Return to Transcripts main page


Arthur Wreaking Havoc Along Carolina Coast; Disturbing Details in Hot Car Death Case

Aired July 4, 2014 - 05:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Breaking news, direct hit. Arthur makes landfall overnight.

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are seeing strong winds as it makes its way to land.

BOLDUAN: A vicious category 2 with wind gusts hitting 100 miles per hour. Towns under tornado watches, trees toppled and power out for tens of thousands.

GOV. PAT MCCRORY (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Please be safe inside your home and stay inside your home.

BOLDUAN: Hurricane winds still lashing the coast, as Arthur makes the Fourth of July march north. We are live in the middle of it all.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Plus, bombshell hearing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he discuss being afraid of children and his child dying in the car?


PEREIRA: Shocking allegations made in the case of a father accused of leaving his son in a hot car on purpose.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are also photos of women's breast being sent back to him.

PEREIRA: Sexting underage girls, life insurance on the child, and searching online about hot cars, the benefits of being child-free and even how to survive in jail, and how his wife's actions may provide more clues. We break down the damning testimonies.

BOLDUAN: This is a special edition of NEW DAY. Hurricane Arthur hits.


BOLDUAN: Good morning, everyone. And welcome to a special Hurricane Arthur edition of NEW DAY. It is Friday, July 4th, happy Independence Day, everyone. But it is a

mess and a dangerous one for many of you. It's 5:00 in the East. Chris is off today.

Let's get right to the breaking news. Hurricane Arthur made landfall overnight along North Carolina. Let's take a look at that. Right now, it's working over the outer banks. It's now a category 2 storm with sustained winds over 100 miles an hour.

The hurricane will make it a very turbulent holiday for millions along the East Coast.

PEREIRA: Even before the storm reach land, the impact was evident. Look at this rain. It's kind of coming from all directions, even sideways whipping trees around the beach. Thousands of people hit the road, but it was for evacuations instead of beaches and barbecues. The storm is going to hug the coast as it heads Northeast. You should expect dangerous conditions all along the shore, all the way up to Maine.

We have complete coverage for you this morning of the hurricane. We're going to start with meteorologist Indra Peterson. She's in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina -- where we understand, Indra, the eye of the storm just passed over.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, things literally are changing by the minute. Just about 20 minutes or so ago, we were in the eye wall of the storms. So, we're seeing those very strong winds that were coming out of easterly direction. It was very hard to even move. Steady winds about 50 miles per hour here. Some of the gusts are going to about 80 miles per hour.

Now, if you look at the radar itself or the satellite picture, you're going to be the eye wall is making its way offshore. It looks a little bit calm right now, but just in the last few minutes, we're starting to see the winds shifting directions. So, instead of being on the front side of that eye wall, now, we're starting to see them coming out of the north and west.

This is key, guys. First, we are talking about all that water coming off the ocean. Remember where we are here on the outer banks. We have two bodies of water surrounding us. First, you have the waves coming in off the ocean, but when you switch that direction, you have the more shallow water coming in off the sound. So, this is going to be the key period here in the next few minutes, where we start to see more that surge coming in off the sound.

That's going to be key. We have a long way to go here in the Carolinas. Things are being knocked over in front of me, long ways to go in the next few hours.


PETERSONS (voice-over): At least 20 counties here in North Carolina in a state of emergency. Hurricane Arthur making land fall at 11:15 Thursday night. CNN's Rene Marsh camped out at Atlantic Beach when it hit.

MARSH: The winds are extremely strong. And if you take a look at the skies, you can see them lighting up, and that is not lightning, those are transformers blowing up. That means people are without power most likely at this point.

PETERSONS: Despite the darkness along the outer banks, North Carolina's governor told thousands without power to stay inside.

MCCRORY: Wait for the storm to leave for a long period of time before you venture to the outside.

PETERSONS: The now category 2 hurricane living up to emergency managers fears.

Sustained winds of at least 100 miles per hour. Storm surges and dangerous rip currents are warding off Fourth of July beachgoers.

MCCRORY: We want to warn the citizens up the coast and our thousands of tourists who may be dealing with this for the first time, that this is a serious storm.

PETERSONS: This is a photo from inside the eye of the storm. Of concern, the inner eye wall, now shrinking in size. The danger? The smaller it gets the stronger the winds become.

MCCRORY: So, we're most concerned now about flooding inland and also storm surges in our sounds and our rivers further inland.

PETERSONS: Governor Pat McCrory says rescue and emergency crews are at the ready to assess damage and begin the clean up effort.


PETERSONS: So, for anyone really in the area right now, they maybe thinking, OK, we got through the first half of the storm, I'm OK, the power is on -- they do not want to be taken off guard, because again, it's the backside of the storm that's even stronger. You have to add in the winds of the storm itself. So, those 100-mile-per-hour winds, plus the storm moving at 20 miles per hour. So, now, you have 120- mile-per-hour winds that come your way.

And, again, remember, it's all about the direction of that wind. When you had all those waves being pushed in the south, in one direction away, it is shallow water. Now, all quickly, once retreat right back at us, that brings a very high storm surge in a short period of time. We're hearing just south of us, in 20 minutes, the water rose about a good five feet.

That is a concern here. Just everyone's safety will be at its highest risk here. So, we are going to be watching those closely in the next few minutes.

BOLDUAN: All right, Indra. Calm right now and it's going to change very quickly, as you said. We'll get right back to you. So, North Carolina really is bearing the brunt of Arthur's wrath so

far. This, we're going to show, is a live look at Nags Head from our affiliate, WAVY. About 20,000 customers are already dealing with power outages in the area. Take a look at the strong winds whipping through the trees there.

And remember, this is before the storm had really made land fall. The ominous clouds, a clear sign of what was on the way.

Let's head roughly 200 miles south from Kill Devil Hills to the Wrightsville Beach. That's where our Alina Machado is there.

You've been weathering it throughout the day yesterday, Alina. Things really started to deteriorate overnight. How are things go -- how are things looking now?

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, it's amazing what a difference a few hours makes. Hurricane Arthur here, we definitely felt it in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. Yesterday, for much of the day, we were seeing on and off periods of high winds and rain.

And it wasn't until 7:00 or 8:00 Eastern Time that really started to see the wind gusts pick up and the heavy downpours come down. That's what we experienced last night. It was very, very powerful.

In terms of the surf behind me, the surf has been rough pretty much all day yesterday and into the evening. The concern now is going to continue to be those rip currents we talked about yesterday. That is going to remain as a possible concern for officials here as people start to venture out into the water.

In terms of power outages, we heard of some -- a few power outages throughout the city but very minor and also some minor flooding. So, here in the Wrightsville Beach, for the most part, we fared well -- Christine.

PEREIRA: I'll take it from here Alina. We're glad to hear that. Again, as the light comes up with the morning, we'll see what the damage leaves behind. We're glad to hear it wasn't as bad as anticipated.

So, the storm set to move up the East Coast over the next 24 hours or so. Of course, the question is, what areas are going to get hit next?

We want to turn to meteorologist Ivan Cabrera. He's up bright and early monitoring Hurricane Arthur with us.

What do we know?

IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We have been watching it all night. This is just fascinating here. We are now into hour six from where this thing made that landfall. And we are still, still, at this hour, dealing with 100-mile-per-hour winds as far as the category, still a category 2 storm.

And look at the eye just emerging over the water at this point. It was mainly over water overnight as it move through Pamlico Sound, with those incredible winds.

You know, we get the estimated winds from the National Hurricane Center, but sometimes, we get the winds verified from the instruments that are on the ground. And we certainly did that. We've had wind gusts in excess of 90 miles an hour along this entire area, which remains under a hurricane warning at this hour. That will continue over the next few hours.

I think in about six hours, OK, this is when we'll begin to get things calming down across its area and then we're going to track this storm as it continues to head off to the north and east. It will do so rapidly, because it's getting picked up by the upper level winds now. So, in about 24 to 48 hours, it is going to scream up to the north and east. So, we are looking at a storm is that going to be offshore. But the wind feel associated with it is large enough where I think some impacts are going to be felt.

We're not going to be looking at hurricane force winds across the islands of Massachusetts or Cape Cod, but the potential is there for tropical storm force winds and that is why we have extended those warnings from Woods Hole in Massachusetts, all the way up to the tip of Cape Cod, which will be Provincetown. That will be for the next 24 hours.

And this thing scoots off and heads toward Halifax. But the worst of the storm, no question about it, is being felt right now across the Carolinas, specifically North Carolina. And, by the way, Michaela, this is the strongest hurricane to make landfall in the United States since back in 2008 when Ike hit Galveston.

Quite an impressive scene going on right now in North Carolina, especially in the month of July. Usually, you don't get a hurricane this strong. But a cat 2 still at this hour, 5:00 a.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center. We'll keep you posted through the morning.

PEREIRA: Appreciate that, Ivan. Yes, that is -- that's a point to note. It's early. It's about month earlier than we're used to seeing.

BOLDUAN: Yes, absolutely. I mean, the peak of hurricane season doesn't come until mid-August, goes until mid-October. Really here, you're feeling early this time. Of course, you wonder, what is this going to mean for the rest of hurricane season? Le's get through this one first before we deal with that, right?

PEREIRA: Good idea. I like that.

BOLDUAN: We have a lot more hurricane coverage that we're going to be getting throughout the morning.

But let's get over to Christine Romans now for some of today's other stories.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning both of you. In Iraq this morning, as large parts of the country continue to fall to ISIS militants, Iraq's Kurdish leader is calling for independence. The U.S. officials are objecting to the call, saying the only solution for the conflict is for the country to stay united. This as U.S. military officials say the door is still open to step up American forces in Iraq if ISIS militants pose a threat to the U.S.

The Pentagon has grounded its entire fleet of F-35 fighter jets. Flights are suspended while inspectors examined why one of these jets caught fire as it was taken off from Eglin Air Force Base last month. This is the latest setback for the Lockheed Martin-built fighter. In June, a midflight oil leak on one of the planes triggered another fleet-wide inspection. At $398 billion, the F-35 is the Pentagon's most expensive weapons program ever. The entire fleet grounded.

Mississippi's Republican primary isn't quite over and it's getting even more nasty. Tea Party-backed State Senator Chris McDaniel served papers to Thad Cochran's son Thursday, indicating he plans to challenge the results which give Cochran the victory. Campaign staffers and volunteers say they combed through voting records in 51 counties and claimed to have found 5,000 irregularities. We'll talk to McDaniel live, later in the show.

The White House is celebrating Independence Day with military families. This morning, President Obama will host a naturalization ceremony for 25 members of the armed forces and their spouses. Later, the Obama's will hold a barbecue and fireworks viewing party on the South Lawn for military families and White House staff.

It's an especially sweet occasion for the Obama's. First daughter Malia celebrates her sweet 16 today, 16th birthday.

PEREIRA: It is hard to believe she is 16 years old.

ROMANS: I know.

PEREIRA: We have watched these young ladies grow up.

You'll never forget -- no excuse to forget her birthday.

BOLDUAN: Definitely not. Of course, both parents talk about they are excited about the birthday, but nervous. This means her getting behind the wheel.

PEREIRA: Any parent of a teenager has that same trepidation, don't they?

BOLDUAN: I'm still nervous if I can be handling the wheel, and didn't drive for a while.

Let's take a break. Coming up next on NEW DAY, we're going to have more on the breaking news coverage of Hurricane Arthur as it pounds North Carolina with heavy rain and up to 100-mile-an-hour winds before it's heading up the East Coast.

PEREIRA: Also, bombshell testimony in a Georgia toddler's death. While the boy was left in a hot car and died, investigators that are investigating the story say his father was sexting with a half dozen women. And believe it or not, there's much more. We have the shocking details ahead.



MARSH: At this hour, Hurricane Arthur is now making landfall here in coastal North Carolina. It's not packing a lot of rain in the position where I am. But the winds are extremely strong. If you look at the skies, you can see them lighting up. That is not lightning, those are transformers blowing up. That means people are without power most likely at this point. But again, not a lot of rain, but we are seeing very strong winds as it makes its way to land.


PEREIRA: That was our CNN reporter, Rene Marsh, the moment that Hurricane Arthur made landfall last night in North Carolina. We are going to get back to that obviously our top story, the coverage of Hurricane Arthur and its progress in just a moment.

But, first, stunning details in the case of a Georgia toddler who died after being left in a hot car. A judge denied bail for that baby's father. Justin Ross Harris is accused of murder and child cruelty. We are learning now that while his son was dying, Harris was exchanging sexually explicit texts with several women.

That's only part of this unbelievable testimony. We are going to play much more of what happened inside the courtroom so you can hear it yourself.

We get more now from CNN's Victor Blackwell.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What was Justin Ross Harris allegedly doing while his 22-month-old son, Cooper, suffered in the back of his scorching SUV?

DETECTIVE PHIL STODDARD, COBB COUNTY POLICE DEPT.: He was having up to six conversations with different women. The most common term would be sexting.

BLACKWELL: Stunning claims of raunchy text messages, suspicious Internet searches and a plan to kill his son.

STODDARD: Evidence has shown us right now that he's got a separate life he's living with alternate personalities and alternate personas.

BLACKWELL: Harris shackled and sullen, as detective Phil Stoddard with the Cobb County Police Department detailed x-rated messages allegedly exchanged the day Cooper died, including with a then 16- year-old girl. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were photos being sent back and forth between

these women and the defendant during this day while the child was out in the car?

STODDARD: Yes, there were photos of his exposed penis, erect penis, being sent. There were also photos of women's breasts being sent back to him.

BLACKWELL: No visible reaction from the 33-year-old wife Leanna Harris, who sat with her family and supporters in the packed courtroom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was a loving father. He loved his son very much. We went on family vacations together. He was a good dad.

BLACKWELL: But just five days before Cooper's death, Internet searches revealed that Harris watched videos online about the dangers of being trapped in a hot car and that Harris visited a web forum devoted to the child free lifestyle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, there's no -- you don't have any evidence that he actually typed in a Google search or Reddit search or anything for child free?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are so far afield from the events of June 18th. This has got nothing to do with those events whatsoever. The status of his marriage and his fantasy life has got nothing to do with the events of June 18th. We're just getting so far afield, Judge. This isn't relevant to anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Judge, this goes to the state of mind to the two weeks leading up to the death of the child.

JUDGE: So, this occurred within two weeks?


JUDGE: Overruled the objection.

BLACKWELL: The detective also testified the couple had ad financial problems and took out life insurance policies on Cooper.

STODDARD: They had two policies on Cooper. The first policy is a $2,000 policy, through the Home Depot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The second one, was this something that they got back in 2013?

STODDARD: Yes. Well, yes, November 2012 is when he signed up for it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. And was this something that he still had at the time of the child's death?

STODDARD: That is correct. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And how much was the policy?

STODDARD: It's $25,000 policy.

BLACKWELL: Stoddard laid out the strange way he saw Harris reacting the day Cooper died.

STODDARD: He started off trying to work himself up. And we're watching him on the cameras he's doing this. And he's walking around, and he's rubbing his eyes, and he's -- you know, trying to -- look like he's trying to hyperventilate himself. No tears, no real emotion coming out except for -- you know, the huffing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And through the time you are talking with him about his son and his son's death, did you ever see any tears coming from him?


BLACKWELL: Even more bizarre, how witnesses say Leanna Harris reacted at the day care when she was told that Cooper was never dropped off.

STODDARD: And in front of several witnesses, all of a sudden, she states, Ross must have left him in the car. And, they are like, what? There's no other reason. Ross must have -- no other explanation, excuse me, Ross must have left him in the car.

And they tried to console her. No, there are 1,000 reasons. You know, he could have taken him to lunch or something. We don't know yet. And she's like, no.

BLACKWELL: Then, another shocker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were there any injuries to the child's face?

STODDARD: There were.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what were those?

STODDARD: The way it's explained, 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 just soon after he passed away.

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

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

BLACKWELL: After three hours of stunning testimony, Judge Frank Cox denied Harris bond, defense maintaining.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not criminal negligence. It's a horrible tragedy and accident.

BLACKWELL: Victor Blackwell, CNN, Marietta, Georgia. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: It's truly extraordinary probable cause hearing. It was supposed to go 90 minutes, it went three hours. There's going to be a lot to discuss even before they even potentially head to trial.

PEREIRA: Certainly damning, the testimony that they're hearing. But again, the defense has their work cut out for them. It's going to be very interesting to see how this all turns out.

BOLDUAN: And it was just a probable cause hearing.

PEREIRA: Coming up next on NEW DAY, Hurricane Arthur lashing the North Carolina coast. We're going to go back like Indra Petersons who's is in Kill Devil Hills with the very latest. Stay with us.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to a special Hurricane Arthur edition of NEW DAY. Take a look at this live picture of Nags Head, North Carolina. You can see, they are dealing with violent wind, stirring up waves, still doing it right now, as rain pounds the beach there.

On any other Fourth of July weekend, the streets would be bustling, they would be packed. Last night, they were abandoned.

Let's get back to Indra Petersons. She's in Kill Devil Hills with much more -- Indra.

PETERSONS: Yes, we are still talking about the change in direction we had just about a half hour or so ago. One side of this storm, we are seeing the eye wall making its way offshore. So, we have strong easterly directions here right when we were in the eye wall. We were talking about steady winds, a good 50 miles per hour. Some gusts out here as high as about 80 miles per hour.

Now, that eye wall is making its way offshore and the system is picking up speed. This is key. It's now moving at 18 miles per hour. That means things are going to change very quickly as the system now starts to switch direction, kind of in the middle zone. We're just slowly starting to see some of these winds pick up. But now, from the opposite direction. But first kind of coming from the north, and then we see the winds kick up in the opposite direction from the west.

This is key. First, when we had the winds from the east, we had strong waves coming in. You have, of course, the wind waves coming in. When you switch the direction now, you are going to have the sound on the opposite side of us, another body of water. Remember on the outer banks, we're right in between those two there, right?

Well, the ocean, that is deep water, the sound that is shallow water. So, all the water that got pushed off, it's going to want to quickly come back that's the concern. A very strong storm surge is expected in this direction, the opposite direction.

For anyone that's out here, they may think, I got through the first half of this, it's completely different on the backside. In fact, it is stronger because you have to factor in is the steady winds out here can be as high could be 100 miles per hour, then you have to factor in the motion of the storm itself, so add 20 miles per hour to that. You could have 120-mile-per-hour winds right around the center of that system. That, of course, is making its way offshore. So, we're going to be watching that very closely.

Other things to consider other than storm surge. And I want to tell you, just south of us, they saw the storm surge rise five feet or so in about 20 minutes. That is the concern, how quickly things can change. So dangerous.

And wave height, that's the other thing we are going to see. Once you get closer to the eye itself, we've heard reports of 25 foot waves. So, likely anymore 10, 15-foot waves probably in where we are. It's something we could see here as things shift around.

Remember, this is going to hold on to its momentum. It's going to go quickly, head right in your direction towards the Northeast, staying south of you, but either way, it's still going to hold on about 90- mile-per-hour winds just south of Cape Cod. So, there's going to be a lot that we're going to be keep track, of course. Here really in the Carolinas, it's going to be the big thing we have to watch the next hour or so.

PEREIRA: We appreciate you watching it for us. Indra on the ground, always gives us a better sense of what reality is like for the folks.

As you just saw, North Carolina is getting the worst of the hurricane at this hour. Thousands are being reported without power. Damage could get worse as Indra mentioned after the storm surge.