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Hurricane Arthur Heads North; Hot-Car Toddler-Death Dad in Court Yesterday; Obama Welcomes New American Citizens at Naturalization Ceremony

Aired July 4, 2014 - 11:00   ET



MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Hurricane Arthur is working its way up the East Coast after hitting North Carolina with 100-mile-per-hour winds.

It's heading out to sea now but could still cause trouble for all sorts of folks along the East Coast. We're going to show you what to expect.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were all in shock because we all knew him. It's just still disbelief, not knowing what to think.


PEREIRA: An emotional interview with the friend of the Georgia father whose toddler died after he left him in a hot car for hours. Does she think he's guilty? You'll hear from her @THISHOUR.

And the holiday hurricane cannot stop this Fourth of July tradition, professional eaters competing for top dog honors at the famous Coney Island contest, buns and all. Man, this never gets old. How do these people do it?

Hello and happy Fourth of July to all of you. I'm Michaela Pereira. John Berman is off today.

So glad you could join us for @THISHOUR, those stories and much more, right now.

Obviously we begin @THISHOUR on this Independence Day with a special ceremony. President Obama is honoring some brand new citizens.

More than two dozen active duty service members, veterans and their spouses who have been serving Americans for years, well, they're becoming official Americans today in a naturalization ceremony at the White House.

You're looking at a live shot inside the East Room. It looks like they're at capacity there.

Certainly today is going to turn out to be a day that they will remember for the rest of their lives. The ceremony will begin any minute now. When it does, we'll take you there, live.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Arthur has been wreaking a bit of havoc. It has been downgraded from a Category 2 to a Category 1 storm, but not before lashing North Carolina's coastline with 100-mile-per-hour winds.

The first hurricane of the Atlantic season, an early one, by the way, is now heading out to sea, but its bands could whip up tropical storm force winds and high surf for much of the East Coast just in time for the Fourth of July holiday today, all the way from Virginia to Cape Cod tonight.

We've got our correspondents all over. We've got Joe Johns joining us from Nags Head, North Carolina, where there is flooding. Indra Petersons is in Kill Devil Hills with the very latest weather advisory just out from the National Hurricane Center.

Why don't we start with you, Joe? You can give is an idea. One of the concerns, we know, is the flooding from the storm surge.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's absolutely true. I have to say, for starters, Michaela, if you're looking at this picture and it seems fuzzy, do not attempt to adjust your set.

The problem is that there's condensation on the camera, trying to dry it out. We've been through a lot of weather out here over the last 24 hours.

Now, as you said, we're in Nags Head. Looking behind me, this is the sound. You talk so much about the ocean, but on the sound side, a lot of water rushing in, and what we're seeing right here in this low- lying area is kind of typical. You get a whole bunch of water, say, on a parking lot, concerns about the structural integrity of the buildings in the back.

Now, over across the sound, right off here to my right, there is a causeway. We took a drive across that causeway to get a sense of what's going on out there. The road leading to the causeway is also kind of typical.

There's a lot of silt out there. There's some wash still coming up on the road, and they're actually stopping traffic as you try to get across that causeway because they have to get the front-loaders out to get some of the silt, some of the debris, off of the road, so that's a continuing project as authorities try to assess the situation here after the storm.

Farther down the coast at Hatteras Island, it's still closed down right now. People can't get in. People can't get out. There are concerns about a bridge out there. They have to check it out, find out about the structural integrity of that, also, some questions about the road as well.

Scattered reports of power outages. Other than that, authorities say they think they fared through this storm pretty well.


PEREIRA: We certainly know folks there along that coast, along the North Carolina coast, have had their share of storms hitting them.

You get a sense there's a lot of people trying to get back out to the seaside or are they mostly heeding authorities' calls to stay away?

JOHNS: Yeah, well, right now, it's sort of a holding position because not all of this area is free and clear for access, so people are trying to get on with their lives, even though it's a cloudy windy day.

People on the other side, they can't get out just yet until the authorities clear the road and start letting people through.

So I can't say things have gotten back to normal yet, and as you know, you don't report all clear until the storm truly has moved out and they know the final results of the water, the wind, and it could be 24 hours before they know that this thing was -- you know, over and done with, shall we say?

PEREIRA: Absolutely. Joe Johns, thanks for that tip on the camera lens. I think there were a lot of people reaching for their TV sets, trying to wipe off the condensation for you.

Let's head from there, a little further away, along the same stretch of that area. Indra Petersons is in Kill Devil Hills. And we've been watching the conditions develop where you've been. You have obviously watched it as well.

What are conditions like there right now, and what are you expecting for that part of the island where you're at?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, what we're looking at right now is shirts are off. It's the Fourth of July and, everyone that came here for the holiday, they plan on trying to enjoy it.

Look at all the people here lining the beaches now that the storm is really quickly pushing out of here. That's the concern, flying the kites, but for now, at least they're staying out of the water, although we did see some people trying to swim, earlier.

The biggest concern here will be rip currents because we just got that latest advisory where it is still holding strength. Arthur is still a Category 1 hurricane at 90 miles per hour.

Even though it zoomed way past us, moving at 24 miles per hour, it's already 100 miles east-southeast of Ocean City, Maryland, and it's still expected to have impact in that region. Yes, here we're still seeing some winds, but again, it's only going to get better. We're going to see the sun come out. It's going to be a very hot day here.

But now, things are going to change into the northeast. The concern there is, of course, as it makes its way closer, it's going to kind of just scoot by, although staying south of the Cape Cod area. You are going to feel those impacts there because you have that cold front, the one that's bringing all the severe weather there. That's going to combine with the moisture there of Arthur and bring in some heavy rain in that direction, Michaela.

PEREIRA: Big thank you to Indra Petersons in Kill Devil Hills as she removes another layer because it looks like it's getting hot there.

Joe Johns, you try and stay cool in Nags Head.

Both of you, we thank you from North Carolina.

All right, some of the incredible images that are coming out of Hurricane Arthur in its path and its wake and also in the midst of it, Christine Romans is here with me to take a look at this.

And also we've got some other goodies that we'll show you at the end.


PEREIRA: First, some really great iReports.

ROMANS: Michael Corey sent this to us Oak Island, North Carolina. Look at this as the storm is coming in on the beach there, real interesting. And funny thing is, he's visiting from Columbus, Ohio.

PEREIRA: He probably was just as shocked as --

ROMANS: (Inaudible) bird's eye view. These are the beginnings of the outer bands and then look at that. Isn't that interesting, the waves --


ROMANS: We also look here at this video that someone sent in. This is amazing. Danny Tenenbaum sent us this.

If you watch this, this is about 10 minutes on an iPhone on the beach, and watch as the outer bands turn into very intense black --

PEREIRA: The sky gets darker and darker.

ROMANS: What always shocks me is the number of people drawn to the surf in these dangerous conditions.

PEREIRA: We're drawn to the water, aren't we?

ROMANS: Something about humans and a storm. Look at that, that one minute -- 10 minutes condensed into about 15 seconds.

PEREIRA: And in just 10 minutes how quickly it moved, too, even though this wasn't a really fast-moving storm.

ROMANS: Yeah, absolutely.

PEREIRA: OK. So there's also been delays of events. Obviously there's not going to be clear skies for some of the --

ROMANS: No. No, and some of you even had -- Boston, you had yours yesterday, but these are where we've seen fireworks rescheduled in some of these cities.

Boston, the Boston Pops famous thing was last night. Atlantic City and Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Virginia, are rescheduling theirs, Providence, Rhode Island; Ocean City, Maryland.

A lot of the emergency managers in some of the towns all along the East Coast are trying to gauge what is the safest and easiest thing to do.

If you have to delay it is day, that might be the best thing for you town, especially if we're going to get a lot of water up the East Coast, flooding and storm surge.

PEREIRA: There's the safety aspect, which is always the biggest concern, but of course it's also the weather. You want to be able to see those fireworks you paid so much money --

ROMANS: That's right.

PEREIRA: -- to have.

OK, last but not least, let's talk about -- anything else you want to talk about?

ROMANS: I'll show you that video again if you want to?

PEREIRA: I want to, one more time. I do.

ROMANS: There it goes. Awesome, right?

PEREIRA: And here's the other --

ROMANS: You can do it with an iPhone. That's what's so cool. With technology now, we can all share these great images.

PEREIRA: The fact is a lot of people are going to the beaches in the areas that still have rip currents. Indra Petersons has been talking to us about the danger of that.

So just be careful out there, first and foremost, and have a safe and happy Fourth of July weekend.

Christine, thanks for looking at that with us?

ROMANS: You're welcome.

PEREIRA: Ahead @THISHOUR, shocking accusations and revelations about a Georgia man whose toddler died after being left in a hot car for hours.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were several marks on the child's face that would have come from the child or a scratch being made while the child was alive and then not healing, not scabbing over or anything like that, and just soon after he passed away.


PEREIRA: Plus, who police say the fair was sexting at work while his son was locked in that car dying, that's ahead @THISHOUR.


PEREIRA: Bombshell testimony in the hot car death of a Georgia toddler. As 22-month-old Cooper Harris lay dying in a hot SUV on a sweltering Georgia day, investigators say his dad was at work sexting with half a dozen women.

Those investigators are trying to paint Justin Ross Harris as an unfaithful husband who wanted to be child-free.

Here's some of the chilling testimony that led a Georgia judge to deny bond for Harris.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who was it that got emotional?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And could you tell the judge -- what was he being emotional about? What was the main thing he was crying about or sobbing about or whatever he was doing?

STODDARD: It was all about him. I can't believe this is happening to me. I can't believe, you know, this happened to me. Why am I being punished for this? It continued. It was all very one-sided.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he talk about losing his job?

STODDARD: He talked about losing his job. What are we going to do? I'm going to lose my job. I'll be charged with a felony.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did his wife ever say anything to him about what he said to police?

STODDARD: She asked him -- she had him sit down, and he starts going through this, and she look at him and she's like, well, did you say too much?


PEREIRA: Our Victor Blackwell has been following this case from beginning, and he joins us now from Atlanta.

Boy, there was a lot that came out of that hearing. I think a lot of people thought this probable-cause hearing would be sort of typical, you know, 90 minutes or so.

It went on for -- what -- three hours?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Three hours in a packed house, you saw people lining the walls.

No one expected I'm sure to hear about searches of animals dying in cars and how to survive in prison, but that's what that detective said that Ross Harris searched in the months and up to just a few days before Cooper Harris was pulled out of that hot SUV.

The investigators spoke about their exchange there in that room with the two-way mirror.

I want you also to listen to what the investigator said about Cooper's body when he was pulled from that vehicle.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who was it that got emotional?

STODDARD: The father.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And could you tell the judge -- what was he being emotional about? What was the main thing he was crying about or sobbing about or whatever he was doing?

STODDARD: It was all about him. I can't believe this is happening to me. I can't believe, you know, this happened to me. Why am I being punished for this? It continued. It was all very one-sided.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he talk about losing his job.?

STODDARD: He talked about losing his job, what are we going to do, I am going to lose my job. I'll be charged with a felony.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did his wife say anything about what he said to police.

STODDARD: She asked him -- She had him sit down., and he starts going through this, and she looks at him, she's like, did you say too much?

There were several marks on the child's face. It would have come from the child or a scratch being made while the child was alive and then not healing, not scabbing over or anything like that, and just soon after he passed away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were there any injuries to the back of the child's head?

STODDARD: Yes, there were abrasions to the back of the child's head.


BLACKWELL: So the obvious question now is when the toxicology comes back will it show that Cooper Harris was given something by his father. Question now also, will there be charges for, Leanne Harris, the mother. A witness told the detective that when she showed up to that daycare center, her first response when hearing that the child was not there, that Ross must have left the child in the car. A questionable response from a mother who, we're told my investigators, was not emotional there that day when the child was found dead.

PEREIRA: The judge denied bond so he sits in a prison now. Have they set a date for trial?

BLACKWELL: They have not set a date for trail, but we know they have 90 days to indict him. The clock starts for the state now. We have just received eight new search warrants as part of this investigation. We've learned that - Of course, yesterday, we learned there were two life insurance policies on Cooper, one for 2,000 and one for 25,000. And according to investigators, in the narrative of these warrants, that Harris started to ask relatives about how to get the money, that $27,000 from those life insurance policies.

PEREIRA: Look, this is a heart-rending case to begin with. I have to tell you we have been compelled by it, especially in light of that testimony yesterday. Again, a probably cause hearing, we didn't expect to here such explosive revelations. Victor, thank you so much for joining us today. I know you'll be keeping an eye on this case. We will be following it here at CNN.

We're going to take a short break. Ahead @THISHOUR, my interview with a college friend of that father, Justin Ross Harris, who's having trouble reconciling what she's hearing with the man that she knew.


PEREIRA: When you look at this situation, what does your gut tell you?

KRISTEN RIKER, KNEW JUSTIN ROSS HARRIS IN COLLEGE: Like I said, because I -- the great man I knew him to be, I really want to be unbiased and not believe it. But I'm also not sure exactly what the facts are.



PERIERA: @THISHOUR, on this Independence Day, a very special ceremony taking place in the east room of the White House. President Obama is honoring and welcoming and swearing in brand new citizens, more than two dozen active duty service members, veterans and their spouses, who have been serving America for years. They are becoming official Americans today in a naturalization ceremony at the White House. Fifteen active duty service members, two veterans, a reservist and seven military spouses from fifteen different countries.

Let's listen in.

(BEGIN LIVE FEED) ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: You are now United States citizens. Citizens of a country that is defined by its principles of liberty, equality and justice for all. These are principles that you as current and former members of our armed forces and their spouses have helped protect and defend even before becoming citizens of our great country. Your patriotism, service and selflessness are remarkable and we celebrate you today.

My parents brought my sister and me to this country in 1960, as political refugees escaping the communist take over of Cuba. I was naturalized in 1973 and today I have the privilege of standing before you as the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security in the service of our great President and our great country and administering the oath of allegiance to you. This country is like no other. A country that always has been and forever will remain a nation of immigrants.

It is now my distinct honor and privilege to introduce the President of the United States, Mr. Barack Obama. Mr. President.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you everybody. Please be seated. Good morning to the -- good morning and welcome to the White House. And Happy Fourth of July.

Deputy Secretary Mayorkas, thank you for taking care of the important part of this morning which is administering the oath. That -- that's the thing that we wanted to make sure we got right. To Acting Deputy Director Jones, to family, friends, distinguished guests, thank you all for being here. And finally to these 25 men and women, service members and spouses, it is an honor to join every one here for the first time in calling you our fellow Americans.

This is one of my favorite events to do. And not just because we get to have barbecue and watch fireworks later. It's because each of you has traveled a long journey to this moment. Journeys that began in places like Jamaica and Germany, China and Guatemala. And yet, somehow, either because your parents brought you here as children or because you made the choice yourselves as adults, you ended up here in America. And then many of you did something extraordinary. You signed up to serve in the United States military. You answered the call. To fight and potentially to give you life for a country that you didn't fully belong to yet.

You understood what makes us American is not just circumstances of birth or the names in our family tree. It's that timeless belief that from many, we are one. We are bound together by adherence to a set of beliefs and unalienable rights. That we have certain obligations to each other, to look after each other and to serve one another. Over the years, that's exactly what you've done.

Rodrigo Lacion (ph) came to the United States from the Philippines. Joined the Navy because, you know, he said he wanted to be part of something big and important, to be part of a great cause. Today, petty officer second class Lacio (ph) is still part of that great cause and today he's also an American citizen. Stephanie Vinozno (ph) moved her from Canada with her mom when she was

18 years old. Today she's 26 and a sergeant in the Army. Stephanie says she joined the military to give my children someone to look up to and someone they can be proud of. Stephanie, I know you've made your children and all of us very proud.

Oscar Gonzalez was born in Guatemala and became a Marine last year. Becoming a citizen he says means becoming part of a society that strives and stands for good all around the world, just being a part of that makes me complete. Well Oscar, welcoming you as an American citizen makes our country a little more complete. So thank you.

And then there are those of you who married an American service member. And as a military spouse, you've been serving our country as well. Diana Baker is original from Kenya. Met her husband Kowayne (ph) in Germany. Today she's a nurse at Frederick Memorial Hospital in Maryland. She and her husband have four beautiful children. In Diana's words, becoming a citizen of the United States is like joining a club of the best of the best. And I agree. Congratulations Diana on joining the club.

Together, all of you remind us that America is and always has been a nation of immigrants. Throughout our history, immigrants have come to our shores in wave after wave from every corner of the globe. Every one of us, unless we're native American, has an ancestor who was born somewhere else. Even though we haven't always looked the same or spoken the same language, as Americans we've done big things together. We won this country's freedom together, we built our greatest cities together, we defended our way of life together, we continued to perfect our union together. That's what makes America special, that is what makes us strong. The basic idea of welcoming immigrants to our shores is central to our way of life. It is in our DNA. We believe our diversity, our differences when joined together by a common set of ideals makes us stronger, makes us more creative, makes us different. From all these different strands, we make something new here in America.

That's why if we want to keep attracting the best and the brightest from beyond our shores, we're going to have to fix our immigration system which is broken. And pass common sense immigration reform. We shouldn't be making it harder for the best and the brightest to come here, and create jobs here, and grow our economy here. We should be making it easier. That's why I'm going to keep doing -- he agrees with me.

So I'm going to keep doing everything I can do to keep making our immigration smarter and more efficient, so hard working men and women, like all of you, have the opportunity to join the American family and to serve our great nation, so we can be stronger and more prosperous and more whole together.

I'll close with a quick story. George Mardician (ph) was an immigrant form Armenia, who became a famous chef. George had a quote that I think will ring true for most immigrants. He said, you who have been born in America, I wish I could make you understand what it is like not to be an American. Not to have been an American all your life. And then suddenly, to be one for that moment and forever after.

Today, on this Fourth of July, all across the country, from Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, to the Alamo dome in Texas, immigrants from around the world are taking the oath of citizenship and many of them have worked and sacrificed for years to get to this moment. All of them have done it for something none of us should ever take for granted, the right to be called an American from this moment and forever after.

That fact should give us hope and make us confident about the future of our country. Because as long as our men and women, like all of you who are willing to give so much for the right to call yourselves Americans and as long as we do our part to keep the door open to those who are willing to earn their citizenship, then we're going to keep on growing our economy, we'll continue to journey forward and we will remind the world why the United States of America is and always will be the greatest nation on earth.

We are very proud of you. Congratulations. God bless you. God Bless the United States of America. And now I would like to turn it back over to Deputy Secretary Mayorkas. Congratulations.