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"Strong Connection" in Officials' Deaths; U.S. Stealth Fighters to South Korea; Cleanup Goes On in Arkansas Oil Spill; Gruesome Injury Mars March Madness; Amazon at Center of Sales Tax Fight; Real Estate Rebounds in South Florida; White House Egg Roll Starts Soon!;
Aired April 1, 2013 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
Good morning. Thank you so much for being with us. I'm Carol Costello.
Security is tight, nerves are frayed and a man hunt grows. For the second time in two months a prosecutor is found murdered. Saturday night, district attorney Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia were gunned down inside their home near Dallas. It happened just miles from the courthouse where Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse was shot and killed.
Hasse's killer has not been found. Now investigators work to figure if there is a connection between these two killings, these three killings actually. They'll also be looking for any possible link with the Colorado prison chief's murder last month.
Last hour, I spoke with former FBI Assistant Director Tom Fuentes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Well, it is hard to tell what motivated him to do that. It has been reported that he made threats against various prison guards during his stay in the prison system in Colorado. So it could have been in connection with that or could be unrelated to that. We don't know at this point.
Not obviously with him dead, we probably may not ever know what the true motivation was to pick Clements himself, the director of corrections, as opposed to one of the prison guards that he may have had a dispute with while he was in prison.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: Ed Lavandera has more now on a city in Texas now searching for a killer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anything that you people can do to accelerate our getting our hands on this scum will be appreciated.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): McLelland's tough talking Texas swagger was on full display when he vowed to come after the killer of his assistant prosecutor, Mark Hasse. He was gunned down in broad daylight as he walk to work at the Kaufman County Court House back in January.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope that the people who did this are watching because we are very confident that we are going to find you. We are going to pull you out of whatever hole you are in and we are going to bring you back and let the people of Kaufman County prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.
LAVANDERA: Now two months later, McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, have become victims themselves, shot dead in their home. A law enforcement source tells CNN that investigators recovered several shell casings inside the house belonging to a .223-caliber high powered rifle.
(on camera): And then there is this twist. In December, a month before Mark Hasse was killed, the Texas Department of Public Safety issued a state-wide bulletin warning that it had received, quote, "credible information" that members of the Aryan Brotherhood white supremacist group was planning to retaliate, actively planning to retaliate against law enforcement officials they suspected of targeting the gang's leadership.
Law enforcement officials say they are taking extra precautions to protect other elected officials in Kaufman County. The courthouse will be open for business on Monday, but the prosecutor's office will be closed.
DAVID BYRNES, KAUFMAN COUNTY SHERIFF: It is unnerving to the community at large. That is why we are striving to assure the community that we are still providing other safety and will be able to do that.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): The murders of these two high profile prosecutors have the hallmarks of well coordinated hits. Targeted killings of law enforcement officials are rare but not unheard of.
Earlier this year, in Southern California Christopher Dorner terrorized law enforcement with a manifesto and a detailed hit list of the people he wanted to kill. But in many ways, the Kaufman County cases are scarier. No one knows what these killers are thinking.
MAYOR WILLIAM FORTNER, KAUFMAN, TEXAS: Well, the town, I think feel more fear than anything else. They are afraid that someone else will be targeted by these people.
LAVANDERA: It is not clear why the prosecutors were killed or who if anyone might be next. Ed Lavandera, CNN, Kaufman, Texas.
COSTELLO: Of course, all eyes are on any link between these shootings. I am joined now by CNN's George Howell. He is in Texas this morning and Mary Ellen O'Toole. Mary Ellen is a former senior FBI profiler. I want to start with you, George. Back to this potential link between McLelland's murder and this white supremacist group, what are investigators telling you?
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Carol, look, officially investigators are not making any connection or any link to the Arian Brotherhood. But look, it is a question that keeps coming up and here is why.
You even heard in Ed's report there, the Texas Department of Public Safety, they put out a bulletin back in December saying that they had credible information that the Arian Brotherhood would actively target law enforcement.
Now again, that's a question that came up after Mark Hasse's death, but McLelland even said that would be mere speculation. But here it comes again, the same question so that is why we are hearing that law enforcement is not indicating that that is the case at this point.
COSTELLO: OK, and Mary Ellen, as a former FBI profiler, can the similarities and I want to take into account these two shootings. One of which happened in Colorado, the prison chief there was shot in his home when he answered the door. In Texas, this prosecutor and his wife were killed inside their home. What does that tell you about the killer or killers?
MARY ELLEN O'TOOLE, FORMER SENIOR FBI PROFILER: Well, that tells me several things. First of all, it is very high risk for an offender to go into a victim's home and kill them inside their home. And the reason that I say that is because these homes were in residential neighborhoods.
There are people walking about. It is day light. The offender can be seen, the car can be seen so it is very risky to take on that kind of a challenge. In addition going into somebody's home, a home you have probably not been in before means that there has to be some kind of surveillance ahead of time.
So you know that they may be the only ones there. So putting the shooter for such a long time in the neighborhood, maybe over a period of days really elevates their risk level, but it also goes to the commitment that they have to get those victims as opposed to victims of opportunity and they're willing to take that risk.
COSTELLO: And back to you, George. I know there has been no connection made between the Colorado shooting and the Texas shooting, but still they were done in similar ways. The suspect in the Colorado shooting was shot and killed after a police chase in Texas. Are police making it a link officially that you are aware of?
HOWELL: You know, when we talk about this particular office here, again, they are very tight lipped. Whether they have information that they don't want to get out, Carol, or if they don't have information we don't know that at this point.
But what I can tell you is here in Kaufman you can tell that officials are taking it seriously. They are aware. In fact, we know that they are counting on law enforcement. They say law enforcement is stepping up, doing the job of protecting public officials.
In fact, in Harris County, Carol, which is just south of us in Houston we know that Mike Anderson, the D.A. there accepted an offer from the sheriff's department to have around the clock security for himself and his family.
So that is one example of what we are finding. These officials are taking it seriously. They are aware, taking steps to protect themselves.
COSTELLO: I guess, Mary Ellen, I'll end with that. How can police and prosecutors and corrections officers protect themselves? I know they have this protection. This is really scary.
O'TOOLE: It is very scary. And I'm sure in addition to the security and they are really telling folks to be very careful about your surroundings and your family. They may be moving their families to different locations. But they are also going to be very careful about what they say in the media.
And the statement that the last victim made in terms of referring to the word "scum," "we'll pull you out of the hole," those remarks could have been seen by the people behind the scene, the offenders, the puppet master who is making these decisions and that could have been seen as a challenge.
It certainly could have been interpreted as insulting. So any comments that are made from this point on my sense is, they are going to tone down that rhetoric.
COSTELLO: Mary Ellen O'Toole, George Howell, thank you so much for joining us.
O'TOOLE: You're welcome.
HOWELL: Thank you.
COSTELLO: Other top stories to share with you this morning. As the threat from North Korea grows louder, the United States steps up its military might in the tense region. It has deployed F-22 raptors to South Korea as part of joint military exercises. In the meantime, South Korea's president is warning North Korea that any provocation would be met with a strong military response.
Cleanup still on going after a crude oil pipeline burst Friday in Mayflower, Arkansas. More than 12,000 barrels of oil and water have been recovered. Twenty two homes have been evacuated. Dexon Mobil is still looking for the cause of that spill.
And the man accused of crashing his car into a California Wal-Mart is behind bars this morning. San Jose Police say the suspect drove more than 10 feet into the store. He jumped out of the car and then he sort of attacking customers with a blunt object. They don't know the man's motive, but believe drugs or alcohol they have been involved. It was a moment that transcended sports and shocked the national TV audience. Louisville guard, Kevin Ware, shattered his leg in the NCAA Tournament against Duke. The injury so gruesome the bone poked through the skin. Before being wheeled off the court, Ware told his teammates to win the game and they did. Advancing to next weekend's Final Four.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK PITINO, LOUISVILLE MEN'S BASKETBALL COACH: I don't think any of us with what we have had to witness could have overcome it if it wasn't for Kevin Ware 12 times saying to the guys I'll be fine, win the game.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: It's just amazing. Doctors reset Ware's bone and inserted a rod in his leg. They called the surgery successful. Ware is in the hospital today. He sent that out in Instagram. He hopes to watch Saturday's game from the bench though. Carlos Diaz joins me now. It's just hard to watch that injury.
CARLOS DIAZ, HLN SPORTS: It's one of those things where if you have people at work today that are saying come watch this video. Don't, don't, it's really -- you know, when you have guys like Jim Nance and Clark Kellogg who were the announcers of the game who are just seasoned professionals and they are at a loss for words you know it is horrific.
And it is one of those things where it's a freak accident. He comes down after trying to block a shot. When we say compound fracture, what that means is both bones, both major bones in the leg broken.
And then as you said, as you pointed out, one of the bones coming through the skin and it's right there in front of the Louisville bench. There are reports that several Louisville players bombed it right there when they saw it happened. Rick Pitino said that he went over. You can see he is wiping away tears right there and this guy has seen it all.
He went over to say, you know, help him up and then he saw that basically his leg was just kind of broken in half. He went to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis during the game. They were prepping him for surgery during the game. He had that surgery last night. Rick Petino stayed behind to be with him when he got out of surgery.
Kevin Ware is from Atlanta. So he'll be -- the team wants to get him down here to Atlanta for the Final Four when Louisville takes on Wichita State next week. But this harkins back to Joe Thiseman, you know, when he went out after Lawrence Taylor knocked him out and knocked his career out basically during a Monday night football game.
Joe Thiseman tweeted out his thoughts and prayers, and then after the game, Rick Pitino mentioned Louisville football player, Michael Bush. He had the same kind of break and had to sit out his senior year at Louisville and his rookie year at open. But now he is doing very well in the NFL.
So there still might be hope for Kevin Ware, but just a horrific, horrific injury. When you put it up against other injuries, you would have to say this is the worst looking injury ever. Because even with Joe Thiseman, players who break their legs in baseball, they have pants on and you really can't see what is going on.
This is just exposed skin. This was a horrific thing to see on national TV and like I said they replayed it one time on CBS and then that was is it.
COSTELLO: I mean, talk about being strong on the inside though. I mean, Kevin Ware calls the play says win this one for me. I want to be back on the bench and watching you in the Final Four. I mean, that's amazing.
DIAZ: Yes, they say he will be out for at least a year, but they are saying that he is going to come back. Rick Pitino is a great coach. He will use this as an inspirational tool and build next season around Kevin Ware and you know, hopefully --
COSTELLO: I don't think he has to try. Carlos Diaz, thank you.
Amazon.com gradually losing one of its biggest advantages that gave it a competitive edge over brick and mortar stores, the popular online retailer challenged efforts forcing it to charge state sales tax.
Alison Kosik joins me now. Good morning, Alison.
ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol. You know, it wouldn't be such a shocker to see Amazon take this issue all the way to the Supreme Court especially since the highest court in New York just told Amazon, yes, you have to collect state sales taxes. Something Amazon doesn't want to do especially since it doesn't do that across the board right now.
Strangely enough though, other states like Illinois, they said no problem Amazon. You don't have to collect sales taxes. You see the two sides of this. It is a very fiery issue, different opinions on each side. It makes it a prime candidate for Supreme Court review especially since each state, Carol, has different laws.
So if Amazon loses this battle, it could mean the company could say goodbye to its edge over brick and mortar stores making prices on Amazon about 10 percent higher than they are now meaning it's less of the draw for consumers.
But the possibility of Amazon losing this battle that is a win for retailers who have physical stores because they have had to charge their customers state sales taxes all along -- Carol.
COSTELLO: Alison Kosik reporting live from the New York Stock Exchange. Speaking of investments, your biggest investment may well have been your biggest fear in recent years. Now new signs that housing market is on the rebound and may even be charging back.
COSTELLO: It's the news millions of you have been waiting to hear. The housing crash is over. Prices are on the rebound. All this week, we will be looking to the nation's housing comeback.
CNN's Sara Ganim begins a look at the once sizzling market of South Florida.
SARA GANIM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR (voice-over): Fort Myers is hot. Not because of that Florida sun, it's the real estate market. After years of economic misery, one of the hardest hit areas in the country is bouncing back. Listen to this real estate investor.
GREGG FOUS, REAL ESTATE INVESTOR: Years ago, I'm talking about 2009 or 2010, 2011 to get people into a community and show life we played music. You know, we made sure there were people present. We don't have to do that anymore.
GANIM: The last time we were at this 200-unit high rise condo complex called the Oasis it was 2009. The building was a ghost town, the pool unused.
(on camera): In 2009, there was one family living here. Now they have plenty of neighbors. The building is almost at capacity and that is a reflection of the real estate market across South Florida.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Love it.
GANIM (voice-over): Terry Vanimon moved in two years ago.
(on camera): Do you like that you have neighbors now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. You know, the more people the merrier. It's a blast.
GANIM (voice-over): A report by Metro Study says new construction in the Fort Myers area was up more than 50 percent in the last quarter of 2012 compared to the year before.
A Standards and Poor's study says across America home values are rising at the fastest pace since the market slump began, but prices are still affordable. That is attracting buyers. But anyone who bought before the slump got burned.
FOUS: He can buy that for half of what he paid for it in 2009.
GANIM: Along this beautiful Fort Myers River front three years ago there were 1,500 condos for sale, today only 150.
GANIM: That was Fort Myers, Florida, the west coast of Florida. Today, we are in Miami. Where as you can see behind me there is, again, great demand for construction. I am going to bring in Fernando Martinez with FM Realty.
He is the president of the Miami Realtors Association. Fernando, how do we know we are not getting ourselves into the same jam as we did with the last housing crisis?
FERNANDO MARTINEZ, PRESIDENT, MIAMI ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS: Well, the market is different today because, Sara, a lot of the people that are purchasing and a lot of the inventory that has been taken off the market has been through foreign investors.
Foreign investors today represent 78 percent of the deals that are being done. Out of that 70 percent, 90 percent are cash deals. They are solid. We are not talking about mortgages or anything like that. These are a lot of the cash deals.
GANIM: Carol, as you can see behind me, this is one example. This building began construction in the early 2000s before the crash and now they are actually finishing the rest of the 35 stories. Back to you.
COSTELLO: All right, Sara Ganim reporting live from Miami this morning.
Checking our top stories at 20 minutes past the hour, in Alaska three people are feared dead after a state trooper helicopter crashed. The pilot had just rescued a snowmobiler northeast of Anchorage. The chopper was on its way to meet medics when it disappeared. Another aircraft spotted the burned wreckage, but did not spot any survivors.
The man who won last week's $338 million Powerball jackpot, well, he could see his luck run out today. He is due in court for $29,000 in back child support. A warrant was issued for him a few years ago, but a judge shelved it pending today's court appearance.
The numbers keep climbing on the massive pileup on I-77 in Southern Virginia. A total of 95 cars were involved in a chain reaction of accidents. You can blame the weather, thick fog obscured the highway. Three people were killed and dozens more injured.
Still ahead, our "Talk Back" question for you this morning: Is it racist to celebrate confederate war symbols? Facebook.com/CarolCNN or tweet me @CarolCNN.
COSTELLO: OK, the White House Easter Egg Roll survives. You see all of those people waiting for the president and his family to come out, and say a few words to the crowd before the kids get busy to hunt for those Easter eggs. This Easter Egg Roll is more than just about finding eggs though. As you might imagine, kids will learn about healthy eating and how to exercise.
There will be a rocking egg roll Stage. The Performers slated to perform on the slate, Jordan Sparks from "American Idol," Cocoa Jones and Elmo from "Sesame Street." All will be on stage and they are also going to have a story time stage. So after the kids hunt for Easter eggs they can all gather around the story time stage and Danica Patrick and Adrian Peterson from the Minnesota Vikings will read to them. It will be fabulous and fun. When it gets underway, we will take you back live to the White House.
Now is your chance to talk back on one of the stories of the day. The question for you this morning, is it racist to celebrate confederate war symbols? The symbols are becoming taboo even if they are part of a historic exhibit. Civil war buffs in South Carolina found that out the wrong way.
They hung a confederate battle flag in the state house to commemorate Raleigh's role on the 150th anniversary of the civil war. The flag came down after protest although the governor's office says it has been relocated.
The idea to name April confederacy month was dropped just as fast in Tennessee, a town filled with civil war symbols.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's important to maintain our history and this area you can't put your foot down but you're stepping on history.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This served the country just like anybody else during that time so they should be honored just like the veterans in the U.S.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: But that side is losing, confederate symbols are coming down throughout the south. In Memphis, Tennessee, parks were named after civil war generals and slave holders who were renamed.
To the less controversial Memphis Park and health scientists park much to the chagrin of those opposed to the change like the Ku Klux Klan. Tempers played when the clan showed up to rally in protest.
But here's the thing, civil war buffs say it is important to understand history and not censor history by removing its symbols, but for civil right advocates simply displaying confederate symbols to give us an incomplete history of the civil war.
And our painful reminder of the racial violence that was also part of the confederacy. "Talk Back" question for you today: Is it racist to celebrate confederate war symbols? Facebook.com/CarolCNN or tweet me @CarolCNN.