Return to Transcripts main page


Ariel Castro Found Dead; Putin Talks Syria; Serena Serves Up New York Bagels

Aired September 4, 2013 - 05:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The stunning news while you were sleeping. He kidnapped and tortured three Cleveland women for nearly a decade. This morning, Ariel Castro found dead inside his jail cell. We're live with the latest on this breaking story.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Striking Syria. Russia's new warning to the U.S. Should Congress vote to punish Syria's government for allegedly using chemical weapons to poison its people?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About anything you make with chicken, you can make with alligator.

BERMAN: And meet the men who captured the 727-pound alligator. How they made this giant catch? I guarantee you, the alligator's not smiling. We'll tell you how they made this catch their very first time hunting.

SAMBOLIN: Not on that picture, but when you look on the other one, he did look like he was smiling.


BERMAN (on-camera): He's not happy about it.

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): No, he's not happy. All right. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm happy you're with us this morning. Actually, we're happy you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Thirty-one minutes after the hour right now.

SAMBOLIN: So, we're going to have more on our top story now. It's the death of Cleveland kidnapper, Ariel Castro. He was found hanged in a jail cell where he was serving out his life sentence for admittedly holding three women captive for years. Scott Taylor of CNN affiliate, WOIO TV, is in Cleveland this morning, and he joins us on the phone. Scott, what do we know?

VOICE OF SCOTT TAYLOR, WOIO TV REPORTER: Well, Zoraida, we do know that Ariel Castro was being held in a single cell away all by himself. He was away from other inmates. We understand that he was not, though, on suicide watch. If he was on suicide watch, they would be checking him probably every ten minutes like they did here in Cleveland when he was here for three months in the county jail.

They checked on him around nine o'clock, and then 20 minutes later, within that time period, he found something in his cell to hang himself with. A medical team rushed in from the prison. They performed CPR on him. He was eventually transported to the Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus which is about 20 minutes away. He was pronounced dead in about an hour just before eleven o'clock.

And Cleveland is really in shock here. You have to wonder how Ariel Castro is placed in the state prison. He's only been there really for less than 30 days. He was a new arrival, still being evaluated. How in the world something like this happens?

SAMBOLIN: You're absolutely right. I mean, we're talking earlier to his cousin who's asking the same question, how is that possible? I just want to clear something up. You said he had been on suicide watch earlier when he was -- I guess, when he was first taken into custody. And then, he was being checked every ten minutes. Would you say now he's being checked every half an hour, do we know?

TAYLOR: When he was in the Cleveland jail, he was initially put on suicide watch, and then, he was put on what's called precautionary watch. In other words, they don't think they're going to -- an inmate will hurt themselves, but they're high-profile so they want to make sure they keep an eye on him. And that's what they did here in Cleveland, the county jail.

I got his cell logs every week. Every ten minutes, they wrote down exactly what he was doing. When he was transported to the state prison, he was not put on suicide watch. He was actually just placed as a high profile inmate and he was checked on every 30 minutes.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Scott Taylor, lots of unanswered questions. I know you're on the story for us. We really appreciate it. Thank you.

BERMAN: And as we said, you know, a little while ago, you did speak to Ariel Castro's cousin, Maria Castro-Montes.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. I talked to her here on EARLY START just a few moments ago. Maria said that she actually cried when she heard the news.


VOICE OF MARIA CASTRO MONTES, COUSIN OF ARIEL CASTRO: Maybe this is for the best. Maybe this is the only way that he will be out of the spotlight, because I think he was just always going to be in the spotlight. It seemed like every day, some new news report was coming out. And I don't think they were ever going to find peace if he was still alive and in prison.


SAMBOLIN: I want to clarify that the reason she says she cried is because she has the memories of when they were growing up, when they were younger, and those to her are very fond memories. I want to make sure that we understand that the man that he became is someone that she does not recognize.

BERMAN: And she also made crystal clear that her first thought was for the survivors, for those three women held captive.

SAMBOLIN: She said Nancy. That's why I wanted her to clarify. When she said the girls and then she used the word Nancy. It was ariel castro's daughters, his mother, and the girls. That's initially who she thought about immediately, and she also said that she felt for, you know, his mother, because she still was in prison visiting him and his sister. And so, for them, you know, it's conflicted emotions, right?

BERMAN: One thing we can't make clear enough. This was not supposed to happen.


BERMAN: This was not what the justice system was supposed to have allowed to happen. And the victims, the survivors there, didn't want this to happen. They wanted him to serve a long, long time.

SAMBOLIN: They wanted him to pay. Exactly.

BERMAN: Michelle Knight called it his hell.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, absolutely.

BERMAN: All right. I want to move on to Syria now and a very important vote today by a key Senate committee over whether to authorize the military response to the chemical weapons attack that the administration says left more than 1,400 people dead in Syria.


BERMAN (voice-over): The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set to vote on giving the Obama administration the power to conduct air strikes, but the military would only has 60 or maybe 90 depending on extension, 60 or 90 days to do it and could not put troops on the ground.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Secretary of state, John Kerry, defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, and joint chiefs chairman, Martin Dempsey, will be back on Capitol Hill today testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. And that after two key Republican House leaders said they're now on board with taking military action against Syria.

Speaker John Boehner, the majority leader, Eric Cantor, say the U.S. has an obligation to respond if national security is threatened.

BERMAN: Key support for the president to pick up there. Meanwhile, France's parliament set to vote today -- to debate today, rather, its own authorization for military action against Syria. But all it will be is a debate. No vote is scheduled. France's president has said that he will wait to ask for one until the U.S. Congress votes.

Also, we're hearing this morning from Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, who's making it clear that he is not convinced that the Assad regime was behind the chemical attack, but he's not ruling out joining international action against Syria, although, that seems unlikely. Phil Black in Moscow this morning. Phil, what did the Russian leader say? And his tone sounded different than what I've heard in the past?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, initially, it sounded like a possible shift in the Russian position, perhaps, a softening when Vladimir Putin said that he doesn't exclude the possibility of backing international military effort against Syria in order to punish them for using chemical weapons, but he went on to explain that comes along with some pretty strict condictions.

He said that would have to involve the United Nations. It would have to involve undeniable proof. But he also made it very clear he doesn't believe that evidence exists, because in his words he thinks it is ludicrous to suspect the Syrian government of using these weapons. Here's a direct quote from this interview in which Vladimir Putin says this.

He says, "From our point of view, it seems absolutely absurd that the armed forces which are on the offensive today and in some areas have encircled the so-called rebels end up finishing them off, but in these conditions, they would start using forbidden chemical weapons." He does not believe that it's likely because he thinks the Syrian government knows that that would very likely trigger some form of international response.

So, the divide between President Obama on the issue of Syria is still pretty intense as President Obama is set to arrive in the Russian city of St. Petersburg for the G-20 economic summit, but despite the fact the relations between these two men have been pretty poor lately, the Russian president said in this interview that he believes they can still work together even though they, sometimes, irritate each other.

BERMAN: No, it's true. It could have been much more intense and much more combative words from the Russian leader, especially given that President Obama, as you said, headed to St. Petersburg. And the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, did make the point that some of the aide that the Russians have sent to Syria in the form of a key air defense system, some of that now is on hold.

BLACK: What he's talking about there is the S-300 missile system, which is considered a very sophisticated, very capable anti-aircraft missile system that Syria had agreed to purchase from Russia. Russia says this was in the days before the civil war. That this particular arms deal predates that. But Russia, the Russian president says that while some components of the system have been delivered, the rest of the sale is effectively suspended.

Russia has been under a great deal of pressure from the United States and also from Israel not to follow through with this sale. But President Putin said that in the event that there is some sort of military strike on Syria which he doesn't approve of, then the issue of just who these sensitive weapons are sold to could be revisited, John. BERMAN: A not so vainly (ph) failed threat to be sure. Phil Black in Moscow for us this morning. Thank you so much, Phil.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-nine minutes past the hour.

Bill Clinton is going to bat for Obamacare.


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): The former president will be speaking today in Little Rock. The White House says he'll be pointing out how President Obama's health care reforms are already helping millions of Americans. Health care market places are set to open October 1st, a key component of the reform plan.

BERMAN (voice-over): More good news on the fire lines near California's Yosemite National Park. That huge massive fire that's been burning there for more than a week is now 80 percent contained. It does not appear to be growing. And evacuation orders, they have finally been lifted. But crews do remain on watch. There is the potential the fire could spread again with so much dry timber and brush nearby.

SAMBOLIN: So, we ask every day, right?


SAMBOLIN (on-camera): I mean, that's what it feels like. We go to Indra every day first asking what does Mother Nature have in store? Are they going to be able to continue fighting this fire and be successful, I guess, is the big question?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. I mean, we're hoping so because the weather again is not really this huge factor. Temperatures are in the 70s, nice and mild. No red flag warnings. Winds are generally light. Now, I say this, but keep in mind, when you have a fire, especially one of this magnitude, it creates its own weather pattern.

So, within that fire itself, they're still dealing and battling these strong winds within the fire itself, especially on some of the steep terrain that they're actually dealing with. Otherwise, really, when you look at the location, they're just kind of in between the monsoonal moisture. We wish that could reach them a little bit more, but they're not seeing that and also low now that's making its wind, the pacific northwest.

It doesn't look like they'll get that rain. But again, they're just kind of in that middle zone which is good in the sense that it's nice and mild within the region. I want to give you an update on yesterday's cold front. Now, still, almost becoming a stationary front here down in the southeast, it's looking for more rain as we go through the weekend. Typical now for the entire summer for the southeast.

We do have a little bit of a change, though. They're looking for couple of showers there, about two to four inches maybe in the panhandle. But the change in the northeast is going to be another cold front making its way through. Here's the good news, it is pretty dry. So, we're not looking for a lot of rain with this, but the big story will be temperatures. They are going way down. And we're talking about below temperatures --


PETERSONS: -- and maybe some frost --


PETERSONS: -- in the overnight hours, more like northern mid- Atlantic. But either way, definitely a little bit cooler.

BERMAN: No one asked for that, Indra. No one asked for --

PETERSONS: Do you want the southeast rain?

BERMAN: No, I don't want that either.



BERMAN: No good options today, Indra. Thank you so much.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. This next image, it sends chills up many spines. This huge record-breaking gator caught in Mississippi. This is not a toy. It is the stuff of nightmares. And no, it's not smiling, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: It doesn't look like it's smiling there with all the guys.

BERMAN: It weighed more than 720 pounds and 13 feet long. One very big, one very fat, overweight, happy alligator.


BERMAN: Now, we're hearing from the guys who caught this obese alligator. Dustin and Ryan Bockman and their friend, Cole Landers, they are amateur first-time gator hunters. And shockingly, they say catching it was not easy.


DUSTIN BOCKMAN, CAUGHT 725 LB. ALLIGATOR: We actually tried for three hours to get this gator in a boat. And we couldn't do it. We just had to drag him to a sandbar and sit and wait for Cole's dad and another friend to come and help load him in the boat.

COLE LANDERS, CAUGHT 725 LB. ALLIGATOR: And by the time we got home, we started checking record books and taking measurements of him. When we actually got a tape measure when we realized that we got a fairly large gator.


BERMAN: You can hear the excitement exploding in their voices right there. The question now, what do they plan to do with this alligator? They say they're going to turn him into all kinds of mementos. And yes, they will have plenty of gator meat to go around which is how I know that alligator is not smiling there.


BERMAN: He's not in on it. You know what I'm saying.

SAMBOLIN: No, I know what you're saying.

BERMAN: Tastes like chicken --

SAMBOLIN: Really? I had some in front of me, and I just could not bring myself to try it. So, if you know what it tastes like, give us a tweet.

Coming up --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was disrespected. I was offended. I was hurt.


SAMBOLIN: A lawsuit over the use of a racial slur in the workplace ends with a big verdict for an employee. What the jury decided coming up next.


SAMBOLIN: Forty-six minutes past the hour. A New York woman has won her lawsuit against the nonprofit where she worked. At issue, her boss' use of a racial slur. The "N" word. She is Black. Her boss is Black, too. And he argued that he used it as a form of tough love. She recorded one of their conversations. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both of you, you know this, both of you (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and I'm not saying using the term derogatory(EXPLETIVE DELETED) because sometimes it's good to know when to act like (EXPLETIVE DELETED) y'all act like (EXPLETIVE DELETED) this all the time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm really offended by that. I don't think --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can be offended, but it's true.

BRANDI JOHNSON, SUED EMPLOYER: No one deserves to be treated the way I was. And hopefully, this sets an example that it won't be tolerated, no matter what your race is.


SAMBOLIN: A federal jury ruled her boss must pay $25,000 out of his own pocket, on top of another $255,000 from the nonprofit. His lawyer says, they are considering an appeal. That was a very interesting conversation. And I think one that probably a lot of people would admit happens a lot.

BERMAN: A lot to talk about there.

SAMBOLIN: Interesting.

BERMAN: Lots to talk about this morning. Big news morning. Let's take a look at what's coming up on "NEW DAY." Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, what's going on, guys?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there. A lot coming up in the show as you can imagine.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know the head line. We know Ariel Castro, apparently, committed suicide. We're going to take a look at why and how this may have happened. We know the background on the story. We're going to go back and look at his words, talk to family, and the circumstances in prison that may have led to the story. We're going to take that on for you first.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And we're, also, of course, going to be following the latest developments politically as well as in every front in terms of conversation about Syria. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set to vote on a resolution as early as today authorizing a military strike against Syria. We're going to be talking live to one of the authors of this resolution, the chairman of that committee, Senator Robert Menendez. He'll have lots to say on this coming up.

BERMAN: Kate and Chris, you're hosting a town hall on the Syria issue tomorrow night. That should be fascinating as well. Can't wait to see that, guys. Thanks so much. We'll see you in a little bit.

SAMBOLIN: Forty-eight minutes past the hour. Coming up, an unbelievable foul ball catch by the Oakland A's.

BERMAN: Oh, my goodness!

SAMBOLIN: Oh! Could that be the catch of the year?

BERMAN: Oh, wow!

SAMBOLIN: The "Bleacher Report" coming up next.


SAMBOLIN: When Serena Williams is on, she is on.

BERMAN: Yes, she is.

SAMBOLIN: The world's number one women's tennis player just need 52 minutes to win her quarterfinals match last night at the U.S. Open.

BERMAN: Andy Scholes, tell us how it happened on the "Bleacher Report."

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: Hey, good morning, guys. Well, fans barely had time to settle into their seats last night before Serena barreled through Carla Suarez Navarro in less than an hour. Serena won 6-0, 6-0. They call that a double bagel in tennis. It was the first time in 24 years that it happened in the quarter finals at Flushing Meadows. Serena now just two wins away from winning her fifth U.S. Open title.

Well, one of sports longest losing streaks is no more. But their victory over the Brewers last night, Pittsburgh Pirates reached 81 wins ending their streak of 20 straight losing seasons. The Pirates haven't had a winning season since 1992. Right now, the Buccos, they have a two-game lead over the Cardinals in the N.L. central.

Plenty of lineup section on Today, you can check out arguably the best catch of the season. Ranger day last night, Oakland third baseman, Josh Donaldson goes after this foul ball, dives over the tarp.

BERMAN: That is amazing.

SAMBOLIN: I want to see it. I want to see it.

SCHOLES: Check it out, guys. He holds the glove up the whole time just to make sure there was, no doubt, that he actually made the catch.

BERMAN: No regard for life or limb there. He was going to get that ball.

SAMBOLIN: I love that. That is committed to the game.

SCHOLES: No doubt he's going to make that. I love the mullet he's got going on.

BERMAN: That's how (INAUDIBLE), by the way.

SCHOLES: A's lose the game, though, 5-1.

All right, guys. NFL season kicks off tomorrow night with the Broncos hosting the Ravens. Here are some fun facts about this season. More than 26 million people will participate in fantasy football. And women, surprisingly, account for about 20 percent of fantasy players these days. Now, the fantasy sports industry says it will bring in more than $1.2 billion this season.

In case you're wondering, Las Vegas has the Broncos and the 49ers in the Super Bowl. And guys, I thought this would be a good time to put our picks on record. Berman, I know you have the Patriots, right?

BERMAN: Actually, look, as much I'd like to, I think the Broncos are overrated, but I do think the 49ers are a good pick to win it all. I'm going with the 49ers.

SAMBOLIN: Seriously?


SAMBOLIN: Dude, you are so smart.

BERMAN: In the AFC, I have no idea, but maybe the Colts, I think, may overperform.

SCHOLES: I'm a Homer, so I'm going with the Houston Texans.

SAMBOLIN: All right. We'll see.

BERMAN: And Zoraida is remaining silent.


BERMAN: Thank you, Andy. We appreciate it. We'll be right back.



BERMAN: It is, it's true.

SAMBOLIN: That's it for EARLY START. Time for "NEW DAY."

BERMAN: Take it away, Chris and Kate. Hey guys.

BOLDUAN: oh, no. That's exactly how we start our day as well. Thanks, guys.

CUOMO: Take a look at your clocks. It's the top of the hour. You know what that means, it's time for us to give you the top news.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is going to be so much easier, you don't deserve that. You deserve to spend life in prison.

CUOMO: Breaking news. Ariel Castro, the so-called Cleveland monster, found dead in his prison cell. His family reacts live. We have all the breaking details.

BOLDUAN: Happening now, President Obama arrives in Europe, set to make his case for a strike against Syria as a key Senate committee prepares to vote today on whether to give him authority.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: The next big thing, Samsung announcing today the high-tech gadget for your wrist, the smartwatch. The wave of the future?

CUOMO: Your "NEW DAY" starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is "NEW DAY" with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira.


CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to "NEW DAY." It's Wednesday, September 4th, six o'clock in the east, and we are going to have a lot on the shocking news that came overnight.

You are now looking at the prison where Ariel Castro was found dead in his prison cell. One of his victims has said he didn't deserve the death penalty, that his hell would be being in prison. We're going to dig in to how, and perhaps, why this happen. We're also going to talk to one of his family members live in just a moment.

BOLDUAN: Also this morning, President Clinton is getting back on the political stage today. President Obama has kind of joked that Clinton should be the secretary of explaining stuff. Well, the man who may be able to sell Obama's policies better than he can, today, he takes on the task of defending the president's health care law amid growing opposition.

PEREIRA: And the photos that we really can't stop talking about. Look at these. And we assure you, these are not fake. They are real alligators caught by amateur alligator hunters. We're actually going to hear from the man who caught them coming up. But also, there's some controversy surrounding this sport. We'll get into that as well this morning.

CUOMO: Let's get straight to the breaking news out of Ohio. Arial Castro found dead in his prison cell. Ohio corrections official say Castro who held three Cleveland women captain for over a decade apparently hanged himself in his cell. This comes just a month after he was sentenced to life plus a thousand years for his crimes. Pamela Brown following the story for us. Good morning, Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, too. Just yet another shocking, bizarre twist in the story. Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man convicted of raping and kidnapping three women for more than a decade, has been in state prison for less than 30 days. This morning, we are learning he is dead after hanging himself inside his cell.


BROWN (voice-over): Ariel Castro's last public words delivered a month ago.