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Historic Floods Bury Texas Community; Attorney Grieves His Girlfriend; Big Rulings For Supreme Court

Aired May 27, 2013 - 05:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Another body pulled from the water after historic floods bury a Texas community. The rain may be over but the cleanup has just begun.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A young paralegal found dead inside the home of her boss, a prominent criminal attorney. Was this murder?

BERMAN: And havoc on the speedway. A NASCAR race comes to a screeching halt after a cable, a cable falls on the tracks.

ROMANS: Wow, that was something.

Welcome back to EARLY START, I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is 29 minutes after the hour. Great to see you this morning.

First up, historic flooding claims the lives of three people in southern Texas. San Antonio has been under water since torrential downpours started on Friday, and the waters are subsiding now, but the damage, it certainly remains.

Texas is not the only part of the country experiencing extreme weather right now. Flash floods also inundating eastern and central Iowa over the weekend. And a near impossible three feet of snow dumped on an upstate New York ski resort this weekend. Three feet. Look at that.


CNN's Indra Peterson is monitoring all of this for us.

Good morning.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. Yes. Look at all this wild, wacky weather we've been having. Absolutely. Today, Memorial Day, where is the instability? Where is it going to be a soggy day? Well, bulk of the Midwest, unfortunately, seeing all of this instability. A lot of thunderstorms, a lot of lightning out there, anywhere from half an inch to an inch of rain is possible in the forecast.

But, where it is starting to look nicer is the northeast. We have this kind of cool, windy, wet weekend, but now, for Monday, finally, the 70s back in the forecast. A nice warm-up in the northeast. And in fact in Stowe, Vermont, they're actually going to see some upper 60s instead of, you know, snow flurries like they saw yesterday. Unbelievable. Drying out in Texas. That's good news.

We do have some slight risk out there. About 10 million of you, again, seeing that slight risk for weather, not really seeing a big threat for tornadoes yet. Most likely today, some large hail and some of these heavier thunderstorms and the damaging winds. Speaking of the winds, Moore, Oklahoma today, the threat for about 50-mile-per- hour gusting winds, of course, with all that damage on the ground. We're going to be watching for that.

One of the bigger things we're going to be watching is there are currently some showers out on the west coast. And the reason that's so important, it's pretty atypical for this time of year, we're going to watch that very cold low track its way to the middle of the country by about Wednesday. And with that, we do have another potential here for severe outbreaks by the middle of the week.

So, we're definitely going to be watching that. Otherwise, warmer in the northeast, and no snow in the forecast today, which is probably pretty big deal, right?


BERMAN: No snow is a good thing on Memorial Day. All right. Indra Petersons, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

So, Oklahoma strong. Thousands of people turning out for memorial service in Moore, Oklahoma last night for the victims who lost their lives in the tornado that was one week ago today. President Obama toured the devastation in Moore yesterday, comforting residents and reassuring them that they are not alone.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Whenever I come to an area that's been devastated by some natural disaster like this, I want to make sure everybody understands I'm speaking on behalf of the entire country. Everywhere, fellow Americans are praying with you, thinking about you, and they want to help.

And so, I'm just a messenger here today, letting everybody here know that you are not alone, that you've got folks behind you.


BERMAN: The president getting a positive response from those trying to piece their lives back together.


RYAN MARLER, MOORE, OKLAHOMA FIREFIGHTER: the president's message was like Jeremy said, extremely personal, was not in a hurry, was really about shaking the hands, encouraging the community to rebuild and get us back to where we need to be. Extremely personal. Very surprised. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: The president, really, everyone there acknowledging it will take a long time for that community to rebuild.

So, open for business, those three words are music to the ears of small business owners along the "Jersey Shore." Seven months after hurricane Sandy, many of the popular summer tourist destinations have been cleaned up, rebuilt, and now, reopened in time for Memorial Day. Tomorrow, President Obama will pay a visit with New Jersey governor, Chris Christie.

ROMANS: A young paralegal found dead in the Philadelphia home of her boss, a high profile attorney, she had been dating. He says he was out of town when she died. But what, if anything, have investigators come up with?


ROMANS (voice-over): The body of 26-year-old Julia Law (ph) was removed by police from the home of prominent Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer, A. Charles Peruto Jr. (ph). A maintenance worker found her unresponsive just after 10:00 a.m. on Saturday. Police sources say she was found naked, face down in a bathtub. Investigators have combed through the home, removing brown bags of possible evidence.

Peruto told police he was on the jersey shore when Law's body was discovered. Police sources say they have no suspects in the case. The medical examiner's office has carried out an autopsy, but the cause of Law's death has not been disclosed. According to her Facebook and linked in profiles, Law worked as a paralegal in Peruto's law firm, and she was dating the 58-year-old attorney.

In a statement to CNN, Peruto said, "She was my girlfriend and I loved her more than anyone can imagine. The people at my firm know that. This is God's theft of a perfect human." The news of Law's death shocked neighbors in this quiet neighborhood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Certainly bizarre.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I mean, that's shocking.

ROMANS: Peruto was visibly upset as he returned to his home. When CNN affiliate, WPDI, asked him how he felt.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who is this girl?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you serious? Did you ever lose somebody? Are you serious?

ROMANS: For now, just how Julia Law died remains a mystery.


ROMANS (on-camera): Julia Law reportedly had been Peruto's paralegal for two years. Some of his past clients have included alleged mafia leaders.

BERMAN: So, you have to check this out. Chaos on the speedway. Ten NASCAR fans were injured during last night's Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte when a nylon cable supporting an overhead TV camera from the grandstands, it fell onto the track below. Three of the fans were taken to the hospital. They are expected to be OK.

The other seven were treated on the tracks for cuts and scrapes. The fallen cable also did some damage on the racetrack tearing up Kyle Busch's number 18 car. He wasn't happy at all.

ROMANS: I bet.

BERMAN: You may have heard him swearing on the TV if you were watching. Several other drivers also reported problems. The race was stopped for 27 minutes so the cable could be cleared away and the cars could be repaired. Crazy, huh?

Ahead on EARLY START, put down that diet soda. Why it may be as bad for your teeth as crack or meth?


BERMAN: Seriously.

ROMANS: And she's been on death row for 22 years. Now, Debbie Milke may walk free. How she won her appeal next.


ROMANS: Good morning. It's 53 degrees in New York City right now. Later, it's going to be 73 on this Memorial Day after a very soggy past few days in the northeast. Some sunshine -- John.

BERMAN: Welcome, sunshine, to say the least.

So, it is decision time for the Supreme Court. Thirty cases await final opinions, and we're not talking just run of the mill decisions here. Some big, controversial issues at stake from affirmative action to same-sex marriage. For the next month, questions about some of the biggest social issues of the day could be answers, and those answers will affect the lives of millions of Americans. CNN's Athena Jones takes a look.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From now until the end of June, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on big issues. Affirmative action and same-sex marriage.

TOM GOLDSTEIN, CO-FOUNDER, SCOTUS BLOG: It's almost unimaginable the number of things the Supreme Court is going to decide that affect all Americans in the next month.

JONES: First up could be whether public schools can consider race when admitting students. Abigail Fisher sued the University of Texas, arguing she was rejected because she's White.

ABIGAIL FISHER, AFFIRMATIVE ACTION PLAINTIFF: I hope the court rules that a student's race and ethnicity should not be considered when applying to the University of Texas.

JONES: The school says race is one of many factors it uses to achieve diversity on campus. Court watchers say Anthony Kennedy could side with conservative justices to overturn or limit a major Supreme Court decision from ten years ago that allowed affirmative action. The justices are also dealing with another hot-button issue, same-sex marriage.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- a marriage is between one man and one woman. You guys won't accept it.

JONES: Considering whether California's Proposition 8 ban is constitutional, and in a second case, if the defense of Marriage Act can deny same-sex couples the same federal benefits as heterosexual ones.

EDITH WINDSOR, DOMA PLAINTIFF: I think it's going to be good.

JONES: That case was brought by Edith Windsor, a New York woman who had to pay higher estate taxes after her wife died than someone in a heterosexual marriage would have.

GOLDSTEIN: I think it's likely in the defense of Marriage Act case that the Supreme Court will invalidate the federal law that says we won't recognize state same-sex marriages, but in the California Proposition 8 case, the justices seem unlikely to require under the constitution every state to recognize same-sex marriage.

The ruling may not be a huge gay rights victory at all, but I doubt it's going to be a significant loss either.

JONES: Another case involves the kind of genetic testing that led actress, Angelina Jolie, to undergo a double mastectomy. The court is considering whether human genes, so-called products of nature, can be patented.

Athena Jones, CNN, Washington.


ROMANS: All right. Coming up he's accused of butchering a British soldier in the street. Now, we're learning more about the accused killer's connection to al Qaeda.


ROMANS: Welcome back to EARLY START. The British government targeting extremist groups following the alleged terrorist attack on a soldier in broad daylight on the streets of London last week. We're also learning more about one of the two men arrested for that fatal attack.

CNN's Matthew Chance live for us this morning from Downing Street in London. And Matthew, we know now nine people in total have been arrested in connection with this case. What's the latest on this investigation?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, nine people arrested, Christine. That's right. A number of them have been released without any charges, at least two of them, in fact. Another three have been released on police bail and have to return to the police station later on pending further inquiries. But of course, the two main suspects, Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, Britons of Nigerian descent are still very much in police custody.

The other main developments, I think, on this investigation in Britain is that the British government has announced an initiative to look at the extent of extremism in the country. The focus is on general extremism and militancy in the country, but with a specific understanding that the main threat is coming from Islamic fundamentalism.

And that's a key point and raised the ire of many Muslim groups in the country. That group that inquiry will be headed by the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, as this investigation continues, Christine.

ROMANS: You know, Matthew, right now, in France, authorities investigating the stabbing of a French soldier. Do we know if that attack is somehow related to the incident in London?

CHANCE: It is astonishing, isn't it? A soldier in his 20s, as well, from the French military stabbed in the neck whilst on patrol in the western part of Paris, the French capital. It looks very similar, doesn't it? He was wearing a uniform when he was attacked by someone who was described by -- as wearing Islamic dress. The French authorities, though, are being very cautious about drawing any parallels.

They've not yet caught the perpetrator of this attack, and they're stopping short at this stage of saying it's linked. But of course, France has its own problem with militant attacks. It recently intervened in the country of Mali, as well, where it's been fighting against militants from the al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb which is a militant group in that part of the world. And so, that country is very much on high alert as well.

ROMANS: You know, and over the weekend, we saw anti-Islam groups taking to the streets in the UK, Matthew. Have there been any reprisal attacks on Muslims or concerns about that from authorities?

CHANCE: Yes, certainly, this killing in Southeast London has, you know, kind of led to a spike, I think, in support for those far right extremist groups on the streets of Britain. According to one charity in Britain called faith matters, there's been a tenfold increase in the number of attacks against Muslims in the country since that killing on Wednesday. So, that's something of great, great concern here. ROMANS: All right. Matthew Chance for us, 10 Downing Street. Thank you, Matthew.

BERMAN: The Arizona death row inmate convicted more than 20 years ago of killing her four-year-old son could be released from prison this week. Debra Milke known as death row Debbie was convicted in 1990 of plotting with two men to shoot her son, Christopher, in order to collect on a life insurance policy. Milke argued her conviction was based largely on testimony of a crooked Phoenix detective.


DET. ARMANDO SALDATE JR., PHOENIX POLICE DEPARTMENT: She manipulated two other gentlemen to get rid of the child, and they got rid of the child and made up a story that he had gotten lost at a mall.


BERMAN: The appeals court overturned Milke's conviction because it said prosecutors should have revealed the detective's history of misconduct, which included lying under oath in other cases.

ROMANS: Quick thinking rescuers helped save an elderly couple after their car plunged into a river outside Boston. Apparently, they were trying to park in the lot near a riverside diner. Police believe the car was in reverse, instead of drive, and it just sailed over the edge.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A gentleman who was in the restaurant who was off duty police officer, I believe, ran across the street and helped them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They couldn't get any momentum to brake the window, so that they chose to push the car back on its tires.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They were working over them through the windshield, and they pulled them out of the side.


ROMANS: Wow. The couple were in the water more than five minutes and were feared dead, but they were revived at the hospital.

BERMAN: Authorities plan to use steel girders on that collapsed bridge in Washington State as a temporary solution while a permanent bridge is completed. The patch could have traffic flowing again by mid-June. Three people were injured in that bridge collapse which happened when a truck slammed into an overhead support. The permanent bridge is expected sometime in September.

ROMANS: Disturbing new information this morning about diet soda. A new study claims drinking diet soda can do the same kind of damage to teeth as using crack or crystal meth. Researchers noted the case of a woman in her 30s who drank two liters, two liters of diet soda daily for more than three years.

BERMAN: That might be a problem to begin with.

ROMANS: Yes. There's a lot of issues there. She had similar rot and tooth decay as a 29-year-old meth addict and a 51-year-old crack user. The Temple University study says it's because diet soda like meth and crack, highly, highly acidic.

BERMAN: That's a lot of diet soda a day.

ROMANS: Two liters. Wow!

BERMAN: The math there is tough. All right. Fifty minutes after the hour right now.

Ahead on EARLY START, when it's time, it's time. The moment when an expectant mother discovers she isn't going to make it to the delivery room or even make it inside the hospital.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. Trending online this morning, the Beatles couldn't do it but the Bluth did. They got the band back together. The entire original cast of the comedy cult classic, "Arrested Development," has reunited, which is awesome, seven years after it was canceled by Fox, which was not awesome.

All 15 new episodes began streaming on Netflix just after midnight on Sunday. The first episode focused on Michael Bluth who's fallen on hard times.










UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got to get you to that acting class.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want my son to have a job where his incompetence won't be out of place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that's not a great sign.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would love to help you. We like to pull together --


BERMAN (voice-over): It could be a model (INAUDIBLE).

ROMANS (voice-over): I think so, too.


ROMANS (on-camera): All right. Will Smith may be a big movie star now, but he hasn't forgotten his time as a fresh prince of Bel Air or his career as a rapper. While appearing on Graham Norton's BBC talk show, Smith joined his old music partner, DJ Jazzy Jeff, remember him for a rendition of the Fresh Prince theme.




ROMANS: Smith then brought out former co-star, Alfonso Ribeiro, and his son, Jaden, to show off some dance moves.


ROMANS: I love that show.

BERMAN (on-camera): I actually saw him do that live like a few years ago at a concert in Philadelphia. People get into it there --

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

BERMAN: As you might imagine.

ROMANS: I can imagine.

BERMAN: All right. So, a newborn girl in Florida just could not wait a minute longer, not a second longer. Her mother brought her in to the world in a wheelchair on the way to the hospital. The birth photographer the couple hired, they hired a birth photographer, that's one thing to begin with, they thought that she'd be snapping pictures inside the hospital, instead she had to get the camera out for a sidewalk delivery.

This all happened on the sidewalk. Amy Beth Camarada (ph) says her first daughter was a quick birth, too, but probably not quite this fast. We're going to talk live to the new mother at 7:00 a.m. on "Starting Point." Hopefully, she is off the sidewalk by now.

ROMANS: Whoa! That's cool. To check out other top CNN trends, head to

This is secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel's, first Memorial Day since taking office.

BERMAN: And today, Hagel, who is a Vietnam veteran, is paying tribute to our servicemen and women in America's fallen warriors.


CHUCK HAGEL, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: These are not easy times for our country, for the world, and certainly, these are not easy times to be part of our armed forces.

Memorial Day is a uniquely American day. It is the one day of the year we set aside completely to remember, to honor, and thank those who give so much, and have given so much for this country. Memorials are not built to honor war. They are built to remember great causes and great actions and the people who helped shape the world for the better.

I would like to thank the men and women who serve this country, their families. I especially want to thank their families for their tremendous sacrifices and what they give. And I appreciate that. We all do.

I took the oath of office to become the 24th secretary of defense. It's a great honor. It's a privilege. To be part of your team, who you are is the honor, that's the great privilege. I'm proud of my background. I'm proud of my career, like you all are. But nothing makes me prouder than my association with the military and the veterans.

Our country will never forget those who fell in battle, and those who have yet to return home. Their dedication and selfless service resonates deeply across the country, and their legacy is carried forward proudly by those who wear our nation's uniform today. Thank you for your service. And God bless you and your families.