Return to Transcripts main page


Teacher Found Dead; White House Fires Official; Sebelius Answers Questions; Another Child Removed From Roma Family in Ireland

Aired October 23, 2013 - 12:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to AROUND THE WORLD. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. Michael Holmes is off today.

We have sad news, breaking news, out of Danvers, be Massachusetts. The body of a teacher was found in some woods behind Danvers High School. A 14-year-old boy now is in custody and is going to be charged with murder. Blood was found in a second-floor bathroom at the high school. The teacher, Colleen Ritzer, was reported missing on Tuesday. Now, police did not release the boy's name because of his age. They say there are no other suspects.

And now this. It was just two days ago that a teacher was killed trying to stop a student who opened fire at a middle school in Nevada. Two students were wounded in that incident and the alleged shooter a seventh grader then killed himself.

Want to find out more information on the situation in Massachusetts. Alexandra Field is in Danvers.

And, Alexandra, first of all, we don't know very much about what happened here, but why do they suspect that this boy was charged and linked with the killing of this teacher?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, we do know that a much beloved teacher is gone. Now, she was reported missing yesterday. Police have linked her death to a 14-year-old who was also reported missing for a period of time yesterday. They're filling in a lot of the answers for us right now.

Police have been on the scene here in Danvers all morning. You can see some of the detectives behind me. A medical examiner has also been on scene. Blood was found in the bathroom and that 24-year-old teacher, Colleen Ritzer, was found in a wooded area behind the high school. A 14-year-old will now face murder charges.

But most people's thoughts here in Danvers this morning are with that 24-year-old teacher. She was a math teacher teaching geometry and algebra to the students at this high school. To say that she was well liked is an understatement. We've had parents and students coming out here this morning. They're laying flowers here at the high school.

They're telling us that she's the kind of teacher who stood outside the classroom door, she greeted everyone by name, she stayed after school to help the kids, on just on math but other subjects, like history. It was as if almost she was a friend to some of these students. She had been at the high school for at least a year.

The news began to spread yesterday evening that she was missing. It was obviously disturbing information for students. They were stunned this morning to hear that she is gone in what appears to be a very violent way. Students here are banding together. Classes have been canceled across Danvers. Instead, her students are planning a vigil. They say they'll be turning out tonight wearing pink trying to keep a much loved teacher in their thoughts.


MALVEAUX: It's such a sad thing to hear when you hear about what kind of person she was, but just the fact that this happened at the school. Can you describe for us, or explain to us, it might be too early to know, do we know if this boy, who is in custody, was actually a student of the teacher?

FIELD: That's not clear. We are told that he's 14, and we're told that she teaches freshmen, who would, of course, be 13, 14, possibly 15 years old. But we're being careful not to make any direct leaps right now. The students who have been out here this morning aren't certain about whether that would have been the relationship, if he was, in fact, a student in her class. So that's something that we're going to wait to hear from investigators. It's something we could learn as that 14-year-old heads to court later today.

But we do know that she did teach freshmen here at Danvers and we do know that she is missed by so many right now who are just struggling to understand what could have possibly happened, how it could have happened. And, of course, there's a tremendous burden on parents right now to try to find the right language to describe this with kids. Again, not just in the high school. Schools across Danvers have been shut down today. So this is the kind of burden that parents with children of all ages will have to try to find a way to discuss and help these children through.


MALVEAUX: Yes, we were looking at her Facebook page there. It's just - just tragic when you think about it, 24 years old, loved by so many of her students. Thank you so much, Alexandra.

Want to bring in Mike Brooks, who's on the phone, to talk a little bit about what we think is happening here. He's HLN law enforcement analyst and former D.C. police investigator.

And, Mike, you know, we talk about these kinds of things all the time, which is the sad thing about it, really, when you think about it, as so often we talk about these situations that are happening, whether it's inside the school or right outside of the school. Do you think, first of all, the case in Massachusetts, the fact that seven schools in the district were all shut down, were all closed today because of this, do you think that was appropriate action? What was behind that, do you suspect?

MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST (via telephone): No, I think it was, Suzanne, because you've got this - you've got this 14-year-old -- we don't know if he's a student, what the relationship was to Colleen Ritzer, the 24-year-old math teacher, but you've got five elementary schools, one middle school and you've got the high school, which is an active crime scene right now.

So I think the school system decided to go ahead and shut it down probably just out of an abundance of caution, you know, because there -- we don't know if maybe there is any other - any other person who might have been involved in this. As they carry - as they carry on their investigation, you know, it could take them -- they might want to interview other folks who would be at home and who could possibly be involved, but then again we don't know. But they say that there is no threat to public safety.

So, you know, the investigation continues right now. And, you know, and that -- the big question here is though, Suzanne, you know, what brought this 14-year-old boy to go to the school, to allegedly kill this teacher. They found blood in a second floor bathroom of the school and found her body outside in the woods just outside the high school.

So, you know, they want to put together a timeline. What exactly happened. We know that he was missing for a time last night. He did not return home after school on Tuesday. So, where did he go? Who did he talk to? What did he see? These are all things that law enforcement are looking into right now.

MALVEAUX: And do you suspect, I mean because of what they know already, do you suspect this is possibly a situation there where this was a student, where he was her teacher and that there was something that went terribly wrong between these two?

BROOKS: It could very well be. And, you know, and right now, one of the - one of the most important people that law enforcement wants to talk to are his parents. You know, what happened before he went to school on Tuesday? Was there any problems at school where he went to school? But then again, we don't know the exact relationship between this 14-year-old and Colleen Ritzer.

But I'm sure that they have a pretty good idea now. They'll be looking at all of his social media, his computers and, most importantly, what happened leading up to when this - when this did happen, because they don't have -- or we have not heard of a timeline of when they believe this may have happened in the school and maybe the body taken and dumped outside the high school. These are all important questions that remain unanswered right now, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Mike, finally here, if you can wrap this up for us because you've got this situation here in Massachusetts today. As tragic as it is, it was just two days ago out of Nevada where you had a teacher who was killed by a young teen, by a student. What is happening here?

BROOKS: You know, that's a great question. And law enforcement, you know, they're trying to get their hands kind of around the situation of what's going on in school. I was just in Philadelphia this past number of days with the International Association Chiefs of Police and this is one of the things that they are talking about at great length -- school shootings, active shooter situations throughout the country and trying to be more proactive than reactive.

But, you know, there -- everyone has to be involved in this from the schools to the parents. You know, so we don't know what drove this 14- year-old to do this, you know, allegedly killing this teacher there at the school, but, you know, but something has to be done across this nation.

MALVEAUX: Right. Yes, it's hard to believe what is happening.

Thank you so much, Mike Brooks. We appreciate your analysis here.

We're also working on this story for AROUND THE WORLD. A White House national security official fired over some very serious and offensive tweets. We're going to actually show you what he said up next.


MALVEAUX: Well, it's kind of an embarrassment for the White House. A top official now fired for Twitter attacks aimed at government policies, Republicans, even his own bosses. Jofi Joseph, he was director for the National Security Council. Well, he tweeted his insults using the handle NatSecWonk. In one tweet, he slams President Obama's senior advisors saying, "I'm a fan of Obama but his continuing reliance and dependence upon a vacuous cipher like Valerie Jarrett concerns me."

Here's another tweet where he appears to support an investigation of the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya. He tweets, he says, "Look, Issa," referring to Congressman Darrell Issa, he says, "is a," well you can read that there, "but he's on to something here with the Hillary Clinton whitewash of accountability for Benghazi."

Joining us, Jim Acosta at the White House.

So, first of all, you know, I assume he's been fired.


MALVEAUX: What's the fallout here?

ACOSTA: Well, Suzanne, a White House official tells CNN, confirms to CNN, that Jofi Joseph was fired immediately after his identity was revealed as the mystery man behind this Twitter handle NatSecWonk, which was originally reported, we should point out, by "The Daily Beast." And the reason is fairly obvious. I mean if you look at these tweets, Suzanne, they're pretty mean spirited and they're pretty ugly. And not just aimed at people inside the administration and Democrats, but Republicans as well. Check out this tweet that he put out there about Sarah Palin. It's pretty beyond the pale. It says, "so when will someone do us the favor of getting rid of Sarah Palin and the rest of her white trash family? What utter useless garbage."

And this sort of just typifies what these tweets are all about. They're mean spirited. They're really aimed at tearing people down. Really has little to do with national security issues, although at times there were some issues talked about in these tweets.

And this was somebody who was the director of nonproliferation for the National Security Council at the White House. Suzanne, you worked at the White House. You know that's a very important title. So it's sort of amazing that this person would engage in this kind of behavior. And he did issue an apology to Politico. We've tried to reach out to him, but he hasn't gotten back to us.

Let me put that on screen. It says, "It has been a privilege to serve in this administration. I deeply regret violating the trust and confidence placed in me. What started out as an intended parody account of DC culture developed over time into a series of inappropriate and mean-spirited comments. I bear complete responsibility for this affair and I sincerely apologize to everyone I insulted."

And, Suzanne, right now, I mean this is sort of a temporary brief distraction for this White House. They've been dealing with these Obamacare issues, these website issues, for several days now. I want to just give you a little bit of news on that front.

We're hearing from the office of House Speaker John Boehner that the Department of Health and Human Services as now agreed to provide a briefing to House Republicans up on Capitol Hill. They were disgusted because House Democrats got a briefing on this. They were saying, hey, where's our briefing. We can now report that that briefing is going to happen for House Republicans.

People might say, why is that so interesting? Because it's likely, very likely, that health and human services officials at that briefing will get hammered by Republicans about these various technical problems with the website, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Yes, of course, that continues to be another embarrassment for the White House. Jim, thanks. We appreciate it.

ACOSTA: You bet. Sure.

MALVEAUX: And we know that, you know, the White House is dealing with this -- this - the botched roll-out of the plan, the health care plan, Obamacare website. It has been three weeks now since the launch. Still, some people say it is not working properly. They can't get at least through this process. And this is fueling the battle that Jim mentioned on Capitol Hill. You've got House leaders lining up this morning to slam the site, overall healthcare plan and the Obama administration's handling of all of this. Here's a little bit about what they said.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Part of the problem is that we've got the whole threat of Obamacare continuing to hang over our economy like a wet blanket. Employers scared to death in terms of what they have to do and what they don't have to do, afraid to add new employees. And, you know, when you look at the problems with Obamacare, all the focus here lately has been on the website. And, clearly, there's problems with the website. But I would argue that the problems go much further than that.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), MAJORITY LEADER: What's not helping is a lack of transparency on the part of this administration. This morning, I know that HHS officials will be up briefing the Democratic caucus. No intention initially to say that they were going to brief Republicans on what's going on.

Last night we learned that federal officials asked insurers not to release numbers for the exchanges in terms of sign-ups. We still don't know these enrollment numbers. And HHS is blocking third party verified traffic data. This is not transparency and this is adding to the confusion and the fear surrounding the roll-out of Obamacare.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: We've just learned that the Republicans will also be briefed, as well. That is a new development.

But we are also hearing from the official taking a lot of heat for this fiasco. They are talking about Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius who is addressing calls now for her resignation.

She sits down exclusively with CNN and with out medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Here's how she responds.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: What about tech people? We hear the best and brightest.

Are there people or companies that we're going to recognize? Can you give us some names?

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Right now, we've asked all of our contractors to look at their teams on the ground and bring in their absolute A team, and I'm confident that that is happening every day.

We, also, the presidential --

GUPTA: The contractors didn't do such a great job so far. Why didn't they bring their A team in the first place?

SEBELIUS: I can't tell you.

GUPTA: Why are we saying three weeks now bring your A team into this whole requayion (ph)?

SEBELIUS: We had hoped they had their A team on the table, but I'm talking to CEOs and urging them to make sure they have the talent that they have available. I think all of them have folks assigned to our project. We want new eyes and ears. We want to make sure that we get all the questions on the table, that we get all the answers and accelerate the fix as quickly as possible.

GUPTA: I know open enrollment goes for six months, to the end of March.

SEBELIUS: It does.

GUPTA: But when will this be fixed?

SEBELIUS: Well, as quickly as we can get it fixed. I think I can tell you it's improving every day, and more people are getting through, more people are having an easier time. And we intend to stay at this until we open the doors, wide open.

GUPTA: Do we deserve a specific date? I mean, what can we tell people?

Because there's a little bit of a loss of confidence in this, so if you a as quickly as possible, that meant October 1st.

SEBELIUS: Well, what we can tell you is that it isn't where needs to be. We are three weeks into a 26-week open enrollment period.

People are enrolling every day, not as many as we would like, not at the volume we would like, and we will keep working on it until it is working as efficiently as possible.

GUPTA: The president's legacy is part of this whole issue, as well. I mean, has it been tarnished by what has happened?

SEBELIUS: I think that what we need to do is see the enrollment figures at the end of March of 2014. That's when open enrollment ends.

And what I know from what we're seeing in not only states that are run by the federal Web site, but states around the country, is that the interest is huge, that people are eager to have this affordable product, and that the product is there.

Insurance companies have to compete for one another for people's business for the first time.


MALVEAUX: And the administration likes to stress, many of the components of the Affordable Care Act are already in effect, and it is fair to point out that there are some things that are certainly working, and they're very popular.

The requirement, for instance, that lets young adults say on their parents' insurance plans until they're 26 years old; another that prohibits insurance companies from placing a lifetime limit on the amount of coverage available to an individual or from dropping people with pre-existing conditions; and, as well, the preventive care requirement that says insurance companies must cover preventive services without charging a deductible or co-pay that has to be paid by the patient.

Also this, just days after police removed a blonde-haired blue-eyed girl from a home in Greece, now Irish police remove another girl from a family in Dublin Ireland, watch, up next.


MALVEAUX: You're looking at pictures there, expect to hear from the White House shortly. The daily briefing is scheduled to start this hour.

And, of course, reporters will be asking a lot of questions about Obamacare, the embarrassing tweets, yes, that forced a White House official to -- basically a security official to be fired and much, much more.

Going to bring all that to you live as soon as it starts.

And we are also covering top stories around the world right now.

In Ireland, a family now fighting to be reunited with a young girl that they insist is their child. This is a couple. They are from the Roma community, more commonly known as gypsies.

They say they have submitted DNA samples and hope that police will release their daughter into their custody.

This is a case that just days after another child was removed from a Roma family. This happened in Greece.

Erin McLaughlin, she's in Ireland with that case and the very latest.


ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In a Dublin suburb less than 48 hours ago, the police, known as " "Garda" here, took a little girl away from her Roma family and put her in the care of social services after a tip-off to the host of a local crime show.

PAUL CONNOLLY, TV3 REPORTER: We were told she had blue eyes, told she was around 7-years-of-age, told that she had blonde hair.

The mother and father produced documentation as I understand it, but the Garda were not satisfied with that.

MCLAUGHLIN: Thousands of miles away in Greece, polices are searching for the parents of another fair-haired girl, known only as "Maria."

She was found living with a Roma community there, the couple posing as her parents now charged with child abduction.

KOSTAS KATSAVOS, COUPLE'S LAWYER: The claim is that we never abduct this child. We've just adopted.

MCLAUGHLIN: Though Interpol says "Maria's" DNA doesn't match any profile in its database, it is still being compared to that of Lisa Irwin.

DEBORAH BRADLEY, LISA IRWIN'S MOTHER: I don't know for sure, but just the fact that we don't know for sure is enough.

MCLAUGHLIN: Lisa vanished from her parents' Kansas city home two years ago, and though they believe Maria is too old to be a match, U.S. authorities want to be certain.

ROBERT LOWERY, NATIONAL CENTER FOR MISSING AND EXPLOITED CHILDREN: I think the estimation of "Maria," she may be 5- or 6-years-old, but the fact is that the DNA will be conclusive to tell us one way or the other.

MCLAUGHLIN: The common thread in Ireland and Greece, the Roma community, its members have long been victims of discrimination throughout Europe.

And its connection to these two cases has created even more public scrutiny, though not in the eyes of U.S. authorities.

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: They're not looking at the Romas as being the originators of this vast, you know, international child abduction conspiracy.

Unfortunately, there are crime groups, if there's money to be made and if it's made in human trafficking, then they'll traffic in human beings, including infants and small children to do it.


MALVEAUX: That is Erin McLaughlin from Dublin.

We are also following this, a 14-year-old from Massachusetts now in custody, accused of murdering a high school teacher.

We've got a live report, straight ahead.


MALVEAUX: We're expecting a White House briefing any moment now. Of course, you see it there. As soon as it starts live, we're going to bring that to you shortly.

Also, back to our breaking news, this is out of Danvers, Massachusetts. The body of a 24-year-old teacher was found in the woods behind Danvers High School.

Now, a 14-year-old boy is now in custody and is going to be charged with murder.

We want to get the very latest in Massachusetts from Alexandra Field in Danvers. So, give us a sense of, first of all, how is this going to play out today?

Do we know -- he's in custody. Do we expect that he's going to face charges later this afternoon?