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Jodi Arias Jury Deadlocked; Oklahoma Aftermath

Aired May 23, 2013 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It's 9:00 here in Moore, Oklahoma.

And what a day it has been. Darkness is just now falling. We have got some incredible stories to share with you from here in Moore of what we have seen here today.

But we do have breaking news tonight in the Jodi Arias trial, another major twist in a trial that has been full of them. We have just learned the county does plan to retry the penalty phase. Now, this comes just hours after the jury charged with deciding whether Arias should live or die told the judge they were flat-out deadlocked. Here's how that moment went down.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: State of Arizona vs. Jodi Ann Arias, sentencing verdict.

We the jury duly impaneled and sworn in the above entitled action upon our oaths unanimously find having considered all of the facts and circumstances that the defendant should be sentenced no unanimous agreement, signed foreperson.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is this your true verdict, so say you one and all?

JURY: Yes.


COOPER: Now, remember, this is the same jury that took less than two hours, less than two hours to decide that Arias was exceptionally cruel when she killed her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander in 2008. Arias stabbed him 29 times, slit his neck from ear to ear, shot him in the face.

She was convicted of course of first-degree murder. Now, in the penalty phase, Arias took the stand, pleaded for her life. She told jurors that she could make a difference in prison. The 12 jurors needed to reach a unanimous decision. Obviously, they could not.

Let's talk about it now with CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Sunny Hostin, also defense attorneys Jose Baez and Mark Geragos. Mark is the author of the book "Mistrial: An Inside Look at How the Criminal Justice System Works, and Sometimes Doesn't."

Let's start, though, with CNN Ted Rowlands, who was in the Phoenix courtroom, and Ashleigh Banfield, who is also on location in Phoenix.

Ted, reaction to the verdict, what was it like?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was an incredibly emotional scene inside the courtroom.

Two of the female jurors were crying, Anderson, as the jury verdict was read by the court clerk. The judge got even emotional, got a little emotional as well, while she was addressing the jury. And the Alexander family, as you might imagine, was very emotional.

The sisters were openly weeping in court, trying to keep their composure, but whimpering as the jury was individual polled by the judge. And, as the jury was walking out, one of the female members of the jury looked over into the gallery and seemed to trying to communicate with the Alexander family. There are reports that she said I'm sorry. From my vantage point, I couldn't tell what she was saying.

But as she left, the Alexander family then -- once the jury left the courtroom, then the entire family continued to sob openly in court.

COOPER: What happens to Arias now, until this penalty phase starts in mid-July?

ROWLANDS: She will -- tonight, she's back at the Maricopa County jail here in Phoenix and she's basically waiting, along with everybody else, to hear whether or not the district attorney's office, the county attorney here will proceed with this next phase and try to impanel another jury to try, again, to go after the death penalty.

They have indicated in a statement which you mentioned at the top of the show that they seemed to be going in that direction. I talked to Jodi Arias' defense team afterwards. She said -- they said that she was shocked by this. And she did appear very emotional as well just prior to the reading of the verdict.

And then, when the jurors were walking up, she stood up, got out of her chair and walked all the way across to the end of the defense table and tried to make eye contact with those jurors as they were leaving.

COOPER: So, Ashleigh, they're going to impanel this new jury, but they're not going to relitigate the case, right?

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Correct, not the guilt- innocence phase of the case, and not that other phase, which was whether it was particularly cruel. That's been decided by this jury and those verdicts stand.

But what's odd is that this third phase, which was solely life or death, it only featured Jodi Arias. And while it seemed like she took the stand, she actually did not take the stand. She took a podium and did not have to swear under oath and she was not challenged, no challenge to anything she said.

It could be entirely different the next time around. In fact, it has to be, Anderson, because any new panel of jurors -- actually, they need to learn what it is they're deciding her fate over. Here's the problem. They have seen a lot of television on this. And so it's going to be real tricky to voir dire them and find out if they can be fair and honest and unbiased when they render this kind of verdict. That is a really tricky, tricky row to hoe.

COOPER: Mark, your reaction to this verdict. And is it unusual to bring in a whole new jury just for the penalty phase?

MARK GERAGOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: My reaction of the verdict is, is it's what I expected.

I think you and I have talked about this, Anderson, when we saw all of that slew of juror questions and they were referring to her by first name, Jodi. There is a familiarity there that I think kind of portended the fact that there was somebody or people back there who felt this is a human being and it's tough to say I'm going to give this person death.

I'm not so sure -- and I really do not think that it's a fait accompli that they're going to retry this case. I think they need to find out first -- and maybe Ashleigh knows or has some of the news -- or Ted -- but they need to see what the split was. They have to see was this one or two lone holdouts for life, so that it was 10-2 for death?

Or did this tilt towards life and not death? But most prosecutors, it if was grossly in favor of life, I don't think they would expend the resources, although most prosecutors have an unlimited budget and they exceed that. I don't think that they would waste the time, the resources, to go after her again if it leaned, if this jury leaned towards life.

COOPER: Sunny, will the prosecutors also check in with Travis Alexander's family to see what they want, whether they want to go through this all again?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: There's no question about it.

And that hasn't happened yet, I'm sure. This just happened. The verdict came down today. The prosecutors have to speak to the family, because we know this family, Anderson, has been in the courtroom day in and day out. They were visibly shaken and upset when this hung jury came back.

And so there's no question in my mind that it's premature to say that this will indeed go to another penalty phase a new jury will be impaneled. I agree with Mark a hundred percent. That decision really hasn't been made. And I suspect that this is the kind of case that could very well end in some sort of plea deal, where Jodi Arias pleads guilty -- or accepts a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole and waives her appeals.

I think that is going to be very important to the prosecution.

COOPER: Right.

Jose, what do you think about the chances of a deal here or that death is taken off the table and she just goes -- and the prosecutors just go for life?

JOSE BAEZ, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Oh, initially, I would have thought they were excellent, but I'm somewhat shocked by the knee-jerk reaction of the state to announce immediately, without even talking to anyone or specifically the Alexander family, to determine what it is that they want.

And it's not only about walking out of the courthouse and saying, hey, do you guys want to go through this again or do you want to try it again? I think the family really needs a little time, a little time to actually digest what has happened and transpired over the last several months and then make a decision, a collective decision as family, before deciding to go through this again.

So I'm a little bit shocked that they would jump the gun like that and make that type of an announcement. But that still doesn't preclude them from actually cutting a deal all the way -- going through it again and still cutting a deal before the jury even comes back again.

COOPER: Mark, how is it going to be any easier for any other jury to come to a unanimous decision? Mark, how is it going to be any easier for a any -- for a new jury to come to a unanimous decision?

GERAGOS: I don't think it's going to be any easier.


GERAGOS: I love Jose.

But I'm not shocked, Jose. Nothing about what this prosecution and this particular prosecutor has done has been rational in any sense. They have been over the top. So, you come out immediately and announce that they're going to retry it is over the top.

This is life and death we're talking about. Somebody needs to be deliberative and rational and sit back and just digest what happened. Do you put everybody back through this? Do you make a spectacle out of this?

And you still -- I will go back to what I said before -- you have got to know what the split is. If it was a 6-6 or if it was 9-3 in favor of life, then you can't really expect that you're going to do any better next time around. And why would you put everybody through it?

And as I have said countless times, this just kind of demonstrates the kind of irretrievable broken nature of the death penalty system in America.

COOPER: Jose, when we -- Jose, when we heard -- I'm sorry. I'm being told we're getting some video of juror number nine coming in. Let's play that.


QUESTION: Did you look at them?

QUESTION: Sir, is there anything you would like to say to the family of Travis Alexander as a juror?



QUESTION: Do you think that Travis Alexander's family now has justice?

QUESTION: Sorry. My apologies, sir.

Sir, if you just give us one word, is there one word you would use to characterize? We certainly don't want to bother you, sir. We will go away. But is there any way you could just characterize, how did you vote?


QUESTION: No comment whatsoever?


QUESTION: Will you give us the breakdown? That's really what everybody is curious about.


QUESTION: No comment?


QUESTION: Do you have advice for the next jury?


QUESTION: Has it been tough?


COOPER: OK. Well, that was actually pointless. I don't know why we showed that to you. I apologize for that.

We just literally got that video in. Obviously, he had no comment and they were harassing him.

Jose, how likely -- let me ask you the same question that I asked Mark. How likely is it, do you think, that a new jury can come to this with a fresh pair of eyes? This trial has been so widely viewed.

BAEZ: For lack of a better phrase, this penalty phase has been from the start -- I have to tell you it is ripe with issues for appeal.

This new jury is not going to alleviate those issues. In fact, they're going to create more. I think the Arizona death penalty statute and the way it's designed has already gone to the U.S. Supreme Court. But this case will bring forward new issues.

And by having a second penalty phase, it's just going to compound the problems even more. They're getting off to a wrong start. This is -- I can't tell you or stress enough as to the uniqueness of the social media aspects of the trial, the way it was covered, the intimidation of the witnesses, which are clearly established here.

How rare is it where a 20-something-year-old girl doesn't have a soul in the world to testify on her behalf, when everyone -- when your average 25-year-old girl has a million friends and many people that could come forward? But because of intimidation, because of some of the social media and the coverage, I think you have a legitimate problem that's going to be addressed.

And this is going to be a long, drawn-out process. For people who want Jodi Arias to go away, retrying -- having another penalty phase will only compound it and make it more...

COOPER: All right. We have got to leave it there.

Jose Baez, appreciate it, Mark Geragos, Sunny Hostin, Ted Rowlands, Ashleigh Banfield.

Let us know what you think about this trial. You can follow me on Twitter at @AndersonCooper.

Coming up, we have got a lot here, a of information from Moore, Oklahoma, new video from inside a school here in the dark right as the tornado hit. You're going to hear from the teacher who took this video and the sound. When you see what the school looks like now, we went back there with her today. You're going to be amazed that anyone, let alone everyone, survived.

And later, the London terror attack -- graphic video that we're going to show you after the break as police took down the suspect. We will be right back.


COOPER: Hey. Welcome back here to Moore, Oklahoma.

You may hear some construction noise around me, even though darkness has come. Folks in this neighborhood which has completely been destroyed are trying to fix up their homes and kind of secure them as much as possible, putting wood on the doors, so that no one is breaking in. The first funeral was held here in Oklahoma today, the first of many after Monday's tornado, loved ones remembering 9-year-old Antonia Candelaria. We honor her tonight as well. They called her Toni. She died, along with her six classmates, including her best friend, at Plaza Towers Elementary School.

Tonight, before we do anything else, we just want to remember her and some of the others who lost their lives as we learn a little bit about each and we're learning more and more each day.

Jenny Neely, she and her son Jacob were riding out the storm at home in a closet. He was thrown clear. He lost consciousness, but is OK now, we're told. His mom did not make it. Jenny Neely was 38.

Randy Smith was 39, an electrician. He loved playing video games and watching movies with his son, Dylan. He lost his wife in the storm.

Cindy Plumley was a nurse at the Veterans Center in Norman, Oklahoma. Her family was her life. She enjoyed spending every moment she could with her children and her grandchildren. Cindy Plumley was just 45.

And then, of course, there are the children. Emily Conatzer who was 9 years old. She loved Lady Gaga. Her father says she was a fashion diva, loved designing hats and clothing. There is no telling what she would have done in life.

Christopher Legg, also 9 years old, loved sports and was battling skin cancer. His family says he faced it with strength and enthusiasm, just as he faced life itself.

Then there are the Vargyas sisters, Karrina and Sydnee. They were at home with their mom and grandmother in the tub trying to stay safe. Their mom and grandmom survived. Karrina was a vibrant 4-year- old who wanted to become a figure skater. We're going to talk to her dad later on in the hour because he wants us to know about her and her sister Sydnee, who was just a baby who brightened her family's life, just 7 months old.

Phillip Vargyas is going to join us ahead tonight.

Amazingly, when you see the video, no one died at Briarwood Elementary. Everything made it there. And that's a real testament to the principal and the teachers and the students. As you will see though in this exclusive video taken by a teacher named Robin Dziedzic, as she hunkered down with her kids, it was the closest of close calls. This is about as close as you can get.

It's -- we're going to play you two clips. The second one, it's all over, and the damage, they start to see the damage in the school. The first video, though, is in total darkness, because that's what they were seeing during the storm. But it's the sound of the storm itself. And you hear the kids themselves and how scared they are. It's an EF-5 tornado tearing through the school. Listen.




COOPER: You can hear the teacher trying to keep them calm.

That's what it sounds like, a 200-mile-an-hour tornado from about as close as you can get.

This is what teachers and students experienced just seconds after the funnel cloud passed. Watch.







Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God, my house. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God.


COOPER: That was cell phone video taken from a fifth grade teacher, Robin Dziedzic. She and I revisited the school earlier today. Take a look.


ROBIN DZIEDZIC, SURVIVOR: This part here was where I was at, and it's wall to the ceiling. And so when -- while it was absolutely terrifying and we heard everything going on overhead, it's nothing like what happened back there, where it approached the building.

COOPER: So you took the kids from out of your classroom into this hallway here first?


COOPER: So these are cinder block walls?

DZIEDZIC: Yes. And that's what I told my students in the classroom. I said, look around you. We don't have any glass in our classroom. You are safe. I know you hear scary things about storms.

And we had recently had very bad storms where a lot of our students had taken shelter the Sunday before, Saturday and Sunday before. And I said, you're safe, you're in cinder block walls, you know? And just no one could have known. COOPER: The roof , it is basically corrugated steel.

DZIEDZIC: Right. But this was the building that sustained hardly any damage.

COOPER: Yes. So what part of the building is this?

DZIEDZIC: That's where my son was.

COOPER: Your son was right over there?

DZIEDZIC: Yes, with Mrs. Biddle. You see the green bulletin board and the brown door?

COOPER: All the way over there, yes.

DZIEDZIC: Mrs. Biddle had them tucked into that corner.

COOPER: They were sitting literally in that corner?

DZIEDZIC: In that corner.

COOPER: And that's about the only corner that survived.

DZIEDZIC: That is still existing. Her desk was -- and you see the -- she painted the walls rainbow and there still is some standing over there, but I just -- I don't know how my children weren't either crushed to death or sucked out.

I have no idea. My daughter was across the way, and there's a car outside her classroom. There's a car in the classroom next -- he just said that there are approximately six cars in the vicinity.

COOPER: And this car obviously should not be here.

DZIEDZIC: Our parking lot is out front.


COOPER: So, where did this car come from?

DZIEDZIC: We have no idea.

COOPER: So it got picked up, slammed here.


COOPER: This is the middle of the school.

DZIEDZIC: This is the middle of the school.

COOPER: How soon after the storm passed and you left that bathroom with your kids did you realize -- were you able to find your kids?

DZIEDZIC: My kids personally came out right away. My son was just standing behind me all of a sudden. I asked him later, how did you get out? And he said, Mrs. Biddle helped us out.

And our -- I believe our P.E. teacher, Mr. Murphy, they were -- they had a chain and they were just sending the kids out. And -- because you can't walk out of that. And my daughter was rescued by her dad. And if they would let you see the fourth grade door, all the kids were rescued through a broken window, a single window that someone busted out.

They were -- essentially could have been trapped in there and perhaps in a big building, maybe that sometimes is the issue. We had somewhat open areas. I don't know if that made us more exposed or fortunate to get out. It feels so haphazard, that you just -- it's nothing you can prepare for.

COOPER: No matter how many times you drill and stuff.

DZIEDZIC: No matter how many times you drill or you say I'm in a cinder block building, it doesn't matter.

COOPER: You don't know where it's going to hit.

Did you think that you might not make it?

DZIEDZIC: The walls never came in on me, and I knew that nothing like this had ever happened at our school before, to me before.

I had heard about it. I think at one point, I thought, how is there not going to be loss of life in this building? But, again, if I were back here, that absolutely would have been -- I would have been convinced that it was my last breaths, and I know that a lot of teachers were at one point, you know, Mrs. Sanders, my fourth grade daughter's teacher, said that at first, the kids -- she was like, this is going to pass. We're going through procedures.

But we have been here 30 minutes. Can someone check? And then the more updates we got, it was, it's coming and brace yourselves, and then it was more of a panicked it's coming. And she said that she just kept the kids in the corner, and she put her arms around them and she said that at one point, they were -- she was just praying over them, lord, give us protection, keep us safe, bring us peace.

And then, when it was over, she had to pass her children out the window, because everything caved in.

COOPER: It's incredible.

DZIEDZIC: Amazing to think that my daughter was in that and that she survived.

COOPER: Thank you very much.

DZIEDZIC: Thank you.


COOPER: It is amazing. Joining me now is Briarwood's principal, Shelley Jaques-McMillin.

It's incredible, when you see Mrs. Biddle's class. The one corner where she had the kids hunkered down is the corner that made it through. It's just incredible that nobody, nobody lost life there.


COOPER: Really.

JAQUES-MCMILLIN: And truly God's protection over us.

I mean, when you look at that footage, you're -- just where the kids came out are the places that there was just enough space. And I don't know how that happened. But...

COOPER: And the storm was picking up cars and slamming it into the school, slamming them into the school.

JAQUES-MCMILLIN: Yes. When I walked out and saw that, I was like, whoa, that's -- where did they come from? And you walk out and you look at the parking lot, where's all the cars, that's an odd feeling.

Like, you can't just go get your car. Like, I will drive off now. Yes. I'm really proud of the whole staff there and keeping everybody safe.


JAQUES-MCMILLIN: It's heartbreaking. I haven't seen that video. So...

COOPER: It's hard to see.


COOPER: When -- you went back to the school today? Did you?



JAQUES-MCMILLIN: We got to take all the teachers and...

COOPER: Right. I was there as well today, yes.


COOPER: And what was the like to go back?

JAQUES-MCMILLIN: I got to go back yesterday. We pulled all the permanent records out. So, that initial shock of seeing what it looks like and wow.

COOPER: Right.

JAQUES-MCMILLIN: We came out of that?

So I was worried about the teachers to begin with them all going out there, because the fire and the police were there so that we could walk in and do it faithfully. And I worried about them. I kept warning them, just be prepared. It's going to be hard to see, because when you're leaving that night, you're not thinking about what you came out of or how much space there was. But when you come back in the light of day and see it, you're like, wow, how did we get out of this? And...

COOPER: Right. Right.

Do you think that things are going to change, that more schools are going to get shelters here? Because that's obviously -- I have had a lot of people tweeting me and texting me, saying why aren't more schools have shelters? That's something obviously I'm sure you would like to see?

JAQUES-MCMILLIN: Oh, yes, yes.

I know in '99, when Westmoore was hit, they put in a safe room there. And I know that's where they put all the kids when this one was coming through. I was talking to one of the teachers over there. And I'm assuming that's the same thing that is going to happen. I know our superintendents -- the superintendent are talking with people, trying to get some kind of funding. It has to be important to keep our kids safe.

COOPER: Yes. And that's what it is. It's a matter of funding, just having the political will to get the money for it.



COOPER: So, listen, I'm so glad everything worked out. Yes, I'm so glad to meet you.

JAQUES-MCMILLIN: Yes. Yes, it's nice to meet you, too.

COOPER: All right.

JAQUES-MCMILLIN: You guys are doing a great job.

COOPER: I wish you the best of luck in rebuilding.

JAQUES-MCMILLIN: Oh, thanks. Thanks. See you later.

COOPER: All right. Thanks.

Just ahead, the loss that one family is facing with incredible grace and with incredible strength, two young daughters killed in their family. We're going to talk to the father of these two children. He wants to talk tonight, because he wants you to know about the little girls he lost, what they were like in life.

We also have new video of that terrible, horrible terror attack in England. You will see a suspect charge police. Police opened fire. We're going to update you as well on two new arrests. We will be right back.


COOPER: Welcome back. Anyone with kids in the room right now, you might want to tell them to leave the room or just to look away for a few seconds. Because we have new video of police in England taking down a pair of terror suspects in London. Take a look.




COOPER: The reason we think it's important to show you, as graphic as it is, is you can clearly see at least one of the alleged killers charging police. Then and only then do the police fire.

Two men are in custody in the brutal murder of a British soldier. And there are more arrests, as well. Nic Robertson joins us now live from London with the latest.

So the video that we're showing, what's been the reaction to it in England -- Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the reaction here is to make people aware that police did arrive, that they were armed and ready to respond. There was concern the police had taken a long time to get there.

But what most people here are concerned about is that the police force are ready to deal with people like this. And I think a lot of people here are very pleased that the police came, and they were able to identify these gunmen, that they were able to see these attackers, that they were able to see that they were coming towards them and that they took them on.

There's a lot -- there's a lot of people here that would worry that perhaps the police in Britain weren't able to deal with a situation like this. Well, now people are relieved that they see that they can -- Anderson.

COOPER: What do we know about -- there were two other people taken into custody today. What do we know about them? And what do we know about these suspected killers? Because yesterday, it wasn't even clear if they were British citizens or not or where they had been born. What do we know?

ROBERTSON: Well, one of the suspects, 38 years old a British citizen, but of Nigerian decent. He had been -- he had turned to Islam about seven or eight years ago. A convert to Islam. He had joined an organization or at least gone to rallies with an organization that had a very pro-al-Qaeda agenda.

The two people that were arrested today, we don't know their direct connection to the two primary suspects. But we know that they'd been arrested on suspicion to conspiracy to murder. Both 29 years -- both 29 years old. One a man, one a woman.

The two main suspects here, still being held in hospital. Their condition, we're told, stable, Anderson.

COOPER: I do want to focus on the victim in all this. Lee Rigby, what do we know about him now?

ROBERTSON: This is a young man, 25 years old. Very well- respected and liked by his colleagues and his family, as well. Everyone who's talked about him has said this was a man who would always be quick witted and would always liven up the situation, always make people around him happy.

He had a two-year-old son named Jack. He joined the army in 2006. In 2009, he was deployed to Afghanistan on a fire support base, using artillery mortars to support troops in-field. And in 2011, when he came back to Britain, he became a recruitment officer at the barracks behind me here.

The question emerging, because he would have had that connection with the public as a recruitment officer, potentially, did his attackers, did they know him? Had they become familiar with some of his background, that he'd been to Afghanistan? Those are questions that are open at the moment, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Nic, I appreciate the reporting. Thank you very much.

Also, on the terror front, some good news in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing tonight. A 7-year-old girl named Jane Richard. You may remember that name. She was one of the youngest victims. She was discharged today from Boston Children's Hospital.

Jane -- she was in the hospital for 39 days in intensive care. She had 12 surgeries. She lost her left leg below the knee. You may remember, she had been an Irish dancer. She hopes to dance again. We'd been following her story closely.

In fact, I talked to the amazing paramedic, Matt -- Matt Patterson, excuse me, who saved her life. Jane's 8-year-old brother, Martin, was killed in the attack.

In a statement today, the Richards said that Jane has been moved to a rehab facility where she's going to continue her recovery. They say she is in good spirits.

And they also said they remain devastated, of course, over Martin's death. A mass is going to be held in his memory on June 8 -- June 9, which would have been his ninth birthday.

There's a lot more happening in the world tonight. Want to check in with Isha for a "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, HLN ANCHOR: Anderson, we've got some breaking news in the Jodi Arias hung jury. Late word on jurors who were deciding whether she lived or died, hung 8-4; 8-4 in favor of death.

Other news now, in his first major counterterrorism speech of his second term, President Obama defended his administration's use of controversial drone strikes abroad but also outlined new restrictions on their use.

President Obama also said he would resume steps to eventually close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Multiple (UNINTELLIGIBLE) at the Internal Revenue Service. Lois Lerner, the head of the unit that targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, has been placed on administrative leave. The move comes just a day after she testified before the House Oversight Committee. Lerner told the committee she had not broken any laws or agency regulations. Then she took the fifth.

The Boy Scouts of America today voted to end its long-standing ban on openly gay members. The new policy takes effect on January 1. However, the Boy Scouts' ban on gay adult leaders still stands. Still some work to be done, say the advocates.

COOPER: Isha, thanks very much.

Just ahead, it is almost unthinkable at a time like this, but it appears it's happening: scammers swooping in on Oklahoma to take advantage of shell-shocked survivors; price-gougers trying to cash in on misfortune.

Plus, tonight, a father's brave efforts to stay strong and rebuild while mourning his two young daughters who died in Monday's EF-5 twister.


COOPER: We've seen a real out pouring of compassion and kindness from people here, volunteers from all over the state coming to help clean out. We've seen that, really, since the storm stopped.

Oklahoma's attorney general is warning, though, about business scams and price gouging in the wake of this disaster. Erin McPike joins me now.

It's unthinkable that folks should be gouging prices. What have you been hearing?

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I talked to the state's attorney general office earlier today. And they said they've already gotten about ten complaints of price gouging. One of those was a hotel that doubled its room rate. Now, an inspector went to that hotel and got them to bring down their prices. Another gas station actually raised the price of a gallon of gas by a dollar. But this is against the law in this state. They passed a law after the May 3, 1999 tornado because they were having some of these same problems. And businesses in the area can't raise their rates beyond 10 percent the next 30 days. Repair and remodeling services can't raise their rates more than 10 percent for the next six months as people are trying to repair their homes.

COOPER: One of the things I remember in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, people -- locals had a problem was people coming into the neighborhood saying that they were there to help and charging exorbitant fees, sort of saying they would do -- they were contractors and getting money up front and then disappearing.

MCPIKE: Yes. And they -- and they call those travelers. And they pose as volunteers and do that very thing.

Now, this state, state inspectors are already being proactive about this. They drive around in pick-up trucks. They're, we're told, pretty flashy; usually have out-of-state plates. But now state inspectors are going to the hotels in the area and taking pictures of these pick-up trucks that they can then show to victims if they have problems with this very thing.

COOPER: And it's certainly something law enforcement is going to be on the lookout for. There are still a lot of law enforcement around here directing traffic and the like.

MCPIKE: They have been. And you know, Anderson, the day after the tornado, I actually had a problem trying to get in here because law enforcement was so protective of keeping people out and looters, especially, they were worried about.

COOPER: Yes. That's certainly a good thing. Erin, I appreciate it. Thanks for the reporting.

There is a lot more to tell you about here. Many homes and buildings in this part of the country don't have, you know, formal storm shelter. In tonight's "American Journey," a company that's on a mission to try to change that. Here's Tom Foreman.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the wake of the Oklahoma twister, some have been raising their voices high, insisting this storm off to spur a movement for more people to put in storm shelters.

From Wichita, Kansas, PBA Architect sells an assortment of models, many of which look like normal rooms. And there, Corey Schultz sees his work as more than a business; it's a mission.

COREY SCHULTZ, PBA ARCHITECT: After the fact, it's too late. This has to be something that you plan for, that you get in, that you get in place and then you use it and use it correctly. And I think it can save lives across the country.

FOREMAN: Crude storm shelters have been around for generations, famously featured in "The Wizard of Oz."

But modern shelters are an entirely different matter. Many companies now offer a variety of steel and concrete structures for above and below ground, boasting an array of extra security measures and strengths.

LOREN SHETLER, CAPITAL SHEDS: Each one of these anchor bolts has a 10,000-pound sheer strength. So by putting one every foot around here, you can more than withstand any storm.

FOREMAN (on camera): The challenge has always been economics. Even simple storm shelters can cost several thousand dollars. And as bad as these storms can be, even in the most tornado-prone areas, odds are most homes will never be hit.

MAYOR GLENN LEWIS, MOORE, OKLAHOMA: It's about the money and the statistics. An F-5 tornado is very rare. It's 1 to 2 percent of the tornadoes. They don't happen very often.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Still, proponents look at the Plaza Towers Elementary School in Oklahoma, the decimated houses, and they stand firm.

SCHULTZ: Nobody can talk to me and talk me out of that shelters are worth it. Because I know they are. We're saving lives.

FOREMAN: Tom Foreman, CNN.


COOPER: They're among the youngest victims killed in this tornado. We're trying to honor as many of the victims and tell you their stories. A pair of sisters, one just seven months old, the other four years old, ripped away from their moms. The twister hit their house. Their dad joins us. He wants to tell you about his -- his little girls who were lost.


COOPER: So many families here in Oklahoma were able to stay safe in this tornado because they had plans in place for the moment a twister strikes.

The Vargyas family, they knew the danger, of course. They practiced tornado drills. They knew how to climb into the bathtub. But when this EF-5 twister took direct aim at their house, there wasn't much they could do. Seven-month-old Sydnee and 4-year-old Karrina died.

Their mother, Laurinda, and grandmother survived, but were seriously injured. Their father, Phillip, and the couple's two oldest children were not home at the time, and they survived. I spoke to Phillip Vargyas earlier this evening.


COOPER: I'm so sorry for your loss.


COOPER: How are you -- how are you doing? How are you standing?

VARGYAS: Basically, I've got a lot of things that I have to do in order to rebuild some semblance of a normal life in my family. And I think that's kind of what's driving me. Kind of that mental "to do" list that needs to be done. My wife and my mother-in-law were in there with my babies. And I wouldn't ask them to do anything other than heal at this point.

And I know that I've got a lot of grieving to do, but at the same time, there's a lot of work that needs to be done, and I have to -- I have to move forward with that.

And my wife has been supportive through it all. She's a strong woman and I'm proud of her.

COOPER: Your four-year-old, Karrina, she wanted to be an ice skater?

VARGYAS: Yes, we took her to Disney on Ice at the last state fair here in Oklahoma. And ever since she saw her favorite princesses out there skating, she wanted to go out there and skate just like them. And I always told my kids you had to do one thing outside of school, and ice skating is what she wanted to do.

So unfortunately, we didn't get the opportunity to take her ice skating before this has happened. But we'll take her one day. She'll be there next time we go.

COOPER: You'll still go one time with your wife?

VARGYAS: Right. Whenever we take the kids and the wife, we know she'll be there with us and we'll enjoy it all the more, knowing that she's there.

COOPER: And 7-month-old Sydnee, she was the only one of your children who was actually born here in Oklahoma?

VARGYAS: Correct. Yes, she was -- I call her my Okie. She was my only Oklahoman child. I was in the military, so I had several in California and one in Washington. And they were all here, but they weren't born in Oklahoma. Sydnee was born in Oklahoma. She was my Okie.

COOPER: And she just started crawling?

VARGYAS: She crawled for the first time on Sunday. And...

COOPER: The day before the storm.

VARGYAS: Right. And I actually made a joke that, you know, being my only Okie, I guess it's fitting that you'd crawl for the first time when there's tornadoes, because there was some on Sunday, as well. And unfortunately, you know, she was taken from me on Monday. So -- but at least we have that last memory. I got to see her crawl before -- before she was taken.

COOPER: And how are you other kids doing?

VARGYAS: They're doing surprisingly well. My 11-year-old son, Damon, and my 8-year-old daughter, Aria, they -- they're carrying on as if -- as if it's normal life. And that's good. I mean, we -- we discussed what has happened. I believe in full disclosure. So we discussed what has happened.

COOPER: They're 11 and 9?

VARGYAS: Correct. No, 11 and 8.

COOPER: Eleven and 8?

VARGYAS: Eleven and 8. And we -- I discussed everything with them, me and my wife did. And we hugged and we dealt with that. And kids are resilient. As soon as that warm embrace was over and those tears had been shed, they went to terrorizing the hospital for as long as they could. So I think they're doing OK.

COOPER: And how is your wife? How's her condition?

VARGYAS: She's doing good. She sustained a couple lacerations, which is not bad, considering what I saw at ground zero where she should have been, according to where -- how we did our tornado drill.

COOPER: She actually was picked up by this -- by this storm?

VARGYAS: Right. And I didn't know that until yesterday morning. I had spoken with her, and she finally had some clarity. We had some time to talk. And she told me that after she had landed, she sat up and looked around and had seen her mom who was in there with her. And wasn't sure if she had made it.

But she had started her search for our girls at that time. Dazed and confused. And I had to ask her, I'm like, "You landed?" And that's when it came to realization that she was actually picked up by the force of the storm.

So it's -- I couldn't imagine what she's seen. And that's the reason why I'm here doing a lot of what I'm doing so she can -- she can heal, both mentally and physically.

COOPER: Is it going to be a long recovery for her, in terms of just physically?

VARGYAS: Physically, she was actually released from the hospital today. She -- she's in good condition. She's sore. Like I said, she had some lacerations. But other than that, physically, she's OK.

COOPER: And where do you go from here?

VARGYAS: To be honest with you, from here, we're still making decisions. We want to stay as close to the community that we were at when this happened. My family has a lot of roots here. And I believe that, in order for my kids to successfully make it through this, we have to make the transition as seamless as possible.

And the best way to do that is to keep them surrounded by the things they know most, whether it's friends, family, youth athletics and things like that. And my wife is on board with that. So we actually -- we actually plan on reestablishing our roots here in Moore, despite the disaster.

COOPER: And you had -- it was Karrina's birthday coming up, wasn't it?

VARGYAS: Correct. Karrina's birthday was coming up June 13. She would have been five years old in about two weeks or so. And my grandmother had actually mentioned that she had her birthday presents still in the closet. She was going to be mailing them out soon. So it's -- there's tragedy all around. It's a bad situation.

COOPER: We're sorry for your loss.

VARGYAS: I appreciate that. I really do.

COOPER: All right. Our thoughts and our prayers are with you and your family.

VARGYAS: I appreciate it. Thank you very much.

COOPER: Thanks for joining us about your daughters. Appreciate it.


COOPER: We've got some more breaking news right now. It's a very preliminary report coming in of a bridge collapse in Washington state.

Now the state police telling our Seattle affiliate, KING-5, that a bridge on Interstate 5 over the Skagit River, north of Seattle, has come down. At least two cars with people inside are in the river. I- 5 is the major north-south interstate running from San Diego to the Canadian border.

We'll try to gather more information. We'll be right back.


COOPER: "ERIN BURNETT" -- "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" is just ahead. We want to leave you, though, with a look at just a small act of kindness. One of the many groups that have come here to help, this one from Alabama. The National Association for the Prevention of Starvation, NAPS. They're playing some music tonight here in this neighborhood that's completely destroyed, spreading a little kindness and love here in Moore, Oklahoma.