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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN
A Decade of Hell; Arias Talks After Guilty Verdict; Arias Convicted Of First-Degree Murder
Aired May 9, 2013 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: It describes unimaginable suffering endured by Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michele Knight, including the women's accounts of how they were lured and abducted 10 years ago, 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.
A lot of disturbing new developments in this case this morning as we wait for Ariel Castro's arraignment in just a half hour from now. So, let's more details. She is live -- Pamela Brown is live right outside the courthouse.
Good morning to you, Pamela.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Zoraida.
At 8:30 this morning, Ariel Castro is expected to make his first appearance before a judge. And he could enter a plea this morning. As the country celebrates the freedom of the victims he allegedly held captive, some of the unspeakable details of their confinement are now emerging.
BROWN (voice-over): The initial incident report obtained by CNN spells out a number of the horrid details.
Amanda Berry's baby was born in a plastic pool delivered by Michele Knight. The report also says that when the baby was born, she stopped breathing and Castro told Knight that if the baby died, he'd kill her. Amanda Berry told police that the baby's father is the suspect, Ariel Castro.
Michele Knight was pregnant at least five times by the suspect, each time forced to abort the baby by starvation and by Castro repeatedly punching her in the stomach. The women told police that none of them were ever treated by a doctor while in captivity.
When police entered the home Monday, no one was found in the basement. But as an officer near the top of the stairs and yelled "Cleveland police", the report says Michele Knight threw himself into his arms and then DeJesus rushed out of a bedroom and threw herself into the cop's arms.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We found them. We found them.
BROWN: A law enforcement source tells CNN that Amanda Berry had hit her breaking point, that she was desperate to get out of the house on Seymour Avenue.
But why was she able to escape now after more than 10 years in captivity?
DEPUTY CHIEF ED TOMBA, CLEVELAND POLICE DEPARTMENT: Something must have clicked and she saw an opportunity. And she took that opportunity. I said it the other day and I'll say it today that, you know, she is the true hero.
BROWN: That same source says that the other two women, Gina DeJesus, and Michele Knight, could also have run but chose not to, even though they were not bound. And that decision reflected the women's state of mind. The source went on to say the women relied on each other for survival and did interact, though they were mostly kept in separate rooms. They only left the house twice.
TOMBA: We were told that they left the house and went into the garage in disguise. So, those are the two times that were mentioned or that they can recall.
BROWN: The homeowner, 52-year-old Ariel Castro, is charged with kidnapping and raping the three young women. He's also charged with kidnapping their 6-year-old daughter who was born in captivity.
VICTOR PEREZ, PROSECUTOR: I just signed criminal complaints charging Ariel Castro with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape.
BROWN: Ariel Castro will appear before a judge at 8:30 this morning. These are just initial charges in a criminal complaint. Castro could be facing more charges soon.
SAMBOLIN: And, Pamela, you have some more details on what we can actually expect to see in court today.
BROWN: That's right, Zoraida. Today in court, a judge will read Castro his rights, present the charges, ask him if he understand his charges and then ask him if he wants to enter a plea. He does have a right to waive that, however. The prosecutor will also ask for no bond or high bond, and then that high bond, rather, will be up to the judge's discretion about what to do there.
His two brothers also expected to appear today after Castro's initial appearance. They have not faced any charges in connection to the case. So, we're hearing that they could get credit for the time they have served and that they could be released either from here or at the police department later on.
SAMBOLIN: All right. Pamela Brown reporting live outside the courthouse, thank you for that.
And police in Ohio had a chance to take Ariel Castro into custody. That was back in 2008, even threatening him with arrest. But it never happened.
Take a look at this police dashcam video an officer following Castro as a suspect pulls his motorcycle into a gas station. Listen to part of their confrontation over an improperly installed license plate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POLICE OFFICER: Let's see your driver's license. Your driver's license, please?
ARIEL CASTRO, SUSPECT: What's wrong?
POLICE OFFICER: Your plate is improperly displays. It has to be displays 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 not wearing a helmet and for failing to have a motorcycle endorsement. But Castro was never taken into custody for that incident.
So, it is a joyous time right now in Cleveland, hugs and high fives all around, as the women who spent a decade in brutal captivity find their way home. In the last hour, I had a really emotional conversation with Amanda Berry's grandmother. Fern Gentry barely held back tears. And she relayed a message to the granddaughter that she has not seen in a decade.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FERN GENTRY, AMANDA BERRY'S GRANDMOTHER: Amanda, you hang in there, 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're all going to be together pretty soon. But I love you with all my heart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAMBOLIN: Fern Gentry has spoken with Amanda by phone. She says hearing her granddaughter was alive 10 years after she disappeared was, quote, "the most important thing that ever happened in my life."
And we have new video from our affiliate WOIO showing Ariel Castro in police custody at the county justice center in which one of their reporters confronts Castro.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOIO REPORTER: 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: In less than half an hour, Castro will make his first appearance on kidnapping and rape charges.
Paul Orlousky is a reporter with our affiliate WOIO, and he will be there. These are live pictures right now that are inside the courtroom as we await that arraignment.
So, Paul, one of your colleagues shot that video. A really quick glimpse of Ariel Castro in police custody. We didn't see him say anything, did he?
PAUL ORLOUSKY, REPORTER, WOIO: No, he didn't say anything. That was Ed Gulick (ph), our reporter, a very impressive guy, as you see.
Covering his face, he's not going to be able to cover his face today. He's got to face the cameras, face the music, and face the judge today and enter a plea of some sort.
SAMBOLIN: So, investigators tell us that Castro is talking to reporters. How cooperative are your sources saying he's being?
ORLOUSKY: Well, we understand that immediately when they confronted him at a McDonald's, not too far from his house, they began to talk to him, they read him his rights. And then when he was taken downtown, they read him his Miranda rights, and he waived having an attorney and just began to talk to them.
There's a lot of talk amongst some sources that he's confessed and maybe that would clear his brothers. They -- it's a slam-dunk case. He's guilty -- innocent until proven guilty, but the chains that are in the house, you got three witnesses, the victims, and long history of this abuse.
So, it doesn't have much to gain from a not guilty plea in a way.
SAMBOLIN: So tell us what you expect to see that we're going to see in court a few minutes from now.
ORLOUSKY: These will be very quick. I'm told that they're going to be three separate arraignments. The brothers haven't been charged in this case. They've got understanding warrants, that's why they are still in court.
So, they will probably settle the cases today. The judge could find them. As long as they settle these old tickets and the stuff laying around, they can bond themselves out, probably release about three or four this afternoon. Different story on him. Each of these will take 90 seconds or two minutes.
And a high bond will be set, possibly no bond. I would suspect no bond in this case. He'll be appointed a lawyer, and plead not guilty here. It will be bound over to the county grand jury, where all of the evidence will be presented to that grand jury. That's where additional charges will be made. This is a municipal city of Cleveland hearing. It will be bound over to the county grand jury.
SAMBOLIN: And, Paul, I want to talk about something we witnessed here yesterday. Right next to the house, to Ariel Castro's house, there is a boarded up house. And yesterday, there were cadaver dogs in there along with FBI agents.
Do you know what's happening? Have they wrapped up that investigation looking for other victims? Or is that still ongoing?
ORLOUSKY: It's still ongoing with all three houses. Actually, the two houses adjacent to Castro's house were both boarded up. It would be a logical place to dump something, I suppose, although you might want to get farther from your home from that.
But they opened the doors, went in with the dogs, I saw them go in with a lot of evidence bags, but they didn't come out as nearly as many. They got a few things, but not nearly so many. Mattresses coming out of Castro's house and bag after bag of evidence.
Not very much coming of those other two adjacent houses, two adjacent houses immediately next to Castro's house.
SAMBOLIN: All right. And we're continuing to learn about the horror that took place inside of that house. A leaked report alleges that Castro made one of the girls miscarry multiple times.
What can you tell us about the details of this report?
ORLOUSKY: The details are horrific. You hate to use cliches, house of horrors, things like that, ropes, and chains, people first of all chained in a basement and locked into rooms where food was slid under the door. It is horrific. There's no question.
But the police report is very, very graphic, very, very gruesome. One of the women saying she was forced to starve when she became pregnant. She says at least five times. He starved her, would punch her in the stomach, she would miscarry.
And when the baby Jocelyn was born, they put the mom, Amanda Berry, into a plastic kids pool for the mess to be easier to clean up and told her if that baby dies, I'll kill you. At one point the baby did stop breathing and they had to -- she actually resuscitated the baby.
So, it's just horrific. Repeated rapes and the mistreatment that went on inside that house.
SAMBOLIN: Well, Paul Orlousky, WOIO reporter, we really appreciate your time and perspective. It's really nice to have you. Thank you.
And in about 20 minutes, we're expecting suspect Ariel Castro to be arraigned. Here's a live look at the courtroom. We're going to a quick peek at that again. And that's going to happen live at 8:30. We're going to take that live for you as well.
John Berman is in New York. He has the rest of today's top stories -- John.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Zoraida. And, again, we will get back to Cleveland the minute that arraignment begins.
But there is other news. New this morning, a possible break in the disappearance of missing Michigan mother Jessica Heeringa. Police now say her blood was found outside the ExxonMobil station where she disappeared. She disappeared on April 26th during her shift there.
Investigators say they only found a small amount of blood. Her family has been notified.
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 a 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, there was the verdict and then a stunning development. Just after the verdict, Jodi Arias told a Phoenix TV station that she would rather get the death penalty than life in prison. That prompted authorities to put her on suicide watch.
CNN's Ted Rowlands is live in Phoenix with more on the interview, more on her (INAUDIBLE) this morning.
Good morning, Ted.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John.
It's hard to believe her attorneys allowed her to do that interview. But she did. She said she was surprised by the verdict and she said she would rather be executed than live the rest of her life in prison.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do find the defendant as to count one first degree murder, guilty.
ROWLANDS (voice-over): 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 MURDERER: 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. 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.
(on camera): Why so emotional?
KATHY BROWN, SPECTATOR: You know, justice is served. And that's all we needed.
ROWLANDS: The guilty verdict means Jodi Arias is eligible for the death penalty and Arias says she hopes that's what exactly what her sentence will be.
ARIAS: 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. And I would probably live a long time. So that's not something I'm looking forward to.
I said years ago that I'd rather get death than life. And that still is true today.
I believe death is the ultimate freedom, so I'd rather have my freedom, just as soon as I can get it.
ROWLANDS: And, John, Jodi Arias and the jury will be back in court this afternoon here in Phoenix as the death penalty phase begins.
BERMAN: All right. Ted Rowlands in Phoenix for us covering.
And we will be back at 4:00 p.m., of course, when that begins as well.
Fourteen minutes after the hour. Ahead on STARTING POINT, the sentencing phase of the Jodi Arias trial begins today. We're going to speak with Travis Alexander's close friend and a father figure to Alexander, Dr. Karl Hiatt. We're going to get his reaction to the guilty verdict and what he hopes happens next.
You're watching STARTING POINT.
BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone. Death or life? That is the decision now facing jurors as the penalty phase of the Jodi Arias trial begins today. Arias, though, has already made her choice in a way. Just moments after she was convicted of murdering ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, Arias told a TV interviewer that she would prefer the death penalty.
Joining me now from Phoenix is Travis Alexander's close friend, a mentor, and a father-figure, Dr. Karl Hiatt. Doctor, thank you so much for joining us this morning. And first of all, let me say, I know no verdict will ever bring your friend, Travis Alexander back, but I would like your reaction when you heard the news of the verdict yesterday.
DR. KARL HIATT, FRIEND OF TRAVIS ALEXANDER: Well, my reaction was not so much vindication or revenge for Jodi. It was more for validation, you know, for Travis. I didn't know Jodi that well. Yes, we did have her over, and you know, Travis brought her. But I knew Travis really well and I knew that he had left Jodi a year before, you know, she killed him.
And I knew he was trying to get his life back. I had, in a group meeting, spoken to his Mormon bishop who was in constant contact with Travis. He knew he was headed back in the right direction, believed in the grace of Christ as a Christian Mormon, and felt like if he repented, he could -- he could get his life back, and he was trying to get away from Jodi.
And, sure, he was a sinner and everybody saw that in the courtroom, but he also was a penitent, humble guy, good man, who is trying to repent and improve and have the full effect of the grace of Christ in his life. And that just didn't come out. So, this was more of a validation for Travis and who he was and what wasn't really shown in the courtroom.
BERMAN: You call it a validation. Of course, the big question is what happens next. The sentencing phase begins today. Jodi Arias, herself, after the guilty verdict was delivered, she gave a television interview where she said the sentence she might like to see. I want you to listen to what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JODI ARIAS, CONVICTED OF MURDER: I said years ago that I'd rather get death than life and that is still true today. I believe death is the ultimate freedom, so, I'd rather just have my freedom as soon as I could get it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Jodi Arias essentially asking for the death penalty. As a friend of Travis Alexander, what is the sentence you would like to see?
HIATT: You know, I don't really have major feelings towards Jodi, again, revenge or anything like that, you know, to kill somebody. The only thing that I know, in this country, we have a system of law and order. And so, I feel like penalties such as the death penalty is really not so much punishment for Jodi, but to keep order, so that the next person doesn't do the same thing. We can't just let people off, then we will not have order.
We'll have chaos. So, part of that keeping order and we have a -- a rule of law, is enforcing maximum sentences. So, if the death penalty is -- is going to help in that regard, I think that's -- that should occur. Again, I'm not great and big -- I'm not a big person for the death penalty or anything like that or revenge for Jodi.
But I just think that punishments are not really, quote/unquote "punishments." They're preventative things for the rest of society to stay in line.
BERMAN: Doctor, this trial became something of a spectacle since January. And yesterday, when the verdict was read, there were hundreds of people by the courthouse and a big cheer went up. I'm wondering, you know, as a friend, what was it like to see the spectacle surrounding this case?
HIATT: Well, as a matter of fact, I was asked to interview several times, because Travis called me his Arizona dad, and I knew him, you know, pretty intimately and loved him. He went on vacations with us and everything, and I felt -- myself, I felt more just a sigh of relief, like, OK, Travis, I think the world can now know who you are and not just all about Jodi.
And I stayed away from this circus. I call it a circus court, but I made a promise to several people who asked me to interview when it's over, I'll make a statement on Travis' behalf and that's really -- that commitment that I made is the reason why I'm here. So, for me, it was more just relief.
BERMAN: Relief. And as you've said, though, you are someone who had met Jodi Arias when she and Travis Alexander were together. I'm wondering if you had a chance to see her in court yesterday or before that and what you thought of what you saw?
HIATT: You know, I saw her here. Every once in a while, I'd get online and kind of see -- you know, keep up with things a little bit, but I did not see anything live. You know, my impressions of Jodi were not so tremendous that I can remember a whole lot about it, just seemed to me that she was a little backward, a little introverted, a little to herself. And I thought it was a little strange for Jodi to be -- for Travis and Jodi.
I didn't think they really matched well. But I trusted Travis and I knew that he was such a builder of people, that Jodi could become somebody, you know, through Travis, because he built so many people, so I just relied on Travis.
BERMAN: All right. Dr. Karl Hiatt, a friend, a mentor, the Arizona father, as you said, of Travis Alexander, thank you so much for being with us this morning. Really appreciate it, sir HIATT: And can I just say one other thing? I don't know if it's too late. But I love Travis' siblings, love their siblings and I have been in some communication with some of them throughout the trial.
And I've told them, you know, Jodi took Travis' life and they need to get this behind them, and trust that the judgment of, you know, the eternal judgment is going to be perfect and not to worry about whatever sentencing, you know, she has, she receives. So, you know, they can move forward as well.
BERMAN: I'm sure that family along with the friends like you are coming together at this time. It has to be difficult. Sir, thank you so much again, Dr. Karl Hiatt for joining us this morning. Really appreciate it.
HIATT: You're welcome.
BERMAN: There is other news. We are just minutes away from the arraignment for Cleveland kidnap suspect, Ariel Castro. He's accused of kidnapping and raping three women for more than a decade. We will bring you that hearing live when it begins. We are just minutes away there, and we're getting a sense of the schedule of how it will go down. Zoraida Sambolin is in Cleveland, covering every angle of the story. Hey, Z.
SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you. This is going to happen at any moment, that arraignment proceedings will begin for Ariel Castro, for his brothers as well. Pedro and Onil Castro will make their appearances in court first. Ariel is charged with kidnapping and rape and we're finding out a lot more about the unimaginable abuse he allegedly inflicted on his three prisoners, spanning a decade of pure hell.
A police incident report obtained by CNN details how Castro allegedly lured and abducted the women in the early 2000s, how one of his female captives, Michele Knight, who's still in the hospital was allegedly starved and beaten during multiple pregnancies in order to induce miscarriages and how Knight helped to deliver fellow captive, Amanda Berry's, daughter in a plastic pool while Castro was threatening to kill her.
We're going to go live to the scene and watch this arraignment. Pamela Brown is there. She is tracking all of the developments for us. Pamela, what can you tell us? It looks like it's about to begin.
We still don't have Pam there at the scene, but this is what's happening right now. We are expecting Ariel Castro to appear before the judge. His brothers will also appear before the judge. Ariel Castro is walking in right now, I understand, and he is going to -- the two brothers, as I understand, are appearing first. They're appearing first, and then, we're going to see Ariel Castro appear before the judge.
There are some people who believe that this is going to be a slam-dunk case. They believe that the proceedings today are going to happen very quickly as well. We're expecting the judge to be in the courtroom any minute now. But right now, what we're seeing are the two brothers who actually are not facing any charges in this particular case.
Apparently, there were some other cases before, and they're going to appear before the judge on that. We understand that that will be very rudimentary, very quick, and that perhaps, they will be released shortly thereafter. They're going to be returned to the police station and released there. But what we're all waiting for is the arraignment of Ariel Castro. We're waiting to hear exactly what the judge is going to say.
John Berman, you're in New York. Are you there with me?
BERMAN: Yes. And again, Zoraida, what you're seeing right there is, as you said, the two brothers who will face the judge before we hear from Ariel Castro. Ariel is there as well standing in the back there. So, all three brothers are in the courtroom. The judge will deal with the first two brothers first.
This is Ariel Castro, actually, you're looking at right now. We can't hear what's going on in the court, but the proceedings look to be getting under way there. And of course, this happening in the wake of the new details.
(BEGIN LIVE FEED)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Individual cases (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you very much.
BERMAN (voice-over): Let's listen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pedro Castro, open container, 2011. How do you plea?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Castro would like to plead no contest to this open container charge. I'd like to point out for the record that this is the only charge that this gentleman has. He's been in jail four days. I would request credit for the four days that he has served. (INAUDIBLE) $100 in costs and credit for four days. thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Onil Castro, charge from 2001, open container. How do you plea?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With respect to Mr. Onil Castro, this case is 12 years old. They're minor defenses (INAUDIBLE) dismiss one --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your motion (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I'd like to also point out for the record that these are the only charges that this man has, two minor misdemeanors from 12 years ago, nothing else.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ariel Castro charged with kidnapping and rape on one charge, kidnapping and rape on the second, kidnapping and rape on the third, and kidnapping on the fourth.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With respect to Mr. Castro, he is waiving examination on each case. With respect to bond on Mr. Castro, Mr. Castro is 52 years old. He's lived in the area for 39 years. He is on unemployment compensation. And to the best of my knowledge, he has no convictions for felonies or serious misdemeanors.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning, your honor.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brian Murphy, prosecuting attorney, Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office for the record. I just would like to say that the charges against Mr. Castro are based on premeditated (INAUDIBLE) decisions to snatch three young ladies from Cleveland's west side streets.