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Missed Opportunity in Cleveland Case; Criminal Investigation into West, Texas Blast; Tamerlan Tsarnaev Buried in Virginia; Zimmerman Attorneys Ask for Anonymous Jurors; Escape from Captivity Gives Others Hope.

Aired May 10, 2013 - 11:30   ET



ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Big bags of food from McDonald's restaurants, a backyard that was hidden by plastic tarps. Ariel Castro's neighbors say that they saw these unusual things and that something wasn't quite right in that house.

One man even said he saw Gina DeJesus, one of the three women that that man allegedly held captive for a decade, just before she was kidnapped. But he says when he told the police, they ignored his complaint.

Our Gary Tuchman has all the details.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Eric Poindexter says he believes key have helped police end this kidnapping nightmare.

ERIC POINDEXTER, NEIGHBOR: The street is West 105th, only a couple of blocks away from the school Gina was walking home from the day she was kidnapped.

Eric and his brother were driving when a car came up on their left in the turning lane.

(on camera): Then you saw a girl walking down the side walk on that side of the street?

POINDEXTER: Right by the corner. Right there by that brick building.

TUCHMAN: So what did you see this driver do after that?

POINDEXTER: Once he crossed fidelity here, he swerved in front of us almost hitting us to get into where the parking lane is, and as soon as we passed him up, he did a U-turn. Didn't care if anybody was coming the other way or nothing. Did a U-turn right in front of the -- right in front of where the little girl was walking.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): In this week's police report about the case, authorities reveal that Gina has confirmed she was kidnapped at West 105th Street. (on camera): After Eric and his brother saw the car make a U-turn and head towards the girl. They also made a U-turn, angry that they almost got hit by the driver, and also concerned about the girl. But when they got to the spot where they had seen the girl, they no longer did. She was gone.

(voice-over): It wasn't long before reports surfaced about a missing girl named Gina DeJesus. Eric and his brother say they immediately called the police to tell them what they saw.

POINDEXTER: She was wearing tight black pants and a puffy gray jacket.

TUCHMAN (on camera): What was the description of Gina DeJesus after she went missing?

POINDEXTER: It was a little girl with long curly black hair, wearing black pants, tight black pants, and a gray puffy jacket.

TUCHMAN: Same exact description?

POINDEXTER: Same exact description.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Eric says the authorities never seemed to think their information was credible.

POINDEXTER: It seemed like they were looking at us like we were just looking for attention or something like that.

TUCHMAN: The police?

POINDEXTER: Yes. They didn't seem to give any real true desire for the case. You know, oh, we were telling them. They thought it was just we were blowing smoke up their butts or something.

TUCHMAN: Why do you think that is?

POINDEXTER: I have no clue.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): After the arrest of Ariel Castro, Eric and his brother say that is the face they saw behind the wheel that day.

But theirs isn't the only story that, if acted upon, could have ended the terror allegedly brought by Ariel Castro. In 2004, after Castro, who was a school bus driver, had allegedly kidnapped two girls and was about to kidnap Gina DeJesus, he left a child on his bus as he headed into the bus depot.

I asked police why Castillo wasn't more aggressively questioned about the incident.

ED TOMBA, DEPUTY CHIEF, CLEVELAND POLICE: He was interviewed extensively relative to this complaint that we had. He was not a suspect in any other complaint. This was a -- he was a bus driver who inadvertently, so he says, left the kid on the bus, came in for a lunch break, came back and then found the young man. TUCHMAN: Castro was never prosecuted for that incident.

A year later, Castro was accused in court documents of repeated abuse and domestic violence against his common-law wife. He was accused of everything from breaking her nose twice to dislocating her shoulders. The case was ultimately dismissed because of numerous delays caused by Castro not showing up and attorneys for both sides not showing up.

Police strongly defend their work in this case and say they have no records of any recent calls pertaining to Ariel Castro. They also say they have not been able to confirm if they have records of talking to Eric Poindexter and his brother back when the kidnapping happened.

POINDEXTER: I now believe 100 percent in my heart that he was there to abduct that little girl, and I believe that little girl was Gina DeJesus.

TUCHMAN: Police say they will continue to investigate if other calls had been made over the years.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Cleveland.


BANFIELD: And that investigation is brought on so many fronts. But could the police have done more before all of this? Were warning signs ignored?

I want to bring in former New York City Police chief investigator, Steve Kardian, and he joins us from New York via Skype.

You were also a police detective. Steve, you are a great person to ask. Is hindsight 20-20, or when you hear the things that Gary Tuchman just told us with the interview that he conducted of that man who said he saw a little girl and was so concerned he circled back and she was gone, and police weren't interested, is that the kind of thing that can really go on and should there be more attention to find out if that really did happen?

STEVE KARDIAN, NEW YORK CITY CHIEF POLICE INVESTIGATOR: In a case like this, especially a high-profile case like this, we'll see a lot of Monday-morning quarterbacking going on. I'm an advocate for anything we can do to improve our police operations to keep our young and our females safe.

BANFIELD: What about the notion that the police do answer that their logs don't show many of the calls that people said they have made calls in this past decade? Every time we get a report to the press that someone says he or she made the call, police come back and say, it's just not there. How accurate are those call logs, and how often do people say something to police perhaps not on the telephone, and it doesn't get logged?

KARDIAN: Well, every call that's generated by the public to the police department is logged in, whether it -- it used to be in the blotter years ago, back in the 1990s, and then we became computerized more than 10, 12 years ago, depending upon the agency. But the calls are accurately reported, and they can be cross-referenced rather easily.

This information, if it were to have been reported to law enforcement, it may have helped, it may have not helped. You know, we're going to learn from this. This is a very rare instance, this type of a case, that Jaycee Dugards, the Elizabeth Smarts, and now the Cleveland case. Very rare. Law enforcement typically doesn't see a woman or a child abducted 10, 15, 20 years ago, and live to be discovered.


BANFIELD: Now we know they have, Steve, and now we know that we have to be vigilant, and if we have three kids disappearing on the same street, I get it. Without probable cause you can't go marching into people's homes, but isn't there something more that can be done to canvas those neighborhoods and to do more to find out a better picture of who is living where and what kind of background they might have? There was some very unusual behavior in Castro's background.

KARDIAN: Yes, in retrospect, looking at the history with him leaving that child on the bus, does it necessarily direct us to a serial --


BANFIELD: No, but the abuse of his wife, the horrifying circumstances of his wife, that would be a red flag, wouldn't it?

KARDIAN: It's a red flag under any aspect of domestic violence. Would that cause law enforcement to take a closer look at it? Of course. I'm sure that that's been done. You get behind his closed doors without probable cause, without a judge signing off on search warrant, very difficult process.

But we do need to have better communication with the public. We do need to further, take it that one step or two steps further to look at a suspicious circumstance. However, my -- so we can better be able to do our jobs and find and discover cases like this more rapidly.

BANFIELD: And sometimes they are needles in a haystack, without question. And hindsight is very much 20-20.

Steve Kardian, thank you for that.

"INSIDE THE MIND OF AN ALLEGED MONSTER," we will ask what other secrets could be hidden inside that house of horrors. That is tonight, a special "PIERS MORGAN LIVE" tonight at 9:00 p.m. eastern time.

We've got some breaking news that I want to bring to your attention reason. This comes to us out of Texas. In fact, it comes to us with regard to the explosion of the West Texas Fertilizer Plant. The Texas Department of Public Safety is launching a criminal investigation into the fertilizer plant explosion. The Texas Department of Public Safety is announcing this in a press release, in fact, "The disaster has severely impacted the community of West. We want to insure that no stone goes unturned and that all of the facts related to this incident are uncovered." This from the director, Steven McGraw, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

You'll remember that on April 17th, two days, actually, after the Boston bombings at the marathon, that fertilizer plant exploded. 14 people were killed in that explosion. It registered on seismographs as an earthquake of 2.1. It could be felt 50 miles away. The damage that you are seeing on your screen is evidence of just how massive this explosion was. It had been cited twice by federal regulators since 2006.

I'm going to go on to quote the Texas Department of Public Safety. They say, "The citizens of McClellan County and Texas have confidence that this incident has been looked at from every angle and professionally handled. They deserve nothing less." That, coming to us from the sheriff.

There you have it. There's going to be a criminal investigation now into the explosion. We're going to have more on that in just a moment.


BANFIELD: Again, just to update you on breaking news out of the Boston Marathon bombings. One of the suspected bombers who died in a violent shoot-out with police has now been buried and now the location of the burial site is known. The body of Tamerlan Tsarnaev has been buried in a Muslim cemetery that's located in Doswell, Virginia, a source close to the investigation has told CNN. You may remember that for days upon days that had been a conundrum. No one wanted him. Even his parents in Russia had not made the effort to bring the body back to Russia. And the poor funeral director in Worcester, Massachusetts, was left holding that body and trying to contract it out somewhere. No one was interested in interring that body for concern for those others at rest and also the spectacle it could cause for their communities for those that may consider protesting in the future. We are now being told a source close to the investigation concerning that Tsarnaev has been buried in a Muslim cemetery in Doswell, Virginia. Part of that saga now closed.

The defense in George Zimmerman's case firing off a few-last minute pre-trial motions, and they are biggies. One of them is to keep the identities of any juror sitting in that panel a secret, and another is for a little road trip. Our legal team will weigh in right after this.


BANFIELD: Today is a very important deadline for pre-trial motion in the case against George Zimmerman. That's a murder case. And the lawyers on both sides have been working a lot of hours. Overtime, you might say. Zimmerman's attorneys are asking the judge for some very special things. They want the jury in his case to be able to leaf the courtroom and actually go out to the scene where Trayvon Martin was shot and killed last we're in Sanford, Florida. They call it a jury- go-see sometimes. You might recall that Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in connection with that case. His attorneys also want the judge to sequester any jury members that become impaneled and then not reveal their identities, at least during the trial. The prosecutors are also busy. They filed a motion asking the judge to order Zimmerman's wife to step up and answer their questions in pre- trial deposition efforts.

Joining us now to sort all of these things out, CNN's legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Sunny Hostin, as well as HLN legal analyst, Joey Jackson.

Joey Jackson, starting with you, and that's a jury-go-see, where they leave the courthouse and they go to the scene of the crime. While that sounds a little wild, this actually happens not so infrequently. Doesn't it?

Infrequently, doesn't it?

JOEY JACKSON, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY & HLN LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. I think it's very important. Trials are searches for the truth. The jury is the finder of fact. Anything that would assist them in that, I'm for. I think a prosecutor should be for that too. I mean, ultimately, think about a jury trial, Ashleigh. What do we do? We show photos, exhibits, video, audio, why? Because we're bringing the jury to the event in a courtroom. What better way to bring the jury to the event than to have them go to the event.

BANFIELD: It's very pristine evidence. It's not a photograph. It's the real thing. It does have a great effect. And jurors often say it's a wonderful opportunity as well.

Sunny, what about the other issue of jurors and the request to keep their identities a secret? It's not the first time we've heard of this either.

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's not. And I think actually in this particular case it's going to be important. Remember with the Casey Anthony case, the vitriol that that jury received. We're still in Florida in the Zimmerman case, the same state. The last thing you want is for jurors to be concerned about how the public will receive their verdict. So I think it is really in a case like this, where there are so many hot-button issues attached to it, it would be really helpful for this jury to remain anonymous, to maintain their anonymity. And I think that the judge will do that for this jury.

BANFIELD: Interesting.

And, Joey, quickly to you. I'm short on time. Quick as you can for me, please, the wife of Mr. Zimmerman, Shellie, does she have any Fifth Amendment protection? Does she have to answer prosecutors pretrial?

JACKSON: Not at all. This is a thornier issue briefly Ashleigh. Certainly, you might recall she's under a criminal case herself. What happened? She was charged with perjury. So to that extent, she has a Fifth Amendment right not to say anything. And also there's a spousal privilege in Florida and other states across the country which allows a spouse of a defendant to say not a word.

BANFIELD: All right. Sunny Hostin, Joey Jackson, I knew you'd have the answers. No matter how busy you are, you're always right up on those cases. Thank you to you both.

JACKSON: Happy Friday, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Thank you. Have a great weekend to both of you.

The story of three women being rescued in Cleveland this week has given hundreds of families brand new hope in their cases that their daughters and their sons who are missing might also be found alive. We have one mother's story of hope coming up next.


BANFIELD: The escape and rescue of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michele Knight is certainly giving new hope to thousands of other families. These are families that have some new energy in their own quest to find their own missing loved ones.

And our Kyung Lah has their story.


SHARON MURCH, MOTHER OF MICHAELA: Hope is a very difficult thing. It's a very difficult thing to hold onto.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sharon Murch has been holding on for 25 years hoping her abducted daughter, Michaela Garrett, would somehow come home. Michaela was just 19 years old in 1988, and went to this corner store in Hayward, California, with a friend.

MURCH: They picked up their scooters. Before they left, she said I love you mom. And I said, I love you, too, Michaela. And those were our last words to each other.

UNIDENTIFIED NEWS ANCHOR: Officials say there's no sign of Michaela or her abductor.

LAH: A nation mobilized, posting and canvassing neighborhoods, looking for this man. Witnesses saw him grab Michaela, screaming as he shoved her into a car. The mother, pleading to return her first born child.

MURCH: If Michaela hasn't seen the effort to get her back, she will see and she'll know how much we love her and care about her.

LAH: 15,000 tips later, an entire police room dedicated to the case, still nothing.

Her sister and brother now adults. The yellow ribbons marking the place where Michaela was taken. Her mother replacing the tattered and faded ones with each passing year.

MURCH: It's like a big hole in the center of my life. And it's impossible to get away from it.

LAH (on camera): When you heard the news out of Cleveland, what was your first reaction?

MURCH: This was like inflating the balloon so it would carry me along for a while. And I put all the news on my blog because I hope that Michaela would see it. I hope she would see that it's possible to get help. It's possible to get free.

LAH (voice-over): The Cleveland story also makes others believe.

Michaela's mother, at a criminology class at a local college, trying to keep interest in her daughter's case alive.

(on camera): For every Amanda, Gina and Michele, there are hundreds of Michaelas. Law enforcement estimates about 2,000 children go missing every single day in the U.S. A small fraction of them are stranger-abductions like the Cleveland case, like the Michaela case.

MURCH: Sometimes I don't have anything hopeful to say. And yet I still keep reaching out to my daughter because if she is out there, she needs me to do that.

LAH (voice-over): Her mother reaches in the only way she can, in cyberspace, on a blog called "Dear Michaela."

MURCH: What I can't put in the photograph and paste on this blog is my heart, Michaela. My heart is always waiting for you. Have faith, my sweet girl, in yourself and the love that surrounds you and the light that leads you home. Have faith. Have courage. Come home.

LAH: Kyung Lah, CNN, Hayward, California.


BANFIELD: Michaela's blog. When she went missing, most of us didn't have computers.

Thanks for watching, everyone. AROUND THE WORLD starts right after this break.