Return to Transcripts main page
Nevada School Shooting; New Arrests Expected in Inmate Escapes; Family Asks Judge to Force Coroner's Hand; Promising Step Toward Baldness Cure
Aired October 22, 2013 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Did bullying drive a student to open fire inside his school, hurting two boys and killing the math teacher? Brand new developments just in to us here at CNN.
I'm Brooke Baldwin. The news is now.
The operation to free inmates through bogus paperwork is more common than we thought. CNN investigates.
Are we closer to a cure for baldness? New hope from a new experiment.
Plus, the Obamacare signup is a mess, but one governor tells CNN it's working marvelously in his state.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take a deep breath. And everybody just needs to chill out a little bit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Top of the hour. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Great to be with you here.
Have new details today. It took just three minutes for this seventh grader to forever scar Sparks Middle School in Nevada, killing a teacher, wounding two young students, and then shooting and killing himself. But two big questions remain today, 24 hours later. One, who is he? And, two, why? Why did he do it?
Minutes ago, police gave new details as far as what this 12-year-old boy did Monday before school began. Authorities say the boy first shot a student in the stomach and then math teacher Mike Landsberry tried to stop him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF MIKE MIERAS, WASHOE COUNTY, NEVADA, SCHOOL DISTRICT POLICE: During the incident, after the first student was shot, Mr. Landsberry calmly walked towards the shooter, putting his hands up in a motion to try to stop the individual's actions. Mr. Landsberry was fatally shot in the chest. Mr. Landsberry's heroic actions by stepping toward the shooter allowed time for other students on that playground area to flee the area. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: The tears and the tributes are pouring in here for Landsberry, who served several tours in Afghanistan. And Sparks Police say they're still trying to figure out a motive here. Again, the question, why? But a friend of the shooter says the boy was bullied.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMAYA NEWTON, WITNESS & STUDENT: He was really a nice kid. He would make you smile when you're having a bad day. If you were - if -- he'd just ask you if he could buy you something and, you know, he was just really a nice kid. I believe it was because I saw him getting bullied a couple of times and I think he took out his bullying on it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: CNN's Stephanie Elam is live in Sparks for us.
And, Stephanie, also hearing from police, they are crediting students, they are crediting staff members at this school for their roles in all of this. What are they telling you?
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's really amazing because none of the shooting actually happened inside of the school. All of it was around on the campus. It started around 7:15 a.m. when this assailant first encountered one student and shot that student. And then walking across the playground area, he encountered the teacher, Mike Landsberry, coming toward him. That's when he shot him and then he shot the other student and then shot himself. They're saying because of that, the students, the staff had time to lock the school down and keep that student from getting in. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF MIKE MIERAS, WASHOE COUNTY, NEVADA, SCHOOL DISTRICT POLICE: The procedures that are in place that the staff used did not allow the shooter to enter the school. I cannot thank their actions, what they did, along with the students of the school, I cannot thank them enough for what they've done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ELAM: Now, as far as the assailant is concerned, police say they do not at this point have any plans to release this child's name. He's 12 years old. He was just 12 years old. And we also learned that his parents are under police protection. There is a police officer with them at all times, they said, while they are grieving and dealing with this. They also said that that family is cooperating fully with the investigation, Brooke.
BALDWIN: So is that -- when we heard from the police chief about potential charges against this student shooter's parents, what exactly did he mean by that?
ELAM: Well, they're investigating where exactly this 12-year-old got the gun. That's not exactly clear. They do believe it came from his residence, where he lives. So they're investigating how he got his hands on the gun, what he did. If it turns out that the parents were negligent, they're saying there's a chance then that the parents could face charges, but they have not gone so far as to say that as of yet, Brooke.
BALDWIN: OK. Stephanie Elam for us in Sparks. Stephanie, thank you.
To Florida now, where new leads are still coming in here about who may have helped these two men, these two convicted killers, who used forged documents to get out of prison. Investigators are trying to figure out how Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker used this phony paperwork that allowed them to walk free just a couple of days from one another. They were taken into custody Saturday at a Panama City, Florida, motel. And the state's top law enforcement official says there will be more arrests in this case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GERALD M. BAILEY, COMMISSIONER, FLORIDA DEPT. OF LAW ENFORCEMENT: Jenkins and Walker are already serving life sentences. They have very little to lose. But those who helped them have very much to lose. And I urge those of you who may have helped them to come forward, talk to us before we find you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: I want to bring in Larry Levine. He is a former federal inmate and the founder of Wall Street Prison Consultants.
Larry, nice to see you. Welcome.
LARRY LEVINE, DIRECTOR & FOUNDER, WALL STREET PRISON CONSULTANTS: Glad to be with you.
BALDWIN: Let's talk about this escape plan here because these two guys, they had help from the outside world. I mean that's what we're hearing from law enforcement. We know that officials have seized their prison computer. What I want from you is, exactly how much contact do inmates, do, you know, high-security convicted killers have with the outside world?
LEVINE: Well, let's start with the law library. All inmates are allowed access to the law library to fight your case, to try to get a sentence reduction, get warrants dropped, detainers dropped. They have access to a telephone. I don't know how many times a week or how many minutes they get in Florida to call. They also have access to visiting. So they will have contact with people on the outside. And myself --
BALDWIN: What about the Internet, Larry?
LEVINE: Well, they should not have any access to the Internet. I mean, in the federal system, you have access to e-mail where you can e-mail things back and forth, but there's no pictures, there's no documents. And I can't see them jumping on Google browsing something, not inside the prison. It's not likely.
BALDWIN: So then why would - why would prison officials seize the computer, just for internal documents and things of that nature, maybe planning on this computer?
LEVINE: Well, it's possible that they used the computers inside the law library to research case law and such to send e-mails to someone on the outside directing them as far as what they wanted to do. But I could go into my prison law library in the United States as an inmate, create my own documents on a typewriter, just using other inmates' paperwork with a little bit of whiteout, and I could have created this order myself to get these guys out.
BALDWIN: Wow. So when we hear about this forging of paperwork that was clearly successful in this case, have you heard of this happening before?
LEVINE: Well, I'll give you an example.
LEVINE: I was in a federal prison in El Paso, Texas. La Tuna Federal Prison. And some of the inmates there had outstanding warrants. They had detainers that were preventing them from being released. I drew up paperwork and sent it into the court back in California, where they had their detainers out of. And, mistakenly, the California state court system looked at the paperwork that I sent in and actually lifted the detainers on these people, and the federal prison was ready to release them just based on something that I manually created on a typewriter and sent in.
LEVINE: So, yes, I'm real familiar with this.
BALDWIN: Wow! So we have this kind of escape. Now there is a national spotlight on this issue of forging documents that people are reviewing - they're reviewing.
LEVINE: Well -
BALDWIN: But are there -
LEVINE: (INAUDIBLE) -
BALDWIN: Go ahead.
LEVINE: Well, there's more to this. In order to actually get this in the right hands, to get somebody who's serving a life sentence released, you've got to have somebody in the courthouse. I'm not talking somebody at the window, at the filing window. Somebody on the inside took this paperwork and they put it in the flow, the chain of paperwork. It was already supposedly stamped, signed by the judge. They just stuck it in the stack of paperwork. Then it went through the normal distribution process. It went to the Florida Department of Corrections. In turn, they sent a copy of it to the prison they were being held at. Before the prison, before R&D, receiving and discharge, released them, they then called back to the court, talked to the clerk to validate, is this release order real?
LEVINE: Well, they pulled up a copy of the counterfeit order and said, yes, this is real, release them.
BALDWIN: Well, law enforcement said they had help. Who knows how close that help was to them within the system.
Larry Levine, thank you.
Coming up, new research suggests we are getting closer to a cure for baldness.
Plus, could the mysterious blonde girl found in Greece be a missing American girl? We're on that case.
And the parents of the teenager found dead inside a high school gym mat are now taking legal action in their quest for answers. Was Kendrick Johnson, whose body was stuffed with newspaper, murdered? That's next.
BALDWIN: A Georgia family is going to court in its desperate attempt to learn the truth about their son's death. The family of 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson wants a judge to force the Lowndes County coroner to hold an inquest in this case. You know the story. Johnson's body was found in January inside a rolled up gym mat in the corner of his high school gym. Now, initially the death was ruled an accident, but a second independent autopsy, funded by the teenager's parents, suggest something criminal may have happened. So the Johnson family here, both these parents and their attorneys, just announced they have officially petitioned the court to get involved.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN CRUMP, JOHNSON FAMILY ATTORNEY: This coroner has to consider witness testimony, video surveillance in light of all the other things that are questionable about this investigation to make not only the public have confidence in this finding, but this family to have some peace of knowing what really killed their child.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: CNN's Victor Blackwell has been all over this for us. He has now confronted the one man who could hold the key to the mystery of Kendrick Johnson's death.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Watson? Victor Blackwell, CNN. BLACKWELL (voice-over): This is Lowndes County Coroner Bill Watson. He can order something the family of Kendrick Johnson desperately wants, but he's not agreed to give it to them.
BILL WATSON, CORONER, LOWNDES COUNTY, GEORGIA: I'm not commenting on anything. And I'd like for you to leave my office.
BLACKWELL: We'll come back to this conversation in a moment.
But first, for more than seven months, eight hours a day, six days a week, this has been the scene in front of the Lowndes County Judicial Center in downtown Valdosta, Georgia. Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson, supporters, signs, and a question, who killed Kendrick Johnson?
JACQUELYN JOHNSON, KENDRICK JOHNSON'S MOTHER: There are no answers. And we're not leaving until we get answers.
BLACKWELL: They've never believed the theory from Lowndes County sheriff's investigators that their 17-year-old son climbed on to a rolled gym mat at school in January to grab a shoe at the center of one, fell into one, got stuck upside down, and was accidently suffocated.
KENNETH JOHNSON, KENDRICK JOHNSON'S FATHER: We are mostly concerned about what happened to Kendrick, what they know about what happened to Kendrick, and why they're not telling us the truth.
BLACKWELL: The Johnson's exhumed Kendrick's body and a second autopsy the family paid for found that Kendrick died as the result of a blunt force trauma to the neck. Not an accident, a homicide.
K. JOHNSON: It was a cover-up.
BLACKWELL: And with opposing theories on the cause of death from competing pathologists, who can get to the bottom of how Kendrick died? Bill Watson can, by ordering what's called a coroner's inquest. Watson has the power to empanel a jury of five and one alternate to listen to testimony, review evidence, then deliberate and determine how Kendrick Johnson died. An answer his parents sorely want.
In March, the family's attorney sent Watson this letter as a formal request that a coroner's inquest be convened immediately. In mid- April, the attorney received a response from Watson saying he was "precluded by statutes from impaneling a coroner's jury" because the investigation was not complete. This petition requesting a coroner's inquest was submitted to the district attorney with more than 400 signatures.
We spoke with Watson in May after the Lowndes County sheriff's office had closed its case. Here's what he said about launching a coroner's inquest for the Johnsons.
WATSON: If they requested one and they don't feel that this is sufficient, then, you know, I'm to do - I'm elected to do what is best served to the people that elected me. I made a promise and took an oath to the effect that if I was elected, I would stand up and speak for those who can't speak for themselves. And that's what I've done since January the 11th.
BLACKWELL (on camera): Would you welcome an inquiry?
WATSON: Yes, sir, I will. I have nothing to - there is nothing to hide.
K. JOHNSON: He's already said that he'd give us one, and we want one. And why wouldn't he give us one?
BLACKWELL (voice-over): So, this month, five months after that interview, we went to visit Watson. And that takes us back to where we began.
BLACKWELL (on camera): Mr. Watson? Victor Blackwell, CNN.
Are you going to order an inquest into the case of Kendrick Johnson?
WATSON: I'm not commenting on anything. And I'd like for you to leave my office.
BLACKWELL: You told me in May that you would order an inquest. What changed your mind?
WATSON: Well, I didn't tell you that.
BLACKWELL: Yes, you told me that on tape, sir, that if the people wanted one, that you would order one. Are you going to order an inquest into the case of Kendrick Johnson?
WATSON: I'm not - I'm not commenting on anything.
BLACKWELL: Why have you, sir, changed your mind? You told me on tape you would order an inquest, but then you --
WATSON: Things (ph) have (ph) changed. I'm not (ph) -
BLACKWELL: What has changed?
WATSON: And that's the way it is.
K. JOHNSON: Pressure from the sheriff's department and the system here in Lowndes County. That's why he's not going to do it now. But we surely want a coroner's inquest.
BLACKWELL (voice-over): The sheriff's office won't discuss that case, and the Johnsons would be the first to get one during Watson's time as coroner.
BLACKWELL (on camera): Can you tell me at least what is a coroner's inquest?
WATSON: I'd rather you look it up.
BLACKWELL (voice-over): Inquests are rare in Lowndes County. There have been fewer than a half dozen here since 1985.
BLACKWELL (on camera): What has changed, sir?
WATSON: Thank you.
BLACKWELL (voice-over): Watson would not answer that question, but the Johnsons promise one thing will not change, their fight for an answer. They'll continue to sit in front of the courthouse with their supporters and their signs and their question.
J. JOHNSON: If they want us to leave, they're going to give us answers. We're not going nowhere.
BLACKWELL: Victor Blackwell, CNN, Valdosta, Georgia.
BALDWIN: Victor, thank you.
CNN has filed a motion to join the family's lawsuit seeking full access to the sheriff's investigative files related to this case. This is all under the Georgia Open Records Act. CNN is also seeking the release of additional surveillance footage from the gym where Johnson was found dead, among other items we'd like to take a look at.
Coming up here, Consumer Reports advises Americans to wait a little while before you sign up for Obamacare. Republicans are using that now in their attacks. But now Consumer Reports says, not so fast.
Plus, Elizabeth Cohen is here to talk to me about this research everyone is talking about. Will it cure baldness? Stay right here. You're watching CNN.
BALDWIN: Do you remember the movie, this is from 2009, it was a movie called "Duplicity"? And so there were these two corporate spies trying to attain what's like the holy grail of the business world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're about to make a move. Some new product. Something big.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The very existence of this product must be carefully protected.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a total corporate death match. The competition will do anything to get their hands on this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: What was the big get? It was the cure for baldness. And now new research just reported in this academic journal from the National Academy of Sciences may bring it one step closer. So, our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, joins me.
And I feel like we talk about this like every couple of years. There's maybe, maybe, maybe something out there.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, maybe, maybe, maybe, right.
BALDWIN: But every year we sit at the edge of our seats and we hope that there is something. What's the latest deal with this research?
COHEN: You know, it's really fascinating what they did here. Even if it doesn't work, it's just fascinating that they even tried this and got some consent.
BALDWIN: OK. Spill it.
COHEN: All right. Researchers at Colombia took cells that are in hair follicles. And they took those cells and they put them on human skin that wouldn't ordinarily bear hair. That wouldn't be harry.
COHEN: And they took that skin and they put that skin on the backs -- those are the cells. They took - I know, it doesn't look like much, but those are the cells.
BALDWIN: I'm looking at it. OK.
COHEN: And they put that skin on the back of a mouse, on the back of mice, actually, and they tried this many times and most of the time it worked.
BALDWIN: So it sprouted hair.
COHEN: It sprouted hair.
BALDWIN: In the places where there was no hair there?
COHEN: Right. So it - so skin that shouldn't sprout hair sprouted hair. So, theoretically then, a bald head, which isn't sprouting hair, might sprout hair if it had this treatment.
BALDWIN: Are you taking your own hair and putting it there or is it somebody else's?
COHEN: That's the way that theoretically it would work, is that you're taking - you would take your own hair follicles.
COHEN: I mean even if you don't have a full head of hair, you've still got some follicles.
BALDWIN: OK. OK.
COHEN: And you would take those cells and you would create your own hair.
BALDWIN: OK, so this sounds all exciting, but does this -- what are the kinks? Where's the but?
COHEN: Well, the but is, is that they've -- they've only tried this in about seven people. And we don't know if it will last a long time.
COHEN: Right. I mean hair falls out and needs to grow back again. Would this work for, you know, years and years because, of course, you want it to work that long? And, also, you've got - I mean this is going to take a long time. Like anyone who thinks, ah, now I've solved my -
BALDWIN: Overnight I have a full head of hair.
COHEN: No, it's not going to happen. They haven't even done clinical trials in humans yet, and that's like three to five years away.
BALDWIN: Oh, wow.
COHEN: And then those trials take many years to do. And then you have to apply to be --
BALDWIN: So you got us all excited.
COHEN: Yes, I'm sorry. But -
BALDWIN: For some people we know.
COHEN: Well, because the nerd in me is excited because just the science of this is really cool what they did.
BALDWIN: Yes. So this is still, though, years away.
COHEN: Many years away. Many years away.
BALDWIN: Years away. Sorry, guys.
COHEN: But the fact that they got -- this is the nerdiness part -- the fact that they got these cells to grow is really cool because they tried it just like in a flat petri dish and that didn't work so they flipped the dish over and the cells, somehow when they were upside down, they said, oh, and they partied and they grew. And --
BALDWIN: So upside down is the key.
COHEN: Upside down was the key and that -
BALDWIN: Who knew?
COHEN: And that's what worked here.
BALDWIN: So some years away, this is possible.
COHEN: If at all. Because I always like to say, it's possible that this will -
BALDWIN: OK. All these caveats.
COHEN: That we -- that we will never see - this will never see the light of day. That's absolutely possible. But this does look promising. It is interesting. They really did achieve something.
BALDWIN: OK. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you very much.
BALDWIN: Coming up, Consumer Reports clarified its position after telling folks to avoid signing up for Obamacare right now, and the magazine is directly taking aim here at Republicans.
Plus, a parent files a bullying complaint after a high school team loses 91-0. We're going to bring in my legal panel to debate here whether she has a case in the first place. Stay here.
BALDWIN: The nation's rate of unemployment ticked down again in the month of September, but the number of jobs created has analysts frowning today here. Take a look with me. This is a monthly look at the jobs picture. The Labor Department says the economy created 148,000 new jobs, so that is a bit less than average for the past 12 months. The rate of unemployment dropped 0.1 percent to 7.2 percent. But the findings may have been skewed by the recent government shutdown. Now, new information coming out this hour on the trouble- plagued Obamacare website.