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AMERICAN MORNING

Castro's Health; Missouri Boys Found; Winter Blast; Missouri Kidnap Mystery; Tiniest Survivor; Blogging in Court

Aired January 16, 2007 - 06:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Survival story. Details of Shawn Hornbeck's kidnapped but connected life online, with a cell phone and a chance encounter with police who could have saved him.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Developing news about Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Is he taking a dramatic turn for the worse?

America on ice. Slick roads kill at least 41 people across six states. Fruit crops now in danger out west.

S. O'BRIEN: And delivering a dream. From this rescue at a fertility clinic during Hurricane Katrina, a child is born today on this special edition of AMERICAN MORNING.

S. O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. I'm Soledad O'Brien reporting to you live from Kirkwood, Missouri, this morning.

Hey, Miles, good morning.

M. O'BRIEN: Good morning. Miles O'Brien in New York. Tuesday, January 16th. We're glad you're with us this morning.

Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: All right. Well, let me tell you a little bit about where I am this morning. This, of course, is the location of the home of Michael Devlin. He has now been charged with one count of kidnapping in this really remarkable, incredible story that everybody locally, of course, and nationally has been following.

One of the things I want to show you -- and bear with me because we're going to lose our light a little bit. I thought I'd show you this apartment complex. He was in apartment D, which is straight down the stairs here, kind of in the middle. But take a look at how close these buildings are together. Look. I mean, five apartments in each building, top floor and bottom floor included. But notice, one building here, one there, one there. So when they talk about this young man and both young men at one point being under the eyes of all the neighbors, literally right under their noses. I mean there's a tiny courtyard in between, it's just remarkable.

Straight back there is the parking lot where some pretty amazing, just incredible police work was being done. Officers -- of course, we're going to be talking to them later this morning -- who were able to stumble upon and then identify the truck that really pulled this entire case together. We'll take you back there in just a little bit. Miles, back to you in New York with some news about Fidel Castro in Cuba.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. Word Fidel Castro, Soledad, may be on his death bed. A Spanish newspaper is reporting he's in very grave condition with an intestinal infection. CNN's Al Goodman is in Madrid and Morgan Neill live from Havana. Let's begin with Al.

Al, what do we know?

AL GOODMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Miles.

Well, Spain's largest circulation newspaper, "El Pais," published in its website first and then on the front page right here in its print edition in Madrid that Fidel Castro has undergone at least three operations and one more complicated after the other. A series of complications in his intestine which is causing him to be in very, very grave condition, according to the newspaper, which cites two sources at a Madrid hospital. That's the same hospital where a physician last month, December, went to Cuba at the invitation of the Cuban authorities, Jose Luis Garcia Sabrido.

That doctor, now I caught up with him early this morning at the hospital. He told me, a, he's not the source for the story. B, any kind of information like that coming from outside of Fidel Castro's medical team is without foundation. However, since then, Miles, we have a source whom we consider to be very reliable telling us that that information has been circulating around the hospital for a couple of weeks and that this source understands that information is reliable.

Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you very much, Al.

Let's go now to Havana, see how the story is playing in Cuba. CNN's Morgan Neill is there.

Obviously the Cuban media not reporting this particular news. What are you hearing, though?

MORGAN NEILL: Well, Miles, that's right. There hasn't been any comment here, nor do we really expect it. Cuban officials regard details of President Fidel Castro's condition as a state secret and have released very few details since he first handed over power at the end of July to his brother, Raul Castro, following intestinal surgery.

Now what we have seen, no public appearances. The most recent video we've seen came out in October. That's the video you've been seeing on your screen there. The president is wearing a track suit, having some fairly obvious difficulties walking and had lost a great deal of weight. He himself said to state media at one point, he lost some 40 pounds.

Now even after Dr. Sabrido's visit and the information that he gave out on his return to Spain, it's worth mentioning, none of that came out in the Cuban state media. And the last message we did get from President Fidel Castro through state media is that it came out just before New Year's Eve in which he said his health was far from a lost battle and that he had warned all along that his recovery would be a prolonged process.

Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Morgan Neill in Havana, thank you very much.

Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Back to the big story here in Missouri and across the nation, too, Miles.

Shawn Hornbeck lived here under the watchful eyes of all the neighbors here who, it seemed, suspected absolutely nothing. Literally living in the shadows, so to speak. Sean Callebs has been following that part of the story for us.

Good morning, Sean.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning.

We went back to Richwoods, Missouri. About an hour and 15 minutes south of where we are. The hometown of Shawn Hornbeck. And we went there yesterday and talked to people.

When he was kidnapped back when he was 11 years old, his friends described him as just energetic, a lot of fun, great personality. Well, we can tell you his hometown is eager to embrace him again. His old friends want to get together, have a party, talk to him, welcome him back to the area and do everything they can to help him recapture his youth.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CALLEBS, (voice over): Richwoods, Missouri, has one country store, one post office, and now, one of the best-known 15-year-olds in the nation. Those who knew Shawn Hornbeck best when he disappeared more than four years ago say they never gave up hope. His classmates at the last school he attended, Richwoods Elementary.

SAVANNA PRUITT, SHAWN'S FORMER CLASSMATE: Everybody kind of had a gut feeling that they would see him, but they didn't know where they would find him or when they would see him.

CALLEBS: Ryan Messix and Shawn were close friends who did everything together. He was one of the last people to see Shawn in Richwoods.

RYAN MESSIX, SHAWN FORMER CLASSMATE: I remember playing at school the day that he came up missing.

CALLEBS: The day he . . .

MESSIX: Me and him and my brother were down at the Lion's Club with some of my family.

CALLEBS: When flyers hit the region after Shawn was reported missing, the two former classmates joined hundreds of people who searched the area. Family and close friends suspected Shawn was kidnapped right from the start. They say he never stayed out after the sun went down.

KIM EVANS, FAMILY FRIEND: He wouldn't come out and say I'm afraid of the dark, but he was afraid of the dark. So when dark came, something was wrong.

CALLEBS: Kim Evans is among the family's inner circle, working with the Shawn Hornbeck Foundation. She says the past four years have been hard on Shawn's mother and stepfather, leaving Pam Akers almost gone from stress.

How do they know Shawn's out there, he's coming home safe?

EVANS: That's a rough one. I don't know if they did always know he was. They just always hoped he was. And they said, we're not giving up.

CALLEBS: Shawn's old friends say they can't wait to catch up and do what they can to make him feel as though he's home.

MESSIX: Hope to have a party or something soon to meet with him.

CALLEBS: But that will come later. The community is incredibly protective of the family and what they need most, they say, is time alone.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CALLEBS: We had a chance to talk with investigators yesterday and they said finding Shawn, returning him to his family was like lifting a dark cloud that has been over this area for the past four years. Investigators did have a chance to talk with Shawn on a couple of occasions on the weekend. They said just initial talks.

Soledad, they said the really tough questions, the debriefing, that's going to be down the road.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, it will take a long time. He is really a boy. Just a boy still.

CALLEBS: Really young.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, you know, it's interesting to me to see the proximity of all these towns. Richwoods, as you say, and then, of course, Bowfort (ph). And then you have this area right here, Kirkwood as well, really only within an hour of each other.

CALLEBS: That's right.

S. O'BRIEN: And the boys, when you see them, very similar looking. Both of them when they were first kidnapped. CALLEBS: It's interesting because he was going to an elementary school that had 170 kids in eight grades when he got kidnapped. So it's a very tight-nit area. They wanted to bring him back into that area. They want to do what they can to make him feel like he's back home. But they said, more than anything was, give him the space for a while. If he wants to talk, we're here for him.

S. O'BRIEN: The community is ready to lift that dark cloud that's been here for quite a while.

Sean, thanks a lot.

Straight ahead this morning, we're going to talk to Aisha Sultan. She is a reporter with the "St. Louis Post Dispatch." She's going to update us on the very latest in the investigation here as well.

Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you very much, Soledad. Back with you shortly.

It appears the worst of the wild weather is over in the Northeast this morning, but watch out Texas, more freezing rain is on the way. And more freeze warnings for Arizona and California this morning. It's the bitter aftertaste of a big storm that swept across the country.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

M. O'BRIEN, (voice over): The mega storm stretches from Mexico to Maine. Cold, dry air from Canada and warm, moist air from the Gulf, creating a potent mix of freezing rain, sleet and snow. From coast to coast, trees, power lines and roads glazed with ice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I prefer snow any time, any day. Ice, they can keep it.

M. O'BRIEN: The big storm took more than 40 lives in six states. At least 17 of those in Oklahoma. About a 500,000 homes from Oklahoma to New Hampshire are dark and cold this morning and it could be days before the lights come back on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the crews that we have available are working and we're going to try to get just as many customers as we can back, restored with power, as quickly as we can.

M. O'BRIEN: In the west, big losses for California's billion- dollar citrus industry. Orange growers say three-quarters of this year's crop may have already been destroyed. Even in the desert they are feeling it. In Las Vegas, some of the coldest temperatures in a decade.

Looking for a quick warmup? The National Weather Service says, don't bet on it.

(END VIDEOTAPE) M. O'BRIEN: Texas is still not out of the woods. Chad Myers has the forecast coming right up.

Plus, from other flat boat rescue in the chaos of Hurricane Katrina, to a baby born today. We're live from the hospital on this special birthday. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning right here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: New this morning. Stuff we're following for you.

More signs Senator Barack Obama may be running for president. The Illinois Democrat expected to form a presidential exploratory committee in the coming days. We'll keep you posted on that, needless to say.

Fidel Castro could be on his death bed. A Spanish newspaper reporting the Cuban leader is battling an intestinal infection after three failed operations.

Now back to Soledad in Kirkwood, Missouri.

S. O'BRIEN: All right. Miles, thank you very much.

After Shawn Hornbeck was kidnapped back in 2002, his parents decided they were going to commit their lives to try to find their son and also help other parents who were in very similar situations. Our next guess, Aisha Sultan, is a reporter for the "St. Louis Post Dispatch." She also knows the family well and knows the story inside and out as well.

Thanks for talking with us. Certainly appreciate it.

First, what you're reporting this morning in the newspaper -- threat, we now are hearing, against Shawn, may be what kept the suspect, Michael Devlin -- it helps explain how he could be sort of out in the open and yet not yell and scream for help.

AISHA SULTAN, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH: Exactly. That's what my colleagues are reporting in today's "Post Dispatch," that officials -- sources have told them that Shawn's life was threatened, his family's life was threatened and that might shed some light on why he seemed to have this relative freedom, yet didn't reach out or draw attention to himself.

S. O'BRIEN: Michael Devlin worked two jobs, so we know he was gone a lot. Shawn apparently online a fair amount. At one point lost his cell phone and was able to have access to a cell phone. So there are a lot of interesting questions there. Neighbors have also reported banging and noise and screams in one report I read. What do you know about that?

SULTAN: Right. I heard the same reports that neighbors have heard screams. They also report that there was some -- perhaps some loud noises that sounded like somebody being hit, but nobody really wanted to interfere in this community.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, which is such a brutal and heart-breaking part of this story, of course. Now as I mentioned at the beginning, this is a family you know well because, of course, their work in trying to help other families who are dealing with the same horror that they were, having a child kidnapped or just missing at some point. How are they -- I mean outside of being completely ecstatic and overwhelmed, how are they doing?

SULTAN: Right. Well, they must be overjoyed. They must be stunned and pretty much in shock. But I can tell you, when there was a recent high profile kidnapping of a newborn . . .

S. O'BRIEN: The Baby Abby . . .

SULTAN: Baby Abby in that same area, I had a chance -- her grandmother, Baby Abby's grandmother, lived down the street from Pam and Craig Akers, Shawn's parents. And she went to them right away for advice. And like so many other times, they were there for her. They gave her advice. They made a website. They printed posters and they were out doing whatever they could, like they have done in dozens and dozens of cases.

S. O'BRIEN: When you look at this neighborhood here, Kirkwood is actually described in some reports as affluent, in other places as working class. And I guess this would be sort of the more working class part of it, but it seems like a real community. I mean it's not particularly far off the highway. It's not desolate. I mean there are clearly neighbors all over the place.

SULTAN: Yes. No, Kirkwood is definitely a very nice suburb. There are -- this is probably a more transitional part of housing that there is. Actually, in this apartment building, it was mostly very close-knit group of satellite installers, and there are families that lived here and they all knew one another and they're either related or they were friends. And they said that they were really wary of Michael Devlin because they were afraid that he was going to call the cops on them for some perceived insult, especially to his parking spot that he was very protective . . .

S. O'BRIEN: Everyone stayed away from him.

SULTAN: Everyone stayed away from him. They were worried. They were a little nervous and hesitant to ever approach him.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, certainly, as the days go by, we're getting a better picture of Michael Devlin, who has now been charged with one count of kidnapping. We're expecting . . .

SULTAN: More charges, right.

S. O'BRIEN: He'll be charged with more charges.

Aisha Sultan is a reporter for "The St. Louis Post Dispatch."

Thank you very much for joining us. SULTAN: Thank you.

S. O'BRIEN: We sure appreciate your time and your terrific reporting over the last several days.

SULTAN: Thank you so much.

S. O'BRIEN: Miles, back to you.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you very much, Soledad.

What a winter wallop. A storm that stretches all the way down from Mexico to Maine. An ice storm that, in many cases, was deadly. But also, frankly, quite beautiful. Take a look at this picture. This was shot in Mcallister, Oklahoma. Thousands remain without power there. At least 17 deaths attributed to this storm in Oklahoma alone.

Take a look at this picture coming out of Albany, New York. As Mike Watts (ph) tries to take a scraper to his car and make it possible for him to get to work. And also from Albany, take a look at this picture. Of course, yesterday was Martin Luther King Day. That's his statue in Academy Park in Albany, with all the icicles.

Chad Myers joins us now with the travel forecast and the look at what can look beautiful on the ground is so dangerous and cause such upheaval all across the country.

Chad.

(WEATHER REPORT)

M. O'BRIEN: Coming up, an amazing sign of life returning in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Now 16 months since the storm and today the payoff for a remarkable Katrina rescue you see there.

Plus, the vice president could be called to testify at the Scooter Libby trial which begins today. Jury selection. That's not the only reason this case is a milestone though. We'll explain ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: Sixteen months since Katrina. We're going to meet the tiniest survivor of the storm, sort of. An embryo that was saved in the wake of Katrina will be born today. He or she will, in fact, be a Katrina survivor, I guess you could say. CNN's Susan Roesgen is outside St. Tamany (ph) Parish Hospital in Covington, Louisiana, where all this is going to happen today.

Susan.

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miles, talk about a new year's baby. The mother's going to have a c-section in a couple of hours and the birth would not have been possible without an unusual rescue.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ROESGEN, (voice over): For days after the hurricane, rescuers navigated the flood to find survivors. But what this group was searching for could save as many as 1,400 babies who weren't even born then. Rebekah Markham is about to give birth to one of them.

Rebekah and her husband, Glenn, have a two-year-old son, conceived by in vitro fertilization. Now they're going to have their second in vitro baby born from a frozen embryo. It's an embryo that came from a storage tank like this one, filled with super cold liquid nitrogen. If a tank warms up too much, the frozen embryos are destroyed. After Katrina, when the fertility clinic lost power and air conditioning, the call went out to the state police to rescue the embryos in the nitrogen tanks.

DR. SISSY SARTOR, FERTILITY DOCTOR: They were still submerged in the liquid nitrogen. The level had dropped down some, but they were safe. Perhaps a few more days or another week and they would not have been.

ROESGEN: This is home video of the nitrogen tanks being carried out of the flooded clinic.

LT. JOHN KISTLER, LOUISIANA STATE POLICE: Literally like you were carry eggs. You treat them very gently. You didn't want to tip them or rock them and we treated with, you know, very special care.

ROESGEN: State Police Lieutenant John Kistler was one of the rescuers.

KISTLER: I think first responders, anywhere, I mean, you know, you're used to car crashes, fire or any sort of emergencies that you got a handle like that. But the embryos were, I think everybody thought that was a special mission.

REBEKAH MARKHAM, MOTHER: You know, Katrina is a huge part of history now and this baby lived through it without even being born. And it was amazing to me that they did that.

ROESGEN: Now this tape of the embryo rescue will be added to Rebekah and Glenn's new baby videos. A reminder of something good to come out of a disaster.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROESGEN: Now, Miles, the Markhams don't know yet whether they're going to have a boy or a girl. They told me if it's a girl she will not be named Katrina or windy or stormy or anything like that. Instead last night they had their two-year-old son Witt (ph) pull a couple of names, a boy name and a girl name, out of a basket. And they say whatever he pulled is the name they'll go with.

M. O'BRIEN: Really? I've never heard of parents doing that. Wow, that's a risky move, I guess, you know. Anyway.

ROESGEN: I guess they chose some names that they liked and he'll take the best one. M. O'BRIEN: Oh, OK. So they're all possibilities.

All right, Susan Roesgen, thank you very much. Keep us posted.

Jury selection underway today in Washington for the trial of Louis "Scooter" Libby, the one-time chief of staff for Vice President Cheney, charged with lying to investigators trying to find out who leaked the identity of a CIA agent. The agent is Valerie Plame. Her husband had raised questions about the intelligence used by the White House to justify the Iraq war. The vice president is scheduled to testify at the trial. That will be an historic moment.

There will also be some media history made in that courtroom. Blogger will claim seats beside members of the mainstream media. I guess they put that in quotes, "mainstream." Jacki Schechner knows the bloggers as well as anybody in our shop.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I do.

M. O'BRIEN: And this is a big deal, isn't it?

SCHECHNER: It is. Well, it's been a long standing debate of whether bloggers are journalists. should they be treated like the mainstream press. Well, the trial of Scooter Libby will be a trial for bloggers, too.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCHECHNER, (voice over): Bloggers have been all over the Valerie Plame CIA leak case since the story broke in 2003, digging for information and keeping the story in the public eye. Now they'll be able to closely monitor the latest twists and turns in person from inside the federal courthouse at the trial of Louis Scooter Libby.

SHELDON SNOOK, U.S. DISTRICT COURT: We see bloggers as an opportunity to take advantage of a new, growing trend in the media landscape to inform the public.

SCHECHNER: The Media Bloggers Association is all about getting bloggers access. They worked out a deal with the federal judiciary for two seats in an overflow room. James Joyner runs the conservative blog "Outside the Beltway" and will be one of at least 12 bloggers rotating in and out of those seats.

JAMES JOYNER, OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY BLOG: I mean it's unique in the sense again that you've got sort of ordinary citizens with day jobs covering the trial. Will we have any brilliant insight that scores above other reporters out there covering that they won't have? I don't know.

SCHECHNER: While this is the first time independent bloggers, those not affiliated with mainstream news organizations, are getting credentials for a federal trial, it is not the first time bloggers have scored high level access. In March 2005, Garrett Graff was the first blogger ever invited into a White House press briefing. He said, take these so-called milestones with a grain of salt. GARRETT GRAFF, BLOGGER: They're almost certainly initially overblown. It's great that bloggers are getting this additional access. It's always great to get more voices out there. But the truth of the matter is that very few bloggers have the resources or the time to go out and do original reporting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHECHNER: Now we know that there will actually be five media seats reserved for bloggers. The two that the Media Bloggers Association have put aside, plus three additional seats. And it will be interesting to see as the trial goes on and on how many of those blogger will actually make it to the end.

Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, it's always good to have more voices, I guess, right?

SCHECHNER: Sure. But I think that there's a question of journalistic integrity and I think people need to make the distinction between a main stream media journalist who's tied to a mainstream media organization and someone who's a blogger, independent, self- published who has their own opinion. And you have to read those blog entries as if they are opinions.

M. O'BRIEN: And not vetted like we vet them. All right.

SCHECHNER: They have no editorial process or very limited editorial process in comparison.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, Jacki, thank you very much.

SCHECHNER: Any time.

M. O'BRIEN: A big name change for a major financial services company. You can just take the group off. Twenty-five minutes or so past the hour. Ali Velshi "Minding Your Business."

Good morning, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Miles.

Yes, these are big deals for these companies. For most people, they will understand when Citigroup decides to change its name simply to Citi. In fact, if you're a Citigroup customer, you'll notice on your cards, you bank accounts, your loans, it's already started to happen. Citigroup is said to unveil its new branding. The name, as we understand, will be Citi. They'll be losing the umbrella. The umbrella was part of Travelers when Citigroup and Travelers merged in 1998. The umbrella, 137 years old, it was another company and Citigroup's research sort of indicates that people don't really -- they don't quite get the umbrella. It's supposed to be protection and, you know, that sort of thing.

Anyway. So what's going to happen is you're still going to see the logo, like we just showed you on air. It will be something similar to that. It will still have the swoosh, but the colors will be different based on the different banking groups. Now Citigroup or Citi, if that's what they want to be called, is going to be one of the companies -- one of 43 companies showing their earnings this week.

Now the interesting thing about earnings season is that for 2004 and 2005 the energy sector led all other sectors by a mile. In 2006, it's probably going to turn out to be the financial services. So we'll see what Citigroup has to offer on that.

The Dow was closed yesterday. It's going to open at a new high. It's at the second high of the year on Friday.

Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you, Ali.

Top stories of the morning are coming up next, including overnight developments on the health of Fidel Castro. Is he much worse than Cuba is letting on?

And some fresh signs Senator Barack Obama may be ready for a run for the White House. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING, the most news in the morning right here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: New insight into the kidnapped life of Shawn Hornbeck. Plus, now that he's home, the challenges that lie ahead for him from the courtroom to the classroom.

M. O'BRIEN: Developing news about Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Reports his health is taking a turn for the worse. But are they true?

S. O'BRIEN: Frozen zone. Dozens dead, half a million people without power. And now millions of dollars at stake out from a chilling ice storm.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the Golden Globe goes to "Babel."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "Dreamgirls."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Martin Scorsese.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

M. O'BRIEN: Big night in Hollywood. The Golden Globe Awards leaving intriguing clues about the Oscar race on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Good morning to you, Tuesday, January 16th.

I'm Miles O'Brien.

S. O'BRIEN: And I'm Soledad O'Brien.

We're coming to you live this morning from Kirkwood, Missouri, which, of course, is the ground zero of this remarkable kidnapping story.

I want to show you, Miles, some of the pictures. This is Michael Devlin's -- I'm going to step out of the light a little bit -- Michael Devlin's apartment down there, apartment number D, in a relatively small complex, if we can get a shot of that down there of two floors. He's on the bottom floor.

And then if you look straight back, you can see the parking lot behind the building where that white van is. It's a spot that was contested. Michael Devlin liked that spot and some neighbors reported arguments with him about that spot.

Now, one of the thing that's emerging today in this picture of the man who is now a suspect, who's now charged with one count of kidnapping, is this: Some people said he was a great guy, a reliable worker, trusted him with his money at his job. Others say he was mean, he was -- his temper would fluctuate. The neighbors didn't particularly like him. Also, family members, many brothers and sisters, and yet apparently none had been here to his home.

We're going to be exploring those contradictions of this suspect a little bit later this morning -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you very much, Soledad. Back with you very shortly.

Happening this morning elsewhere, Cuban leader Fidel Castro said to be in serious condition. A Spanish newspaper is reporting Castro has undergone three failed operations on his intestines, suffering from an infection. However, a Spanish doctor who examined Castro last month is disputing the report. He says Castro is recovering and doing well.

Illinois senator Barack Obama reportedly taking the first steps toward running for president. A source close to the senator says he is preparing to file papers to form an exploratory committee. A Chicago TV station says Obama may make a campaign visit to Iowa this weekend.

Utility workers in Oklahoma and Missouri still trying to get power back to almost 500,000 custers. Trees and branches heavy with ice knocking down some power lines. Some have been in the dark since Friday when the storm hit. More than 40 deaths blamed on the storm, many from accidents on icy roads -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Miles, thanks.

We're in Kirkwood, Missouri, which, of course, is the location of the suspect. This is where he lived. Not far from here is Union, Missouri, and that is where the Franklin County Courthouse is.

Chris Lawrence is reporting from there for us this morning. Good morning to you, Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.

You know, here in Union, the arraignment for Michael Devlin may still be up to a day away. But in an exclusive interview with CNN's Larry King, Devlin's defense attorneys are already raising concerns about getting a fair trial in this part of Missouri.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE (voice over): Michael Devlin's attorneys are worried that people in Missouri have already made up their minds about Devlin before he's even been charged.

MICHAEL KIELTY, ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL DEVLIN: He's scared. But we are anticipating a long legal battle to protect his rights and preserve the integrity of the system.

LAWRENCE: Local prosecutors will have to prove how Devlin could do what he's been accused of, kidnapping Ben Ownby and holding Shawn Hornbeck for four years, an hour's drive from his family.

KIELTY: The U.S. attorney could get jurisdiction either under a federal kidnapping charge, or possibly a child pornography charge, if they do, in fact, have that evidence.

LAWRENCE: Investigators searched Devlin's apartment and took his computer but won't say specifically what they found.

During the years Shawn Hornbeck allegedly lived with Devlin there was a Yahoo! profile for a teenager boy named Shawn from Kirkwood, Missouri, but the e-mail address read mdevlin. And about a year ago, when Shawn was still missing, someone calling himself "Shawn Devlin" posted messages on the family's Web site.

The first asked Shawn's family, "How long do you plan to look for your son?" The second offered to write a poem in his honor.

Who wrote these? Shawn Hornbeck? Michael Devlin? Neither?

Investigators can figure out which screen name signed on and use other clues to piece it together.

DET. KEN NIX, COMPUTER CRIME ENFORCEMENT: We try and give a good indication by the time, the timestamps that are on it, who was in the house at the time, the type of verbiage that's used. You know, is it a kid using it or is it an adult using it? And, you know, we kind of cue our investigations around that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE: Yes, police are continuing their investigation, but Devlin's attorneys say they have not yet received the evidence. They say once they do, they can begin to formulate some sort of defense strategy -- Soledad. S. O'BRIEN: All right. Chris Lawrence for us this morning in Union, Missouri.

Thank you, Chris.

Outside of the legal avenues, something else that they're working on here is how to reintegrate Shawn back into the community. How do you get someone who was kidnapped as a fifth grader brought up to speed with all of his classmates who are now in the ninth grade? We're going to talk about that and much more straight ahead from Kirkwood, Missouri, as we continue our live reporting -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, Soledad. Thanks very much.

Winter storm warnings are still in effect for some parts of the country this morning. Chad Myers with your forecast coming up.

Plus, Senator John McCain taking some not-so-friendly fire from the far right. How it might affect his White House hopes ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

The most news in the morning right here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: Welcome back. Two developing stories on the radar this morning.

Cuban leader Fidel Castro could be on his death bed. These are obviously file pictures. A Spanish newspaper reporting he's in grave condition with a serious intestinal infection.

And Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice continuing her bridge- building tour. She's in Saudi Arabia right now trying to press the kingdom to do more to stabilize Iraq -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, Miles. Thanks.

More now on what happens next with Shawn Hornbeck. We're joined by two people who know him and his family well.

John Westerman is the principal of the school that Shawn attended, the kindergarten through eighth school. Of course, now a lot of his classmates are in the ninth grade.

And Chris Diamond is a family friend who co-founded the Shawn Hornbeck Foundation.

Thanks to both of you for coming out and talking to us, as the snow flurries pick up a little bit. I certainly appreciate it.

Chris, let's start with you. When I was watching the family do the press conference, I mean, the message is clear, do not give up, do not give up hope. And I know that's something you never did.

At the same time, there seemed to be -- it was disturbing how many signs were missed by the people who live right here.

CHRIS DIAMOND, SHAWN HORNBECK FAMILY FRIEND: Right. I mean, you know, we missed signs, too, that we should step (ph) on. But in today's society, people just don't want to get involved as much as what we would hope they would. You know, people try to live their lives, you know, did the best they can, and don't want to get involved with others.

You know, we just wish that somebody would have recognized him a little sooner or, you know, maybe just questioned themselves a little more.

S. O'BRIEN: Followed up on maybe what was a gut feeling they had.

Now, of course the question becomes, what happens to him educationally? Shawn wasn't going to school, yet another red flag for people in this community who never saw a teenager with books or off to school.

What's the plan?

SUPT. JOHN WESTERMAN, RICHWOODS SCHOOL DISTRICT: Well, I've talked with the family briefly, and we have -- and I've talked with the high school superintendent, the superintendent of the district he would be going to, and his class has gone on to ninth grade. We are a K through 8 school. So he's technically still in the fifth grade, and we're going to have to do whatever we can in order to get him up to speed.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, are they considering a private tutor? How long do you think that would take?

WESTERMAN: We'll just have to -- we'll have to play that part by ear. We'll hire, I believe, a teacher to work full time with Shawn, if that's what the family wants.

S. O'BRIEN: Is the plan to bring him back into the school building, or is the family saying, listen, we'd rather just have him home?

WESTERMAN: They haven't really said, and I don't think they really know at this point. It's still -- and I think the therapist will have some say in that, too. And I think it's just something we're going to have to work with.

Whatever they want. If they want it in the home, we'll go to the home. If they want it in the school building, we'll go to the school building. And when he gets to a point where we can, we're going to transfer him into the high school district so he can be with his friends, the ones he used to go to school with, because they're in high school now.

S. O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a question, Chris.

I know that Shawn's father really devoted his life to trying to find his son. Was there -- were they ever close? I mean, we're only an hour outside of where he was snatched from. I mean, were they ever close? Were you ever close?

DIAMOND: I mean, you know, we go back and look through some of the logs. There's information there that could have put us close.

S. O'BRIEN: Like what kinds of things?

DIAMOND: Well, I mean, we had, you know, information about a white truck, but it's so generic -- just a white truck. There's so many out there.

We were -- you know, we had information, but not enough to do anything with from the reports that were given. So, I mean, if we look back, there was little signs, but nothing that would ever have brought us here.

We've looked and looked, but, you know, unfortunately, even to this day, we still would never have made it this far with the information that we've received from tips and information from our group especially. I'm not sure about law enforcement, things like that, but our group, you know, we still just didn't have that kind of information.

S. O'BRIEN: What an amazing piece of luck with those two police officers. Really, I mean, seemed to be the only people, to a large degree, followed up on their gut and went the next step and pulled all those pieces together.

We're going to be talking to them actually later in our broadcast, but I want to thank both of you for coming out here and braving the cold temperatures. What great news. What great news for both of you. And of course a lot of work ahead as well.

Thanks, gentlemen.

WESTERMAN: Thank you.

DIAMOND: Bye.

S. O'BRIEN: Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Thanks a lot, Soledad.

Forty-five minutes past the hour means it's time to check in with Chad Myers at the weather center. He's got your traveler's forecast and your cold and flu report.

Hello, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Miles.

(WEATHER REPORT)

M. O'BRIEN: Coming up, is Fidel Castro in worse shape than Cuba is letting on? Developing reports this morning. We're live in Havana.

Plus, an evangelical leader has a big problem with Republican senator John McCain. How it could affect McCain's presidential hopes.

Stay with us for more AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: Senator John McCain fending off some fire from the far right flank this morning. A leading evangelical minister says there's no way he could support McCain for president.

AMERICAN MORNING'S Bob Franken joining us live from Washington with more on this.

Hello, Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Miles. You know, it's already -- it's already people, even as early as it is, who are trying to create alliances and largely trying to overcome antagonisms.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRANKEN (voice over): One of the nation's most influential Christian conservatives is lashing out at Senator John McCain.

JAMES DOBSON, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY: He's not in favor of traditional marriage, and I pray that we won't get stuck with him.

FRANKEN: James Dobson, founder of the evangelical powerhouse Focus on the Family, was speaking on a Christian radio program last week. Dobson said there's no way he'll get behind McCain's bid for the White House.

DOBSON: I would not vote for John McCain under any circumstances.

FRANKEN: Those comments highlight a major political problem for the Arizona senator. He remains estranged from his party's core voters, conservative evangelicals, major players in Republican primaries.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: I don't think that they think that John McCain is a true believer, that John McCain is with them on all the issues, that John McCain, if he were to become president, would push a social agenda as hard and fast as they would like.

FRANKEN: McCain does oppose abortion and same-sex marriage, but he refuses to get behind a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. And he's generally had an arm's length relationship with evangelical leaders.

Back in the 2000 presidential campaign, McCain called his then opponent George W. Bush a Pat Robertson Republican, who panders to Christian leaders like Jerry Falwell. That was then.

Now, of course, McCain is struggling to win over those same religious leaders. He recently spent some political quality time with Falwell, delivering the commencement address at the reverend's fundamentalist Liberty University.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We have our disagreements, we Americans. We contend regularly and enthusiastically over many questions.

FRANKEN: But Dobson's comments show that McCain's still got some fences to mend. The senator's spokesman says the record speaks for itself.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FRANKEN: And the record shows a prickly relationship between McCain and religious conservative, who, Miles, could be key to his presidential ambitions.

M. O'BRIEN: And does it all come down to this issue of gay marriage or civil unions, or whatever?

FRANKEN: Well, there are a variety of issues. McCain has oftentimes been somebody who has had a hostile relationship, as we found out in the 2000 election, and there's still some hard feelings. But remember now, the fundamental message of presidential politics is, whatever sells.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Bob Franken, thank you very much.

Coming up, a new report on exactly what caused one of the worst work place accidents in U.S. history.

Ali Velshi is "Minding Your Business."

Plus, a golden night in Hollywood. The big winners at the 64th annual Golden Globe Awards. And what were they wearing, too?

That's head on the most news in the morning program.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: Welcome back.

The oil giant BP is awaiting a potentially damaging safety report related to that big fire at one of its refineries in Houston.

It's 56 minutes past the hour. Ali Velshi "Minding Your Business" with more on that.

Good morning, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Miles.

Now, you remember back in the summer of 2005, oil prices were going up largely because of the hurricanes. But it was also because of a lot of mishaps and accidents at refineries. And that started on March 23, 2005 in Texas City. This was one of the biggest fires, it was one of the worst workplace accidents in U.S. history.

At this fire, an explosion took place. There were some worker refilling some tanks, they overflowed, it exploded. And as a result, 15 people died, 180 people were injured.

Now, today we are expecting a safety report. BP is a British company. The safety report, however, is chaired by former secretary James Baker, who has been pretty busy, as you mentioned, these days.

James Baker is heading the safety committee. They are going to report on what caused this.

Now, earlier reports out of the safety committee, or a safety committee run by the U.S. government, is that BP was lax in its -- in its safety measures at the plant. BP had -- of the 15 people killed, all of them were settled except for one, which is supposed to do go to court. That was a woman who had lost both of her parents in the fire.

It is now not going to court. BP settled with that one woman in November.

They're setting aside $1.6 billion for this case. But this was a rough time for BP in 2006.

Last year they had two leaks in Prudhoe Bay in Alaska. Again, the commission said that they perhaps could have spent more money on safety to prevent those spills.

So a rough time for BP. They've also announced that their chairman, longtime chairman, Lord Brown, is leaving about a year and a half early. He'll be leaving fairly soon.

M. O'BRIEN: Related to this or -- maybe?

VELSHI: Well, yes, kind of related to the fact that this company has had a rough couple of years.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Ali Velshi, thank you very much.

VELSHI: OK.

M. O'BRIEN: It's the morning after in Hollywood. The winners are home with their Golden Globe awards, or they're still out partying maybe.

CNN's Sibila Vargas has the roundup for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIBILA VARGAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: The stars came out if full force for Hollywood's biggest parties. Some of the most talked about contenders did not disappoint. It was a royal evening for Dame Helen Mirren, who took home the gold for her dramatic turn as Queen Elizabeth II in Stephen Frears' "The Queen."

Forest Whitaker had been the talk of the town as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland," and when he was awarded the prize for his work, he gave one of the most genuine speeches.

FOREST WHITAKER, ACTOR: Wow. OK. Thank you.

You know, thank you -- thank you for -- for this award, for the best actor award. I'm -- you know, I'm stunned.

(APPLAUSE)

VARGAS: "Babel" took top drama honors, "Dreamgirls" top musical or comedy. And "Dreamgirls'" Jennifer Hudson, who was the favorite supporting actress in the film category, was also presented with the statue.

On the TV side of things, America may have a new star in America Ferrara. The "Ugly Betty" star is sitting pretty with her new statue.

And one of the funniest moments of the evening, an unforgettable acceptance speech from Sascha Baron Cohen. He may have checked his Borat persona at the door, but Borat's spirit was certainly in the house.

Sibila Vargas, CNN, Hollywood.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

M. O'BRIEN: Coming up to the top of the hour. Chad Myers at the weather center with a look at the weather.

Good morning, Chad.

MYERS: Good morning, Miles.

(WEATHER REPORT)

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