Return to Transcripts main page


Mass Stabbing At Pennsylvania High School; Search Narrows for Flight 370; Oscar Pistorius Grilled on Cross-Examination

Aired April 10, 2014 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And you can tell by the president and Mrs. Obama there. Everyone is enjoying being with him right now.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: I think it's legitimately a warm relationship.

BERMAN: I think you're right.

ROMANS: I think it really is.

All right. EARLY START continues right now.


BERMAN: School stabbing rampage. A student slashing his way through a high school hallway without warning, stabbing, slashing 20 students before being tackled by a school official. Right now, the teenage suspect is behind bars as victims lay in hospital beds. We will bring you the very latest and developments this morning, coming up.

ROMANS: The search narrowing this morning for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Search crews could be just days away from figuring out where the vanished jetliner crashed. We're live with what's happening right now.

BERMAN: And happening now, dramatic testimony. Prosecutors grilling Oscar Pistorius for shooting and killing his girlfriend. Can this athlete convince a judge he's not a murderer? It was all an accident? We're live with what's been happening all morning in court.

Good morning, everyone. Good to see you. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It's Thursday. It's April 10th, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

Let's begin with this terrifying stabbing spree at a Pennsylvania high school. This morning, the knife-wielding suspect, identified as 16- year-old Alex Hribal, being held without bail. He is a sophomore student at Franklin Regional High School. He is being charged as an adult. Twenty-one people were stabbed, 20 classmates and one adult. Four of the injured are in critical condition this morning. Police are still trying to determine a motive for this rampage. CNN's Miguel Marquez live in Murrysville, Pennsylvania, for us. And this is just -- to hear the students talk about what it was like, Miguel, to have this -- to see students staggering, bleeding through the hallways, just heartbreaking.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine, horrific here at the high school. This s happened at a particularly vulnerable time for the students as well. It was just after 7:00 a.m. They were gathered around their lockers, saying hello to each other, hanging out, when what seemed to start as a regular fight, a pushing and shoving match in the high school, turned into a melee.


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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought it was a normal fire drill. Then I saw people running and screaming and crying, so I thought something has to be wrong. Then I saw people holding each other's hands. I saw 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."


MARQUEZ: Now, Mr. Hribal was eventually subdued by two assistant principles, one male, one female, until security was able to show up and handcuff him.

The other thing that the prosecutor said when Mr. Hribal was in court -- he had a short appearance yesterday -- is that one of his victims was literally eviscerated, according to witnesses I spoke to. He was carrying a knife 8 to 10 inches long, kitchen knives. This is a 3- inch knife. So, much longer, and not holding it like this, but rather like this. One saying they saw him literally stab one of his classmates like that.

His lawyer, obviously, giving a much different take on this young man, saying that he is a good kid, that he gets along well with others and works well in school and something must have clearly set this off in him. But some colleagues that we spoke to here at his school say this is somebody who was very, very quiet, very shy -- in the words of one person, creepy.

Christine, John, back to you.

ROMANS: You've been in the suspect's home. What's happening there?

MARQUEZ: The FBI showed up en masse yesterday with an evidence van, about 12 agents descending around the house, literally going around the house in through the garage and in through the front door as well. The father of Mr. Hribal came home just before they got there, saying the only thing he wanted to say, he was very shaken, clearly, saying that he prayed for the victims and he hopes that everybody has a very fast recovery.

The FBI now has taken the computer of Mr. Hribal, have taken other materials out of the house, other computers from the parents, trying to understand what would set off this chain of events.

Back to you.

ROMANS: The look on the father's face just, you know, is shocking all the way around. Miguel Marquez, thanks, Miguel.

You know, tales of heroism emerging from the horror in the hallways of Franklin Regional High School. The stabbing rampage ended with the student suspect was tackled by this man, assistant principal Sam King. He's been described as a great guy, beloved member of the community.

King wasn't the only hero. You know there were many, many in those hallways, including this student who talked to CNN about helping classmates who had been stabbed.


GRACEY EVANS, STUDENT: I was 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.


BERMAN: That Pennsylvania high school will remain closed now for several days as investigators comb through that crime scene. "The Wall Street Journal" reports that the school with about 1,200 students has had some safety issues. 17 incidents were reported during the last school year. Most involved fighting or drugs. None of those incidents dealt with assaults on students or weapons.

Now, stay tuned throughout the morning. We'll bring you all the new developments as they come in.

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

CNN's Erin McLaughlin live in Perth, Australia, for us. What's the latest, Erin?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Christine. Well, a spokesperson from the British Ministry of Defense tells me that the HMS Echo, which is a British vessel, is currently on its way to join the Australian vessel, the Ocean Shield. She said that it's going there because the Ocean Shield currently has the most promising leads in this search. She also said that they have managed to discount those signals detected by the Chinese vessel over the weekend.

As for what it's going to be doing when it gets there, she said she wasn't sure, that the Ocean Shield at the moment taking the lead in this search. It's worth noting that the HMS Echo is equipped with highly technologically sound-detecting equipment. It's also equipped with technology that would enable it to map the ocean floor.

Now, officials here in Australia are not commenting on this development, they're not saying if this perhaps signals a new stage in this search. As far as we know right now, the Ocean Shield equipped with that American-operated towed pinger locator is still out there scouring the oceans, trying to pick up more pings.

And yesterday, Angus Houston, the man responsible for coordinating this multinational effort, saying that the more pings they manage to reacquire, the more information they have to be able to narrow down a search and then deploy that underwater autonomous vehicle. He also said that they wanted to be certain that they had exhausted that effort in terms of making sure that the batteries had completely died before then deploying that underwater search.

So, he also noted, though, that he did not want any vessels in the area. He didn't want anything interrupting that very sensitive sound detection work. So, why they are deploying the HMS Echo now and where exactly it's going to be positioned in relation to the Ocean Shield and what exactly it's going to be doing? Well, those are all questions they're not answering here in Australia at the moment, Christine.

ROMANS: But certainly, the search area has narrowed and they have a good idea that they think they know where that plane is. Thank you so much, Erin McLaughlin for us in Perth this morning.

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


K.S. NARENDRAN, WIFE WAS ON FLIGHT 370: I didn't go to Beijing and I didn't go to K.L. 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)

BERMAN: Narendran says he remembers his wife, Chandrika Sharma, as strong and courageous and that she remains a source of joy and pride for him.

We're going to have much more on these developments, some of them encouraging, in the search for Flight 370 in a little bit. We're going to speak with oceanographer Erik Van Sebille. He's just a few minutes away.

ROMANS: All right. Happening now, an Olympic hero accused of murder. He is back on the witness stand. Oscar Pistorius really a tough, tough grilling by prosecutors right now, as he's trying to explain why he shot and killed his girlfriend. We are live with this dramatic testimony, next.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone.

Another day of riveting testimony in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial in South Africa. The prosecutor has been grilling the Blade Runner all morning. He claims he shot at his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, by mistake. The prosecutor is challenging him on text messages that the two sent to each other.


GERRIE NEL, PROSECUTOR: They were arguments, and those arguments is all about you, what's important to you.

JUDGE: What's the answer?

OSCAR PISTORIUS, OLYMPIC RUNNER: Sir, I think our relationship got stronger, my lady. I've read the messages, what text messages. We did have arguments. They weren't arguments that turned into fights or anything like that, but we did have arguments, my lady.


BERMAN: Legal analyst Kelly Phelps joins us live from Pretoria, in South Africa.

And let's start with these text messages, because the prosecution is using them in a very interesting way. He's asking Pistorius to explain what Reeva Steenkamp meant in some of these messages, why she was scared, why she felt teased, why she was disgruntled.

KELLY PHELPS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: He's clearly trying -- well, he was clearly trying to back Pistorius against a wall and essentially force him to blame the victim for the fight. This is never a good position for an accused person to be in, and I think he was fairly successful at doing that.

But it is important to place this evidence in its legal context. In South Africa, character evidence is generally not admissible, and it's only been admissible in this case because the accused himself raised evidence of his good character. So, the judge will be very keenly aware of that and the limited persuasive value that character evidence can have in terms of her overall determination.

BERMAN: State of mind. They're trying to establish what his state of mind might have been before, during and after, of course, that shooting.

Let's talk about the shooting itself, the firing of the gun, because the prosecution hasn't really delved into that point, into that moment yet. The defense certainly did, but the prosecutor hasn't really gone there.

What do you think the prosecution needs to do to question, to get an explanation for the shooting itself?

PHELPS: Well, I expect that they will combine, first of all, very aggressive tactics, a very aggressive approach. With their evidence around, having heard a woman screaming, they're going to try to suggest over and over to him that it is just simply not possible, not plausible that Reeva Steenkamp could not have been screaming, and that if, in fact, she was screaming, he must have known who he was shooting at, and therefore, intended to kill her.

We can see that this has been a main point of contention all the way throughout this trial, because both sides have spent a lot of time putting very detailed evidence on the record supporting their version of events around the contention of whether or not Reeva Steenkamp could have been screaming.

So, I expect when it comes to trying to establish his frame of mind, we will go back to that screaming evidence again, and that will be pressed on very hard.

BERMAN: And I think we're building up to that moment in the court still to come. Kelly Phelps, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

Intelligence officials will brief members of Congress today on what the FBI knew ahead of last year's bombing at the Boston marathon. An inspector general's report found that Russia gave the FBI intelligence about suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev but withheld some other 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.

ROMANS: Police in Florida searching for the driver of an SUV who triggered a deadly crash at a daycare center in Orlando. Police say the driver rear-ended another car. That car slammed into the daycare facility, killing a little girl, injuring at least 14. Most of those injured children.

Authorities found the abandoned SUV several hours after the incident. They've identified 26-year-old Robert Corchado as a person of interest in that case.

BERMAN: A helicopter crew is recovering this morning after crashing on the roof of a New Mexico hospital overnight. The pilot was reported in satisfactory condition. Two other crew members under observation. There were no patients on board. FAA officials are investigating the crash, but the cause has yet to be determined. Witnesses say they felt a gust of wind and saw the medical helicopter wobble before it went down.

ROMANS: Let's look at the markets now. Global stocks up around the world today. There was another rally on Wall Street yesterday. The NASDAQ and the S&P are now positive for the year. Only the Dow is in negative territory, but even the Dow, fewer than 150 points away from its record high.

A company to watch today, Bank of America. If you're a customer of the bank, you may be getting a check in the mail. B of A agreed to pay $772 million to customers, refunding 2 million people who Bank of America tricked into buying shady add-ons, things like credit monitoring services when they didn't need it.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says customers trying to call the bank about their accounts were redirected to telemarketers who then made false promises about the product benefits. In some cases, these people didn't even know the product they had. They didn't know why they were paying for it. It was a big trick, $772 million. So --

BERMAN: Could be coming your way.

ROMANS: Could be. I don't have any of that stuff, so nobody tricked me into it.

BERMAN: Watch your mail a box.

ROMANS: I know nobody tricked me into it.

BERMAN: As far as you know.

ROMANS: OK, I'll watch my mailbox.

Let's get a check on the weather now. Indra Petersons is here with the forecast.

Good morning, Indra.


Finally, it's so nice outside, it actually feels like spring. It was a long winter, right? We paid our dues, and finally we're not seeing much out there.

But we are watching that one system made its way offshore, the cold front of a few days ago, which means notice right around Georgia, things are clearing up. So, yes, if you're going to the masters today, out towards Augusta, you are definitely seeing clear, beautiful conditions for the first day of the masters. We love that. Let's talk about what else is going on. Notice there's a front. It is going across the middle of the country, will bring some light showers maybe by tonight and through Friday for the Northeast and another one for the Midwest by the weekend. But again, these are light. We're talking about light, scattered showers, pretty much nothing.

So, let's talk about temperatures. We love this, everyone finally above normal. Things are looking so much better.

Let's head over towards the northeast and the southeast, where things look great. We're talking about 50s, even 60s, guy, and yes, even through the weekend and down to the Southeast, same thing, even some 70s, close to 80s on the map. The only place where it's maybe too hot is out west, where they're talking about some record-breaking heat. But I don't care.

ROMANS: I know!

PETERSONS: I'm not talking about cold anymore. Smile.

ROMANS: The headline, it's a beautiful spring day in most of the country.

PETERSONS: And the weekend looks good.


BERMAN: Well done. Well done, Indra Petersons.

ROMANS: Thank you. Thanks, Indra.

BERMAN: All right. Happening right now, investigators are scouring the ocean for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. These underwater pulses helping crews dramatically narrow down the search this morning. How close are they to finding the vanished jetliner?

We're live with the new challenges they're facing today, right after the break.


BERMAN: Good morning. Welcome back to EARLY START.

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

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

The news today, Erik, is that a British ship, the HMS Echo is going to join this now narrowed search area with the Ocean Shield, and the Echo, among other capabilities, has the capability to map the ocean floor. When they begin this process, if and when they begin this process, what will they see?

ERIK VAN SEBILLE, OCEANOGRAPHER: Nobody knows. That's, I think, one of the exciting things here, is that the area they're searching for now, we really only have very coarse maps of that. Our maps of the moon are way better than the maps of the ocean floor, where it is plainest than probably somewhere.

And that means that this is uncharted territory. If they are going to map this and if they are going to do it in such a high resolution that they will actually be able to see the plane, then that is really new territory.

ROMANS: They'll be able to see the plane. Will they be able to see all of the plane? Because there's, what, 20 meters, in some cases, of silt on the ocean floor. You were telling us about this silt.

Will that cause visibility problems? What kind of challenges will that present?

VAN SEBILLE: Yes, it's absolutely true that it's visibility problems, probably. It might also be sound problems. It might be that the pinger -- and remember, they're still searching or listening to this ping -- that the silt might actually affect that in some ways.

But to be honest, we don't really know how thick this layer of silt is, what it actually looks like, how dense it is or not. Much of that really is something that in the next few days to maybe weeks, we are going to find out as we go down in this area, hopefully pretty soon.

BERMAN: One of the things that's astounding is how narrow this search area has become compared to what it was before. Even so, there are people saying that as they're detecting these pings, these four separate detections, they're fairly spread out over a 17-mile range or so. One of the reasons there can be the depth of the ocean.

What does the ocean depth do to acoustics, to pings? Could it spread it out over 17 miles?

VAN SEBILLE: Yes, but it's not so much the depth, it's more the temperature structure of the ocean itself. So, the water has a different temperature in the deep ocean compared to the surface ocean, and that difference in temperature and also in salinity, actually makes that sound doesn't travel in a straight line. It does something complicated with the way that the sound waves move around.

So, it's not like with light, that it's just straight from where the source is. In this case, it can bend all around. And because this pinger is located so deep then, probably, there's a lot of opportunity for the sound to do difficult things and to go into bends and reflect somewhere and get all kinds of echoes.

BERMAN: Erik Van Sebille, the smartest person I've spoken to this morning, other than Christine Romans.

ROMANS: Nice save, Berman. Great save.

BERMAN: Great to have you with us explaining this for us. Really appreciate it.

ROMANS: It's really -- I mean, the oceanography is really cool.

BERMAN: They're forced to do things they've never done before in places they've never done before.

ROMANS: I know.

All right. A high school student behind bars, accused of stabbing more than 20 classmates. We're going to be telling you what we've learned more about that this morning, right after the break.