify them from living their own life, from going out on a playground and being free as a child, but the sad reality is it's not the way it was when we grew up. You can't hop on your bike and ride until it's time for super, and you come back home. It's not like that anymore.

This is a stereotypical manner of abduction for children. If you look back over time, look at Erin Runnion's child, that's exactly how her child was picked up. It goes on and on and on where the perpetrator is in a car and lures the child in, can you help me find my puppy, do you want some candy, I know your mommy, she says it's okay. I'm taking you to your mommy. The catch phrases are as old as time. And once again, it worked here, not once but three times in a row.

BERMAN: Ariel Castro making his first court appearance in an hour. We will cover it live. Do you expect him to speak? What are you looking for?

GRACE: He makes me sick. He makes me sick. I have dealt with so many rape victims. I can't even count them. And what I go through listening to them recount what happened to them. And that's just on one rape, all right? These women were tortured and held as kidnap victims for years in this boarded-up home right under the noses of the neighbors. No one could help them. And there's a lot of blame, like could the police have done more, well, you know what, maybe they could have if they had the right information. But let's not put the focus on them. Let's put the focus where it belongs, on Castro.

BERMAN: Before we let you go, Nancy, let me ask you about the Jodi Arias case because you're in Arizona right now covering that. There was the verdict which we all watched yesterday. And then shortly after the verdict, something I thought was dumbfounding, which was an interview. Jodi Arias did an interview where she talked about what sentence -- what she would like to see. Let's listen to what she said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARIAS: Well, the worst outcome for me would be natural life. I would much rather die sooner than later. Longevity runs in my family. I'm pretty healthy. I don't smoke. I would probably live a long time. So that's not something I'm looking forward to. I said years ago I would rather get death than life, and that still is true today. I believe death is the ultimate freedom, so I would rather just have my freedom as soon as I can get it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: As I said, I was surprised to see that at all. But what was your reaction to what she said?

GRACE: I was dumbfounded. Earlier I heard one of the reporters saying how could her attorneys let her do this? There's no letting Jodi Arias do anything. She chose to do this. I doubt very seriously her lawyers condoned this interview, and it's amazing to me that she gets up out of the chair where she is convicted and the slaughter of her lover Travis Alexander walks through the door out of the jury's purview and plops down in a chair and starts giving interviews where she goes on to call the murder victim, Travis Alexander, a hypocrite.

It's incredible to me. And here's a news flash for Jodi Arias, reverse psychology, telling the jury you want the death penalty, that only works when your target doesn't realize it's the object of reverse psychology. All right? Because saying I would rather have death over life, I'm not buying this. This has been a fight for her life all along. And the fact that she's willing to trash the victim within minutes after her conviction is amazing to me.

BERMAN: So you see this as kind of legal jujitsu. She's saying she wants to get the death sentence. You think she's trying to convince the jury not to give her what she wants?

GRACE: I don't know anything about jujitsu, I don't know what you're talking about, but I can tell you this: she wouldn't have been on the stand for 18 days, which is unprecedented, lying through her teeth to this jury, now trashing the murder victim if she didn't want to live. Plus, what, are you telling me you actually believe Jodi Arias?

BERMAN: Oh, no. I was just curious what you thought her motivation was there, Nancy. I'd like to know what you think about the death penalty in this case, based on everything the jury heard, based on everything the jury asked during this case, and they asked a lot, do you think this is a jury that is likely to give her the death penalty?

GRACE: Well, they obviously had issues and hold-outs on getting the murder one conviction. That bodes ill for the death penalty, but they did come through and I've seen longer deliberations that ended in a murder one and a death penalty sentence. I'm referring specifically to David Westerfield just right off the top of my head where the jury went ten days, came back with a murder one and handed down a death penalty. I'm more concerned with the verdict that speaks the truth in this case which the jury did render. When you don't know a horse, look at the track record. The last time a woman was executed in Arizona was 83 years ago when I believe her name was Eva Dugan was put to death for killing a rancher. There are only two other women on death row here right now. One of them put there by prosecutor Juan Martinez. The stats are against the death penalty. I would say the main thing for this family peace of mind is that this verdict was handed down.

BERMAN: And you mentioned her 18 days on the stand. Again, we talked about the positioning over the course of this entire case. Those 18 days with the jury staring at her every day, that designed to make them maybe blink when they had the opportunity to give her the death penalty?

GRACE: Well, you know, I think that whole thing backfired. I think it was a boomerang right to Jodi Arias' head because I think what may have put the nail in the coffin was her own testimony. I think if she had remained silent and not taken the stand she would have faired much better. I don't think her being on the stand for 18 days, lying to the jury, and they knew it, did her any favors.

BERMAN: And last question, Nancy, you said you don't think her lawyers let her do this interview last night. You don't think you let her do anything. What about law enforcement? Do you think that the prison there, that the legal system in Arizona should have allowed a convicted murderer to be doing a television interview so soon after a verdict?

GRACE: You know what, I'm going to hold off on throwing the stone at the Maricopa County jail. She wanted to talk. If she hadn't been allowed to talk, then she would have raised Cain about that. And another thing, just between me and you, Jodi Arias keep talking please so they can bring all of that in to the jury at sentencing phase. The more she talks and the more this jury hears her calling Travis Alexander a hypocrite, he's dead in the grave with his neck slashed. He's a hypocrite? Is she crazy? Legally, no, she's not. But if she keeps talking it can all come in in front of the jury. So keep on keeping on, Arias.

BERMAN: Nancy Grace, so great to have you here this morning on CNN. Thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

GRACE: Thank you for inviting me.

BERMAN: Ahead on STARTING POINT, we are live in Cleveland with the latest on the rescue of those three women. Disturbing details we learned about their life in captivity. A lot going overnight. We'll tell you about that coming up next.

Then, what is next for Jodi Arias? Will she get life or death in the sentencing phase? We're going to hear from criminal defense attorney Joe Tacopina in this case. What he has to say. We're back in 60 seconds.

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