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CNN NEWSROOM

Buffalo Socked with Snow; Iraqis: Prisoners Not Tortured; Family Discovered Murdered in Florida; Head of Page Board Testifies in Foley Investigation

Aired October 13, 2006 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


KYRA PHILLIPS, CO-HOST: Hello, everyone, I'm Kyra Phillip, at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.
DON LEMON, CO-HOST: And I'm Don Lemon.

Wintry blasts in Buffalo. New York responds with full force to help hundreds of thousands of people without power and no way out.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Yes, shovel off in Buffalo. A miserable weekend is in store for folks across western New York.

PHILLIPS: Most are snowed in, the roads closed to all except emergency crews. Snowmobiles are being used to reach drivers stranded on the throughway, and hundreds of thousands of people don't even have power.

We expect a live briefing by New York's governor, George Pataki. We're going to bring that to you live.

But we begin, first, with CNN's Pat St. Clair with a closer look at this extraordinary early, wintry blast.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've seen snow, but nothing like this in early October.

PAT ST. CLAIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It looks more like February than October in Buffalo, New York, today. Folks there are digging out from under record snowfall. As much as two feet fell, catching officials off guard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is one of the worst storms I've seen. I've never seen trees down in my 18 years here with the department, like this. You've got branches and entire trees down.

ST. CLAIR: The mix of wind, snow, thunder and lightning proved too much. The result, downed power line, impassable roads and traffic accidents.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My husband had to stop and pull somebody out of the ditch on the way up, and we're sliding all over the place. ST. CLAIR: The storm knocked out power in hundreds of thousands of Buffalo-area homes and businesses. Officials closed school and banned driving.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just temporarily pulled out of clearance. The visibility is near zero. It's very dangerous to be driving around.

ST. CLAIR: While some panicked, others were taking it all in stride.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, what are you going to do? We're Buffalo.

ST. CLAIR: A similar wintry scene in the Great Lakes region. Detroit saw its earliest snowfall on record. Michigan's Western Upper Peninsula bore the brunt of it: eight inches fell overnight. At least another foot of snow is expected Friday.

I'm pat St. Clair, reporting from Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: So what about the weekend? Our own Rob Marciano, watching the wintry conditions from the weather center. Just when we thought it was kind of mellowing out it just hits us hard.

(WEATHER REPORT)

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Speaking of Buffalo, I want to show you some iReport pictures and videos from you, our viewers, who sent these in to us. And we appreciate you.

First off, in Buffalo, a tree there, from Adrianna Cesario.

Next picture, is going to show you -- let's see. Chris Ibsen from Buffalo, tree on a car there.

And as far as iReports, if you want -- this is cool. This is probably the coolest shot right here. This, looking across the lake. You see a seagull flying into the lake. Usually they run inland when there's a storm. But this guy's saying, "Hey, it looks like -- it looks like the storm inland's going to be worse than the one out there." Obviously, ominous cloud. And there's the snow coming in.

We have thunder snow at times, giving you an idea of how much lift was in this storm.

And the video, there's the video. You needed some video on iReport. This actually from -- that looks like a hurricane with snow. And we have winds gusting over 60 miles an hour in parts of the west side of Michigan. This is certainly a big event.

Go to CNN.com/ireport if you want to help us out and get some of your video and pictures on the air.

PHILLIPS: You had some tough names, there. I was trying to help you out, too, Rob. Sorry about that.

MARCIANO: The sound I make (ph), it's embarrassing.

PHILLIPS: Exactly. Come on now. All right, Marciano.

Don't forget, when weather does become the news, you can become a CNN correspondent. If you see severe weather happening, just send us an iReport. You saw right there Rob showed us the videos and pictures from you, the viewers. You can just go to CNN.com and click on "ireport." Or type in "ireport@CNN.com" on your cell phone and you can share your pictures and video.

LEMON: And now to fighting in Iraq. A suicide bombing, a police station explosion and an horrific find north of Baghdad.

The suicide attack in the far north killed three Iraqi soldiers and wounded three others. Two police officers were killed in the explosion at the station in Hillah. And the bodies of 14 construction workers were found today, all bound and slashed to death. They were kidnapped yesterday north of Baghdad.

NATO still under attack in Afghanistan. A convoy was hit by a suicide car bomber today in the southern city of Kandahar. NATO says eight civilians and one soldier were killed. Afghan insurgents have been stepping up their use of suicide and roadside bomb attacks.

PHILLIPS: Locked up in Iraq. It's debatable whether -- or debatable, rather, whether Iraqis are safer in cells than on the streets right now. But the government wants the world to know it does not torture its prisoners.

This week, CNN's Arwa Damon was invited to see for herself. Here's her exclusive report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): All the men in this cell are accused of violent crimes, ranging from murder to terrorism. All but one sitting quietly in this 15-by-24-foot cell claim innocence. But not this man Ahmad Rahman Latif (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes, I attacked the Americans because we are a country under occupation. Resistance is our right. Anyone who does not attack the Americans is a coward.

DAMON: Latif (ph) is believed to be a member of al Qaeda in Iraq. He was arrested in Samarra. He says he was fighting for Iraq's freedom. His hatred runs deep. The war, he says, changed him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It was after all that I saw them do to us, after they detained and raped our women. They killed my cousin. She was only 7 years old when they attacked her. Why? And when her brother tried to get her, they attacked and killed him. So who's the terrorist now?

DAMON: Even though he confessed to attacking U.S. troops, he has been waiting 10 months to be sentenced by an Iraqi court.

(on camera) We've been given a free rein to speak with any of the detainees that are located here. The Iraqi government was so enraged at allegations that torture might be worse than in the times of Saddam Hussein that the Ministry of Interior organized our trip to this facility.

(voice-over) The prisoners were clearly surprised to see a TV crew inside the walls. Though the prison guards remained close, the inmates did not seem intimidated.

Lura Akram (ph) says he knows the system well. He has been in and out of jail six times since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Akram (ph) says the first time he was detained, he was tortured.

But now, he says, "The situation in prisons is completely different."

Ministry of Interior officials here who do not want their identities known, also say there has been a shakeup in the way jails are run.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Before we used to detain people indiscriminately. And this created many problems. But now the policy of the new minister is different. Now we only detain people based on specific intelligence.

DAMON: No one here complained of torture during our visit. And they did have the opportunity to do so. Most complaints were not about the facility or treatment, but the lengthy judicial process that keeps them here for months on end. They say without explanation.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: CNN's Arwa Damon is south of the capital today. She's actually embedded with American troops patrolling the so-called triangle of death.

Arwa, I want you to describe to us the conditions in just a moment, but first of all, your piece that we just ran, your exclusive access to this detention facility, how did -- obviously, we saw the interviews that you did.

But here you are, a woman, an American. You're fluent in the language. How -- do you think they felt any differently as they started this conversation with you? Or were they all 100 percent headstrong about being anti-American?

DAMON: Well, no, I think it depended more on the individual person. The one prisoner we interviewed who confessed to attacking American troops definitely had very strong opinions.

Some of the other ones, though, were a lot less subtle. And these, mind you were other individuals, though, who were claiming innocence.

Now, the prison guards, as well as the head of the intelligence office there, did show us the files of the other detainees. Many of them also were being accused of conducting attacks against U.S. and Iraqi security forces. They were not as vocal.

It was very interesting, being in there, Kyra, just standing in a room surrounded by these people. It was slightly intimidating at first. And I think they were also intimidated by us. Definitely surprised to see a woman in there.

But I was speaking with one of our other Iraqi producers who actually said that, you know, at the end of day, they were probably more comfortable with the fact that I was a woman, whereas if I had been, you know, a western male, they might have been a lot less forthcoming, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Now, you, today are embedded with the American troops. What was their reaction to your piece, to the access that you had, the fact that you had these conversations with these prisoners? And do they think -- do they feel overall that Iraqis want them out?

DAMON: Well, it really varies, Kyra. I mean, a lot of them actually out here, especially where I'm at -- let me warn you, I'm in a very small patrol base just south of Baghdad. It's in an area called Yusufiya, and it is part of what we referred to oftentimes as the triangle of death, although it is fairly quiet.

It is also part of the area where, of course, you had the kidnap and murder of two U.S. soldiers. In fact, that is only about seven kilometers away from where I'm at.

But you know, a lot of the troops that are here are very interested in talking to us as journalists, because we have such a different perspective and a broader prospective on what's happening. A lot of times, you know, these soldiers who are out here, they only see their own area of operations. And their views are very limited to what they're seeing around them and the various reactions and interactions that they have with the Iraqi population.

So they're very interested when they hear the stories of other issues that we have covered, like this prisoner story that I was telling a couple of the troops here about. They were very interested in it. They are really trying to understand the mentality and the mindset of the Iraqi people. They're very well aware that there are Iraqis out there that don't want them to be here.

And their opinion varies. Some them want to stay the course; they want to see this through. They're doing all that they can when they're out there. And bearing in mind that this is a very volatile area that we're in right now, and it has had a very violent history.

Being out there, I was actually surprised. One would expect a very anti-American stance, especially given the fact that we're not that far Mahmoudiya, where if you remember, we had the rape and murder of a young Iraqi girl. This is very (UNINTELLIGIBLE) land, and it has been described to me as being a safe haven for insurgents, who aren't necessarily operating here, but are operating up north in Baghdad or perhaps in al Anbar province in Ramadi and Fallujah.

But regardless of all that, you would expect an incredibly strong anti-American stance. But being out there with these troop, speaking with them, they've just arrived here. And they say that when they first arrived, people would not come forward and talk to them.

They've been here a few weeks now and have really seen a shift in the last nine days in the attitude of the Iraqi population. They're not all that openly friendly, but they are willing to engage; they are willing to talk. And sometimes even at the checkpoints, for example, an Iraqi vehicle will be driving through, speaking with the troops, and then leave behind a note. And on it would be a tip that leads to a suspected insurgent's location or to a weapons cache.

It's a very interesting dynamic that they have going on here. And you really do get the entire cross (ph) spectrum. But there is definitely a level of awareness and a certain appreciation for the fact that as they're out there, they really need to focus, now more than ever, on engaging the population, and on their whole hearts and minds effort, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Arwa Damon, you're doing some incredible work. Thanks so much.

LEMON: The Friday edition of the Mark Foley scandal. The House investigation plunges forward with the chairman of the House page board. The live report just ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.

PHILLIPS: Britain's army chief wants his troops out of Iraq, quote, "sometime soon." So how soon is soon? That's just part of the uproar. That story straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Man, oh, man, Buffalo, western New York, clobbered with snow. You're looking at pictures. We're awaiting a news conference. But here's what happened.

Yesterday and overnight, almost two feet of snow caused some major power outages there. Some trees to be downed and big chunks of the interstate to be closed down. More than 220,000 people are without power.

We're awaiting a press conference from the governor and the mayor and also from the city's manager to talk about the problems there and how they are going to get all these people to get their power back up soon. As soon as that happens, we'll bring it to you live here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

PHILLIPS: Well, we're working another developing story, this one out of Florida. Fredricka Whitfield is working the details on that -- Fred. FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Kyra, a horrifying discovery on the Florida Turnpike near Ft. Pierce exit there on the turnpike. Four bodies being found there.

We talked to police earlier who indicate they believe it's an Hispanic family: a man and a woman in their 20s and 30s and two children, ages 4 and 6. And apparently, according to investigators there, the woman's body was seen clutching the two children. All four had suffered multiple gunshot wounds.

Investigators believe it happened somewhere between midnight and about 7:45 a.m. when they got the first call from an eyewitness who said they saw something on the side of the road there. When investigators got there, come to find out, it was these four bodies.

And this location is near a golf course. And there are some residences near that golf course. And at least one resident of that area said they believe they heard gunshots somewhere about 3 a.m.

Police are having a really difficult time on this one, because while there are video cameras mounted in the area along the turnpike, they are live feed cameras. So there is no tape in which they can go back and look and see what kind of activity took place.

So they are asking that anyone with any information about anything unusual taking place between midnight and 7:45 a.m. in this area, to call 772-462-3230. That number again, 772-462-3230.

Investigators are planning a press conference at about 1:30 East Coast time. We're going to be monitoring that.

And Susan Candiotti out of our Miami bureau is on the way to this location. She'll be able to bring us some more up to date reporting there from the scene -- Kyra and Don.

PHILLIPS: All right, Fred, thanks.

LEMON: Now another member of Congress you probably never heard of before the Mark Foley scandal: John Shimkus, Republican head of the House Page Board. Today he's telling a House Ethics Committee about Foley's problem with teenage pages.

And joining us from Capitol Hill, CNN's Andrea Koppel.

It seems like it's not even drip, drip, drip, in this. This just seems to be rolling right out, all of this stuff.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is. And that's certainly one of the messages that Republican leaders in the House want to send out, that they are moving aggressively to get to the bottom of who knew what when, Don.

As you mentioned, the next star witness, who's behind closed doors now at the House Ethics Committee, is the Republican chairman of the House page committee. This is basically the three-member committee that oversees the page program in the House. He was the only member of this three-member board, however, who was notified about those inappropriate e-mails that were sent by Foley to an underage teenager, basically, to that page, back late last year.

Chairman Shimkus was notified and then shortly thereafter he was one of those who met privately with Mark Foley to discuss those e- mails and told him to knock it off.

We know that Shimkus is likely to tell members of the House Ethics Committee today what he told reporters after the story broke, and that is that Foley told them that he was simply acting as a mentor to the House page and that nothing inappropriate has happened.

Now, next week, the next star witness to take the hot seat is going to be the House majority leader, John Boehner. Now, John Boehner's story is that he only learned about Foley's behavior -- and this was last spring. And that -- even though Boehner's story has changed over the last number of days, he has said that he did tell House Speaker Dennis Hastert about that.

Now, we know that House Speaker Hastert has said that, while he doesn't dispute this, he doesn't remember the claim that he was told about Foley's behavior and that he first learned about it, Don, what he says is only two weeks ago when the story broke.

LEMON: And even, still, the president, yesterday, in Illinois, standing behind the House speaker.

KOPPEL: Well, that's true. And that was a very important symbol for not just Dennis Hastert but for House Republicans to send to all of their constituents, that Dennis Hastert isn't going anywhere.

As you know, he's come under fire in recent days for the way that he handled the matter. It's questionable as to what he knew and perhaps what senior members of his staff knew. But also once he learned about it, how he handled the matter.

So the fact that President Bush and Dennis Hastert were standing side by side, shaking one another's hands, is supposed to show that the party is unified behind Dennis Hastert and that the party in general is unified, Don.

LEMON: All right. Andrea Koppel, thank you.

PHILLIPS: A congressman pleads guilty to taking bribes and will be out of the House soon, one way or another. Ohio Republican Bob Ney will be sentenced January 19 for conspiracy and making false statements.

Ney's lawyer says that he'll resign the seat in Congress before then. But House leaders say he should quit this month. Otherwise, they'll move to expel him.

Ney is the first member of Congress convicted in the long-running scandal involving disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Abramoff has been cooperating with prosecutors. LEMON: If you look at the calendar, it's October, and it says fall. But don't tell the folks in western New York that.

PHILLIPS: They got clobbered with record snow overnight. Thousands of people still in the dark. We do expect Governor George Pataki to hold a briefing this hour. We'll bring it to you live from the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: We're waiting on developments from two stories that are happening right now, one of them in Florida.

It's in Ft. Saint Lucie, where the bodies of four people were found. We're told two of them were young children, found along the interstate, along a stretch there. And also tire tracks, they say, could be found. There were obvious tire tracks leaving the scene there.

So we're waiting on a briefing from the Florida Highway Patrol on that one.

And also, we're also waiting on a briefing from the governor of New York state and also from the mayor of Buffalo, New York, and the county executive there. Almost two feet of snow really just put the city -- just clobbered the city there in Western New York.

We're told that the governor, the mayor, the county executive are touring this area by air. There was some talk of a possible state of emergency in some area, in some counties there. But as soon as we get information on either of these stories, we'll update you live right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

PHILLIPS: We've got a lot of developing stories happening.

LEMON: Yes.

PHILLIPS: Not just weather but also business-wise. Susan Lisovicz live from the New York Stock Exchange.

What's going on with this buyout?

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is a big development. And for some quarters, I would think, a surprising development, that AT&T and Bellsouth, Kyra, have not cleared their final regulatory hurdle, not yet anyway.

CNN learned this hour that two members of the Federal Communications Commission have asked for more time to consider this $80 billion merger first proposed in March, because they want to study last-minute concessions proposed by AT&T. Both of the members that are asking for more time are Democrats.

It comes two days after the Department of Justice cleared the merger without any conditions. And after that decision by DOJ, Michael Copps, one of the Democrats on the FCC, said, quote, "Justice has packed its bags and walked out on consumers and small businesses by refusing to pose -- impose even a single condition in the largest telecommunications merger the nation has ever seen."

It is big because it would serve 70 million phone customers and 10 million high-speed Internet users. Of course it would also reunite a lot of AT&T that was broken up a couple of decades ago.

What's interesting, especially interesting here, is that normally two Democrats on the FCC would not be able to have this kind of leverage. The FCC is comprised of five members. The other three are Republicans. But one of them withdrew from this particular decision, because he had worked as a lobbyist for competitors of AT&T and Bellsouth.

So the bottom line is, more time yet. The FCC has not yet given the green light to this very big telecom merger. Back to you, guys.

PHILLIPS: All right. While I have you, let's go ahead and check the numbers, Susan.

(STOCK REPORT)

LEMON: Wow, that market just keeping going up and up. All right.

PHILLIPS: Doing pretty well.

LEMON: Yes.

In upstate New York, they're pulling out the big guns.

PHILLIPS: The National Guard, that is, to help dig out from the first blast of wintry weather. We're warming up in the NEWSROOM. Stay put.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Let's go to Saint Lucie County now for an update on those bodies, four bodies found along the turnpike there.

SHERIFF KEN MASCARA, ST. LUCIE, COUNTY, FLORIDA: The Florida Highway Patrol, actually chief, Chief Lee, responded. He was in the area, found four individuals on the shoulder of the roadway. Immediately thereafter, he contacted us, and deputies, as well as our crime scene, responded.

What we found this morning were an adult male, an adult female, as well as two children. They were subject to multiple gunshot wounds. From that, our investigators fanned out up and down the turnpike, as well as the residential community that you see to the east. From that, we have learned that the time of shooting occurred between 1:30 this morning and 3:00 a.m., and that is from accounts from residents that heard noises during that timeframe.

We also know the identity of the male and the female, but not the children. The male is 29 years old. He is an Hispanic male. The female is 25 years of age, a Hispanic female. I'm not releasing their names or where they were from. With this new information, our investigators are fanning out in two other jurisdictions following leads, as well as what presented as their identities. And from that, the investigation is continuing.

Other than that -- give me that -- I'm not going to tell you because we have not had a chance to notify the family.

The first person was just a passerby.

QUESTION: In a car?

MASCARA: In a car.

Well, this morning, it was very evident that a vehicle traveling sought on the turnpike had exited the roadway, drove along the shoulder, and then stopped at the scene you see behind me. From there, the vehicle continued along the shoulder, then re-entered the southbound lane of the turnpike.

So we can assume that the vehicle was traveling south on the turnpike, exited, the shooting occurred there, and then continued southbound.

The woman in a defensive posture, had both of the children surrounded, underneath her arms, in an effort, that we can assume, was to protect them from the gunfire.

This is definitely not a murder-suicide. This is a murder that we're pulling out all stops to find out who committed this crime.

No, no. This -- the question was, was this family in the vehicle of the possible suspects. We are assuming that, that this family was traveling with a group. We can assume it must be a large car, an SUV, a van, that they pulled off here, the shooting took place, and then the vehicle continued.

Correct.

QUESTION: Are you able to tell us, do you have any idea where the suspects may have gone, if they continued south?

MASCARA: We have no idea where the suspects have gone.

They are multijurisdictions.

I'm not going to say within this state.

There was no attempt to flee that we could determine. There was no attempt to fight back. The male was adjacent to the female, but he did not have that defensive posture of the children like the female did. She had both of her children clutched under each arm, and then in a fetal position.

That is correct. The question is, surveillance cameras along the turnpike. Ironically, there is a surveillance camera right along the corner on a pole. That surveillance camera is turned on only at the request of law enforcement to monitor the traffic, and it is not recorded. Last night there was never, ever request for that camera to be turned on for any reason.

The ages of the children -- there were no identities on the children. We expect -- or suspect them to be 4 and 6.

QUESTION: Can you tell us which one's 4?

MASCARA: I don't know.

QUESTION: Can you say how they were killed?

MASCARA: They were killed by multiple gunshot wounds.

Each of them were multiple gunshot wounds, that is correct. I would think as soon as the family's notified, we will come back with another news conference to let you know their identities.

QUESTION: What would you say about the risk level for people who live in the immediate area?

MASCARA: There is no risk for anybody in the immediate area. We feel that the suspects continued their southbound travels, and this was a very transient in nature occurrence alone the turnpike. We assume that they were traveling from another destination.

Well, we -- suspect or suspects, we don't know yet.

We don't know that.

QUESTION: Sheriff, was the family robbed?

MASCARA: No comment on that.

The question was, were they standing. We do not feel they were standing. They were either kneeling or they were lying on the ground.

The other question was?

I can't tell you if they were shot in front or back. But there were I.D. on the male and female. We're not releasing that. The male was 29 years of age. The female was 25.

QUESTION: We don't know if the two children are theirs?

MASCARA: We do not know that either.

What was that?

What are the deputies doing right now?

Because of the fact that we know that the shooting took place there, we are actually going to excavate the entire area looking for bullet fragments or the actual bullets. From that, we will determine if, in fact, it was one shooter or two shooters, And also if -- what the caliber of guns were used.

QUESTION: Have you found anything yet, any bullet fragments yet?

MASCARA: No, we have not. And actually, we're asking for additional heavy equipment to come in.

There were no footprints no.

I'm going to answer her question first, have we had any reports of missing families? I have pleaded with the media that if, in fact, you have friends or family that was scheduled to arrive this morning and they have not arrived, please, please call us. We do not know if this family was destined to arrive somewhere and didn't make it or they had just left their residence and were just traveling.

But we have an tips line. That number is 772-462-3230. I'm going to repeat it again: 772-462-3230. And I believe a tip from someone that knew these people would be our greatest tip right now, our greatest lead.

In regard to how it's affected the people that have responded here, I can tell you, I was -- I arrived shortly on scene after the discovery, and everybody that went and viewed the bodies described it as gruesome scene, one of the most gruesome they had seen in sometime.

We're dealing with it. The deputies deal with this day in and day out. But when it involves kids, especially such a young age, it's tough, there's no doubt about it.

QUESTION: Did it appear (INAUDIBLE) accidentally (INAUDIBLE)?

MASCARA: We believe the children were targeted in addition to the parents. If, in fact, they were...

QUESTION: Are you saying that they are the parents?

MASCARA: No, I'm not saying that. I was going to say if, in fact, they are the parents.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) doing a murder investigation right off the highway here? (INAUDIBLE)

MASCARA: What's the challenge of doing a murder investigation right along the turnpike? As you know, immediately, we closed one lane. We've asked for assistance and have received assistance from Indian River County Sheriff's Office. They have brought their crime scene technicians to assist us. The heat is the biggest factor right now, it's so hot. But they're up to the task and we're going to get it done.

LEMON: Mascara...

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) LEMON: And you're listening to a press conference, Sheriff Ken Mascara from Saint Lucie County Sheriff's Office, holding an press conference. Really just a gruesome, gruesome, horrific crime. Four bodies found along a turnpike in Florida. It happened overnight. And the sheriff is saying, well, 1:30 -- between 1:30 and 3:00 a.m., that residents in the area heard gunshots, and then a car later on this morning traveling down the interstate discovered the bodies.

Four people there believed to be -- they're not sure exactly where they're from. Four people found, their bodies dumped there on the interstate. Two adults: an adult male, an adult female. And the children, two children, believed to be four and six years old. And according to the sheriff's deputy, the mother was in a protective position. She had both her children, one in one arm, one in the other, there protecting her children. And sadly, all of them died.

They're asking people, any one of our viewers, to call them if you have any information. We're going to give you that phone number. They believe that's where their biggest tip will come from. The number is 772-462-3230.

All they know now, they have some tire tracks. They have the identity of the adults. But they don't know the next of kin, so they're not releasing their names. They believe that this family was in the car with the person or persons who killed them and that person just took off and left them there on the side of the road.

If we get a new update on this story, we will certainly bring it to you. But, again, that number, 772-462-3230. The sheriff's deputy there in Saint Lucie County, Florida, saying that they believe their biggest tip will come from someone who will call in and give them some information.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Well, in western New York, people are used to snow, just not so much of it so early. Buffalo has virtually shut down. Take a look at this live picture. It's an overnight storm that dumped as much as two feet on that city. Drivers are supposed to stay off the road so snowplows and power crews can get through there.

Now around 350,000 customers woke up without power in the light of day. Well, you can see why. Tree limbs, still full of leaves and heavy with snow are snapping all over the place and knocking down those lines.

Now Michigan also is getting an early taste of winter. It's been a full-scale blizzard on the upper peninsula, while much of the rest of the state saw flurries. Temperatures in Detroit are expected to drop into the 30s tonight. So in a move to spare fans and players, tonight's baseball playoff game between the Tigers and Oakland As, well, as you can imagine, it's been moved to the afternoon.

(WEATHER REPORT) LEMON: Small loans to poor people. I'm talking really small loans to really poor people. It's not the Wall Street way, but today it earned the Nobel Peace Prize for this man. Details coming up, in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: As you know, we've been talking about it all morning, all afternoon, about Buffalo, virtually shut down after the snowstorm overnight. As much as two feet on that city. Drivers are stuck. Power's out. Snowplows are trying to get through. Congressman Brian Higgins also stuck, Democrat from Buffalo.

I'm curious, Congressman, have you made the plea yet for disaster funds from the president?

REP. BRIAN HIGGINS (D), NEW YORK: Yes, we've led a delegation letter to the president urging a quick designation of Buffalo as a major disaster area for all of western New York.

PHILLIPS: Tell us what -- what are the major concerns right now? I guess we should start with the power and then let's unravel from there. What do you need the funds for? Number one, obviously, crews to get out and get these powerlines back up?

HIGGINS: That, and what the declaration will do is reimburse the municipalities up to 75 percent for their storm-related expenses, and the storm construction in Buffalo has been devastating. There's 300,000 businesses and homes without power right now.

Streets are impassable because of the extensive tree destruction which has caused property damage as well. So streets are impassible, and everything's shut down. But Buffalo people are tough and resilient and we'll get through this as we have other storms.

PHILLIPS: Well, tell me what power crews are doing. Can they even get out in any way to try and get these lines back up, or is there absolutely no activity?

HIGGINS: No, there's activity. There's a lot of activity this morning, both personal activity and coordinated activity. And what -- the power company's out assessing the damage and finding out where the power outages are that affect the largest number of power and they're trying to address those first and foremost in addition to the hospitals and those kinds of emergency services that, obviously, need power to function during this time of need.

PHILLIPS: Are you getting worried about, say, for example, the elderly, or like you said, those in the hospital with emergency needs? Are you afraid that you're going to lose lives?

HIGGINS: Well, that's always the possibility. But as I said, Buffalo people are tough and resilient, and they've been through this stuff before. And people are very empathetic and they're very sensitive to going and checking on people who may be alone and vulnerable. And that's a result of a city that has been through this before.

PHILLIPS: What about businesswise? Is the city pretty much shut down? What's up and operating? What have you noticed or where have you gotten the calls? I mean, are all schools shut down? Kind of give me a feel for city life.

HIGGINS: Well, nobody has any power so it's difficult to take any phone calls. And we have received a few, but the bottom line is, you know, the city's been shut down. There is a driving ban. Schools have been closed. A lot of businesses are closed.

Many of the convenience stores and supermarkets are, in fact, open, and people are finding their ways to those stores for, you know, the essentials that they need to get by this in the short term until things are cleared up. So as I said, you know, it's a setback. But Buffalo people have and will overcome this and we'll get on with the normalcy of life.

PHILLIPS: What do you need from other areas outside of Buffalo?

HIGGINS: I think we just need any help that they may be able to provide relative to, you know, municipal services and, obviously, the disaster declaration would allow us to apply for reimbursement, which would be helpful. We went through this during the blizzard of '77.

But the situation that's different here is that the trees during the winter typically are de-leafed and now they are not, and thus the trees and thus the snow on top of them was much heavier and there's a lot of tree breakage and a lot of tree damage that has caused property damage and roads that are impassable. So we will get through this, as Buffalo people always do.

PHILLIPS: Congressman Brian Higgins, appreciate it.

We're also waiting to hear from Governor George Pataki when he steps up to the mic or makes some type of announcement or calls in. We'll take that live. Stay with us.

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