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Abortion Pill Switch; "A Pedophile & a Child Sexual Abuser"; Powerball Rising; Severe Weather Ahead; The Latest Sports Updates; Teen Bags Big Gator; Tiny Town Elects Tot

Aired May 17, 2013 - 06:30   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And people who live in the hardest hit neighborhoods say it could be days, maybe a week before they'll get to see what, if anything, is left of their homes. Those who have seen the scope of the damage first hand say it is surreal, it is extensive.

The National Weather Service now confirms at least 16 tornadoes touched down in the region. That's a lot more than we first thought.

To find out how you can help, visit our "Impact Your World" page. That's at

Developing this morning, a man facing federal murder charges accused of tricking his girlfriend into taking abortion pills to end her pregnancy.

SAMBOLIN: Oh my gosh!

Christine is back with this disturbing story.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This young woman, the alleged victim said she was thrilled when she found out she was pregnant with her boyfriend's baby. But she wasn't ready for what happened next.


ROMANS (voice-over): Twenty-six-year-old Remee Lee was a woman in love.

REMEE LEE, 26-YEAR-OLD: He was my everything and more.

ROMANS: Elated that she and her boyfriend John Andrew Weldon were expecting a child.

LEE: Everyone dreams of becoming a mom.

ROMANS: This sonogram at the obstetrics clinic owned by Weldon's father, a certified OB/GYN, showed she was six weeks pregnant.

But Lee said her boyfriend begged her not to have the baby.

LEE: I was never going to do anything except go full-term with it and he didn't want me to.

ROMANS: In matter of days, she says, her boyfriend called to tell her blood tests revealed a bacterial infection and she believed him. She started taking what she thought was the antibiotic amoxicillin that she said he gave her.

LEE: And he come over with the pills he had, the weapon of choice. He told me to keep taking them. I was supposed to take three a day for days.

ROMANS: But the pills in that bottle were not amoxicillin.

Detectives at the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office say Weldon later admitted to switching out the antibiotic for the pill known as Cytotec, that can cause abortions.

After taking one pill on her way to work, Lee was quickly hospitalized with bleeding and abdominal pain. Soon after, she lost the baby. Doctors who inspected the pills told her the shocking truth.

LEE: Everybody knew it wasn't amoxicillin. Medical professionals saw it wasn't quite right.

ROMANS: Earlier this week, a grand jury indicted Weldon on charges of first-degree murder and product tampering. He's being held without bond but has not yet issued a plea. The murder charge under the Federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act carries a life sentence. Lee is left grieving and in disbelief.

LEE: I can't believe someone did something so malicious to me, and not only to me but to himself. That was our baby.


ROMANS: CNN tried but was unable to get a comment from John Weldon's attorney. Remee Lee has also filed a civil suit against Weldon, seeking damages for the trauma, psychological and emotional injuries she said he caused her.

Really an unusual, unusual story.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. And a lot of legal folks I'm sure are going to weigh in about the outcome of something like this.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, thank you.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-three minutes past the hour.

Michael Jackson's nephew coming to his uncle's defense after a dancer who once defended Jackson accused him of being a pedophile and a child sex abuser. Taj Jackson tweeted that Jackson was a support system for him and his mom after he was molested by another relative. But in a "Today" show interview, dancer/choreographer Wade Robson accused Jackson of performing sexual acts on him and forcing him to reciprocate. Stephanie Elam has more on Robson and his about face.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He was once Michael Jackson's protege. Choreographer Wade Robson can move just like the icon as seen on his show, "The Wade Robson Project", dancing to the mega hit "Smooth Criminal." He made his debut at 6 on Australia's star search, dancing to one of the Jackson's hits, "The Way You Make Me Feel."

But Robson is now saying he was sexually abuse bid the entertainer. In an interview on NBC's the "Today" show, Robson called Michael Jackson a troubled man.

WADE ROBSON, DANCER/CHOREOGRAPHER: Michael Jackson was, yes, an incredibly talented artist with an incredible gift. He was many things. He was also a pedophile and a child sexual abuser.

ELAM: Thomas Mesereau was Michael Jackson's defense attorney in his 2005 molestation trial.

THOMAS MESEREAU, MICHAEL JACKSON ATTORNEY: Wade was Michael's strongest supporter. He was unwavering in his statement that he had never been sexually abused.

ELAM: Mesereau believes Robson, who was his first witness in that cases, is motivated by money.

MESEREAU: He filed a document with probate court wanting to be deemed a creditor. A creditor is someone who believes they are owed money. He's also filed a civil suit.

ELAM: From a legal standpoint, Robson may have an uphill battle.

BETH KARAS, CORRESPONDENT, IN SESSION: You got to look at the timing of this. It's coming right after Katherine Jackson's trial against AEG has begun. It's almost at the four-year anniversary of Michael Jackson's death. If he wanted to just clear his conscious about a lie he's been carrying around for most of his adult years, why didn't he come out sometime in the last four years?

ELAM: There are potentially tens of millions of dollars at stake for the Jackson estate if AEG is found liable.

MESEREAU: To me, this is another person in a long line of profiteers trying to trade off Michael Jackson's reputation and wealth to feather their own nest.

ELAM (on camera): Even though Robson has now spoken about his allegations that Jackson sexually abused him, we may not learn the details since those were sealed by the Los Angeles probate court where his lawyer filed the claim.

Stephanie Elam, CNN, Los Angeles.


BERMAN: Our thanks to Stephanie for that report.

We have some new information this morning about Cleveland kidnapping and rape suspect Ariel Castro. It seems he loves dogs. Last night, Cleveland reporter Ed Gallek told CNN's Piers Morgan about Castro's Chihuahua, which was found in the car the night tat Castro was arrested.

Two other dogs which are terrier poodle mixes were inside the house. They have been cleaned up, spayed and neutered. The FBI is asking the Cleveland dog warden to hang on to the animals for a while so they can eventually ask the women who were held hostage if they would like to claim the dogs as pets.

Meanwhile, a new trust fund to benefit the Cleveland kidnapping survivors, Gina DeJesus, Michelle Knight, and Amanda Berry and her daughter, has already taken in more than $480,000. The trust was established by members of the Cleveland City Council. More than 5,100 individual donations have come in from all 50 states plus Washington, D.C. Also several foreign countries as well.

To make an online donation to the Cleveland Courage Funds, go to

SAMBOLIN: Their story touched people around the world.

Thirty-six minutes past the hour.

Federal agents trying to determine who sent two threatening letters laced with ricin in Spokane, Washington. The letters actually were intercepted by postal screeners. One was addressed to the Spokane post office. The other was addressed to a federal judge.

The Postal Workers Union said the letters were postmarked on Tuesday. And we are happy to report that no one was hurt by the poison.

SAMBOLIN: So, talk about looking down on your subjects. In an effort to alleviate traffic congestion caused by his 12-car presidential motorcade, Russian President Vladimir Putin will now commute to work by helicopter. That must be nice. Reports say workers have completed construction on a helipad at the Kremlin, so Putin can start using the chopper to go from home to work every day.

Who says Putin is not a man of the people.

SAMBOLIN: So nice of him to do, right? Now, there won't be any congestion with his motorcade.

BERMAN: He always mixes it up. You know, we have a collection here of some of greatest hits from Vladimir Putin. There he is in full military garb, you know, dressing a tiger he hunted there. He's shirtless, one of my favorites. The shirtless --

SAMBOLIN: One of your favorite? BERMAN: -- one of the world's largest countries.

SAMBOLIN: Another one. Two in a row for you.

BERMAN: Vladimir Putin, hand glider or ultra light flyer. A man of many faces and many skills. Riding a motorcycle there. And --

SAMBOLIN: Ooh, he could beat you up.

BERMAN: He can beat me up.

Yes, the guy was like the KGB, of course, he can beat me up. I hope he could beat me up. He'd be a lousy KGB agent if he can't beat me up.

SAMBOLIN: All right.

BERMAN: Up next, get in line and get your ticket now. That Powerball jackpot is climbing into the stratosphere. We're going to have a live report.

SAMBOLIN: Plus, look at this incredible video. Two men trapped inside a raging inferno right there. Hear from the hero who risked everything in order to save them both.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone.

So you do know what they say, of course. You have to be in it to win it. And this weekend you can turn $2 into half a billion.

SAMBOLIN: The jackpot for the Saturday's Powerball drawing has grown to $550 million. It is the second biggest Powerball prize ever.

And CNN's Zain Asher is live in Passaic, New Jersey, where they expected to sell lots of lottery tickets between now and tomorrow night.

Have you bought your own?

ZAIN ASHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have not, Zoraida. But a lot of people here are lining up to buy theirs. What happens when the jackpot gets this big is people who don't usually play start to buy tickets. And people who do play start to buy more tickets. They start to buy 10 tickets, 20 tickets.

Obviously, it is important not to spend more money than you can afford.

As you mentioned, the jackpot right now is $550 million, the second largest in Powerball history. And, by the way, if you walked away with the lump sum you're still going to net $350 million, basically enough money to give a dollar to every single person in this country and you would still be a millionaire several times over. What I want to emphasize, though, is the chance of winning. You know, we hear this all the time. But the chance of winning is 1 in 175 million. Certainly far from being a sure thing. It was previously, by the way, 1 in 195 million. Now it's 1 in 175 million. So, we are getting closer.

I did actually speak to the store clerk at this BP gas station right behind me. He said people are coming in by the droves. He expects sales to increase tomorrow as the deadline draws closer.

I also asked people as they were walking in and out, hey, you know, if you woke up tomorrow and you suddenly had $550 million to your name, what would you do with the money? A lot of people say they would spend it on their family which I thought was quite sweet.

One woman said is he would not quit her job. She's an EMT. She loves it. She told me that she would work part-time, that she would put the money towards her kids' college plan.

I don't know. I think she would still have money left over at the end, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, I think so, toward the college plan, she could play for college for all of our kids.

It seems like --

ASHER: Mine, too.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, it seems like we are constantly saying this is the biggest jackpot, a huge jackpot. Are they really increasing now?

ASHER: Yes, what happened is a year and a half ago, they actually redesigned the game, right? So, previously, the tickets cost $1. Now they cost $2. And, of course, if more people are putting money in, then, of course, the jackpot grows larger and larger.

Also, what happened is that they changed the rule so that if you get five numbers right, you get $1 million instead of $200,000. Also, there are fewer Powerball numbers to choose from. It's 1 through 35 now. Previously, it was 1 through 39.

So, you have bigger jackpots at stake, and also, a bigger chance of winning something -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: I love it. I feeling kind of lucky. I say buy us a bunch of tickets over there while you're there.

Thank you, Zain. Appreciate it.

ASHER: No problem.

SAMBOLIN: It is 45 minutes past the hour. Bracing for severe weather this weekend. This time the center of the country may be under the gun. Meteorologist Jennifer Delgado joins from the CNN weather center in Atlanta. Who should brace for what, Jennifer? JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Parts of the Midwest as well the plains. That will fire up as we go into the weekend. And we are talking about tornado potential. Just like what we saw yesterday. Let's go to some video coming out of Granbury. There was an EF-4 tornado there. And we're talking about an EF-4 -- winds 166 to 200 miles per hour. That's why we saw so many homes off their frames. In Cleburne it was an EF-3.

As I take you over to the radar, to make matters worse this area doesn't need any rain. There is a recovery and the search effort going on. Pointing out there are storms moving through parts of Cleburne right now as well as into Granbury. Our reporter mentioned hearing thunder as well as lightning. That will end around noon and then will clear things out for the weekend.

On a wider view, boundary system all the way up towards the north. This is where we'll see some storms. For the northeast, today is going to be beautiful. Bad weather today potential looks like for areas including northern Mississippi as well as into Alabama, but for Saturday, Sunday and Monday we're talking a really good chance we could see some of these super cells developing and producing tornadoes.

We are talking areas like Kansas city as well as St. Louis. Very highly populated regions. On a wide view, you will see sunshine in the central part of the U.S. for areas over to the east it will be beautiful out there. High pressure is in control. We are talking Boston, New York, even into D.C., highs in the lower 80's and lower 70's. Have a nice weekend. Back to you.

BERMAN: I think we will. Thank you. Appreciate it.

We have dramatic video to show you this morning of a raging inferno following a car accident and rescue in Kansas. Two men who were unconscious inside a corvette that crashed through a truck, they were rescued by a guy just passing by. Jim Russell started recording video of the scene just seconds after he and another man pulled the victims out.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just helped pull this guy from the car. And his major truck - this car's on fire. The semi truck is on fire, it's all burning. I just pulled two guys -- we pulled two guys out of this.


BERMAN: Wow. Some fire. Both vehicles were completely engulfed by the flames. The accident victims are doing okay this morning.

SAMBOLIN: I'm so glad he had the presence of mind to do that. How many times do people just pass by and not want to get involved. Good for him.

Up next, an incredible surprise for a precious little girl. She was throwing out the first pitch last night. Wait until you see who is behind the catcher's mask, coming up next.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, 51 minutes after the hour. Say it ain't so. A major announcement from David Beckham who I understand actually played soccer.

SAMBOLIN: Jared Greenberg -- that's a low blow -- has today's "bleacher report." Could he be retiring?

JARED GREENBERG, BLEACHER REPORT: Good thing for Google, right John. Ladies love him, so I'm told. Guys want to be him. David Beckham is the perfect blend of superstar athlete and celebrity. Now we'll just have to settle for the latter. The most significant British import to America since The Beatles has decided to hang up his cleats. David Beckham helped make soccer more relevant in the U.S. than it had been in decades. In 2007 he signed a $250 million contract starting a six year run playing stateside in Los Angeles. A champion in nearly every uniform he put on, Beckham said he's accomplished all of his goals and will retire from soccer at the end of the season.


DAVID BECKHAM, PROFESSIONAL SOCCER PLAYER: It's every athlete's dream -- every footballer's dream -- to go out on top. You know, on top form, or winning a trophy. It doesn't happen that often. But I think I know when I'm ready. I think I'm ready.


GREENBERG: The Knicks extended their season by at least one more game, facing a win or go home scenario. The NBA's regular season leading scorer Carmelo Anthony paced the Knicks with 28 points as New York earned a ten point win. New York still trails Indiana three games to two in the best of seven series. Game six Saturday in the Hoosier state.

The Warriors unable to keep the dream alive. The wily veterans from San Antonio taught the kids from Oakland a lesson. Tony Parker had a terrible shooting night, but hit a couple of clutch shots down the stretch as the Spurs eliminated the Warriors. San Antonio hosts game one of the Western Conference finals Sunday against Memphis. I'm taking recommendations for tex-mex restaurants if anybody's got any. A third of the way to history tomorrow in in Baltimore. Or is the favorite in the 138th running of the Preakness on a slightly shorter, yet faster track than the Kentucky Derby. Orb will race from the rail trying to finish ahead of the nine-horse field. It's been 35 years since a firm (ph) won the triple crown horsing -- racing's ultimate prize.

The masked man has a surprise. Not your typical first pitch in Tampa. Elena Adams thinks she's pitching to a Tampa Bay Rays catcher. Not so much. Returning early from a year deployment it's Elena's father Lieutenant Colonel Will Adams. He was due to come home Monday. Elena said she thought she was dreaming when she realized the catcher was her dad. A great way to start a baseball game. Great surprise by dad. He even surprised his wife as well. He came into town a night early. Said the hardest part about it was he wasn't able to see his wife and daughter for a full 24 hours.

SAMBOLIN: That's so beautiful. Thank you.

BERMAN: Love that.

SAMBOLIN: Different video than we saw earlier. Thank you for that.

GREENBERG: John's team ruined the whole thing by getting the big hit of the night by Will Middlebrooks. The Red Sox beat the Rays.

BERMAN: I wasn't going to say anything. I wasn't going to say the Red Sox won. Thank you very much.

SAMBOLIN: I don't believe it for a minute.

BERMAN: Talk about beginner's luck. A 14-foot long, 800-pound case of beginner's luck. High school senior, Braxton Bielski bagged the biggest-ever alligator certified in Texas, and he did it on his first try. Just look at that thing. The 18-year-old's father says his son wanted to hunt gators for years. He got his first chance when dad won a permit for a public hunt. Braxton and his father Troy will join us live on "STARTING POINT." They have lived to tell us the story. They will be with us at 8:00 eastern time.

SAMBOLIN: Are they doing show and tell?

BERMAN: I don't think things turned out well for the alligator.

SAMBOLIN: Up next, how did this 4-year-old become the mayor of a Minnesota town? A little bit of luck, a whole lot of charm. We'll introduce you to the pint-sized politician.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. In the tiny town of Dorsett, Minnesota, Robert "Bobby" Tufts is the town's mayor. He is 4-years-old. Each year the 20 or 30 people who live in that town pick a name out of a hat to serve as mayor. Part of Bobby's platform, helping people cross the street and horsey rides.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long have you had that stick, Mr. Mayor?

TUFTS: Not long, but now I have it forever. Howdy, partner! Howdy, partner!


SAMBOLIN: That would make my day. Bobby's mom said he told everyone at day care he's going to be mayor forever. That's it for EARLY START. I love leaving you with that story. I'm Zoraida Sambolin, "STARTING POINT" starts right now.

BERMAN: Good morning, everyone, I'm John Berman.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christine Romans. Our "STARTING POINT" this morning the former acting IRS commissioner gets a grilling today from Congress over the targeting of conservative groups. How much did he know?

BERMAN: Then flattened homes and neighborhoods, completely gone. Folks in north Texas now try to put their lives back together after 16 tornadoes ripped their communities apart. We are live in Granbury, Texas, for a look at the devastation. There are people still missing.

ROMANS: Plus, remember this viral video hero who saved a stranger with his hatchet?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- with a hatchet. Smash, smash, smash!


ROMANS: Now the hatchet-wielding hitchhiker is accused of murder. The unexpected twist coming up.

BERMAN: And a fiery rescue caught on video.