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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
'American Sniper' Trial Jury Deliberates; Train Wreck Outside of Los Angeles; New Wave of Dangerous Weather; 'Road Rage' Murder Case in Las Vegas Turns Out to Be Something Else
Aired February 24, 2015 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.
We begin tonight with breaking news. The "American Sniper" murder trial. The question of whether the defendant Eddie Ray Routh was legally insane when he shot and killed Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield or whether it was murder is now in the hands of the jury.
Closing arguments just wrapped up. The defense seeking to show that Mr. Routh was in the grips of a psychotic episode when he pulled the trigger. The prosecution attempting to prove he knew what he was doing.
Ed Lavandera is outside of the courthouse in Texas. He joins us now.
So the closing arguments just ended less than 30 minutes ago. I know you were listening in. What can you tell us?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, prosecutors really hammered away at Eddie Ray Routh who's someone who was far from insane. Someone who's a weird, weird guy with a personality disorder. One of the prosecutor said that on the day on the drive out to the gun range that Eddie Ray Routh led his true colors show and that quote, "Let his freak flag fly." And they hammered away and all of the excuses, they describe all of the symptoms of psychosis and schizophrenia. That those were simply excuses made by someone who is a cold and calculated killer.
And defense attorneys turned around, however, Anderson, and really hammered away at one of the central pieces of evidence that we've talked about during the course of this trial. That was the lack of a blood test done on Eddie Ray Routh that after he was taken into custody. If you were watching this closely, prosecutor have essentially been saying that Eddie Ray Routh was involuntary drug- induced psychosis that caused him to kill Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield. And with because that that is not rise to the level of insanity.
Defense attorneys, Anderson, are saying if they were so convinced that he was under the influence of drugs that day, why didn't they take a blood test?
COOPER: Well, I mean, that's a key point. Because the prosecutors, as you said, have continued to maintain that Routh, you know, had smoked marijuana that he was in a marijuana-induced psychosis. Did his defense attorney seem to score points with the jury on questioning the fact that this test hadn't taken place, no drug test was done?
LAVANDERA: I think that's the million dollar question in this situation. They know, they fully acknowledge that on the morning of the killings that he had smoked some marijuana, had drunk some vodka and whiskey with an uncle. But all of that was done before noon and they're saying that by the time the murders took place around 4:00 o'clock in the afternoon roughly. That they -- they're saying that any effects of that would have been worn off by then.
So that is the question that this jury really doesn't have a firm answer to. With the prosecutors have hammered away for the last two weeks that he was a heavy drug user, alcohol abuse and that was a much larger contributing factor than any mental or psychosis issues that he might have had.
COOPER: I mean, I don't understand, this family was so concerned about this young man, why an uncle of his would be drinking with him before noon obviously given his mental issues that they clearly seem to have been worried about. Did the jury receive any special instructions and how do we have any sense of how long they might deliberate tonight?
LAVANDERA: We don't know how long they're going to go. They started deliberating about 25 minutes ago. So, you know, they have a lot to go over. You know, we'll see if a verdict comes back tonight. But really this is very simple decision.
There are three choices. Not guilty, guilty, or not guilty by reason of insanity. And the defense attorney said, look, who are we kidding here? There are really only two choices. It's guilty or not guilty by reason of insanity. And that's where that expert testimony is going to be so crucial. As these jurors will have to go over and probably debate, at length the expert testimony that they received in going over the psychiatric visits that Eddie Ray Routh made to various hospitals. Four visits in the years leading up to the murder of Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield. All of that we can presumed playing a big role in the jury here room tonight. Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. Ed Lavandera, thanks very much.
We just showing images taking on the highway when this suspect was actually arrested after stealing Chris Kyle's vehicle and driving off after the murders.
For perspective on those closing arguments, all the jury has been asked to consider. I want to bring in our legal analyst Danny Cevallos, Paul Callan and Jeffrey Toobin.
Jeff, you know, I've talked about a lot of about this in the past how insanity defense is usually don't work. The jury are very skeptical of them. Do you have any reason to think this case will be different?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I don't. Although, I think the defense has put on a better case than I expected. You know, there is one question that the jury is going to have to answer. Which is why, why did Routh kill these two people? And the answer is mysterious. The answer is it is not clear. And if the jury can say the only reason he killed them is because he's crazy, because he didn't know the answer is right, the difference between right and wrong. Then an acquittal is a possibility here.
But still jurors don't like insanity defenses. They don't like when it seems like people are trying to put one over on them. So I would certainly guess that a conviction is the most likely result here.
COOPER: Danny, there's also the question, I mean, obviously, mental illness, but they also question whether or not this guy was intoxicated when he committed the murders. Does that have any legal bearing?
DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Very much so. So they're going to get an instruction, they have got an instruction that in Texas, voluntary intoxication is not a defense to a crime. That's why you saw the prosecution introducing so much evidence of intoxication and the defense fighting that, or stating that, yes, even if he was on any drugs, that was separate and distinct from his mental illness.
So any evidence of drug use in yours to the benefit of the prosecution. But even intoxication aside, even if the jury finds that he knew the difference between right and wrong and when I say wrong in Texas, that means illegal. If he's aware what he did was illegal, then he cannot use the insanity defense. So voluntary intoxication is a part of this case, but it is not the critical question. That is whether it was right or wrong and he was aware of it.
COOPER: Paul, you think the prosecutors put up a pretty strong case though for a conviction.
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I do. But, you know, you have to always look at the bigger picture on these things. And although insanity defense is asserted in about one percent of cases in the United States, in one of four of those cases, they win with the insanity defense. I was talking to homicide prosecutor yesterday who was be mowing the fact that the only loss in his entire career occurred in an insanity case.
You really -- sometimes you don't know what the jurors are going to do, they really don't understand a lot of times the instructions and their judging how insane he looks to be and so it's a risky thing. But nonetheless I say in this case, you've got two local hometown heroes, you've got a lot of evidence on the board indicating that he knew what he did was wrong. He stole Kyle's car after shooting him in his truck and fled. Why would you flee if you didn't think you did something wrong?
He admitted in one of his confessions, one of his rambling confessions that he was sorry for he did. And he said a number of things throughout that would indicate an awareness of the wrongfulness of the act. And in Texas, it's a very, very low standard for the prosecutor as long as the prosecutor can show that he understood the difference between right and wrong. Then he doesn't get the benefit of insanity defense. So I say on balance, I have to agree with Jeffrey and Danny that a conviction is likely here.
COOPER: You know, Jeff, I mean, the fact that this guy was released by the V.A. Hospital just days before the shooting, despite apparently being deemed a danger, I mean, not only is that just stunning, but would that have an impact on the jury?
TOOBIN: Well, I don't think directly. But I think, one thing the defense did try to do, somewhat successfully is put the V.A. on trial. It is basically put the Iraq war on trial, and say, look, he didn't get the help that he need. He was betrayed by the V.A. and that's what led to this crime, not any sort of intentional decision on his part.
That taps into feelings that I think a lot of people have about the V.A., fairly or not. So I think that's at least one vehicle to -- for the jury to find not guilty by reason of insanity. But still, personal responsibility is something the jurors feel strongly about and ultimately that's what usually comes to the fore in these cases.
CALLAN: And you know, Anderson, the tale you should remember is the tale of the case called Scott Panetti case. He's on death row now in Texas. Panetti tried his case he represented himself dressed in a purple cowboy suit. He subpoenaed Jesus Christ, John F. Kennedy and the Pope. The jury in that case found him guilty in an hour, as in one day and sentenced him to death. So another Texas jury. So it's a tough defense in Texas.
COOPER: But you know, Danny, in this case, as you know, I mean, you have psychiatric experts saying one thing, another saying something different, all the expert witnesses, I mean, they aren't created equal, but it's often contradictory.
CEVALLOS: Very much so. And in fact, that's why you see such a huge disparity in insanity cases. With sometimes even very similar scientific or psychiatric evidence. Ultimately, all that science has to be decided upon by a lay jury and that's why you get those inconsistent results. So we've seen these arguments before and juries have the power to accept or reject them. Texas courts have said that insanity is not strictly a medical determination. It is also a moral determination and a determination that our jury makes and not at the hospital.
COOPER: Danny Cevallos, Jeff Toobin, Paul Callan. Guys, thanks very much, fascinating stuff.
More now on the V.A. releasing this man, because I think it's important to just remind everybody about this. The V.A. released him against the wishes of his family who say that they were worried that he was a threat to himself and to others. That angle tonight from our Gary Tuchman.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT(voice-over): What if, what if does the V.A. Hospital in Dallas which had "American Sniper" Chris Kyle and Chad Littelton's killer is a patient on four occasions listened to this woman, Eddie Ray Routh's mother.
During the trial she said under oath she told the V.A. her son was a danger to himself and others because of his PTSD and had begged V.A. employees not to let him out. What if? We don't know if her daughter also expressed concerns to the V.A. But her views about her brother's mental state became clear in a frantic 911 call just after the killings.
LAURA BLEVINS, EDDIE RAY ROUTH'S SISTER: He said that he killed two guys, they went out shooting range. Like he's all crazy. He's (beep) psychotic.
TUCHMAN: Eddie Ray Routh's mother testify that eight days before the murder, Hospital officials here the V.A. called her and said they were releasing Eddie and that she needed to pick him up. She testified, she absolutely pleaded with them not to let him go.
But they did let him go, even though he had threatened in the past to kill his family and himself. So why did the hospital release him? We went to the Dallas V.A. Hospital in an attempt to get some answers.
I'm Gary Tuchman with CNN.
Even before we were able to declare what we were there for, a security guard showed up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have the approval of the public affairs office?
Sir, my name is Gary Tuchman with CNN. How are you? We're doing a story about Eddie Ray Routh. One of the basis (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have the approval of the public affairs? Where it is right now?
TUCHMAN: Yes, That's we're here to find out. We want to do a story about patients who maybe dangerous who are let out and why they're let out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No film until you get the approval of the Public Appearance Officer. Thank you.
TUCHMAN: We were then ordered to turn off the camera and the public affairs people said no to an interview. After telling us several days ago, they would consider it and then signing us a written response instead in which the V.A. declared that due to federal regulations and the ongoing trial, "we are not able to provide you with patient health information regarding Eddie Ray Routh." But then added, "although Post Traumatic Stress Disorder may be associated with increased risk of aggression, research shows individuals with PTSD are not dangerous, most of the behaviors are mild. The majority of veterans and non- veterans of PTSD do not engage in violence." But it's not just members of Routh's family who feel the V.A. did not
take proper care in evaluating him. Former Navy SEAL Brandon Webb who run the Navy SEAL sniper program is course manager, was friends with Chris Kyle.
BRANDON WEBB, NAVY SEAL COURSE MANAGER: I got to know Chris when he was a new guy checking in to SEAL team three.
TUCHMAN: Brandon Webb says he himself had PTSD and was given terrible posttraumatic stress care with a different V.A. Hospital. He says he was never clearly informed if the powerful drugs he was given was safe to take at the same time.
WEBB: I don't hold all of the blame on the V.A., but they should have done a much better job of diagnosing this guy. And you certainly don't let somebody like that just out on the street and throw back pills at the situation.
TUCHMAN: And listen to this from Texas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnston, whom we met up with at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport.
REP. EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSTON (D), TEXAS: I was a nurse at the Veteran's Administration here in Dallas.
TUCHMAN: She was the chief psychiatric nurse in Eddie Ray Routh's hospital. Congresswoman Johnson worked in the 1970s. She says today, she receives many complaints from V.A. employees saying they're afraid they could lose their jobs if they speak out to hospital administrators about patient care sometimes being compromised.
JOHNSTON: You cannot manage an institution by intimidation and think that you're going to build the trust of the people that work for you to be focused on patient care when they're focused on survival.
TUCHMAN: We asked the V.A. about that allegation. As of yet, no comment.
If you are still in that hospital today, what would you have done? What you have said?
JOHNSTON: There's no way that you can just discharge a patient when the people closest to them realize how sick they are.
TUCHMAN: In a written statement, the V.A. told us, "We are proud of our mental health program and our mental health professionals." But their former patient Eddie Ray Routh killed two people right after he got out. Two brave men who fought for their country. What if?
COOPER: So Gary, what should a family do? I mean, if they have a loved one in a V.A. Hospital and they believed that person would be dangerous to release.
TUCHMAN: Anderson, it's an important question. Unfortunately, there's no perfect answer. But doctors I've talked to not affiliated with the V.A. say be respectful but you can get the faces of your loved ones, doctors, nurses, social workers, if you think it's a danger for them to be released from the hospital. Aggressively lobby for that.
Also I want to tell you, we just received a statement from the local hospital here in Dallas responding to the allegations of intimidation by the administration against employees, the hospital saying "That it is focused on further developing a culture of patient safety and empowering our staff at all levels with the education tools and processes to speak up if they believe improvement to care can be made." Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Gary, I appreciate important story, thanks.
A quick reminder, this case is now in the hands of the jury as we've been reporting. It could return a verdict at any time, we'll of course go back to Texas if and when that happens tonight. Whenever that happens.
Coming up next, late word on the Southern California train crash investigation and what it was like to be in one of those cars as it flew off the tracks and tipped over moving fast. We'll have all the breaking news as federal investigators arrive on scene.
And on top of all the damage already, yet another deadly winter storm is on the way. Georgia declaring a state of emergency already. The latest on that and where it's all heading when we continue.
COOPER: Investigators and officials talking to reporters right now at the scene of this morning's fiery train wreck outside of Los Angeles. Already one big new item, we just learned that the driver of the truck that got hit who left the scene after the crash is in custody charged with hit-and-run. The crash happened as you may know, in the city of Oxnard in Ventura County about an hour of Northwest of down town L.A. A double deck metro link commuter train hit a produce (ph) truck at a road crossing and the truck that burst into flames, four rail cars left the track. Amazingly so far, there had been no fatalities.
However, the number of passengers as well as the train's engineer are in pretty rough shape. They are at area hospitals. Our Kyung Lah is on the scene, she joins us now with all the latest details. So this new felony hit-and-run charges against the driver of the truck that doesn't mean authorities think that driver meant to leave his trucks on the track, does it?
KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. They do say that they don't feel that this was a deliberate act. That's actually a quote, that they don't feel this was deliberate. But the result is still the same. They do believe that the driver of this produce truck made a wrong turn. He mistook the railway as a roadway and now because of what is happened, they say he should be charged. 54-year- old Jose Alejandro Sanchez Ramirez, he left the scene and that's really at the heart of these charges, Anderson. He was found a mile and a half away 45 minutes after the crash, appeared to have not called 9-1-1 but simply left.
COOPER: And do we know if the crossing arms, the warning lights, the bells at the railroad tracks, were they working properly this morning?
LAH: That's still has to be determined but it may not actually matter. And here's why. Because he mistook the railway as the roadway, he actually made that turn into the train's path long before the train actually would have started those signals from starting. So that's what's really key here. Is that he did it before the arms were down.
COOPER: In metro link invested, I understand, in new technology after an accident back in 2008. Investigators just think that technology is why none of the rail cars actually crumpled up, correct?
LAH: Yes. And that is actually key and perhaps something for other parts of this country to pay attention to. Because it's this collision energy management system. It basically fortifies each train car. If there is an accident, yes, there will be flipping over. Yes, there will be people are hurt by the jostling but because the train cars aren't crumpling, you won't have the severe injuries where people are crushed and that's really key here.
COOPER: All right. Kyung Lah, appreciate that. As we said no fatalities that we've know so far. Although some people were hurt, we want to tell you what it was like to actually be in one of those cars. A man named Joel Bingham had just boarded the train. He was on his way to work in the city of Chatsworth when the train hit the truck.
Joel, you were on the second car on the train. Walk me through what happened right before the crash. What did you see, what did you hear?
JOE BINGHAM, METROLINK TRAIN CRASH SURVIVOR: Well, I work on train cars for a living and I realize that the train was definitely in emergency. And we were stopping fast. Normally it's a mechanical issue or something and happened to, I felt the bumps so I knew we hit something. As we went through the crossing, I saw the car blow up right outside the window and we started rocking and rolling. We went right on the ground there. And just incredible feeling, you know, we're OK for a little while and then we went on our side and it got a little strange.
COOPER: So you actually saw the train hitting the vehicle?
BINGHAM: I felt it hit. I felt the impact but as I came to the crossing, the car exploded. I guess our car was derailed and sparking and a sparks caught the van on fire and it was paint inside and the paint exploded. As I went by, I saw the explosion. We started going to ground. I yelled at the guy across the way, are you OK? Are you OK? We were OK for a while, finally we went on a 45 degree angle. The lights went out, stuff started flying everywhere. And we had to fend for yourself. And it felt like an eternity until we came to a stop.
COOPER: How long do you think it actually was from the time from the initial incident to actually going over, you know, for the train car tipping over?
BINGHAM: Well, normally it takes 55, you know, 50 miles -- five miles per hour, it take us about a mile to stop. We stop in three train lengths. The engineer definitely -- the engineer definitely set the emergency brakes, brakes was set before impact. And once we hit at impact, the lead car did a 180 and my car went by at 60 miles an hour on the side.
COOPER: Really, 60 miles per hour? So when that's happening, what is going through your mind?
BINGHAM: Well, I know people in the past stiffened up in the accident got injured, so I thought I better stay loose. So I grabbed the pole, a pole that was there and hang on like -- and flip around like a flag on the pole and got a little beat up, but I hung in there. Just outrageous.
COOPER: So you were able to wrap your arms around this pole and just kind of hang on?
BINGHAM: Well, I grabbed on just with my hands and just held on as until the train came to a stop. It felt like in slow motion. Everyone on the train agreed it felt like slow motion. It felt like it took, you know, half a minute to stop but I think it was a lot quicker than that because we were on the track and next thing we know we were on the dirt stopped.
COOPER: Do you have time to think back during that? I mean, do you have time to, you know, the things flashing through your eyes?
BINGHAM: Well, I definitely have to say I had a flash of death. It was a definitely a second there, I looked over the guy across the way and I didn't say him, but I thought man, we might be dead right now.
COOPER: Really, you thought this was it?
BINGHAM: I definitely thought I was going. I thought this was it. It flashed. Then we finally came to a stop and we were OK. And I went into rescue mode. And I yelled and said, did anyone hurt -- is anyone hurt, a couple people said yes. I remove one of the safety windows and told everybody, listen to my voice because it was dark. Come to my voice and I'll get you out of the safety window. I helped everyone out. I got out front and I went looking for my engineer. And the front of the train was gone. Turned out he did a 180 and was in the ditch behind me. I went looking for him. As I got there I go, oh my God, my engineer is might be dead and I found him. And he said I'm the engineer and we both started helping people until the fire department got there.
COOPER: So were you working on this train or do you just happened to be on this train?
BINGHAM: I happened to be on this train. I work at a firm in Chatsworth called TIGM streetcar manufacturing and it was my third day at work as a machinist there and I called them and told them I had a 60-mile-per-hour fiery train cash and I didn't think I would be make it in on time. And they saw me -- they saw me on the news and I probably go to the doctor, so I did.
COOPER: Well, on the people in that car are incredibly lucky to have you in that car to help them. How are you feeling now?
BINGHAM: Still a little in shock. A little beat up. I'm a little sore. But my engineer/conductor left on stretchers. They did everything they could. They were great. The rescue crew was incredible. Gave us blankets and water and everything. Just, everything went just as good as it possibly can and I just want to say that you know, rail coach travel is the safest form of travel in the whole world, safer than walking. You know, a hundred of us all walked away no problem.
COOPER: Joel, yes, it is. It's incredible that that fact and I'm glad you're standing and doing OK. And thank you so much for all you did. I appreciate talking to you, Joel.
BINGHAM: OK, thank you too, Anderson.
COOPER: It's amazing.
There is more breaking news to tell you about tonight. A new line of deadly weather, a state of emergency announced for tomorrow in Georgia. The death toll rising from the ice and cold already. Late details on where it's heading. We'll give you those next.
Also was it a road rage killing or something else? Neighbors who knew about the victim and the suspect and their relationship are now coming forward. Details ahead.
COOPER: A quick update now on jury deliberations in "American Sniper" trial. Jurors got the case of 7:36 Eastern time, at 7:36 Eastern time today. So they had it for a bit less than an hour. Now, we're at the courthouse throughout the night obviously. We'll bring you a verdict if and when it comes tonight.
In the meantime, more breaking news tonight. A new wave of dangerous weather spreading across the Southern states, that's on top of freezing temperatures and icy conditions that have already claimed a lot of lives. At least 30 in the state of Tennessee alone. The forecast shortly, but first Randi Kaye on what it's already looking like out there.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tennessee may have been the hardest hit. Slick roads and spinning tires made for some frustrated drivers in Bradley County. This guy slammed into a guardrail.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hit an icy spot on the road or slushy spot and just held on for the ride.
KAYE: Ice and big rigs don't mix. The driver of this truck learned that the hard way. Crawling to safety after losing control on an icy patch of Interstate 45 southwest of Dallas. The truck's cab smashed through the guardrail on a bridge Monday afternoon. On Tuesday, the truck was still dangling dangerously gripping the edge of the roadway. Interstates all over north Texas are a mess thanks to icy conditions.
NINO ARZON, DRIVER: There's a path that the cars have made and I've just kind of followed those paths.
KAYE: This 25 car pile-up outside Amarillo, Texas, snarled traffic for miles and it's not just the roadways. It's the runways too. This American Airlines jet veered off the taxi way at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. Luckily, none of the 68 people on board Flight 296 were hurt. They deplaned through an emergency exit. Runways at DWF reopened Tuesday after more than a thousand flights were canceled Monday. More than half of all the inbound and outbound flights for the evening. Further east, slow going in parts of North Carolina. A glaze of ice covering the highways brought traffic to a crawl.
Already, state highway patrol has responded to more than 1700 collisions. And look at this. North Carolina's Wrightsville Beach dusted with snow. Not exactly bikini weather. In West Little Rock, Arkansas, one of the worst hills, reservoir road forced some drivers to abandon their cars and others ended up in ditches or trees.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of cars have been trying and not many have been making it.
KAYE: This man has been trying to help others.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've only given rides to three people. Driven four cars up the hill.
KAYE: Even Georgia got a healthy dose of the white stuff. Numerous counties canceled school thanks to hazardous driving conditions and the promise of more snow and ice to come. Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
KAYE: Makes you wish for summer. Again, there are weather advisories up all across the south. Tonight, Jennifer Gray is in the weather center tracking them all. So, this is the fourth winter storm to hit the South in the last ten days. What's the latest tonight?
JENNIFER GRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, about 62 million people in the path of this one, Anderson. And we do have those winter storm warnings in effect anywhere from basically Dallas all the way to Charlotte, and we also have those winter storm watches that go in place all the way to Raleigh and near the coast. So this one is going to be a big one, but it's going to be a fast mover. And the other good news with this one, it's going to be more of a snow maker, less of an ice maker. And that's what we had all those problems with the last storm with all of the ice. We still have a little bit of that ice, but you can see Dallas is mainly snow. By the time we go through tomorrow morning, we could see ice through the Arc (INAUDIBLE), North Louisiana, southern Arkansas and then it just moved over to the east. North Georgia at length of metro could see snow tomorrow afternoon all the way through Thursday morning. This is going to continue to push to the east impacting North Carolina once again, Virginia. A lot of the same places that we saw with this last storm. What we can expect with snow accumulation, we get to 1 to 2 inches in Dallas, possibly, about an inch or two in your Shreveport and then the numbers just go up. We could see 4 to 6 inches around charlotte, 68 inches in the North Georgia Mountains, and even metro Atlanta could pick up one to three inches.
All right, Jennifer, thanks. I hope they are ready. If you were watching the program last night, you might have heard a very tragic story take a very bizarre turn. What many have thought was a case of road rage could be turning into something else entirely. What exactly was the relationship between this young man and the woman he's accused of murdering? Details ahead.
COOPER: Well, tonight a strange twist in that Las Vegas shooting death first described as a road rage incident. New details are now painting a much more complicated picture. 19-year-old Erich Nowsch is accused of killing 44-year-old Tammy Meyers nearly two weeks ago. He was arrested a week later. Now, police are still searching for his alleged accomplice. As you may remember, the victim and suspect knew each other. The victim's husband saying his wife had been counseling the alleged killer. There have also been reports that he's been supplying her with prescription drugs. Last night on the program, one of the suspect's attorneys did not deny it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
C. CONRAD CLAUS, ATTORNEY FOR ERICH NOWSCH: The media and hopefully the police have had some contact with some people that have indicated that there may have been some exchanges that went on in the park between Tammy Meyers and Erich Nowsch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: He says he doesn't know for sure, but he wants anybody with information to come forward. His answer prompted us to investigate further today. More on what we uncovered now from Sara Sidner with the latest.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Robert Meyers stood before a crowd of reporters to explain the relationship between his wife and 19-year-old Erich Nowsch after it was revealed that this was not a random case of road rage and that his wife knew the man suspected of killing her.
ROBERT MEYERS, HUSBAND OF VICTIM: My wife spent countless hours at that park consoling this boy and he's probably watching this right now and I know he's got to feel bad because she was really good to him. She fed him, she gave him money, she told him to pull his pants up and to be a man.
SIDNER: But a friend of Nowsch who lives in the neighborhood said there was something else connecting Meyers and the murder suspect.
FRIEND OF ERICH NOWSCH: Mrs. Meyers used to come to the park and like, try to purchase things off him. I don't know what she was purchasing, but I knew that she would talk to him previously. I mean, that's what I just heard around, but I didn't know for a fact that they knew each other.
SIDNER: She purchased things off of him like bud, like what?
FRIEND OF ERICH NOWSCH: Oh, now, she smoked - she smoked weed, so and right here in this park area, is weed being sold everyday all the time.
SIDNER: Five neighbors we talked to said when the sun goes down, Unsung (ph) Park turns from a pristine calm place to an active drug scene.
RICKIE ROBERTSON, SINGER: I got two elementary school children and I don't like them over there just because, you know, it's a bad crowd. I can see them smoking pot, you know.
SIDNER: And that's not all. A source for the city who could not be on camera for fear of losing a job told me that Erich Nowsch had a reputation as an alleged marijuana dealer in this park and that another resident trying to keep this park drug-free got into a tussle with Nowsch. Resident Rickie Robertson was there that day and witnessed what happened, but could not identify whether Nowsch was involved. Park marshals could not find any incident report that matched that case.
(on camera): What have you seen going on in that park recently?
ROBERTSON: A few months ago I saw an argument with an elderly gentleman and a teenager and what had happened was I guess he must have caught him selling weed or something but he was wrestling him to the ground telling me to call the cops and, you know, as he's doing this, he ripped open this kid's bags and had one of those gallon Ziploc bags full of marijuana.
SIDNER: Nowsch seemed fond of pictures of marijuana, this is a shot from his Instagram, but that does not make him a drug dealer.
But there's this from Nowsch's attorney who told me Nowsch asked police if he could smoke marijuana to calm down in order to surrender the day of the standoff.
(on camera): It's clear your client takes drugs. Has he indicated to you that he also sells drugs?
C. CONRAD CLAUS, ATTORNEY FOR ERICH NOWSCH: That's also a little bit early to get into right now. I think a lot of people have drawn in that conclusion, and it's probably, given the surrounding circumstances, and not an unreasonable conclusion to draw depending upon what you're defining as drugs.
SIDNER: I asked Tammy Meyers' husband, robber about the new allegations concerning this wife's involvement with Nowsch. Meyers sent me this text. "We would love to pee test to prove, I have never done drugs in lie. And certainly never would let my kids. This is getting sicker by the day."
We also asked Nowsch's attorney who says this was absolutely not a case of road rage between Meyers and Nowsch, but claims it's a case of self-defense.
(on camera): Was he selling her drugs?
CLAUS: Right now, it's probably a little bit premature to make a definitive statement. What I can say, as our independent witnesses that have made statements. I think it would be reckless at this point and tell either myself or another member of the defense team has a chance to talk to them personally.
COOPER: And Sara Sidner joins me now. I just want to go back to what that guy, the blurry faced guy who you talked to said about, I just want to be clear. He doesn't have any direct knowledge of Tammy Meyers buying anything from Erich Nowsch. He was just saying what he had heard around, correct?
SIDNER: That is correct. But then when he was asked again, well, what was she buying and you heard the statement that he made. Now, we can tell you this about the person. The reason why that person is blurred is because he has apparently received threats, threats to harm him and his family and so we could not show you the face of that person. This case, tragic, I think that what's happening (NO AUDIO) is they've been saying a lot of different things, very emotional as you might imagine. And they just can't stand some of the information that is coming out. They don't believe it themselves. And they're deeply in shock, and they're still grieving. And no one is saying that there is any reason why Tammy Meyers should have been shot and killed, but the details of this case seem to change every single day, Anderson.
COOPER: And I just want to be clear, though, that in the statement that Mr. Meyers gave, he said about him taking a drug test, he's never done drugs, his kids haven't, he didn't actually mentioned anything about the wife in that statement, is that correct?
SIDNER: No, I pressed him on that. When I pressed him to say, wait, now, I just want to be clear. You mentioned your children and you mentioned yourself, but I asked specifically about your wife or anyone else in the house. Can you clarify for me? And then he wrote back, look, from now on, the district attorney and the police will be the only ones that will speak on my behalf in this case. So he has pretty much stopped talking, and the family is grieving, Anderson. COOPER: Obviously. And it's important to point out a lot of this can
be unfair because Mrs. Meyers cannot speak for herself or defend herself because she's been shot to death. It's important to remember that. Thank you, Sara.
Just to add, sounds like a crime story plot. The victim tells police his mother was taken hostage while he was forced to rob his own bank. Also desperate families trying to get their daughters back before their daughters joins ISIS. Details ahead.
COOPER: A lot of questions tonight about an incident in Connecticut where police say the victim of a home invasion was forced to attempt a bank heist while his mother remained in the house, strapped with what seemed to be explosive devices. Will Ripley reports.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Detectives in unmarked cars search for clues in this Connecticut home, trying to figure out the mystery of what happened on this quiet cul de sac.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMAL: It's a very bizarre story no matter which way you put it.
RIPLEY: Investigators say it was early Monday morning when the man who lives here was pulling into his driveway, getting ready to go inside. He said he told them there were two men waiting here and they forced their way in. The homeowner, Matt Yussman, tells police the two men took him and his mother hostage, tying them up, waiting for daylight, strapping to him what looked like an explosive, but was later deemed safe and is still being analyzed. And then Yussman says the men ordered him to drive alone 20 minutes to the credit union where he's the CFO, threatening to blow him up if he didn't rob it and bring back the cash. New Britain's mayor says police have some key questions for Yussman, like why didn't he call 911?
MAYOR ERIN B. STEWART, NEW BRITAIN, CT: Certainly he could be the victim here, but that's why we're going through the investigative process to try to figure that out.
RIPLEY: Instead, Yussman called the CEO of Achieve Financial Credit Union, telling him to get the money ready. The credit union evacuated. Police called in the bomb squad, put schools in two towns on lockdown, and shut down this busy highway for more than three hours.
STEWART: It's a very scary day, not just for this man but for the people in the area too.
RIPLEY: The story is eerily similar to the bizarre case of Brian Wells. In 2003, the pizza delivery man claimed strangers strapped a bomb to him and forced him to rob a bank. The scene played out live on TV. When police intervened, the bomb went off, killing Wells. The case remained a mystery for years until 2007, when authorities determined Wells was in on the scheme all along. But tonight in Connecticut, investigators are looking for two masked men.
Is there any security video of these men, has anyone else seen them?
STEWART: I don't know. That's all part of the investigation that's ongoing.
RIPLEY: Nobody came to the door at Yussman's house. Police say he's being extremely cooperative, facing intense questioning.
STEWART: The whole story is just something right out of a movie.
RIPLEY: Right now, it's a mystery, and nobody knows how it will end.
COOPER: Will Ripley joining us from New Britain, Connecticut. Are police saying anything about what they think really happened?
RIPLEY: They know that there was some sort of a complex scheme to rob this credit union behind me, and they also know there was an incident at that house about 20 minutes from here. But what they don't know, Anderson, is what to call it. You notice the language they are using is not home invasion, bank robbery scheme. They are looking for two suspects, but they are also looking for every possibility in this case, Anderson.
COOPER: Will, appreciate it. Thanks for the reporting.
Let's get the latest on other stories, we're following Amara Walker with a 360 bulletin. Amara.
AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Anderson. UK officials say they believe three teenage girls from London have made it to Syria in a suspected plan to join ISIS. Airport surveillance pictures showed the three girls who flew from London to Turkey one week ago.
President Obama today vetoed a measure to greenlight the construction of the controversial Keystone pipeline. The pipeline project would transport oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Opponents say the potential environmental risks are not worth the jobs it would create.
And the Justice Department today announced no civil rights charges will be brought against George Zimmerman for killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman was acquitted of criminal charges in 2013. Anderson?
COOPER: Amara, thanks.
Again, we are awaiting a verdict in the "American Sniper" trial. We'll break in with that whenever the jury reaches the decision. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Before we go, quick update in the "American Sniper" trial. Jurors have it. Let's go back to Ed Lavandera at the courthouse. Ed? LAVANDERA: Hi, Anderson. This jury is basically deciding the fate of
Eddie Ray Routh. They started deliberating about 6:30 Central Time, 7:30 p.m. Eastern, and it's basically two decisions they have to make. If they find him guilty, he would be sent to prison for life without the possibility of parole. There is no other option in terms of sentencing, and if he is found not guilty by reason of insanity, he will be sent to a state prison hospital, and there is one or two locations that he would be sent to, but that's essentially the decision this jury must make tonight.
COOPER: Any word yet on how late they may deliberate?
LAVANDERA: We've got a little bit of an indication. But we're really here at the discretion of the jury. We've been told that everything is in place to let them work as late as they want to go tonight. It's really at the discretion of the jury, and I don't think even the court officials know, but if there's a verdict reached tonight, the judge also says he's prepared to go directly into sentencing. So it could be a late night or they could be coming back here tomorrow.
COOPER: Ed Lavandera, appreciate the update, thank you. That does it for us. We'll see you again at 11:00 p.m. Eastern for another edition of 360. CNN special report, "NO LAUGHING MATTER: INSIDE THE COSBY ALLEGATIONS" starts now.