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Search for Missing Autistic NY Teen; Florida Inmates Released; TSA Explains Pre-Check Program; CommonApps Glitches

Aired October 19, 2013 - 09:00   ET


ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning everyone. Thanks for being here. I'm Ana Cabrera.


Now 9:00 on the East Coast, 6:00 out West -- this is NEW DAY SATURDAY.

Two weeks and one day -- that's how long a mother and father have been searching for their lost teenage son this morning.

BLACKWELL: Avonte Oquendo has autism, he cannot communicate verbally and he was last seen running out of school in New York.

CABRERA: Ever since, hundreds of police officers and hundreds of volunteers have been working around the clock -- even hunting through tunnels, subway stations, even sewer systems for any sign of the 14- year-old.

CNN's Alexandra Steele has much more now in the extensive search.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi Avonte. It's mom. Come to the flashing lights Avonte.

ALEXANDRA STEELE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the search for Avonte Oquendo, a missing 14-year-old with autism, a mother's voice blares from police cars canvassing New York City. There's hope it will be the siren call that finally brings the boy home.

VANESSA FONTAINE, MOTHER OF AVONTE OQUENDO: It's been two weeks. I mean if he was in the water, I'm sure he would have been found by now.

STEELE: Divers are using sonar to try and find him, but in an interview with CNN's Don Lemon, Vanessa Fontaine said she believes her son is still alive.

FONTAINE: I think someone has him. I think they're holding on to him. And they just won't let him out.

STEELE: Avonte can't communicate using words. He was last seen October 4th when a surveillance camera caught him walking out of his Long Island city school and then running down the street. A source close to the investigation tells CNN, within hours of Avonte's disappearance, bloodhounds hit on the boy's scent at a marsh near the school and later in a subway station.

JAMES O'CONNELL, CITYWIDE DISASTER SERVICES: No one has given up, that's a fact. New York is a big place.

FIELD: Two weeks later, Avonte's picture is plastered throughout New York's transportation system. The search for a missing child seems to have obsessed the city that rarely stops for just one person.

COMMISSIONER RAY KELLY, NEW YORK: I think people empathize with the parents, particularly the condition of this young boy, you know, he is autistic, and I think people can feel for the parents and the family here, particularly, as a result of that.

FIELD: More than 100 police officers are on the case. Volunteers keep working around the clock. The reward for finding Avonte is now more than $77,000.

DANIEL OQUENDO, FATHER OF AVONTE: I think he is somewhere in this area. I'm praying that he is, and I'm praying whoever has him to just let him go, let him go.

FIELD: Avonte's father is holding on to hope and after two weeks his mother is holding her breath waiting for someone in a city full of people to find their.

VANESSA FONTAINE, MOTHER OF AVONTE: He is special boy, a loving boy, and a caring child. Whoever has him out there, please be kind to him. And let him go. Let him come home to his family.


FIELD: The key here is keeping the focus on Avonte. So his parents have scheduled a press conference. We should be hearing what they have to say today coming u[ in the next hour. Victor.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, FBN HOST: So where are they searching right now? Where is the focus?

FIELD: Well, we know the search is, of course, city wide, but a source tells CNN that police right now are focused on a railroad depot in Long Island City that's not far from the school where Avonte disappeared from. We do know that the boy loved trains. Victor?

BLACKWELL: Alexandra Field is in New York for us, hopefully this family, gets their son to come home soon. Thank you.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: From forgery now to freedom. Two Florida inmates are out of prison this morning after using fake release papers that included a judge's doctored signature. Charles Walker and Joseph Jenkins were supposed to be locked up for the rest of their lives, after murder convictions, but now authorities are searching for them.

BLACKWELL: And the escapees have a serious head start. The first inmate to go free left Florida (INAUDIBLE) and Correction Center late last month. CNN's Nick Valencia is live at the prison in Caravelle, Florida. Nick, who is responsible here. Now I think that we know that this search is going on and people are trying to find these two inmates, the question is who is to blame?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And that is the main question at this hour, but no one seems to have answers as to who is at fault, whose mistake this is, and there is no real clear answer, Victor, as to how this happened. It all unraveled a week ago today when one of the victims - one of the two men that's currently on the loose right now - the mother of one of those victims received a letter from the Florida Department of Corrections telling her that her son's killer had been freed. Now that was very bizarre for her because she knew that man, Charles Walker, was serving a life sentence and he wasn't eligible to be let out early. Take a listen to her reaction when she found out that the was free.


EVANGELIINA KEARSE, MOTHER OF MURDER VICTIM: We are in shock. We're frightened, and we feel let down that the system did let us down (inaudible) go free. I understand that the state attorney and the judge had nothing to do with it, but somebody, I don't know if it was an inside job besides - I don't think Charles did this. They had help, do I believe that. They had to have help.


VALENCIA: And eventually Kearse also said she got a call from a family friend that notified her that her son's killer was walking around in an Orlando area mall free just like everybody else around him. Victor, Anna.

CABRERA: Surprising that this can happen, and yet we learned this has happened before, right?

VALENCIA: Yes, that has a lot of people here locally scratching their heads and really even nationally how the Florida officials here weren't privy to the fact that these fraudulent schemes were happening. Back in 2011, another man, a third man, Jeffrey Forbes tried to get an early release by forging a similar type of document, and if it wasn't for a private detective who was closely watching his case and knew that he wasn't eligible for early release because he tried to kill a law enforcement officer, Forbes may be very well himself free at this time.

Now the ironic twist to all of this, Anna, is that October 7th is the day that federal officials, I'm sorry, Florida officials here filed charges for those fraudulent documents against Forbes. The next day, Charles Walker, on October 8th, set free using similar types of forged paperwork. Anna.

BLACKWELL: Well, hopefully we get the answer to that question - who is responsible, not just the pointing back and forth. Nick Valencia in Caravelle, Florida for us. Thank you.

CABRERA: And where are these suspects? That's all we need to know.

The mother of a teenaged suspect in a bullying suicide case has been arrested in Florida. Police say (inaudible) faces charges of child abuse after this video surfaced of her allegedly beating several children. They say the charges are unrelated to her 14-year-old daughter's case. Her daughter, Guadalupe Shaw, is accused of felony stocking and a suicide of 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick. Now Sedwick killed herself in September after reportedly enduring months of online bullying.

BLACKWELL: The father of NSA leaker, Edward Snowden is speaking out in an exclusive interview with Anderson Cooper. Lon Snowden visited his son in Russia for the first time this past week. Now the visit happened as Edward Snowden insisted he did not take any secret documents with him to Russia.


LON SNOWDEN, EDWARD SNOWDEN'S FATHER: On day one, when my son - when the news broke on June 9th, June 10th the FBI was in my home and I specifically told them there was no question in my mind. Of course, this is a father talking but I know my son, I said my son would die before he would sell secrets to a foreign government that would harm his country. I know that for a fact.


BLACKWELL: Well, U.S. officials charged Snowden with espionage. They have expressed concerns that NSA documents could end up in the hands of, of course, a foreign spy agency.

CABRERA: All right. It maybe time to get out those winter clothes from your closet, Victor. Get your ear muffs ready.

BLACKWELL: You think I have ear muffs. Could you imagine me with the ear muffs.

CABRERA: I can imagine you with those ear muffs. Chilly temperatures are sweeping across the U.S., hadn't quite made it to Atlanta just yet but snow is falling already.

BLACKWELL: I don't have the ear muffs. Let's bring in meteorologist Karen Maginnis at the CNN Weather Center. Ear muffs or not, the snow is coming.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, as many ear muffs as we can possibly get because we've got that cold air plunging to the south. Take a look at some of these snowfall totals. One out of Cheyenne, Wyoming, seven inches and by the way, yesterday, Yellow Stone Park, they had a morning low of 11 degrees. It is Unbelievable. Well the snowfall is going to materialize again across the upper Mississippi River Valley.

Two back to back storm systems. These move through fairly quickly. Whatever precipitation comes down comes down fairly swiftly. So not a heavy snowfall expected across this region. But look at Denver. This looks spectacular. Take a look at what they saw yesterday. They had just about an inch of snowfall. It was kind of that early, heavy, wet snowfall. But some of the mountains just to the west of Denver, well they saw three to six inches. Typically a high temperature in Denver would be around 66, but take a look at Dodge City, Kansas. Typically, a high of around 70 degrees but in some isolated areas they saw as much as five inches. And it was very isolated but the roads were very slick and dangerous. Well, it looks like for this afternoon, temperatures are going to be just a few degrees below normal.

If you head out towards the Rockies, (INAUDIBLE) snowfall expected there. Diluth, international falls, extending on going towards Fargo. Couple of inches over the next several days. So watch out. Slick road conditions, but even into Chicago we go from 50s and 60s into the 40s coming up by the beginning of the workweek in St. Louis, goes from temperatures tomorrow in the 70s tomorrow to 50s coming up on Monday.

BLACKWELL: Time to switch out those closets, bring out the sweaters, put away the shorts.

CABRERA: Ear muffs.

BLACKWELL: And ear muffs.

CABRERA: Don't forget though.

BLACKWELL: Karen Maginnis, thank you.

MAGINNIS: All right.

BLACKWELL: If you fly, you know the drill, take off your shoes, unbuckle your belt, put that laptop in the bin, maybe the ear muffs as well. But you might not have to do that the next time you head to the airport. Up next, we'll tell you how the TSA plans to make your next trip a lot easier. You certainly would want to hear about this.

FEMALE ANCHOR Well, it's the man who flies and never has to worry about the TSA. Never before seen footage of Felix Baumgartner's death-defying leap from space. You're watching "New Day Saturday" here on CNN. We're back in a moment.



CABRERA: That is the sound of the wind as we are watching that historic skydive from the edge of space. A brand new look from the jumper's point of view.

BLACKWELL: It's the spinning that gets me. Red Bull just released this video of cameras on Felix Baumgartner's body as he jumped from 24 miles above earth.

CABRERA: And after at least one close call, Baumgartner managed to land this jump. He set a new sky diving record, and yes, he broke the sound barrier. Unbelievable.

BLACKWELL: Yes, that is really cool. New this morning, a Qantas Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing at Los Angeles International Airport because of mechanical problems. The flight was headed from Dallas to Australia. An airport spokesperson says LAX was notified of the mechanical issue less than 10 minutes before the plane landed. The good news though that no one was hurt.

The next time you head to the airport you might not have to wait in those long security lines. Nobody likes that.

CABRERA: No. It's such a process. Beginning next month, the TSA plans to expand its precheck program to more than 300 airports, all across the country. Right now only frequent fliers on certain airlines can participate on this program.

BLACKWELL: The program allows travelers to pass through security lines without having to take off the shoes, or belts, removing your laptop from your bag. It really saves a lot of time and it sounds too good to be true, we know.

But here to explain and unpack the nuts and bolts of this is Mark Murphy. He's the author of "Travel Unscripted." We love to have him here for these stories. He joins us live from New York. Mark, good to have you.


BLACWELL: Explain how this program works.

MURPHY: Well, basically you pay an $85 fee starting in November that gives you a background check and as well as a fingerprinting because they want to know who you are and validate you. And if you get validated, then you get to go through the lines very quickly.

Up until now if you weren't a frequent flier with one of those major airlines, you couldn't qualify. So this opens it up to the general flying public and that is a great thing because we want to speed through security because it's getting to be a major headache with these long lines.

CABRERA: But as you mentioned, it's going to cost you if you want to go faster. $85 bucks. Can anybody sign up for this?

MURPHY: Anybody is eligible starting in November. Right now, it's only in about 92 airports. It's going to be in 350 airports by the middle of next year so they say. We'll see how that roll out actually goes, and then - but if you're part of let's say the global entry program, which I was, that $100 I paid for that for five years also goes towards the TSA. So the precheck program.

So you can get into it any number of ways, and I think that's the best way tot do it because that covers you coming in from an immigration standpoint, from overseas and gives you fast track as well as the precheck as you go out. So it's a pretty good way to approach it.

BLACKWELL: So (INAUDIBLE) this way you can use it for international travel with the global pass.


BLACKWEL: What is the screening? What are they looking for to determine if you are eligible for this?

MURPHY: Well, in the beginning it was "I'm a frequent traveler. I'm on a plane every week. So why make me go through the same thing that somebody you don't know is going through." And that was really the idea I'm less of a threat potentially than the random person who just shows up at the airport because I have a track record. And as long as I got fingerprints and had a background check, they could do it even further. That's where they bring that together with the general leisure traveler.

And if they're willing to pay that $85, they know that that person is less of a threat. Therefore, they don't have to look at them as closely and that way you can go through the expedited screening process because they already pre-screened you in advance.

CABRERA: Could cutting corners for certain people, though, create additional flight risks?

MUPRHY: I don't think so. Because, again, you've got to look at the individual. You know, we're talking about profiling, not profiling? At the end of the day, a guy like me who travels every week, like I fly sometimes as much as pilots. What's my threat versus out there versus the person who you've never seen who shows up with a one-way ticket somewhere. And that raises a flag. So you're still going to have that ability, and also you're going to get fingerprinted, background check. So they're going to know a lot about you and you're going to give up some privacy as a result. But in exchange fro giving up that privacy, guess what? You could go in front of the line and you can take about three minutes to get through security instead of in some cases 45 minutes or an hour.

BLACKWELL: Or an hour and a half in Atlanta, sometimes.

MURPHY: I feel bad for you guys.

BLACKWELL: The busiest airport in the world. Mark Murphy, author of "Travel Unscripted."

It's always good to have these conversations about getting through the lines quickly and how we can, you know, save some money when we're traveling with our families especially this time of the year. Mark, thank you.

MURPHY: Thanks, Victor. Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: Bye-bye.

BLACKWELL: Students scrambling, colleges are confused. The website that was supposed to make it easier for high school seniors applying to colleges has a major glitch. We'll explain that one.



CABRERA: Good morning, live pictures from Atlanta this morning. You can see those overcast skies. 56 degrees, a little rainy here today. But hey, it could be worse.

BLACKWELL: Even on a overcast day, Atlanta is a beautiful city.

CABRERA: It is. (INAUDIBLE) skyline.

BLACKWELL: High school students across the country are rushing to meet deadlines to apply for colleges. A lot of them are running into problems.

CABRERA: And that's because the popular website that a lot of people use to apply to college or common app is having some major glitches. CNN's Alina Machado has more.


ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Every time she tried to log on to CommonApp this week -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... it says no account at this e-mail.

MACHADO: Maria Voss says she has gotten an error message keeping her off the site.

(on camera): When that happened what did you think?

VOSS: I was kind of in a manic zone. Because I wanted to get these deadlines. I have a few essays to finish writing, and a few recommenders to send off but I couldn't go on.

MACHADO (voice-over): CommonApp is supposed to simplify the college application process by allowing students like Voss to use the same form to apply to several schools at once. Harvard, the California Institute of Technology and Georgia Tech are among the more than 500 colleges and universities that use the non-profit service.

Just last year CommonApps say they processed hundreds of thousands of applications. This year the site has been plagued with technical glitches that are leaving some high school seniors desperate for answers.

LINDSEY DEAN, DIRECTOR OF COLLEGE COUNSELLING, HOLY SPIRIT PREP: There should be struggle when it comes to putting four years on a piece of paper but to struggle with technical issues is somewhat difficult to explain to them.

MACHADO: Comments about the technical problems have flooded Common Apps' Facebook page. On Twitter, CommonApps users are venting. One person tweeted "I never going to be able to apply to college and included this image of the Common App sight." (on camera): Several universities are trying to ease anxiety by changing their early admissions deadline. In Atlanta, Georgia Tech moved its early action deadline from October 15th to October 21st after being flooded with calls from concerned students. RICK CLARK, DIRECTOR OF ADMISSIONS, GEORGIA TECH: We are not going to let technology punish a student for something that is outside of their control. If that means extending a deadline, we're going to do that.

MACHADO (voice-over): On its Facebook page, CommonApp attributed some of the issues to "a spike in activity." They organization says it is working to fix the glitches and offered suggestions for users having trouble.

VOSS: It just worked! OK then. I guess you guys are good luck.

MACHADO: Back in Atlanta, Voss was eventually able to log on in front of us, getting one step closer to submitting her college applications.

(on camera): What do you think that moment is going to be like?

VOSS: Relief.

MACHADO (voice-over): Alina Machado, CNN, Atlanta.


BLACKWELL: There is enough stress that that time any way.

CABRERA: No kidding.

BLACKWELL: So hopefully they can all get in and get pass the password problem.

Up next, we're going to jump on today's must see stories. Let's start with this.

A kangaroo hops into an airport. Stand by for the punch line. We'll have it in our must see moments.


BLACKWELL: Now for today's must see moment, a kangaroo hops into an airport. Stand by, it's not a joke. It really happened. The animal shut down part of the airport in Melbourne, Australia when it hopped through the busy Qantas terminal and into an airport pharmacy.

CABRERA: He's a quick little guy. Wildlife workers did tranquilize the kangaroo that they eventually caught up with him. By the way, his nickname is Cyrus. He did suffer some minor injuries. They're nursing him back to health. Airport officials say there are lots of kangaroos around but finding one inside the airport is pretty rare.

BLACKWELL: So Cyrus will be OK.

A fictional TV character gets a real funeral in New Mexico. CABRERA: And this time, the star of "Breaking Bad" is doing some real good for the community. On the show, Walter White was a meth cooking drug kingpin, so the sheriff in Verneleo County, New Mexico was probably happy to see it put to rest.

BLACKWELL: Especially because people are giving donations to take part in the funeral. And that money is being used to help the homeless. The event hopes to raise $100,000 for charity.

CABRERA: Cool idea.

BLACKWELL: Yes, a great idea. I just didn't know that there were so many people who would pay to go to go to a character's funeral.

CABRERA: I've never seen the show, to be honest. I don't know the draw personally.

BLACKWELL: I hear it's great.


BLACKWELL: Thanks for watching today. We'll see you back here at the top of the hour.

CABRERA: But first, now more on the debt ceiling show down.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Nothing has done more damage to America's credibility in the world, our standing with other countries, than the spectacle that we have seen these past several weeks.

BLACKWELL: And it is not over yet. The count down to the next crisis is on. Two dates on the calendar that you're going to hear from Christine Romans when "YOUR MONEY" starts right now. We'll see you back here at the top of the hour.