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California Wildfire; Trump: We Can't Keep Helping Puerto Rico Forever; Black Man Beaten at Racist Rally Faces Charges; North American Family Rescued from Taliban; "Dirty John" Podcast Swells "L.A. Times" Readership. Aired 12mn-1aET

Aired October 13, 2017 - 00:00   ET



[00:00:12] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles.

Ahead this hour.

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: The deadliest week of wildfires in California history and they're not even close to being extinguished.

VAUSE: The aide won't last forever. Three weeks after Puerto Rico was left devastated by hurricane Maria, President Trump appears to warn the island that federal help has a limit.

SESAY: Plus "Dirty John", the popular podcast that will make think again about ever going on a date.

VAUSE: That's not me.

Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world.

I'm John Vause.

SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay. NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

VAUSE: The death toll from the wildfires raging in California has climbed to 31; the flames so intense that bodies of some victims were reduced to ash and bones.

Hundreds of people are still reported missing and there are fears that winds will spread the flames even further.

SESAY: Fires have raced through California's wine country since Sunday night destroying at least 3,500 homes and businesses and burning nearly 80,000 hectares throughout the state.

Sleep-depraved soot-covered firefighters are working to contain the wildfires even as some of their own homes have been hit.

VAUSE: Well, a mandatory evacuation order is in effect for Calistoga about 5,000 people in Napa Valley.

SESAY: Our own Dan Simon is closely following the conditions there. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're on the front lines as firefighters try to keep another town from burning. The fire is coming up this hill. You can see the flames below. The smoke is billowing.


SIMON: In the hills above Calistoga, it is a race to keep up with the flames.

Endless fuel in the form of dry trees and brush make it a daunting task.

HEAD: It's really steep. It's rugged. There's a lot thick vegetation. There's wind. There's fire blowing everywhere.

Controlled burns like this one are meant to block the fire from advancing but a half mile down the road. The fire has done just that, inching down this hill towards the community.

The team puts it out. They're exhausted. They use fire hoses as rope to make it back up the hill.

We find this firefighter trying to catch his breath.


SIMON: How difficult has it been the last couple of days?

ALLHISER: It's been busy. That's (INAUDIBLE)

SIMON: This is absolutely the worst fire I've ever seen in California.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Biggest because of the amount of people that are affected. You have whole swaths of neighborhoods that look like a bomb has gone off. It looks like we've been bombed

SIMON: The fire swept through so quickly here, residents say they didn't have time to grab even the most basic belongings.

MARISSA CRUZ, FIRE VICTIM: I took a photo of my brother. I lost my brother 11 years ago and I wanted to make sure I had a photo of us.

SIMON: Marissa Cruz, trying to keep the loss of her three-bedroom house in perspective.

CRUZ: This is all just stuff, you know. At the end of the day, just stuff.

But man, the smell is terrible.

SIMON: Back on the line, crews working overtime with little or no sleep.


SIMON: You're not been able to really get any rest?

CHARLEY: No. You have to keep up with the fires so that way you can try to save home, property and lives.

SIMON: The number of those said to be missing continues to fluctuate but right now it stands at about 400 -- a scary number to be sure but authorities hope it will be pared down as people report that their loved ones have been found safe.

Dan Simon, CNN -- Calistoga, California.


VAUSE: The long, exhausting days are taking a toll on firefighters in Santa Rosa where the town's fire station was burned to the ground earlier this week leaving the crew with nowhere to rest so they headed for the nearest piece of lawn. At a nearby (INAUDIBLE) firefighters crawled up on lawn chairs, used rocks for pillows and they just slept on the road.

Fire Battalion chief Mike Mohler joins me now on the phone. He is with Cal-Fire, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Destruction (SIC)). Mike -- thank you for taking the time for this update.

What is the latest right now in bringing these 21 fires under control in particular the biggest of the Atlas and the Tubbs fire?

MIKE MOHLER, FIRE BATTALION CHIEF, CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY AND FIRE PROTECTION (via telephone): Well, right now we have over 8,000 firefighters on the line battling these fires we're over 191,000 acre. Unfortunately and you reported, we have over 35 homes and commercial structures that have been confirmed destroyed. And unfortunately with the fire conditions that we experienced this past week, we expect that number to climb.

[00:04:56] We are at 3 percent containment on the Atlas fire. It may seem small but we have such a large fire that really our priorities right now are still to protect life and property.

VAUSE: How concerned are you about this red flag warning for increased wind speeds as the week goes on?

MOHLER: It's very concerning to us. Any time we have to open fire lines we look at that, let's say that 3 percent containment on the Atlas fire. That's just a small snapshot of the open fire line that we have.

And then when you bring in red flag conditions and remember that red flag doesn't mean that there's always going to be wind. It also brings the temperatures but it's the humidity levels drop into the single digits.

So I can tell you we've ordered additional resources in anticipation of this red flag warning. But definitely it is high on our radar and we will do everything in our power to hold it to where it's at.

VAUSE: There are reinforcements coming in as well, is that correct, from out-of-state?

Mohler: That is correct. Actually, nationwide and we have some international resources that will be arriving also to assist with this firefight.

VAUSE: We keep watching this death toll tick upwards, many of the victims if you do the ages here, they seem to be elderly. Are they especially vulnerable in a situation like this?

MOHLER: They can be, absolutely. But regardless of age, this fire in 12 hours can cause so much devastation, you know. The fire is being pushed by a sustained wind at 50 miles an hour with gusts at 80 miles an hour. Regardless, if you aren't prepared, it can catch anybody off guard.

And unfortunately, as it stands right now we have 31 that have perished. And again, our hearts and prayers from all first responders are with those families affected by this.

VAUSE: Yes. If you look at the extent of the destruction so far, it seems almost beyond belief. Are you expecting more lives could be lost and more property will be destroyed before all of this is done?

MOHLER: Well again, we're doing our best to, you know, priority is life and property. We do have that missing accounted number right now. That is troubling for us.

But we have to remember that some people that did evacuate may have gone out of the area to stay with family members. That could be a possibility too. And we are hoping for the best. But unfortunately again, that fire moves so fast and there were (INAUDIBLE) that number could possibly rise.

VAUSE: Mike -- we wish you all the very best and thank you once more for taking the time for the update. It is very much appreciated.

MOHLER: Thank you. Thank you so much.

VAUSE: Well, President Trump once again hitting out at Puerto Rico in a new series of tweets. Here it starts, "Puerto Rico survived the hurricanes, now financial crisis looms largely of their own making says Sharyl Attkisson." She's a reporter on the right wing Sinclair Broadcasting Group.

Mr. Trump went on "A total lack of accountability says the governor. Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes. Congress to decide how much to spend."

SESAY: And finally, "We cannot keep FEMA, the military and the first responders who have been amazing under the most difficult circumstances in Puerto Rico forever".

The mayor of San Juan who has been feuding with the President over relief effort fired back this, writing, "Your comments about Puerto Rico are unbecoming of a commander in chief. They seem more to come from a hater-in-chief."

Chief of staff John Kelly backs up the President's remarks -- sort of.


JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: This country, our country will stand with those American citizens in Puerto Rico until the job is done. But the tweet about FEMA and DOD with military is exactly accurate. They're not going to be there forever. And the whole point is to start to work yourself out of it. You are going to transition to the rebuilding process.


VAUSE: Joining us now, political commentator Mo'Kelly, host of the "Mo'Kelly Show" here in Los Angeles; also CNN political commentator, John Phillips -- a Trump supporter, a talk radio host and a political columnist. He's very busy.

Ok. Thank you for being here.


VAUSE: Here's the former governor of Puerto Rico with a question a lot of people have been asking about the President's, tweets when it comes to Puerto Rico.


MAYOR CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: He's treating Puerto Rico different than he treated -- than the U.S. treated Haiti. For some reason he's taking all of his anger out in Puerto Rico. There's a big disconnect with the big heart of the volunteers and the people that are here working on the ground and frankly the big mouth of the President of the United States.


VAUSE: A worthy comment but it wasn't the one I thought that was going to be there. That was actually the mayor of San Juan. She makes a good point.

But the question that the former governor of Puerto Rico was making, was why -- ok, fair enough, as John Kelly say, fair point -- why didn't the President make the same comment about Florida where FEMA currently is, and about Texas after Hurricane Harvey? New York, New Jersey, where there's still work being done after Hurricane Sandy -- John?

[00:10:00] JOHN PHILLIPS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the difference is that FEMA went into south Florida, FEMA went into Texas to assist them and the job of FEMA in a natural disaster is to help the local authorities. Both of those areas are financially solvent.

The island of Puerto Rico is bankrupt. They're insolvent. They're not able to pay their bills. And when you have a local government, a state government, city governments that don't have the resources to pay their bills, guess what suffers? The fire department suffers, the EMT suffers, the police department suffers.

And so therefore you're not dealing with the same local infrastructure and the same resources in Puerto Rico that you are in Texas and Florida.

And the fact of the matter is, yes, they were hit by two horrific hurricanes, huge hurricanes that destroyed the island. But guess what. Before that, they had a lot of problems that were intact that were in place there that would make it so that if a disaster did happen they wouldn't have the resources to combat it in the same way of Florida or Texas.


SESAY: Mo -- let me put it to you.

I mean, ok, so they had the preexisting conditions if you will. But now, we're in a situation where the majority of 3.4 million are basically in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. And is now the time --


SESAY: -- to --

KELLY: No. No.

SESAY: -- deal with that?

KELLY: No. It's almost like you don't discuss the business of the house in public. That is not the chief concern. It should be the fact that 89 percent of the island does not have electricity. There is almost no potable water.

Those are the things which need to be addressed. If a nuclear bomb, heaven forbid, had hit the island we would not be talking about the infrastructure or lack thereof or their debt. So one is really not really germane to the issue here.

Puerto Rico is still part of the United States. They may not be part of the electoral process but they're still American citizens. And I don't understand why this President feels the need to get in these tit-for-tat fights with local officials when it's more important to decide if we're going to be save all these people.

VAUSE: John -- if you take your argument to the extreme you're looking at a state's balance sheet is the level of service they receive from the federal government. Because the former governor of Puerto Rico said that basically Donald Trump is a racist.


VAUSE: Well, whatever, but, you know, that was his point of view. But your argument is that if the balance sheet of a state or a territory is not in good order -- what, they're second class citizens. They don't deserve the same treatment, the same emergency response that every other American citizen is entitled to?

PHILLIPS: No, you have to look at what the role of FEMA is. The role of FEMA --

VAUSE: This is also occurring to the military and others. This is --



Donald Trump is not a loving mother penguin that's going to go down there and chew up the food and spit it in her mouth. He's sending FEMA there to help local authorities and we sent 10,000 people down there and a general.

And at the press conferences that she's giving, she's standing right in front of bottles of water. She's standing right in front of medicine. She's standing right in front of food. And she doesn't have the resources to distribute that to her people.

The most dangerous place Puerto Rico right now is standing between that mayor and a camera.

SESAY: Just let me ask Mo this. You heard the President's comments and his tweets. We saw the visit. Is this his Katrina? What is this going to yield to him politically down the line?

Kelly: Well, the difference is during Katrina you saw a very different George Bush. You know, he might have gotten to the situation late. He understood that it was a humanitarian crisis. I'm not sure this president really understands that his job is not only to be the consoler-in-chief but also to remind them that they're part of this united America. He's not treating them like American citizens.

Now John may give the reason that they haven't pulled their weight or they're not trying as hard as they should to help themselves. But ultimately that's neither here nor there. This is a federal relief effort, not a local one

VAUSE: Ok. We heard from John Kelly, the White House chief of state. He made this very unusual appearance on Thursday. This is an attempt to right the ship amid reports of turmoil and chaos, unhappiness in the White House, also speculation about his own future. This is what he said.


KELLY: I would just offer to you that although I read it all the time pretty consistently, I'm not quitting today. I don't believe and I just talked to the President, I don't think I'm being fired today. And I am not so frustrated in this job that I'm thinking of leaving.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: He comes across as a serene Marine, a voice of calm. But John -- the very fact that Kelly had to come to the briefing room, hold a news conference -- doesn't that underscore the fact that, you know, job security is in short supply in this administration? And everything really isn't normal.

PHILLIPS: Yes. Any time an NBA coach gives a press conference where they say my job is secure, guess what, they're packing for Dallas.


PHILLIPS: Look, Trump is a guy who does not come from the world of politics, therefore these aren't people who have worked with him and worked for him for decades upon decades, like you would have if you were a governor or a senator. These were arranged marriages in many cases.

[00:15:04] And my guess is you do have egos bumping into one another there and you do have bouts where they say nasty things about one another and sometimes they get along and sometimes they don't.

I think that's part of the transition process when you take someone who's a non-politician and put them in a political institution like the White House.

SESAY: But Mo -- the President can ask for all the people to come out and speak all he wants, right? But the fact of the matter is the American public will judge him by what he achieves.

KELLY: Or does not achieve.

SESAY: Exactly.

KELLY: The larger issue is chaos. Remember when people were voting back in November they were angry. They were disenchanted with where our country was headed. He still hasn't brought back coal jobs. He still hasn't repealed and replaced Obamacare. And let's not forget this President is dealing with Puerto Rico. He's also dealing with North Korea. But he's spending his time tweeting about NBC and the NFL. That sends a very different a message to people who voted for him for a very specific reason.

To John's point they are very unhappy with where this country was headed. But he's not delivering.

VAUSE: All right. Very quickly -- health care because --

SESAY: That was part of --

VAUSE: President Trump did -- he signed or almost signed an executive order to roll back Obama-era state --

SESAY: Low cost plans. VAUSE: -- the low cost plans which are the ones that are subsidized

and replacing them with benefits that will be widely available that will be sold across state lines. The Democrats basically say this will single-handedly hike Americans' health premiums (INAUDIBLE) -- pointless sabotage.

John -- is this action by the President better than nothing?

PHILLIPS: I'm a process guy so I respect the separation of powers and I wish the Congress would put forth legislation that he could sign and we could fix all the problems with Obamacare that way.

That being said poor John McCain has his feelings hurt so he's going to hold any healthcare bill hostage. So until Bob Menendez goes to prison, I guess this is the best option we have on the table.

SESAY: Mo -- it is worth pointing out that the President is also -- Health & Human Services has announced that they're going to basically cut the subsidies, the cost saving reduction payments that they've been making monthly. Again, they're saying that the former administration overstepped. Again, back to what John was saying, the reaction is more low-income Americans are going to suffer.

KELLY: I'm sure that's what Tom Price would have to say. I forgot, he's not here anymore. But beyond that the question is did he create a problem or did he create a solution? This creates more of a problem. We believe that healthcare, at least in the short term, will be more unaffordable, more unavailable. If that is that is the process which is going to help us fix this healthcare system, then God help us.

SESAY: And just one very quick thing. John -- to you very quickly, the President is working on the assumption here that if Obamacare implodes in this manner, people are going to blame Democrats. That's a risky gamble according to some of the polling.

PHILLIPS: Well, if you listen to the critics, the critics are saying, you can't do this because if you do this anyone who can leave the Obamacare packages will. Well, that's what the Teachers Union say about vouchers and about charter schools.

But what does that tell you about how happy people are with the product? If the people who can leave will leave that means they don't like it.

VAUSE: Ok. Thank you very much.

SESAY: Gentlemen -- thank you.

VAUSE: Good to see you.


VAUSE: Well, when we come back, if a black man is a target of a white supremacist's beating, who gets charged? We'll tell you after the break. [00:18:21] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SESAY: In Charlottesville, Virginia, the city and a group of businesses filed a lawsuit hoping to prevent any more white supremacist rallies like the one back in August when an anti-racist protester was killed. The suit targets private militia groups including several leaders of the rally and it points to state law that prohibits unlawful paramilitary activity.

VAUSE: At that rally, one of the more notorious events -- a black man attacked by a group of white supremacists in a parking garage. And now, the man who was being beaten there, DeAndre Harris, he's the one facing charges of injuring a white supremacist on that day. Harris turned himself in to the state and was released on bond.

SESAY: Well, let's bring in Austin Dove. He's a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor. Austin -- thank you for being with us for this.


SESAY: Ok. So we just put up that video and showed a little bit of the vicious beating of DeAndre Harris that we all saw. So now he's facing a charge of unlawful wounding, the same charge as the folks who set upon him and gave him a beating and a kicking.

His lawyer described this move as very upsetting and insists that DeAndre is innocent of the charge. And we just want to show the two men who have been charged with beating DeAndre Harris and DeAndre himself -- all of them facing the same charges and counter-charges.

His lawyer says he's innocent of the charge suggesting this is cut and dry. Is it when we're talking about DeAndre? Is it a straightforward they've got no case here?

DOVE: I wouldn't agree with that proposition. And here's why. There's some evidence, and first of all to get to the threshold where they're going to actually bring charges against DeAndre Harris, they've got to have some evidence, either a witness, something corroborated, perhaps a video. And I know there is some information out there that it looks like some videos were turned over to the prosecution that look like Mr. Maris may have been involved in something himself.

But it's unlikely. It's unusual but it's very common for a person to on the one go out and be the, perhaps the victim of a crime in order to defend -- he could be the first and second he'd be the victim first and then later on be the perpetrator.

But somehow in the confluence of events that night it looks, that afternoon, it looks like perhaps Mr. Harris himself did something to someone else. So you can be both a defendant and victim all in the same course of events.

SESAY: Interesting. I mean one of the things that struck me about the way this unfolded was that Harold Ray Crewes, who has basically brought these charges against DeAndre Harris, he's saying he's a victim at the hands of DeAndre Harris.

He's a self-identified southern nationalist. This man is a racist. He now goes to the magistrate, Judge Merlyn Goeschl and basically makes his case. She issues an arrest warrant on these charges based solely on what he says and the video.

In other words, it seems as if she's taking the word of this man who clearly has some kind of agenda and running with that.

I mean does that strike you as odd. But it seems to me like they're taking the word of someone like Harold Ray Crewes and saying that that is enough to bring charges.

DOVE: It is unusual. And here's why. You have to consider the source like everything else. In this case the individual, Mr. Crewes is bringing these charges -- he has an ax to grind.

First of all, he himself has been identified as being involved in an assault. He's more than just, you know, sort of a passing witness and I can say I'm being objective here. He has, you know, some skin in the game.

So in this sense what he's trying to is sort of up step things and put the defense -- almost like he's turning the defense into an offense. And say now, I'm going to go after the people who went after me.

And it could be that there is, you know, obviously, the very same individual saying no, I'm the one who's a victim. So that's probably strategic.

And then we have to remember, in the context of all the political environment that we're in, the DA -- the prosecutor's office is in a very kind of precarious or delicate situation because now they've got to say, well, we have to consider this as well --

SESAY: Sure.

DOVE: -- if we out and out, you know, decline to file charges against people from white nationalist groups then we're going to look like we're doing the bidding for another organization.

SESAY: And it's worth pointing out to our viewers that obviously, he had to file a police report before he could go off and see the magistrate. He did file a report but the police in Charlottesville (ph), they were surprised by this move that he went off to seek the magistrate to seek a warrant. That basically, the thought they would get time to basically launch a full and thorough investigation.

[00:24:58] So again, it begs the question why not let an investigation take place? Why jump that step and go straight to the judge, to the magistrate?

DOVE: Yes. You actually make a very good point to me. It's a different procedure when you can go straight to the magistrate and have a warrant issued. You would have to meet a pretty high threshold. Ordinarily it's the police. They go to the prosecuting and things are reviewed and then the prosecutor cites hey, we're going to file a felony complaint. We're going to file a misdemeanor complain or some crime against this individual and then they go out and make the arrest.

But the fact that this individual -- and maybe in the course of events was that he went through some police agency, was frustrated by that, found another means to do it. The fact that it is a criminal case though it's means it's being handled by a prosecutor's office.

And it is unusual that he, an individual who's accused on the one hand is the same person that can kind of turn the tide and say, no I want to go after the person who's accused me.

SESAY: But the decision as to whether this goes to trial is going to basically rest with the commonwealth's attorney -- right.

DOVE: Correct.

SESAY: How do you see this going? I mean how much will external mood music, the moment we're in.

DOVE: Very much so -- I think that will play a very, very usual -- what's going to happen, when you weigh this whole thing out and I think there's one thing that's important to note. The sense of others is an important right that you have.

You know, you don't have to be defending only yourself. If someone that you know or care about, or are just, you know, you're being a good Samaritan -- someone is in distress and you come to their aid, then that's a lawful -- you can use reasonable force in that situation.

And that appears to be, from the information I reviewed, I'm sure there's more coming out, what Mr. Harris did. Mr. Harris said I'm coming to the aid of someone else. So someone else is using a flag as a spear or something like that and another friend or associate of his is being harmed he can intervene in that situation and use that reasonable force. That does not make -- constitute an assault in the sense that Mr. Crewes is insisting (ph).

So, yes, it is peculiar. It's unorthodox. And I would say that when this all washes out, Mr. Harris has a pretty strong position to say, wait second. All I did was lawful. I defended myself. I defended someone else when they were being set upon and in the other context I was just outright beaten.

SESAY: Austin Dove -- thank you so much for bringing some clarity to this. We'll see how it plays out. Thank you.

All right. Quick break here.

Comin up, after five long years in Taliban captivity, this Canadian- American family can finally return home. So why haven't they?


[00:30:02] Welcome back. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles.

I'm John Vause.

SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay. The headlines this hour --


SESAY: After five years in Taliban captivity a Canadian American family is still not back in North America because the father fears arrest once he reaches the U.S.

VAUSE: CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr explains more details now on how the rescue was carried out jointly by the U.S. and Pakistan.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): American citizen Caitlan Coleman and her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, and three small children born in captivity freed by Pakistani forces after being held five years by the Haqqani terror network.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A five-year hostage-taking is too long.

STARR (voice-over): A proof of life released last year showed family in grim circumstances. The rescue happened in the tribal region along the border of Afghanistan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been watching for the family.

STARR (voice-over): The first hint of release coming from President Trump Wednesday night.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Something happened today where a country that totally disrespected us called with very important news.

STARR (voice-over): The mission to get them back began with U.S. intelligence assets tracking the family. The U.S. then alerted Pakistan that the hostages were being moved into the country's mountainous northwestern tribal region.

Pakistani intelligence and military units moved on the information, stopping the vehicle and securing a perimeter around it. In a phone call to his parents, Josh said they were in a vehicle when gunfire broke out. Caitlan heard the captors say, "Kill the prisoners."

When they were finally retrieve all five of their captors were dead, Josh said he was slightly injured by shrapnel.

But after the rescue, Josh refused to board a U.S. C-130 aircraft that had been sent to pick them up. A U.S. official told CNN Josh expressed concern he could face arrest. There is no indication that will happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had arrangements to transport them back to the United States or to Canada anyway they wanted to go. Medical treatment along the way, a lot this would be psychological treatment. They've been essentially living in a hole for five years.

STARR (voice-over): Boyle had previously been married to the sister of Omar Qatar (ph), a Canadian citizen who was at Guantanamo Bay until he was returned to Canada in 2012.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Joshua Boyle was married into this Canadian family that was fairly notorious in Canada for its link to jihadism but there's no evidence that that has any bearing on what transpired, either with the kidnapping itself or the rescue operation.

STARR: The Taliban continue to hold three other Western hostages, two Americans and an Australian -- Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


SESAY: (INAUDIBLE) boarding a flight to the U.S., Josh Boyle's parents say he will return home.

VAUSE: Patrick and Linda Boyle sat down with CNN's Paula Newton after speaking to their son.


PATRICK BOYLE, JOSH'S FATHER: I think he wants to be home. He couldn't have made it more clear.

LINDA BOYLE, JOSH'S MOTHER: He told me the end when talked to him last on his -- his last words were, "I'll see you in a couple of days, Mom."


SESAY: We'll see if he comes home.

VAUSE: A long time.

SESAY: Yes. A very long time.

Once you listen to the podcast, "Dirty John," you won't be able to stop talking about it. After the break, we'll talk to the creator who tells the story of one woman and the dangerous stranger she married.




VAUSE: There are countless stories of people meeting their true love online and living happily ever after. But still, when you see the picture of that handsome stranger, you start (INAUDIBLE). You have to ask yourself, who am I actually talking to and what secrets do they have?

What aren't they telling me?

SESAY: The new podcast from the "L.A. Times," is gripping and has been widely praised for telling the story of one woman and her harrowing experience with the man she found out was nicknamed "Dirty John."



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These days, if you're one of the rare people who meet a violent death in Newport Beach, Matt Murphy is the prosecutor who will hear about it. The homicide case that landed on his desk in the summer of 2016 was particularly violent and it was unique in his experience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Number five is on the left, more to the upper arm area. Numbers six, seven and eight are close to the midline region of the upper back. All of these stab wounds are superficial wounds.

Wound number 13, which is the fatal wound, is the upper left eyelid, 1 cm in size, only wound number nine has some bruising around it and then another bruise noted around 12 and 13.

So when you review something like, what it tells you is this young woman fought like hell.


VAUSE: Christopher Goffard (ph), staff writer from the "Los Angeles Times" and cocreator of the podcast, "Dirty John," is here with us now.

Thank you for being here.


VAUSE: This is incredibly compelling. You just want to keep listening to it. What we just played there -- and that's when the podcast begins. Everything else in the series leads up to that moment, the story of Debra Newell (ph) she met John Mahan (ph) online and after five weeks they moved in together. And in two months or so they got married. It doesn't end well. That's all we're going to say.

I have to keep reminding myself, these are real people and this is real life. This isn't just some kind of piece of entertainment. GOFFARD (PH): Yes, this is journalism. This is a work of long-form

non-fiction. It's narrative journalism with the standards you would expect from "The "Los Angeles Times," married to a suspense audio format.

SESAY: You do such a great job of marrying different voices and different perspectives on this character.

Can you tell us a little bit how you found the story and constructed it?

It is beautifully constructed.

GOFFARD (PH): That's hard to talk about without giving away the ending. I don't want to spoil it for too many people.


GOFFARD (PH): I will say the death of one of the central characters gave rise to the story. I think that I structured it so that, by the end of part six, you understand that everything in the story points in a certain direction.

It's not a shaggy dog narrative that meanders toward no conclusion. This is a story with a set of characters in a very tense situation. It's basically about the scariest and strangest man I've ever written about in my 20-plus years as a reporter.

VAUSE: OK. Here's another brief clip from the podcast, not giving too much away, this seems almost a turning point for Debra Newell (ph). Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I opened the mailbox and there was a letter from a guy, from jail. And what happened was I thought why am I getting a letter from some from jail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She tore it open the letter and began reading there in the walkway. It said something like, "I'm so happy you've met the woman of your dreams. Hope you're well."

It sounded like she and John had actually been jailed together. She stood there frozen for a minute or two. She looked up and John was rushing toward her. She realized that he had been watching her on camera, that maybe he'd been watching her more than she realized.


VAUSE: The relationship goes from bad to worse from that point. What I thought it really highlights how hard it can be to actually get out of an abusive relationship. It answers that question in a very compelling way, where a lot of women are asked, why didn't you leave the guy?

You listen to this, it's not that simple. GOFFARD (PH): Yes, I hope it's a cautionary tale. I hope that it

raises awareness about a very serious issue, which is something called coercive control, which I didn't know a lot about before I got into this.

But this is a form of psychological manipulation in a relationship. It doesn't necessarily involve physical violence. But a partner can control another in psychological ways. They might install cameras to watch you. They might demand that you dress a certain way.

And control is the -- control is the issue. In the U.K. this is now a crime and people are being prosecuted for it. Not so in the United States. But I think this series is a vivid, real-time illustration of how this process works and how a manipulative psychopath works on a victim.

SESAY: It's also -- raises question about the times we live in and how we meet people and how we vet people and how we form relationships and attachments.

GOFFARD (PH): Yes. It is a cautionary tale about online dating as well. They met on an over-50 dating site and this guy, John seemed to check all the boxes. He's handsome, he says he's a physician. He says he's just back from Doctors without Borders, where he volunteered in the Middle East. And he's a very charming, charismatic man.

VAUSE: And she had been married, what, four times?

GOFFARD (PH): She had been married before and she'd just gotten out of a relationship that did some damage to her self-esteem. And this guy told her exactly what she needed to hear. So it was a marriage of predator and victim.

VAUSE: There's been a lot of great reviews to the series, including one from our friend of the show. In a very Bob way, he does add this to his review.

"The 'L.A. Times' is a joke. It's gotten so thin there's little news in it.

"Is this how they save the brand, with investigative journalism and attendant podcasts?"

I thought it was a good question because, just to expand that, is this one way of actually saving -- ?

GOFFARD (PH): He obviously doesn't read the paper. We have got an amazing amount of great work every day. It is a way we're looking to reach new readers. We're hoping the podcast draws people to the newspaper and our website. We're hoping also people will read the series in the paper, go to the podcast so there's some cross- pollination going on.

SESAY: To your point because I read all the pieces and listened to it. It's a very different experience, you're projecting what their voices sound like in your head as read it. But when you hear them, you feel like you're getting closer to them. It's a very different --

GOFFARD (PH): And there's a level of intimacy. You hear the voices of the characters and you form a mental picture of them.

VAUSE: Do you think this is the future of print journalism?

Is this a way to (INAUDIBLE) online websites, (INAUDIBLE) wonderful. And you guys do a great job. But struggling at the moment like everybody else.

Is this one way for the future?

GOFFARD (PH): It's one way. And considering that 40 percent of Americans have listened to a podcast and the number is growing by the year, I think this is a logical way to do it.

VAUSE: You're a pioneer and you've done a great job.

SESAY: And you're a phenomenal writer.

GOFFARD (PH): Thank you.


SESAY: Thank you for watching CNN news live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

VAUSE: I'm John Vause. Please stay tuned. "WORLD SPORT" is next. You're watching CNN.