Return to Transcripts main page
Police Searching for Answers After Two Toddlers Found Dead; In Lebanon, 29 Years of Syrian Occupation Coming to an End
Aired April 26, 2005 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Police searching for answers this morning after two toddlers are found dead in an algae-covered pond. What happened to the children, and why are there so few clues in this case?
A developing story in Lebanon: 29 years of Syrian occupation ending just minutes ago.
And President Bush in close talks with the Saudi prince, holding hands, but can the leaders hold down gas prices, on this AMERICAN MORNING?
ANNOUNCER: From the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, this is AMERICAN MORNING, with Soledad O'Brien and Bill Hemmer.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everybody, on a Tuesday, 7:00 here in New York City. We're going to talk more about what happened yesterday in Texas with the hand-holding incident. Today's "New York Post" says kind of a cute line on the cover, "Oh, the things our poor pres has to do for the sake of oil." That's the funny side of it. We'll get back to the serious side of it, what it means culturally, too, a bit later in our broadcast here.
As we continue, too, on a serious note today, new laws for sex offenders. The mayor of Miami Beach has a new idea, trying to keep sex offenders out altogether in his town. We'll talk to the mayor about that plan. Is it legal? We'll talk to Jeff Toobin about it, too, coming up in a few minutes.
O'BRIEN: Also this morning, it's a controversial idea about citizens patrolling the U.S. borders looking for illegal immigrants. Well, today, an effort underway to make the Minuteman Project permanent. We're going to talk to one of the group's founder about his discussions with members of Congress.
And a great Question of the Day, right up Jack's alley today.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Bill. How are you? nice to be with you.
There's an old expression called, nice guys finish last. Now there may be some proof that it's true, particularly when it comes to the workplace. It could be that the jerks make the most bucks. We'll take a look in a few minutes. And now back to you, Mr. Hemmer.
HEMMER: Survey says!
Thank you, Jack.
O'BRIEN: If that's true, that's just depressing.
CAFFERTY: Then get ready to be depressed. What do you want?
O'BRIEN: I'm just pointing it out.
HEMMER: We want to start this morning with this grim news out of Georgia today, two toddlers found dead in a pond late yesterday. Autopsy reports not in yet. And authorities are not ruling out foul play.
Tony Harris in Warrenton, Georgia, outside of Atlanta, with the latest from there.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, Bill.
A new day here in Warrenton, and we're certainly hoping to learn new details on this day about the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 3-year-old Jonah Payne and his 2-year-old sister, Nicole Payne.
Now yesterday, an extensive and exhaustive search came to a close when the bodies of the two small children were found in, of all places, a sanitation pond, a sanitation pond just a few hundred yards from the family home behind me.
JOHN BANKHEAD, GEORGIA BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: It appears that our worst fears have been realized.
HARRIS (voice-over): A muck-filled and algae-covered sanitation pond is where the bodies of Nicole and Jonah Payne were found yesterday afternoon, just a few hundred yards from their home.
DENNIS PAYNE, FATHER: Both of them was my pride and joy. They was my babies.
HARRIS: During a second search of a wooded area with several ponds near the family home, an officer noticed what he described as a bump in the sanitation pond. That bump turned out to be the body of 2-year-old Nicole. A short time later, the searchers found the body of her 3-year-old brother.
BANKHEAD: Because of that green covering of the bacteria or algae that covers that type of pond, it was very difficult to see these kids. As a matter of fact, when they first looked at it, they didn't know they were bodies.
HARRIS: The investigators have not yet determined the cause of death, and while foul play has not been ruled out, one of the working theories is that the children simply wandered away from home, for the second time that day.
CHIEF JIM MCCLAIN, WARRENTON, GEORGIA POLICE: Yes, the kids had wandered off before, but before they got too far from the house, they were recovered.
QUESTION: When did that happen?
MCCLAIN: It happened Saturday, believe it or not.
PAYNE: They just walked right out. They just opened the door and walked right out. The 2-year-old, Nicole, is a very smart little girl for a 2-year-old. And she just had that habit, and she just got out.
HARRIS: The mother, Latte Kain (ph), had told police the children disappeared while she was in the bathroom. Both parents were given a polygraph test, routine in this type of investigation, according to the police chief.
HARRIS: And, Bill, we can tell you that the bodies were immediately taken to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations crime lab. That's a short drive from here in Augusta, Georgia. Autopsies are scheduled to be performed later today. And we're hoping to learn some of the results of that autopsy as well today. We can also tell you that here in Warrenton, Georgia, the death investigation continues.
HEMMER: Tony, are police tipping their hand yet about possible suspects?
HARRIS: No, they really -- boy, they've really played that part of the investigation close to the vest. One of the questions we had initially, we asked questions about sex offenders, were there sex offenders in the area, had they been checked out. One registered sex offender in the Warrenton area, 13 registered sex offenders in Warren County, Georgia. All were checked out and ruled out almost immediately.
HEMMER: Tony Harris, Warrenton, Georgia this morning -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: In Lebanon today, the end of an era, a small but significant ceremony marking the end of Syria's military presence in that country. The last troops left just a short time ago, after 29 years.
Brent Sadler joins us live from the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, with the very latest.
Brent, good morning to you.
First let's start with the significance of today's events.
BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.
A hugely significant event, the official ending of Syria's decades-long presence here in this country, a presence that Lebanon's political opposition had been very vocally against Syria's presence here, would call an occupation by Syrian forces in this country. Accused by the opposition of, basically, running Lebanese affairs, going (INAUDIBLE) president, pulling strings in parliament to adopt a pro-Syrian agenda that favors Damascus, rather than the people of Lebanon.
Now, this ceremony took place inside a Lebanese army base. Top brass from both countries were here. A token force of about 250 Syrian troops were here alongside their Lebanese comrades. And then pretty soon after that, this token ceremonial force left this country. This following weeks in which we've seen tanks, artillery pieces by the lorry loads (ph) pouring out of the country, about 14,000 troops at the last count, down from 40,000 Syrian troops just five years ago.
Now, on the border itself, between the two countries, very different aspects. Lebanese says the political opposition, a majority of Lebanese, welcoming, glad to see the back of Syrian forces in their country, while on the Syrian side of the border, encouragement for the final troops returning home, because Syria said it shed blood of the troops in the country and that despite the leaving of these troops, the withdrawal of the final remnants, that Syria's position in Lebanon will still be maintained through close military ties between the two countries. How that works out in the ground, Soledad, we'll just have to see.
O'BRIEN: That's sort of the $64,000 question there.
Brent Sadler for us this morning in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. Thanks, Brent.
In Japan, another train accident to tell you about, the second in two days. This happened in a Tokyo suburb. A commuter train there jumped the tracks as it crashed into a stalled truck. The truck's driver was injured. Meanwhile, investigators are looking for any clues to help explain Monday's crash near Osaka. The death toll there has risen to 73 after a train derailed and slammed into a building. Officials say they doubt they're going to be able to find anymore survivors.
HEMMER: Back in the U.S. now this morning, President Bush returning to Washington today, pushing for more Social Security reform, and also talking about oil with Saudi Arabia's crown prince.
Elaine Quijano is live from the White House.
Elaine, good morning to you.
Any promises secured yesterday with the Saudi prince in Texas?
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Bill. No word of any promises for short-term relief, but yesterday, with high gas prices continuing to be a concern, President Bush did listen to the Saudis detail their plans to invest billions of dollars in order to boost their country's oil-production capacity.
The two leaders met yesterday at the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas. And there, U.S. officials say that the Saudi delegation outlined a plan to increase output from the current 9.5 million barrels a day to 12.5 million barrels by the end of the decade. Now U.S. officials say that should be good news for the markets, although President Bush has himself has said in the past that he can not wave a magic wand and bring down gas prices in the short term.
At the same time, Saudi officials say even if they do boost oil production, America's refining capacity is limited.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADEL AL-JUBEIR, SAUDI FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: It will not make a difference if Saudi Arabia ships an extra million or two million barrels of crude oil to the United States. If you can not refine it, it will not turn in to gasoline.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUIJANO: But as those high gas prices continue to be a concern, senior administration officials have acknowledged they could be a potential political liability for the president, especially at a time when he is trying to push through some ambitious legislative goals, namely overhauling Social Security, and on that front the president heads to Galveston, Texas today.
Joining him will be the embattled House majority leader, Tom DeLay. Congressman DeLay is someone that President Bush has called a very effective leader. We understand the congressman will be riding back here to Washington, along with President Bush, onboard Air Force One -- Bill.
HEMMER: If we can go back, Elaine, to the Saudi prince, what's the backstory from the White House about the hand-holding incident from yesterday. In Arab culture, this is seen as a sign of respect and friendship. What was the design yesterday?
QUIJANO: Well, absolutely. If you take a look at the video itself, it appeared that the president was simply trying to offer him a hand. Of course the crown prince is 81 years old, but many took that to be a more symbolic gesture.
Here at the White House, not really hearing much about that, but certainly a sign to many, a signal about the U.S./Saudi cooperation, symbolic people taking it any way that they can. But this is someone that the president has a close personal relationship as well, and so senior officials not really saying much about that -- Bill.
HEMMER: Could be a powerful message, too, back to the Arab world as well.
Elaine, thanks. Elaine Quijano at the White House.
HEMMER: A bit later this half hour, too, this is the new CD from Bruce Springsteen out today. It's called "Devils & Dust." He's kind of like my guy, by the way...
O'BRIEN: Yes, just a little.
HEMMER: ... in the interest of disclosure.
But the interesting thing about this technology on this CD. It's called dual disk. It's one disk. One side's CD. One side's DVD. Get you some bonus tracks, try and increase sales, so we'll talk about that.
O'BRIEN: Yes, you got to package a little more in there, make it more appealing.
HEMMER: Andy's talked about it for two years, about these record companies trying to boost sales. This could be an idea.
O'BRIEN: Although it seems easy to knock off in the digital day, you know.
HEMMER: Very true.
O'BRIEN: Anybody else could package that information too. We'll see.
HEMMER: Yes, so we'll get to that.
Also in a moment here, 16 years in the making, billions over budget. The new earthquake-safe Oakland Bay Bridge is literally a bridge to nowhere. Construction has stopped and safety may pay a price, and we'll talk about that here.
O'BRIEN: Also, the Minutemen, they've say they've captured hundreds of illegal immigrants. Now they're ready to expand their brand of justice far beyond Arizona. We'll explain their strategy just ahead.
HEMMER: Also, Soledad, one mayor's plan to virtually ban all sex offenders from living in his town. Will the courts allow it? We'll talk to him a bit later, on AMERICAN MORNING.
O'BRIEN: A bad day for General Motors, a major recall announcement and news that much-hyped summer release may not be ready for the summer.
Andy Serwer is "Minding Your Business."
ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Good morning, Soledad.
We first told you about this at the close of yesterday's program. Now we have details. A major recall for General Motors yesterday -- two million vehicles, six recalls, six separate models. It could cost the company tens of millions of dollars. And the big one is 1.5 million SUVs and pickup trucks with misplaced seatbelts on the buckles. Also, parking brakes for the Silverado, fuel pump wires for the Suburban. And you move on to the Saturn, a seatbelt problem there as well. And a faulty ignition relay for the Buick Rendezvous and the Buick Lacrosse. And unfortunately, GM is leading the industry in recalls. They had a terrible year as well last year.
O'BRIEN: They're already are mired in financial problems anyway.
SERWER: They had a $1.5 billion loss for the first quarter, and this is just really going to hurt them. And making matters worse, Soledad, the hot new car of the summer for the company was supposed to be the Pontiac Solstice. It as supposed to be released out in showrooms just over the next couple weeks and months, and you can see here it's a real kind of edgy two-seater roadster.
O'BRIEN: It's cute.
SERWER: It's kind of cool. But unfortunately, the company says it's not going to be out, widely available this summer, which is a real problem, because people buy cars in May, June and July.
O'BRIEN: Especially a cute little convertible.
SERWER: Yes, of course. And they don't buy those kind of cars in September.
SERWER: It's back too school and, you know, the weather's getting colder. So this is just a real gaffe for the company.
O'BRIEN: Big problems. All right, Andy, thanks, appreciate it.
SERWER: You're welcome.
O'BRIEN: Let's go back to Bill.
HEMMER: All right, 17 minutes past the hour now.
In one major American city, if the mayor gets his way, convicted sex offenders will no longer be allowed to live there. His plan, after the break.
HEMMER: It appears terrorism is not the top concern for Americans lately. There's a new poll out by the folks at CNN, "USA Today" and Gallup, Released yesterday, on Monday, found 66 percent of respondents were most concerned about child molestation, and certainly that has been in the news lately. Also, the use or sale of crystal meth and cocaine were close behind, violent crime came next, followed by terrorism, ranked fifth at 36 percent.
Now if the mayor of Miami Beach has his way, that city will not have to track section offenders, because they will not be allowed to live there anymore. The mayors proposal more than doubles the current buffer zone around areas like schools, and parks and playground where offenders are not allowed to live. If it passes in May, nearly all of Miami Beach will fall within those boundaries.
David Dermer is the mayor from Miami Beach.
Mr. Mayor, good morning to you down there in Miami.
MYR. DAVID DERMER, MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA: Good morning, sir.
HEMMER: What brought this on?
DERMER: Well, obviously, some of the recent cases of child torture and murder in our state has heightened awareness for everybody nationally, and our city is no exception. The proposal that I have is to extend Florida law, which is 1,000 feet, that certain people that are registered sexual offenders or perpetrators, live from any public school, bus stop, public park, or place where children congregate, to extend that to 2,500 feet, or one half mile.
HEMMER: What kind of reaction have you gotten off the plan?
DERMER: Positive, very, very positive, from people in our city, obviously, obviously, from the city attorney's office and our police department.
HEMMER: Legally could you pull it off?
DERMER: I believe we can. And the reason the idea came to me to that particular number of 2,500 feet is that there's another Florida law that deals with adult book stores and other materials that are 2,500 feet. So my thinking on it is, why would we do 2, 500 feet for adult book stores and only do 1,000 feet when it comes to these ticking time bombs that are living in our community.
HEMMER: But you do expect some legal challenges on this, right?
DERMER: I've heard some rumblings that the ACLU and maybe some other groups may challenge it.
HEMMER: I understand you have 36 people who would be affected by this immediately. What do you do with those 36 people? Do you remove them? Do you move them somewhere else? And how do you work that out?
DERMER: Well, first of all, the law has a second reading on May 18th, then there's 10 days until it's enacted. The penalties for it would be a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail.
This is a another tool for law enforcement, on a local level, to be able to target really the hardcore offenders. This is the type of crime with a high recidivism rate, meaning that people are likely to commit it again. You have a stalking nature to the crime, and there's a lot of evidence to suggest that many of the crimes are committed by perpetrators living within close proximity of the victims. So this, once again, gives law enforcement another tool to be able to look at those offenders that are likely to strike again.
HEMMER: If we did not have in our memory now the case of Jessica Lunsford and the case of Sarah Lunde, would we be talking about this ordnance?
DERMER: You know that's a very, very good question. I do think that, obviously, from these tragedies, it heightens awareness and it has people talking more and more. I think from that standpoint, it helps to fashion public policy in a very, very strong way.
So as far as an awareness level there no question that these cases and the attention that they've gotten have heightened our awareness in our city.
HEMMER: David Dermer is the mayor in Miami Beach.
Thanks for your time this morning.
DERMER: Thank you for having me.
HEMMER: Now on the legal side, our senior legal analyst is Jeffrey Toobin.
Good morning, Jeff.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Good morning.
HEMMER: Does he stand a chance? Is there precedent.
TOOBIN: You know, these laws are becoming more and more common and they're getting more and more draconian. The most interesting precedent comes out of Iowa. Iowa passed a statewide law, 2,000-foot buffer zone, that had the effect of basically saying to sex offenders, there was no place in any city in Iowa that you could live, because the buffer zones overlapped with each other, and the court struck it down, saying it was too draconian, saying it was a violation of their right to travel, to associate with their families, and what's called an ex post facto law, an after the fact punishment, after they'd already been sentenced. So that one was unconstitutional.
The question is, is Miami beach's rule close to the Iowa rule?
HEMMER: One of the things you said, though, if you have the intention of protecting people, it may fall into a different mode of argument here. If that's the case, does it stand a chance, saying I'm just trying to protect the people and the young kids that live in my county?
TOOBIN: It does. It does have a chance. The courts have consistently upheld the sex-offender registry rules. A lot of states say that sex offenders have to register. Those were challenged on privacy grounds. By and large, those were upheld. Here, again, of course judges are human beings, they don't want to see sex offenders, you know, running riot anywhere. But, you know, these people do have to live somewhere, and they are out of prison, and they are not committing crimes, by definition here. So the question is, you know, is the law making it impossible for them to live?
HEMMER: Seems kind of sticky, too, when you talk about these 36 people that re already residents of a particular area that would be immediately affected. What do you remove them from their homes?
TOOBIN: That is the problem with the laws, is that the people do have a right to live somewhere if they're law-abiding citizens, as these people are.
And it's also worth remembering, in all this understandable excitement about stranger cases, most cases of child abuse are within families, not strangers.
HEMMER: Point well taken.
Thank you, Jeff -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Let's get right to the Question of the Day and Jack.
CAFFERTY: The old saying, nice guys finish last. There may be something to it, at least at work. A new study in "The Journal of Economic Psychology" claims that how much you are paid is influenced by your personality. The more disagreeable and devious you are at work, the more money you're likely to earn. They studied 3,000 people and found that being a agreeable is a negative. The nicer you are, the smaller the paycheck. On the other hand, colleague who have the same qualifications but are cold and antagonistic fare better. And those who do particularly well are the ones who have, quote, "Machiavellian intelligence," the ability to manipulate others in their own interest.
Here's the question, which pays better at work, being nice or being a jerk?
O'BRIEN: You must be making billions of dollars, Jack. I thought that was funny.
CAFFERTY: I know you did. Is that it?
O'BRIEN: That's all I got right now, but I have a whole two-and- a-half hours to work on more material for you.
CAFFERTY: This is like setting yourself up in a bowling alley and handing everybody two or three balls and saying pitch until you win.
O'BRIEN: In all fairness, I think that if this is true, it's really depressing, because I think a lot of people, you know, me included, try to be nice at work. That's just depressing if real bad people get ahead. I was just kidding, for God's sake. Anyway.
O'BRIEN: I was. Jack, we're like this, you and me.
New York City's legendary Plaza Hotel shuts down soon for an extreme makeover. But what's going to happen to its most famous guest, Eloise? A look at that's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.
Stay with us.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com