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Search for Flight 370: New Stage Begins; Crisis in Ukraine: Brink of Civil War?; Deadly Jewish Center Shootings

Aired April 14, 2014 - 04:00   ET


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news this morning: a new stage begins in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. A submarine set to deploy to the bottom of the ocean. We're going to look for the vanished jetliner. This as a possible new clue is discovered. We're live with the latest developments.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Happening right now. Ukraine in crisis, on the brink of civil war, threatening to deploy troops to quash pro-Russian protests. Their deadline to disarm passing hours ago. We're bringing you live team coverage of the very latest.

BLACKWELL: And here at home, a suspected white supremacist in jail, accused of killing three people outside a Jewish center in Kansas. New information we've learned overnight about the suspect and the victims.

Well, you are up very early --

ROMANS: Or up late!

BLACKWELL: Or up late. You might be finishing your Sunday night. Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Victor Blackwell.

ROMANS: It's nice to see you!

BLACKWELL: Yes, good to see you.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It's Monday, April 14th. It's 4:00 a.m. in the East.

And it may be early, but still a lot to get through this morning.

We begin with breaking news in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. It's now been 38 days since the Boeing 777 went missing and this morning officials are switching their strategy. They are preparing to launch an unmanned submarine to look for wreckage on the ocean floor after admitting they have not heard any other sounds that could be from the black box pingers. They have not heard any other sounds in a week.

That sub's movements will be slow, it will be painstaking, the process covering just a few miles a day, as the search zone this morning has again -- has widened again, and the head of the search revealed overnight that they found an oil slick in the ocean that could be connected to this crash.

Michael Holmes for us this morning live in Perth, Australia, where it's evening there, late afternoon there. He's got the latest on the search.

Michael, catch us up on all of these developments that have happened there today.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, quite a few headlines came out of the briefing that we had a few hours ago by retired air chief, marshal Angus Houston, the man heading up this search effort. Number one, of course, as you said, they've given up, basically, on getting any more pings from those black boxes. They had those four confirmed pings that they believe came from the black boxes.

They've been hoping and hoping and hoping they'd get more. Why? Well, because that would help them shorten this -- bring down this search area even more.

Well, it's day 38, as you said. Those pingers are guaranteed to last 30 days. They have given up now, and as Angus Houston said, it's time to go under water. Have a listen.


ANGUS HOUSTON, SEARCH COORDINATOR: The deployment of the autonomous underwater vehicle has the potential to take us a further step towards visual identification, since it offers a possible opportunity to detect debris from the aircraft on the ocean floor. I would caution you against raising hopes that the deployment of the autonomous underwater vehicle will result in the detection of the aircraft wreckage. It may not. However, this is the best lead we have and it must be pursued vigorously.


HOLMES: It is a tedious process, too, as Angus Houston was cautioning people. It's a 24-hour effort to get this thing down, two hours down, 16 hours at walking pace, where it maps the ocean floor using that side-scan sonar, two hours back up again and another four hours to download and analyze the data it gets, then they start all over again.

The first sweep will probably be about 40 square kilometers, you know, 15 square miles, say. But when you think about it this way, it's like looking for, when you talk about a black box, imagine trying to looking for, let's say a laptop computer, in Manhattan in the dark, and it might be under a couple of meters of silt.

So, it's a huge operation that they're just starting now. It should be down any time now. We haven't been told that it's been dropped into the water yet, but we were told it would happen today. It's what, 4:00 in the afternoon here now.

One other headline out of that, Christine was that in the next two or three days, Angus Houston said they're going to pretty much give up on the surface and air efforts to look for debris. They've been looking, of course, for weeks now, a few hundred miles west of where they're looking for the aircraft itself, haven't found anything, and they're probably going to wind that down in the next couple of days.

You mentioned the oil slick. It could be something. It might not be. They've taken two liters of this oil from a slick near the search area. It's being brought back here to Perth, will take a couple days to analyze that as well.

So, not getting hopes up, but you never know, it could be part of the puzzle.

ROMANS: Yes, you have to explore every one of those clues. We know earlier on in the investigation when they were testing some of these oil slicks, they were in a completely different part of the ocean. They obviously were just sea junk, but this is clearly much closer to where they were looking for it.

A lot of developments. I guess the headline is that a new phase, a new phase of the investigation began. We'll talk to you next hour. Thanks, Michael.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about the investigation into what happened to the jet now. Malaysia officials, they're keeping quiet. They say there's not much more they can say until they get more information from those black boxes.

Nic Robertson is live in Kuala Lumpur.

Nic, why haven't we heard much in recent days from investigators?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They seem not to want to prejudge anything that will come out of the additional information that the black boxes will provide them. They've heard from the acting transport minister here, saying the passengers on the flight who had been ruled out by the police chief, he says they can't be ruled out until the black boxes are discovered. Pretty much whatever they're finding out here, they're not sharing. Basically, they don't want to prejudice the investigation.

But it gives the very clear impression that in terms of precisely who was responsible and what happened. They don't want to get ahead of themselves, because they don't have a lot of concrete information to go on. It all took place in the sky, somebody taking control of the aircraft, somebody flying it to a very remote destination.

Beyond that, they really don't have a lot. It seems that they just don't want to get ahead of themselves. They really want to see what's inside that black box, if and when it's recovered, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right, Nic Robertson for us in Kuala Lumpur -- Nic, thank you.

ROMANS: All right, now to the growing crisis in Ukraine and new developments there overnight after Ukraine sent some security forces into the eastern part of the country. They sent them there to go after armed, pro-Russian militants who had overtaken government buildings, demanding the region break away from Ukraine and join Russia. At least one Ukrainian officer was killed as commandos and militants fought, leading to an angry rebuke from Russia and a rare, rare, late Sunday night security council meeting at the United Nations.

Diana Magnay live in Washington with the latest for us.

And, Diana, a lot of developments there. Moscow insisting it is not behind the unrest in eastern Ukraine, but Ukraine and the West simply don't believe it.

What are all the players saying this morning?

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ukraine and the West saying that it's clear that there are Russian officers and agents who have created this situation on the ground in Ukraine, and certainly what we're seeing there is similar to what we saw in Crimea, where you have uniformed militants without an insignia on their uniforms, carrying Russian weapons, some of them, and taking over in a very meticulous and organized fashion various government buildings. Now, the interior minister of Ukraine said yesterday that if they didn't put down their weapons, he would send in the military.

That is what prompted Russia to call for this Security Council meeting last night, which didn't really get anyone anywhere. You just heard the same arguments that we've heard time and time again now, with the rest accusing Russia of interfering and orchestrating this whole scenario in the south and east of Ukraine, and Russia saying that it is the West interfering in Ukrainian affairs.

Russia's point is they want a national dialogue, whereby all the players in Ukraine can get together and decide on a new constitution, a constitution that would effectively give each region in Ukraine far more autonomy from Kiev, a government that they do not recognize as legitimate. But we now have a situation where if the interior minister of Ukraine makes good on his promise to send in the troops, you have the possibility of Ukrainian military acting against these groups in Ukraine with just across the border in Russia, which is literally just over 100 miles away, 40,000 Russian troops.

Russia says they're just there for training purposes, but the West is clearly very, very worried that they could intervene in a heartbeat and move into that situation, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Diana Magnay for us -- thank you, Diana.

BLACKWELL: Meanwhile, let's go to the ground there in eastern Ukraine. A tense situation there. A deadline has just passed for militants to lay down their arms.

Senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh is live in Donetsk.

Nick, what are you seeing there?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Very little this morning, very little change from last night. The deadline, as you say, has passed, and kind of an implicit threat was unless militants and protesters occupying these buildings, now in nearly ten towns across the Donetsk region, a remarkable amount of territory now affected by these protests, that they would send in the Ukrainian army in an anti-terror organization.

Now, that's been hinted to by the governor of Donetsk, who says something like that is under way. We haven't seen any evidence of that yet and various social media reports seem to have shown movement around the region, but we can't confirm their authenticity.

So, the question persists, exactly where is the Ukrainian government in all of this? Even here in central Donetsk, just 300 meters away from the regional administration building, occupied now for a week plus by pro-Russian protesters. Even though that's happening here, there's no beefed-up security in central Donetsk. Life carries on very much as per normal.

So, the question, of course, is persisting now, where is the Ukrainian law enforcement? Where is Ukrainian government throughout this crisis?

They made a series of statements, they've promised an anti-terror operation yesterday in the town of Slaviansk. That clearly went nowhere, because its security officers were ambushed, it seems, on the way into town, one of them killed in a cross fire.

People really asking now, I think at this point, Kiev has made this deadline, made these threats. Do they actually have the manpower, do they have the law enforcement, do they have the military in place to effectively intervene here, or are we seeing pro-Russian militants and protests, more or less moving unimpeded throughout this region?

BLACKWELL: Nick Paton Walsh reporting for us there -- Nic, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. We're finding out new information this morning -- new information about the man who police say opened fire at a Jewish community center in a retirement community near Kansas City. Three people dead on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Passover. Law enforcement officials have now identified the alleged shooter as 73- year-old Frasier Glenn Miller, also known as Frasier Glenn Cross. Officials tell CNN he has tied to white supremacist groups.

CNN affiliate KNBC captured that video of somebody in the back of a police car after the shooting, said to be the suspect.

The Southern Law Center says Miller has a long history of anti-Semitic activity. He was once a grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, spent time in prison on weapons charges. Back in 2010, he ran for the Senate as a write-in candidate, he tried to buy radio ads blasting Jews, African-Americans and the federal government. The FCC said stations didn't have to carry those ads.

BLACKWELL: The victims include Dr. William Lewis Corporon and his 14- year-old grandson, Reid Underwood. Dr. Corporon practiced family medicine for almost 40 years. His grandson was a high school freshman, an Eagle Scout, and an inspiring performer. The two were at the community center so the grandson could audition for a singing competition.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is one of the most kindest, nicest, most supportive families that we have here. They're really a community treasure that had been supportive of so many different charities here, great people, and this really just has left us all breathless.


BLACKWELL: Imagine the pain of that family.

A third victim has not yet been identified. The suspect is due in court later this morning.

ROMANS: Happening right now, an Olympic hero back on the witness stand, trying to explain why he shot and killed his girlfriend. Can he convince the judge all of this was an accident? We're live with what Oscar Pistorius is saying this morning.


BLACKWELL: Happening right now in South Africa: Oscar Pistorius is back on the witness stand at his murder trial and getting hammered for a sixth straight day by the prosecutor, trying to paint the Olympic sprinter as a self-obsessed man who intentionally killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

The testimony resumed just a few minutes ago. The prosecutor asking Pistorius about Steenkamp's jeans and why they seemed out of place in his room. Listen.


PROSECUTOR: Mr. Pistorius, isn't the reason that she wanted to leave and wanted to get dressed? That's why the denim is -- the jeans are out of place? She wanted to leave and get dressed.

OSCAR PISTORIUS, OLYMPIC RUNNER: My lady, the jeans are inside-out, so it makes sense that that's when she took them off, that she just left them on the floor.

PROSECUTOR: But why would she leave them on the floor, if everything else that she had on, everything else, is in the overnight bag? Why would she leave that particular jeans outside?

PISTORIUS: I don't know, my lady.


BLACKWELL: CNN legal analyst Kelly Phelps is live at the courthouse in Pretoria.

Kelly, obviously, the goal here of the prosecutor is to poke holes in Pistorius' story, that this is all an accident. Has it been effective?

KELLY PHELPS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, we'll only know how effective it's been at the end of Pistorius' time on the stand. After all, after cross examination, his defense lawyer, Barry Roux, still has the opportunity to re-examine the witness in order to assert key points in their version of events, and perhaps, address some inconsistencies that have come up through cross examination.

BLACKWELL: And, Kelly, what about the emotion? I know that several days of this, six days of testimony, the judge here has had to call off testimony for the day. Has that tapered off at all?

PHELPS: Well, it tends to come in sort of peaks and ebbs. So, at the moment, we're seeing a more calmer period of cross examination, but this is actually a strategy that Nel is quite well known for. So we do expect that, again, a crucial period, his aggression and emotion is likely to amp up again.

BLACKWELL: And that could, I guess, cut both ways here. It could be seen as a sympathetic character or someone who has a -- a really volatile man who could be on either end of the spectrum at any moment, I guess.

PHELPS: I think we have got a bit of an indication in terms that the impression is made on the court, because as earlier last week, when he was -- particularly when Pistorius was particularly emotional, Mr. Nel suggested that he was faking it, and the judge actually reprimanded Nel and said, look, he clearly is emotional.

But not too much should be read into this, the fact that the judge finds it authentic or sincere, because she is very well schooled in the law, and she will know better than anyone that someone being genuinely traumatized in the aftermath of a crime tells the court absolutely nothing about what their frame of mind was when they were actually committing the conduct itself.

And for the purposes of this criminal trial, the only part of his mental state that is at all pertinent is his mental state when that gun was being fired, not afterwards.

BLACKWELL: All right. Kelly Phelps outside of the courthouse there in Pretoria -- Kelly, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Breaking news overnight -- tornadoes, thunderstorms, hail tearing through parts of the country.

Indra Petersons tracking all these dangerous storms for us. We're going to have a full report from her. Look at those pictures! Right after the break.


ROMANS: All right. Happening right now, severe thunderstorms moving east, leaving behind tornadoes, hail, flooding. The risk today stretches from the Northeast down to the South.

Indra Petersons tracking that forecast for us. I see heavy rain, strong winds. What are we going to expect?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, definitely feels like spring already. We're still watching that line of storms progressing off to the East, and you can see the storm reports from yesterday, even five reports of tornadoes, but definitely some strong straight-line winds happening as well.

Today, what are we looking for? The slight risk moves farther to the east, to places like Birmingham and even down towards New Orleans today, looking for that threat for severe weather. You can actually see the current watch boxes already out this morning, that's tornado watch boxes in the red, and yellow severe thunderstorm watch boxes. So, definitely, that threat is moving farther east.

Just watch the system as it progresses far to the east and look how unique this is at this time of year. Not only the heavy rain spreading to the east, but on the back side -- look at this, still talking about snow. Looks like winter is returning and all this cold air coming in from Canada once again will be filling in behind it. This is key.

First, let's talk about the rain, heavy rain along with severe weather, heavy thunderstorms, as much as 3 1/2 inches, even flooding concerns into the Southeast, all the way up to the Northeast the next couple days, an inch and a half of rain. Then there's the cold air, right?

So, on the back side, we're talking about snow, guys. Albany, three inches of snow, trace in through Chicago today and kind of overnight into New York City. Tomorrow night even looking for a chance for some flurries.

So, you know that warm air is retreating. Look at the difference. Look at these above-normal temperatures in the Northeast today, almost near 80, and look how cool the air is behind it. By tomorrow, you're going to see that cold air spread farther to the east. D.C. going down to 69. By Wednesday, all the way to the East Coast, look at the temperatures drop, going from 15 to 20 degrees above normal to 15 to 20 degrees below normal.

That chill is out there. The last thing I want to mention, of course, we have a lunar eclipse tonight. Best time to look at it looks to be 3:46 Eastern Time, tonight into tomorrow morning. Best chance to see it, the Midwest.

ROMANS: Just before we get on the air.

Thanks, Indra.


BLACKWELL: A grisly discovery in Utah, almost unbelievable. The tiny bodies of seven newborns found stuffed inside cardboard boxes in the garage of a suburban home.

Thirty-nine-year-old Megan Huntsman, believed to be the babies' mother, is now in jail. She's accused of giving birth to the babies and then killing them, at least six of the infants, over a 10-year period, when she lived at the home near Provo. Her former neighbors, understandably, are stunned.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This came as a total shock to both she and I, because we always thought she looked skinny. We never saw any evidence of pregnancies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was always a good babysitter, because she baby-sat my grandchildren when they were little.


BLACKWELL: Seven babies in boxes. The bodies were reportedly discovered by the suspect's estranged husband. Huntsman now faces counts of murder, six counts, in fact. She's due in court early this week.

ROMANS: All right. New details this morning about that fiery bus crash in northern California, a crash that left 10 people dead, many of them high school students.

Investigators now say there is no evidence a FedEx truck was already on fire before it crossed the median and slammed head on into the bus carrying those kids. That, despite two witnesses saying that's what they saw. The NTSB and California Highway Patrol collecting cell phone camera footage now as part of their investigation.

BLACKWELL: Breaking overnight, authorities in central Florida say they've put down several bears near the area where a woman was attacked by a bear in her driveway. This happened in Lake Mary, just north of Orlando. Terry Fauna (ph), she went outside Saturday night to check on her young children when her husband says a bear knocked her down and started to maul her. At one point, grabbing her head in its mouth and then dragging her away. She somehow escaped and is recovering now.

ROMANS: That's terrifying.

Breaking news overnight: a new stage now -- a new stage in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. We're looking -- we're going to tell you where they're looking right now and the new possible clues that they're following in this investigation. That's next.