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EARLY START

Mass Stabbing At Pennsylvania High School; Search Narrows for Flight 370; Oscar Pistorius Murder Trial

Aired April 10, 2014 - 04:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: School stabbing rampage. A student slashing his way through a high school hallway without warning, stabbing 20 students before a teacher tackles him. Right now, the teenaged suspect behind bars, victims lay in hospital beds. We're bringing you the very latest on this, this morning.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And this morning, the search is narrowing for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Search crews say they could be just days away from trying to figure out where this vanished jetliner crashed. We are live with all the developments this morning.

ROMANS: And happening right now, prosecutors grilling an Olympic hero for shooting and killing his model girlfriend. Can Oscar Pistorius convince a judge he's not a murderer?

We're live with what's happening in the court this morning. Really riveting, riveting testimony again this morning in that Oscar Pistorius trial.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. It's Thursday, April 10th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East.

Good to see you this morning.

Up first, the terrifying stabbing spree at a Pennsylvania high school. This morning, the knife-wielding suspect identified as 16-year-old Alex Hribal, is being held without bail. This sophomore at Franklin Regional High School is being charged as an adult. Twenty-one people were stabbed, 20 classmates, one adult. Four of the injured students are in critical condition this morning. Police are still trying to determine a motive for this rampage.

Let's get more now from CNN's Pamela Brown.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine and John, we have learned that the stabbing suspect, 16-year-old sophomore Alex Hribal, has been charged as an adult on four counts of attempted homicide and 21 counts of aggravated assault. He appeared before a magistrate on Wednesday and was denied bail. His defense attorney spoke and asked for a psychiatric evaluation, saying that he wasn't sure he was competent to stand trial.

The district attorney spoke in court, saying that one of the victims was eviscerated, that he's not sure he's going to make it, and that Hribal allegedly walked into the school early Wednesday morning before classes even started, and started stabbing people indiscriminately with two kitchen knives.

Here's what some of the witnesses had to say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fire alarm went off. I was walking over towards the exit, and there was blood all over the floor. Thought maybe someone had a nose bleed or something. And someone yelled she got stabbed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thought it was a normal fire drill. Then I saw people running and screaming and crying, so I thought, oh, something has to be wrong. Then I saw people holding each other's hands, I saw some other people getting cut, just blood everywhere. It was very traumatizing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't see any blood and I didn't see the weapon, either, but everyone just started screaming, "Run!", and then you heard someone yell, "He has a knife."

BROWN: The investigation is ongoing. We know the FBI searched Hribal's home. They were able to confiscate his computer. So, they're trying to figure out right now through witnesses, through forensics, why Hribal allegedly went on this stabbing spree early Wednesday morning -- Christine and John.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: We're learning more about this 16-year-old suspect, Alex Hribal. Classmates are describing him as shy, someone who always kept to himself. It's not clear if he was targeting anyone in the alleged rampage. FBI agents went to his home. They searched his computer, as Pamela just reported.

We heard from the teenager's attorney. We heard from his father.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAROLD HRIBAL, SUSPECT'S FATHER: My prayers go out to everyone who was injured today, and I hope they recover as soon as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's scared, he's a young kid. I mean, he's 16, looks like he's 12. I mean, he's a very young kid, he's never in trouble. So, this is all new to him. I'm not sure he knows what he did, quite frankly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Almost as soon as this was over, there were tales of heroism emerging from the horror that engulfed this high school. The stabbing rampage ended when the student suspect was tackled by assistant principal Sam King, who has been described as a great guy and a beloved member of the Murrysville community.

Now, King was not the only hero. There were many, including this student, who talked to CNN about helping classmates who had been stabbed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRACEY EVANS, STUDENT: Crying the whole entire time. I was just trying to keep people alive. I was trying to keep the one kid alive that I was applying pressure to. I was telling him to keep talking to me, keep awake, that he needs to stay awake, that the EMTs are going to be here soon and you're going to be fine and everything.

I did that the same to my best friend. And, like, when we got to the hospital, my best friend kept asking where I was when he was in the emergency room. And then they went to take me up to see some social workers. And they said to me, you know, what you did was an amazing act of bravery, and you're a true hero. You saved that kid's life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Remember, this is Wednesday morning at high school, just like any other Wednesday morning.

ROMANS: Yes.

BERMAN: Students are also calling this young man a hero. Nate Scimio pulled the fire alarm, bringing emergency responders to the scene. A lot of people think that was key. He was also, as you can see, a stabbing victim, and he shared a selfie of himself at the hospital.

ROMANS: Very modern twist to the school rampage trend.

The Pennsylvania high school remains closed for several days as investigators comb through the crime scene. "The Wall Street Journal" reports the school with 1,200 students has had some safety issues. Seventeen incidents were reported during the last school year, most involving fighting or drugs. None dealt with assaults or students or weapons.

Stay tuned throughout the morning. We've got more continuing coverage as these details emerge of the young man and also the victims this morning.

BERMAN: As we said, a lot of news this morning.

We're going to move on to the hunt for Flight 370. Crews now searching a much more confined area of the Indian Ocean. It's about 7,000 square miles, smaller than yesterday. It comes after two new signals were detected that could, could be coming from the plane's black boxes. In all, four signals have been heard since Saturday. More than two dozen ships and aircraft are taking part in the search today.

Today, CNN's Erin McLaughlin gives us the latest live from Perth in Australia. Good morning, Erin.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John.

Well, just a short while ago, I talked to the spokesperson from the British ministry of defense, and she tells me that the British vessel, the HMS Echo, is currently moving towards the Australian vessel, the Ocean Shield. She said that it's moving because the Ocean Shield's detections at the moment, the most promising leads in this search.

She also says that they have discounted those detections made over the weekend by the Chinese vessel. As for what it's going to be doing when it gets there, she says that's unclear. At the moment, the Ocean Shield leading this search.

It is worth noting that the HMS Echo is equipped with sophisticated sound-detecting technology, but it's also equipped with capabilities of being able to map the sea bed.

Now, authorities here in Perth are not commenting at the moment on this development, not saying whether or not this potentially signals a new phase in this search.

As far as we know, the Ocean Shield is still out there combing those waters, equipped with the American-operated towed pinger locator, trying to detect more pings. And the more pings they detect, of course, the more information they have to be able to narrow down a potential search field.

Angus Houston, the man responsible for coordinating all of this yesterday, saying that they wanted to exhaust those efforts until they're absolutely certain that those batteries on the black box pinger have, in fact, died before deploying the underwater autonomous vehicle. He also said that he did not want any vessel anywhere near the Ocean Shield, while it was carrying out this sensitive sound- detecting work. He didn't want anything interfering, given that it's very difficult making these detections to begin with.

So, unclear exactly what the HMS Echo, the British vessel, will be doing when it arrives in the area, John.

BERMAN: Erin, it's interesting, overnight we heard the word debris for the first time in a while. Some of these search teams said to be pulling large pieces of debris from the ocean. Anything come of that?

MCLAUGHLIN: Not at the moment. They have been pulling debris out of the ocean for the past 20-odd days or so, John. Nothing so far, no signs of physical evidence from the missing plane, but they have managed to narrow down that search field quite a bit. It's less than a quarter of the size of what it used to be. And Houston yesterday saying that has allowed them to intensify those efforts, those search efforts, the efforts of the planes and the ships out scouring that area to the west of the Ocean Shield.

We'll update you, of course, if we hear of any developments on that, John. BERMAN: All right. Thank you so much. Erin McLaughlin live for us in Perth in Australia.

ROMANS: The husband of one passenger on Flight 370's decided against flying to Kuala Lumpur two weeks ago. K.S. Narendran said he wanted to stay close to family in India, didn't want to get swept up in feelings of anger, emotion and speculation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

K.S. NARENDRAN, WIFE WAS ON FLIGHT 370: I didn't go to Beijing for just one simple reason, it didn't seem to serve any purpose. I'm not better educated by being there, and I don't aid the investigation by being there. What being here in my hometown, in my home has helped do is to not get overwhelmed by the sea of emotion and anger and frustration that is quite natural when we are assembled together and we have our own stories and our own sorrow that simply doesn't go away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Pictures there of his wife. Narendran says he remembers his wife, Chandrika, as strong and courageous and she remains a source of joy and pride for him.

Much more ahead on the encouraging developments in of the search for Flight 370. We're going to talk with oceanographer Erik Van Sebille. He's just about 10 minutes away.

BERMAN: Meanwhile, happening right now, the Olympic hero accused of murder back on the witness stand. Oscar Pistorius is just getting grilled this morning by prosecutors as he tries to explain, tries to justify why he shot and killed his girlfriend. We're live with the latest, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome back to EARLY START.

More dramatic testimony at the Oscar Pistorius murder trial. The former Olympic Blade Runner back on the stand, the witness stand, again today, being grilled as the cross examination continues. A very aggressive cross examination. The prosecutor questioning Pistorius about his relationship with his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Let's listen to some.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Pistorius, we did a search on all the Web sites. The phrase "I love you" appeared twice in Reeva's Web site. Both times she wrote that to her mother, never to you, and you never to her. Am I right?

OSCAR PISTORIUS, CHARGED OF MURDER: That is correct, my lady. I never got the opportunity to tell Reeva that I loved her. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: CNN legal analyst Kelly Phelps is live in Pretoria, South Africa.

Some really, really compelling testimony again here this morning, and this time, I mean, this prosecutor is really hammering Oscar Pistorius, Kelly.

KELLY PHELPS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: He absolutely is. I mean, he's going for the jugular in terms of character evidence. But from a legal perspective, I think it's important to place that into context, because this is all character evidence. And we have to remember that had Pistorius, in terms of the rules of evidence in South Africa, had Pistorius not raised evidence of his good character, Gerrie Nel would never have been allowed to raise any evidence of his bad character.

So, while it is very compelling, it's also somewhat surprising that quite so much time and so much of his case in cross examination is being spent on a portion of evidence that he may never have been allowed to raise in the first place.

ROMANS: How is the demeanor of Oscar Pistorius now? We know just a couple days ago, the judge adjourned for the day very early, at 2:00 in the afternoon your time, because he was having such a hard time on the witness stand. How was he holding up under this aggressive cross examination?

PHELPS: Today, he's holding the up quite well. He's managed to maintain his composure. You can hear the emotion in his voice. His voice quivers and shakes. But on the whole, he's managing to get out clear and coherent answers.

He didn't fair as well yesterday, a day, obviously, the prosecutors opened with very shocking pictures of Reeva Steenkamp's head wound, and that completely unsettled him. So, they had to take a short adjournment again. And you could sort of tell for the rest of his testimony yesterday that it had really got under his skin and he was struggling to keep a train of thought.

But today, after having had a break to compose himself again, he seems to be faring a bit better in that respect.

ROMANS: What do you make of the prosecutor, just even -- about an hour and a half ago, the prosecutor really trying to show that Oscar Pistorius did not say in his statement to the family at the beginning of his testimony that he was sorry, he was sorry for killing Reeva Steenkamp? He never said that, and they're trying to get -- he was trying to get an apology, sort of, out of him, asking him why he didn't apologize.

Why -- what did you make of all that?

PHELPS: Well, I actually found that a bit disingenuous that part of his questioning. Because really, the point that he was making in that questioning was that this was all about Pistorius. It wasn't about the apology to the family. He wasn't thinking about the impact that putting the family up, having to hear this apology while the world's eyes were watching them, the impact that that would have on the family.

But I think that's a bit hypocritical, because if you look at what Gerrie Nel himself did yesterday in using and broadcasting the photographs of their dead daughter's body in order to try and pursue a strategy of cross examination, he was hardly thinking of the impact that that had on Reeva's family either. So, I thought it was wise on his behalf to dispense with that fairly quickly and move on with the thrust of his cross examination for the rest of the morning session.

ROMANS: All right, Kelly Phelps. Thanks so much for that. It is ongoing, this riveting there. I know you're going to get back in the courtroom for us. Thank you.

BERMAN: Eighteen minutes after the hour right now.

Police in Florida searching for the driver of an SUV who triggered a deadly crash in a daycare center in Orlando. They say he rear-ended another car, which slammed into the daycare facility, killing a little girl and injuring at least 14, most of them children. Authorities found the abandoned SUV several hours after the incident. They have now issued an arrest warrant for the driver, Robert Alex Corchado, for leaving the scene involving death and bodily injuries.

ROMANS: Intelligence officials will brief members of Congress today on what the FBI knew ahead of last year's Boston marathon bombing. An inspector general's report found that Russia gave the FBI intelligence about suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev but withheld some information. It was only after the attack that Russia provided additional details, including a phone call where Tsarnaev discussed Islamic jihad.

Officials say the additional intelligence would likely have led the FBI to look more closely at Tsarnaev before the bombings.

BERMAN: What's interesting is that's when the U.S. had a more positive relationship with Russia.

ROMANS: That's right.

BERMAN: Imagine how things would be going right now.

The death toll still rising in that mudslide that buried much of the town of Oso, Washington, last month. Thirty-six people are now confirmed dead after another body was pulled from the rubble Wednesday. Recovery crews are searching for another 10 people still listed as missing, including two children.

ROMANS: A major setback for New Jersey lawmakers investigating the bridgegate scandal. A judge ruling the two former aides to Governor Chris Christie do not have to comply with subpoenas seeking access to e-mails and other communications. Those communications concerning lane closures at the George Washington Bridge and attempts to cover up the apparent political payback. The judge blasted the subpoenas as a fishing expedition by the state legislature. BERMAN: Said they were too broad.

ROMANS: Yes.

BERMAN: After attending a memorial service for the victims of the Fort Hood shooting, President Obama heads to Austin today to attend a civil rights summit at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library with his presidential brethren, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush will all be the there.

ROMANS: It's quite a crew.

BERMAN: Speaking of George H.W. Bush 41, he surprised the Obamas by greeting them when they arrived at the airport in Houston Wednesday. Said George H.W. Bush, when the president comes to your hometown, "you show up and welcome him."

I've got to say, by the smiles and the response that that had, you really see what a little gesture, what a difference it can make. It's a wonderful thing. Sometimes bipartisan is a lovely, lovely image.

ROMANS: Sometimes it takes until you're out of office before the bipartisan --

BERMAN: That's a fantastic point, but Michelle Obama and Barbara Bush, they held hands the entire time.

ROMANS: This is true.

BERMAN: The entire time! There was something so tender about it.

ROMANS: A great photo moment.

All right. Happening right now, investigators scouring the ocean for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. Underwater pulse is helping crews dramatically narrow their search this morning. So, could they find the vanished jetliner in a matter of days now? We're live with the challenges searchers are facing.

And we're going to be back right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to EARLY START this morning.

Are search crews closer than ever to finding this missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370? The search area in the Indian Ocean this morning has narrowed after two new signals were detected.

BERMAN: Erik Van Sebille is an oceanographer at the University of New South Wales. He joins us now via Skype from Sydney, Australia.

ROMANS: Good morning.

BERMAN: It is a long-distance connection this morning. Thank you so much for being with us. At this point, Erik, where do you see the search going? They've now detected four separate pings from what they believe to be the black boxes. They've got the HMS Echo, a second ship coming up to this region to help. What do you think the next key step is?

ERIK VAN SEBILLE, OCEANOGRAPHER: Well, I think these are significant developments in this story, of course. And I think that the next step is to further narrow down the search area.

The search area, even though it is smaller than it was a few weeks ago, it is still pretty big, and it is so big that you can't just get a submarine down there and scour the entire area. It will take years to do that at the size the area is now. So they will need to try and get as much out of these pings as possible, actually narrow down further and further.

ROMANS: So, ironically, almost -- and you made this point yesterday, John -- almost taking your time doing the work now, as much work as you can now to narrow that range, that area, so that it's not so labor-intensive on the other side.

VAN SEBILLE: Absolutely. Absolutely. If you invest a little bit more time now on the surface listening for these pings, and you have to be very quiet then. I think that's important to realize that you can't just steam your ship and in the meantime listen. Every time, you have to be as quiet as possible to actually hear these very faint pings. So, you can't be doing other things, and that is indeed a balance that the search crew really needs to stride now.

BERMAN: So, as complicated as this is already, there have been so many complications along the way -- there was a new word that appeared to me, at least, for the first time yesterday, which is a new challenge, which is silt, the silt on the ocean floor here, some 2.8 miles deep. Tell me what kind of challenges that will pose.

VAN SEBILLE: Yes. So, in some ways, it's a good sign that there is a lot of silt down there, because that means that, actually, the currents aren't that strong. What this silt is, it's essentially dead plankton. It's the carcasses of everything that lived above it, including, for instance, things also like fish poo. Fish poo slowly falling down through the ocean and at the end ending up on the ocean floor.

And because the currents aren't very strong, it will actually get deeper -- thicker and thicker and thicker. This layer can easily be 20 meters in some regions of the ocean.

BERMAN: All right. Erik Van Sebille, giving us something new to think about yet in the search for Flight 370. I don't think there's a single question we could ask this man he would not have the answer to.

ROMANS: I know.

BERMAN: Really appreciate you being here with us this morning.

ROMANS: Thanks, Erik. BERMAN: From Sydney.

A high school student is behind bars this morning, accused of stabbing more than 20 of his classmates. We will tell you all the new things we have learned this morning right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)